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Delores McQuinn knew her city of Richmond, Va., had challenges with access to healthy foods well before she was elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates in 2008. “This little kid … would come to my house almost every other day to see if we had food for (him) and his siblings," she said. I realized … that there were some serious issues of people having access to food.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low-income areas that have few grocery stores or healthy, affordable food retail outlets.

Sixteen states have passed laws explicitly authorizing needle exchange programs, and there are a number of states with statutes that either decrease barriers to the distribution of clean needles or altogether remove syringes from the list of drug paraphernalia. Additionally, a recent HIV outbreak in the small town of Austin, Ind., has led more states to consider authorizing such programs.

Forty-eight rural hospitals have closed their doors since 2010, according to data recorded by the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The typical rural hospital has 25 to 50 beds. It is more dependent on Medicare and Medicaid, which generally pay less than other insurers, and it has lower patient volume than urban hospitals. “The implication of lower volume is that the hospital is spreading fixed costs over less people and there is less certainty about the numbers of services that will be provided on any given day,” said Mark Holmes, director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. “This uncertainty makes it hard to staff the hospital and hard to plan.”

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of Rural America’s death are greatly exaggerated.” In fact, at least four major trends are helping improve the future of rural America: broadband, telemedicine, job training and new methods to attract young people to farming all offer hope.

Forty-five states levy a general statewide sales tax, with rates ranging from 2.9 to 7.5 cents $1 as of Jan. 1, 2015. Over the past decade, sales tax rates have remained relatively stable, with few states making significant changes. Among the states that levy a sales tax, the average rate was 5.64 percent in 2015, up from 5.35 percent in 2005.

Access to export capital continues to be one of the largest barriers for American small business exporters. While the federal government does have successful programs for helping small businesses find the financing necessary to become exporters, another potential Congressional roadblock is showing the importance of state programs to keep goods moving. The U.S. Export-Import Bank, also known as the EX-IM Bank, is the official export-credit agency of the United States. The bank’s mission is to support American jobs by facilitating exports of domestic goods and services through direct loans, loan guarantees, working capital and export credit insurance

With a special session of the Florida legislature underway to adopt a state budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, federalism questions abound. Florida Gov. Rick Scott filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in April, challenging what Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi characterized in an April 28 press release as “the federal government’s attempt to coerce Florida into expanding Medicaid” by withholding federal funding for hospitals that provide care to the uninsured. The federal government had notified Florida it would withhold $2.2 billion in funding for Florida hospitals in fiscal year 2016.

Data regarding federal and state Medicaid expenditures from 2004 to 2014 show the significant impact the Great Recession had on the federal-state partnership program. Enrollment and expenditures increased during the 10-year period; however, the increased program costs were borne disproportionately by the federal government.

The story behind emerging technologies in agriculture begins with a simple truth. Everybody needs to eat. With an estimated global population of more than 9 billion by 2050 and with no commensurate growth in arable land, that means farmers and ranchers will need to find new ways to produce more food on the same amount of land. New advances in agricultural technology may help the producers, but the ag tech startups that create those advances haven’t been getting a lot of support themselves.

The White House unveiled its semiannual regulatory agenda right before the Memorial Day weekend. The Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, also known as the Unified Agenda, details the rules that are under development throughout the federal government and covers more than 60 departments, agencies and commissions.

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