Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eating Local

Eating local food is a slogan we hear everyday. Most of us have been doing it for a long time.
Here is a story about eating local meat (pork to be specific).

1. Female hogs or gilts are raised and bred. (They have been fed locally produced corn.)

2. They give birth. (Local farmers or their employees care for them.)

3. Young pigs (feeders) are raised by local farmers. (They are fed locally produced corn and soybean meal and also dried distillers grain which is a by-product of local ethanol plants.)

4. The hogs are fed a ration of ground corn and other nutrients. (The feed ration is prepared by local co-ops or feed mils and this provides more jobs for local people.)

5. If the livestock needs attention of a veterinarian, a locally based one is called.

6. Some of the hogs are processed at local slaughtering plants. (This provides employment for local truckers and workers in the plants.)

7. The manure produced by the hogs is applied to the farmer's fields. (This provides jobs for local crop consultants and manure pumpers. The use of manure means that farmers are not using oil based synthetic fertilizer. This manure is placed in the ground in the fall of the year so the nutrients are ready for the farmer to plant corn the next spring.)

8. The spring planting is done using the seed purchased from a local seed salesman and following the recommendations of a locally based crop consultant and the cycle starts all over again.

The story tells us that raising hogs or other livestock produces a value-added product (grain is worth more when fed to livestock. Livestock convert it into a more valuable produce and they do it locally.) All of this is what keeps our local economy ticking.

Besides that, the outcome is a MIGHTY TASTY PRODUCT. end

Friday, October 14, 2011

Moving Forward

One of my readers asked me how I would suggest that America move forward. The question came as a response to my comment about how "doing nothing" will not move our country forward.

I am like Will Rogers, "all I know is what I read". However, unlike Will Rogers, I get information from varied sources, not just the newspaper.

One of the actions I would suggest for moving our country forward is to place more emphasis on an educated workforce and do everything we can to see that our children enter school prepared to learn.

The next action I would suggest would be to invest in research and development. Testimony: the fact that the agriculture sector today is the one segment of our economy doing well is due in a large part to development of superior genetics in crops and livestock. This did not happen by our government doing nothing.

Caveat: these are long term fixes. I think we need quicker fixes so our grandchildren will be able to enjoy a standard of living at least as good as ours. (Probably not as good as our kids.)

The immediate action whose bandwagon I would jump on is not my idea. It comes from someone who knows a lot more about economics than I. Robert Reich has suggested the following. Even though our economy is under a lot of pressure and is in the tank, the United States is looked at by the world as being the safest place to put money and China, in particular wants to lend us money. (The fact that Europe is on the brink - who would not want to place their money with us for the time being.)

Reich suggests that the best thing Congress could do right now to help our faltering economy is to borrow money from China and use it to finance a huge infrastructure improvement program. He is talking roads, bridges, canals, airports, railroads, locks and dams, schools, etc. We all know how much these infrastructure improvements are needed. Reich contends that this will put more people back to work and thus spend more money and thus pay more taxes and businesses will need to hire more and this will help decrease the deficit. An additional benefit is businesses will be able to move goods and services more efficiently and less expensively.

Reich has said, "If Congress had half a brain, they would do this."

Admittedly, Reich is of the Democratic persuasion and the other side of table does not believe that this idea will work and stands by the reducing government as a way to put more people to work. This begs the question, government has been decreasing in size for a number of years and yet we are not seeing an increase in jobs. Also, big companies are sitting on lots of cash and have lots of earnings, yet they are not creating jobs. It would seem time to give the other idea a try.

Reich comes from a Democratic philosophy - but conservative people are of a similar view. David Frum said, "this is not the moment for government to be cutting back". He agrees that the situation is so dire that his normal policies need to take a back seat for the interim.

I do not like to see our country so deep in debt, but doing nothing will not get us out of debt and too many in Congress are - in Reich's words using "political ideology to substitute for thought". end.

Another Argument for Benefits of Zoning

We keep hearing in the news about the terrible wild fires in California. And, we know that California like many states has budget issues. Evidently to pay the high price to fight these fires, the governor has a plan to place a fee on land to be paid by the land owners to cover the costs of fighting fires.

This is not so unusual as in most rural areas, rural landowners pay for the costs of fire control through our township levy. The truth of the matter is that when we live in the country, we need to accept the fact that if a fire happens, we will lose the building. Our levy only pays for the control of the fire so it does not take other buildings.

In California, the proposal is to put a charge on every acre - so ranchers etc who need larger tracts of land to care for livestock or to grow crops will pay more than the rural homeowner who has two or three acres. As one writer indicated, this is hardly fair as there are some tracts of land that actually benefit from an occasional burn. It would appear that the problem is with too many homes in rural areas and not a convenient vehicle to pay for their fire protection.

This is a good example of why development is more efficient and accomplishes the best use of all resources when it is only allowed within incorporated areas where there is access to good roads for fire engines to get there, adequate water supplies and pressure, access to power etc. Of course the other side of this is that incorporated areas are also the sources of safe sewers and drainage provisions. There are many other arguments for this, like fewer miles for school bus to travel, easier law enforcement etc. But the subject is fire protection here. Time will tell what the decision makers in California come up with. But allowing houses scattered here and there in all areas is inefficient, costly, and not the highest and best use of the land. end

We Learned A Lot

We recently heard a presentation by a college professor who participated in an visit to colleges and universities on the West Bank. Some of our take aways were: when we hear the media talk about Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, we need to remember not to take those terms and paint a broad brush as to who these people are.

For example, some Arabs are Israelis - they account for about 1/5 of the population of Israel. There are Arab Jews, Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. There are Israeli Christians as well as Israeli Jews and not sure if there are Israeli Muslims, but probably.

A Catholic University at Hebron had an enrollment of 30% students being Catholic and the rest Muslim. And contrary to what we might think, many of the Muslim students were women.

We learned a lot and obviously there is much more to learn. The media could never give a fair and accurate picture of this part of the world. end

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Biggest Ever in History

We hear a lot of headlines and news comments about stuff being the largest ever in our history.
  • We have the largest budget in history!
  • We are collecting more taxes than ever in our history!
  • We are spending the most money we have ever spent!
  • And many more.....
My question is unless we start a plague and wipe out half of our population, why should we not have the largest ever? After all we have -
  • More students to educate than ever in history
  • Higher standard of living than ever in history
  • Opportunity for better diets than ever in history
  • Opportunity for better health care than ever
  • And many more.....