North Carolina's only farmworker union is challenging a law limiting organized labor's activities in and around the state's vegetable and tobacco fields and other agricultural operations. Their lawsuit filed Wednesday called the restrictions unconstitutional and discriminatory.A last-minute House amendment inserted into the General Assembly's annual farm law last summer prohibits farming operations from collecting union dues from workers. It also blocks any future legal settlements requiring a farm to enter into a collective bargaining agreement.
With current shortages of health care professionals in rural Pennsylvania, community health workers have the potential to play a significant role in the delivery of rural health services, according to research out of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. Currently, there is no single definition of a community health worker (CHW). However, the research used the definition from the Human Resources and Services Administration’s Community Health Workers National Workforce Study, which defines CHWs as lay members of communities who work or volunteer with local physical health and/or mental health care systems and usually share ethnicity, language, socio-economic status, and life experience with the community members they serve. According to the CHW survey, 91 percent of CHWs are female, with an average age of about 48. CHWs have worked or volunteered in the field for 9 years, on average, with 76 percent of the respondents being paid workers. The educational background of CHWs varied, and ranged from a high school education to a college degree.Twenty percent of CHWs earn between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. It was evident from the focus groups and leadership phone interviews that low pay, high turnover, and lack of adequate funding were significant issues for many agencies.According to the CHW survey, 89 percent of respondents received some type of training to be a CHW. It was evident from the leadership interviews and focus groups that there was a variety of training opportunities being offered to CHWs, depending on the work setting and whether they were volunteer or paid workers. On-the-job training, conference training, certificate programs, shadowing, and formal education were the predominant types of training.
The EIR outlines potential significant environmental impacts associated with the adoption and implementation of statewide cannabis cultivation licensing regulations and provides mitigation measures to reduce those impacts to less than significant. CDFA is developing regulations for statewide cannabis cultivation licensing, as well as a track-and-trace system. This system will record the movement of cannabis and cannabis products through the supply chain, from cultivation to sale.
On Monday, state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding presided over the first meeting of the reconstituted Rural Development Council on behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor is re-establishing the council to give rural Pennsylvanians a louder voice in state government and to better coordinate state programs for rural communities.“Pennsylvania has nearly 3.4 million Pennsylvanians living in rural areas, spread throughout 66 of our 67 counties,” said Redding, who will chair the council.“This council will help ensure rural Pennsylvania voices are heard as we work together across sectors to solve problems and develop strategies designed to grow our rural communities and ensure they are vibrant places to call home,” he said.The council consists of leaders from public, private and nonprofit sectors across the state.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) wants to remind producers and livestock owners about upcoming changes to Ohio’s livestock care standards. Effective January 1, 2018, veal calves must be housed in group pens by ten weeks of age. Additionally, whether housed in individual stalls or group pens the calves must be allowed to turn around and cannot be tethered. Also effective January 1, tail docking on dairy cattle can only be performed by a licensed veterinarian and if only medically necessary.
The idea of a farmer health-care cooperative had been kicked around in Minnesota since 2009 but had faced multiple regulatory stumbling blocks. At the end of last year, Minnesota farmers complained to state lawmakers that the insurance exchange was collapsing down to one insurance option across much of the exchange and as many as seven counties in the state were looking at no insurance option. Minnesota lawmakers passed legislation last spring specifically allowing farmers and their employees to form a health-care cooperative. "It will fill a need in the individual marketplace for the people who have gotten hammered by the premium increases," said Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. "This is where all the farmers fall, and this is an attempt to correct that." The cooperative, called 40 Square, is a self-insurance plan that operates like most insurance policies with a deductible, copays and a percentage of out-of-pocket costs. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are waived for routine preventive care, and there are standard costs for prescription drugs. A summary of 40 Square plans offers annual deductible options for families from $3,000 to $13,100 in different plans.To sign up for 40 Square, a Minnesotan has to farm and have at least one common-law employee -- a person who receives a W-2 for working on the farm. If the insurance is attractive, a farmer who is a sole proprietor might consider working with an accountant to provide a seasonal contractor, or relative, with wages and taxes withheld to issue a W-2 rather than treat that person as an independent contractor with a 1099 form."If your spouse does the books and you issue him or her a W-2, you can consider the farm an employer with a common-law employee," said Charlene Vrieze, project manager for 40 Square.Farmers require an employee because the cooperative is regulated under a Department of Labor regulation dealing with employer-employee benefits.Farmers also purchase stock to join the cooperative, which amounts to a $100 voting share stock and a $1,000 common stock, which will be paid throughout the first 12 months of membership in 40 Square. The cooperative also requires farmers to offer 40 Square insurance to employees for at least three years.
The new Pennsylvania state law could make pet owners felons if they mistreat or neglect dogs and other pets — that includes leaving them outside in the cold for too long. As it pertains to cold weather, dogs may not spend more than nine hours tethered in a 24-hour period. The maximum time limit dogs can be left outside when temperatures are below freezing is 30 minutes.
Beleaguered dairy farmers could be getting more money from the state to offset losses from souring milk sales.A bipartisan proposal gaining traction on Beacon Hill would double the state’s dairy farm tax credit to $8 million, which supporters say would prevent more farms from going bust. The measure, which was cleared two weeks ago by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee, has support from dozens of lawmakers.“Dairy farms are struggling,” said Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, who supports expanding the tax credit. “We need to do whatever we can to help them persevere.”Hill, whose district includes Herrick Farm in Rowley, the last commercial dairy farm in Essex County, said expanding the credit is vital to preserving a dwindling number of farms in the north of Boston region and statewide.“These dairy farms are part of the fabric of our communities,” he said. “And people need to understand that if we don’t have farms, we don’t eat.”Massachusetts has lost a number of dairy farms and is down to about 160. That compared to more than 800 three decades ago, according to agriculture officials.While there are smaller dairy operations that bottle their own milk and make ice cream, cheese and other products, such as Richardson’s Dairy in Middleton, large-scale operations that provide milk for the regional market are rapidly disappearing from the landscape, dairy farmers say.
Dr. Keven Folta is an international advocate for biotechnology in agriculture. He is a scientist and educator who has been outspoken about the safety and benefits of genetic engineering and, as a result, has become a target for those who oppose this technology. Folta maintains that, for the most part, we, in agriculture, have been going about it all wrong. He notes that most who try to defend biotechnology always lead with the facts and the science. He says most consumers don’t want to hear the facts and don’t trust the science. He observed that opponents of GE food use emotion and, for anyone besides a scientist, emotion will always trump the facts.Another suggestion Folta makes is to choose your battles. Arguing with an activist whose organization exists because of their opposition to biotechnology is not worth the time. They will never accept your position because, if they did, they would lose their job or at least their social standing. Face it folks — we are never going to convince everyone. Focus on those who are willing to listen and who do not have a vested interest in opposing biotechnology.
Gov. Scott Walker has appointed Republican state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.The appointment announced Friday makes Harsdorf the first woman to lead the agency. She will replace Ben Brancel, who retired in August.Harsdorf, of River Falls, is resigning her northwestern Wisconsin state Senate seat Friday and beginning the new job Monday. Walker is expected to call a special election to fill her seat for the same date as two others for vacancies in the state Assembly.