Roundup: Protesting with Piglets

Clean up in aisle six • Push back to wind farms in Scotland • Broadband just got a little bit faster •  Lobbying for a rural school district • Mail-in voting in Nebraska? 

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As the old saying goes, “ Kill ‘em with cuteness.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but a group of French farmers are taking it to heart by letting loose a pack of piglets in a supermarket to protest falling meat prices.

…The farmers' group FDSEA [is] campaigning against the lowering price of pork and lack of brands which state where the meat has originated in its packaging. “The price we're paid for pork is too low, it doesn't allow us to cover our own food and housing costs,” said Damien Legand, a farmer from Parigne, Ille-et-Vilaine. “It's bad for us but also for French buyers.”

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COOL is dead.

Long live COOL.

The Canadian Ag minister, Gerry Ritz, says he thinks the U.S. Congress is going to undo country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, changing the law that requires U.S. retailers to tell consumers where the meat they sell was raised and processed.

Meanwhile the “multinational meatpacking industry” (as Chris Clayton at DTN describes it) has dropped its federal lawsuit seeking to block country-of-origin labeling. In theory, that opens the way for USDA to start enforcing the law more aggressively.

But the real fight over the law – which is popular with U.S. consumers and disdained by big meatpackers and Canadian exporters – is currently in front the World Trade Organization for ajudication.

Canadian producers have claimed that country-of-origin labeling has hurt Canadian meat sales in the U.S. But the National Farmers Union has countered with another study that says the law hasn’t hurt Canadian exports a bit.

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Two bills in the Nebraska Legislature would open the state to “chickenization” of the pork industry, according to the Organization of Competitive Markets.

One bill would decrease local government authority to control the size of hog farms through planning and zoning ordinances. The other bill would allow hog processors (the folks who slaughter and butcher hogs) to control a wider part of the hog market by owning hogs as they are being raised.

Practices such as these have been criticized as lowering profits, market leverage and autonomy of chicken farmers. The Nebraska legislation would allow the pork industry in the state to operate more like the chicken industry, the Organization of Competitive Markets (OCM) says.

“The bills work in tandem to reverse laws that long protected Nebraska’s family farmers from the abuses of corporate farming,” according to an OCM press release.

State Senator Ken Schilz introduced the bills into the Nebraska Ag Committee this week.

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Rural citizens groups in Scotland are pushing back against government plans for “large-scale developments,” including wind farms in wild areas. The alliance released a statement on the matter:

"Few people dispute the necessity of first reducing our energy use, and then substituting the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy alternatives, to help address the challenge of climate change. However, as we have seen, there is public disquiet about proliferation of energy developments in Scotland's wild land areas…It is vital that any decisions on the location of these developments rely on the fair and impartial assessment of all pertinent information and points of view… The people of Scotland depend on their government to ensure this happens. Unfortunately, we do not believe that the Scottish government is doing this in a consistent manner with wind farm developments."

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Map via the FCC
Click on the map to see the full-sized version in the FCC report (page 4).

In a move that’s making service providers rethink their marketing strategy (and probably causing them to freak out), FCC recently re-defined broadband Internet as 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. This is significantly faster than the older 4 down/ 1 up definition. The new definition, however, has made the rural broadband access gap even wider than it was before, if you can imagine that.

 "In rural areas, more than half – 53 percent – lack access to broadband at the new benchmark; in Tribal lands, it's almost two-thirds – 63 percent – that lack access," Wheeler said in a statement. "The disparity persists at all speeds. For example, at our previous benchmark of 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, 20 percent of Americans in rural areas cannot get that level of service. In urban areas, only 1 percent lack access to that service. Sadly, we wouldn't be where we need to be on broadband deployment to all Americans, even if we hadn't increased the benchmark speed."

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Duane Howard, superintendent of the Chino Valley Schools in Arizona, was frustrated with the lack of political pull his district had in the state house. His solution? Hire a lobbyist.

…Howard started a campaign to convince his colleagues and fellow school leaders to hire a lobbyist to protect the interests of their students, staff and communities. In January, Howard's efforts succeeded with 17 of the Yavapai County districts agreeing to use Forest Fee Management dollars allocated to hire an experienced lobbyist.

"It hasn't cost the districts a dime,' Howard said of dividing the dollars funneled to them through the county.

In addition, the districts organized as the Rural Arizona Schools Coalition. Just this last week the coalition finalized a contract with Gretchen Jacobs, president of Arizona Governmental Affairs in Phoenix, Jacobs has 16 years of experience with both corporate and education-related clients.

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Nebraska is hoping to pass a bill allowing mail-in voting in rural parts of the state, which they think would increase the number of people that cast ballots.

"It definitely improves the voter turnout because the ranchers and the farmers and small businessmen in those rural precincts are able to cast their ballot by mailing it back," said (Secretary of State John) Gale, a Republican. "It's been very well-received by the citizens who are in those precincts."

The bill by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion would give all counties the chance to conduct elections by mail in certain rural precincts, if the state approves. Under current law, counties can only seek the state's permission if they have fewer than 10,000 residents.

Smith said his bill is intended for precincts that aren't able to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or that don't have many voters. Counties that already have mail-only precincts have saved time and money, he said.

 

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