Nebraska

CHRISTINA STELLA / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Between late planting, floods, and trade turmoil, many families in agriculture are operating under an extra layer of stress this year. But, addressing mental health in rural communities is more complicated than increasing resources.

The "bomb cyclone" that swept through the Midwest this week has caused more than $1 billion of flood damage in Nebraska, the state's governor said Wednesday. At least three people have been killed in Nebraska and Iowa.

In parts of the Midwest, floodwaters are starting to abate. But elsewhere, they're still rising.

In Iowa and Nebraska, hundreds of homes are flooded. There are lakes where fields and roads should be. Local police departments are sending out motorboats instead of squad cars.

Voters in three traditionally Republican states supported ballot measures to extend Medicaid benefits to more low-income adults.

The results highlight the divide between voters, even in conservative states, who generally support providing health benefits to the poor, and conservative politicians who have rejected the expansion, which is a central part of the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn't all that long ago that Grant Burningham was homeless and sleeping in a tent in the woods.

"That's hard for me to talk about because I thought I had reached the end," he says.

Burningham, a former financial adviser from Bountiful, Utah, developed serious medical problems 17 years ago. Back in 2001, Burningham offered to donate his stem cells to his sister for a transplant. It required multiple procedures, and each time Burningham was given high doses of a medication to boost his immune system.

"And then I got really sick," he says.

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Businesses across the U.S. are making all sorts of calculations right now trying to figure out what it would mean for them if these tariffs do happen. One of the people doing the math is Mark McHargue.

In Sidney, Neb., Cabela's corporate headquarters and flagship superstore sit up on a hill like a castle over the prairie. Pretty much everybody in town has deep ties to it. Melissa Norgard got her first job there working in the store's deli when she was 16.

"When I was growing up here, no, I never would have ever thought, Cabela's leaving, no," Norgard says.

Tim Mueller has raised corn and soybeans on 530 acres near Columbus, Neb., for decades, but now he is planning to take a huge gamble.

The big-box retailer Costco is building a new chicken-processing plant in Fremont, Neb., about an hour away from Mueller's farm. The company plans to slaughter 2 million birds per week. To raise all those chickens, Costco is recruiting about 120 farmers to sign on as contract poultry farmers.

Mueller wants in. But to do that, he plans to take out a massive $2 million loan to finance the construction of four chicken barns.

The battle over alcohol stores in tiny Whiteclay, Neb., has been going on for decades. Home to roughly about a dozen people, the town has been called a "rural skid row." Images of Lakota people openly drinking in town or staggering drunk on its streets are commonplace.

But now, that easy access to alcohol is gone.

The town of Whiteclay, Neb., has a population of 14 people. Its four liquor stores sell 4 million cans of beer each year, mostly to residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation, which is officially dry and right across the state line.

The effort to close the Whiteclay stores has spanned decades. But there's an assault on two fronts, including one from a minister who's looking to buy the stores.

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