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SARL Members and Alumni News

Wind Energy's Expansion in Nebraska Creates Sharp New Divide

US News and World Report | Posted on October 10, 2017

Many of Nebraska's neighbors are national leaders in wind energy, and advocates say the state could easily join them.But as wind energy has grown in Nebraska, so has a fervent resistance from mostly rural landowners and lawmakers who view the turbines as noisy, heavily subsidized eyesores that lead to lower property values.The pushback was clear last year, when Lancaster and Gage counties approved noise restrictions that effectively halted several proposed wind farms. At the state level, a Nebraska lawmaker is trying to temporarily stop commercial wind projects in the Sandhills.Wind energy advocates say much of the resistance is based on unfounded fears and resistance to change."I wouldn't want to contradict someone's personal experiences, but I do think some of the concerns are from emotional fears rather than actual reality," said David Bracht, director of the Nebraska Energy Office.Nebraska ranks fourth nationally in wind energy potential but 18th in the amount of electricity that it can produce with existing turbines, according to the American Wind Energy Association.The state had 744 turbines as of last year, compared to 3,976 in Iowa, 2,795 in Kansas, 1,913 in Colorado and 1,005 in coal-friendly Wyoming. South Dakota and Missouri had fewer turbines. Iowa ranks second nationally in the amount of installed wind capacity, behind Texas. Kansas ranks fifth.Wind energy growth has been sluggish in Nebraska in part because of state regulations. For example, until 2009, wind developers had no legal assurances that Nebraska's public power districts wouldn't seize their assets through eminent domain if they produced too much power.

Group opposes Oklahoma state checkoff fee

Meat + Poultry | Posted on October 10, 2017

The Organization for Competitive Markets is continuing to push back against checkoff fees with its latest complaint filed with the Office of the Inspector General of the US Dept. of Agriculture. The group alleges that the Oklahoma Beef Council and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association are improperly influencing a checkoff vote.

Potash Corporation: Has The Agriculture Cycle Returned?

Seeking Alpha | Posted on October 9, 2017

Potash Corporation plans to acquire Agrium and achieve substantial synergies through this acquisition.

Oregon Court of Appeals affirms ruling overturning GMO ban

Capital Press | Posted on October 9, 2017

The Oregon Court of Appeals has affirmed that a prohibition against genetically engineered crops in Josephine County is pre-empted by state law. Voters in Josephine County approved the ban in 2014, nearly a year after state lawmakers passed a bill barring local governments from regulating genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The appeals court has now upheld the ruling without comment, but GMO critics vow to continue the battle in the legislative arena.When passing the GMO pre-emption bill, lawmakers vowed to create a statewide system for overseeing GMOs, but instead they have left a “regulatory void,” Middleton said.Under Oregon law, Jackson County lawfully approved a GMO ban because its initiative was on the ballot before the state pre-emption was approved.The Oregon Legislature passed the pre-emption bill to avoid a county-by-county patchwork of restrictions for genetically engineered crops, said Scott Dahlman, policy director for Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an agribusiness group that opposed the GMO ban.

CA Gov. Brown signs bill allowing water users to save money

Capital Press | Posted on October 9, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a California Cattlemen’s Association-sponsored bill to ease requirements for ranchers who must measure their water diversions from nearby streams. The governor on Oct. 4 approved Assembly Bill 589 by Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, that changes a State Water Resources Control Board rule that those who divert more than 10 acre-feet of water per year hire a licensed engineer to install a water-measuring device.Diverters will be able to instead install their own devices or implement their own measurement method after taking a course from the University of California Cooperative Extension. The UC will work with the water board in the coming weeks to develop the course.

State attorneys general seek more beds for drug treatment

AP | Posted on October 5, 2017

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general on Monday called on Congress to allow Medicaid funding to flow to larger drug treatment centers, potentially expanding the number of addicts who can get help as the nation grapples with an overdose crisis. The government lawyers for 38 states and Washington, D.C., sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting the change. They say it’s needed to help fight the opioid abuse and overdose epidemic, which continues to claim tens of thousands of lives a year.

Wildfires Put State Budgets Under Pressure

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on October 5, 2017

The wildfires that tore through over a million acres of Montana this year damaged homes, cloaked communities in smoke, and burned a hole in the state budget.   With winter snow already falling, Montana’s blazes mostly have subsided. But the state now faces a $200 million budget shortfall exacerbated by the record cost of fighting wildfires, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said in an early September statement explaining the crisis. “We are also facing the most expensive fire season in state history, requiring spending of over $60 million to date.”State and federal lawmakers across the country are looking back on a record fire season and asking whether there’s a way to better prepare financially for major wildfires. The federal government spent more than $2 billion on fires from Florida to Washington this year. States spend untold millions more.As the wildfire season lengthens and the fires become larger and more dangerous — a trend driven by a number of factors, including climate change — both state and federal natural resource departments are spending more time and money on firefighting and less on other forest management programs that help the land recover after wildfires, or lessen the impact of future fires.

Michigan Senate votes to ban local soda taxes

Detroit News | Posted on October 5, 2017

The Michigan Senate on Wednesday voted to prohibit local governments from taxing food, drinks or chewing gum, a pre-emptive strike against local control over so-called “soda taxes” enacted in other parts of the country. Cook County, Illinois, is one of the latest local governments to slap a tax on the sugary beverage, which supporters say will discourage unhealthy diets, but officials there are now considering repealing the penny-an-ounce tax.The Michigan Constitution exempts groceries from the state sales tax, and sponsoring Sen. Pete MacGregor said his bill would close “loopholes” he warned could allow local excise taxes on food and drinks.

Nevada marijuana sales hit $27 million in first month

Reno Gazette Journal | Posted on October 5, 2017

Nevada took a gamble on recreational marijuana, and it’s paying off.  Dispensaries sold $27.1 million of pot in Nevada, in July alone. That's almost double what both Coloradoand Oregon sold in their first months. It's almost seven times what Washington sold. Banking on weed, Nevada made $10.2 million off the fledgling industry during the first month of sales in July, according to the Nevada Department of Taxation. Of that, $6.5 million came from industry fees and $3.68 million came from tax revenue.Gov. Brian Sandoval projected that, between its two-year old medical marijuana industry and the now upright recreational marijuana industry, the state could pull in approximately $100 million over the next two fiscal years from both taxes and fees.

Government jobs sprouting as legal pot looms in California

AP | Posted on October 5, 2017

Scientists. Tax collectors. Typists. Analysts. Lawyers. And more scientists. Recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California in 2018, and one of the things to blossom in the emerging industry isn’t green and leafy - it’s government jobs.The state is on a hiring binge to fill what eventually will be hundreds of new government positions by 2019 intended to bring order to the legal pot economy, from keeping watch on what’s seeping into streams near cannabis grows to running background checks on storefront sellers who want government licenses. Thousands of additional jobs are expected to be added by local governments. The swiftly expanding bureaucracy represents just one aspect of the complex challenge faced by California: Come January, the state will unite its longstanding medical cannabis industry with the newly legalized recreational one, creating what will be the United States’ largest legal pot economy.