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Agriculture News

Legal challenge to Iowa ag gag law moves forward

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 1, 2018

A U.S. District Court judge has denied Iowa’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s “ag gag” law. In October, a coalition of groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Center for Food Safety, and Public Justice filed the lawsuit, claiming the law violates Iowans’ First Amendment right to free speech. The suit was filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

Senator, don’t tax irrigation water in Nebraska

Scottsbluff Star Herald | Posted on March 1, 2018

Any legislation that would increase the tax burden for Nebraska farmers deserves a quick and unceremonious defeat in the Unicameral. We’re speaking specifically about LB1022, a proposal to tax irrigation water. The idea makes little sense because farmers and ranchers already are paying more than their fair share in property taxes and are struggling to turn a profit, so why has Columbus state Sen. Paul Schumacher proposed taxing irrigation wells? Schumacher is regarded as one of the most intelligent state senators, but he’s casting doubt on his intellectual capacities with LB1022.The bill would create a one-cent tax on every 10 gallons of water pumped from an irrigation well capable of producing at least 5,000 gallons of water per day.The daily total for a 5,000-gallon well would be $5. That sum doesn’t sound like a lot, but multiply it times five wells, and a 50-day irrigation season would result in added taxes of $1,250.Schumacher thinks his irrigation tax could provide needed revenue for schools, which shows his heart is in the right place, it’s just not pumping blood to his brain. Added taxes could further cripple farmers and ranchers, undermining our state’s No.1 industry that contributes $11 billion annually to the Nebraska economy and is responsible for more than 31,000 jobs.

West Virginia Gas Companies Wined and Dined Lawmakers Before Scoring Favorable Fracking Legislation

Desmog | Posted on March 1, 2018

A country club luncheon. A $130 steak dinner. A whiskey tasting. Dinner at an historic neo-Georgian mansion. These are just a few examples of the many occasions last year when oil and gas lobbyists wined and dined West Virginia state lawmakers on key committees that craft fossil fuel legislation. Lobbyists representing industry players including natural gas giant EQT, Antero Resources, TransCanada, and multiple oil and gas trade associations wooed state lawmakers with thousands of dollars’ worth of food and drink throughout 2017, according to lobbying records

Soledad farm labor contractor fined $168K for 'inhumane' housing conditions

The Californian | Posted on March 1, 2018

A Soledad farm labor contractor has been fined $168,082 in penalties for housing employees in unsanitary and dangerous conditions following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The penalized company, Future Ag Management Inc., a farm labor contractor, provided illegal and substandard housing to 22 employees during the lettuce and cauliflower harvests in Monterey County last summer, according to the press release by the U.S. Department of Labor. The penalizations will resolve Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act violations.

U.S. judge halts California plan to require glyphosate warnings

Reuters | Posted on March 1, 2018

A federal judge has temporarily blocked California’s plans to require cancer warnings on products containing the popular weed killer glyphosate, in a win for manufacturer Monsanto Co. U.S. District Judge William Shubb said the warnings would be misleading because glyphosate is not known to cause cancer, according to court documents filed on Monday in California. He still allowed the state to keep glyphosate on a list of cancer-causing products.

Recently signed Iowa law will pour more dollars into farm-based water quality projects

CSG Midwest | Posted on March 1, 2018

Over the next 12 years, Iowa will commit an additional $282 million to water quality, the result of legislation passed early in 2018 after years of unsuccessful legislative initiatives in past sessions. Even with SF 512 now law, Rep. John Wills says, it still is only “the beginning of the conversation [on water quality], not the end” in Iowa. The measure was passed along a party-line vote, with opponents expressing concern that the bill does not do enough to hold accountable those who receive dollars from the state — either through the benchmark goals or the ongoing testing of waterways. No new tax dollars will be raised under SF 512. Instead, a mix of existing revenue sources will be used — for example, money from a tax on metered drinking water will gradually be diverted from the general fund, and, starting in 2021, some state gambling revenue will be used.

Spring is running 20 days early

The Washington Post | Posted on March 1, 2018

A longer growing season sounds great, especially given the dire warnings of food shortages resulting from climate change. Hang on, though, because a longer growing season is not always a good thing. The longer growing season is inherently related to food shortages. Really. We can see it happening even now. “Plant productivity has not increased” alongside the number of growing season days, according to the National Climate Assessment. There are a number of reasons for this.  Freeze damage caused by late-season frosts. This is straightforward. Just ask any citrus grower in the Southeast — a late frost or freeze can wipe out an entire crop, depending on the timing. Once plants have reached a certain phase of development, which happens earlier when winter is warm and spring is early, they are extremely fragile and susceptible to freezing temperatures. If, say, half of the plant’s blossoms are killed off by a freeze, it essentially cuts the plant’s productivity by half. Limits to growth because of lack of sunlight in early fall. Longer summer temperatures will keep the environment hospitable for crops, but they need sunlight first and foremost. As the sun angle decreases in the fall, plants lose the light necessary for photosynthesis.Plants need winter to thrive.

A corporate takeover of legal weed looms in California

High Country News | Posted on March 1, 2018

Many small farmers in California worry about this new world of legal pot. They’ve been the backbone of the industry through the drug-war years of heavy enforcement and heavy penalties, and they know all too well what it’s like to live as outlaws. They now fear that big agriculture will take over the industry that some of them pioneered and worked in for generations. Under Proposition 64, also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, after Jan. 1, 2023, there will be no state cap in California on the size or production amount of marijuana farms. David Bienenstock, former editor of High Times Magazine, fears that this lack of a size limit invites consolidation by corporations with deep pockets. What he’d much rather see are “as many small, sustainable, eco-friendly farms as possible.” Right now, there are an estimated 50,000 cannabis farms in the state of California. These farms are run by everything from multi-generation families who have worked the same land for decades, to recently formed groups of tech-industry dropouts. It’s no secret that people have flocked to the California hills over the last decade to join what is being called the new California “green rush.” As more states legalize the weed industry and corporate consolidation changes the market, only knowledgeable consumers will be able to keep small, boutique farms alive. That means the once-illegal folks on heritage farms have the chance to change the future of cannabis — if they can step out of the black-market they grew up in.

As milk prices decline, worries about dairy farmer suicides rise

| Posted on March 1, 2018

As the nation's dairy farmers struggle through their fourth year of depressed milk prices, concerns are rising that many are becoming depressed themselves. The outlook for the next year is so bleak, it's heightening worries — especially in the Northeast — about farmer suicides.  Agri-Mark Inc., a dairy cooperative with about 1,000 members, saw three farmers take their own lives in the past three years. The most recent was last month. It's a very small sample, but very sharp and disturbing increase.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farmers, as a group, have a higher suicide rate than any other occupation, even twice as high as vets.Experts say farmers face a kind of "perfect storm" of financial pressure and a sense of powerlessness in an industry where prices are set by the government, combined with social isolation, and a self-reliant spirit that may make them loathe to seek help.Farmers are taught to "cowboy up, tough it out, be a man," says Robert Fetsch, who's studied farmers and ranchers at Colorado State University. "Many are scripted to be afraid to reach out for help, and afraid to say 'I'm hurting.'"Gendebien says farmers also bear the weight of their family legacy.

Checkoff lawsuit prompts Utah to propose reorganizing beef council

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 1, 2018

Utah officials are working to reorganize the Utah Beef Council as the state faces a lawsuit from a rancher arguing that the council’s collection of a checkoff fee is unconstitutional because it supports political speech and lacks transparency.