[imgcontainer right] [img:01thai-popup.jpeg] [source]International Herald Tribune[/source] A military-backed government in Thailand was voted out this past weekend, thanks largely to ballots cast in rural parts of the country. Above, Nirand Nammontri, the owner of a rural grocery store. [/imgcontainer]

The National Education Association passed a resolution saying the teachers union is “appalled” by what Education Secretary Arne Duncan has done in the name of school reform. 

The indictment lists 13 particulars, including two having to do with rural schools. They are: 

5. Focusing too heavily on competitive grants that by design leave most students behind-particularly those in poor neighborhoods, rural areas, and struggling schools-instead of foundational formula funding designed to help all the students who need the most support.


11. Failing to recognize the complexities of school districts that do not have the resources to compete for funding, particularly in rural America, and failing to provide targeted and effective support for those schools and school districts.

• A young woman living in Viper, in Eastern Kentucky, wrote an essay for the Lexington newspaper about a choice: continue to live in her hometown and risk birth defects if she has children, or move away.

Ivy Brashear wrote that she had read a recent study finding that birth defect rates are much higher in counties where there are mountaintop removal coal mining operations. “It’s not that this finding necessarily surprises me,” She wrote. “I’ve suspected for years that MTR is the cause of higher rates of cancer, heart disease and lung conditions like asthma among those living here.” 

“I will have to make a lot of important choices in my life, but of all the major choices I will have to make, wondering whether or not it’s safe to birth my children in my homeland should not even have to register on that list,” Brashear continued. “For coal companies to force that decision upon us is just plain wrong.”

• Who goes to the Iowa Caucuses? The Des Moines Register has a statistical breakdown here

“A lot of people who are not from Iowa think caucusgoers look like somebody out of a Grant Wood picture. Somebody in bib overalls with a pitchfork, and it’s not true. There are 3 million Iowans, and less than 80,000 of them are farmers,” said former Register political reporter David Yepsen.

Rural voters in Thailand tossed out the military-backed establishment. 

• The Rapid City (SD) Journal has a good update on the GIPSA livestock rules. That stands for the federal Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which offered new rules governing livestock markets. The rules have been strongly opposed by packers and have yet to be made final by the Obama administration.

The House recently voted 217 to 203 to attach an amendment to the ag appropriations bill that prohibits the the proposed rules from becoming final. Only Republicans voted for the amendment — and 19 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill (including South Dakota’s Kristi Noem).

Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio was the most vocal opponent to the amendment. “Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur from Ohio single handedly represented producer interests against the overwhelming monopolistic practices of our meat packing industry,” said rancher Vaughn Meyer, who chairs the South Dakota Stockgrowers marketing committee. 

• Banks are closing their branches, 1,400 in the last two years. At the same time, fewer people are going to branch banks. 

Chris Clayton at DTN has a good rundown on the controversies in the beef checkoff program. 

There are lots of checkoffs — milk, eggs, cheese, pork. checkoffs are voted in by producers. The beef checkoff collects $1 per head at the time of sale. It’s a tax, really, with the proceeds going for marketing of the the commodity. Checkoff programs came up with the “Got Milk?” ad, and “Pork, the other white meat.”

There are plenty of cattle raisers who aren’t happy about the beef checkoff program. They argue that their money is going for political and marketing campaigns with which they disagree. In the cattle checkoff program, there are charges of lobbying with producer money, lavish expenses and misspent funds.

Clayton argues that there needs to be stronger oversight of these funds and clearer lines over who controls checkoff money.

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