Administration change will bring big changes in your area

Mar 13, 2017

By Al Cross
Into the Issues

Big changes in Washington will mean big changes in your county, and we’ve been covering them on The Rural Blog.

President Donald Trump’s pledge to deport undocumented workers could lead to a labor shortage in agriculture, in which an estimated 16 percent of the work is done by people who are in the U.S. illegally, The Associated Press and CNN reported. Our blog item is at

 That’s just one farm-and-food issue that could spark disputes among Trump and other Republicans, NPR reported. Those include breaking nutrition legislation out of the Farm Bill, the bill’s conservation-compliance rules, regulation of confined animal feeding operations, and protection of bees and other pollinators. See

Trump has talked about an Obamacare replacement that would allow insurance companies to sell across state lines, but that’s more complicated than it sounds, and it might be bad for rural buyers, Jackie Farwell reported for the Bangor Daily News. We excerpted the story at

Repeal of Obamacare could also quash a program that is penalizing 769 hospitals this year for shortcomings on patient safety, Trudy Lieberman wrote for the Rural Health News Service at For our blog item with a link to the list of penalized hospitals, see

More importantly, depending on the replacement, repeal could hurt or kill struggling rural hospitals, many in areas that Trump carried, Kaiser Health News reported, and we excerpted it at

Kaiser’s main example was a hospital in Pennsylvania, a state that just started a pilot project to pay six rural hospitals a set amount each month instead of reimbursing them for federally covered care, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Read about it at

Trump’s key landslide in rural areas, and major news outlets’ failure to anticipate it and its effect on the election, prompted The Washington Post to add a reporter who will focus on the divides between rural and urban Americans. Jose DelReal, Alaska native and Harvard grad, might appreciate some competitive help from rural papers; read about his assignment at

One last Trump note: Jim Stasiowski is known among community journalists for his column on newspaper writing, but his latest effort warned that Trump’s success could prompt local candidates who use the “Trump approach of loud, bold, insulting statements to gain early attention for an otherwise long-shot campaign.” Read it on one of our blog pages:

Drug abuse: Why is opioid addiction so rampant in rural areas? A story by Luke Runyon of Wichita Public Radio suggested that rural areas are the perfect breeding ground for opioid addiction. We paired it with a New York Times county-by-county map showing drug-overdose rates at

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 255 counties, mostly rural, that are the most vulnerable to an outbreak of HIV or hepatitis C from intravenous drug use. Many local officials have resisted establishing syringe exchanges as a way of heading off such outbreaks, but in several counties, they have changed their minds, reports Mary Meehan of Ohio Valley ReSource, a regional journalism collaborative of public broadcasters in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia:

In Kentucky, which has many “dry” counties, a study of meth-lab discoveries boosted the case that drug use is less prevalent in areas where alcohol sales are legal:

Drug use is discouraging economic development in some rural and micropolitan counties because too many prospective employees can’t pass a drug test. The Washington Post reported on that phenomenon in a story about how U.S. manufacturing has changed:

Newspapers: The Rural Blog is also about journalism and community newspapers, which are threatened in most states by local officials’ efforts to get legislatures to slash public-notice laws. The Public Notice Resource Center noted how the Georgetown (KY) News-Graphic presents public notices like news stories on a special page “designed to capture readers’ attention and promote the kind of serendipity that distinguishes newsprint from electronic formats.” We picked it up at (Also see the story on Page One.)

You may have seen the New York Times story about the Enid (OK) News & Eagle catching hell from readers and some advertisers for endorsing Hillary Clinton; we picked it up at

The rise of fake news has proven, that now more than ever, quality reporting is essential to keep people informed, especially in smaller communities. That was a key point of an article that longtime journalist Kathy Kiely wrote for (Bill) Moyers & Co., citing some local news startups:

The editor-publisher of the paper judged the state’s best weekly for the last nine years became president of the Kentucky Press Association and immediately challenged his colleagues to do better. We wrote it up at

Potpourri: One of the most republished or adapted Rural Blog items recently was one about a New York Times analysis of TV-show followers, with a neat map. It showed that TV, which once unified American culture, now defines its divisions:

Portable Wi-Fi devices at libraries allow patrons to “borrow the Internet,” the Daily Yonder reported, and we picked it up at

Rural liberal-arts colleges are fighting enrollment losses by improving connections with their communities, The Wall Street Journal reported:

Abusive teachers are able to skip from state to state as local schools cover up their misdeeds, USA Today reported:

State police are an important part of law enforcement in rural areas, but low pay and aging officers are creating shortage of troopers in many states, reported Therese Apel of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, MS. We excerpted her story at

If you do or see stories that resonate across rural areas, please send them to me at


Al Cross edited and managed weekly newspapers before spending 26 years at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal and serving as president of the Society of Professional Journalists. Since 2004 he has been director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky. See