Judge Tonya Parker of the 116th District Court in Dallas has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the State Fair of Texas by the Austin law firm Riggs & Ray, P.C., which appeared to be acting to further the political agenda of a party that does not want the State Fair at Fair Park in Dallas. The lawsuit alleged that the State Fair is a “governmental body” subject to the Texas Public Information Act. In fact, the State Fair of Texas is a private Texas nonprofit corporation granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is not supported by any governmental money. Judge Parker dismissed the lawsuit under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (Texas’ “Anti-SLAPP” law) concluding that the Fair is not a governmental body and awarded the State Fair attorney’s fees, expenses and sanctions totaling $298,206.59. The State Fair asked the judge to order that the $30,000 in sanctions be paid into the Fair’s Youth Scholarship Program, which gives money for college to graduating high school seniors around the state of Texas who have participated in competitive youth livestock events held at the State Fair, as well as from five Dallas Independent School District high schools near Fair Park, the home of the State Fair for 131 years. This lawsuit, if successful, would have paved the way for other private 501(c)(3) nonprofits in Texas to be classified as “governmental bodies” forcing them to spend their limited resources and funding to deal with the inevitable requests for what has always been understood as private information. The Fair is pleased that the judge in dismissing the case has saved these charitable organizations from this unnecessary burden.The plaintiffs have indicated that they will appeal the judge’s decision. “We are confident that the judge’s decision will be upheld at the appellate level,” Glieber said.
Cargill is offering consumers turkeys with a side of traceability. The company’s Honeysuckle White brand recently launched a pilot project that that uses blockchain technology to trace turkeys produced by family farmers. To learn more about their Thanksgiving turkey, consumers in select markets can text or enter an on-package code at HoneysuckleWhite.com to access the farm’s location by state and county, view the family farm story, see photos from the farm and read a message from the farmer.
No sense in crying over spilled milk, but what about $437,000 in legal fees? Florida’s paying that amount to the attorneys of Ocheesee Creamery, which is about 50 miles west of Tallahassee. State officials under Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture had pushed to label the dairy’s skim milk as imitation, because vitamins aren’t added to it, according to the Associated Press.The state defines skim milk as having Vitamin A. Ocheesee, an all-natural dairy that doesn’t add ingredients to natural products, objected.Florida taxpayers have paid more than $20 million since 2011 to cover expenses for lawyers who have sued the state.
Among hundreds of bills signed into law on Sunday by Governor Jerry Brown was the rural broadband measure championed by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D — Winters), Several past efforts to increase funding to close the connectivity gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” known as the “Digital Divide,” were intensely opposed by the largest telecommunications and cable companies. After a three-year stalemate, this bill represents a cooperative effort between legislators of both houses and both parties, consumer advocates, and representatives from the telecommunications and cable industries to invest in broadband access and rural development.The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) is a state program aimed at closing the Digital Divide. The CASF does not depend upon General Fund dollars, but instead is funded by a small, existing surcharge on in-state phone bills. The current goal of this program is to incentivize the expansion of broadband infrastructure to 98% of California households. AB 1665 expands this goal to 98% of households in every geographic region of the state. This new goal creates a target that cannot be achieved by serving urban and suburban areas alone; it will ensure broadband infrastructure projects funded by AB 1665 are focused in rural California.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $5 million is being awarded to county and youth fairs across the State through the 2017 Agricultural Fairgrounds Infrastructure Improvement Program. The funding will be divided equally among the State's 52 eligible local fairs, with each receiving an award of $96,153 to offset the cost of improvements and renovation projects, including new construction, that support New York's agricultural industry. This second round of funding approved in the New York State Budget builds on the $5 million allocated for county fairs in 2016.
The bill was passed by the Senate on May 23rd by a unanimous vote of 62-0. The Assembly version of the bill, A464B, sponsored by Assemblywoman Paulin, was passed on June 6th by a vote of 56-6, and is now set to be delivered to Governor Cuomo.
New York is working to help veterans interested in becoming farmers. The state announced a new grant program that provides financial assistance to former military service members turned farmers. The money can be used to purchase new farm equipment, machinery or supplies or pay for the cost of building or upgrading farm structures.The initiative is related to a broader $1 million grant program for new and early-stage farmers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it will override Maine’s ability to run its own meat inspection program unless the state clarifies the law. Maine’s Department of Agriculture is concerned that the law would keep it from inspecting any meat slaughtered and processed in a town that is food sovereign, negating an agreement it has with the USDA to meet federal standards. The prospect that meat-processing facilities like Bisson’s could close, even temporarily, has sent food producers across Maine into a state of near panic and confusion. The cause of the problem is the food sovereignty bill that Gov. Paul LePage signed into law in June despite opposition from his chief agricultural advisers. The bill, called “An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems,” endorses the right of Maine communities to declare themselves “food sovereign,” something 20 communities, including several on the Blue Hill Peninsula, already have done.In practical terms, it means consumers can buy directly from farmers and food producers in those communities who are operating outside of state and federal licensing. The legislation was intended by those who shaped it, including state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, its sponsor, and state Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, who has put forth numerous similar bills, as a means to encourage local food production and consumption.
State Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville announced today he will run for commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Dial will run for the Republican nomination in hopes of succeeding Commissioner John McMillan. He said he would emphasize job creation."I have a reputation of rocking the boat, stepping on the status quo," said Dial, a retired brigadier general in the Alabama National Guard. "We need someone to carry on Commissioner McMillan's legacy, who will stand up for Alabama farmers and continue to bring more jobs to our great state."Dial had previously announced he would not run for reelection to the Senate. He is in his eighth term in the Senate and also served two terms in the House.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law bill A.B. 485, making it illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from any source other than a shelter or rescue group. The law will go into effect in 2019. Thirty-six cities in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, already had bans on mass breeding operations.