Thursday Roundup: A New Dust Bowl?

Lady Antebellum plays for Henryville • Fischer did beat Bruning in rural Nebraska • Farm Bill debate doesn't talk much about cutting • Joplin newspaper survives with town

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The conventional wisdom is that Deb. Fischer won the Republican Senate primary in Nebraska because of her strength in rural areas. “Looking at the county-by-county results, you can see how well Fischer performed in rural areas,” writes Rachel Weiner in the Washington Post. 

Instead of “looking,” how about counting? 

We broke down the Nebraska vote into rural, urban and exurban counties. There were slight differences. Fischer beat Attorney General Jon Bruning 41 percent to 35.9% statewide. 

In rural counties, Fischer beat Bruning in rural counties 45.2 percent to 32.4 percent. Fischer beat Bruning 42 percent to 35 percent in exurban counties. But Bruning beat Fischer 40.3 percent to 36 percent in urban areas.

So, yes, there was a difference.

In this primary, 52 percent of the vote came from rural counties.

Fischer will run against former governor and senator Bob Kerrey in the fall contest to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat.

• Lady Antebellum, the country group, performed a benefit concert for tornado-ravaged Henryville, Indiana, last night. The singers raised $235,000 at the concert in Louisville

The band toured Henryville High School before the concert. The school is being rebuilt after a tornado with 175 mph winds struck the town in early March.

Hailey Gardner, Erika Robertson and Erin Hairston (foreground left to right) dance at the Henryville High School student “mini-prom” on Wednesday at the KFC Yum! Center. May, 16, 2012

• Sheepshearing season is ending in West Texas and, despite the drought, the San Angelo Standard-Times reports that wool fleeces delivered to the warehouse in Merton are “surprisingly clean and healthy.” 

The area around Mertzon normally produces 1 million pounds of wool a year. Wool is selling for just over $5 a pound, down from $6 last year.

• The spending has begun.

Conservative political action committees are pouring money into Iowa (and other states) attacking President Obama, reports Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register. 

Crossroads GPS is spending $474,000 in Iowa — part of a $25 million ad buy in nine battleground states (Colorado, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia). 

Chris Clayton here on the latest efforts to move a Farm Bill that doesn’t really reduce spending too much. 

“Wednesday’s commodity and crop-insurance hearing in the House Agriculture Committee didn’t exactly sound like a hearing of people preparing to accept some measure of austerity to cut the federal budget,” Clayton wrote.

• Representatives of 700 small wireless broadband providers, many in rural areas, are meeting with Federal Communications Commission officials and people in the White House to ask that they retain (and gain) access to spectrum. 

“What we need is more unlicensed spectrum and practical operating rules to allow us to use it,” Jack Unger, chairman of the group’s FCC Committee, told reporters Wednesday.

• Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has bought 63 daily and weekly newspapers in the Southeast from Media General Inc. for $142 million. 

Buffett’s bet is on communities as much as newspapers. “In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” said Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire, in a press release. 

You can see what Buffett is talking about in this Columbia Journalism Review article about the newspaper in Joplin, Missouri, which was wiped out a year ago May by an EF5 tornado. 

 “I have been here 30 years,” said Joplin Globe editor Carol Stark. “This is my paper; this is my town. I appreciated the national spotlight on Joplin, but we were not followers. We were leaders of the coverage in the midst of this chaos.”

The story tells us that a year after the storm, circulation and advertising at the Globe are back to where they were before the disaster. 

• A combination of politics and markets could create a new dust bowl in parts of the Great Plains, says former USDA Economic Research Service Administrator Katherine (Kitty) Smith. 

In her description of a “perfect storm,” Smith sees an increase in tilling to fight herbicide-resistant weeds, the market demand for major production crops and cutbacks in federal conservation programs, reports Agri-Pulse. Smith is now chief economist for the American Farmland Trust.

 

 

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