Agriculture

Stateline Midwest ~ June 2013

Does your state’s recreational-liability statute protect landowners? Picture a group of schoolchildren visiting a farm. They ride horses, play games, climb tractors. A chaperone or parent gets hurt — as a result of no negligence on the landowner’s part. Is the landowner liable? That is both a real story and a question that recently faced the Iowa courts and the state legislature.

Before adjourning this year, Iowa lawmakers revamped the state’s recreational-liability statute to provide more clarity and protections for landowners.

Connecticut is the first state to pass a bill to mandate labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that does not require labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Countries that have restrictions or bans on genetically engineered foods include China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and the European Union.

Stateline Midwest ~ May 2013

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

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 made sweeping changes to how America ensures its food supply is safe. What remains to be seen is just how the Food and Drug Administration will enact those changes.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, represents the most significant revision of food safety laws in the United States in more than 70 years. The legislation carried with it new mandates for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including comprehensive, prevention-based approaches across all aspects of the food supply system.  Such a prevention-based approach will require food facilities to evaluate hazards in their operations and establish procedures to prevent contamination. The law also requires the FDA to establish safety standards for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables based on science. In addition to enhanced prevention and surveillance tools, the FDA will also have mandatory recall authority for all food products.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, represents the most significant revision of food safety laws in the United States in more than 70 years. The legislation carried with it new mandates for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including comprehensive, prevention-based approaches across all aspects of the food supply system.  Such a prevention-based approach will require food facilities to evaluate hazards in their operations and establish procedures to prevent contamination. The law also requires the FDA to establish safety standards for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables based on science. In addition to enhanced prevention and surveillance tools, the FDA will also have mandatory recall authority for all food products.

Every state has some agricultural production. Rhode Island with only 1,045 mi2 of land produced $62 million worth of agricultural products in 2011. When compared to California’s $43.5 billion in agricultural production it may not sound like much, but it is still an important part of their economy and the total U.S. economy. In 2011 net farm income nationwide reached an all-time high of more than $98 billion and U.S. farm exports totaled $137.4 billion, about 9% of all exports in 2011 were agricultural. Additionally, according to the USDA more than 23 million jobs, which comprise 17 percent of the civilian workforce, are involved in some facet of American agriculture.

Stateline Midwest ~ April 2013

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.

Stateline Midwest ~ February 2013

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.

Stateline Midwest ~ January 2013

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.

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