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SARL Members and Alumni News

Policymakers in ‘denial’ about depth of farm recession

The Topeka Capital-Journal | Posted on February 5, 2019

Farmers driving $250,000 combines across wheat fields and the niche growers of fruits and vegetables, he said, to some extent have been grappling for five years with economics of rising input costs, weak commodity prices and a political system unwilling or incapable of a balanced response to recession. He said farmers paid a price for international trade conflict given traction by President Donald Trump. “It put many farmers on the edge or over the edge,” Teske said. “This is probably the kicker year, because of the added tariff stress. But mostly because this has been accumulating. The debt has been restructured, and if you didn’t make it work this year, you’re running out of options.” Teske, who lives near Wheaton, said politicians responsible for public policy were “in a state of denial” about resurgence of farm bankruptcies and damage to mental health of families. Paul Johnson, a Jefferson County farmer with the Kansas Rural Center, said psychological wounds afflicting rural Kansas could been better addressed through expansion of eligibility for health insurance under Medicaid. “If we would have expanded Medicaid, it would have picked up a vast amount of mental health coverage all across the state,” Johnson said on the podcast. “From the state level, we’ve been cutting virtually every program. Mental health wasn’t left out of that. They’ve seen less dollars and more need.”




Virginia House sends $550M in Amazon incentives to governor

ABC News | Posted on February 4, 2019

After nine minutes of debate, the Virginia House sent a bill providing more than a half-billion dollars in incentives for Amazon to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature. News outlets report that the House voted 83-16 on Monday in favor of the measure, which would create $550 million in "post-performance" incentives for the technology giant, based on job creation.Northam has said he will sign the bill, which would give Amazon cash grants of $22,000 per new full-time job for the first 25,000 jobs.

‘Nero’s Bill’ would allow emergency treatment for police dogs

The Enterprise | Posted on February 4, 2019

Emergency personnel would be able to treat and transport injured police dogs under a bill filed by a Cape Cod lawmaker. Sponsored by Centerville Republican Rep. Will Crocker, the legislation is dubbed “Nero’s Bill” in honor of Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon’s canine.Nero was injured in the April 2018 shooting that killed Gannon, but, under current state law, could not be treated or transported by the Emergency Medical Service providers who responded, according to Crocker’s office. Instead, the dog waited until a retired K9 officer arrived at the scene to help with his injuries and drive him to an emergency veterinary hospital.“Canine police officers are an integral part of the law enforcement community and are considered members of the department,” Crocker said in a statement. “It only seems appropriate that, when it comes to being treated for any injuries incurred while on the job, they should be treated like any other member of the force.”Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson said the bill would “take away any hesitation for first responders to administer emergency care to operational K9s and transport them to a veterinary hospital without fear of the sanctions that currently exist.”

Grants to Improve Massachusetts Farm Food Safety | Posted on February 4, 2019

The Baker-Polito Administration today awarded $300,000 in grants to 21 Massachusetts farms to install practices that improve food safety within their operations. The Agricultural Food Safety Improvement Program (AFSIP) is a competitive grant program that allows agricultural operations to complete food safety upgrades on their farms, enabling the operations to meet buyer demands, increase consumption of local food and protect public health by reducing food safety risks. 

Washington cougar bill allows training by vetted houndsmen

Capital Press | Posted on February 4, 2019

The Humane Society of the United States has endorsed letting vetted hound handlers pursue cougars to stay sharp for when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife needs dogs to track a big cat menacing people or livestock. Senate Bill 5320 would heighten scrutiny of the handlers used by the state. In exchange, handlers who pass muster could take their dogs out and trail cougars under a training program overseen by Fish and Wildlife.

In Kansas and Missouri, why are rural lawmakers interfering in cities’ affairs?

Kansas City Star | Posted on February 4, 2019

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly made rural redevelopment a central part of her first speech to lawmakers.“The majority of our 105 counties lost population last year, and for many years prior to that,” she said. “Whether it’s roads, broadband, housing, or agriculture, they need our support.”Maybe they’ll get it. The Kansas House has a new committee aimed at revitalizing rural areas. Across the state line in Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson wants $5 million to expand broadband internet. “We currently have about 10 school districts and many rural communities that lack access to high speed broadband,” he told the legislature. “That is unacceptable.”Such appeals to rural development in Kansas and Missouri are pretty common. Perhaps, though, it’s a good time to ask a fundamental question: Why?Why should urban and suburban areas care about, or help pay for, rural development of broadband, schools, housing or anything else?But the problem now is obvious: Those closest to rural culture are leaving for the cities, in droves. One-fourth of Kansas counties have fewer than 3,000 residents. Some rural Kansas counties may be all but abandoned by 2064, according to one study. At that point, 80 percent of all Kansans will live in urban or suburban communities. Most people living in cities and the suburbs are quite happy to help out their rural neighbors, by supporting school districts with 170 students, or backing taxes for rural roads and bridges, or better internet service.What they do object to, increasingly, is the interference of rural lawmakers in local urban affairs, from guns and taxes to trash bags and labor laws. Because rural interests are over-represented in our politics, that interference often becomes law, and it rankles.

Washington:New bill would create rural development investment funds

Columbia Basin Herald | Posted on January 29, 2019

Proposed Senate legislation would create rural development and opportunity zone funds and extend tax reductions to certain timber activities. Private investment companies could apply to join these funds that would provide capital for businesses in qualifying areas. The prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5423, District 1 Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, reworked the measure from what he proposed last year, noting it won’t cost the state any money. SB 5423 would create a tax incentive for Rural and Small Business Investment Companies (RBICs) and Small Business Investment Companies (SMBICs). In this case, the incentive is for investment in specific opportunity zones in Washington.“This is the way that tax preferences should be written,” said Palumbo. “This one has such strong sideboards and accountability that it theoretically shouldn’t cost the state anything.”

Oregon adopts strict rules for solar panel farms on high-value farm soil

Statesman Journal | Posted on January 29, 2019

The Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission didn’t shut the door on new solar farms being built on high-value farmland Friday, but it did allow counties to choose if they could be built under significant restrictions. The commission voted to adopt temporary rules that apply statewide to no longer allow construction of photovoltaic solar power generation facilities — commonly referred to as solar farms — on soils that are determined Class 1, Class 2, prime or unique soils.But if a solar developer can determine a dual use, such as beekeeping, of a solar farm on high-value farmland, they can choose to build on 20 acres if a county allows it.Marion County in March 2018 changed its codes to prohibit building solar farms on high-value farmland.

Trump Eyes Action to Limit States' Powers to Block Pipelines

Bloomberg | Posted on January 29, 2019

The Trump administration is considering taking steps to limit the ability of states to block interstate gas pipelines and other energy projects, according to three people familiar with the deliberations. The effort, possibly done through an executive order, is aimed chiefly at states in the Northeast U.S., where opposition to pipeline projects has helped prevent abundant shale gas in Pennsylvania and Ohio from reaching consumers in New York and other cities.

Idaho to pay legal fees after losing 'dairy spying' lawsuit

The Seattle Times | Posted on January 29, 2019

A panel of Idaho officials will meet next week to consider paying $260,000 for attorney fees and other costs after losing a lawsuit over an unconstitutional law that sought to criminalize surreptitious filming at agricultural operations. The law was dubbed the “ag-gag” law by critics. It was passed by the Legislature in 2012 after an undercover investigator for a group called Mercy for Animals filmed workers abusing cows at an Idaho dairy.