Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
With one glance at the most recent U.S. rankings on solar energy, it becomes clear the Midwest has a long way to go if it wants to catch up to other regions on the use of this renewable source. Only Minnesota and Indiana placed in the top half of states as of 2017. But in a third Midwestern state, Illinois, big changes appear on the horizon, with landowners and county governments alike showing interest in making solar a new “cash crop” — whether it be on farmland, brownfields or even publicly owned property.
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 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
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that real gross domestic product increased 2.3 percent nationally between 2016 and 2017, but agriculture subtracted from overall economic growth in every state in the Midwest — most notably Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
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.

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