Thursday Roundup: Flour Power

Women living shorter lives in 43% of counties • Jimmy Brosch dies • Timber counties struggle with budget cuts • Rural hospitals vulnerable in sequester

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There is another study out finding that women in a large number of U.S. counties are living shorter lives. 

Researchers find that women age 75 and younger are dying at higher rates than in earlier years in 43 percent of the nation’s counties. Many of these counties, AP reports, are rural and in the South and West.

There have been a number of studies that have come to this remarkable conclusion — that in a large number of U.S. communities, women are dying at a younger age. Nobody knows exactly why.

Other studies have found that there have been steep declines in life expectancy for white women who have never received a high school diploma while life expectancy has been rising for the more educated. Researchers also think that smoking may be a cause.

Also, there is the theory that more healthy people are moving out of these counties, leaving behind those too poor or sick to relocate.

Flour Combine — Cargill Inc, CHS Inc. and ConAgra Foods announced this week that they will combine their flour mill operations. The Minneapolis Star Tribune describes this as “the biggest milling industry deal in recent history, one that will create an unparalleled flour powerhouse with over $4 billion in sales.” 

The new venture will control 34 percent of the nation’s flour market. It will include 44 flour mills, three bakery mix facilities and a specialty bakery, all in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. 

Timber Payments — Emily Guerin writes in The Goat Blog about the choices Oregon’s timber-dependent counties have had to make as their federal timber payments have dried up. 

As the timber harvest dropped in the 1980s and ’90s, Guerin reports, Congress made up for the decline with payments through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (passed in 2000). The act expired in 2011 and a one-year extension resulted in much lower payments. Lane County received $5.8 million a year under the act, but only $1.8 million in the extension.

So now inmates accused of homicide are being released from jail, paved roads are returning to gravel, libraries are closing and there are bills being introduced that would allow counties to declare bankruptcy.

Now You Say — Education Secretary Arne Duncan said this week that early childhood education is absolutely the “best long-term investment” the country can make for children. 

So, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss wonders, what about the “billions of dollars he spent in the first term of the Obama administration pushing states to enact school reforms that linked standardized test scores to the evaluation of teachers and made these tests more high stakes than ever”?

Good Year For Mudbugs — The past two years have been bad for the crawfish harvest. This year looks better. Louisiana is hoping to harvest about 140 million pounds. 

Meat Inspector Furloughs — Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Ag Committee that furloughs of U.S. meat inspectors will probably be concentrated from July through September, and that there could be some shutdowns of meat plants and meat shortages. 

“We will do everything we can to minimize disruptions,” Vilsack said at a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee. “It will impact inspections.” 

The plan is to furlough all 8,400 inspectors for a total of 15 days each, to comply with the federal budget sequester that began March 1. 

House Republicans were none too pleased with Vilsack, DTN’s Chris Clayton reports. They contend that Vilsack is not being flexible in the way he is implementing the cuts. 

Ralcorp vs. Fritos — A Texas jury has ruled that Ralcorp did not infringe on Frito’s intellectual property by creating a chip that scooped dip, much like Tostitos Scoops. Ralcorp has developed a manufacturing process that makes scoop-like chips much cheaper. 

Isn’t this a great country??

Sequestration and Rural Health — The National Rural Health Association says that “sequestration harms rural providers.” The association writes

 An independent company that tracks financial quality of U.S. hospitals, iVantage Health Analytics, conducted a recent analysis of the impact of sequestration on rural hospitals by measuring patient revenue, impact of operating profit margin and job loss results.  The study concluded that sequestration will result in over $482 million in lost Medicare revenue for rural hospitals, averaging -6.27% in profit margin.  In fact, nearly twice as many rural hospitals would switch to negative financial margins as urban hospitals.  Such losses will force many rural hospitals to reduce staff and services to Medicare beneficiaries….

Sequestration cuts are a big deal in rural America.  Rural safety net providers should be carved-out of sequestration cuts to protect the 62 million rural patients they serve.

Gay Marriage and Rural Minnesota — A new poll in Minnesota finds that the resistance to same sex marriage grows stronger in communities farther outside the Twin Cities. 

“Outstate, 73 percent respondents oppose allowing gay couples to legally wed in Minnesota, with only 27 percent favoring such unions or undecided,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. In the Twin Cities, 57 percent want the legislature to allow same-sex marriage.

 

 

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