Weekend Roundup: The First Settlers

Plentiful salmon in the Klamath River • Comparing pre-historic blades • More support for rural community colleges • Iowa's ag-gag law

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture signed an agreement Friday morning with rural community colleges that “will leverage USDA resources to increase the availability of capital for educational facilities and to provide technical assistance with the goal of improving the accessibility and quality of education in rural communities.”

White House people and representatives of the Rural Community Colleges Alliance spoke at the signing.

•The European financial crisis has sent people back to the land.

EuroNews reports that 60,000 Greeks have become farmers in the last two years. The agency tells of a “new Greek exodus – a young generation which instead of going abroad, is going back to its roots, its rural villages, its home and especially its family.” 

•The Center for Rural Affairs has posted two articles worth reading.

The first finds that the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to spend twice as much on subsidies given to the 20 largest farms in the 13 leading farm states than it spends for all rural development programs nationally.

Chuck Hassebrook writes

This year or next, Congress will write a new farm bill governing rural development and agriculture programs. Its first attempt – late last year – was a disaster.

That bill made even deeper cuts in funding for rural development, which had already been cut by one-third over the last eight years. It increased the share of farm program payments that go to mega farms – granting them unlimited subsidies and further subsidizing them to drive small and midsize farms off the land. It cut beginning farmer programs and conservation programs that reward farmers who protect the land and water.

(Hassebrook has since resigned from the Center to run for the U.S. Senate.)

Next, CFRA reprints an article written by Zach Vicars, a student at Truman State University in Missouri. Vicars is writing about plans to close the post office in Elmer, population 80.

Vicars writes

Elmer’s story is much bigger than the struggle of a few dozen families. Rather, it is a microcosm of what is happening throughout this great nation. The sad truth is towns from the north coast of California to the maple groves of Maine are facing the same crisis as Elmer. Having endured as rural poverty rates have skyrocketed during recent decades, they now must watch in anguish as the center of their civic identity is taken away from them.

• We don’t know what to make of Eli Saslow’s story about Washington, Oklahoma, in Friday’s Washington Post. 

Saslow’s story is about the people of a small town in Oklahoma and their “cherished values.” It’s really a story about “them,” a church-going, Republican-voting people who wear boots and flannel. “They” do strange things like recite the Pledge and chew tobacco. 

We presume that Saslow did the story because “they” are an incomprehensible people to the readers of the Washington Post and needed explaining. 

We wait for Saslow to do a similar story about the strange ways of life in the Democratic enclaves of Boulder, Austin or Portland — and their “cherished values.” 

• We’ve all learned that the first people came to what is now North America 15,000 years ago, when people from what is now Siberia crossed over and made their way south. 

Now researchers are thinking the first “Americans” may have come from Europe thousands of years earlier. A Stone Age European people known as Solutreans, according to this theory, made their way to the East Coast more than 22,000 years ago, eventually spreading across the continent. The Clovis culture originated with the Solutreans.

The link is the type of blades these tribes used. Blades collected in the U.S. — and much older than 15,000 years — match types of blades made by Stone Age Europeans.

• The village of Courbefy, 280 miles southwest of Paris, was on the market for $400,000. Nobody bid, a sign, according to this reporter, of a “flight from rural France….” 

• Iowa’s “ag gag” law may violate free speech laws, according to legal scholars. 

The bill is now headed to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk. It would create a new crime of “agriculture production facility fraud.” Anyone who gains access to a farm by false pretenses or lies on a job application with the intention of doing something not allowed by the farm owner could be found guilty of a crime. 

The bill is aimed at animal rights activists who have gone “undercover” at farms or production facilities and filmed activities there.

Legal scholars say the law violates prohibitions of “prior restraint,” an attempt to stop speech before it is uttered. 

Here’s an Atlantic article about how to protect rural areas from urban sprawl. 

One trouble is that not much attention has been paid to rural “smart growth” strategies. Kaid Benfield writes:

We have had occasion of late to look for assistance and wisdom on this issue. But the wisdom has been a little thin, and the search a little frustrating. Don’t get us wrong: all of our wonderful smart growth and sustainability colleagues in the nonprofit world and government have been as cooperative and helpful as possible.

The problem is that, from the national grant-making community to the various federal offices that provide research, guidance and, most importantly, grant assistance, the focus appears to be almost exclusively upon smart growth from the inside out. 

That is, most of the white papers and booklets and financial assistance concentrate upon small, rural towns and the opportunities for strengthening them, but not much on what is happening beyond town boundaries. (One exception is a 2010 publication, Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities, produced by the International City/County Management Association and published by the Smart Growth Network.) 

• Texas continues to have the largest percentage of its residents without health insurance — 27.6% — according to Gallup. Massachusetts has the smallest, at 4.9 percent. 

• Scientists expect a six-fold increase in the salmon run on the Klamath River this fall, and they don’t know why this is happening. 

The Sacramento River expects a four-fold increase in salmon. And all this comes after years of low numbers and worries that the fish was imperiled. 

 

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