The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is asking that cattle raisers be removed from the Farm Bill. See the next page.

[imgcontainer left] [img:ncba.jpg] [source]AgWired[/source] The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is asking that cattle raisers be removed from the Farm Bill. See the next page. [/imgcontainer]

Save The Post Office writes that there is no single list of closures. 

The web site has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a closure list, but the Postal Service says that it will cost $650 to compile this, plus copying charges. There are literally a half dozen or more lists out there of closures.

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that “Senate Democratic lawmakers from rural states are balking at legislation from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that would let the U.S. Postal Service close thousands of offices.” 

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut has put together a postal reform bill and it’s been pushed through the Homeland Security Committee. The bill is not likely to come up before mid-February.

Senators from Vermont, Montana, New Mexico, New York and Louisiana have formed a committee to look at the bill from a rural point of view. The group is led by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

“On perhaps the most important issue, the Lieberman bill is silent, which will in fact allow the postal service to slow down mail delivery standards and shut down half of the processing plants in America, which to my mind will lead to the eventual destruction of the postal service as we know it today,” said Sanders. “What we are fighting for is to maintain the one- to three-day delivery standards for first-class mail.”

• The L.A. Times asks if we are “sacrificing the desert to save the Earth.” 

There are a number of large-scale solar projects covering miles of desert land. Plants and animals are being displaced. And although the Times says environmentalists are “uneasy,” there haven’t been any of the full-scale wars that are part of other kinds of energy development — largely because environmentalists have concluded that climate change is more threatening than damage done to pieces of the desert.

Julie Cart describes how a solar project that will cover 3,500 acres of public land got a pass from a normally very touchy community:

The public got its chance to comment at scores of open houses, but the real political horse trading took place in meetings involving solar developers, federal regulators and leaders of some of the nation’s top environmental organizations.

Away from public scrutiny, they crafted a united front in favor of utility-scale solar development, often making difficult compromises.

“I have spent my entire career thinking of myself as an advocate on behalf of public lands and acting for their protection,” said Johanna Wald, a veteran environmental attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “I am now helping facilitate an activity on public lands that will have very significant environmental impacts. We are doing it because of the threat of climate change. It’s not an accommodation; it’s a change I had to make to respond to climate.”

•The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association wants out of the farm bill, AgWired reports

“The livestock title was new to the farm bill in 2008 and it brought us things like Country-of-Origin-Labeling, a national animal ID system and the GIPSA proposed rule that we’ve been working on for the last few years,” said NCBA Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts said during the NCBA Policy Division meeting at the Cattle Industry Convention this week. “Our membership felt pretty strongly that this portion should be removed entirely from the farm bill.”

• The California legislature restored $248 million in funding for school transportation, funding that “was particularly crucial for small and rural school districts that need to take students across long distances,” according to the L.A. Times. 

Gov. Jerry Brown had eliminated school busing money to help balance a teetering state budget. Rural schools spend more per student on transportation because —no surprise here — the kids have farther to ride.

•  In Kentucky, a bill has been introduced to allow people to enter into “cow sharing” arrangements that would allow them to buy raw milk. 

The cow sharing arrangement would allow buyers to circumvent health laws that require milk to be pasteurized. 

“These are food-liberty issues,” Sen. John Schickel said. “There’s a whole movement in Kentucky and around the country for people to eat healthy and get closer to the source of their food.”

• Reuters has a good story on all the programs and classes available for beginning farmers. 

• A large West Virginia coal producer says it will reduce production and employment, as utilities are turning to natural gas instead of coal to generate electricity. 

Alpha Natural Resources will lay off 320 workers. This is the second announcement of layoffs in the last week by a major coal producer, reports Ken Ward Jr.  “Several mines are encountering weak demand for their products,” said Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield. “We examined all options, but in the end these operations had to do what was necessary to preserve a sustainable business plan in a challenging environment.”

Ward wrote, “Local business and political leaders have focused their attention on criticizing the Obama administration’s environmental agenda related to coal, but have said little about planning for an economic transition if other factors continue to drive regional production and jobs down.”

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