As the NAFTA negotiations have stalled, farmers and ranchers in Canada, the United States and Mexico have grown increasingly concerned that this free trade deal is in jeopardy. They’ve been voicing their concerns, to the point where U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross argued U.S. agriculture groups and farmers were complicating the NAFTA trade negotiation process by speaking up, basically telling the farm community to be quiet. “As one special interest group, say agriculture, for example, gets nervous, they start screaming and yelling publicly. They start writing letters, soliciting the Congress people, and [then] they start screaming and yelling in public. It just complicates the environment and, frankly, makes the negotiations harder,” said Ross, as reported by Politico a few weeks ago. Really Wilbur? Essentially Wilbur Ross is saying “trust us.”Ross has even made comments trying to downplay the significance of agriculture, saying “they’ve just got to get used to the fact that they’re a minor part of the economy and that trade policy isn’t going to be constructed around their interests.”Does Wilbur Ross have no clue how many jobs are created by agriculture and food industries in the U.S. and the rest of the NAFTA region? Congrats to U.S. agriculture stakeholders for not taking Mr. Ross’s comments seriously, and in fact, raising their volume.
The operators of a cooperative mobile slaughterhouse in Hawaii are considering a plan to open two meatpacking facilities on the Big Island next year, according to local media reports. Mike Amado, president of the cooperative that launched in April, said the mobile operation has processed more than 7,000 pounds of beef, 5,000 pounds of pork, 1,000 pounds of lamb and sheep meat and about 500 pounds of goat meat through November. Amado told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that 21 farms regularly use the cooperative’s mobile slaughterhouse services and there is a demand for post-slaughter services as well.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced that the department will sponsor a series of training programs across the state to help farmers grow produce safely, prevent foodborne illness, and comply with new federal standards. The series of one-day training sessions will be held between January and March at seven different locations throughout the state.
Cooke Aquaculture says its troubles with state regulators that led to the shutdown of its Port Angeles Atlantic salmon farm last week are all a misunderstanding, but the decision to revoke Cooke’s license is final. “An inspection of the Port Angeles site from December 4-9 revealed significant lease violations that endanger public safety and the health of Puget Sound,” Carlo Davis, communications director for the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), wrote. “The decision by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to terminate the lease is final. DNR will work cooperatively with Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to dismantle the facility in a safe and appropriate manner.” There are nearly 700,000 Atlantic salmon in the pens at the farm, which first went into operation in 1984. It has had a series of owners, most recently Cooke, which bought it from Icicle Seafoods.
When U.S. Navy Seals entered the hiding place for Osama Bin Laden they found a list of 16 deadly agricultural pathogens that Al Qaeda intended to use as bioweapons, said former Sen. Joe Lieberman during a recent Senate Committee on Agriculture hearing on agro-defense. Six of the bioweapons targeted livestock production. Four targeted crop production. Six more targeted humans. Threats such as bio-terrorism, plus recent outbreaks of avian flu, Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus in hogs, and foot and mouth disease oversees, as well as other diseases underscore the need for more research, biological containment plans and vaccine readiness to protect agriculture, the food supply and the nation’s economy, committee leaders said.
Members of the Dry Creek Valley Coalition applauded a judge’s decision to order the Ada County, Idaho, clerk to file a petition by the group that seeks to ask voters to overturn a county decision that paves the way for an $80 million development on 350 acres of irrigated farmland and 1,050 acres of grazing land north of Boise.
2017 has been a busy year on the agricultural law front. From WOTUS to “ag gag,” Syngenta to Dicamba, there has been no shortage of drama this year. Here is a look at some of the most important issues on the federal level. (A post outlining major issues in Texas is forthcoming.) Where to even start? Readers likely remember back in 2015 when the EPA published a rule offering a definition of what constitutes a “Water of the United States” pursuant to the Clean Water Act. Before the ink was dry on that rule, numerous lawsuits were filed claiming the 2015 rule exceeded the scope and power given to the EPA by the Clean Water Act. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit entered a nationwide stay, so the rule never went into effect. In February 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order requiring the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers to “rescind or revise” the 2015 rule and that the agencies should “consider interpreting” the term consistent with Justice Scalia’s opinion in the Rapanos decision.
Some Producers Say Exports Are The Answer, Others Call For Managing Supply. Dairy prices typically rise and fall on a three-year cycle driven by supply and demand. So when 2014 brought record-high milk prices, no one was surprised that the market crashed a year later.But the industry has been caught off guard by the lack of improvement in prices since then.“There’s just a lot of dairy product on the marketplace and I don’t see farmers cutting back very quickly, unless prices really go south and I don’t expect that to happen,” said Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “So I just think that there’s more like this longer, slow bleed this time.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has recently released two separate reports that provide interesting perspective on the structure of U.S. agriculture. The firstprovides a detailed overview of current statistics relating to U.S. farms, while the second highlights the evolving distribution of Federal farm payments (1991-2015). This update underscores key findings from the two recent ERS reports.
The FDA is announcing the availability of a Question and Answer document about the use of medically important antimicrobials in bees to provide helpful information to beekeepers and veterinarians. The Q&A titled “Using Medically Important Antimicrobials in Bees” responds to some commonly asked questions about the appropriate use of approved Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and prescription (Rx) drug products for bees. In January 2017, the FDA and animal drug sponsors completed the voluntary process of transitioning medically important antimicrobial drugs used in animal feed or water from over-the–counter (OTC) marketing status to VFD or Rx marketing status under FDA’s Guidance for Industry (GFI) #213. This marked an important step forward in national efforts to address the use of medically important antimicrobials and promote antimicrobial stewardship in animals. Certain medically important antimicrobial drugs affected by this process are approved for use in bees. As a result, beekeepers have raised questions about how the changes affect them.