Thursday Roundup: Debate Notes

Facebook page devoted to saving rural post offices • Living gay in the rural South ain't so bad • Kansas congressman attacks the "nutrition nanny" • Monsanto posts loss for quarter

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We watched the debate last night, notebook in hand, waiting for the first mention of anything having to do with Yonder. 

Didn’t get much.

Let’s see, President Obama likes his school reform program Race To The Top and said so several times. From what we can tell, RTTT (which is really a race for $$) is set up so that rural and small schools are at a disadvantage. The President said he wanted to increase the number of people attending community college.

Neither candidate talked about the inequities in the Title 1 formula for funding schools with low-income students, which also places smaller schools at a disadvantage.

Gov. Romney said the Obama administration had cut the number of permits allowed for oil and gas exploration on federal land. He criticized Obama’s support for wind and biofuels. And Romney told the President that the coal industry was being “crushed by your policies.”

“I like coal,” Romney said. (See Ken Ward Jr’s analysis on the energy discussion here.) 

Did we miss anything?

Gas Boom, Tax Boom — AP reports that states with growing oil and gas activity are now trying to decide how to tax the new production. 

A dozen states since 2011 have considered proposals to either enact or raise taxes on oil and gas production. Most haven’t gone anywhere.

Ouch — AP reports that a truck hauling bees tipped over near Tonapah, Nevada. First responders got first stings and plenty of ’em. 

Rural Health Insurance — Mitt Romney last night said one of his reforms would be to allow companies to sell health insurance across state lines. Three states already allow this: Maine, Georgia and Wyoming.

According to a Washington Post story, however, no company has crossed a line to sell insurance in these states. One reason for the lack of interest is that health insurance companies think it will be too hard to set up provider networks in the rural parts of these states. 

The Play’s The Thing — Students at Iowa State have collected interviews with Iowa farmers (large and small) and have put what they recorded into a play. It’s called Farmscape: The Changing Rural Environment. 

For example, here’s a bit of dialogue from Joe:

Americans expect food to be cheap but that doesn’t make sense as a producer. We don’t serve poor people because poor people can’t afford our food. It’s not quite a downside but it’s frustrating and disappointing to me that there’s not a way for more people to have access to locally grown food.

The play is being published as a book.

Monsanto Loss — Monsanto reported a 4th quarter loss of $229 million. That’s above what Wall Street expected. Seed companies normally lose money in the late summer. 

But corn seed sales were down nearly $90 million from last year’s quarter. Seed sales for the year are up for both corn and soy beans.

More On School Lunches — Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp said the USDA cafeteria should adopt the same calorie restrictions now imposed on school lunches. 

“If the USDA demands that 100,000 school districts change their menus and justifies this mandate because schools receive federal money for lunches, then taxpayers should demand that the USDA cafeteria meet the same standards, as USDA operates in taxpayer-funded buildings,” Huelskamp said in his “Nutrition Nanny” challenge to the agency. 

“Let’s see if they eat enough to function,” according to his statement. “Let’s see if they like having choices taken away from them.”

Meanwhile, the USDA is standing by its standards, according to DTN’s Jerry Hagstrom

More 3G and 4G for Rural — The Federal Communications Commission announced $300 million in funding to build out wireless networks across 83,000 miles of road in 31 states. For example,  Eagle Telephone, which serves Richland, Ore., will get $123,000 to service 946 road miles. 

Nebraskans Favor Same Sex Unions — An Omaha World-Herald poll finds that 54 percent of Nebraskans favor either same-sex marriage or civil unions (without marriage). 

Save Our Rural Post Office — There’s a good Facebook page here with material on how to save your local post office. Check it out

Farmers In a Drought Mood — A New York Times reporter finds that farmers are depressed after a year of drought.

“You probably can’t print our mood,” said Dallis Basel, a sheep rancher in western South Dakota who sold off half of his herd because of the high feed prices caused by the drought. “It’s been kind of depressed. Like the wife says, she can’t drink enough to dull the pain of selling all the sheep.”

Added to that is uncertainty, writes John Eligon, some of which is brought on by the failure of Congress to pass a Farm Bill.

Uncle Poodle — Op-ed in the New York Times by Karen Cox says that “you can be openly gay and accepted in the rural South.” Cox writes:

Many people assume that because the South is the nation’s most evangelical and politically conservative region, it is probably also a hotbed for hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But while such crimes do occur, they are less common than in large urban centers, where the absence of a tight community and the abundance of strangers make it easier to target people for their differences.

I should know: as a lesbian who has lived in the South my entire life, and in a small town in the Deep South for part of it, I’ve met many people — men, women and transgendered — whose sexual identity has not prevented them from living a life of acceptance, admiration and even respect by their families and communities.

 

 

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