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Amazon wants to use a drone to deliver your new jacket, and a beer company thinks unmanned aircraft systems are perfect for deliveries to remote Minnesota lakes. But at the same time, hunters and anglers in downstate Illinois are concerned that animal-rights activists will use drones with cameras to interfere with their sport.
Drones are still most known for their use by the U.S. military, but they are beginning to get more attention from state legislators and others who set domestic policy.
The recent activity in Illinois is a case in point.
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In a case involving management of a watershed hundreds of miles east of his state’s border, and that will be decided by a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has taken much more than a passing interest.
He is leading a coalition of states that have filed an amicus brief asking the federal court to reject the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to require states in the Chesapeake Bay region to develop processes to reduce nutrient runoff (nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment).
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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.

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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.

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.