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There are two conferences Yonder readers should consider attending.

The first is the National Rural Assembly, held this year in St. Paul, Minnesota, June 28 30. The Rural Assembly covers a lot of ground, from tribal governance to health care, Social Security and rural philanthropy. You even get to meet the Yonder’s own Richard Oswald, author of the Letter From Langdon column.

You can find out more about the Rural Assembly and register here

Also, the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the Ford Foundation are sponsoring a conference on rural wealth creation in early October.

Ford and ERS have been working on this topic for some time. To find out more or to register, go here

•AT&T continues to praise rural wireless carriers as a way to guide its $39 billion acquisition of T Mobile past federal anti trust regulators.

Sprint and smaller carriers, members of the Rural Cellular Association, aren’t convinced. The smaller carriers must rely on the big dogs in the business (such as AT&T) to provide affordable roaming charges and coverage. With fewer national competitors, prices for these services could be more volatile. 

• Tornados in Alabama killed nearly 2.5 million chickens and left another 2.5 million without shelter, the Los Angeles Times reports

The tornados that swept the state wiped out 200 chicken houses and damaged another 500. One grower had to euthanize 200,000 chicks, the paper reports.

One grower said that he will lose $250,000 this year and that it will cost more than $1 million to rebuild his farm. 

• A Democratic leaning think tank has recommended eliminating the $4.9 billion made in direct payments to American farmers. The Center for American Progress says it would spend all but $650 million of that savings on deficit reduction.

All but $50 million of the rest of the savings should be spend on energy development, with the rest going for rural home repairs and for export promotion for small farmers.

CAP’s full report, Bad Seeds, can be found here.  

Meanwhile, ag programs would be cut $3 billion a year under a proposal made Tuesday by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan. 

ConAgra is trying to buy Ralcorp Holdings for $4.9 billion. 

Ralcorp was created in 1994. It was a spinoff of the cereal, cookie and baby food business of Ralston Purina. Ralcorp is resisting ConAgra’s proposal.

• The New York Times Thursday in an editorial notes a report finding that “Iowa’s soil is washing away at rates far higher than anyone realized.”

The Times is referring to a study by the Environmental Working Group. The EWG found that the average annual soil loss in much of Iowa is twice what the Ag Department has been estimating. The EWG and the Times say that this higher rate of erosion was caused by, yes, an increasing number of intense storms, but also by federal farm policy that encourages “high intensity farming.” This trend is further encouraged by the high prices being paid for corn. Meanwhile, there is less conservation spending.

The erosion Iowa is experiencing is “the legacy of bad agricultural policy,” according to the Times.

Time Magazine is reporting that President Barack Obama may give the commencement address at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Washington, “a rural town of 2,400 residents.”

The school sounds amazing. Every kid who graduates from the school is going to college in a district where 100% of the kids qualify for a free lunch.

We hope President Obama goes to Bridgeport, but we would note that it isn’t exactly rural, at least according to our definition. Bridgeport is in a metropolitan county (Douglas) that is part of the Wenatchee metropolitan area.