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SARL Members and Alumni News

Weak farm income to drag Nebraska economy through 2019

Kearney Hub | Posted on June 14, 2017

Weak farm income will continue to hamper Nebraska’s economic growth during the next three years, according to the long-term forecast released this morning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research and the Nebraska Business Forecast Council.“Farm incomes have been driven down over the last four years and are expected to bottom out in 2017,” said Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research, an applied economic and business research entity of UNL’s College of Business. “Weakness in its largest sector will cap growth in the Nebraska economy, despite strong performances in select sectors like construction and business services.”Net farm income is projected to decline by nearly 16 percent for 2017, to $3.7 billion, as federal support for agriculture continues to decline and yields normalize following a strong 2016 harvest. It would be the fourth straight year of decline, and the projected total is about half of the 2011 record high of nearly $7.5 billion.The forecasters say agriculture should hit bottom in 2017 and begin trending upward in 2018 and 2019.

Nuclear Subsidies Slow to Catch on as Opposition Steps Up

Bloomberg | Posted on June 14, 2017

Almost a year after New York became the first state to approve subsidies for nuclear reactors threatened with closure, efforts to replicate the model elsewhere are proving a tough sell. Lawmakers in Connecticut failed to pass a bill overnight that was designed to shore up a nuclear plant. Dominion Energy Inc., which mounted a high-profile campaign to win higher revenue for its Millstone station, said it would “continue assessing our investments” in the state as a result. With the exception of Illinois, supporters of state aid are similarly struggling to make headway in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those with the most to lose -- such as renewable energy providers and big electric customers -- are pushing back in state legislatures, said Peter Bradford, a consultant who used to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s making it harder for states to come to the rescue of reactors grappling with plunging power prices.At least five nuclear power plants have retired in the past five years including Fort Calhoun in Nebraska, which closed in October. Those in favor of state subsidies say the carbon-free electricity provided by nuclear is needed to help states meet ambitious clean-energy targets and preserve local jobs, while opponents counter that they distort the idea of a level playing field.Dominion had backed a bill proposing that the state takes competitive bids for both nuclear and renewable power. “Continued inaction harms customers, the state’s ability to meet its climate goals, and the state’s economy,” Ken Holt, a spokesman for Dominion’s Millstone plant, said in a statement on Thursday. 

FirstEnergy's nuclear zero emission credits may have stalled | Posted on June 14, 2017

FirstEnergy's effort to convince state lawmakers that it must have more than $300 million a year in new customer charges to keep its nuclear power plants running is approaching a stall point.The Ohio Senate's Public Utilities Committee wrapped up its fourth hearing Thursday on the special nuclear funding legislation, without reaching a conclusion.In fact, most of the 13 members on the committee had drifted away by the time the last witnesses gave their testimony opposing Senate Bill 128.Over 40 witnesses have submitted written testimony, much of it in opposition.  Many of them have then appeared before the committee to present the testimony formally and take questions from lawmakers.State Sen. William Beagle, a Tipp City Republican and chairman of the utilities committee, said there were still a few requests from opponents of the legislation to appear before the committee.

Oregon: Fight continues over Boardman mega-dairy

Capital Press | Posted on June 12, 2017

Opponents of a 30,000-cow dairy farm in Morrow County are pressuring state regulators to change their minds on a recently approved water pollution permit for the facility, or risk taking the matter to court.  A coalition of groups has filed what’s known as a petition for reconsideration, asking the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality to take a closer look at Lost Valley Farm and either tighten protections or reject the dairy outright. Lost Valley Farm received its confined animal feeding operation permit on March 31. At the time, ODA and DEQ claimed they had crafted “the most protective of any (CAFO) permit issued to date,” requiring 11 groundwater monitoring wells on site — seven more than usual — and a minimum of three annual inspections, versus one every 10 months.The permit became effective on April 20, and a spokeswoman for Lost Valley said the dairy is now up and running at the former Boardman Tree Farm. There are currently 16,000 animals at the farm, with about 8,700 being milking cows.Regulators anticipate Lost Valley will build up its herd to a full 30,000 cows over the next three years, making it the second-largest dairy in Oregon. Only Threemile Canyon Farms is larger, with 70,000 head of cattle just 25 miles away in Morrow County.

Webinar—Recent Developments in Agriculture & Food Law: Impacts on States

Midwestern Legislative Conference | Posted on June 8, 2017

Agriculture and food law, at the local, state and national level is changing constantly and impacting our farmers, foresters, food producers, rural residents. It is almost impossible for state legislators to stay abreast of the legal challenges and changes impacting their constituents and state laws.  In collaboration with the National Agricultural Law Center, the regional offices of the Council of State Governments and State Agriculture and Rural Leaders will present an agriculture and food law update webinar that will address developments related to:the Waters of the United States rule;state "purple paint" trespassing legislation; property tax assessment for farmland; the Philadelphia soda tax; a stay on organic practice rules; and other recent legal developments in agriculture and food legislation and law.The National Agricultural Law Center (headquartered at the University of Arkansas) is the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information, and is collaborating with the Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to bring this webinar to you on a pilot basis. If there are specific agriculture, natural resource, or food law question you might want to have specifically included, please let Carolyn Orr know.  We will be able to take additional questions during the webinar.After registering for the webinar, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join. If you are unable to attend, register now and a link to the recording will be sent to you.

Montana Governor Announces $1.1 Million to Help Montana Main Street Businesses Create Jobs, Train Employees and Plan for Growth | Posted on June 7, 2017

Governor Steve Bullock  announced $1,124,030 in economic development grants to assist Main Street businesses across Montana with creating 116 jobs, providing workforce training and developing plans for growth and expansion. “As Montana’s strong economy continues to grow, Main Street businesses in communities across the state are adding jobs and seeking a skilled workforce to fill them,” Governor Bullock said. “These funds will help businesses plan for responsible growth and train employees for success.”The funds are being awarded through the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund (BSTF) and the Primary Sector Workforce Training Grant (WTG) programs at the Department of Commerce, Office of Tourism and Business Development.BSTF provides state funds to promote long-term stable economic growth in Montana through two categories: job creation and planning. More information can be found at provides state funds to assist business with the training of new jobs.

Texas Dept of Agriculture starts Radio Show!

Texas Dept of Agriculture | Posted on June 7, 2017

The Texas Department of Agriculture has partnered with KRFE AM 580 in Lubbock for a new weekly radio show, Texas Agriculture Matters. This show will air throughout the week — on Tuesdays and Fridays — on KRFE and will feature the latest news about what’s happening at TDA and in our ag industry. The show will also help listeners learn more about TDA in our Did You Know and GO TEXAN segments. Each week, you’ll hear from a special guest who will sit down with our host, Rick Rhodes. Rhodes is a longtime member of TDA’s team and currently serves as TDA’s administrator for the Office of Rural Affairs.  Be sure to tune into KRFE AM 580 in Lubbock to hear each episode of Texas Agriculture Matters. The show will air at 1:25 p.m. on Tuesdays and just after 6 p.m. on Fridays.

NY lawmakers vote to strengthen animal cruelty penalties

NY Daily News | Posted on June 7, 2017

People convicted of extreme animal cruelty would be prohibited from owning a companion animal under legislation passed by the New York state Senate. The Senate also voted to increase potential jail time and fines for aggravated animal cruelty and require offenders to undergo psychological testing.The measures were passed on the Legislature's annual animal advocacy day, which brought several dogs, captive owls, hawks, reptiles and one pony to the state Capitol for a day of lobbying and outreach.

Cattle Producers Call Nebraska Brand Rules Obsolete

Courthouse News | Posted on June 7, 2017

Challenging a Nebraska law that requires all cattle to be branded, operators of cattle feedlots cast the practice as obsolete and costly in a federal complaint.The Nebraska Beef Producers Committee, a nonprofit that filed the lawsuit at hand Tuesday in Lincoln, notes that the regulations hearken to a bygone era.Back when the Nebraska Legislature formed a committee to investigate stolen cattle in 1941, livestock operations “were often located in large, open, rural settings with limited human oversight,” the 13-page complaint states.Today, however, the Brand Act’s relevance is waning, and the cattle producers say their members deserve credit.“Members of the NBPC have implemented multiple means of improving cattle security, reducing the risk of theft or loss, and identifying cattle beyond the branding process,” the complaint states.In addition to branding and ear tags, ranchers say electronic identification devices or EIDS have been critical in reducing the risk of theft.“In particular, EIDs and other identification methods have enabled a thorough inventory system with detailed records of each animal including origin, location on the facility, health issues, statistics, and other pertinent information,” the complaint states.The NBPC notes that its members also use multiple layers of fencing to reduce the chance of a breach or stray, and that federal guidelines have made the state branding law redundant.

Hard Times Come to Much of Rural America

Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 7, 2017

Scarcity of capital for small businesses has accelerated the crisis described in “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City’” by stunting the growth of young businesses. Businesses in rural towns are starving for equal access to capital that has benefited urban areas for decades. Scarcity of capital for small businesses has accelerated the crisis described in “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City’”  by stunting the growth of young businesses. Traditionally, a rural business owner or enterprising farmer who needed assistance to purchase farm or manufacturing equipment or even warehouse space would go to the community bank or farm credit office and acquire a loan. Today there are far fewer community banks, and those remaining lenders have higher credit and liquidity standards. Federal lending standards have made loans cost-prohibitive for many entrepreneurs. Furthermore, big banks have decreased their loan volumes to small businesses, creating a widening lending gap.