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We cannot neglect investing in rural Idaho or rural America

Idaho Statesman | Posted on October 4, 2018

Earlier this year, the U.S. Census announced that urban and suburban Idaho are enjoying substantial growth. Urban counties account for 75 percent of the state’s recent growth and 65 percent of its overall population, with Boise drawing national attention as the country’s fastest-growing major city. This is on the heels of recent news that as a state, more and more people in Idaho are moving out of rural communities to set down roots in the urban core.As more individuals and families are drawn to urban and suburban locales, our rural communities begin to shrink. With fewer residents, we see less investment in core services and less support for communities. Many rural communities are seeing a demographic shift in which fewer young people are setting down roots, thus shifting the average age of rural populations upward and eventually increasing demand for health care and elder care resources as resident baby boomers move further into retirement.While it makes sense to invest in the spaces that house the most individuals, we cannot neglect investing in rural Idaho or rural America. These communities remain home to tens of thousands of individuals here in Idaho and tens of millions across the country. Often, these communities are home to some of our greatest natural recreation areas and spaces of significant cultural, agricultural and economic importance.


Program unveiled to help Montana's rural communities

Great Falls Tribune | Posted on October 4, 2018

A new program of the Main Street Montana Project will focus on creating economic opportunities in small towns and rural and tribal communities in Montana.  Beginning this fall, Main Street Montana – Rural Partners will start six community partnerships to provide aid and help economic and community development projects to rural Montana. This will be done with support from the lieutenant governor’s office and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney said they will develop partnerships with community leaders, businesses, local organizations and the public in rural communities to address challenges unique to rural Montana and connect communities to share opportunities.


New Iowa law provides more funding to control nutrient runoff

CSG Midwest | Posted on October 4, 2018

Iowa and other states in the Mississippi River basin have been the focus of national attention lately due to soil nutrients that drain to the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts in Iowa to reduce and limit the amount of nutrients that are delivered to the Gulf have been numerous. Senate File 512 was passed at the start of our 2018 legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Jan. 31; it provides significant, long-term funding to support implementation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The new law dedicates $282 million over 12 years for water quality and soil conservation — $156 million to address point sources of water pollution and $126 million for nonpoint sources. SF 512 does not supplant or change any of our state’s existing programs; rather, it simply enhances our Nutrient Reduction Strategy. In 2017, $420 million was spent in Iowa to further the goals of this strategy. We will now be able to add to that amount, with targeted investments leveraged by a mix of public and private dollars.


To increase farmers’ insurance options, two Midwest states try ‘coop,’ ‘association’ models

CSG Midwest | Posted on October 4, 2018

Residents living in more than half of the nation’s counties have only one insurer to choose from on their state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange. This lack of options is most prevalent in rural areas: 41 percent of enrollees in non-metro counties vs. the overall rate of 21 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.Could the creation of agricultural cooperative health plans help fill insurance gaps, offer more choices for consumers and lower costs? Minnesota lawmakers hope so, and their passage of SF 1 in 2017 marked the start of that state’s policy experiment with this type of health insurance option. “Farmers can join together in self-insured plans like those used by large employers,” explains Rep. Tim Miller, who helped guide the legislation through the House. By the start of this year, two agriculture cooperatives, 40 Square and Land O’ Lakes, had jumped into the market and enrolled more than 1,700 people.


N.C. estimates crop, livestock losses from Hurricane Florence

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on October 4, 2018

Crop and livestock losses from Hurricane Florence are expected to exceed $1.1 billion, including $23.1 million in livestock, poultry and aquaculture losses, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.The agency noted that the losses were expected to be significant because the storm hit at harvest time and Florence hit the state’s top six agricultural counties especially hard. Crop losses alone were estimated to reach a total nearly $987 million, NSDA&CS said.The agency added that the estimated toll on animals raised for food in North Carolina remain at 4.1 million poultry and 5,500 hogs across the state. Florence also caused forestry losses of $69.6 million, green industry losses of $30 million and vegetable and horticulture crop losses of $26.8 million.


In sudden turnaround, regulators suspend new rules for New Jersey's craft breweries

North Jersey | Posted on October 4, 2018

State alcohol regulators suspended enforcement of new rules for New Jersey's craft breweries after top lawmakers vowed to roll them back in a flurry of critical statements.The state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, said in a statement that the pause would allow it to further consult with the competing factions — craft breweries on one side and bars and restaurants on the other — and potentially work with lawmakers to write new legislation.“We want to make sure that we get this right,” said ABC Director David Rible. “We are committed to supporting the state’s growing craft beer industry, while also balancing the concerns of other stakeholders and ensuring compliance with state law.”Gov. Phil Murphy, who had expressed misgivings about the rules after an outcry from the craft beer industry last week, celebrated the announcement on Twitter."I applaud today’s decision and look forward to continuing to support our vibrant craft beer industry," he wrote. The regulations in question were issued Sept. 21 by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and sought to clarify what breweries can and cannot do under a 2012 state law aimed at spurring the growth of New Jersey's craft beer industry. Previous guidance was murky or incomplete, causing “significant confusion” about what was permissible, the division said.The rules contained new restrictions, most significantly limiting breweries to hosting 25 events and 52 private parties a year. But they also gave the beer makers new privileges, such as allowing them to host up to 12 off-premises events annually. Breweries were prohibited from selling food, but consumers could bring their own food into tasting rooms.


New grant money available to boost Pennsylvania dairy industry

Your Erie | Posted on September 27, 2018

Low milk costs mean tough times for dairy farmers across the Commonwealth, leaving many with no choice but to shut down. At one time, Erie County was home to dozens of dairy farms; that's no longer the case. Farmers say the business as a whole is to blame, but they tell us policy changes and support from the state could be a turning point. After more than 80 years in business, the barns at Curtis Dairy are now empty.  You can see in the video what the facility looked like just a few months ago, housing more than 300 cows.Dean Curtis tells us, "It hurts when I think of all the years that I put in here and to see it go away. You know, it's hard." Curtis says there just isn't money in the industry anymore, and he says the problem comes down to the cost of milk. "You look back in history; in the 80's, we were getting more money back in the 80's than we are now for a hundred of milk." It's a dilemma forcing farms across the Commonwealth to shut down. That's why Governor Tom Wolf approved $5 million dispersed among eligible applicants. The money is part of the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program.


US Attorney Sues West Virginia Hemp Farm Over Seeds' Origin

US News and World Report | Posted on September 26, 2018

A U.S. attorney is suing a West Virginia hemp farm and others, saying they violating the federal Controlled Substances Act.U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart has sued Matthew Mallory of CAMO Hemp WV, and Gary Kale of Grassy Run Farms. Grassy Run Farms owns the land, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Saturday.The lawsuit charges the farmers with manufacturing, cultivation, possession, and intent to distribute marijuana and not hemp. Hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis sativa plant, but by state law hemp must be comprised of less than 1 percent THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.The complaint says the farmers purchased their hemp seeds in Kentucky and brought them over the West Virginia state line. A state pilot program only allows hemp producers to obtain seeds internationally, via the state Department of Agriculture, the lawsuit said.The complaint also said the defendants indicated they would install security measures around the farm. However, that allegedly hasn't happened.If Stuart prevails in the lawsuit, the farmers' plants, property, equipment and seeds could all be seized and forfeited to the government. His complaint says the federal government could receive either $250,000 in civil penalties or twice the sum of the defendants' gross receipts.The farmers' attorneys argue the Agricultural Act of 2014 protects their right to grow hemp under state laws. Also, the Farm Bill and related provisions of a federal appropriations bill together state that no congressional appropriated funds can prevent the transportation, processing or sale of hemp under a state program authorized under the federal legislation.


Wisconsin to Add Ag Enterprise Areas

Wisconsin Ag Connection | Posted on September 26, 2018

Three more agricultural enterprise areas totaling 185,000 acres have been designated by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. The new AEAs will be in Trempealeau County's town of Arcadia; St. Croix County's town of Troy; and six townships in northwest Outagamie and northeast Waupaca counties. Wisconsin will have a total of 37 agricultural enterprise areas, or AEAs, in 26 counties, 108 towns and the Bad River Reservation, as of January 1, 2019.AEAs may be created or expanded when at least five landowners, in partnership with local governments, petition the DATCP for the designation. They are part of Wisconsin's farmland preservation program, intended to encourage preservation of agricultural land use and to promote agricultural economic development appropriate to each area.Landowners outside designated AEAs who want to participate should work with their neighbors and local governments to petition for AEA status.


Michigan's new food safety team assists food businesses

Michigan Department of Agriculture | Posted on September 26, 2018

A new team of food safety experts has been created to help speed up the licensing process for Minnesota food businesses. The goal of the Food Innovation Team (FIT), a subcommittee of Minnesota’s Food Safety and Defense Task Force, is to help state regulators accommodate new and innovative food business models while maintaining high food safety standards. “Obtaining a food license can be a daunting process,” said Jim Roettger, Licensing Liaison for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “The Food Innovation Team will help business owners untangle issues and provide them access to experts in the areas of regulation, local food systems, and food safety.”In addition to helping individual food entrepreneurs, the Food Innovation Team will strive to improve the overall functioning of the food regulatory system. Roettger says as FIT hears cases and resolves issues that are complex or unclear, that information will be captured in a database that will be available to the public. Over time, this information will help regulators, food system advocates, and food entrepreneurs work through complex food licensing problems.The Food Innovation Team was developed through a collaborative process that involved the food regulatory divisions of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Health, community groups including the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association and Renewing the Countryside, as well as University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.


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