[imgcontainer] [img:4f012284627a9.jpeg] [source]Dan Cepeda/Casper Star-Tribune[/source] Postmaster Antoinette Benthusen sorts mail shortly after opening at the Powder River Post Office recently. The rural post office is one of 43 in Wyoming being considered for closure by the U.S. Postal Service. [/imgcontainer]

Vermont is taking ag seriously.

Former ag secretary Roger Allbee is chair of the state’s Working Landscape Partnership and that group is “working with lawmakers to revitalize the state’s farm and forest industries through new legislation designed to create a marketing campaign for the agricultural sector and build an enterprise fund for Vermont’s working landscape,” reports the Brattleboro Reformer.

“It takes capital, it takes leadership and it takes investment, both public and private, to make it happen,” Allbee said.

According to the Reformer:

The legislation brings to life a recently published working lands report that calls for greater investments in the agricultural industry and more incentives to keep remaining working lands in a productive state. And after Tropical Storm Irene in August, advocates for the measure want to build on the state’s resiliency and focus on the working lands economy and small businesses.

Interesting. Here is a high-income, very rural state that sees its future in increased investment in rural areas. They are looking to bring younger people onto the land and to give those farmers the capital they need to grow.

We like it!

• What will happen to weekly newspapers if the Postal Service closes regional mail processing plants and the mail is delayed?

Weeklies depend on the post office to get their papers to subscribers the day after the papers are printed. That may not happen if the processing plants are closed.

The Postal Service held 22 public hearings the last week in December on its decision to close mail processing plants. And the subject of rural weekly newspapers came up. Here is part of a report from Save The Post Office:

The Postal Service acknowledges that the consolidation plan will slow down the mail, but postal workers at the consolidation meetings are saying it will be much worse than the Postal Service admits. One thirty-year-veteran mail clerk at the meeting on the Gateway plant, which serves southern Oregon, said the closure of the processing center would result in “massive mail failings,” and would be a killer for weekly newspapers, which could be delayed several days. If that happens, he said, “You start producing a history, not a newspaper.”

• What happens when people can’t smoke in restaurants? They take out.

• Commodity prices slumped last year. But Bloomberg reports that speculators are betting that prices will rebound in 2012. In the last week in December, hedge funds and money managers increased their positions in 18 futures options by 18 percent.

“The U.S. is certainly putting the floor on commodities,” said James Paulsen, the chief investment strategist at Minneapolis-based Wells Capital Management, which oversees about $330 billion of assets. “Data out of the U.S. flies in the face of recession. More and more people are saying: ‘Maybe things are not that bad.’”

• Is anyone still looking for “shovel ready” public works projects?

A Senate committee heard last month that the nation has $300 billion in sewage projects that need doing — and another $335 billion in water system work.

The average Washington, D.C. water pipe is 77 years old and raw sewage flows into all the creeks that run through the District, as well as the Potomac River.

• The U.S. Supreme Court next week will take up the case of an Idaho couple that bought a lot on Priest Lake but were told by the Environmental Protection Agency that they couldn’t build there because the land was a protected “wetland.”

The EPA ordered the couple to stop work on their new home, saying they could apply for a building permit if they left the land in its natural state for three years. The couple sued and the case has now reached the highest court.

• Republican candidates see terrible things for the future of the country, but in Washington, Iowa, “life is good.”

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