More and more West Virginia children are being placed in foster care because of drug-related issues, and the state is struggling to retain enough child welfare workers to keep up with demand, the head of the Bureau for Children and Families told lawmakers Tuesday. As of Oct. 1, more than 6,100 West Virginia children are in foster care, acting BCF Commissioner Linda Watts told members of the Joint Committee on Children and Families. Watts said the number of children in foster care has risen even since she last spoke to the committee in August — mainly because of opioids.
The Illinois Commerce Commission has launched an 18-month study to explore the use of emerging technologies to improve the state's electric grid. The "NextGrid: Illinois' Utility of the Future" study is the collaborative effort of the ICC, Ameren Illinois, ComEd, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, the Herald-Whig reported.It's a "consumer-focused collaborative study to transform Illinois' energy landscape and economy," said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan. The study was prompted by innovations in technology and energy efficiency, and the push for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper plans to pursue an open position as Commissioner of Agriculture, he announced Thursday, stunning lawmakers in both parties and setting off a scramble among potential suitors seeking to replace him. The decision came after Gov. Chris Sununu approached the speaker urging him to take the role, which will be vacated in November after Commissioner Lorraine Merrill retires.In a statement announcing the move, Jasper said he’s ready to take the mantle.“I am hoping that I can continue the good work of Commissioner Lorraine Merrill and to serve the people of this great state by guiding the agriculture community into the future,” the Hudson Republican said.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture proposes to study whether it should extend its oversight of dairies to include how cow manure is used at other farms WSDA monitors how dairies use manure, but the oversight ends when manure goes elsewhere. The department hopes to get a grasp on whether those manure applications threaten groundwater and waterways.
Residents and tourists driving around Southeastern Pennsylvania are frequently impressed with the beauty of the area’s pastures and horses, but many do not realize the full contribution of the equine industry on the region’s economy. The equine industry spends $546 million on goods, services, wages, and salaries in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The impact of this spending generates $670 million to regional GDP, supports more than 6,550 jobs and generates $58 million in tax revenue. The sector also provides almost $160 million in annual payroll and plays a vital role in maintaining open spaces and agricultural production. John Urbanchuk, chair of agribusiness at DelVal, directed the study. Dr. Sarah Young, chair of the DelVal animal science department; Cory Kieschnick, chair of the DelVal equine science and management department; and Christine Seel; co-chair of the DelVal business and information management department worked with Urbanchuk on the study. The study was commissioned by the Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau. The region in the study consists of: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York counties. Southeastern Pennsylvania is home to two leading equine counties in Pennsylvania, Lancaster, and Chester.
Wolf administration officials today introduced a new apprenticeship program to prepare agriculture equipment service technicians for “jobs that pay” by developing hands-on skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Pennsylvania will face more than 1,000 job openings by 2027 as current farm equipment mechanics and service technicians retire.
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.”