The Billings Gazette has a good story about a number of young people returning to farming and ranching operations. Also a fun slideshow by photographer Larry Mayer. (See "Back to the Land" below for details.)

[imgcontainer] [img:5145044b7af4f.preview-620.jpg] [source]Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette[/source] The Billings Gazette has a good story about a number of young people returning to farming and ranching operations. Also a fun slideshow by photographer Larry Mayer. (See “Back to the Land” below for details.) [/imgcontainer]

The New York Times picks up a story that we’ve written about in The Daily Yonder — how top colleges are not good about getting poor or rural students into their classrooms. (Here are Yonder stories from the perspectives of a student and an educator.)

The Times David Leonhardt writes that only 34 percent of students from poor families with high scores on the SAT exam attended one of the 238 most selective colleges. These were students with family incomes in the bottom quarter of the nation. 

Among students with similarly high scores but coming from the top quarter of families according to income, 78 percent attended one of these top colleges.

Leonhardt notes that colleges recruit minority kids, but there is little or no advantage given to low-income students.

And the disadvantage is geographic. Leonhardt writes:

Top low-income students in the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas do often apply to selective colleges, according to the study, which was based on test scores, self-reported data, and census and other data for the high school class of 2008. But such students from smaller metropolitan areas — like Bridgeport; Memphis; Sacramento; Toledo, Ohio; and Tulsa, Okla. — and rural areas typically do not.

Food Stamps — The Washington Post goes to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to report on the massive increase in Americans on food stamps, one of the products of the still unresolved recession. 

The paper reports:

Three years into an economic recovery, this is the lasting scar of collapse: a federal program that began as a last resort for a few million hungry people has grown into an economic lifeline for entire towns. Spending on SNAP has doubled in the past four years and tripled in the past decade, surpassing $78 billion last year. A record 47 million Americans receive the benefit — including 13,752 in Woonsocket, one-third of the town’s population, where the first of each month now reveals twin shortcomings of the U.S. economy:

So many people are forced to rely on government support.

The government is forced to support so many people.

The story comes with a map showing the states with the highest percentages of people on food stamps. Mississippi is there among the highest. So is Oregon. The story tells how parts of America are on a monthly boom and bust cycle, depending on when the next round of stamps arrive.

Urban and Rural, Together — Here’s an editorial from Sunday’s Omaha World-Herald: 

The latest Nebraska population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau — showing that nearly two-thirds of the state’s 1.86 million people now reside in metro areas — provide a lesson for everyone.

Rural residents can appreciate that urban areas are home to the majority of Nebraskans.

Urban residents can appreciate that, regardless of the population numbers, agriculture remains tremendously important to the state. In fact, if you look at Nebraska’s medium-sized cities, most have powerful connections to the ag economy.

A good example is Hastings. It has a major manufacturing sector, yet at the same time the city’s economic health is greatly affected by the ups and downs in Nebraska’s agricultural economy. That’s a common pattern for most of the state’s cities, from Scottsbluff to Falls City, South Sioux City to Kimball.

Consider Grand Island, which the new population projections place in a metropolitan area for the first time. Grand Island contains an array of major employers and lots of urban amenities. At the same time, as World-Herald reporting by staff writer Henry Cordes explained, that newly designated metro area contains not only Hall County (home to Grand Island) but also the neighboring counties of Hamilton, Howard and Merrick — areas that are predominantly rural and tied directly to ag conditions.

Sum it all up, and Nebraska’s urban and rural areas need to understand one another, respect one another and support one another. That’s the best way to build a stronger future for all.

Curbing Animal Welfare Activists — The AP runs down the bills pending in a number of states that would make it illegal to take photographs at a farming operation, or would make it a crime to lie on a job application. 

The goal is to rid the world of those videos showing mistreated animals.

Ethanol Woes — The ethanol biz is in trouble, the New York Times reports

Just five years ago, government subsides and mandates had spurred an ethanol boom, the paper reports, “bringing jobs and business to small towns, providing farmers with a new market for their crops and generating billions of dollars in revenue for the producers of this corn-based fuel blend.”

But, “Those days of promise and prosperity are vanishing.”

In the last year, 10 percent of the nation’s ethanol plants have stopped production, as drought has pushed corn prices high enough that ethanol has become too expensive to produce. Thousands of barrels of ethanol no sit in storage because there is not enough gasoline to blend it with. Blends that have a higher percentage of ethanol are being resisted. And advanced biofuel plants (that use corn stalks or wood chips) have been slow to get into production or profitability.

The Shrinking Legion — The New York Times notes that the American Legion is shrinking. 

The Legion hall is a gathering place in thousands of rural communities. But the number of members has been shrinking. In Elgin, Illinois, there were 1,200 members in the 1980s; now there are about 750.

Nationally, the number of American Legion members has dropped 11 percent since 2000, to less than 2.4 million members. And there are 900 fewer Legion halls now than in 2000, when there were 14,700 places to meet, have a drink and hold community events. 

Six Day Delivery — A provision to keep Saturday delivery of mail is being considered as part of a larger Senate budget resolution. That would be similar to the same provision included in legislation the House passed last week. l

This is setting up a massive fight between Congress and the Postal Service, which has already said it intends to go to five day delivery this summer.

But since Congress doesn’t give the Postal Service any money, it’s not clear what leverage legislators might have.

Furloughs and the Beef Industry — Owners of slaughter houses are wondering what’s going to happen when beef inspectors begin getting furlough notices this summer. 

There are 8,600 processing plants around the country and the Omaha paper reports that they could begin shutting down or slowing production as inspectors are furloughed to meet the demands of the federal budget sequester. Barbara Soderlin reports:

Effects could include meat shortages and higher prices for consumers and the loss of hours for thousands of slaughterhouse workers. Ranchers and feedlot operators could see reduced sales, and the furloughs would disrupt the finely tuned supply system that delivers live animals at the right weight to the right place at the right time.

Back to the Land — Montana farm and ranch groups are seeing a growth in the number of young people on the land, the Billings Gazette reports.

“I know in our area, for our beginning farmer workshop, we expected 35 producers at our last meeting and had 70 young producers show up,” said Lola Raska, MGGA executive vice president. 

The Gazette’s Tom Lutey follows Casey Coulter, an Eastern Montana rancher. Casey went to college, worked at a ranch and at a bank. Then he came back home to the family operation.

Cool story!!

It Was Suicide — You all may remember the Census worker who was found hanged from a tree in Clay County, Kentucky. He had “FED” written on his chest and the early theories were that the man, William Sparkman, Jr., was the victim of anti-government rural whackos. 

The case disappeared, but reporter Rich Schapiro went back and found how the case was resolved. it turns out, Sparkman wrote “FED” on his chest and then hanged himself — making it look like a murder so that an insurance policy would pay. Schapiro wrote:

The case proved to be far less sinister than the early theories amplified by the press. There were no antigovernment zealots. No murderous drug traffickers. No bloodthirsty backwoodsmen.

See his long story on the case here

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