(Image belt)[povstate.jpg]The squabble over how to define rural diverts us from the real problem: Support for vital rural development programs has been decimated. Maybe it’s time for a new take on an old idea.
[error processing image tag]Figuring out which health insurance is right for you may be the biggest challenge people face in adapting to the Affordable Care Act. Other changes – like ending the practice of denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions – go into effect automatically.
Foundation grants to groups in two rural development networks rose modestly since 2006, the year Sen. Max Baucus issued his challenge to double rural philanthropy. These findings will be part of a larger presentation on the state of rural philanthropy at next week’s National Rural Assembly.
The Supreme Court’s Monsanto decision hurts farmers, reduces biodiversity and makes the world more dependent on the global seed industry. There are ways to encourage agricultural innovation and investment without giving away our genetic future.
Eighty years ago this month, Congress enacted a precedent-setting national farm bill as part of FDR’s first hundred days. The pace of agriculture legislation has slowed considerably in more recent years.
April’s joblessness numbers are a mixed bag for rural communities. The unemployment rate is dropping. But the number of jobs in rural America isn’t climbing very quickly. In fact, in the nation’s most rural counties, there are fewer jobs this year than last.
Click the map to make it interactive and explore data on each U.S. county.
The unemployment rate in rural America continued to decline in April, dropping to 7.6 percent in the nation's most remote counties, down from 8.3 percent in March, according to monthly statistics gathered by the federal Bureau for Labor Statistics.
In counties with small cities (between 10,000 and 50,000 people), the rates also fell, dropping to 7.3 percent in April from 8 percent in March.
Unemployment in the nation's cities remained lower than in the countryside. The unemployment rate in metropolitan counties in April of this year was 7.1 percent. In March, the urban rate was 7.6 percent.
The urban unemployment rate has been lower than the rural or small-city rate for all of 2013. That's a change from 2012. Early last year, the rural rate was lower.
Photo courtesy Oconee State ParkPeople swim at the Oconee State Park in South Carolina.
A bill that requires rural electric cooperatives in Colorado to double their renewable-energy target was signed yesterday by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The governor said that the bill was what the whole country was looking for, but acknowledged that it was imperfect, and issued an executive order to review the plausibility of the deadline and the cost. The new law requires co-ops to supply 20 percent of power from renewable sources by 2020.
The signing of the bill was met with different reactions."The 20 percent by 2020 is imminently doable," said John Nielsen, energy-program manager for the environmental-policy group Western Resource Advocates.
Kent Singer, executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, said “Twenty percent by 2020 is an impossibility,”
The committee that will oversee the bill is set to file a report six months from now.
E-Rate Expansion. President Obama is looking to expand a program that provides discounted high-speed Internet service to schools and libraries. The president is expected to ask the Federal Communications Commission to revamp its Schools and Libraries program, known as E-rate, at an event Thursday in Mooresville, N.C. The goal is to provide schools and other institutions with Internet speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second, among the fastest speeds commercially available today.
The Obama administration expects that the new E-rate fund will provide, within five years, new high-speed broadband and wireless service in 99 percent of American communities. E-rate is designed to help underserved areas, including rural ones.
Within a span of one month, Monsanto won a court case, lost a PR battle and wound up at the center of a controversy over illegal genetically modified wheat. It's all money in the bank for the ag giant.
In a month that began with a decisive court victory to protect its priceless plant patents, May could not have ended more badly for Monsanto Co., the $56 billion St. Louis biotech giant.
In fact, Monsanto’s May is a snapshot of the clinically cold, emotionally hot relationship U.S. consumers have with genetically modified food and the global firms that promote it. Love it or hate, most Americans eat it.
On May 13, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that growers could not use patented crop seeds to create new seeds they then could use without paying royalties to the inventor.
The case, Bowman vs. Monsanto, was a huge win for Monsanto and other firms that specialize in “self-replicating” technologies like GMO seeds. The victory is worth, literally, tens of billions of dollars.
Marshall HinsleyPart of the May 25 March against Monsanto -- this one in Dallas -- which came in response to the Supreme Court ruling. This was just a few days before the announcement that the USDA was investigating genetically modified wheat discovered in Oregon.Monsanto praised the win but the terms it used shows just how mindful it is of the public’s split loyalties. The Court’s ruling “was crucial for innovations that deliver benefits to millions of Americans,” the company explained, and it “ensures… breakthrough 21st century technologies that are central to meeting the growing demands of our planet and its people.”
The PR babble-speak is clear: keep your eyes on the ball we’re tossing up—“growing demands” of a hungry planet—and not on our company’s profits or controversial technology. It’s about you, not us.
The corporate apple, however, didn’t shine long after that polishing. Twelve days later more than 2 million people in 52 countries and 436 cities turned out to “March Against Monsanto.” The global event was both a protest against GMO-based foods and a promotion to label food that contain GMO ingredients.
Photo by Nancy FordSheila Kay Adams, a traditional singer fron Madison County, North Carolina, sings for students at Hamilton College at a dinner serving dishes from the 1800s.
A Kansas farmer has filed suit against ag giant Monsanto, saying the discovery of a field of genetically modified wheat is driving down U.S. prices, the Associated Press reports. The modified wheat, found in an Oregon field, was the same strain as one that Monsanto designed to be Round Up resistant. The seed isn’t authorized for use in the United States.
Farmer Ernest Barnes seeks unspecified damages in his lawsuit. He farms 1,000 acres near Elkhart in southwest Kansas. Barnes’ attorney says other lawsuits are in the works.
The United States exports about half its wheat crop, and many nations won’t accept genetically modified crops. Japan suspended some U.S. imports after the discovery of the unauthorized modified wheat. And South Korea said it would increase inspections of U.S. wheat.
Monsanto said the lawsuit was being drummed up by “tractor chasing lawyers.”
In 2011 Bayer CropScience announced it would pay $750 million to settle claims for contaminating the U.S. rice crop with genetically modified rice.
Rural Voters - Senate Democrats are pushing to pass the upcoming farm bill, which they believe is the key to appealing to rural voters and retaining their majority in 2014. With seats up for grabs in important agricultural states like Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas and North Carolina (all major GOP targets), Democrats have stepped up their rural outreach, according to an article in the Hill. As evidence, the Hill cites the rural summit, recently held by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. That gathering highlighted ways the farm bill would support business development through competitive grants, expanding access to broadband services, promoting conservation and lowering energy bills.
Dairy farmers in “deep rural” New York got a cool reception when they first tried to connect with the New York City food movement. Now, through polite persistence, social media and literally going the extra mile, commodity farmers are making some friends among the "food interested" in the nation’s biggest city.
Photo by Michael Femia Standing in Times Square are Tammy Graves (left), Kayla Windecker, Art Graves, Dale Windecker and Deb Windecker. The group drove five hours to participate in the Just Food conference, giving city food enthusiasts a more realistic view of dairy farming. Despite high-profile campaigns against milk and animal agriculture, these farmers found that some folks in the food movement are interested in learning more about the state’s dairies. To most people, “New York” means New York City. Rural New York is not so well known, even to our fellow New Yorkers. Few know that one quarter of New York’s land base or 7 million acres is devoted to farms.
New York agricultural regions are diverse, with millions of acres in rolling grasslands, traditional dairy farms, the productive Finger Lakes areas, the wide open North Country that extends to Canada, and the flatlands of Western New York. The Hudson River Valley and Long Island offer farmlands closer to New York City that produce more “local” foods for New York City consumers than the other regions.
Dairy farming is New York’s largest agricultural sector, with 5,400 farms producing $2.2 billion worth of milk at the farm gate. We are many small farms with an average herd size of 113 cows, smaller than the national average of 187 cows. In comparison, New Mexico, one of the fastest growing dairy states, has an average herd size of roughly 2,300 cows per farm.
For us, as commodity dairy farmers, New York City is our single most important market. New York City uses so much milk that its consumption fluctuations can push the price farmers get for milk up or down. Rural New York provides the city with a nearby source of fluid milk for drinking and a variety of dairy products, including Greek yogurt.
New York farmers have watched with interest as New York City’s “food movement” rises from a city that has for decades seemingly turned its back on the state’s farmers. “Food interested” New York City residents seem most focused on “local” food. “Local farmers” are the farmers who have the product, proximity or wherewithal to sell directly to outlets and consumers within the city through green markets, Community Supported Agriculture and other means. The “local farmers” seem to be more known to food-interested residents of the Big Apple than those of us in deep rural New York.
Photo by United Mine Workers of AmericaMembers of the UMWA, including President Cecil Roberts (seated on the left) wait to be arrested during a protest against Patriot Coal.
UMWA President Cecil Roberts was among 14 union supporters arrested peacefully Tuesday after staging a sitdown in downtown Henderson, Kentucky, the Gleaner reports. The arrests were part of the United Mine Workers’ protest over Patriot Coal’s cuts in retiree benefits.
Thousands of miners and their supporters flooded Henderson after a court ruling saying Patriot did not have to honor retiree agreements in its bankruptcy plans. Patriot Coal was created in 2007 out of portions of Peabody Energy Corp. and later Magnum Coal, a subsidiary of Arch.
Retirees and others say Peabody created Patriot with the express purpose of getting out of paying its obligations to retirees. In TheAtlantic.com, Matthew O’Brien, says the new trend makes him long for the good old days of the 1980s. Back then, corporate raiders took over companies and got rid of retiree pensions and health benefits. Now corporations themselves are getting out of obligations to retirees, he says.
Photo by Melvyn Calderon/AFP/Getty ImagesA crop circle protesting Monsanto's business practices is carved into a farmer's crop of genetically modified corn in the Philippines.
Maybe I exaggerate. But it seems I've been a farmer all my life.
Truth is, I was born on the farm to farmers, who were born on the farm to farmers.
I used to think that placed me near the top of Agriculture.
But now I'm not so sure.
These days it's pretty popular for anyone who does business with farmers or ranchers to climb into the big tent called "Agriculture." All the corporations who make money selling me things I need, or buying the things I grow, like to say they're "Agriculture" just like me.