Weekend Roundup: Rural Political News Galore

Spanish are leaving cities for countryside • Drought isn't driving South Dakota farmers crazy...yet • Farm Bill tactics not likely to work • Kerrey says opponent is a "welfare rancher"

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Democrat Bob Kerrey is attacking his opponent in the Nebraska Senate race for receiving agricultural “welfare.” In particular, Kerrey is criticizing Deb Fischer for grazing federal land at below market rates. 

Fishcer has a ranch in north-central Nebraska. She pays $5,000 a year to graze 1,000 cattle on 11,000 acres of federal land. If this land had been owned privately, the lease would be more than $110,000, the AP reports.

So, Kerrey says Fischer is a “welfare rancher.”

She still leads in the polls.

Farm Bill Tactics — Late Thursday, 39 House members signed a petition asking that the Farm Bill be moved from committee to the House floor.

A majority of House members would have to sign the petition to force a vote on the bill, reports DTN’s Jerry Hagstrom. So far, nine Republicans have signed the petition.

The big ag groups are pushing the discharge petition idea. The American Soybean Association’s president Steve Wellman said this week that his group is “now forced to support this drastic measure.” He continues:

Farmers have been told we haven’t expressed enough concern about the lack of new farm legislation. For weeks, we’ve been told there isn’t enough time to pass the bill. We’ve been told that a one-year extension or a piecemeal disaster bill will cover our needs in the interim. Our clear reply to Congress is that the only acceptable outcome is a full, five-year farm bill passed through the House before Sept. 30. 

Fatter — A national study of over 8,800 Americans has found that people living in rural areas are nearly one-fifth more likely to be obese than those living in cities. 

“The rates of obesity were much higher than previously reported based on self-report, with 39 percent of rural Americans being obese compared to 33 percent of urban Americans,” said study lead author Christie Befort, an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

Energy Ads — The energy industry (coal, oil and gas) has spent more than $153 million in television advertisements in what the New York Times describes as an “aggressive effort to defeat” Barack Obama. 

Recession Swells Small Spanish Towns — They call it “rurbanismo,” a term the Spanish use to describe the reverse migration that has city dwellers pack up and move back to the country. The New York Times reports

The movement has steadily built, but it has been accelerated by Spain’s economic crisis, breathing new life and entrepreneurship into some nearly abandoned areas. “Rurbanismo started before the crisis, once the Internet took off and made it possible to work anywhere, but what the crisis is doing is making the model more attractive,” said Carles Feixa, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Lleida.

The movement is difficult to quantify, he said, partly since many of the new migrants do not bother changing their official residence. But it is clear, he said, that Spain’s cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants have recently stopped growing while villages of fewer than 1,000 are no longer shrinking.

Some of these new migrants are returning to the villages where they grew up or where earlier generations of their family lived, sometimes taking over property that had been left empty or used only for vacations.

Not Crazy…Yet — A psychiatrist serving a drought-parched section of South Dakota says he’s not seeing any rise in stress. The Yankton Press & Dakotan reports

“I don’t think there has been anybody that has called or come in for services yet because of the drought,” said Dr. David Dracy, a psychologist with Yankton’s Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health.

Still, he said that doesn’t mean issues won’t arise in the fall harvest season.

“(Farmers) don’t expect income until November,” said Dracy, who was a farmer before entering his current profession. “I’m sure some of them have anticipatory anxiety, but it isn’t really affecting their pocketbook yet.

“I think really where we’re going to see issues arise is in the secondary businesses that depend on agriculture,” he added. “I think what we’ll see is food prices going up and less business on Main Street. There will be less pickups bought and less equipment because farmers don’t have expendable income and don’t need deductions.”

Adelstein Goes Private — The administrator of USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, Jonathan Adelstein, is leaving to become president of PCIA –The Wireless Infrastructure Association, according to the Washington Post. 

Adelstein was also a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. PCIA is the trade association for the tele-com industry — for Verizon, AT&T and the people who build cell towers. 

Tight in North Dakota — The North Dakota Senate race is tight, the AP reports

When Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad announced last year he was retiring, the assumption was that his replacement would be Republican. 

But former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp, the Democrat, is running even with Rep. Rick Berg. Heitkamp is running her sixth state-wide race; Berg has been elected once.

Lots of money being spent.

 

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