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Suzette's Letter, September 9, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

  1. First Nations Development Institute Releases Second Quarterly Results from Monitoring Food Prices, Indicating that American Indians and Alaska Natives Continue to Pay Higher Costs

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) – as part of its work to combat food insecurity, eliminate food inequities, and support economic and business development in Native American communities – recently released the second quarterly results on food prices on Lower 48 reservations and in Alaska Native villages. First Nations is in the process of a 12-month study on food prices in tribal communities. Preliminary results for tribal communities in the contiguous United States indicate that for the second quarter Native shoppers paid on average $8.26 more for a basket of items. Similarly, in Alaska Native villages, shoppers on average paid $33.32 more when compared to the national average for the same basket of food items. To review the First Quarter 2017 findings, click here. To see a news release about the original Indian Country Food Price Index from July 2016, go here.

  1. Low education rural counties have worse economic outcomes on average than other rural counties

Rural (nonmetro) counties with the lowest levels of educational attainment face worse economic outcomes on average than other rural counties. ERS classifies 467 counties as “low education” counties—those where at least 20 percent of working-age adults (ages 25 to 64) do not have a high school diploma or equivalent; nearly 80 percent of these counties are rural. About 40 percent of low education rural counties are also persistent poverty counties, with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher since 1980. Between 2011 and 2015, low education rural counties had an average poverty rate of 24 percent, compared to 16 percent for all other rural counties. Low education rural counties also had a higher average child poverty rate on average (34 percent) than for all other rural counties (23 percent). In addition, the unemployment rate of low education rural counties was about a percentage point higher.

  1. Manufacturing employment declines were highest in the Eastern United States between 2001 and 2015

Manufacturing provides more jobs in rural America than many other sectors. In 2015, rural manufacturing jobs totaled 2.5 million, compared to 1.4 million farm jobs. Rural manufacturing jobs were also about equal to rural retail jobs, almost double rural construction jobs, and five times rural mining (including oil and gas extraction) jobs. However, U.S. manufacturing employment has been declining since the 1950s. Between 2001 and 2015—a period that included the recessions of 2001 and 2007-09—manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. In addition, 71 percent of U.S. counties experienced a decline in manufacturing employment. Counties with the largest relative declines were concentrated in the Eastern United States, the traditional hub of U.S. manufacturing. In 2015, almost 20 percent of manufacturing jobs were located in rural counties. Factors such as globalization and rapid changes in technology have contributed to the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment.

  1. Different forms of outreach can increase farmer participation in County Committee elections

County Committees (COC) are critical to the delivery of farm support programs and make numerous program decisions, such as whether or not a producer is in compliance with the program’s eligibility requirements. However, participation in COC elections have declined over time. An ERS experiment tested the impact of using different forms of outreach on voter participation during the 2015 COC elections. Some voters received ballots with information about candidates printed on the outside. Other voters received postcards with deadlines and candidate information. A third group of voters received both, and a baseline group received neither. Compared to the baseline, the experiment found that printing candidate information on the outside of the ballot plus sending postcards increased voter participation by nearly 3 percent. This information may offer a relatively low-cost outreach strategy to encourage participation in future elections.

  1. The share of beginning midsize farms held steady from 2005 to 2014

The aging of the overall farm population raises questions about whether there are enough beginning farms to replace those that exit farming. Between 2005 and 2014, the share of beginning farms generally declined across all farm sizes, though overall farm numbers were relatively steady during this period. A beginning farm is one where all operators have 10 years or less farming experience. Very-low sales farms—those with annual gross cash farm income (GCFI) under $10,000—had the most beginning farms across these years, but also saw the greatest decline: from 27 percent in 2005 to 24 percent in 2014. By comparison, the share of beginning midsize farms—those with GCFI between $350,000 and $999,999—hovered around 9 percent during this period. In 2014, that represented about 12,000 midsize farms.

  1. Almost three-fourths of the average dollar Americans spend eating out covers restaurant services

Rising prices for farm commodities generally have a larger impact on grocery store price tags than on restaurant menus. The reason? Different cost structures, as shown by ERS’s Food Dollar Series. This series apportions total annual expenditures by U.S. consumers on domestically-produced food and beverages to 12 industry groups based on the value added by each industry. In 2015, farm production and agribusiness industries accounted for 13.8 cents of the food-at-home dollar (foods and beverages purchased from grocery stores and other retailers) and 3.2 cents of the food-away-from-home dollar (foods and beverages from fine dining establishments, fast casual chains, and coffee shops). Thus, grocery store prices are more closely connected to farm prices than restaurant prices. The largest share of the away-from-home food dollar—72.3 cents in 2015—was spent on the services provided by restaurants, including the labor of baristas, bakers, and busboys. Sixty-two percent of this value added by foodservice establishments (44.7 cents) covered the salaries and benefits of employees involved in preparing and serving meals and cleaning up afterwards.

  1. Adults in households with more severe food insecurity are more likely to have a chronic disease

ERS researchers recently examined the association of food security status with 10 chronic diseases in working-age adults living in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty level. They looked at the prevalence of the chronic diseases across four levels of household food security, ranging from high food security (household had no problems or anxiety about consistently obtaining adequate food) to very low food security (eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced). The researchers discovered that adults in households that were less food secure were significantly more likely to have one or more chronic diseases and the likelihood increased as food insecurity worsened. Low-income adults in households with very low food security were 40 percent more likely to have one or more of the chronic diseases examined than low-income adults with high food security. Moreover, the researchers found that food insecurity status was a stronger predictor of chronic illness than income for low-income working age adults.

  1. In recent years, population has declined in rural areas

Population change includes two major components: natural change (births minus deaths) and net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants). While natural change has gradually trended downward over time, net migration rates tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions. Population growth from natural change (more births than deaths, also known as natural increase) was the norm historically. Between 2010 and 2016, however, the increase in rural population from natural change (270,000 more births than deaths) has not kept pace with the decrease in population from net migration (462,000 more people moved out than moved in). Declining birth rates, increasing mortality rates among working-age adults, and an aging population have led to the emergence of natural decrease (more deaths than births) in hundreds of U.S. counties—most of them rural.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. 5 Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Youth in Rural Communities

Join us for a free webinar, 5 Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Youth in Rural Communities, on Thursday, September 28, 2017, from Noon to 1:00 p.m. There are a number of things that local government officials can do to help their communities retain youth. The webinar, presented by Pam Schallhorn, Community and Economic Development Educator, University of Illinois Extension, will be based on research done at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Nebraska over the last decade, and will provide strategies communities can use to get young people to stay in their communities or return after college. There is no cost to attend the webinar, however pre-registration is required.  Register online or contact Nancy Ouedraogo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  1. Grants Under First Nations' Native Arts Initiative
    First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has launched a new Supporting Native Arts grant opportunity under its Native Arts Initiative (formerly known as the “Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative” or NACBI). Applications are due by Thursday, October 19, 2017. The Request for Proposals for the Supporting Native Arts grant opportunity can be accessed here. First Nations invites interested applicants to join one or all of our Application Q&A webinars, which will be held prior to October 19, 2017, as follows:

Suzette's Letter, August 1, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

  1. Percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits in 2016 varied across States, reflecting differences in need and program policies

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) served an average of 44.2 million people per month in fiscal 2016. The percent of Americans participating in the program declined from 15.0 in 2013 to 13.7 in 2016, marking the third consecutive year of a decline in the percent of the population receiving SNAP. Between 2015 and 2016, 41 States and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits, while 9 States experienced no change or increases. The percent of State populations receiving SNAP benefits ranged from a low of 5.8 in Wyoming to a high of 22.6 in New Mexico, reflecting differences in need and in program policies. Southeastern States have a particularly high share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, with participation rates of 15.0 to 19.5 percent. Kentucky had the largest decline from 2015 to 2016, with the percent of residents receiving SNAP decreasing from 17.4 to 15.0 percent.

 

  1. Forty-three percent of households with food-insecure children in 2014-15 had incomes below the Federal poverty line

In 2014-15, 17.9 percent of U.S. households with children under the age of 18 were food insecure—they had difficulty putting enough food on the table for all their members. In about half of these households (8.6 percent of U.S. households with children), children were food insecure and experienced reduced dietary quality and food intake. Food insecurity is closely related to income as poor households are more likely to experience food insecurity. In 2014-15, 43 percent of households with food-insecure children had incomes below the Federal poverty line and one-quarter had incomes between the poverty line and 185 percent of the poverty line. Households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line may be eligible for programs like the free- or reduced-price National School Lunch Program. An ERS review of scientific research studies shows that participation in USDA school meals reduces food insecurity. However, about 19 percent of households with food-insecure children in 2014-15 may have been ineligible for such assistance.

  1. Changes in farm commodity prices have a muted effect on grocery store and restaurant prices

Favorable weather conditions as well as droughts and floods can lead to changes in production levels of farm commodities and, in turn, swings in their prices. Volatility in farm commodity prices—measured by the Producer Price Index (PPI) for Farm Products—and in intermediate foods—measured by the PPI for Processed Foodstuff and Feedstuff—is often greater than price volatility in grocery stores and restaurants. Intermediate foods, such as vegetable oils and refined sugar, are used to produce final foods like cookies and bread. Prices at each stage generally move in the same direction, but the magnitude of the price changes varies. For instance, in 2016 the Farm Products PPI declined by 9.7 percent, the Processed Foodstuff and Feedstuff PPI fell by 2.7 percent, while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Food (foods purchased in stores and eating places) rose, slightly, by 0.3 percent. Price fluctuations for intermediate foods and final foods are muted relative to that of farm products, since foods at later stages of production include less volatile costs for processing, transportation, packaging, and other wholesale and retail overhead costs. According to ERS’s Food Dollar Series, farm and agribusiness costs only represented 10.8 cents of every dollar spent on domestically-produced food in 2015.

  1. U.S. certified organic cropland has increased most years since 2002

Although the organic sector shows substantial regional and commodity concentration, all 50 States now have some organic production and processing. In 2015, the United States had 3.2 million acres of certified organic cropland and 2.2 million acres of certified organic pasture (including rangeland). That land accounted for less than 1 percent of all U.S. cropland and pasture, but continued the long-term growth trend in the organic sector. Between 2002 and 2015, U.S. certified organic cropland increased most years. The adoption of organic systems has been relatively higher in some sectors. For example, U.S. markets for organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs have been developing for decades. In 2015, 5 percent of fruit and vegetable acreage was managed under certified organic systems. In contrast, less than 0.3 percent of corn and soybean acreage—the two most widely planted U.S. crops—had adopted organic systems.

  1. Services—such as finance, real estate, and administration—had the highest share of employment for both rural and urban areas in 2015

In 2015, every industry group, except for farming, employed more workers in urban (metro) areas than in rural (nonmetro) areas. However, the share of employment in each industry varied in each area. For example, farming—counting both self-employed operators and their hired workers—accounted for about 6 percent of all rural employment, compared to 1 percent in urban areas. Manufacturing also employed a larger share of the rural (11 percent) than the urban (6 percent) workforce. Services—such as finance, real estate, and administration—had the highest share of employment for both rural and urban areas. But urban areas had a higher share of employment in services: 57 percent compared to 41 percent in rural areas. Trade, transportation, and utilities had the second highest share of employment, about 17 percent for both rural and urban areas.

  1. Urban areas offer higher earnings for workers with more education

The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey show that workers with higher levels of education had higher median earnings, both in rural and urban areas. Urban workers without a high school diploma earned about the same as their rural counterparts. However, at every higher level of educational attainment, the typical urban worker earned increasingly more than the typical rural worker with the same education. For example, the 2015 premium for working in an urban area was an estimated $2,088 a year for workers with a high school diploma—and $10,534 for those with a bachelor’s degree. Some studies suggest that higher urban earnings may encourage workers to leave rural areas, but factors like family ties and proximity to natural amenities (such as forest and lakes) may help keep or attract workers to rural areas. Educational attainment is only one of many potential characteristics that determine the wages that workers earn. Other characteristics not shown in the chart—such as work experience, job tenure, and ability—may also contribute to earnings.

  1. Protecting Our Infants Act: Report to Congress
    Summary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services response to the Protecting Our Infants Act (2015), including background information about prenatal exposure to opioids; neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS); evidence-based treatment and prevention programs; and suggestions to bridge the gap in barriers to care. Includes examples of successful rural programs and recommended guidelines for the prevention and treatment of opioid use disorder among reproductive age women.
    Additional links: Protecting Our Infants Act: Final Strategy
    Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    Date: 2017
  1. Support and Available Options for Small, Underserved, and Rural Practices
    New section of the Quality Payment Program (QPP) website, enabling practices with 15 or fewer clinicians to receive free, customized technical assistance, including help choosing and reporting on quality measures, guidance with strategic planning, and support optimizing health information technology.
  2. Urban-Rural Divide: Mapping Broadband Access
    Describes how access to broadband varies across the country. Includes a county-level map of broadband access. Discusses how broadband impacts rural people, including its impact on healthcare access.
    Sponsoring organization: Community Commons
    Date: 06/2017
  1. Rural population change varies across the United States

The number of people living in rural (nonmetro) counties stood at 46.1 million in July 2016, representing 14 percent of U.S. residents. Population in rural counties continued to decline slightly for a sixth straight year in 2015-16, according to the Census Bureau’s latest estimates. Rural population loss has been relatively small—192,000 fewer people in 2016 compared with 2010, a decline of just 0.4 percent. However, this overall trend masks substantial regional and local variation. Population declined by 790,000 people in the 1,350 rural counties that lost population since 2010. Extensive population-loss regions are evident throughout the Eastern United States. On the other hand, 466 rural counties grew at moderate rates (below the national average of 4.5 percent) and added 245,000 people. Many of these counties are located in recreation or retirement destinations, such as in the Intermountain West or southern Appalachia. The remaining 160 rural counties that increased at rates above 4.5 percent added 353,000 people. The highest rates of growth during 2010-16 occurred in rural counties with booming energy sectors, such as those centered in western North Dakota’s Williston Basin. However, these counties experienced a considerable population slowdown in 2015-16, in line with declines in oil and gas production.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. How to Make Your Payments Processes More Efficient & Safe

Tuesday, August 1 | 3:00 p.m. ET | 12:00 p.m. PT

Learn about the Small Business Payments Toolkit, a free, newly updated educational resource created by the Business Payments Coalition. Designed for small businesses, the Toolkit will help you learn how to make your incoming and outgoing payments processes more efficient and safer. We’ll cover basic information on payment options and discuss pros and cons of each type.

  1. How to Avoid Losses Due to Payments Fraud

Tuesday, August 8 | 3:00 p.m. ET | 12:00 p.m. PT

In this second part of the Small Business Payments Toolkit series, we’ll describe current payment fraud schemes that small businesses should watch out for and provide important information on how to avoid being victimized by fraudsters. Your takeaways will include greater awareness of fraud threats and knowledge of fraud prevention tools that can help protect the valuable assets of your small business.

  1. Add More Revenue Streams to Your Service-Based Business

Wednesday, August 16 | 1:00 p.m. ET | 10:00 a.m. PT

Trading "hours for dollars" is an easy way for small business owners to make money, but not the smartest way to leverage your time. In this webinar produced by SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, attorney John Corcoran will teach you how to “scale up,” including:

  • How to add $50-100K in new revenue streams with your existing clients and network
  • How to get off the “time for dollar” roller coaster 
  • 10 income streams you can implement in your business today 
  • How you can get paid in advance to create your first one-to-many group program or offering (so you can build a more scalable business you love) 

Suzette's Letter, June 12, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

More than 46 million Americans, nearly 15 percent of the population, lived in poverty in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. Compared against census data for 1999, more than 2,500 of the country’s 3,100-plus counties saw their rate increase. In 2015, 753 counties had a poverty rate of at least 20 percent — and 415 of these counties have been above this threshold in census data dating back to at least 1989. These “persistent poverty” counties are targets for set asides of some federal economic development funding.

  1. More children participated in USDA’s Summer Food Service Program in 2016

In 2016, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provided meals to 2.8 million children on an average operating day in July, the peak month for program operations. This was a 7.7-percent increase from 2015’s July participation. Meals are served at a wide variety of USDA-approved sites including schools, camps, parks, playgrounds, housing projects, community centers, churches, and other public sites where children gather in the summer. Sites are eligible to offer free USDA-funded meals and snacks if the sites operate in areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level, or if more than half of the children served by the site meet this income criterion. In 2016, 47,981 sites offered summer meals, about 400 more than in 2015. Many low-income children also obtain free meals while school is out through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.

  1. Rural unemployment rates declined for all education levels from 2010 to 2015

Unemployment rates for rural adults are lower for those with higher educational attainment. But during the Great Recession (shaded area of the chart), unemployment rates across all education levels roughly doubled between 2007 and 2010. Rural working-age adults (ages 25-64) without a high school diploma saw their unemployment rates climb the most, compared to those with higher educational attainment. For example, the difference in unemployment rates between rural working-age adults without a high school diploma and those with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from about 6 percentage points in 2007 to 11 percentage points in 2011. As the rural economy recovered, both rural and urban unemployment rates fell and trended toward pre-recession levels. For example, after peaking at about 15 percent in 2010, the unemployment rate of rural adults without a high school diploma dropped under 10 percent by 2015. The overall unemployment rate in 2015 was 5.7 percent in rural areas, compared to 5.2 percent in urban areas.

  1. How to Execute Programs and Policies that Rely on Technology

Technology drives almost every aspect of the federal government’s operations, but many federal agencies struggle to harness the full power of technology to support their missions. That’s why the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services are partnering on a series of issue briefs to explain what new career and political leaders need to know about federal IT to be successful. Our first issue brief, “Building a Winning Technology Team: Driving Results Through Effective Partnerships,” focuses on the key leaders and stakeholders, discusses their roles in executing IT efforts and provides tips for forging partnerships and building teams for effective technology implementation.

  1. First Nations Development Institute Releases First Quarterly Results from Monitoring Food Prices, Indicating that American Indians and Alaska Natives Pay Higher Costs

First Nations Development Institute – as part of its work to combat food insecurity, eliminate “food deserts,” and support economic and business development in Native American communities – today released the first quarterly results under its 12-month study on food prices on Lower 48 reservations and in Alaska Native villages.  The current study expands upon First Nations’ initial pilot project and report titled Indian Country Food Price Index that was released in July 2016. (To see a news release about the pilot project and report, click here.)

 

  1. US lacks in workforce development; competitiveness at risk

If it takes a village to raise a child, it may take an entire educational support system as well as public policy reform and funding to get that child into a skilled technical job. A two-year study coordinated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the disjointed method of workforce development approaches in the U.S. may be hampering the economic competitiveness of the country. To combat that disjointed approach, the study, Building America’s Skilled Technical Workforcemakes a series of recommendations for policy makers, educators, employers, and other stakeholders in the future development of a skilled technical workforce.

  1. Certified organic operations are concentrated in the West, Northeast, and Upper Midwest

Although all 50 States have some organic production and processing, the proportion of farms that are certified organic varies across commodities produced and regions. Data from USDA’s organic regulatory program show that organic farm production and food-handling operations are concentrated in California (the country’s top fruit and vegetable producer), the Northeast (which has many small-scale organic farms), and the Upper Midwest (a major producer of organic milk). Northeastern States have the highest share of certified organic farmers, particularly Vermont and Maine, where about 5 to 6 percent of all farmers are certified organic. Organic processors, manufacturers, and other food-handling operations are concentrated around large metropolitan areas, while certified organic livestock operations are located predominantly in the Great Lakes region. The top 10 States for organic farm sales (see table to the right of chart) accounted for 78 percent of the total value of all U.S. certified organic commodities sold in 2015. California alone contributed 39 percent of total U.S. organic farm sales.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. Reviving Economic Activity on Former Manufacturing Sites | June 15, 2017 | 2:00 - 3:30 pm Eastern

In many places, the remnants of our manufacturing past are posing brownfield challenges today. As manufacturing production practices shifted and declined, many communities were left with closed factories, blighted properties, and contamination from past industrial activities. These former brownfields can be prime locations for new advanced manufacturing and maker movement innovation. Closed factories and industrial spaces are challenging assets to redevelop, but do present opportunities. Through best practices and case studies, this free webinar will examine how various experienced entities have brought brownfield sites back into productive use.

  1. 2.Free Webinar! Local Food: The Secret Ingredient for Vibrant Downtowns | Wednesday, June 14, 2017 from 2-3 p.m. Eastern

Whether you are a foodie or a farmer, local food is something to embrace. In small towns, the local food movement is doing more than putting meals on plates—it is nourishing economies by keeping farms vital and downtowns alive. Join the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™ for a free hour-long webinar on how farmers’ markets and food co-ops are addressing their local community needs while stimulating downtown development.

  1. 3.Smart Growth America Publishes New Report on Statewide Disaster Recovery Strategies

Smart Growth America has released a new report, Building Resilient States: Profiles in Action.  It highlights several local, regional, and statewide resilience efforts in Colorado, Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, California, Ohio, New York, Florida, North Carolina, and Louisiana. Click here to learn more and download the report. 

  1. 4.Webinar and Paper on Early Involvement of Private Sector Developers in Consideration of P3s

The Build America Bureau, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration’s Center (FHWA) for Innovative Finance Support, has released a discussion paper on Early Involvement of Private Developers in the Consideration of Long-Term Public-Private Partnership Concession Options.  This discussion paper draws upon past and current experiences to examine different mechanisms used by public agencies for involving private developers during the early stages of a project delivered through a Public-Private Partnership (P3).  The paper also evaluates consultative mechanisms used during project procurement and after contract award.  

This discussion paper is part of a P3 Toolkit consisting of tools and guidance documents to assist in educating transportation professionals as well as public sector policymakers and legislative and executive staff.  The objective of the paper is to identify approaches that have been effective in securing early input from the private sector to enhance opportunities for P3s. The Build America Bureau and FHWA also invite you to a webinar on Thursday, June 15, 2017 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm Eastern. 

Suzette's Letter, May 22, 2017

PUBLICATIONS

  1. 1.Rural Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Toolkit
    This new toolkit, developed by the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, provides information, strategies, and resources to help rural communities implement substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. Browse program models and examples, and learn how to implement, evaluate, and sustain a program in your community and disseminate program results.
  1. 2.Survival rates of manufacturing plants vary by county type and ownership structure

Between the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, U.S. manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. In many communities, the closing of a manufacturing plant can reduce local employment, earnings, and government tax revenue. To improve understanding of the factors affecting the survival of manufacturing plants, ERS studied plant survival over a 15-year period (1996 to 2011). Over this period, the average survival rate—the share of plants that were still employers—in rural (nonmetro) counties was 57 percent. By comparison, plants in urban (metro) counties had an average survival rate of 53 percent during this period. Survival rates also varied by ownership structure: Overall, independent plants (single-unit plants with only one physical location) had a 59-percent survival rate, while multi-unit plants had a 50-percent survival rate. Independent plants located in rural counties had the highest average survival rate (62 percent). Although States and regions have long tended to put more effort into recruiting and retaining multi-unit plants, the research shows that independent plants are more likely to survive—in both rural and urban counties.

  1. 3.Households shopping at supermarkets, supercenters, and warehouse club stores have highest healthy basket scores

Over the past two decades, some store formats—including supercenters, dollar stores, and warehouse club stores—have increased their share of Americans’ spending on “at-home food”—food and beverages purchased from retail stores. Shifts between store formats could have implications for shopping patterns. A recent ERS study computed “healthy basket” scores for monthly at-home food and beverage purchases. The higher the score, the closer a household’s purchases aligned with healthy-diet expenditure shares. Baskets were categorized by the format accounting for the household’s largest share of food expenditures. Scores were highest for households predominantly shopping at warehouse club stores (8.3), supermarkets (8.2), and supercenters (8.0). Household food baskets dominated by purchases from drug stores, convenience stores, and dollar stores had the least healthful purchases. Over 2008-12, an average of 67 percent of households in the data predominantly shopped at supermarkets, 17 percent at supercenters, and 6 percent at warehouse club stores. The other 10 percent shopped predominately at drug, dollar, convenience, and other store formats.

 

  1. 4.Western irrigation has become more efficient over time

Efficient irrigation systems can help maintain farm profitability in an era of increasingly limited and more costly water supplies. More efficient gravity irrigation uses the force of gravity and field borders or furrows to distribute water across a field. It may also use laser-leveling to improve flood irrigation. More efficient pressure-sprinkler irrigation delivers water under lower pressure sprinklers and systems using drip/trickle tubes and micro-spray nozzles. The efficiency of irrigation systems is particularly important in the Western States—such as Nebraska, California, and Texas—where water demand for agriculture is greatest and diminishing water supplies are expected to affect future water availability. Data from USDA’s Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) show that irrigated agriculture in the West has become more efficient over time. More efficient irrigation systems (both gravity and pressure-sprinkler) were used on about 36 percent of total irrigated acres in the West in 1994, but increased to nearly half by 2013. More efficient pressure-sprinkler irrigation alone accounted for about 15 percent in 1994, but more than 37 percent in 2013. The share of acres using more efficient gravity systems peaked in the late 1990s, but then declined as farmers increasingly turned to the even more efficient pressure-sprinkler systems.

 

  1. 5.Rural school districts less likely to serve local food frequently in school meals

According to USDA’s 2013 Farm to School Census, 35 percent of all U.S. school districts reported serving local food in school meals during the 2011-12 school year. Twenty-two percent of all school districts served at least one locally-sourced food item daily or more than weekly, and 19 percent of school districts—containing 30 percent of U.S. school children—served local food daily. ERS researchers analyzed data from the Farm to School Census to identify which types of school districts were more likely versus less likely to serve local foods frequently in school meals. Rural school districts were 11.2 percentage points less likely to serve local food daily than school districts in cities, after accounting for other school district characteristics, such as region, enrollment level, per capita income of the surrounding county’s residents, and county-level density of farmers’ markets. School districts in suburbs and towns were also significantly less likely to serve local food daily compared to districts in cities.

  1. 6.Poorest U.S. households spent 33 percent of their incomes on food in 2015

While households spend more money on food as their incomes rise, food expenditures represent a smaller portion of income as households allocate additional funds to other goods. In 2015, U.S. households in the highest income quintile spent an average of $12,350 on food—both from grocery stores and eating out. This spending accounted for 8.7 percent of their incomes. Middle income households spent an average of $5,799 on food, or 12.4 percent of their incomes. Households in the lowest income quintile spent less for food on average—$3,767 in 2015—but their food expenditures accounted for 33 percent of their incomes. Two years earlier, the lowest income quintile spent 36.2 percent of their incomes on food. The share of income spent on food depends on several factors, including food prices and incomes. While retail food price inflation was relatively low in 2013, income levels were also lower than in 2015, contributing to the higher percent of income spent on food in 2013 by the lowest income households. Food expenditures as a share of income could fall in 2016 and 2017 across income levels due to declining retail food prices in 2016 and a continued trend downwards in prices for some foods in 2017.

  1. 7.Personal income grows, state ranks largely unchanged

According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis state personal income data, national per capita income grew 4.0 percent from 2015 to 2016, and growth since 2012 is at 12.0 percent. States are experiencing this growth disparately, however, with five-year growth rates ranging from -0.6 percent (North Dakota) to 17.6 percent (California). Over this period, few states experienced significant changes in their performance relative to their peers — just four states moved more than five rankings — but shifts between income quintiles and variable growth rates suggest that more movement will be witnessed over the next few years.

  1. 8.Majority of Native Americans Live in Rural Areas and Small Towns, Not in Urban Areas as Commonly Reported, According to New “Twice Invisible” Report

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) today published a report that clears up a longstanding “urban legend” that has had a negative impact on Native communities. The report – Twice Invisible: Understanding Rural Native America – challenges the commonly held belief that the majority of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in cities and urban areas. The Twice Invisible report looks closely at Census data and uses a definition of “rural” areas developed by the Housing Assistance Council that is calculated with a formula that takes into account population and housing density. Using this definition, First Nations’ researchers found that 54% of American Indian and Alaska Native people, or a majority, live in rural and small-town areas on or near reservations, contrary to common myths. The report was authored by Dewees and Benjamin Marks, First Nations’ Senior Research Officer, and was made possible by support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Catalyzing Community Giving initiative. The full report can be downloaded from the Knowledge Center on the First Nations website here

  1. 9.SNAP participation more closely linked to poverty than unemployment rate

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the Nation’s largest food assistance program. In an average month in fiscal 2016, 44.2 million people—about 14 percent of the Nation’s population—participated in the program. Unlike other food and nutrition assistance programs that target specific groups, SNAP is available to most needy households with limited income and assets, subject to certain work and immigration status requirements. As a means-tested program, the number of people eligible for SNAP is inherently linked to the health of the economy. The share of the population receiving SNAP benefits generally tracks the poverty rate and, to lesser degrees, the unemployment rate and the poverty rate for children under age 18. Improvement in economic conditions during the early stage of recovery may take longer to be felt by lower educated, lower wage workers who are more likely to receive SNAP benefits, resulting in a lagged response of SNAP participation to a reduction in the unemployment rate.

EVENTS/LEARNING

  1. 1.First Nations Ag Business Webinars

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is offering a FREE three-part First Nations Knowledge webinar series that will help you manage and grow your agricultural business. These are perfect for existing Native farmers, ranchers and food producers, and will be especially helpful for entrepreneurs looking to launch an agriculture-related business. You do not need to attend all of the webinars in the series even though they build off of each other over the three-week period. However, we believe it would greatly benefit participants to tune into the complete series in chronological order. If that's not possible, the webinar recordings and materials will be posted soon after each one is completed under the "Previous Webinars" tab on the www.firstnations.org/fnk webpage. The first webinar in the series has been completed, but please register for each of the remaining webinars individually at the links below.

  • Webinar 1: (Completed) Understanding the Local Food System & Defining Your Ag-Business Opportunity | Held on Wednesday, May 17, 2017

This webinar provided an overview of the current status of the U.S. food system and explained how this impacts your tribal agricultural business opportunity. It reviewed case-study examples of tribally-controlled agricultural and local food enterprises. It also helped guide entrepreneurs through a process of exploring their personal motivation behind the ag-business concept and helped entrepreneurs’ define their personal and business goals. All of these facets will be combined to help the entrepreneur clearly develop a draft ag-business concept.

This webinar will build on Webinar 1 to help ag entrepreneurs understand the opportunities, as well as potential limitations, of their location and local foods market. We will also explore key concepts related to sales and marketing, including understanding local needs, defining your products and services, and selecting your distribution channels. All of these topics will be combined to help the entrepreneur develop a clear and focused marketing plan.

This webinar will build on the lessons learned in Webinars 1 & 2 to help ag entrepreneurs explore their risks and develop a plan for operational and staffing needs. We will also explore key financial principles and concepts such as investment requirements, pricing strategies, and operating expenses that are all directly related to profitability. We will also look toward the future to explore potential exit strategies. All of these topics will be combined to help the ag entrepreneur develop a clear and focused plan for operational and financial management.

  1. 2.Kresge Water-Systems Initiative to Invest in Sustainable Solutions

Kresge is bringing together staff from the Environment Program, Investments team, and Social Investment Practice to consider how they can use the full range of capital tools to advance a water-equity agenda that reflects the needs and priorities of low-income communities and supports solutions to address the climate-related impacts on water systems.

  1. Stanford Researchers Create "Living Map" of Water Financing Ideas

A team of researchers at Stanford has created a "Living Map" of innovative ways to finance water projects in the United States that they hope will help regions finance water infrastructure upgrades.

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