Thursday Roundup: Welcome to Muscatine!
The Daily Yonder will start a calendar shortly that will list all events, conventions, deadlines, meetings, dinners, plays, musicals and dances taking place in rural communities.
We want a single place where readers can find the latest grant deadline, economic development conference or dance.
For instance, did you know that the Missouri Farmers Union will host a ham and bean dinner at noon, February 27, at the old Ben Franklin store in Palmyra, Missouri. Patty Hall, reputed to be the best cook in Marion County, will be doing the food and State Reps. Tom Shively and Paul Quinn will be there to talk. Later that evening, at 7:00 p.m. at the Ag Education Building in Monroe City, there will be a winter education class to talk about livestock issues.
Oh, and on Friday, February 24 in Pauls Valley, Minnesota, there will be a Sweet on Main Street celebration, starting at 7:00 p.m. Don't miss Main Street Bingo.
We haven't launched this function yet, but there will be a way for you to post your event, with links and a place for a photo. Or, you can send information to anyone here at the Yonder, but especially to: [email protected].
We'll let you know when the calendar is up and running.
• Muscatine, Iowa, welcomed the vice president of China yesterday. Xi Jinping returned to the Iowa town that he visited in 1985, when he was with a Chinese delegation visiting Iowa to learn about farming practices.
Muscatine was so nice, Xi remembered and wanted to come back. “The first time I looked at him, I wanted to be his friend,” said Muscatine mayor DeWayne Hopkins. “This is a visit that will go down in Muscatine history. No politics, agenda or ideology — just a meeting of old friends.”
Welcome home, Mr. Vice President. (See the Muscatine Journal for a full report.)
• The AP reports that President Obama's proposed budget would eliminate "the nation's only program that regularly tests fruits and vegetables for deadly pathogens, leaving public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illness outbreaks."
In question is the Ag department's Microbiological Data Program, which screens fresh produce for salmonella, E. coli and listeria. The program cost $5 million and the USDA said it had limited impact.
Others disagree. “It’s the radar gun that keeps the industry honest and if that’s eliminated, we don’t have a program that will keep the industry in check,” said Mike Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety, which works with the produce industry to improve safety measures on farms and in packinghouses. “This is really important because you and I eat that food and we don’t want to get sick.”
• Two more golden eagles have been found dead at the Los Angeles city wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains, making a total of eight eagles that have died at the facility.
Officials are trying to determine the cause of the death for the latest two dead eagles The previous six were determined to have been struck by wind turbine blades. There are 90 turbines on the 8,000 acre site.
This is a higher rate of death than at California's Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, where about 67 golden eagles die each year. That facility, however, has 5,000 turbines.
• The last FEMA trailer left New Orleans this week, more than 6 years after Hurricane Katrina.
• Industry publications are reporting that the 2-cent per megawatt hour production tax credit for wind energy projects has been excluded from the compromise payroll tax bill in Congress.
Dan Piller at the Des Moines Register reports that the tax credit has come and gone over the past 20 years, "and each time the absence of the PTC has resulted in significant losses in wind energy projects and jobs."
“It looks like we’re not going to succeed, despite a valiant effort, as we see the legislation dealing with these tax extenders very narrowly focused,” said Todd Foley, senior vice president for policy & government relations, American Council on Renewable Energy.
Foley said there could be a 52 percent decline in wind projects after March.
• Regulations being drafted by the federal Bureau of Land Management would require energy companies to disclose the names and concentrations of chemicals pumped into the oil and gas wells as part of the fracking process, reports Lisa Song at InsideClimate News.
The regs would apply only to drilling on federal lands. Only one state, Colorado, has regulations that require the disclosure of both the kinds and amounts of chemicals pumped into wells in order to force out oil and gas.
• There's been a strange turn in the coalfields.
A year ago, the Upper Big Branch Mine exploded and killed 29 miners. Usually, such disasters spur reforms in mine safety laws. This time, however, nothing happened in Congress.
West Virginia is considering a mine safety law, but columnist Rick Wilson notes that the bill introduced into the state senate "seems to be more concerned with drug testing than mine safety." The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster wasn't the result of drug problems, so Wilson asks why a drug bill now?
"If we're going to mandate testing, it might be more to the point to test CEOs and such people for excessive greed and a wanton disregard for human life in the pursuit of profit, but, alas, no such test is available," Wilson wrote.
• A federal district court in Pennsylvania found that a dairy farmer violated food safety laws by selling unpasteurized milk across state lines.
Daniel Allgyer is Amish and runs a small farm that sold unpasteurized milk in Maryland and the District of Columbia for about $6 a gallon. In order to avoid federal food safety laws, he set up a "cow-sharing" agreement with his customers — giving each of his customers "ownership" of the milk production operation.
The judge found this to be "merely a subterfuge" and ordered him to stop selling the milk for human consumption. The federal government opposed the sale because unpasteurized milk can contain harmful bacteria.
• The National Congress of American Indians has released its analysis of President Obama's budget request.
The budget increases funding for the Indian Health Service, for example.
• The Federal Communications Commission has put an end to Philip Falcone's efforts to extend a 4G network by satellite across the U.S.
Falcone's company, LightSquared, launched a satellite and had enough cellphone towers lined up to provide broadband service to most of the country. But his technology interfered with existing GPS systems. The Defense Department complained and so did Deere, which said the LightSquared signals would disrupt the GPS used by its farm equipment.
The FCC agreed and denied LightSquared the permits it needs to proceed.