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SARL Members and Alumni News

North Dakota sues Dakota Access over farmland ownership

MPR news | Posted on July 14, 2018

North Dakota's attorney general is suing the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline over agricultural land the company owns in violation of a state law banning large corporations from owning farmland. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a civil complaint in state district court against Dakota Access LLC, a company formed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to build the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. The pipeline began operating a year ago. Dakota Access in September 2016 bought about 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) from a ranch family in an area of southern North Dakota where thousands of pipeline opponents had gathered to protest. North Dakota law prohibits large corporations from owning and operating farms, to protect the state's family farming heritage, but Stenehjem reached a deal with the company under which he agreed not to immediately sue. He deemed the purchase temporarily necessary to provide a safer environment for pipeline workers. The agreement with the company expired at the end of last year but was extended through June. The company's "continued ownership of the land constitutes a continuing violation of state law," 


Alliance releases report from 2018 Animal Rights National Conference

Dairy Business | Posted on July 12, 2018

The Animal Agriculture Alliance released a report detailing observations from the Animal Rights National Conference, held June 28 through July 1 in Los Angeles, Ca. The event was organized by the Farm Animal Rights Movement and sponsored by Mercy for Animals, The Save Movement, Compassion Over Killing and The Humane League, along with other animal rights extremist groups. According to conference organizers, the Animal Rights National Conference is the world’s largest and longest-running gathering of animal rights activists with the shared belief that “animals have the right to be free from all forms of human exploitation.” Speakers at the conference made it clear that their objective is the liberation of animals, not enhancing animal welfare. “Animal rights is different from animal welfare. It’s not about better cages; it’s about empty cages,”said Anita Krajnc of The Save Movement, a group who conducts “vigils” at slaughterhouses across the country. Speakers agreed that any form of meat production is inherently inhumane, making statements such as “There is no such thing as humane slaughter” (Michael Budkie, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!), “You cannot humanely kill something that doesn’t want to die”(Justin Van Kleek, Triangle Chicken Advocates), “I do believe that all farming and slaughterhouses are cruel”(Jaya Bhumitra, Animal Equality) and “All farms are factory farms, no matter the size”(Hope Bonahec, United Poultry Concerns).


Colorado oil and gas ballot initiative would bar extraction on more than 80 percent of non-federal land, state regulators say

The Denver Post | Posted on July 12, 2018

 More than 4 of every 5 acres of non-federal land in Colorado would be off-limits to new oil and gas drilling if voters this fall approve a proposed ballot measure that aims to significantly widen the distance wells have to be from occupied buildings and water sources, according to an analysis released this month by state energy regulators.The report, which doesn’t directly address the initiative’s potential economic impact, comes at the fever pitch of a yearslong dispute over how and where companies access mineral rights. Supporters call the industry an engine of economic growth, whereas critics point to the fading gap between extraction sites and fast-expanding neighborhoods.Initiative 97 would establish the minimum setback of oil and gas wells to 2,500 feet — from the current 500 feet for homes and 1,000 feet for schools. Industry advocates warn that would decimate the state’s oil and gas sector, which was cited in a recent Colorado Petroleum Council study for having generated nearly 233,000 jobs in Colorado and contributed more than $31 billion to the state’s economy.


Columnists Adam Hinds and SARL President Stephen Kulik: A rural strategy for economic growth

Daily Hampshire Gazette | Posted on July 12, 2018

Massachusetts, like the rest of the country, is experiencing growing disparity between rural and urban centers.To reverse this trend, Massachusetts requires a rural strategy for economic growth. We must do more to attract investment that retains and expands existing jobs, stimulates the creation of new jobs and attracts new business and industry in these parts of the commonwealth. Between 2010 and 2017, the nation’s population grew by some 17 million people. But while cities grew, it was the first extended period on record with population decline in rural areas as a whole.The same was true in Massachusetts. Between 2010 and 2017, the population of the commonwealth grew by some 312,000 people, while the population fell in three of our most rural counties: Berkshire, Franklin and Barnstable.As elected officials representing rural western Massachusetts, we’ve worked together to reverse this trajectory. Specifically, we’ve fought to bring high-speed internet and improved rural transportation to the region as well as links to regional economic centers. We’ve worked to bring more money to our rural schools. And, we’ve supported our regional employment boards and a middle skills manufacturing initiative, which trains people in our region the skills they’ll need to get jobs in advanced manufacturing firms.But there is more we can do.We have introduced the Rural Jobs Act for Massachusetts. This legislation is aimed at attracting private capital investment to the small communities that help make up our commonwealth. This month, the state House of Representatives and Senate are debating an economic development bond bill, and this should be a part of that effort.


Hundreds rally in support of N.C. hog farmers

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on July 12, 2018

The recent award of $25 million in damages to residents who sued a Smithfield hog farm prompted a rally this week in support of hog farmers, and proposals that could restrict such lawsuits are moving through the state legislature. Several hundred people gathered in Duplin County, N.C., to support hog farmers across the state that could become targets of what the protesters called nuisance lawsuits over the disposal of hog waste or other environmental impacts. The protesters contend that many complaints were not launched by residents, but by teams of lawyers who filed class-action suits.The report quotes the state’s commissioner of agriculture, Steve Troxler, saying the family at the center of the Smithfield lawsuit could lose their hogs and possibly go out of business in the wake of the decision.Smithfield is expected to appeal the $25 million damage ruling, which the report said could be reduced to about $500,000.


Minnesota sweetens the pot to shift cropland into Conservation

Mankato Free Press | Posted on July 12, 2018

New program pays up to 90 percent of land value.Under the program, landowners enroll land in the federal Conservation Reserve Program for 15 years. But they also sign up for the Reinvest in Minnesota program, and agree to a permanent easement, a legal document stipulating the land must always be managed for conservation.The federal program protects land for 10 or 15 years, opening the door for the land to be plowed under again. Minnesota could lose 500,000 acres of grassland in the next five years.It's critical to preserve land permanently to maximize water quality protection, said Aaron Larsen, a program manager for the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District. The Westbys get annual CRP payments for 15 years for taking this farmland out of production. They also get a one-time payment from the state.The payments are determined through a complex formula, but the combination of federal and state dollars will equal 90 percent of the average per acre land value.The goal of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is to restore and preserve 60,000 acres, or roughly 90 square miles of land across 54 counties in western and southern Minnesota.


Food Stamp Work Requirements Would Force States to Provide Job Training. Many Aren’t Ready

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on July 11, 2018

The House version of the food-stamp-to-work program Congress is considering this week would require recipients to enroll in job training programs if they can’t find work — but in many states, those programs won’t be fully available for at least another decade. This will have a big impact on the people who depend on food stamps, some 42 million in 2017. The average beneficiary receives about $125 a month, and a family of four must have an annual income of about $25,000 or less to qualify. Many are already working.Lawmakers’ effort to increase work requirements continues a trend in the past year of asking impoverished families to put so-called “skin in the game” when receiving government benefits. In this case, the families don’t have full control over what’s being required of them: If Congress requires more food stamp recipients to get jobs, states will have to greatly expand training programs to comply with federal law. States that don’t offer training for beneficiaries who are required to work could lose federal funding. Many states would have a hard time offering job training to all of them — especially in the next two years, which is what the House bill calls for. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it will take more than a decade for states to ramp up their job training programs. State work training programs vary widely, the CBO found, and “offering training services to all eligible recipients would require many states to expand their programs substantially.”


NM Land Commissioner Sues NM State Engineer Over Water Permits

Texas Agriculture Law Blog | Posted on July 9, 2018

The Land Commissioner is charged with jurisdiction over state trust lands to generate support for public schools and other state institutions.  In the Complaint, filed in the First Judicial District Court, the Commissioner asserts that he has “an interest in the appropriation of water on and off of state trust lands because the use of water in connection with activities on state trust lands often is essential to the lands’ highest and best use.”  The State Engineer is vested with authority to manage the state’s water resources, including issuing permits for groundwater wells. The Commissioner is concerned with the State Engineer’s issuance of groundwater pumping permits.  Specifically, the concern revolves around permits issued pursuant to NMSA Section 72-12-1.3.  Section 72-12-1.3 provides that if a person seeks to use groundwater in an amount of less than three acre-feet for a period of time less than one year for prospecting, mining, or construction of public works, highways, and roads or drilling operations designed to discover or develop the natural mineral resources in the state, a temporary permit may be issued by the State Engineer.  A separate application must be filed for each proposed use.   If the request will not permanently impair any existing water rights of others, the permit must be granted.  If it will permanently impair such rights,  a hearing must be held.


New York $30 million available for dairy farm projects

Times Union | Posted on July 9, 2018

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that $30 million is available to support conservation easement projects on dairy farms across New York. Plummeting milk prices have "increased the threat" of more farmland being converted into other developments, Cuomo said in a statement. Land trusts, municipalities and other entities can apply for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million.


Kentucky cuts vision, dental care for up to 460,000 people

Associated Press | Posted on July 9, 2018

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration cut dental and vision coverage for as many as 460,000 Kentuckians after his Medicaid overhaul plan was rejected in court. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services called the cuts an “unfortunate consequence” of Friday’s ruling by a federal judge. Democrats and advocates for the poor condemned the Republican governor’s move as rash and possibly illegal.  U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg’s rejection of Bevin’s plan to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program was also a setback for President Donald Trump’s administration, which has been encouraging states to impose work requirements and other changes on the joint state and federal health insurance program for poor and disabled people. Boasberg’s ruling blocks those requirements for now in Kentucky.


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