[imgcontainer left] [img:landprices.gif] [source]New York Times[/source] Farm land prices are at an all time high. Is it a boom or a bubble? [/imgcontainer]

As new districts are drawn in North Carolina, “political clout will shift to its exploding metro areas,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

“It tells us once again that political power is increasingly concentrating in our big metro areas, with particular emphasis on the Research Triangle and Mecklenburg areas,” said Ferrel Guillory, a UNC Chapel Hill political analyst.  

• The New York Times reports today on the eternal question: when does a boom become a bubble?

The boom/bubble conundrum these days concerns farmland prices. Land in some parts of Iowa has increased in price by 23 percent in the last year. On an inflation-adjusted bases, land prices are reaching the highs set in the last boom/bubble, in the 1970s. (See chart from the Times.)

The higher land prices are being driven by higher commodity prices, and that has led some to believe that this is more boom than bubble. In the 1970s, land prices were driven up by debt. These days, prices are going up based on cash.

“History has taught us that it is nearly impossible to determine how much of the farmland boom may be an unsustainable bubble driven by financial markets,” said Thomas M. Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, in testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee last month.

•Two U.S. Senators from Kentucky have introduced a bill that would force the Environmental Protection Agency to issue or deny permits issued to coal mining companies under the federal Clean Water Act. 

Sens. Mitch McConnell (the Majority Leader) and Rand Paul call their bill the Mining Jobs Protection Act. It would give the EPA 60 days to act on a permit application.

Similarly, there is an effort to block the EPA from imposing regulations that would attempt to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for global climate change. 

Cancer survivors in rural counties “had profoundly greater levels of mental health distress, but fewer interpersonal and intrapersonal coping resources, than did those living in nonrural regions of the state,” according to a new study of lung cancer patients in Kentucky. 

“I thought there was a pretty compelling reason to believe that cancer survivors living in rural areas experience more stress in association with the cancer experience, and fewer resources – a double whammy,” said Dr. Michael Andrykowski, the University of Kentucky researcher who conducted the study.

• Just weeks before a West Virginia coal mine exploded, killing 29 miners, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration warned the Congress “about serious enforcement lapses, including incomplete inspections and inadequate enforcement actions, according to a previously unpublished report to Congress,” reports Ken Ward Jr. in the Charleston Gazette. 

Two weeks after this report was given to Congress, the Upper Big Branch Mine exploded.

• DTN’s Urban Lehner says there’s one way to bring down food prices, and that is to produce more food. 

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