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Day of action focuses on CT undocumented's healthcare needs; 7 jurors seated in first Trump criminal trial; ND looks to ease 'upskill' obstacles for former college students; Black Maternal Health Week ends, health disparities persist.

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Seven jury members were seated in Trump's hush money case. House Speaker Johnson could lose his job over Ukraine aid. And the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a case that could undo charges for January 6th rioters.

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Fears grow that low-income folks living in USDA housing could be forced out, North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues, and small towns are eligible for grants to boost civic participation..

New data illustrates decline of thriving farm communities

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Thursday, February 15, 2024   

The nation has seen its total number of farmers and farmland decrease over the past five years and advocates for smaller producers in South Dakota said new data indicates more challenges for farming communities.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its Census of Agriculture. Since the 2017 report, the nation's number of farms shrank by nearly 150,000 and total farmland dropped by 20 million acres. However, the average farm size increased, pointing to concerns about industrial farms gaining more ground.

Karla Hofhenke, executive director of the South Dakota Farmers Union, said it shows farmers, especially independent operations, need effective policies to keep working their land.

"Farmers will produce more and more with less acres, and so it's important that we keep the support of the Farm Bill programs going for them," Hofhenke contended

Congress faces a deadline later this year to adopt a new Farm Bill, and Hofhenke suggested enhancing programs offering conservation incentives is one way to prop up family farms.

South Dakota saw its total number of farms decrease by nearly 1,700 and total acreage was down by nearly 940,000.

Hofhenke emphasized if more small towns see family farms replaced by larger operations with no connection to the community, the towns will lose their identity.

"You start losing your schools in those local towns and when you lose your schools, you're losing your town because the young families are moving away," Hofhenke observed.

Larger farming companies said being able to grow in size allows them to meet global demand for food. Meanwhile, the average farmer age went up in the new report. However, there was an 11% increase in the number of beginning farmers, with experts noting it could help ease the burden of not having enough people to replace producers nearing retirement.


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