Monday Roundup: The Cost of Closure

Farmers say lack of USDA reports will hurt their bottom lines // Media look at home districts of tea-party Republicans // Elderly, rural cancer survivors fare worse with medical care, study shows

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Farming without Info. For American farmers, the immediate difficulty presented by the closure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t the halting of payments for subsidies and conservation programs.

It’s the lack of market information, reports  Roxana Hegeman of the Associated Press, who has a national piece on the impact of the government shut-down on farmers and other small agricultural businesses.

The lack of payments “pales in comparison to the lack of agriculture reports, because farmers today depend far more on global marketplaces than government payouts like in the past,” Hegeman reports.

The reports, for instance, can alert them to shortfalls in overseas markets or if there’s a wide swing in acres planted, both of which would prompt U.S. growers to plant extra crops to meet those demands or hang on to a harvest longer to get a better price.

“That information is worth a lot of money, a lot more than $20,000 a year,” [Kansas farmer Tim] Peterson said, a reference to his subsidy.

Major commodity players can pay for crop size estimates usually provided in the [USDA market] reports from “private sources,” said Dalton Henry, director of governmental affairs for the industry group Kansas Wheat. “Producers aren’t going to have that same luxury,” he said.

During the shutdown, the USDA won’t provide sales reports from Oklahoma livestock auctions that are used to help set prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, state Department of Agriculture employee Jack Carson said.

“We are working. They are not,” Carson said.


Stories Look at Tea-Party Districts. The government shut-down is resulting in some tried-and-true journalistic methods – “man on the street” style reporting focusing on the districts of ringleaders in the Republican-led shut-down.

The New York Times’ James B. Stewart contacts voters in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District. That’s the home of Rep. Steve King, a tea party Republican whose outlandish style has landed him in hot water with his own party at times (House Speaker John Boehner called some of King’s comments on immigration “hateful” and “ignorant”) and pushed King to the forefront of the current budget debate.

Stewart finds that King’s constituents are more concerned about overall government spending than they are with Obamacare – the ostensible stumbling block in the current budget impasse.

“I was surprised to hear in nearly all my conversations that the issue for people in this part of Iowa is less Obamacare than it is government spending in general,” writes Stewart.

Stewart concludes that support for King’s position is strong, even if voters don’t always agree with this brash style.

Reuters visits the north Georgia district of Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who also played a “pivotal role in shutting down the U.S. government for the first time in 17 years.”

Reuters talked to a dozen folks in Graves’ district. They found the representative’s stand on the government shut-down had broad but not unanimous support.

A deli owner in Rome, Georgia, Charlie Schroeder, says that the closure won’t hurt as badly as Democrats predict and that stopping Obamacare is worth the cost.

A Rome real-estate developer disagrees. “It is irresponsible on the part of Congress to shut down the government and be unwilling to compromise on any issue,” David Doss said. “I certainly am disappointed in (Graves’) involvement in this strategy.”

Rural Cancer Survivors Less Likely to Get Care. Older cancer survivors living in rural areas were more likely to skip medical and dental care for financial reasons compared with similar patients living in urban areas, a study finds.

A press release from the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention says:

The researchers noted that older cancer survivors in rural areas may have to travel farther to reach a medical provider, causing them to incur greater out-of-pocket costs associated with travel and lost wages. They may also face challenges with social support and transportation issues if younger family members leave rural areas for better economic opportunities in cities.

The study didn’t find a similar rural-urban disparity for younger patients.

The study also indicates that having medical insurance alone is not sufficient to ensure that patients get adequate medical care.

“We found a disparity among older survivors, for whom health insurance coverage through Medicare is almost universal, while no disparity was found for younger survivors after controlling for various factors,” said Nynikka Palmer of Wake Forest University, one of the study’s authors. “This suggests that health insurance coverage alone may not ensure equal access to health care.”

He said health-care providers should use information from the study to alter the way they work with rural patients. “Health care providers and public health officials should be aware of this rural-urban disparity so that they can help rural cancer survivors access the resources they need to get care,” Palmer said.

Secession Stories. The New York Times provides a little historical perspective on the current secession pushes occurring in northern Colorado, northern California and western Maryland. Rural counties that feel out of touch with the urban-based power structure in those states are proposing to secede to form their own states.

Such proposals are nothing new, the Times reports:

“The early 1900s brought a vision for the state of Texlahoma, according to Michael J. Trinklein, who wrote Lost States, a book about statehood proposals. In 1939, pieces of South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming pushed to become Absaroka.”

The Times notes that other rumblings of secession are occurring in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and southern Oregon. “And in Illinois, two rural lawmakers have floated the idea of giving the boot to Chicago,” reports Jack Healy.

Texas Bus Routes  Closing. Megabus is pulling out of rural markets in Texas, leaving residents with no inter-city bus service, the Texas Tribune reports.

Coach USA, Megabus’ parent company, took over small-town routes from the bankrupt Kerrville Bus Company last year.  For a time, residents could get service for “as little as a dollar,” according to the Megabus publicity.

Now the rides aren’t available at any price, after the bus company closed the routes.

“On occasion, expansion to new destinations does not generate the revenue to support the service and buses have to be moved to other markets,” said Kelly Van De Walle, a Megabus spokesperson.

Online Auctions and Rural Broadband. Just because you have the barn-width doesn’t mean you have the bandwidth.

 “Modern Farmer” magazine takes a look at rural broadband access through the eyes of rural farmers participating in online livestock auctions, an increasingly common way to sell livestock. Slow connections can mean buyers miss out on sales, writes Christopher Weber (a Chicago resident).

 “It only takes 20 to 40 seconds to auction a cow or bull,” says Brett Spader, director of operations for DV Auction, an auction house that sells online. “If that drop-out comes when the animal you want is on the block, you might miss it.”

One Perspective on Affordable Care Act in Nebraska. Nebraskan Bob Bernt and his family haven’t had medical insurance for 20 years. And they don’t plan to get any now, even though they can shop for it through the new Obamacare insurance marketplace.

Iowa Public Radio interviews Bernt, who operates an organic farm on the banks of the Cedar River, about his decision to remain uninsured.

Bernt says rather than promoting health insurance, the government should do more to promote healthy living.

Nearly half of Nebraska’s 200,000 uninsured live in rural areas.

A July public opinion poll found that 58% of Nebraskans think Obamacare won’t reduce medical costs. Thirteen percent think it will work.

 

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