Tuesday Roundup: Wildfires, Farm Bill

GOP considers pulling nutrition program from farm bill • The urbanization of Texas? • Rural rotations for Illinois medical students • Peace prevails at Gettysburg


AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski

Dean Smith watches as the Yarnell Hill Fire encroaches on his home in Glenn Ilah near Yarnell, Arizona. The fire started Friday and over the weekend killed 19 firefighters. High temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions continue to fuel the fire.

Splitting up the Farm Bill? Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) is trying to split off nutrition programs from the farm bill to get the measure passed. Erik Wasson in the Hill says the measure may get some traction:

Stutzman wants funding for food stamps, which makes up 80 percent of the spending in the bill, to be split into separate legislation from traditional farm subsidies. Breaking up the bipartisan urban-rural coalition that passed the 2008 farm bill by veto-proof margins has long been a conservative goal.

Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) got behind the idea of splitting the bill after Stutzman pleaded with colleagues at a conference meeting to look into it. The Indiana congressman had been blocked in the Rules Committee from offering an amendment to split the bill.

“I have a lot of folks who were ‘no’ votes that told me they would support the farm bill if it was separated,” Stutzman said.

But removing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from the farm bill could cause other fissures to appear in support for the legislation.

Thomas Beaumont of the Associated Press said the bonds between rural and urban voters have broken down. “The recent defeat of this year’s farm bill — traditionally a sturdy, albeit lonely pillar of cooperation in Washington — highlighted how the country-city political marriage became yet another victim of partisan politics in polarizing times.”

Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesmen says the collapse of the farm-bill coalition has been building for nearly two decades. “The defeat of the farm bill in the House completes a shift in politics and voting that has been taking place since 1995.”

Texas Demographic Changes. NPR’s Matt Stiles looks at the Texas urban/rural vote in the 2012 presidential election as part of a series on demographic change in the Lone Star State. Obama won about 10% of the state’s counties (26 of 254) but 41% of the popular vote. That’s because he did better in metro counties (with more voters) – a trend that extended well beyond Texas:

What could be heartening for Democrats, who haven’t won a statewide race since the early days of the Clinton administration, is that the state is trending urban — and those places are starting to turn blue [Democratic].

The bad news is that they’re still getting clobbered in rural and exurban areas, and it could take many years to increase urban margins to high enough levels for them to compete in statewide elections.

Rural Doctor Training The Peoria Journal-Star reports on the Rural Student Physician Program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The program places third-year medical students in rotations at rural hospitals, where they get one-on-one attention and experience rural practice. According to Dr. Jim Barnett, Clinical Association Professor and director of the Rural Student Physician Program, about 50 percent of the students remain in rural settings after completing the program.

Gettysburg – The crush of tourists in town for the Battle of Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary isn’t causing the Pennsylvania town to burst at the seams, organizers say. “Everything I’ve heard has been positive,” said Stacey Fox, vice president of sales and marketing with the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “People are thrilled. It is more than they expected. It is better than they expected.”

Organizers credit the years of planning that went into the event. One example: a shuttle bus system that has helped keep traffic out of the small town center.