Agriculture

CSG Midwest
The majority of Midwestern states determine farm property taxes through a system that assesses the land based on “use value” — how much income it can generate from agricultural production. One of the few exceptions is Nebraska, where a percentage of the land’s actual market value (currently set at 75 percent in statute) is used to determine what a farmer or rancher will pay in taxes. 
With the value of agricultural land rising rapidly in recent years (see table), Nebraska’s agricultural producers have faced big increases in their tax bills, and over the past two years alone, the state’s legislators have intervened by putting more than $400 million into a Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, which for 2016 will provide $89.57 per $100,000 of property valuation. Beginning in tax year 2017, LB 958 provides $20 million in additional funding for property tax relief. 
This legislative year, Sen. Lydia Brasch hopes she and other Nebraska legislators are able to find a more permanent solution. 

The 2017 Grazing Fee was released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the end of January, and went into effect on March 1. The federal grazing fee is now $1.87 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered and managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The new fee is down 11% from last year’s $2.11 AUM.

CSG Midwest
Indiana Sen. Jean Leising knows it’s going to be another tough year for beef and hog producers, and 2016’s record national yields for corn and soybeans indicate that farm profitability will decline for the third straight year.  But she says a statutory revision made by the state legislature last year might at least help ease the pain for agricultural producers when it comes to paying their property taxes. 
CSG Midwest
The siting of large livestock facilities continues to be a contentious issue across the Midwest, with some states such as Wisconsin preempting local authority and setting statewide standards. But Nebraska has kept local control over the rules determining decisions on new or expanded operations. Thirteen years ago, with an eye toward supporting the industry but not stripping away local zoning authority, the Nebraska Legislature gave counties across the state the chance to be designated as “livestock friendly.”
Today, nearly half of Nebraska’s counties (41 of 92) have sought and received the designation. According to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study, cattle operations in the state’s livestock-friendly counties expanded by 12 percent from 2002 to 2012. Over that same period, the growth rate for other counties was 8 percent. And although the number of hog farms dropped in most Nebraska counties between 2002 and 2012, the decline was much less severe in livestock-friendly counties: 16 percent vs. 62 percent.
CSG South

The impasse in U.S.-Cuba relations has spanned 10 U.S. presidents, a failed invasion attempt, a nuclear missile crisis and witnessed countless asylum seekers. The tumultuous relationship, which has its roots in the Cold War, is characterized by a dual-pronged U.S. policy emphasizing economic and diplomatic isolation of the island nation.

Despite ongoing economic sanctions, the United States has emerged as a major exporter of agricultural goods to Cuba, which imports up to 80 percent of its food. Given Cuba's geographic and economic position, states in the Southern region of the United States have competitive export advantages in terms of production, quality, logistics and proximity. This SLC Regional Resource examines existing and future agricultural export opportunities for member states in the Southern Legislative Conference.

CSG Midwest
Between 2003 and 2009, a string of high-profile foodborne illnesses hit consumers across the United  States. There were salmonella outbreaks from produce, hepatitis A infections from raw or undercooked green onions, and cases of pet foods contaminated with melamine. And nine people died and more than 700 got sick from eating salmonella-tainted peanut butter traced back to a single processing plant in Georgia.
In the wake of these deaths and illnesses, federal food-safety legislation that had been many decades in the making finally got signed into law.
CSG Midwest

Could the Great Lakes be used even more to satisfy the U.S. demand for seafood? There is no question that U.S. consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. In addition to the production of $9 billion worth of edible fish in 2015, we imported more than $20 billion worth. And as a result of decades of overfishing, natural fisheries cannot meet global demand — about half of all seafood is farmed fish from China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. 

In Michigan, state agencies have received concept proposals to establish privately owned net-pen operations (where fish are raised in an underwater net) in the Great Lakes. And various bills were introduced this year to modify state law on aquaculture.

CSG Midwest
Inspired by some of the farmer-led projects being done in neighboring Iowa and looking for new ways to improve water quality, legislators in Wisconsin are providing financial assistance to groups of agricultural producers that collaborate on new conservation initiatives. The Producer Led Watershed Protection Grants Program was included in the state’s current budget (adopted in 2015), which provides $250,000 annually, with individual grants capped at $20,000. Participating producers must provide a 1:1 funding match.

On July 29, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 764, a bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, which includes a provision to create a federal labeling standard for foods with genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, and preempts any state laws. The legislation, also known as the Roberts-Stabenow bill, passed the House of Representatives 306-117 and Senate 63-30 earlier this month.

On July 29, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 764, a bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, which includes a provision to create a federal labeling standard for foods with genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, and preempts any state laws. The legislation, also known as the Roberts-Stabenow bill, passed the House of Representatives 306-117 and Senate 63-30 earlier this month.

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