Tuesday Roundup: Elouise Cobell, Rural Hero
Elouise Cobell has died. She was 65 years old.
Cobell was the treasurer of the Blackfeet tribe and the powerhouse behind a lawsuit that accused the federal government of cheating Native Americans out of a century's worth of royalties. That suit was recently settled and the government agreed to pay $3.4 billion.
She died of complications from cancer at a Great Falls, Montana, hospital. She was a real American hero.
Putting money in the hands of the descendants of former trust holders is a partial redressing of history. But it does not wipe out the injustice. Elouise Cobell was able to see in a past that Washington forgot a way to begin to rebalance relations between American Indians and the federal government. She restored the past to memory, spoke eloquently on its behalf and so made a different future possible.
• The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding a program for returning veterans who want to get into farming or ranching. The money will be used by a number of groups to help vets develop farm or ranch startup plans, to provide technical assistance and aid in marketing.
Rural vets — and there are a lot of them — are having the hardest time getting back into civilian life, according to the Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America. And the average American farmer is aging, 57 years old and climbing. So this is a good fit.
Read here for more details.
• Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (Ron's son) has finally allowed a pipeline safety bill to pass through the Senate. The normally regulatory-averse libertarian wanted to strengthen the bill, to require testing for older pipelines.
• The Washington Post reports that President Obama is avoiding some parts of rural Virginia on his latest tour in order to help the Democrats running for re-election in those districts. The Post writes:
"The White House had considered stops in Danville, Newport News, Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. But prominent Democrats in Virginia — where Obama’s approval rating hovers around 50 percent — encouraged the White House to alter the schedule so he would no longer visit districts where members of his party were involved in tight elections."
• The New York Times has a front page story today saying that just as direct payments to crop farmers are being removed, there is a move to replace those payments with another subsidy.
The new subsidy — called "shallow-loss protection" — would protect farmers from losses not covered by normal crop insurance. The Times argues that the new protection would be pegged to today's sky-high commodity prices. As these prices drop, farmers would be paid the difference between those lower prices and today's higher rates.
The scheme isn't in the law yet, and there are mixed opinions about what it means. A professor of farm management at the University of Illinois said that without this protection "we would see financial stress and we would see farmers go out of business."
An ag economist from Montana said, “There’s a persistent story that farming is on the edge of catastrophe in America and that’s why they need safety nets that other people don’t get. And the reality is that it’s really a very healthy industry.”
• Mallory Knodel writes about the effect of the conflict over Palestine on farmers.
• In order to create a third majority minority congressional district in Maryland, one advocacy group is suggesting a map that "would lump all rural areas in the state together...."
• Having saturated most rural markets, Walmart continues its push into cities.