A scaled-down version of the Farm Bill passed the US House Thursday, and Tennessee’s Congressional delegation voted along strict party lines today–with one exception. So reports WPLN.
Knoxville Representative John Duncan is one of only 12 Republicans voting no.
The bill strips out any language governing food stamps, and that’s a big reason why Democrats don’t like it.
Duncan takes issue with a measure that would expand crop insurance for farmers.
“You start a small business you have to pay 100% of your insurance, and then on top of that you
From a Wasnington Post blog, here’s a list: The dozen GOP lawmakers who bucked the party were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Paul Cook (Calif.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Matt Salmon (Ariz.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.).
Tennessee’s congressional Republicans usually find themselves on the same page as think tanks and advocacy organizations that call for restraining government spending, observes The Tennessean. But when it comes to setting federal agricultural policy for coming years through a farm bill currently making its way through Congress, that’s not the case. While there is uncertainty over what happens next, the versions of the farm bill offered so far have been backed by seven of the nine Republicans in the congressional delegation — Reps. Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump, Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Diane Black of Gallatin, Scott DesJarlais of Jasper, Scott Fleischmann of Ooltewah and Phil Roe of Johnson City. And Sen. Lamar Alexander voted for his chamber’s version.
Among Tennessee Republicans, only Rep. John Duncan Jr. of Knoxville and Sen. Bob Corker voted the way farm bill critics preferred.
“For a bill that spends close to $1 trillion, just under $18 billion in savings is not nearly enough,” Corker said.
Both Democrats in the delegation — Reps. Jim Cooper of Nashville and Steve Cohen of Memphis — voted against the bill, but Democrats had slightly different reasons for opposing the legislation. They especially disliked a $20 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, in the House bill.
“It would have cut programs that help children and seniors while protecting subsidies for millionaires, agribusiness and even foreign banks,” Cooper said. “We must do a better job of protecting taxpayer dollars and prioritizing our nation’s agricultural policies.”
As it happened, advocates for the poor and the environment joined the conservative and anti-government spending groups in opposition.
As part of a lengthy review of the “tricky” politics of the so-called “ag gag bill,” Andrea Zelinski includes a rundown on sponsor Rep. Andy Holt’s ‘shaky’ dealings with TDEC permits on his hog farm. While Holt is pushing hard for these new rules on farm animals, he has a shaky history of following other regulations on own hog farm in West Tennessee.
Since 2009, the state has repeatedly found Rep. Andy Holt’s 1,400-hog farming operation out of compliance with regulations set by two state agencies, according to a review of records by The City Paper, such as operating without a valid permit and failing to submit certain manure quality tests to state officials.
The latest notice came April 30 from the Department of Agriculture, giving him a 30-day window to complete his application for a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit, known as a CAFO. His last permit expired in August of 2009.
“Operating your CAFO without a permit is a violation of state, and possibly federal rules,” read the letter by Sam Marshall from the Department of Agriculture’s Water Resources division.
While the Department of Environment and Conservation has sent Holt two violation notices and three letters urging him to get a permit and warning him against dumping hazardous waste, the department has not leveled civil penalties against the lawmaker, according to TDEC.
“There are a number of operators in the same position as Mr. Holt,” said Shannon Ashford, a TDEC spokeswoman. “It is not that the operators have ignored the process. They made submittals that did not meet the requirements of the regulations. If the deficiencies are not corrected, the department will consider enforcement action.”
Holt’s farm includes contract swine owned by Tosh Farms, which are then sold to a packer, according to the Holt Family Farms website. His operation also includes a cow calf operation and a goat herd, sells brown eggs and includes a pumpkin patch for school and group visits.
Since his permit expired, TDEC has sent Holt several notifications that his permit was incomplete and reminded him he was banned from dumping hazardous waste “under any circumstance” without the proper permit.
“We’re in the process of applying here for a permit, and we’ll finish that sometime here very soon,” said Holt, who added acquiring other farms and testing and analyzing materials has slowed his application down. “There’s several things that take some time. It’s our intention to be law abiding. That’s the purpose.”
…Regardless of him running behind on regulations on his farm, Holt said the attention needs to be on getting livestock abuse reported quickly.
“Sometimes their investigations, which have taken weeks or months to complete, have left several animals in a horrible situation,” said Holt, who the Weakley County sheriff’s office has said has been subject to no animal abuse complaints. “Nowhere along the way does it say that you have to come in with 30 counts to indict an individual.
“I’ll always lose the emotional issue if folks don’t use logic associated with that emotion.”
State Rep. Curry Todd served his required sentence on a Davidson County DUI conviction in a Madison County jail, reports Jackson Baker (who initially thought Todd, R-Collierville, had been jailed on a new offense). Todd was incarcerated from Thursday, January 31, to Saturday, February 2, at the Madison County Penal Farm.
…His 48-hour stay at the Madison County Penal Farm was, in fact, the time he was obliged to serve as a result of last year’s conviction in Nashville — the one and only on his record.
The change of venue and place on the calendar were at Todd’s request, and it was all worked out between the court and law-enforcement authorities of Davidson and Madison counties, explained Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork.
“That sort of thing happens all the time,” said Woolfork, who described Todd’s time at the penal farm as uneventful. What did he do there? “Oh, he tore up uniforms,” said Woolfork, who went on to elucidate that the Sheriff’s Department was in the process of revamping the uniforms of its officers and that Todd labored away at the redesign of several.
That meant, among other things, removing the chevrons from one place on a sleeve and re-stitching them somewhere else.
And why did Rep. Todd choose Madison County as the place of his incarceration? “Oh, probably because he heard what a great sheriff I was,” Woolfork said.
Or it may have been because Jackson is a place on the map between Nashville and Memphis, both the latter places housing ample numbers of inquisitive media people.
In any case, Todd was quickly free to go.
As an auctioneer and a cattleman, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is familiar with Tennessee’s Greenbelt Law and believes the property tax break is working as it should in the “overwhelming majority” of cases — he suspects at least 90 percent.
At the same time, he said, “I’m sure there are incidences across the state where there are unintended consequences.”
Although many legislators see no problem with the law, even praise it, Ramsey, as presiding officer of the state Senate, is willing to consider “tweaking” it to prevent abuses.
For example, the law now requires that a property produce $1,500 in gross “agricultural income” annually to qualify for greenbelt status, a figure unchanged for 20 years. Research by the News Sentinel and The Commercial Appeal of Memphis for a recent series of articles also indicates the provision is difficult to enforce.
“Maybe that’s too low,” said Ramsey of the $1,500 threshold in an interview. “We could look at raising that or, even better, make it so the local governments may police it more.”
News release from Department of Economic and Community Development:
STANTON, Tenn.– Tennessee has cut the ribbon on the state’s largest solar power array. DOE Deputy Secretary Poneman, Deputy Governor Ramsey and University of Tennessee President Dr. DiPietro joined a crowd of almost 200 to celebrate the opening of the West Tennessee Solar Farm. The Farm officially began generating power today.
The Haywood County facility is capable of generating 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 500 homes and offset 250 tons of coal each month. That makes it the largest solar-energy array connected to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s grid.
JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — The construction of a solar farm in West Tennessee has been delayed.
The West Tennessee Solar Farm in Haywood County is now expected to go online early next year, according to the Memphis Daily News (http://bit.ly/ryauvP). The undertaking being spearheaded by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation was originally was scheduled to be completed this month.
Project manager Elliott Barnett of Signal Energy LLC of Chattanooga, which designed and is building the farm, blamed the delay on “the upgrade of the electrical lines that go from the solar farm to the Chickasaw Electric Cooperative substation.”
He said the substation is where the power will actually hook into the grid and about nine miles of line needed upgrading.
The solar panels by Interstate 40, which have been getting attention recently from passing motorists, were actually the easiest part of the project, he said.
“It was built for the purpose of generating revenue and serving as an example for the state furthering the whole sweep of renewable projects that we want to be a part of,” Barnett said. It is being financed with federal stimulus funding.
The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to buy power from the farm, and Barnett said it should generate about $100,000 in revenue each month.
The project won’t end there. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has future plans to develop an interstate exit and a center for visitors in the middle of the solar array.
Eric Rank, the general manager of Solar and Renewable Power Systems, said he thinks a visitors’ center would be a good way to keep the public informed on solar technology.
“They need to know how it operates. Everybody still thinks solar systems are based on the use of batteries,” he said. “There’s a lot of education that needs to be done.”
From R. Neal at Knoxviews:
Noted Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball is co-lead counsel on a blockbuster case filed in the Illinois Supreme Court involving State Farm, a $1 billion class action lawsuit, and an allegedly corrupt judge. Former Senator Fred Thompson, who recently led an effort to block “tort reform” liability limits in Tennessee, is co-counsel.
According to the lawsuit, State Farm and its lawyers got an Illinois Supreme Court Justice elected by pumping $2.5 to $4 million into his campaign through PACs, and six months later the judge cast a deciding vote to reverse on appeal a $1.05 billion class action consumer fraud judgment against State Farm involving bogus replacement parts for wrecked cars.
The plaintiffs seek to have the reversal vacated and the original judgement restored to “correct a judgment obtained through fraud and concealment.” They allege that “State Farm’s extraordinary financial and political support for Justice Karmeier’s 2004 campaign created a constitutionally-unacceptable risk of bias such that his participation and vote to reverse the $1.05 billion judgment deprived Petitioners of their due process rights.” They had previously requested the judge to recuse himself from the case but he refused. UPDATE; Chicago Tribune story HERE.
State Sen. Stacey Campfield contends a precedent for passage of his “guns on campus” bill has been set by advancing legislation that’s intended to let an Overton County farm overseer shoot snakes or wild hogs.
As passed 92-1 by the House, the bill in question authorizes “farm employees” of the University of Tennessee and the state Board of Regents to carry weapons.
The bill, HB185, came before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the panel had voted to postpone until 2012 any action on Campfield’s guns-on-campus bill, which would allow faculty and staff of universities to carry guns if they have a handgun carry permit. A House committee also killed the bill for this year.
Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, said an agreement had been reached by all parties concerned to amend the “guns on farms” bill to exclude all UT facilities and, in effect, apply only to one 1,200-acre farm in Overton County that has been leased by Tennessee Technological University, part of the Regents system.
The farm overseer, whose family owned the farm for years, wants to “protect himself from snakes,” Yager told colleagues, and needs to carry a gun to do so.
“I believe it’s illegal to shoot snakes in Tennessee,” said Campfield.
“What else are you supposed to do with them?” replied Yager, touching off a round of convoluted debate.
Rep. Frank Niceley has abandoned – for this year — his two-pronged effort to legalize whitetail deer farming in Tennessee, blaming “misinformation” and “outright lies” about the proposal for creating a hostile environment in the Legislature.
The Strawberry Plains Republican took HB94 “off notice” in the House Agriculture Subcommittee Tuesday. That was a bill on an unrelated topic that Niceley took over from another legislator previously to get the deer farming proposal before the committee that he chairs.
He dropped the same idea as proposed earlier in a separate bill, HB1112, last week in the House Conservation and Environment Subcommittee. In that case, Niceley’s move to amend the bill officially to incorporate the deer farming language failed on a 3-3 tie vote.
Niceley proposed afterwards to have the bill passed out of subcommittee, then held in full committee until next year with a “summer study” on the matter.