While some meat producers try to hide behind the law or euphemisms, a new public relations campaign by the American Meat Institute attempts to show consumers exactly what happens in a commercial slaughterhouse.
The explosions at the Boston Marathon and West, Texas, occurred within days of each other and had similar catastrophic results. But the media and fundraising response to the two tragedies shows that Boston and West are worlds apart. It’s one measurement of the philanthropic gap between rural and urban America.
Raymond Thundersky roamed the streets of Cincinnati – a Native American in a clown costume who drew urban construction scenes, both real and imagined. Mary Annette Pember relates her own search to find the story behind this enigmatic “trickster” who connected worlds as he created his own.
With production cut in half and steeper declines on the way, King Coal’s reign in Central Appalachia is over. The question is “what comes next?” To learn where their own future may lie, Kentuckians look to other rural regions – and themselves – to learn about economic transition.
With no dissent, Supreme Court sides with Monsanto • Tribe helps pay for cost of mascot name change • Democratic donors oppose Keystone pipeline • Ten Commandments flap.
Tennessee’s ag-gag bill got passed after images like this treatment of Tennessee walking horses surfaced.Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam says the Constitution had more to do with his veto of the so-called “ag-gag” bill than the high-profile, celebrity-studded campaign to kill the bill.
The bill would have required people investigating animal cruelty to turn over footage of alleged animal abuse to authorities within 48 hours.
Legislators who passed the bill said it would ensure that abuse gets reported in a timely manner. Opponents said it was designed to keep investigators (especially from animal rights groups) from gathering criminal information about livestock mishandling.
The governor received more than 5,000 phone calls and 16,000 emails – mostly in opposition to the bill. Ellen DeGeneres, Emmy Lou Harris, Carrie Underwood and others were involved in the national campaign.
The Tennessee attorney general’s office said the legislation probably violated the First and Fifth amendments and was overly vague.
Tennessee legislators enacted the ag-gag bill after the Humane Society used hidden cameras to document abuse of Tennessee walking horses.
Supreme Court Agrees Unanimously with Monsanto. The political rifts within the Supreme Court were nowhere to be seen when the justices handed down a unanimous ruling in favor of Monsanto in a patent infringement case.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote that Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman could not use Monsanto’s patented, genetically altered soybean seeds to create new seeds without paying a licensing fee.
Tribe Helps with Mascot Change. The Oneida Indian Nation of New York is helping the Cooperstown public schools with the cost of changing their mascot’s name from the Redskins to the Hawkeyes.
Today’s agriculture depends on chemically produced nitrogen to increase yields and feed the planet. That concentration of chemicals can have disastrous consequences, as we saw in West, Tex. But the dangers of those chemicals aren’t always what we are led to believe.
NH3, (that’s the molecular symbol of anhydrous ammonia) is dangerous. But not the way some people think.
After the big fertilizer plant explosion in West, Tex., early reports blamed anhydrous ammonia for the blast. That’s not what happened. Anhydrous ammonia can cause freeze and chemical burns, but it isn't normally explosive. It will only ignite as a vapor with exactly the right fuel to air mixture at a little over 1200 degrees F.
Because anhydrous ammonia is normally stored outside in heavy tanks like those used for propane, the chances of that happening are slim.
Plain old dust in a grain elevator is a greater explosion risk than NH3.
The reason we have NH3 is because at a concentration of 82%, it’s a very good source of nitrogen. Farmers inject the ammonia directly into the soil where plant roots can pick it up.
rohnerleeA farmer injects anhydrous ammonia into a field. The chemical fertilizer can be dangerous, but it's generally not explosive. That's ammonium nitrate. Click photo to play video.
With a boiling point of minus 28F, when NH3 is released into the atmosphere it vaporizes almost instantly.. That evaporation causes it to become colder than minus 50 F.
I have frozen my fingertips just undoing hose couplings between the nurse tank and my ammonia applicator. It gets cold. That’s why packing plants and other businesses with large refrigerated warehouses use anhydrous ammonia in place of freon in the their refrigeration systems.
During fertilizer time my hands chap and dry out just being around the fumes, no matter how much hand lotion I use. It’s dangerous for sure. Just a tiny whiff up the nose steals your breath. It burns lungs and eyes, and if a malfunction on the applicator or tank sets gas free, it can be scary or worse. It’s impossible to breathe or even see while engulfed in a vapor cloud unless wind carries it away or you're able run clear.
Half of new rural residents are Hispanic • Blast-site map shows detail of damage • Democrat-voting record-setter is rural • Jet passengers -- better broadband than rural residents? • Fly technology wins U.N. prize.
NY TimesA New York Times infographic shows the extent of the damage from the West, Tex., fertilizer plant explosion. On Friday authorities announced that an EMT who was at the scene of the explosion had been arrested for possession of a destructive device. Authorities also announced they had started a criminal investigation into the blast. They did not say whether the arrest and the criminal investigation were related, making for another busy day of speculation on cable newscasts. Map links to New Times infographic.
Rural Diversity. The increase in Hispanic residents in rural Wisconsin is changing school districts, the legal system and the economy, reports Laural Morales for Fronteras, a consortium of public radio stations.
The Durand School District in west central Wisconsin has hired an English language coordinator, who helps Spanish-speaking students make the adjustment to the English-speaking classroom. In the Durand district the number of Spanish-speaking students has almost doubled in the last three years. In a neighboring school district the number of Latino students now outnumbers non-Latinos.
"I never dreamed that this little corner of the world would have this immigrant presence," said Shaun Duvall, an interpreter for many dairy farmers and their workers. She said the newcomers here have changed the community, and not everyone knows how to handle it.
"I mean diversity is if you’re Norwegian growing up in a Swiss community," Duvall said. "You know that’s diversity! And so they don’t have experience. And so it’s not even so much discrimination, but just not knowing really."
There Goes the Neighborhood. Take a look at the West, Tex., neighborhood obliterated by the fertilizer plant explosion. The New York Times has an infographic that shows the location of deaths and physical damage to buildings like a middle school, high school, nursing home, apartment building and scores of homes.
The Times also reports on the Texas antipathy toward workplace and fire-safety regulation. The state has the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities. “Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012,” report Times staffers Ian Urbina, Manny Fernandez and John Schwartz.
Song of the Solid South. Elliott County, Ky., is held up as one of the last vestiges of the New Deal coalition that brought FDR and the Democratic party to ascendancy in the rural South. Elliott County continues to vote Democratic in presidential elections, even while its neighbors have shifted toward the GOP:
The majority of Elliott's 8,000 residents have cast their ballots for the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since the county was incorporated in 1869 -- the longest continuous stretch of any county in the United States. This despite the fact that Kentucky as a whole has trended Republican over the last several decades. In 2004, Elliott was one of 11 rural Kentucky counties to vote Democratic. In the 2008, that number dwindled to four. In 2012, Elliott became the last county to vote Democratic -- not just in Kentucky, but among all predominantly white counties in the rural South.
Fly-over Broadband. The Federal Communications Commission has a plan for providing better high-speed Internet service to airline passengers.
The percentage of U.S. population that lives outside metropolitan areas has been declining for generations, even though the raw number of nonmetro residents has continued to increase during that time. But from 2011 to 2012, the actual number of people living
in nonmetro counties went down, for the first time since the federal government started keeping records.
USDA Economic Research ServiceThe red line tracks absolute population change in nonmetro counties.
In 2012, the line dips into negative territory for the first time since the Census
started tracking county-level populations 50 years ago.
The Economic Research Service of USDA reports that between July 2011 and July 2012, the change in population dipped into slightly negative territory in nonmetro counties. Follow the red line in the chart above. In 2012, it dips slightly below the zero line, denoting a slight population loss.
Bureaucrat gone wild • Crucified on a cross of solar panels? • McConnell encourages Kentuckians to avoid tough questions about the future of coal • Sales-tax bill allows tribal groups to audit merchants.
Brian Peterson, Star Tribune“Mount Frac,” a 50,000 ton pile of frac sand in Winona, Minn., blocks from view most of the Winona County Law Enforcement Center. Frac sand is used in fracking, a drilling technique for extracting oil and natural gas. Minnesota environmentalists are trying to slow the spread of frac-sand mining. Their efforts have failed so far, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. Even a small bill that would block mining within a mile of any trout stream is being resisted in the state legislature by an industry that says additional regulations would kill jobs and economic growth.
Work on the Farm Bill continues, Jerry Hagstrom reports. It could come to the Senate floor as soon as next week, according to New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand.
Well, maybe not that soon. Markup of the bill will come next Tuesday. But Majority Leader Harry Reid only says he wants to take up the bill this month. And Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, says the bill won't appear on the Senate floor before June.
Hagstrom writes in DTN that proposed cuts in food stamps are a hang-up. Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow has proposed a 10-year $4.1 billion cut in the food program, but others are vowing to fight this measure.
Senators are also working on a dairy amendment, Hagstrom reports.
But She “Gets My Work Done.” Bureaucrat-gone-wild award goes to Jeanette Hanna at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A new report found that a 775 day posting of the Oklahoma BIA official to Washington , D.C., cost taxpayers $178,000. There was $30,000 for the SUV and $33,000 for the hotel room she rented even though she spent 283 days of the detail back home in Oklahoma.
Hanna was a trip. While BIA regional director in Oklahoma, she had 40 new security cameras installed, so that she could keep an eye on employees.
Her boss, Paul Tsosie (chief of staff to the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs) likes Hanna fine. “All I know is she gets my work done,” Tsosie said.
A “Direct Assault” on Rural Colorado. Democrats in the Colorado legislature are near to passing a bill that would require rural electric cooperatives to double the amount of electricity they produce from renewable sources, reports The Goat's Sarah Gilman.
Under the bill, rural co-ops (which serve 70 percent of the state's land and 25 percent of its residents) would have to have 20 percent of their power coming from renewables by 2020.
Unemployment in rural counties continued to fall in March. That's the good news from the most recent employment figures released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bad news is that the number of people working in rural America has dropped by more than 55,000 in the last year. Six out of 10 counties lying outside urban America have fewer jobs this March than March a year ago. (Click on the map above to find the March unemployment rate and the change in jobs from a year ago for your county.)
The small recovery in jobs over the last year has been an entirely urban phenomenon.
In March of this year, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent in the nation's most sparsely populated communities. In February, the rural unemployment rate was 8.9 percent — and a year ago, in March 2012, the rate was 8.7 percent.
The Oakes family turned a hobby into a thriving
agricultural business. In a region where farms traditionally provide only a
small portion of a family’s income, they’ve created full-time jobs for
themselves and a dozen other workers.
When Ken Oakes left home to attend the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, he wasn’t expecting to return to his small hometown. The farm where he was raised near Corryton, Tenn., didn’t produce enough to provide his father, Stewart, with fulltime employment, let alone support another generation.
"I never expected to come back,” Ken said.
Today Ken and his dad run Oakes Daylilies, a thriving agricultural enterprise near Corryton that sells daylilies across North America and overseas. Besides employing Ken and Stewart, the business provides full-time work for a dozen other employees. It’s far more economically productive than traditional farming in east Tennessee, which is mostly dairy, beef cattle and, until recent years, tobacco.
The Oakes’ success with daylilies is a combination of factors: the business and marketing acumen that Ken picked up in college, broadband access that allows the family to market its product around the continent and globe, the support of the local community that shops at the farm and patronizes side projects like a corn maze, and hard work.
And of course, there’s those daylilies the Oakes began cultivating and hybridizing back in the 1960s.
Shawn Poynter/Daily YonderThe Oakes grow daylilies on 50 acres located about 10 miles northeast of the Knoxville, Tenn., city limits.“The problem with daylilies is you can find an excellent daylily, an excellent clone, [but] the only way to get more of it is to vegetatively propagate it,” Stewart said. “You have to grow it up, divide it, line it out. … It takes a long time to get more of one good plant.”
Over the years, the Oakes slowly built up their supply and variety of flowers. “We were well into this process when my son, Kenneth, graduated from the University of Tennessee,” Stewart said.