Wednesday Roundup: Down Goes the Ogallala

Post Office to cut out Saturday delivery • The EPA chief apologizes to rural, maybe • Concentrated poverty and education • A new chief at Interior

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Editor’s Note: The Super Bowl ad featuring farmers and Ram trucks has been getting a lot of attention. Above is another way of looking at rural America, one made for the 75th anniversary of the Kellogg Foundation and featuring the voice of Yonder publisher Dee Davis.

The Postal Service announced today that it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays starting August 1.

Congress could insist on continuation of Saturday delivery. In the past, Congress has banned five day delivery.

But the move is expected to save $2 billion a year for the financially strapped Postal Service. The Postal Service said it lost $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2012.

The Postal Service will continue to deliver packages on Saturdays. That is a profitable part of the business. Post offices will also remain open on Saturdays, “but hours likely would be reduced at thousands of smaller locations,” the AP reports

Polls say the public supports five day delivery. President Obama has proposed halting deliveries as part of his budget cutting proposals.

“For decades, the Postal Service has upheld a personal and professional standard of service, delivering to every household nationwide six days a week,” said Jeannette Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association. “To erode this service will undermine the Postal Service’s core mission and is completely unacceptable.”

Sequester and Farm Bill — Chris Clayton reports: “Farmers could see cuts in farm programs and less opportunity to enroll in some conservation programs if the budget cuts typically referred to as ‘sequestration’ go into effect.” 

All of Washington is trying to figure out what to do when automatic spending cuts kick in March 1. Democrats are eyeing farm programs.

Guns and Rural — New York Daily News reporter Adam Forman writes that it doesn’t make sense to have gun rules apply equally in the cities and in rural communities. He says we need to “embrace a divided solution.” He writes:

Why subject urban and suburban populations to stricter treatment than rural regions? The geography of mass shootings provides the explanation. Since 1982, America has suffered 62 mass shootings. Of these, 24 occurred in cities exceeding 100,000 residents and an additional 31 within 35 miles of such cities…..(W)we should consider that, due to the influences of history, rural Americans may simply be more responsible with their firearms, treating them not as toys, fired off at ranges to release stress, but as tools for sport and sustenance.”`

New Interior Chief — Politico reports that President Obama will nominate Sally Jewell, CEO of the outdoor recreational retailer REI, to replace Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior. 

REI is a $1.8 billion a year business. Jewell is an engineer.

Colleges and Volunteers — The State Department has released the rankings of the colleges and universities that produced the most Peace Corps volunteers. Don’t look for Harvard, Yale, Duke or Brown on the list. If you want volunteers to work for little pay in other countries, head to the University of Washington or Florida. 

Among small colleges, Gonzaga, St. Olaf and University of Mary Washington led the list.

Education and Concentrated Poverty — The DY carried a story last week about the growth of concentrated poverty. Poor people are clustering geographically, especially in rural America. 

The reasoning is that poor kids have trouble in school and that poor kids living in communities where a high percentage of people are poor have a harder time. This is outlined in an article that first appeared in The Nation and is reprinted in The Washington Post. Here is part of the evidence:

Harvard University professor Heather Schwartz also finds that socioeconomic integration trumps extra resources in boosting achievement.  In her rigorous study of Montgomery County, Maryland schools, low-income students whose subsidized housing assignments enabled them to attend very low-poverty schools closed more of the achievement gap with their high-income peers than did low-income students in higher poverty schools who received an additional $2,000—monies which were devoted to extended learning time, smaller classes, and specialized professional development.

EPA Chief and Rural — We don’t know whether this is an apology or just condescension. You be the judge of this article that appeared in The Hill:

Departing Departing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said she wished she had communicated better during her tenure with rural regions that felt victimized by the agency’s pollution rules.

“If I were starting again, I would from day one make a much stronger effort to do personal outreach in rural America,” Jackson said in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters published Monday.

Clashes with rural GOP lawmakers characterized much of Jackson’s time in Obama administration, but Jackson has lamented what she says are inaccurate claims about the scope of EPA’s agenda.

“Had I known that these myths about everything from cow flatulence to spilled milk could be seen as ‘The EPA is coming to get you,’ I would have spent more time trying to inoculate against that,” she said. 

Supercenters and Grocery Choice — A new study finds that people buy less healthful foods when they shop at supercenters compared to what they buy at supermarkets. 

Alabama Hostage — Chicago Sun-Times writer Marcus Gilmer says the hostage-taking in Midland, Alabama, received less coverage because it was in “podunk” town: 

Part of the fact that so much about the Midland crisis was ignored either as a second-tier story or completely was because of where it happened. Trust me. I’m from Alabama. I know how people perceive of my native state. Sometimes, I can’t blame them. But in this instance, it was somewhat frustrating given the aforementioned universal issues at play here. 

Kansas Aquifer Decline — A survey of the Ogllala Aquifer in Kansas has found the second largest decline ever measured, three and a half feet. The only thing is, the largest decline (4.25 feet) was found in January 2012. 

“The question that many people are now asking — and the one for which nobody has a firm answer — is how much longer that can continue,” writes Lawrence Journal-World reporter Peter Hancock. 

“That has been the 35-year conversation,” said Mark Rude, executive director of Groundwater Management District No. 3, which governs water resources in much of southwestern Kansas. “It’s that proverbial conundrum, if you will, between economic opportunity and sustainability.” 

Rude said the state was “running smack dab into the limitations of the aquifer itself today and the demand placed upon it by those pumping wells.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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