(CNN Student News) -- August 18, 2009
Public Option Debate - Learn about a potential shift in the debate over health care reform.
Souring Milk Prices - Find out why lower milk prices can present problems for dairy farmers.
National Park Stimulus - Consider the costs of repair projects at hundreds of U.S. national parks.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: How are milk prices making things sour for dairy farmers? We'll explain in today's recommended daily allowance of CNN Student News! I'm Carl Azuz.
First Up: Obama at VFW
AZUZ: First up, President Obama promises to increase help for America's veterans when they come home from combat. At a VFW, or Veterans of Foreign Wars convention yesterday, the president said supporting troops is an issue that "all Americans should be able to agree on." During his speech, the president said he plans to get rid of what he called wasteful programs that use money he believes would be better spent to support U.S. troops and veterans. And Mr. Obama repeated his pledge to have all U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
Azuz: Back at the White House, presidential officials say Mr. Obama is not giving up on the idea of a public health care option. We told you yesterday, the president is in favor of a public, or government-run, health insurance program, while some lawmakers strongly oppose this idea. As Jim Acosta explains, the president might be shifting his stance.
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JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After weeks of Congressional town halls gone wild, the Obama administration is now keeping its options open on health care reform, specifically, on the crucial question of whether Americans should have the option of joining a government-run plan, the so-called public option.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I think what's important is choice and competition, and I'm convinced at the end of the day, the plan will have both of those. But that is not the essential element.
ACOSTA: And there were no lines in the sand drawn by the president himself at his own town hall in Colorado.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a legitimate debate to have. All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it.
ACOSTA: The White House is spending less time pushing the public option and more time talking about "injecting competition" into the health care marketplace to drive down costs and give Americans more choices. The president is stuck. Keeping the public option would anger Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who insist a government-run plan would drive private insurers out of business. Dumping it would disappoint liberals who see a surrender on the public option as defeat.
ACOSTA: If he backs away from the public option, is that health care reform?
SARAH CHAISSON WARNER, HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICA NOW: It's absolutely not health care reform, no. We need the kind of reform that's going to improve the lives of families and communities everywhere.
ACOSTA: But this is not the last of the public option debate. Supporters and opponents of health care reform are spending tens of millions of dollars on commercials that are slated to air well into the fall; a campaign-style overdose of political advertising not seen since the election. Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.
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Is this Legit?
ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? A furlough refers to time off from work. Legit! A furlough is usually a temporary layoff or leave of absence.
AZUZ: It's something the city of Chicago is trying out in an effort to help its budget. City hall, public libraries and most other city offices and services were all closed yesterday for the first of Chicago's three scheduled furlough days. Officials say the plan could help save more than $8 million because when city employees are furloughed, they don't get paid. But emergency services like the police and fire department did stay open during yesterday's furlough.
AZUZ: City employees are one thing, but you can't really ask cows to take a furlough; they produce milk whether they're on the clock or not. And dairy farmers process that misk so you can buy it at the store. But as Deborah Feyerick explains, right now, that production process is costing the farmers more than they make.
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DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every morning bright and early, you'll find Alan Bourbeau and his two sons milking the cows at their farm in St. Albans, Vermont.
ALAN BOURBEAU, DAIRY FARMER: I've been doing it for 34 years. To be able to have a weekend off, it would be awful nice, but I cannot afford to pay an extra man right now just to work a few extra mornings a week just so I can have the luxury.
FEYERICK: And you're chief executive officer?
BOURBEAU: Yep, yep, chief of everything, debts and all! (ha ha ha)
FEYERICK: And the debts right now are soaring.
BOURBEAU: We're definitely running negative, yeah, $4,000 or $5,000, $6,000 negative.
FEYERICK: Every month?
BOURBEAU: Every month.
FEYERICK: Why? Last year, demand for U.S. dairy exports was high, and milk sold at a record $19 per hundred pounds, about two of these jars. That price has plunged to eleven dollars, less than what it actually costs dairy farmers to produce it.
BRAD KEATING, CEO, DAIRY FARMERS OF AMERICA, NORTHEAST REGION: This is certainly not overblown. This is the worst crisis that the dairy farmers probably have ever seen.
TOM GATES, ST. ALBANS DAIRY CO-OPERATIVE: Right now, farmers are in a position where they're paying to go to work every day.
FEYERICK: Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took the unusual step of raising support prices by about 15 percent for dairy products through October.
JOE GLAUBER, CHIEF ECONOMIST, USDA: Hopefully, these actions will suffice and get a lot of dairy producers over this rough patch they're going through.
FEYERICK: Maybe, maybe not. While the cost of milk is going down, the cost of virtually everything else to run a farm is going up.
BOURBEAU: Last year, my fertilizer cost was roughly $20,000. This year, my fertilizer's $25,000. I've done nothing different, except now I've got $5,000 extra.
FEYERICK: Like many farmers, Bourbeau has been borrowing from the bank and cutting corners.
BOURBEAU: We're trying to cut the grain, cut every cost we possibly can, but trying not to lose too much milk production.
FEYERICK: Sons Justin and Eric know every cow and every inch of land. What they don't know is whether there's a future here. Obviously, this is in your blood. Are there some days where you think about giving it up?
JUSTIN BOURBEAU, DAIRY FARMER: Yeah, more often now than before.
FEYERICK: Still, the Bourbeaus have faith things will turn around and that they'll keep the farm for generations to come. Deborah Feyerick, CNN, St. Albans, Vermont.
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Daily Discussion Promo
AZUZ: Don't just watch the news, talk about it! Our Daily Discussion can help get you started. Including the "Media Literacy Question of the Day," it all helps you understand today's headlines. It's totally free at CNNStudentNews.com!
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! What was established as the first U.S. national park? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) the Grand Canyon, B) Niagara Falls, C) Yellowstone or D) Stone Mountain? You've got three seconds - GO! In 1872, Congress established Yellowstone as the first national park. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: That first national park got a visit from the first family over the weekend as the Obamas toured Yellowstone. There are actually 391 U.S. national parks, and back in February, the economic stimulus bill set aside funds to help repair and upgrade a couple hundred of them. Kate Bolduan looks at exactly where that money's going.
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KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From Shenandoah to the Grand Canyon, America's national treasures. In need of some serious repair?
ROCKY SCHROEDER, PARK RANGER: As you come around the back of the cabin, you'll see that the siding is all rotted along the ground, which means that the dirt has come up to here, and moisture's gotten here and has rotted all this wood.
BOLDUAN: Rocky Schroeder is a park ranger at Prince William Forest Park about 35 miles outside of Washington, where more than a dozen historic cabins are slated for repair. One of 250 national parks getting spruced up, thanks to the economic stimulus.
SCHROEDER: The stimulus will help keep our visitors here, keep them happy and keep them coming back.
BOLDUAN: The park service estimates national parks across the country face a nine billion dollar backlog of work. The stimulus is supposed to contribute $750 million to that. So far, about 10 percent is in the pipeline.
DAN WENK, ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: It's camp grounds, camp sites, it's amphitheaters for evening programs, it's the bathrooms, it's literally everything that we have to make our visits enjoyable.
BOLDUAN: Nearly $56 million is going to repair Washington landmarks. More than $14 and a half million to Mesa Verde national park. And nearly $11 million to the Grand Canyon, to name a few. But when it comes to this money, you have to ask, how is money for national parks stimulus?
WENK: It's stimulus because we are putting people to work. We're putting people to work for the next two years. But it's also stimulus because we're creating a better place, increasing the visitor experience.
BOLDUAN: Some Republican lawmakers aren't buying it.
REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R) TEXAS: Well clearly, we need to improve our national parks. But nobody should confuse that with economic stimulus. I mean, frankly, that's just false advertising.
BOLDUAN: The interior department estimates this stimulus target will create about eight thousand jobs over two years. Many will be temporary jobs, but this park ranger is confident it's a worthwhile investment.
SCHROEDER: The national parks are our past, our history. Preserve it. That's what we've come from. It'll give an idea where we're going.
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Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, there's always lots of great food at the fair. But you don't have to eat it all at once! Actually, that's the point of this gastronomic gorging: to funnel as many funnel cakes as possible into your mouth in 10 minutes. The winner managed to cram his craw with nearly six pounds of cake. So what did he get, besides a very full stomach? $1,750.
AZUZ: Now that's a lot of dough. D'oh! We're gonna be serving up another show tomorrow. Hope to see you then.