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SARL Members and Alumni News

Food sovereignty bill passes in Maine House, Senate

Bangor Daily News | Posted on June 6, 2017

A food sovereignty law in Maine moved one step closer to reality after the state House and Senate approved a bill giving towns and communities the authority to enact ordinances regulating local food and water distribution free from state control. On Wednesday the House passed LD 725, An Act to recognize local control regarding food and water systems, with a supermajority 109-35 following a brief floor debate.That same day, the bill passed through the Maine Senate without a roll-call vote taken.Speaking in favor of LD 725 during the floor debate, Rep. Don Marean, R-Hollis, said face-to-face transactions and local control is what the bill is is about. “What can be better than that?” he said Friday morning. “It’s not necessarily good for everyone in Maine, but it is certainly good for people living in rural areas who know their neighbors, who go to their farms and can see and assess for themselves if the produce or meat is safe to eat.”Marean, who said he has supported food sovereignty legislation in the past, said there are times the state tries to “over regulate” things.To date, 18 Maine towns in seven counties have declared food sovereignty with local ordinances giving residents the right to produce, sell, purchase and consume local foods of their own choosing in Sedgwick, Blue Hill, Penobscot, Trenton, Hope, Appleton, Isle Au Haut, Plymouth, Livermore, Freedom, Moscow, Solon, Bingham, Brooklin, Liberty, Madison and Alexander. Sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, LD 725 would authorize municipal governments to adopt ordinances regulating their own food systems and the transporting of water for commercial purposes. It further requires the state to recognize those ordinances.

Connecticut experiments with Cuurt Advocates for abused animals

Custom Wire | Posted on June 6, 2017

Many states have victim's advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success. There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut - seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It's up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases."Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse.Supporters say those issues are easily handled by a judge.The law was created by the Legislature and went into effect late last year. "Desmond's Law" was named for a dog that was beaten, starved and strangled by its owner, Alex Wullaert, who admitted to the violence but avoided jail time under a probation program for first-time offenders that allowed his record to be wiped clean.

Minnesota tax credit provides relief to farmers, greater chance for rural schools to build

Stateline Midwest | Posted on June 5, 2017

In Minnesota, the chances of a local school district getting the money it wants to build a new facility or improve existing buildings can depend greatly on where it is located: In metropolitan areas, most school construction projects get approved by local voters; in rural districts, these proposed tax increases tend to fail. This discrepancy led to legislative action this year. As envisioned under a section of HF 1 (Minnesota’s omnibus tax bill that still needed final approval as of late May), new state tax credits would offset 40 percent of a school district’s bond debt load that is attributed to agricultural property-tax payers. Some 240,000 parcels of land would qualify for the credit.By providing relief to farmers, lawmakers hope that this group of local taxpayers will be more likely to vote “yes” on local referenda and less burdened by the costs of approved school projects.In some districts, farm families make up only a small percentage of the taxpayers and a local school’s students, but their land accounts for a majority of the tax base that must pay for a project. As a result, individual farms may wind up paying several hundred thousand dollars in additional taxes over the life of a 30-year construction bond.

Supreme Court declines to hear Proposition 2 challenge

| Posted on June 5, 2017

The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to California's Proposition 2 law that was filed by six other states. The law, which took effect in 2015, requires that eggs produced and sold in the state are laid by hens that have adequate room to stand up, sit down, turn around and extend their limbs without touching another bird or the sides of the cage.The recent challenge to California’s law was led by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who stated he believed the law imposes onerous new regulations on Missouri poultry farmers and would drive up the cost of eggs for Missouri consumers.Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma joined in the appeal.The law had been legally challenged by other states before. Hawley’s predecessor, Chris Koster, in 2014, filed a lawsuit that challenged the California egg law, months before it was to be enacted. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Fresno, California. That challenge also involved the other five states.

Lawmakers vote to fund veterinary medicine at Texas Tech

Texas Tribune | Posted on June 1, 2017

Texas Tech University's on-again, off-again plans to open a veterinary school in Amarillo might just be on again. Buried in the 900-plus page budget approved Saturday by state lawmakers is $4.1 million allocated to Tech for "veterinary medicine." That money appears to be start-up funding for a new vet school — even though Tech started the legislative session saying that plans for the school were "on pause."Tech originally announced in late 2015 that it wanted to open a school in Amarillo 2019. But the idea was met with fierce resistance by Texas A&M University, which has the only veterinary school in the state. Despite the "on pause" declaration, lawmakers from the Lubbock area never gave up. A line providing the funding was included in the House's version of the budget — but not the Senate's. The budget conference committee tasked with crafting a compromise decided to leave it in. 

Join us for Changes in Agriculture Law Webinar

State Agriculture and Rural Leaders | Posted on June 1, 2017

Webinar: Recent Developments in Agriculture & Food Law: Impacts on States

Wednesday, June 14 at 2:00 pm ET (1:00 pm CT) 

State Agriculture and Rural Leaders is collaborating with the National Agriculture Law Center in a pilot webinar on recent developments in agriculture and food law. Agriculture and food law at the local, state and national level is changing constantly and impacting our farmers, food producers and rural residents.

It is almost impossible for you to stay abreast of the legal challenges and changes impacting your constituents and state laws. To make it easier for you, we are offering this update. After registering for the webinar, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join. If you are unable to attend, register now and a link to the recording will be sent to you.

This webinar will address developments related to: 

  • the Waters of the United States rule;
  • Maryland’s passage of legislation banning the use of antibiotics in health animals; 
  • property tax assessment for farmland; 
  • the Philadelphia soda tax; 
  • a stay on organic practice rules; and 
  • other recent legal developments in agriculture and food legislation and law.

Register now at

or call/email Carolyn Orr at or 859.265.0658 to register.

Texas lawmakers approve tax break limitations for wind turbines near military bases

Utility Drive | Posted on May 30, 2017

The Texas legislature has passed a bill that would eliminate tax abatements for wind turbines sited within 25 miles of military bases, over concerns they pose a safety risk to bases with aviation operations. Senate Bill 277 passed the House 76-65 on Tuesday, a day after a preliminary vote; the Senate passed the measure in April. Platts reports Gov. Greg Abbott's office has not indicated if he will sign the bill.Opponents of the bill say wind turbines do not pose a threat to military bases, and that the measure is political. 

VA:Tax credit benefits both farmers and food banks

Augusta Free Press | Posted on May 25, 2017

A new tax credit will benefit Virginia’s farmers and the food banks to which they donate. The Food Crops Donation Tax Credit was approved by the General Assembly last year. It allows Virginia farmers who donate edible food crops to a nonprofit food bank to receive up to a 30 percent tax credit for their donation.“This is a way for farmers and food banks to support one another and allow food bank patrons to access local foods,” noted Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist.“Sourcing food on the local level helps Virginia’s agriculture industry,” explained Leslie Van Horn, executive director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, which represents seven food banks and over 2,000 nonprofit food pantries and feeding programs. “It reduces food waste and provides an incentive to growers to donate produce. But, most importantly, it gives food-insecure individuals across the commonwealth access to food they need to thrive and prosper.”

California approves additional funds to fight HLB spread

Fresh Fruit Portal | Posted on May 25, 2017

The California State Assembly approved a bill this week that will allow the citrus industry to increase spending for activities related to halting the spread of citrus greening disease.  Additional funds will be provided to protect residential and commercial citrus trees from the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly plant disease it can carry, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB). The bill allows for an additional US$9.6 million in grower assessments to be spent by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA

Nevada passes energy bills incentivizing solar energy

Nevada Sun | Posted on May 25, 2017

The Assembly passed the measures Monday to incentivize customers to install solar energy storage systems, research possible targets for utility companies to procure energy storage systems, and make it easier for residents to put up windmills. Assembly members also agreed with a Senate amendment to a bill that supporters say will help save energy and lower bills for customers, sending that to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk as well.