Legislation aimed at improving Iowa's water quality remained alive in the Iowa Senate Wednesday, despite serious reservations by some lawmakers who are unhappy with the measure's funding plans.Senate File 482, which has been proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad, mirrors legislation considered in the House last year. It would fund water quality projects by shifting money now spent on state infrastructure projects and by using sales tax dollars Iowans already pay on their water bills The bill was approved on a 2-1 Senate subcommittee vote, advancing it to the Senate Appropriations Committee and keeping the issue eligible for debate as the 2017 session nears adjournment. Sen. Jack Shipley, R-Nodaway, who chaired the meeting, said the measure isn't perfect, but it offers the potential to make progress on water quality problems.
Most of Tennessee’s factory farms would no longer need state permits that regulate animal waste disposal, under the terms of a bill before the state legislature. If it passes, only animal farms that actually pollute groundwater or waterways would be subject to oversight. The debate pits the multibillion-dollar agricultural industry against environmentalists and state water quality regulators. Farmers say the current permit process is too time consuming and expensive, while conservationists and state officials warn of uncontrolled pollution by farmers who don’t follow industry standards.
Committee’s chairman Brian Clem noted that existing farm-to-school funding would be eliminated under the 2017-2019 budget recommended by Gov. Kate Brown and halved under the proposal by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. A bill directing $5.6 million to Oregon’s farm-to-school food program has won unanimous approval from the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Now, House Bill 2038 must compete against other spending bills in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, which is prioritizing requests for funding in the next biennium amid a projected state budget deficit of $1.6 billion.
Oregon’s first-in-the-nation bottle recycling program will now double the payout for used soda cans and glass bottles, and frugal residents have been stockpiling for months in anticipation. With other recycling options now commonplace, this eco-trailblazing Pacific Northwest state is hoping to revamp the program with the increase from 5 to 10 cents for bottled and canned water, soda, beer and malt beverages — regardless what their labels say.Oregon’s 1971 Bottle Bill — groundbreaking for its era in combating litter — has been replicated in nine other states and Guam. Michigan is the only other with an across-the-board 10 cent-payout, although booze and other large bottles go for 10 cents in California and 15 cents in Maine and Vermont.
The state has released new rules for doctors, veterinarians and pharmacies in support of a state law designed to curb drug abuse by setting limits on opioid prescriptions. Veterinarians hoped the rules would address a host of concerns about their role in the policing of opioid prescriptions.They don’t.“There aren’t very many changes that I could see,” veterinarian Amanda Bisol, legislative chairwoman for the Maine Veterinary Medical Association and owner of Animal Medical Clinic in Skowhegan, said. At issue is Chapter 488, a law that strictly limits opioid prescriptions for chronic and acute pain, except for people with cancer, in hospice, receiving palliative care or using the medication for addiction treatment. It also requires that doctors, including vets, check the state’s prescription monitoring database before prescribing and refuse to write a prescription if the patient is over the new state-imposed limit.The law was passed last year as emergency legislation and went into effect Jan. 1.“We included veterinarians with the support and urging of physicians and other prescribers — because we know that opiate addicts are diverting drugs from their pets,” Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Samantha Edwards said.However, vets say it’s rare for people to take their pets’ pain medication, possibly because most pet prescriptions are written for a fraction of the amount a human would need to get high.
In response to a House-approved bill that would legalize raw milk, lawmakers are considering a bill that would label it and products made from it. Senate Bill 300 would make it so “fresh” or unpasteurized milk and related products would require a warning label for consumers who are vulnerable to bacterial infections. That would include pregnant women, young children or infants.The bill passed the Senate 29-to-21 in February and is now in the House of Representatives.Another bill, House Bill 325, would allow milk producers to sell unpasteurized milk. That bill passed the House 69-to-30 and is now being considered by the Senate.The House Judiciary Committee didn’t take immediate action on the labeling bill Thursday.“We’re not quite the same conditions we were 100 years ago when we started pasteurized milk, but the fact of the matter is we like to make decisions based on evidence,” said Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, who is carrying the labeling bill.Sands said the intent of her bill is not to prevent anyone from drinking raw milk, but to educate people who consume raw milk.
The greater Lehigh Valley scored a handful of the first 16 industrial hemp research projects approved by the state Department of Agriculture. Lehigh University researchers and the Berks County-based Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council will partner on three different projects, and the Rodale Institute in Maxatawny Township will evaluate potential benefits of industrial hemp both as a cash crop and as a tool for weed control and soil health.GenCanna Global Inc.., a startup that previously participated in Kentucky's pilot program, will also grow hemp on a farm in Maxatawny Township in Berks County."I couldn't be more pleased that we are passing yet another auspicious point in the reintroduction of hemp," said Geoffrey Whaling, president of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council. "The wide range of projects speaks to the diversity and potential of the crop."
Missouri lawmakers gave final approval to a bill increasing fines for illegal use of herbicides resulting in damage to other farmers’ crops. The Missouri House passed the bill Thursday in a vote of 139-18.The bill, HB 662, already had passed the Senate. It now goes to Gov. Eric Greitens, and if he signs it, will go into effect immediately.Chemical company Monsanto developed herbicides containing dicamba and dicamba-resistant seeds, the Southeast Missourian reported in January. Dicamba is approved for use against woody and wide-leaf plants, and older formulations of dicamba herbicides were not approved for use in 2016. Drift or overspray of herbicides containing dicamba caused significant damage to neighboring farms’ crops in Southeast Missouri in 2016, the Southeast Missourian reported in January 2017.In December 2016, Missouri’s largest peach producer sued Monsanto for contributing to overspray conditions that caused substantial damage to their crop.Sponsored by State Rep. Don Rone of Portageville, the bill seeks to increase fines for damage to neighboring crops. Fines for offending farmers could reach $10,000 for each instance of damage on a first offense and $25,000 for repeat offenders.
The wind energy bill passed by the North Dakota House is an effective compromise, according to Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley. “It’s kind of a meeting in the middle,” he said, referring to. “If everybody agrees, and the township and county agree, it (a wind farm) can be built right.”Senate Bill 2313, as originally written and passed by the Senate, created a reclamation and restoration program for abandoned wind farm sites within the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and set minimum setbacks between planned wind turbines and properties that are not part of the wind farm project. Wind turbines were not allowed within an area of three times the height of the turbine from the border of a quarter section containing an occupied home or 1.1 times the height of a turbine from the unoccupied property of someone not participating in the wind farm project. Brandenburg said this was considered excessive by the wind energy industry and put possible projects in jeopardy. Jay Hesse, project manager for Geronimo Energy, said the political discussion of wind energy was getting friendlier to the industry. The company has developed the Courtenay Wind Farm and is in development for another wind farm project in Stutsman County.
Hemp would be brought further into the mainstream of Oregon agriculture under two bills that create a commodity commission and seed certification process for the crop. Under House Bill 2372, Oregon’s hemp industry would join 23 other crop, livestock and seafood sectors to have a state commission aimed at promoting and researching a commodity through fees raised from producers. Breeders of new hemp varieties could also get the purity of their seeds certified under House Bill 2371, similarly to other crop species, through a system overseen by Oregon State University. To comply with federal provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill that allow hemp research, HB 2371 would also create a hemp pilot program at OSU, among other changes to Oregon hemp statutes.Commercial hemp production is illegal under federal drug laws that lump hemp, a form of cannabis, in the same category as its psychoactive cousin, marijuana. Aligning Oregon’s hemp laws with the 2014 Farm Bill provisions will likely ease financial transactions for hemp growers, since many banks are otherwise leery of dealing with the crop, Cyrus said.“The banks are looking for specific language in statute,” he said.If there’s ever a change in federal law regarding cannabis, Oregon’s seed certification process would let hemp breeders patent their varieties, said Jay Noller, head of OSU’s crop and soil science department. Because cannabis is illegal under federal law hemp varieties can’t be protected, he said. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has authorized Noller to import high-quality hemp seeds from Canada and elsewhere.At this point, though, foreign companies are reluctant to export hemp seed into Oregon due to a provision in state law allowing growers to save and plant it, he said.Under HB 2371, that provision would be struck from Oregon law, hopefully opening the way for new hemp genetics to enter the state.