Oregon’s anticipated budget shortfall has prompted lawmakers to consider limiting tax credits for processing livestock manure into energy in biodigesters. Biodigesters break down manure, releasing methane gas which is used to generate electricity. The remaining solids have many uses. They are expensive, and farmers have used the tax credits to offset the costs. Under House Bill 2853, tax credits would only be available for manure processed in biodigesters that were operational before the end of 2016. The credit effectively costs Oregon about $4 million a year in foregone tax revenue and has the potential to grow more expensive due to the proposed construction of a large dairy, said Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, during a March 7 hearing on HB 2853.
Wildfires across the country had consumed more than 1 million acres, taking at least 7 lives. The Oklahoma Forestry Service told CNN the fires burned 400,000 acres, and prompted Gov. Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency for 22 counties.Officials in four other states said that 400,000 acres were destroyed in Kansas, 325,000 in the Texas Panhandle and 30,000 in Colorado -- not to mention the 6,000 acres burning in the Florida swamps near Naples that resulted in mandatory evacuations.
Destructive wildfires broke out in the Plains on Monday and grew quickly in size, forcing thousands to evacuate and contributing to the deaths of six people. The fires were fanned by strong winds on the western side of the same storm system that spawned an outbreak of severe storms in the Midwest. Crews battling the blazes may get a bit of a break as winds are forecast to die down to about 10 to 20 mph Wednesday. "These conditions will make it somewhat easier for firefighting efforts, but far from perfect," Storm Prediction Center forecast operations chief Bill Bunting told the Associated Press. "The fires still will be moving. The ideal situation is that it would turn cold and rain and, unfortunately, that's not going to happen." Parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and the Texas Panhandle were the hardest hit by the wildfires, which were so intense and large that they could be spotted by satellites.
Jesse Bounds thought the worst was over after a fire destroyed two barns, his machinery and $500,000 worth of straw last summer. In all, it was a loss of about $1 million. Then he tried to rebuild, and found his troubles had only begun. He dealt with the insurance company and got the necessary county building permits. But then a neighbor complained, and Bounds was told by the Oregon Department of State Lands that the 12 acres that had been farmed for years was actually a wetlands — a wetlands that didn’t appear on the State Wetland Inventory and had gone unnoticed. A permit to mitigate the damage to the wetlands would cost $57,000 per acre, a $684,000 extra bill to restore the family’s livelihood. Oregon landowners don’t have a simple, reliable method to find out whether their property is considered a wetland. House Bill 2785 takes the narrow approach, by exempting the replacement of a farm building “destroyed by fire or other act of God” from state wetlands mitigation laws. House Bill 2786 is more expansive, creating an exemption for any property that’s not designated as a wetland under the State Wetland Inventory.
Legislation to shield Washington wildlife managers and ranchers from death threats also could bar the public from learning where wolves are attacking livestock and what steps are being taken to prevent depredations. The House State Government Committee has unanimously endorsed withholding public records that name ranchers who report and state employees who respond to depredations. House Bill 1465 also would bar releasing “any information regarding the location of the depredation” that “reasonably could be used” to identify any person. The names of ranchers who sign agreements to use non-lethal measures to deter depredations also would be exempt from disclosure. The bill stems from unspecified threats last summer as the Department of Fish and Wildlife shot seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack in the Colville National Forest. One producer told the Capital Press that the ranch was receiving daily death threats.
The S.C. House voted 97-18 Wednesday to increase the state’s gas tax and other driving fees to raise about $600 million a year to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. Under the plan, the state’s gas tax would increase by 2 cents a gallon each year for the next five years. When fully phased in, the 10-cent-a-gallon increase would cost the average S.C. driver $60 a year. The state Department of Transportation estimates it needs an added $1 billion a year to repair and maintain S.C. roads. “We’re at crisis point when it comes to roads in South Carolina,” said House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, who has championed the bill.
Hawaii locavores are pushing for more options, including the sale of raw milk. Currently, raw milk is legal in 42 states in some form or another. Hawaii law prohibits the sale of it, but advocates like Monique Vanderstroom, owner of Naked Cow Dairy Farm in Waianae, say it's long over due. "There's enough people here that want it," she said. "Anytime we can produce our own food here, I think it adds to the sustainability of the islands as a whole." Vanderstroom said when she first opened her farm in 2008, she wanted to sell milk. But with all the rules and permitting required to bottle milk, the small farmer couldn't compete with mainland production, so her inventory only consists of cheese and butter. "We can't really afford the costs of the regulations right now," Vanderstroom said. Naked Cow is one of three dairy farms in Hawaii and the only one on Oahu. It's operation is small - with only 14 cows - but Vanderstroom wants to expand the business by adding to her herd and starting the sale of raw milk.
On February 14, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance prohibiting retail stores from selling commercially bred dogs and cats. Stores are instead encouraged to partner with animal shelters and rescue groups to display adoptable animals. But the new law, which also prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks old, doesn’t make it illegal to breed companion animals. People can still legally breed dogs and cats, and San Franciscans can still purchase an animal directly from a breeder where they can “see the conditions in which the dogs or cats are bred or can confer with the breeder concerning those conditions.”
Minnesota Farm Bureau leaders and other agricultural groups are working with state legislators to tweak the new buffer law. Lawmakers have held hearings where they heard from officials from the Board of Soil and Water Resources and Department of Natural Resources. State Farm Bureau Associate Director of Public Policy Cole Rupprecht says the buffer maps released by DNR need to be adjusted. He says another area of the law that that needs modification deals with the alternative farming practices listed in the statute. Rupprecht says if legislators can’t find the proper fixes to the law, then implementation should be delayed. He also says an appeal process needs to be added. He says several buffer bills have been offered including one to repeal the law entirely but nothing has passed yet.
Preemption is the use of state law to nullify a municipal ordinance or authority. In some cases, preemption can lead to improved policy statewide. However, preemption that prevents cities from expanding rights, building stronger economies, and promoting innovation can be counterproductive when decision-making is divorced from the core wants and needs of community members.