Governor Bullock's Office of Outdoor Recreation now makes more sense than ever, as does taking good care of our public lands.
Steve Cooper recently added a butter production line at the dairy processing facility in Ottawa County where he is general manager, a $50 million project. He hired 10 people. To keep pace as Michigan farmers produce more milk each year, Cooper's company, Continental Dairy Facilities LLC, needed more wastewater treatment capacity to handle the increased volume. It can churn out 300,000 pounds of milk powder and 42,000 gallons of cream every day. Continental Dairy and neighboring Fairlife LLC, which share a 100-acre dairy campus on a former General Motors facility in Coopersville, sought funding for their business expansions through traditional means, which generally means applying for incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. But their project got a boost from another source — the state Agriculture Department, which is piloting its own business development incentives program this year to help food-related companies achieve growth in smaller projects that won't create enough jobs to meet MEDC requirements. That boost is about to get bigger.The program will expand to $4.7 million starting Oct. 1 after funding was inserted into the department's 2018 budget.Most of it will go to companies wanting to expand their food and agriculture businesses, Holton said, Money also will be used to fund competitive grants for companies that want to add equipment or training, for instance, and to help companies export products.State agriculture administrators believe the new incentives will deliver a level of flexibility to help businesses that the department previously didn't have.
On paper, Assemblymen Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove representing California’s 9th District and Heath Flora, a Republican from Ripon representing the 12th District should be political adversaries. Despite their opposing party affiliations, the two found common ground in both their history as public safety employees and their commitment to advocating for California’s agriculture industry.Cooper, a second-term assemblyman, served in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for 30 years, reaching the rank of Captain, and spent 14 years as Elk Grove’s founding mayor and councilman before joining the Assembly in 2014.Flora, who is in his first term, is a small business owner from a farming family, served as a volunteer firefighter for 15 years in Ripon, where he lives to this day, before joining the assembly in 2016 with Cooper’s endorsement.“I met Heath and thought he was a good fit. His family is in farming, and he was a firefighter, so we have that bond from our histories working in public safety, where you get used to working with other folks. All that matters to cops and firefighters is getting the job done, (political) parties and race don’t matter” said Cooper.In addition to Cooper’s law enforcement background, Flora was impressed by the Elk Grove Democrat’s dedication to learning as much as possible about agriculture.“Jim didn’t know anything about agriculture when he first started, but nobody else in the Assembly educated themselves like he did. We want to take his model and educate other Democrats as well,” said Flora.The two were quick to work across party lines to represent the Central Valley’s needs, including water conservation and agriculture, which Cooper says are different from the rest of California.
Florida homeowners with citrus trees on their property now have a new tool to fight off deadly citrus greening disease: parasitic wasps. The Gainesville Sun reports that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will provide residents who apply with small vials of the wasp called tamarixia, which hunt the invasive Asian citrus psyllid that spreads the fatal disease.The state provides more than 1 million tamarixia each year to commercial growers, but this is the first year homeowners have been eligible to receive them.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are set to flow to three regions in Louisiana devastated by flooding in 2016, with an emphasis on establishing coordinated, regional planning to mitigate future flood events. Gov. John Bel Edwards joined scores of local, state and federal representatives at University of Louisiana at Lafayette Thursday to detail the initiative aimed at providing multi-parish coordination to address the historic flooding that swamped parts of metro Baton Rouge and Lafayette in August 2016 and northeast Louisiana the previous March, damaging or destroying an estimated 113,000 homes and leaving tens of thousands languishing in shelters.“There’s nobody out there who’s going to do a retention project or detention project big enough to keep all the water, so it’s going to go somewhere — it’s going to go off to the neighbors,” Edwards told the group of elected officials, scientists, engineers and emergency management professionals gathered at Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprise. “So why not have the neighbors sitting down all at one time to come up with one comprehensive strategy to manage the watershed?”The state, Edwards explained, is dispersing the money to local parishes, but will emphasize regional planning that deals with the three watersheds most affected by the 2016 floods — the Amite watershed in metro Baton Rouge, the Vermilion in the Acadiana region and the Ouachita in northeast Louisiana.
Some Brooklynites are refusing to vaccinate their pets against virulent and potentially deadly illnesses — some of which could spread to humans — thanks to a growing movement against the life-saving inoculations, according to borough veterinarians. “We do see a higher number of clients who don’t want to vaccinate their animals,” said Dr. Amy Ford of the Veterinarian Wellness Center of Boerum Hill. “This may be stemming from the anti-vaccine movement, which people are applying to their pets.”
The growth of small-scale farms, along with the expansion of many existing farms, in the past 15 years has led to a 30 percent increase in the number of farms across Massachusetts. In addition, interest in local agriculture has inspired many homeowners to keep backyard chickens, goats and other livestock in residential areas where neighbors are far more comfortable with dogs and cats.With suburban residents increasingly vocalizing their concerns about their neighbors’ flocks, however small, local boards of health, which have broad authority over backyard livestock operations, began implementing regulations that put unnecessary and often burdensome requirements on livestock owners—no surprise considering board of health officials’ lack of knowledge about livestock, according to Brad Mitchell, Massachusetts Farm Bureau’s deputy executive director.“In most towns, board of health officials are elected. They typically know much more about the food code in restaurants or septic systems than they do about animal husbandry—and that was clear in the regulations they were drafting,” Mitchell said.The regulations typically failed to distinguish between commercial and hobby farms, ignored laws protecting commercial agriculture and addressed issues—pesticide use, animal health and animal welfare—that were beyond the board’s authority.
After months of negotiations and surviving a contentious budget battle in the state legislature, the hard work of enacting Illinois’ comprehensive energy bill is underway.The Future Energy Jobs Act calls for the installation of about 2,700 MW of solar in Illinois by 2030, a dramatic increase from the state’s current 75 MW. “It’s going to be crazy, and it’s going to be really exciting,”said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. “We’ve seen such interest from around the country, from all types of developers focused on helping get this legislation built out correctly.”About 40 percent of the new solar is to be utility-scale projects over 2 megawatts, about 50 percent is to be distributed and community solar, and two percent is to be on brownfields, with the remaining 8 percent left up to state officials’ discretion.The state will deal with utility-scale solar much as it has in the past — through procurements carried out by the Illinois Power Agency.
Last year there was a study committee on rural broadband issues and the growing digital divide facing our state. Residents of metro Atlanta and other densely populated parts of the state don’t witness this problem. Those living in rural Georgia too frequently deal with internet service that is slow, unreliable, or nonexistent. The main work of the committee was to identify that there are really several major problems under the rural broadband umbrella. Access to service, speed of service, reliability of service, cost of service, and regulatory barriers impeding delivery of service are all subtopics worthy of understanding before any solution set is found.There also remains a question of the proper government role in solving this problem. Purists would suggest that the market will eventually self-correct. The problem with that frame of mind is that an entire generation of Georgians may lose out on education, commerce, and employment opportunities before economies of scale allow for modern broadband service to be deployed throughout the state. The problems of rural broadband deployment continue to be studied by legislators, this year under the much broader “Rural Development Council.” Broadband is being looked at as in context with economic development, education, rural healthcare, and other issues unique to the less developed parts of the state. The point is that all of these issues are interconnected, and solutions for one often depend on solutions for others.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed the long-awaited compromise marijuana bill into law, even as he voiced his disapproval with the controversial substance that Bay State voters broadly legalized in November 2016. "I don't support this," Baker said to reporters in his ceremonial office at the State House. "I worry terribly about what the consequences over time will be.""But look, the people voted this," he added. "And I think it's really important that we put a program in place that delivered a workable, safe, productive recreational marijuana market for them here in Massachusetts."The rewrite doesn't change personal home-growing and possession limits that went into effect in December 2016.