How do you know what's rural? Well, if you have a dance hall that looks like this one in your county, odds are you qualify. This is the hall in Freyburg, Texas.

[imgcontainer] [img:Freyburghall.jpg] [source]Bill Bishop/Daily Yonder[/source] How do you know what’s rural? Well, if you have a dance hall that looks like this one in your county, odds are you qualify. This is the hall in Freyburg, Texas. [/imgcontainer]

What’s rural? The Yonder is constantly faced with the question of picking a definition of what’s rural and what’s not. There isn’t an answer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has 11 different definitions, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told a meeting of foundations this week in Kansas City.

DTN’s Jerry Hagstrom reports that Vilsack may take up this question with the White House Rural Council, the newly formed interagency group that has uncertain authority or portfolio. 

Definitions are tedious but important. There are programs aimed at either urban or rural areas. Millions of dollars can be shifted by the change in a decimal point.

Trouble is, there is no good way to define rural, as Jerry’s article clearly shows. That all the definitions are flawed is the one thing everyone agrees on. “Rural America has no definition that is agreed upon,” Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, told the meeting of foundations.

• Speaking of the White House Rural Council, Sec. Vilsack has commented on the group’s recent meeting on the USDA Blog. It don’t say much. 

• The evidence continues to roll in finding that people who live near mountaintop removal coal mining operations suffer from poor health.

The latest study was just published in the Journal of Community Health. It finds:

Self-reported cancer rates were significantly higher in the mining versus non-mining areas after control for respondent age, sex, smoking, occupational history and family history.

Mountaintop mining is linked to increased community cancer risk. Efforts to reduce cancer and other health disparities in Appalachia must focus on mountaintop mining portions of the region.

Ken Ward Jr. has a good rundown on the study, conducted by researchers at West Virginia University. The study is based on interviews conducted in the Coal River Valley. It found that Coal River communities had cancer rates of 14% compared to a rate of 9% in West Virginia’s Pocahontas County.

“The odds for reporting cancer were twice as high in the mountaintop mining environment compared to the non-mining environment in ways not explained by age, sex, smoking, occupational exposure, or family cancer history,” the report found.

Read Ken’s report for more details and a link to the paper

Earlier, a study found that birth defects were higher in areas near mountaintop removal mines.

Hannah Boen with the Abilene Reporter-News gives us a good update on COOL — Country of Origin Labeling. 

And she reports on a program in Texas to define Texas beef.

•Two Wyoming Republicans have introduced a bill that “seeks to guarantee that local contract prices are not subject to manipulation by packer-owned herds and encourage openness in public markets where buyers and sellers can witness bids and make their own offers,” according to the Billings Gazette.

The bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Cynthia Lummis and the Senate by Sen. Mike Enzi. 

• The federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regulations that would control air pollution from oil and gas wells, particularly those using a method known as hydraulic fracturing. 

So-called “fracking” has been used to exploit gas shale deposits across the country. “The proposed regulations are designed to eliminate most releases of smog- and soot-forming pollutants from those wells,” the AP reports. “New controls on storage tanks, transmission pipelines and other equipment — at both oil and gas drilling sites on land — would reduce by a quarter amounts of cancer-causing air pollution and methane, the main ingredient in natural gas but also one of the most powerful contributors to global warming.”

• Never thought about this aspect of the post office closings.

The AP reports that several POs along the Appalachian Trail are closing, and that will create a hassle for hikers. Those traversing the Trail mail supplies ahead to offices along the trail. If those offices are closed, it disrupts the supply line.

The Postal Service could close 3,600 post offices, but the ones of most concern to AT hikers are in Fontana Dam, N.C.; Glencliff, N.H.; and Caratunk, Maine. 

• End of September…..that’s when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would return releases from dams on the Missouri River to normal. That means flooding in the basin will end then, or sometime in October

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