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The Yonder Report: News from rural America - March 21, 2024

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News from rural America.


A labeling change could pay off for small farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry, pandemic-related rural job loss bounced back but progress has stalled and rural housing is scarce for younger generations as older homeowners stay put.


♪♪ For the "Daily Yonder" and Public News Service, this is the news from rural America.

Farmers and ranchers could see more greenbacks, and consumers will know where their food comes from under a new rule that limits which meat and poultry can be labeled "product of USA."

Marty Irby, who leads a nonprofit research group, says confusion over the label was disastrous for American cattle producers.

We've seen tons of cattle ranchers actually go out of business because they couldn't compete with foreign cheap meat.

Until now, the USDA allowed the U.S. label as long as products were packaged here.

Irby says that meant the four big meat packers could get away with processing cheaper food from countries with fewer health and safety rules.

They're making greater profit margins on the beef that comes from foreign countries because of the cost of production.

He expects producers to see benefits when the rule takes effect in 2026.

At the end of the day, we're certain this helps U.S. beef producers in the marketplace.

Rural America has slowly replaced jobs lost during the pandemic, but new data suggests progress has stalled.

Bea Portella has more.

"Daily Yonder" reporter Sarah Malott says rural America has gotten back much of what it lost, but federal data shows job growth slowed at the end of last year.

Rural America lost 90,000 jobs between December of 2019 and December of 2023.

That's less than a percent decline, but when you compare it to how metro places are recovering, it does show that rural America is slightly behind.

Over the same four years, Malott says metro counties saw a small bump, but she says rural counties dependent on government, manufacturing, or agriculture struggled to reach pre-pandemic levels, except in tourism.

Those rural places that are dependent on tourism economies, they gained employment.

They're behaving more like metro places.

I'm Bea Portella.

A rite of passage for young people often means moving away from their hometown, which can strip rural communities of their best and brightest.

But a University of Minnesota researcher found many are coming back, with some rural communities bucking the brain drain.

The trend I call the brain gain really picked up in the '90s and filled up almost every vacant home in rural America.

Then Winchester found three decades ago, folks often over 35 began moving home to rural areas.

He says the trend has slowed some because rural housing stock is often largely filled by long-term homeowners retiring in place.

Our homes are filled with a larger proportion of older people relative to the urban environment, so we are aging.

Minnesota's Otter Tail County is marketing to newcomers and schedules social events once they get there.

Winchester says that can help as new folks eventually step in to lead the community. (upbeat music) For the Daily Yonder and Public News Service, I'm Roz Brown.

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