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Federal News

A $12 Billion False Diagnosis for Trade Wars

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 29, 2018

Call it what you want, but to us the $12 billion that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA will spend to help farmers affected by tariff wars looks an awfully lot like the first installment in a series of “Emergency Payments.”   ake no mistake about it. If we were seeing $5.50 corn along with $14.00 soybeans and China threatened to levy tariffs on soybeans, we would not be reading an announcement about $12 billion in emergency payments to farmers. There would be lots of posturing by various market actors, but certainly not $12 billion. The reality is that the tariff announcement by China was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With the recent years of below-the-cost-of-production prices for most crops and the expectation for continued losses—even in soybeans—for the current crop marketing year, the announcement of the imposition of tariffs by the largest international market for U.S. soybeans sent a shiver down the backbone of US farm country. There is no doubt about it, retaliatory import tariffs on U.S. soybeans by China are unwelcome news, but the underlying price problems farmers are facing in the summer of 2018 are not the result of Chinese tariffs. They are the predictable consequence of two decades of failed US commodity policy. 

Free Press Gets a Boost With Senate Resolution Declaring It Is Not the Enemy

Roll Call | Posted on August 29, 2018

The Senate went on record declaring “that the press is not the enemy of the people” — a rebuke to President Donald Trump, who declares the opposite on a regular basis.  Senators adopted by unanimous consent a resolution from Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York to declare the Senate’s support for a free press and the First Amendment protections afforded to journalists. The resolution text was released the same day 350 newspapers ran editorials designed to push back on Trump’s criticisms of the media.

USDA Forest Service Announces New Strategy for Improving Forest Conditions

USDA | Posted on August 29, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service announced today a new strategy for managing catastrophic wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics. Specifically, a new report titled Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based investment Strategy  outlines the USFS’s plans to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments in areas with the highest payoffs.  “On my trip to California this week, I saw the devastation that these unprecedented wildfires are having on our neighbors, friends and families,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We commit to work more closely with the states to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. We commit to strengthening the stewardship of public and private lands. This report outlines our strategy and intent to help one another prevent wildfire from reaching this level.” A key component of the new strategy is to prioritize investment decisions on forest treatments in direct coordination with states using the most advanced science tools. This allows the USFS to increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that protect communities and create resilient forests.The Omnibus Bill also includes a long-term “fire funding fix,” starting in FY 2020, that will stop the rise of the 10-year average cost of fighting wildland fire and reduce the likelihood of the disruptive practice of transferring funds from Forest Service non-fire programs to cover firefighting costs. The product of more than a decade of hard work, this bipartisan solution will ultimately stabilize the agency’s operating environment.

Judge rules case against withdrawal of organic animal welfare rule can proceed

Agri-Pulse | Posted on August 25, 2018

A District Court judge in California has ruled that a group of organic stakeholders has the legal standing to challenge USDA’s withdrawal of organic animal welfare language earlier this year.

Massive increase in agriculture research funding needed

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition | Posted on August 22, 2018

The United States’ total federal investment in agricultural research has been flat for a long time, a fact that does not bode well for the future of our farm and food system. Not only does the research undertaken today have a profound impact on the what food and agriculture will be like a generation from now, but our chances of successfully tackling major societal challenges related to our current system are being seriously impeded by the lack of sufficient investment. Yet support for upping our game and securing our future through agricultural research sadly seems to be a mile wide and an inch deep in Washington policy circles.

U.S. drops agriculture demand from NAFTA talks: Mexico farm lobby

Reuters | Posted on August 22, 2018

The United States has dropped a contentious demand from the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement to impose restrictions on Mexican agricultural exports, Mexico’s top farm lobby said.A divisive issue has been a proposal by the Trump administration to put seasonal curbs on some agricultural exports to the United States. But a senior executive at Mexico’s National Agricultural Council (CNA) said that had been dropped.Andrade said the move followed a lobbying effort that sought to show that the “seasonality” demand stood to benefit a small fraction of U.S. agricultural producers while putting many other U.S. farmers at risk from Mexican retaliation.

USDA buying beef, up to $60 million in chicken

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 22, 2018

USDA announced plans to purchase up to $60 million in chicken products and an unspecified amount of beef for distribution to various food nutrition assistance programs.

Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Reauthorized

FDA | Posted on August 22, 2018

These two user fee programs enhance the FDA’s ability to maintain a predictable and timely animal drug review process, foster innovation in drug development, and expedite access to new therapies for food-producing and companion animals.

EPA analysis of its own new climate proposal: thousands of people will die

Vox | Posted on August 22, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency has released the details of its plan to replace President Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, and it’s pretty much what we expected: a tepid pledge to fight climate change that’s actually a coal bailout.For the new proposal to stand, it has to be just as good as or better than the one it replaces in order to comply with the law. But it’s much weaker than the rule it’s replacing, so the EPA is arguing for a cost-benefit calculation that justifies a relaxed standard. Meanwhile, environmental activists and some states see this as a vulnerability and are girding themselves for a legal fight. The big difference is that rather than the federal government setting targets for states, states can set targets for themselves. The ACE also restricts what states can do to push coal-fired power plants to become cleaner.The CPP’s goal was to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030. The ACE would reduce emissions between 0.7 and 1.5 percent in the same time frame.But the EPA’s own calculations show the new proposal would lead to upward of 1,400 additional premature deaths each year due to higher levels of air pollution. So the EPA is trading the health and well-being of thousands of Americans for keeping polluting and often unprofitable power plants online.

Scientists are raising the alarm that upcoming USDA overhaul will slash research funding

The Washington Post | Posted on August 22, 2018

Scientists are raising alarms over a Trump administration plan to overhaul two federal offices tasked with food and agriculture research, calling the move a ploy to slash funding to projects on climate change, nutrition and other top concerns. The plan, announced by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week, would relocate one top research office — the Economic Research Service — into the Office of the Secretary, a political branch of the Agriculture Department. It would also move ERS and a second scientific office, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, out of Washington by the end of 2019. A number of leading agricultural scientists and economists say the move risks gutting both agencies and stifling important federal research. The Trump administration has already targeted ERS for steep funding cuts, saying in its 2019 budget proposal that some of the agency’s research duplicated work being done at nonprofits and in the private sector. “It seems weirdly punitive,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, who served as NIFA’s administrator until his six-year term expired in May. “I can’t figure out why they would do this. ... There’s no compelling rationale.”But some researchers and former USDA officials say the change seems designed to slash scientific funding. The USDA has said no economists or researchers will lose their jobs as a result of the reorganization, but the department has acknowledged that many will choose not to relocate. And it is unclear if the USDA plans to fill those vacancies.