[imgcontainer] [img:ruralmardegras.jpeg] [source]Freddie Herpin[/source] Check out Freddie Herpin’s photos of Mardi Gras the way it’s done in rural Louisiana. [/imgcontainer]

Forget Mardi Gras in New Orleans. If you want the real thing, head to Mamou or Opelousas or Church Point, Louisiana. 

The Opelousas Daily World explains how the small towns in Central Louisiana celebrate Courir de Mardi Gras: 

The first Acadians brought “Le Courir de Mardi Gras” or the “Running of the Mardi Gras” to French Louisiana when they immigrated to the area in the 1750s, according to the courir’s website. Traditionally, the rural Mardi Gras of today in Church Point is the same as it was in the old days of the early settlers. Only men can participate in the courir.

…Elton Richard…formally organized the Church Point Courir de Mardi Gras in 1961. Before then, smaller courirs took place throughout the countryside. Elton Richard and state Sen. Paul Tate flipped a coin to decide which days each town would conduct its courir. Consequently, Church Point runs on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday and Mamou gets Fat Tuesday.

There’s all kinds of good stuff going on — parades, horseback riding, chicken chasing and, from the photos, it appears there may be some drinking. Go to the newspaper site for a good slideshow.

• We learned Monday morning that Mike Mullins, longtime director of Kentucky’s Hindman Settlement School died Sunday.

There was nobody more committed to or more optimistic about the future of Appalachia than Mike. If there were a meeting to attend or a cause to support, Mike was there. His enthusiasm was unwavering.

We’ll have more news on Mike Mullins in Tuesday’s roundup.

• Votes in rural Montana will be critical to the 2012 presidential election, according to KTVQ television in Billings. 

Although the population of rural Montana continues to shrink, still a third of voters living in rural areas. According to Big Sky Politics author Jon Bennion, “Candidates cannot ignore rural Montana. If a candidate thinks they want and go and just campaign in the seven or eight largest cities the rural areas will understand that they are getting ignored. They don’t appreciate that and nor should they. They are still a part of the state and a very important part of the state economically and politically.”

•Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum took out after public schools over the weekend. Speaking in Ohio, the former Pennsylvania senator said, “Yes, the government can help, but the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic.” 

Of course, the federal government doesn’t run schools. States and communities do. Santorum home schooled his children. In the past, Santorum said, “Most presidents home-schooled their children in the White House.… Parents educated their children because it was their responsibility.”

• A moratorium on new permits for drilling in the Marcellus Shale gas shale formation is about to end in New York and people are divided on energy development in the state.

A poll found that 45% in New York oppose hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas while 44% favor. People say it will both create jobs and cause environmental damage.

The L.A. Times talked to New Yorkers on both sides of the debate. 

• Three of the four Republicans still in the race would beat President Barack Obama in Iowa, according to a new Des Moines Register poll

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the only Republican not ahead of President Obama in the poll. Rep. Ron Paul does the best against the President, winning in the poll 49% to 42%. 

• The Oregonian tells of a long battle between canola and vegetable farmers in Oregon. 

Canola growers see good profit in the oil. But neighbors say canola will spread out of control, cross-pollinating and contaminating other crops. They point to northern France as an area where canola has spread beyond anyone’s control.

The state agriculture department has designated a 3.86 million acre area of the state to be canola free and hopes to sort out the differences. Washington and Idaho also have canola restriction zones.

Oregon is asking for proposals on how to resolve the impasse.

• Actress Jennifer Aniston says she’d love to move to the country.

She came to that realization while shooting a movie in Clarksville, Georgia. Anniston says nobody bothered her during the filming. She told The Sun newspaper:

“Going to Clarkesville gave me a huge change – it was an eye opener. It was the greatest experience because I felt like I gained my anonymity back.

“When I got there I felt my body decompress and relax. I was like, ‘God, I’m so paranoid and pent up’. The toxic clutter was just alleviated. It was a nice feeling and I took it home with me.

“You realize how paranoid and guarded and non-trusting (you become)… there was a sigh of relief to be able to walk around like a normal person and feel like I’ve got my anonymity back.

“I would love to move to the country. I think it’s always good to have a place that’s away.” 

• The New York Times’ Elisabeth Rosenthal draws a connection between opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and landowner opposition to a variety of energy transportation projects that are criss-crossing rural America. She writes

“You can’t get around this transportation problem, but people don’t want to acknowledge that — it’s a really big problem that we’ll have to face,” said Michael A. Levi, a senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The more you move to transmission lines that cross lots of states, the more you’ll have the same trouble as you did with Keystone XL.”

…But as states are encouraging the construction of wind and solar power plants with incentives and tax breaks, there has got to be a corresponding boom in transmission line planning and construction, said Alex Klein, chief of research at IHS Emerging Energy Research of Cambridge, Mass. “It’s both absolutely necessary and extremely contentious, “ he said. “People want renewables, but nobody wants transmission.”

• Speaking of transmission, it appears plans to pipe Canadian tar sands oil west to the Pacific are causing quite a controversy in that country. 

This is the same tar sands oil that was to be sent along the Keystone XL pipeline south to the Gulf Coal — at least until objections from Nebraska ranchers led to the federal government’s denying a permit for the project. The L.A. Times says a pipeline proposal that would go west to ports in British Columbia is generating quite a bit of opposition:

“We truly live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We live right at the start of the Fraser River watershed, and if we have a spill, it will devastate everything from here straight to the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver,” said Bev Playfair, until recently a municipal councilor in Fort St. James, where a hearing on the pipeline this month was preceded by dozens of townspeople marching down the main street with signs such as “Say No to Enbridge.”

The most formidable opposition comes from the First Nations of British Columbia, most of which, unlike those in other provinces, have never signed treaties with the federal government and thus have never relinquished title to their historic lands.

“We have the ability to go to court in Canada and say, ‘What you are proposing violates the Constitution of Canada.’ And that’s the trump card in all of this,” said Art Sterritt, director of the Coastal First Nations’ Great Bear Initiative.

• Sixty percent of Iowans favor reduced commercial property taxes even if that means schools have less money, according to the latest Des Moines Register poll

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad argues the state’s commercial property tax rates are too high and inhibit economic growth. 

• The Hill reports that President Obama’s budget “puts him on a collision course this year with rural state lawmakers over farm policy.”

Reporter Erik Wasson notes that last year a coalition of farm state legislators proposed $23 billion in total cuts over ten years. The Obama budget would cut $32 billion. 

The problem is that the Obama budget does not support new crop price insurance that farm state representatives want. Wasson reports:

Obama is oddly allied in the fight with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis), who sought about the same level of savings in his 2012 budget and may do so again this year.

Obama’s budget mirrors Ryan’s 2012 plan by finding savings from eliminating direct payments that go to farmers no matter how much they produce and reducing crop insurance.

Eliminating direct payments is widely supported in the agriculture community, but rural state Democrats and Republicans this week came out against the $7 billion in cuts to crop insurance.

•Several states (Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington) have started barn surveys, cataloguing old farm structures that are disappearing. 

A 2007 USDA census found 664,000 barns built before 1960. Texas had the most (51,000), followed by Missouri (36,000) and Wisconsin (35,000). 

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