Tuesday Roundup: White House Rural Report

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The White House Rural Council has released a report titled “Feedback from Rural America.” 

The report is based on the results of “roundtable discussions” held by Cabinet officials across the country, as well as President Obama’s rural “tour” in August. “Since the establishment of the White House Rural Council, President Obama, members of his Cabinet, and others senior Administration officials have made nearly 200 visits to rural communities,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack writes. (See the map on this page for the location of these “visits.”)

The report doesn’t come to any conclusions. There’s a pie chart showing the most important issues brought up during the meetings. Education leads. 

There are lots of lists in this report. There is a list of all the issues “discussed” at the “visits.” Then there is a long list of where these visits took place.

There is not list, however, of policy changes or initiatives.

• The Washington Post continues its exploration this morning of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s views and actions on race. The on-line edition headline says that “Perry built complicated record on matters of race.” 

The stories are fine. But — and maybe we’re too sensitive here — often Perry’s views are attributed to his upbringing in a small West Texas town. For some reason, journalists seem to think being raised in rural America has a much more powerful effect than does being reared in the suburbs — and rarely for the better. 

Here’s another story about “Rick Perry’s small-town Texas politics.” 

• Lots of animal attack stories today. Here, a mule deer attacks a woman in Idaho. A man and his daughter wrestle the maddened creature off the woman. 

And here a couple in Pennsylvania is injured by a bear that followed the family dog in the front door. 

• The New York Times put out a whole magazine about food but, typically, failed to mention the issues that most affect farmers — monopolies among food buyers and farm suppliers. 

• Some sheep-protecting dogs in Colorado are thinking backcountry cyclists look a lot like predators. Cyclists have “written a flurry of letters-to-the-editor in local papers detailing snarling, lunging and snapping encounters with canines that can be nearly 3 feet tall and weigh as much as 140 pounds,” reports the Denver Post. 

The dogs are essential. Ranchers report their losses to predators drop dramatically after they put the dogs — Great Pyrenees and Turkish Akbash — on the job. Ranchers are figuring they have a better chance of training their dogs than training cyclists.

• A study of next-generation biofuels by the National Research Council finds that they are “so expensive and difficult to make that the nation is unlikely to meet the government’s usage mandates,” the Des Moines Register reports

The report finds little good to say about next-generation biofuels: they could increase the cost of food by competing with food crops for land; they could also have unintended environmental effects, as fertilizer and water use could increase the production of greenhouse gas emissions.

• The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association favors three pending free trade agreements, with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. President Obama has sent the agreements to Congress for ratification. 

“Today marks the biggest leap forward we have seen in nearly five years when the trade pact with Colombia was signed,” said NCBA President Bill Donald. “Rural America is nearing a historic moment. These three agreements will create roughly 250,000 jobs right here in the United States and increase profitability for our nation’s family farmers and ranchers.”

• The Financial Times reports that houses in rural Britain are selling at a premium over homes in the cities. Rural property prices have risen far more than urban property since 2001, as people with means are leaving urban areas. 

• Education Week writes about programs that help rural students get into college — and stay in. 

A 2007 report from the National Center for Education Statistics found that rural areas have a 27% college-enrollment rate for 18- to 24-year olds. In cities and the suburbs, it’s 37 percent.

• The New York Times editorial page is urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The Times writes: 

Adding it all up, we do not think that the benefit from Keystone XL outweighs the certain damages and potential risks: the stripping of the Canadian boreal forest, the further carbon-loading of the atmosphere, and the threat to the Midwest’s water supplies.

There is also the larger question of whether this country should keep conducting business as usual — that is, succumbing to the status quo of politics and big oil — or whether it will seriously grapple with the reality of climate change. We again urge Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to say no to the Keystone XL.

 

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