[imgcontainer] [img:photos-seavey-holds-zirkle-claim-his-second-iditarod.jpeg] [source]Loren Holmes[/source] Mitch Seavey won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Here he is coming down Front Street in Nome, Alaska, just before 10:40 Tuesday night. There were nearly 400 people there to greet Seavey and his team, according to Alaska Dispatch, our best source for all things Alaskan. Seavey is a second time winner of the 1,000 mile race. His first Iditarod victory was in 2004. [/imgcontainer]

A new study has found that crop insurance in 2012 not only saved farmers from a drought-induced disaster, it also kept Main Street from melting down. 

Marcia Zarley Taylor reports for DTN on the study of the $4.5 billion collected by farmers in four states: Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa and Wyoming. Two University of Nebraska economists found that those payments “not only helped growers cover losses and afford to plant another crop in 2013, but preserved more than 20,000 jobs in ag-related businesses.”

“This research helps us answer the question: ‘What would have happened in both rural and urban communities if producers had not been protected by crop insurance during the severe drought last year?’” Doug Stark, president and CEO of FCSAmerica says. “The study shows that while crop insurance is critical for farmers, in years of significant loss it also helps stabilize jobs and incomes off the farm as well. Indemnity payments replace some of the income that farmers would have earned from a more normal crop, enabling them to continue investing in their businesses and households.”

One Gigabit Schools — West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller wants a program aimed at providing basic Internet connections for schools and libraries to be expanded to provide one-gigabit connections. That’s fast. 

Fighting Phone Deregulation — AT&T has sent 23 lobbyists to the Kentucky legislature and made 75 contributions to legislative campaigns all in an effort to pass a bill that would allow the telecom to end the requirement that it provide landline phone service to rural customers.

The Lexington Herald-Leader has been editorializing against the bill, and did so again Tuesday.  The paper notes that just last year AT&T had these good words to say about the state’s regulations:”Thanks to the vision and business-friendly approach of the General Assembly, Kentucky has a strong regulatory environment for telecom infrastructure investment.”

And the paper doubts that AT&T will make some big new investment in the state if it removes the requirement that AT&T provide landlines to customers who want them. The paper concludes:

It’s understandable that AT&T wants to shed low-paying landline customers who are content with basic service in favor of higher-paying wireless customers who want more and more services.

But that’s not necessarily what’s best for Kentuckians, especially those who live in rural areas, whose payments built the lines and exchanges that AT&T no longer finds sufficiently profitable.

Too Rural for Water — The state of Texas is putting together a list of water supply projects. One major reservoir that was supposed to ease the strain on lakes around Austin isn’t on that list because it’s too rural, reports Asher Price of the Austin American-Statesman. 

There’s been a battle over water rights between upstream cities in Central Texas (such as Austin) and downstream rice farmers. The cities have been winning. The idea of building a downstream reservoir was to help both cities and farmers. 

But the Texas Water Development Board is focusing on areas with the highest population growth, so the downstream reservoir doesn’t make the list.

New York Times on KXL — The New York Times editorial page is urging President Obama to deny the Keystone XL pipeline permission to cross the Canada/U.S. border. 

Keystone would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. It’s been opposed by Nebraska landowners who fear spills would ruin fragile lands and the Ogallala Aquifer. Environmentalists say the tar sands are particularly dirty and would speed global climate change.

The Times doesn’t mention Nebraska landowners. The paper sides with environmentalists, saying denying a permit will slow the tar sands development.

Meanwhile, the GOP budget plan released Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin requires the approval of KXL. It also makes more land available for oil and gas drilling, according to The Hill.  

When That Call Doesn’t Go Through — The Washington Post reported that Colorado-based Level 3 Communications said Tuesday that had agreed to pay $975,000 to settle a dispute with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC had found that the “company was not reliably connecting long-distance calls from rural parts of the United States, a practice the FCC said is caused when long-distance carriers and intermediate providers use third-party routers to complete the calls at a low cost.” 

Native Tongue — The Montana Senate voted to approve $2 million in funding for a pilot program aimed at preserving the state’s several Native American languages. 

Suicides in Montana — There are two bills in the Montana legislature aimed at curbing the state’s high number of suicides. “We just keep having suicides all across the state,” said Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena. “This is a real issue affecting our communities. What we’re doing isn’t good enough, obviously.” 

An estimated 15 people in Montana attempt suicide every day. In 2011, 225 were successful. One bill would create a Montana Suicide Review Team to study the problem.

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