[imgcontainer right] [img:DOLLAR-3-popup.jpeg] [source]The New York Times[/source] This is downtown Chester, Vermont. There’s a controversy here and in four other Vermont towns about whether dollar stores should be allowed to be built. [/imgcontainer]

Philip Boffey writes that they tried a taste test at the New York Times. They cooked some burgers with “lean finely textured beef” (otherwise known as “pink slime”) and some others that were slime free. He writes:

As for how it tastes, we conducted a test at the Times cafeteria and in my home kitchen of ground beef patties, some in which pink slime made up 15 percent and others without it. Four of our testers, including me, preferred the burgers with pink slime. I found it more tender. Three others preferred the burgers without. No one found any of the burgers slimy.

Boffey finds the whole episode “unfair” and he counts the number of workers laid off from beef processing plants that have closed because of a decreased demand for beef since the “pink slime” controversy began. (Some 650 workers have lost their jobs in three states.)

The way to keep such controversies from happening, he writes, is to disclose what’s in food. “Americans need to know more about the food they eat, and the efforts being taken to ensure that it is safe,” he concludes.

• There’s a fight in Chester, Vermont, over Dollar General. Quite a few folks don’t want a 9,100 square food discount store on South Main Street.

“People come here and stay at the inns and eat at the restaurants not because we have Disney World but because we have Chester,” said Claudio Veliz, an architect who moved here from New York. “That is the hull of our boat, and Dollar General wants to put its fist right through the hull.”

Others, of course, would like to have a place to shop nearby. The city has approved the store, with 35 conditions, including that it keep its shopping carts off the street.

Four other towns are fighting dollar stores in Vermont, according to this article

• We’ve been reading about a recent meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, to talk about the Rural Futures Institute, a project sponsored by the University of Nebraska. Some 400 people attended the gathering. 

Here is a description. 

• Gas producers in New York tell the AP that about half their lease holdings in the Marcellus Shale region can’t be drilled because of local and state restrictions. 

There’s an effort by environmental groups to put a complete ban on shale gas drilling, saying it can damage underground water supplies. Drillers use hydraulic fracturing techniques in the Marcellus, forcing water and chemicals underground to force out the oil and gas.

So far, about 25 municipalities have banned gas drilling and 75 others in New York have enacted moratoriums. A geographer tells the AP that 1,015 square miles of the Marcellus region are under a complete ban and 2,171 square miles are under a moratorium.

“Industry estimates that when you look at the cumulative effect of prohibitions and setbacks, 40 to 60 percent of their leasehold is effectively undevelopable,” said Tom West, an Albany lawyer representing gas companies.

• The Des Moines Register editorial page on “pink slime”

The net effect (of the controversy): A legitimate and safe food product may be removed from the food supply. Ironically consumers now have one less option and could see higher meat prices and hamburger with more fat content.

If that’s what they want, that’s fine. But the public should at least know why it happened and who or what to blame.

The lesson for farmers and food processors is that, in today’s environment, any one of them can be similarly slimed. Rather than attack the critics, they should counter falsehood with fact and use popular social-media tools to tell their story. But ultimately the consumer will decide what the food marketplace will look like, and the industry will have to adjust accordingly.

• The New York Times reports that Washington state has an epidemic of whooping cough (pertussis). 

A large percentage of children in the state is not immunized. And the state’s response to the nearly 1,300 cases of whooping cough this year has been hindered by budget cuts.

• President Obama’s re-election campaign is said to be targeting military veterans

Veterans disproportionately live in small cities and in rural and exurban communities. See the map and story below. 

• Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson writes about American agriculture this morning, noting the huge increases in productivity through the years and the recent increases in profits and land prices. He ends by saying farmers deserve no subsidies or special treatment in the Farm Bill. 

• The Postal Service’s plan is to reduce operating hours at 13,000 post offices.

Save The Post Office says the plan would have operating time at 6,832 local offices reduced by four hours. Another 4,300 would be cut by six hours. And 1,851 would be cut by two hours. 

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