In the war against herbicide-resistant weeds, agricultural scientists are looking for new weapons. The worry, though, is what happens when the arms race crosses the border onto a neighbors sovereign land.
The folks with the biggest appetite for genetically modified wheat aren’t the world’s hungry – they are voracious seed companies, says Richard Oswald. GMO wheat offers few advantages, unless you hold the patent and pocket the fees farmers must pay to grow it.
An Internet service provider pays for underperforming • Looking to biomass for heat • The war on wood stoves • What’s that got to do with the price of propane in Oklahoma? • Concern over standardized tests • A shortage of Dems in Texas? • Utah caviar • Rural residency programs for docs in OK • Battling for local post offices in Ireland
What’s happening in the corn seed business? This graphic from the Wall Street Journal tells the story. From 2004 to 2013, Monsanto’s share of the corn seed business more than doubled, from 14% to 35%. Two companies (Dupont and Monsanto) controlled 70% of the corn seed market in 2013, up from 47% in 2004.
An Internet provider with a virtual monopoly in rural Georgia will pay a $600,000 settlement for charging users for Internet speeds that it did not deliver.
Windstream Communications “will pay $350,000 in civil penalties, administrative fees and expenses,” reports WGCL-TV in Atlanta. “They will also pay $250,000 in restitution, to be used for the purchase of new computer equipment for the Technical College System of Georgia.”
The state investigated Windstream’s promises about Internet speed for two years.
Although it only has 632 square feet of space, the Myrtle, Missouri, library leaves a big imprint on its patrons. Librarian Rachel Reynolds Luster shows how libraries create access and opportunity in rural communities.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Librarian Rachel Reynolds Luster is one of the presenters in Friday’s day-long webinar “Big Talk from Small Libraries.” The event, sponsored by the Nebraska Library Commission, is open for registration until midnight Wednesday, February 26. See the webinar’s website for more information.
I didn't even hear the story when it aired.
I always listen to National Public Radio in the morning but, for some reason, I had the radio off on my 15-mile commute from home to my little library in Myrtle, Missouri.
When I opened the door, the phone was ringing, and it continued to ring for the next two months. It still rings every once in a while.
The calls were the result of a story by Jennifer Davidson, a regional reporter for the NPR station out of West Plains, Missouri. She produced a piece on my library for the national series on Libraries in the 21st Century.
Jennifer found me two weeks after I started working for Myrtle Library. She saw a post I made on Facebook saying we needed a variety of materials. Her initial story aired in several towns and cities in Missouri. Shortly after, books started rolling in – hundreds of books and lots of letters and phone calls, and that was just from the regionally distributed story.
When I took position of librarian, I realized we needed a broader collection. About one third of our holdings were Harlequin paperback romance serials. We had 15 years’ worth. I now refer to this period of culling and processing as “training for the marathon.” I would not have had the wherewithal to handle what would come after the national story aired had it not been for this first regional run. In the last eight months, I've processed nearly 4,000 new library holdings. The overwhelming majority of those came from donations from locals, urbanites and other libraries.
Along the way, there have been many interesting conversations with folks from around the world, not only about our little library in a sleepy town of 100 or so, but about the larger issue of the importance of rural libraries in our cultural landscape. We've had people so moved by the stories that aired that they drove across the country in their RV to visit and bring us books or checks. I found myself setting up lodging and meal arrangements for those who wanted to visit. The first story had highlighted the fact that I was really bothered that our library, in fact none of the libraries in our county system, had a copy of Homer's The Odyssey. I can't tell you how many copies of The Odyssey and The Iliad I received, along with boxes of books in Greek and Latin. Unfortunately, we didn't have room for all the Greek and Latin books, because our library is only 632 square feet.
Labor Department attempts to “level the playing field” for coal miners with black lung disease • As oil and gas boom in Texas, so do worker deaths • EPA issues new rules for farmworkers’ use of pesticide • 4-H joins science-related mentorship program for young women and girls • Once more: More to rural than agriculture.
Luis M. Alvarez/AP Among worker-safety issues in the news today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new proposed standards to govern farmworkers' use of pesticides. (See write up lower in this article.)
Lots of worker-safety news in the Roundup today.
First, coal miners suffering from black-lung disease could have a better chance to win benefits from the federal compensation program under reforms announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The rules will give sick coal miners access to higher-quality medical reports, improve training for doctors and government officials and give instructions to government lawyers to intervene in some cases, reports the Center for Public Integrity.
The initiatives, effective immediately, represent an attempt by the Labor Department to create a more level playing field for coal miners navigating a byzantine federal benefits system that often favors coal companies and the lawyers and doctors they enlist.
The changes come after the Center’s investigative report “revealed how doctors and lawyers, working on behalf of coal companies, have helped defeat the claims of miners sick and dying of black lung.”
Two coalfield senators said that the changes were welcome but that further action was needed:
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called the Labor Department’s initiatives “a step in the right direction,” and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said they were "a good first step toward leveling the playing field.” Both noted, however, that only some miners qualify for them and called for further action.
Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., said: "While this is certainly an encouraging development, it’s far from what’s needed to ensure these miners and their families receive justice. I’ll continue to push the Department of Labor to make the necessary reforms to get this right.”
USDA’s spending on nutrition programs climbed to historically high levels in 2013 for the 13th consecutive year. But the rate of growth in the food stamp program declined to its lowest level since 2007, a new report from the Economic Research Service says.
USDA Economic Research ServiceThe number of participants in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has increased by a factor of 2.5 since 2000. Growth in the last year was at the lowest level since 2007, however.
Just as Congress was fighting a bitter battle over the future of the food stamp program, the number of people participating in the program was leveling off, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Participation in the food stamp program – or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – grew by 2.2% from 2012 to 2013, the report from the USDA Economic Research Service says.
That’s the smallest increase since 2007.
SNAP participation grew by 1 million to 47.6 million in 2013, the report says. The average benefit per person fell a few cents from $133.41 per month to $133.08.
Total expenditures on SNAP climbed 1.8% to $79.8 billion in fiscal year 2013.
SNAP benefits were at the heart of the congressional fight over passage of the farm bill in 2013 and 2014. The conservative wing of the Republican Party killed a farm-bill compromise in the House last summer by pulling SNAP out of the legislation. They were concerned, in part, about growth in the program.
Since 2000 the number of people participating in SNAP has grown by 2.5 times, the USDA report says. But that growth rate moderated in 2013.
USDA Economic Research Service SNAP accounted for nearly three-quarters of farm-bill nutrition spending in 2013.
Overall growth in the USDA’s domestic food and nutrition assistance programs grew by 2% from 2012 to 2013, the smallest growth since 2000. But the increase marks the 13th consecutive year that assistance spending climbed and broke the previous historical spending record. (Spending was not adjusted for inflation, however.)
Other programs in USDA nutrition assistance, besides SNAP, are school lunches and breakfasts, Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Photo by Jon Austria/The Daily Times (Farmington, N.M.)A front end loader dumps coal into a hauler at the Navajo Mine.
The recent purchase of the Navajo Mine by the Navajo tribe is a perfect example of the power that fear of economic hardship holds over vulnerable populations.
Fear pushes communities like the Navajo Nation – with its more than 40% unemployment rate and 43% of the population living below the poverty level – to take desperate, short-sighted means to ensure continued income from an industry that effectively results in both their physical and cultural destruction.
That industry is coal, and it is an old, ugly story for the Navajo.
Recently the Navajo Nation paid $85 million to BHP Billiton for a coal mine that, according to the company, is no longer profitable. The back story to this sale is typical of such deals, in which global energy companies reap big profits while tribes pay with the health of their communities for the promise of a few years of reliable income for a small portion of the population.
“Buying the mine from BHP Billiton means responsibility for millions of tons of coal ash waste with toxic metals leaching into our aquifer and the San Juan River,” said Donna House of Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (CARE), in an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network.
The mine, located near Farmington, New Mexico, employs about 800 people, mostly Navajos. It delivers $41 million annually for the tribe, about one third of the Navajo Nation’s annual general fund.
The latest Ag Census shows the number of farms is declining and the average age of farmers is increasing. Most of the nation's 2.1 million farms continue to earn less than $50,000 a year from their operations, the survey says.
The number of farms in the United States fell from 2007 to 2012, according to figures just released in the 2012 Census of Agricultural. But the percentage of farms that earned $1 million or more that year doubled.
The Department of Agriculture conducts a Census of Agriculture every five years. The preliminary report just released covers 2012.
There were 2.11 million farms in America in 2012, the census says, about 4.3% fewer farms than in 2007. The census counts any farm that produces and sells $1,000 or more of agricultural products annually. (The bar chart above shows the number of farms from 1982 to 2012.)
What’s it like to live with fracking? David Headley says his western Pennsylvania community was a beautiful place to live and raise a family before gas production began. Now it’s filled with noise “like a landing jet,” spring water that will burn and odd medical conditions for his 4-year-old son.
Photo by J.B. Pribanic/Public HeraldThe Headley's spring is flammable. The horses stopped drinking the spring when it began to bubble about two year's ago.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The nation's energy boom is lowering the cost of natural gas, creating jobs in parts of rural America and reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign energy. But some advocates say the boom also creates economic and environmental hardship for the largely rural communities where energy is extracted. This first-person article is taken from “Shalefield Stories: Personal and Collected Testimonies,” published by Friends of the Harmed. The organization advocates on behalf of families in the shalefields of western Pennsylvania that have been affected by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The complete report is available here.
We have been residents of Fayette County for 28 years. We have owned our current residence for seven years. Our rural community in Springhill Township, Pennsylvania, was a serene, safe, picturesque small town, situated along the Monongahela and Cheat rivers, nestled in the foothills of the glorious Allegheny Mountains. Life here was quiet. This was a beautiful place to live and raise our family, far from the bustle of the city. This was before the drilling.
We first noticed the gas activity when bulldozers invaded our hay fields to build access roads to well pads. It began only about six weeks after we signed on the land, having bought it with the mineral rights but without the oil and gas rights. Since coal mining was the issue around here and there had been little to no gas activity left in the area, we were made not to worry about the potential for development, and moved ahead with plans to build our dream home. This was before anyone knew the name Marcellus. Yet, in seven years’ time, the man who owns the rights has put four shallow wells, one Marcellus well and a pipeline across the property. We had no idea they could do this to the land or us.
Photo by J.B. Pribanic/Public HeraldDavid Headley stands in front of dumpsters filled with his contaminated land (part of a closed loop system of waste management). The soil and rock awaits test results for radioactivity to determine its suitability for deposit in a landfill. Meanwhile, it sits on David's property.
The truck traffic is constant. Land damages were of course immediate. Trucks, noise, dust and nomadic workers followed. Then came the pollution of our air and water, then deforestation and the destruction of fruit trees. They even managed to burn 10 acres of ground with a brush fire, set with used motor oil from a bulldozer’s oil change! Every hour, once an hour, it sounds like a landing jet visits our once quiet farm as well.