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Twenty-nine rural hospitals in Kentucky have filed suit in an attempt to stop the federal government from reducing payments to the facilities. The lawsuit says that the federal government wants to cut Medicaid and Medicare payments to small hospitals.

• It was a surprise to us that Wyoming is tops in the nation in chewing-tobacco use. Nearly one in six adult men in the state use smokeless tobacco. 

West Virginia ranks just behind Wyoming, with about nine percent of the total adult population using. The national rate is two percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

One CDC official said Wyoming’s “rodeo culture” led to widespread chewing tobacco use.

California had the lowest rates of smokeless tobacco use. That didn’t surprise us at all.

Jerry Hagstrom, with DTN, notes that 14 of the 28 members of the House Agriculture Committee lost Tuesday. (Two other Dems are also gone; all the Rs were re-elected.) Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma will take over the chair from Colin Peterson, as the Republicans gain control of the House.

Hagstrom notes that the rural economy has been pretty good recently. Commodity and land prices have been high. Yes, dairy has been in trouble, but overall prices have been extraordinarily high. And Democrats seem to do better in rural districts when times are hard. Hagstrom notes that the last wave of Western Democrats to come from rural states arrive in 1986 in the midst of a farm crisis. 

Minnesota Public Radio’s Mark Steil is reporting that little will change in national ag policy. “History shows it’s almost immune to major new direction, no matter which party is in power,” Steil writes.

Yes, there will be a drive among Republicans to cut spending. But agriculture usually is left out of the budget cutting carnage. But these are a new breed of Republicans, so….?

“So the real question is, the new members coming in that are looking to cut money, is whether they will have the traditional ties to keep agriculture funded,” said University of Minnesota economics professor Kent Olson. “Or whether they’ll be looking for new ways and new relationships and that the strength of agriculture will be diminished in that atmosphere.” 

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