Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
It is too common a story line in farm country: The parents pass away, and the entire farm has to be sold to resolve inheritance disputes. In many states, when heirs can’t agree on how to split the property, one common option for a judge is to order a “partition by sale,” with the money then proportionally divided among them. 
But what if one of the family members would like to continue farming the land?
“Partition by sale” doesn’t account for this desire among some heirs — a concern that led Iowa legislators to pass SF 2175 this year. “It is a bill to save family farms,” Rep. Lee Hein says of the new law, which took effect in July.
CSG Midwest
Residents living in more than half of the nation’s counties have only one insurer to choose from on their state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange. This lack of options is most prevalent in rural areas: 41 percent of enrollees in non-metro counties vs. the overall rate of 21 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Could the creation of agricultural cooperative health plans help fill insurance gaps, offer more choices for consumers and lower costs?
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.
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.)

Pages