Wednesday Roundup: Goats and Academics

Farm Bill op-ed • Chick peas for cash? • Updating E-Rate • Mail box clusters • Reaching out with broadband • Goats and academics

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Farm Bill. Jerry Hagstrom explains in National Journal why preserving old provisions of the farm bill ensures innovation in the future. It’s a column worth a read.

A New Cash Crop? The BBC reports on efforts to find a new cash crop for tobacco farmers in Virginia. The latest candidate is chick peas. Researchers are trying to create a chick pea variety that can handle the Southeast’s intense humidity.

E-Rate. The Federal Communications Commission announced last week that it intends to revamp the funding program that helps connect schools and libraries to communications networks. The program is commonly known as E-Rate.

The proposed rule changes, which will go through a public comment phase, look to focus funding on broadband connectivity instead of older technologies like long distance and paging. The commission also said it wants to reduce red tape and administrative costs for schools participating in the program.

Kelley Drye reports that while the goals of the reforms  have broad support on the FCC, the specifics of the proposal could be a little more contentious.

E-Rate is part of the Universal Service Fund, which uses a small fee on communications services to help connect underserved areas, like much of rural America. President Obama says he wants to connect 99% of the nations’ schools within the next five years.

Post Office. The Greeting Card Association has sounded of with recommendations on how to make the Postal Service solvent. Instead of cutting Saturday delivery, the report recommends “cluster boxes,” which would replace door-to-door delivery. That measure would be popular with customers, the report. Save the Post Office calls that assertion a “highly dubious proposition.”

Using Broadband. A speech pathologist in southeast Illinois is helping clients get access to better care via broadband and teleconference equipment.

Sarah Weiler of Newton, Ill., has set up one-on-one virtual consultations with specialists for her clients. She’s also started a community “Speaker Series” on disabilities and children with special needs.

“We’re kind of a geographical oddity here in Newton,” Weiler said. The town of about 2,000 is two hours from cities that offer specialists’ care. “… Many parents aren’t able to travel to consult with specialists or seek out the care their child with special needs might have.”

Weiler’s program required her to put in a faster Internet connection and purchase new equipment. Her project was supported by the Broadband Innovation Fund of Broadband Illinois.

The folks at Illinois Broadband sent us this item after seeing today’s story on the free, pubic wi-fi network in Bethel, Illinois. If you’ve got a broadband story you’d like to share, send it our way. You can reach Daily Yonder Editor Tim Marema at tim@dailyyonder.com.

Goats and Academics. If you’re looking for a long read on the difference between being a goat farmer and an academic, you’re in luck. Anne Buchanan has a full-length essay on Aeon comparing her life as a Penn State research associate to her sister’s experiences as a Vermont dairy-goat farmer. She says it’s two different cultures. Here’s a sample:

The sets of risks that farmers and academics are exposed to scarcely even overlap. Farming has one of the highest accident rates in America, and, to compound the problem, many farmers in the U.S. have no health insurance. Most professors get good coverage through their employer. Society has decided we have very different economic worth, too. Small farmers, on average, earn less than half of what professors do. Farmers are at the mercy of unpredictable events beyond their control — drought, rain, animals contracting disease, the price of grain, the ever-declining price the farmer earns for produce sold at market, the cost of health insurance — while unpredictability has been fairly well eliminated from a professor’s working life. (A professor with tenure, at least.) Yet we’re all far more dependent on the toil of poorly rewarded farmers than the vast majority of research by very well-paid scientists.

I recognize that I could make similar comparisons between academics and miners, or soldiers, or athletes or musicians or visual artists. The singular difference here is that farmers provide the rest of us with sustenance. They are tied to the land and the seasons in ways that most of us can, and do, ignore.

 

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