South Dakota has gone from a milk deficit to a milk surplus. As a result, state officials and dairy industry representatives were at the World Dairy Expo trying to recruit new processors to the state. David Skaggs works with dairy development for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. He says they’re looking hard at plants that process some of the new dairy products on the market, like protein drinks.He says currently milk is being exported out of state. Plus, permits have been approved for new dairy operations that are on hold because they have nowhere to sell their milk. However, he says attracting a new processor is tough due to the huge investment.
Lawmakers have begun diving into the issue of land conservation programs, which supporters say benefit surrounding communities and Republican Gov. Paul LePage has often derided as a tax giveaway for wealthy interests. LePage has, for years, criticized lawmakers for catering to wealthy groups and individuals whom he claims enjoy scenic views on tax-exempt land that increase property taxes for seniors and poor Mainers. In the days before this year's three-day government shutdown over the state budget, LePage claimed that Democrats were ignoring his proposal to remove property tax exemptions for land trusts and nonprofits that hold large tracts of land.
A coalition has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Iowa’s so-called “ag gag” law that criminalizes undercover investigative efforts to expose poor conditions for workers, food safety violations, environmental harm and animal cruelty in agricultural facilities.The lawsuit asks, among other things, the federal court to declare that Iowa’s ag gag law is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, strike it down and block the state from enforcing it. The lawsuit is being filed by the ACLU of Iowa, along with attorneys from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Law Offices of Matthew Strugar, Public Justice and the Center for Food Safety. Among their clients are Bailing Out Benji, an Iowa nonprofit concerned about puppy mills, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the national Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the National Center for Food Safety.
Livestock producers may apply for a portion of $1.9 million in Livestock Investment Grants. Funds are provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Program and may be used for on-farm improvements. “Livestock Investment Grants help farmers stay competitive and reinvest in their industry,” said MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “Last year, 105 livestock farmers received grants to improve their operations.”
Now Minnesota is poised to roll out its first-ever strategy to protect drinking water from the farm fertilizers that carry nitrates — one of Minnesota's worst pollution problems. The contradiction between supporting farmers and protecting water may be inevitable in a state where agriculture contributes $19 billion annually to the economy. Every year, farmers plant 16 million acres with corn and soybeans, using close to 800,000 tons of fertilizer. State officials acknowledge that some of it is still going to leach into water even if farmers follow the Agriculture Department's new rules and all the best guidance to prevent it. Bruce Montgomery, the scientist who helped develop the department's new strategy, said the proposed rule will generate a shared responsibility for water quality, through the creation of local agricultural committees that will educate farmers on best ways to reduce the impact of nitrogen.
The 21 fires currently burning across the northern part of the state have killed at least 24 people, destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and torched more than 191,000 acres — a collective area nearly the size of New York City. Nine fires are now burning in Sonoma and Napa counties, the heart of California’s wine-growing industry. One of the biggest and by far the deadliest, the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma grew about 6,000 acres overnight before conditions began to improve.As thousands of firefighters work to contain the blazes, officials have started looking at what’s ahead: Cleaning up the charred remains of thousands of structures, some of which could contain potentially hazardous materials.“You can imagine what it’s going to take,” said Dugan, the Sonoma County spokesman. “You just take one area in Santa Rosa, the Coffey Park area. There’s dozens if not hundreds of [destroyed] homes. That’s a lot of cleanup and a lot of debris. Once the fire is under control, there’ll still a lot of work to do.”He added: “This is going to be months and years of recovery for the county.”Amid these grim bulletins, the huge utility company PG&E acknowledged that the extreme winds late Sunday and early Monday had knocked trees into power lines in conditions conducive to wildfires.
Supporters of a prohibition against aerial pesticide spraying in Oregon’s Lincoln County are urging a judge to uphold the ordinance even though it’s pre-empted by state law. Lincoln County Community Rights, which supports the ban, argues that Oregon law that pre-empt local governments from regulating pesticides is unconstitutional.The ordinance was approved by voters earlier this year but is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by landowners Rex Capri and Wakefield Farms, who rely on aerial spraying.During oral arguments on Oct. 9, the plaintiffs asked Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Sheryl Bachart to declare the ordinance invalid because a local government can’t overrule Oregon law.Not only does the county lack the general authority to enact such an ordinance, but the prohibition is specifically barred by Oregon statutes governing pesticides, forest practices and the “right to farm,” according to plaintiffs.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the devastation to Puerto Rico has sunk in. Many of the island's 3.4 million residents are still without access to power, running water, and health services. The Category 4 storm also left Puerto Rico without most of its farmland, roughly a quarter of the island's land divided into over 13,000 farms. After Maria barreled through with 155-mph winds, it wiped out approximately 80% of the territory's crop value.
Dan Beardsley’s great-grandfather made moonshine on the family farm to make ends meet during Prohibition. Now he can boost farm profits with a legal distillery, thanks to a new Connecticut law that took effect Oct. 1. The law, based on a similar “farm to flask” law enacted in New York almost a decade ago, allows farmers to distill and sell spirits using their own produce without high-priced licenses or distribution requirements. They can sell their own product at a farm store, and hold tastings, without using a wholesaler if they use local ingredients.Such farm distillery laws are helping rural areas get in on the craft distillery movement.So far this year, a dozen states have enacted laws designed to help craft distilleries, and most benefit farm distillers either directly or indirectly, said Heather Morton, who tracks such laws for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). For instance, Indiana shortened the waiting period to start a small distillery from three years to 18 months, and Georgia allowed distillers to sell bottles at retail.New York this year gave another boost to farm distillers by allowing them to serve cocktails.Among the states that now offer farm distilleries lower fees or more freedom to sell their products are Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Virginia and West Virginia, according to NCSL.Some states require craft distilleries to use local produce, which helps farm distillers. The law in Connecticut requires one-quarter local farm-grown ingredients, and New York’s requires three-quarters.
The day illustrated that as a farmer herself, Moynihan understands about the need for a new state program she just planted at the Minnesota Agriculture Department: Farm and Rural Helpline. The line is a new service, replacing an earlier farm crisis line, that allows rural Minnesotans to call (833) 600-2670 to deal with all sorts of problems, even if they do not rise to crisis level, Moynihan said.“Farmers love to farm, but it is an extremely challenging profession,” she said on the dreary Friday.They have no control over costs such as for implements, seed and fertilizer. Others control how much they are paid for crops, milk and livestock.In the fall, “you are watching the clock for frost and watching the skies for rain. It can be a very stressful time.”In the spring, “you realize you are borrowing a lot.”So it is no surprise that mental health issues are big in rural areas. The helpline will be answered by trained counselors who can help immediately and can refer rural Minnesotans to other resources, such as finance experts.