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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.