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SARL Members and Alumni News

Senators start session with focus on bills bridging ‘two Vermonts’

VT Digger | Posted on January 9, 2019

Senate leader Tim Ashe challenged his colleagues on Wednesday to bring legislation to the table this session that will raise the standard of living for the “other Vermont,” those in rural areas or urban pockets struggling to get by. “I challenge each of you,” Ashe said upon being re-elected as the Senate president pro tem, “I challenge each committee you will serve on, and I challenge myself, to never let go of this one question, what can we do to improve life in the other Vermont?”

Panel addresses ‘What’s Right About Kansas’

Hays Post | Posted on January 9, 2019

“That’s the thing about rural Kansas,” Corie Brown wrote. “No one lives there, not anymore.” The Los Angeles author’s assessment on rural Kansas in particular and Kansans in general was the outcome of an odyssey across the state for an online article published in April 2018. Its title, “Rural Kansas is Dying: I Drove 1,800 Miles to Find Out Why,” set the stage for her thesis.She interviewed farmers, university professors, politicians, local food system supporters and farm group leaders about the state’s rural population and community decline and what could be done to mitigate it. She found little hope in their responses.While many felt some of her conclusions were accurate, many who were interviewed felt disappointed that she did not place more emphasis on the efforts being made to address the problems and challenges rural communities and farmers face. They ended up feeling used, and none more so than Marci Penner, who had recommended many of the locations and people for the interview.After asking people to identify what makes their community livable, the answers largely centered on its people. “People are engaged in a community and the dedication to its quality of life,” Hendrickson said. “This has to be measured, but nobody measures it. We don’t have a happiness scale, though that might be more important than the gross domestic product.”

29 states have minimum wages above the federal level

AP News | Posted on January 9, 2019

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has remained the same since 2009. Since then, 29 states and the District of Columbia have set minimum wages above the federal level. Twenty states have minimum wage increases taking effect around the start of the new year.

Roadkill studies aim to help animals cross the road

Daily Camera | Posted on January 9, 2019

t's more a question of "Where did the chicken cross the road?" At least, that is the question state transportation and wildlife officials hope to answer when they compile and release stats on roadkill in an effort to make sure animals get to the other side.Every year, the Colorado Department of Transportation releases a report on the number, type and location of every animal that did not survive its foray onto the highway. "We break it down by month, species, highway and if you want to go deeper, we even have certain stretches of highway," said Jeff Peterson, CDOT wildlife program manager.Peterson said the studies are primarily used to determine highways or areas that are proving especially dangerous for animals."The obvious thing is we're finding out where animals are not successful in crossing the road," Peterson said. "If there's a big problem with animals, we might recommend a bridge or fencing to make it better for the animals."The numbers also are how CDOT decides where to place animal crossing signs, which actually are based on statistics, Peterson said."We get our biologists involved to look at animal movement and corridors to try to find the problem areas to mitigate potential safety concerns with people and obviously animals," spokesman Jason Clay said. "Our collaboration with CDOT has been great. It's a huge safety hazard, and is bad for wildlife and very dangerous for humans as well."

Court rules Iowa Ag-Gag law unconstitutional

Southwest Iowa News Source | Posted on January 9, 2019

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa on Wednesday struck down the Iowa Ag-Gag law, holding that the ban on undercover investigations at factory farms and slaughterhouses violates the First Amendment.Iowa’s Ag-Gag law criminalizes undercover investigations at a broad range of animal facilities including factory farms, puppy mills, and slaughterhouses, preventing advocates from exposing animal cruelty and environmental, workers’ rights, and food safety violations.

Trump cuts off federal funds to California to fight ‘Forrest fires’

Roll Call | Posted on January 9, 2019

President Donald Trump said he has ordered FEMA to withhold funds from California’s state government until officials there “get their act together” fighting forest fires. But he tweeted he thinks that is “unlikely.”

NASDA announces new Secretaries/commissioners of agriculture

NASDA | Posted on January 9, 2019

NASDA would like to congratulate the newly announced commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture! Colorado: Secretary Kate Greenburg, Florida: Commissioner Nikki Fried, Illinois: Director John Sullivan, Michigan: Director Gary McDowell, Minnesota: Commissioner Thom Peterson, Oklahoma: Secretary Blayne Arthur, South Dakota: Secretary Kim Vanneman, Tennessee: Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, Wisconsin: Secretary Brad Pfaff

Michigan Attorney General to review pipeline deal at governor's request

My Northwest | Posted on January 9, 2019

Michigan’s new governor and attorney general moved to review the legality of a contentious state deal to run an oil pipeline beneath a crucial section of the Great Lakes. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her request for a legal opinion from Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who welcomed the opportunity and expressed concern with a law that facilitated the agreement between the state and Canadian pipeline company Enbridge. Such opinions, while not the same as legal rulings, are considered to bind state agencies unless reversed by a court. Both Whitmer and Nessel had questioned the deal before taking office.The Republican-led Legislature and GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder rushed to enact the law after Whitmer was elected in November. The new Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority then swiftly approved the proposal to drill a tunnel through bedrock up to 100 feet (30.4 meters) below the more than 4-mile-wide (6.4 kilometer) channel that links Lakes Huron and Michigan. A new segment of pipeline will extend through the tunnel, replacing twin pipes that have lain along the lake bed since 1953. They are part of Enbridge’s Line 5, which carries crude oil and natural gas liquids used in propane from Superior, Wisconsin, through northern Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.

California:It’s now legal to sell home-cooked food — but there’s a catch

San Francisco Chronicle | Posted on January 9, 2019

Jan. 1 was supposed to be the date when, thanks to a new law, California cooks could apply to their local health department for permits to sell food cooked in their home kitchens. But because of the wording in AB626, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in September, cooks may have to wait months or years for the opportunity to do so.The Homemade Foods Operations Act, introduced by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella (Riverside County), is the widest-reaching “cottage food” law in the country. It extends the state’s 2012 California Homemade Food Act to allow home cooks to sell prepared foods such as hot stews and frozen dumplings in addition to jams, candies and other so-called low-risk foods.The law targeted small operations by limiting the amount of money home-based culinary businesses could gross to $50,000 per year.

New York:New law boosts top speed for slow-moving vehicles to 35 mph

Herald Courier | Posted on January 8, 2019

Farm tractors and other slow-moving vehicles will be allowed to travel a little faster on New York roads under a new law. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation that raises the speed at which slow-moving vehicles can travel from 25 mph to 35 mph. Farm vehicles and construction equipment must have orange triangular signs indicating that they are slow-moving vehicles.