A long-awaited livestock research facility got the go-ahead in a new feasibility study commissioned by the University of Idaho. A large focus of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment will be sustainable milk production. It would include a 2,000-cow dairy with robotic milking machines and 1,000 acres of associate cropland and employ wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery systems.It would also allow for a food processing facility, offer laboratory space and provide housing for faculty, staff and students.“It would be the most modern and largest research dairy in the U.S. and likely in the world,” said University of Idaho President Chuck Staben.Taking into consideration land costs, capital costs of construction, production cost, milk prices and research grants and contracts, the feasibility study showed the facility could operate at a “net-zero-type cost” for the first five or six years, he said.The price tag to purchase land, build the facility and get it operating is $45 million. Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature have committed $10 million to the project, with $5 million more in the offing. It’s up to the university to find the other $30 million, both internally and externally, he said.The study also indicated that buying land and building the dairy was a better way to go than buying an existing dairy and retrofitting it for research, he said.
The Legislature is expected to votes on an $83 billion state budget. Its only allocation for land conservation targets working ranch lands especially in central Florida. The budget puts $10 million toward the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, aimed at protecting ranch lands from future development through conservation easements. The allocation is paltry but important given the budget allocates no money for Florida Forever, the state’s land acquisition program. It once got $300 million a year.“It’s incredibly unusual to see that at zero particularly given that we passed the Land and Water Conservation Amendment in order to get that from zero to something closer to like $300 million,” said Aliki Moncrief of Florida Conservation Voters.
Alabama's popular Forever Wild land conservation program could be required to reimburse state and county governments for an estimated $3.6 million in lost property taxes -- plus $500,000 every year going forward -- under a proposed measure in the Alabama Legislature. The bill, HB 502, would require Forever Wild to "reimburse the amount of any ad valorem tax revenue lost as a result of property previously subject to ad valorem tax being acquired by the Forever Wild Land Trust."Gunter Guy, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said he estimates Forever Wild would have to pay approximately $500,000 each year on lands the program has already purchased, plus a significant back taxes bill."The measure also requires a one-time retroactive reimbursement related to tax years prior to enactment," Guy said in an email. "We estimate the total amount of ad valorem taxes associated with acreage dating back to creation of the program to be approximately $3.6 million. "DCNR is opposed to HB 502 and believes that it would negatively impact the Forever Wild Land Trust by creating a perpetual financial burden that will ultimately deplete funding for future acquisitions and shut down the program."
A proposal to expand allowable activities for cider businesses on farmland is sailing through the Oregon legislature with minimal opposition.Imitating rules established for wineries, Senate Bill 677 would permit cider businesses to produce and sell their beverages, serve food and conduct other agritourism activities on-site in farm zones.Companies generating less than 100,000 gallons of cider a year would have to be within or next to an orchard of at least 15 acres to take advantage of the provisions.The orchard size requirement would increase to 40 acres for those businesses producing more than 100,000 gallons annually, under the bill.The Senate has unanimously approved SB 677, and it’s now being considered by the House
Much needed reform of Ohio’s CAUV formula has been included in the Ohio House’s biennial budget proposal, which is good news for Ohio’s family farmers, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. The budget proposal would address nonfarm influences from the formula that tend to artificially raise CAUV values. It would also ensure that farmers are not penalized for adopting conservation practices that protect water quality.
A bill restricting antibiotic usage in Oregon’s livestock industry has died despite objections from critics who claim federal controls insufficiently limit usage of the drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has worked with pharmaceutical companies to change antibiotic labels to disallow uses aimed at livestock growth promotion.However, critics such as the Consumers Union have said the approach creates a “loophole” by continuing to permit antibiotic usage for disease prevention in livestock.Senate Bill 785 would have restricted antibiotics to treat or control the spread of a disease under the supervision of a veterinarian and required confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to report usage.
The Massachusetts House on Monday agreed to a significant expansion of tax credits aimed at spurring land donations to public or private conservation agencies. A Republican-sponsored amendment approved without debate increases the amount of money available through the conservation land tax credit from $2 million to $5 million over a three-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2018.The increased credit would sunset on Dec. 31, 2025, according to House Minority Leader Brad Jones.There’s a backlog of tax credit applications and more credits will lead to more land protection, according to Jones.The credit is equal to 50 percent of the fair market value of the donated property, with a maximum credit of $75,000 for each qualified donation.Between 2011 and 2016, the program provided $10.7 million in credits associated with the permanent protection of 10,435 acres of donated conservation land valued at $46.3 million, the minority leader’s office said.
A dozen groups representing free speech advocates and labor unions are helping fight the Idaho law banning secret filming of animal abuse at agricultural facilities. The groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals detailing their opposition. They argue that the law violates the First Amendment. No groups have filed similar briefs in support of the law. Idaho lawmakers passed the law making it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agriculture operations in 2014 after the state's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt their businesses.
A bill drawn up by Republican Gov. Paul LePage would make public the names of animal activists hired to film undercover footage of animal cruelty. An adviser to LePage said this week that the governor's bill would prevent "unwarranted political attacks" by letting businesses know "if the person has a history of undercover filming operations.""It is very easy for a person with a video camera to film things completely out of context and make a business or organization look bad in the public eye even when the business could be doing everything in accordance with the law and best practices," Lance Libby, senior policy adviser for LePage, said in written testimony.
This past March, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) initiated NextGrid, an 18-month, consumer-focused collaborative process to “transform Illinois’ energy landscape and economy.” Specifically, Next Grid aims to uncover opportunities to value and optimize distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar panels or energy efficiency, and facilitate grid decarbonization. As the power sector and technology industries converge toward DER integration, NextGrid will highlight opportunities to enable a more dynamic relationship between customers and their utilities. Diverse voices like ComEd, Environmental Defense Fund and Citizen’s Utility Board have praised NextGrid’s efforts, and the latter two are collaborating on a parallel effort building a new regulatory framework that increases customer and community choice among energy suppliers, drives economic development and updates utility business models.