Thursday Roundup: Where We Want to Live


Murphy’s Steakhouse. The building went up in 1913 and was a general store. This being the German part of Texas, there were barrels of pickles and sauerkraut. Now, it’s Murphy’s.

A survey for the National Association of Realtors finds that 40% of Americans would prefer to live in a rural area or a small town, Richard Florida reports. The split has 22% of those surveyed preferring rural while 18% liking the small town. 

Only one in ten would choose to live in a traditional suburb. And most people would like to live within 20 minutes of work. Most of all, people want some privacy.

Americans also want to live in a rural or small town community near grocery stores, doctors’ offices, schools, restaurants and within a stone’s throw of work. We want it all.

But the truth is that rural communities have what Americans want — and that is neighborhoods. People want what small towns have to offer. They just need to figure out a way to survive there.

•The world needs to double its food production in the next 40 years, so now seems like a pretty bad time to reduce spending on research at the nation’s land grant institutions. 

But that is exactly what’s happening, according to DTN’s Marcia Zarley Taylor. Funding for California’s public universities has dropped 40% since 1990 — and face up to a $1 billion cut this year. Last week’s federal  budget deal pulled back $230 million in research buildings and cuts $126 million from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and $44 million from the Agricultural Research Service, Taylor reports. 

The DTN editor writes:

“We see states disinvesting in higher education and research all across the nation,” said Dan Dooley, vice president of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of California. “Left to our own devices, I’m confident agriculture will meet the world’s demand for food by 2050,” he added, but the question is at what cost to rain forests and natural habitat…

For nearly a century, public research has been critical to boosting agriculture’s productivity. Since 1980, California cotton yields have grown from an average of 1.75 bales per acre to more than 4 bales per acre. In the past decade, the state’s farmers cut water use for crops 60% but boosted crop values 300%, largely by shifting the kinds of crops they grow with scarce water, Dooley said.

The ability to do more with fewer resources and a lower environmental footprint is what society demands of agriculture in the future, Dooley stressed. Besides extra food demand as the world’s population increases by 2 million people by 2050, 1.4 billion people live in poverty worldwide, 25 percent of the world’s children are malnourished and one out of every six people are without clean water. “There are moral imperatives” for solving these problems, Dooley said.

• There’s a long story in the New York Times about what happens to a town that is literally mined out of existence. 

Dan Barry goes to Lindytown, West Virginia, in Boone County. The town was bought up, mostly, by Massey Energy, which then stripped the region for coal. Barry concludes: 

Would Lindytown have died anyway? Would it have died even without the removal of its surrounding mountaintops? These are the questions that Bill Raney, the president of the West Virginia Coal Association, raises. Sometimes, he says, depopulation is part of the natural order of things. People move to be closer to hospitals, or restaurants, or the Wal-Mart. There is also that West Virginia truism, he adds:

“When the coal’s gone, you go to where the next coal seam is.”

Of course, in the case of Lindytown, the coal is still here; it’s the people who are mostly gone. Now, when darkness comes to this particular hollow, you can see a small light shining from the kitchen window of a solitary, yellow house — and, sometimes, a face, peering out.

• A reminder that Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Finance Committee, voted against the deficit commission’s recommendations, saying they discriminated against rural America. President Obama is adopting the commission’s findings as his position in the race to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit. 

• Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a bill loosening regulation of AT&T, over the objection of rural legislators, according to AP.

The bill would make it easier for the telecommunication firm to avoid a state cap on rates for local landline service. 

• The New York Times runs down the list of states attempting to prohibit undercover videos made on farms. 

Some farm groups are ticked at videos taken of animal abuse at farms and slaughterhouses. In Iowa, Florida and Minnesota, legislatures are considering bills that would make it a crime to produce or distribute photos or videos taken without permission at ag facilities. 

• In Vermont, the state senate moved a bill that simplifies the state permit process for deployment of cellular antennas, which will be used for both phone and broadband service in rural areas. 

• Nineteen House Democrats who favored preventing the federal Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse cases “received almost as much money from the coal, oil and gas industries as all other Democrats combined during 2009 and 2010,” the Center for Public Integrity reports

On average, the 19 Democrats received $53,000 each from fossil fuel companies, nearly eight times the average received by Democrats who voted against the bill.