Weekend Roundup: HSUS, Ranchers, Friends

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The Humane Society of the U.S. and Nebraska ranchers are engaged in an experiment in cooperation. The two groups don’t normally get along, except in Nebraska, they’re trying. 

The Nebraska Farmers Union and the HSUS are talking about a program that would market humanely raised meat — something independent ranchers see as a potential aid to the sales of their product. And this week the Lincoln Journal Star reports that ranchers and the Humane Society met and “champions in both areas found room to agree.” 

Reporter Art Hovey writes that the HSUS and the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska met to discuss what ranchers, farmers, retailers, food customers and the HSUS had in common. At the end of the discussion, Humane Society representatives concluded that what the ranchers had to say about raising livestock responsibly “is very much in line with what the Humane Society sees,” said Joe Maxwell.

Ag economist Glynn Tonsor, from Kansas State, said consumers have an increasing interest in how their food is produced. He also said that conflict between the HSUS and traditional ag groups is no longer productive, especially for producers.

“The good old days that some people relate to are probably not coming back,” Tonsor said in reference to previous generations of beef, pork, milk and poultry producers. “(And) fighting ballot issues at all costs might not be the optimal strategy.”

Meetings between the HSUS and Nebraska ranchers took place this week in West Point, Lincoln, Kearney and Gering.

Here’s the report from the Kearney meeting, from the Kearney Hub. At that meeting, a professor of animal behavior and well-being at Purdue told ranchers that they had no choice but to address concerns about how farm animals are treated. Candace Croney said that polls show a growing public trust in animal welfare groups — and that HSUS is the most trusted. Farmers are much further down the list. 

•The quarterly loss at the U.S. Postal Service rose to $3.3 billion. That was for the quarter ending in December 2011, usually a strong one for the Postal Service since it comes during the Christmas season. 

At this rate, the Postal Service says it will run out of money by October.

• PBS’s Judy Woodruf writes that “there’s a little-noticed sector that’s doing very well, thank you: American agriculture. Overlooked by many of us in the news media, probably in part because we spend most of our time in big cities, farm sector earnings hit a record last year, with farm income rising just above $100 billion.” 

• Another rural business that is aiding in the economic recovering is oil and gas. 

The Wall Street Journal wrote this week that an “energy boom is revving up the U.S. economy…The economic benefits of rising energy production are spreading far beyond the traditional oil patch, to Ohio and Pennsylvania, Nebraska and New York, North Carolina and Idaho.”

Steel companies are producing for new pipe. Cheap natural gas is bringing manufacturers home. Truck drivers are working overtime. Landowners are earning royalties.

Some $145 billion will be spent drilling and completing wells in the U.S., up from $13 billion in 2000.

But, writes Russell Gold

Though the energy boom looks like a road to prosperity, it may be a bumpy one. Drilling is disrupting communities in ways that are still unfolding, creating concerns about the costs to local governments for things like road damage. It is also raising fears about potential water contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes from the effects of drilling thousands of new deep wells.

• Nebraska and Iowa are competing for a $1.2 billion data center. 

Nobody knows which company is looking to move to the Plains. It could be Facebook. Maybe Apple, reports the Des Moines Register. 

• Much to a Washington Post writer’s chagrin, the subsidy for rural airports has survived. 

The Essential Air Service program is continued in the recent Federal Aviation Administration bill. There was plenty of talk about cutting the subsidy, writer Al Kamen reports, but “like Dracula” it survived all attempts to kill it.

Kamen writes:

The most Congress could come up with was to save $3 million by dropping Ely, Nev., and Alamagordo, N.M. An additional $12 million may be saved by cutting nine places where fewer than 10 (ten?) passengers get on each day, such as Show Low, Ariz., and Owensboro, Ky. (If they get a couple more passengers daily, they apparently could avoid the ax.)

In the bill, the subsidy would be capped at $1,000 a ticket.

Global food prices had been dropping for months — until this week when an index that tracks food prices took its first monthly jump since July. 

• The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the construction of two new nuclear power plants along the South Carolina/Georgia border, northwest of Savannah. They are the first plants to be approved since 1978. 

The Southern Co. will build the $14 billion plants near Waynesboro, Georgia.

• First Lady Michelle Obama came to Iowa to kick off a national “Let’s Move!” tour to fight childhood obesity. But the L.A. Times points out that “obese children are comparatively scarce in that Heartland state.”

• An internal audit found no conflict of interest in how the State Department handled the Keystone XL pipeline permit, but faulted the agency for its technical failings and for not considering another route. 

It’s all water over the dam, of course. Keystone is stalled until it chooses another route through Nebraska, where farmers and ranchers protested a route that went over the Ogallala aquifer.

 

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