Spring To-Do Lists and the Joy of Bullet Points
Spring, Keep It Rural family, has been a long time coming. And spring is looking good for now. Finally.
Many of us throughout the South, Midwest, Great Plains and Appalachia had that weekend lunacy of snow and wind and blossom-killing cold after some good weather. Here in Western North Carolina, that meant the browning death of the March magnolias, along with the destruction of the yellow-tinted shrubbery and understory. We don’t have much for redbuds around here, frankly, so I don’t know how they lasted through the near-zero temperatures. But it looks like this week I’ll be able to get my potatoes and onions and kale and chard in the ground before St. Patrick’s Day, the sign of a decent gardening year according to my ancestors.
Regardless, I am feeling inundated with topics and issues, so I’m just going to share a bunch of things in a bullet-pointed list this week. Here goes:
- The federal budget is set until October. Very standard budget. No “Build Back Better.” No expansion of Covid aid. $1.5 trillion federal discretionary budget, more than half spent on military and defense, is finally passed.
- Black farmers, along with Native American and Hispanic and Latino farmers, are still getting the shaft. They’re getting foreclosure letters even though they were promised debt relief a year ago.
- Rural voters have moved since 2000. Check out this informative map by Philip Bump from the Washington Post.
- Bipartisan “Rural Prosperity Act” is introduced. Props to RuralOrganizing.org for helping to get this bill into potentially passable form. Lots of interest, and hopefully it makes it through by the end of 2022.
- Industrial dairy, cattle and hog operations are bad for the climate. New EPA data confirms that, once again, liquid manure lagoons are a big cause of climate change. Thanks to our friends at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy for the tip.
- The 2020 census had big undercounts of Black people, Latinos and Native Americans. Undercounting Black people, Native Americans and Hispanic and Latinos in the Census is a big deal in many rural counties. Not a surprise, necessarily, but it matters.
- USDA is dropping $250 million to support fertilizer production. I haven’t made up my mind about this one yet. But USDA is supporting more domestic fertilizer production in the wake of the 2022 inflation monster.
I know I generally get on the soapbox and talk shop about a topic, but I had too much to share after weeks of just letting the list build. I hope this rural news update gets you what you need this week. And get ready for the 100th edition of this here newsletter in a mere 7 days.
Rural Reading List
I know. I know. Lots of pointing and clicking already. But these are the weekly suggestions for you from the world of rural writing and reporting. Check out the following:
From the how-to-decrease-corporate-power-in-agriculture beat, Claire Carlson tells us about the fertilizer cartel in today’s Daily Yonder offerings.
Not the generic “working class rural” coffee shop scene, this story includes some pretty solid analysis about the pandemic from the American Communities Project frame.
A States Newsroom look at the rural broadband mess, courtesy of the Joplin Globe (Joplin, MO).
Colorado, where the solar energy thing has a lot of dimensions.
One More Thing: RIP Bobbie Lee Nelson
I didn’t really know I had a brand of being down with old-school country music until I read the Daily Yonder’s description of this newsletter. I mean, I love country music that’s good. Don’t get me wrong.
I am also a Jimi Hendrix nut. If you want to rock, I’m down with some Janis Joplin or Fleetwood Mac or anybody who played the 1968 Monterrey Pop Festival. I have been to many a Grateful Dead cover band show. And I figure that the most important philosopher/musicians in my life are the hip-hop artists Chuck D from Public Enemy and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest.
But I guess my country and Americana roots are the most developed of my music taste, and in that spirit I’m gonna embrace my heritage this week and lift up the life and work of our favorite piano player, Bobbie Lee Nelson.
Bobbie is a boogie-woogie piano master, and has been for many, many years. She was country when country wasn’t cool. And she is a pioneer for women artists of all kinds. She is also Willie Nelson’s sister and has played with him for decades.
In the 1950s, Bobbie said this: “I thought, ‘How can I earn enough money to support my children and to show the world that I can support my children? I want my babies,'” she remembered. “And that was the hardest part of my life. And I couldn’t play with Willie at that time, because I wasn’t supposed to even enter into a club. They would not have agreed to let me have my children back.”
RIP Bobbie Nelson, and thank you for showing the way. We miss you already.