In his 2018 New Year’s message, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an accountability initiative that left current and former federal workers scratching their heads.“So from today forward, you will hear all of USDA leadership, from the Office of the Secretary on down, begin to refer to us as OneUSDA,” Perdue said in a video released on Tuesday, Jan. 2. “Not as APHIS or as the Forest Service, not as Rural Development or as FAS, and not as distinct agencies sitting in the same office, like FSA, RMA, and NRCS.“No, instead, we are going to be one team all working toward the same goals: OneUSDA. You may ask, and fairly so, ‘What does this mean for me?’ ”Perdue said more details will come over the next days, weeks and months.
A federal judge dismissed Monday all charges against rancher Cliven Bundy stemming from the 2014 Nevada standoff and barred prosecutors from retrying the case, citing “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.” U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gloria Navarro’s dramatic ruling during a hearing in federal court in Las Vegas wasn’t entirely unexpected, given that she declared a mistrial last month after finding that federal prosecutors had willfully withheld evidence from the defense.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing that it has withdrawn certain advance notice of proposed rulemakings (ANPRM) and proposed rules that were either published in the Federal Register more than 4 years ago without subsequent action or determined to no longer be candidates for final action. USDA is taking this action to reduce its regulatory backlog and focus its resources on higher priority actions. The Department's actions are part of an overall regulatory reform strategy to reduce regulatory burden on the public and to ensure the Spring and Fall 2017 Unified Agendas of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions provided the public accurate information about rulemakings the Department intends to undertake.
Use of precision agriculture allows us to monitor and apply water and nutrients where needed. We recently converted some irrigated acres to a buried drip system, which reduces water use and lowers impact on the soil. With the addition of rotations that integrate cover crops, weed pressure goes down, and water and nutrients stay in the soil and not in the streams. These are just a few changes in technology and management that support an agriculture that is both productive and environmentally responsible. These changes usually mean farmers need to continually learn and make changes on the farm. That takes capital and involves risk—we can’t control the weather or markets. To address this risk, I appreciate the investment our nation makes to ensure there is a safety net for production, whether in the form of crop insurance or other revenue protections. But just as important, conservation programs support long-term productivity and profit for farmers as well as clean water and air, wildlife habitat, and long-term food security for everyone.Working lands conservation programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture like the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program have been a tremendous support to our farm. Voluntary programs like these have helped support our investments in cutting edge technology and practices.
The National Milk Producers Federation urged state and federal regulators today to take enforcement action against a plant-based food company whose imitation “yogurt” violates the federal definition for dairy foods and fails to provide the same nutrition as real yogurt. NMPF called out Hayward, California-based Kite Hill for illegally labeling its line of products and implying the nut-based foods are suitable substitutes for the real dairy foods it attempts to mimic.
The Trump administration will soon face several major trade decisions that will determine whether the White House adopts the type of protectionist barriers that President Trump campaigned on but that were largely absent during his first year in office.In 2018, Mr. Trump will have several opportunities to punish foreign rivals as the final decider in a series of unusual trade cases that were initiated last year. These cases, which were brought under little-used provisions of trade laws, give the president broad authority to impose sweeping tariffs or quotas on foreign products.The United States has numerous other routine trade cases in the works — like Boeing’s fight with the Canadian plane maker Bombardier. But the ones heading to Mr. Trump’s desk are unique because they fall to the president alone, rather than career bureaucrats, to decide. Many American companies, particularly manufacturers, are cheering on the administration. They argue that they need the government’s assistance to stop foreign companies from flooding the market with cheap products. But others, including consumers and companies that buy steel, aluminum, solar modules and other products, complain that tariffs would make these items more expensive, put American companies out of business and kill more jobs than they create. And some of the measures the Trump administration is considering might violate commitments that the United States has made under existing trade pacts, risking retaliation from other countries.
Congress passed a significant overhaul to our tax system and we in Montana are left wondering what it will mean for us. As members of the Montana Food Security Council, we cannot help but fear the impact on our most vulnerable citizens. We believe that several tenets of the plan will worsen food insecurity in our state. Most low- and middle-income families in the U.S. will see little benefit, with many even experiencing tax increases by the end of the decade. The legislation sets up likely cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other important programs by increasing the federal deficit by an expected $1.4 trillion-$1.5 trillion over the next decade. The idea that tax cuts will boost job creation and stimulate the economy is a hefty gamble considering the lack of sound economic data to support this theory. We are already hearing from House and Senate leadership that cuts to social assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicare or Medicaid will be used to help "pay for" the tax plan. The tax plan will also likely lead to cuts at the state level at a time when Montana is already reeling from drastic budget cuts. In our recent special session, our state cut $76 million from crucial programs and services, including the closure of half of Montana’s Offices of Public Assistance. We will see additional state budget woes in Montana due to the new federal tax plan.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it has denied a petition by environmental groups to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations like factories under the Clean Air Act. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, in a letter to petitioners, acknowledged livestock are potential sources of air pollutants. The agency, however, doesn’t have a reliable method for estimating animal emissions. Until it does, new rules could be unjustified and ineffective, according to Pruitt.“Once the agency has sufficient information on CAFO emissions, it will determine the appropriate regulatory approach to address those emissions,” he stated.
More schools districts – and therefore more schoolchildren – are learning about healthy eating habits, and more schools would like to be able to source meats locally, according to the latest USDA Farm to School Census. More than 5,200 school districts and 57,600 schools participated in the program in 2015, which tracks local sourcing of food fed to schoolchildren during the course of the day. The first such survey in 2013 found more than 4,300 school districts operating 40,300 schools participated in Farm to School, which was established under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, USDA said.
Farmers who receive income from pass-through entities will see a 20% deduction. The effective impact of a 37% tax rate and a 20% deduction for pass-through income would set a top tax rate on business income at 29.6%. The tax accounting firm K-Coe Isom suggested some business considerations for farmers as year-end tax strategies for the bill. One would be to defer income to next year and pay deductible expenses now, because depending on circumstances, farmers could have a lower tax rate for 2018. After 2017, carryback of net operating losses will be limited to just two years instead of five years. So this may be the last chance to recoup income taxes from 2012-2015, K-Coe Isom said.Farmers may need to restructure their operations in order to get maximum benefit from the new law, but K-Coe Isom noted that "rate reductions and estate tax changes beneficial to ag are temporary."