Wednesday Roundup: Love in the Fields

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Breaking News: The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit in an attempt to block the $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA by AT&T.

AT&T had argued that the merger would make it possible for the combined companies to extend broadband Internet service to almost all of rural America.

The Obama Justice Department argues that the combination would diminish the choices available to consumers — an argument made by many rural telecom companies and advocates.

This is a fast changing story, so check your news sources for the latest information. Here is the Politico article. 

•The New York Times reports about several online dating services that are helping French farmers find mates. 

There is even a reality show, Love Is In The Field, about French farmers who are tasked with picking a mate among a list of applicants. On Monday, the show was viewed by 6.2 million people. 

Maia De La Baume reports

The lack of love in the countryside is a serious topic for a country that sees its bedrock in small farmers and their produce, which is supposed to be uniquely of the place where it is grown. According to the Agriculture Ministry, about 30 percent of male French farmers did not have a partner in 2009.

Loneliness is particularly acute among male farmers between 18 and 35, especially cattle farmers, who generally spend more time working than other farmers. About 36 percent of cattle farmers were single in 2009, according to the ministry.

The problem is worsening, said François Purseigle, an agriculture professor and expert in rural sociology. “It will undoubtedly amplify in the coming years,” he said. “It’s all the more strange that we don’t think of it as a lonely profession.”

The expansion of online dating for farmers fills a need, he said. “French farmers have more difficulties than others in coping with single life,” Mr. Purseigle said, citing the values of the countryside, which is relatively conservative, often deeply religious and attached to traditional values like family and land.

•The Chronicle of Philanthropy writes this week that “rural causes lack support as foundations focus resources elsewhere.” (Here, but gated.) 

Ben Gose recounts that in 2006, Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat, called on foundations to double the amounts they were spending in rural America. That didn’t happen. Rick Cohen, a journalist specializing in foundation given, found that “rural development” grants from private foundations had dropped 3.4 percent from 2004 to 2008, the same time that total foundation grant making increased 43 percent. 

Charles Fluharty, president of the Rural Policy Research Institute, called this a “moral failure…Max Baucus did not fail,” Mr. Fluharty said. “American philanthropy did not step up.”

Gose reports that the Council on Foundations argues that spending on rural development has grown far more than Cohen’s analysis says. It points to several conferences held on the subject.

• Hurricane Irene did a whole bunch of crop damage. 

The AP reviews the variety of crops destroyed by the storm: tobacco, cotton, blueberries. Tobacco seems to be the hardest hit in Virginia and North Carolina. 

“My tobacco crop is completely wiped out. I can’t harvest any of it,” said Keith Beavers, whose Mount Olive farm lies about 70 miles from the ocean. “It’s either blown off the stalk or off the limb, and what’s left is raggedy.”

“I’ve not seen the kind of flooding and damage to crops that I saw briefly today,” said Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

Irene might have been overhyped for the coastal cities, reports McClatchy Newspapers, but the damage in rural parts of the East was severe. 

• The Los Angeles Times has a good photo slideshow of the damage Irene caused. Go here

• The federal government has frozen some types of disaster aid for the Midwest, the Des Moines Register reports.

The paper said a freeze on disaster aid in the Midwest could affect projects that are still repairing damage from 2008 floods. 

• The federal Economic Research Service estimates that net farm income will rise 30% above last year’s levels and that government payments will decrease by 17 percent. 

 

 

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