Daily Yonder

The Daily Yonder is a new online (blogish-style) newspaper on rural issues. Backed by the Center for Rural Strategies, and actual paid staff, the site is generating original news and commentary on issues of interest to rural communities at pace that makes the site worth checking in on at least a couple of times each week.

You can also drop in on an interesting conversation I started in the comments on one of their regular features. Editor, Bill Bishop, picks up on the comment in a more recent post, and promises to continue to conversation.

I’ve added Daily Yonder to the blogroll on the right.

New Contributor

Steph Larsen, a Policy Organizer with the Community Food Security Coalition, is joining Rural Populist as a new contributor. Larsen will write occasional posts on agricultural policy, the current farm bill debate, and whatever else strikes her as thought-provoking.

Rural Roundup

  • On Dec. 1, 2006 Iowa farms had 17.2 million hogs, the most ever counted in a December inventory and the largest number of hogs on Iowa farms since September 1955.
  • One year after the Sago Mine disaster miners are still working with subpar safety equipment.
  • Proposed legislation in Arizona would tax businesses that located in rural areas at a lower rate.
  • Seeking to close the “information gap” between urban and rural, China will launch an effort to open 200,000 libraries in rural parts of the country by 2010.
  • DTN network has purchased The Progressive Farmer from Time Warner Inc, thus expanding their presence in agriculture and rural media.

    Rural Roundup

  • Niel Ritchie argues that unregulated VOIP (voice over internet protocol) could be the key to driving commercial providers into the rural broadband internet business.
  • The water wars move east.
  • The FDA is poised to approve meat from cloned animals for human consumption.
  • Montana joins efforts to solidify a Western Primary early in the presidential primary calender.
  • Domestic organic production is exploding. Or is it?

    Rural Roundup

    • Gristmill is running a series on all aspects of biofuels.
      • In a somewhat ironic move the USDA is poised to approve the “organic” label for farmed fish, but not for wild fish.
        • Fruit and vegetable producers in the U.S. don’t get much in the way of agricultural subsidies, but that could change with the next farm bill.
          • In Idaho, State House Democrats walked out of the chambers this week when Republicans refused to give up a key committee assignment to Democrats. Democrats won six additional seats in the State House in the November election.
            • In Florida there may be no such thing as “rural” within 50 years.
              • Giving Thanks to Farmers

                Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll let NPR do the work for me today (they did a good job).

                Farm Aid is as much a ritual gathering of America’s farming community as it is a fundraiser and a concert.

                At the annual event, corn and pig farmers trade tips and plot lobbying strategies, and college kids listen as Dave Matthews plays a killer set. It’s a story of hard times and new possibilities, of farmers markets, of young people, whose parents were forced off the land, returning to farm again, and the beginning of new food chains.

                Listen to the tribute.

                Rural Roundup

                • Watch out! Iowa is going to run out of corn. No really. Well, ok, not really. But they might. Really. I could write a book in response to this Sunday, front page Des Moines Register article, so I won’t even start.
                  • I recently discovered the New West site with lots of news (and photographs) from the rural west.
                    • What’s this guy doing raising grapes for wine in Iowa? Doesn’t he know Iowa is going to run out of corn?
                      • Kos fills us in on some numbers: Democrats gained in the Mountain West. Democrats gained in North Dakota. Democrats gained in Alaska.
                        • Rural Roundup

                          • Wal Mart sells organic. Except it’s not organic.
                            • Twenty-one year old college student runs for state legislature (special election) in rural northwest Iowa.
                              • The Rural School and Community Trust has a new blog about rural schools and rural education policy.
                                • Tom Philpott at GristMill notes that agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland’s stock rose on last week’s news that Democrats will control agriculture policy in Washington. Look for status quo on ag policy.
                                  • In key House races across the country last week, rural voters put Democrats over the top.
                                    • Other Goings On

                                      Continuing the proliferation of third party certification in the natural meat market, Whole Foods plans to launch their own line of “Animal Compassionate” labeled meat. As long as the standards remain meaningful (a serious concern), niche labels provide a way for small producers to break back into the corporate dominated livestock market.

                                      Rural homelessness is on the rise, and new funding sources targeted at ending chronic homelessness flow straight to the big cities.

                                      Rural homelessness has always taken a back seat to the more glaring problems in cities. Most studies estimate homeless people in small towns account for about 9 percent of the 600,000 or so homeless nationwide. But local officials and advocates for the homeless in small towns say that economic distress in recent years, including closing plants, failing farms, rising housing costs and other troubles, has left more people without homes and in greater need of help.

                                      Real numbers are hard to come by because most rural areas, where homeless services often means ad-hoc help from church groups or volunteers, are far behind a parade of cities taking head counts.

                                      Remember Ord, Nebraska? Read this post How Big is Your Town’s Endowment? and then this update from the NYT Philanthropy From the Heart of America. More rural towns and rural school districts should take up the conversation of building endowments to secure their future.

                                      Blog Link Added

                                      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.

                                      Out of Town

                                      I am traveling for the next week and a half. I probably won’t blog until I return.

                                      80/55 Rural News Delivery

                                      Once a week the Center for Rural Strategies compiles an email of rural related news stories for the 80/55 Coalition email list. This week’s email is coppied below, and you can sign up to recieve the updates yourself by following the directions in the posting.

                                      Rural News Delivery – May 24, 2006

                                      We’re pleased to offer you this compilation of articles that appeared in the national media this week on the subject of rural.

                                      The information from these weekly updates is to be used for educational purposes only. Recipients may not repurpose the contents without permission from the source. Please note that links to newspapers may require registration. Thank you!

                                      If you would like to receive the full copy of an article, please email your request to Shawn Poynter at memsvcs@ruralstrategies.org. Join the 80-55 Coalition at http://www.8055.org/indiv_join.asp

                                      Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), May 20, 2006
                                      5 dead in E. Ky. coal mine explosion
                                      by Mark Pitsch and James R. Carroll

                                      Five miners were killed early Saturday when an explosion about 5,000 feet underground ripped through an Eastern Kentucky coal mine. One miner was rescued. The explosion at the Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County occurred near an area that was sealed to prevent the escape of combustible methane, which escapes when coal is mined. The accident was the deadliest in a Kentucky mine since 10 miners were killed in a 1989 explosion at a mine near Wheatcroft. That tragedy led to tougher federal rules governing the ventilation of coal mines. According to MSHA, the mine where Saturday’s explosion occurred, owned by Kentucky Darby LLC, has had 265 citations and orders and $27,651 in penalties since April 2001. Read the story.

                                      Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA), May 23, 2006
                                      Little guy vs. the ‘Big Box’
                                      by Matt Murphy

                                      The imagined new Billerica Mall, with Home Depot as the main attraction, has drawn the ire of scores of Billerica, Massachusetts, residents. But as the neighborhood opposition group Billerica First prepares to mount a challenge against the home-improvement mega-retailer, leaders are hardly swimming in unexplored waters. From the coast of Maine to the desert in Arizona, citizen activists have risen up to keep out so-called “big box” retail chains. “I think these big corporations are trashing small-town America,” said Al Norman, who runs the website www.sprawl-busters.com. “They’re destroying the feel and character of many of these communities.” Read the story.

                                      New York Times (New York, NY), May 21, 2006
                                      For many West Virginians, leaving is first step home
                                      by Ian Urbina

                                      For West Virginians, the tension between the economic push to leave and the emotional pull to return plays a central role in the state’s cultural identity. Ranked behind South Dakota as having the second smallest population growth of any state, West Virginia has struggled to hold on to residents since the early 1950’s, when layoffs in the coal industry sent people elsewhere looking for work. “They say that brown-haired people cross the border going one way and white-haired people cross it the other,” said Bob Henry Baber, the mayor of Richwood, WV. “But the truth is that most West Virginians of all ages come back continually because they don’t feel right anywhere else.” Read the story.

                                      Concord Monitor (Concord, NH), May 21, 2006
                                      Rural areas facing EMT shortage
                                      by Jenny Michael

                                      Busy lifestyles, an exodus of young people from small towns, and burnout are problems that threaten the existence of rural volunteer ambulance squads. In the past year, three ambulance services have shuttered in North Dakota, a state where about 90 percent of EMTs are volunteers. About one-third of the state’s 141 ambulance services are at risk of the same fate. EMTs and officials worry the shortage could hurt the quality of health care, forcing people to wait longer before an ambulance arrives. Read the story.

                                      Chillicothe News (Chillicothe, MO), May 18, 2006
                                      Small-town symphony thrives in Missouri musical Mecca
                                      by Alan Scher Zagier

                                      They come from Chillicothe, Carrollton, Trenton and other central Missouri towns better known for their hog farms and meat packing plants than as a fertile spawning ground for musical virtuosos. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, housewives, retirees or third-shift workers, they share a singular bond: a commitment to orchestral and symphonic performance that has made Marshall, with just over 12,000 residents, a classical musical Mecca. Read the story.

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                                      Nothing Short of Amazing

                                      I just upgraded from WordPress 1.5 to WordPress 2.0.2 and changed my layout files. The fact that you can read this is nothing short of amazing given the number of files involved. I’m pleasantly surprised that it seems to have gone off without a hitch. I’ll be tweaking some design things for a couple of days.

                                      Blogging to Resume Soon

                                      I will resume blogging here as soon as the academic semester is over. In the meantime, some might find the below list interesting. It is all of the search terms that led people to this website since the first of April.

                                      brian depew
                                      rural area residents of map of quad city iowa
                                      frederick kirschenmann leopold centre news
                                      why do kids run away from home rural communities
                                      curtis w. stofferahn
                                      rural human services essays
                                      homesteader communities
                                      populist blogs
                                      superslab map
                                      rural tourism in great britain
                                      hankins family cherokee
                                      gold discovered at gold creek mt
                                      larimer county farmer
                                      pictures of country roads rural highways etc.
                                      mining labour shortage
                                      decosters chicken
                                      what happens to property value when a hog operation goes up
                                      montana wheat country
                                      political clout
                                      rural sourcing
                                      update colorado superslab proposed route
                                      superslab colorado
                                      ravalli county s aging population
                                      superslab project map
                                      urban hegemony
                                      .org nurse practitioners in rural kansas
                                      robert wisner
                                      rural move trends
                                      population decline in canada rural urbanization 2006
                                      chicken confinements
                                      rural blog
                                      hog shelters

                                      Lots more below the fold.

                                      Continue reading “Blogging to Resume Soon”

                                      Disabled Comments

                                      I have temporarily disabled comments due to uncontrollable spam that I don’t have time to deal with right now.

                                      Photo Blogging

                                      The Late Great Plains

                                      The ruins of a homesteader’s cabin in New Mexico lie in a county with less than one person per square mile, a density akin to Greenland. Throughout much of the Great Plains, farm families continue to lose their most valued crop—the next generation of farmers.

                                      From a feature story in National Geographic Magazine. Jim Richardson, photographer.

                                      Voting in Rural Areas

                                      I spent two years in Larimer County, Colorado. During that time the County Clerk and Recorder was launching a first-in-the-nation experiment. Instead of having precinct polling locations, Larimer County received special permission from the state legislature to consolidate their 143 precinct polling locations into just 20-30 (depending on the election) “voting centers.” You can read more about Larimer County’s experiment here.

                                      I worked on a Colorado State House campaign while in Larimer County (we lost by 480 votes, and the candidate, John Kefalas, is running again). That experience allowed me to have an up close and personal experience with many aspects of the voting center model. The result is that I am more than a bit conflicted about the new model. If forced to decide today, I’d say “no” to the expansion of the model. That’s a post of another blog at another time though, and the fact of the matter is that the vote center idea is catching on.

                                      As vote centers expand to other counties in Colorado as well as to other states, one question that must not be overlooked is the possible consequence for rural areas where precincts are already sparsely located. So, while there are some good arguments for consolidating some urban voting locations, efforts should be made to ensure that the implementation of the voting center model does not result in longer drives on election day for rural residents.

                                      Rural Roads More Deadly

                                      This is from last week when I wasn’t writing.

                                      Forty-two percent more fatal crashes occur in rural parts of the country than on busy stretches of highways through cities and suburbs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported last week.

                                      The story has been covered elsewhere, so I’ll leave it at that.

                                      Reminder: You can now sign up for weekly updates about new content on this site.

                                      Sign Up for Email Updates

                                      You can now sign up to receive weekly updates about new posts on this site. Each update will give a brief introduction (and a link) to each of the posts that were published on the blog during the previous week.

                                      Click here, or on the “email updates (sign up)” option on the menu on the right to sign up now.

                                      Also remember that you can always subscribe to the RSS feed for the site if you prefer.

                                      Crunch Time

                                      It’s end of the semester crunch time. Activity here will be sparse this week. Regular posting will resume later next week.

                                      No Power

                                      Days after a snow and ice storm swept through the Great Plains a number of communities are still waiting for the power to come back on as temperatures hover in the teens.

                                      In South Dakota volunteers have begun going door to door urging people without heat to report to one of the 68 shelters set up across the state.

                                      The teams will identify people at risk because of no power, offer information on protecting their homes from freezing water pipes and other cold-weather problems, and provide transportation to shelters.

                                      [Gov. Mike] Rounds said many local citizens, especially older people, don’t want to leave their homes, in spite of cold and lack of power. He quoted one local official as telling him, “I just can’t get them to go to a shelter.’’

                                      The door-to-door teams will try to encourage shelter use. South Dakotans aren’t used to asking for help, the governor said.

                                      Officials estimate that 10,000 miles of power lines were damaged in the storm.

                                      But We Wired Our House For It…

                                      I am generally supportive of efforts to bring high speed internet to rural areas, but I can’t generate too much sympathy for the couple profiled by the New York Times yesterday.

                                      Daniel and Linda Hawkins expected to lose some amenities when they moved to this small farming town, population 1,759, from a slightly larger city nearby. But they were so sure they would have high-speed Internet access that they had high-capacity wiring installed in every room in the house. […]

                                      But to the couple’s dismay, their new house, complete with a fishing pond in the back, lies in a wireless dead zone […]

                                      Follow the link above to see a picture of the couple’s new “farm” house. Sounds and looks like exurban sprawl to me.

                                      The rest of the story actually touches on some important points regarding federal support to bring broadband to rural areas. I just wish the writer had chosen a different lead-in for the story. I suggest a community like rural Scottsburg, Indiana where city officials undertook their own high speed internet project last year (in an effort to prevent two businesses from leaving town) after their requests for broadband were turned down by commercial interests.

                                      Rural Recruiting

                                      U.S. soldiers are still dying in Iraq (80 in November. 96 in October.)

                                      New recruits are still coming disproportionately from rural areas.

                                      This from North Branch, Michigan.

                                      Uncle Sam lures more from rural Michigan: Money, education attract military recruits who see few opportunities in small towns.

                                      Military records show that Michigan’s military recruits come disproportionately from the state’s most rural areas, where young people enlist at a rate double that in the most populous parts of the state. […]

                                      In the state’s 45 most rural counties — those in which at least 60 percent of people live in rural areas — about seven of every 1,000 young people ages 18-24 enlisted last year. In the state’s most populous counties, about four of every 1,000 young adults signed up.

                                      The pattern is similar nationwide. […]

                                      The same study found a correlation nationwide between lower economic status and increased likelihood of enlisting in the armed forces. Neither of these findings are particularly surprising. In a time of military conflict our all volunteer military is drawing more heavily on young people with limited alternatives (or a perception of limited alternatives).

                                      But as Anita Bancs, research director for the National Priorities Project says, “If we’re going to engage in war, we ought to know who the people are who volunteer, who are serving in the armed forces and who put themselves at risk.”

                                      As the national debate over the direction of the war in Iraq escalates, it is doubly important to recognize who is baring the burden of the current policy.

                                      House Keeping

                                      I’m back from my trip to Montana and Wyoming, but am now working on moving from Colorado to Michigan. Posting will resume, but will be irregular for at least another week.

                                      Also, I browse the web with Opera, and I recommend it highly. Opera is far superior to Internet Explorer, and while Mozilla’a Firefox is catching up, Opera still seems to lead in functionality and integration ability. But really this all just an introduction to an apology to those viewing the site in Firefox and IE. I just checked the site in those two browsers, and there are some serious display problems–not the least of which has to do with the placement of the news feed side bar.

                                      I’ll work on these issues, but likely not until after the move. If anyone one has any pointers, or wants to help fix these issues, send me an email.

                                      Next Two Weeks

                                      I’m signing off for two weeks. Yesterday I defended my thesis, and today I leave for a two week backpacking trip to Wyoming and Montana. I’ll be hiking, driving and wondering about many of the rural parts of those two states. I’ll log my impressions here once I return. If you are one of my few regular readers, take a break for a couple of weeks, but be sure to check in again at the beginning of August.

                                      You can also check in for new content on the new food and rural news feed on the left-hand side of the page.


                                      Today I defend my thesis for my Master of Arts degree in philosophy from Colorado State University. The thesis is titled “There is a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm.”

                                      Some readers might recall a book by a similar title from the late 1980s. That would be Gary Comstock’s 1987 book “Is There a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm?” You can read Comstock’s book cover to cover and you won’t really find an answer to the question that he poses in the title. Comstock’s conclusion is ambiguous at best.

                                      The goal in writing my thesis was to offer a contribution to the field of agricultural ethics that sought to establish an unambiguous answer to Comstock’s important question. By 4:00 PM today I should know whether my committee deems my project successful.

                                      For those who might be interested, the brief abstract to my thesis appears below the fold.

                                      Continue reading “Thesis”

                                      News Feed Added

                                      As you can see (left-hand side of page) I have added a news feed to the site. The feed is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and will carry food and rural related news. Just click on any story headline to open it in a new window.

                                      I hope that readers find this service useful. Thanks to the Kellogg foundation for providing the feed. Also if you are so inclined you can sign up for the RSS feed yourself at their site.

                                      This Week

                                      Expect light posting this week. I will be spending time preparing for my thesis defense and subsequent trip to Wyoming and Montana.

                                      I’ll let other people do the work for me today.

                                      Rural Caucus

                                      Oregon Democrats are starting a rural caucus.

                                      Our greatest chance for advancing the aims of the Democratic Party now and in the foreseeable future will come by way of electing Democrats from rural areas in Oregon and across the nation. The “Red/Blue” maps have shown an urban/rural split in Oregon and the rest of the nation. As Democrats we need to learn how to obtain more support in what have been “red” areas. In urban areas, we probably have as much support as we ever will, growth for the Democratic Party will have to come from rural areas.

                                      Rural Supreme Court Justices

                                      The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues points out on their blog that O’Connor’s retirement from the Supreme Court leaves the court without a connection to rural areas.

                                      Not only was O’Connor raised on a working ranch in Arizona, she is the only member of the court who has stood for elective office, as a judge in her home state. There are broad and deep virtues to working the land for a living, and working the electorate for an office. You gain a grasp of others’ beliefs, values and daily concerns in ways that urban work and appointive office rarely provide.


                                      Likewise, this country, which is becoming more deeply divided about the role of the judiciary and the social issues it is being asked to decide, would probably feel better about the Supreme Court if at least one justice had the experiences of working the land and asking for votes.

                                      Agriculture Subsidies

                                      President Bush says that the U.S. is willing to end agriculture subsidies.

                                      President George Bush has made an offer as reported by the London Times this morning:

                                      Asked directly if America would drop its subsidy system if the EU abandoned the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Mr. Bush said: “Absolutely. And I think we have an obligation to work together to do that.

                                      Good luck with that one Mr. Bush.

                                      Cell Phones

                                      Another recent study suggests that there might be a link between cell phone use and brain tumors, especially in rural areas.

                                      June 20, 2005 — Using a mobile phone in rural areas increases the risk of a brain tumors, according to new Swedish research published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

                                      Those living in the countryside and using a mobile digital phone for more than three years were more than three times as likely to suffer a brain tumor as those living in urban areas. […]

                                      The team said that for malignant brain tumors – as opposed to benign – the risk in rural areas was eight times that in urban areas.

                                      But they cautioned that the numbers on which the research was based was small.

                                      Others remain skeptical .

                                      At issue is the radiation associated with cellular phones. In rural areas where towers are farther apart more radiation is required to boost the signal. Purchasing an ear piece that keeps the phone away from your head reduced the radiation level by 90%.

                                      There’s More

                                      This time from Michigan.

                                      Federal cuts pinch rural health care

                                      Darren Seymour held Penny Dick’s arm as she walked cautiously across the living room, her breathing labored and an oxygen tube trailing behind.

                                      Seymour, a physical therapist, visits Dick’s home in rural Gladwin County twice a week to helps the 59-year-old heart patient rebuild her strength. In about two months, Dick has gone from being barely able to walk 10 feet to pacing the length of her home three times.

                                      It’s the kind of help that 20,000 of Michigan’s sick stand to lose in the wake of reductions in how much Medicare pays to treat people in rural areas, where homes are miles apart and the nearest hospital could be an hour away.

                                      Until last month, agencies that provided home health services to rural areas received 5 percent more funding than urban systems because of the time and gas it takes to drive between homes.

                                      Without the money, agencies nationwide are cutting back staff, eliminating programs and scrapping services to rural areas.

                                      The health care crisis is mounting all across the nation, but moves like these exasperate the problem for rural areas already at a disadvantage.

                                      Much of the problem with current rural health care is that rural health policy is by and large a by product of national health policy. A market/price competition based health policy doesn’t work terribly well anywhere, but it works even less well in rural areas where service providers are geographically dispersed if present at all.

                                      Cutting the budget to Medicare support programs in rural areas and expecting them to make up the money somewhere else is less then realistic given the lack of health care professionals in rural areas and a deteriorating health care infrastructure that exists in rural areas.

                                      To add to the problem cuts like this and the TennCare cuts come at a time when rural areas are becoming increasingly elderly.

                                      Update: This story from Oregon tells of a program designed to train nurses for rural areas. Students train remotely from the communities that they will serve after they graduate. More of this sort of thing begins to get at the problem of a failure to distinguish rural health policy from urban health policy.