In mid-November the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply for the first time, potentially dealing a major setback to the ethanol industry.
The change would require almost 3 billion fewer gallons of biofuels — mainly ethanol — to be blended into gasoline in 2014 than under the current federal mandate. The proposal comes at a time when domestic oil production has exceeded oil imports for the first time in years, and when falling motor fuel demand has made ethanol an unexpectedly large part of the total fuel supply.
With the goals of protecting water quality and providing regulatory certainty to farmers, voluntary state programs that certify land-management practices at agricultural operations are cropping up across the country. Minnesota is one of the latest states to adopt such a program, and is backing it up with state dollars to help farmers adopt new conservation practices.
The Midwestern Legislative Conference and The Council of State Governments were represented at a recent meeting of the White House Rural Council in Washington, D.C. Formed in June by presidential executive order, the council is being led by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and is focusing on how the federal government can help foster economic growth in rural areas.
The dairy industry is an important economic engine for many communities in the Midwest, as reflected by recent actions taken in Wisconsin and regional interest in the future policy direction of the federal government.
Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are the three Midwestern states in which hunting is a constitutional right. Indiana might eventually become the fourth now that legislation has been passed that begins the multi-year process of putting the issue before voters as a proposed constitutional amendment.
This year, Iowa and Minnesota have received national attention for legislation that aims to protect the animal agriculture industry — namely from what proponents say are unfair, misleading attacks from animal-abuse whistle-blowers.
The final regulations for a program that will allow the interstate sale of state-inspected meat do little to address some of the concerns raised by state lawmakers when the preliminary rules were first released in 2009.
A voluntary program that helps Michigan farmers ensure that they are complying with environmental regulations and implementing soil- and water-conservation measures has become one of the state’s newest laws.