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SARL Members and Alumni News

Californians weigh making egg-laying hens cage-free by 2022

AP | Posted on October 10, 2018

California voters are right to think they already weighed in on how big cages should be for egg-laying hens. In 2008, voters ushered in Proposition 2, which sought to free egg-laying hens from tiny cages. It didn’t outlaw cages but barred California farmers from keeping hens — as well as calves raised for veal and breeding pigs — in pens so small they virtually couldn’t move.Since then, supermarket shelves have filled with cage-free egg varieties. Corporations like McDonald’s, Costco and Taco Bell have committed to using cage-free products.But a decade later, voters are being asked to revisit the issue with Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative.The Humane Society of the United States, the issue’s primary proponent, says the measure is needed to update California standards and to apply those standards to out-of-state farmers selling their products in California. The earlier initiative simply stated the three types of animals must be able to turn around freely, stand up and fully extend their limbs — but set no specifics.A “yes” vote for Proposition 12 would create new minimum size requirements for confinement. It would also ban the sales from other states not meeting California’s standards.

States agree on plan to manage overtaxed Colorado River

Salt lake Tribune | Posted on October 10, 2018

Seven U.S. states in the Southwest that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River have reached tentative agreements on how to manage the waterway amid an unprecedented drought, officials said Tuesday. The announcement was a long-awaited step toward preserving the river, which supports 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland in the U.S. and Mexico.“We have, after many years of discussion and negotiation, a real milestone,” said James Eklund, a water lawyer who represents Colorado in the interstate negotiations on the river.A nearly two-decade drought has drained the river’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, to alarmingly low levels. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages major reservoirs across the West, says the chances of a shortfall in Lake Mead are 57 percent by 2020. The reservoir has never fallen low enough to trigger a shortage before. If it happens, mandatory cutbacks would hit Arizona, Nevada and Mexico first.The drought contingency plans announced Tuesday are not designed to prevent a shortage in the river system, but to manage and minimize the effects. The two major components of the plans cover the Upper Basin, where most of the water originates as Rocky Mountain snowfall, and the Lower Basin, which consumes more of the water because it has more people and more farms. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are in the Upper Basin. Arizona, California and Nevada are in the Lower Basin. The Lower Basin plan is detailed and specific, but the Upper Basin plan outlines what steps the states would take if things get worse, said Karen Kwon, Colorado’s assistant attorney general.


Partnership helps to expand broadband service in Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota

Ag Daily | Posted on October 7, 2018

There are more than 19 million people living in rural America who lack access to a broadband internet connections, including about 22 percent of people in rural Iowa, 36 percent of people in rural Illinois, and 25 percent of people in rural South Dakota. A partnership between Microsoft and  an Illinois-based wireless internet provider hope to cut into those numbers at least a little. On Thursday, the agreement with the Microsoft Airband Initiative and Network Business Systems to deliver broadband internet access to about 126,700 people in those three states was announced.On Thursday, Network Business Systems Inc., an Illinois-based wireless internet provider, and Microsoft Corp. announced a new agreement to deliver broadband internet access to rural communities in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota, including approximately 126,700 people who are currently unserved. Network Business Systems will construct and deploy wireless internet access networks using a mix of technologies including TV white spaces — vacant spectrum that can travel over long distances and rough terrain, including the heavy foliage that is common in the Midwestern landscape. But it will take time, and the projected completion date is July 4, 2022.

Business Council passes Wyoming broadband plan

Wyoming News | Posted on October 7, 2018

During a special meeting, the Wyoming Business Council approved the Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council’s plan to enhance internet access in the state.The broadband council was established during the state’s most recent legislative session through Senate File 100, allocating $10 million for broadband improvement projects and outlining strategies to help maximize funding distribution.

State panel shelves Gov. Rauner's EPA plan to ease pollution rules for Illinois coal plants

Chicago Tribune | Posted on October 7, 2018

With the Nov. 6 election looming, a state panel on Thursday shelved Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to relax limits on lung-damaging pollution from some of the last coal-fired power plants in Illinois.The decision by the five-member Illinois Pollution Control Board, four of whom are Rauner appointees, delays a final ruling on controversial changes intended to benefit a single company, Texas-based Vistra Energy, until after voters decide if the Republican governor gets another four-year term.

Massachusetts ranked most energy efficient state, Wyoming worst: study

The Hill | Posted on October 7, 2018

Massachusetts and California are leading the country in energy efficiency standards according to a study released Thursday. The coastal states’ investments in energy saving targets, electric vehicles and efficient building standards helped them lead the annual study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.Massachusetts took the top spot for the eighth year in a row due to a number of state programs that encouraged consumers to invest in energy efficiency. Following closely behind, California ranked second on the list thanks to incentives it offers for energy efficient schools, residences and industries.

Washington regulators approve tight rules on community solar

| Posted on October 7, 2018

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on Wednesday adopted rules regulating community solar entities outside of the electric utilities that provide those programs.The rules require "company registration, consumer protections, records keeping and reporting," and were adopted by the commission based on SB 5939, which directed the commission to establish these rules, "similar to guidelines for other regulated industries" in Washington, Kate Griffith, UTC spokesperson told Utility Dive.Some community solar advocates have raised concerns that these rules would inhibit smaller entities from pursuing community solar projects, filing joint comments when they were proposed in August. The commission responded to the comments in its ruling, saying they did "not find the proposed rules to be unduly burdensome.

Marijuana activists ‘thrilled’ as Texas Gov. Abbott proposes no jail time for possession

Houston Chronicle | Posted on October 7, 2018

Strict penalties for possessing marijuana in Texas could soon go up in smoke. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott recently announced he's open to dropping the maximum punishment for possession of less than 2 ounces of the drug from 180 days in jail to a fine. The shift drew excitement from advocates and state lawmakers who have lobbied for years to decriminalize marijuana, which records show leads to more than 60,000 possession arrests in Texas each year."You have a certain idea of what members want to achieve going into the next session, I think that's at the top of the list of many members," said Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth.

Michigan dairy farmers either exit or eat up equity

Michigan Farmer | Posted on October 4, 2018

Exhausting. That’s how Hank Choate describes the last three years in Michigan as dairy farmers there have continued to receive the lowest milk price in the country. “The impact, the economic toll it is having on many producers is heart-wrenching,” he says. The fifth-generation dairy farmer from Cement City operates Choate’s Belly Acres in partnership with his family. The Centennial farm can trace back its roots in southern Jackson County more than 180 years.Choate says that strong foundation and an incoming generation with a desire to farm are helping him push through one of the most challenging economic times of his career. “It’s not fun to sit down and try to pay the monthly bills with our current milk check,” he says.Choate says he is deeply saddened by the suffering that’s taken place in Michigan’s dairy industry and questions what it will look like in just five years.“Because of the dairy economy, we’ve made a decision that we were going stop our building mode, pay down some debt and just try to hold our own,” he says.

Ohio has lost 172 dairy farms in 12 months

Farm and Dairy | Posted on October 4, 2018

Since June 25, 66 more Ohio dairy farms have ceased milking cows. In three months, 3 percent of Ohio’s dairy herds are gone. Since October 2017 — when there were 2,312 operating, licensed dairy farms in Ohio — 172 farms have quit milking, a decline of 7.4 percent of dairy farms in one year.