Earlier this month, Ross Barnhardt and I, along with first-time attendee Senator Bill Rabon, attended the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders (SARL) conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. SARL is a group of state legislators and agriculture industry representatives from across the United States and Canada that get together every year to discuss and study issues and policies affecting the agriculture industry and rural communities. I have had the privilege to attend the conference the past 4 years and have served as a SARL board member for the past several years. This year, we had the chance to look into several important issues. One of the more fascinating topics was on creating jobs in rural America. We met with several groups who have worked on setting up state assisted venture capital funds to allow investors to invest in startup businesses in rural areas. Capital investment and sustainable, profitable businesses will be crucial in building our rural communities.
Earlier this month, Ross Barnhardt and I, along with first-time attendee Senator Bill Rabon, attended the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders (SARL) conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. SARL is a group of state legislators and agriculture industry representatives from across the United States and Canada that get together every year to discuss and study issues and policies affecting the agriculture industry and rural communities. I have had the privilege to attend the conference the past 4 years and have served as a SARL board member for the past several years.
This year, we had the chance to look into several important issues. One of the more fascinating topics was on creating jobs in rural America. We met with several groups who have worked on setting up state assisted venture capital funds to allow investors to invest in startup businesses in rural areas. Capital investment and sustainable, profitable businesses will be crucial in building our rural communities. We also looked into issues facing state governments in implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is a major federal law that reforms the way we approach food safety and is largely implemented by the states. I feel confident that North Carolina’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is taking the necessary steps to ensure that we are ready for the new regulations, and I am ready to work with the department on any statutory changes they need to help conform to the federal law. In fact, NC Department of Ag Consumer Protection Assistant Commissioner, Joe Reardon, was one of the panelists who presented to the SARL group and is a food safety expert.
On Saturday, officials of the company that owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it will close in May, ending a 146-year run that dates back to a time before automobiles or airplanes or movies, when Ulysses S. Grant was president and minstrel shows were popular entertainment. What killed the circus? There are many suspects: increased railroad costs. Costly court battles with animal rights activists that led to an end to elephant acts - and the fact that some people didn’t want to see a show without elephants.In a press release, animal rights group PETA celebrated the circus’ demise. “Thirty-six years of PETA protests, of documenting animals left to die, beaten animals, and much more, has reduced attendance to the point of no return,” PETA’s statement read. “All other animal circuses, roadside zoos, and wild animal exhibitors, including marine amusement parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium, must take note: society has changed, eyes have been opened, people know now who these animals are, and we know it is wrong to capture and exploit them.” But mostly, in an era of Pokemon Go, online role playing games and YouTube celebrities, the “Greatest Show on Earth” doesn’t seem so great. “It’s been through world wars, and it’s been through every kind of economic cycle and it’s been through a lot of change,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. “In the past decade there’s been more change in the world than in the 50 or 75 years prior to that. And I think it isn’t relevant to people in the same way.” Just this week, the circus made headlines when it announced that a woman would be ringmaster for the first time in the show’s 146-year history.
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, delivered a keynote address yesterday at the Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit of the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders (SARL) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During his address, Minister MacAulay pledged to work with the incoming U.S. administration and Congress to further strengthen the bilateral agricultural trading relationship between the two countries. He spoke of the many benefits of the Canada-U.S. agriculture relationship, and the need for continued cross-border collaboration to ensure the respective agriculture sectors remain globally competitive and prosperous. The annual SARL summit is the premier meeting of provincial and U.S. state legislators.
ome members of a Donald Trump Agricultural Advisory Committee are pushing for a former Iowa legislator to become U.S. Agriculture Secretary. North Dakota State Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, says his personal choice for the U.S. Department of Agriculture head has been Charles Herbster, a Nebraska cattleman and agribusinessman, but if the administration is looking for gender diversity on the cabinet his choice would be former Iowa state Rep. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden.
State Sen. David Johnson will return to the Iowa Legislature in January, not as the pivotal, powerful wild card that some anticipated, but nevertheless as a public servant determined to play his own hand. He’s the first independent to serve in the Iowa Legislature in generations. It might take a change in Senate rules to allow Johnson to serve on a committee, and that won’t happen without the majority party’s approval.“I don’t know exactly what my situation will be, but my constituents are owed a place on committees of some sort,” Johnson said.Even with the uncertainty of his status in the legislative process, Johnson sees a role for himself. “There’s an opportunity for me to be a different type of check and balance, perhaps,” he said.Johnson said he believes he represents a part of the Republican Party that’s been “vanquished.”He talks about a hidden “moderate” Republican vote, although Johnson has not changed his conservative view on issues like abortion. He has been out of step with the GOP for several years, however, on issues ranging from education and the environment to health care.
A federal court on Tuesday ordered North Carolina to hold a special legislative election next year after 28 state House and Senate districts are redrawn to comply with a gerrymandering ruling. U.S. District Court judges earlier this year threw out the current legislative district map, ruling that 28 of them were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. They allowed the 2016 election to continue under the old maps, but ordered legislators to draw new districts in 2017.
Federal judges struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map as illegally partisan, an unusual ruling that will require the Supreme Court to once again consider whether political gerrymandering violates the Constitution. It is a question the court has addressed in the past without resolution. In its last attempt, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, wrote that it was impossible for courts to come up with a test to decide when partisan line-drawing goes so far as to violate the rights of those who don’t belong to the party in power. But the justices are divided, and they have not shut the door to the possibility that such violations could exist.
In Florida, the competing sides on just one November ballot question — about controlling solar power production in the state — already have raised $23.65 million to try to sway the state’s voters. That amount pales in comparison to the $313 million raised so far to influence the outcomes of referendums in California, which routinely leads the nation in the number of issues on the ballot and money raised and spent on them. But it’s strikingly more than what’s been spent in the Sunshine State in the past. And what’s happening in Florida is happening across the country. State ballot campaigns this year are attracting millions of dollars from corporations, unions, wealthy individuals and special interest groups, as referendums increasingly replace legislatures as a battleground for people who want to make state policy, on issues ranging from legalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage to gun control and drug pricing, and from tobacco taxes to solar energy and education. So far this year, 165 statewide ballot measures, in 35 states, have been certified to go before voters. Of those, 74 were put on the ballot by citizens through signature petitions, rather than by state legislatures — the most since 2006.
Michigan State Rep. Dan Lauwers, Chair of Ag Committee, will hold a hearing on HB 5987 concerning delaying the requirements to provide space for animals’ certain movements (including egg laying chickens). The hearing will be Wednesday, November 9, 10:30 am in Rm 519 House Office Building in Lansing