Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

TRENDS and FORECAST REPORTS: THE 2014 CRYSTAL BALLS

January 23, 2014

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

What do you think of when you hear the word, TRENDS?

A series of actions that form a predictive pathway to future actions?

A great tool for state and local government relations professionals?

Yes.

Major events like hurricanes, man-made disasters, high profile institutional melt downs, unusual crimes or new technologies usually inspire lawmakers and provoke a flurry of new legislation or executive actions. But, those types of events are just the more obvious examples of what sparks or sustains trends.

Much of what “trends” in terms of state issues builds up over time and reflects a convergence of government obligations and citizen engagement–with some media attention thrown in.

Given that Stateside deals with all 50 states, we also strive to recognize trends, understand their origins and determine how to exploit or withstand their impact.

Recently, we gathered several trend and forecast reports produced by the Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures and Governing magazine. We thought that these three would be broad in their perspective and embrace the widest array of hot state issues. And, we were not disappointed–especially when Governing chose to include IMMIGRATION among its Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2014 but left out the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

NCSL was the only one to include GUNS on its list. And, CSG reached out to highlight NET METERING, which the others did not address.

Were they not all looking at the same 50 state legislatures and Governors?

As you will see below, just three issues were specifically mentioned by all three organizations: Medicaid, Hydraulic Fracturing and Transportation Funding. Of course, some issue categories can be presumed to embrace more than is specifically mentioned. For example, NCSL’s Big Data description does not include Privacy, but references issues of personal control.

ISSUE CSG GOVERNING NCSL
Affordable Solar Energy x
Autonomous Vehicles x x
Big Data x
Brain Research x
Cloud Computing (taxes) x
Common Core x x
Distracted Driving x
Drones x x
Education Quality x
Electronic Cigarettes x
Guns x
Health Insurance Exchanges x x
Higher Education Cost x x
Hydraulic Fracturing x x x
Immigration x
Juvenile Justice x
Medicaid x x x
Minimum Wage x x
MOOCs* x x
Net Metering x
Privacy x
Public Pensions x
The Sharing Economy x
Tax Reform/Revision x x
Teacher Quality x
Transportation Funding x x x
Voter Registration/High Tech Voting x
Water x

*Massive Open Online Courses

While not unanimous in their perspectives, these reports help us look outside our own issue priorities and appreciate the great diversity of issues and pressures faced by state lawmakers.

The best way to use these types of forecasts is to read as many as you can find. Each organization is going to imbue its forecast with some hopeful thinking, so you can learn a lot from scanning and taking note of the unique issues in each report.

And, for a slightly different perspective, PEW published this look at new laws taking effect in 2014, which address several of the “trend” issues featured elsewhere.

What other “hot issues” do you think should have earned spots on these lists?

***

Constance Campanella is the Founder, President and CEO of Stateside Associates. A veteran of 30 years of state and federal issue management experience, Ms. Campanella managed Stateside’s growth from a one-person firm to what one trade publication has called, “a behemoth in state lobbying.”

WHAT’S IN THE WATER? State Agriculture Officials Look at Innovation, not Regulation, to Protect Water Quality

February 7, 2013

By Stateside Associates

At this week’s National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Winter Policy Conference, water policy issues took center stage among environmental concerns impacting the sector. While NASDA is no stranger to water quality – a long-standing priority for farmers and regulators alike – what stood out at this meeting was the focus on innovative policies that minimize regulatory challenges and enhance water quality.

In particular, discussion focused on voluntary approaches to water quality protection. While many aspects of today’s farms are regulated by the Clean Water Act as “point sources,” runoff from fields and pastures generally falls outside this definition. To help address this issue, states have been looking at ways to promote the use of voluntary Best Management Practices (BMPs) for agricultural lands. While the BMP concept itself is not new, some states are incentivizing participation in BMP programs by coupling participation with a presumption of compliance with state water quality requirements. States following this approach reported that farmers are embracing the concept because of the certainty the program creates. Some of the BMPs available include multi-cropping, new tillage practices and the use of advanced technologies to “right size” fertilizer application.

Building on this concept, some states reported they are also exploring the use of voluntary contracts between the landowner and state to provide even longer term certainty, so long as applicable BMP requirements are met.

Yet, while innovative programs are underway in some states, regulatory challenges remain. In particular, meeting attendees discussed U.S. EPA’s May 2013 deadline to comply with a new Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirement for farms. This requirement, which calls for certain farms with above or below ground oil or oil product tanks to prepare SPCC plans, has raised questions about the exact reach of the rule. In particular, the rule requires a plan from farms that could “reasonably be expected to discharge oil to navigable waters of the US or adjoining shorelines, such as lakes, rivers and streams.” While some guidance is provided regarding what this means, questions remains over exactly which farms are covered. At the meeting, NASDA members indicated an interest in seeing rule implementation delayed to allow time to address these issues.

These were just a few of the environmental topics taken up at the meeting, but they illustrate the work being undertaken by state officials to meet increasing global food demands in an environmentally responsible manner.

NASDA will next meet in September at its Annual Meeting in Asheville, North Carolina.

To view a complete list of Groups that have upcoming events visit http://www.stateside.com/groups/groups-schedule-by-organization/.

From Apples to Exports: State Agriculture Officials Convene To Address Industry Opportunities and Challenges

September 27, 2012

By Stateside Associates

The heads of more than 40 state agriculture departments convened in Des Moines, Iowa last week to discuss the state of the industry at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Annual Meeting. The meeting provided a venue for discussion on recent achievements and challenges in state farm policy as well as the adoption of new policy priorities for the upcoming year.

It has been a year of highs- high costs and temperature that is- for the Agriculture sector. In particular, strong export demand and the Midwest drought have fueled price increases for commodities like corn and soybeans. While good news for some, these prices are also driving up costs on a range of products—from biofuels to consumer food items- and are impacting the bottom line of many farmers. Depending on the crop or product in question, this could be a year of boom or bust.

Adding to this divide is a lack of certainty around future federal Agricultural policy. With a new Farm Bill in the works but far from completion, state officials are faced with another stopgap continuing resolution and an uncertain future for many federal farm programs. The need for a new Farm Bill was stressed throughout the meeting and culminated in the NASDA membership adopting an action item urging the passage of a 5-year Farm Bill as soon as possible. Of particular concern to meeting attendees was the sentiment that Agriculture programs are a likely target for large federal spending reductions.

Beyond federal policy, this year’s meeting covered the other major issues facing the Agriculture sector including drought, water quality, and biofuel production. All three topics highlighted a common theme—America’s farmers are being relied upon to produce more food, fiber and fuel with less government support and increased regulatory requirements. With regards to regulation, finding the right balance between state and federal oversight was another theme heard throughout the meeting.

Some of these concerns made their way into NASDA policy at the meeting. Adopted by the NASDA membership, the following issues will be part of the NASDA organization’s priorities as it communicates with Congress over the coming year:

  • Border Security and Labor Workforce Reform
  • State Management of Invasive Species
  • Water Quality Permitting
  • School Lunch Programs
  • The Dairy Security Act

In addition to official policy positions, the NASDA membership also spent time discussing a number of other issues impacting the states including:

  • The role of corn in ethanol and food production
  • The increasing importance of agricultural exports
  • Increasing public interest in GMO labeling and Biotechnology
  • Advances in agricultural practices to address nutrient runoff

NASDA leadership also changed at the 2012 meeting with outgoing president Bill Northey, Secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship handing the gavel to Commissioner Steve Troxler of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Commissioner Troxler will host the 2013 NASDA Annual Meeting next September in Asheville, North Carolina. During his term, the Commissioner will guide NASDA efforts to ensure the issues addressed at the Annual Meeting are raised to policy makers in Washington, D.C. As a next step in this process, NASDA will reconvene in February in the Washington, D.C. area for its Winter Policy Conference.