Tuesday Roundup: ‘Out There’??

President Obama sees great promise "out there" in rural America • Drought news from all over • Wildfires in Nebraska • Rural telecos mount opposition to National Broadband Plan

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The National Journal says that House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (California Republican) gave a “somewhat confusing account of the exact status of the Farm Bill…” 

First he said that Republican House leaders were trying to “educate” members about the contents of the bill and predicted “we have an uphill battle” in getting the bill passed. He said leaders were “making sure we have the votes. When we have the votes, we’ll move it.”

But then he said they hadn’t started counting votes yet.

Rep. McCarthy said the House intended to “get it done,” but only “before the end of the year.”

• Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is keeping up the pressure on the House to pass a Farm Bill, and soon. 

“There is nothing more important to rural America and nothing more important to producers, farmers and ranchers in this country than action on this bill,” Vilsack said. “There’s no greater need for this help and assistance than now, and there’s no excuse or reason why the House of Representatives cannot take this matter up.”

Meanwhile, the drought is working its way. (See how the drought has grown in the YouTube above.) The USDA says 45 percent of the corn crop is in poor or very poor condition, up from 38 percent last week. Livestock raisers are selling off herds. (See this story about Nebraska ranchers.) 

• The Kansas City Star reports that the effects of the drought will last for years. Rick Montgomery and Ian Cummings write

Of all natural disasters, drought is the most common and the least understood.

It doesn’t hit like a hurricane, earthquake or twister. You can’t see it coming on satellite radar, experts note, which may be why many people disregard the effects.

Around Kansas City, drought creeps — first claiming the Missouri crop grower, then the Kansas cattleman who can’t afford grain to feed livestock.

In time, grocery shoppers around the nation will wonder what’s with the higher prices for produce and hamburger.

The ground, meantime, shifts in silence. Water mains burst. Homeowners agonize over fractured foundations.

Thousands of trees around the metro likely will die. If not this year, then next.

Physically, economically and sociologically, droughts do their damage the way a python squeezes the life out of its prey, in super-slow motion.

“Much like a python, drought comes up slowly and can essentially suffocate a region,” said Alex Prud’homme, who wrote The Ripple Effect, a book about the creeping distress that follows a dearth of rainfall.

“It can set off a series of consequences, many of which we’re not aware of being associated with drought,” Prud’homme said in an interview.

In Kansas City, the months of April through June marked the driest three-month period endured since 1911. The area received about six inches of rain in those months — we’d normally get a foot more.

• No place is worse off than Iowa, reports Dan Piller, where 77 percent of the corn crop and 72 percent of the bean crop is rated fair to poor. Last week, in normal years, Iowa would have received an inch of rain. This year, .1 inch fell. 

Rainfall has been below average for 10 of the last 11 weeks. Temperatures have been way above normal as Iowa has had the hottest July since 1936.

• The big livestock groups are saying the drought could cause higher feed prices — and so they are asking President Obama to waive the ethanol blending mandate as a way to take pressure off of corn prices, Chris Clayton at DTN reports

• Rural telecos are mounting opposition to the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan. Here is Sarah Kessinger of the Blue Valley Telecom in Marysville, Kansas: 

Federal tele-communications law is supposed to guarantee equal access to reliable service no matter where one lives and runs a business.

But the FCC has opted to take a new approach through its National Broadband Plan that moves some of the financial support for rural Internet service to other parts of the country, both urban and rural. That’s simply shifting support around, not necessarily improving things for the nation as a whole.

Unfortunately, this decline in resources is expected to hit Blue Valley Tele-com and hundreds of other small tele-com companies nationwide.

Businesses that rely on strong Internet service here in Marysville and across the county must wake up to the fact that unless the FCC hears their concerns, it may be too late for a reversal.

We all pay into the Universal Service Fund, which is collected off of our monthly phone bills and then re-allocated nationally based on local needs. Since 1934, the law guaranteed this support to rural America but now that federal promise appears to be waning.

Weaken a local carrier and you consign consumers to higher costs and spotty service. In other words, parts of our county won’t continue to see the improvements in Internet access and could start to see a decline in this service.

• Politico’s Alexander Burns runs the transcript of an Obama ad that will run on rural radio in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Here’s the pitch

My grandparents came from the Midwest and so when I travel to rural areas of the country, what always strikes me is how hard people work and resilient they are, and how much they are worried about being able to pass on that way of life to the next generation. Those core middle class values that helped to build America, I think they’re still out there in every corner of this country. People still believe in hard work. They still believe in personal responsibility. And that’s why we’ve spent a lot of time on how we build on the strengths of rural America, making sure that folks out there have access to health care, the ability to export their goods to markets. I want a young person, if they want to teach, if they want to be an entrepreneur – young people can say to themselves, we can succeed here just like we can in the big city. Because ultimately, the strengths of those communities, those are the strengths of America.

Wouldn’t it have been better if he had said “out here” instead of “out there”? It’s like the President is a tourist when it comes to anything that isn’t urban.

• Wildfires have burned 50,000 acres in the Niobrara River Valley. The fire is in three counties: Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry. 

• More confirmation of a coal slowdown: Peabody Energy reports a 28 percent decrease in second-quarter profits due to a decline in domestic production and weaker Australian prices. 

 

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