Food stamp recipients in New York will not see their ability to use their benefits at farmers’ markets interrupted this summer. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state and the Farmers Market Federation had reached agreement with Nova Dia Group, the mobile application vendor that was to close this summer, to continue processing farmers’ markets transactions that use food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.State officials and farmers markets learned in early July that Novo Dia Group, the company that had been processing food stamp purchases at markets, was closing July 31 – in the middle of a busy farmers’ market season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had contracted with Novo Dia, the only USDA-authorized contractor of a cellular-based redemption system app for smartphones, to process SNAP transactions. USDA did hire a replacement company, but that company does not provide smartphone capabilities.Novo Dia’s software is used by 40 percent of farmers markets across the country, and all 500 markets in New York.New York State has hired Novo Dia to continue to process SNAP transactions, though the deal offers only a short-term solution, Cuomo.The solution could also provide solutions for other affected markets in the country, according to Cuomo and Novo Dia President Josh Wiles.
Urging the state water board to reject a proposal to redirect flows in three Central California rivers, a coalition of more than 50 agricultural, water and business organizations encouraged the board to renew efforts for voluntary agreements with affected water users. “This unified response from groups representing farmers, ranchers, and urban and rural residents alike demonstrates the impact the water board’s proposal would have, and the need for the board to explore alternative methods that would help fish without the severe human cost of its current approach,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson said. The State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal next month. It would commit much more water in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers to “unimpaired flows” intended to benefit salmon and other fish.
Local municipalities are taking up the reins to combat global climate change as scientists around the world continue to sound alarm bells warning of the possibly irreversible effects of using greenhouse-gas emitting sources of energy.The Middleton City Council passed a resolution this month setting goalposts for utilizing renewable energy sources in 100 percent of energy consumption city-wide — for the city government’s operations but also for community residents and companies.Middleton’s plan is just one in the region either laid out or in the works.Dane County, which boasts 100 percent renewable electricity use for government functions, hopes to complete and roll out an expanded sustainability plan in the spring. In March 2017, the Madison City Council passed a resolution to develop a plan laying out goals for zero-carbon emissions energy use in city operations and methods to reach those goals.
Ohio regulators let FirstEnergy collect $168 million a year from ratepayers with virtually no strings attached for how it is spent.Ohio ratepayers have paid FirstEnergy’s utilities roughly a quarter of a billion dollars since January 2017 under a distribution modernization rider. The mandate for consumers to pay the rider is currently on appeal before the Supreme Court of Ohio. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy’s utilities have been collecting the $168 million per year, and regulators could renew the charge for another two years after 2019.“To date, FirstEnergy has stymied the efforts of the state-designated advocate of its consumers to discover information about its subsidy charges,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston and assistant counsel Zachary Woltz said in a July 13 brief.
There are few places better to see the effects of an intensifying drought than a hulking, 200-plus-acre complex just off of Interstate 44 in southwest Missouri. This is the Joplin Regional Stockyards, one of the biggest in the country, selling more than 430,000 head of cattle in 2017 alone. Usually, they’ll have 800 to 900 cows on the block at weekly Wednesday sales. On July 11, they had double that. “Everybody's a little short on hay, everyone's a little nervous,” co-owner Skyler Moore said. “We're getting into some water issues in certain areas. And the weather's real spotty.”About a quarter of the state started 2018 in a drought, and it’s only gotten worse from there. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center said Joplin has received 9.65 inches of rain since April — on track to be in the 10 driest periods of the last 100 years.
o the delight of dog lovers, cities and states have begun passing laws to allow dogs to join patrons on restaurant and bar patios. Many diners have simply asked, “Wait, that was illegal?”Sure, the United States doesn’t have the rich history of outdoor dining of say, Paris, where pooches are almost as common as croissants at outdoor cafes. But when the weather is pleasant, it’s fairly common to see people settling in for an outdoor beer with their dog at their feet. And as U.S. culture shifts to become more pet-friendly, the numbers suggest it will only become more common.Pets are increasingly an important part of many people’s lives. U.S. spending on pets has risen from $17 billion in 1994 to an estimated $72 billion in 2018. The number of craft breweries also has skyrocketed since 2010, expanding the number of spots with a dog-friendly atmosphere.But in many places, health codes simply don’t allow dogs other than service animals to be present at restaurants and bars. Just nine states have laws that allow canine companionship in such places. Many proprietors across the country have been allowing dogs anyway, with owners at worst ignoring the law and at best believing they were operating in a gray area.
Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller was elected the president of the Southern U.S. Trade Association (SUSTA) at the organization’s annual board of directors’ meeting this week. The meeting was held in connection with the annual business meeting of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture. SUSTA is made up of the Departments of Agriculture in 15 southern states and is chartered to facilitate exports of U.S. food and high value agricultural products by small to medium-sized companies in the region. SUSTA’s Board of Directors, comprised of the Secretaries and Commissioners of Agriculture in their member states, chose Miller to lead the organization for the coming term.
A Minnesota administrative law judge extended the time the state will receive public comments on a controversial proposal to regulate fall use of some crop fertilizers. The rule was instituted by the Dayton administration, limiting the use of nitrogen fertilizer each fall in many parts of the state. Farmers, while saying they seldom use the fertilizer in the fall anyway, objected to the rule because they had little say in its original drafting.
New York will begin soliciting contracts from companies that will assess the cyber-security risks of New York's voting systems and help improve internet firewalls for county boards of elections. The initiative, part of a $5 million earmark in the 2019 budget, was announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The governor's announcement tethered the security project to the recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers who are charged with hacking into the email accounts and servers of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 elections.
An Associated Press review finds that 25 state lawmakers who have been accused of sexual misconduct are running for re-election or another office this year. Of those, 15 have already advanced to the Nov. 6 general election. Seven did not even face a challenger in their primary.Cassaundra Cooper, who filed a sexual harassment claim against a former Kentucky lawmaker in 2013, wonders why voters would re-elect public officials accused of sexual misconduct, or simply choose to ignore the allegations.“That shocks me,” she said. “Where is the empathy?”In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal — and the extraordinary growth of the #MeToo movement — any assumption that accused office holders would be political pariahs is not borne out on the state level. (Though by comparison, virtually every member of Congress accused of sexual harassment has resigned or opted against running for re-election.)