Baucus: 'View from the Combine, Focus on the Farm Bill'

From my inbox is this nice letter from Senator Max Baucus (D-MT):
Dear Friends,
Last week, I spent the day working on a farm in Fort Benton. The view from the combine reminded me of what I learned growing up on the ranch: farmers and ranchers must take on an incredible amount of risk. (Read more in the Great Falls Tribune HERE)
Between the weather and prices, farmers and agriculture-related businesses have enough unpredictability thrown at them every day without Congress adding uncertainty. They deserve a 5-year Farm Bill they can count on to make business decisions for themselves and their kids and grandkids.
Our Farm Bill goals should look the same whether we're sitting in a combine or a Congressional Hearing Room. But, too often priorities get lost in the 2,000 miles between the Capital Building and the field.
I'm determined to take the stories I heard from Montanans last week with me as I head into final negotiations on the Farm Bill this week. As one of 12 Senators appointed to the joint Farm Bill conference committee, it's critical that folks back there know 1-in-5 Montana jobs rely on agriculture.
From Fort Benton, we took the conversation to Lewistown and to the Public Auction Yard Café in Billings. (Listen to the conversation on KXLO radio HERE and read more in the Lewistown News-Argus HERE)
And, we discussed the policy in Bozeman with some of the top minds in agricultural research and economics. (Read coverage from the Billings Gazette HERE)
I heard the same message everywhere: folks expect Congress to work together to focus on jobs.The Farm Bill is Montana's jobs bill, and I've got my marching orders. I've written 6 Farm Bills since I started serving Montana. It's my top priority to make sure that when I leave office, Montana farmers and ranchers have a strong 5-year Farm Bill they can count on.
If you've got ideas on how to make the Farm Bill even stronger for Montana, drop me a line or call. Together, we can make sure that what leaves a conference room in DC is as strong as possible for folks who run the combine back home. I can't do it without you.
Well, Sen. Baucus: get the Forest Service out of the Dept. of Agriculture, protect old growth and give tribes more forest and range land management roles. End funding for Wildlife Services. If crop insurance is to be subsidized tie benefits to conservation and environmental protection. Subsidized dairies should be prohibited from using Bovine Growth Hormone and antibiotics, have many conversations with Senator Tester about labeling engineered food and listen to his ideas. Add cannabis legalization to a farm bill. Engage with the environmental community in crafting a farm/food bill and just say no to the Republican Party, let it die then leave its entrails for scavengers in the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

Max: we wanted a single-payer patient protection act and got Republican health care instead; but, yes: this interested party will entertain ideas moving SNAP into the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Talk more about marriage equality, tribal sovereignty and education then accept my thanks for your service.


Teabaggers just want the right to consume

A few too many coincidences have been appearing in the propanda propaganda coming out of the demi-political phantasm now self-identifying as the TEA Party. It becomes readily apparent that the consumption of resources without the bounds of government (US, right?) is a divinely-endowed entitlement that should be unrestricted and guided only by one's own personal responsibility, caveat emptor.

The militarization of law enforcement is undoing democracy by firing teachers to privatize prisons.The disaffected Left goes to a state capital and dances on the People’s table in the governor’s office. The disaffected Right has guns and kills people.

President Eisenhower gave permission to the military/industrial complex. Ted Kaczynski gave permission to Tim McVeigh. Jared Loughner gave permission to the sovereign movement. Now, the Grover Norquist Republicans of the US are giving permission to the Scott Roeders and the Oslo attackers of South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming to extract, defund and defend.

It seems increasingly important to note that if government was really the problem, corporate independence would likely have ended life on Earth by now. The Ugliest Americans are those that insist that, "Time is Money" and that the ends justify the means. These people aren't patriots, they're gluttons using language that enables their insatiable desire to have more, consume more, and weigh more than the other poor slobs. Or, in other words, these people are just crackers for their TEA.

Pollsters are wizards, shamans, diviners. They toss numbers around the way astragalomancers once tossed bones to foretell events to come. [Roger Simon, Politico]
Life is a wacky deal, innit?
Caution should also be exercised when relating flying reindeer to the effects of the hallucinogenic (actually a deliriant) fly agaric mushroom, or Amanita Muscaria, which was, and presumably still is, consumed during shamanic rituals by the Lapps and some Siberian peoples. The mushroom is the quintessential toadstool, usually bright red with small white spots and has long been depicted in stories and paintings.
Caution, schmaution.

Amanita muscaria is widely distributed in the Black Hills around the 4th of July...watch yer eyes.


EWG: farm/food bill should include conservation requirements

The Pierre Capital Journal has been running a worthy series on habitat destruction in South Dakota:
Simple mathematics means the return from having grassland enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, for example, is nowhere near as profitable as plowing and planting that land, especially if the producer carries crop insurance. [Allison Jarrell, Pierre Capital Journal]

Want to advance a farm/food bill? Get the Forest Service and the National Grasslands out of USDA.

A thousand years ago before watersheds were drained and grasslands became cropland muskrat were so plentiful in wetlands on the Northern Plains their harvest sustained some cultures.

Allison Jarrell tells readers of the Pierre Capital Journal:
Over the past seven years, 1.3 million acres of native grasslands have been lost in the Prairie Pothole Region, and more than 451,000 of those acres lie within South Dakota’s borders. If conversion rates continue at the same pace, nearly half of South Dakota’s remaining native prairie grassland will vanish over the next 35 years. But what’s left of South Dakota’s native grassland is at risk due to several factors driving conversion – high commodity prices, crop insurance programs and unintended consequences of federal farm policy.
Introduced grass species creeping onto public lands are reducing diversity in the Prairie Pothole Region and threatening duck habitat:
North America’s grassland biome, exemplified mainly by the vast Great Plains, is arguably the continent’s most endangered major ecosystem, with widespread grassland declines attributed mainly to conversion agriculture.--US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Mary Ellen Kustin is Legislative/Policy Analyst for the Environmental Working Group. She writes:
With the cost to taxpayers of subsidizing crop insurance on the rise and millions of acres of fragile land going under the plow, it has never been more important to restore the conservation compliance requirement to federal crop insurance. Taxpayers are already paying more than $10 billion a year to help farmers insure their crops, and the price tag could easily get a lot higher. In return, they deserve a commitment from farmers to protect our nation’s soil and water resources.


Luna smiles on Middle Galisteo

The layers of light in New Mexico are indescribably enchanting: a Georgia O'Keefe image exists out every window. Those are the Sangre de Cristos in the background and Rio Galisteo is in the middle of the lower two pix.


Images of enchantment uploaded

Just above the tree line in lower middle of photo is Venus.

Trying out new longer lens but jittery image

Pinyon jays are the pigs of the feeder

Could have sworn this coyote flipped me the bird. Note the blooming cholla but ignore fuzzy image


South Dakota pondering rail solutions

Finally, a level-headed post appeared at South Dakota's Republican tabloid. No, it wasn't penned by its puffy, petulant owner who has now buried some real journalism under a pile of propaganda. As this interested party is unwelcome there maybe someone will join in here.

The author, MC, recognizes many of the problems of the Canadian Pacific railbed and does a good job defending the need for border to border freight rail service although coal is by far the commodity most being shipped. Maintenance West River is wildly expensive and rail real estate still has to pay property taxes. When the Missouri River ices over stress increases on bridge structures and creates pricey engineering challenges.

This interested party has shouted frustration with the train as it continues to complicate traffic in The Gap and sustains the risk of spills in downtown Rapid City.

There is an abandoned right of way that used to connect Sioux Falls and Rapid City with passenger service: it mostly parallels I-90, one of the largest carbon-based fuel black holes in the cosmos.

Minnesota Public Radio has been following fast-tracking development of light rail. Amtrak is reporting 300% ridership increases in some markets; its ridership funding is subject of one legislature according to Indiana Public Media. CSX is an underwriter of NPR: it's a railroad making money. Here are the percentages of return on investment for several railroads.

Richard Piersol at the Lincoln JournalStar:
Berkshire Hathaway's recent discovery that it owned a couple of short-line railroads in Iowa and Oregon has led to questions about the legality of its acquisition of BNSF Railway. Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, wrote a letter to the federal Surface Transportation Board essentially backing an organization of captive shippers, Citizens United for Rail Equity, which says Berkshire's ownership of the short-line railroads in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Oregon meant it needed STB approval before it bought BNSF.
Yes, there is railroad real estate connecting Santa Fe with Rapid City: a set of rusty, maybe-active tracks in the historic rail bed now owned by Canadian Pacific terminates on BNSF's holdings at Dakota Junction, Nebraska.

The speed limit on Nebraska 71 is 60 miles per hour on the 75 miles of bone-dry high prairie grassland between Crawford and Scottsbluff: it's potentially deadly during a blizzard.

US18/US85 between Hot Springs and Lusk, Wyoming is no better; besides, I-25, especially through the Denver metro, sucks at biblical proportions: so does flying through DIA with its likelihood of a strip search.

Construction on the estimated half-billion dollar Heartland Expressway connecting Rapid City with I-80 in Nebraska or Wyoming (nobody knows) is glacial if not completely stalled while traffic between the Black Hills and Denver continues to increase as does the volume between Denver and Santa Fe. Amtrak goes over (sometimes under) Raton Pass. The New Mexico RailRunner connects Santa Fe with ABQ and the Southwest Chief. Moving coal is hardly sustainable yet it supports rail traffic between Trinidad, Colorado and points north and south: why not move more humans by making more commutes and seasonal migrations ground-based?

From MC's piece:
Because railroad companies own their rail, the cost to lay and maintain rail is consider proprietary, and are rather unwilling to share it with me. The numbers I have found generally indicate the cost to install new rail ranges from 500,000 per mile to 49,100,000,000 per mile, depending on the obstacles and the location. Maintenance costs is some where between $1,000 and $500,000 per mile per year, again depending on the location and current condition of the track itself. That doesn’t mean they are going to spend that much each year, just an average cost. Keep in mind the railroad is suppose to cover all these costs, and not rely on any tax revenue.
Lifted from comments to MC's article, Thomas says:
Many many reasons the DME coal project didn’t work, but politics was the main reason. UP and BNSF fought hard but quietly in DC to ensure that it would be a long and expensive undertaking. Obama in 2008 campaign said that his goal was to bankrupt the coal industry and he nearly has. More locally, Bill Janklow went out of his way to try to ensure that Scheifer’s [sic] and Pressler’s DM&E stalled, bankrupted, and went out of business. After Janklow pushed buying the Milwaukee lines he said no to saving the C&NW line. Pressure and Schiefer [sic] pulled that off and Janklow never forgot. His personal interests out-weighed the economics of our state in this case and he worked against the coal expansion project and against a large South Dakota corporation and we lost jobs with the sale of DM&E to CP. DM&E also had a line less than 40 miles away from Canton that could’ve brought SE SoDak ag products to Chicago, the Great Lakes and ST Lawrence Seaway to other markets. That 40 mile link could’ve been financed by the DM&E’s Powder River Coal Line Driving shipping prices down by competing RRs and opening new markets to our farmers. Politics. Nothing more than politics.
Chicago is home to an infamous rail bottleneck that slows coast to coast service to a crawl. There is no north-south rail between Rapid City and the booming Bakken market; CP's line terminates at Colony, Wyoming. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) wants to restore the Hiawatha Line.

Troy Jones:
However, when DM&E proposed its improvement project, we had a knee-jerk ideological response (crony capitalism) which pushed the DM&E into foreign hands who had no real incentive in the well-being of the economy of South Dakota. It was foolish. My thought is to help engineer a new “DM&E” to buy back the track. The State/Federal government put together a financing package for rehabilitation of the track. The new owner then repays the State/Feds over time based on miles traveled.
If we do nothing, the migration from the non-metro areas will be huge. In 30 years, we will be 600,000 people with 450,000 living within 100 miles of Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Aberdeen, Watertown, Huron, and Mitchell will not total 50,000 and most of the towns between will be ghost towns.
Yes, overcoming the task of building a bridge at Chamberlain across (under?) the Missouri River and over the Pierre Shale should lead to passenger service being built on the abandoned Milwaukee bed between Sioux Falls and Rapid City including access for rural communities then connect with a future line built to Colorado's rail line. It's not hard to imagine a future without passenger rail of some kind in the I-29 corridor.

Imagine a time when portions or all track is elevated for wildlife egress through a future corridor between the Canadian River in New Mexico and an Amtrak station near the Missouri River in North Dakota then on to the Yukon River in Alaska intersecting with a tunnel under the Bering Strait connecting South and North America to Russia.

Follow Progressive Railroading or visit their site.


Daschle on tour with book

Tom Daschle, former U.S. senator from South Dakota, was one of the longest serving Senate Democratic leaders in history and the only one to serve twice as both majority and minority leader. His new book, "The U.S. Senate," is a guide to how the institution works. [Tuesday, February 26, 2013, The Diane Rehm Show]
Tom Daschle Looks Back At 1990s Shutdowns: Here and Now.


'Buy a day' at South Dakota's Shrine of Hypocrisy

"And One anonymous donor." Read it here.
The National Park Service would have done well to have reached the same conclusion before it dealt with Alfred Hitchcock, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the world of movie-making! Plenty of "expedient exaggerations" surrounded the filming of scenes for Hitchcock's acclaimed thriller North by Northwest at Mount Rushmore in 1958. While the controversy the Mount Rushmore scenes caused appears humorous today, it was, at the time, a serious matter for the officials of the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior and for South Dakota's United States senator Karl E. Mundt. The reason for the controversy lay in one simple fact: master film director Alfred Hitchcock had long wanted to film a movie involving the "Shrine of Democracy," but the Park Service had concerns about the memorials potential "desecration." Like Gutzon Borglum, the artistic genius who had preceded him into the South Dakota wilderness and whose creation he longed to use as a backdrop, Hitchcock would not let the federal government or its minions stop him from achieving his dream. [Todd David Epp, originally published in South Dakota History, vol.23, no. 3, fall 1993, pp. 181-196.]


South Dakota's GOP governor grovelling for disaster declaration...again

How can you make this shit up?

Candidate Dennis Daugaard drew gasps from a State Fair audience in 2010 when he said: “I am skeptical about the science that suggests global warming is man-caused or can be corrected by man-made efforts."
Remember, too, that these utilities are not Google or Facebook. They are not accustomed to a state of constant market turmoil and reinvention. This is a venerable old boys network, working very comfortably within a business model that has been around, virtually unchanged, for a century.--David Roberts at Grist
South Dakota's earth hater governor, Dennis Daugaard is on the phone grovelling before President Obama for a disaster declaration again. GOP hypocrisy seems endless: like wiping yer ass with a hula hoop.

We all know how Kristi Noem got to Congress.

South Dakota's earth hater governor wants government assistance according to the Sioux City Journal:
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a preliminary assessment of damages the recent ice storm caused to public and nonprofit property in southeastern South Dakota. Daugaard says damage to rural electric cooperatives and the removal of fallen tree limbs and power lines will likely be a significant part of the cost.
So, this is how red states finance infrastructure improvements. Expect the same swindle next year.

From the Rapid City Journal:
The request covers 28 counties where preliminary assessments show more than $7.1 million in damage to roads, culverts, bridges and other public infrastructure. The governor in his letter to President Barack Obama says soil in many parts of the state already was saturated before getting hit with winter snowfall ranging from 50 to 100 inches.
South Dakota earth hater legislator, Rep. Charlie Hoffman, whose operation received subsidies: "Obama just does not get it. Cut Sir Cut, not Tax!"

Rabid ape, Stace Nelson, who enjoys federal benefits after a career as a soldier of fortune and wants President Obama impeached: "Add up every dime feds take, deduct fed responsibilities, taxpayers getting back own money."

From KSFY:
Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones said the department is asking those affected by the drought what they could the department could better. Bones says many farmers have developed a safety net for drought conditions but livestock ranchers don't have the same assistance.
What a fucking surprise.


Conspiracy roundup: government shutdown edition

Public Policy Polling has been releasing results of surveys on conspiracy beliefs (calling them 'theories' is being too kind) among American voters. Most of it has been a hoot, especially with Tom Clancy's passing:

Iran, Vietnam, Cuba: Conspiracies R US.
John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles were the forefathers of using covert operations to upset foreign governments — with the aim of overthrow. [All Things Considered, NPR]
Netanyahu, AIPAC and Syria: here is more insight from former US Senator James Abourezk. He penned a rejoinder to earth hater state senator Dan Lederman in the Pierre Capital Journal.

New Mexico-based Valerie Plame appeared with John Hockenberry on WNYC's The Takeaway.


#gopshutdown adds risk to Earth

The federal government is currently shut down.
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