[imgcontainer right] [img:Fort+Kent%2C+ME.jpeg] Fort Kent, Maine, looks like a good place to visit to us. Not to federal officials, however, who see it as a hardship to visit some place more than an hour from an airport. [/imgcontainer]

Fort Kent, Maine, was told it wouldn’t get a federal grant because it was “WAAAAAAY off the beaten path” and inconvenient for government staff and consultants. 

The Portland Press Herald reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was looking for two towns for a program aimed at reducing underage drinking. The town in Aroostook County made an application — only to learn it was too remote for NHTSA officials.

“I thought that rural America is still America,” said Michelle Piourde Chasse, project manager for Community Voices, a countywide organization that fights substance abuse by youths in Fort Kent.

U.S. Sen Olympia Snowe said Fort Kent was subject to “rural discrimination” and met with NHTSA officials this week. “The people of our rural communities have just as much to lose to substance abuse as urban areas. Denying Fort Kent the grant award because of their proximity to a major metropolitan area is wrong, it is unfair, and I have asked (NHTSA) Administrator (David) Strickland to fix the situation immediately,” Snowe said in a prepared statement.

The email sent to Fort Kent from NHTSA read in full:

Fort Kent is WAAAAAAYY off the beaten path. The panel felt that the logistics of getting our staff and consultants there and back was just too time consuming and expensive, compared with other communities. This factor would have been less important had the final four proposals been more disparate, but, as the ratings were quite close, the panel ultimately leaned toward ‘convenience.’ 

• The Washington Post reports that the “bacterium that has killed more than a dozen Europeans, sickened nearly 2,000 more and raised international alarms would be legal if it were found on meat or poultry in the United States.”

U.S. producers are not required to test for the bacterium in the states, reports Lyndsey Layton

“If somehow this strain got into that same environment and spread rapidly, it would represent a major disaster in terms of the U.S. food industry and risk to humans,” said J. Glenn Morris, a former official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who directs the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. “The regulatory framework is a couple of steps behind.”

Interesting story in the L.A. Times about the conflict between indigenous Mongols and the large scale coal mining that is being brought into their countryside. 

• Yes, the USDA has announced its new food plate, not food pyramid, program. Does anyone think this is going to keep people from ordering quarter pounders and drinking Big Gulps? 

• We are used to disasters that happen fast. But the flood that is headed down the Missouri River basin is anything but swift. 

The Pierre, South Dakota, paper has a story about a huge sand-bagging operation that aims to protect part of downtown. And Richard Oswald reports that government officials are headed today to the northwest corner of the state.

Everyone is waiting for the waters. 

• Massey Energy is still contending the explosion at its mine last year that killed 29 men was an “act of god.” 

As usual, Ken Ward Jr. has the best explanation of what’s happening. For details, keep checking Coal Tattoo over the weekend. 

• A new study finds that “having health insurance has a positive effect on encouraging farmers to continue farming” regardless of the health condition of the farmer. 

The study appears in the June issue of the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. The study also found that a farmer’s health and access to health insurance had a “noticeably larger” impact on his decision to stay in the fields than income or other demographic variables. 

• The New York Times editorializes Friday morning about the “high cost of cheap meat.” 

The paper is referring to the practice of feeding confined animals with antibiotics in an attempt to counteract the ill-effects of overcrowding. Last week several advocacy groups sued the Food and Drug Administration, asking that the federal agency end the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals. The Times supports this position. The Times writes:

For years, the F.D.A. has had the scientific studies and the authority to ban these drugs. But it has always bowed to pressure from the pharmaceutical and farm lobbies, despite the well-founded objections of groups like the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, which support an antibiotic ban.

It is time for the F.D.A. to stop corporate factory farms from squandering valuable drugs just to promote growth among animals confined in conditions that inherently create the risk of disease. According to recent estimates, 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country end up in farm animals. The F.D.A. can change that by honoring its own scientific conclusions and its statutory obligation to end its approval of unsafe drug uses.

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