One of the most important stories in rural America this year was the proposal by the Postal Service to close more than 3,600 post offices.
Most of the offices to be closed would be in rural communities. And that has touched a nerve. The Post Office means something different in a small town than it does in the city.
For news about the Post Office controversy, we now go to the new Save The Post Office site, here. And here is a radio report, produced by Sylvia Ryerson and Mimi Pickering, on what the local Post Office means to people in Eastern Kentucky: More Than Mail: Rural Postal Service Threatened.
• We don’t know the location of the Kmart and Sears stores that will close, but we’re betting that most will be in rural towns.
Why’s that? We read today in the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader the list of stores to be closed in Kentucky and they were all in smaller towns: Winchester, Hazard and Middlesboro.
Here’s the list of 79 of the up to 120 Sears and Kmart stores that will be closed. Each store employs between 40 and 80 workers.
• As more land in the Northern Plains is returned to ag production there is less habitat for wildlife, according to an AP report.
Farmers are taking land out of the Conservation Reserve Program and shifting it into production, to take advantage of higher commodity prices. Crop prices are just higher than CRP payments.
There are 31 million acres in CRP now, but that is below the peak of 36.8 million in 2007, and 6.5 million acres are scheduled to expire by September.
• The Number 1 ag story of 2011, according to DTN, is weather and the devastating effects of floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.
Chris Clayton counts the hundreds of thousands of acres flooded and billions of dollars in damage done by extraordinary weather events in 2001. The most destructive to agriculture was the incredible Missouri River flood that was partially caused by decisions made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep upstream reservoirs filled for recreation. When the rains fell, the Corps had no place to put the water except on farmers’ fields downstream.
Now the Corps has hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to make and not enough money to make them. Clayton notes that the federal government has been scrimping on repairs and improvements for decades and that now Missouri farmers are paying the price.
• While you’re on the DTN site, read Urban Lehner’s column on what WON’T happen in 2012.
Among those things that won’t happen: farmland prices won’t collapse, inflation won’t race out of control and solar flares won’t send us to oblivion.
• Metal thieves are plaguing rural England, Reuters reports. And just like in the U.S., some of these miscreants have died when they tried to swipe live electric cable.
• There is incredible demand for organic milk, according to The New York Times, but not enough supply.
The problem is that the price of organic milk isn’t high enough to pay farmers for the extra cost of producing it. The price of conventional milk has now risen closer to the cost of organic — even though organic milk costs more to produce.
So farmers are switching back to conventional milk even though the demand for organic remains high.
Makes us think the milk markets aren’t working.
• Bloomberg is the latest to tell us that, as the headline says, “Iraq War Casualties Hit Small Towns Hardest.”
The story gets the gist of things right — rural communities do send a disproportionate number of their resident to war. But Bloomberg counts “rural” as towns under 50,000. We just emailed a buddy on Long Island. His town is 8,000. According to Bloomberg, this “town,” a short train ride from New York City, is “rural.”