Friday, April 13, 2012

Postmaster general takes case for post-office closures to rural Montana

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe "took his case for rural post office closures straight to those it will hurt most" yesterday, telling rural residents in Ingomar, Mont., "that thousands of post offices nationwide must be shuttered to cut costs," Matt Gouras of The Associated Press reports. "Rural residents answered right back, saying cuts should be made elsewhere because their post offices provide a much-needed lifeline."

DeDe Rhodes of Basin told Donahoe that "she has no Internet access and relies on the mail," Gouras writes. "But like many other rural residents, she does not receive mail delivery," and "If her post office closes, the next one is more than 10 miles away, making her regular trip to pick up mail much more costly."
Looking north on main street of Ingomar, by Mark Hufstetler (Creative Commons)
Donohoe has visited many postal processing facilities that are targeted for closure, but his visit to Ingomar, at the behest of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., was "his first to a local community specifically to hear their concerns about the impact of the proposed closings," Gouras reports. "Worried residents from small towns as far away as Wyoming swelled Ingomar's numbers to more than double its normal population of about 80. They packed the town's gymnasium and greeted Donahoe with a picnic table piled with home-cooked goods, treating him as a visiting dignitary while urging him to change his mind."

Some suggested that the postal service could charge an annual fee for mail delivery, which Donohoe said would raise $800 million a year. "It is not something we have raised to Congress," he said. "It is something we have got some pushback on. But it should be considered." Gouras's story mentions several other issues surrounding the service; to read it, click here.

Better rural broadband needed for better rural health, advocate writes

The Federal Communications Commission needs to open up more spectrum for rural broadband in order to help rural health, National Rural Health Association CEO Alan Morgan writes in a piece in the Daily Yonder.

"More spectrum will mean more and better care for rural Americans," Morgan writes. "For example, apps have been developed that help monitor patients via smartphones and tablets. A home-health monitoring initiative is in the works. These kinds of breakthroughs will allow rural patients to be treated and monitored at home rather than at a hospital that may be many miles from families and support networks."

Morgan adds, "Expectant and new mothers can receive tips on prenatal care, baby health and parenting over text message. Emergency medical responders can wirelessly receive a patient’s health history or transmit vital statistics and test results to emergency room personnel from the road. A bevy of new medical devices that communicate wirelessly with health professionals are starting to have an impact. A patient at risk for congenital heart failure can step on a scale each morning, knowing that any drastic increases in weight, which would signal a problem, will be communicated immediately to a clinic for evaluation. . . . All of these medical breakthroughs depend on one thing – a robust wireless broadband network that enables the use of sophisticated eHealth applications." (Read more)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On rural Internet, downstream data is mainly video

Rural Internet traffic is dominated by video streaming, according to a report on research conducted by Calix Inc., a communications equipment supplier. Video streaming, which uses vast amounts of data, accounted for 67 percent of all downstream data, that coming into rural computers. Netflix and YouTube accounted for 80 percent of all streamed video.

In terms of information coming from rural computers, or upstream data, business traffic accounted for 53 percent, according to a Calix press release. The firm analyzed actual Internet traffic from 45 providers in the last quarter of 2011.

Types of Internet use varied by region, with people in the West streaming the most video. People in the Southeast played the most online video games, those in the Northeast online-shopped the most, and Midwesterners used business-oriented services most. The release says it's not surprising video streaming dominates traffic because providers are preparing for "an all-video world." The company plans to continue generating rural broadband usage reports. (Read more)

FDA touts voluntary limits on animal antibiotic use

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a voluntary initiative to reduce antibiotic use in livestock to reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. The initiative would "discourage" use of certain antibiotics in livestock feed, but not prohibit it outright. The drugs would still be available to veterinarians and farmers to prevent or control illness in animals, Tom Johnston of MeatingPlace reports.

A federal court recently ordered FDA to restart hearings about antibiotic use that were ended last December. Some studies have linked antibiotic use in animals to higher rates of drug-resistant infections in humans. The agency is releasing three guidance documents "to help veterinarians, farmers and animal producers 'use medically important antibiotics judiciously in food-producing animals by targeting their use to only address diseases and health problems.'" The documents include a final guidance for the meat industry, a draft guidance for drug companies that will be open for public comment, and a draft proposal for veterinarians. (Read more)

Monday is deadline to apply for free, expenses-paid Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting workshop

Monday is the deadline for journalists to apply for fellowships to attend a free, expenses-paid workshop on rural computer-assisted reporting at the University of Kentucky in Lexington May 18-20.

The R-CAR Investigative Mini-Boot Camp is a short version of the CAR boot camps done frequently by Investigative Reporters and Editors, which is providing the R-CAR training in cooperation with the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Up to 12 R-CAR fellows will be selected for the Mini-Boot Camp on the basis of their applications, a letter explaining the stories they want to do with CAR skills, and clips showing that they are prepared to do such stories. Their lodging and meals for two days will be provided, and they will receive a limited travel subsidy.

The training will include an introduction to Excel spreadsheet software; finding data and documents online; using the web as an investigative tool; getting data and documents from government agencies; beating them in open-records battles; an introduction to Access software for building databases; and working with Access to develop and produce stories. Training will be conducted by IRE Training Director Jaimi Dowdell, another experienced IRE trainer and IRJCI Director Al Cross. (Read more) To download an application, click here.

Leading historian of Appalachia to give lecture on the region tonight at the University of Kentucky

Dr. Ronald Eller, the leading historian of modern Appalachia, will give a public lecture about the region tonight at the  University of Kentucky as part of his 2011-12 Distinguished Professorship in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In "Seeking the Good Life in America: Lessons From the Appalachian Past," Eller will discuss what the future holds for the region, using its history as a foundation. He thinks Appalachia must undergo a deep transformation in values and behavior, along with the rest of America, in order to transcend the region's environmental, social and economic crises. He will explore how understanding the region's history is vital in building a broad social movement in the 21st Century.

A native of West Virginia, Ron Eller has taught and written about Appalachia for more than 40 years, and was director of UK's Appalachian Center for 16 years. He was chairman of the Governor’s Kentucky Appalachian Task Force, the first chairman of the Kentucky Appalachian Commission and as a member of the Sustainable Communities Task Force of President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development. He was co-principal investigator on the project that established the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog and is based at UK with academic partners at 28 universities in 18 states from Maine to Alaska to Texas.

Ann Kingsolver, director of the Appalachian Center and UK's Appalachian Studies Program, said in a UK press release that Eller's discussion is much anticipated. “He has inspired a generation of historians to take multiple perspectives into account, giving as strong a voice to local experience as to dominant state and industrial perspectives," Kingsolver said.

The lecture is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the William T. Young Library auditorium.  It is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spread of prescription pill abuse could increase efforts to fight it, helping rural areas where it began

West Virginia has the highest rate of prescription drug overdose deaths in the U.S., and about 10 years after a prescription-pill-addiction epidemic began in Appalachia, the problem is so bad in the southern part of the state that police say they can't handle it alone, Evelyn Nieves reports for Salon. (iStock photo) Pain management clinics and "pill mills" have exploded in number, feeding the flames of abuse. When one is raided, another almost instantly takes its place. Mingo County sheriff Lonnie Hannah says there are "spinoffs of drug abuse," including murder, domestic abuse, burglaries and child neglect, that are overwhelming local law enforcement.

So much "pilling," as they call it, goes on in southern West Virginia that everyone has a story about it. They know someone who's addicted, or someone who's lost their children, or someone who's died from overdose. They also are surprised that very little people outside the region know about "pilling," Nieves reports. Now the Centers for Disease Control reports the epidemic is spreading beyond the mountains. Pockets of pill abuse exist in Orange County, Calif. and Staten Island, N.Y., and the rate of nationwide abuse has increased by 430 percent. A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states the highest rates of pill abuse exist in Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Arkansas, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

"The spread of pilling may be the saving grace for Appalachia and the other mostly poor, mostly rural parts of the country where little white pills are leveling entire communities," Nieves reports. "They offer the cautionary tale: Political leaders, health professionals and community groups in these parts who have been crying for help can show the rest of the country what can happen when pilling runs rampant." Or, as Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, boils it down: "The fact that we now have a national epidemic raises the chance that strong action will be taken to thwart it, helping the folks in rural places who are fighting it and who have been victimized by it." (Read more)

Study: 2010 saw lowest teen birth rate since 1940

Teen birth rates fell to the lowest point in 2010 since record-keeping started in 1940, according to a Centers for Disease Control study. Almost every state saw a decline in teen births from 2007 to 2010. Arizona had the biggest drop at 29 percent; rates stayed the same in Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. Mississippi still has the most teen births, but its rate dropped 21 percent. The decline was experienced by all racial and ethnic groups.

The CDC report was released Tuesday, The Associated Press reports. Pregnancy prevention efforts are the reason for declines, study authors say. A recent federal survey found that contraception use by teens has increased. The overall teen birth rates has decreased 44 percent since 1991. The 10 states with the highest rates of teen births in 2010 are predominantly Southern: Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee. (Read more)

Postal Regulatory Commission denies most appeals of proposed post office closings

Almost 200 communities have tried to save their post offices from closure, but nearly all have failed, Steve Hutkins of Save the Post Office writes. From January 2011 to April 2012, the Postal Regulatory Commission issued orders on 180 closure appeals. Only 13 were upheld or sent back to the U.S. Postal Service for further review. The agency affirmed closure of the other 167. Hutkins says the number of suggested closures is "totally unprecedented." USPS closed 430 offices last year, and another 240 are expected to close when a closure moratorium ends May 15.

Hutkins says appeals to the PRC have historically been unsuccessful, but were more successful before last year. USPS has closed an average of 100 post offices a year since 1971, and fewer than nine were reported to the PRC each year. A third of last year's 671 proposed closings were appealed. According to PRC data, 93 percent of those appeals were affirmed, and only 7 percent were remanded. Twenty-five percent of appeals between 1976 and 2010 were remanded. Hutkins says "communities actually had a better chance with USPS" last year, when it withdrew 24 closure orders.

To be sure, USPS is likely facing direr straits now than it has since 1971. The agency is billions in debt, mainly because it was ordered by Congress to set aside money for pensions before employees retired. To heal the gaping wound, USPS decided it would close hundreds of "underperforming" post offices, mostly in rural areas. Hutkins says it's unclear why the PRC is denying closing appeals, when "the Postal Service getting its facts wrong, giving out misinformation, failing to follow its own guidelines, abandoning its obligation to provide a maximum degree of service to rural areas, demonstrating a lack of responsiveness to customer concerns, and giving people the impression that the decision to close the post office was a done deal long before the process was completed." (Read more)

To slow down illegal immigration, U.S. funds PR campaign in Mexico, Central American

The federal government is attempting a more proactive approach to stopping the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America: trying to tell the dangers of crossing the border on and in Mexican and Central American television stations and newspapers. Paloma Esquivel of the Los Angeles Times reports the outreach was initially shunned, but is now being embraced. Newspapers in some Mexican states and El Salvador and Guatemala are now running stories about boarder-crossing dangers.

Esquivel reports the efforts have been so successful that the stories have been circulated in U.S. cities with large immigrant communities. The goal is to get residents to convince family back home to not make the trip, especially across the Arizona border. "Our message is: If you do decide to come, don't come through Arizona," said Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame. "We're seeing a big increase in smuggler abuse; robberies with AK-47s and pistols, knives; rapes of women, more physical abuses — not only in the desert but in safe houses where people are tied up with duct tape."

The effect the campaign will have on migrant workers is unclear, but the number of apprehensions at the border is down to 340,000 last year from 1.6 million in 2000. Many experts say the drop is because fewer people are trying to cross the border. Some critics denounce the campaign for lack of transparency, but officials contend it has been successful. (Read more)

Roundup linked to body changes in tadpoles

The world's most popular weed killer can cause morphological changes in vertebrate animals, University of Pittsburgh researchers have found. Roundup, produced by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture, caused two species of amphibians to change shape in sub-lethal and environmentally relevant concentrations. The study is the first to show pesticides can induce these changes in animals with spines.

Tadpoles can change shape in the presence of predators by changing stress hormones, which makes their tails bigger. The same change was witnessed after exposure to Roundup, suggesting the weed killer may interfere with hormones in tadpoles, United Press International reports. Researcher Rick Relyea said the herbicide is designed to not affect animals, but this study proves "that they can have a wide range of surprising effects by altering how hormones work in the bodies of animals." He said it could affect other animals, and that the findings are important "because amphibians not only serve as a barometer of the ecosystem's health, but also as an indicator of potential dangers to other species in the food chain, including humans." (Read more)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Medicaid becoming a rural program in many ways

Medicaid has become a "rural program" in many ways, Jon Bailey of the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs reports. The most recent data show 16 percent of rural people are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 13 percent of those in urban areas. In 31 of 35 states, more rural residents than urban are eligible for Medicaid. Bailey writes the program "plays a critical role in providing necessary health care for millions of Americans," and is "critical for rural people and rural places."

Characteristics of rural places that make Medicaid important to them include high poverty rates, older populations and low rates of employer-sponsored health insurance, Bailey writes. Also, Medicaid is important to the rural health-care system because providers often rely on Medicaid payments to cover treatment costs. Medicaid dollars also contribute to rural economic growth by creating health-care jobs.

Children, low-income disabled people, low-income elderly and pregnant women are most reliant on the program in rural areas. About 35 percent of rural children under 18 are enrolled in Medicaid, and the rates of children with public insurance is highest in rural areas in 20 states. Rates of disability in rural places are 80 percent higher than in urban, and almost two-thirds of working-age adults living in consistent poverty have at least one disability, "making more rural residents with disabilities eligible for Medicaid," Bailey writes. (Read more)

European fungus blamed for white-nose syndrome in bats; now spreading west of Mississippi River

Scientists have linked a fungus from Europe to white-nose syndrome, which is killing bats in the U.S, The Associated Press reports. The mysterious bat disease was first discovered in 2006 in a cave in upstate New York, and has since killed more than 5.7 million bats, though some researchers think the actual number killed is 6.7 million. It was long thought that one or more invasive species was causing the disease, which disrupts bat hibernation cycles and subsequently causes them to freeze to death. It's killed mostly little brown bats, but all species of hibernating North American bats are at risk. (AP photo)

Scientists believe the fungus was brought to America by European tourists, though the exact transport method is not known. Humans aren't susceptible to the disease, but can transport fungal spores from place to place. White-nose syndrome hasn't caused widespread bat deaths in Europe, leading scientists to think bats there have immunity to it. Last December, The Washington Post reported that some scientists think North American bats may be developing resistance to the disease. The scientists say not much can be done to help the bats already afflicted with white-nose syndrome, but people can try to stop the spread of the fungus.

White nose syndrome has been found west of the Mississippi River for the first time, AP reports. The Missouri Department of Conservation says the disease has been confirmed in three bats north of St. Louis. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the spread could affect crops in the West because bats eat crop pests and assist in pollination.

Study: Food stamp program held down poverty rate

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, "substantially reduced the poverty rate during the last recession," according to a new Department of Agriculture study. SNAP reduced the rate by 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, "a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policy makers," writes Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times. The study found that SNAP lifted the average poor person's income about 6 percent closer to the poverty line. It lifted children about 11 percent closer. Both results mean poverty is less severe, Tavernise reports.

The program is one of the largest anti-poverty measures in the U.S., serving more than 46 million people, many of them either elderly or living in rural areas. The extra income SNAP creates isn't counted in government poverty measures, "an omission that makes it difficult for officials to see the effects of the policy and get an accurate figure for the number of people beneath the poverty threshold," Tavernise reports. Enrollment in the program grew by 45 percent during and directly after the recession, from January 2009 to January of this year, according to USDA figures.

Poverty researchers have long known the true effects of the program, and Center for Budget and Policy Priorities researcher Stacy Dean said the release of the report during an election year is its most interesting aspect. She told Tavernise that social programs are sustaining heavy scrutiny by Republicans right now, who think they create an "entitlement society." Florida Republican Allen West said in an email to supporters that SNAP isn't "something we should be proud to promote." (Read more)

Western states need to reduce coal-fired energy to meet carbon standards, study estimates

Western states can most effectively decrease greenhouse-gas emissions by replacing coal-fired power plants with other energy sources, including nuclear power and renewable energy, according to a new University of California study. Researchers say completely stopping the use of coal is the only way to reduce emissions to a sustainable level. A computer model of the U.S. electric grid was studied to determine options for states west of the Kansas-Colorado border.

Coal-industry supporters have warned that turning from coal will raise the cost of energy. The study estimated that increased natural-gas production, along with renewable sources, would increase electricity rates by about 20 percent. Researchers say that estimate might drop as the electrical grid is updated. "That is a modest cost considering that the future of the planet is at stake," researcher Daniel Kammen told Science Daily.

The study, which will be published in the journal Energy Policy, concluded that current carbon-reduction policy will not make electric-power emissions meet acceptable atmospheric levels, which requires carbon emissions to drop 54 percent by 2030. But the researchers also concluded that the "right mix of renewable energy sources can meet climate goals, given stronger carbon policy." (Read more)

Monday, April 09, 2012

'Pink slime' controversy oozes into pork industry

The controversy about lean finely textured beef, dubbed "pink slime," is now affecting the pork industry, Rita Gabbett of MeatingPlace reports. Demand for meat products is dropping, and pork trim, or scraps of pork used mainly in hot dogs and bologna, is more expensive than beef trim, pork industry analyst Steve Meyer told Gabbett.

Pork-trim prices are usually steady to strong as baseball and hot-dog season starts, but prices for most such products have fallen 22 percent since March, when the "pink slime" controversy began. Meyer said he didn't think the prices would have fallen so much without the controversy, but Gabbett reports it's not the only factor affecting prices. Exports of pork trim and domestic demand have been "held back by economic uncertainty," she writes.

Consumers made uneasy by the controversy could switch from ground beef to ground pork, which is typically used by sausage makers, but they are not, Gabbett reports. "Fresh ground pork is not a typical substitute for a hamburger on the grill," Gabbett reports. (Read more)

State officials' desire to redevelop a hemp industry thwarted by lack of distinction from marijuana

Many state legislators are championing industrial hemp production in their mostly rural states, but are facing an uphill battle against long-standing beliefs about the versatile plant that is most commonly associated with marijuana production, The Associated Press reports. Industrial-hemp bills were introduced in 11 states this year, but none have passed so far, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Kentucky, a Lexington seminar about industrial hemp production drew an "eclectic mix ... of legislators, liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives," AP reports. Kentucky was a leader in hemp production before the federal law against marijuana was passed in 1937, and its new agriculture commissioner, Republican James Comer, favors redevelopment of the industry.

The hemp plant can be used to make paper, clothing, biofuels, lotions and other products that the U.S. imports mostly from Canada. Two North Dakota farmers received state licenses to grow hemp in 2007, but never received approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. They sued, but a federal court upheld a lower court's dismissal of the case. Federal and state law-enforcement officials would lead to increased marijuana production,

"Short of the Congress passing a law defining industrial hemp differently from marijuana, I think it’s going to be a long, uphill battle to get anywhere," said National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson. Supporters say the hemp plant contains little tetrahydrocannabinol, the mind-altering chemical in the illegal drug, unless male plants are removed from the area to force female plants to keep producing THC-rich flower buds. (Read more)

College education unevenly distributed in rural U.S.; some places have self-reinforcing cycle against it

Though the percentage of adults in rural communities with college degrees has almost tripled since 1970, the rate of rural people attending college, 15.4 percent, is still far below the national average of 27.9 percent, Roberto Gallardo of the Southern Rural Development Center and Bill Bishop of the Daily Yonder reported recently. In a follow-up report for the Yonder, they say the distribution of rural college graduates across rural America isn't even, either; the South and West are lagging behind.

The Yonder map shows the percentage of adults with a college degree in all rural counties. Blue areas are above the national average of 28 percent with college degrees; light blue is at or above the rural average of 15.4 percent; tan is between 10 and 15.3 percent and orange is below 10 percent.

University of Missouri economist Judith Stallmann told the Yonder that the trend refelcts the types of jobs available in rural areas: those that don't require college degrees. "One of the problems that rural areas face is that in order to get a college education, young people have to leave," Stallmann said. "Once you leave, that introduces you to other opportunities that you might not have seen had you not left."

This can create a "self-reinforcing cycle" in rural communities. When young people leave and don't come back, the need for jobs requiring college degrees decreases, along with the chance to create such jobs. Both economists agreed that rural communities need to make themselves attractive to educated people if they are to survive. The five rural counties with the highest share of college graduates are in New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. The five counties with the lowest share are in Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Idaho. (Read more)

Grow Appalachia brings gardening back to region

Gardening was once a standard household task in Appalachia, but that has been eroded over many decades by the advent of a wage economy, declining payrolls in the coal industry, out-migration, the movement of women into the workforce, and the increasing prevalence of long commutes to work. A program called Grow Appalachia is trying to restore the knowledge, skills and benefits of gardening.

The three-year-old program teaches rural residents how to grow their own gardens, reports Megan Workman of The Charleston Gazette. The program is an outreach, educational and service project of Kentucky's Berea College. More than 200 families, or 700 people, have participated in the program across 14 counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia. Those families grew almost 130,000 pounds of food last year.
Neighbors helping neighbors is a hallmark of the program, Director David Cooke told Workman. Scott Butler (above) and his wife are among 20 families on Big Ugly Creek Road in West Virginia who are helping their neighbors learn the secrets of home gardening. Grow Appalachia provides all the tools needed, including seeds, fertilizer, soil testing kits and educational material. Participants also get to use community tillers and attend educational workshops.

Grow Appalachia workers hope to see several outcomes, including access to fresh food, decreasing health problems related to diet, and healthier cooking, Workman reports. Butler said gardening will also help people save money because what food isn't eaten can be frozen or canned, and it will help people be more active. (Read more)

Regional, political differences make passage of a new Farm Bill this year unlikely

The prospects for passing a new Fram Bill have dimmed this month, as regional divisions and partisan conflict over the federal budget have complicated negotiations, several members of Congress said while in their districts during the Easter recess.

"Southern farm interests and their champions on Capitol Hill put the rest of U.S. agriculture on notice at the end of last week that they won't play second fiddle to the Midwest," Agri-Pulse reports. "The lack of consensus among commodity groups on safety-net provisions" in the bill is the fault of corn and soybean interests, National Cotton Council CEO Mark Lange told cotton growers in Texas: "As long as the grains and oilseeds are trying to steal several hundreds of millions of dollars annually in support from rice, peanuts and cotton, we're not going to speak with a single voice" on the bill, Lange told the Plains Cotton Growers in Lubbock.

Lange spoke on the same day that Southern farmers said at a House Agriculture Committee hearing in Jonesboro, Ark., "to reject a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to risk management when it drafts the next farm bill," reports Agri-Pulse. (The weekly newsletter is subscription-only, but it offers a four-week trial subscription here.)

Also at the cotton growers' meeting, Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas said Congress faces “a lot of struggles with the resources we’ll have available to write the farm bill. We also have a political environment that will make it difficult to do a stand-alone bill.” So Reports David Bennett of Delta Farm Press, noting that Conaway said no new bill passes before the end of September, when the current one is set to expire, the current one will be extended “probably for a year.”

Bennett also notes that Rep. Bill Owens of New York said a "Farm Bill is not expected to pass this year because of the November election and typical pace of government in Washington," as reported by Denise Raymo of the Press Republican in Plattsburgh, N.Y. "Owens said both House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas and Senate Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson have worked hard to bring the Farm Bill in as a logical spending plan, but it likely won't go anywhere this year."

Keith Good of the FarmPolicy blog notes a report from Carl Burnett Jr. of the Eagle-Gazette in Lancaster, Ohio: "Don't expect anything major to be decided in Congress before the November election. That's a message U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers presented to a group of farmers Thursday."

Book traces idea of painting quilt designs on barns

A new book from Ohio University Press chronicles one of the fastest-growing grassroots movements for public art in the U.S. and Canada: the American Quilt Trail, which isn't a national trail but is clearly a national happening, aimed at boosting tourism and community pride.

Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement
by Suzi Parron and Donna Sue Groves, who says she started the movement, was published in March. The book tells the history of the movement and details Parron's travels across the country in search of local quilt trails.

Groves writes that helped start the first trail in Southern Ohio in 2001 by helping get one large square painted to look like a quilt pattern mounted on a small rural barn. The quilt paintings are placed on barns visible to motorists. "Today, quilt squares form a long imaginary clothesline, appearing on more than 3,000 barns scattered along 120 driving trails," says the website of Swallow Press, producer of the book. It says Parron documents "a movement that combines rural economic development with an American folk are phenomenon." Parron also maintains a blog about her quilt-trail experiences.