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SARL Members and Alumni News

Despite estimate of no savings, Ohio House cracks down on food stamps

Columbus Dispatch | Posted on November 7, 2017

A pair of bills that Republicans say will reduce fraud in food stamp, Medicaid and welfare programs, but Democrats say are misguided, easily passed the House on Wednesday. The goal is “to protect the integrity of the entire SNAP program,” and “get the benefits to people who need them,” Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, said of House Bill 50, which requires adults to have a photo ID on cards issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the former food stamp program.“SNAP cards used fraudulently are being used to feed the drug crisis in Ohio,” he said.Analysis of the bills by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission estimate that neither one will produce savings from reducing fraud — an estimate Schaffer disputes. It also estimates the photo ID bill will cost up to $2 million for new photo cards, and up to $3 million to operate the photo ID program. But critics say food-stamp cards are issued for an entire household, so a photo would not represent all authorized users of a card. They also note that with self-serve checkouts, cashiers often won’t see the pictures — and aren’t required to report abuses even if they do. “Not only does it lack evidence of its effectiveness, it also lacks transparency in relation to the actual cost our state agencies will have to shoulder with its implementation,” Lisa Hamler Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, told a House committee.


John Deere to celebrate 100 years of tractors in 2018

Imperial Valley News | Posted on November 2, 2017

A Gold Key Tour for a Florida family and delivery of their new 8245R John Deere tractor – the first 2018 tractor made in Waterloo, Iowa – has kicked off a series of events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of John Deere entering the tractor business. Deere hosted the Wade Purvis family of Naples, Florida, for the Gold Key event, during which customers can watch the final assembly of their newly purchased machine. The new tractor includes a commemorative badge that will be appear on several models of 2018 John Deere tractors including the 6 Series, 7 Series, 8 Series and 9 Series machines. Deere entered the farm tractor business in March 1918 through the acquisition of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company


Cargill aims to develop ‘birth to burger’ beef audit

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on November 2, 2017

Cargill said it will launch an initiative this month in Canada to test new technologies for tracking cattle with the goal of developing a verified sustainability standard to give consumers more information about the beef they eat. Called the Cargill Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration pilot, the effort should move the company’s customers -- by the end of 2018 -- a step closer to providing consumers with beef from operations that have been audited from ‘birth to burger’ using an industry developed sustainability standard, Cargill said.


Ron Seeber named president and CEO of KGFA

Kansas Feed and Grain | Posted on November 2, 2017

Kansas Grain and Feed Association’s (KGFA) board of directors announced senior vice president of government affairs, Ron Seeber, as the association’s president and CEO Monday morning. On Nov. 15, 2017, Seeber is set to become just the sixth person to hold KGFA’s top executive position since its inception in 1896. Seeber also will be the president and CEO of KGFA’s longstanding management contractors, Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association and Renew Kansas.


Voter suppression, the blueprint to a broken democracy

The Hill | Posted on November 2, 2017

Numerous false narratives have been advanced to sow division in the American electorate, with few more pernicious than the myth of voter fraud. Created as a tactic to justify discriminatory voter suppression practices, this mythos threatens our most fundamental constitutional right and undermines the core democratic values of republican government. The myth that voter fraud is rampant and our elections are infiltrated by undocumented immigrants was used as a pretext for state legislatures across our nation to make it harder for minorities to vote. Against the tide of reforms to expand the franchise for all voters, states like North Carolina began to repeal common sense legislation designed to ease the inconvenience of antiquated voting practices. In 2013, the state enacted a law allowing election boards to cut voting hours. The state Republican Party even informed election officials that “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.” Consequently, 23 counties reduced early voting, accounting for half of all registered voters. 


Minnesota testing farmer health care cooperative

DTN | Posted on November 2, 2017

Farmers in most of the country are left largely with the same health-insurance options they have faced in the past when it comes to the law, though a new experiment is starting in Minnesota with a farmer health-insurance cooperative. The idea of a farmer health-care cooperative had been kicked around in Minnesota since 2009 but had faced multiple regulatory stumbling blocks. At the end of last year, Minnesota farmers complained to state lawmakers that the insurance exchange was collapsing down to one insurance option across much of the exchange and as many as seven counties in the state were looking at no insurance option. Minnesota lawmakers passed legislation last spring specifically allowing farmers and their employees to form a health-care cooperative."It will fill a need in the individual marketplace for the people who have gotten hammered by the premium increases," said Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. "This is where all the farmers fall, and this is an attempt to correct that."The cooperative, called 40 Square, is a self-insurance plan that operates like most insurance policies with a deductible, copays and a percentage of out-of-pocket costs. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are waived for routine preventive care, and there are standard costs for prescription drugs. A summary of 40 Square plans offers annual deductible options for families from $3,000 to $13,100 in different plans.To sign up for 40 Square, a Minnesotan has to farm and have at least one common-law employee -- a person who receives a W-2 for working on the farm. If the insurance is attractive, a farmer who is a sole proprietor might consider working with an accountant to provide a seasonal contractor, or relative, with wages and taxes withheld to issue a W-2 rather than treat that person as an independent contractor with a 1099 form."If your spouse does the books and you issue him or her a W-2, you can consider the farm an employer with a common-law employee," said Charlene Vrieze, project manager for 40 Square.Farmers require an employee because the cooperative is regulated under a Department of Labor regulation dealing with employer-employee benefits.Farmers also purchase stock to join the cooperative, which amounts to a $100 voting share stock and a $1,000 common stock, which will be paid throughout the first 12 months of membership in 40 Square. The cooperative also requires farmers to offer 40 Square insurance to employees for at least three years.


VT Lawmakers group to hold hearing at Statehouse for public feedback, new ideas on local economy

The Commons | Posted on November 2, 2017

The Vermont House Rural Development Caucus will hold a public hearing at the Statehouse, from 5-7 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 7, to hear from municipal, business, education, and nonprofit interests in rural Vermont about what issues are the most pressing. The Rural Development Caucus, also known as the Rural Economic Development Working Group, is a nonpartisan group of Vermont lawmakers that seeks to ensure that the needs of rural Vermont are considered when public policy is contemplated, debated, or enacted


Maine’s new food sovereignty law gets a last-minute overhaul

Civil eats | Posted on November 1, 2017

“I think Maine is leading the way,” said State Senator Troy Jackson, the Maine Senate Democratic leader and original sponsor of the bill. “I think we’re really the first state to empower our local municipalities this way.” But in a special legislative session October 23 to address federal concerns about the new law, lawmakers added some clarification: When it comes to meat and poultry inspections, all farmers, regardless of where they conduct business in the state, must follow federal and state meat and poultry regulations. Moreover, they must adhere to all food safety guidelines when conducting third-party business, such as wholesale sales.When the legislature in June passed the food freedom law, it noted that the law was not declaring all local food sales free of any state or federal regulation, but that it recognized the right of local municipalities to establish their own food ordinances. The thrust, according to Jackson and other supporters, was to support the local food economy and encourage local food sales.But before Governor Paul LePage’s signature was even dry on the law, a new issue cropped up not about raw milk, but about meat and poultry processing. According to LePage, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue informed the state that if the new food sovereignty law was not clarified to indicate how state meat-inspection programs would remain “at least equal to” federal rules, the USDA would seize control of the state’s meat and poultry operations. LePage promptly called a special legislative session to address the matter.


Lawmakers and local activists support environmental justice bill

The Sun Chronicle | Posted on November 1, 2017

Clean air and water are guaranteed rights under the Massachusetts Constitution, and lawmakers and activists hope these rights will soon become law. The Legislature is considering bills to protect low-income, minority and other at-risk populations from the effects of pollution. Local activists hope the proposals will help their communities and increase awareness of this issue.Almost three years ago, then-Gov. Deval Patrick signed an executive order authorizing environmental justice, which is defined as the “right to be protected from environmental pollution and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment regardless of race, income, national origin or English language proficiency.”


New York law protects agritourism

Farm and Dairy | Posted on November 1, 2017

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation that will amend state law regarding agritourism, clarifying the legal responsibilities for both farm operators and visitors. This legislation establishes limited liability protections for the inherent risks of inviting the public onto a farming operation.Agricultural tourism and outdoor recreation activities that include horseback riding, u-pick Christmas trees and fruit orchards, along with tours of wineries and maple operations, all now have a new line of defense against frivolous lawsuits. Under the legislation, farms must have proper signage to delineate pathways and buildings open to the public, adequately train employees involved in agritourism, take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable risks and post warnings to visitors about inherent risks of participating in activities on working farms.


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