Skip to content Skip to navigation

SARL Members and Alumni News

Technology used to track premium Wyoming beef on blockchain

Medium | Posted on June 8, 2018

The goal of the pilot made by Wyoming Certified Beef, LLC and Germany-based traceability solution provider TE-FOOD International is to showcase the premium living conditions of the cattle (grass-fed on an open range throughout their entire lives) thereby producing much higher quality cuts of beef to lucrative foreign markets. The verified ranch-to-table traceability of the cattle through RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) ear tags and anchored by blockchain technology has never been done before. What began as quiet rumblings out of the Wyoming legislature about amendments to an outdated Money Transmitter law that prohibited digital currency exchanges from operating within its borders has snowballed into a blockchain regulation revolution in the Equality State. Last week, inspired by a bipartisan coalition led by Representative Tyler Lindholm, Wyoming passed, and signed into law, a total of five pro-blockchain bills, with some passing through its House unanimously.

Three big wins for solar energy in Illinois

Environmental Law & Poliocy Center | Posted on June 8, 2018

All three bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and now await the Governor’s signature.  Each bill, in its own unique way, is important to successful solar energy development in Illinois.  SB 3214 (Solar Pollinators) – ELPC drafted this legislation after reviewing similar efforts in Minnesota and Maryland.  SB 3214 will lead to increased pollinator-friendly habitat on solar energy project sites in Illinois.  ELPC worked closely with the solar industry and conservation advocates to get buy-in; we also negotiated with the Illinois Farm Bureau to avoid confusion or opposition.  This legislation provides that if a solar company intends to present its project as “pollinator friendly,” then the solar company must meet a pollinator standard.  The University of Illinois Department of Entomology will prepare a scorecard to define a pollinator-friendly project. SB 486 (Solar Project Uniform Assessments) – Illinois does not have a statewide uniform standard for assessing the value of solar energy projects.  Currently, 102 county assessors determine solar project values, and each can reach a different result, creating uncertainty within the solar industry.  Solar developers, like other businesses, desire stability and certainty.  ELPC supported the solar industry’s efforts to negotiate a uniform standard to be used by the state’s county assessors.  This is similar to the legislative work ten years ago to establish a uniform statewide standard for assessing wind power projects. SB 2591 (Solar Agricultural Impact Mitigation Act) – The solar industry negotiated with the Illinois Farm Bureau to develop mitigation legislation to protect agricultural interests.  A comparable “AIM Act” is in place for wind power projects, and the Farm Bureau sought similar requirements for solar energy projects.  The initial draft legislation was problematic, but it was amended and is acceptable to the solar industry and to ELPC.  This bill is a good compromise that sets reasonable standards for solar energy projects.

Des Moines DREAMer dies within weeks after being sent back to Mexico’s violence

Des Moines Register | Posted on June 8, 2018

Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco should have graduated from high school in Des Moines last month. The oldest of four siblings should have walked across a stage in a cap and gown to become a proud symbol to his sister and brothers of the rewards of hard work and education. Instead, Manuel died a brutal death alone in a foreign land, a symbol of gang supremacy in a country plagued by violent drug cartels. It happened three weeks after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned him to Mexico, a country he had left at age 3 when his parents brought him here without a visa. The fact that America was the only home he has known made Manuel eligible to apply for and be granted DACA status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by former President Barack Obama. It exempted from deportation certain young people, referred to as DREAMERS, who were brought to the U.S. without papers as children. But that status didn’t protect Manuel when he came to immigration authorities’ attention after being stopped for speeding last fall and charged with driving under the influence. An ICE spokesperson said in a statement that ICE officers arrested him in Polk County Jail, and a federal immigration judge terminated his DACA status because of two  misdemeanor convictions. 

Washington Ecology defends dairy rules as hearing ends

Capital Press | Posted on June 8, 2018

An eight-day hearing on the Washington Department of Ecology’s new manure-management rules ended Thursday with the agency defending itself against varied attacks by the dairy industry and environmental groups. Ecology’s attorney, Phyllis Barney, asked the Pollution Control Hearings Board to uphold rules that will require dairies with more than 200 cows to obtain pollution-control permits from Ecology. The Washington State Dairy Federation and Washington Farm Bureau, and a coalition of environmental groups are appealing aspects of Ecology’s rules. The board is the first stop to challenge Ecology decisions.Farm groups allege some rules are unnecessary and burdensome, particularly one that would prohibit manure lagoons built to federal standards. Environmental groups say Ecology’s faults include failing to require synthetic liners in lagoons and on-farm wells to monitor whether manure is polluting groundwater. The hearing continued the long-running and high-stakes battle between dairies and environmental groups in Washington.

SARL member, Mike Parsons, becomes Missouri Governor

River Front Times | Posted on May 31, 2018

On Friday, Missourians will bid a final farewell to Eric Greitens, who has an exciting post-gubernatorial life waiting for him in various courtrooms. Replacing the former political wunderkind is Lt. Governor Mike Parson, a fellow Republican, but one cast in a far different mold. Parson is a devout Baptist, an Army veteran, a farmer, a former sheriff and a longtime presence in the state legislature in both the House and Senate. Whatever kind of governor he'll turn out to be, he'll have to work to establish a legacy outside of Greitens' jagged shadow. Parson grew up in a rural town of 356 people. He's a farmer and small-business owner. He talks with an authentic twang. Parson will be tasked with filling five vacancies on the eight-member board, which oversees K-12 education in the state. He must also decide if one of the three existing members — whose term expires July 1 — will stay or go.

Connecticut Restores $1.4 Million In Subsidies For Dairy Farmers

Hartford Courant | Posted on May 31, 2018

nnecticut’s dwindling contingent of dairy farmers was breathing just a bit easier Tuesday after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he’s been able to restore $1.4 million in subsidies to help dairy operations survive ongoing low milk prices.The money for this fiscal year’s remaining dairy subsidies was chopped last October as part of the legislature’s struggle to deal with multibillion dollar budget deficits. “Thank goodness,” was the reaction Tuesday from Matt Freund, a New Canaan dairy farmer, when he learned that the $1.4 million is being restored. “It’s going to help keep us in business long enough for milk prices to come back up,” Freund said of the state subsidy program.Steven K. Reviczky, state agriculture commissioner, said the subsidy “provides a critical lifeline for Connecticut’s dairy farmers and their families.”

Bill to Boost Urban Agriculture in Illinois Heads to Rauner’s Desk

WTTW | Posted on May 31, 2018

Legislation that could help break up food deserts in Chicago and other cities across the state passed the Illinois Senate last week and now awaits the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner. The bill would allow local governments to provide incentives such as reduced water rates and utility fees and property tax abatements for farmers in “urban agriculture zones” established at the municipal or county level.After passing the Illinois House by a vote of 86-22 in April, the bill passed the state Senate on May 23 by a unanimous 55-0 vote, sending it to Rauner’s desk for final approval.“[The legislation] will help open doors for urban farmers to supply healthy foods, grow valuable jobs and revitalize land in communities needing extra support,” said Rodger Cooley, executive director of the Chicago Food Policy Action Council, in a statement. The nonprofit aims to increase access to healthy foods in underserved Chicago neighborhoods.

Wisconsin's agriculture agent shortage heralds the end of an era for rural America | Posted on May 31, 2018

The University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension has reduced its fleet, bought out ranks of rural agents, and cut the number of positions across the state. Now farmers stand to lose access to 100 years of knowledge at a time when they need it most. “Land rent is a very big topic right now,” says Lori Berget, a youth educator in Lafayette County’s cooperative extension office. “A lot of producers call in and want to know: ‘What can I pay for land rent?’ And on the flip side of that, a lot of producers are calling in and asking: ‘What can I charge for land rent?’”Berget and her co-workers are uniquely qualified to answer those questions. They’re called extension agents: Experts employed by the state’s land-grant university—a state- and federally-funded public institution founded on the study of agriculture, and dedicated to educating farming and working-class families—to bring farm research and technology to rural communities.Systems like the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension—so named because of financial and programmatic responsibilities shared by federal, state, and county governments—were key to the growth of American agriculture. After the Smith-Lever Act established the system in 1914, it was extension agents who taught farmers to implement crop and livestock management practices that not only allowed them to make a living, but also to feed the world.

Hurricane Maria killed more than 4,600 people in Puerto Rico

USA Today | Posted on May 30, 2018

Hurricane Maria likely killed thousands of people across Puerto Rico last year, more than 70 times the official estimate, a Harvard study released Tuesday says. Authorities in Puerto Rico placed the death toll at 64 after Maria roared through the island Sept. 20, destroying buildings and knocking out power to virtually the entire U.S. territory of more than 3 million people.Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, surveyed more than 3,000 households on the battered island. By extrapolating those findings, researchers determined that at least 4,645 "excess deaths" occurred during the storm and the weeks that followed.

Teacher shortages are especially acute in rural areas. Here’s one solution in Colorado.

The Washington Post | Posted on May 30, 2018

Many schools across the country are struggling with a crippling teacher shortage. The number of students entering university-based teacher preparation programs has steadily declined and the number of teachers retiring or getting ready to retire is increasing; adding to this, current working conditions and public perceptions of the teaching profession have led to increased turnover rates — and according to some organizations, this growing shortage of teachers is at crisis level.This is especially true for rural communities, including in Colorado. Alternative licensure pathways, including residency models of entering the teaching profession, have been a lifeline for finding and keeping rural teachers in the state.The state’s 2016-17 Educator Preparation Report  submitted by the Colorado Department of Higher Education [CDHE] and the Colorado Department of Education [CDE] indicates the state has seen “record low enrollment numbers” in educator preparation programs in recent years. Last year, Colorado’s legislature passed a law to allow retired teachers to be rehired without affecting their pensions. This effort has supported small Colorado districts, such as the Montezuma-Cortez School District. However, it is far from a long-term solution.Colorado House Bill 17-1003, passed last year, required the Colorado Department of Higher Education and Colorado Department of Education to study the recruitment, preparation and retention of teachers, with attention to rural Colorado and specific ways to address the state’s shortage. The just completed  legislative session included three bills put forward by legislators to address Colorado’s teacher shortage, including a bipartisan bill on loan forgiveness that would compensate teachers for their service in rural areas upon completion of a preparation program. But the urgency to meet the specific needs of rural school districts in Colorado, which are disproportionately affected by the current teacher shortage, is lost within the long list of the state’s potential action items.