Client Spotlight: 40 Square Cooperative Solutions

40 Square Cooperative Solutions, an independent Minnesota agricultural health plan co-op providing farm families and agribusinesses access to self-funded health insurance options, is ramping up for its second year of open enrollment beginning November 1, 2018 and running through December 19, 2018.

Char Vrieze, Executive Director of 40 Square, is thrilled with last year ’s enrollment outcome which yielded more than 1,000 individuals, with the initial goal of 500. But she credits the strength of Minnesota’s cooperatives to 40 Square’s success. Minnesota is the leading cooperative state in the nation with more than 600 co-ops headquartered here – many of which are engaged in production agriculture. “Like other co-ops that have led the way for strong agriculture communities, 40 Square is helping to preserve the proud traditions of farming to generations to come,” said Vrieze.

Structure of Cooperative and Health Plan

The 40 Square co-op is governed by a board of directors, elected by its members/patrons. Fifty-one percent of governance is members and patrons, 49 percent is investment partners.

Participant members pay into the co-op to self-fund the health plan. Those premium dollars are then placed into a Trust, only to be used for health plan expenses. The Trust is governed by a separate board of directors comprised of members and plan participants. All health plan participants have 100 percent ownership interest in the Trust.

Health Plan Details

40 Square currently offers six health plans to choose from, including health savings account (HSA) eligible plans. Similar to traditional health insurance, 40 Square’s self-funded plans have an annual deductible, coinsurance and copays that members are responsible for. The amount of coverage you receive depends on the plan selected. Additional benefits being offered include vision, dental and life. Other products to enhance the health plan include hearing benefits, free telemedicine doctor visits, care navigators that help explain tests, claims or billing, and a partnership with Agriplan, which offers the ability to declare medical expenses as a business expense on taxes.

Membership Criteria

To become a member of 40 Square, farm families and agribusinesses must meet certain criteria. They must:

  • Actively work in production agriculture in Minnesota
  • File either Form 1065 or Schedule F with their income tax return or provide direct services to production agriculture in Minnesota. This includes farm corporations and businesses who predominately receive their income from providing their services to production agriculture
  • Purchase Voting Stock in an amount of $100 (one-time, only for the farm/business/employer)
  • Purchase Common Stock of $1,000 over the first year (one-time, only for the farm/business/employer)
  • Have a minimum of one “Common Law” employee. (In general, someone who you provide a W-2, does not have to be a full-time employee; for example, it may be a spouse who does the farm books.)

Membership can be extended to include farm corporations as well as agricultural-related businesses who receive at least 70 percent their income from providing services to production agriculture. All members must commit to a three-year term with a risk of forfeiting all or a portion of their investment if they leave the co-op before their term has expired.


 Interested in joining more than 1,000 Minnesotans who call 40 Square their health plan co-op?

Visit to learn more about its health plans, doctor network and more, or contact info@40square or (844) 205-9579.


Issue Update: Trade

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently a guest on the Linder Farm Network to discuss trade issues in relation to 2018 Farm Bill conference negotiations.

For additional information, please contact RDL & Associates at


Issue Update: Impact of Sequestration on Commodity Payments

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently a guest on the Linder Farm Network to discuss the impact of sequestration on commodity payment mechanisms.

For additional information regarding this and other public policy issues, please contact RDL & Associates at

Issue Update: Impact of Sequestration on Commodity Payments


Issue Update: Senate Consideration of the 2018 Farm Bill

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently a guest on the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding consideration of the Senate-version of the 2018 Farm Bill.

For additional information regarding this and other public policy issues, please contact RDL & Associates at

Issue Update: Senate Consideration of the 2018 Farm Bill

Branstad in China says U.S. will keep trade pressure on (via Brownfield Ag News)

The U.S. Ambassador to China tells farm broadcasters the Trump Administration will continue to stand firm on trade issues with China and will protect U.S. farmers, “We get this resolved, the potential here is great. Nearly 1.4 Billion people. A growing middle class with their income going up an average of six-and-three-quarters-percent a year. This is a significant market.”

Ambassador and former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad told Brownfield Ag News and the other National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) reporters who arrived in China this weekend that China has to change to avoid a trade war with the U.S.

Branstad says the administration is not willing to accept only a few changes in China’s policies while the trade deficit grows larger and the stealing of intellectual property and transfer of assess gets worse – and, he says, China knows it, “They recognize that they can’t produce enough soybeans or some of these food items, agriculture items, that they need on their own.”

Branstad the trade potential with China is huge because it can’t produce all the food and protein it needs to meet the needs of its middle class AND that Chinese consumers like the quality of U.S. food.


Issue Update: Near-term Prospects for Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding committee passage of the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill and the possibility of a short-term extension of the current legislation.

Committee Passage of the Senate Farm Bill

Near-term Prospects for Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill

If you would like additional information regarding these or other policy issues, please contact RDL & Associates at

Issue Update: Next Steps for the 2018 Farm Bill

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding next steps for the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill, as well as prospects for the Senate bill.

Next Steps for the House Farm Bill

Prospects for the Senate Farm Bill

For additional information regarding these and other issues, please contact RDL & Associates at

Issue Update: 2018 Farm Bill

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The first segment touches upon the dynamics surrounding getting the bill to the House floor and is :56 in duration.

The second segment highlights potential amendments expected during floor consideration and is 1:04 in duration.

The third segment provides an overview of the bill’s status in the United States Senate and is 1:19 in duration.

Dynamics of getting the bill to the House Floor

Potential amendments expected during floor consideration

Farm bill’s status in the United States Senate

For additional information regarding these and other issues, please contact RDL & Associates at


Agriculture Moves to GMO Food Labeling With Exemptions (via CQ)

The United States moved closer Friday to mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically modified crops or ingredients with the publication of a draft labeling rule, which uses “bioengineered” in place of the commonly used GMO term.

The proposed rule is the outcome of a multi-year fight between pro mandatory labeling groups that argued consumers have a right to information about the foods they eat and food manufacturers and farm organizations that fought mandatory labeling as scientifically unsound and part of a plan to stigmatize GMO products. Comments are due July 3 with a final rule due July 29.

The resulting federal law (PL 114-216) in 2016 gave partial wins for each side. The law gives a victory to backers of federal mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, while labeling opponents defeated efforts to require all food companies to put readily readable information on packages. Food companies and farm groups also got a federal prohibition on states writing their own mandatory labeling laws but not the voluntary labeling they sought at the federal level.

The law gives the Agriculture Department the task of establishing the process for disclosing information for foods and ingredients for human consumption produced through bioengineering. The law and the rule do not use the term genetically modified organism, opting instead for the term bioengineered as a more neutral phrase.

The proposed rule gives small food manufacturers — as defined through rule-making — the option of providing information to consumers via websites or telephone numbers. Larger companies have three options for telling consumers if they are buying a GMO food product: a label on packages, a symbol to be developed by USDA or bar codes, or other digital means that consumers can scan with smartphones.

The Environmental Working Group, one of the organizations that pushed for federal labeling, said the rule falls short.

“Consumers deserve a simple disclosure that covers all genetically engineered foods, including sugars, oils and the products of modern biotechnology,” Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement Thursday after USDA announced it was releasing the rule. “They should not have to fumble with their cell phones or only get half the story.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which fought state ballots on mandatory labeling and for a federal ban on such laws, said the option of providing information digitally is beneficial to consumers.

“Digital disclosure by scanning an electronic link on a package is one of the ways to provide the bioengineered ingredient information required by the federal law,” the association said in a statement.

Devil’s in the Details

The proposed rule would exempt from labeling certified organic foods and foods served in restaurants, bars, food stands, cafeterias or ready-to-eat foods sold in stores for consumption at the location or to-go. Milk and meat from animals fed grain from genetically modified crops would be excluded from labeling.

Multi-ingredient foods that contain genetically modified ingredients that are not the predominant ingredients would not be labeled. The draft rule offers an example of a canned ham in genetically modified corn syrup as not requiring labeling because the ham is the main ingredient.

The rule also would define very small food manufacturers as those with annual receipts of less than $2.5 million and exempt them from labeling requirements, but the Agriculture Department also is seeking public reaction to setting the revenue threshold at either $500,000 or $5 million.

The public is asked to weigh in on the Agriculture Department’s plan to adopt “without further interpretation on what bioengineering means” the definition of bioengineering included in the 2016 law.

The law defines bioengineered foods as those containing genetic material that has been modified through DNA techniques and modifications that “could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.’’ The definition is unclear on whether it applies to ingredients or crops produced through newer techniques such as gene editing.

Much of the draft rule offers the public several options to consider and to offer comment on.

For example, the public is asked to comment on potential exemptions for:

  • Food with an ingredient that contains a bioengineered substance that is inadvertent or technically unavoidable and accounts for no more than 5 percent of the specific ingredient by weight.
  • Food with an ingredient that contains a bioengineered substance that is inadvertent or technically unavoidable, and accounts for no more than 0.9 percent of the specific ingredient by weight.
  • Food in which a manufacturer has decided to use a bioengineered substance as long as it is not more than 5 percent of the total weight of the product.

Horse industry split on bill to introduce more federal regulation (via Capitol Solutions)

It’s a cool spring morning just about dawn on the backside of Churchill Downs, eight days before the Derby. Exercise riders on gleaming racehorses trot past the barns and onto the track for a workout. Some horses have already finished and are being hosed down…they’re so warm, steam is rising off their backs when the water hits.

Here in Kentucky, the horses galloping past are subject to a laundry list of regulations. There are drugs they can’t ever take — like anabolic steroids — and medications they can. There are rules on how the horses are tested and for what and when. If an owner takes his horse from Kentucky onto the other legs of the Triple Crown in Maryland and New York, the major rules are the same, but there are some variations.

And that’s one of the goals of the Horseracing Integrity Act, most recently introduced in 2017 by Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr: to bring all of the country’s 38 racing jurisdictions under the same set of rules.

“We believe that uniform medication rules will not only ensure the fairness and integrity of the sport but it will also help ensure the competitiveness of American thoroughbred racing around the world,” Barr said.

But while just about everyone in the industry can agree that uniformity is important, they all disagree about how to get there.

Eric Hamelback is the CEO of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association; his group is a vocal opponent of Barr’s bill.

“Obviously, uniformity is something we all look to try to achieve,” he said. “But clarify uniformity.”

Hamelback said right now, in the United States, racing jurisdictions agree on the major rules. But there are variations in factors like medication withdrawal time, and who administers drugs to horses.

He said it’s analogous to vehicle laws.

“I would ask you, is there a state in our union that it’s OK to drive drunk or intoxicated, can you name one?” he asked. “No. but are the speed limits the same in every state? They are not.”

Lasix: A ‘Drug’ Or A ‘Medication?’

If you ask the people on the front lines — the ones who actually deal with the horses — they’ll say, sure uniformity is great. But Barr’s bill would do something else, too: ban the administration of a drug called Lasix on race days. And that’s a deal breaker for many.

As the top Derby contenders hit the track for a workout at Churchill Downs, trainers gather on a wooden platform to watch.

“The number one issue is eliminating race day Lasix,” said Buff Bradley. He’s a trainer, who also owns and breeds horses near Frankfort.

Here’s what Lasix is supposed to do: it keeps racehorses from experiencing a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. That’s when the intense exertion from a race causes bleeding in a horse’s lungs.

Horses that have this condition are called “bleeders,” and in Kentucky, every time this bleeding gushes out of their nostrils,they can’t race for a set amount of time. Horses that bleed four times in a year are permanently disqualified. So there’s a pretty big incentive for trainers to make sure their horses don’t bleed — ever.

“And I don’t like calling Lasix a drug,” Bradley said. “It’s a medication.”

That’s why in the U.S., horses are allowed to get a shot of Lasix four hours before they run. And trainer Ian Wilkes says these days, almost every horse gets it as a preventative measure.

“The cruelty of seeing a horse gush, you don’t want to see that,” he said. “So my thing with Lasix, is there’s no question.”

But Lasix has a side effect, too. It’s a diuretic, and taking it makes a horse drop about twenty-five pounds of water weight. This, some say, can give a horse an advantage during a race or potentially mask other serious health conditions. Shawn Smeallie is the executive director of the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity— a group advocating for the bill.

“It definitely is a medication for horses that bleed,” he said. “But I don’t know what you call it for horses that use it that don’t bleed. So clearly, the fact that a first-time Lasix user, you put it in the Daily Racing Form right, to me shows there’s a performance-enhancing value to this.”

And he points out: race-day Lasix is banned in every major racing jurisdiction outside the United States.

States’ Rights

Besides the Lasix issue, the bill’s supporters say it’s necessary to make sure people are confident in America’s horse racing — and betting — industries. It would move regulation of testing for banned substances under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees testing of Olympic athletes.

But opponents say it’s unnecessary. That it’s an unfunded mandate. That the industry itself is making progress towards uniformity, and that what’s really necessary is getting all of the country’s testing laboratories on the same page.

“States don’t want to give up their rights and that’s what it really boils down to,” said Terri Burch, the interim director of the Equine Industry program at the University of Louisville. She said the tradition-steeped industry has always been resistant to change.

“Kentucky wants to be able to regulate the way Kentucky wants to. Maryland wants to regulate the way Maryland wants to. New York wants to regulate the way New York wants to,” she said.

A number of industry groups have lined up to oppose the bill, as well as Churchill Downs, Incorporated and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

But there are a number of industry groups and prominent horse trainers that have come out in support, too. That includes the companies that own the Pimlico and Belmont racetracks: the second and third legs of the Triple Crown. 

And Barr’s bill also has something else: bipartisan support. The Horseracing Integrity Act has more than 100 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, though none of Kentucky’s other congressmen have signed on. It’s been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Barr says he believes a hearing is likely soon.