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SARL Members and Alumni News

Massachusetts ranked most energy efficient state, Wyoming worst: study

The Hill | Posted on October 7, 2018

Massachusetts and California are leading the country in energy efficiency standards according to a study released Thursday. The coastal states’ investments in energy saving targets, electric vehicles and efficient building standards helped them lead the annual study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.Massachusetts took the top spot for the eighth year in a row due to a number of state programs that encouraged consumers to invest in energy efficiency. Following closely behind, California ranked second on the list thanks to incentives it offers for energy efficient schools, residences and industries.

Washington regulators approve tight rules on community solar

| Posted on October 7, 2018

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on Wednesday adopted rules regulating community solar entities outside of the electric utilities that provide those programs.The rules require "company registration, consumer protections, records keeping and reporting," and were adopted by the commission based on SB 5939, which directed the commission to establish these rules, "similar to guidelines for other regulated industries" in Washington, Kate Griffith, UTC spokesperson told Utility Dive.Some community solar advocates have raised concerns that these rules would inhibit smaller entities from pursuing community solar projects, filing joint comments when they were proposed in August. The commission responded to the comments in its ruling, saying they did "not find the proposed rules to be unduly burdensome.

Marijuana activists ‘thrilled’ as Texas Gov. Abbott proposes no jail time for possession

Houston Chronicle | Posted on October 7, 2018

Strict penalties for possessing marijuana in Texas could soon go up in smoke. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott recently announced he's open to dropping the maximum punishment for possession of less than 2 ounces of the drug from 180 days in jail to a fine. The shift drew excitement from advocates and state lawmakers who have lobbied for years to decriminalize marijuana, which records show leads to more than 60,000 possession arrests in Texas each year."You have a certain idea of what members want to achieve going into the next session, I think that's at the top of the list of many members," said Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth.

Michigan dairy farmers either exit or eat up equity

Michigan Farmer | Posted on October 4, 2018

Exhausting. That’s how Hank Choate describes the last three years in Michigan as dairy farmers there have continued to receive the lowest milk price in the country. “The impact, the economic toll it is having on many producers is heart-wrenching,” he says. The fifth-generation dairy farmer from Cement City operates Choate’s Belly Acres in partnership with his family. The Centennial farm can trace back its roots in southern Jackson County more than 180 years.Choate says that strong foundation and an incoming generation with a desire to farm are helping him push through one of the most challenging economic times of his career. “It’s not fun to sit down and try to pay the monthly bills with our current milk check,” he says.Choate says he is deeply saddened by the suffering that’s taken place in Michigan’s dairy industry and questions what it will look like in just five years.“Because of the dairy economy, we’ve made a decision that we were going stop our building mode, pay down some debt and just try to hold our own,” he says.

Ohio has lost 172 dairy farms in 12 months

Farm and Dairy | Posted on October 4, 2018

Since June 25, 66 more Ohio dairy farms have ceased milking cows. In three months, 3 percent of Ohio’s dairy herds are gone. Since October 2017 — when there were 2,312 operating, licensed dairy farms in Ohio — 172 farms have quit milking, a decline of 7.4 percent of dairy farms in one year.

Washington cattle industry in searing debate over brand program

Capital Press | Posted on October 4, 2018

Brand inspections, a way to catch rustlers, will end next year in Washington unless the cattle industry fully funds the inspections, according to the state Department of Agriculture. The department says it loses $38,000 a month checking brands on cattle that are being sold. If the Legislature doesn’t bring fees in line with expenses, inspections will cease in July, according to a budget plan submitted Monday.“We do not take this lightly at all. We understand the seriousness of it,” department spokesman Hector Castro said Wednesday. “It would be irresponsible for the department to not prepare for this because the department can’t continue to operate a program that loses money every month.”The deficit has been building for several years as segments of Washington’s livestock industry have debated the scope, value and expense of brand inspections. State lawmakers set the fees, which were last raised in 2006. The department says the fees have not kept up with rising government costs.

Judge upholds North Dakota’s Corporate Farming Law

Cattle Business Weekly | Posted on October 4, 2018

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland has upheld North Dakota’s Corporate Farming Law. The order comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in August of 2016 by the North Dakota Farm Bureau and several farmers who claimed that the Corporate Farming Law was unconstitutional.The Corporate Farming Law prohibits most corporations from farming or owning farmland in North Dakota. However, small family farms are excluded from this prohibition. The family farm exception in the Corporate Farming Law allows both in-state and out-of-state small family farmers to take advantage of forming corporations for agricultural purposes. The Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Secretary of State have consistently permitted both North Dakota and out-of-state corporations to be eligible for the family farm exception in the Corporate Farming Law.In a Sept. 21 court order, Judge Hovland interpreted the family farm exception in the Corporate Farming Law. Because this exception referred to “domestic corporations,” he ruled that the exception only allowed North Dakota corporations to take advantage of it but that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that all corporations within the United States be permitted to take advantage of the family farm exception. This ruling is consistent with the way the Office of Attorney General and the Office of the Secretary of State have historically interpreted and implemented the Corporate Farming Law. “In accordance with the court order, my office and the Office of the Secretary of State will continue to permit qualifying family corporations to take advantage of the family farm exception,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.Additionally, Judge Hovland concurred with the State’s longstanding position that there is no requirement under the family farm exception that a farmer maintain a physical presence on the farm. He agreed with how the State has, since 1982, implemented and enforced operational requirements of the family farm exception. Accordingly, Judge Hovland concluded that these operational requirements in the exception are constitutional.

We cannot neglect investing in rural Idaho or rural America

Idaho Statesman | Posted on October 4, 2018

Earlier this year, the U.S. Census announced that urban and suburban Idaho are enjoying substantial growth. Urban counties account for 75 percent of the state’s recent growth and 65 percent of its overall population, with Boise drawing national attention as the country’s fastest-growing major city. This is on the heels of recent news that as a state, more and more people in Idaho are moving out of rural communities to set down roots in the urban core.As more individuals and families are drawn to urban and suburban locales, our rural communities begin to shrink. With fewer residents, we see less investment in core services and less support for communities. Many rural communities are seeing a demographic shift in which fewer young people are setting down roots, thus shifting the average age of rural populations upward and eventually increasing demand for health care and elder care resources as resident baby boomers move further into retirement.While it makes sense to invest in the spaces that house the most individuals, we cannot neglect investing in rural Idaho or rural America. These communities remain home to tens of thousands of individuals here in Idaho and tens of millions across the country. Often, these communities are home to some of our greatest natural recreation areas and spaces of significant cultural, agricultural and economic importance.

Program unveiled to help Montana's rural communities

Great Falls Tribune | Posted on October 4, 2018

A new program of the Main Street Montana Project will focus on creating economic opportunities in small towns and rural and tribal communities in Montana.  Beginning this fall, Main Street Montana – Rural Partners will start six community partnerships to provide aid and help economic and community development projects to rural Montana. This will be done with support from the lieutenant governor’s office and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney said they will develop partnerships with community leaders, businesses, local organizations and the public in rural communities to address challenges unique to rural Montana and connect communities to share opportunities.

New Iowa law provides more funding to control nutrient runoff

CSG Midwest | Posted on October 4, 2018

Iowa and other states in the Mississippi River basin have been the focus of national attention lately due to soil nutrients that drain to the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts in Iowa to reduce and limit the amount of nutrients that are delivered to the Gulf have been numerous. Senate File 512 was passed at the start of our 2018 legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Jan. 31; it provides significant, long-term funding to support implementation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The new law dedicates $282 million over 12 years for water quality and soil conservation — $156 million to address point sources of water pollution and $126 million for nonpoint sources. SF 512 does not supplant or change any of our state’s existing programs; rather, it simply enhances our Nutrient Reduction Strategy. In 2017, $420 million was spent in Iowa to further the goals of this strategy. We will now be able to add to that amount, with targeted investments leveraged by a mix of public and private dollars.