Two days after he took office, Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled sweeping measures to clean up Florida's troubled waters Thursday, including spending $2.5 billion and launching more aggressive policies to address algae choking Lake Okeechobee and polluting the state's coasts. The newly minted governor, who angered environmentalists on the campaign trail by dismissing climate change as a significant threat, also promised to establish a resiliency office to address looming dangers.
The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food wants to create a new label for New Hampshire milk to help keep local dairies afloat. Agriculture Commissioner Shawn Jasper is working with Gov. Chris Sununu and lawmakers on a House bill to create the program, called the Dairy Premium Fund.Gallons with the “New Hampshire’s Own” sticker would carry milk from New Hampshire farms, and would cost an extra 50 cents for customers. Some of this would go to advertising the new brand, but most of it would go back to farmers voluntarily participating in the fund.Jasper says the bill is in response to the nationwide decline in dairy revenue and dairy farms.“We’re down to under a hundred that are shipping milk in New Hampshire, and I’m aware of another three or four that will be gone by April,” he says.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is forging ahead with a long-overdue update of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, even as four environmental groups withdrew from mediation and announced they will oppose it. In a Jan. 4 letter to Gov. Kate Brown, representatives for Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity said they will no longer participate in meetings hosted by ODFW to find common ground on wolf management with hunters and ranchers.Wolf advocates criticized the negotiations, describing the process as flawed and skewed in favor of killing wolves to protect livestock, rather than prioritizing non-lethal forms of deterrence. The groups slammed ODFW staff for “leading us to a seemingly predetermined outcome,” despite the agency paying more than $100,000 to hire a professional mediator.
In Oregon and Washington, the changing climate tops the governors’ legislative agendas. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee hope to help stanch global climate change by capping carbon production in their states. Though both proposals would exempt farmers and ranchers directly, the prospect of higher costs for fuel, energy and fertilizers caused by the caps poses a concern for agriculture. Meanwhile, in Idaho, legislators and new Gov. Brad Little must find a way to pay for a voter-mandated expansion of Medicaid coverage for Idaho residents even as tax revenues sink lower than originally forecast.
The new session of the Republican-controlled Legislature began on a bipartisan footing Wednesday with the Democratic attorney general and lawmakers from both parties uniting behind a package of bills to reform civil asset forfeiture. The fact that police can sometimes seize property without charging — let alone a judge registering a conviction against — the person whose property is seized has long been a controversial issue in Michigan.The first bills introduced in the session that began Wednesday, House Bills 4001 and 4002, would require a criminal conviction before property with a value of less than $50,000 can be permanently seized through civil forfeiture. Laws would also be tightened for forfeiture of more valuable property.“Civil asset forfeiture reform will be our first bill because it is a strong, bipartisan reform that safeguards the rights of every single Michigan resident,” said newly elected House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.
New cattle barns and an unfinished milking facility, which were part of the Ohio prison farm system and brought to a close when Ohio Gov. John Kasich decided to sell the farms in 2016, were more costly than first realized. The state-owned farms were operated by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, along with the Ohio Penal Industries, and used inmate labor to produce food for the prisoners. A report by the Ohio Inspector Generalshows that the new facilities cost the state a little more than $13 million, compared to roughly $8.6 million spent on the buildings. The larger amount comes from interest, because the bonds were not paid off from the sale of prison farms.“None of the bond payments for the London and Marion barns were paid from these income sources — or from the Ohio Penal Industries budget,” according to the investigation. “Therefore, state of Ohio taxpayers will ultimately pay the estimated $13 million in principal and interest on the bonds issued for ODRC’s dairy improvement projects.”
A group of nine Democratic state lawmakers from different coastal states announced that they are going to use their coming legislative sessions to try to block attempts at offshore drilling. The lawmakers’ announcement came as new and re-elected legislators were entering office around the country after an election that saw high turnover in some states, and the group said it wants to take advantage of new political dynamics that could favor environmental bills. The announcement also came about a year after Trump’s administration announced plans to expand drilling.“We need to pass permanent legislation in our states so that this ban would be in place for the future,” New Hampshire Sen. Martha Fuller Clark said. “We can’t afford to rely on Washington to protect us.”Others lawmakers involved in the effort represent Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island. Some of the lawmakers said they would seek outright bans on drilling, while others said they would look to pass bills that restrict it or do more to hold companies liable for spills.
The small city of Storm Lake, Iowa, is full of surprises. Its population grows with each Census. Its public-school students speak 23 languages. It still has two newspapers, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize. Art Cullen shows the complexity of today’s rural America in the book Storm Lake.
Senate leader Tim Ashe challenged his colleagues on Wednesday to bring legislation to the table this session that will raise the standard of living for the “other Vermont,” those in rural areas or urban pockets struggling to get by. “I challenge each of you,” Ashe said upon being re-elected as the Senate president pro tem, “I challenge each committee you will serve on, and I challenge myself, to never let go of this one question, what can we do to improve life in the other Vermont?”
“That’s the thing about rural Kansas,” Corie Brown wrote. “No one lives there, not anymore.” The Los Angeles author’s assessment on rural Kansas in particular and Kansans in general was the outcome of an odyssey across the state for an online article published in April 2018. Its title, “Rural Kansas is Dying: I Drove 1,800 Miles to Find Out Why,” set the stage for her thesis.She interviewed farmers, university professors, politicians, local food system supporters and farm group leaders about the state’s rural population and community decline and what could be done to mitigate it. She found little hope in their responses.While many felt some of her conclusions were accurate, many who were interviewed felt disappointed that she did not place more emphasis on the efforts being made to address the problems and challenges rural communities and farmers face. They ended up feeling used, and none more so than Marci Penner, who had recommended many of the locations and people for the interview.After asking people to identify what makes their community livable, the answers largely centered on its people. “People are engaged in a community and the dedication to its quality of life,” Hendrickson said. “This has to be measured, but nobody measures it. We don’t have a happiness scale, though that might be more important than the gross domestic product.”