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Archive for July, 2006

What About Us?

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Rural school students in South Carolina are asking their state legistators, “What about us?

“It affects us to the point where you can see the depression,” Monisha Brown explained as she toured a reporter through a photo exhibit of school facilities in rural South Carolina. The photos vividly illustrate unsafe and inappropriate conditions: exposed wiring, bathrooms with overflowing plumbing, crumbling bricks and rotting wood, and a host of makeshift efforts to keep out the rain.

If I can find any of the photos online, I’ll link to them here.

Google Rural

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Rural areas with less expensive electricity might attract large digital companies that run large “server farms” requiring high loads of electricity to operate. As more and more of our computing goes online, the server and storage space required to meet growing computing demand will result in increased electricity demand on the part of the sever providers

Energy costs have turned into the driving force behind site selection decisions by Google, Yahoo and other Internet operations. They’re eyeing rural areas with plentiful and cheap power. These cyber giants process massive amounts of information through server farms spread throughout the globe…

Relocating server farms to rural locations shaves pennies per kilowatt-hour. But because server farms can consume as much power as a city of some 35,000 people, even modest reductions in electricity rates can save millions of dollars a year.

My hometown in Northwest Iowa (Laurens) has quite low electricity rates due in large part to a share in a hydroelectricity dam that was purchased decades ago by the municipal power provider. For years the low electricity rates kept a large grocery distributor (Scrivener then Fleming) in town despite being 60 miles from the nearest four lane highway. Low electricity rates made running their cooling units cheap enough to make up for the extra driving their trucks had to do on rural two lane blacktops. They left town anyway in 1999 and took a couple of hundred jobs with them.

The electricity is still cheap in Laurens. Perhaps this largely farming based economy can attract some new farms—server farms.

Debating Farm Policy…

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

…Presidential debate style. That’s what the Environmental Working Group is proposing.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook today challenged one the nation’s most ardent and articulate defenders of status quo farm subsidy programs to a nationwide series of policy debates about the programs, former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX).

Farm Journal Editor and past National Press Club President Sonja Hillgren has agreed to moderate the first debate in Washington, DC this fall. Cook suggested further debates be held across the nation before farm and ranch audiences, including Combest’s home state of Texas. The debates would be moderated by distinguished agricultural journalists and policy experts.

From the challenge letter.

My idea for the format is simple, if it is agreeable to you. Each of us would have 20 minutes to make our case however we see fit. Call it “PowerPoint at 20 paces.” We would have a few minutes to respond to one another’s presentations, after which a moderator (or moderators) would pose questions of their own, and invite them from the audience, for another 45 minutes or so, with 3-4 minutes for each of us to summarize. We could arrange to debate specific topics beforehand, or leave the debate completely open…

EWG is a long time critic and watchdog of the current farm subsidy payment system.

Rural Out-Migration

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

There’s nothing like bad news from one’s hometown to bring a blogger out of silence. I grew up in rural Pocahontas County, Iowa.

Census figures released last week put an exclamation point on years of anxiety about population loss in rural Iowa.

The problem is most severe in the quadrant west of I-35 and north of I-80. This area includes all eight counties that lost at least 5 percent of their populations between 2000 and 2005: Audubon, Calhoun, Cherokee, Ida, Kossuth, Monona, Pocahontas and Sac.

Without enough new workers, the average age is rising in nearly every part of those counties, while school enrollment is declining.

The report also solidifies the prediction that Iowa will lose another U.S. congressional seat when redistricting occurs in 2011. Iowa has steadily lost seats since a high of 11 seats in the early 1900s. The state last lost a seat in 1990 bringing Iowa down to five current Representatives.

Blog Link Added

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

I’ve added a link to the Iowa Underground blog. They’ve done a better job than I blogging about agriculture issues over the last month. Check out the post about Smithfield Food and their abuse of fair labor practices, and this post on the Myth of Ag Exports as a solutions to low commodity prices. There are four or five additional posts on the front page that should be of interest to readers of this blog.

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