Wednesday Roundup: Enduring Women

A photo exhibit of Texas women on the land • The reason for the shortage in farm labor • Nine federal disasters in one Oklahoma county since 2007 • The Ag Census

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The labor pool for farm workers is drying up. Why? Because Mexico is getting richer, according to a new study from University of California Davis. 

The Washington Post’s Brad Plummer reports:

And, when a country gets richer, its pool of rural agricultural labor typically shrinks. Not only are Mexican workers shifting into other sectors — such as construction — but Mexico’s own farms are increasing their wages. That means U.S. farms will inevitably have to pay higher and higher wages to attract the dwindling pool of available Mexican farm workers.

“It’s a simple story,” says Edward Taylor, an agricultural economist at U.C. Davis and one of the study’s authors. ”By the mid-twentieth century, Americans stopped doing farm work. And we were only able to avoid a farm-labor crisis by bringing in workers from a nearby country that was at an earlier stage of development. Now that era is coming to an end.”

No wonder ag groups are praising the bipartisan call for immigration law reform. See Chris Clayton’s story on that here

More Help for Rural Vets — Veterans who have trouble getting mental health care from Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics should be allowed to have access to the thousands of providers who care for military personnel and families, according to Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida and chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

“We can double overnight the number of providers for those who are in need,” Miller said in an interview. “Eighteen veterans a day commit suicide in this country. Nobody thinks that is acceptable.”

A report last year found that half of those seeking menal health care for the first time waited 50 days before getting a full checkup. Veterans Affairs said it would hire 1,900 new staff.

Rep. Miller said allowing vets to see doctors and counselors in the Tricare network would particularly help those living in rural communities.

Guns and Schools, the Next Divide — Austin reporter Mike Ward notes a rural/urban divide in Texas on what school administrators think about arming school personnel. Ward writes: 

Rural school officials insisted Monday that their classrooms will be safer if teachers are allowed to carry guns, but urban districts and top law enforcement officials warned the practice could put those educators at “high risk” of being mistakenly shot by responding officers in the event of a campus shooting.

Caddo County, Oklahoma — The headline on this AP story tells it all: “Rural Oklahoma county has seen 9 federal disasters but none as punishing as the drought.” 

There have been nine federally-declared disasters here since 2007. Five of those were in 2007 — ice, winds, tornadoes, flooding. Now the drought. 

“It makes you become humble,” said Charlie Opitz, who began his farming career selling peanut seeds in 1959 and grew his operation to more than 2,500 acres near the small town of Binger, about 60 miles west of Oklahoma City. “You realize there’s something out there much greater than you are.”

Cattle Rustlers — DTN reports on a cattle theft ring in Missouri that is hitting ranchers over and over and over. 

These folks are organized. One farmer saw a woman taking photos. She told the farmer she just liked the area. Thought it was pretty. When the farmer looked, he “found tape marking the gate and every place a trailer could cross a ditch.”

This is a big time operation.

Cluster Delivery — Save the Post Office is warning folks: The Postal Service is moving first to having all mailboxes on the road. Next, it will begin delivering only to cluster boxes — those ugly stands of mailboxes that cover a few dozen households. 

Ag Census — Farmers and ranchers across the country are currently being asked to complete a bunch of forms that come with the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

We’ve already been asked if the Census is worth completing. We would say, yes. Information is always good, and the more accurate the better.

The Farm and Ranch Guide says the same thing, writing that completing the Census “will give each farmer and rancher an opportunity to help shape farm programs, boost rural services and grow your operation’s future.” 

“The Ag Census provides a lot of our benchmark numbers that our other programs revolve around,” said Patrick Boyle at the North Dakota Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. “We attempt to contact every producer in the state. None of our other surveys have that broad a scope, so this really serves as the benchmark for our programs internally. But more importantly, the information gathered is used by Congress and by policy makers at the federal, state and even local level.”

 

 

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