Vermont’s Legislature has become the first in the nation to approve a recreational marijuana legalization bill. Vermont's bill, which would legalize small amounts of marijuana possession in 2018 and anticipate the possibility of a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market, was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 79-66. The bill has already been passed by the Senate and will go directly to Gov. Phil Scott.Other states have legalized marijuana following a voter referendum, but no state has yet legalized marijuana solely through the legislative process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Legalization advocates said bills were pending in other state legislatures.
The Ohio Senate unanimously approved a bill May 10 that includes the reform farm groups have sought to the state’s Current Agricultural Use Formula. The Senate voted 33-0 in favor of S.B. 36, which requires CAUV to be calculated using a capitalization rate that excludes appreciation and equity buildup, and stipulates that CAUV land for certain conservation programs be valued at the lowest soil value.The reforms have been before the legislature for at least the past three years, but this week marks the most progress in both the House and Senate. On May 2, the House passed its budget bill, which included similar reforms.
CDFA is now accepting grant applications for the 2017 Dairy Digester Research and Development Program. CDFA received $50 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund in 2016 (AB 1613 Section 13. Item 8570-101-3228) for methane emissions reductions from dairy and livestock operations. CDFA will allocate $29-36 million from the total $50 million appropriation as incentives to support digester projects on California dairy operations. Remainder of the funding appropriation will incentivize development of non-digester practices to reduce methane emissions through the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).
A long-awaited livestock research facility got the go-ahead in a new feasibility study commissioned by the University of Idaho. A large focus of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment will be sustainable milk production. It would include a 2,000-cow dairy with robotic milking machines and 1,000 acres of associate cropland and employ wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery systems.It would also allow for a food processing facility, offer laboratory space and provide housing for faculty, staff and students.“It would be the most modern and largest research dairy in the U.S. and likely in the world,” said University of Idaho President Chuck Staben.Taking into consideration land costs, capital costs of construction, production cost, milk prices and research grants and contracts, the feasibility study showed the facility could operate at a “net-zero-type cost” for the first five or six years, he said.The price tag to purchase land, build the facility and get it operating is $45 million. Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature have committed $10 million to the project, with $5 million more in the offing. It’s up to the university to find the other $30 million, both internally and externally, he said.The study also indicated that buying land and building the dairy was a better way to go than buying an existing dairy and retrofitting it for research, he said.
The Legislature is expected to votes on an $83 billion state budget. Its only allocation for land conservation targets working ranch lands especially in central Florida. The budget puts $10 million toward the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, aimed at protecting ranch lands from future development through conservation easements. The allocation is paltry but important given the budget allocates no money for Florida Forever, the state’s land acquisition program. It once got $300 million a year.“It’s incredibly unusual to see that at zero particularly given that we passed the Land and Water Conservation Amendment in order to get that from zero to something closer to like $300 million,” said Aliki Moncrief of Florida Conservation Voters.
Alabama's popular Forever Wild land conservation program could be required to reimburse state and county governments for an estimated $3.6 million in lost property taxes -- plus $500,000 every year going forward -- under a proposed measure in the Alabama Legislature. The bill, HB 502, would require Forever Wild to "reimburse the amount of any ad valorem tax revenue lost as a result of property previously subject to ad valorem tax being acquired by the Forever Wild Land Trust."Gunter Guy, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said he estimates Forever Wild would have to pay approximately $500,000 each year on lands the program has already purchased, plus a significant back taxes bill."The measure also requires a one-time retroactive reimbursement related to tax years prior to enactment," Guy said in an email. "We estimate the total amount of ad valorem taxes associated with acreage dating back to creation of the program to be approximately $3.6 million. "DCNR is opposed to HB 502 and believes that it would negatively impact the Forever Wild Land Trust by creating a perpetual financial burden that will ultimately deplete funding for future acquisitions and shut down the program."
A proposal to expand allowable activities for cider businesses on farmland is sailing through the Oregon legislature with minimal opposition.Imitating rules established for wineries, Senate Bill 677 would permit cider businesses to produce and sell their beverages, serve food and conduct other agritourism activities on-site in farm zones.Companies generating less than 100,000 gallons of cider a year would have to be within or next to an orchard of at least 15 acres to take advantage of the provisions.The orchard size requirement would increase to 40 acres for those businesses producing more than 100,000 gallons annually, under the bill.The Senate has unanimously approved SB 677, and it’s now being considered by the House
Much needed reform of Ohio’s CAUV formula has been included in the Ohio House’s biennial budget proposal, which is good news for Ohio’s family farmers, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. The budget proposal would address nonfarm influences from the formula that tend to artificially raise CAUV values. It would also ensure that farmers are not penalized for adopting conservation practices that protect water quality.
A bill restricting antibiotic usage in Oregon’s livestock industry has died despite objections from critics who claim federal controls insufficiently limit usage of the drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has worked with pharmaceutical companies to change antibiotic labels to disallow uses aimed at livestock growth promotion.However, critics such as the Consumers Union have said the approach creates a “loophole” by continuing to permit antibiotic usage for disease prevention in livestock.Senate Bill 785 would have restricted antibiotics to treat or control the spread of a disease under the supervision of a veterinarian and required confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to report usage.
The Massachusetts House on Monday agreed to a significant expansion of tax credits aimed at spurring land donations to public or private conservation agencies. A Republican-sponsored amendment approved without debate increases the amount of money available through the conservation land tax credit from $2 million to $5 million over a three-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2018.The increased credit would sunset on Dec. 31, 2025, according to House Minority Leader Brad Jones.There’s a backlog of tax credit applications and more credits will lead to more land protection, according to Jones.The credit is equal to 50 percent of the fair market value of the donated property, with a maximum credit of $75,000 for each qualified donation.Between 2011 and 2016, the program provided $10.7 million in credits associated with the permanent protection of 10,435 acres of donated conservation land valued at $46.3 million, the minority leader’s office said.