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SARL Members and Alumni News

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.

$100-mln joint-venture beef plant opens in Idaho

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 7, 2017

A cattle harvest and processing plant first announced by partners Caviness Beef Packers and J.R. Simplot Co. in early 2015 has opened for business in Kuna, Idaho, about six months after it originally was scheduled to begin operations.  The CS Beef Packers joint venture near Boise is a 370,000-sq.-ft. facility that is expected to eventually process as many as 1,700 head per day, eliminating the need for local ranches and farms to move their herds hundreds of miles to other packing plants. The new plant also is expected to bring a total of 700 jobs to the area when it reaches full capacity.

New York Governor Announces Over $1 Million to Support Agricultural Development Across the State

New York State | Posted on June 7, 2017

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced over $1 million for seven research, promotion, and development projects to strengthen New York State's diverse agricultural industry and spur economic growth across the state. The funding, approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, supports the continuation of malting barley research, enhances the processing capacity at a regional food hub, and assists with renovations to the New York Wine and Culinary Center, among other initiatives.

Food sovereignty bill passes in Maine House, Senate

Bangor Daily News | Posted on June 6, 2017

A food sovereignty law in Maine moved one step closer to reality after the state House and Senate approved a bill giving towns and communities the authority to enact ordinances regulating local food and water distribution free from state control. On Wednesday the House passed LD 725, An Act to recognize local control regarding food and water systems, with a supermajority 109-35 following a brief floor debate.That same day, the bill passed through the Maine Senate without a roll-call vote taken.Speaking in favor of LD 725 during the floor debate, Rep. Don Marean, R-Hollis, said face-to-face transactions and local control is what the bill is is about. “What can be better than that?” he said Friday morning. “It’s not necessarily good for everyone in Maine, but it is certainly good for people living in rural areas who know their neighbors, who go to their farms and can see and assess for themselves if the produce or meat is safe to eat.”Marean, who said he has supported food sovereignty legislation in the past, said there are times the state tries to “over regulate” things.To date, 18 Maine towns in seven counties have declared food sovereignty with local ordinances giving residents the right to produce, sell, purchase and consume local foods of their own choosing in Sedgwick, Blue Hill, Penobscot, Trenton, Hope, Appleton, Isle Au Haut, Plymouth, Livermore, Freedom, Moscow, Solon, Bingham, Brooklin, Liberty, Madison and Alexander. Sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, LD 725 would authorize municipal governments to adopt ordinances regulating their own food systems and the transporting of water for commercial purposes. It further requires the state to recognize those ordinances.

Connecticut experiments with Cuurt Advocates for abused animals

Custom Wire | Posted on June 6, 2017

Many states have victim's advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success. There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut - seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It's up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases."Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse.Supporters say those issues are easily handled by a judge.The law was created by the Legislature and went into effect late last year. "Desmond's Law" was named for a dog that was beaten, starved and strangled by its owner, Alex Wullaert, who admitted to the violence but avoided jail time under a probation program for first-time offenders that allowed his record to be wiped clean.

Minnesota tax credit provides relief to farmers, greater chance for rural schools to build

Stateline Midwest | Posted on June 5, 2017

In Minnesota, the chances of a local school district getting the money it wants to build a new facility or improve existing buildings can depend greatly on where it is located: In metropolitan areas, most school construction projects get approved by local voters; in rural districts, these proposed tax increases tend to fail. This discrepancy led to legislative action this year. As envisioned under a section of HF 1 (Minnesota’s omnibus tax bill that still needed final approval as of late May), new state tax credits would offset 40 percent of a school district’s bond debt load that is attributed to agricultural property-tax payers. Some 240,000 parcels of land would qualify for the credit.By providing relief to farmers, lawmakers hope that this group of local taxpayers will be more likely to vote “yes” on local referenda and less burdened by the costs of approved school projects.In some districts, farm families make up only a small percentage of the taxpayers and a local school’s students, but their land accounts for a majority of the tax base that must pay for a project. As a result, individual farms may wind up paying several hundred thousand dollars in additional taxes over the life of a 30-year construction bond.

Supreme Court declines to hear Proposition 2 challenge

| Posted on June 5, 2017

The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to California's Proposition 2 law that was filed by six other states. The law, which took effect in 2015, requires that eggs produced and sold in the state are laid by hens that have adequate room to stand up, sit down, turn around and extend their limbs without touching another bird or the sides of the cage.The recent challenge to California’s law was led by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who stated he believed the law imposes onerous new regulations on Missouri poultry farmers and would drive up the cost of eggs for Missouri consumers.Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma joined in the appeal.The law had been legally challenged by other states before. Hawley’s predecessor, Chris Koster, in 2014, filed a lawsuit that challenged the California egg law, months before it was to be enacted. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Fresno, California. That challenge also involved the other five states.

Lawmakers vote to fund veterinary medicine at Texas Tech

Texas Tribune | Posted on June 1, 2017

Texas Tech University's on-again, off-again plans to open a veterinary school in Amarillo might just be on again. Buried in the 900-plus page budget approved Saturday by state lawmakers is $4.1 million allocated to Tech for "veterinary medicine." That money appears to be start-up funding for a new vet school — even though Tech started the legislative session saying that plans for the school were "on pause."Tech originally announced in late 2015 that it wanted to open a school in Amarillo 2019. But the idea was met with fierce resistance by Texas A&M University, which has the only veterinary school in the state. Despite the "on pause" declaration, lawmakers from the Lubbock area never gave up. A line providing the funding was included in the House's version of the budget — but not the Senate's. The budget conference committee tasked with crafting a compromise decided to leave it in. 

Join us for Changes in Agriculture Law Webinar

State Agriculture and Rural Leaders | Posted on June 1, 2017

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

Wednesday, June 14 at 2:00 pm ET (1:00 pm CT) 

State Agriculture and Rural Leaders is collaborating with the National Agriculture Law Center in a pilot webinar on recent developments in agriculture and food law. Agriculture and food law at the local, state and national level is changing constantly and impacting our farmers, food producers and rural residents.

It is almost impossible for you to stay abreast of the legal challenges and changes impacting your constituents and state laws. To make it easier for you, we are offering this update. 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.

This webinar will address developments related to: 

  • the Waters of the United States rule;
  • Maryland’s passage of legislation banning the use of antibiotics in health animals; 
  • 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.

Register now at

or call/email Carolyn Orr at or 859.265.0658 to register.