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SARL Members and Alumni News

VA:Tax credit benefits both farmers and food banks

Augusta Free Press | Posted on May 25, 2017

A new tax credit will benefit Virginia’s farmers and the food banks to which they donate. The Food Crops Donation Tax Credit was approved by the General Assembly last year. It allows Virginia farmers who donate edible food crops to a nonprofit food bank to receive up to a 30 percent tax credit for their donation.“This is a way for farmers and food banks to support one another and allow food bank patrons to access local foods,” noted Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist.“Sourcing food on the local level helps Virginia’s agriculture industry,” explained Leslie Van Horn, executive director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, which represents seven food banks and over 2,000 nonprofit food pantries and feeding programs. “It reduces food waste and provides an incentive to growers to donate produce. But, most importantly, it gives food-insecure individuals across the commonwealth access to food they need to thrive and prosper.”

California approves additional funds to fight HLB spread

Fresh Fruit Portal | Posted on May 25, 2017

The California State Assembly approved a bill this week that will allow the citrus industry to increase spending for activities related to halting the spread of citrus greening disease.  Additional funds will be provided to protect residential and commercial citrus trees from the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly plant disease it can carry, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB). The bill allows for an additional US$9.6 million in grower assessments to be spent by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA

Nevada passes energy bills incentivizing solar energy

Nevada Sun | Posted on May 25, 2017

The Assembly passed the measures Monday to incentivize customers to install solar energy storage systems, research possible targets for utility companies to procure energy storage systems, and make it easier for residents to put up windmills. Assembly members also agreed with a Senate amendment to a bill that supporters say will help save energy and lower bills for customers, sending that to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk as well.

Critics claim liability bill would banish GMOs from Oregon

Capital Press | Posted on May 25, 2017

A proposed bill imposing new financial liability on biotech patent holders in Oregon would effectively banish genetically engineered crops from the state, opponents claim.Under House Bill 2739, biotech patent holders would be liable for triple the economic damages caused by the unwanted presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.The bill is now before the House Rules Committee, which is considering an amendment clarifying when landowners can file lawsuits over GMOs on their property and the defenses available to patent holders, among other provisions.The amendment would also ensure that patent holders cannot transfer liability to farmers who cultivate GMOs, though they could transfer liability to seed companies.“It’s putting the onus on the producers and people who sell these crops rather that grow them,” said Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit that supports HB 2739.Critics of HB 2739 believe the underlying goal of the proposal is to stop production of GMOs in Oregon.

Alaska:New ‘cottage food’ rules could make it easier for people to get into the business

Alaska DIspatch Publishing | Posted on May 25, 2017

More jams, jellies and baked goods could end up in farmers markets if an ordinance to reduce permit fees for "cottage food" vendors passes the Anchorage Assembly.Those producers, who typically are small in scale and sell items like baked goods, jams, jellies and fermented food made in home kitchens, pay $310 under current municipal rules to operate. The ordinance, scheduled to be considered by the Assembly Tuesday, would lower the fee to $50.The change is part of an overhaul of the city's rules for retail foods made in homes, according to DeeAnn Fetko, deputy director of the city's Department of Health and Human Services. With farmers markets growing in popularity, some cottage food vendors have run into conflict with the high permit price and confusing rules over what they can and cannot sell.Cottage food vendors under both existing rules and the new rules can make foods in home kitchens if their yearly sales are less than $25,000 and they produce "low risk" foods that are unlikely to cause illness. Most other foods must be prepared in commercial kitchens.The state food code, which covers all areas outside of Anchorage, allows for small-scale vendors to sell without a permit. The city requires a permit for all food sales except vendors selling fresh whole fruits and vegetables.

States try to reduce food waste with new laws

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on May 24, 2017

To protect the environment, relieve hunger and save money, states are trying to reduce those numbers. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont already restrict the amount of food and other organic waste (such as soiled and compostable paper and yard waste) that can be dumped in landfills. Maryland, New Jersey and New York are considering similar laws.States are offering tax breaks to farmers and small businesses that donate food rather than throw it away, limiting the liability of food donors, and standardizing "use by" labels so consumers don't toss food that is still edible. New Jersey is considering an award to prompt people to come up with productive ideas for making use of "ugly produce," foods that are perfectly edible but shunned by retailers, processors and restaurants because of blemishes and other flaws.The issue also is attracting notice beyond state capitols. Some businesses are collecting farmers' imperfect produce and restaurant food that is on the verge of spoiling or has passed its "sell by" date and selling it to customers at a discount. Others have created apps that connect restaurants and stores that have surplus food to people who want it.The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, which represents the food industry and restaurant trade associations, recently worked with Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic to simplify and standardize "use by" and "sell by" labels, which befuddle many consumers. People throw away a lot of edible food because they misunderstand the difference between the two terms.

Ohio farmers given nutrient management tools

Farm and Dairy | Posted on May 24, 2017

The Ohio Department of Agriculture recently introduced two new nutrient management tools intended to help farmers track planting conditions, and conserve nutrients.The Ohio Applicator Forecast is a new online tool designed to help nutrient applicators identify times when the potential nutrient loss from a fertilizer or manure application is low.Secondly, the Ohio Agricultural Stewardship Verification Program is a pilot certification for farmers who protect farmland and natural resources by implementing best management practices on their farms.Both programs are voluntary. The Ohio Applicator Forecast takes data from the National Weather Service, predicting potential for runoff to occur in a given area. The forecast takes snow accumulation and melt, soil moisture content and forecast precipitation and temperatures into account, giving farmers timely information when they are making nutrient application decisions.The Ohio Agricultural Stewardship Verification Program will certify farmers in targeted watersheds in Henry and Wood counties who apply and meet criteria developed by ODA’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation.Criteria for the certification include developed nutrient management plans, accurate soil tests and documented best management practices, among others. The program will begin as a pilot with an intention to expand the program to all of Ohio.

Legislative efforts in Mo and TN leave broadband advocates hopeful

Daily Yonder | Posted on May 24, 2017

In Missouri, advocates quietly defeated another bill that would have created hurdles for municipal broadband providers. In Tennessee, a new law gives electric cooperatives the authority to go into the broadband business in their service areas.  Unlike battles occurring in Virginia and Tennessee between activists and large communication companies, the struggle in Missouri didn’t seem to attract a lot of attention. In fact, there seemed to be less local press coverage of groups attacking the bill this year compared with previous years, when similar proposals have been considered.Community broadband supporters are optimistic that Missouri’s governor inadvertently took the wind out of the sails of muni-network opponents for 2018. In April, Governor Eric Greitens announced that the state raised $45 million for broadband infrastructure, in large part thanks to an FCC E-Rate grant, part of the Universal Service Fund, which tries to make telecommunications services more affordable in hard-to-reach markets.

State milk regulators ask FDA to uphold dairy terminology

Feedstuffs | Posted on May 23, 2017


State milk regulators requested that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration work with them to enforce the proper use of milk and milk product labeling terms, especially those meant to distinguish between real dairy products and plant-based imitators – a development the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) hailed as “the strongest statement yet that the abuse of dairy terms has gone too far.”“It’s time for FDA to work with state agencies in defending standards of identity for dairy products,” said Beth Briczinski, NMPF vice president of dairy foods and nutrition.

Problems of rural Georgia easy to find, difficult to fix

Atlanta Journal Constitution | Posted on May 23, 2017

Whether it is the promise of industry that never materializes, the loss of existing factories and plants, or any of a number of other reasons, many of Georgia’s rural communities are suffering. The newest effort from state government to identify the challenges facing rural Georgia, and potential solutions, gets under way. The House Rural Development Council will have its first meeting. Its stated goal: “Work with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth.”in 2014, rural counties had just 22 percent of the state’s jobs, according to a landmark 2016 Georgia State University study called “Jobs in Georgia’s Urban and Rural Regions and Counties: Changes in Distribution, Type, and Quality from 2007 to 2014.”In it, authors Peter Bluestone and Mels de Zeeuw found that the Atlanta region and the state’s 13 “hub cities” saw 90 percent of all job growth from 2007 to 2014.The reasons are many. But a key is that urban areas were able to absorb the historical loss of manufacturing jobs by creating new service-industry positions. Rural Georgia simply lost jobs and never got them back. The state’s decision not to expand Medicaid precipitated the loss of rural hospitals, Bluestone said. The state has seen eight hospitals close in the past few years. All were in rural areas. The lack of broadband internet access is another.Automation and technology have killed manufacturing jobs as much as outsourcing and trade agreements have. Manufacturing output in the United States is actually higher than it was. There just aren’t as many humans needed to do it.By some accounts, the lack of jobs is not the problem. It’s the lack of trained and educated workers in some cases, Bluestone said.