[imgcontainer right] [img:webbphoto.gif] [source]Rebecca Norris Webb[/source] The New York Times has a fantastic display of photos taken by South Dakota native Rebecca Norris Webb. They come from her new book, My Dakota. [/imgcontainer]

As if things couldn’t get any weirder….. 

The National Journal reports that House Republicans are intent on denying the Agriculture Department funds in 2013 for repair and upkeep of its buildings. 

The House cut $55 million for building maintenance and $9 million for staff office deployment. The staff reduction amounts to a 35 percent cut.

The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a veto threat based on cuts in rural development, nutrition and international aid. The OMB has now also criticized the cuts in staff and building maintenance at USDA.

“The veto threat also protested House Republican plans to cut funding for salaries and expenses at USDA service centers connected to the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Rural Development,” according to Politico.

“This legislation,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., “represents a careful balance between fiscal restraint and responsible investments in programs to support an abundant and safe food and drug supply, promote U.S. interests in the global economy, and encourage economic development in our rural communities.”

Politico is reporting that the full House is not close to taking up the Ag Department appropriations bill that was reported from committee with the building cuts. That could further delay debate on the Farm Bill.

Politico says the House will not get to the $19.4 billion ag appropriations bill before July 4, as previously planned. “Given the press of other legislation—and some annual social events for lawmakers—both the leader’s office and the Appropriations Committee signaled that it is unlikely the agriculture measure will make it to the floor before the holiday,” Politico reports. 

That schedule stacks up several pieces of legislation before the Farm Bill. Politico reports that Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts told reporters that he would seek out House leaders to press the need to pass the Farm Bill before the old Farm Bill expires September 30.

• A hunger strike by a small group of postal workers began yesterday. The strike will end Thursday in Washington, D.C. 

The workers are protesting the Postal Service’s continuing troubles. Part of the day Wednesday, the hunger strikers will be in front of the Washington Post, which has published editorials asking for more cuts in the Postal Service.

• The Koreas are in a terrible drought. Parts of North Korea are suffering the most severe drought since records began 105 years ago. 

The country has dispatched soldiers to hand-carry buckets of water to fields. Fields in the South are withering even where they are irrigated.

• Several stories out about dairy farmers. Since 1970, the number of dairy farms has dropped by more than half a million. And even in these good times for agriculture, diary farmers are still finding things hard.

NPR reports on dairy farms finding profits in forming cooperatives. The radio network does a story on MOOMilk, a coop that has been picked up by Whole Foods and Hannaford’s. 

The Washington Post reports about several 20-somethings who have started dairies  in Maryland. 

• DTN’s Chris Clayton reports that, “Nothing in Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on illegal immigration will help farmers continue to grow labor-intensive crops with the roughly half-million illegal aliens employed in agriculture each year. Agriculture will continue to look for a long-term fix from Congress that doesn’t criminalize farmers who hire people to pick lettuce in Arizona, tomatoes in Alabama or onions in Georgia.” 

InsideClimate News is beginning a three-part series on a 2010 spill of Canadian oil sands oil in Michigan. The spill from a Canadian-owned pipeline dumped at least a million gallons into Talmadge Creek and then the Kalamazoo River near the town of Marshall in southwestern Michigan.

A section of the river was closed until just a week ago and 150 families have been permanently relocated.

This was the most expensive spill since the federal government began keeping records in 1968. 

• The Wall Street Journal reports that new law school graduates are being advised to launch their careers in rural communities. 

Law schools at the University of Iowa, Drake and Creighton are working with the Iowa Bar Association to place students in internships with attorneys working in small towns. Law schools at the University of Nebraska and the University of Kansas now have special “rural and solo practice” programs. 

The nation is producing lots of lawyers and there aren’t enough jobs in the cities. Meanwhile, small towns in the Midwest have a lawyer shortage.

• The state of Nebraska has fewer state workers than any time since 1995. 

• The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Montana’s century-old law banning corporate expenditures in campaigns. Corporations and unions can now make unlimited expenditures from their treasuries to support or oppose candidates. 

• Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says taxpayers in Chicago are paying more for public employee pensions than those living in rural and suburban parts of the state — and he wants that inequity fixed before proceeding with reforms to the pension system. 

Chicago residents pay taxes to support the pensions of city employees, and they pay to support the state system that pays for pensions of employees in the suburbs and downstate. Suburban and rural residents pay only state taxes, Madigan says. 

• An article in Grist reports on the ever increasing number of large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the Midwest. 

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