Roundup: Foot-and-Mouth Fears

Importing beef • How Monsanto came to be "evil" • NAACP files complaint over proposed hospital closure in N.C. • The advantages of being a rural doc • Solar lights for remote places

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South Dakota rancher Tracy Trask has a question for the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Have you lost your freakin’ minds?

Trask’s comment is one of about 500 posted responding to a USDA proposal to import beef from Brazil.

U.S. ranchers, beef packers and others worry that fresh beef from Brazil could carry foot and mouth disease to the United States. The U.S. hasn’t had an outbreak of the economically devastating disease since 1929. But the disease is still active in Brazil.

An outbreak in the U.S. could cost the industry billions of dollars, reports the Kansas City Star. Meanwhile the economic benefits of importing Brazilian beef would be minimal, critics of the plan say.

One U.S. critic has a theory of where the proposal originated:

Bill Bullard, head of the Montana-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, said he thinks the real driver behind the proposal is JBS, S.A., a Brazilian beef company that has set up shop in the U.S.

Bullard, whose group believes big packers and foreign beef are driving small ranchers out of business, said the USDA is just “kowtowing” to JBS, the world’s largest beef producer and the third largest U.S. beef packer.

“JBS wants to import higher-risk cattle and beef into the United States, without regard to the well-being of the U.S. cattle industry and the safety of U.S. consumers,” Bullard said.

He thinks JBS, which contributes large amounts to U.S. and Brazilian politicians and which benefits from Brazilian government loans, is at least partly behind the Brazilian government’s push for the proposal.

USDA officials said JBS did not lobby them over the issue, and the company denies they are behind the initiative.

The USDA says JBS didn’t lobby the agency over the proposal. And the company says it’s not behind the initiative, the Star reports.

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For a tutorial in PR, perception and polarization, take a look at Modern Farmer’s article on how Monsanto became the “face of corporate evil” in popular culture.

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Vidant Health is backing out of its commitment to keep a rural hospital open, according to a civil rights complaint filed by the North Carolina NAACP. The hospital, in the eastern North Carolina town of Bellhaven, serves 25,000 residents of Beaufort and Hyde counties. The next nearest hospital is 30 miles away in the city of Washington, North Carolina.

Vidant, which is affiliated with Eastern Carolina University, proposes to replace the hospital with an urgent-care facility. But opponents of the plan say that will allow Vidant to be released from federal obligations to provide service to all, regardless of ability to pay.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports:

Vidant purchased [the] hospital in 2011 under a contract that reads the hospital will continue “to maintain the identity and viability of Pungo District Hospital in Pungo’s service area.” The NAACP, Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal and others protesting the closure interpret that to mean that Vidant Health had promised to continue to provide care to residents, regardless of the hospital’s financial outlook.

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Rural doctors have an advantage over their metropolitan counterparts when it comes to practicing medicine, writes Georgia physician Don G. Aaron Jr. in a Huffington Post blog item:

The future of American medicine, from both an economic and a professional standpoint, isn’t in New York or Seattle or Chicago; it’s in Vidalia, Reidsville, and Statesboro [Georgia]. And it’s not only because rural areas have greater demand, and therefore save young doctors from the cutthroat over-saturation of any large market. It’s mainly because the life of a rural doctor, ironically, is much closer to the glamorous [urban] ideal you see on TV.

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The 25th annual conference of the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, concludes today in Peoria.

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A for-profit venture with a social mission has sold 1.8 million solar-powered lamps to help illuminate international communities that live off the grid. The lights replace kerosene lamps, which carry a risk of fire and toxic emissions.

The company uses a sales network of “6,000 current associates in five Indian states who sell 40,000 lamps a month,” reports CNN. The lamps run for 24 to 30 hours on a day’s charge. More expensive models include a phone charger.

 

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