A New York state Assemblywoman has introduced legislation on carbon farming that she says is the first of its kind. The idea is to promote environmentally friendly farming practices while, at the same time, putting money back into the pockets of farmers. Democrat Didi Barrett has sponsored a bill that creates a carbon farming tax credit. Barrett, who represents portions of Columbia and Dutchess Counties, says the plan will give farmers a new tax break while helping the state reach its climate change goals. “This would make New York state the first in the country,” Barrett says. “And I’m very excited about something that really is a win-win for our environment and for our farmers and have New York be the lead on it.”
Two Maryland leaders showed their support for a bill that would move the state’s seafood and aquaculture marketing program to another departmen. Governor Larry Hogan and agriculture secretary Joe Bartenfelder toured the J.M. Clayton crab processing plant in Cambridge in support of House Bill 120, which would move the marketing from the Department of Natural Resources back to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. HB120 will move the program back to the Agriculture Department, where it will join the existing Agriculture Marketing and Development Program.
State Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) has introduced a bill designed to help improve the living conditions of seasonal farmworkers. An affordable housing shortage has forced many farmworker families into unsafe and unhealthy living conditions, according to a news release. "The hardworking folks that help grow the world's food shouldn't have to choose between putting a roof over their family's heads and feeding their children," said Vidak. Many farmers have the land and want to build housing for their seasonal employees, but zoning ordinances often prevent them from doing so. SB 530 solves this problem by allowing owners of agricultural land to build housing for their seasonal employees if they follow health and safety codes, and building safety standards.
A bill that would require country of origin labels on beef is headed to the Senate floor of the South Dakota legislature. The bill, SB 135, passed out of the state Senate Agriculture and National Resources Committee on Feb. 15 after a 5-to-3 vote in favor of the legislation. SB 135 states that all beef and ground beef sold for retail within the state must bear a country of origin label.
The State of Missouri is appealing to the the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to California's Proposition 2 law, which took effect in 2015. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, in a press release, stated that he has asked the high court to hear arguments in the state’s challenge to the California law, which requires that eggs produced and sold in the state are laid by hens that have adequate room to stand up, sit down, turn around and extend their limbs without touching another bird or the sides of the cage. Hawley said the law imposes onerous new regulations on Missouri poultry farmers and would drive up the cost of eggs for Missouri consumers. “These regulations are unconstitutional,” Hawley said. “They will cost Missouri farmers tens of millions of dollars. They will cost Missouri families. And they will cost our state jobs.” Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma are joining Hawley’s appeal.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s proposal to let power cooperatives get into the broadband business looks like an improvement for Tennessee consumers. But, in my view, the proposal is mostly a bait and switch. The plan, which the governor announced at a press conference last month, maintains strict limitations on the ability of public entities to improve their citizens’ broadband options. And it provides a $45 million subsidy that will go mostly to the same for-profit telephone and cable companies that are already doing a poor job of reaching all Tennesseans with affordable, quality broadband. In 2010, the state Legislature put significant restrictions on both municipalities’ and co-ops’ ability to provide broadband. Jurisdictions that manage their own public utilities can provide broadband only within their service areas, and that’s only if they survive a series of legal and reporting hoops. Despite these roadblocks, several municipal utilities have successfully started providing broadband service in Tennessee. Chattanooga is the best known network, but six others are also in operation. Several legislators, including State Senator Janice Bowling (R- Tullahoma) and State Representative Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), have tried to repeal the law. Eight repeal bills were introduced in one legislative session alone. In 2016, legislators and constituents put up such a cry that it repeal seemed imminent. However, legislators influenced by large incumbent communications corporations played one last card, which was to hire a consulting firm to study the issue, thus giving incumbents another year to stall.
A recently introduced bill would make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to commit entirely to renewable energy sources for electricity, heating and transportation.Called the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act, the measure has already garnered the support of 53 House and Senate members — more than a quarter of the legislators on Beacon Hill, said Ben Hellerstein, state director with Environment Massachusetts.
Raw milk is back on the legislative menu this session, with a majority of the House signing onto a farm bill that Westport Rep. Paul Schmid said would benefit legislative districts from the urban cores to the rolling pastures and forests far from Boston. The Senate passed a similar bill 36-1 last year, and with more than 60 percent of the House already endorsing Schmid's bill, the horizon appears bright for an omnibus agriculture bill this session. The bill (HD 3144) would open up state parkland for use by farmer's markets and community gardens, help veterans deploy to the state's farm fields, and make it easier for dairy farmers to sell their milks sans pasteurization. "Everybody's district has a farmer's market these days, and everybody's concerned about locally raised food. They know it's healthier and it's probably raised with less of a cost on the environment," Schmid told the News Service. He said, "It's been, I'm told, more than 20 years since we did anything on a large basis for agriculture." Schmid's bill has the backing of 96 members of the House — a majority of the 160-seat body — and 10 senators. Spencer Democrat Sen. Anne Gobi filed similar legislation in the Senate, and co-sponsored Schmid's bill. Considered a delicacy in some quarters, raw milk has been viewed unfavorably by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which warned it might contain microorganisms causing vomiting, diarrhea, or flulike symptoms, which can be life-threatening for some.
A South Dakota State University lab has been working to find solutions to livestock diseases for nearly 50 years, including a bird flu outbreak in 2015. But the building that houses the lab is making this a difficult task. This is where a new bill comes into play. The Senate Appropriations Committee introduced the “State Animal Health Lab bill”, or SB 172, which would fund renovating the existing 63,000 sq. ft. facility and constructing an additional 80,000 sq. ft. building. That will include a Biosafety level 3 facility, which Hennings says is necessary to continue handling dangerous pathogens more safely.
From “cow committee” to the New Hampshire Senate floor, dairy farmers inch ever closer to receiving funds to help make up for last summer’s drought. In a 19-3 floor vote Thursday, state senators moved forward a bill that would provide $2 million to the Milk Producers Emergency Relief Fund board to then be distributed to the state’s dairy farmers. The board recommended that the Legislature appropriate a $3.6 million one-time payment for dairy farmers back in October. This was in response to the 2016 drought and associated feed losses, which were compounded by two years of low milk prices set by the federal government. Over the course of 2016, the number of licensed cow dairy operations in New Hampshire dropped from 123 to 115, according to state data.