Wednesday, April 23, 2014
House Members Urge EPA and Corps to Withdraw WOTUS Rule
Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) are circulating a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers requesting that the agencies withdraw the proposed rule expanding jurisdiction over federally regulated waters.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has strongly endorsed the Collins-Schrader letter.
Fox News Story Exposes Federal Land Grab in Texas
A Fox News story with reporting by Greta Van Susteren digs into the federal government taking over acreage owned free and clear by a Texas rancher and Farm Bureau member for recreational use. Gene Hall, Texas Farm Bureau’s director of public relations, characterized the federal government’s actions as “an aggressive overreach” of power.
USDA Awards Research Grants to Address Climate Change
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced that USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded $6 million to 10 universities to study the effects of climate on agriculture production and develop strategies to provide farmers and ranchers with the solutions they need to supply the nation with quality food. Vilsack made the announcement during remarks at “The Frontier of Climate Change: State and Local Action in the Heartland” conference held at Drake University.
Specialty Crop Block Grants Announced
USDA has announced the availability of approximately $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research, programs to increase demand, and more. According to USDA, the historic support provided by the 2014 farm bill will strengthen rural American communities by supporting local and regional markets and improving access to fresh, healthy, and nutritious high quality products for millions of Americans. The program is administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service and is designed to enhance markets for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
In Memory: Joseph Woodrow Luttrell
Joseph Woodrow Luttrell, 97, passed away on April 18. Luttrell was on the staff of Tennessee Farm Bureau in the 1950s, then became southern region field representative for AFBF in 1957. He later served as AFBF’s director of information for 18 years, then as director of meetings and conventions before retiring in 1982. Contributions in his memory may be sent to Agriculture in the Classroom, Tennessee Farm Bureau, Box 313, Columbia, TN 38402-0313.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Farm Bureau Fights EPA, Tells Members to ‘Ditch the Rule’
The American Farm Bureau Federation today asked its members to resist a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that it says will impose unworkable regulations on the nation’s farms.
Published Monday in the Federal Register, the more-than-111,000-word “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule reflects the EPA’s latest interpretation of the 1972 Clean Water Act. The rule could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal regulation to cover routine farming and ranching practices as well as other common private land uses, such as building homes.
“This rule is an end run around congressional intent and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, alike,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “Congress and the courts have both said that the 50 states, not EPA, have power to decide how farming and other land uses should be restricted. It’s time to ditch this rule.”
FBACT Action Alert: Contact EPA in Opposition to WOTUS Proposed Rule
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers has released the long-awaited proposed rule to expand the Clean Water Act. American Farm Bureau has carefully analyzed the proposal and concluded EPA and the corps are now attempting to regulate virtually all water, something Congress has explicitly chosen not to allow and which two U.S. Supreme Court decisions have rejected.
As a follow-up to the Waters of the U.S. Toolkit sent to state Farm Bureaus last week, an Action Alert has been posted on the AFBF FBACT website at this link: http://capwiz.com/afb/issues/alert/?alertid=63192396. AFBF is also engaging its Grassroots Outreach Team (GO Team).
Commerce Department Opening Sugar Investigation
Commerce Department officials have announced the opening of an investigation into charges that Mexico is dumping subsidized sugar in the U.S. American sugar growers filed a petition in late March saying countervailing duties are necessary due to unfair competition. The next step is for the International Trade Commission to make a preliminary determination on whether or not U.S. producers have been harmed. Unless the Department of Commerce extends the time for initiation, the ITC must reach a preliminary determination in antidumping and countervailing duty investigations in 45 days. In this case that would be May 12.
Sugar from Mexico is guaranteed duty-free entry to the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement. In fiscal year 2013, U.S. growers forfeited 382,000 tons of sugar at a cost of $280 million to the government due to low prices. The forfeitures amounted to 4 percent of the 2013 crop. U.S. growers blamed large imports from Mexico for low U.S. sugar prices. To get rid of the forfeited sugar, USDA sold it at a loss to ethanol makers and livestock feed companies.
USDA Reports Corn Plantings Advance to 6 Percent Completed
Farmers made some strides in corn plantings this past week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weekly Crop progress report released Monday, which shows that 6 percent of the nation’s corn crop has now been planted. The advance in corn sowings moves the crop closer to the 4 percent level achieved in April 2013 but overall the start to this spring is lagging behind the five-year average for plantings, which is 14 percent.
As in the previous report, the key growing states in the Midwest are still getting off to a slow start, with Illinois the leading state at 5 percent followed by Iowa at 2 percent and Indiana just on the board with 1 percent finished. Weather and field conditions have been more favorable in Nebraska (4 percent), Kansas (21 percent) and Missouri (26 percent). Once again, Texas is leading planting progress with 60 percent finished, followed by North Carolina which has 43 percent of its intended acreage planted. Six of the surveyed states still have no planting percentage to report as of Monday’s release.
$150 Million Allocated for Small Businesses and Jobs in Rural America
As part of the Obama Administration’s new “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday announced the creation of a new investment fund that will help propel the growth of small businesses across rural America. The new Rural Business Investment Company will allow USDA to facilitate private equity investments in agriculture-related businesses. Currently, USDA programs exist to help provide loans or loan guarantees to help rural businesses grow, but many small cutting-edge businesses also need equity support in addition to or instead of borrowed funds.
Advantage Capital Partners, which will manage the new fund, and partners from eight Farm Credit institutions have pledged to invest nearly $150 million into the new effort.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Additional Measures Aim to Control Spread of PEDv
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced that in an effort to further enhance the biosecurity and health of the U.S. swine herd while maintaining movement of pigs in the U.S., USDA will require reporting of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus and Swine Delta Coronavirus in order to slow the spread of disease. USDA is taking this latest action due to the devastating effect on swine health since it was first confirmed in the country last year even though PEDv it is not a reportable disease under international standards. PEDv only affects pigs, does not pose a risk to people and is not a food safety concern.
Chicken Sales Surge
Americans are buying more chicken as a cheaper alternative just as fast-food restaurants including Yum Brands and McDonald’s add new menu items from wings to club sandwiches. The sales surge has sent wholesale prices to an all-time high, boosted profit for processors including Tyson Foods Inc., and left Ozark Mountain Poultry unable to keep up. With whole birds at U.S. supermarkets selling at half the per-pound cost of beef or pork, Americans will eat the most chicken in three years, while tight supply and high prices send red-meat demand to an all-time low, government data show.
Organic Industry Continues to Grow
According to new USDA figures, the organic industry continues to grow domestically and globally, with more than 25,000 certified organic operations in more than 120 different countries around the world. Through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program, USDA has helped an additional 763 producers become certified organic in just 2013, an increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year. The industry today encompasses a record breaking 18,513 certified organic farms and businesses in the United States alone, representing a 245 percent increase since 2002. The 2013 list of certified USDA organic operations shows an increased rate of domestic growth within the industry, resuming previous trends.
Chicago Tribune Looks at Consumer Outreach and Engagement
Consumer outreach and engagement are the trademarks of Illinois Farm Bureau’s “Field Moms” program. A recent Chicago Tribune article looked at the program and other efforts, such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, that engage with consumers about modern agriculture.
Celebrating Earth Day
Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, presents a unique opportunity to engage with the public about America’s farmers and ranchers and their role as environmental stewards who care for our nation’s land, air and water. The theme for this year’s Earth Day is “Green Cities.”
White House Expresses Support for Biotechnology
As a follow-up to the March 25 dedication of the Norman E. Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, President Barack Obama praised the work of the Nobel Prize winner and voiced support for the promises of agricultural biotechnology. In a letter to Julie Borlaug about her grandfather, Obama wrote, “I share his belief that investment in enhanced biotechnology is an essential component of the solution to some of our planet’s most pressing agricultural problems.”
Funding for Export Markets Through 2014 Farm Bill Announced
The Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service has announced awarded funding to more than 60 U.S. agricultural organizations to help expand commercial export markets for American products. The funding was made available through the 2014 farm bill. USDA will begin accepting applications for 2015 export development program funding today.
The announcement includes the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program. Eligible organizations can also apply for funding through the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program, Quality Samples Program and Emerging Markets Program.
Building Better Soybeans for a Hot, Dry, Hungry World
A new study shows that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yields while requiring less water and helping to offset greenhouse gas warming. The study is the first to demonstrate that a major food crop can be modified to meet multiple goals at the same time.
The study, led by Darren Drewry of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., used an advanced vegetation model and high-performance computer optimization techniques. It found that by redesigning soybean plants in various ways, it was possible to increase soybean productivity by 7 percent without using more water. Soybean plants also could be redesigned either to use 13 percent less water or to reflect 34 percent more light back to space without a loss of crop yield. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation with support from JPL and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Russia Grain Production Expected to Grow
A senior government official has said grain production in Russia will exceed 120 million metric tons by 2020. “Every year exports will increase by up to 40 million tonnes. This will enhance food security in the Asian region,” Russian Vice-Premier Arkady Dvorkovich told the Boao Forum for Asia on Thursday.
Agriculture Is a Man’s World? Not on My Farm
North Dakota Farm Bureau member Val Wagner shared her thoughts on agriculture being a man’s world in a recent blog post picked up by the Huffington Post. Read all of Wagner’s posts about farming, agriculture and rural life on the Wag’n Tales Blog.
CBO: Food Stamp Costs Could Fall $24 Billion
After the buckets of political blood spilled over food stamps this past year, the Congressional Budget Office has quietly lowered its cost estimate for the nutrition program by $24 billion over the next decade. The “technical” adjustment is tucked into a report issued Monday and reflects revisions in how CBO calculates what the average beneficiary receives each month under food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
It’s just a 3-percent change but more than a little ironic after the fighting over fewer SNAP dollars that dogged the recently enacted five-year farm bill. Indeed, having announced the adjustment, CBO’s report then goes out of its way to say as little as possible about the rest of the farm bill’s costs, even with the drop in grain prices.
Rail Companies Held Accountable for Fertilizer Deliveries
Surface Transportation Board officials told representatives of Canadian Pacific Railway and BNSF Railway that they have until Friday to report plans for ensuring delivery of fertilizer shipments for spring planting of crops. The Tuesday announcement followed on the heels of a hearing held last week on rail service disruptions, during which farmers told the board that any delays in delivery of fertilizer could disrupt spring planting.
The railroad companies are required to provide weekly status reports on fertilizer delivery for the next six weeks, starting April 25.
Oregon Farm Bureau Fights Biotech Ban
Oregon agriculture scored a big victory during last fall’s Special Legislative Session with the passage of a seed preemption or “GMO” bill that prevents local governments from regulating agricultural seed and nursery stock, including biotech crops, Oregon Farm Bureau News reported. However, a biotech ban initiative in Jackson County had been filed before that session, and it’s slated for the May 2014 ballot. If Measure 15-119 passes, it will “make it unlawful for any person to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically engineered plants in Jackson County.”
Not labeled, not regulated. Banned outright. If this measure is successful, it would have statewide, and potentially national, implications.
Bayer CropScience Opens Bee Care Center in North Carolina
Bayer CropScience held the grand opening of its $2.4 million North American Bee Care Center in North Carolina on Tuesday, which company officials said will significantly improve its promotion of honey bee health. Located at the company’s North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park, the center features numerous technological, scientific and academic resources with goals of improving the health of the vital agricultural pollinators and of promoting sustainable agriculture effort. Officials said that the Bee Care Center is part of $12 million it plans to invest in bee health in 2014 and the center will bring together top talent in agriculture and apiology to develop comprehensive solutions.
Vance Publishing Accepting Nominations for 40 Under 40 Awards
Vance Publishing’s 40 Under 40 Awards recognizes the young leaders in agriculture who will be instrumental in meeting the “2050 challenge” of producing food for a growing world. Nominations are sought from among the most innovative people in agriculture under the age of 40–from animal and crop production, biotechnology and university researchers to food and nutrition technology, agricultural equipment, agronomy and beyond.
Learn more and submit your nomination online at http://40under40ag.com/.
‘Water Well Flooding: What Do You Do?’ Free Webinar Offered
There still is room available to participate in a free, 1-hour webinar on Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern on “Water Well Flooding: What Do You Do?” With the spring flooding season upon us, this timely webinar is being offered by the National Ground Water Association with support from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
AFBF Requests Extension of Comment Deadline on WPS Rule
The American Farm Bureau Federation has submitted a request to the Environmental Protection Agency for an extension of the June 17 comment deadline for a proposed rule to revise the agency’s worker protection standards promulgated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The proposed rule would make extensive changes in worker protection standards.
AFBF noted in a letter to EPA that the agency issued the proposed rulemaking at the busiest time of the year for farmers. Farm Bureau members—those who would be most affected by this proposed regulation—are now planting crops, tending to their orchards and prepping the soil for this year’s cultivation and harvest. In addition, at the same time EPA issued the WPS rule, it also released for comment a proposed rule to expand its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Finally, the existing WPS provisions have been in place for approximately 20 years and the issue surrounding the revisions has been ongoing for at least a decade, AFBF pointed out; a 90-day extension of the comment period, given the context of the dialogue that has surrounded this topic, is a reasonable request.
USDA Reports Corn Plantings at 3 Percent; up Slightly Year-on-Year
Delayed by a lingering winter and soils either too cold or wet, US farmers have advanced corn plantings at a very slow pace in the key growing regions, according to Monday’s release of the Agriculture Department’s Weekly Crop progress report, which shows only 3 percent of corn planted. With southern states able to get more fields planted than their Midwestern counterparts, the overall progress on sowing corn is up 1 percent from 2013, which was greatly hindered by foul weather that delayed the start to the spring crop season and resulted in a late harvest for U.S. farmers.
The five-year average for plantings at this time is 6 percent. The USDA survey covers 18 of the corn growing states and represents 91 percent of the 2013 corn acreage. According to the newest report, the key growing states in the Midwest are lagging behind due to weather delays with Illinois and Nebraska both reporting only 1 percent of the corn crops planted. Neighboring states to the south are faring better, as Missouri has completed 9 percent of plantings and Kansas has completed 11 percent. Only two states showed significant progress at this time. Texas is estimated at 57 percent finished, followed by North Carolina, which has 20 percent of its intended acreage planted. At least 10 of the surveyed states have no planting percentage as of the release of the report on Monday.
World’s Longest-Running Rice Research Project Marks 150th Harvest
The International Rice Research Institute is marking the 150th harvest of its Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment, the world’s longest-running rice research project.
AgStar Offering $1,000 Scholarships for Youth in Agriculture
Youth aged 14 to 21 are invited to submit a video on how they stand up for agriculture, with the chance to win a $1,000 scholarship from AgStar Financial Services. It’s easy to enter–just submit your video and then get friends and family to vote by clicking “vote” on your submission. The contestant from each age group with the most votes by July 31 will win a $1,000 scholarship! Winners will be announced at the Minnesota State Fair prior to the 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction.
Further Horsemeat Tests Ordered in European Union
A new round of tests to see if beef products contain horsemeat has been ordered by the European Commission.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Permanent Section 179 Small Business Expensing Bill Dropped in House
Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) have introduced legislation, H.R. 4457, to make permanent a Section 179 small business expensing maximum limit of $500,000 with the dollar-per-dollar phase-out threshold set at $2 million. This tax deduction is one of the "tax extenders" that expired at the end of last year. On Jan. 1, the maximum deduction shrank to $25,000. The Tiberi/Kind bill retroactively returns the deduction to last year's level and makes it permanent.
This bill is part of the House effort to make as many of the 50 plus expiring tax provisions as possible permanent. Rather than extend the package of extenders for two years as the Senate Finance Committee did, the House Ways and Means Committee will individually take up and separately move bills to permanently extend some expiring provisions. H.R. 4457 could reach the floor in early May.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman testified on the importance of a $500,000 permanent Section 179 expensing limit at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week.
EU's Attack on Common Food Names Threatens U.S. Meat Exports
First it was the stink about common cheese names, now it's the baloney about "bologna," "black forest ham" and the names of other meats that the European Union says are "geographical indicators" and can only be appropriately displayed on products made in certain areas of Europe.
Earlier this month, more than 50 senators sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging them to defend common meat names, especially in negotiations with the EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
"This trade barrier is of great concern to meat and other food manufacturers in our states," the senators wrote in the Farm Bureau-supported letter. "We urge you to continue to push back against the EU's efforts to restrict our meat exports, particularly to nations with which we already have free trade agreements."
USDA Announces Funding for Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the availability of more than $19 million in grants to help train, educate and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of agricultural producers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. BFRDP is an education, training, technical assistance and outreach program designed to help farmers, ranchers and managers of non-industrial private forest land–specifically those aiming to start farming and those who have been farming or ranching for 10 or fewer years. It is managed by the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture. NIFA will competitively award grants to organizations conducting programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers. Grant applications are due June 12.
YF&R Chair Talks About Getting Started in Agriculture on CNBC
Georgia farmer Jake Carter, chair of AFBF's Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, was featured on CNBC on Friday talking about the high cost of land and why, despite it all, he and other young farmers want to stay in agriculture. View the Web special or watch the broadcast piece.
Cherry Blossoms, Oh So Beautiful!
Always a major tourist attraction, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Did you know that USDA has a connection to #DCBlooms? Learn more on Instagram.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act Protects Consumers
Food prices are already on the rise, but a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws for foods that contain genetically modified ingredients could send costs skyrocketing by as much as 30 percent, without improving the safety of the food supply, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) wrote in a recent op-ed on The Hill.com. In their column, the lawmakers explain that climbing food prices are one of the many reasons they introduced the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, H.R. 4432. The Farm Bureau-supported bill will make it clear that the Food and Drug Administration is the nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has issued an FBACT Action Alert to support H.R. 4432, The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The FBACT Action Alert can be found at this link: http://capwiz.com/afb/issues/alert/?alertid=63183666.
Big Data Meeting: More Work Remains to be Done
More work remains to be done to find consensus on a set of standards aimed at protecting farm data privacy, attendees concluded after a meeting hosted by AFBF in Kansas City, Mo., with a dozen leading U.S. agricultural industry players. Executives from Monsanto who attended the meeting said afterward that they saw it as “valuable dialogue” they see continuing, according to a Reuters article. “The meeting was a clear indication of the opportunities that the proper management of data holds for agriculture across the board,” said Monsanto spokeswoman Christy Toedebusch.
Look for 2012 Census of Agriculture Full Report on May 2
The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will publish the 2012 Census of Agriculture full report on May 2, at noon Eastern. The complete data series will be available in multiple formats, including Quick Stats 2.0, an online database to retrieve customized tables with census data at the national, state and county levels.
In Memory: John Skorburg
John Skorbur of Wheaton Ill., a senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation from 1995-2003, passed away March 22, according to an online obituary. He is survived by his mother, Patricia; wife, Judy; three daughters, Sarah, Chris Michels and Katie Dombeck; two brothers, Craig and Steve; a sister, Jacquelyn; and three grandchildren.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
GMO Labeling Bill Introduced
“Our farmers and ranchers are encouraged by the bipartisan leadership of Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) for introducing H.R. 4432, The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement Wednesday. The measure makes it clear that the Food and Drug Administration should be the nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Senators Push Back on Proposed Clean Water Act Rule
A group of senators, all members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to President Barack Obama expressing concern that the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Water Act rule reveals the agency is attempting to “obtain de facto land use authority over the property of families, neighborhoods and communities throughout the United States.”
In a statement released last week, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman noted that the EPA proposal poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and other landowners. “Under EPA’s proposed new rule, waters–even ditches–are regulated even if they are miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ waters. Indeed, so-called ‘waters’ are regulated even if they aren’t wet most of the time,” Stallman said. Further, “EPA says its new rule will reduce uncertainty, and that much seems to be true: there isn’t much uncertainty if most every feature where water flows or stands after a rainfall is federally regulated.”
Senate Finance Committee Approves Two-Year Extender Bill on Taxes
The Senate Finance Committee has approved the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency Act. The bill extends for two years all but two of the tax provisions that expired at the end of last year. All of the expiring provisions supported by Farm Bureau were included in the two-year extension. This includes provisions on Section 179 small business expensing, bonus depreciation, the cellulosic (second generation) biofuel producer tax credit, biodiesel and alternative fuel refueling property.
Retail Gas Prices Forecast at $3.57 per Gallon for Summer
Drivers will pay an average $3.57 per gallon for regular gasoline this summer, close to last year’s level, according to the Energy Information Administration’s April Short-Term Energy and Summer Fuels Outlook. The summer’s monthly average gasoline price is expected to peak at $3.66 per gallon in May and then steadily decline to $3.46 in September. Gasoline prices will vary by region, with the West Coast average price expected to be as much as 48 cents per gallon higher than the Gulf Coast price.
Chance of El Nino Weather Pattern Increasing
According to weather experts at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, the likelihood of an El Nino weather pattern returning to the U.S. this year is increasing. The chance of an El Nino weather event developing in 2014 currently exceeds 70 percent although the timing is uncertain. En El Nino weather pattern this spring would likely bring wetter and cooler conditions in the Midwest over the summer.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
House Committee Holds Hearing on ESA Reform Proposals
On Tuesday the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on four bills designed to update, improve and modernize the 41-year-old Endangered Species Act. The proposals outline the starting point for the committee’s planned legislative efforts on the ESA. Moving forward with these simple, narrowly focused proposals would help bring needed transparency for significant federal ESA decisions that could affect farmers and ranchers.
The bills, introduced by Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) and Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), focus on the need to make ESA decisions more transparent, including strengthening state/local involvement in listing decisions and use of state data, transparency on litigation costs and payment of attorney’s fees and ensuring attorney fees are reasonable.
Farm Bureau supports efforts to amend and reform the ESA and encourages Congress to advance legislation to accommodate the needs of both threatened and endangered species and humans with complete respect for private property rights within the framework of the U.S. Constitution.
Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire at Top of Locavore Index
Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group, has released its third annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods. By compiling the index, Strolling of the Heifers hopes to strengthen local farms and food systems by encouraging efforts across the country to increase the use of local foods in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions.
The index incorporates four measures for which current data is available for all states: the number of farmers markets, the number of consumer-supported agriculture operations, the number of food hubs—all compared on a per-capita basis—plus the percentage of each state’s school districts with active Farm-to-School programs. According to the index, the top three states for locavorism are (in order): Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, rankings that are unchanged from last year. Oregon moved up to fourth place (from seventh in 2013) and Hawaii came in fifth (from 13th in 2013). Rounding out the top 10 were Rhode Island, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and Iowa.
Hormone Discovery Resolves Mystery About Sustaining Pregnancies
Identification of a new pregnancy-supporting hormone in horses has resolved a reproductive mystery that has puzzled scientists for decades and it may have important implications for sustaining human pregnancies, reports a team of researchers, led by a UC Davis veterinary scientist. Characterization of the hormone, dihydroprogesterone, or DHP, may lead the way to better hormone therapies for preventing pre-term labor in pregnant women. The findings are reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at: http://bit.ly/1fp35n7.
Infographic: The ‘Brew-to-Moo’ Connection
The “brew-to-moo” connection, which involves sourcing cattle feed from spent grain created after brewing beer, isn’t new–it dates back to the advent of beer. An infographic created by Wilbur-Ellis shows how suppliers make efficient use of the nation’s food supply by turning co-products into marketable animal feed ingredients.
Behavioral Economist: Do the Nutritional Thinking for People
Consumers don’t really want more nutritional information, they want an easy life, according to a behavioral economist talking at a conference in Brussels.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Farm Bureau Calls for Tax Changes
Farmers and ranchers need tax certainty to thrive in a modern economy, and making permanent deductions that expired in 2013 is a good first step, the American Farm Bureau Federation told the House Ways and Means Committee today.
“One of the major goals of tax reform should be to provide stable, predictable rules for businesses so that they can grow and create jobs,” American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said. “Farm Bureau believes that Congress should end its practice of extending important business tax provisions for one or two years at a time. This practice makes it very difficult for farmers and ranchers to plan and adds immense confusion and complexity.”
Stallman addressed the committee as part of a hearing addressing the economic disruption caused by the end of a series of tax deductions over the past several years. Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) recently introduced a discussion draft of the Tax Reform Act of 2014 in an effort to stimulate discussion of how the tax code could be simpler and fairer, while at the same time aiding economic growth, job creation and wages.
New Stackable GM Bonus Cash Offered to FB Members
Farm Bureau is pleased to announce that a new FB Member Advantage! “Bonus Cash” program with General Motors is available to members, effective immediately. While the $500 discount on the purchase or lease of a new GM car or truck is the same, the ability to stack the offer with one other private offer is new, and demonstrates Farm Bureau’s commitment to exceed member expectations.
“We are committed to providing our members exclusive access to superior, high-quality brands, programs and products,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “The ability to stack the current GM ‘Bonus Cash’ offer with another private offer means our members are saving more money than ever before when they purchase a vehicle from General Motors–and is just one more way it pays to be a member of Farm Bureau.”
Sign-Up Dates for Disaster Assistance Programs Announced
The Agriculture Department announced Monday that farmers and ranchers can sign up for disaster assistance programs that were reestablished and strengthened by the 2014 farm bill, beginning Tuesday, April 15. The Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, as well as calendar years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Enrollment also begins April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Tree Assistance Program.
Poll Identifies Top Consumer Questions on GMOs
Cancer, allergies, food prices and how seed companies treat farmers are among the leading questions consumers have about GMOs and how our food is grown, according to a recent national survey.
The survey, commissioned by GMO Answers and the Council for Biotechnology Information, was conducted in order to identify, for the first time, the top 10 questions consumers have about GMOs and to open up the conversation on biotechnology’s role in agriculture.
“Just as GMOs are tools that help farmers produce more food using less water and fewer pesticides, the GMO Answers website is a resource for parents who want to know more about what they’re feeding their families, or young adults who want to learn about all the options biotechnology provides them as they’re making their abundant food choices,” said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation biotechnology specialist. “While any and all GMO-related questions are welcome on GMO Answers, this survey pinpoints what’s foremost on consumers’ minds.”
Secure Rural Schools Funding Announced
On Friday, the Agriculture Department announced that more than $300 million will be distributed to 729 rural counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico in support of local schools and roads. This funding comes from the implementation of the one-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which passed as part of H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act, in October.
AFBF supports funding the SRS Act because it provides the funds necessary to help educate rural schoolchildren. The funding allows for smaller classrooms, retaining high-quality teachers and buying books, computers and supplies, all of which are necessary to allow rural children to compete for admittance into the nation’s top universities. The act also funds police, roads, libraries and other critical county services.
The SRS Act was signed into law in 2000 to provide assistance to rural counties affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal lands. The funds are used for schools, roads, to create employment opportunities, maintain current infrastructure and improve the health of watersheds and ecosystems.
‘The Great American Milk Drive’ Launched
According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, milk is one of the items most requested by food bank clients, yet there is a nationwide shortage because it is rarely donated. That will soon change with the launch of “The Great American Milk Drive,” the first-ever national program to help deliver highly desired and nutrient-rich gallons of milk to hungry families who need it most.
Hunger affects one in six Americans, including 12.5 million families who do not have access to adequate nourishment to help them reach their full potential. Hunger has no boundaries and is a problem that exists in urban, suburban and rural communities.
With a simple click of a mouse (http://www.milklife.com/give) or text message (text “Milk” to 27722), it will now be possible to buy much-needed milk and donate it for as little as $5.00 to a family who does not have regular access to milk. By entering your zip code, you can ensure that the milk is delivered from the farm to a local Feeding America food bank in your community.
Free Webinar on Water Well Maintenance Slated for Wednesday
There’s still time to register for “Water Well Maintenance: Where Do You Begin?,” a free webinar on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Eastern, hosted by the National Ground Water Association. Click here to register
Monday, April 7, 2014
Montana FB is First to Reach Navigator!
Montana because the first state to achieve Navigator this year on April 1 by signing 18,805 members for the fifth year. Navigator status is presented to state Farm Bureaus that meet or exceed an established membership growth percentage goal and “set the course for growth” for their group size category.
Know What’s Below—Call Before You Dig
With April designated as National Safe Digging Month, the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration wants to make sure farmers, ranchers and anyone who’s getting ready to do some serious digging this spring makes a critical call to “811”to prevent excavation damage to underground pipelines.
Digging in to a pipeline can result in catastrophe. Excavation damage – or digging in to pipelines – is one of the leading causes of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline accidents that cause property damage, injury or death. Even scraping or nicking a pipeline can cause a future leak. But the good news is that damaging pipelines while digging is entirely preventable.
Pest Gnawing its Way Across the Cornbelt
Iowa State University research shows that western corn rootworm is developing resistance to pest-killing toxins in corn seed marketed in the U.S. by Syngenta. The discovery of resistance signals problems for farmers who rely heavily on biotech seeds to ward off pests and to save money on insecticides.
Researchers Testing Possibility of Canola as Biofuel
North Dakota canola could become a fuel source for military and commercial jets.
In 2009, the U.S. Navy set a goal to have half of its energy needs served by non-oil sources by 2020. The Federal Aviation Administration wants 1 billion gallons of biofuel by 2018.
Since late 2011, scientists in North Dakota and across the country have set out to make that a reality.
The Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan is one of eight locations testing different plant products for biofuels. The focus is on oilseeds such as canola, rapeseed camelina and mustard–“all crops that grow well in wheat-producing areas,” soil scientist Dave Archer said.
Can Farm Movies Help the Public Image of Agriculture?
A recent ZimmComm poll asked, “Do you think farm movies can help the public image of agriculture?” Poll results showed: definitely–38 percent; maybe–27 percent; can’t hurt–15 percent; no–11 percent; other–5 percent; and not sure–4 percent.
Friday, April 4, 2014
$20 Million Allocated to Reduce Damage Caused by Feral Swine
This week the Agriculture Department announced a new national plan aimed at reducing damage caused by feral swine with a long-term goal to eliminate feral swine in 10 states within seven years. The $20 million program will be managed under the Wildlife Services program of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, working directly with states to control populations, test animals for diseases and research better methods of managing feral swine damage.
Feral hogs continue to grow in numbers throughout portions of the United States and have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states over the last 30 years. Because of their destructive feeding habits and potential to spread disease, feral hogs pose a substantial liability to production agriculture and native wildlife.
Farm Bureau supports efforts by APHIS to eradicate feral hogs. Visit the APHIS website for additional information on feral swine damage management.
Online Drought Risk Atlas Available
The National Drought Mitigation Center has unveiled a new online Drought Risk Atlas, which provides analysis of data on drought frequency and severity for more than 3,000 spots across the U.S. The stations chosen for the atlas go back about 40 years with continuous dates, while some go back more than 100 years. Users can find the closest climate station to see how often drought has affected an area, how bad it has been and how long it lasted.
Data goes through 2012 and contains both raw and serially complete datasets for the user to choose from and download. The National Drought Mitigation Center is based in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources.
Farm Bill Funding for Pest and Disease Management Program
USDA has announced the allocation of $48.1 million provided by the 2014 farm bill to projects across the country that will help to prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases that threaten America’s agriculture economy and the environment. The economic stakes for stopping invasive species are high, with scientists estimating the total economic cost of all invasive species to be approximately $120 billion annually.
APHIS is funding 383 projects in 49 states, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. The projects approved for allocation will help states and other partners continue providing and strengthening protections against agricultural threats and could also allow the reallocation of resources to other critical programs. Review a list of selected projects and the fiscal year 2014 funding plan here.
AEM Provides Economic Footprint of Agriculture Equipment Industry
The important contribution of U.S. agriculture equipment manufacturing to the health of the nation’s economy is demonstrated in a new economic paper produced by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
In an in-depth analysis of the economic footprint of the agriculture equipment industry, the paper quantifies the many-sided economic impacts of the manufacturing, distribution and use of agriculture equipment and machinery. For example, in 2011, 78,200 people were directly employed in U.S. farm equipment manufacturing and the total economic footprint of the agricultural industry–including upstream and downstream industries–came in at $51 billion.
National Association of Farm Broadcasting Offering $5,000 Scholarships
The NAFB Foundation is offering three $5,000 scholarships to college students studying agricultural communications. Applications are due June 2. The scholarship application is available on the NAFB Foundation website.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Bacon Prices Up, Eggs Too
Higher retail prices for several food items used to prepare breakfast, including bacon, eggs and bread, among other foods, resulted in a slight increase in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s latest Semi-Annual Marketbasket Survey.
The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $53.27, up $1.73 or about 3.5 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 increased, five decreased and one remained the same in average price.
“Several typical breakfast items increased in price, accounting for much of the modest increase in the marketbasket,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “The 3.5 percent increase shown by our survey tracks closely with Agriculture Department’s forecast of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent food inflation for 2014,” he said.
Plenty of Eggs for Easter and Passover
Although retail egg prices are historically high at $1.98 per dozen, consumers will find an adequate supply of the protein powerhouses to fill Easter baskets and for Passover meals, according to John Anderson, deputy chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Further, “Eggs remain a relatively low-cost source of protein at a time when other meat and dairy product prices are also up,” Anderson said.
Recently, global demand for eggs has been very strong. In 2013, U.S. egg exports were up by 39 percent compared to the prior year. Much of the increase was due to an increase in exports to Mexico, which in addition to having strong consumer demand, has also had its domestic egg supply reduced by an avian influenza outbreak that began in early 2012.
House Budget Committee Approves Ryan’s Budget Proposal
On Wednesday the House Budget Committee approved Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal. The markup went late into the night with a multitude of amendments offered by committee members. The budget proposal is expected to reach the House floor next week.
Ryan’s budget proposal maintains the $1.014 trillion cap on discretionary spending, which was negotiated with Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in December. Both House Chair of the Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Senate Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) have publicly announced their committees will use this cap for the FY15 appropriations process. Murray has announced that the Senate will not propose a budget this year because it was addressed with the compromised budget resolution passed last December.
AFBF is monitoring the House budget proposal as it makes its way through the chamber.
Challenge to State Water Quality Trading Programs Dismissed
In December the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed an environmental groups’ challenge to state water quality trading programs. The plaintiffs argued that the Clean Water Act does not allow the Environmental Protection Agency to “authorize” water quality trading against allocations in a total maximum daily load. Trading, according to plaintiffs, can only be accomplished through modification of a TMDL with EPA approval. The plaintiffs’ target in this case was the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, but the arguments more broadly challenged the legal basis for any state-authorized water quality trading program as a means of implementing TMDLs.
The court dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds without directly ruling on whether state water quality trading programs are lawful under the CWA. The court concluded that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and the case was not “ripe” for a decision because the plaintiffs failed to show an actual or imminent injury traceable to the Bay TMDL. The court observed that the Bay TMDL does not “authorize” or require states to implement any water quality trading programs. The plaintiffs did not file an appeal, but have made press statements indicating they may instead challenge individual trades in the Bay. AFBF participated in the case as an intervenor defending the states’ right to establish trading programs.
Doubling of Pistachio Harvest Will Increase Nut’s use as Ingredient
Pistachios – most associated with snacking in the consumer’s mind – could be finding their way into many a food product as an ingredient over the next few years, says the executive director of the American Pistachio Growers, as production is set to double by 2020.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
AFBF Responds to EPA’s Proposed Rule on ‘Waters of the U.S.’
“The results of our review are dismaying,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule on “waters of the U.S,” which was released March 25. “Clean Water Act jurisdiction over farmlands amounts to nothing less than federal veto power over a farmer’s ability to farm,” Stallman said in a statement.
“The EPA proposal poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and other landowners,” explained Stallman. “Under EPA’s proposed new rule, waters–even ditches–are regulated even if they are miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ waters. Indeed, so-called ‘waters’ are regulated even if they aren’t wet most of the time. EPA says its new rule will reduce uncertainty, and that much seems to be true: there isn’t much uncertainty if most every feature where water flows or stands after a rainfall is federally regulated.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation is dedicated to opposing this attempted end run around the limits set by Congress and the Supreme Court.
Brazilian Government Considering WTO Case Against U.S. Cotton
The Brazilian government is considering launching a World Trade Organization case regarding 2014 farm bill provisions related to cotton. A compliance panel on the issue could be convened at the next meeting of the WTO on April 25.
It is likely to take the WTO at least a year to review and determine if the new Stacked Income Protection Program (STAX) included in the farm bill is WTO-compliant. The WTO ruled in 2009 that direct payments to U.S. cotton producers were not legal. That ruling led cotton farmers to push for the STAX provisions in the new farm bill. Brazil’s cotton producers are contending the STAX program will cause an even greater distortion to the world cotton market than did the direct payments. AFBF is monitoring this issue closely.
Dairy Industry Up Against EU Geographic Indicators
Geographic indicators are a way of labeling products to tie them to particular places in an effort to enhance marketability. Through the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, the European Union is trying to get the United States to accept this approach. Dave Salmonsen, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s trade specialist, explains how this would harm America’s dairy farmers in Tuesday’s Newsline.
More than 50 U.S. senators have written a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opposing the use of geographic indicators. Farm Bureau is working to ensure the U.S. government is fully aware of the industry’s concerns as negotiations move forward.
Controversial Tractor Campaign Takes ‘Tough Love’ Approach
Controversial and blunt, the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network’s “Keep Kids Away from Tractors” campaign has rattled traditional thinking. Stating that it is never okay for a child younger than 12 years to be on a tractor, the campaign takes a “tough love” approach. The earliest a child should be on a tractor is when he or she is old enough to take and pass tractor safety educational classes, according to the network.
The campaign may be unpopular or even upset parents and farm owners. Riding a tractor with parents or grandparents, is considered a childhood tradition in many rural areas. Some adults consider this “quality time” with the child. During the past year, however, a number of fatal, high-profile incidents underscored the danger of allowing children—some just toddlers—to ride on a lap, sit on a fender or stand on the axle. In an eye-blink a child can fall in the path of a tire, mower or other implement. Some of the fatalities occurred despite cabs.
The Childhood Agricultural Safety Network is a coalition of 38 health, safety and youth organizations who advocate for child safety on the farm. An archived webinar, posters, radio ads and more information can be found at http://www.childagsafety.org.
Kansas Farm Bureau App Boosts Reading, Learning Experience for Kids
With help from a grant awarded through the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s White-Reinhardt Fund for Education program, Kansas Farm Bureau late last year launched its first agricultural education mobile app. Based on the book “Milk Comes From a COW?,” the app is designed for parents or teachers and young students alike.
“Milk Comes From A COW?,” part of the popular Kailey’s Ag Adventures series written by former KFB Executive Director-CEO Dan Yunk, follows Kailey as she learns where milk really comes from. The app enhances the reading experience for early learners in kindergarten through grade 4.
Dieticians: Lists of ‘Bad’ Foods Often Not Helpful
The official position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional organization of registered dietitians, is that any food can fit into a healthful diet. Its list of “foods to avoid” is nonexistent, unless you have allergies or other sensitivities to consider.