Weekend Roundup: ‘Farmville’ For Real


20 billion.

The Yonder notes that this puts the value of the company that makes “Farmville,” the game, at more than one hundred times what the last Farm Bill contained in mandatory spending for rural development, the real thing. 

• Rural Americans can learn something from Thailand. The New York Times’ Thomas Fuller reports ahead of the Thai elections Sunday: 

Once passive and fatalistic, villagers are now better educated, more mobile, less deferential and ultimately more politically demanding.

Researchers who study rural life say villages like Baan Nong Tun may be ground zero for understanding why Thailand’s political crisis — warring political factions, five years of street protests and violent military crackdowns — has been so intractable. The old social contract, whereby power flowed from Bangkok and the political establishment could count on quiet acquiescence in the Thai countryside, has broken down.

Villagers describe a sort of democratic awakening in recent years and say they are no longer willing to accept a Bangkok-knows-best patriarchal system. It is an upheaval that has been ill-understood by the elites, said Attachak Sattayanurak, a history professor at Chiang Mai University, in northern Thailand.

“The old establishment and the Thai state have a picture of an agrarian society frozen in time,” he commented on a television program that aired in June. “They maintain a picture of local people as well-behaved and obedient, which in fact they aren’t. Peasant society doesn’t exist anymore.

“If the country’s leaders do not understand these changes, they will not be able to solve our problems,” Mr. Attachak said.

The change began in rural Thailand in the 1990s, Fuller reports, when the government introduced a system of local councils. As the councils debated projects and budgets, rural Thais grew less deferential and more vocal. They got the “sense that they could control their own political destiny,” said one villager. 

The old hierarchies disappeared and people began to speak their minds. The result is that the election Sunday will be won or lost in rural Thailand.

• The USDA finds that farmers have increased their corn acreage by five percent, and that has some people thinking that the rise in food prices may be ready to slow, or even stop. 

Farmers have planted 92.3 million acres, five percent higher than last year and nine percent higher than the average of the last decade. After the ag department announced the increase in acreage, hog and cattle prices dropped in anticipation of cheaper feed.

Corn prices dropped late in the week to $6.21 a bushel, down from nearly $8 in June. 

•USA Today reports that the housing market is “turning around in several rural states.” 

States such as the Dakotas, Iowa and Alaska didn’t have big runups in their housing prices and as a result their markets are “less of a mess,” according to analysts. 

Matt Chase, with the National Association of Development Organizations, likes the attention being paid to rural development by the White House, the Global Clinton Initiative and the Council on Foundations. 

Land flooded by the Missouri River may not be ready to be planted next year, given the length of the inundation. 

“Given the prolonged nature of this flooding, it appears it will be many years before the land will return to its previous productivity, if at all,” Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Jay Rempe told DTN. 

• The White House will honor “Champions of Change” and is asking for nominations of people “doing extraordinary things to make a difference in your community.” Nominate here

•The Washington Post has a good rundown of the drive-in movies found on U.S. 11 as it parallels I-81 through western Virginia. 

• The drought in Texas may end with a record number of Texas cotton growers abandoning their crops. 

AP reports that 55% of the state’s cotton fields were in poor or very poor condition by late June. In the High Plains region which produces two-thirds of the state’s cotton, half the crop may be abandoned, the highest percentage since 1992, when 53% of the crop was left in the fields. 

Cotton futures have doubled in the past year and large apparel makers are cutting their profit outlooks.