Fourth and Long. has long interactive web feature on the decline of football in rural parts of Nebraska. There’s a time-series map of high-school football programs (which dropped from 355 programs in 1983 to 282 in 2013), a map of the 736-mile round-trip bus route the team from Lindsay Holy Family took across state to play Banner County High School, plus video and lots of photos. It’s a thorough piece representing the challenges and joys of rural living. 

Large S.C. Potato Farm Raises Concerns. South Carolina environmental regulators are sure that a 3,000-acre corporate potato farm that plans to draw water from the South Fork of the Edisto River won’t damage the stream. But residents of Aiken County aren’t nearly as certain.

Michigan-based Walther Farms is building the potato farm (by far the largest in South Carolina) on the banks of the river. A recent state law means the corporation won’t need a permit to withdraw a planned 9.6 billion gallons of water a year from the South Fork, which in dry months is about 25 feet wide and less than 4 feet deep, reports Sammy Fretwell in the Columbia, South Carolina, State.

Critics of the potato farm say that the new waterway law was intended to protect family farms from over regulation and is being abused by the large, corporate operation.

On This River Bank, the Concern Is Hogs. In another piece about the impact of large-scale ag production on rural areas, the New York Times looks at the potential effect of a hog-production facility along the Buffalo River in the tourist-dependent Arkansas Ozarks.  

John Eligon reports:

For environmentalists, the development of the Mount Judea (pronounced Judy) hog farm provides a stark example of what they see as lax oversight of such farms by state and federal regulators. Many of them were dismayed last year, for instance, when the Environmental Protection Agency withdrew proposed regulations that would have required all concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to submit “basic operational information” and would have increased the number of such farms that require permits.

But C&H Hog Farms has many supporters, who say that these farms have long dotted the watershed without causing major environmental damage. They argue that the owners of C&H followed all the required steps to obtain a permit and will do all they can to make sure that the farm does not hurt the ecosystem.

“We believe that modern farming and environmental conservation and protecting the environment can coexist,” said Mike Martin, a spokesman for Cargill [for which C&H is producing the pigs]. “A lot of the fear and concern is based on a ‘what if’ scenario that may never take place.”

Coalition Calls for Delay in Flood Insurance Changes. A national coalition of builders associations, chambers of commerce, bankers associations and local governments is calling for a delay in implementing a new federal flood insurance program they say could raise premiums 30 fold on some home owners.

The 2012 Biggert-Waters Act was designed to shore up the finances of the federal flood-insurance program after massive claims from hurricane Sandy, which inundated the Northeast U.S.

But the changes will cause untenable spikes in premiums for homeowners, which are exacerbated by problems with new flood-plain maps and “questionable actuarial tables,” according to the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance.

An alternative proposal called the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013 would require the government to delay hikes in flood-insurance premiums until the Federal Emergency Management Agency certifies the new flood-plain maps and studies the potential impact of rate increases on homeowners. The premium-increase delay would apply only to first-home owners, not businesses or second-home owners.

The coalition says a vote on their proposed compromise could come as early as January 6.

Native Food Hub. A New Mexico company has received a grant from USDA Rural Development to develop a first-of-its-kind Native Food Hub. The $75,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) went to Acoma Business Enterprise, LLC. The hub will be designed to help Native farmers establish new markets for produce.

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