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SARL Members and Alumni News

Federal judge dismisses challenge to Wyoming trespassing law

Bristol Heral Courier | Posted on July 11, 2016

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from groups that challenged Wyoming laws prohibiting trespassing on private lands to collect data.  Groups including the Western Watersheds Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Press Photographers Association sued Wyoming last year. The groups claimed state laws prohibiting trespassing to collect data were unconstitutional. The groups said the laws, which allowed both civil penalties and criminal prosecution, would block people from informing government regulators about such things as violations of water quality rules and illegal treatment of animals.U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper dismissed the groups' lawsuit Wednesday, ruling there's no constitutional right to trespass on private lands.

"The ends, no matter how critical or important to a public concern, do not justify the means, violating private property rights," Skavdahl wrote.Skavdahl last winter expressed concerns about earlier versions of the laws, which the Wyoming Legislature had passed early last year. The earlier versions sought to prohibit collection of data on "open lands," a term Skavdahl said could be stretched to cover more than just private property.In response to Skavdahl's criticism, the Wyoming Legislature earlier this year revised the laws to specify they only applied to trespassing to collect data on private lands.Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Thursday said he was pleased with Skavdahl's dismissal of the groups' lawsuit."There has been a lot of misinformation about the intent of this law," Mead said. "The judge's ruling affirms that the issue at the heart of the matter is preserving private property rights — a fundamental right in our country."

Oklahoma will vote on right to farm this November

Beef | Posted on June 30, 2016

This November, Oklahoma voters will have a chance to decide on the fate of the state’s agricultural industry. State Question 777 would add a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution relating to farming and ranching. Essentially, SQ 777 would guarantee the right to engage in specific farming and ranching practices.  The “Right to Farm,” measure would add a new section to create state constitutional rights protecting the following farm and ranch management practices including: • The right to make use of agricultural technology, • The right to make use of livestock procedures, and • The right to make use of ranching practices.

Bayer, Dupont join ag-tech investment boom to ease grain pain

Reuters | Posted on June 24, 2016

Dupont and Bayer AG have teamed up to invest in a new fund that will back agricultural technology startups, becoming the latest companies to pile into the multibillion-dollar industry as farm profits shrink. The two chemical and seed companies along with venture capital firm Finistere Ventures and two others have launched a $15 million accelerator fund, called Radicle, that will back early-stage agricultural-tech companies. Of the $15 million, $6 million has been initially committed but the fund did not identify which companies would receive the monies. While small in size, it marks the second time DuPont's investment arm has taken a stake in the ag-tech arena since launching in 2003, according to fund officials.

Sad won't run for re-election after five terms in NH House

Sentinel Source | Posted on June 22, 2016

It began on a whim: a challenge from a friend to branch out into politics and run for office. It blossomed into a decade-long career of fighting for local farmers, statewide education funding and mental health provisions for prisoners.  Now Tara A. Sad, of Cheshire House District 1, is readying her exit from New Hampshire politics. The Democratic representative from Walpole won’t run for re-election to the statehouse. For Sad, political enthusiasm has never been in short supply. Over five terms in the House, she built a career characterized by strong support for local agriculture initiatives and a steady opposition to suburbanization of New Hampshire farmland. That passion paid off, vaulting Sad to the chairmanship of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee in 2011 and later its ranking member. It helped her establish a rapport across the aisle as a willing negotiator with principles, and it endeared her to her constituents along the Connecticut River, delivering her five elections with comfortable voting margins.

Divided Legislature: Minoritis Missing

AP | Posted on June 20, 2016

While minorities have made some political gains in recent decades, they remain significantly underrepresented in Congress and nearly every state legislature though they comprise a growing share of the U.S. population, according to an analysis of demographic data by The Associated Press. The disparity in elected representation is especially large for Hispanics, even though they are now the nation's largest ethnic minority.  A lack of political representation can carry real-life consequences, and not only on hot-button immigration issues. State spending for public schools, housing and social programs all can have big implications for minority communities. So can decisions on issues such as criminal justice reform, election laws or the printing of public documents in other languages besides English.  When the people elected don't look, think, talk or act like the people they represent, it can deepen divisions that naturally exist in the U.S.

Canada needs to seek renewed, expanded agricultural trade framework

Winnipeg Free Press | Posted on June 16, 2016

There’s no doubt trade is critically important to the agricultural economy, particularly in places such as Manitoba where the productivity of farmers far exceeds the appetite of the resident population. As the province’s Minister of Agriculture Ralph Eichler pointed out Tuesday in his presentation to the Senate committee studying agricultural trade, two-thirds of the food products manufactured in Manitoba leave the province. Improved market access and fair trade rules are important. However, a recent discussion paper released by agricultural economists with the University of Guelph highlights just how complex achieving that has become in world vastly different from the one envisaged when the first big agricultural deal was negotiated under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1995.

Monsanto Rejects Second Bid From Bayer

Growing Produce | Posted on June 15, 2016

Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a challenge for the blockbuster agriculture tie-up. Bayer has offered to buy the U.S. seed giant for $62 billion including debt, or $122 a share, which Monsanto last month rejected as too low.

North Dakotans soundly reject corporate farming measure

Reuters | Posted on June 15, 2016

North Dakotans on Tuesday soundly rejected a law enacted last year that changed decades of family-farming rules in the state by allowing corporations to own and operate dairy and hog farms.  Some 75 percent of North Dakotans who went to the ballot box voted to repeal Senate Bill 2351. The law, signed into law in March 2015 by Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple, exempted dairy and swine production from the state's Depression-era corporate farming prohibition. The North Dakota Farmers Union and other groups that collected signatures to put the referendum on the ballot said family farmers cannot compete with large agricultural firms with no ties to the communities where they operate. Supporters of the bill argued that dairy and pork operations are on the decline in the state and cannot survive without corporations that can finance expensive equipment and compete regionally, according to the Yes for Dairies & Pork Producers website. This February, a U.S. district judge issued an injunction barring Nebraska officials from enforcing the state's ban on farmland ownership by corporations. The referendum was the only measure on the state's primary ballot, which was dominated by a Republican fight for the governor's office. In the Republican primary for governor, Doug Burgum defeated North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, results on the state's election website showed.

Why Iowa farmers should win drainage case

Farm Futures | Posted on June 15, 2016

The Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) federal case is coming to a close. DMWW sued Sac, Calhoun, and Buena Vista Counties in Iowa, as trustees of numerous Iowa Drainage Districts. After the complaint was filed by DMWW, the Counties sought summary judgment in federal court regarding the Clean Water Act (CWA) issues. The U.S. District Court referred the common law issues to the Iowa Supreme Court for review and decision. The CWA claims are now fully briefed. The Drainage Districts filed their reply brief on May 31, 2016. It is a homerun. Regarding jurisdiction issues, the Drainage Districts brief destroys DMWW’s claims. First, the districts describe how there is no jurisdiction for the Court to order a drainage district to resolve an issue where it has no power to resolve that issue. Second, the Drainage Districts point out DMWW sat on its hands for 44 years and did nothing regarding permits for tile drainage discharges. The killer argument the brief makes is “…everyone including Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency…the Iowa Department of Natural Resources…and every single state in the Union with drainage tile makes [it] clear NPDES permits are not required for drainage tile.”

Notwithstanding these facts, the bloviating director of DMWW claims he knows better than everyone else “…is a majority of one.” No, really.  In an answer to a question, the DMWW director responds that DMWW is a majority of one and his rate payers are a majority of one. He claims he is correct and everyone else is wrong in interpreting the CWA.  The Drainage Districts and their law firm actually demonstrate to the court that DMWW’s arguments are in conflict with 44 years of consistent interpretation. The brief actually reviews the CWA’s legislative history and cites to EPA documents which declare EPA has never required NPDES permits for drainage tile. On page 18 of the Drainage Districts’ brief, a thorough discussion begins describing how Congress placed agricultural runoff under State control in 1972.

Cranberry growers eye ways to compete with Wisconsin, Quebec

The Herald News | Posted on June 15, 2016

 Faced with an influx of cranberries from Wisconsin and Quebec, agriculture officials have made a series of recommendations they hope will revitalize the 200-year-old Massachusetts cranberry industry and allow it to remain competitive.      In a report to lawmakers, the Massachusetts Cranberry Revitalization Task Force, created by the Legislature in 2015, identified possible areas of innovation in cranberry farming, such as making renewable energy options more viable for growers and doing more to conserve water. The report also highlights the need for funding for cranberry farmers to renovate their bogs to be able to grow "larger, higher-yield fruits" that have become a growing chunk of the cranberry market. "Cranberry growers in Massachusetts as a whole are not confronted by a single problem," the task force wrote in its report. "The external challenges, be they a lack of capital, production costs per barrel increasing while crop values decrease, less productive bogs and other issues, are onerous."

Massachusetts, which accounts for 31 percent of American cranberry acreage, trails only Wisconsin in terms of cranberry production in the United States. But in 2014, the task force said, Quebec eclipsed Massachusetts and produced about 500,000 more barrels of the tart fruit than the Bay State.