For former Rep. Annette Sweeney, a third-generation farmer from Iowa, the goal of a contentious measure she introduced and helped pass last year was plain — protect agriculture producers from the unfair practices of outsiders.
As the result of passage of HF 589, it is now a crime in Iowa to seek work in agricultural facilities under false pretenses. The law seeks to crack down on those who have sought such employment in order to investigate conditions and uncover cases of animal abuse.
“Farmers try very hard to raise animals using the very best of science and husbandry,” Sweeney says, “and then people with a vegan agenda come in and destroy generations of hard work.”
That is one perspective.
Others have dubbed Iowa’s measure, as well as proposals introduced this year in states such as Indiana and Nebraska, “ag gag” legislation, unfair and potentially unconstitutional attempts to target whistleblowers and shield animal abuse at large production facilities
State finance programs, tax credits aim to help beginning farmers with high costs of entering the businessBy Carolyn Orr | Friday, April 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm
For young people, the high cost of getting into farming can be a daunting business proposition. The cost of farmland continues to rise (up more than 20 percent year-over-year in the Midwest), as do expenses related to everything from equipment and fuel to feed and fertilizer.
Such obstacles are often cited as one reason for the aging population of farmers. Between 1982 and 2007, federal data show, the average age rose from 50 to 58, while the percentage of principal farm operators with less than 10 years of experience fell 42 percent.
In the Midwest, varying types of financial-assistance programs are used to help a new generation of agricultural producers get started, and some lawmakers (due in part to current market and demographic trends) have been looking at ways to expand these initiatives.
After much consternation about how to improve the nation’s system for tracing animal movements in the case of an infectious-disease outbreak, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has settled on a set of final rules that leaves much flexibility and work to the states.
One sign that the economy continues on a path to recovery is the continuing decline in unemployment rates since 2010.
But in some parts of the rural Midwest, rates never hit high levels even during the depths of the recession. Instead, another question about the labor force is being asked: Why is it dwindling, and what can be done to bring workers back?
First-of-its-kind ‘right to farm’ law now part of North Dakota Constitution; new animal cruelty law now being considered in wake of defeat of November ballot measureBy Carolyn Orr | Friday, January 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm
Most recent state ballot initiatives have not been welcomed by traditional production agriculture and its legislative supporters.
Among the results have been new laws (in Arizona, California and Florida) banning the use of crates for gestation housing for sows. Other initiatives have prohibited the processing of horses for food, instituted regulations on dog breeding, and restricted hunting.
In all, the Humane Society of the United States has a 72 percent success rate on 42 ballot initiatives since 1990. But North Dakotans bucked that trend in 2012, rejecting a HSUS initiative while also approving a first-of-its-kind constitutional right for farmers to conduct “modern agriculture” operations.
What is the economic impact of a single dairy cow? An analysis by South Dakota State University put it at $14,000, and in Nebraska, the state estimates that a 2,000-cow dairy operation generates 20 jobs and pays more than $200,000 in property taxes.
Animal agriculture is big business in the Midwest, and in recent years, states such as Nebraska and South Dakota have begun new initiatives to encourage its expansion.
Farm bill expiration hits dairy farmers first, but congressional inaction will also impact consumers and other agriculture producersBy Carolyn Orr | Friday, November 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm
The 2008 farm bill officially expired on Sept. 30, a congressional inaction that has left plans for 2013 crop production in limbo while also costing dairy farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars and leaving consumers with the prospects of much higher milk prices starting next year.
It is the single largest source of revenue raised by local governments (two-thirds of the total), and the single largest tax paid by farmers (44 percent of the total). The property tax is the lifeblood of rural schools and other critical public services, but can also be a burden on agricultural producers: Across the United States, the equivalent of one-fifth of the gross sales produced by farmland is paid in property taxes each year.
Such costs can impact the stability of many farms, particularly in a period of income shortfall such as the one encountered by some farmers in the Midwest during the drought of 2012. State legislators are ultimately responsible for finding the balance that works, an agricultural taxation formula that sustains both rural communities and their farmers.
When the Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee met in July, much of the discussion — and ultimately the passing of a resolution — focused on the importance of basing policy decisions on sound scientific data.
Nebraska Sen. Kate Sullivan says agriculture is not only her state’s largest industry, it may also be one of the least understood.