bootheel

Updated 7:45 p.m. May 22  with number of bills filed Monday – On the eve of his first legislative special session, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and his allied nonprofit group are attacking one of the pivotal legislators  needed to win approval of the governor’s favored bill.

The nonprofit group is called A New Missouri and can collect unlimited donations from unidentified donors. It is targeting state Sen. Doug Libla, a Republican whose southeast Missouri district includes the now-closed aluminum smelting plant that Greitens hopes to reopen, along with a possible steel mill.

Libla says he supports the projects. But the senator questions some provisions in the expected special-session bill that he says could reduce state oversight over Ameren, which provides electricity to much of eastern Missouri.

In 2016 nearly 600 Missouri babies were born addicted to drugs. The condition, know as neonatal abstinence syndrome, has spiked in the state increasing by 538 percent between 2006 and 2016.  

 

The KBIA Health & Wealth Desk will be exploring those numbers throughout the year, along with work being done to address the issue. Reporter Bram Sable-Smith recently spoke with one organization, Project WIN, that provides behavioral health services including addiction counseling to pregnant and postpartum women in the Missouri Bootheel. Brooke Burlison is the project manager. 

 

 


Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

 

Cotton fabric has been a staple in our closets for decades, but times are tough for farmers in the U.S. cotton belt who are caught in the middle of a storm of changing global demand.

Cotton acreage in the U.S. has been declining for years, with 2015 hitting the lowest mark in decades.  It has dropped from nearly 15 million acres to less than 9 million acres in just the past five years.

“One of the main issues facing the world cotton market is just a sluggish demand,” said Jody Campiche, vice president of economics and policy analysis at the National Cotton Council.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

Richard Logan’s pharmacy has been on the same street in Charleston, Missouri, for 40 years. Picture rows of wrist wraps, antacids and the like in front of the counter, and rows of prescription medications behind it.

It’s your typical pharmacy with one big “except.”


Marisanne Lewis-Thompson / for Harvest Public Media

 

Driving along rough and muddy gravel roads next to what was once a rich soybean field, farmer Adam Thomas gazes out on an upended mess of tubes, wheels and hoses from a nearby farmer’s irrigation system.

Nowadays, his farmland in Miller City, Illinois, looks like a scene from “Lawrence of Arabia.” Layer upon layer of sand as much as 4-feet deep covered nearly 100 acres. Large sand deposits, fallen trees and fragments of a damaged road wreaked havoc on his once fertile farm ground.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

One year ago, while reporting on infant mortality rates in Kennett, Missouri, I met a 27-year-old expectant mother named Marylouisa Cantu. She was pregnant with her seventh child.

Her sixth child, a daughter named Alyssa, was born two years earlier and had spent two weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit due to complications from premature birth.


Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

The immigrant workers that pick crops like cotton and melons in the U.S. can have a tough time finding a place to live. The rural areas where they can find work often lack the social services and affordable housing. That means many farm worker families end up in dilapidated buildings, which can come with health risks.

Scott Davidson / Flickr

Authorities say a man has died after being arrested by police in Dunklin County.

When 85-year-old retired farmworker and grandmother Amparo Mejia needed surgery on her spine because of a rare form of tuberculosis, she was able to pay for the procedure through emergency Medicaid. She was lucky. For many low-income immigrants – even those authorized to work in the US – it can be challenging or outright impossible to get health insurance. 


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

Earlier this year, KBIA began a special reporting project highlighting the income and health disparities in the Missouri Bootheel. In May the project continued as KBIA traveled to the Bootheel town of Kennett, Mo., to host a community conversation.

The goal was to bring local residents and leaders to the same table to discuss difficulties in access to health care, the struggling rural economy and how to fix it. The following is an excerpt from that conversation. The full version may be found in an earlier post


Kristofor Husted/KBIA/Harvest Public Media

On May 20th, KBIA held a community conversation event in Kennett, Mo. The goal was to bring local residents and leaders of rural southeast Missouri to the same table to discuss difficulties in access to health care, the struggling rural economy and how to fix it. It's an event we called Health Barriers: Symptoms of a Rural Economy.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

Anthony Smith has a spiel he will deliver many, many times today.

“I’m Anthony Smith with the Family Counseling Center," he says, "and today is identified as the 'point-in-time count' for the state of Missouri. The governor’s office does this annually. We try to conduct a winter count to identify individuals who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless in our community.”


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

It’s a cold afternoon in Kennett, Mo. The lawns in this low-income housing neighborhood are still wet from yesterday’s rain. And just inside the door of her mother’s brick home, 27-year-old Marylouisa Cantu sits on a couch, pregnant and draped in a blanket.

Her mother beckons, through the storm door.

“Come in, come in.”


Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

Chuck Earnest drives along a dirt road next to his rice fields near Steele, Mo. It’s not planting season yet, so the fields are flooded. Flocks of ducks and other waterfowl take turns floating on the rippling water and flying above it.

“This has turned out to be the duck hunting center of Middle America – right in this territory,” he says. “There might be 1,000 ducks out there.”

For such a small region, this sprawling landscape of the Bootheel has some of the most productive farmland in the U.S. A solid water supply and nutrient-rich flatland creates a fertile environment to grow some of the most diverse crops not readily found in the rest of the state. You can find watermelons, sweet potatoes, cotton and a small but strong sector in Missouri growing rice.


Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

After years of negotiations, a dozen countries – from New Zealand up to Canada –are on the verge of a trade agreement that could be worth billions of dollars to the U.S. agriculture industry. Many American farmers and ranchers are eager to see the expected benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

A free trade agreement across the Pacific Ocean could open up markets and raise prices for him as well as other rice producers, said Chuck Earnest, a rice farmer in southeast Missouri.