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Questionable moves at USDA

National Journal Daily | Posted on September 5, 2018

When the House and Senate farm-bill conference committee meets Wednesday, there are some things they should discuss but probably won’t: the Trump administration’s decisions to place the Agriculture Department’s economic research functions directly under the secretary and to move most of the employees of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture out of Washington. Perdue’s argument is that he plans to move the agencies so that the researchers will be closer to the farmers who benefit from their work. He also said it has become harder to recruit employees from the land-grant universities that graduate most agricultural specialists, because the cost of living in the Washington area is so high.National organizations and leaders who have a stake in the USDA’s leadership have denounced the plans. The first and most outspoken opponent is Sonny Ramaswamy, who was director of NIFA for six years until May when his term was up. On his Facebook page, Ramaswamy wrote, “Is this dumb and shortsighted or what? The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which supports the most successful and envied research and extension enterprise in the world, is being proposed to be basically broken up.”In an interview, Ramaswamy said, “I believe the justification to move NIFA fails on all three reasons cited: staff recruitment and retention; bringing NIFA closer to stakeholders; and cost savings.”

China races to corral an outbreak of deadly African swine fever

Bloomberg | Posted on August 30, 2018

The Korean peninsular and Southeast Asia may be next to report outbreaks of African swine fever after the rapid onset of the deadly pig disease in China, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.China announced its fourth case of the disease last week in the province of Zhejiang, four days after it was reported in neighboring Jiangsu, and some 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from where an initial outbreak was discovered Aug. 3 in northeastern Liaoning province.

Kansas Corn Growers Disappointed with Penny from USDA

KTIC Radio | Posted on August 30, 2018

USDA’s trade aid package is a disappointment to corn farmers, according to Kansas Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley, White Cloud. McCauley commented on the one-cent-per-bushel allocation for corn in the Market Facilitation Program announced by USDA today.“I can’t say ‘thanks for nothing’ but one cent per bushel is close to nothing, In fact, this payment only applies to half of your crop so in reality, that’s a half-cent per bushel at this point. A half-cent is no relief from the market destruction we’ve seen for corn.”Earlier this summer, Kansas Corn leaders told EPA they were “mad as hell” about the more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol waivers handed out to oil refiners, while the agency continutes to drag its feet on allowing year-round market access for E15 fuel.“As a corn farmer, I’m starting to feel picked on by the administration. We’ve had to fight EPA on ethanol waivers and are seeing no movement in allowing year-round E15 sales,” McCauley said. “Now, even though National Corn Growers showed USDA that corn farmers have seen a 44-cent-per-bushel loss due to trade issues, we’re getting a half a penny.”

How U.S. Soybeans Can Skirt Trade-War Tariffs to End Up in China

Bloomberg | Posted on August 30, 2018

U.S. soybeans can still make it to China without paying the 25 percent tariff -- they just have to take a 5,500-mile (8,850-kilometer) diversion via Argentina. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how the trade would happen. An unusual flood of U.S. beans to Argentina could be processed by that nation’s huge crushing industry and sent to China as soy meal. Argentina is the world’s biggest exporter of meal, made from the crushed oilseed and used as animal feed.Beans from the U.S. are going to Argentina after one of the worst droughts in decades crippled production on the Argentine Pampas. Processors such as Cargill Inc. and Bunge Ltd. are cranking up purchases of foreign supplies to make up for the shortfall.

The Farm Bill and the ‘Assault’ on Poor Families

The Atlantic | Posted on August 29, 2018

Before the current farm bill expires on September 30, House and Senate conferees will sit down and try to put the finishing touches on a new, thousand-page bill that speaks to all aspects of the nation’s agriculture policy, from farm subsidies to crop insurance to conservation programs. But the legislation, now nearly four years in the making, could be derailed by work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (snap)—also known as the food-stamp program—some of which food and nutrition experts have described as an “assault” on poor families.If they get their way, House Republicans would impose stricter work requirements on snap recipients than the program has ever seen. Their version of the farm bill dramatically increases the need to work, requiring almost anyone receiving snap benefits, including people with children above the age of 6 and all “able-bodied” adults under the age of 60, to work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours a week. Failure to do so (or failure to report to work- or job-training hours) just once, and they’d lose benefits for a full year. Two strikes, and the penalty increases to three years of lost benefits unless they comply with the requirements or receive an exemption.

USDA Announces Deregulation of GE Canola with Altered Oil Profile

USDA | Posted on August 29, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announces today the deregulation of Nuseed Americas’ canola variety genetically engineered (GE) to contain in its seed increased levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid. As part of the petition process, APHIS prepared a draft plant pest risk assessment (PPRA) and a draft environmental assessment (EA).  APHIS made these documents available for a 30-day public review and comment period on June 26, 2018.  After considering the public comments, APHIS has determined it is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and is deregulating this variety of GE canola.Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), APHIS conducted a thorough review of the potential environmental impacts and prepared a final EA. APHIS concluded in its final PPRA that this variety of GE canola is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agricultural crops or other plants in the United States. 

DOT seeks comment on revising trucking rules

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 29, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it is seeking public comment on revising four specific areas of current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, which limit the operating hours of commercial truck drivers. The upcoming Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), which will be published in the Federal Register, responds to widespread Congressional, industry, and citizen concerns and seeks feedback from the public to determine if HOS revisions may alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on highways and roads. The comment period will be open for 30 days.The four specific areas under consideration for revision are:Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8-hours of continuous driving; and Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

Immigration and an Ohio Town

Wall Street Journal | Posted on August 29, 2018

My hometown of Salem, Ohio was recently in the news and not in a pleasing way. In June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement teams arrested almost 150 Latin American meat-packing plant workers, men and women, mostly Guatemalans, for alleged immigration-related offenses. Fortunately some have since been released, including those who had legitimate documentation but just didn’t have it on them at the time of the raid

Critics of the Endangered Species Act are right about what it does. But they miss the point.

The Washington Post | Posted on August 29, 2018

Much ink has been spilled in the past few weeks — and rightly so — about the imminent threats to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) posed by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress. Critics of recently proposed policy changes — reducing protections for species deemed “threatened,” making it easier to consider economic factors in the decision to list species as endangered and generally clearing the way for faster approval of energy projects — regard them as thinly veiled giveaways to industry lobbyists and interests, rolling back regulations to favor resource extraction and risking extinction of some species.The lobbyists pushing these policies have based their critique o f the ESA on how it attempts to control land use rather than species conservation. After all, they argue, it’s not the endangered land act. And this critique spotlights the core debate over the ESA’s implementation dating back to Day One: Is it about controlling lands or species?While the ESA’s ostensible focus is on the latter, scientists have long argued that the former is essential — and not just to preserve species. For decades, the ESA been a critical signal — and legal recognition — of the many diverse values offered by nature, not merely its economic value as “natural resources.” To roll back this landmark act would be to surrender land and wildlife to relentless cost/benefit analysis and commodification. Far from a perversion of its original intent, as the ESA’s critics maintain, its focus on land use has been intrinsic from the beginning. As enacted in 1973 (and subsequently amended), Section Four requires the interior secretary to “designate critical habitat” for endangered species, Section Five provides for land acquisition for conservation, and Section Nine prohibits “taking” endangered species — a broad, and contentious, prohibition on harming wildlife on state and private lands.

Endangered species law costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars, says CEI

Washington Examiner | Posted on August 29, 2018

Protecting endangered species could be costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars above the federal government’s official estimates, according to a new study. The libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that the cost of protecting animals on the endangered species list skyrockets from tens of billions to hundreds of billions of dollars annually when factoring in broader economic cost, such as lost investment opportunities for energy development.“Whatever the [Endangered Species Act’s] cost is, it is much larger than generally acknowledged, and likely measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” the report concludes. “Unfortunately, the ESA’s poor record of recovering species does not indicate that we are getting what we pay for.”