Arizona Passes Bill Legalizing Industrial Hemp Production

Arizona makes a bold move that lays the foundation for the federal legalization of industrial hemp growth.  On February 23, 2017, Senate Bill 1337 was passed. The bill language states that the “director may not prohibit or adopt a rule that prohibits a person from growing industrial hemp based on the legal status of industrial hemp under federal law.”

Arizona joins several other states, including Vermont, California, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts, in this push to grow and reap the economic benefits of commercialized hemp. Interesting to note that a 2005 Congressional Report  found that the United States is the sole developed nation that has not developed industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity for food, bio-fuel, cosmetics, plastics, and more – an industry with a potential earning of $600 million or more.

State Blocks Northern Wisconsin County Regulation on Animal Feedlot Pollution

As an anecdotal aside, Wisconsin has notoriously had higher standards when it comes to care and quality of animal byproducts – in particular when it comes to dairy farming. Wisconsin has been fairly resistant to the animal feedlot / massive factory farming movement and has done so by controlling things like antibiotic use, square footage available per animal, etc.  That’s why this news from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is especially shocking.

Pursuant to a statute allowing local Wisconsin governments to create water quality standards and regulations that are more strict than existing state law, Bayfield County passed a one year moratorium in February 2015 on large scale, factory farms to block an Iowa based company from creating a 24,000-26,000 head hog farm (a controlled animal feeding operation, or “CAFO”).  At the expiration of the moratorium, Bayfield County then passed two ordinances in February 2016 that gave the County massive oversight of farm operations and water pollution.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources blocked these ordinances, essentially siting that they were not tailored enough to the actual water pollution problems in the watersheds of the County.

Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Feral Swine Act

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed SB1142 ((final version link)), the Feral Swine Control Act, on May 20, 2016.  The proposed bill allows the hunting of all wild hogs without a hunting license. Additionally, the following, often regulated or prohibited activities, would also be allowed when for hunting wild hogs, also without a hunting license: use of ATVs or other land vehicles to pursue or follow ferile swin; use a vehicle mounted spotlight; and use night-vision equipment or thermal-imaging technology.

Feral swine are deemed invasive species by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS for a more manageable name) and “cause cause damage to agricultural crops and livestock and threaten native wildlife and habitats” with its income impact estimate alone at $2 billion. SB1142 seeks protect Oklahoma’s agribusiness and natural lands.

Source: AmericanHunger.org

Opponents of the bill note that it would make it exponentially easier for poachers and exponentially harder for game wardens to effectively do their jobs in keeping the wildlife ecosystem in Oklahoma in balance and preventing illegal poaching. License free hunting on public land also creates a public safety issue. Moreover, there is nothing to show that hog hunting actually reduces the feral swing population and USDA research shows that controlled hog trapping, done by game management specialists, is the most effective population control system (source).

Personal opinion: this all really highlights the tedious balance of wildlife population control.

Brochure reading material from USDA APHIS on feral swine in the US

South Carolina Governor Vetoes $40 million Farm Aid Bill

In a controversial move, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed a widely supported bill that would give farmers $40 million in aid after a massive two foot/12 hour rainfall in October.

South Carolina National Guard flood response

A levee breach at the Columbia Riverfront Canal, Columbia, S.C., during a statewide flood Oct. 5, 2015. The South Carolina National Guard has been activated to support state and county emergency management agencies and local first responders as historic flooding impacts counties statewide. Currently, more than 1,100 South Carolina National Guard members have been activated in response to the floods. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released)

Read more here.

Ohio Senate Bill 75 Seeks to Protect and Promote Agritourism

Ohio is looking to pass Senate Bill 75 which will amend current agritourism laws to provide landowners additional protection from lawsuits. Agritourism can include, for example, you-pick orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and petting zoos.  In the United States, incomcorn-mazee from agritourism has increased by 40% from 2007 to 2012. In an attempt to promote this economic benefit to Ohio, Senate Bill 75 protects landowners from costly lawsuits if patrons get injured from “inherent risks” of agritourism. A good example of this is a corn maze having naturally occurring dips or puddles or a petting zoo goat biting a patron. If you live in Ohio, you can contact your Senator here to express any support or concerns.