Agriculture

CSG Midwest
Myriad signs point to the need for better connecting farmers to services that help them deal with stress, depression and other mental health challenges. First, there is the history of the problem: In a study examining various industries between 1992 and 2010, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that farm operators and workers had the highest suicide rate.
Second, many rural U.S. communities struggle with shortages of mental health professionals: 65 percent don’t have a psychiatrist and 47 percent lack a psychologist, according to a 2018 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Third, many of today’s agricultural producers are dealing with high levels of stress, due to factors such as low commodity prices and decreased farm incomes.

By Tom Dowling and Leslie Haymon

On June 28, 2018, the Senate passed the Agricultural Improvement Act, its version of the Farm Bill, in a 86-to-11 vote with strong bipartisan support. Its passage paves the way for a conference committee to reconcile differences with the House’s version of the...

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR, is currently the most direct and readily available methodology to edit DNA. Scientists are using this technology to develop drought-resistant plants, plants that do not need as much sunlight, plants that grow normally when over watered, and other variations. Since the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, announced in April that it would no longer regulate genetically edited crops, it is likely that a CRISPR-edited crop will soon come to market.The USDA decision leaves only the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, as the overseeing agencies of current CRISPR regulations. The FDA announced a Request for Comment seeking public input on their regulation of intentionally altered genomic DNA in animals in January 2018. The EPA regulates CRISPR-based innovation that would affect microbiomes, insect health and pest extermination agents.

CSG Midwest
As a young man growing up in northern Indiana, Bob Kulp fell off a tractor and got run over by it, a nearly fatal accident. Now a state legislator in Wisconsin, Kulp is looking to get state support for grants that help avoid these and other types of tractor-related accidents (they are the leading cause of farm-related deaths; see pie chart).
Rollovers kill almost 100 farmers a year, according to the National Safety Council, while even more people are permanently disabled from these incidents. Under Kulp’s proposal (AB 827), state funding would go to cost-share programs that help farmers purchase and install rollover protections. These types of structures (roll bars or roll cages), plus use of a seat belt, are 99 percent effective in preventing injury in the event of a tractor overturn.
All tractors built since the mid-1980s have these structures, but about half of the tractors in use today were built before that time. According to Kulp, many farmers in his district, especially those with small operations, drive older tractors and plan to pass them on for use by the next generation of agriculture producers.
Six U.S. states, including Minnesota, already have grant programs to encourage the installation of rollover protection structures. Over the past two years, Minnesota legislators have appropriated $250,000 and $150,000, respectively, and also helped raise private funds. (According to the state Department of Agriculture, private funds have been contributed by ADM, AgCountry, AgriBank, AgStar, Cargill, CHS Inc., Land O’Lakes and United FCS.)
CSG South

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 2.3 percent nationally between 2016 and 2017. Economic growth was widespread, with 20 of 22 industry groups contributing to the increase. Despite this growth, the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector decreased 9.4 percent nationally – the culmination of five consecutive quarterly declines.

CSG Midwest
Iowa, the nation’s leading supplier of eggs, has become the latest U.S. state with a law that seeks to influence what consumers find on their local grocery shelves. Unlike recent measures in states such as California and Massachusetts, though, Iowa’s HF 2408 reflects support in the state for the production and sale of conventional eggs from caged hens.
Signed into law in March, the bill requires that grocers sell these eggs if they also offer “specialty” eggs (such as cage-free or free-range) and if they participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
CSG Midwest
Over the next 12 years, Iowa will commit an additional $282 million to water quality, the result of legislation passed early in 2018 after years of unsuccessful legislative initiatives in past sessions. Even with SF 512 now law, Rep. John Wills says, it still is only “the beginning of the conversation [on water quality], not the end” in Iowa.
The measure was passed along a party-line vote, with opponents expressing concern that the bill does not do enough to hold accountable those who receive dollars from the state — either through benchmark goals or the ongoing testing of waterways.
Sen. Kevin Kinney, too, originally opposed the bill and had sought changes by backing several amendments. But in the end, he voted in favor of SF 512 because “Iowans want resources to continue and expand water quality initiatives, and this is a first step that we can build on.”
No new tax dollars will be raised under SF 512. Instead, a mix of existing revenue sources will be used — for example, money from a tax on metered drinking water will gradually be diverted from the general fund, and, starting in 2021, some state gambling revenue will be used.
CSG Midwest
Wisconsin legislators have ended a decades-long prohibition on the cultivation of industrial hemp with the hope of opening new economic opportunities for the state’s farmers. Gov. Scott Walker signed SB 119 in November after it received unanimous support in the state House and Assembly.
CSG Midwest
Last year, 2.3 million people attended Iowa’s 105 volunteer-driven, youth-oriented county and regional fairs. That means a lot of people in close contact with farm animals — and, as a result, the chance for outbreaks of zoonotic disease. “I see fair officials doing due diligence to reduce the risk of visitors getting sick,” notes Iowa Sen. Dan Zumbach, who, like many farmers, has been a 4-H leader and is active on his county board.
But even if the proper precautions are taken (for example, proper handling of animal waste, posting signs and promoting hand washing among participants), outbreaks can and do happen, as evidenced by occurrences in the Midwest. According to the International Association of Fairs and Expos, county fairs in Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin have had known cases of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks since 2000.
One concern of Zumbach’s has been the legal liability of county fairs when these incidences occur. His response: Last year’s introduction of SF 362, which received near-unanimous approval in the Legislature.
Now a new state law, the measure explicitly states that no fair authority in Iowa (state, local or regional) is liable for injuries or deaths “caused by a domesticated animal pathogen transmitted at a domesticated animal premises located on its fairgrounds.”
CSG Midwest
Six states in the Midwest are part of a new legal effort to end laws in Massachusetts and California that regulate the housing of hens, calves and pigs in agricultural operations. Two separate lawsuits were filed directly with the U.S. Supreme Court in December. Indiana is leading the multi-state complaint against the Massachusetts law, which bans the sale of egg, pork and veal from farms (inside or outside the state) that don’t meet certain animal-confinement standards. These rules were established by Massachusetts voters in 2016 via a ballot referendum.

Pages