Weekend Roundup: The Corn War

Rural kids are more likely to smoke • Who can speak for Appalachia? • Omaha sets a temperature record — a LOW temperature record

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Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the effects of the drought on crops may have peaked, that food inflation will only be 3 or 4 percent next year and that this will ease the pressure on the federal government to relax requirements for the use of corn to make ethanol. 

“The overall impact of the drought is beginning to decline,” Vilsack told Alan Bjerga of Bloomberg. The uneven effects of the persistent dryness, which vary from farm to farm, make any crop predictions difficult, he said. “I’m not sure we know all we need to know to understand what’s happening with this crop.”

The New York Times outlines the war between farmers, meat producers and biofuel refineries over the federal mandate requiring that more ethanol be mixed into gasoline each year. That policy is diverting almost half the domestic corn supply into ethanol production.

Meat companies want the mandate loosened, as a way to reduce the price of feed. So far, Vilsack is siding with farmers (who like the mandate) and the biofuel producers.

PBS’s Rural Line — It’s not like the Public Broadcasting System spends all that much time doing rural programming, but whenever there is a threat of a cut to their federal funding, you hear a lot about rural stations. 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he would cut PBS funding (along with Amtrak, the NEA and the NEH). PBS president Paula Kerger says this is “extremely disappointing” given the “value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers.”

Big city stations could survive these cuts, Kerger has said, but the federal cuts would likely shutter PBS stations in “smaller markets, in more rural areas of the country.” 

Tobacco in Rural — The American Lung Association has found that tobacco use is higher in rural areas than in the cities and suburbs and that smokeless tobacco use is twice as common in rural communities than in the cities. 

Young people in rural areas are also more likely to use tobacco and to start using it at an earlier age than urban youth. 

Resisting Herbicides — The growth of weeds that resist Roundup continues. Now Roundup-resistant Palmer amaranth is spreading across the Midwest. 

Weird Weather, Cold Edition — Omaha set 16 records for high temperature this summer. Friday morning, the temperature bottomed out at 48 degrees, matching the lowest temperature recorded in the last 120 years.

That low was set in 1890.

Who Speaks for the Mountains? — A transplant from the city to Eastern Kentucky wonders who can speak for Appalachia

Keystone XL South Begins — TransCanada broke ground near Livingston, Texas, on the southern leg of its controversial Keystone XL pipeline. 

The pipeline would bring tar sands oil from Canada and deliver it to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Keystone is held up in Nebraska, where the original plan was to route the pipeline over environmentally sensitive land and the Ogallala Aquifer. 

So, TransCanada is starting in Texas. Even without the northern leg, there is still a need for more pipeline capacity from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the coast. 

 

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