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SARL Members and Alumni News

To Keep Operating, New England Dairy Farm Looks To 'Milking Robots,' Tax Credits

New England Public Radio | Posted on November 22, 2017

This Thanksgiving, when scooping ice cream on top of warm apple pie, some Massachusetts lawmakers’ thoughts might turn to tax credits for dairy farmers. They would be expanded under a measure under consideration in the legislature. Given the state's fiscal situation, it isn't expected to become law anytime soon. We are currently milking about 155 cows in our new barn -- it's a 180-stall barn. We have two milking robots. Each milking robot can milk about 60 cows apiece, and — actually, I shouldn't call it a milking robot. It’s a voluntary milking system. The cows go and milk themselves. It's been phenomenal. It's our way of being ready for the next generation, investing in the next generation, being able to farm here in western Mass. Milk consumption is down, nationally, and milk prices are also down. And [State Rep.] Steve Kulick has filed a bill. It’s had some momentum in the past couple months. Right now it's sitting in Ways and Means. It would kind of bolster that milk price right now. What would that do here? So that's the dairy tax credit. And we do currently have a dairy tax credit, so it would be to increase that. It does make a difference to us now to have that. The dairy tax credit is when the price of milk that we are paid falls below the cost it takes us to make a gallon of milk. That's when the dairy tax credit kicks in. And the other important thing to point out about it is that is designed to help with our expenses. It is not designed for us to buy a new pickup truck, a new tractor. This is helping us pay our feed bill, our electric bill, our town taxes. It's for expenses, not for capital.

Utah agrees to pay $349K to settle lawsuit over 'ag-gag' law

Idaho Statesman | Posted on November 21, 2017

Utah will pay $349,000 to settle a lawsuit that overturned a law banning secret filming at farm and livestock facilities. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the settlement will cover the costs of attorneys and others fees for animal-rights groups that challenged the 2012 law.State attorneys had argued the law protected property rights and made agricultural workers safer by barring unskilled undercover operatives from potentially hazardous places.

NY: Cuomo offering free admission at state parks on Black Friday

New York Daily News | Posted on November 21, 2017

Gov. Cuomo is offering New Yorkers a less costly way to spend Black Friday than shopping — visiting a state park. Cuomo announced Friday that state parks will have free admission on the day after Thanksgiving and will host various family friendly events and programs throughout the holiday weekend.

In These States, Past Marijuana Crimes Can Go Away

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on November 21, 2017

When Californians voted to legalize marijuana last year, they also voted to let people petition courts to reduce or hide convictions for past marijuana crimes. State residents can now petition courts to change some felonies to misdemeanors, change some misdemeanors to infractions, and wipe away convictions for possessing or growing small amounts of the drug. “We call it reparative justice: repairing the harms caused by the war on drugs,” says Eunisses Hernandez of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that helped write the California ballot initiative.Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon also have made it easier for people convicted of some crimes of marijuana possession, cultivation or manufacture to get their records sealed or expunged, which generally means removing convictions from public databases. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a criminal justice bill that would, among other changes, allow people to expunge any conviction that’s no longer a crime, such as marijuana possession.

Idaho grants packer $1 million for hiring, training 700 workers

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on November 21, 2017

CS Beef Packers will use a $1.1 million state grant announced Friday to hire and train 701 new workers for full-time positions at the company’s new beef plant in Kuna, Idaho.   CS Beef Packers, a joint venture between Texas-based Caviness Beef Packers and Idaho-based agribusiness J.R. Simplot Co., began operations at the 400,000-square-foot facility on May 30.

NC:Suit seeks to stop new union limits around farm operations | Posted on November 16, 2017

North Carolina's only farmworker union is challenging a law limiting organized labor's activities in and around the state's vegetable and tobacco fields and other agricultural operations. Their lawsuit filed Wednesday called the restrictions unconstitutional and discriminatory.A last-minute House amendment inserted into the General Assembly's annual farm law last summer prohibits farming operations from collecting union dues from workers. It also blocks any future legal settlements requiring a farm to enter into a collective bargaining agreement.

Community Health Workers’ Role in Health Care Delivery

Rural Pennsylvania | Posted on November 16, 2017

With current shortages of health care professionals in rural Pennsylvania, community health workers have the potential to play a significant role in the delivery of rural health services, according to research out of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. Currently, there is no single definition of a community health worker (CHW). However, the research used the definition from the Human Resources and Services Administration’s Community Health Workers National Workforce Study, which defines CHWs as lay members of communities who work or volunteer with local physical health and/or mental health care systems and usually share ethnicity, language, socio-economic status, and life experience with the community members they serve. According to the CHW survey, 91 percent of CHWs are female, with an average age of about 48. CHWs have worked or volunteered in the field for 9 years, on average, with 76 percent of the respondents being paid workers. The educational background of CHWs varied, and ranged from a high school education to a college degree.Twenty percent of CHWs earn between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. It was evident from the focus groups and leadership phone interviews that low pay, high turnover, and lack of adequate funding were significant issues for many agencies.According to the CHW survey, 89 percent of respondents received some type of training to be a CHW. It was evident from the leadership interviews and focus groups that there was a variety of training opportunities being offered to CHWs, depending on the work setting and whether they were volunteer or paid workers. On-the-job training, conference training, certificate programs, shadowing, and formal education were the predominant types of training.

CDFA releases final Environmental Impact Report for CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Program | Posted on November 16, 2017

The EIR outlines potential significant environmental impacts associated with the adoption and implementation of statewide cannabis cultivation licensing regulations and provides mitigation measures to reduce those impacts to less than significant. CDFA is developing regulations for statewide cannabis cultivation licensing, as well as a track-and-trace system. This system will record the movement of cannabis and cannabis products through the supply chain, from cultivation to sale.

Pennsylvania Reconvenes Rural Development Council

Lancaster Farming | Posted on November 15, 2017

On Monday, state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding presided over the first meeting of the reconstituted Rural Development Council on behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor is re-establishing the council to give rural Pennsylvanians a louder voice in state government and to better coordinate state programs for rural communities.“Pennsylvania has nearly 3.4 million Pennsylvanians living in rural areas, spread throughout 66 of our 67 counties,” said Redding, who will chair the council.“This council will help ensure rural Pennsylvania voices are heard as we work together across sectors to solve problems and develop strategies designed to grow our rural communities and ensure they are vibrant places to call home,” he said.The council consists of leaders from public, private and nonprofit sectors across the state.

Ohio announces chnages to Livestock Care Standards

Ohio Department of Agriculture | Posted on November 15, 2017

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) wants to remind producers and livestock owners about upcoming changes to Ohio’s livestock care standards. Effective January 1, 2018, veal calves must be housed in group pens by ten weeks of age. Additionally, whether housed in individual stalls or group pens the calves must be allowed to turn around and cannot be tethered. Also effective January 1, tail docking on dairy cattle can only be performed by a licensed veterinarian and if only medically necessary.