Whether it is the promise of industry that never materializes, the loss of existing factories and plants, or any of a number of other reasons, many of Georgia’s rural communities are suffering. The newest effort from state government to identify the challenges facing rural Georgia, and potential solutions, gets under way. The House Rural Development Council will have its first meeting. Its stated goal: “Work with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth.”in 2014, rural counties had just 22 percent of the state’s jobs, according to a landmark 2016 Georgia State University study called “Jobs in Georgia’s Urban and Rural Regions and Counties: Changes in Distribution, Type, and Quality from 2007 to 2014.”In it, authors Peter Bluestone and Mels de Zeeuw found that the Atlanta region and the state’s 13 “hub cities” saw 90 percent of all job growth from 2007 to 2014.The reasons are many. But a key is that urban areas were able to absorb the historical loss of manufacturing jobs by creating new service-industry positions. Rural Georgia simply lost jobs and never got them back. The state’s decision not to expand Medicaid precipitated the loss of rural hospitals, Bluestone said. The state has seen eight hospitals close in the past few years. All were in rural areas. The lack of broadband internet access is another.Automation and technology have killed manufacturing jobs as much as outsourcing and trade agreements have. Manufacturing output in the United States is actually higher than it was. There just aren’t as many humans needed to do it.By some accounts, the lack of jobs is not the problem. It’s the lack of trained and educated workers in some cases, Bluestone said.
The dairy industry and environmental groups have come up with 19 legal challenges to the Washington Department of Ecology’s new manure-control law.The Pollution Control Hearings Board, the forum for appealing Ecology actions, has scheduled a week-long hearing for Dec. 4-8 in Tumwater on the state’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permits. The appeals did not keep the rules from taking effect in March.“Ecology developed these permits with the best available science and broad stakeholder input,” department spokeswoman Jessica Payne wrote Monday in an email. “We believe they are protective of water quality and represent best practices for the facilities the permits will cover. Ecology stands by these permits.”CAFO permit terms are a major battleground for farm groups and environmental organizations in Washington. Provisions will dictate for at least the next five years how dairies keep manure from polluting groundwater and surface water.Previously, the state Department of Agriculture oversaw how dairies store and spread manure, and few dairies had CAFO permits issued by Ecology.The expanded permit will require more soil testing, put more limits on fertilizing with manure and place more scrutiny on manure lagoons, even ones built to Natural Resources Conservation Service standards.The Washington State Dairy Federation and Washington Farm Bureau dispute the science and economics behind the rules. A coalition of environmental groups allege Ecology has fallen short of upholding the federal Clean Water Act.The two sides agreed to combine their grievances into one appeal and also agreed on a list of legal issues to raise.
With laughter, hugs and tears — and the requisite death-defying stunts — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received its final standing ovation Sunday night as it performed its last show. "We are, forevermore, the Greatest Show on Earth," boomed Johnathan Lee Iverson, who has been the ringmaster since 1999. His son, who also performed, stood by his side. It was an emotional 2 1/2 hours for those who worked on the circus. Many of Ringling's employees are second, third and even fourth-generation circus performers, while others met their spouses while touring. All spent months on the road, traveling from city to city in Ringling's train cars and describing themselves as a giant family, albeit one with many clowns.But it also was the fans who felt like family.Elaine Bario, a 57-year-old usher at the Nassau County Coliseum, said she's seen the circus every time it's been on Long Island — some years as a child with her father, who also was an usher at the same venue."The animals, this is where we fell in love with them," she said. "We got to see animals here and the Bronx Zoo. We don't go on safaris."Bario cried as she watched the final big cat act with its leopards, tigers and Alexander Lacey, the handsome animal trainer."I've always had a crush on the lion tamers," she said, laughing through tears.But it was those animal shows that led to the circus' eventual demise.Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted Ringling, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. In May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline. People, it seemed, didn't want to see a circus without elephants. Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the show, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.A handful of protesters stood outside the venue on Sunday, with signs that said "compassion always wins," and "the future is animal free."Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said that "we all have to embrace change."Feld's father and uncle bought the circus in 1967. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows. The Felds bought the circus back in 1982.Earlier Sunday, a group of retired and former circus performers sat across the street at a hotel bar, laughing and hugging and sharing memories of tours past.In the end, though, Feld executives said they knew the circus couldn't compete with iPhones, the internet, video games and massively branded and carefully marketed characters. Their other productions — Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Supercross, Monster Trucks, Disney on Ice — resonate better with younger generations. But that didn't stop the circus from giving the performance of their life, one last time, to one last crowd.
Before the ink was dry on a US Department of Transportation pledge to give $10 million for the replacement of a still smoldering collapsed portion of I-85 in Atlanta, metro legislators were criticizing a well-thought-out, hard-fought-for, and long overdue measure designed to help revitalize rural Georgia.The “Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act” (GARJA), which passed minutes before the expiration of the 2017 legislative session, opens the door for small businesses in rural Georgia, approximately 130 counties, to have access to much needed growth capital. This need is just as immediate as are the repairs to Interstate 85.The idea is to make $60 million in tax credits available to companies willing to infuse $100 million of capital in designated rural counties for job creation in industries including, but not limited to, agribusiness and manufacturing.As James Salzer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed, it’s an idea that’s been around for decades– even put into practice in other states with varying degrees of success. The prior versions were found to create jobs and produce revenue for those states but since they didn’t produce at expected levels, some auditors suggested pulling the plug on the programs. This bill, crafted by Rep. Jason Show, R-Lakeland, is different. “This is the most tightly crafted bill of its kind in the country,” Shaw recently wrote.And Shaw’s right.Fees are strictly capped so that the available funds go to the intended recipient, not the fund managers. Where returns are realized on the invested sums, the state is allowed to share in those profits.Moreover, where the fund managers get out of line or the job creation targets are not met, the state– through the Department of Community Affairs– can recoup the tax credits.Those entities providing the funding are required to hold a Rural Small Business Investment Company or Small Business investment Company license. And the business must demonstrate that the benefit to Georgia’s General Fund must exceed the cost of the tax credits sought.In other words, somebody’s connected brother in law in need of a job won’t be able use smoke and mirrors claiming a qualified investment then reap the tax credits.There’s accountability as well since these growth funds must file annual reports showing “job creation and retention (a key buzz word here), average compensation and rural impact.”Contrary to its critics, Shaw’s bill is no “scheme”, it doesn’t allow a free ride where no jobs are created, the investment fund doesn’t reap an inordinate amount in fees, and the invested money has to stay in the state.
A line-item veto by Gov. Terry Branstad on May 12 means the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University remains alive, but it has no money. Officials at Iowa State University and at the Leopold Center were left scrambling to figure out what happens next and how the center will change in the coming months and years.“It’s better than what it was before (the veto),” says Doug Gronau, a farmer who represents the Iowa Farm Bureau on the Leopold Center’s advisory board. “I think there definitely is going to be a reorganization. I guess we’ll see what that means.”Branstad took action late on Friday, May 12, issuing a line item veto that cut wording passed by the legislature that would have repealed the Iowa Code sections authorizing the Leopold Center. The governor did not veto other changes that essentially eliminate funding for the center.Last year, the center received about $397,000 from the state’s general fund for staffing and administration as well as about 35 percent (or about $1.5 million) of the Agriculture Management Account, which was a pool of funds created by the 1987 Groundwater Protection Act. That money came from fees on fertilizer sales and pesticides.The legislature eliminated the general fund allocation and moved the money from the other fees to the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, which saw its funding from other sources cut.
During his report on the Voice of Louisiana Agriculture Radio Network, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain said he testified Tuesday before the Louisiana State Senate Agriculture Committee about several bills, including the Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act which is now in effect. “Our department has received a multi-year federal grant of $3.6 million dollars,” Strain said, “that will go mostly to the LSU and Southern University Ag Centers where they are going to be doing outreach to make sure producers are in compliance with the produce safety rules in order to stay in the market place for commercial distribution.”The rule affects farmers who sell at least $25,000 per year over the last three years “moving into commerce,” according to Strain.
Lawmakers from Pennsylvania are introducing bills at the state and federal level to ban the practice known as “lunch shaming” — taking away school meals or using other means to single out children with unpaid lunch bills. Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, proposed legislation to end the practice, and a similar measure has since been put forth by state Reps. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, and Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia. Mr. Costa’s legislation, Senate Bill 709, would require school districts to serve meals to all children — even those with depleted lunch accounts or who are short on lunch money — and to reach out to those families in need. The bill also would prevent schools from “marking” or humiliating children whose “families owe money to a school.”
Vermont’s Legislature has become the first in the nation to approve a recreational marijuana legalization bill. Vermont's bill, which would legalize small amounts of marijuana possession in 2018 and anticipate the possibility of a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market, was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 79-66. The bill has already been passed by the Senate and will go directly to Gov. Phil Scott.Other states have legalized marijuana following a voter referendum, but no state has yet legalized marijuana solely through the legislative process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Legalization advocates said bills were pending in other state legislatures.
The Ohio Senate unanimously approved a bill May 10 that includes the reform farm groups have sought to the state’s Current Agricultural Use Formula. The Senate voted 33-0 in favor of S.B. 36, which requires CAUV to be calculated using a capitalization rate that excludes appreciation and equity buildup, and stipulates that CAUV land for certain conservation programs be valued at the lowest soil value.The reforms have been before the legislature for at least the past three years, but this week marks the most progress in both the House and Senate. On May 2, the House passed its budget bill, which included similar reforms.
CDFA is now accepting grant applications for the 2017 Dairy Digester Research and Development Program. CDFA received $50 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund in 2016 (AB 1613 Section 13. Item 8570-101-3228) for methane emissions reductions from dairy and livestock operations. CDFA will allocate $29-36 million from the total $50 million appropriation as incentives to support digester projects on California dairy operations. Remainder of the funding appropriation will incentivize development of non-digester practices to reduce methane emissions through the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).