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The Rural Mainstreet Index, a measure of the rural U.S. economy gleaned from bank CEOs, showed a decline for the fourth straight month. “Unfortunately, very healthy farm income is not translating to healthy business activity for the Rural Mainstreet economy,” wrote economist Ernie Goss.

Farmland prices remain high, especially in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming, as have farm equipment sales, but home foreclosures, high unemployment and health care costs continue to depress the rural economy, writes Grayson S. Colvin, of Farmland Forecast.

• Iowa’s drowsy economy is under discussion in the governor’s race. In last week’s televised debate, GOP challenger Terry Branstad (above, left) voiced his determination to bring businesses to Iowa’s depopulated rural areas. Incumbent, Gov. Chet Culver (above, right) said he will focus on building up Iowa’s biofuels industry.

The candidates also differ in their views of how livestock operations should be zoned and regulated. Culver advocates county-level zoning rules for livestock confinements so that localities can gain more control of air and water quality. Branstad favors maintaining statewide rules.

Tundra Drums reports that rural Alaska Natives are more likely to contract pneumonia due to crowded living conditions and months of confinement during the region long harsh winters.

Rosalyn Singleton, of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, said that many rural Alaska homes still lack running water, making hand-washing difficult; use of wood stoves also contributes to respiratory ailments.

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