Azaleas bloom before the Masters • Tester asks if post office closings will affect voting by mail • Farmers and oil and gas drillers battle for water on the Front Range
It’s primary day in Wisconsin.
Rick Santorum clearly feels like he has an advantage outside the cities. “I’m asking small-town America, rural America, rural Wisconsin to come out and speak loudly tomorrow,” Santorum said in Oshkosh yesterday. “Take the day off tomorrow. It’s on me. And spend some time getting folks to the polls.”
Santorum has been bowling his way through Wisconsin, according to BusinessWeek, “to try to appeal to the rural voters and evangelical Christians whose backing has made him (Mitt) Romney’s chief opponent.”
Politico says Santorum isn’t generating too much excitement with the strategy. His events are sparsely attended and, besides, he’s not campaigning where the people are — in and around Milwaukee.
“It’s in these sparsely populated places — away from the state’s urban centers — that Santorum needs to turn out the vote if he has any chance of winning the primary, or even capturing a handful of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates,” Politico reports.
We’ll tell you Wednesday morning how the leading Republicans did in rural and urban counties.
• Reporters at a workshop delved into Federal Communications Commission data and found that “broadband subscribership in rural states, particularly in the West, increased at a rapid clip between 2008 and 2010 while the South has lagged behind the rest of the nation,” write reporters John Dunbar and Jacob Fenton.
Click here for a good summary of what the Investigative Reporting Workshop found.
Southern states had the lowest rate of broadband subscription. Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas all ranked in the bottom six of the 50 states.
Hawaii was first in broadband and Vermont (the nation’s most rural state) had the greatest improvement in subscription rates between 2008 and 2010.
• Good story in The Art of the Rural on author Harry Crews, who died last week.
•The New York Times reports that small banks are shifting their charters in order to avoid having the federal government as a regulator.
The community banks say they didn’t cause the real estate collapse and so they shouldn’t be put under the more rigorous requirements passed by Congress.
“We’ve had two foreclosures in the last four years, and yet here we had to do it anyway because our regulator only knows how to deal with the behemoth banks,” said William Pierce with the Monadnock Community Bank in Peterborough, New Hampshire, referring to the regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
• It’s been a month since tornados swept through Kentucky, killing 24 people. The Lexington paper has an update on what’s happened since.
“We’re probably 95 percent done with our cleanup,” Laurel County Judge David Westerfield said Monday. “People are starting to move mobile homes in and starting to rebuild homes. It’s just amazing, the volunteers we’ve had. People are just anxious to get back and try to rebuild their lives. But it will never be the same, we know, because of the damage and the fatalities we had. But people are starting that cycle to try to rebuild.”
• Chris Clayton at DTN has a good rundown on the lean finely textured beef (yep, “pink slime”) controversy.
Yes, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has called for a congressional investigation into the “smear campaign” against the beef product. Oh, and AFA Foods, a ground-beef processor in Pennsylvania, has filed for bankruptcy after all the hubbub decreased demand for the company’s product.
• The AP has a story on the USDA microbiologist credited with coming up with the “pink slime” name.
Gerald Zimmerman grew up in Emporia, Kansas, and worked as a meat-cutter at Iowa Beef Products. “I was around meat,” Zirnstein said. “I used to work in the ground meat department there and they never had this. This rendered product was never added back in back then.”
He’s referring to the bits of beef and cartilage treated with ammonium hydroxide that he calls pink slime.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “They’re going, ‘ah it’s safe. It’s 100 percent beef.’ Okay great, it’s 100 percent beef. It’s just not as wholesome and nutritious as fresh ground beef. And then they don’t label it and people are paying nearly full price for whatever percentage of additive they are getting. They sell it for almost the same price as good, fresh ground beef.”
•Colorado Front Range farmers are competing with oil and gas drillers for water, the Denver Post reports.
“At Colorado’s premier auction for unallocated water this spring, companies that provide water for hydraulic fracturing at well sites were top bidders on supplies once claimed exclusively by farmers,” reports Bruce Finley.
It’s a battle, one being lost by farmers. “What impact to our environment and our agricultural heritage are Coloradans willing to stomach for drilling and fracking?” said Gary Wockner, director of the Save the Poudre Coalition — devoted to protecting the Cache la Poudre River.
• The early and warm spring has caused tulips to bloom before Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa. Now, we read, the azaleas have bloomed in Augusta, Georgia, before the Masters golf tournament.
The Atlanta Constitution reports that the azaleas in the South are already losing their blooms, before the golf tournament begins this Thursday. The 13th hole on the course has an estimated 1,600 azalea bushes — but only a dozen or so still have blooms.
• Montana Sen. Jon Tester, in a press release, worries that closing post offices and mail processing centers will disrupt voting by mail.
Tester’s point is that more people are voting by mail, and he wants to know how closing local offices and regional processing facilities might affect this process. He is asking the head of the U.S. Postal Service to delay any closings until 2013, so states can study how post office closings could affect voting.