Iowa bill adds liability protection for recreational-use landowners
Does your state’s recreational-liability statute protect landowners? Picture a group of schoolchildren visiting a farm. They ride horses, play games, climb tractors. A chaperone or parent gets hurt — as a result of no negligence on the landowner’s part. Is the landowner liable? That is both a real story and a question that recently faced the Iowa courts and the state legislature. Before adjourning this year, Iowa lawmakers revamped the state’s recreational-liability statute to provide more clarity and protections for landowners. More »
Wave of legislation targets animal-rights groups’ secret videotaping on farms
Trespassers or whistle-blowers? Debate over tactics used by activists to expose animal abuse leads to introduction of legislation in several Midwestern states. More »
State finance programs, tax credits aim to help beginning farmers with high costs of entering
For young people, the high cost of getting into farming can be a daunting business proposition, and is often cited as one reason for the aging population of farmers. Between 1982 and 2007, federal data show, the average age rose from 50 to 58, while the percentage of principal farm operators with less than 10 years of experience fell 42 percent. In the Midwest, varying types of financial-assistance programs are used to help a new generation of agricultural producers get started. More »
Much of the rural Midwest has lower jobless rates, but also a declining workforce
One sign that the economy continues on a path to recovery is the continuing decline in unemployment rates since 2010. But in some parts of the rural Midwest, rates never hit high levels even during the depths of the recession.
Instead, another question about the labor force is being asked: Why is it dwindling, and what can be done to bring workers back? More »
With much input from states, federal officials implement new rules for livestock tracking
After much consternation about how to improve the nation’s system for tracing animal movements in the case of an infectious-disease outbreak, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has settled on a set of final rules that leaves much flexibility and work to the states. More »
First-of-its-kind ‘right to farm’ law now part of North Dakota Constitution; new animal cruelty law now being considered in wake of defeat of November ballot measure
Most recent state ballot initiatives have not been welcomed by traditional production agriculture and its legislative supporters. More »
States’ initiatives helping
livestock operations thrive in Midwest
by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
What is the economic impact of a single dairy cow? An analysis by South Dakota State University put it at $14,000, and in Nebraska, the state estimates that a 2,000-cow dairy operation generates 20 jobs and pays more than $200,000 in property taxes.
Animal agriculture is big business in the Midwest, and in recent years, states such as Nebraska and South Dakota have begun new initiatives to encourage its expansion. More »
Farm bill expiration hits dairy farmers first, but congressional inaction will also impact consumers and other agriculture producers
The 2008 farm bill officially expired on Sept. 30, a congressional inaction that has left plans for 2013 crop production in limbo while also costing dairy farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars and leaving consumers with the prospects of much higher milk prices starting next year. It is also a continuing concern for state lawmakers in the Midwest as they prepare for legislative sessions next year. More »
What are states doing, or can they do, to promote urban agriculture?
by Laura Kliewer ~ November 2012 ~ Question of the Month »
New initiatives in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio illustrate the role that states can play in promoting urban agriculture, which has attracted more interest in recent years due to concerns about vacant land, food insecurity and the environment. More »
The hows and whys of taxing farmland:
Varying state systems in Midwest continue to evolve
It is the single largest source of revenue raised by local governments (two-thirds of the total), and the single largest tax paid by farmers (44 percent of the total). The property tax is the lifeblood of rural schools and other critical public services, but can also be a burden on agricultural producers. State legislators are ultimately responsible for finding the balance that works, an agricultural taxation formula that sustains both rural communities and their
farmers. More »
State-by-state overview of agricultural taxation laws and formulas »
Pressure to waive or change
ethanol mandate grows due to drought, high corn prices
The long-simmering fuel vs. food debate has reached a boiling point, as the result of drought conditions that have raised corn prices and precipitated requests for the EPA to adjust the federal Renewable Fuels Standard. More »
Sound science should underlie policy decisions, lawmakers urge
When the Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee met in July, much of the discussion — and ultimately the passing of a resolution — focused on the importance of basing policy decisions on sound scientific data. More »
Bill reallocating Illinois fertilizer fees seen as ‘win-win’ by farm industry, environmental groups
Thanks in part to a joint effort between key environmental and agricultural groups, as well as legislative leaders and state agencies, the state of Illinois is set to boost funding for agriculture research and water quality, while also providing a sustainable revenue resource for the regulatory efforts of its Department of Agriculture. More »
Ohio bans ownership of exotic animals, joining 6 other states in region
by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A headline-grabbing incident in October involving the release of 56 wild animals in eastern Ohio has resulted in a new state law, and policymakers believe the measure could soon be used as a model by other legislatures.
Authorities in Ohio had to kill most of the animals released by the owner; soon thereafter, the legislature began considering a measure to prevent another such incident.
SB 310, signed into law in June, bans new ownership of dangerous wild animals: big cats, some smaller exotic cats, bears, hyenas, gray wolves, non-human primate species, alligators and crocodiles. Existing owners, meanwhile, must seek a new state permit that will only be granted if they have liability insurance or surety bonds. The owners must also abide by caging, fencing and public-signage requirements.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Wisconsin is now the only state in the Midwest with little to no restrictions on the private possession of dangerous wild animals. Research conducted by CSG Midwest earlier this year found that most states in the region had some type of ban on exotic-animal ownership. Indiana, North Dakota and South Dakota allow ownership with a permit or license, according to Born Free USA, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
Two retiring legislators reflect on impact of state
Across the Midwest there is expected to be significant turnover this year in
state legislatures. And particularly after another round of redistricting, agriculture’s voice
in the legislature is at risk of being drowned out as more districts become
urban or suburban, a shift that has been occurring for decades. More »
EPA's new reporting rules for CAFOs impact
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a significant policy
change that has sparked opposition from livestock owners and some state
officials. More »
Ohio considers ban on exotic-animal ownership
It made international headlines. The release of 56 wild and exotic animals
last October from a farm near Zanesville, Ohio, brought the attention of animal
lovers across the world to the small town. Forty-nine of the animals were killed
by local police. More »
Nebraska bill aims to close ‘agricultural literacy’
Nebraska Sen. Kate Sullivan says agriculture is not only her state’s largest
industry, it may also be one of the least understood. More »
In Illinois, new 'roadkill bill'
takes effect; in Wisconsin, lawmakers consider measure to change its
There are about 1 million car-deer collisions each year, resulting in the
deaths of some 200 people and injuries to about 10,000 others. Iowa, South
Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota are in the top 10 of
U.S. states where a driver is most likely to run into a deer. More »
Rural areas on road to
Most rural Midwesterners are well aware that their roads and bridges,
designed primarily from the 1930s through the 1960s, are now handling loads and
traffic that the original builders could not have imagined. More »
Midwest is full of promising
The benefits of using biomass residuals — the byproducts from activities such as agriculture and forestry — as an energy source are clear for the Midwest. And states are in a position to help advance the production and use of second-generation biofuels, according to the author of a new regional study. More »
Rising problem of unwanted horses could lead to
return of once-banned processing facilities
The door is open for horse processing to return
to the Midwest. In 2007, the region’s lone horse processing plant —
in the Illinois town of DeKalb — was closed as a result of Illinois HB 1711,
which made it unlawful to slaughter a horse for human consumption. But some
recent state and federal actions now point to the possibility of new processing
facilities opening in the region. More »
Legislators vow to help educate consumers on
farming, food-safety issues
As agriculture grows, consumer knowledge about it decreases.
A recent survey (see sidebar) showed that more than 70 percent of consumers say they know nothing, or very little, about farming or ranching. An equally large number said their purchase decisions are affected by how food is grown and raised, and that it is important for farmers to produce healthy choices for consumers. More »
Amid glut of new environmental regulations, EPA praises Kansas’ watershed-restoration program
Increased environmental regulation of agriculture by the federal government is not just a perception by farmers, it is a reality.
Water, dust, animal facilities, fuel tanks and pesticide spraying are the subjects of just some of the new rules set in recent years. More »
Rising up to meet the economic challenges of the rural Midwest
The Midwestern Legislative Conference and The Council of State Governments were represented at a recent meeting of the White House Rural Council in Washington, D.C.
Formed in June by presidential executive order, the council is being led by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and is focusing on how the federal government can help foster economic growth in rural areas. More »
Ethanol-fueled rise in corn prices a double-edged sword for region
How much is increased ethanol use impacting the cost of the food we eat, the feed used by poultry and livestock producers, and the gas we use in our cars?
These are all critical questions for policymakers in the rural Midwest, and were the topic of presentations and roundtable discussions at the July meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. More »
Dairy producers rebound from worst of price collapse, but say federal reform still needed
The ideal climate for dairy cows and high-quality forages has made the Midwest home to more than 55 percent of the 53,000 dairies in the United States, and in turn, dairy has been good for the region’s rural economy.
However, this “cash cow” has seen hard times over the last decade, most notably a milk price collapse in 2009 that nationally led to the loss of thousands of farms and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of dairy cows. More
Indiana seeks constitutional protections for hunting, adds ‘right to produce’ to proposal
Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are the three Midwestern states in which hunting is a constitutional right.
Indiana might eventually become the fourth now that legislation has been passed that begins the multi-year process of putting the issue before voters as a proposed
Concerns remain with finalized rules for program allowing for interstate sale of state-inspected meat
The final regulations for a program that will allow the interstate sale of state-inspected meat do little to address some of the concerns raised by state lawmakers when the preliminary rules were first released in 2009. More
Michigan codifies program to help farmers meet environmental rules
A voluntary program that helps Michigan farmers ensure that they are complying with environmental regulations and implementing soil- and water-conservation measures has become one of the state’s newest laws. More
Census shows population drop in rural Midwest; Kansas employs new strategy to help reverse trend
One constituent had just called Sen. Jeff King to tell him about having to leave rural southeast Kansas due to a lack of broadband access. Another sent an e-mail worried about losing the local grocery store.
These stories have become all too familiar to King, who represents a part of the state that is experiencing steep declines in population. More
Push from rural leaders needed to accelerate broadband access
A rural entrepreneur, Iowa Rep. Annette Sweeney experienced first-hand the frustrations and constraints of living in an area without high-speed Internet service. More
Kansas puts increased emphasis on ‘economic gardening’ as a tool to grow the state’s rural economy
In Kansas, as is the case in many states, the data on job growth are clear: Most new jobs in a local economy are produced by the community’s existing small businesses, rather than by startups or relocations. More
How many states in the Midwest have their own meat-inspection programs, and how do they operate?
Nine states in the region — all but Michigan and Nebraska — are among the 27 nationwide that have their own inspection programs. Around the country, state inspectors oversee about 1,800 facilities. (Wisconsin and Ohio have the highest number of state-inspected processing plants in the country.) More »
New food-safety law expands FDA's role in inspections, will exempt some small producers in Midwest
For a few days in December, it looked as though technical issues might stop the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) from making its way through the U.S. Congress. But in one of their final acts of the year, the House and Senate passed the measure and, in the process, set the stage for a major overhaul of the nation’s
food-safety system. More
Unpasteurized milk sales spur controversy and legislation in Midwestern states
This spring, eight people in Minnesota became infected with E. coli — a potentially life-threatening bacteria often linked to food poisoning. When the state Department of Health investigated the illnesses, patients named a common source: “raw,” unpasteurized milk from a Gibbons, Minn., farm.
In October, seven more illnesses — this time from bacteria Campylobacter jejuni and Cryptosporidium parvum — were linked to the same farm, leading the state to launch a campaign to inform the public about the risks associated with raw milk. More
South Dakota changing how it taxes farmland; Wisconsin re-examining its 15-year-old law
In most Midwestern states, taxes on farmland have been on the rise in recent years, partly because of increases in the assessed value of farmland. This trend has posed an ongoing policy challenge for state legislators: to strike the right policy balance between trying to preserve family farms — by taxing agricultural land differently — and raising enough revenue so that other property owners are not unfairly burdened and local governments receive the resources they need. More