Rural areas have a lot of what the Des Moines Register calls “the most dangerous housing in America.” 

The paper is referring to mobile homes built before 1980. One in ten fire fatalities in Iowa during the past six years has take place inside manufactured housing, most in trailers at least 25 years old. Manufactured housing built today is just as fireproof as any other structure, but there are 1.4 million mobile homes built between the 1930s and mid-’70s, and those structures burn quicker than crumpled newspaper. 

• DTN’s Bryce Anderson tells us how the U.S. Drought Monitor has improved over the last few years. 

• Columnist Edward Lotterman asks if rural voters want fewer benefits.

Lotterman, an economist, points out one of the “great ironies of U.S. fiscal policy.” It is that “Most of the regions where rhetoric is strongest against government spending and entitlement programs are precisely the ones where payments under such programs constitute disproportionate shares of the local economy and household incomes. 

He quotes Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who said that a recent federal budget reduction plan paints “a big red target on rural America.” Lotterman says Baucus is right, that reductions in federal spending would disproportionately affect rural areas because “of high rural dependence on federal spending.”

He writes, “Public sentiment in rural areas strongly favors lower taxes and lower deficits. That inevitably means cuts in some categories of federal spending that are so big in rural economies. Rural voters will have to decide what they really want.”

• Barron’s asks if U.S. farm land is a good investment.

The question really is whether there is a long term, sustained increase in the value of farm land? Or, is this another bubble and we are waiting for the collapse in farm land prices similar to the one that swept the country 30 years ago.

Nobody knows, of course. A Wells Fargo analyst says the market is “perfectly prices.” Commodity prices are still strong. And although big institutions have talked a lot about buying land, most of the real buying has been done by individuals — another anti-bubble factor.

• Okay, we bit. The Great Falls Tribune addresses ten rural legends. True or false.