Wednesday Roundup: Forest Counties Cut

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What would happen to rural schools, largely in the Northwest, should the federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire? Headwaters Economics has prepared an analysis that you can find here

President Obama’s budget would end the payments given to counties that contain national forest lands to compensate them for revenue lost because of timber harvesting restrictions. The money goes to 729 counties with more than 9 million school children.

Diette Courrege at Education Week has a good explanation of the politics of these payments. See it here. The program was begun in 2000 and will end in September unless it is reauthorized. The program has funneled millions of dollars to rural schools. “Failure to reauthorize the program could bring an end to that money, and rural advocates warned that could trigger drastic cuts, such as teacher layoffs,” Courrege reports. 

(Again, Headwaters has a more detailed explanation of the program and how it will be phased out. Look here.) 

The Daily Astorian (Oregon) explains in an editorial Monday about the program, what it calls a “lifeline to forest counties in Oregon and across the West…”: 

To clarify, county payments aren’t exactly welfare, as several witnesses stressed. The creation of the national forests came with a commitment that counties would not suffer because they held these lands. The result was a partnership between the federal government and local counties that shared revenue generated from the forests.

But that approach fell apart in the late 1980s, as litigation over environmental issues stalled timber harvests on federal lands.

County payments were established in 2000 to fill the void and preserve local schools, roads and emergency services. It also was what U.S. Rep. Greg Walden described as a “bridge payment so rural counties could transition away from a resource-based economy.”

“But let’s get real,” the Oregon Republican told the House Subcommittee on Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “These are federal forest counties, the government controls more than half the land … nearly 80 percent in some counties … and the notion that they have the ability to recreate their economies in a decade’s time is absurd.”

•The estimate is that half of the 3,700 post offices being closed are in rural America. I’ve just scanned the list for Texas and Kentucky. My guess is that half is a low estimate.

But you be the judge. You can find the state by state list here

• UnitedHealth Group has released a report on rural health care finding that there will be an increase of 5 million newly insured rural residents by 2019, but that the number of physicians in rural America will lag.

The full report is here.

•Rep. Mike Ross, a rural Arkansas Democrat, is leaving Congress. He says he’s fed up with the partisanship found in D.C. 

Ross was a conservative Democrat and a leader of the Blue Dogs, a fast-shrinking body of middle-of-the-road Ds.

The National Journal notes that with the retirement of politicians such as Ross, the center is fast disappearing. But this isn’t just a politician problem, the National Journal finds. Voters are divided, too. 

Good story in AgJournal.com about branding and animal identification.  The USDA would shift animal ID to ear tags rather than hot iron brands. 

• Again, if you want to keep up with the big meeting on rural philanthropy, go to the blog here

 

 

 

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