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SARL Members and Alumni News

Colorado ballot issue seeks to balance political parties' influence on voting maps

Coloradoan | Posted on August 30, 2018

A pair of proposed amendments to the Colorado Constitution, dubbed Amendments Y and Z, take aim at "the most important voting matter no one has ever heard of," according to one backer. Their target: Gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is stacking the deck in favor of one political party by drawing political district maps in its favor. In practice, opponents say, gerrymandering removes the “representative” part of representative democracy.“Regardless of what you believe — that Colorado is gerrymandered or not — almost everyone agrees it's good public policy to explicitly prohibit gerrymandering,” Fair Maps Colorado campaign co-chair Joe Zimlich said. "Almost everyone in our state, far higher than anywhere else, acknowledges that gerrymandering is a national crisis or a national issue. So preventing that in Colorado is important."Amendments Y and Z are simple enough: Nonpartisan legislative staff draw up maps for congressional and state legislative districts. A tri-partisan commission of four Republicans, four Democrats and four voters unaffiliated with a political party review them. Eight of the 12, which must include two unaffiliated voters, must vote to approve the map.

Hawaii residents hit by floods from Hurricane Lane as new storm forms

Reuters | Posted on August 29, 2018

Hawaii was spared a direct hit from a major hurricane as Lane diminished to a tropical storm as it approached and then drifted west, further from land. But rain was still pounding the island chain, touching off flooding on Oahu and Kauai. A flash flood watch also remained in effect for Oahu, home to the state capital Honolulu and 70 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents.Micco Godinez, who lives on the north side of Kauai, said he found the only road out of Hanalei, where he lives, barricaded by police vehicles when he tried to leave for work on Tuesday morning. He expected to be stranded for at least another day.“I can’t get out at all,” Godinez said. “Our little community of Hanalei is isolated and then west of us is even more isolated,” he said.Even as Hawaii residents sought to recover from Lane, they kept a watchful eye on Tropical Storm Miriam, spinning in the Pacific Ocean some 2,000 miles to the east and expected to become a hurricane by the time it approaches the islands.“Miriam is supposed to go north and dissipate in the colder waters and drier air, so I’m not really worried about it,” Godinez said. “But it is hurricane season, and there’s another one behind that. You know what they say: Without rain you wouldn’t have rainbows.”

Poultry producer seeks change to Delaware facility demands

AP | Posted on August 29, 2018

 poultry producer is asking for a change to the decision that grants it a special use exception for a deboning facility in Delaware. An Allen Harim spokesperson tells WBOC-TV the company found the condition that its spray irrigation system must be upgraded, approved, permitted and operational before the Millsboro facility is operational too restrictive. That condition was one of two set by the Board of Adjustment in its May decision approving the facility, over the objections of those with environmental concerns.The DNREC slapped Allen Harim with nearly $250,000 in penalties and other costs for years of wastewater violations at its chicken processing plant in Harbeson.

Illinois Governor Vetoes Bill to Create Urban Agriculture Zones

Chicago Tonight | Posted on August 29, 2018

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday vetoed a bill to facilitate urban agriculture zones in Chicago and other Illinois cities, delivering a blow to advocates who said the legislation could have helped to break up food deserts and revitalize underserved communities. The bill would have allowed local governments to provide incentives such as reduced water rates and utility fees and property tax abatements for farmers in urban agriculture zones established at the municipal or county level. The bill received support from both environmental advocates and groups focused on increasing access to healthy foods in urban areas.This spring, the legislation passed the Illinois House by a vote of 86-22 and the state Senate by a unanimous 55-0 vote.

Feral hogs invaded a NC preserve. These nature lovers started shooting back.

Charlotte News Observer | Posted on August 25, 2018

When feral hogs invaded a 1,400-acre tract in southern Davie County, the owners, a Salisbury-based conservation group, came up with what it says is a unique solution: Sign up hunters to settle the score. Three Rivers Land Trust, formerly known as LandTrust for Central North Carolina, has battled hogs since acquiring the farmland between the Yadkin and South Yadkin rivers in 2012. Local people say the hogs were released there illegally a couple of years earlier. The Davie County hogs were ravishing local farmers’ corn and soybean crops, said Travis Morehead, the executive direct of Three Rivers.For years, the land trust has tried to control the hogs by luring them into corrals baited with shelled corn and by leasing hunting rights. Its conservation land manager, Cody Fulk, gets alerts on his cell phone when the hogs have taken the bait. Last year, when its hunting leases expired, the land trust tried a new approach that it says is unique among North Carolina conservation groups. It created a Sportsman Access Programthat lets hunters onto the property nine months of the year.Hunters pay $100 for four “draws” that allow them to hunt in the 200-acre block and week of their choice. About 100 hunters have signed up so far, but the program can accommodate up to 370.

Virginia offers free on-farm readiness review to determine if produce safety rule applies to you

Virginia Department of Agriculture | Posted on August 22, 2018

Changes are coming in the way farmers grow, pack, hold and distribute ready-to-eat produce, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) can help by performing a free, on-farm readiness review. Farmers who sell more than $25,000 in applicable produce per year may be subject to the new federal legislation. Regulatory inspections are expected to begin in mid-2019, but farmers can find out now if they are ready for the changes, with time to make any necessary adjustments. To help prepare farmers who must adhere to the new law, VDACS’ Produce Safety Program is partnering with Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) to conduct on-farm readiness reviews. This free service is confidential and a VDACS Produce Safety Specialist and VCE Agent will meet with farm management to walk through the operation. A review typically only takes two hours to complete and will help answer most questions farmers have regarding the federal Produce Safety Rule.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe appoints new agriculture minister in mini-shuffle

Global News | Posted on August 22, 2018

The resignation of Lyle Stewart as minister of agriculture triggered a mini-cabinet shuffle for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. Wood River MLA and farmer Dave Marit will be assuming the job Stewart held for six years.

Revised Law Frees Police in Illinois to Rescue Suffering Cats and Dogs

Chicago Tonight | Posted on August 22, 2018

A previously unaddressed provision of Illinois’ animal care law has caused police officers to hesitate before taking steps to rescue suffering dogs or cats, but a bill signed into law last week should change that, experts say. The bill, which took effect Aug. 7, revises the state’s Humane Care for Animals Act to clarify the right of law enforcement to take custody of abandoned or lost dogs or cats that appear to be suffering from exposure to extreme heat, cold or another life-threatening condition.Although the law’s previous version gave police that right, it also required officers to take the animal immediately to an emergency veterinarian and obtain a diagnosis justifying the officer’s decision to take custody.

Georgia seeks new approaches for rural areas

The Moultrie Observer | Posted on August 22, 2018

As a new think tank focused on rural Georgia starts up, the state’s small-town lawmakers regrouped in hopes of drumming up fresh strategies for growing jobs in districts like theirs. “Everything that we do is geared towards possible legislation that will address the issues of rural Georgia and economic development in rural Georgia, so this is not just a feel-good presentation,” Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, who co-chairs the House Rural Development Council, said to the group.“This is to actually try to move the needle in rural Georgia,” Powell said. The legislative panel is crafting a plan for next year as some of the work set in motion this session materializes. Most notably, the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, which was created by legislation and injected with $1.7 million in state funds, is now ramping up its work within the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton. Lawmakers are now looking at other ideas for spurring economic growth, such as revamping the state’s tiered jobs tax credit program that some say causes confusion for companies and puts counties at odds with one another. They are also considering incentives that would nudge cities and counties toward adopting a regional approach to luring industry.

Canada Makes Marijuana Farmers Eligible for Government Agriculture Programs

Connecticut Post | Posted on August 22, 2018

Canadian officials have decided that the country’s cannabis farmers are eligible for federal funding that supports innovation and sustainability efforts in agriculture. The decision in Canada happened as the country gears up to launch a nationwide, regulated cannabis industry on Oct. 17. It’s yet another stark contrast to what is happening in the United States, where marijuana businesses still operate in a system where their product is illegal at the federal level.Cannabis farmers can make requests for federal funds. Such applications will need approval by both local and federal officials. Administration of agricultural programs in Canada are a joint responsibility of the federal government and the provinces and territories.