Wait and See in January 2016

So much for no new ag legislation this session. This may have been the intent of Delaware Secretary of Ag, Ed Kee, but it didn’t happen. I would consider no new ag legislation or additional funding for ag programs a success and Rep. Dave Wilson (R) seemed to be working in this direction. However, his attempt stalled. Meanwhile, an animal activist bill popped up out of nowhere. A ton of bills were left on each chamber’s  ready list, tabled, or stalled. I suppose we’ll have to “wait and see” as the 148th session continues in January 2016. Here’s a recap of Jan-June 2015, complete with links if you want to learn more:

  • HB (House Bill) 124 is Rep. Dave Wilson’s (R) masterpiece. He’s trying to find a permanent funding solution for the Ag Land Preservation Program by writing $10 million from the Realty Transfer Tax Fund into our Constitution. The bill sailed through the House Ag Committee but it parked itself on the House Ready List. Meaning it’s ready to be heard on the House floor. It will have to pass by a 2/3 vote and it has to pass both chambers in two consecutive sessions since it’s a constitutional amendment. We’ll see what happens in January 2016. I should also mention $3 million was appropriated to the Aglands Preservation Program at the last-minute, thanks to the one time nationwide bank settlement with Bank of America and Citigroup.  
  • SB (Senate Bill) 124 breezed through the Senate Chamber on June 23 with a vote of 21-YES, 0-NO. The bill seeks to add a voting member to the Aglands Preservation Board. The only requirement is this person must be actively engaged in farming or some other form of agribusiness. He or she can live in any county. But Sen. Ennis (D), the primary sponsor of the bill, stated it was a spot for an African-American farmer. I don’t see that written in the bill. The bill has been to assigned to the House Ag Committee. We’ll see what happens in January 2016.
  • HB 189 was the attempt by the HSUS lobbyist to end dairy cattle tail docking in Delaware. Any farmer in violation would be slapped with a Class A misdemeanor. The bill was tabled. The Department of Ag promised to meet with HSUS to give more detail on how many Delaware farmers actually engage in this practice. Lets hope we don’t see anything happen in 2016! 
  • SB 69 is not exactly an ag bill but it may come as a surprise to some rural families and kids. Any person under 18 years old, operating an ATV, must wear a protective helmet on his or her head with the chin straps properly fastened. Any person under 18 years old cannot be a passenger on an ATV unless the passenger is wearing a protective helmet with the chin straps properly fastened. Not sure who will enforce it or how rural families will be educated on this new law? The DE Farm Bureau was involved and put forth an amendment.
  • HCR (House Concurrent Resolution) 30 was proposed by Rep. Jeff Spiegelman (R) from Smyrna. His intent was to establish a Port of Wilmington Exports Task Force to provide recommendations in regards to expanding the operations at the Port of Wilmington to include agricultural product exports. The bill was tabled. It seemed to possibly ruffle the feathers of the Port, as if it was an insult that they weren’t already doing enough. Rep. Spiegelman requested the bill be tabled so he could do more background work on the bill. It seems like he’s trying to find more niche markets and open up more channels for Delaware farmers. I don’t see how this can go wrong. Lets hope to hear more in January 2016. Here’s a video clip where he explains more.

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