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SARL Members and Alumni News

Minnesota Farm Groups Work With Lawmakers to Tweak Buffer Law

WNAX | Posted on March 2, 2017

Minnesota Farm Bureau leaders and other agricultural groups are working with state legislators to tweak the new buffer law. Lawmakers have held hearings where they heard from officials from the Board of Soil and Water Resources and Department of Natural Resources. State Farm Bureau  Associate Director of Public Policy Cole Rupprecht says the buffer maps released by DNR need to be adjusted. He says another area of the law that that needs modification deals with the alternative farming practices listed in the statute. Rupprecht says if legislators can’t find the proper fixes to the law, then implementation should be delayed. He also says an appeal process needs to be added. He says several buffer bills have been offered including one to repeal the law entirely but nothing has passed yet.


City Rights in an Era of Preemption: A State-by-State Analysis

National League of Cities | Posted on March 2, 2017

Preemption is the use of state law to nullify a municipal ordinance or authority. In some cases, preemption can lead to improved policy statewide. However, preemption that prevents cities from expanding rights, building stronger economies, and promoting innovation can be counterproductive when decision-making is divorced from the core wants and needs of community members.


Are you interested in helping provide information for rural infrastructure needs?

Rebuild Rural | Posted on March 2, 2017

Recently, SARL was a signee with 200 rural support groups on a letter to President Trump regarding rebuilding the infrastructure of rural America.  In the wake of the Rural Infrastructure Coalition’s letter to President Trump, the organizer's led by Farm Credit, want to develop a Rural Infrastructure “Repository” (i.e. database) –– a ready listing of “rural infrastructure” projects and other research dedicated to the infrastructure needs of Rural America.   As the President’s speech to Congress highlighted, legislative efforts in this policy area will begin to take shape shortly and we believe it will be important for the President and Members of Congress to have a ready list of rural infrastructure projects, particularly, as it relates to their respective states and districts. 

They are asking you to submit your current prioritizations for infrastructure needs, including any associated research papers and they have created a dedicated email account to ease the submission process: ruralinfrastructure@fccouncil.com. Once they have collected enough data to formulate a draft “repository”/database document, they will re-circulate the list to make sure they have adequately and accurately captured all the desired projects of rural emphasis.

If submitting projects for hte database please include:1) A point of contact (name, phone & email), 2) The author, organizations and year of any related study/published data/issue area (i.e. broadband, water, sewer, power, other types of rural infrastructure, etc.). If your in doubt of what to submit, drop me a note and we can talk about it (corr@sarl.us)


Wyoming, South Dakota nix country-of-origin-labeling for beef

Food Safety News | Posted on March 1, 2017

Mandatory country-of-origin-labeling bills for beef and ground beef made it out of committees in Pierre and Cheyenne, but got no further in the farm and ranch friendly South Dakota and Wyoming Legislatures. Senate Bill 135 went down in the South Dakota Senate on Feb. 25. It would have required grocery stores in the Rushmore State to disclosure the country of origin of beef and ground beef. House Bill 198 died in the Wyoming House on Feb. 3 when the Committee of the Whole opted not to consider the bill, which also would have required country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) for beef products in the Cowboy State.


ND: Lawmakers push bill to create new state environmental agency

Bismarck Tribune | Posted on March 1, 2017

Lawmakers are weighing the creation of a new environmental regulatory agency, splitting off those operations from the North Dakota Department of Health. Senate Bill 2327 would move the current duties of the state Health Department’s Environmental Health Section into a new cabinet-level agency called the Department of Environmental Quality. It passed out of committee Friday with a "do pass" recommendation.Bill sponsor Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, said this is something lawmakers have been discussing for some time.“With the new governor’s initiative to reinvent government, we felt now is the time to make this move," she said.The legislation emphasizes the separation of environmental issues from the medical world of public health. It “would send a message to the EPA we are serious about our state primacy, and this is our jurisdiction," said Unruh, who compared it to moves other states have taken.


New laws in Illinois, Michigan seek to tap power of energy efficiency

CSG- Midwest | Posted on March 1, 2017

When it came to helping craft a complex, landmark package of bills to revamp the state’s energy policy and map out the future of electric power in Michigan, Sen. Mike Nofs tried to at least keep one part of the legislative work simple and unchanging — the measure’s overarching goals.  “We wanted to control our destiny, regardless of the policies being set at the federal level,” he says. “And that meant focusing on affordability, reliability and clean energy.” And that, in turn, led him and other lawmakers to make efficiency — or “waste reduction,” as it is now referred to in Michigan statute —  a big part of the state’s new energy law, which was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in late 2016 (SB 437 and SB 438). Only weeks before, another Midwestern state, Illinois, also took sweeping actions on energy policy, with a law that includes new incentives and standards for its utilities to achieve greater efficiency.


Indiana among Midwestern states seeking fairer property-tax formula for farm producers

CSG- Midwest | Posted on March 1, 2017

Indiana Sen. Jean Leising knows it’s going to be another tough year for beef and hog producers, and 2016’s record national yields for corn and soybeans indicate that farm profitability will decline for the third straight year.  But she says a statutory revision made by the state legislature last year might at least help ease the pain for agricultural producers when it comes to paying their property taxes. “The drop in net farm income again this year makes the changes Indiana made to the farmland-taxation calculation in 2016 even more important,” Leising adds. In Indiana and seven other Midwestern states (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin), property tax valuations of farmland are built off a “base rate,” which, in turn, is determined by the land’s income potential. Most of these states also then use multi-year rolling averages to calculate the income potential. This framework for assessing agricultural land can prevent dramatic increases based on an isolated economic event, but it also has a potential downside for agricultural producers: While their net incomes may have fallen due to declining commodity prices or rents, for example, the valuation of their property is still including more-prosperous years when commodity prices were high and interest rates low. That is occurring right now in many of the region’s states, and has led to calls for tax relief of some kind. 


Kansas bill offers incentives to attract more businesses to job-scarce rural areas of state

CSG- Midwest | Posted on March 1, 2017

Seven years ago, Kansas lawmakers adopted new incentives for individuals to move to the state and make one of its 77 rural counties their new home. The Rural Opportunity Zones program offers a mix of income tax waivers (for up to five years) and student-loan repayments of $15,000. But as much as he supports the idea, Kansas Rep. Troy Waymaster says another part of the economic challenges for rural areas must somehow be met.  “The problem is when there is no job for them to take, [people] probably are not going to move [to the rural counties],” he notes. “This is the other half of the equation: how you get jobs to move back.”This year, he introduced the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act (HB 2168), which would provide tax credits to investors who help businesses expand, locate or relocate in Kansas’ rural areas, many of which are struggling due to trends in their two dominant industries: agriculture and oil. In both sectors, commodity prices are low. “When [rural areas’] dominant economic engines are in an economic downturn, it really has a catastrophic effect for the entire city or region,” says Waymaster, whose home county of Russell has a population of less than 7,000. “You don’t have farmers having excess cash where they can go out and buy new equipment and new machinery,” he adds, “and on the oil side, you’re not seeing the drilling that was going on [earlier in the decade].”


Washington Farm Bureau joins suit against pay, sick leave law

Capital Press | Posted on February 27, 2017

The Washington Farm Bureau and other business groups are suing to overturn the initiative that raised the minimum wage and mandated paid sick leave, pointing to a 2016 state Supreme Court ruling to bolster their claim the double-barreled measure is unconstitutional. The lawsuit contends Initiative 1433 imposed two policies. Washington’s constitution limits initiatives to one subject, an article the high court cited last year in voiding a tax-cutting measure sponsored by Tim Eyman. Farm Bureau CEO John Stuhlmiller said Friday that he hopes the Supreme Court will apply the same reasoning to I-1433, though he acknowledged it’s been a long time since the high court sided with the bureau. “That weighs heavily on everybody’s mind,” he said. “Candidly, I don’t want to go to the Supreme Court for anything.” I-1433 passed statewide in November with 57 percent of the vote, but failed in every county east of the Cascades. Several Western Washington counties also voted against the measure, but it won by lopsided margins in the most populous Puget Sound counties. The initiative was championed by unions and community activists. Gov. Jay Inslee collected signatures to qualify it for the ballot. After I-143 passed, former Supreme Court justice Phil Talmadge approached business groups about challenging the initiative. Talmadge referred questions to Patrick Connor, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.


SARL joins hundreds of organizations requesting White House support for rural infrastructure

Rebuild Rural Letter | Posted on February 24, 2017

Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of our respective organizations, which collectively represent U.S. agricultural producers, rural businesses, rural communities, and rural families, we are writing to ask your support for rebuilding infrastructure in rural America. We were very pleased to hear your comments about the importance of rebuilding U.S. infrastructure. Those of us in rural communities have seen our infrastructure deteriorate, jeopardizing jobs, our agricultural competitiveness, and the health of rural families. Past infrastructure initiatives often focused on urban and suburban infrastructure while not adequately addressing the unique needs of rural communities. We ask that you address this as part of your administration’s comprehensive infrastructure renewal efforts. American agriculture truly feeds the world and creates millions of jobs for U.S. workers. Our nation’s ability to produce food and fiber and transport it efficiently across the globe is a critical factor in U.S. competitiveness internationally. Infrastructure that supports rural communities and links them to global markets has helped make the U.S. the unquestioned leader in agricultural production. Our deteriorating infrastructure threatens that leadership position. Transportation infrastructure improvement is the most obvious need in rural communities, but not the only one. Highways, bridges, railways, locks and dams, harbors and port facilities all need major investment if we are to continue efficiently getting our agricultural products to market. For example, onequarter of our road system’s bridges require significant repair, or cannot efficiently handle today’s traffic and many of the 240 locks and dams along the inland waterways are in need of modernization. In addition, though, critical needs exist in providing clean water for rural families, expanding broadband to connect rural communities to the outside world, and enhancing the ability to supply affordable, reliable and secure power for the rural economy.


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