Weekend Roundup: Rural Bikers
Michigan pig controversy attracts Ted Nugent’s attention • Teenagers aren’t hankering for driver’s license like they once did • Members of Congress write FCC about rural broadband
And, get this, in towns of 10,000 to 50,000, a higher percentage of trips are made by bike than in urban centers. In fact, in small towns (2,500 to 10,000) twice as many work trips are made by bike than in cities.
• A group of 44 mostly rural representatives has sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski asking that the agency not adopt a proposed rule the legislators say will harm deployment of high speed Internet in rural areas.
The letter is asking Genachowski to ensure that small, community-based telecom providers will be able to attract capital and won’t be harmed by changes in the Universal Service Fund. A similar letter was signed by 19 senators.
• We doubt this is happening as much in rural communities, but it is still interesting to us that fewer young people are getting driver’s licenses.
In 1983, 69 percent of 17 year olds had a driver’s license. By 2008, that had dropped to 50 percent. There was a similar gap in all age groups, but the older the group, the smaller the difference.
Experts don’t know the reason exactly. There’s a tough economy. More young people are living in large cities.
But they also think that social networking is diminishing the demand for face to face contact. Ugh.
• There goes that $14 billion.
The Federal Communications Commission put the final kabosh on LightSquared, the $14 billion project aimed at delivering national cellular broadband service to the far reaches of the country. Investor Philip Falcone said the FCC’s action was a concession to special interests, that is, AT&T and Verizon.
The FCC had backed LightSquared’s technology until tests showed that the company’s devices interfered with Global Positioning System signals used by everyone from the military to John Deere farm equipment.
The Rural Carrier Association, a trade group, said the FCC’s decision would “only empower the duopolistic” AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
• Population growth is now faster in cities than in exurban areas, according to the Census. That’s the first time urban areas have outpaced exurban communities in the last 20 years. The AP reports:
“The heyday of exurbs may well be behind us,” Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller said. Shiller, co-creator of a Standard & Poor’s housing index, is perhaps best known for identifying the risks of a U.S. housing bubble before it actually burst in 2006-2007. Examining the current market, he believes America is now at a turning point, shifting away from faraway suburbs to cities amid persistently high gasoline prices.
Demographic changes also play a role: They include young singles increasingly delaying marriage and children, and thus more apt to rent, and a graying population that in its golden years may prefer closer-in, walkable urban centers.
“Suburban housing prices may not recover in our lifetime,” Shiller said, calling the development of suburbs since 1950 “unusual,” enabled only by the rise of the automobile and the nation’s highway system.
• Mitt Romney thinks he will be able to beat Rick Santorum even in the rural areas of New York State. New York has its Republican presidential primary April 24th.
• Christie Vilsack, the Ag Secretary’s wife, raised $400,000 in the first quarter of this year, nearly matching the $450K raised by incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
Vilsack has more money on hand than the very conservative King in the run for a congressional district that covers northwest Iowa.
• You can see how the politics of food are playing out in a food producing state here. Large food producers are saying that criticism of food production methods (i.e., “pink slime” meat) threaten Iowa’s economy.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad asked ag students at Iowa State University to counter “these crazy ideas coming out of California and other places. We need people who can fight back on the social network, and give people honest information, facts, scientifically researched data to combat this.”
• Yes, the Michigan pig controversy continues.
The state has outlawed pigs that have certain characteristics — ear configurations, streaked coloring, certain shades of hair. The idea was to rid the state of feral hogs, but what Michigan has done is outlaw many hogs that you don’t find in huge hog raising operations.
It’s even got Ted Nugent mad.
The ban on these pigs began April 1. Here’s a story that describes “racial profiling” of swine!
• Farmers have been trying to grow hemp in Kentucky for decades. Now, the AP reports, support for the crop best known for producing marijuana may be getting some traction.
Farmers want to grow industrial hemp, which can be used to make paper, biofuels and clothing. The crop is illegal now, but state legislators are hoping to remedy that in the next meeting of the Kentucky General Assembly.
Hemp bills have been introduced in 11 states this year, but none has passed.
• In case you missed it, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana announced that he’s running for re-election in 2014. He’s a Democrat and is fifth in U.S. Senate seniority.
• Not much snow this year, so U.S. ski resorts reported that crowds were down by 7 percent before a record dry March ended the season.
• The U.S. Postal Service said it would hold up on closing post offices until May 15 to give Congress a chance to address the organization’s financial woes. Well, it’s coming up on May and the Idaho Statesman reports that 30 post offices in that state are slated to close. Most are rural.
•Writer Alan Guebert notes that two years after the beginning of a Justice Department review of antitrust activity in the ag business, the big continue to get bigger.
Justice did nothing after holding hearings all over the country and taking testimony from hundreds. But, Guebert notes, there is a new wave of consolidation in the ag biz.
• Whatever happened to New West (as in NewWest.net)?
We loved New West and were sorry to see the site (which covered the Mountain West) go dark about half a year ago. Now a story in the Columbia Journalism Review reports that the site could never generate enough revenue.