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Michigan Governor says food and agriculture industry “planted seed” for state's economic comeback

Daily Tribune | Posted on March 13, 2017

Gov. Rick Snyder wanted to outline the importance of providing resources for local food suppliers to connect with global buyers. “This isn’t rocket science, this is simple,” said Snyder. “The goal of this initiative is to get people to talk to each other.”Pure Michigan Business Connect, formed in 2011, is a public/private initiative developed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation that helps connect local and global purchasers to suppliers of Michigan goods and services.

Idaho Senate committee approves stock watering rights bill

Capital Press | Posted on March 13, 2017

A bill that would codify in Idaho law a landmark court ruling on who owns stock watering rights on federally administered land has been approved by the Senate Resources and Environment Committee.  The committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the Senate floor with a “do-pass” recommendation March 1 following impassioned testimony by the two Owyhee County ranchers who won that court decision. Paul Nettleton and Tim Lowry fought a decade-long battle with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management after the parties filed overlapping claims to in-stream stock watering rights during Idaho’s Snake River Basin Adjudication. The Idaho Supreme Court in 2007 decided in the ranchers’ favor in a ruling that is known as the Joyce Livestock decision. The court said the BLM can’t own the rangeland water rights because it doesn’t own cattle and therefore can’t put the water to beneficial use.Senate Bill 1111 would codify that decision into state law.

Oregon bill would regulate dairy air emissions

Statesman Journal | Posted on March 12, 2017

Should air contaminant emissions from large dairies be tracked and regulated in Oregon? A legislative task force concluded in July 2008 that they should.The Legislature didn't implement the recommendation, and dairy industry officials say voluntary actions are better than regulations. Buta proposal for a new mega-dairy in Eastern Oregon has prompted legislators to take a second look. A Senate committee will hold a public hearing Thursday on SB 197, which would require the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission to adopt a program for regulating air contaminants from dairy confined animal feeding operations. In Oregon, dairies and other confined animal feeding operations must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit, which details how manure will be stored and disposed of. There are no rules, however for air emissions.

Maryland Senate OKs extension of energy efficiency program

The Baltimore Sun | Posted on March 12, 2017

The Maryland state Senate passed a bill extending the EmPOWER Maryland energy efficiency program, following similar action in the House of Delegates. Senators voted, 32-14, to extend the program, which was created in 2008 to require utility companies to reduce per capita electricity use by 10 percent by 2015. The law didn't require the program to continue past 2015, although the state's Public Service Commission has supported the program and asked utilities to lay out plans to invest more in energy efficiency. The current bill would put the Public Service Commission's order into law to ensure that EmPOWER will continue. Under the program, utility customers are charged a fee on their monthly bills. The money is used for efficient appliances, home energy checkups, rebates and bill credits for reducing electricity use.

Colorado Senate approves marijuana clubs

The Washington Post | Posted on March 10, 2017

The Colorado Senate on Thursday passed a first-in-the-nation bill expressly permitting marijuana clubs. But Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is hinting that he will veto the measure unless it bans indoor smoking. The bill allows local jurisdictions to permit bring-your-own pot clubs, as long as those establishments do not serve alcohol or any food beyond light snacks. The bill does not say whether those clubs could allow people to smoke pot indoors. That means it would be possible for a membership club that is closed to the public and has no more than three employees to permit indoor pot smoking. Sponsors say the bill is necessary because Colorado already has a network of underground, unregulated pot clubs, and towns are not sure how to treat them. Pot clubs could help alleviate complaints that Colorado’s sidewalks and public parks have been inundated with pot smokers since the state legalized recreational weed in 2012.

Montana senate advances bill banning drones above private property

The Missoulian | Posted on March 9, 2017

The Montana Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill to limit where drones can fly, after a lengthy debate on whether the legislation would actually protect property rights.Senate Bill 170, carried by Sen. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux, would establish a civil penalty if a person flies a drone over private property below 500 feet. It also would change the minimum fine from $500 to $2,500 if a drone flew over a critical infrastructure facility.The bill would require drones to follow public roads and land, unless the user had permission to fly over private property. 

Top-ranking Georgia House leader seeks ‘creative’ approach to rural issues

Macon Telegraph | Posted on March 9, 2017

A state House committee has unanimously endorsed an idea to take a close look into how Georgia lawmakers could help struggling rural communities. “I want this council to look at the big picture and recommend legislative actions that can empower our rural areas,” said House Speaker David Ralston, explaining House Resolution 389 to a House committee on Tuesday. The legislation would create the House Rural Development Council, a group of 15 lawmakers to be appointed by Ralston.



REAP Tax Credits Available to PA Farmers for Conservation and Nutrient Plans to Improve Soil, Water Quality

Pennsylvania Press Room | Posted on March 9, 2017

With more and more farmers interested in protecting and improving local water quality, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today reminded producers of a tax credit program that can help them develop plans and install measures that reduce nutrient and sediment runoff. Farmers can use Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program tax credits to help offset the cost of writing conservation plans and nutrient management plans, purchasing conservation equipment, and implementing best management practices (BMPs) for their operations. “Pennsylvania’s clean streams law dates back to 1972,” Redding said. “Improving the ecology of our farm operations makes sense, and the REAP program can help make those improvements a reality. Healthy farms and healthy waterways are a concern for all of Pennsylvania, not just the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so I encourage all producers, regardless of where you farm, to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Oregon considers limiting limiting tax credits for processing livestock manure into energy in biodigesters

Capital Press | Posted on March 9, 2017

Oregon’s anticipated budget shortfall has prompted lawmakers to consider limiting tax credits for processing livestock manure into energy in biodigesters. Biodigesters break down manure, releasing methane gas which is used to generate electricity. The remaining solids have many uses. They are expensive, and farmers have used the tax credits to offset the costs. Under House Bill 2853, tax credits would only be available for manure processed in biodigesters that were operational before the end of 2016. The credit effectively costs Oregon about $4 million a year in foregone tax revenue and has the potential to grow more expensive due to the proposed construction of a large dairy, said Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, during a March 7 hearing on HB 2853.

Wildfires burn more than 1 million acres

CNN | Posted on March 8, 2017

Wildfires across the country had consumed more than 1 million acres, taking at least 7 lives. The Oklahoma Forestry Service told CNN the fires burned 400,000 acres, and prompted Gov. Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency for 22 counties.Officials in four other states said that 400,000 acres were destroyed in Kansas, 325,000 in the Texas Panhandle and 30,000 in Colorado -- not to mention the 6,000 acres burning in the Florida swamps near Naples that resulted in mandatory evacuations.