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Insights of Christmas future?

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Anonymous

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December 25, 2005

Last modified December 24, 2005 - 8:02 pm



Barbed Wire: Rural poverty not always acknowledged
Jim Gransbery
BARBED WIRE

There are things we know intuitively, and, for the most part, we keep that knowledge hidden in a mental closet somewhere behind our right ear.

Like family skeletons, these insights are locked out of sight, out of mind because we know that running them up to the frontal lobe and into the daylight causes discomfort and pain for ourselves and our neighbors.

But once in a while, a reckoning is forced by an outside observer, who by sheer mustering of facts, serves up a large helping of reality - cold reality much like this winter.


Such is the case with a recent article in The Economist datelined Judith Basin County, Montana.

Regional poverty has moved out of the South to the Northern Great Plains, and eight Montana counties are at the bottom of the national list for average wages and salaries. An important element of the analysis is that none of these counties is home to an Indian reservation.

The residents of the eight counties are white and poor, though most would deny the latter.

Meagher County, named for the Civil War general who became Montana's territorial governor, is at the top of the inverted list of 10. Next comes Petroleum, Carter, Judith Basin, Garfield, a county each in North Dakota and Nebraska, then Golden Valley, Liberty and Wheatland. The average annual personal income in these counties runs from $13,485 to $14,441. The federal government sets the poverty level at $18,400 a year for a family of four. The criterion for the ranking is average wages and salaries as reported on federal tax returns filed for 2003.

The commonality of the counties is that all are east of the Continental Divide and agrarian - cattle, sheep, wheat and barley. They are depopulating by attrition.

Several years ago, a feed, seed and fertilizer supplier in Harlowton, county seat of Wheatland, described the dichotomy that is Montana.

John Lammers opined that if you lived in the "Golden Crescent," you had an economic, social, cultural and political life. If you lived outside that quarter moon of vitality, you had none of those elements and it was bound to worsen. It did, with seven years of drought.

The Golden Crescent is that area of Montana west of the Divide beginning in the Flathead Valley running south to the Bitterroot and then eastward to Yellowstone County that includes Billings, the "only one decent-sized city" in a four-state region, according to The Economist reporter.

Lammers was both realist and prophet, and the article alludes to a continuum that is sure to deteriorate in the short term.

The common denominator of federal farm subsidies links these counties.

The federal government spent an average of $10,200 per person in Judith Basin County in 2003 and $9,000 per person in North Dakota, according to the article.

The state office of the Farm Service Agency, which manages federal farm programs, last week released a report on how much money it distributed in Montana in fiscal year 2005, which ended on Sept. 30.

The numerous programs injected $405.1 million into the state's rural economy last year. It included $332.4 million in farm programs, mostly for grain subsidies, another $66.5 in farm loans and $6.2 million in other price support and conservation programs.

The eight counties listed above received a total of $23.8 million in farm program payments in FY05.

This week, in a tortuous dance of the mongoose and the cobra, the U.S. Senate and House made much ado about trimming the national budget by $40 billion over five years. Congress went home for Christmas without a final vote in the House on the spending cuts that focus on Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and farm programs.

This bill is just the trailer for the horror show being scripted by another cold reality. The combination of national debt, federal deficit, balance of trade deficit and international trade treaties is going to hammer rural America, especially the Northern Great Plains states of Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska as cited in The Economist article. That is the long view from London.

It's the short view out our own backdoor

 

Jason

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Funny how some of the wealthiest ranches are in that area as well.

7 years of drought would be the biggest factor in small farms/ranches having trouble. However at a certian point when are dry conditions no longer drought but normal weather?

Maybe land values and stocking rates should be managed at a drier level.
 

Silver

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Regardless of the reason, it's dang sad to see once thriving (or at least viable) rural comunities become economical impossibilities. I don't know what the answers are, but I do believe subsidies and handouts aren't part of the solution.
I dream of the days when a quarter section could provide a living for a family, when there were rural schools and post offices, but It's pretty obvious those are gone for good. But I hope that doesn't mean this is all a dead end.
 

cowsense

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OT- Unfortuanately you could just as easily tranfer that article across the border into areas of our province. Despite our petty infighting the cruel reality is that we have much more in common than we have in differences. The ravages of drought and bargain basement commodity prices are driving people out of the country faster than anything seen since the 30's. I recall reading an article several years ago that stated that some areas of the states were experiencing even higher population losses than Canada despite a higher level of govt. support. Subsidies are a band-aid solution and do nothing to address the underlying causes of rural depopulation!!
 
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Silver- cowsense, I sure agree with you on the subsidy issue--they have been and are a coverup for 50-60 years of both countries having inadequate or wrong Ag policies.....

I was thinking about Canada and the Canadian communities just the other day...Apparently we have 2 of the huge Walmart Super centers going up just south of the border along the hiline 300 miles apart--Williston ND and Havre MT.....With the weakening US dollar in comparison to the Canadian dollar, these could have a big impact on the small town store economies of southern Sask and Alberta...I know several of the Canadian business owners are already feeling the effects of a lot of US customers that used to take advantage of the 40 to 50 cent money exchange and buy in Canada...

But now Big Muddy can take a Sunday afternoon drive and buy everything he needs in one store in Williston......
 

Bill

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Oldtimer said:
Silver- cowsense, I sure agree with you on the subsidy issue--they have been and are a coverup for 50-60 years of both countries having inadequate or wrong Ag policies.....

I was thinking about Canada and the Canadian communities just the other day...Apparently we have 2 of the huge Walmart Super centers going up just south of the border along the hiline 300 miles apart--Williston ND and Havre MT.....With the weakening US dollar in comparison to the Canadian dollar, these could have a big impact on the small town store economies of southern Sask and Alberta...I know several of the Canadian business owners are already feeling the effects of a lot of US customers that used to take advantage of the 40 to 50 cent money exchange and buy in Canada...

But now Big Muddy can take a Sunday afternoon drive and buy everything he needs in one store in Williston......
There isn't a major centre in Canada that doesn't already have a Wal-Mart and the expansion of it's mega-stores is slated to move northward next year. The impact Sam & Co. had on the mom and pop Canadadian retailers was felt long ago.

Interesting reading about Wal-mart http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wal-Mart
 

Big Muddy rancher

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It's about the same distance to regina as williston and walmart has a store on south Albert street. won't make much change for me but I know lots of people drive from Plentywood to Williston for Walmart. the wife would rather go to williston rather then sidney just because the stores stay open later and walmart. Sidney is losing out because they don't have a walmart I think.



OT article states that Montana got this"The numerous programs injected $405.1 million into the state's rural economy last year. It included $332.4 million in farm programs, mostly for grain subsidies, another $66.5 in farm loans and $6.2 million in other price support and conservation programs.




How much did all of Canada get in BSE disaster support?
 

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