[imgcontainer] [img:rain.gif] When you cross the 100th meridian, the rain stops. And this spring, the fires began in Texas. [/imgcontainer]

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts said last week that the U.S. faces the threat of “agroterrorism.”

“Experts in the field warn, this threat is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when,’” Roberts said at a symposium on agroterrorism, sponsored by the FBI and its Joint Terrorism Task Force. “The effects of such an attack would be devastating. Halting exports or shipments of agriculture production and all other exports due to contraction of disease by just one animal would have a ripple effect unlike we have seen in the U.S.”

“The tragedy of 9/11 is an image that will be forever burned into our national memory,” Roberts said. “In the same regard, thousands of terminated cattle, swine or other livestock would also be devastating. Fear about the health and quality of our nation’s food supply would result in catastrophic results on our economy.”

• One of the best books ever about rural life is The Time It Never Rained, by Elmer Kelton.

Kelton was a West Texas livestock writer (editor of the Livestock Weekly) who wrote cowboy novels. The Time It Never Rained is about a seven-year drought in the 1950s and how an independent cuss named Charlie Flagg dealt with this natural disaster.

Kelton died in ’09. There is a Yonder story about him here

Texas writer Joe Nick Patoski wondered what Kelton would think about the drought and fires in West Texas today, so he talked to Kelton’s son Steve, who now edits Livestock Weekly. 

Typically Texan, Steve Kelton said there were good things about fire. Patoski writes:

Indeed, for all its obvious negatives, fire was part of the life cycle of the arid western range long before humans settled the region and tried to tame the land, instinctively suppressing wildfires whenever possible. Today, when conditions are right, many landowners intentionally burn their property because, as Steve Kelton noted, “it will improve things.”

He cited the destruction of nuisance species like prickly pear, mesquite and ashe juniper — a.k.a. cedar — and brushy undercover that compete with native grasses. “There are a lot of caveats to that,” Kelton added. “You have to have rain, but if it comes all at once, you lose all the topsoil.”

But if the rain falls gradually, the first land that will green up and spring back to life is that which was burned. “A really hot fire brings out woody vegetation that deer, birds, and even goats and sheep like to eat,” Kelton said. “Their seed needs fire to germinate.”

• Nearly a quarter of the school buildings in Massachusetts are larger than needed, the Boston Globe reports. As a result, the state is considering shuttering schools and consolidating school districts. 

The oversized schools are found in Boston, the Cape and in Western Mass. “People thought if you built it, the students would come, but in many cases it never happened,’’ said Katherine Craven, the state school building authority’s executive director.

• Community bankers are concerned about the “flood of new rules” contained in bills aimed at reforming Wall Street, Brownfield reports

Small banks may find it difficult to comply with new reporting requirements, according to the American Bankers Association.

• Some 91 residents along Quicksand Creek in Eastern Kentucky’s Breathitt County sued four coal companies after floods damaged their property two years ago. They claimed the damage was caused by poor coal strip mining practices. A study by an engineering firm found that flows in Quicksand Creek increased by up to 81% because of the mining

Residents have long complained that strip mining increases the flows in creeks during heavy rains. This study is the best to date documenting this concern. 

The suit, brought by attorney Ned Pillersdorf, was settled last week.

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