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SARL Members and Alumni News

Minnesota once again leads the Midwest in annual energy efficiency ranking

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 2, 2017

Minnesota is the only Midwest state ranked in the top 10 of the annual American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The state’s ninth place standing, announced this week, topped Michigan and Illinois (tied for 11th); Iowa (19th); Wisconsin (24th); Ohio (31st) and Indiana (40th). South Dakota and North Dakota rounded out the bottom.Last year Minnesota ranked 10th on the scorecard and was, once again, the only Midwest state to make the Top 10.

KDA Announces Kansas Wildfire Cost Share Initiative

Kansas Department of Agriculture | Posted on October 2, 2017

The Kansas Department of Agriculture announced that the State Conservation Commission has approved the creation of the Kansas Wildfire Cost Share Initiative which will provide funding in the amount of $200,000 for specific recovery expenses following recent wildfires in Kansas. The commission approved the action in September to work with local Conservation Districts in supporting the recovery efforts.Funds from the initiative are to be targeted at livestock water supplies, cross fencing, grass seeding, windbreaks and obstruction removal in the areas affected by the March 2017 Kansas wildfires as well as the Anderson Creek wildfire in 2016. Eligible areas for the initiative are in the following counties: Barber, Clark, Comanche, Ellis, Ellsworth, Ford, Hodgeman, Lane, Lincoln, McPherson, Meade, Ness, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Russell, Seward and Smith. Cost share assistance will be provided by the KDA Division of Conservation (DOC) through local county Conservation Districts.

Missouri man hopes to convince state Supreme Court that 'farming' marijuana is legal

Springfield News Leader | Posted on October 2, 2017

Mark Shanklin thinks he was well within his rights in June 2016 when a police officer knocked on his door after noting unusually high power usage at the St. Louis man's home.  Shanklin "...was covered in dirt or potting soil and reeked of marijuana" when Detective Gregory Klipsch asked him to talk, and he consented to a search after consulting with his wife, according to court documents. The state says a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tipped off local law enforcement.Inside, Klipsch found "...numerous potted plants of marijuana scattered throughout the residence along with lights and a pulley system," court documents say. "Headlights were affixed to the ceiling in some rooms and there was a table with lights and red Solo Cups with smaller marijuana plants."In addition to hundreds of plants, Shanklin had books on growing marijuana, a scale and cut cannabis inside various Tupperware containers.But Shanklin, through his attorney, contends that what he was doing should be considered perfectly legal. He argues that Missourians legalized growing marijuana in 2014 when voters passed a so-called "right-to-farm" amendment to the Missouri Constitution.As such, Shanklin argues the drug laws under which he was convicted are unconstitutional in their application to prohibit cannabis cultivation.

Massive, unregulated networks move dogs into Virginia to save them from death.

The Virginian Pilot | Posted on October 2, 2017

These volunteers spend their time and money to rescue dogs from municipal shelters by shuttling them to fosters or adopters in other parts of the country. They see it as a win for everyone – it eases overcrowding at shelters, keeps dogs from being euthanized and loving families get pets. But there are no laws in the U.S. about tracking dogs moving across state lines. Rescue groups say they self-police and emphasize transparency, but critics say the lack of regulation may put adopters at risk if they unwittingly take in dogs with behavioral problems. They say details about a dog’s past aggression can be lost in the shuffle or obscured by well-meaning rescuers. The daughter of the Virginia Beach woman who was killed said in a lawsuit that’s what happened to her. She wasn’t made aware of Blue’s bite history when she adopted him. Media from around the country have reported similar incidents. There are some pushing for legislative oversight of this pet pipeline, but few inroads have been made. In the meantime, thousands of dogs are moving across state lines every year with little oversight.

Senators press agriculture rural development assistant on funding, FCC relationship

The Fence Post | Posted on October 2, 2017

Anne Hazlett, assistant to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on rural development, came under pressure Sept. 28 from several senators on whether she will push for money for programs President Donald Trump proposed eliminating and on whether the USDA will formally weigh in with the Federal Communications Commission on fixed versus wireless broadband internet access. The interactions occurred at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on rural development and energy programs in the next farm bill.Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said rural development is one of the reasons he stayed on the agriculture committee, and said it is vital to find "new resources" for the community facilities program to combat the opioid drug addiction crisis.Leahy then asked Hazlett, "Are you going to push for providing them?"But Hazlett responded only that, "you have my commitment to steward the resources that are provided."

Tenth Circuit says Wyoming trespass statute implicated First Amendment

Texas A&M | Posted on September 29, 2017

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has held that the First Amendment is applicable to a Wyoming statute that prohibits crossing private property to collect resource data.  The statute, which would prohibit a variety of acts such as photographing, videoing, sampling, or otherwise gathering data on water, soil, and animals, was challenged by several plaintiffs who claimed it violated their free speech rights.  The trial court dismissed the case, finding that the collection of data was not “speech” such that the First Amendment was implicated.  The Tenth Circuit reversed, holding this action was speech.  Thus, the case was remanded back to the trial court, which will now apply the legal analysis required for a First Amendment challenge.  

Tyson now looking beyond Tonganoxie, Kansas for poultry plant

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 21, 2017

Tyson Foods is backing away from its plans to build a new poultry complex in Tonganoxie, Kansas, and instead is looking at other locations to build the $320 million facility. Tyson Foods on September 5 revealed plans to build the poultry complex in Tonganoxie, stating that the complex would include a poultry plant with a capacity to process 1.25 million birds per week, a feed mill and a hatchery. About 1,600 people were expected to be employed at the complex.However, a public forum held on September 15 revealed the sentiment that citizens of Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County did not want Tyson to build there. Before the forum concluded, four state legislators present stated that they would do what they could to prevent Tyson Foods from building in Tonganoxie.Three days later, the Leavenworth County Commission voted 2-1 to rescind a resolution of intent in which the county would issue as much as $500 million in industrial revenue bonds to support the project.

After Long Fight, Some Farmers Get Relief From High Property Taxes

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on September 21, 2017

Agricultural land is assessed differently than homes and business in all 50 states, based on a formula that values the land based on crop yields, soil conditions, market prices and other factors. The approach is designed to preserve agricultural land by curbing property taxes, even as developers gobble up farmland and land values skyrocket. But over time, changing interest rates and swings in grain prices have led to assessments that don’t match the economic conditions many farmers face.

Michigan Governor approves unlimited super PAC cash

Detroit News | Posted on September 21, 2017

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday signed legislation letting political candidates raise unlimited money for super political action committees just a day after the Legislature approved the controversial plan. With Snyder’s blessing, political candidates can now raise unlimited money for super PACs that could then pour unlimited amounts of money back into committees that a candidate creates or that support the candidate.Snyder, a Republican, and other GOP supporters say the new law squares Michigan with a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

241 5 Petition to tighten rules on livestock facilities in Iowa fails

Des Moines Register | Posted on September 21, 2017

The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission denied a petition that would have made it tougher for animal feeding operations to be built in Iowa. Petition supporters sought to strengthen the state's master matrix — a scoring system designed to give local residents input on proposed animal feeding operations — saying the changes would better protect people living near livestock facilities from odor and water pollution.But opponents said the petition would make it so difficult to get a passing score, it would result in a statewide moratorium on livestock facilities. That's a controversial proposal for a state that's a national leader in pig, egg, turkey and cattle production.