Nebraska’s economy has remained relatively strong, but recent growth has been slower. Measures of economic output and employment growth both slowed through 2017 alongside historically low levels of unemployment. Tightening labor markets likely have contributed to some of the recent slowdown as wage gains in Nebraska also have continued to accelerate. Though unemployment has remained low across the state, economic activity in rural areas has continued to weaken alongside persistently low agricultural commodity prices.
A federal district judge in the Southern District of Iowa recently allowed a First Amendment challenge to the state’s “Ag Gag” law to go forward. The law, passed in 2012, makes “agricultural production facility fraud” a crime. A person is guilty of this charge if he or she willfully obtains access to an agricultural production facility by false pretenses or makes a false statement as part of an application or employment agreement with the intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner of the agricultural production facility. The lawsuit, filed in October 2017 by several animal rights groups, claims that the statute violates the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The court dismissed a Fourteenth Amendment challenge upon finding that the State’s rationale for the law–the need to prevent trespasses at ag facilities and preventing employment fraud–was sufficient to survive rational basis review. The First Amendment claim, however, was allowed to proceed.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has appointed a lawmaker to be the state's new agriculture commissioner. #Rep. Andy Gipson will succeed fellow Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith once she moves to the U.S. Senate. He will serve the rest of the current commissioner's term, which ends in January 2020.
After years of skirmishes, the most comprehensive statewide drug take-back program in the nation became law late last week in Washington, potentially creating a new template for states to press the pharmaceutical industry to underwrite these efforts. The Washington law requires drug makers to fully finance and operate the program, which is designed to lower the threat of drug abuse stemming from medicines that linger in households and also reduce contamination in drinking water.
Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill into law Tuesday that will require state residents to work or volunteer to receive food stamps. The requirement will begin Oct. 1 and will apply to people who use the program formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The program funds up to $192 for food a month, or $6.40 a day.To continue receiving SNAP benefits, West Virginia residents on the program between the ages of 18 to 49 will need to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week. People with disabilities, parents with dependent children, pregnant women, and veterans will be exempt.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law the largest teacher pay raise in the state's history and a massive package of tax hikes to pay for the plan. Flanked by educators and GOP leaders, Fallin on Thursday signed a bill to give public school teachers raises of between 15 and 18 percent, an average boost of about $6,100 a year. She also signed a bill to increase taxes on cigarettes, motor fuel, lodging and oil and gas production that would raise an estimated $450 million for lawmakers to spend.
Gov. Jeff Colyer has signed into law a measure aimed at luring large-scale poultry processors to set up shop in Kansas.Colyer signed the bill on Tuesday. It passed in the Senate last month and in the House March 12, the Lawrence Journal-World reported .It greatly expands the number of chickens growers can house in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) before they would be required to obtain a state environmental permit.The Kansas Department of Agriculture and other agribusiness groups strongly supported the bill, arguing it would enable Kansas farmers to produce more "value-added" meat products for consumers.
A new law legalizing free-range parenting will soon take effect in Utah allowing children to do things alone like travelling to school. The bill redefines "neglect" in Utah law so that kids can participate in some unsupervised activities without their parents being charged. “Kids need to wonder about the world, explore and play in it, and by doing so learn the skills of self-reliance and problem-solving they’ll need as adults," Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement to ABC News. "As a society, we’ve become too hyper about ‘protecting’ kids and then end up sheltering them from the experiences that we took for granted as we were kids. I sponsored SB65 so that parents wouldn’t be punished for letting their kids experience childhood.
The General Assembly has passed — and sent to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature — a bill by Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell (with help from state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County) that offers a seven-year tax break to companies that locate in certain economically-distressed localities and create a certain number of jobs (the number varies depending on the investment). The list of those eligible includes much of Southwest and Southside Virginia, along with many localities along the Chesapeake Bay. The General Assembly also passed a bill by state Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell County, that allows localities to declare closed schools to be a “revitalization zone” whereby it can waive certain local taxes and fees. The idea is that these buildings could become incubators for small businesses. Here’s where we get the potential trifecta of tax breaks: There are some localities in Southwest Virginia (and likely elsewhere) that can qualify for all three. Imagine a locality that’s eligible for certain tax breaks under Morefield’s bill. It’s also likely eligible for certain tax breaks under the federal tax bill. And if it has an old school sitting empty, it can declare that a “revitalization zone” under Chafin’s bill — which means an entrepreneur setting up shop there could qualify for yet a third set of tax breaks.
Started in 1970 by a former farmer who went on to become governor, Food Producers of Idaho now represents more than 40 agriculture-related groups and enables them to speak to lawmakers with a combined voice. The organization — which is unlike any other in Idaho and possibly in the rest of the U.S. — represents more than 40 farm industry groups and provides them with an amplified voice in the state Capitol. In addition to representing most of the state’s major crop and livestock groups, and many of its smaller ones, FPI counts among its membership agribusinesses, agricultural lenders, irrigation groups, soil conservation districts and weed control associations.FPI membership also includes the food processing industry and several dozen individual farmers and people representing state and federal agencies. When they are in Boise, members of Idaho’s congressional delegation often attend the group’s meetings.