Wednesday Roundup: Listening for Rural

Revival of hemp • A library that is also a seed bank • Biden talks guns and rural • Did New York Times find much broadband 'waste'?

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We heard rural mentioned once in the President’s State of the Union

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Of course, this was the only mention of urban, too, in a speech that lacked much geography or sense of place.

The headline on Chris Clayton’s story on DTN is “Agenda Misses Rural America: President Doesn’t Touch Agriculture.” 

“As he has in the past, President Barack Obama used his fifth State of the Union speech Tuesday night to again propose an aggressive agenda, but there was almost no emphasis on rural America,” Clayton wrote. “Some rural lawmakers had hoped Obama would reference the farm bill in his remarks, but that did not happen. In talking about immigration reform in his speech, the president also did not mention agriculture, a key sector advocating for immigration overhaul.”

Clayton notes that the National Farmers Union praised the President’s speech, especially his support of alternative fuels. 

Rural Broadband “Waste” — The New York Times reported that “waste is seen in program to give Internet access to rural U.S.” 

We have no doubt that there has been waste in a $4 billion effort to expand broadband coverage as part of the 2009 economic stimulus effort. The only surprising thing would be if there were NO waste.

The Times story, however, is pretty limited. It writes about one project in Colorado that seemed redundant. And then there are several examples of where wasteful spending was discovered by the government and projects were stopped. We would think that would be a good thing.

Is there a widespread problem in the program? Not that the Times story showed us, but read the story and judge for yourself.

Sequester and Indian Country — Mark Trahant writes about what the coming federal budget sequester will mean for Indian Country: 

“Tribes would lose almost $130 million in funding from the Department of the Interior,” the White House said.  Native American program “reductions would be necessary in many areas including human services, law enforcement, schools, economic development and natural resources.” 

The White House said “Indian Health Service and Tribal hospitals and clinics would be forced to provide 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits, undermining needed health care in tribal communities.”

That last line means fewer dollars for Contract Health Services, money that’s spent on outside doctors, labs, hospitals, dentists, transportation and other essential health services for American Indian and Alaska Native patients. 

Heads Up on Telecom Bills — A Kentucky Senate panel has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would make it easier for telecoms to stop providing landline service to rural areas. 

Similar bills have come up in several states. They would remove the requirement that phone companies provide landline service if other alternatives are present.

Deere Running — Farm equipment maker Deere & Co. reported a 22 percent increase in net income in the first quarter. The company is selling more farm equipment at higher prices. 

Subsidy Caps — Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican, has introduced legislation that would cap subsidy payments to individual farmers. 

Hemp Help — The New York Times notes the growing support, among Rs and Ds, for laws that would allow industrial hemp to be grown in Kentucky. 

Sen. Rand Paul of Tea Party fame is for a bill in the Kentucky legislature that would license hemp growers. So is Sen. Mitch McConnell. Former CIA director R. James Woolsey came to Frankfort to speak for the bill. Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville compared the movement to allow hemp production to the slow movement toward same-sex marriage. 

Federal authorities, however, have not yet been convinced.

Biden is Coming — V.P. Joe Biden was in Philadelphia earlier this week to talk about gun violence and Politico reports that he had a message for rural communities: 

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Biden said here after saying he’d read a skeptical comment in the local newspaper about the White House outreach to rural areas. “The one thing I want to make clear is this is, this message of rational gun safety is a message that will be embraced by rural communities as well as urban communities simply because it makes sense. But we cannot wait. The still voices of those children require us, requires us to speak now.”

Library AND Seed Bank — The Basalt, Colorado, library has magazines, books, computers and…seeds. 

NPR reports that library members can “check out” a package of seeds, but you have to return the seeds you gather at harvest. Borrowers are urged to return seeds from plants that do well in the Western Colorado climate and soil. 

Midwestern Drought — Climatologist Cliff Harris says we are in the midst of a decade-long pattern of drought in the Central U.S. that has come every 80 years at least since the early 1600s. 

 

 

 

 

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