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SARL Members and Alumni News

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill To Limit Eminent Domain Use On Land Protected By Conservation Easements

Pennsylvania Environment Digest Blog | Posted on August 8, 2018

Gov. Tom Wolf Sunday signed House Bill 2468 limiting the use of eminent domain by government agencies on land with conservation easements for parks and open space purposes into law as Act 45.Two school districts in the state-- Cumberland Valley in Cumberland County and Lower Merion in Montgomery County-- have decided to use eminent domain to condemn privately-owned land permanently preserved by conservation easements held by local land trusts, over the objections of many residents of the communities. Other suitable non-preserved land in each vicinity is available, according to the bill sponsors.

The bill would require any government agency to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before using eminent domain to take permanently preserved land. The procedure is similar to that found in the Agricultural Area Security Law which requires additional scrutiny before condemnation of agricultural lands. The Orphans’ Court is given authority in the Donated and Dedicated Property Act over certain transactions related to publicly owned lands held for public uses.The bill exempts public utilities that condemn land (like pipelines) and exempt “emergency” condemnations from the provisions of the bill.

Wisconsin to hold Workshops Focusing on Farm, Food Entrepreneur Grants | Posted on August 8, 2018

Many Wisconsin farmers and food entrepreneurs have used grants to evaluate new crops or farming practices or to launch value-added businesses. Individuals interested in learning more about possible grant opportunities or other financial options are invited to attend informational workshops scheduled around the state this fall. Specific grant programs to be covered include:USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant program, which funds research and education projects that advance sustainable agriculture;USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program, a program administered locally by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) which funds endeavors that enhance the competitiveness of Wisconsin specialty crops;Wisconsin's Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant program, a DATCP program which funds projects that increase the demand for and supply of locally produced foods in Wisconsin; and DATCP's Farmer-led Watershed Grants Program, which provides grants that go to projects that focus on ways to prevent and reduce runoff from farm fields and work to increase farm participation in these voluntary efforts. In addition, the workshop will briefly cover USDA financial assistance and loan programs for farmers.  

Hawaii was once a local milk mecca. On Oahu, there’s just one dairy left

The New Food Economy | Posted on August 7, 2018

Naked Cow Dairy, located just inland from Waianae on Oahu’s leeward coast, about 45 minutes from Honolulu, sits on a flat patch of land dwarfed by lush green cliffs. At the far end of the property, past the clucking and bleating, sits the creamery. It’s the key to how Naked Cow continues where no other dairy does. A few small rooms, a guava-wood smoker built from a converted restaurant display fridge with clear doors, and an aging room adapted from a 1963 freezer box truck form the cheese- and butter-making operation. “You have to recycle in Hawaii,” laughs van der Stroom, hinting at the difficulties of doing business on the island. Today, diners at 20 restaurants around the islands and shoppers as far away as Colorado buy the 600 pounds of cheese and 800 pounds of butter produced by Naked Cow each month. But the path to survival for Oahu’s last dairy required a hefty amount of bushwhacking. When van der Stroom moved to the island 25 years ago to run a different dairy, there were 17 others in operation. But one by one, they were priced out by a system in which the Legislature set milk prices that didn’t fluctuate with inflation or changing costs. At the mercy of the single processor on the island, they each gave up. When van der Stroom was handed severance pay and tasked with closing down the final dairy on the island, she looked for a way to soldier on.

Cattlemen at heart: Creativity gives next generation of farmers a boost

The Dickinson Press | Posted on August 7, 2018

To help get new farmers on the land, in 2017 the Minnesota Legislature passed the Beginning Farmer Incentive Credit that provides tax credits to the owners of farm assets who either rent or sell assets to a beginning farmer.The new program includes incentives for farmers who sell or rent assets to those who are not close relatives – not children, grandchildren, spouses or siblings.It includes a tax credit up to 5 percent of the sale of assets and up to 10 percent of the gross rental income.Those credits can reduce the risk for older farmers to sell or rent to beginning farmers, Wohlman said.A Beginning Farmer Management Credit is available for beginning farmers who enroll in an approved farm business management program, as well as scholarships for farm management classes.

Dog owners leaving pets in dangerous weather in Maryland County could be fined

Baltimore Sun | Posted on August 2, 2018

Howard County pet owners could get bitten by fines depending on how they keep their dogs outside in excessive heat or cold. The County Council passed a bill Friday mandating that dogs must be protected from weather that could harm or kill them. It also requires proper shelters for dogs left unattended by owners for 30 minutes or more, specifying the size, type of bedding and access water at all times.

Medicaid expansion positive for Va. hospitals credit ratings

Richmond Times Dispatch | Posted on August 2, 2018

A national bond rating agency predicts Virginia’s hospitals and health systems will receive a boost to their bottom lines when the state expands its Medicaid program on Jan. 1.S&P Global Ratings said Monday that the impending expansion of health coverage for up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians will be “credit positive” for state hospitals by generally reducing the level of uncompensated and charity care they provide to people with no means to pay.

After Parkland, States Pass 50 New Gun-Control Laws

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 2, 2018

Something familiar happened in America in February: A gunman walked into a school, and shot and killed 17 students and staff in a horrific act of violence. But then something unfamiliar happened: State legislators — inspired by a movement led by the student survivors of that mass shooting in Parkland, Florida — started passing legislation to restrict gun access.This was a year of unparalleled success for the gun-control movement in the United States. States across the country, including 14 with Republican governors, enacted 50 new laws restricting access to guns, ranging from banning bump stocks to allowing authorities to temporarily disarm potentially violent people. State lawmakers still managed to expand gun access with at least 10 new laws in seven states. These measures — from allowing guns in K-12 schools to bolstering “stand your ground” laws — continued to carry weight in certain parts of the country, even as the gun-control movement steadily gained steam elsewhere.

New Mexico investigates immigration detention

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2018

Last month, Roberto de Jesús González spoke to state legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about his experience being held for three months in the Otero County Processing Center. “(I was) a victim of the private prison system,” he said — treated like an animal, poorly fed and given little respect by the guards. “This business is based on human suffering,” he told lawmakers. “That was my experience.” He wasn’t alone. At the hearing, convened by the state’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee to consider better oversight of private detention facilities, a line of detainees formed behind de Jesús González to describe their own experiences with medical neglect, solitary confinement and spoiled food. All the while, they reminded legislators that they were either asylum seekers — meaning they hadn’t broken any laws and were seeking shelter from persecution or violence — or people who had been detained on civil charges. Leila, an asylum-seeker from Somalia, said she understood the government’s need for detention centers. But, she added, “There should be some fairness in the way they treat people.”

NY plan will preserve food stamp use at farmers’ markets

Livingston County News | Posted on July 31, 2018

Food stamp recipients in New York will not see their ability to use their benefits at farmers’ markets interrupted this summer. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state and the Farmers Market Federation had reached agreement with Nova Dia Group, the mobile application vendor that was to close this summer, to continue processing farmers’ markets transactions that use food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.State officials and farmers markets learned in early July that Novo Dia Group, the company that had been processing food stamp purchases at markets, was closing July 31 – in the middle of a busy farmers’ market season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had contracted with Novo Dia, the only USDA-authorized contractor of a cellular-based redemption system app for smartphones, to process SNAP transactions. USDA did hire a replacement company, but that company does not provide smartphone capabilities.Novo Dia’s software is used by 40 percent of farmers markets across the country, and all 500 markets in New York.New York State has hired Novo Dia to continue to process SNAP transactions, though the deal offers only a short-term solution, Cuomo.The solution could also provide solutions for other affected markets in the country, according to Cuomo and Novo Dia President Josh Wiles.

Coalition Urges California Board to Reject ‘Unimpaired Flows’ Plan

Ag Net West | Posted on July 31, 2018

Urging the state water board to reject a proposal to redirect flows in three Central California rivers, a coalition of more than 50 agricultural, water and business organizations encouraged the board to renew efforts for voluntary agreements with affected water users.  “This unified response from groups representing farmers, ranchers, and urban and rural residents alike demonstrates the impact the water board’s proposal would have, and the need for the board to explore alternative methods that would help fish without the severe human cost of its current approach,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson said. The State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal next month. It would commit much more water in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers to “unimpaired flows” intended to benefit salmon and other fish.