Top Obama official: Rural America “becoming less and less relevant”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (Photo: USDA)

Politico is reporting that US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack got pretty intense at a gathering of farm belt leaders, telling them that small town America needs a wake-up call.

“It’s time for us to have an adult conversation with folks in rural America,” Vilsack, a Democrat, said in a speech at a forum sponsored by the Farm Journal. “It’s time for a different thought process here, in my view.”

The kicker?  Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, pointed to the “fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.”

Small town counties across the US voted overwhelmingly Republican in 2012, with the Democratic vote in that party of the electorate collapsing from 2008 levels.

Yet Barack Obama swept back to power, riding a wave of support in urban and suburban communities where most Americans now live.

According to Politico, rural Americans accounted for just 14% of the total vote.  But Vilsack’s talk wasn’t just about demographics and population trends.

Vilsack also chided farmers and small-town leaders for focusing on what he portrayed as red-herring issues.

“We need a proactive message, not a reactive message,” Vilsack said. “How are you going to encourage young people to want to be involved in rural America or farming if you don’t have a proactive message? Because you are competing against the world now.”

Farmers and small town leaders aren’t used to this kind of rhetoric, but this may be more harbinger than outburst.

As the nation becomes more and more urban — a trend that is continuing without pause — finding ways to communicate across cultural, geographic, and party lines will likely become more and more crucial for rural folks.

This also isn’t entirely about politics, or farming.  This morning, the Sunday edition of the Washington Post has a profile of New Castle, Pennsylvania, a small rust belt town that has fallen into generational poverty.

Her New Castle was the one that existed now: white, working class, with poverty that had deepened into the second and third generations.

Nearly three-fourths of the students in Tabi’s school qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, and one-third of New Castle families with children younger than 18 had incomes beneath the poverty level.

The main source in the Post’s devastating article concludes wearily, “This town is dragging everyone down.”

These portrayals are painful, but maybe it’s not a bad thing for rural Americans — whose world has been wrapped in mythology and bromides for generations — to grapple with some home truths.

Something went wrong a long time ago and in most places it’s not getting better.  Now that the potboiler of an election is over, I wonder if it’s possible to have an honest conversation about that.

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102 Comments on “Top Obama official: Rural America “becoming less and less relevant””

  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Arlo, in the interest of brevity I often throw ideas out in sketch form. So, yes, the human species evolved as omnivores. By the same token for the last 10,000 years or so very few societies have had meat in their diet to the extent that Americans have in the last several decades.There are lots of reasons we eat so much meat and to simplify a complex set of circumstances we are trained to like eating meat in the quantities we do. We can un-train ourselves and learn to eat it in a much healthier fashion. Everything in moderation.

    As for the Eskimos, traditional people living traditional lifestyles could afford to eat in ways that wouldn’t seem to make sense in today’s world. God only knows how many calories an Eskimo burned on an average day of dogsledding and whale hunting. I suspect that their descendants who are eating a diet more like the rest of us are in a different situation.

    And to your point about rural people driving older vehicles, you’re right. Rural people tend to be poorer and drive older cars. The good part is that you get more use out of a vehicle. The bad part is that you have to repair them. That’s life, what can I do about it? One thing I can do is support things like Universal Single Payer Health-Care that will relieve millions of poor rural people from the fear of being bankrupted by a health emergency.

    And is this really necessary?:
    “nothing ruins your day faster than finding our Juan the picker with his MDR TB hacked a loogie into your lettuce!”

    Why do you feel a need to denigrate people who are working really hard at a backbreaking job? Someone who is probably very conscientious in spite of very difficult working conditions. Next you’re probably going to complain that wealthy urbanites think rural people are lazy, ignorant slobs who sit on their porch playing banjo all day.

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  2. Paul says:

    “By the same token for the last 10,000 years or so very few societies have had meat in their diet to the extent that Americans have in the last several decades”

    Not so sure about that. Some native American tribes lived on a diet that consisted of a lot of meat (buffalo) for many centuries till we put an end to that.

    They may not have lived as long as Dr. Campbell (China project guy) would have liked but maybe they were pretty happy.

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  3. mervel says:

    Hey Ken, I was wrong, I should have said the US will overtake Saudi Arabia, not just the Bakkan play in ND,MT and Canada, I think the Bakkan oil field certainly is the game changer but you are correct.

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  4. mervel says:

    Within 5 years we will be the worlds leading oil producer.

    The fact is we have not come close to exploiting the worlds oil reserves because technology changes. No one even 10 years ago would have predicted the oil boom we have going on now, the idea that the US would be the worlds largest oil producer becoming a net exporter, because the chink in the Malthusian argument is technology is unpredictable. But for working people for those who care about manufacturing jobs, this is great news this is the kind of thing that union people and working people have been waiting for.

    I think the peak oil people are really scratching their heads about now, I think we were supposed to be out in 2017, not increasing production.

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  5. mervel says:

    These things could really really help rural America we are looking at long term prosperity for those states that have oil that have commodities that embrace them.

    I think NYS will fight oil production, which is a choice and I understand the concern. But the choice we are making is to keep people on welfare to keep working people poor (not everyone has a trust fund or is a scientists or is a organic farmer and craftsman), so we can have what we want. It is a tradeoff and NYS in general even with all of the blathering does not support lower middle class working people who need industrial jobs.

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  6. mervel says:

    Its why for all of our spending on government, Nebraska has a lower poverty rate than we do. It is a state disgrace for all of our taxes that we have so many poor people, that we rank 38th in poverty.

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  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, I didn’t say none and I think a careful study of the Pre-Columbian diet would show lots of vegetables, nuts, berries and grains. Where did tomatoes, potatoes and corn (we call it maize) come from?

    Your previous comment:
    Very true. Like I said for folks that have the money this is a good option. What the lower income rural folks need to do is get in their forty thousand dollar Chevy Volt and drive to NYC and use the tax rebate they got to buy some grass fed beef at the farmer’s market in Manhattan. Problem solved!”

    Obviously you are purposely missing the point. I was pointing out that many small farms that are near enough to urban centers are diversifying their revenue stream by selling directly to the end user or providing added value to their product. For instance some farmers are taking a portion of their milk and making artisanal cheese so that some portion of their income isn’t caught in a commodity market trap. A great benefit to many of these farmers is that they get direct contact with urban customers – many of whom are as interested developing a relationship with the people who grow their food as they are in the product itself. Many urbanites want rural people to succeed and are willing to put their buying power to work toward that end.

    For a farmer, that direct customer contact is a great way to help educate urbanites on rural issues as long as they approach issues in a respectful fashion.

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  8. Marlo Stanfield says:

    The Eskimos ate a lot of their meat raw or even frozen, so they were still getting a lot of the nutrients that the animals took in by eating plants, that get destroyed by cooking. Also, they ate a lot of organ meats, which are very high in all kinds of healthy stuff.

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  9. Marlo Stanfield says:

    I was actually doing a bit of reading on the whole what did primitive people eat topic over the weekend; what I found, basically, is that hunter-gatherers ate a lot of meat compared even to most modern Americans, because they spent so much of their time hunting and fishing. That’s what the men did, full-time. If you look at hunter-gatherer groups that survived till the modern era, they get as much as two-thirds of their nutrition from animal sources.

    It was when agriculture started, and people were spending their time farming instead, that meat consumption dropped significantly and grains became the staple.

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  10. Ken Hall says:

    Arlo T., I wonder how those magnificent 2% of the US who farm would make out at their selfless task sans the oil, fertilizer, machinery, seed stocks, ., ., ., ., and last but not least consumers of produced by the nearly worthless 98% referenced in this article. The author writes as if he feels he has been unappreciated by “them” and he wants them to know that they would be SOL without folks of honor, dedication and self sacrifice such as himself.

    If I were you, Arlo, I would rein in my consumption of such conservatism tripe and as Ann Landers was wont to say “wake up and smell the coffee”. We are all in the soup together, no one person or group can pull the whole load without the assistance of others, regardless of our “Yankee” heritage or not.

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  11. Ken Hall says:

    Mervel, The reason the US may overtake Saudi and Russian daily oil production rates is not that we will make gigantic leaps in our production but that Saudi and Russia production will be substantially reduced as their fields are expected to suffer from depletion woes while we remain steady or even increase production modestly.

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  12. Ellen Rocco says:

    Thanks to everyone for weighing in on this…and thanks to Brian for citing the Secy of Ag’s comments. The subject is near and dear to my heart. Forty years ago I left an urban environment to buy a small farm in the north country. While I have never made my living from farming, I’ve pretty much always used the property for farm activity (currently raising sheep and laying hens). I love the north country, and I’m often flummoxed by the problems we face.

    As much of the conversation here reflects, the ag situation in our country is complicated, there’s a briar patch of thorny issues tangled up with other challenges of the day–like long-term energy solutions.

    I appreciate how all of you take the situation seriously. I’m not being corny :) I mean this. Really good to hear from people like Arlo–and those of you who regularly participate at the In Box. I think solutions will grow out of smart rural people putting their minds and experience to testing and trying new approaches. I can guarantee this one thing: my family and friends back in Manhattan are not going to figure it out. We are.

    Very soon, we’ll be introducing a new food and ag blog here at The online conversation will be led by reporters David Sommerstein and Julie Grant. I’ll look forward to reading what you all have to say. Thanks, again.

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  13. Kirby Selkirk says:

    Wow!!! Just how off topic can this get? The story is about rural influence which has been a growing problem for decades. that’s why I am a strong believer and participant in my local Farm Bureau. My wife and I just returned from the New York Farm Bureau annual meeting in Albany and were both voting delegates. I’m a relatively small sheep farmer and I sat next to the owner of one of the largest dairy farms in the area during the delegate session. We each had one vote. We found more agree on than to disagree. We were all there to support and to strenghen agriculture by finding common ground and directing our lobbyists for the coming year.
    The only way we as rural residents can gain influence is to speak with a common voice.

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  14. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Knuckle- I’m not denigrating anyone. Apparently you missed the report some time back about just what I outlined- a picker with Multiple Drug Resistant TB spitting on the vegetables he was picking. When questioned about it, it was reported he said something to the effect of, “It goes to the gringos, who cares.” So let me turn the question around to you, why you you find it necessary to apply altruistic qualities and ethics to people who are in a backbreaking job they likely hate simply because they are poor?

    So being poor and driving an older car and having to pay to fix ever more complex systems in an effort to meet emissions standards is just your tough luck? And yet you defend poor Juan? Confusing.

    I have a feeling your version of “everything in moderation” is quite different than mine. Meat is a fine protein source and a natural one or omnivores. I’m not advocating an all meat diet, I’m saying don’t put your values on other peoples choices. If you choose not to eat meat, fine, I do. My farms main cash crop is meat in the form of lamb and pork. The livestock is an integral part of the system here and without the livestock I’d be forced to turn to chemical fertilizers and herbicides to maintain my fertility and open spaces. They eat the grass, I eat them, someday the worms will eat me and feed the grass. I find that oddly comforting.

    Direct marketing is great IF you live near a population center with a large enough, affluent enough group to support direct marketing idea and IF you have a product that will work in that paradigm and IF you have the manpower to get the product to market. I’m a one man show. I don’t have the option of, for instance, processing lamb here on the farm, driving to Syracuse and marketing it there. Yes, it’s an option, but only for a limited number of farms. A very nice young couple near me started a Community Supported Garden service a few years back. The idea was that people would subscribe int he spring for delivery of certain products throughout the course of the season. All the “progressive” farm papers have articles about how its a real money maker and how people are so interested in participating. It went over like a fart in church. Point is, lofty ideas don’t always work out.

    Marlo, good points. Processing meat, grains and vegetables is part of why we lose so much of the goodness from our food. OTOH, some processing forms increase some the good stuff, like fermenting and pickling certain foods. I can’t say I really want to sit down to a nice big supper of tripe or eat some raw liver or spoiled milk but the good stuff is in there.

    Ken, you apparently missed the whole point of the article- the media does not educate the 98% on the where’s, whys, hows, etc of their food, much less discuss the effects of policy, regulation, taxes, law, price supports and restrictions, etc. Of course farmers tend to look at themselves and their occupation as important, have you ever met an artist or musician or teacher or doctor that didn’t think their work was important and misunderstood? The difference is that those peoples professions are discussed at length and at depth in the media. Outside of specialty publications, you don’t see anyone discussing the effect of ethanol programs pushing feed prices, for instance, on lamb producers or the effect of the US “cheap food” policy on farmers at all.

    Yes, Ken, we are in this soup together, and it’s important that we understand where and how our most basic needs are met. The 98% has no clue. Most people can’t begin to comprehend whats involved in getting that slice of cheese and onion on that burger with it’s bun and that milkshake beside it. Lack of understanding basics like that leads to unwise decisions by the 98%.

    Ellen, if you’re into sheep the you know the problems we face. It’s the same problem dairy, beef, poultry and veggies face- marketing. The North Country, St Law, Jeff and Franklin Co in particular, are just too far from our population centers to get decent prices. I don’t know if you ever see the Lancaster Farming paper or check the price reports, but what you’ll get locally is laughable compared to what they get in other areas. Shipping to New Holland is the only way to beak even, $1.51 cwt for lamb compared to $.40 cents cwt locally last time I sent some. I will be a willing participant for any meaningful discussion on this subject.

    Kirby, I read a lot of the Farm Bureau stuff on their website. Just never got around to joining. I’ll take a look again!

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  15. PNElba says:

    “nothing ruins your day faster than finding our Juan the picker with his MDR TB hacked a loogie into your lettuce!”

    Mycobacterium tuberculosis is not easily spread by eating contaminated food.

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  16. Paul says:

    Good point.

    I always wash my lettuce anyway.

    Also, a french chef down on the lower east side is just as likely to hack something into my steak tar-tar

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  17. PNElba says:

    And get Toxoplasmosis from eating raw meat.

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  18. Walker says:

    “Meat is a fine protein source and a natural one for omnivores.”

    Except that it’s a calorie-dense food that comes loaded with cholesterol. The countries whose populations consume the highest percentage of animal protein– the U.K., the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and the U.S.– have five times the amount of breast cancer as people in countries like Japan, who consume the lowest percentage of their calories from animal protein. Men in Japan have one-sixth the rate of heart disease as American men. And it’s not due to genetics– when Japanese move to the U.S. and adopt an American diet, their disease rates change to match other Americans.

    It is certainly true that some populations of humans ate high proportions of animal protein in the course of human evolution. But you have to understand that living to a healthy old age is irrelevant to evolution– once you’ve successfully reproduced and raised your offspring to maturity, your health or illness in old age will have little effect on the survival of your genes.

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  19. Paul says:

    “Obviously you are purposely missing the point.” No your point is well taken. I was just making another one. That being that many trends are ones that only higher income individuals can afford.

    “But you have to understand that living to a healthy old age is irrelevant to evolution– once you’ve successfully reproduced and raised your offspring to maturity, your health or illness in old age will have little effect on the survival of your genes.”

    Very good point. Not only irrelevant but evolution favors getting rid of individuals that are unable to reproduce. That includes individuals that are past their reproductive age. Once you are past that age you are pretty much fighting against evolution. It is speculated that things like cancer and other similar diseases have evolved specifically to get rid of older individuals and thus improve the reproductive success of the younger individuals.

    We try hard to find things that have evolved to keep things like cancer at bay (tumor suppressor genes as an example). Problem is they are few and far between since they are in a sense detrimental from an evolutionary perspective.

    So like I said everything in moderation and enjoy whatever years you get.

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  20. Peter Hahn says:

    Arlo – that multi-drug resistant TB picker sounds like an urban legend (rural version).

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  21. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Maybe you’re right Peter, I did hear it on TV news. Maybe it was Hep A- Either way, I’m not spending days looking for the article. You’ll just have to trust me that I heard it reported that way.

    For the record, I’m not advocating people eat an all meat diet or a high fat diet or a low fat diet or an all vegetable diet. I’m saying stop trying to force your values on other people. If meat grosses you out, fine, don’t eat it. If you think it’s unhealthy, fine don’t eat it. No one is stopping you. I’m not trying to force anyone to eat meat or become a right wing, gun toting, nut job farmer either. But there are lot of people that ARE trying to legislate what we can eat and how much, etc. Do big sodas in NYC ring a bell?

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  22. Peter Hahn says:

    TB isn’t transmitted via contaminated vegetables. Dairy cows get TB from deer though (not sure how).

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  23. Peter Hahn says:

    lots of diseases are transmitted to vegetables via contaminated irrigation water and then to humans, but not TB. Mostly via fecal contamination (maybe hepA but more likely amoebas). I am not aware of any disease that can be transmitted by spitting on vegetables during harvest.

    Waiters are famous for spitting in the food of nasty customers. They probably transmit some diseases.

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  24. Paul says:

    Peter it was an off the wall comment but (I assume) he was not talking about bovine TB.

    I will note that bovine TB can be transmitted to humans. One way for it to be transmitted is through drinking unpasteurized milk. A favorite pastime of some of or more adventurous North Country neighbors. Now I will sit back and wait for the comments from the “raw” milk aficionados.

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  25. Peter Hahn says:

    Listeria is the big danger from unpasteurized milk I am told. (I agree, he probably wasnt talking about bovine TB). Didnt Pasteur invent pasteurization to deal with TB?

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  26. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul – arguably we humans need a few individuals living past reproductive age for “institutional memory” and group guidance etc. And there are plenty of ways evolutionarily to get rid of older humans – diseases and starvation being two obvious ones. Tribal warfare probably works as well since the elderly cant run as fast. Just saying we dont need to evolve cancer – we need to delay it until after reproduction. Thats the trick with cancer. Mice get cancer at age two.

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  27. Walker says:

    “I’m saying stop trying to force your values on other people. If meat grosses you out, fine, don’t eat it.”

    I know you weren’t, Arlo, and I’m sorry if I sound like I’m trying to force my views on anyone– I have little hope of converting anyone. And meat doesn’t gross me out at all– I still eat bacon and pepperoni from time to time, and I had veal the last time I went to a restaurant.

    But I do firmly believe that we would be a far healthier (and leaner) country if we ate a whole lot less meat.

    And yes, Paul, Peter’s right, we don’t need cancer to keep the species healthy! China and Japan are doing just fine with far less cancer and heart disease than we have. So if you’re using that as a rationalization for continuing an unhealthy diet, it’s not a very good one.

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  28. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Arlo, I’ve driven plenty of junk vehicles that I’ve had to spend money to fix. Most of the time if I could I did it myself to save money and it seems like having to fix a car outdoors is directly correlated with a sleet storm blowing in. Plenty of people felt sympathy but in the end it was just my tough luck. Purple unicorns didn’t come to my rescue and pull my vehicle underneath a warm sheltering unicorn to help me out.

    Why do you think I am against you or anyone else eating meat? When you look at the statistics for meat consumption you see that Americans eat – on average – a huge amount of meat. For many reasons most of us and the world as a whole would be better off if people ate less meat. But I am also a strong advocate for people eating meat from local farmers where possible, if they are going to eat meat. And I’m going to repeat what I have said here many times before …people should be spending more money for higher quality food. Farmers should be rewarded in the marketplace for providing good quality food. I presume you aren’t running a factory farm and that you treat your animals with great care — if that is the case, then YOU are the type of farmer I want to see succeed. I want you to get the best possible price for the lamb and pork you raise. I want people to eat less “ground beef” processed in Greeley, CO. I want them to eat your lamb. Jeesh!

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  29. Walker says:

    Two other points: there is a real possibility that meat is unhealthy primarily because of how we raise meat animals. (Milk is probably another story.) And it’s worth noting that T. Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study, grew up on a dairy farm. He stumbled on the connection between milk and cancer as a young researcher, and spent the next twenty years following that research where it led him.

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  30. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Peter, in another life I used to teach Communicable Diseases as part of OSHA training in the industrial setting. TB is usually spread by air when an infected subject exhales in close or closed proximity to another subject. However, like any infectious bacteria, any exposure is best avoided. They said for decades that the rabies virus could only be passed by body fluid to body fluid, right up until a researcher got it by breathing it in.

    If you wish to entirely discount disease ridden subjects hacking up phlegm onto your potential food, have at it. I’ll stick with the better safe than sorry path myself.

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  31. PNElba says:

    Let’s get one thing straight right now. If you don’t like bacon, you ARE a commie.

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  32. Walker says:

    I’ll drink to that!

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  33. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Between processing, vaccinations, unknown chemicals introduced through bougthen feed, wormers, drenches, medications and all the other things we do to keep ourselves and our livestock healthy it’s no wonder we have health problems. Add to that the fertilizers, herbicides, various GMO witch craft, more processing, preservatives, etc we use on our veg and grains…I wonder why any of us live past 25. I don’t know, or really want to know, where you all stand on human vaccinations, but just as a for instance look at the near epidemic rise in autism. Look at Fort Drum where I’m told the incidence is 1 in 25 boys. Consider all the vaccinations our military need to get combined with the ones their wives get and then the infant vaccinations they are practically forced to have. Does anyone really think there’s no correlation? Someone mentioned the prevalence of the chubby these days. Look at the crap we put in our bodies and you wonder why? Hey, I’m no better than anyone else. I have a real weakness for Sugar Creek pizza and Lipton Brisk iced tea, both loaded with goodness knows what. however, if I get sick from that crap I’m not about to blame anyone but myself. I don’t believe we need to legislate caloric intake or the size of soft drinks. I believe those who want to eat meat should be able to and those that don’t shouldn’t have to. The only possible argument against that idea I’ve seen is that offered by those in favor of socialized medical care/single payer/etc. who, rightly maybe, claim that it would hurt the collective to allow people to live in an unhealthy manner. But, since I’m dead set against that type of medical care I can ignore that theory.

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  34. Paul says:

    Peter, I think that Pateur was trying to find a way to keep wine from souring. Good man.

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  35. Paul says:

    “any infectious bacteria, any exposure is best avoided. They said for decades that the rabies virus could only be passed by body fluid to body fluid, right up until a researcher got it by breathing it in.”

    Arlo, I am very personally close to this incident. But even before this happened it was well known that inhalation of a high titre of virus could be enough for transmission. For example some caves can have a high enough level of virus for inhalation to transmit the virus. The “researcher” you note was also vaccinated and used protective gear. A very sad story. He survived, maybe one of the only known survivors ever of rabies. But he suffered permanent neurological damage.

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  36. Paul says:

    Interesting. I did a little searching after these comments and it looks like there have been a few documented cases of un-vaccinated individuals getting and surviving rabies. But I would not take my chances if I get bitten. Go get the vaccine! Wow, this is a huge tangent. Sorry.

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  37. Paul says:

    Knuck it sounds like you have seen the Monfort feed lots in Greely. In Denver we knew when it was going to snow. When the smell blew in from the NE we were in for it. Again, I agree, but you and I can probably afford these more local sources of beef.

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  38. Walker says:

    If feedlot beef is making us unhealthy, why subsidize it’s production?

    I can’t imagine anyone seriously trying to tell people what they can and cannot eat, but it certainly doesn’t make sense to subsidize the production of unhealthy foods.

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  39. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Walker, the subsidizing is part of the political game of limit and support. The pols try to keep both sides (donors/voters) happy by throwing money at the problem.

    Paul, amazing you should know this person. A very, very sad event.

    I don’t think most people understand the difference between regular old TB and MDR TB. Kind of liek the difference between your 3 year old accidentally smacking you with a plastic bat and getting run over by a 80K lbs tractor trailer traveling 55mph!

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  40. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Whoops, sorry Walker, I meant to add that if you can’t imagine anyone seriously trying to tell people what they can and can’t eat, then explain the NYC fat rules and soda rules and the nation wide school lunch debacle. Not only are they seriously trying, they are doing it!

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  41. Peter Hahn says:

    MDR TB is evidently relatively common in migrant farm workers (I dont know the numbers). Presumably its is a danger mainly to the other farm workers. More reason not to exclude illegal immigrant farm workers (and restaurant workers) from health care.

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  42. Peter Hahn says:

    Seafood processors in Alaska also are at risk. And the numbers of MDR TB victims is still evidently very low (but not zero) in the developed world. As I recall, the prisons in Russia are major sources of drug resistant TB.

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  43. Paul says:

    Walker, no food is very unhealthy for sure.

    You have to remember that low income people are the first people to get screwed by polices that make everything more expensive.

    We can sit here on our high horses and say everything should be made and bought local etc. etc.

    We can afford it.

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  44. Walker says:

    “…explain the NYC fat rules and soda rules and the nation wide school lunch debacle.”

    Arlo, I’d missed those stories. Still, it’s not so much telling people what they can eat, it’s telling restaurants and schools what they can serve. A kid can always bring junk food to school, and a diner can always stop at a 7-11 to get another soda.

    Paul, I’m not sure you’re doing poor folk a big favor by making unhealthy food cheap.

    I wish I had an answer to all these public health issues– seems like all the alternatives suck!

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  45. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    That’s some real fancy dancing around the issue Walker. Was that the Cha-cha or the Fox Trot?

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  46. Walker says:

    I dunno, Arlo, the footwork didn’t strike me as especially fancy. If I outlaw production, sale, and/or consumption of a food, that’s telling you what you can eat. We haven’t outlawed cigarettes, we’ve just taxed them heavily and squeezed smokers into a corner. It’s a world away from banning them outright.

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  47. Walker says:

    Paul, this is for you:

    ” genetically engineered crops, ostensibly designed in part to reduce the need for pesticides, have — thanks to pesticide-resistant “superweeds” — actually increased our pesticide use steadily over the last decade or so. (In general, fields growing crops using genetically engineered seeds use 24 percent more chemicals than those grown with conventional seeds.)” NY Times, Dec. 11, 2012 Mark Bittman

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  48. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Ohhhhh. okay. So making something more expensive or much harder to do isn’t the same as trying to stop people from doing something or to affect what they can access. Right, just like highly taxing cigarettes isn’t an effort to lower tobacco use, must be it’s an effort to encourage it? Riiiight.

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  49. Walker says:

    Arlo, you truly don’t see the difference between trying too discourage something and flat-out stopping something. This started with me saying “I can’t imagine anyone seriously trying to tell people what they can and cannot eat.

    You can still stuff your face with all the fat and sugar water you want, but it will be a little less convenient than it was. That’s as opposed to outlawing the sale, distribution, manufacture, possession and consumption. You think we should be encouraging behavior that drives our nation’s health care costs sky high?

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  50. Mervel says:

    Ken yes I think what you say is likely true, unless of course technology changes again and we find even new ways to extract oil and gas. But in the case of natural gas I don’t think anyone is saying production is going to flatten out.

    This is great news for the US, this is a whole industry that we are really good at, that produces manufacturing jobs and it will help the rural economies, it in fact IS helping the rural economies.

    However that does not mean it will help the political influence of rural states which is in a long run downward trend just due to urbanization and concentrations of populations along our coasts.

    However consider the real long run, how habitable our the coasts going to be?

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