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Federal Government
Supreme Court Declines On Gay Marriage Cases, Paves Way For Massive Cultural Change PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 05:25


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gay and lesbian couples are getting legally married in the South for the first time, crossing a threshold into a conservative region that long stood united against same-sex marriage.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday to turn away appeals from a handful of states including Virginia means marriage bans are unconstitutional throughout the 4th U.S. Circuit. And that means similar bans in West Virginia and North and South Carolina should fall as soon as judges in each state follow through on the appellate court's orders.
Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield County challenged Virginia's ban, wanting their California marriage to be recognized in the state where they are raising a 16-year-old daughter. Their victory shows that a region once considered inhospitable to gays has changed, Shall said.
"It says the South is a wonderful, welcoming and open place," she said.
But as with other civil rights battles, plenty of southern conservatives seem determined to fight to the bitter end.
"Until the courts rule on the matter, South Carolina will seek to uphold our state constitution," said the state's attorney general Alan Wilson, a Republican.
Initial reactions to the region's first legal gay and lesbian marriages exposed social divisions — between cities and rural areas, and between more progressive mid-Atlantic States and the Deep South. North Carolina's attorney general, for example, has said he will no longer fight a losing battle.
"The South, like the nation, is changing," said William R. Ferris, a professor with the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"We'll accept same-sex marriage just like we accepted desegregation and the end of slavery," Ferris added. "These other barriers that have burdened us for too long are coming down and the people in the South are open to change."
Polls show gay marriage has less support in the South than anywhere else in the country, but the ground is shifting. The latest AP-GfK survey, in September, found 34 percent of Southerners favored legalizing gay marriage in their state, up from 28 percent the year before. In the Northeast, 47 percent backed it, as did 43 percent in the West and 38 percent of Midwesterners.
Southern progressives saw Monday's weddings in Virginia as evidence that the arc of history is bending in their direction.
These court rulings can't help but "change the culture of the South," said the Rev. Nancy Petty, a lesbian of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. Her congregation was "dis-fellowshipped" by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992 after deciding to welcome gays and lesbians and bless same-sex marriages long before they were legal.
"I think these kinds of cultural shifts in society and in religion mean that we become a much more accepting, tolerant, diverse community," she said. "That's really important, because we have to learn here in the South how to live with our differences, instead of fighting over our differences."
Not everyone was celebrating. Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said the justices disenfranchised voters who banned gay marriage, and "left Virginians without a definitive answer."
Attorney Byron Babione of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented two Virginia clerks in their appeal, noted that it's still possible that another federal case will reach the Supreme Court and produce a different result.
Following North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's earlier announcement that he won't keep spending taxpayer money to uphold the state ban approved by voters in 2012, the state's Republican leaders in the state announced Monday they would seek to intervene, despite the high court's decision.
"The people of North Carolina have spoken, and while the Supreme Court has not issued a definitive ruling on the issue of traditional marriage, we are hopeful they will soon," said North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in November.
Virginia's 2006 ban on gay marriages also was challenged by Timothy Bostic and Tony London, who were given flowers by a pair of strangers — Larissa Boose Williams and her 10-year-old daughter Sedona, who arrived at Norfolk Circuit Court hoping to witness history.
"It's huge for it to be legal in the South. It's long overdue," said Williams, a Norfolk resident. "We've got those old Southern ways. People think they can vote on the equal rights of others. You can't do it. The whole point of democracy is to help protect the minority from the majority."
U.S. Commerce Department: August Construction Spending Revised Downward PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Monday, 06 October 2014 05:13

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - Releasing its latest figures on construction spending, the U.S. Census Bureau put spending at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $961.0 billion. The figure is 0.8 percent below the revised July estimate of $968.8 billion. 

The August figure is 5.0 percent above the August 2013 estimate of $915.3 billion, according to the data release from the Commerce Department agency.
During the first 8 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $623.1 billion, 6.8 percent above the $583.2 billion for the same period in 2013.
The Census Bureau broke down the data into dollars spent on public construction and dollars spent on private construction.
Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $685.0 billion, 0.8 percent below the revised July estimate of $690.3 billion. 
Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $333.3 billion in August, 1.4 percent below the revised July estimate of $338.1 billion.
Spending on public construction hit $275.9 billion, 0.9 percent below the revised July estimate of $278.5 billion. 
Educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $62.3 billion, 2.9 percent below the revised July estimate of $64.1 billion. 
Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $83.3 billion, 0.6 percent below the revised July estimate of $83.8 billion.
Last Updated on Monday, 06 October 2014 05:14
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers, Kids PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 03 October 2014 09:38

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the following commentary by Secretary Tom Vilsack about the relationship between schools, local farming, and healthy eating. 

"This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country.
For example, the Lake County Community Development Corporation in Bozeman, Montana reports a 40 percent increase in revenues to farmers based on school sales alone. The Southwest Georgia Project, a community development non-profit, notes that “We’re actually seeing our farmers have hope. The farm to school program allows them to see an opportunity for a sustainable living for themselves and their families.” Testimonials in a USDA video released this week highlight the degree to which farm to school programs support healthy eating behaviors among children and provide positive economic impacts to local communities.
Strengthening local food systems is one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic development, and Farm to School programs can play an important role. To support the expansion of Farm to School programs into more schools and expand opportunity for farmers and ranchers, USDA offers grants, training, and technical assistance. Since the start of our Farm to School Grant Program in fiscal year 2013, for example, USDA has awarded grants to 139 projects spanning 46 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 16,200 schools and 4.55 million students, nearly 43% of whom live in rural communities.
Just this week, I visited the George Washington Carver Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia and the Virginia State Fair to announce more than $52 million in new USDA grants nationwide to support the development of the local, regional and organic food sectors. You can learn more about USDA’s investments at www.usda.gov/results 
At USDA we’re transforming school food and creating a healthier next generation. We’re happy to celebrate in October, but we’re going to be cheering for schools with farm to school programs all year long. When students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm, they’re more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. I see the change every time I visit a cafeteria; students light up when meeting their farmer. They are piling their trays full of healthy foods, they are learning healthy habits that they will carry with them for life, and they are learning an appreciation for the American farmer that they will carry with them their entire lives.
Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 09:39
USDA Unveils New Programs To Help Farmers Manage Risk PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Monday, 29 September 2014 10:00

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - Saying that farming is one of the "riskiest businesses in the world," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has unveiled several programs to help farmers better manage their risk of losses due to circumstances beyond their control. 

The initiatives come as the price support program that was in place for decades comes to an end. With that subsidy, farmers were paid for their crops no matter market conditions or whether it was a good or bad crop year.
The new programs, Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), offer farmers protection when market forces cause substantial drops in crop prices and/or revenues. Producers will have through early spring of 2015 to select which program works best for their businesses, according to the federal agency. 
To help farmers choose between ARC and PLC, USDA helped create online tools that allow farmers to enter information about their operation and see projections about what each program will mean for them under possible future scenarios. 
"We're committed to giving farmers as much information as we can so they can make an informed decision between these programs," said Vilsack in a statement. "These resources will help farm owners and producers boil the information down, understand what their options are, and ultimately make the best decision on which choice is right for them."
Last Updated on Monday, 29 September 2014 10:01

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