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FDA reaches out to Ag Commissioners on Food Safety

FDA | Posted on December 1, 2017

FDA's Scott Gottlieb wrote to the state Ag Commissioners reinforcing the agency’s commitment to work in partnership with the states to effectively implement FSMA.  Issues that are still being addressed include terminal markets, dispute resolution, on farm visits and agriculture water.


Removing and Replacing Production Deduction Risks Benefits for Farmer Cooperative

DTN | Posted on November 30, 2017

 The head of the National Council of Farmer Cooperative is concerned about how tax law will treat a 17.4% tax deduction that could pass from cooperatives through to farmers but leave farmer cooperatives without the same financial benefit they now receive from the Section 199 Domestic Production Activities Deduction. Senate Republicans worked Tuesday to ensure passage of a $1.41 trillion tax-cut bill by seeking changes that would shore up the benefits to small businesses. Amid denunciations from Democrats and a small but vocal protest breaking out during the business meeting, the Senate Budget Committee voted along party lines early Tuesday afternoon in Washington to merge some provisions from different committees in the tax bill and advance the bill to the Senate floor.Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that a few key Republicans had indicated support for the tax bill, leading to just a few Republican senators who viewed the tax benefits for small businesses as not as attractive in the Senate bill compared to the tax cuts for larger corporations."That's the stumbling block we have to deal with right now," Grassley said. He added, "They know the necessity of getting a bill passed, and I don't know what it is going to take to satisfy them, but something's got to be done," Grassley said.


Retired Miner With Black Lung Begs EPA To Save Power Plant Rules: ‘We’re Literally Dying’

Huffington Post | Posted on November 30, 2017

In 2014, Stanley Sturgill traveled 1,300 miles from his home in Harlan County, Kentucky, to Denver, where the Environmental Protection Agency held one of four public hearings and 11 listening sessions on new rules to limit pollution from power plants. The retired coal miner ― diagnosed with black lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from his years toiling underground ― begged the agency for help: “We’re dying, literally dying for you to help us.”On Tuesday, Sturgill, 72, drove three hours to Charleston, West Virginia, for the EPA’s only public hearing on the Trump administration’s proposal to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Hunched in front of a microphone at a rounded wooden table in the Senate Judiciary Committee Room of the West Virginia Legislature, he made his plea once again: “We’re still dying ― we’re still literally dying ― for you to help us.”“Just how many people must pay the supreme price of death for a few rich, greedy people to bank a few dollars?” Sturgill said. He noted how long he and his wife, Sharon, had trekked just to speak for a few minutes. “We may be old, but we still love living.”His testimony, about 90 minutes into the 9-to-5 hearing, punctuated a morning packed with fawning praise for President Donald Trump, back-patting Republican lawmakers, and exhausted public health advocates who’ve spent years repeating the same statistics on climate change and asthma.“Do I really think that this administration cares what this old, worn-out coal miner has to say? Well, I don’t know. I really doubt it. But I had to be here,” Sturgill said, “as long as I can draw breath.” The EPA estimates the social cost of carbon ― climate-change related damages to property, human health, economic growth and agriculture ― to be between $11 and $105 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution. But the real cost could be 129 times higher, according to a study released this month from Purdue University, which found that existing models relied on decades-old agricultural data.


USDA Publishes School Meals Rule, Expands Options, Eases Challenges

USDA | Posted on November 30, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today provided local food service professionals the flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation. The new School Meal Flexibility Rule, published today, makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and asks customers to share their thoughts on those changes with the Department.The interim final rule published today gives schools the option to serve low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk. Currently, schools are permitted to serve low-fat and non-fat unflavored milk as well as non-fat flavored milk. The rule also would provide this milk flexibility to the Special Milk Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program operators serving children ages 6 and older. States will also be allowed to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students during School Year (SY) 2018-2019.Schools and industry also need more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals, Perdue said. So instead of further restricting sodium levels for SY 2018-2019, schools that meet the current – “Target 1” – limit will be considered compliant with USDA’s sodium requirements. Perdue again lauded the efforts of school food professionals in serving healthful, appealing meals and underscored USDA’s commitment to helping them overcome remaining challenges they face in meeting the nutrition standards.


Tax Legislation and the Specter of Sequestration on the Farm Bill

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on November 29, 2017

A recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has raised concerns about the potential impact the Congressional tax bills could have on farm programs and the farm bill. In short, the concern raised is that if the tax bills increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, existing statutory requirements for sequestration and Pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) would require automatic reductions to offset the deficit increases. The following reviews the issue from the perspective of the potential implications for farm programs, crop insurance, conservation and the upcoming farm bill debate. Sequestration is triggered automatically. OMB's role is to calculate and implement it, as well as to issue reports to Congress. Recent sequestration reports under the 2011 BCA provide examples but not the full scope of the potential concern for the farm bill.The next farm bill will be written using the 10-year baseline estimated by CBO in 2018. Therefore, the concern is that sequestration would eliminate the entire baseline for commodity programs, as well as a substantial portion of the baseline for conservation programs.


Turkey farmers facing squeeze after Trump kills agriculture rules

Politico | Posted on November 28, 2017

Ike Horst raises 22,000 turkeys a year on his farm in the rolling hills of south-central Pennsylvania, selling them to a processing company that was providing him with enough of a nest egg that he hoped he could sell the farm and retire. But a Trump administration decision to block proposed agriculture regulations may blow up those plans, preserving the multibillion-dollar meat industry’s power over the smaller turkey farmers whose birds will grace the tables in millions of American homes this Thanksgiving. Horst is one of the independent businessmen caught up in the Trump administration’s governmentwide deregulation frenzy.Obama-era rules that had yet to take effect would have given smaller farmers more power to set the terms of their deals with massive meat companies, empowering the growers to sue and better define abusive practices by processors and distributors under federal law. Trump’s Agriculture Department killed two of the proposed rules, one of which would have taken effect in October.Major agribusinesses like Cargill and Butterball fought the rules, saying they would lead to endless litigation between farmers and global food companies.Trump’s deregulatory strike — lauded by big business — has consequences, even for the mom-and-pop turkey farmers who raise free-range, antibiotic-free turkeys that have seen increasing demand as Americans become more socially conscious about the production of their foods.Horst is afraid a planned sale of his farm will fall through because Plainville Farms, a major organic food producer and the primary customer for his turkeys, is requiring the buyer to install upgrades including fans, tunnel ventilation and a stationary generator if it wants to continue supplying to the company.


USDA Awards Funds to Support Rural Veterinary Services

USDA | Posted on November 22, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 13 grants to support rural veterinary services and relieve veterinarian shortages in parts of the U.S. and its insular areas. The funding from NIFA’s Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP) is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. “Rural veterinary practitioners address a variety of unique challenges related to the health and welfare of agricultural animals, public health concerns, and managing their practices,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “This program offers incentives to these types of practitioners, students, and educators, empowering the veterinary workforce with specialized skills to enhance services in the field.”


States Face Children’s Health Coverage Uncertainty

Roll Call | Posted on November 22, 2017

About two months after federal funding lapsed for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, state officials still don’t know exactly when they’ll run out of money or when Congress will renew funding — leaving families that depend on the program increasingly anxious about their benefits. At least a few states say that they could exhaust funds as soon as next month. States are growing more concerned about the program with just a few days left on the congressional calendar until December and no signs that lawmakers plan in the immediate future to renew funding. 


The Importance of NAFTA for the Agricultural Sector

Iowa State University | Posted on November 22, 2017

Trade flows of agricultural commodities between the United States, Canada, and Mexico are very large. In 2016, US agricultural imports from Canada totaled $24.9 billion while US exports amounted to $25.3 billion. In the same year, US imports of agricultural products from Mexico reached $24.66 billion and US exports to Mexico were $17.68 billion. Generally, NAFTA has been operating very well except for a few irritants. Trade talks are notoriously slow and agriculture is typically a major point of contention. However, agriculture may not be a major obstacle in the current NAFTA negotiations. Nonetheless, there are certain agricultural trade issues that are likely to be sensitive.In Canada, products under supply management —dairy, chicken and eggs—are likely to remain protected if the outcome of recent trade negotiations are any indication. In 2016, Canada signed CETA, a free trade agreement with the European Union. Although the European Union attempted early in the negotiations to convince Canada to terminate its supply management programs, it only obtained small concessions on cheese imports. Likewise, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement that will not include the United States, Canada agreed to minimal concessions regarding its supply management programs with import increases representing between 1.5 percent and 3.25 percent of domestic production.Mexico and the United States were recently involved in a dispute over sugar. The dispute was resolved in June with Mexico agreeing to limit its exports of refined sugar to the United States. It is likely that Mexico is considering this as a temporary solution and will seek a permanent solution with NAFTA. Mexico is the largest importer of US corn and has been using its corn imports from the United States as a bargaining chip. Indeed, Mexico has threatened to buy corn from South America to replace its corn imports from the United States. Closing of the Mexican market to US corn would cause a significant decline in corn prices in the United States, which would be particularly painful for corn-belt states.


Canada 'prepared for the worst' amid squabbles over NAFTA, Freeland says

CBC Canada | Posted on November 22, 2017

Despite making progress on "bread and butter" issues, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said differences remain between Canada and the U.S. on a number of key chapters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Speaking to reporters as the fifth round of negotiations concluded in Mexico City, the Toronto-area minister said "significant" sticking points include the U.S. push to change the rules of origin — which could be detrimental to the Canadian auto industry — and demands for a five-year sunset clause in the deal."There are some areas where some extreme proposals have been put forward, and these are proposals that we simply cannot agree to," she said, while adding the U.S. position of these contentious issues, which were introduced in earlier rounds of negotiations, are largely unchanged.


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