Rural America on the Chopping Block

It comes and before you even knew it was a possibility, it may be gone. That’s the political game being played and the game board is rural America. 

“It” is the money allocated by the Inflation Reduction Act specifically targeted to rural electric coops. That money would come to us under the Empowering Rural America Program.

Sounds good, right? The first catch is to encourage your Electric Cooperative to make a pitch for the nearly $10 million dollars set aside for each cooperative. There are twenty-four in Wisconsin alone. That could be $240 million coming into the state to help offset our electric bills and to aid our transition to clean renewables. Our electric coops need only to create a plan in order to ask for the money. The money is available to those who ask. 

But wait. You’ve heard of the deal made to keep the United States from hitting the debt limit. What you may not have heard is that one of the cuts Congress is asking for is the very same money that has not yet made it to us. It is, of course, the Empowering Rural America money.

Not only do you need to let your cooperative know where you stand, you need to remind your Congressperson that they are governing a rural part of the state and we could surely use that money. 

If that were all that there was to this story, it would be a simple one. But there’s more. The farm bill’s Rural Energy for America Program is also being targeted in the House along with eliminating funding for climate research. Same old, same old.

Nothing will change unless we all care enough to take action.

Listen to this WDRT Conversation with Allan Buss, Board President of Vernon County Energy District to learn more.

photo from wikipedia commons thanks to Carol M. Highsmith

Cycles Come and Go

And just like that everything is green again. Despite the chilly nights Spring has arrived. Birds are back and gracing us with song. Rhubarb and asparagus are abundant, and spruce tips will become a favored drink. Nettles are welcomed here and we cook them with our morning eggs. Later they’ll be dried for tea. The ongoing battle to keep free-ranging chickens out of the garden is only topped by the numerous groundhog holes that are popping up.

So it goes. Life has its cycles. And we have our choices. Putting up fencing or getting some groundhog recipes are high on the list of choices right now. Neither of which we’ll do.

There are practical skills learned by living with the land. At some point you must decide which battles are worthy of your time and which are not.

I think everyone should take at least a one-year stint of living on a farm and attempting to be sustainable. If you’re fortunate you’ll learn about what is precious, and if you’re really paying attention you may even remember what is sacred.

The notion of progress has defined us as “modern people”. The irrational pursuit of wealth has crippled our ability to care for one another. The simplest joys elude us as we join the rat race and leave the human race behind.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In our heart of hearts, we know it doesn’t have to be that way. But we’ve been conditioned to follow the leader to the exclusion of what we know is possible. It’s time for that to change.

Cycles come and cycles go. If we would allow the longing for simplicity and the need for peace to lead once more, this cycle of darkness would end.  

Valuing Human Life

A new farm bill will be drafted in 2023. In a public letter to senate committees that will negotiate the bill, fifty diverse organizations asked for an agricultural system that values human life.  Yes, in 2023, we are finally asking to value human life. 

The letter goes on with requests to transition to chemical free agriculture, and to support community based farming and food marketing systems. It asks for improved housing for farmworkers and to redirect federal finances from industrial operations towards farms that are using regenerative methods. Basically it’s asking to resolve all of the inhuman aspects of our chemically driven industrialized food. 

It’s a comprehensive letter and it represents thought leaders from a variety of areas. From fenceline communities who live and work within miles of hazardous chemical plants to food system workers and farmworkers, family farmers, businesses, scientists, and environmental health and justice organizations, all are human beings with skinny in the game. But then again aren’t we all?

There was another request that got my attention. It’s to amend the Farm Bill’s Conservation Title to include protecting human health in addition to soil health. Imagine that. All these years we’ve waited for the government to codify protecting human health in agri-business. Maybe we are remembering the ancient wisdom of food as the first medicine. 

Ever wonder how the chemical manufacturers and agricultural industries have been able to diminish our health and well being for decades? Thank lobbyists, advertising and Wall Street … but there can be no excuse. Where are we in all of this? Isn’t it time we all value human life?

Learn more at Coming Clean From their website: Coming Clean is a nonprofit environmental health collaborative working to transform the chemical industry so it is no longer a source of harm, and to secure systemic changes that allow a safe chemical and clean energy economy to flourish. Our members are organizations and technical experts — including grassroots activists, community leaders, scientists, health professionals, business leaders, lawyers, and farmworker advocates — committed to principled collaboration to advance a nontoxic, sustainable, and just world for all.

You can also listen to my conversation with John Peck, Executive Director of Family Farm Defenders on WDRT‘s show Conversations, December 8 at 9 am. Listen live or at the website.