Capitol Comments

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 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.
CSG Midwest
A fiber optic connection is considered the “gold standard” for quality, high-speed Internet access, and in the Midwest, it’s in pretty short supply.
Except in North Dakota.
In the region’s most sparsely populated state, 60 percent of the households, including those on farms in far-flung areas, have fiber. (That compares to 24 percent in the Midwest, where most of the existing fiber networks serve urban areas.) In all, North Dakota ranks fifth in the nation in fiber access.This is amazing enough, considering many of the obstacles typically cited as responsible for the dearth of high-speed technologies in rural parts of the Midwest — for example, the high costs of serving low-density areas.
But the story of North Dakota’s prominence in fiber access is also a testament to entrepreneurship in the nation’s heartland, and perhaps a model for the rest of the Midwest.

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