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USDA to spend $50 million on milk for food aid

Capital Press | Posted on August 16, 2018

USDA will spend up to $50 million on fluid milk in half-gallon containers for distribution to the Emergency Food Assistance Program. The purchases, announced Tuesday, will be made under Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act to encourage consumption of domestic agricultural products and are separate from possible purchases through the $12 billion in farm aid planned to offset retaliatory trade tariffs.The agency did not disclose the level of purchases it will make in the pre-solicitation notice, but industry groups say they have verified with USDA the intent to spend $50 million on pasteurized fat-free, low fat, reduced fat and whole milk.

Tariffs could cost fruit, nut industries over $3 billion

| Posted on August 16, 2018

The ongoing international trade turmoil between the U.S. and other countries has prompted import tariffs on many U.S. agricultural commodities in important export markets, which could hurt U.S. farmers.A new report released by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center estimates the higher tariffs could cost major U.S. fruit and nut industries $2.64 billion per year in exports to countries imposing the higher tariffs, and as much as $3.34 billion by reducing prices in alternative markets.

FDA’s new resource guide to support responsible opioid prescribing for pain management in animals

FDA | Posted on August 16, 2018

As FDA Commissioner, addressing the opioid epidemic and the misuse and abuse of these drugs remains one of my highest priorities. As we look at tackling the opioid crisis, it’s important that we take a close look at all the access points where these powerful medications can be obtained. We must also ensure that all health care professionals understand their role and responsibility in prescribing these products, and lend our support in appropriately managing them. One such important care group is veterinarians who may prescribe them to manage pain in animals.The FDA remains committed to addressing the epidemic on all fronts, with a significant focus on decreasing exposure to opioids and preventing new addiction by taking steps to encourage more appropriate prescribing. One of the key ways we offer support to health care providers who have a nexus to prescription opioids is encouraging them to take advantage of any available opportunity to educate themselves about the safe use of opioids. When it comes to the prescribing of these drugs in humans, we have worked carefully on developing a framework for the content for these trainings made available through the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program for opioid analgesics. Our training “blueprint” provides information on acute and chronic pain management; safe use of opioid analgesics or other non-opioid or non-drug treatments; as well as material on addiction medicine and opioid use disorders.

Head of Jefferson National Forest temporarily reassigned as pipeline controversy continues

Daily Progress | Posted on August 16, 2018

A switch is coming to the Jefferson National Forest’s top leadership, a job complicated by conflict over plans to run a natural gas pipeline up and down mountainsides and under the Appalachian Trail.Forest supervisor Joby Timm has been temporarily assigned to the U.S. Forest Service’s regional office in Atlanta, according to an agency spokeswoman.Last month, an appeals court scolded the Forest Service for not addressing environmental concerns when it allowed the Mountain Valley Pipeline to pass through public woodlands.Forest service officials are now reconsidering a permit struck down by 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 27, which in turn led federal regulators to order a stop to pipeline construction.

Are Russia And China Trying To Kill The Dollar?

Forbes | Posted on August 16, 2018

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested Tuesday that countries facing sanctions like Iran, Turkey and Russia may start doing business in their national currencies, suggesting that the days of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency may be numbered.

Judge restores WOTUS rule in 26 states

Politico Pro (subscription required) | Posted on August 16, 2018

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration violated administrative legal requirements when it delayed the start of the Obama administration's Waters of the U.S. rule by two years — a move that means the rule will now go into effect for about half the country. The judge said EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers had unlawfully declined to consider any comments addressing substantive issues related to WOTUS or an earlier 1982 version when it proposed delaying the rule to give the agencies more time to repeal and replace it.That was a fatal flaw, ruled Judge David Norton of the U.S. District Court for South Carolina, a George H.W. Bush appointee. Delaying the WOTUS rule has the effect of reverting to the 1982 rule, he wrote.Norton's injunction means the Obama-era rule will take effect in 26 states. The other 24 are covered by two different injunctions, one issued to 13 states in 2013 and one issued to another 11 states in June.However, WOTUS may be blocked nationwide again if the rule's opponents get their way. In another WOTUS lawsuit in a federal court in Texas, three states in February asked for a nationwide injunction of WOTUS. That court has yet to decide on the matter.

'A complete shock': Economists stunned by USDA's decision to move economic research arm

Politico | Posted on August 16, 2018

Staff members at USDA’s Economic Research Service were blindsided by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to move the agency out of Washington, and agricultural economists are concerned the department's economic research arm could be weakened by the changes.The news was particularly hard on officials with families who have settled in the Washington area, despite USDA's assurances that staffers will be offered relocation assistance and the same base pay they were earning while in Washington. The department's announcement also said every ERS and NIFA employee will have the opportunity to continue working for the agencies, but most will have to relocate once new locations for the agencies are chosen. USDA has said the agencies may be co-located or located separately.Beyond the lack of advance notice, USDA workers and the legions of economists and researchers throughout the industry who rely on ERS reports and data are worried the move could lower ERS' profile within USDA and make it more susceptible to political influence. Beyond the lack of advance notice, USDA workers and the legions of economists and researchers throughout the industry who rely on ERS reports and data are worried the move could lower ERS' profile within USDA and make it more susceptible to political influence. Still, several employees who spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity were skeptical of the department's explanation for the planned moves.“This all seems like just a way to get people to quit,” said one official.USDA's announcement said the department is seeking authority to offer voluntary early retirement and buy-outs to staffers who decide not to relocate.It was not lost on ERS staff that President Donald Trump’s last budget proposed a 50 percent cut to the agency. Though that recommendation was ignored by Congress, it sent a message to staff that “the administration doesn’t care,” as another person within the agency phrased it.

Economic Research Service: reliable information's last stand?

The Daily Yonder | Posted on August 16, 2018

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that he will move the USDA Economic Research Service out of Washington, D.C., and place the agency under the management of USDA Office of the Chief Economist. Also involved in the reorganization and relocation is the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, another research agency.  The Daily Yonder uses material from the Economic Research Service routinely. We republish ERS research reports or quote from them extensively. We refer to their background articles on topics like rural population, poverty, farm income, natural resources, nutrition and more. The ERS “Rural America at a Glance” and “The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America” are standard references in the field of rural policy. There is no comparable public source of information about the economic and social conditions of rural America.  “Moving skilled USDA ERS and NIFA employees out of Washington, D.C., and under the supervision of the Office of the [Chief Economist] politicizes, and therefore fundamentally endangers our country’s capacity for agricultural research and development. The reasons provided for this decision are meritless: moving the agencies put them at risk for losing experienced, high-level employees; does nothing to improve the agencies’ responsiveness to rural stakeholders; and in the end will cost taxpayers by reducing the productiveness of two hubs of national ag research. Plain and simple, this is not a move in service of improved ag research capacity, rural stakeholders, or taxpayers writ large – rather, it is a bold-faced move to restrict and control the dissemination of information, one that in the end will weaken our farmers’ ability to compete at home and abroad.”

New Survey Results Highlight Variation in Food Safety Practices Prior to the Produce Rule

Amber Waves - USDA | Posted on August 16, 2018

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 included a new Produce Rule that sets specific disease-preventive requirements for produce that is consumed raw in the United States. ERS researchers conducted a survey of produce growers prior to implementation of the Produce Rule to highlight variation in food safety practices.Larger growers have consistently adopted food safety practices at higher rates than smaller growers, but even some growers who will not be required to meet Produce Rule (PR) standards used food safety practices.When surveyed (before the PR was enacted), the majority of growers who would be covered by the PR already tested the water they used, although they may or may not have tested it as frequently as the PR requires or met other required criteria.At the time of the survey, growers who conducted third-party food safety audits spent about 2 to 10 times as much on costs measured in the survey as growers that did not audit

Estimated cost for producers to comply with FSMA produce rule

USDA | Posted on August 16, 2018

This study estimates farm-level costs to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Safety Rule by commodity, State, and farm size. Across commodities and States, differences in costs are driven by differences in farm size and range from 0.3 percent of annual produce sales for the largest farms to 6.8 percent for the smallest.As part of the rule-making process, FDA estimated the cost of compliance with the Produce Rule for a few broad categories of farms distinguished by annual produce sales value and exemption status. In its analysis, FDA estimated the total costs of compliance to be $368 million for domestic farms (annualized over 10 years, using a 7-percent discount rate) but did not estimate the costs by commodities or regions. Using those original FDA estimates, this study provides estimates of the cost of compliance with the Produce Rule by commodity, State, and farm size (based on sales).