Thursday Roundup: ‘Uniquely Terrible’ Transportation Bill

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Dudley Butler is talking.

Butler was the former head of USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration and author of rules governing livestock sales — rules meant to give farmers more power in the marketplace. Those rules never made it to the books, stymied by members of Congress and, it seemed, by a timid Obama administration.

Butler quit, and DTN’s Chris Clayton reports on a speech Butler gave in O’Neill, Nebraska. 

Butler says he wasn’t “run off” from his job, that he left to take over management of his family’s farm in Benton, Mississippi. He says he was disappointed by the failure of his GIPSA rules and was particularly taken aback by the “vicious lies” made against him personally. “One of the things I didn’t expect was just the vicious, personal attacks on me, and most of them a lie,” Butler said. “That’s the problem.”

Butler said independent farmers and ranchers should continue to be concerned about vertical integration of the livestock industry. Butler said vertical integration that has captured the hog and poultry markets is now entering the beef industry through control of feedlots.

“I’ve had ranchers tell me, ‘Oh, we can’t be vertically integrated because they don’t want our land.’ They don’t want your land,” Butler said. “Let me tell you something about vertical integration. Vertical integration zeroes in on where the assets are concentrated. Where are the assets concentrated in the beef business? The feedlots. Well, if they control the feedlots, they control you.”

There’s plenty more in this story. Read it here

• The New York Times editorial page and the National Rural Assembly agree that the transportation bill written by the House is a bad deal. 

The Times describes the bill as “uniquely terrible.” It would change the way public transportation is funded, making money much less certain. It would open nearly all of the country’s coastal waters to drilling. It would direct almost all spending to roads and bridges, ignoring other forms of transport.

The National Rural Assembly is against the bill because it eliminates all funding for pedestrian safety (and rural America has significant pedestrian-fatality rates). It doesn’t spend enough on bridges and it guts the “Safe Routes to School” program. 

The National Rural Assembly is saying the bill should be killed. 

Obama transportation secretary Ray LaHood (a Republican) says it is the “worst transportation bill” he’s seen in 35 years of working in Washington, D.C.

• The Washington Post says that Rick Santorum’s comeback (and it was dramatic) came by “courting religious conservative leaders in Colorado and the large rural evangelical populations in Minnesota and Missouri clearly paid off on Tuesday.” 

Our question: why are “rural” and “evangelical” always put together? What’s the evidence that evangelicals are more likely to be rural than urban? It’s hard to have a megachurch in a town of 3,000, after all. And we know for a fact that there are plenty of evangelicals in the Twin Cities metro area. We’ve spent time with them. 

• The L.A. Times reports on what the paper calls the “American Redoubt,” which “lies in the rural high country of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Washington and Oregon. For a growing number of people, it’s the designated point of retreat when the American economy hits the fan.” 

This story tells us that “many are preparing isolated homesteads that can quickly be turned into armed fortifications when groceries disappear from stores and hordes of desperate city-dwellers flee a flu pandemic or run out of oil.” 

How many? Oh, the story says it is “impossible to say how many have heeded the call…” But, wait, in the same sentence reporter Kim Murphy tells us that “analysts say it’s probably not all that many so far.” 

So, in the L.A. Times, “many” means, in fact, “not many.” But since the story is based in rural America and is about weird people arming themselves and hiding in the mountains, it’s okay to make a big deal out of nothing.

• The New York Times has a rundown on the various efforts by farmers and states to keep genetically modified crops out of conventional fields. 

• Executives from renewable power industries (hydro, geo, biomass) called for an extension of tax credits for all renewable energy projects. 

Backers of the move to extend the tax credits are saying that these projects employ “thousands of Americans, many of whom live and work in rural areas that were hardest hit by our nation’s recent recession.”

• The Senate Ag Committee has set a hearing for next Wednesday, 9:30 Eastern, on the Rural Development and Energy titles of the farm bill. 

 

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