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  • State of the States 2017 | Pew Charitable Trust

    Part Two: Budget Winners:Thirty-one states are facing budget shortfalls for fiscal 2017. So how have the 19 states with good-looking books managed it? While some of it may be due to factors beyond their control (think California, for example, where its sheer economic size, growing population, and diversity in business make it different than any other state) others have husbanded resources and promulgated policies that have enhanced their ability to cope. We look at those states to see if there are steps that the states with shortfalls can adopt which might help them cope with stagnant economic growth.

    Post date: Thu, 02/23/2017 - 15:09
  • Cattle, humans both help taint wells in Wisconsin's Kewaunee County | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    In a new study of groundwater conditions in dairy farm-intensive Kewaunee County, researchers found higher levels of well contamination from cattle during wet weather events — when manure, rain and melting snow can seep quickly into the ground. But the results also show that cattle in this northeastern county are not the only source of tainted drinking water. Human waste from sanitary systems is also polluting wells. The study is the latest research on factors affecting groundwater pollution in a region where tensions over large-scale farms are the greatest in Wisconsin. “The bottom line is that both kinds of mammals — large animals and humans on the landscape — are to blame,” said Mark A. Borchardt, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose work was funded by the Department of Natural Resources. Kewaunee County has one of the highest concentrations of large-scale farms in the state. The farms have come under sharp criticism for having an out-sized impact. Borchardt's study sampled water during three periods in 2016 and found polluted water was often traced to sanitary systems during relatively dry periods. But during wet conditions when groundwater was being recharged, polluted water was linked to cattle.

    Post date: Thu, 02/23/2017 - 14:59
  • Illinois new raw milk rules get first legislative tests | Before its news

    Three bills introduced into the Illinois General Assembly loosen up cottage food sales and promote farmers markets, but apparently are not intended to alter the state’s new raw milk law. Illinois in 2016 aligned itself with the surrounding states of Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin by prohibiting any retail sales of milk without pasteurization. On-farm sales are permitted under new regulations. Raw milk cheese aged 60 days can be sold under a separate permit, but sales of other unpasteurized raw milk products are also prohibited. Three bills, two in the House and one in the Senate, have been introduced in Springfield, making changes for farmers markets and cottage food producers. All three measures, with very similar language, have been assigned to committees.All three call for establishing a state Farmers Market Task Force “to address farmers market vendor complaints regarding the reasonableness of local health departments” fee and sanitation provisions.”The proposals also call for providing farmers market vendors with “effective means to maintain potentially hazardous food at a specific temperature.” That language is apparently intended to allow vendors to use ice chests to keep food cold. Currently refrigerators are required.

    Post date: Thu, 02/23/2017 - 14:48
  • Oregon revenue forecast: State to bring in $200 million more than expected | Oregon Live

    regon's economy is growing fast enough to generate nearly $200 million more in tax revenue for the state's next budget than had been expected, state economists said Wednesday. That means the state's $1.8 billion budget shortfall has shrunk to $1.6 billion. Although the new revenue will be welcome in Salem, it still leaves lawmakers with a massive budget hole to address. The gap is driven by rising costs in the state's public pension system and Medicaid, as well as three unfunded directives passed by voters in November. In a presentation at a joint meeting of the House's and Senate's revenue committees on Wednesday, state economist Mark McMullen told lawmakers that the takeaway from the forecast was "so far, so good." Half of the extra $200 million comes from unexpected revenues in the current two-year budget, which will likely be carried over to the 2017-19 budget cycle, McMullen said.

    Post date: Thu, 02/23/2017 - 14:47
  • As Trump Eyes Infrastructure, State and Local Leaders Defend Tax-Exempt ‘Muni Bonds’ | Pew Charitable Trust

    Nationwide, the “muni bond” market has funded $1.65 trillion worth of projects for cities and other governments over the past decade. The borrowed money has paid for schools, roads, water and sewer systems, airports, bridges and other vital infrastructure. “These aren’t shiny baubles. These are essential infrastructure,” said Democratic Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is in his second term. “This is a sacrosanct part of our taxing policy that has been in existence since 1913.” But some Republicans on Capitol Hill want to end the tax-exempt status of muni bonds as part of broader changes to the federal tax code. That has many state and local officials worried. A city’s ability to borrow depends on investors’ willingness to lend it money by purchasing bonds. And the tax-exempt status of muni bonds is part of what makes them so attractive to investors, especially high-income taxpayers looking to reduce their tax bills.

    Post date: Thu, 02/23/2017 - 14:43

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Farmland Taxes Under Discussion in the Midwest Again

23 January, 2017

Senator 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.  She is convinced that “the drop in net farm income again this year makes the changes Indiana made to the farmland taxation calculation in 2016 even more important.”  


Are corporations taking over America’s food supply?

15 March, 2016

Family farms.  The foundation of America’s food security.  According to the USDA, 97 percent of farms are family farms, and they grow 90 percent of the food produced. But national policies to keep food affordable (American’s spend less than 7 percent of their paycheck for food) and the boom and bust cycles of farming have resulted in larger, more concentrated farming practices.