Monday Roundup: Long Ride to VA

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A lot of veterans don’t live where the Veterans Administration has health facilities. Vets disproportionately come from rural communities. Hospitals are in cities.

So vets ride. The Boston Globe follows some New Hampshire vets from bus to subway to another bus to, finally, the VA facility in West Roxbury in Boston.

The trip takes four hours.

New Hampshire is the only state in the country without a full-service veterans hospital. But this isn’t just a state issue. It’s more a disconnect between the places soldiers come from and where the VA has its facilities. 

• USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is warning Congress that rural areas will suffer if lawmakers don’t renew the tax credit that subsidizes ethanol, reports Philip Brasher in the Des Moines Register.

In numerous appearances in recent weeks, Vilsack has repeated an industry claim that ethanol production supports 400,000 jobs nationwide and that ending the 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy could result in a “significant job loss in rural America.”

But critics say that the job estimate Vilsack is using is wildly inflated and that the industry could survive without the subsidy because of mandates on refiners to use increasing amounts of ethanol. 

• Are any of the maps showing broadband availability worth a darn?

Vermont admits that its map is riddled with inaccuracies, the AP reports. The state has opened a new site, broadbandVT.org, and is asking people to check the current map and to tell them where it’s wrong.

The state has a goal that broadband will be available statewide by the end of 2013. 

• The ag boom in Iowa isn’t translating into vibrant local towns, the Des Moines Register reports

There has been the biggest increase in farmland prices in 30 years and commodity prices are soaring. But that hasn’t led to a boom in small town economies — in Iowa or in other ag dependent communities across the country.

“We have this decoupling of farms from their particular small rural communities,” said Cornelia Flora, a sociology professor at Iowa State University who studies agriculture and rural poverty. “We don’t have the multiplier effect that we assumed we would always have.”

Two-thirds of Iowa’s 919 towns with fewer than 10,000 people have lost population since 2000. The ag boom seems to be separate from what affects the local economy.

“Increased individual profitability of a farm or a firm only benefits a community if the profits are reinvested in the community and new jobs are created and wage rates go up, and I’m not sure that it’s translated into either of those right now,” said Paul Lasley, a rural sociologist at Iowa State University. “It may be too early to see the benefits, and in some cases there may not be a lot of local benefit.”

 

 

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