[imgcontainer right] [img:the-iron-man-statue-which.jpeg] [source]Minneapolis Star-Tribune[/source] This is the “Iron Man” statue at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, Minnesota. The politics of the Iron Range are changing as a new generation of workers is hired. [/imgcontainer]

The New York Times reports this morning of increasing pressure from rural communities for Congress to act on the Farm Bill.

Jennifer Steinhauer reports from Iowa that House members are being pestered by constituents about the lack of action on the farm legislation (which also includes food programs and rural development). She writes:

In Minnesota, Senator Amy Klobuchar and her Republican Party-endorsed opponent, Kurt Bills, disagreed sharply in their first face-to-face debate over what a farm bill should contain. In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger, Representative Todd Akin, defended their positions before the state farm bureau’s political unit.

In Arkansas, the Democratic Party paid for an automated call by a farmer imploring rural voters to pester Representative Rick Crawford, a Republican, about the unfinished farm business. Representative Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, took heat back home for backing away from a petition sponsored by Democrats that would have forced the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill to the floor.

“We would have much preferred they pass the House bill,” said Michael Held, the chief executive of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. “I think the attitude here is this is typical Washington, D.C., not getting its work done.”

Chris Clayton, meanwhile, surmises that with Paul Ryan becoming the Republican vice presidential choice, the Farm Bill will almost surely be delayed until after the election. He writes:

(T)he selection of the Wisconsin lawmaker now makes it unlikely House leaders would consider passing a farm bill without major modifications to satisfy fiscal conservatives — certainly not before the presidential election. Despite increasing pressure to adopt the legislation to help rural America cope with the drought, the farm bill now becomes an even more political document…

If the president is for it, House leaders are going to be even more entrenched against it. Moreover, passing a farm bill would highlight lawmakers approving a measure that the Republican vice presidential nominee has strongly criticized in the past and unsuccessfully tried to change by demanding further program cuts. They simply can’t pass a bill that would appear to be an affront to one of their own now running on the presidential ticket.

• The AAA Carolinas said rural counties were the “killing grounds” for traffic in North Carolina.

Five rural counties (Graham, Hyde, Robeson, Clay and Hertford) accounted for 5.4 percent of the state’s fatal crashes but carried only 2 percent of the state’s traffic.

• The United Mine Workers says it won’t make an endorsement in this year’s presidential election. Al Cross writes in the Louisville, Kentucky, paper that this is emblematic of President Obama’s problems in Kentucky and other Appalachian coal states.

Cross, who heads the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky, writes:

Much of Kentucky is in the “McCain Belt,” a swath of largely rural counties from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma where John McCain did better than then-President Bush did in 2004.

Obama has hurt Democrats in the McCain Belt, the best example being Tennessee, where since 2008 Republicans have taken the governorship, both houses of the legislature and a majority of the congressional delegation, in large measure with anti-Obama campaigns. Some Kentucky Democrats look south and tremble.

• An analysis of 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud found 10 cases of in-person voter impersonation since 2000, one for every 15 million registered voters.

• The Des Moines Register tells us that this is the second worst drought in 140 years of recorded history, but Daniel Finney writes that the drought of ’36 was something else altogether:

“Weather was the dominant feature of our existence,” recalled Neil Harl, 78, an Iowa State University professor of agriculture and economics who was just shy of 3 years old in the summer of 1936. “We were just trying to survive.”

Harsh conditions were nothing new to rural America and Iowa in particular by 1936. Cities mark the beginning of the Great Depression with the 1929 stock market crash on Wall Street. But the rural economy had been in turmoil for most of the 1920s. After World War I ended, other countries imposed high tariffs on imported foods. That closed foreign markets. Land values and crop prices crashed. Poverty set into agrarian society well before it overtook cities.

As 1936 began, “we had $100 to get through the winter and put the crop in that spring,” Harl recalled of his childhood near Seymour. “We were living in a rented farmhouse that my uncle had lost a year or two before. I didn’t know that at the time, but that’s how tight it was.”

Unlike today, there was no crop insurance, no safety net for farmers and their families. If the crops died, there was no money. Families lost their homes. They went hungry.

• The Minneapolis newspaper recounts one of the bloodiest Indian wars in the nation’s history, between white settlers and the Dakota tribe.

• InsideClimate News’ Elizabeth Douglass writes that new oil production in North Dakota is being blocked by tar sands oil coming out of Canada.

High Prairie Pipeline has filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that Enbridge Inc. has reneged on an agreement to let the company connect to its pipeline. That would block North Dakota oil from leaving the state.

Enbridge doesn’t have room for both Canadian tar sands oil and oil from the Bakken oil formation in North Dakota, according to the story. Douglass writes:

“It’s clear that the country is in need of additional pipeline infrastructure, but building the pipeline infrastructure doesn’t get you very far if you cannot then connect with the other pipeline infrastructure, and that’s exactly what’s happening here,” said Greg Ward, general counsel for Durango, Colo.-based Saddle Butte Pipeline LLC, High Prairie’s parent company. “There’s more and more domestic production being discovered all the time. This is going to be an issue that’s going to pop up over and over again.”

Andrew Lipow, a Houston-based consultant and former oil trader, agreed.

“Everyone’s competing for space as far as shippers go, and that’s going to continue, just given the huge increases we’re seeing in Bakken crude oil production,” he said. “The High Prairie pipeline would consume capacity [on Enbridge’s Lakehead system], which would prevent some Canadian oil from making its way downstream of Clearbrook, unless Enbridge did another expansion.”

• Nearly half of Missouri’s Amish settlements have been founded since 2000, according to Jim Winnerman, writing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He tells us that overcrowding in Amish communities in Pennsylvania and central Ohio “has resulted in migration to Missouri.”

The Amish population in Missouri has been growing at about 8 percent a year recently.

•A group of Blackfeet women have walked 80 miles in an effort to bring attention to what they say are irreparable environmental damage done by hydraulic fracturing on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Tristan Scott of The Missoulian writes about the Blackfeet Women Against Fracking:

Virtually all of the Blackfeet Reservation’s 1.5 million acres are leased for oil and gas exploration, and there has been renewed interest in development on a tract of land directly adjacent to Glacier National Park’s eastern border, along which the women marched.

Blackfeet Women Against Fracking is one of several small, grassroots groups that have emerged recently as awareness builds of the energy development and potential environmental consequences.

Opponents of the development worry that if the exploration continues unchecked, the hydraulically fractured oil wells and flare stacks could contaminate a pristine ecosystem and disturb centuries-old cultural sites.

Lori Sturdevant writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the political decline of the Iron Range, in the northeastern part of the state. Sure, the area has lost population, but the people who have gone to work in the Iron Range recently are different from those from earlier generations, Sturdevant writes:

(Tony) Sertich noted another kind of demographic change with political implications. Not only are there fewer Rangers than 30 years ago, but today’s mineworkers think and vote differently. He elucidated: “The last great hire by the mines was in the 1970s. Those folks are retiring now at a significant clip. They’re being replaced by people who don’t have as strong an attachment to the DFL and to unions. It’s because a lot of the battles that used to attach people to unions here have already been fought.”

Union loyalty used to be the glue that sealed Range voters to the DFL. That glue appears to have weakened.

• The cabin where Bluegrass music legend Bill Monroe grew up in Rosine, Kentucky, is being restored and will open to fans as early as next month.

The two room cabin belonged to Monroe’s great uncle, James Pendleton Vandiver, the “Uncle Pen” of the song.

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