[imgcontainer right] [img:foodhome.jpeg] [source]ERS[/source] We now spend about as much of our food dollar away from home as we do in preparing meals in our own kitchens. [/imgcontainer]

Less than one percent of the population serves in the military at a time when the U.S. is in one of its longest, sustained periods of war in the nation’s history. The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe wrote today about a “growing concern among soldiers and Marines: The American public is largely unaware of the price its military pays to fight the United States’ distant conflicts.” 

That would be particularly true for rural communities, which have sent a disproportionate number to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jaffe’s story tells about Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, who was appointed to be the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Kelly’s son died last year in southern Afghanistan.

• The Des Moines Register is reporting that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will announce Thursday that he would take the first formal step toward running for president in 2012. 

• The House-passed stopgap funding bill removes $29 million in rural broadband loan subsidies as part of $4 billion in cuts, Agri Pulse reports

Agri Pulse also has a letter signed by environmental and farm groups opposing the cuts in the House proposal. The letter signed by, among other, the National Farmers Union, the Sierra Club and the American Farmland Trust, says in part: 

H.R. 1 would cut over a half billion dollars from the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetland Reserve Program, and Biomass Crop Assistance Program relative to the direct spending levels provided by the 2008 Farm Bill.

We are especially concerned about the impact of permanent reductions to mandatory conservation programs contained in H.R. 1. The effect of these cuts is magnified because the funding is reduced for multiple years, though only the first year is credited for appropriations budgeting purposes. As a result, the savings are not fully realized, and further pressure is put on the farm bill baseline only a year before a new bill must be written. We urge you to minimize cuts to mandatory funding in the appropriations bill and to preserve the farm bill baseline.

• DTN’s Chris Clayton explores what might happen to trade routes with the opening of a new and larger lock on the Panama Canal. 

NewWest reports that voters “in five Rocky Mountain states say state and federal leaders should still fund programs that protect land, air and wildlife despite budget woes, according to the results of a recent survey…” Three-quarters of those polled in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming said leaders can protect the environment and create a strong economy at the same time.

• Jon Di Cristina writes in Legal Ruralism about what defines rural — culture, environment, politics?

Di Cristina decides it is mostly space, the distance between people. Culture varies, he writes, citing recent studies finding that hostility to gays and lesbians is “roughly proportional between rural and urban communities.”

Environment varies, too — from flat farmland to mountains to coal camps to retirement chalets. In the end, it’s space that defines rural, Di Cristina find. “There is no more reliable characteristic.”

• The Financial Times writes that the boom in farm land prices could be followed by a bust. The argument against the bust theory is that that leverage levels are relatively low. 

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