Tuesday Roundup: (Not) Getting the News


reminds us that the Missouri River is STILL flooding and isn’t expected to end for weeks. The flooding started shortly before Memorial Day. 

Just repairing the levees and dams on the upper stretches of the Missouri, from Montana to Nebraska, could cost $1 billion. That doesn’t touch the incredible destruction downstream, where roads, houses and railroad tracks have been twisted, cracked and washed away. BNSF Railway expects to spend $300 million just on its tracks.

To get an up close and personal view of what the flooding means, check out some video Yonder writer Richard Oswald posted here

This has been an incredible year in rural America — wildfire, tornados, floods, earthquake, hurricanes,s and droughts. And it’s only September.

• The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. Postal Service is near default. It will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment on debt due this month “and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.” 

The Postal Service will have a $9.2 billion deficit this year. The agency would like to close up to 3,700 post offices and lay off 120,000 workers.

The Times has good charts showing the problem. The Postal Service is losing revenue while its costs remain high. Labor represents 80% of the agency’s costs. At UPS, labor accounts for 53% of costs.

Any major changes in the Postal Service will require Congressional action — so we’ll see how that works out.

• Richard Oswald, Yonder writer and president of the Missouri Farmers Union, sends out an alert today saying the Congress could be cutting off funding for new regulations governing the relationship between meat producers and buyers. 

The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) has proposed these new regs. “All the new GIPSA rules do is add fairness to a marketplace that has become dominated by big packers and livestock and poultry integrators,” Oswald writes. “If young farmers and ranchers even have a shot at raising their own livestock, they’ll get that chance when rules for the 90 year old Packers and Stockyards Act are finally enforced.”

Oswald is telling MFU members to contact their U.S. senators and tell them they support GIPSA’s activities.

• Two AP writers say that the Obama administration’s anti-trust action against AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile doesn’t mean there will be similar action in other areas. This is a very good article. 

Daniel Wagner and Pete Yost write:

The Obama administration has explained its effort to block AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile USA by saying it will fight mergers that would reduce competition and hurt consumers.

Yet few think the lawsuit the administration filed Wednesday signals a more aggressive stance toward acquisitions in other industries. Rather, experts say, the administration’s challenge of AT&T’s purchase comes down to this: Telecom is dominated by just a few big companies. Reducing the number of major players could all but kill competition and drive prices up.

There are few other examples of this kind of concentration of ownership. And that may be one reason why the administration has not acted on its two year investigation into antitrust violations in the agriculture business.

• Rural telecom providers continue to object to changes in the Universal Service Fund.

The USF collects money from phone subscribers and then uses that money to subsidize service in hard to reach areas.  The Federal Communications Commission wants to use USF money to create a “Connect America Fund” that will be used to subsidize the extension of broadband service.

Rural telecoms say they are using the money now to extend broadband service to customers — and that if the funds are cut or diverted to the Connect America Fund, that effort will be stopped.

Cedar Valley Business Monthly has a good article about objections from Iowa telecoms. The Iowa providers are calling the change proposed by the FCC “the Great Disconnect.”