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SARL Members and Alumni News

Could Papayas Help Hawaii Become Energy Independent?

Sierra Club | Posted on September 21, 2017

Papayas are big business in Hawaii. In 2016, the islands produced nearly 20 million pounds of the tropical melon, valued at an estimated $10 million. The Hawaiian papaya is also highly controversial. After the papaya ringspot virus decimated the island’s crop three decades ago, much of the fruit grown there today has been genetically modified to be resistant.  For Hawaiian farmers, selling the papayas can be difficult. Countries are often reticent to import genetically modified crops. Farmers also face an uphill battle because of the high cost of imported fertilizers. But even more problematic is waste. Approximately a third of the Hawaiian papaya crop is discarded because it’s bruised or misshapen. Farmers throw out these otherwise saleable crops when margins are already thin. Lisa Keith, a plant pathologist with the USDA in Hilo, Hawaii, may have a solution. Keith and her team of researchers have been gathering leftover papayas from local packing houses and turning them into a fuel that’s used to produce biodiesel. It’s a surprisingly simple process that includes adding algae to large tanks that contain a sterile pureed papaya solution, where a process called heterotrophic growth takes place—in the absence of sunlight, algae feed on the sugar in the papaya. When the algae becomes starved of nitrogen after depleting the nutrients in the puree, it stimulates lipid production, which causes the lipid cells to balloon up with oil in just under two weeks’ time. These oils can be used for biodiesel production after the glycerol present in the cells is extracted.


Massachusetts Bill Would Penalize People For ‘Fake’ Service Dogs

Boston CBS | Posted on September 19, 2017

Advocates for service dogs for the disabled were at the State House Tuesday, lobbying for a bill that would penalize those who say their animals are service dogs when they’re not. Kaitlyn Steinke of Falmouth and her dog Jones were among those in favor of what’s been called the fake service dog bill. The bill’s sponsor, Republican State Rep. Kim Ferguson of Holden, says misrepresenting dogs as service animals is a growing problem. A dozen other states have laws on the books making “fake service dogs” a crime.The measure has wide support in the House. It would impose a penalty of community service and/or up to a $500 fine for those misrepresenting their dogs as service dogs.


Ohio legislator pushes bill to build more wind turbines closer to properties

Columbus Dispatch | Posted on September 19, 2017

Against the backdrop of wind-farm construction in Hardin County, state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, sought to build support for his proposal that would allow more wind turbines to be built in upcoming projects. “I think we can make this happen,” he said during the event Thursday. “The groundswell of support is increasing as we speak.”Senate Bill 188 would partially undo changes that lawmakers made in 2013 addressing where turbines can be built. The bill deals will the minimum distance required between a turbine and property lines and houses.Hite spoke at a news conference at Hog Creek Wind Farm, a project being built near Dunkirk, in northwestern Ohio. The developer, EDP Renewables, already operates three wind farms in the state.Before 2013, turbines could be built within about 550 feet of a property line, a figure based on the height of the tower and blade. Then, four years ago, lawmakers made an amendment to an unrelated measure that increased the distance to about 1,300 feet. Ever since, wind-industry groups and others have pushed for a reversal of the change.Hite, whose district includes several wind farms, tried to make the changes earlier this year through an amendment to the state budget. The provision was removed at the last minute, and critics said the topic should be debated on its own.


Ag committee chairs push Idaho farm commission leaders to talk about challenges

Capital Press | Posted on September 19, 2017

The chairs of the Idaho Legislature’s House and Senate ag committees are encouraging the directors of the state’s commodity commissions to do a better job talking about the issues and challenges their industries face when speaking to lawmakers. Some of the presentations are more on the “here’s what we did last year” side and not enough on the “here are the issues our industry is struggling with” side, said Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee.Rice said he is trying to push those commission leaders to share their challenges so legislators can figure out how to help them or at least not get in their way.“Some of the presentations seem too much of cheerleading presentations and we don’t talk enough about the challenges that they’re facing, the things that are causing their industry problems,” he said.“I’m trying to ... make sure that we improve those presentations by addressing problems, challenges, areas where we may be falling behind or where we are headed down a road that’s going to be a problem,” Rice said.Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, chairwoman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, said that’s something she’s also trying to do.“We want to know what the issues they are facing are,” said Boyle, a rancher. “That’s really the value of commissions to the legislature.”Boyle said she has told commission leaders to share their challenges and encouraged them to bring their growers and commissioners and let them speak as well.


Illinois utilities begin to design community solar programs under new energy law

Midwest Energy News | Posted on September 14, 2017

Illinois utilities and regulators are putting into motion plans for community solar programs under the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act that passed last year. In filings with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) last month, ComEd outlined proposed terms and conditions for “Community Supply,” also referred to as community solar. Ameren Illinois has also recently filed paperwork with the ICC outlining changes to net metering policies as the state moves to implement community solar.So far, the filings are relatively narrow in scope, setting the table for bigger debates over how community solar and other aspects of Illinois’ changing energy landscape impact ratepayers. Both utilities are essentially defining the terms of how consumers will be credited in a community solar arrangement, and a decision by the ICC is expected by the end of the month.


Colorado Development fund to benefit rural counties

Biz West | Posted on September 14, 2017

Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado Venture Capital Authority will allocate $9 million, and perhaps as much as $3 million more, to a rural economic development investment fund.   The agencies created the new fund to benefit innovation in rural areas that might not have access to other funding sources. Industries that could benefit include value-added agriculture, advanced manufacturing,  health and wellness, tourism and outdoor recreation, energy and natural resources, clean tech, technology and information.


Wisconsin legislature to approve $3 Billion incentive for Foxconn

AP | Posted on September 14, 2017

The deal to develop a massive Foxconn plant in Wisconsin will be virtually complete Thursday when the state Legislature votes to approve a $3 billion incentive package to lure the Taiwan-based electronics giant to the state - the biggest state subsidy to a foreign company in U.S. history. The bill would make $2.85 billion available to Foxconn Technology Group in cash payments if it invests $10 billion and hires 13,000 workers. The Senate approved the proposal Tuesday. Final sign-off by the Assembly, which already green-lighted a nearly identical version in August, would send the measure to the project's lead champion, Republican Gov. Scott Walker.


Merrill to retire as NH agriculture commissioner

Seacoast online | Posted on September 14, 2017

New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill of Stratham has announced her retirement from the post. “It has been a real privilege to serve the people of New Hampshire as commissioner of Agriculture,” Merrill said. “These 10 years have brought challenges, but also opportunities, and renewed awareness of the importance of local farms and foods for our communities and our state. I will especially miss the dedicated, hard-working team of professionals I have had the honor of serving with at the Department of Agriculture.”


Ways to help latest wildfire, hurricane victims

Ag Daily | Posted on September 14, 2017

Whether they’re part of the mainstream media’s 24-hour news cycle or not, disasters are hitting multiple parts of the United States right now. States in the Pacific Northwest are fighting scores of wildfires, while Hurricane Irma’s rise through Florida has drawn most of the attention over the weekend. And though Harvey itself may no longer be an acute threat to Texans, there’s is plenty of relief that needs to be done there. We’ve brought together many of the major ways you can help our brothers and sisters in agriculture in these devastated regions. If there are others that you know of, we invite you to include them in the comments to help raise awareness for any organization or fund that’s hoping to help people, as well as reaching all of those in need of help.If you are considering donating to a group you haven’t heard of before or to a fund that isn’t administered by a reliable source, please check out the list of legitimate charities on Charity Navigator or GuideStar to make sure that you’re not getting scammed.


Online Tool Helps Residue-Seeking Livestock Producers Hook Up with Crop Farmers

DTN | Posted on September 14, 2017

Call it Tinder for grazing. A new online tool helps cattle producers seeking feed for their livestock hook up with crop farmers who have fields of crop residue to offer. Created by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension, the Crop Residue Exchange  is designed to assist both crop and livestock producers with crop residue needs.The service works like this: Farmers set up a log-in account and list cropland available for grazing by entering basic information about the type of residue, fencing situation, water availability and dates available as well as contact information. Those with land to graze can even draw out the plot of land using an interactive map. Livestock producers then log into the tool and can search the database for cropland available for grazing with an established radius of a given location.


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