USDA is offering grants for innovative ideas for conservation strategies and technologies. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest $10 million in the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, funding innovative conservation projects in three focus areas: grazing lands, organic systems and soil health. Grant proposals are due Feb. 26, 2018. "Conservation Innovation Grants play a critical role in developing and implementing new methods to help our customers conserve natural resources, strengthen their local communities, and improve their bottom lines," said Rob Johansson, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. "Today's announcement supports our efforts to help producers build economically-strong and resilient farms and ranches by providing producers tools to utilize across their working farmlands.”
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.
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.
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.
The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a proposed rule to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule. OLPP was published on Jan. 19, 2017. The grounds for the proposed withdraw are that the rule exceeded the USDA’s own rule-making authority. The OLPP rule was to set welfare standards in organic agriculture and was widely supported by the organic industry as well as animal welfare, environmental, and consumer organizations, according to a statement from Friends of the Earth. Lisa Archer, Director of the Food and Agriculture Program at Friends of the Earth, issued a response directed at the current administration:
Senate Agriculture Committee members can’t say they weren’t warned. A panel of witnesses spoke to the committee on Wednesday and all essentially delivered the same message: the current defense against pests, pathogens, and biosecurity threats to the food system needs work.“If you were an enemy of the United States and wanted to strike us, nuclear weapons always get the most attention because they’re so terrifying to everybody, but when you think about the damage that would be done to our economy, to our country, to our people, it would create a real sense of terror if somebody successfully attacked with a pathogen our agriculture sector,” former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, told the committee.
President Donald Trump will address farm and ranch families from across the nation at the 99th Annual Convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation. The convention will be held January 5th through the 10th in Nashville, Tenn.
The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security has criticized several immigration detention facilities for having spoiled and moldy food and inadequate medical care, and for inappropriate treatment of detainees, such as locking down a detainee for sharing coffee and interfering with Muslims’ prayer times.
At Iowa Farmers Union’s annual convention earlier this month, if tax reform was raised, it was out of concern over who would benefit, and at what cost. IFU’s family farmer members had greater concern for low crop prices, increased corporate consolidation, and efforts to improve on-farm conservation practices. And their alternative priorities track with broader American sentiment, as the rest of America seems resigned to accept that current tax reform efforts just aren’t for them. A recent Quinnipiac poll found Americans oppose current tax bills by a margin of two to one, and CBS found that 70 percent of respondent don’t think tax reform should be a priority.With so many challenges facing the country and rural America in particular, you, like me, might be asking what is Washington thinking? The next congressional agenda item appears to be entitlement reform out of concern over the skyrocketing national debt. At the same time and by Congress’s own estimate, these tax reform bills will add between $1-$1.45 trillion to the debt even after economic growth is factored in. As an American, its alarming to me that we will cut programs like Medicaid, social security, and nutrition programs to offset tax cuts that analysts predict will be a windfall for corporations and the wealthy.