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SARL Members and Alumni News

Bill looks to legalize industrial hemp in Illinois

Illinois News | Posted on March 15, 2018

Hemp could be in play as a new crop option for farmers in Illinois if a bill expanding its production passes the General Assembly. Bill Bodine, associate director of state legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said Senate Bill 2298 would allow farmers to begin growing industrial hemp.“It is a bill that the Illinois Farm Bureau supports, though it is not our initiative,” Bodine said. “It would authorize the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp in the state of Illinois.”

Michigan proposes partnership to help pay for new Asian carp controls

CSG Midwest | Posted on March 15, 2018

Michigan has 3,000 miles of coastline and more Great Lakes water within its jurisdiction than any other state or province in the basin. But one of the big ecological threats to this freshwater system is well outside the state’s borders — in Illinois and Indiana, where invasive species of Asian carp would be most likely to enter the Great Lakes basin, via the Chicago Area Waterway System.Gov. Rick Snyder proposed that all of the Great Lakes states (along with Ontario) collectively pay for that $8 million in operations costs. His idea is for each jurisdiction to pitch in a percentage equal to its share of total Great Lakes surface water (see table). For example, 40.7 percent of the lakes’ surface water is in Michigan; that state would, in turn, provide $3.3 million of the $8 million.

Farm-income losses hurting Midwestern states’ budgets; no turnaround for sector in sight

CSG Midwest | Posted on March 15, 2018

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that real gross domestic product increased 2.3 percent nationally between 2016 and 2017, but agriculture subtracted from overall economic growth in every state in the Midwest — most notably Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “It’s a big deal in Nebraska when our farmers are hurting,” says Tony Fulton, the state’s tax commissioner and a former state legislator. Last year, Nebraska had to close a nearly $1 billion shortfall for the biennium that began July 1, and lagging tax collections opened an additional $200 million shortfall.States whose agricultural economies are tied more to dairy haven’t had as many highs and lows over the past decade, says Mark Stephenson, an economist with the University of Wisconsin. Still, the dairy industry is clearly facing struggles as well. Federal court data shows the Western District of Wisconsin, which covers more than half the geographic area of the state, had 28 Chapter 12 (family farm) bankruptcy filings in 2017, the highest number in the country. The Eastern District of Wisconsin had 17 cases and the Minnesota District had 19. Farmers are trying various ways to make it through this difficult period — for example, planting more niche and organic crops, accepting wind turbines on their property, relying on off-farm income, or raising chickens or hogs on contract (this latter strategy, though, requires taking out loans of up to $1 million). According to Jay Rempe, an economist for the Nebraska Farm Bureau, a growth in livestock processing also should help stabilize the agriculture sector.

Annette Sweeney, SARL Treasurer files paperwork for DIx's Senate seat

We Are Iowa | Posted on March 15, 2018

Former Republican State Representative Annette Sweeney of rural Alden officially announced her intention to run for a state senate seat vacated by the sudden resignation of Majority Leader Bill Dix on Wednesday morning, setting up a District 25 special election clash with Democrat Tracy Freese of Dike. Sweeney, a cattle and grain farmer by trade, had been serving as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Director of Rural Development in Iowa for the last four months after President Donald Trump appointed her in November, and she resigned from that position Tuesday afternoon. Since losing a 2012 primary to current State Representative Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) as a result of redistricting, she felt an itch to return to office someday.

Oklahoma lawmakers propose cutting tax credits for wind farms

Houston Chronicle | Posted on March 15, 2018

Oklahoma rolled out the red carpet to the growing wind industry two decades ago with the promise of generous state tax incentives and a steady stream of wind sweeping down the Central Plains. But with budget shortfalls that have persisted for several years, lawmakers have already scaled back almost all of the incentives and are now looking to impose a new production tax on the industry.

Alaska:Agriculture bills would prevent disclosure of some farm records

KTUU | Posted on March 14, 2018

At a time when farming is making spectacular economic strides in Alaska, the industry is pushing a pair of bills in the Legislature that would reduce the information that can be disclosed to the public about animal and crop diseases and imports. Farmers say they need the bills to prevent unscrupulous competitors from using public records to unfairly learn about their business practices, or to keep animal rights activists from harassing them. The two bills under discussion now, House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 164, are identical and were submitted to the Legislature in January by Gov. Bill Walker. The House version has passed its first committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and is in the House Resources Committee. The Senate version has passed its first committee and would go to the Senate floor for a vote after Giessel’s committee has finished with it.

Lawmakers make few tweaks to Oregon farm laws in 2018

Capital Press | Posted on March 13, 2018

A “cap-and-trade” proposal to limit carbon emissions didn’t pass muster during Oregon’s 2018 legislative session, comforting critics who feared increased fuel, fertilizer and electricity costs. Several other less-prominent bills related to agriculture also died in committee when the Legislature adjourned March 3, including a proposal to link depredation funding to the size of Oregon’s wolf population.The bill was supported by ranchers, who said it made sense to increase compensation for livestock losses and preventive measures as the predators grew more common.However, the proposal was criticized by environmental groups who claimed there’s opportunity for fraud and abuse in the disbursal of existing compensation funds.A proposal to clarify that water transfers are allowable between storage reservoirs likewise died in committee, though lawmakers, irrigators and other interested parties will be negotiating the issue before the start of the 2019 legislative session. Land use bills that would allow more commercial and industrial development on farmland in Eastern Oregon and the eventual urbanization of 1,700 acres of “rural reserve” in Washington County did not gain traction.However, land use laws did receive a couple minor tweaks.Lawmakers clarified that earlier legislation easing the construction of “accessory dwelling units,” commonly called “granny flats,” only applied within urban growth boundaries.They also made clear that equine therapy activities are allowed within “exclusive farm use” zones.Statutory language related to hemp production was brought in line with the 2014 Farm Bill, which is intended to allow Oregon State University Extension agents to help hemp farmers.

Washington lands commissioner: We need Dreamers

Capital Press | Posted on March 13, 2018

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz on Tuesday sought to humanize the uncertain status of residents brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Idaho House ag committee again OKs tougher trespass bill

Capital Press | Posted on March 13, 2018

After hearing from dozens of people over the span of two hearings lasting a combined eight hours, Idaho House ag committee members have approved a bill that would strengthen and consolidate the state’s trespassing laws. The House Agricultural Affairs Committee on Feb. 14 voted 11-1 to approve a bill by Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale, that amends the state’s trespassing laws.Boyle rewrote the bill to address concerns of sportsmen’s groups and others opposed to it. The bill requires people to get written permission slips from property owners before using their land and several committee members and people who testified questioned the practicality of that.

States consider blocking pesticides after EPA flips

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on March 13, 2018

A month after Scott Pruitt began leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the former Oklahoma attorney general rejected an Obama-era recommendation from agency scientists to ban a widely used pesticide from use on food crops. That means farmers can continue to spray chlorpyrifos on crops ranging from corn to cranberries. The change was welcomed by farm groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which said farmers need access to the chemical to stop infestations. But environmentalists, who had been working for years to get the Obama administration to crack down on the pesticide, were outraged. And officials in several states — all led by Democrats — now say that if the federal government won’t force the pesticide off their lands, they will. Seven states have sued the EPA over Pruitt’s decision. In at least four states, legislators have filed bills to ban the product.