Delivering needed assistance to Minnesota’s 74,000 farmers, Governor Mark Dayton on Feb. 17 signed the bipartisan $35 million Rural Finance Authority legislation (H.F. 14) into law. The new funding will allow the Authority to continue offering eligible Minnesota farmers affordable financing and terms and conditions not offered by other traditional lenders. Without the investment, many Minnesota farmers would face a credit crunch caused by several years of low commodity prices and rising expenses. Rural Finance Authority loans are particularly important early in the year when Minnesota farmers review their finances and restructure debt ahead of the growing season.
Oregon farmers would dodge a key requirement of two bills aimed at improving schedule predictability for workers but still face a “show-up pay” requirement for canceled shifts.Under House Bill 2193 and Senate Bill 828, large employers in the retail, food service and hospitality industries would have to provide workers with additional compensation if their schedules are changed with less than two-weeks’ notice, among other provisions.Proponents say the bills are necessary because workers in these sectors often contend with schedule disruptions that prevent them from pursuing an education, obtaining adequate childcare or even getting sufficient sleep.Critics say it’s unrealistic for employers to plan two weeks ahead for canceled events, family emergencies, unforeseen worker departures and other incidents that can upend schedules.
State agriculture officials and ranchers are scrambling to secure feed and other supplies for approximately 10,000 cattle and horses that fled this week from wildfires in the Texas Panhandle. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension said Thursday about 4,200 large bales of hay are needed to feed displaced animals over the next two weeks.Trucks to shuttle animals from one location to another and fencing are among the needs as ranchers recover from the fires that killed four people and burned about 750 square miles in the state. Wildfires also ravaged parts of Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma.Jayce Winters, spokeswoman for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, said preliminary counts indicate about 1,500 cattle were killed in the fires, but a more precise accounting could be days or weeks away.Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday suspended some permit requirements and transportation restrictions so supplies of hay could more quickly get to ranchers in the eight Texas Panhandle counties hit by the wildfires. His order covers transport of round hay bales and also includes waivers for shipments coming into the disaster area from other counties in the state.
For years a utility that supplies drinking water to Iowa's capital city has spent millions of dollars to rid its water supply of pollutants that run off farm fields upstream. Finally, exasperated officials filed a lawsuit to force the agricultural counties to clamp down on the runoff. But the state Legislature, now controlled by Republicans who won big majorities in the November election, has decided to address the issue in a different way. It's preparing to dissolve the utility, effectively killing the lawsuit. GOP lawmakers say the change is meant to allow the cities in the area more direct control of their own water. But supporters of the Des Moines Water Works, an independent utility that has served the region for a century, say the move is a bold show of power by farm interests in a legislature where conservatives now hold sway.
Gov. Rick Snyder wanted to outline the importance of providing resources for local food suppliers to connect with global buyers. “This isn’t rocket science, this is simple,” said Snyder. “The goal of this initiative is to get people to talk to each other.”Pure Michigan Business Connect, formed in 2011, is a public/private initiative developed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation that helps connect local and global purchasers to suppliers of Michigan goods and services.
A bill that would codify in Idaho law a landmark court ruling on who owns stock watering rights on federally administered land has been approved by the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. The committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the Senate floor with a “do-pass” recommendation March 1 following impassioned testimony by the two Owyhee County ranchers who won that court decision. Paul Nettleton and Tim Lowry fought a decade-long battle with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management after the parties filed overlapping claims to in-stream stock watering rights during Idaho’s Snake River Basin Adjudication. The Idaho Supreme Court in 2007 decided in the ranchers’ favor in a ruling that is known as the Joyce Livestock decision. The court said the BLM can’t own the rangeland water rights because it doesn’t own cattle and therefore can’t put the water to beneficial use.Senate Bill 1111 would codify that decision into state law.
Should air contaminant emissions from large dairies be tracked and regulated in Oregon? A legislative task force concluded in July 2008 that they should.The Legislature didn't implement the recommendation, and dairy industry officials say voluntary actions are better than regulations. Buta proposal for a new mega-dairy in Eastern Oregon has prompted legislators to take a second look. A Senate committee will hold a public hearing Thursday on SB 197, which would require the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission to adopt a program for regulating air contaminants from dairy confined animal feeding operations. In Oregon, dairies and other confined animal feeding operations must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit, which details how manure will be stored and disposed of. There are no rules, however for air emissions.
The Maryland state Senate passed a bill extending the EmPOWER Maryland energy efficiency program, following similar action in the House of Delegates. Senators voted, 32-14, to extend the program, which was created in 2008 to require utility companies to reduce per capita electricity use by 10 percent by 2015. The law didn't require the program to continue past 2015, although the state's Public Service Commission has supported the program and asked utilities to lay out plans to invest more in energy efficiency. The current bill would put the Public Service Commission's order into law to ensure that EmPOWER will continue. Under the program, utility customers are charged a fee on their monthly bills. The money is used for efficient appliances, home energy checkups, rebates and bill credits for reducing electricity use.
The Colorado Senate on Thursday passed a first-in-the-nation bill expressly permitting marijuana clubs. But Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is hinting that he will veto the measure unless it bans indoor smoking. The bill allows local jurisdictions to permit bring-your-own pot clubs, as long as those establishments do not serve alcohol or any food beyond light snacks. The bill does not say whether those clubs could allow people to smoke pot indoors. That means it would be possible for a membership club that is closed to the public and has no more than three employees to permit indoor pot smoking. Sponsors say the bill is necessary because Colorado already has a network of underground, unregulated pot clubs, and towns are not sure how to treat them. Pot clubs could help alleviate complaints that Colorado’s sidewalks and public parks have been inundated with pot smokers since the state legalized recreational weed in 2012.
The Montana Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill to limit where drones can fly, after a lengthy debate on whether the legislation would actually protect property rights.Senate Bill 170, carried by Sen. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux, would establish a civil penalty if a person flies a drone over private property below 500 feet. It also would change the minimum fine from $500 to $2,500 if a drone flew over a critical infrastructure facility.The bill would require drones to follow public roads and land, unless the user had permission to fly over private property.