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Jack Shelley (above) was “one of the most trusted reporters in the land,” according to the Des Moines Register. As a newsman on WHO Radio, Shelley ‘s “voice was rich, distinctive and unmistakable, ” and “listeners across Iowa gathered around kitchen tables during noon hours to catch his every word.”

Shelley died last week. He was 98 years old and one of those disappearing kind of newsmen who could tie an entire state together.

• Also in the Register last week was an interesting column by Bob Watson, a wastewater specialist. Watson reports that large confinement hog operations in Iowa and Minnesota “have seen an ominous increase in foaming in pits beneath hog confinements — like a potentially toxic bubble bath, it rises right through floor slats – exacerbating the already serious problem of dead pigs and flash fires caused by hydrogen sulfide and methane.”

Nice, eh? And, trouble is, nobody really know what’s causing these foaming pits of waste.

Watson contends the problem stems from the inappropriate transfer of wastewater treatment technology from municipal systems to the farm. In municipal systems, wastewater treatment areas are placed far away from people. In containment farms, the systems are underneath the hogs. Watson writes:

As a society, we should question what this industrial model of agriculture is doing to us, the animals and the environment. We have turned most of our hog producers into virtual serfs, with corporations financing and owning the buildings, the pigs and the feed, and even controlling when the producers market the pigs. Corporations externalize their environmental costs onto the producers and the public by having the producers own the polluting waste and the dead animals. We also expect producers to deal with the unsolvable problems confinement buildings create.

•The Los Angeles Times has a story about increasing investment in farmland, fruit orchards and other ag products.

There have been quite a few stories recently about investors buying up farmland, not only in the U.S. but abroad. Now we have pension funds buying up almond groves. Can any good come of this?

• University of Kentucky music professor Ron Pen has published his biography of folk singer, collector and all around character John Jacob Niles.

• The High Plains Journal reports of an an interesting discussion before the Kansas Rural Center board about the migration of young people out of the rural Plains. There’s talk about entrepreneurship, Wal Mart and how local business owners can pass along what they’ve built.

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