We found it interesting that President Barack Obama would speak at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, yesterday. One of the big issues in parts of rural America is seed ownership. And one of the areas where the Obama administration has failed to act is on an investigation into who owns, controls and profits from seeds.
Over two years ago, the Obama Administration announced it was opening an investigation into antitrust violations in the agriculture business. One of the areas the Department of Justice and Agriculture said they would investigate was the ownership of seed.
That was a good choice. A study in 2009 found that “seed industry is one of the most concentrated in agriculture. The top four firms account for 43 percent of the global commercial seed market, which includes both public and proprietary varieties sold. They also account for 50 percent of the global proprietary seed market.”
This is a huge issue in farming communities. Farmers aren’t allowed to save the seeds from the crops they grow. In 2008, there were standing room only meetings across the Farm Belt about seed ownership.
So, the President comes to Seed Savers, which does the good work of collecting heirloom seeds. He is on a “rural tour” but he is apparently unaware that the issue of seed ownership is a rural issue that, at one time, was a focus of his administration.
• The 2012 thoroughbred horse foal crop will be the smallest since 1971, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Only 24,700 foals are expected this year in North America, down 8.5% from 2011.
A new report on the racing industry finds that the racing handle will decline an additional 25% in the next decade and the number of viable tracks will decline by 27%. Oh, and owner’s losses will grow by 50%.
•Walmart’s second quarter profits were up 5.7% — but that increase was due to international sales growth and cost cutting.
Revenues in its U.S. stores were flat. This was the ninth consecutive quarter where Walmart stores open for at least a year reported sales below the same quarter the year before.
“We remain concerned about the economic pressure on our customers and the uncertain impact on their shopping behavior,” said Bill Simon,Wal-Mart’s U.S. president and chief executive in a statement.
• Texas Gov. Rick Perry, campaigning in Iowa, claimed the federal Department of Transportation was going to require farmers driving tractors on public roads to obtain a commercial license.
The DOT dropped this idea the week before, however.
•A study by Essentia Institute of Rural Health has found that rural residents of the major fruit and vegetable producing states eat less fresh produce than do urbanites. Hawaii’s rural residents were the only exception.
Nawal Lutfiyya, epidemiologist, who led the research, said that cost is an impediment, “You could be a rural person living next to a huge farm that produces fruits and vegetables and not have the means to buy them.”
According to Essentia, Dr. Lutfiyya also found that “rural adults living in households with children are less likely to consume fruits and vegetables than adults without kids,” Dr. Lutfiyya says. “Adequate fruit and vegetable consumption reduces the risk for a number of diseases and early death.”
Here’s the full paper on the fruit-and-vegetable consumption patterns.
Essentia Health is headquarted in Duluth, MN.
• A sign of returning recession, perhaps? The Lexington Herald-Leader’s editorial page notes a rise in the number of copper thefts in Kentucky:
We haven’t seen any statistics, but the anecdotal evidence is disturbing. Copper thefts declined in 2008 with the price of copper, but appear to be soaring again as copper prices have rebounded to above 2006 levels.
Professional offices in Lexington, rural phone lines, churches, electrical substations — all have been disabled by copper thefts in recent weeks.
The latest fatality, a 22-year-old man, was electrocuted last month, apparently while attempting to steal copper wire from an electric substation in McCreary County.