Roundup: Summer in the City

Report warns of impact of urban “heat islands” • Beef-marketing program hits major snag • North Carolina panel explains link between economics and health • And more …

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We've been saying this all along, and science confrims it: It's cool to live in the country.

Or at least cooler.

A new report says that rural areas around the nation's 60 largest cities are an average of 2.4 degrees cooler than their adjoining urbanized areas. That's because of the phenomenon of "urban heat islands."

The report from the research group Climate Central says that climate change is making the condition more pronounced. Urban heat could get bad enough to create problems for city living in the future, the report says.

 “Cites are almost always hotter than the surrounding rural area, but global warming takes that heat and makes it worse,” the report says. “In the future, this combination of urbanization and climate change could raise urban temperatures to levels that threaten human health, strain energy resources, and compromise economic productivity.”

The report also says the number of “searing hot days” is increasing each year in major cities. In most cases, urbanized areas are warming faster than rural areas, the report says.

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Efforts to reform the national beef “checkoff” marketing program have hit an impasse.

The Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, which represents 11 industry-related organizations, has been working for three years on a new plan. But their recently released report has drawn broad criticism for not going far enough to improve the marketing system.

The checkoff system imposes a fee on each head of cattle. That money is supposed to be used to market beef. But critics say the money has become general support revenue for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which receives 80% of the funds generated from the checkoff.

Early this week the National Farmers Union legislative committee recommended that the NFU pull out of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, saying proposals so far would not make meaningful changes in the program.

The Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star reports

[NFU’s Chandler Goule, senior vice president] said the work group at one point was close to a consensus, but one industry member stalled and the resulting memorandum does nothing to change the functionality of the checkoff, nor what many see as an almost monopolistic control by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. …

Nebraska state Sen. Al Davis, a rancher from Hyannis, has been appointed by Vilsack to the 103-member Beef Board. On Tuesday, he called the memorandum a step in the wrong direction.

Davis said no policy groups should have a connection to the committee awarding checkoff funds, and that concern isn’t addressed by the proposal.

The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, while not part of the work group, called for rejection of the proposed memorandum.

Independent Cattlemen President David Wright questioned the need for raising the checkoff [from $1 to at least $2 per head of cattle] and said the proposed changes to the Beef Promotion Operational Committee would not address the lack of diversity that has led to accusations of favoritism in awarding projects.

Montana-based R-CALF USA, which is not a member of the work group, called the memorandum “smoke and mirrors.”

R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said he attended a few of the work group meetings when they first started but was excluded after making it clear R-CALF wouldn’t consider supporting an increase in the checkoff until its concerns about conflicts of interest within the program were resolved.

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Louisville public radio looks at the role of coal in Kentucky elections, including the current Senate race between Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

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Diners in Denver are winding down a four-day event celebrating locally produced meat and local neighborhoods. The event, Hoofin’ It, explored four neighborhoods over four nights, treating participants to food made from a different hoofed animal each evening. Meals centered around bison, pork, beef and sheep, reports the Denver Eater. Ranchers served as guests of honor for the events, and participants walked from restaurant to restaurant – hoofing it, get it?

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The answer to improving the health of rural North Carolina communities comes down to more dollars, not necessarily more doctors, says a report from the Task Force on Rural Health.

“Income is directly related to health, with increased income corresponding to better health outcomes,” according to the report, produced by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine and the state Office of Rural Health and Community Care.

The report recommends steps such as supporting local economic development, improving education and child care, improving access to health foods and improving mental health and substance abuse treatment. The overall impact will help create healthier rural residents, the report said.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports:

The overall goal of the report is convincing the legislature and state economic and health officials to refocus spending priorities, though the task force acknowledges that current opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage from Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature makes some of its recommendations harder to accomplish. …

The groups acknowledge that most of their main recommendations are not new, but they are not being implemented because of a lack of financing, education and incentives. They say their recommendations are actionable within five years.

The groups said they are confident that the recommendations can bring affordable change since that rural communities “know their needs” and “are often able to accomplish a great deal with limited resources.”

Promoting health care in rural communities also has an economic impact since the industry is a top-five employer in most of the state’s rural or economically challenged counties.

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Could this be the final word on the Modern Farmer chicken-slaughter retro-photo spread?

Dean Abbott shares an informed and thoughtful response to both the original Modern Farmer photos and the two responses (here and here) we published in the Daily Yonder. Here’s excerpt from his fine post on his blog, Hinterland:

In the end what bothers people about this event is this: they think it trivializes the importance of farming, that somehow dilettante fantasy farmers make the whole enterprise seem silly and stupid and cruel. … Still, I do not number among the offended. If the food movement is going to make long-term changes in the way people eat, in the way the food system is structured, and in the way animals are treated, we can’t demand purity at every step of the way.

For folks looking for thoughtful commentary on rural economics, culture and agriculture, Hinterland is a real find.

 

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