Cattle lie dead in the ditch east of Sturgis, South Dakota. Thousands of cattle have gone missing from fenced pastures, presumed dead after this weekend's blizzard caused white outs and high drifts in rural western South Dakota.

[imgcontainer] [img:cowcicle.jpg] [source]Photo by Kristina Barker/Rapid City Journal[/source] Cattle lie dead in the ditch east of Sturgis, South Dakota. Thousands of cattle have gone missing from fenced pastures, presumed dead after this weekend’s blizzard caused white-outs and high drifts in rural western South Dakota. [/imgcontainer]

The aftermath of a South Dakota blizzard that may have killed more than 100,000 cattle is too horrific to describe, says one eyewitness.

 “There are no words to describe the devastation and loss,” a South Dakota rancher told a family member.

“Everywhere we look there are dead cattle. I’ve never seen so many dead cattle. Nobody can remember anything like this. …  I can’t imagine writing about this. I’m not going to take photos. These deaths are too gruesome. Nobody wants to see this.”

Those quotes are from the mother of Dawn Wink, a Santa Fe, New Mexico, writer who grew up in South Dakota. Wink includes this information in a riveting post  on her blog, Dewdrops.

Officials estimate the storm may have killed up to 5% of the state’s 3.9 million head of cattle, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription). The loss will be devastating to ranchers and the regional economy, the Journal says.

National media are beginning to cover the story, which was the exclusive domain of regional media for several days after the storm. Here’s a local TV report. Some ranchers may never recover, the report says. And the USDA closure will make it harder for farmers to get help.

Broadband Gap Is Hype, Says AEI Scholar. Concern about America’s falling behind in the race to improve broadband access is a manufactured crisis, created to advance academic careers and a political agenda, says a writer for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization based in Washington, D.C.

“I’m having trouble shaking the feeling that ongoing concern about how U.S. broadband stacks up to the rest of the world is a manufactured debate,” writes Gus Hurwitz in, an AEI publication on technology policy. “It’s a compelling, media- and public-friendly, narrative that supports a powerful political agenda. And the clear incentives, for academics and media alike, are to find problems and raise concerns.”

Hurwitz says the market is filling the broadband gap in rural America. Research published in the Daily Yonder shows the rural/urban gap remained constant from 2003 to 2010 and expanded among groups such as the poor, elderly and most people of color.

Redefine “Actively Involved.” Senator Chuck Grassley wants the government to get a better definition for “actively involved” in farming, after a report says the USDA definition (a stipulation for receiving subsidy payments) is too vague.

The Des Moines Register reports:

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office talked with officials with the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and found that the existing regulations are broad and difficult to enforce. Currently, to be considered actively farming, an individual is required to make significant contributions to that operation in personal labor or active personal management.

The GAO study released by Grassley’s office said the USDA agency, despite having the authority to change the definition of “actively farming,” has no plans to do so without direction from lawmakers in Washington.

“Congress should consider modifying the definition of significant contributions of management activities, either as it did in recent deliberations on reauthorizing the Farm Bill, or in other ways designed to make contributions more clear and objective,” the GAO said.

Affordable Housing.  Business advocates in Oklahoma are concerned that the lack of affordable housing in rural areas is hurting economic development.

The Case of the Purloined Pumpkins. Thieves made off with about 100 pumpkins from a garden in McCook, Oklahoma, just in time to ruin the owners’ annual pumpkin party

 The McCook Daily Gazette reports:

The thieves unplugged the electric fence surrounding the 35-feet long, 200-feet wide garden sometime Saturday night and made off with pumpkins of all kinds, including the gigantic “Big Mac” pumpkins, white and pink varieties, along with nearly all the ornamental gourds and Indian corn.

The worst part about it is that invitations were already sent out for the McCarty’s hayrack ride and pumpkin picking party, for family and friends.

The theft caused one of the owners’ grand-daughters to cry.

“But after she dried her tears, she told her grandma, ‘How rude!’

“If a 5-year-old knows it’s wrong, how do grown people do it?” said Angi McCarty, the garden’s owner.

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