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Archive for October, 2005

Graduate Program in Sustainable Ag

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Rumor has it that the Graduate Students in the Sustianable Agriculture program at Iowa State are not happy about the unexpected announcement regarding Fred Kirschenmann.

If I have time tomorrow I will try to catch up with some of them.

More on Kirschenmann

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Following up on the previous post.

Iowa State University released a Friday press release on the matter with a considerably different slant.

KIRSCHENMANN NAMED DISTINGUISHED FELLOW; DEWITT TO BECOME INTERIM DIRECTOR OF LEOPOLD CENTER

Fred Kirschenmann, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, has accepted a new leadership role as a distinguished fellow of the center.

Jerry DeWitt, coordinator of ISU Extension’s sustainable agriculture program and its Pest Management and Environment Program, has been named interim director of the Leopold Center, effective Nov. 1.

As a Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow, Kirschenmann will devote his time to national sustainable agriculture priorities affecting broad segments of U.S. agriculture. He will lead Iowa State’s participation in a multistate project to address the diminishing number of mid-sized farms, many of which are family farms.

“Dr. Kirschenmann’s service to the center has greatly enhanced Iowa State’s reputation in sustainable agriculture,” said Wendy Wintersteen, interim dean of the College of Agriculture. “His emphasis on marketing and food systems, ecology and policy will continue to guide the center’s programs.”

“We look forward to his continued leadership on critical national issues,” Wintersteen said. “We are committed to continuing the excellence in research and education that the Leopold Center has demonstrated for the past 18 years.”

Kirschenmann, who was named center director in 2000, is a longtime leader in national and international sustainable agriculture. He was the second director of the center and the first farmer to hold the position. He is a professor in ISU’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

I used google news and did individual checks on all the likely news outlets, and it appears that no one has carried this story yet.

Update: I have confirmed that the IA State press release was a late-Friday-afternoon dump.

Fred Kirschenmann Removed as Director of Leopold Center

Monday, October 31st, 2005

I’m sure that many readers know Fred Kirschenmann and/or the work being done by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

I received the following email late today.

Folks,

Last week, Fred Kirschenmann was given 48 hours to resign as director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and to accept a position as the “Distinguished Fellow” of the center. A new director was appointed before Fred was given notice. Over the past five years, Fred has worked tirelessly and with great dedication to the vision and work of the center. He has been highly respected by the Center’s staff.

The reason for Fred’s removal from the directorship of the Center seems clear. Fred had not placated agribusiness. They’ve been ferociously lobbying the dean’s office for the past year and a half to get him to stop his work on Ag in the Middle and other projects that benefit farmers and the land.

[snip]

The acting dean (Wendy Wintersteen) has caved in to the demands of powerful corporate interests instead of standing for a clear vision for the future and the best interests of Iowa.

Some think that Ms. Wintersteen fired Fred in exchange for the Farm Bureau et. al.’s support for her becoming the next Dean.

Letters can be sent to:

Benjamin J. Allen
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Iowa State University
Office of the Provost, 1550 Beardshear Hall, Ames,
Iowa 50011-2021
Phone 515-294-9591, provost@iastate.edu

Gregory L. Geoffroy
President, Iowa State University
1750 Beardshear Hall
515) 294-2042
president@iastate.edu

Thanks,

xxx xxxxxxx

I have corroborated the information as “accurate” with someone close to the Leopold Center. I am working to obtain more information.

700 Sq Miles of WiFi

Monday, October 24th, 2005

On a good day I can pick up my neighbor’s wifi (shh, don’t tell). If you live within the 700 square mile block near rural Hermiston, Oregon you can pick up free uninterrupted wifi for miles in every direction.

While cities around the country are battling over plans to offer free or cheap Internet access, this lonely terrain is served by what is billed as the world’s largest hotspot, a wireless cloud that stretches over 700 square miles of landscape so dry and desolate it could have been lifted from a cowboy tune.

Attempts to bring wifi clouds to several large urban areas have been more or less stymied by major telecom companies (who are pouring money into state legislative bills that will prohibit the practice).

But here among the thistle, large providers such as local phone company Qwest Communications International Inc. see little profit potential. So wireless entrepreneur Fred Ziari drew no resistance for his proposed wireless network, enabling him to quickly build the $5 million cloud at his own expense.

The service is free to general users. Ziari hopes to recover is investment through contracts with local government agencies and businesses who utilize more bandwidth and features on the network.

Asked why other municipalities have had a harder time succeeding, he replies: “Politics.”

“If we get a go-ahead, we can do a fairly good-sized city in a month or two,” said Ziari. “The problem is getting the go-ahead.”

Looks like most rural residents will keep dialing up for a little while longer.

Starbucks Goes Rural

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

The Seattle based coffee GIANT wants to increase their number of U.S. locations from 7,000 outlets t0 15,000 outlets. In many urban areas you can already find locations from which multiple Starbucks can be seen from a single location (I once stumbled across a website that catalogued photos of such locations, but I can’t put my fingers on it at the moment). Since the company has all but saturated urban areas in the U.S. they are turning to rural areas as they seek to double their current number of locations.

Rural Prisons and Political Clout

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

An interesting post by Spencer Overton a week ago points to the fact that for the purposes of redistricting most states count prisoners as residents of the community in which they are imprisoned. These same prisoners (for the most part) are not allowed to vote in their new districts.

This has the effect, Overton argues, of increasing the political clout of the rural communities where prisons are increasingly located, while at the same time decreasing the political clout of the inner-city neighborhoods where many of the prisoners came from.

Overton writes

About two million people resided in American correctional facilities in 2000. In drawing Congressional and state legislative districts, most states count these prisoners where they are incarcerated rather than where they resided before their conviction. According to Peter Wagner at the Prison Policy Initiative, as rural areas shrink in population, the burgeoning prison populations preserve the political careers of rural legislators while siphoning political influence from urban areas. Rural counties contain only about 20 percent of our nation’s population but have secured about 60 percent of new prison construction.

I would like to see a more specific analysis of the numbers before drawing a final conclusion about the significance of this trend, but in one state house district in Ohio the prison population now accounts for nearly 10% of the district.

A quick quiz on democracy and incarceration: what do Pickaway Correctional Institution, Ross Correctional Institution and Chillicothe Correctional Institution have in common, besides being prisons in Ohio?

The answer is that they’re all in Ohio House of Representatives district 85. And because the U.S. census counts prisoners in the place where they are incarcerated rather than the place where they lived prior to arrest, it also means that every inmate in those facilities — about 9 percent of the total population of the district, according to the website Prisoners of the Census – is counted as a resident of the area.

The issues raised here run from those of rural communities and prison construction (why it’s rural development, don’t you know), to issues of race and political representation, to the debate over felon voting rights. More than I can sort out before bed.

(Former) Rural State Senator for President

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Western Dem picks up on the recent travels of former minority leader Tom Daschle. Apparently he is even headed for Iowa to speak at their annual Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner. Daschle has also been to New York and Virginia in recent months.

Daschle was defeated in 2004 in a particularly nasty (and a bit underhanded) race. The loss ended his 20+ year career in Washington, and thus his 20+ year career of being elected in a primarily rural state.

While I won’t be supporting Daschle for much of anything, it is certainly possible to understand what he thinks he might bring to the table.

Update: Don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly aware of the near impossibility of launching a campaign for national office from the position of defeated senator. Not to mention the skeltons in this particular defeated senator’s closet.

Long Drives + High Gas Prices = Rural Crunch

Friday, October 14th, 2005

In many major national stories (Katrina, Iraq, etc) there is an untold rural angle. The national jump in gas prices is no different. In fact, for many rural families the problem is compounded by longer than typical drives and lower than typical incomes.

The Christian Science Monitor picks up the story of doctor visits forgone, meals skipped and presents unbought as a result of rising gas prices in the rural United States.

Cheryl Murphy used to drive her Dodge Caravan as often as necessary to see her doctor in Lincoln [NH], 25 miles south of her home here in the sparsely populated “North Country.”

But that was before gas prices spiked, making fuel costs feel like a second co-pay for this single mother of two. Now that gas takes a 20 percent bite out of her monthly $243 check from Social Security, doctor visits have become a luxury out of reach.

“I don’t monitor my health condition as well as I should because I just can’t afford to get there,” Ms. Murphy says. Meanwhile, she’s cut down to one meal per day and has warned her children to expect nothing under the Christmas tree this year.

Ms. Murphy’s quiet struggle plays out far from the public eye. Yet her story is hardly unique in rural America, where wages languish 25 percent below those in urban areas and private transportation is more central to daily life. And with winter just around the corner, costly trade-offs are fast becoming a way of life in places where schools, jobs, and the nearest stores all require a lengthy trip behind the wheel.

A recently released study (pdf) by the Consumer Federation of America reports that households earning less than $15,000 are now spending in excess of 10% of their income on gasoline. Add to that the fact that rural households already spend 50% more on gasoline than their uban counterparts (due to longer drives), and it becomes easy to see that the millions of rural households living in poverty end up significantly more disatvantaged than others.

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