Landowners are making good progress toward complying with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's signature water-quality law, leaving the governor firmly opposed to any legislative attempts to delay or revoke the new standards. There are bills working their way through the Legislature that would delay or weaken the buffer law that passed in 2015 with bipartisan support. Dayton has promised to veto those bills if they reach his desk. Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, who worked to pass the initial buffer bill, said he was surprised Dayton was so emphatically against delaying the implementation deadline by a year. He noted that because the governor vetoed last year's tax bill for an unrelated reason there currently isn't funding to help counties enforce the buffer law. Recent analysis by state agencies found nearly 40 percent of Minnesota waters were polluted or impaired.State officials say three out of four Minnesota counties are already 60 percent or more compliant with the new buffer rules. Counties in northwest and southwest Minnesota appear to have the most work to do to ensure buffers are in place by the November deadline.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) against three drainage districts in Northwest Iowa, prompting a huge sigh of relief from many in the agriculture sector. The claim, citing the federal Clean Water Act, was dismissed for lack of standing considering the drainage districts’ limited status under Iowa law. U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Strand for the Northern District of Iowa, held that the state legislature was the proper venue to address issue. “Here, DMWW asserts that it has two property rights: (1) the right to obtain clean water from the Raccoon River, and (2) the right to use its treatment plant and facilities without impairment from pollutants discharged into the Raccoon River,” Strand said. “Even if these could be considered cognizable property rights under state law, DMWW holds those rights as a public entity, making them public property rights not protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. Moreover, based on the federal law authorities cited by the Iowa Supreme Court, a public entity such as DMWW cannot assert a Fifth Amendment takings claim against another political subdivision of the state. For these reasons, DMWW has no cognizable claim....”
A young lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency had a heavy feeling as he headed to work one morning last week. Like many EPA staffers, he’s been distraught over the steady stream of negative news about the Trump administration’s plans for his agency and what it all means for his future. That morning the White House had released its budget proposal, calling on Congress to cut 31 percent of the EPA’s budget, more than 50 programs and 3,200 of the agency’s 15,000 employees. The lawyer’s subway stop, the Federal Triangle Metro Station, dumps people out under a grand archway between two entrances to the EPA’s ornate limestone DC headquarters. As he road up the escalator, he encountered a small group of people standing in the cold wind, passing out fliers and holding signs that read: “fight climate change; work for California.” A man with a bushy gray mustache exclaimed: “I’m recruiting for California jobs!” and introduced himself to the EPA lawyer as Michael Picker, the president of California’s Public Utilities Commission, which regulates electric companies and other utilities. Picker explained that he has 250 job openings and more on the way. California’s Air Resources Board and Energy Commission also have opportunities for federal employees frustrated with the direction the Trump administration is headed. “All the jobs will have impacts on climate change in some ways,” he said.
The ease of relapsing into opioid addiction has led a growing number of states to help residents make it clear to medical professionals they do not want to be prescribed the powerful painkillers. Connecticut and Alaska are two of the latest considering legislation this year that would create a "non-opioid directive" patients can put in their medical files, formally notifying health care professionals they do not want to be prescribed or administered opioid medications.Legislators in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania last year voted to create similar voluntary directives.
South Dakota's animal disease research lab is in line for much-needed upgrades after Gov. Dennis Daugaard approved creative funding to provide it with $50.1 million.Daugaard signed legislation Friday to upgrade and expand the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at South Dakota State University in Brookings.The lab performs daily food safety tests and also tests for disease in pigs, cattle and other livestock. It's used by many farmers and veterinarians in the state and was a key player in the bird flu outbreak of two years ago. That outbreak highlighted the need for upgrades estimated to cost about $58 million.To prepare for future outbreaks, lab officials have said they need an improved biosafety room that can handle hazardous pathogens like foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu. The remodel will also allow for new technology that didn't exist when the lab had its last major face-lift in 1993, including things such as molecular-based testing and DNA sequencing."The funding for the enhancements and upgrades will address the animal health, biosafety and environmental safety needs of today," said SDSU President Barry Dunn. "This is a game-changer for our state, the region and our university."
A state lawmaker is working to help Minnesota farmers grow a popular protein: shrimp. A bill written by Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent) would provide short-term tax incentives for entrepreneurs who want to jump into the shrimp farming business.“We’re looking to build a whole new industry of agriculture in Minnesota, one that uses local commodities and creates very good jobs,” the southwest Minnesota lawmaker said.His bill was positively received Wednesday by the House Agriculture Policy Committee, his office said, adding that it’ll continue to be in the legislative mix this session.
The Arkansas House passed HV 1665 67-10 to allow lawsuits against people who take unauthorized videos on commercial property.
The House next week may take up a bill to ensure conservation doesn’t erode agricultural water rights. Senate Bill 5010 would allow irrigation districts and farmers to retain their full water rights, even if they cut back on use for an extended period.The bill’s prime sponsor, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Judy Warnick, said farmers should be encouraged to save water, without fear of having to relinquish a portion of their water rights.“There’s kind of a feeling, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it,” she said during a hearing this session on the bill.Under certain circumstances, the Department of Ecology can withdraw water rights that haven’t been used for five straight years. The law cites nearly two dozen exceptions. For example, farmers who irrigate less because of drought, an abundance of rainfall or crop rotations aren’t in danger of losing water rights.SB 5010 would add conservation to the list. Washington Farm Bureau associate director of governmental relations Evan Sheffels said it leave more water in streams by removing an incentive to occasionally plant water-intensive crops to keep a water right.
This is shaping up to be a good week for Oregon tribal members and farm workers desperate for safe and decent housing. On Tuesday, bipartisan legislation designed to improve and increase housing for farm workers was approved by the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee.The measure, Senate Bill 1, would create a personal income or corporation tax credit for farmers' operating costs of housing for agricultural workers. It closes a loophole in current state law, which gives farmers incentives to build worker housing, but offers them no help for the expensive operations and maintenance components. Currently, farmers have absorbed these costs without a tax write-off, which has prevented many from building more housing. SB 1 would let farmers deduct operations costs and stabilize this agricultural business cost.Agricultural workers would, in turn, benefit from having safe and stable housing, and the trickle-down economics would benefit valley communities.The bill has Republican and Democrat sponsors: Sen. President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River. It also has the support of the PCUN farm workers' union, the Farm Bureau, the Agricultural Workforce Coalition, and others.It has been referred to the Joint Committee on Tax Credits.
Upon the heels of the latest natural disaster, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is calling on his fellow Texans to donate to the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund (STAR Fund) and lend a helping hand to our neighbors impacted by the devastating wildfires in the Panhandle. The STAR Fund was created to collect monetary contributions from private individuals and businesses to assist farmers and ranchers in responding to and recovering from natural disasters like the latest series of wildfires that burned a trail of destruction across the Panhandle this month. Funds may be used to rebuild perimeter fences, pay for livestock burial costs, restore operations and assist with other agricultural relief efforts — basically anything that isn’t covered under federal farm assistance or insurance program “Many of our fellow Texans are in need of a helping hand, and all Texans have an opportunity to really help people by donating to the STAR Fund,” Commissioner Miller said. “Farmers and ranchers are trying to rebuild fences, clean up their properties and pick up the pieces after this devastating tragedy. That’s where the STAR Fund comes into play and why it was created — to help folks out with things federal money and insurance won’t cover.” As farmers and ranchers begin to assess the damage and rebuild their lives, Commissioner Miller is encouraging them to keep an eye out on the opportunity to apply for assistance through the STAR Fund. If a producer lives in a county where a disaster declaration has been issued by the governor, they have 60 days from the date of the governor’s proclamation to turn in an application. “Every day, we depend on Texas farmers and ranchers to provide us with food and clothing, and now is the time for Texas producers to lean on us,” Commissioner Miller said. “This is not a handout, but rather it’s a helping hand. I hope producers who need a little help will apply for assistance. That’s what this money is there for.”