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As Trump meets biotech CEOs, farm advisers fret over empty USDA spot

Reuters | Posted on January 12, 2017

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has left the agriculture secretary as the last department head to be named to his Cabinet, while a meeting with the chief executives of two agribusiness giants gave a hint at a roster of farm issues the incoming president will face.

Trump met on Wednesday with the leaders of Monsanto Co (MON.N) and Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE), who pitched the benefits of their proposed $66 billion merger. While critical of other large tie-ups, Trump has not publicly taken a stance on the Bayer-Monsanto deal.

The secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not approve or reject the merger but will face the issue of industry consolidation.


A Bumblebee Gets New Protection on Obama’s Way Out

New York Times | Posted on January 12, 2017

The Obama administration has increased protection for a humble bumblebee.  The rusty-patched bumblebee, once common across the continental United States, has been designated an endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the country’s first bumblebee, and the first bee from the lower 48 states, to be added to the register. Seven bees were previously listed as endangered, but they are found only in Hawaii and are not bumblebees.  Since the late 1990s, the population of the rusty-patched bumblebee has declined by nearly 90 percent, a result of a combination of factors, including exposure to pesticides, climate change, habitat loss and disease, federal wildlife officials said. The species, once found in 28 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces, is found today only in small pockets of its once-sprawling habitat.  The designation will accelerate efforts to protect the bees’ habitat and to reduce the use of pesticides that are killing them. It takes years to move a species to the endangered list, and the incoming administration would need to undertake a lengthy process to declare the bee population recovered if it wished to reverse the decision.


Ag labor shortages defy easy fixes

Capital Press | Posted on January 12, 2017

Washington state vegetable farmers Burr and Rosella Mosby shifted in their seats and furrowed their brows as they listened to a panel discuss immigration issues during a session at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention.  USDA economist Tom Hertz was providing some troubling numbers for the Mosbys and other farmers who depend on workers to plant, prune, pick and pack their crops. “We hand-harvest everything,” Burr Mosby said.  Mexican immigration to the U.S. has been declining since 2007, Hertz said, and the number of Mexican-born people in the U.S., legally or illegally, has dropped from 13 million to an estimated 11.7 million in that time. The crop workers remaining are getting older: 14 percent were 55 or older in 2013-14, compared to 11 percent in 2007-09.  That’s a concern because the ability to do manual labor declines with age, he said. Also, the percentage of workers who are settled in one spot, not migrating from job to job, has increased to 84 percent from 74 percent during that time frame.


Farmers Aligned With Trump Campaign Object to Megamergers

Wall Street Journal | Posted on January 12, 2017

Some farm-belt advisers to the Trump campaign say they want the president-elect to put the brakes on agriculture-industry consolidation.  Some farm-state advisers to President-elect Donald Trump are speaking out against a wave of mergers among global seed and pesticide companies, warning they could boost the prices farmers pay. The advisers, including state officials and farmers, warn that consolidation will leave farmers with fewer choices among suppliers and shift a large portion of critical agricultural research to foreign ownership. Several members of an agricultural advisory committee formed last summer to advise the Trump presidential campaign are calling for more scrutiny of the pending deals. The planned combinations would reorder the $100 billion global market for seeds and pesticides at a time when farmers are grappling with slashed profits amid a multiyear slide in crop prices.

 


Federal Magistrate Sides with Producers in Montana Beef Checkoff Lawsuit

Texas A&M | Posted on January 12, 2017

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (“R-CALF”) and the United Stockgrowers of America have likely survived a motion to dismiss their case against USDA challenging the beef checkoff and obtained an injunction against the Montana Beef Council (“MBC”) to prevent it spending money received from the federal Beef Checkoff Board on promotion.  A federal Magistrate Judge sided with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which claims that the federal law requiring funding of the MBC is unconstitutional.  Additionally, the Magistrate suggests a preliminary injunction be issued, which would prohibit the MBC to use checkoff dollars to fund promotional campaigns unless they obtain affirmative permission from cattle producers that their assessment may be retained by the council and used for advertisement.


Idaho Sage Grouse Lawsuit Dismissed, Federal Judge Says Otter Has No Standing

Boise State Public Radio | Posted on January 12, 2017

A federal district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter against the Obama administration. In September 2015, Otter’s office filed suit against the Interior Department, arguing the federal agency illegally imposed land-use restrictions to protect the imperiled sage grouse. Now – a year and a half later – U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the lawsuit. The state’s lawsuit argued that the feds cut them out of the management and planning process. But in an opinion issued last week, the judge says Otter does not have standing in the case, because no injury has been proven.


Agri-Pulse announces Farm Bill Series and Summit

Agri-Pulse | Posted on January 12, 2017

Agri-Pulse, the nation's leading source of farm and food policy information, plans to launch an in-depth editorial series next month, “The Seven Things You Should Know Before You Write the Next Farm Bill,” culminating in a Farm Bill Summit at the National Press Club on March 20.   “Our editorial team had a bird's eye view of the ups and downs experienced during development of the last farm bill,” says Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant. “We think there are some important ‘lessons learned' that can help inform and stimulate debate before formal work starts on writing the next bill.”


USDA seeks public comment on RR Bentgrass

USDA- APHIS | Posted on January 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is making available for public comment a petition from Scotts’ Company and Monsanto Company seeking deregulation for creeping bentgrass genetically engineered (GE) for resistance to the herbicide glyphosate. The petition will be available for public review and comment for 60 days starting January 8, 2016.  Comments received on or before March 8, 2016, will be considered. 


USDA Community Connect Grants

USDA | Posted on January 12, 2017

This program helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service.The Community Connect program helps rural communities extend access where broadband service is least likely to be commercially available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for people and businesses. The projects funded by these grants help rural residents tap into the enormous potential of the Internet for jobs, education, healthcare, public safety and community development. Application Deadline, March 13, 2017


John Block: Priorities for 2017

OFW Law | Posted on January 12, 2017

Just go to rural America. Farmers, ranchers, and most red states cannot wait for President Trump to get rid of the flood of regulations that President Obama has weighing on our shoulders.  Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) is at the top of the list. The Obama EPA has tried to regulate everything. On my farm, we need to be able to tile a wet hole, straighten a creek, or dig a ditch to improve drainage. We don’t want to be required to get a permit to make improvements on our own farms. Another question – what about Obama Care? The public doesn’t like it. Republicans will keep some parts of it to include parents keeping their children on their health plan until they reach 26 years, and will make sure pre-existing conditions will not deny an individual health insurance. Repealing Obama Care will be easy, but replacing it without losing the 20 million new enrollees that the plan now helps will be hard. Also, an industry like agriculture is very concerned about trade since we export almost 30% of our production. We know Mr. Trump wants better trade deals, and I support that. Other countries use tariffs and non-tariff barriers to protect their industries. We don’t have many barriers to their imports. So, as we move to give our companies a fair deal, we certainly don’t need a trade war.


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