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.

Stateline Midwest ~ December 2012

What is the economic impact of a single dairy cow? An analysis by South Dakota State University put it at $14,000, and in Nebraska, the state estimates that a 2,000-cow dairy operation generates 20 jobs and pays more than $200,000 in property taxes.

Animal agriculture is big business in the Midwest, and in recent years, states such as Nebraska and South Dakota have begun new initiatives to encourage its expansion.

This Act generally permits farmers and certain other customers who use solar electric generating equipment, farm waste electric generating equipment, or wind electric generating equipment, to designate all or a portion of the net metering credits generated by such equipment to meters at any property their own or lease within the service territory of the same electric corporation to which their net energy meters are interconnected.

On November 19, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad released a nearly 200 page report calling for reductions in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus found in fertilizer run-off from agriculture operations and wastewater treatment plants. The report, nearly two years in the making, came as a result of a 2008 EPA directive called the Hypoxia Action Plan which outlined a strategy for 12 states in the Mississippi River watershed to reduce discharges of nutrients that contributed to the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico - an oxygen deprived area that causes algae blooms and fish kills.

CSG Midwest ~ Question of the Month 

Question: What are states doing, or can they do, to promote urban agriculture?

AnswerAccording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 15 percent of the world’s food is grown in urban areas. And there was a time in U.S. history, too, when the country came to rely on local production. During World War II, millions of Americans planted fruit and vegetable “victory gardens” at private residences.

These gardens reportedly grew 40 percent of the nation’s produce by the war’s end.
Today, a mix of factors — food insecurity, the rise in blighted and vacant land in urban areas, and concerns about environmental sustainability, for example — has renewed interest in promoting such activity in this country.

Stateline MIdwest ~ November 2012

The 2008 farm bill officially expired on Sept. 30, a congressional inaction that has left plans for 2013 crop production in limbo while also costing dairy farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars and leaving  consumers with the prospects of much higher milk prices starting next year.

Stateline Midwest ~ October 2012

State-by-state overview of state farmland taxation laws and formulas »

It is the single largest source of revenue raised by local governments (two-thirds of the total), and the single largest tax paid by farmers (44 percent of the total). The property tax is the lifeblood of rural schools and other critical public services, but can also be a burden on agricultural producers: Across the United States, the equivalent of one-fifth of the gross sales produced by farmland is paid in property taxes each year. 

Such costs can impact the stability of many farms, particularly in a period of income shortfall such as the one encountered by some farmers in the Midwest during the drought of 2012. State legislators are ultimately responsible for finding the balance that works, an agricultural taxation formula that sustains both rural communities and their farmers.