Thursday Roundup: Does Local Pay?

NPR finds that local foods don't pay producers • Conservative group defends Tennessee mountains from Chinese strip miners • Buy direct from Iowa farms • The budget sequester hits the Indian Health Service

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MSNBC television host Dylan Ratigan has given up the New York City media gig for a hydroponic farm outside of San Diego. 

He’s invested in a farm run by Colin and Karen Archipley, Archi’s Acres, helping to build a 30,000 square foot “farm incubator” that he says “can serve as the prototype for job-creating,  water-saving, food-producing, veteran-led hydroponic organic greenhouses nationwide.”

FCC Changes — The Washington Post reports that Republican Robert McDowell says he’s leaving the Federal Communications Commission, and that this will make it more likely that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski will be leaving, too. 

The FCC has been the place in the federal government where rural broadband issues have been addressed.

The Sequester and the Reservation — The New York Times editorial board wrote today about this bit of what it calls “moral abdication”: The largest federal safety net programs (Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicare) are exempt from the effects of the federal budget sequester, but the Indian Health Service is not. 

The Indian Health Service will be cut five percent. The IHS provides basic health care to two million American Indians. The paper writes:

Even a cut of that amount is very bad news for the main health care provider for some of the poorest and sickest Americans, living in some of the most remote and medically underserved parts of the country. Like care for veterans, Indian health was supposed to be one area in which duty and compassion trumped cheapness.

Chinese and Tennessee Coal — The Wall Street Journal reports that a Chinese firm has bought a surface coal mining operation in Tennessee, leading one conservative group to air an ad saying that local lawmakers had failed to protect the state’s mountains and are allowing “Chinese to destroy our mountains and take our coal…the same folks who hold our debt.” 

Fuel Fight — The Renewable Fuels Association requested a federal investigation of “highly discriminatory and unlawful conduct” by the oil industry that is delaying the delivery of renewable fuels. 

Meanwhile, the oil industry is blaming renewable fuels for high gasoline prices even as domestic oil production reaches 21 year highs. 

Buy Direct From The Farm — The Iowa Food Cooperative has set up an online farmers market, offering food directly from Iowa farms to consumers. 

Vet Help — Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have reintroduced a bill that would eliminate federal taxes on payments aimed at encouraging veterinarians to practice in rural communities. 

Do Local Foods Pay — NPR had a story yesterday headline “Local Food May Feel Good, But It Doesn’t Pay.” 

The reporter talked to a couple farming produce on 25 acres, enough land to provide food for 5,000 people. That farm sustained 1.34 jobs and only $35,000 in total labor income. NPR reports:

The market for locally-grown food has seen dramatic growth over the last decade. Despite this boost in sales and popularity, evidence suggests that the economics behind the movement still don’t favor the farmer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has new programs to try to prop up small-scale operations, but many local farms only survive because they scrape by on below-market wages, or by doing without things like insurance. Many economists say despite the charm of local food, there are relatively few benefits in terms of energy efficiency, quality or cost. They say that we shouldn’t knock our system of region specialization and distribution, and that farmers markets, fun though they are, are not good economic models.

Meat Inspections To Continue — The Senate voted Wednesday to fund federal meat inspections. At one time, the USDA said the federal budget sequester would require the furlough of meat inspectors. 

Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas submitted an amendment that would move $55 million to food inspections from a USDA program that provides grants for new school cafeteria equipment. The Senate agreed with Pryor’s amendment.

Fracking Compromise — The AP reports that some of “the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies have made peace with environmentalists, agreeing to a voluntary set of tough new standards for “fracking” in the Northeast that could lead to a major expansion of drilling.”

 

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