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? Minnesota lawmakers hope so, and their passage of SF 1 in 2017 marked the start of that state’s policy experiment with this type of health insurance option. “Farmers can join together in self-insured plans like those used by large employers,” explains Rep. Tim Miller, who helped guide the legislation through the House. By the start of this year, two agriculture cooperatives, 40 Square and Land O’ Lakes, had jumped into the market and enrolled more than 1,700 people.
Crop and livestock losses from Hurricane Florence are expected to exceed $1.1 billion, including $23.1 million in livestock, poultry and aquaculture losses, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.The agency noted that the losses were expected to be significant because the storm hit at harvest time and Florence hit the state’s top six agricultural counties especially hard. Crop losses alone were estimated to reach a total nearly $987 million, NSDA&CS said.The agency added that the estimated toll on animals raised for food in North Carolina remain at 4.1 million poultry and 5,500 hogs across the state. Florence also caused forestry losses of $69.6 million, green industry losses of $30 million and vegetable and horticulture crop losses of $26.8 million.
State alcohol regulators suspended enforcement of new rules for New Jersey's craft breweries after top lawmakers vowed to roll them back in a flurry of critical statements.The state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, said in a statement that the pause would allow it to further consult with the competing factions — craft breweries on one side and bars and restaurants on the other — and potentially work with lawmakers to write new legislation.“We want to make sure that we get this right,” said ABC Director David Rible. “We are committed to supporting the state’s growing craft beer industry, while also balancing the concerns of other stakeholders and ensuring compliance with state law.”Gov. Phil Murphy, who had expressed misgivings about the rules after an outcry from the craft beer industry last week, celebrated the announcement on Twitter."I applaud today’s decision and look forward to continuing to support our vibrant craft beer industry," he wrote. The regulations in question were issued Sept. 21 by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and sought to clarify what breweries can and cannot do under a 2012 state law aimed at spurring the growth of New Jersey's craft beer industry. Previous guidance was murky or incomplete, causing “significant confusion” about what was permissible, the division said.The rules contained new restrictions, most significantly limiting breweries to hosting 25 events and 52 private parties a year. But they also gave the beer makers new privileges, such as allowing them to host up to 12 off-premises events annually. Breweries were prohibited from selling food, but consumers could bring their own food into tasting rooms.
Low milk costs mean tough times for dairy farmers across the Commonwealth, leaving many with no choice but to shut down. At one time, Erie County was home to dozens of dairy farms; that's no longer the case. Farmers say the business as a whole is to blame, but they tell us policy changes and support from the state could be a turning point. After more than 80 years in business, the barns at Curtis Dairy are now empty. You can see in the video what the facility looked like just a few months ago, housing more than 300 cows.Dean Curtis tells us, "It hurts when I think of all the years that I put in here and to see it go away. You know, it's hard." Curtis says there just isn't money in the industry anymore, and he says the problem comes down to the cost of milk. "You look back in history; in the 80's, we were getting more money back in the 80's than we are now for a hundred of milk." It's a dilemma forcing farms across the Commonwealth to shut down. That's why Governor Tom Wolf approved $5 million dispersed among eligible applicants. The money is part of the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program.
A U.S. attorney is suing a West Virginia hemp farm and others, saying they violating the federal Controlled Substances Act.U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart has sued Matthew Mallory of CAMO Hemp WV, and Gary Kale of Grassy Run Farms. Grassy Run Farms owns the land, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Saturday.The lawsuit charges the farmers with manufacturing, cultivation, possession, and intent to distribute marijuana and not hemp. Hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis sativa plant, but by state law hemp must be comprised of less than 1 percent THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.The complaint says the farmers purchased their hemp seeds in Kentucky and brought them over the West Virginia state line. A state pilot program only allows hemp producers to obtain seeds internationally, via the state Department of Agriculture, the lawsuit said.The complaint also said the defendants indicated they would install security measures around the farm. However, that allegedly hasn't happened.If Stuart prevails in the lawsuit, the farmers' plants, property, equipment and seeds could all be seized and forfeited to the government. His complaint says the federal government could receive either $250,000 in civil penalties or twice the sum of the defendants' gross receipts.The farmers' attorneys argue the Agricultural Act of 2014 protects their right to grow hemp under state laws. Also, the Farm Bill and related provisions of a federal appropriations bill together state that no congressional appropriated funds can prevent the transportation, processing or sale of hemp under a state program authorized under the federal legislation.
Three more agricultural enterprise areas totaling 185,000 acres have been designated by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. The new AEAs will be in Trempealeau County's town of Arcadia; St. Croix County's town of Troy; and six townships in northwest Outagamie and northeast Waupaca counties. Wisconsin will have a total of 37 agricultural enterprise areas, or AEAs, in 26 counties, 108 towns and the Bad River Reservation, as of January 1, 2019.AEAs may be created or expanded when at least five landowners, in partnership with local governments, petition the DATCP for the designation. They are part of Wisconsin's farmland preservation program, intended to encourage preservation of agricultural land use and to promote agricultural economic development appropriate to each area.Landowners outside designated AEAs who want to participate should work with their neighbors and local governments to petition for AEA status.
A new team of food safety experts has been created to help speed up the licensing process for Minnesota food businesses. The goal of the Food Innovation Team (FIT), a subcommittee of Minnesota’s Food Safety and Defense Task Force, is to help state regulators accommodate new and innovative food business models while maintaining high food safety standards. “Obtaining a food license can be a daunting process,” said Jim Roettger, Licensing Liaison for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “The Food Innovation Team will help business owners untangle issues and provide them access to experts in the areas of regulation, local food systems, and food safety.”In addition to helping individual food entrepreneurs, the Food Innovation Team will strive to improve the overall functioning of the food regulatory system. Roettger says as FIT hears cases and resolves issues that are complex or unclear, that information will be captured in a database that will be available to the public. Over time, this information will help regulators, food system advocates, and food entrepreneurs work through complex food licensing problems.The Food Innovation Team was developed through a collaborative process that involved the food regulatory divisions of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Health, community groups including the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association and Renewing the Countryside, as well as University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.
Whether they want to or not, many Portland-area restaurants will soon be turning food scraps into energy. A mandatory food scrap recycling program is set to start in less than two years.Beginning in 2020 Metro will require any business that generates more than 250 pounds of food waste a week to separate out those food scraps for recycling.Currently, area food waste makes up about one-fifth of the garbage that goes to the landfill.According to Metro, that's about 5,000 semi-trucks full of food scraps every year that end up in our landfills. There the waste creates problematic methane gas.Metro wants to put that food waste to better use."The idea is, instead of having that food waste in a landfill where it creates methane gas which is a very potent greenhouse gas,” Pam Peck, Metro resource conservation manager said. “We can take that food waste and we can create better things out of it... we can create energy out of it.”
Much of the race for Texas Agriculture Commissioner centers on food — whether immigrants should be able to help harvest it, how crops are traded or what items schools can serve students for lunch. Democrat Kim Olson, a farmer and Air Force veteran, is challenging the incumbent, Republican Sid Miller. In the latest edition of our Split Decision virtual debate series, watch Olson and Miller discuss these issues, as well as Miller's presence on social media and more. Olson is critical of what Miller's done over his first term as agriculture commissioner, including the fees he raised on farmers and ranchers in 2016 that an audit showed raised millions more dollars than necessary. Miller highlighted reforms he said he's made at the Texas Department of Agriculture, including increased inspections and expanded foreign markets.The two also see President Donald Trump's tough trade policies very differently. Olson says Trump's tariffs on Chinese imports are hurting Texas farmers and beef producers. Texas' beef industry recently started re-establishing a relationship with China after a 14-year ban on U.S. beef exports to the country was lifted last year. Miller counters that the U.S. "hasn't really gained the beef market back" and added that he's confident that, ultimately, the president will make good on his promise to protect rural America.
Rural America faces an increasingly dire access to justice crisis, which serves to exacerbate the already disproportionate share of social problems afflicting rural areas. One critical aspect of that crisis is the dearth of information and research regarding the extent of the problem and its impacts. This article begins to address that gap by providing surveys of rural access to justice in six geographically, demographically, and economically varied states: California, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. In addition to providing insights about the distinct rural challenges confronting each of these states, the legal resources available, and existing policy responses, the article explores common themes that emerge through this multi-state lens, thus framing a richer, broader discussion of rural access to justice, with particular attention to the rural attorney shortage.