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Thread: Stopping the exodus in the Great Plains

  1. #1
    Mich_Airport_Planner's avatar
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    Stopping the exodus in the Great Plains

    Wednesday’s USA TODAY top of the fold story discusses methods being tried to attract and retain citizens in the Plain States. The population is leaving these states in record numbers due to the lack of employment opportunities and the economic developers are struggling to attract businesses. States like Kansas and North Dakota are offering free building lots to newcomers and up to 5-year tax abatement.

    Some of these communities will also offer you down payment assistance on your new home if you have school age children and additional incentives for entrepreneurs and business owners. What is the catch? There isn’t one. It is interesting that these incentives are for ‘new construction’. However, these are the first new construction opportunities many of these communities have seen in years. I think its great. I have family in the Dakotas and the only thing keeping me from moving there are the limited number of jobs, but that could change. Thoughts?

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/...nd-cover_x.htm

    http://money.cnn.com/2004/12/22/real...sday_freeland/

  2. #2
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Let the plains depopulate naturally.

    In the Midwest our cities for the most part are booming. Fighting that natural evolution with a variety of government programs is just flushing money down the toilet. Sorry.

    Let the people go if they want. If they don't want to stay in the Midwest that is just fine with me and most of us out here. When I look around Kansas I see that only the really small towns are shrinking and most of them have been bedroom or ag-only communities for years. It is just a fact of life. Farms are much bigger than they used to be and 40 to 160 acres won't support a family like it did in 1900. The depopulation of the rural areas is proportionate to the rise of mechanization and globalization in agriculture. A Kansas farmer is in direct competition with an Argentinean farmer these days. You just can't make it anymore living on the farm unless you're a big producer and have small margins.

    Most of the small towns died or started to die when they started consolidating schools. Once the kids got on a bus and rode 45 minutes to Great Bend the reason to live in Radium went with them.

    So, if you want in-home nursing care, to see a dramatic play, or to buy a riding lawnmower you’re going to have to leave your burg of 600 people occasionally. You don't have a right to a grocery store or medical care within a 5 mile radius when you live in a county with a population density of 10 ppsm. And I shouldn’t have to pay for it. This leads me to my next point. There are certain people and organizations (Farm Bureau) that believe that farmers are God's chosen people and that the rest of America should gladly pay outrageous sums to subsidize that lifestyle. I disagree. The Bush farm program cuts in this new budget are the next logical step in modernizing American agriculture. Farmers will soon either be owners, partners, managers or employees in much larger corporate farms. There is no getting around that. Who knows, some of us out here may end up working for Cargil.

    Out here in flyover country one occasionally hears, “no farmers, no food.” I like to think of it as, “no farmers, no more whining” My message to the Journalists that occasionally write such stories: Things are just fine out here. Mind your own business.

    PS – Just for fun try to listen to Ag-Radio sometime, especially Ken Root’s show. You will be amazed at the level of desperation and paranoia.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    It is kindof sad, but I mostly agree with EG on this one. If an economic reason for being is not there, it simply won't happen.

    Another factor in the disappearence of these smaller 'dot-on-the-map' places is the ongoing consolidation of transportation services and their ongoing technological improvements. Many years ago, each of these little 'dots' had a grain elevator and complete rail shipping terminal. As time passed, it become more and more cost-effective to consolidate these little elevators and their shipping points into bigger ones, truck the grain to a bigger elevator a couple of 'dots' away for storage and then ship the grain by unit train (50-100+ car trains of only one commodity) when the price was right. The places that lost their elevators and rail service then began their descent in earnest, schools closed and the younger people moved on.

    Plains states, especially the western 2/3rds of Iowa, are just laced with abandoned railroads that used to serve all of those dots, many of which are now interesting to explore ghost towns, while the places with the larger elevators/rail service and the bigger cities with more diversified services and industry are doing very well indeed.

    Mike

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    In the Midwest our cities for the most part are booming. Fighting that natural evolution with a variety of government programs is just flushing money down the toilet. Sorry.

    Let the people go if they want. If they don't want to stay in the Midwest that is just fine with me and most of us out here. When I look around Kansas I see that only the really small towns are shrinking and most of them have been bedroom or ag-only communities for years. It is just a fact of life. Farms are much bigger than they used to be and 40 to 160 acres won't support a family like it did in 1900. The depopulation of the rural areas is proportionate to the rise of mechanization and globalization in agriculture. A Kansas farmer is in direct competition with an Argentinean farmer these days. You just can't make it anymore living on the farm unless you're a big producer and have small margins.

    Most of the small towns died or started to die when they started consolidating schools. Once the kids got on a bus and rode 45 minutes to Great Bend the reason to live in Radium went with them.

    So, if you want in-home nursing care, to see a dramatic play, or to buy a riding lawnmower you’re going to have to leave your burg of 600 people occasionally. You don't have a right to a grocery store or medical care within a 5 mile radius when you live in a county with a population density of 10 ppsm. And I shouldn’t have to pay for it. This leads me to my next point. There are certain people and organizations (Farm Bureau) that believe that farmers are God's chosen people and that the rest of America should gladly pay outrageous sums to subsidize that lifestyle. I disagree. The Bush farm program cuts in this new budget are the next logical step in modernizing American agriculture. Farmers will soon either be owners, partners, managers or employees in much larger corporate farms. There is no getting around that. Who knows, some of us out here may end up working for Cargil.

    Out here in flyover country one occasionally hears, “no farmers, no food.” I like to think of it as, “no farmers, no more whining” My message to the Journalists that occasionally write such stories: Things are just fine out here. Mind your own business.

    PS – Just for fun try to listen to Ag-Radio sometime, especially Ken Root’s show. You will be amazed at the level of desperation and paranoia.
    Bravo!! el Guapo, you just might surpass Chet as my favriote Cyburbian.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I agree with El Guapo as well.

    ....and thanks Official Planner. You made me blush!

  6. #6

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    Heck, even this commie, Islamofascist-loving Blue-stater agrees with EG on this one.

    Much of the Great Plains should never have been settled for intensive farming anyway.

    What do you think of the "Buffalo Commons" concept, EG or other Great Plains residents? I know it was proposed by an eastern professor, but it was interesting.

    My only caveat is that I don't wholeheartedly agree that it is good for two or three large corporations to control a major segment of the food supply. But, again, that's the way our economic system currently works, so....

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I agree with most of what EG says. I really don't mind paying subsidies to mom and pop farmers. I do object to paying millions to huge corporate farms. I say any entity that owns over say 2500 acres gets nothing. That would save a bunch right there. I manage one of those declining dots, although we are close to being stable. We are 35 miles from a MSA with 125,000 folks, so I can see a play or whatever with a 45 min drive.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    I agree with most of what EG says. I really don't mind paying subsidies to mom and pop farmers. I do object to paying millions to huge corporate farms. I say any entity that owns over say 2500 acres gets nothing. That would save a bunch right there. I manage one of those declining dots, although we are close to being stable. We are 35 miles from a MSA with 125,000 folks, so I can see a play or whatever with a 45 min drive.
    Farm subsidies is a interesting topic. I object, in principal, to restricting it to one group of people as it's unfair to everyone else currently in the industry. The government would basically be punishing the most efficient segment of the farming system and rewarding the less efficient mom and pop operations. And the rational for this would be what exactly: reminisce of a times past?

    I don't have a problem with funding being increased or decreased as along as the funds are distributed evenly throughout the industry in a fair manner to both the large corporations and the 'mom and pop' small business.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    Out here in flyover country one occasionally hears, “no farmers, no food.” I like to think of it as, “no farmers, no more whining” My message to the Journalists that occasionally write such stories: Things are just fine out here. Mind your own business.
    Are you serious?

    I don't know too much global agricultural trade and politics, but I do know folks in America need to eat, regardless if we live in the cities, villages, suburbs, or in the rural heartland. I want to understand your post, becuase to me, it sounds like you are rebuking the work of farmers throughout all of America, as if you are dismissing the food that they help to put on our plates. Are you really forsaking their role in American society, or is your beef with just the journalists?

    I ask only because I know you are a provacateur and a shameless polemicist!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    !

    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    Are you serious?

    I don't know too much global agricultural trade and politics, but I do know folks in America need to eat, regardless if we live in the cities, villages, suburbs, or in the rural heartland. I want to understand your post, becuase to me, it sounds like you are rebuking the work of farmers throughout all of America, as if you are dismissing the food that they help to put on our plates. Are you really forsaking their role in American society, or is your beef with just the journalists?

    I ask only because I know you are a provacateur and a shameless polemicist!
    I guess I have a bad case of Farmer Attitude Fatigue.

    Having lived in and worked with many of America's Agricultural Producers I have had to keep my mouth shut when in conversations with people whoe seemed to think the Protestant Christian Caucasian Land Owners/Producer is the center of the universe. I've been told numerous times that they are God's Chosen People and somehow entitled to a Currier and Ives lifestyle and good living - to be partially provided by the taxpayer.

    I've been told that because I was not born and raised in their little community that I would always be suspect. Yet local dirtbags were given more consideration.

    I realize I have not met all farmers, but based upon my many years in rural America many hold the view that the rest of the United States exists to keep that craddle of the American Heartland alive. But the biggest nests of racism and pronouncments of distain for their fellow man come from these pockets of noble people. The sons of rich farmers are even worse. Many are the most arrogant asssholes I've ever met!

    Do we need food? Yes
    Do we need a national policy to promote adequate food supplies? YES
    Do we need to support a lifestyle and do social engineering with our farm policies? NO!
    Do we need to keep on top of corporate farming to ensure they don't pollute the land and water and produce dangerous food stuffs? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY!

  11. #11
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    I don't have a problem with funding being increased or decreased as along as the funds are distributed evenly throughout the industry in a fair manner to both the large corporations and the 'mom and pop' small business.

    This will be good...

    So, should walmart get SBA loans then?
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  12. #12
    The farm subsidy program is one of the dumbest waste of money ideas to ever come along in this country. Why do we need family farms if they are not economicaly viable? If the family farm goes away it will be replaced by a more efficient producer. So what if that producer is a corporation. Should we subsidize the family corner store. Should we subsidise the Family wagon wheel maker?

    It is funy that so many of these so called FAMILY farms are in the republican voting counties of this country. The very same people who foam at the mouth about government needing to eliminate handouts are sitting waiting for hand outs!

    If it is a matter of unfair foriegn competition then use terrifs and trade laws but giving out money just to have this homey idea of a sweat little country family producing food is ludicrous.

  13. #13
    Mich_Airport_Planner's avatar
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    Never thought this would turn into a farm bashing thread.

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    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mich_Airport_Planner
    Never thought this would turn into a farm bashing thread.
    What else could it evolve into? The depopulating plains are in essence the depopulating farms. The cities are growing, just not as fast as the farms are receding.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally posted by Mich_Airport_Planner
    Never thought this would turn into a farm bashing thread.
    I have not seen any farm bashing on here. Just comment on crazy federal spending programs

  16. #16
    Mich_Airport_Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    What else could it evolve into? The depopulating plains are in essence the depopulating farms. The cities are growing, just not as fast as the farms are receding.
    I was seeking opinions on the use of incentives to retain or attract people to a certain area. The plains story got me thinking about it. I understand what direction you are coming from since I too have spent many days listening to farmer welfare issues and subsidies blah blah blah. But that was not my reason for the thread. Ah the joys of impersonal communication.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mich_Airport_Planner
    I was seeking opinions on the use of incentives to retain or attract people to a certain area. The plains story got me thinking about it. I understand what direction you are coming from since I too have spent many days listening to farmer welfare issues and subsidies blah blah blah. But that was not my reason for the thread. Ah the joys of impersonal communication.
    O'kay! Back to the topic at hand:

    Who the hell wants a free lot in Pretty Prairie Kansas if the nearest job in your field is 80 miles away? Not me.



    How was that?

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    This will be good...

    So, should walmart get SBA loans then?
    Why would they need a 150k loan? Banks would be more then happy to loan money to Wal-Mart since it's default risk is uhh. lower than a small business.

    Also there is a big difference between a loan and the free money handouts which occur in the farm subsidies, so whatever it is you're trying to prove, it has failed miserably.

  19. #19
    I was seeking opinions on the use of incentives to retain or attract people to a certain area.
    And that's exactly what you got...

  20. #20
    Mich_Airport_Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    O'kay! Back to the topic at hand:

    Who the hell wants a free lot in Pretty Prairie Kansas if the nearest job in your field is 80 miles away? Not me.



    How was that?
    Gee... thanks

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    It is possible, these days, to become very weary of the average, MIdwestern (and there are parts of the Midwest in strange places, like say the Central Valley of CA) farmer rap about the government (except of course for the farm program) and those who live in "urban" America, and how they don't understand.

    But having worked with farmers and ranchers for a very long time, I have to offer some defense of those who are good stewards of the land and who make huge contributions of their time/energy/money to their communities. There are a lot of them.

    I am also going to defend some farm programs. A lot of water quality and wildlife habitat protection has been funded by USDA over the years. The price subsidies are a truly troublesome topic, but the notion that simply cutting them off is going to make Rural America a better place is not founded on any facts. We need to make a transition to programs that help sustain the private stewardship of resources. As with all other developed nations that want to maintain a healthy rural landscape, we are going to have accept that such a landscape is, in part, a public good.

    I also have to say that while the dynamics of the de-population of the Great Plains and some other agricultural areas are not a mystery (Carl Kraenzel laid it all out in the 1950's in The Great Plains in Transition), that phenomenom does't necessarily lead to the conclusions some folks are drawing about agriculture.

    Yes, there is a corporate future. Which will only accelerate resource degradation and the decline in food quality. There is also a scenario in which we keep folks on the land, or perhaps in which we replace the whiners with dentist's kids who want to get back to the land, and in which communities and regions move farther in the direction of reasonable self-sufficiency and sustainability. While it is hard to find the folks who are trying to make this alternative a reality out in the MIdwest and on the Plains, they are there. And there are many many of them tucked away in the nooks and crannies of other rural regions.

    It will be very hard, given the resources available and the distances involved, to get truly sustainable agriculture going on the Plains and in the Midwestern Grain Belt. But abandoning whole landscapes to large corporations is not an acceptable alternative.

  22. #22
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    Why would they need a 150k loan? Banks would be more then happy to loan money to Wal-Mart since it's default risk is uhh. lower than a small business.

    Also there is a big difference between a loan and the free money handouts which occur in the farm subsidies, so whatever it is you're trying to prove, it has failed miserably.

    Ok my bad, I should have said SBA GRANTS not loans. The feds do dole out money to support small business, which is point I failed to make clear. There are many handouts targeted to certain groups.

    Another point I'll make being a farm kid and all. Small farms could be viable enough if all of you city folks wouldn't mind paying high food prices. Many of these subsidies are in place to hold food prices down, not to boost farm income. That is a point no one is making here.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  23. #23
    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    Ok my bad, I should have said SBA GRANTS not loans. The feds do dole out money to support small business, which is point I failed to make clear. There are many handouts targeted to certain groups.

    Another point I'll make being a farm kid and all. Small farms could be viable enough if all of you city folks wouldn't mind paying high food prices. Many of these subsidies are in place to hold food prices down, not to boost farm income. That is a point no one is making here.
    Thanks for the different prespective. I can see your frustration in it being a one-sided debate.

    In theory the farm subsidies do keep food prices down which is why I'm not totally against them, but for that same reason is why I believe the large corporations who currently do produce the bulk of our nations food supply should also receive a fair portion of those same subsidies.

  24. #24

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    Well said, giff57. As someone who routinely pays half again as much for food as usual - we buy virtually 100% organic, and buy local whenever possible - I know exactly what you are talking about. It is more expensive. But I know, at least I usually know, that somebody who is working hard and is dedicated to values I share produced the food.

    Ah, and a fair share for the corporations would be, IMO: zero? After all, those big corporations are only giving you cheap food because they can use your taxes to subsidize their seasonal labor forces. This is true of many products, but I happen to know a lot about potatoes. The principal reason that freezer pack or box of dehydrated spuds is so cheap is that you - lucky taxpayer, you - keeps the labor force that sorted, washed, and processed those spuds on unemployment and various forms of public assistance for 6 months plus every year, keeping them easily available for the "campaign" every fall.

  25. #25
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    This just in





    EDITORIAL OBSERVER

    Keeping Iowa's Young Folks at Home After They've Seen Minnesota
    By VERLYN KLINKENBORG

    Published: February 9, 2005

    ately the Iowa Legislature has been trying to find a way to solve a basic problem: how to keep young people from leaving the state. Right now, Iowa's "brain drain" is second only to North Dakota's. The Legislature is toying with a simple idea, getting rid of state income tax for everyone under 30. This proposal was front-page news in California, where most of Iowa moved in the 1960's.


    Let me translate the economics of this plan. The State Legislature proposes to offer every young tax-paying Iowan a large delivery pizza - or its cash equivalent, about $12 - every week of the year. But smart young Iowans know this is only an average figure. The more you earn, the more state income tax you save.

    If ever there were an incentive to earn your first hundred million by the time you're 30, this would be it. Never mind that South Dakota, right next door, charges no income tax no matter how old you are.

    Of course, there are serious questions about financing this tax break, which could cost as much as $200 million a year. The best bet would be to require young people to spend their dole on the Iowa Lottery.

    Iowans are resolutely practical about such proposals. One state legislator, quoted in The Minneapolis Star Tribune, said: "Let's face it. Des Moines will never be Minneapolis." He might have added that Council Bluffs would never be Kansas City. Another Iowan, when asked what the state needed to keep its young people, said, "An ocean would help." This is the kind of big thinking Iowa has always been famous for.

    But $600, the average yearly state income tax for Iowan 20-somethings, is not enough to undo decades of social erosion. The problems Iowa faces are the very solutions it chose two and three generations ago. The state's demographic dilemma wasn't caused by bad weather or high income taxes or the lack of a body of water larger than Rathbun Lake - an Army Corps of Engineers reservoir sometimes known as "Iowa's ocean." It was caused by the state's wholehearted, uncritical embrace of industrial agriculture, which has depopulated the countryside, destroyed the economic and social texture of small towns, and made certain that ordinary Iowans are defenseless against the pollution of factory farming.

    These days, all the entry-level jobs in agriculture - the state's biggest industry - happen to be down at the local slaughterhouse, and most of those jobs were filled by the governor's incentive, a few years ago, to bring 100,000 immigrant workers into the state.

    Business leaders all across Iowa have been racking their brains to think of ways to spur economic development. But nearly every idea leaves industrial agriculture intact. That means a few families living amid vast tracts of genetically modified soybeans and corn, with here and there a hog confinement site or a cattle feedlot to break the monotony.

    People love to blame the death of America's small towns on the coming of Wal-Mart, but in Iowa, Wal-Mart is just a parasite preying on the remains of a way of life that ended years ago. Every farming crisis - they seem to come at least once a decade - has shaken a few more farmers out of the business, consolidating land holdings and decreasing the rural population that actually depends on small towns to do business in. The complex connection between town and country that characterized the state when I lived there has long since been broken.

    There is not enough life in the small towns of Iowa to keep a young person, and there is no opportunity on the land. The state faces an excruciating paradox. It can foster economic development of a kind that devours farmland - the sort of thing that is happening around Des Moines. Or it can try to reimagine the nature of farming, with certain opposition from farmers themselves and without any help from the federal government, which has fostered industrial agriculture for decades.

    I used to joke that Iowa's two leading crops were rural poverty and crystal meth. But it's not a joke. The fact is that Iowa is a beautiful state. Minneapolis isn't that far away. Iowa would be a great place to live, if only the air and the water weren't polluted and you could be sure you wouldn't find yourself living next to 10,000 sows in a hog prison. There was a time, well within my dad's memory, when Iowa's agriculture was diversified and when the towns were rich in a culture of their own devising.

    I grew up in the latter days of such a town, and I find it hard to imagine a better place to have been a kid.

    My family moved away from Iowa in 1966, for reasons that had to do with my mother's health and not with economics or even the decline in pheasant hunting. I'd like to say I stared out the rear window as we pulled out of town, watching the state of my boyhood recede, but I didn't. We were going to California, which trumps Minneapolis. I was lucky to leave before I knew I would need to.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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