Friday, August 22, 2014

08/22/2014 at 9:47am

Climate CentralThis graph represents a typical climb in temperature from a rural area to an urban center.We've been saying this all along, and science confrims it: It's cool to live in the country.

Or at least cooler.

A new report says that rural areas around the nation's 60 largest cities are an average of 2.4 degrees cooler than their adjoining urbanized areas. That's because of the phenomenon of "urban heat islands."

The report from the research group Climate Central says that climate change is making the condition more pronounced. Urban heat could get bad enough to create problems for city living in the future, the report says.

 “Cites are almost always hotter than the surrounding rural area, but global warming takes that heat and makes it worse,” the report says. “In the future, this combination of urbanization and climate change could raise urban temperatures to levels that threaten human health, strain energy resources, and compromise economic productivity.”

The report also says the number of “searing hot days” is increasing each year in major cities. In most cases, urbanized areas are warming faster than rural areas, the report says.

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Efforts to reform the national beef “checkoff” marketing program have hit an impasse.

The Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, which represents 11 industry-related organizations, has been working for three years on a new plan. But their recently released report has drawn broad criticism for not going far enough to improve the marketing system.

The checkoff system imposes a fee on each head of cattle. That money is supposed to be used to market beef. But critics say the money has become general support revenue for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which receives 80% of the funds generated from the checkoff.

Early this week the National Farmers Union legislative committee recommended that the NFU pull out of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, saying proposals so far would not make meaningful changes in the program.

The Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star reports

[NFU’s Chandler Goule, senior vice president] said the work group at one point was close to a consensus, but one industry member stalled and the resulting memorandum does nothing to change the functionality of the checkoff, nor what many see as an almost monopolistic control by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. …

Nebraska state Sen. Al Davis, a rancher from Hyannis, has been appointed by Vilsack to the 103-member Beef Board. On Tuesday, he called the memorandum a step in the wrong direction.

Davis said no policy groups should have a connection to the committee awarding checkoff funds, and that concern isn’t addressed by the proposal.

The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, while not part of the work group, called for rejection of the proposed memorandum.

Independent Cattlemen President David Wright questioned the need for raising the checkoff [from $1 to at least $2 per head of cattle] and said the proposed changes to the Beef Promotion Operational Committee would not address the lack of diversity that has led to accusations of favoritism in awarding projects.

Montana-based R-CALF USA, which is not a member of the work group, called the memorandum “smoke and mirrors.”

R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said he attended a few of the work group meetings when they first started but was excluded after making it clear R-CALF wouldn’t consider supporting an increase in the checkoff until its concerns about conflicts of interest within the program were resolved.

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Louisville public radio looks at the role of coal in Kentucky elections, including the current Senate race between Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

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Diners in Denver are winding down a four-day event celebrating locally produced meat and local neighborhoods. The event, Hoofin’ It, explored four neighborhoods over four nights, treating participants to food made from a different hoofed animal each evening. Meals centered around bison, pork, beef and sheep, reports the Denver Eater. Ranchers served as guests of honor for the events, and participants walked from restaurant to restaurant – hoofing it, get it?

08/22/2014 at 7:13am

Caters/Daily Mail You can't dress up a pig. Or can you?

 A few years ago UNESCO sounded the alarm that half of the world’s languages may become extinct by the end of our century.

Serious hand-wringing and think-tank creating followed, along with a big push by National Geographic, among others, to document and preserve the world’s linguistic diversity under the rallying cry “Save a language. Save a culture.” As its moniker makes clear, agri-culture is, of course, a culture, and yet nowhere in the mad scramble to document the world’s endangered indigenous tongues did I hear mention of what my farmer grandfather lovingly called “Barnyard English.”

If you grew up on or around a farm or ranch you know exactly the linguistic bumper crop to which I refer—that fecund, richly metaphoric language that seemed to roll off your grandparents’ tongues but now seems awkward or incongruous on yours. My farm-girl grandmother Julia, for example, was fond of the phrase “pert near”—a contraction for “pretty near” if we’re splitting hairs. Even now I can see her sitting at the kitchen table on the farm with a Coca-Cola in one hand and a grocery list in the other saying something like “That Mary Louise is pert near crazy” or “Your cousin Andrew pert near ran that little car of his into the ditch.”

Pert near’s a perfectly acceptable, wholly grammatical contraction, of course, akin to substituting “I s’pose” for “I suppose.” And yet how many of us farm-kids-turned-circumspect-professionals feel free to drop a “pert near” with a straight face and sans disclaimer in a boardroom, conference center or lecture hall? Same goes for another of my favorites, fixin’. I s’pose opening a meeting with “Next we’re fixin’ to hear our annual shareholder’s report” strikes the average listener as a mite shy of Ivy League.

We’re unduly sensitive about our perceived linguistic warts and especially thin-skinned when it comes to cultural pasts we’ve tried mightily as a people to transcend and evidently would prefer to forget. I remember, for example, the unprecedented vehemence my elementary school teachers reserved for the word ain’t, which I was told, when occasionally I would let it slip, was a word used by ignorant country people.

08/21/2014 at 7:14am

Forty percent of tribal libraries participating in a national study lack broadband access to the Internet.

And, depending on how you define broadband, that figure could be as high as 89%, according to a study by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries & Museums.

The association undertook the study to help fill gaps in knowledge about how well tribal libraries are doing with digital and electronic equipment and services. Major studies of U.S. libraries have been part of creating the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. But that plan didn’t include specific information on tribal libraries.

The report shows that tribal libraries are providing critical services in their communities but that they lag behind the nation as a whole. And they aren’t doing as well, generally, as other rural public libraries overall.

The report is worth a read by anyone interested in rural technology, communications and education.

We want to focus on just two of the 25 charts and tables included in the 50-page report.

First, the chart at the top of the story shows how tribal and rural libraries stack up against national averages in providing digital services and equipment.

Across the board (with just a couple exceptions), tribal libraries lag national and rural averages in their equipment and services. Tribal libraries are less likely than all public libraries to provide homework resources, audio books, electronic databases, e-books and online instruction services.

One exception to the trend is in digitized special collections such as photographs and letters. Tribal libraries are more likely offer that service to their communities.

08/20/2014 at 7:04am

All photos by Geoff Brown "I was out driving one day and had gotten a little lost outside of Nashville. I went down a road I’d never been down before and drove by this couple and about ten seconds later I realized I had to turn around and go back there. And I went up to them, this total stranger with a camera in my hand, and I introduced myself and asked if they’d mind if I took some pictures while we talked. Now I’ve been back there two or three times to see them. I always take a big bag of cat food because they have about 100 cats. They’re really sweet people. I’m overdue for a visit."

 

Daily Yonder: Tell us a little bit about your background.

Geoff Brown:  I was born and raised in a small rural farm town in Upstate New York. It was really like a Mayberry-type town at that time.  I graduated with 98 people in my class and I think half the people in my class had FFA [Future Farmer’s of America] coats that they wore every day to school.  So it was a very rural area, and very beautiful.  I don’t miss it in the winter, but I miss it the rest of the year.

 

DY: When did you leave Upstate New York?

GB: I went away to college, and then I moved to New York City in 1980 and met a girl there and ended up living there for a decade, so that was a real change of environment for me.  But I loved it.  For a kid in his 20’s, it was a great place to be.  There was so much going on.  I also lived in Alaska for a few years, and then back to Upstate New York before I moved down here to Nashville.

 

DY: What brought you to Tennessee?

GB: Music.  Change of climate.  I’ve always liked the South, and it’s always been somewhere I wanted to live.  I’m a musician and I didn’t move down here with any illusions of being a successful musician because that’s really hard to do down here, but the cost of living is low and the quality of life is good, and there are lots of cool things to do and see.  My girlfriend and I were tired of the winters back home, so we decided to move down here and that was that.

This man is 89 years old and he lives in the house he was born in. He still grows soy beans himself. He was just out mowing his lawn as I was driving around. I got out of the truck and was impressed this guy in his 80’s is still doing this stuff himself.

"There aren’t that many cotton fields in middle Tennessee and I wanted to shoot some, so I went looking for some near Smyrna, Tennessee. Down around there are some big cotton fields that I happened upon. It was kind of a stormy day so it made for some good shooting. There weren’t cotton fields where I grew up, so it’s very different to me. "

08/19/2014 at 7:08am

A new report says some fracking companies used diesel fuel in their drilling operations without obtaining proper permits.

A new report charges that several oil and gas companies have been illegally using diesel fuel in their hydraulic fracturing operations, and then doctoring records to hide violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The report, published this week by the Environmental Integrity Project, found that between 2010 and July 2014 at least 351 wells were fracked by 33 different companies using diesel fuels without a permit. The Integrity Project, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., said it used the industry-backed database, FracFocus, to identify violations and to determine the records had been retroactively amended by the companies to erase the evidence.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires drilling companies to obtain permits when they intend to use diesel fuel in their fracking operations. As well, the companies are obligated to notify nearby landowners of their activity, report the chemical and physical characteristics of the fluids used, conduct water quality tests before and after drilling, and test the integrity of well structures to ensure they can withstand high injection pressures. Diesel fuel contains a high concentration of carcinogenic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and they disperse easily in groundwater.

FracFocus is an online registry that allows companies to list the chemicals they use during fracking. At least 10 states, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, mandate the use of the website for such disclosures.

The report asserts that the industry data shows that the companies admitted using diesel without the proper permits. The Integrity Project's analysis, the report said, then showed that in some 30 percent of those cases, the companies later removed the information about their diesel use from the database.

08/18/2014 at 1:50pm

Photo by Kelly Hertz/Yankton Press & Dakotan The number of volunteer firefighters is declining nationally.

Volunteer firefighters are disappearing in America, according to the New York Times. This could spell trouble for small towns, especially those whose work-age resdients are moving to cities, leaving behind an aging community that relies of the emergency services firefighters provide.

The number of people working as volunteer firefighters has shrunk by 11% since the 1980s while fulltime positions have grown by 50%. The rise of the two-income household, which makes it harder to drop everything and run to an emergency, and the number of on-duty hours spent fundraising (loathed by many firefighters) are thought to be top reasons why fewer folks are volunteering.                

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About 70 residents in Rockport, Maine, will have a public option for faster Internet soon, as the city has installed more than a mile of fiber-optic cable in hopes of luring new businesses to the area and helping the ones already there. 

“The old model of economic development was businesses needed water, sewer and natural gas,” said Rick Bates, Rockport’s town manager. “That model has gone away. We’re hoping we can bring in those new, young entrepreneurs who are all about place first and then connectivity.”

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Food & Water Watch’s senior representative, Brother Dave Andrews, is retiring.

Food & Water WatchBrother Dave Andrews

Andrews served Food & Water Watch for six years as part of the organization’s outreach to the interfaith community and other constituencies. He’s worked in food and water programs for more than 40 years, according to an announcement from the nonprofit that advocates for healthier food and safer water.

“Brother Dave has been a remarkable ambassador for the critical issues that affect billions of people around the world,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Dave will be sorely missed at Food & Water Watch. We deeply appreciate his legacy—from his years of policy work to all of the relationships he’s built through the years. All of us who have been privileged to work with Dave over the past few years are committed to carrying on his work and upholding his commitment to food justice and sustainable food systems. In recognition of all of his fine work, we are establishing the Dave Andrews Food Policy Fellowship.”

Andrews' previous appointments included serving as executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

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The town of Montezuma, Montana, population 65, is suing every one of its voters in an attempt to settle claims of voter fraud in last year’s mayoral and town-board elections. At the heart of the lawsuits are non-resident voters, those who own second homes in Montezuma and cannot legally vote. Suspicions were raised when 12 people ran for mayor, a job that has, at times, been settled by drawing straws.

08/18/2014 at 7:21am

Photo by four4dots Meeting in the middle still requires at least one party to yield.

Driving down the middle of the road is a common practice in rural areas, where back roads are marked mostly by two bare tracks. Meeting requires that passing cars yield by splitting the track.

I remember once a long time ago when passing neighbors crunched bumpers on a gravel road. The law was called to establish liability for the crash.  When a deputy arrived, he surveyed the scene. Determined no one was hurt. No blows were struck.

That was that.

As he got back into his prowl car he told the drivers: “There is no center line on a country road. Figure it out for yourselves.” 

And back to town he went.

When it comes to country roads, farming or neighbors, it’s always better if everyone gives a little. And really, that’s the way it is most of the time. But big-boy politics combined with corporate money always seem to want their half from the middle and both sides.

Right-to-farm amendments are all the craze these days in conservative farm states as Big Ag hogs the road. That’s what happened during the Missouri August primary when Amendment 1 was decided by about 25% of registered state voters. Proponents called it things like “a big thumbs up for agriculture” or “another tool in the toolbox of agriculture.”

Amendment One backers told the world that agriculture in Missouri is under attack by animal welfare groups, nuisance lawsuits where manure spills and odors are courtroom fodder, and environmentalists led by the EPA who want to turn Missouri into a parking lot for environmental laws and regulations that make food and energy production impossible.