Expect challenges in the Midwest to so-called “ag-gag” laws, laws that criminalize certain forms of data collection and recording on farms and ranches, after a series of challenges have left Utah’s law permanently struck down and Wyoming’s on shaky ground. On Wednesday, the Utah attorney general’s office said it would not appeal a federal judge’s decision to strike down the state’s law as unconstitutional, effectively killing the legislation.“[Ag-gag] laws in states like Iowa and Kansas are crying out for a challenge at this point,” says University of Denver law professor Justin Marceau, one of the attorneys representing animal rights groups in the Utah case.Animal rights groups emboldened by the Utah decision -- like the Animal Legal Defense Fund and People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals -- are already preparing challenges to ag-gag statutes in at least two more states, Marceau says.Ag-gag laws were borne out of farmers’ and ranchers’ frustrations with animal rights activists surreptitiously recording video of purported abuse and then publishing the video for public consumption. Because the undercover agents are often legitimately hired by farms and ranches, the targeted farmers didn’t have legal recourse once the videos surfaced. By criminalizing the collection of images without consent, the animal activists are suddenly opened up to potential charges.Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina and Alabama all have some form of an ag-gag law currently on the books.
Utah will not appeal a federal court ruling that the state’s 2012 law against agricultural operation interference violates the U.S. Constitution. It is the only one of several state “Ag-Gag” laws which resulted in someone’s arrest and brief jailing.A spokesman for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said there would be no appeal. Reyes assistants previously told the court they won’t be filing a Notice of Appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The winners of the case, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) put out a press release celebrating their victory. Federal Judge Robert J. Shelby with the U.S. District Court for Utah in July ruled the state’s law was unconstitutional. The Utah attorney general’s spokesman, Daniel Burton, passed on the opportunity to say why the state is not appealing the decision.Idaho also lost a district court ruling on its “Ag-Gag” law, and currently is pursuing an appeal in the liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both sides made oral arguments before a three-judge panel in Seattle in May. The appellate court could rule any day.“Utah’s decision not to appeal its loss is a signal to other states that these unconstitutional Ag-Gag laws are indefensible,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Should Utah’s legislature try to pass a new Ag-Gag law to replace the last one, we’ll see them back in court.”
A new law in Maine allowing municipalities to regulate local food production and processing has prompted USDA to warn the state it will take over all meat and poultry inspections there unless the rule is fixed. Maine has five state-licensed facilities, 30 custom facilities, 51 small poultry processing facilities and 2,714 small retail processing facilities.
The nation’s small meat processors are confronting a new market reality: an increasing demand for healthier local meat options coupled with the often-labyrinthine set of regulations that accompanies it. As a result, some processors in Missouri, Illinois and other parts of the nation’s heartland have changed their model from a slaughter-only facility to one that includes a specialty meat operation and opted for federal certification, allowing them to sell across state lines but increasing the amount of regulatory infrastructure. Small meat processors, who number approximately 800 nationwide, according to the latest USDA figures, have had to adjust to realities imposed from outside the industry. State authority over inspections, which used to be the reality as little as 10 years ago, is only active in 27 states, as funding has dissipated because of budgetary constraints, said Rebecca Thistlethwaite, manager of the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network at Oregon State University.
The second generation GMO Innate potato has received regulatory approval in Canada.Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have authorized J.R. Simplot’s Co. second generation GMO Innate potato to be imported, planted and sold in Canada. The OK comes after the Canadian agencies completed a comprehensive safety assessment, and follows last year’s regulatory approval of three varieties of first-generation GMO Innate potatoes, according to a news release.
The property tax reforms that Ohio farmers and farm groups sought over the past three years are just a few weeks from taking effect. The law itself becomes effective Sept. 30, and the reforms will be phased in over the next six years of assessments. It is estimated landowners will see an average of 30 percent savings beginning with the 2017 reassessments, with full savings realized after six years.Most recently, CAUV reform refers to changes included in the 2017 state budget bill that ensure all the factors in the CAUV calculation tie directly to the agricultural economy, making for a more accurate CAUV valuation. An earlier set of reforms were adopted by the Ohio Department of Taxation in 2015, which resulted in about a $10-per-acre savings.
The first legal crop of marijuana has started to grow in Maryland. And industry officials say products should be available in medical marijuana dispensaries by 2018.
When Angela Arnold was laid off at the end of last year, she didn’t know if she would find work that would let her stay in Carbon County. But then she got a job that keeps rural workers home by design.With training and support from a new company, Accelerant BSP, she answers calls from her house for HealthEquity, a Draper-based health savings account firm that manages over $5 billion for more than 3 million customers.“The idea is ultrasimple: Create rural jobs while filling the needs of the urban company that can’t find adequate talent on the Wasatch Front,” said Joel McKay Smith, CEO of Accelerant Business Solutions Provider. As the economy in Utah as a whole expands, job losses have devastated some rural counties. Gov. Gary Herbert hopes to see more solutions like Accelerant BSP during his push to create 25,000 jobs off the Wasatch Front in the next four years. Creating 25,000 jobs in those counties would represent the smallest amount of job growth in any consecutive four-year period this century, outside the Great Recession. From 2004 to 2008, before the recession settled in, rural Utah grew by more than 32,000 jobs. From 2012 to 2016, the counties grew by more than 27,000 jobs.
Democratic state officials blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday for telling governors in what they describe as a “legally incorrect” letter in March that they do not need to comply with a major climate change regulation. Fourteen Democratic attorneys general and officials from six cities and counties said the guidance that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sent to states on March 30 was misleading because the Clean Power Plan enacted under former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, remains on the books despite the Republican Trump administration’s plans to unravel it.The Clean Power Plan was aimed at curbing carbon emissions from power plants. It never took effect because the Supreme Court put it on hold in February 2016.The state officials said the regulation “remains the law of the land” even if it is currently on hold and that Pruitt’s “unsolicited legal advice” to governors was “premature and legally incorrect.” They called for Pruitt to retract his letter.
Coalition of animal rights groups files ballot language which would require all eggs sold in the state to be from cage-free systems, all pork and veal sold in state to be from farms that don’t use crates.