Spring Mills, PA (Associated Press, November 25, 2013): Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill Monday that will pump billions of dollars into improvements to Pennsylvania's highways, bridges and mass-transit systems, a major achievement that could energize Corbett's 2014 re-election campaign.
Dozens of state and local officials looked on as the Republican signed the legislation in shivering temperatures at a ceremony in the parking lot of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Spring Mills along busy Route 322 near State College. Later in the day, Corbett appeared at a similar event in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown and planned a third in Pittsburgh.
"There is barely a spot in Pennsylvania ... that will not see an improvement because of this legislation," Corbett said.
Corbett praised lawmakers who approved the bill in bipartisan votes in both houses last week, contrasting the bill's enactment to the partisan gridlock in Congress that prompted a 16-day partial shutdown of the national government in October.
"Pennsylvania is a state that puts progress ahead of party," he said. "The men and women who stood for this bill understood that compromise is not surrender, but rather a path to success."
Corbett played down the increases in gas taxes and motorist fees that will be phased in over five years to generate at least $2.3 billion a year — an increase of about 40 percent from the $5.3 billion that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is scheduled to spend this year on highways, bridges and public transit.
Hollister, Idaho (Capital Press, November 22, 2013): Bob Lanting and his wife, Rhea, love farming and the rural lifestyle, but like most U.S. farm families, she works off the farm to provide added income and to obtain health insurance.
After they were married in 1971, the Lantings moved to his family's farm near Hollister, a tiny town with 272 people in southern Idaho. They had just graduated from the University of Idaho, he with a degree in animal science and she with a degree in home economics education. There they would raise three children.
"We could live on love and Kool-Aid when we were just married," Bob Lanting said.
Their operation, Lanting Enterprises, provided them with a home, food, fuel and money to cover the basics, and it allowed them to work together. But once the children — two girls and a boy — started heading off to college, the budget got tighter.
That's when Rhea Lanting decided to apply for a full-time job with University of Idaho Extension Service. Though she had been working part-time for the Idaho Beef Council, college expenses loomed.
Narvon, PA (Lancaster Farming, November 16, 2013): Farmers and industry representatives gathered on a frigid morning Wednesday at Raymond King's farm for a wide-ranging discussion of the cover crop test plot there.
Hosts for the event were Penn State Extension, the Lancaster County Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. King's farm has been no-till since the 1970s, when his father switched to no-till to stop deep gullies from forming in the fields during rainstorms. Cover crops and a riparian buffer have also helped Raymond King keep soil on the land.
The Narvon plot was planted Sept. 11. A similar cover crop plot in Manheim was planted two weeks later, but those crops are about one-fourth as mature as the Narvon crops, Extension agronomist Jeff Graybill said. "A week in the fall is like three weeks in the summer," he said. Farmers must use their last few weeks before winter wisely if they want to plant cover crops.
Dennis Eby of the conservation district said the Manheim plot did not get rain for two weeks after it was first planted, which set back the plants' growth.
Timing is important for many cover crops.
San Francisco, CA (Huffington Post, November 14, 2013): Urban agriculture is at the forefront of the eat local, locavore and agrarian movement. This is an exciting time, which may mark the greatest popular interest in farming, food production and policy in the United States. An age that some have coined a period of great downshifting or "voluntary simplicity" where more and more young rural and urban inhabitants alike want to return to the land and start producing food. Urban agriculture offers an opportunity for those urbanites who want to do so, get their hands dirty, volunteer in a community garden, raise some hens for eggs but aren't quite ready yet to abandon the creature comforts of the metropolis (or their urban salaries) and move to a farm in the sticks. This may be a convenient way for people to get their feet wet in the agricultural world, but does it offer a viable solution to the problems associated with our food production and distributions systems?
Many people in the urban agriculture community (myself included) would answer a resounding collective "Yes!" We must focus on systems and methods of producing food in our urban environment and at the forefront of that conversation should be technology adoption and policy changes to start producing more food on the abundant available space of our cities' rooftops.
In the past decade in the United States there has been a rapid rise in implementation of rooftop farming in New York, Chicago and Portland more so than anywhere else. Surprisingly, it has been slow to catch on in some cities across the U.S., specifically San Francisco. It is shocking that this wave has not caught on in one of the most progressive and food-centric cities in the United States.
The San Francisco Policy and Urban Research (SPUR) organization recently published a report to understand this phenomena. The report outlined the current political and policy landscape in San Francisco that may be thwarting the development of said projects. Further, the report made policy recommendations that could be adopted and used as a template for effective municipal green roof policy at the national level. (For more information see SPUR's "Greener Better Roofs").
Washington, DC (AP, November 15, 2013): The Obama administration on Friday proposed to reduce the amount of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply for the first time, acknowledging that the biofuel law championed by both parties in 2007 is not working as well as expected.
While the proposal highlights the government's struggle to ramp up production of homegrown biofuels that are cleaner-burning than gasoline, but is unlikely to mean much for consumers at the pump. The change would require almost 3 billion gallons less ethanol and other biofuels to be blended into gasoline in 2014 than the law requires.
The 2007 law tried to address global warming by requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of biofuels into their gasoline each year. But politicians who wrote the law didn't anticipate fuel economy to improve as much as it has in recent years, which reduced demand for gasoline.
Meanwhile, next-generation biofuels, made from agricultural waste such as wood chips and corncobs, have not taken off as quickly as Congress required and the administration expected.
Salem, OR (Capital Press, November 2013): Farmers in the U.S. may be in a more precarious financial situation than the official statistics indicate, according to a farm economist.
"We're showing a lot more debt than what the USDA does," said Allen Featherstone, an economics professor at Kansas State University. Financial surveys of farmers by USDA probably do a good job of capturing information about intermediate- and long-term debt, he said.
However, the agency's questions may not elicit accurate information about short-term debt due within a year to "non-traditional" creditors such as suppliers of seed and fertilizer, Featherstone said. "They probably don't have a true picture of the current liabilities," he said. Featherstone arrived at this conclusion by comparing the debt-to-asset ratios that farmers report to the USDA with data compiled by KSU.