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Midwest states battling California law they say dictates how region's farmers must raise livestock

by Carolyn Orr ~ January 2021 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The U.S. Department of Justice in December joined six Midwestern states (plus nine others) and the North American Meat Institute in the latest legal effort to block a 2018 California ballot initiative that opponents say will dictate how farmers across the region can raise their livestock. More »


12-state network in Midwest has states working together to connect farmers with mental health services

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two years ago, in a resolution passed at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, the region’s state legislators urged their federal counterparts to support an initiative that connects farmers and ranchers to mental health services. That policy wish was granted in the 2018 farm bill, which included funding for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. Now the Midwest is poised to work together on delivering these services through a new 12-state initiative devoted to the mental wellness of agricultural producers in the region. More »



Flood mitigation takes big investment, but can result in cost savings for Midwest’s communities

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For every dollar spent on flood mitigation, an average of $6 can be saved in post-disaster recovery costs, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency research. That figure might increasingly drive public policy and investments in the Midwest, considering the historically destructive year of flooding last year along the Mississippi River (an estimated $6.2 billion in damages) as well as longer-term weather patterns. More »


Committee holds September 2020 virtual session on rural responses to natural disasters



Lesson in resiliency: How states, farmers and processors managed impact of COVID-19 on food production

by Carolyn Orr ~ September 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Just a few months ago, all signs pointed to an economic crisis in the nation’s animal agriculture industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meat processing plants were being closed, or operations greatly curtailed, due to health concerns and illnesses among employees. By late April, nearly 40 percent of U.S. processing capacity was idle. Livestock slaughter plummeted. “We faced a real disaster, and challenges remain, but the impressive way state officials, farmers and producer organizations have worked together to address the COVID-19 crisis is making a big difference,” says Cody McKinley of the National Pork Producers Council. More »


Saskatchewan identifies agriculture technology as key driver of future economic growth

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Saskatchewan wants to be a global leader in agricultural technology in the years and decades ahead, and it is planting seeds for growth in this sector through two innovation-based funds. Under a new $1 million AgTech Growth Fund, the province will invest in research-and-development projects related to the agriculture industry — for example, in areas such as traceability, food processing, robotics and farm equipment, indoor agriculture and animal health.
The goal of this first-of-its-kind fund for the province is to drive private investment in transformative farming. Meanwhile, the province is setting aside $15 million in a larger Innovation Saskatchewan fund to help develop new technologies in agriculture. Dollars will go to agriculture technology companies that require venture capital to move past the startup phase and scale up business operations.
Agriculture is a traditional economic strength in Saskatchewan, and it also is seen as a future driver of jobs and prosperity: By 2050, global demand for food is anticipated to rise by 70 percent. In 2019, agriculture accounted for 8.8 percent of gross domestic product in Saskatchewan.



With new law, Iowa hopes to be prepared to respond to animal diseases, stop ‘infiltration’ of farm operations

by Carolyn Orr ~ August 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In a session year shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Iowa Legislature still managed to pass significant bipartisan legislation impacting livestock and food production. Most notably, SF 2413 (signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in June) addresses what Sen. Ken Rozenboom says are “the most critical issues facing the livestock industry in Iowa today: foreign animal diseases and protection of food production facilities.” Under this measure, he says, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship now has a more clearly defined process for how to respond to a foreign animal disease. The state agency had participated in a U.S. Department of Agriculture mock drill earlier and found some weaknesses in its ability to respond to outbreaks of such diseases as African swine fever or avian influenzas. More »


South Dakota amends its siting laws to try untangling varying county special, conditional use zoning rules

by Carolyn Orr ~ July 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In a series of roundtables that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem held with agriculture and energy groups, one issue that came up repeatedly was the need for consistency in the state’s widely variable county special and conditional permitting processes. Before SB 157 became law in March, county zoning rules in South Dakota varied from none to very restrictive. Noem told a Senate State Affairs Committee hearing in February that it revises county planning and zoning laws in ways that will keep permitting “fair, open and honest” by creating “a more predictable process for businesses and families that want to create or expand agriculture or energy infrastructure.” More »



Minnesota responds to rise in farm bankruptcies with change in law requiring creditors to offer mediation

by Carolyn Orr ~ June 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
To get three major pieces of legislation passed with unanimous or near-unanimous votes can be a challenge at any time. In Minnesota this year, lawmakers found a way to get that done in agriculture policy under some unforeseen, exceptional circumstances — having to conduct business remotely, and in a Legislature where partisan control is split. “By building relationships across the aisle, in the other chamber and with staff, we were able to identify everyone’s priorities and get to the right end results,” says Rep. Jeanne Poppe, who serves as the chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy. Perhaps the most impactful and unique piece of legislation — especially considering economic conditions in the agricultural sector — was a modification of Minnesota’s Farmer-Lender Mediation Act. This law dates back to 1986, and it gives farmers the opportunity to renegotiate, restructure or resolve farm debt through mediation. More »


States have tools to help their farmers and rural businesses weather the COVID-19 storm

by Carolyn Orr ~ May 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Name the commodity critical to the Midwest’s agricultural producers and rural communities, and evidence of the devastating, immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is plain to see. Futures prices for hogs and feeder cattle? Down 53 percent and 25 percent, respectively, between the start of this year and beginning of April, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Over that same time period, futures prices fell for ethanol (-33 percent), corn (-20 percent), soybeans (-13 percent), Class III milk (-22 percent) and wheat (-4 percent). “We are definitely living in uncertain times, with every aspect of our economy affected,” Minnesota Rep. Paul Anderson said in April during a webinar hosted by The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. “Agriculture has taken a big hit from the pandemic, and it will take many months, if not years, to recover.” More »


Michigan alters timeline for new rules on housing for egg-laying hens — cage-free by start of 2025

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Starting in 2025, all egg-laying hens in Michigan will be cage-free, the result of legislation signed into law late last year after negotiations among lawmakers, industry leaders and animal-rights groups. “[It] synchronizes Michigan’s hen-housing law with state and national retail and restaurant commitments of only buying eggs from 100 percent cage-free farms by 2025,” says Sen. Kevin Daley, the sponsor of SB 174. Under the law, retailers can only sell eggs from hens in a “cage-free housing system”; to qualify as cage-free, the housing must “provide enrichments that allow the hens to exhibit natural behaviors” — for example, scratch areas, perches, nest boxes and dust bathing
areas. More »


Over past five years, Minnesota has emerged as national leader in efforts to protect pollinators

by Carolyn Orr ~ March 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For lawmakers, the results of some legislative actions can be seen almost immediately — allocate funding to repair a road, for example, and it’s likely to get fixed soon. But there are other areas where the effects of a new state investment or policy only will be evident over the longer haul. In Minnesota, Rep. Rick Hansen says, that will be the case with his state’s commitment to pollinator conservation. “Important work is often slow and results aren’t immediate,” he adds, “but you hope they are steady.” Minnesota is leading the Midwest, and most of the nation, in efforts to protect and promote the population of pollinators. More »


Growing pains likely as hemp production, and regulation of it, comes to states across Midwest

by Carolyn Orr ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
It didn’t take long for the Midwest’s legislators, and farmers, to jump at one of the new opportunities provided in the 2018 federal farm bill — the legalization and cultivation of industrial hemp. According to a CSG Midwest survey of state departments of agriculture, more than 70,000 acres of land were licensed in 2019 for hemp production across eight of the region’s 11 states. More »


Saskatchewan sets goals for decade ahead — big boost in exports, rise in population

by Tim Anderson ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »

The province of Saskatchewan rang in the new decade with a plan that lays out a 10-year vision for growth, along with a set of policies to meet its ambitious goals. Those objectives include having a population of 1.4 million people by 2030 (a nearly 20 percent increase over current numbers), as well as increasing the value of exports by 50 percent and boosting by 100,000 the number of people in Saskatchewan’s workforce.
Growing the state’s agriculture industry is central to Saskatchewan’s plan, and Premier Scott Moe introduced two new provincial tax incentives for this sector: one to support the application of emerging digital technologies and to attract agricultural technology companies, and a second to encourage investments in the chemical fertilizer industry. The province also is opening new trade and investment offices in Japan, India and Singapore.
The province already has experienced historic population growth over the last decade, and it has been making a concerted effort to keep and attract young people. For example, individuals who graduate from a postsecondary institution are eligible for up to $20,000 in tax credits if they live in or move to Saskatchewan. To date, nearly 71,000 people have claimed this tax credit.


Ohio using new dollars and partnerships to tackle problem of harmful algal blooms

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With tens of millions in new state dollars to incentivize farmers, along with a list of best practices known to reduce phosphorus runoff, Ohio will spend the next two years implementing its most comprehensive effort to date to prevent harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. And it’s likely just the beginning of the commitment needed to tackle the problem. In the new biennial budget, lawmakers appropriated $172 million for the H2Ohio Water Quality Plan. Money is being split among three agencies, with the Department of Agriculture using its dollars to reduce nonpoint source
pollution. More »


Nebraska study lays out options for closing broadband divide, including use of ‘reverse auctions’

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents. Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.) More »


Illinois law to legalize marijuana comes with environmental, efficiency standards for growers

by Carolyn Orr ~ October 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Before they voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, legislators in Illinois committed to learning as much as possible from the experiences of other states. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, lead sponsor of the bill signed into law in June (HB 1438), and others spent two years visiting growers, processors and dispensaries across the United States; they also held more than 100 stakeholder meetings in the state. More »



New programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin seek to help struggling dairy industry, farmers

by Carolyn Orr ~ September 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
This year, legislators in two of the nation’s top dairy-producing states have sought ways to help — new dollars in Minnesota for price supports and research investments in Wisconsin. More »


MLC Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee: Future of state fairs is focus of Chicago meeting

by Carolyn Orr ~ August 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Butter sculptures, deep-fried foods and carnival rides might be what you think of when you think of fairs (and ice cream cones and corn dogs indeed originated at state fairs), but there is much more to them than food and rides. Twenty-four states have an “official” state fair, including every one in the Midwest, but how they’re funded and managed varies. Michigan and Minnesota are the only Midwestern states that do not provide appropriations for their fairs, but other states don’t always meet their annual financial commitments. More »


By any name — “ecotourism” or “agritourism” — visits to rural Midwest hold economic promise

by Carolyn Orr ~ June/July 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Increasing guest visits is possible in many of the Midwest’s rural areas, and legislative leadership and new state laws can help. More »


Release of new ‘Census of Agriculture’ underscores changes and challenges for Midwest states and their farmers

by Carolyn Orr ~ May 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Every five years, farm owners and operators are asked to complete a survey describing the characteristics of their farms. It takes almost two years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to compile this data, which was released in April. Here is a summary of the notable trends and changes captured in the census about the Midwest. More »


North Dakota, South Dakota laws reflect broader policy trend on labeling of ‘meat substitutes’

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In Europe, non-dairy products cannot have “dairy sounding” words such as “milk,” “butter” and “cheese” in their names. In France, plant-based or cell-cultured products can’t have animal-based labeling (“meat” or “sausage,” for example). This year, the global debate over food products and labeling came to the Midwest and its state legislatures, with North Dakota and South Dakota adopting their own versions of “truth in meat labeling” laws. More »


Michigan incentive program for schools to buy locally grown food has expanded to 57 districts

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Four years ago, Michigan legislators began funding a pilot farm-to-school project with at least two goals: One, get more fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes on the plates of K-12 students; two, open up new markets for local farmers. On both counts, state officials and national leaders in the farm-to-school movement say, the Michigan experiment is showing signs of success. More »


Mix of funding, policy ideas in Minnesota reflect rising concerns about chronic wasting disease

by Carolyn Orr ~ March 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Chronic wasting disease already is a problem in the 24 states (including all but Indiana and Ohio in the Midwest) and two Canadian provinces where it has been detected in free-ranging deer, elk or moose. This year in Minnesota, though, legislators have been exploring just how much bigger the problem could become — if the disease continues to spread and/or if it is transmitted to humans. More »


States reviewing hemp laws in wake of changes at federal level that removed production barriers

by Carolyn Orr ~ February 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For decades, the lack of a commercial hemp industry has made the United States an outlier among most of the world’s developed countries. That may soon change, and some states in the Midwest have already been pursuing policies to ensure their farmers can make the most of this new market opportunity. More »


New farm bill provides some much-needed certainty during difficult economic period

by Carolyn Orr ~ January 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
At a time when net U.S. farm income levels have fallen to a 16-year low, the Midwest’s agriculture producers were looking for some good news at the end of 2018. The new farm bill is largely thought to be just that. Passed by the U.S. Congress in December, the bipartisan Agricultural Improvement Act maintains and expands crucial loan, insurance and conservation programs for farmers, while also making new investments in areas such as rural broadband and urban agriculture. More »



Trade deal will deliver modest market gains for region’s farmers

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
During the first 23 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. agricultural exports to the country’s northern and southern neighbors nearly tripled, reaching $39.2 billion by 2017. Not only did the overall numbers increase over this time, notes an October study commissioned by the Farm Foundation, but the Canadian and Mexican markets became bigger shares of U.S. agriculture business — nearly 30 percent of exports in 2017 vs. only 14 percent in 1995. And while such exponential growth is not expected under NAFTA’s replacement — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA — the deal appears to be a good one for the Midwest’s farmers, says Wally Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. More »



Potential change in EPA rules would allow year-round sales of E15

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »

A summertime ban on E15 sales may soon be eliminated by the federal government, a move expected to help the Midwest’s corn producers and ethanol industry. In October, President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to initiate a rulemaking process that allows for year-round sales. Seven years ago, the EPA approved the use of E15 in all light-duty vehicles built in 2001 or later.
According to the Renewable Fuels Association, more than 1,300 retail stations in 29 states currently sell E15. It says allowing year-round sales would lead to a “rapid expansion” of E15 availability. Close to 90 percent of the nation’s ethanol production capacity is in the 11-state Midwest. Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana are the five leading producers of ethanol. Between 2007 and 2017, total U.S. ethanol production rose by 143 percent, from 6,521 gallons to 15,845.
A move to year-round sales requires the EPA to waive certain requirements under the Clean Air Act. The American Petroleum Institute says the federal agency does not have this authority. It also derided Trump’s directive as “anti-consumer ethanol policy,” saying a “vast majority of cars on the road were not designed to use” E15.



North Dakota's anti-corporate-farming law still standing, still being challenged

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the 1930s, farmers throughout the Midwest were going out of business in record numbers, and corporations were buying the farmland at rock-bottom prices. In response, several Midwestern states passed bans on corporate farming and foreign land ownership. One of the first was North Dakota — via an initiated measure approved by voters in 1932. That Depression-era law has faced a mix of legislative and legal challenges over the past three years, but it’s still standing. Most recently, in September, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland issued a decision in a closely watched case that pitted the state against the North Dakota Farm Bureau. More »


New Iowa law changes process for partitioning estates; goal is to help ‘save family farms’

by Carolyn Orr ~ October 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
It is too common a story line in farm country: The parents pass away, and the entire farm has to be sold to resolve inheritance disputes. In many states, when heirs can’t agree on how to split the property, one common option for a judge is to order a “partition by sale,” with the money then proportionally divided among them. But what if one of the family members would like to continue farming the land? “Partition by sale” doesn’t account for this desire among some heirs — a concern that led Iowa legislators to pass SF 2175 this year. “It is a bill to save family farms,” Rep. Lee Hein says. More »



To increase farmers’ insurance options, two Midwest states try ‘coop,’ ‘association’ models

by Carolyn Orr ~ September 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Residents living in more than half of the nation’s counties have only one insurer to choose from on their state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange. This lack of options is most prevalent in rural areas: 41 percent of enrollees in non-metro counties vs. the overall rate of 21 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Could the creation of agricultural cooperative health plans help fill insurance gaps, offer more choices for consumers and lower costs? More »



Midwest's legislators adopt resolution calling for greater mental-health supports for people living in rural areas

by Carolyn Orr ~ August 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Myriad signs point to the need for better connecting farmers to services that help them deal with stress, depression and other mental health challenges. First, there is the history of the problem: In a study examining various industries between 1992 and 2010, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that farm operators and workers had the highest suicide rate. More »


Two-year-old law has brightened future of solar energy in Illinois, led to new proposals in 2018

by Carolyn Orr ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With one glance at the most recent U.S. rankings on solar energy, it becomes clear the Midwest has a long way to go if it wants to catch up to other regions on the use of this renewable source. Only Minnesota and Indiana placed in the top half of states as of 2017. But in a third Midwestern state, Illinois, big changes appear on the horizon, with landowners and county governments alike showing interest in making solar a new “cash crop” — whether it be on farmland, brownfields or even publicly owned property. More »


Ohio’s Clean Lake 2020 plan represents next step in efforts to prevent runoff, algal blooms

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Last fall, nine Lake Erie experts identified specific strategies that they viewed as most important to reducing phosphorus runoff and preventing harmful algal blooms in the lake’s western basin. As of early June, Ohio legislators were moving toward passage of a bill backing those scientists’ findings with state dollars. More »


Preventing farm deaths from tractor rollovers is goal of state-funded grant programs

by Carolyn Orr ~ May 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As a young man growing up in northern Indiana, Bob Kulp fell off a tractor and got run over by it, a nearly fatal accident. Now a state legislator in Wisconsin, Kulp is looking to get state support for grants that help avoid these and other types of tractor-related accidents. Rollovers kill almost 100 farmers a year, according to the National Safety Council, while even more people are permanently disabled from these incidents. Under Kulp’s proposal, state funding would go to cost-share programs that help farmers purchase and install rollover protections. More »


Iowa seeks to ensure lower-cost eggs are option for consumers

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Iowa, the nation’s leading supplier of eggs, has become the latest U.S. state with a law that seeks to influence what consumers find on their local grocery shelves. More »


Farm-income losses hurting Midwestern states’ budgets; no turnaround for sector in sight

by Carolyn Orr ~ March 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that real gross domestic product increased 2.3 percent nationally between 2016 and 2017, but agriculture subtracted from overall economic growth in every state in the Midwest — most notably Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “It’s a big deal in Nebraska when our farmers are hurting,” says Tony Fulton, the state’s tax commissioner and a former state legislator. Last year, Nebraska had to close a nearly $1 billion shortfall for the biennium that began July 1, and lagging tax collections opened an additional $200 million
shortfall. More »


Recently signed Iowa law will pour more dollars into farm-based water quality projects

by Carolyn Orr ~ February 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the next 12 years, Iowa will commit an additional $282 million to water quality, the result of legislation passed early in 2018 after years of unsuccessful legislative initiatives in past sessions. More »


Six Midwest states ask Supreme Court to end livestock-housing rules

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Six states in the Midwest are part of a new legal effort to end laws in Massachusetts and California that regulate the housing of hens, calves and pigs in agricultural operations. Two separate lawsuits were filed directly with the U.S. Supreme Court in December. Indiana is leading the multi-state complaint against the Massachusetts law, which bans the sale of egg, pork and veal from farms (inside or outside the state) that don’t meet certain animal-confinement standards. These rules were established by Massachusetts voters in 2016 via a ballot referendum.
Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin are among the 12 states joining Indiana in the lawsuit. They argue that the Massachusetts regulations have no “discernible impact on product quality or safety” and violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. In 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that a group of states had no standing in their complaint against a similar California law.
However, those California regulations are being challenged again, by a group of states that includes Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. In the December filings, the plaintiff states include economic analyses detailing the impact of California’s and Massachusetts’ regulations on their consumers and farmers.


Under new Iowa law, county fairs get legal protections related to animal-to-human diseases

by Carolyn Orr ~ January 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Last year, 2.3 million people attended Iowa’s 105 volunteer-driven, youth-oriented county and regional fairs. That means a lot of people in close contact with farm animals — and, as a result, the chance for outbreaks of zoonotic disease. One concern of Iowa Sen. Dan Zumbach’s has been the legal liability of county fairs when these incidences occur. His response: Last year’s introduction of SF 362, which received near-unanimous approval in the
Legislature. More »


Wisconsin is latest Midwest state to give OK to industrial hemp

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Wisconsin legislators have ended a decades-long prohibition on the cultivation of industrial hemp with the hope of opening new economic opportunities for the state’s farmers. Gov. Scott Walker signed SB 119 in November after it received unanimous support in the state House and Assembly.
As part of the new law, the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will create a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp. (Under current federal law, only pilot programs are allowed.) Lawmakers gave the state agency 90 days to develop a system for licensing growers and setting fees.
In the 2014 farm bill, the U.S. Congress gave state departments of agriculture and post-secondary research institutions the authority to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. State legislatures (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska in the Midwest) then began passing measures to establish pilot programs and/or licensing rules. North Dakota’s statute dates back to 2007 and was the first of its kind in the country. That state is now entering its third year of a pilot program; 70 acres of hemp were planted in 2016 and more than 3,000 acres in 2017.


Michigan deepens investment in value-added agriculture industry

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With its 1,800 dairy farms across the state, Michigan produces a lot of milk (fifth among U.S. states), but even with all of this economic activity, Michigan Sen. Mike Green sees the potential for more. More »


In Ohio, future of wind power turns on rules for siting turbines

by Carolyn Orr ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the northwest part of Ohio that he represents, state Sen. Cliff Hite says, “wind is our shale,” an energy resource that has the potential to boost revenue on agricultural land and improve the region’s entire economy. More »


States search for strategies to resolve conflicts between livestock farms, neighbors

by Carolyn Orr ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Intensive animal production is an $86 billion industry, but growing conflicts between confinement livestock farms and some neighbors has spilled over into legislatures across the Midwest. More »


Public opinion, government regulation will shape use of gene editing technique in farming

by Carolyn Orr ~ August 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Consumers have welcomed technology in all parts of their life — except not always when it comes to the food that they eat. For many farmers, this vocal opposition to products made with genetically modified corn or soybeans (or GMOs) has been difficult to accept. But now a new form of selective breeding is here, and one looming question for the Midwest's agricultural producers is whether it will be more widely accepted by the public. The technology is known as “CRISPR,” a gene editing technique that can reduce the cycle of plant breeding from decades to five years. And it is based on native genetic sequences rather than the transgenic material used in GMOs. More »


Churning market conditions for dairy industry have Wisconsin lawmakers in search of answers

by Carolyn Orr ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When a cross-border dispute over dairy policy and trade spilled onto the front pages of major national newspapers earlier this year, it didn’t mark the beginning of problems for big milk-producing states such as Wisconsin. The loss of Canadian business was instead more of a wake-up call to farmers, legislators and others concerned about the dairy industry’s future. Market conditions in this agricultural sector have changed considerably in recent years, and adjusting to them is a challenge for producers and policymakers alike. More »


Minnesota tax credit provides relief to farmers, greater chance for rural schools to build

by Carolyn Orr ~ May 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In Minnesota, the chances of a local school district getting the money it wants to build a new facility or improve existing buildings can depend greatly on where it is located: In metropolitan areas, most school construction projects get approved by local voters; in rural districts, these proposed tax increases tend to fail. More »


New Iowa law limits damages livestock producers would pay if sued by unhappy neighbors

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Citing the need for more legal and insurance stability for the state’s livestock industry, Iowa lawmakers have passed legislation designed to limit liability damages in cases filed by unhappy neighbors against producers. “[It] provides a minimum level of protection for livestock producers that are following good management practices, but leaves the bad actors unprotected,” Sen. Dan Zumbach says of SF 447, which was signed into law in March. More »


Tax relief, certainty for farmers are goals of Nebraska measure changing how ag land is assessed

by Carolyn Orr ~ March 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The majority of Midwestern states determine farm property taxes through a system that assesses the land based on “use value” — how much income it can generate from agricultural production. One of the few exceptions is Nebraska, where a percentage of the land’s actual market value (currently set at 75 percent in statute) is used to determine what a farmer or rancher will pay in taxes. More »


Indiana among Midwestern states seeking fairer property-tax formula for farm producers

by Carolyn Orr ~ February 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Indiana Sen. Jean Leising knows it’s going to be another tough year for beef and hog producers, and 2016’s record national yields for corn and soybeans indicate that farm profitability will decline for the third straight year.  But she says a statutory revision made by the state legislature last year might at least help ease the pain for agricultural producers when it comes to paying their property taxes. More »


Nebraska seeks more certainty over livestock siting, while maintaining local control

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The siting of large livestock facilities continues to be a contentious issue across the Midwest, with some states such as Wisconsin preempting local authority and setting statewide standards. But Nebraska has kept local control over the rules determining decisions on new or expanded operations. Thirteen years ago, with an eye toward supporting the industry but not stripping away local zoning authority, the Nebraska Legislature gave counties the chance to be designated as “livestock friendly.” And this year, the state Department of Agriculture developed an assessment matrix for counties and producers to use as a tool when evaluating siting applications. More »


States face decisions on their piece of food-safety system: New FDA rules will have big impact on farmers, food processor

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 marks the most sweeping change in government regulation of food production and processing in more than 70 years. It is just now beginning to be implemented, and for states, decisions will have to be made on whether to harmonize their own regulations on food safety with the FSMA, as well as how involved they want to be in areas such as producer education, inspection and compliance. More »


Already allowed in Ontario, fish farming in Great Lakes proposed in Michigan

by Carolyn Orr ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Could the Great Lakes be used even more to satisfy the U.S. demand for seafood? There is no question that U.S. consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. In addition to the production of $9 billion worth of edible fish in 2015, we imported more than $20 billion worth. And as a result of decades of overfishing, natural fisheries cannot meet global demand — about half of all seafood is farmed fish from China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. More »


Wisconsin offering new grants to farmers to lead initiatives that curb nutrient runoff

by Carolyn Orr ~ August 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Inspired by some of the farmer-led projects being done in neighboring Iowa and looking for new ways to improve water quality, legislators in Wisconsin are providing financial assistance to groups of agricultural producers that collaborate on new conservation initiatives. More »


A look at how and why North Dakota became a leader in deployment of fiber optic Internet

by Carolyn Orr ~ June/July 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A fiber optic connection is considered the “gold standard” for quality, high-speed Internet access, and in the Midwest, it’s in pretty short supply. Except in North Dakota. In the region’s most sparsely populated state, 60 percent of the households, including those on farms in far-flung areas, have fiber. (That compares to 24 percent in the Midwest, where most of the existing fiber networks serve urban areas.) In all, North Dakota ranks fifth in the nation in fiber access. More »


North Dakotans uphold corporate farming ban by ‘vetoing’ 2015 bill

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Voters in North Dakota have overturned a legislative decision in 2015 to provide new exemptions to the state’s decades-old ban on corporate farming. Under last year’s law (SB 2351), corporations were allowed to own up to 640 acres for pork and dairy operations. (Corporate ownership of any other type of farming operation, or of farmland, remained illegal.)
According to The Bismarck Tribune, supporters of SB 2351 said by allowing non-family members to form corporations and share in investment, the state would help revive its floundering pork and dairy industries. But in North Dakota, residents are given a check on bills passed by the Legislative Assembly, via a veto referendum. (Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota also allow for veto referenda, according to Ballotpedia.) Soon after legislators passed SB 2351, opponents of the bill began a statewide campaign to get it overturned. In June, 75 percent of North Dakotans voted against the legislation.
This year, two other Midwestern state legislatures have voted to ease their restrictions on corporate ownership in agriculture: Nebraska (LB 176) and South Dakota (SB 98).



New ‘Protein Highway’ initiative looks to capitalize on region’s unique agricultural strengths

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Farmers in the states and provinces that make up CSG Midwest’s Midwestern Legislative Conference are the most prolific producers of edible protein in the world. This is an enviable position to be in, especially at a time when demand for high-protein diets is on the rise, and a new binational partnership is seeking to make the most of this regional economic advantage. Developed by the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis, the “Protein Highway” initiative encompasses three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) and six U.S. states (Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota). More »


Illinois bill would tap private donors to help fund state fairgrounds

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

To better maintain their state’s two fairgrounds, some Illinois legislators want to create a new foundation that solicits private donations. Under HB 4990 and SB 2903, the Fairgrounds Foundation would be housed within the state Department of Agriculture and be overseen by a board of directors. Legislative leaders and the governor would appoint this board. Illinois has two fairgrounds, one in Springfield, the other in DuQuoin. More than $180 million in deferred maintenance is needed at both locations.
The Illinois proposals seek to follow a funding model already being employed in neighboring states such as Iowa and Wisconsin. The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation has raised more than $115 million since 1993. That money has come from a mix of individual contributions; state appropriations; in-kind services; and corporate, state and federal grants. Wisconsin also has a State Fair Park Foundation.
Some states, too, have dedicated a portion of certain revenue sources to their state fairs — for example, some casino riverboat admissions in Indiana and 10 percent of lottery proceeds in Nebraska.



Future of corporate farming bans in doubt in three states

by Carolyn Orr ~ March 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For North Dakota Sen. Terry Wanzek, recently passed legislation in his state to provide exemptions to a ban on corporate hog and dairy farming is all about the preservation of the family farm — including his own. “My cousin owns a dairy farm next door to our crop farm,” explains Wanzek, who sponsored SB 2351 last year. “He is investing heavily in updated facilities, but if we wanted to incorporate together to add value to my crops, any corporation would be illegal should our children inherit it, because they are not closely enough related.” SB 2351, passed by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, would provide the necessary exemptions. More »



Minnesota grant program helping expand broadband access to rural areas

by Carolyn Orr ~ February 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ask Minnesota Sen. Matt Schmit what his rural communities in Greater Minnesota need to prosper, and it doesn’t take long before the discussion turns to the importance of having high-speed Internet. “A good share of our rural homes and busi­nesses still lack access to Minnesota’s very modest speed goals,” he says. Schmit is not the only state lawmaker concerned about this lack of connectivity. Six years ago, the Legislature passed a bill calling for all Minnesotans to have access to those “modest speed goals” (10 megabits per second download and 5 Mbps upload) by 2015. As of last year, however, only 78 percent of households met that standard. More »


Facing costly tariffs, U.S. puts end to trade dispute by repealing country-of-origin labeling rule

by Ilene Grossman ~ January 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Within days after a World Trade Organization decision in December authorizing substantial retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico, the long-simmering trade dispute over country-of-origin labeling ended. More »


As aging farmers retire, state programs offer military veterans chance at careers in agriculture

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
America’s farmers are aging, fast. According to the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture census, the average age is now 58, up from 50 in 1982 and now nearing the average retirement age in this country (it is 62, a recent Gallup poll found). But there might be a younger group that could at least be part of the nation’s next generation of farmers — military veterans, particularly those seeking new career opportunities as they return from service
overseas. More »


Dropping crop prices expected to squeeze economies in states most dependent on farming

by Carolyn Orr ~ October 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
How will falling commodity prices impact the Midwest? All of the region’s major commodity crops — corn, wheat and soybeans — are going to be priced right around the cost of production, and for the first time in many years, farmers will be losing money on their crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has predicted that net farm income will be down 36 percent from 2014 and reach its lowest level since 2002. The causes of this hit to the farm economy range from a slowing global economy and a stronger U.S. dollar, to higher grain reserves and the weather. More »


Getting to the nonpoint: States pursue new strategies to protect water quality, with an increased emphasis on preventing nutrient runoff from farms

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The Water Quality Initiative in Iowa, a new law in Minnesota requiring vegetation buffers along public water bodies, and the likelihood of "water quality trading" in Wisconsin are examples of how states in the Midwest are trying to curb nutrient runoff and protect water quality. More »


As land valuations outpace crop prices, region’s farmers look for relief from property-tax squeeze

by Carolyn Orr ~ July/August 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In his home legislative district, Ohio Sen. Cliff Hite knows well the dilemma facing local agricultural producers: Their tax bills are skyrocketing (by an average of 62 percent this year), he says, while returns are declining and operational costs are rising. But finding a legislative fix to the problem is much easier said than done. More »


Parts of Midwest hit hard by strain of ‘bird flu’; millions of birds and dollars lost to virus

by Carolyn Orr ~ May 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A highly contagious strain of “bird flu” hit the United States this year, and parts of the Midwest have been the epicenter of the outbreak. As of early May, highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N2, had been identified in 17 states, with outbreaks at more than 60 farms in Minnesota alone and the loss of more than 28 million birds. Bird flu has also been reported on farms in Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario. More »


Lawmakers defend work of USDA research centers in Midwest

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Earlier this year, a headline in The New York Times set off a firestorm in both the livestock industry and the research community. “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit,” the headline read. The laboratory at the heart of the story was a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in southeast Nebraska where research is conducted on farm animals. The goal of the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center is to improve the efficiency of production while also maintaining the quality of meat products. More »


Ohio law aims to keep nutrient runoff from reaching Lake Erie

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Less than a year after a harmful algal bloom temporarily cut off the city of Toledo’s drinking water supply, Ohio lawmakers have passed groundbreaking legislation to keep pollutants out of Lake Erie. SB 1, signed into law in early April, establishes several new provisions to prevent nutrient runoff.
For farms located in the western Lake Erie watershed, manure and fertilizers containing phosphorus and nitrogen can no longer be spread on frozen, snow-covered or saturated ground. According to The Toledo Blade, that ban also applies to days when heavy rain is forecast. The penalty for noncompliance is as much as $10,000. The new law also bans the open-lake disposal of dredged material, requires additional phosphorus monitoring at wastewater treatment facilities, and creates the state-level position of harmful algae management and response coordinator.
A coalition of Great Lakes advocacy groups hailed SB 1 as a “good step,” but also urged policymakers to do more. It wants Lake Erie states and provinces to develop new monitoring plans and a timetable to cut the flow of phosphorus pollution into the lake by 40 percent.


Fast-growing wine, craft beer industries generating supportive legislation throughout Midwest

by Carolyn Orr ~ March 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the not-so-distant past, “non-existent” would have been an apt term to describe the Midwest’s farm winery and craft beer industries. As recently as the year 2000, only 300 acres were in grape production.
But today, ethanol isn't the only alcohol being produced in this region. There has been big growth in the beer and wine industry, a trend that is allowing for more diversity in farm production and helping expand local and statewide agri-tourism. More »


City’s nitrate-pollution lawsuit pits Des Moines against its nearby rural counties

by Carolyn Orr ~ February 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In Iowa’s largest city, Des Moines, the local water utility operates the largest nitrate-removal facility in the world. It runs any time nitrates reach levels above the federally mandated limit of 10 milligrams per liter. The cost of operating the facility, Des Moines Water Works says, can be upwards of $7,000 a day. Now, the utility wants some local drainage districts in surrounding rural counties held accountable for the costs associated with treating what it calls “extremely high concentrations of nitrate” in local rivers. The announcement of a federal lawsuit got the immediate attention of leading state policymakers. More »


Farm industry in Midwest could see gains from changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba

by Carolyn Orr ~ January 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
At a time when commodity prices are the lowest in years, agricultural producers have been looking for ways to increase demand. One answer to the market problem, it turns out, could be just 90 miles away from the U.S. border. That is because agriculture — a major Midwestern strength — stands to be one of the biggest potential beneficiaries of President Obama’s plan to ease economic and trade restrictions with Cuba. More »


California law on housing of hens has big implications for egg exporters in the Midwest

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Can voters in California dictate how Midwestern farmers house their hens? If the farmers want to sell eggs to California, the answer could be “yes” — unless an appeal filed by Iowa, Nebraska and four other states is successful. Beginning Jan. 1, egg farmers in California must comply with Proposition 2: a new law, approved by voters in 2008, under which hens must be able to stand up, turn around and spread their wings without touching their cage or another bird. More »


To keep state fairs thriving, organizers tap multiple revenue sources — including tax dollars

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
From the use of general fund dollars to their support of state-fair foundations, many of the Midwest's legislatures have made a commitment to keeping state fairs going and to upgrading the grounds and buildings where state fairs are held. More »


Agricultural areas looking to bioscience, research as seeds of a brighter economic future

by Laura Tomaka ~ October 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With its cluster of farming, industry leaders such as DuPont Pioneer and John Deere, and a large land-grant university, central Iowa is already a hub of economic activity centered on agriculture and bioscience. But state, local, business and university leaders believe the region still has much untapped potential. Their response: Join together on a new Cultivation Corridor initiative. More »


Indiana, Nebraska and North Dakota among states allowing industrial hemp research or cultivation

by Carolyn Orr ~ September 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Will industrial hemp eventually become a viable cash crop for the Midwest’s agricultural producers and rural communities? Three states in the region have taken initial steps to begin exploring the possibility, and the new farm bill is also opening up the opportunity for research and pilot programs across the country. More »


Use of ‘big data’ in agriculture yields potentially big benefits for producers, but privacy concerns
as well

by Carolyn Orr ~ July/August 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The ability to crunch massive amounts of data may be as important to the future of food production as the development of the tractor was for 20th-century agriculture. But it is also hard to ignore the myriad policy and privacy issues arising from increased use of “big data.” More »


Midwest, U.S. continue to lose farms, but Nebraska among states bucking the trend

by Carolyn Orr ~ May 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
More than 29,000 farmers in the Midwest called it quits between 2007 and 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest census, a period in which the region also lost farmland while the average size of operations grew. The new statistics reflect longtime trends occurring not only in the Midwest, but nationally as well. But one state that bucked some of these trends is Nebraska, which recorded one of the largest U.S. gains in the number of farm operations. More »



Minnesota poised to have strongest biodiesel mandate in the nation

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A decade ago, Minnesota became the first U.S. state with a biodiesel mandate, a move that has since been followed by six other states (none in the Midwest). The state now hopes to advance production and use even further, with plans in place to adopt a first-in-the-nation B10 mandate: a requirement that all diesel fuel sold in the state contain 10 percent biodiesel and 90 percent petroleum. The higher mandate, set to take effect in July of next year, will only apply in warm-weather months.
Under Minnesota’s groundbreaking 2002 law, B2 was required. Subsequent legislation increased the mandate to B5 and called for an increase to B10 provided that a variety of conditions were met (a sufficient fuel and feedstock supply, for example, and an adequate blending infrastructure). The mandate will be raised to B20 in 2015 if those same conditions are met.
Though no other Midwestern states mandate that biodiesel be sold, some encourage or require its use in government vehicle fleets, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Five of the nation’s top 10 biodiesel-producing states are in the Midwest: Iowa (second), Illinois (fourth), Minnesota (fifth), Indiana (eighth) and North Dakota (10th).


Minnesota partners with farmers, and feds, on new certification program to protect water quality

by Carolyn Orr ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the goals of protecting water quality and providing regulatory certainty to farmers, voluntary state programs that certify land-management practices at agricultural operations are cropping up across the country. Minnesota is one of the latest states to adopt such a program, and is backing it up with state dollars to help farmers adopt new conservation practices. More »


Groundwater depletion looms as threat to future growth in Kansas

by Carolyn Orr ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Farmers and lawmakers in Kansas are struggling to come up with solutions to a problem that threatens the economic future of the state — its primary source of groundwater is being depleted at unsustainable rates. According to a recent study by Dr. David Steward of Kansas State University, given current usage, the amount of water Kansas farmers can extract from the Ogallala aquifer will start to fall in just 10 years. More »


Iowa bill adds liability protection for recreational-use landowners

by Carolyn Orr ~ June 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


State finance programs, tax credits aim to help beginning farmers with high costs of entering
the business

by Carolyn Orr ~ April 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


With much input from states, federal officials implement new rules for livestock tracking

by Carolyn Orr ~ February 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


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

by Carolyn Orr ~ October 2012 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
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 »


How many states in the Midwest have their own meat-inspection programs, and how do they operate?

by Ilene Grossman ~ January 2011 ~ Question of the Month »
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 »