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Federal News

Current Tax Breaks Defended

DTN | Posted on April 10, 2017

Witnesses at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on opportunities for tax reform in rural America declined Wednesday to take a position on the proposed border adjustability tax while saying that a range of current farm and ranch tax breaks should remain in place. Patricia Wolff, senior director for congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that the Farm Bureau has not taken a position on the border adjustability tax because it has positives and negatives, and it has not been put on paper yet."Until we know what the proposal is, it is hard to say the impact it will have on our industry. We need to see how it is structured, how it is written before taking a position," Wolff said under questioning.Wolff noted that the border adjustability tax would tax a product when it is consumed rather than when it is produced. That would mean products being exported would not be taxed, but imports -- including fertilizer and fuel -- would be taxed.Doug Claussen, a certified public accountant with KCoe Isom, LLP, a firm that serves farmers in the Great Plains and California, said that the benefit of not taxing the exported product would go directly to the exporter, and it would be hard for people in agriculture to determine the benefit unless they farm near the border and export directly. A producer in Kansas whose wheat goes to the elevator and from there to the Gulf of Mexico would have a hard time seeing the benefit

Destructive weed threatens U.S. corn fields

Reuters | Posted on April 10, 2017

A U.S. government program designed to convert farmland to wildlife habitat has triggered the spread of a fast-growing weed that threatens to strangle crops in America's rural heartland.The weed is hard to kill and, if left unchecked, destroys as much as 91 percent of corn on infested land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is spreading across Iowa, which accounts for nearly a fifth of U.S. corn production and in 2016 exported more than $1 billion of corn and soy.The federal Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers to remove land from production to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and protect endangered species.The destructive weed - Palmer amaranth – has spread through seed sold to farmers in the conservation program, according to Iowa's top weeds scientist, Bob Hartzler, and the conservation group Pheasants Forever."We are very confident that some of these seed mixes were contaminated," Hartzler said.Hartzler, an Iowa State University agronomy professor, said one seller was Allendan Seed Company, the state's largest producer of local grass and wildflower seeds for conservation land. Palmer amaranth first arrived in Iowa in 2013 but exploded across the state last year, spreading from 5 to 48 of the state's 99 counties, according to Iowa State University. In at least 35 of those counties, the weed was found on land in the conservation program.

Vilsack: Canada intentionally choking off U.S. milk sales

Ag Daily | Posted on April 6, 2017

The National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the International Dairy Foods Association are asking the federal government, and governors in northern states, to take immediate action in response to Canada’s violation of its trade commitments to the United States. Because of the new “Class 7” pricing policy, which is expressly designed to disadvantage U.S. exports to Canada and globally, multiple dairy companies in Wisconsin and New York have been forced to inform many of their supplying farmers that the Canadian market for their exports has dried up. For some farmers, this means that the company processing their milk and shipping it up North can no longer accept it starting in May. This is a direct consequence of the country’s National Ingredients Strategy and new Class 7 milk pricing program. “Canada’s protectionist dairy policies are having precisely the effect Canada intended: cutting off U.S. dairy exports of ultra-filtered milk to Canada despite long-standing contracts with American companies,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “American companies have invested in new equipment and asked dairy farmers to supply the milk to meet demand in the Canadian dairy market. This export access has suddenly disappeared, not because the market is gone, but because the Canadian government has reneged on its commitments.”“Our federal and state governments cannot abide by Canada’s disregard for its trade commitment to the United States and its intentional decision to pursue policies that are choking off sales of American-made milk to the detriment of U.S. dairy farmers,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. “It is deeply concerning that Canada has chosen to continue down a ‘beggar thy neighbor’ path of addressing its internal issues by forcing the U.S. dairy industry to bear the harmful consequences.” Vilsack noted that while farm families in the Northeast and Midwest are suffering the immediate consequences of the loss of Canadian markets, “thousands more will suffer if Canada persists in using its programs to distort the global milk powder markets so critical to tens of thousands of American dairy farmers.”

Defying Trump, Supreme Court will continue with WOTUS case

Utility Drive | Posted on April 5, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court declined a request to stay litigation over the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which the White House asked for as it reconsiders the environmental regulations. Last month President Trump signed an executive order directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the controversial WOTUS rule, in which the Obama administration clarified federal jurisdiction over waterways and wetlands under the Clean Water Act of 1972.The question before the Supreme Court includes whether District or Circuit courts have jurisdiction over the rule. The White House had asked to hold the case in abeyance as it makes several major environmental policy moves.

Farmers to plant record low wheat acres, most soybeans ever | Posted on April 5, 2017

In its annual prospective plantings report released Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said wheat acres will be the lowest on record this year at 46.1 million acres and soybean planting will be at a record high of 89.5 million acres.  The United States has more than 1 billion bushels of surplus wheat in storage and the oversupply has driven wheat farmers in several states including Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota to shift previously planted wheat acres to soybeans.  "The big trend there is that wheat is grown in just about every continent around the world except Antarctica so those acres elsewhere have increased dramatically. The U.S. has lost production to the rest of the world," said Todd Hultman, a grain market analyst for DTN, an Omaha, Nebraska-based agriculture market data provider.

APHIS Announces Public Meetings on Animal Disease Traceability

USDA | Posted on April 5, 2017

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is announcing a series of public meetings to receive input on the current Animal Disease Traceability system.  The meetings will allow APHIS to hear from the public about the successes and challenges of the current ADT framework, specifically for traceability in cattle and bison.  They will also provide attendees an opportunity to brainstorm ideas about overcoming these challenges and finding ways to fill gaps in the existing system. These meetings will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in seven locations: 

  • April 11: Oklahoma City, OK, Tower Hotel Oklahoma City, 3233 Northwest Expressway
  • April 13: Riverdale, MD, USDA Center at Riverside, 4700 River Road
  • April 20: Nashville, TN, Renaissance Nashville Hotel, 611 Commerce Street
  • May 2: Bloomington, MN, Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport, 7901 34th Avenue South
  • May 4: Denver, CO, Doubletree by Hilton Denver, 3203 Quebec Street
  • May 11: Rancho Cordova, CA, Sacramento Marriott Rancho Cordova, 11211 Point East Drive
  • May 24: Billings, MT, Hilton Garden Inn Billings, 2465 Grant Road 

If you plan to attend a meeting, please register in advance by visiting  Same-day registration will also be available at each meeting site. 

75 U.S. mayors won’t enforce climate policy rollback

Curbed | Posted on April 3, 2017

The 75 mayors who make up the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda—also known as Climate Mayors—not only issued a strong condemnation of Trump’s actions, they outlined specific ways they will continue their collective work to stop climate change, regardless of the federal government. The signatories include mayors of all major metropolitan areas like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and D.C., as well as smaller cities like Santa Monica, California, Park City, Utah, and Eugene, Oregon.

EPA rejects petition to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances

Agri-Pulse | Posted on April 3, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to continue allowing the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos, stating that the science surrounding human health effects is too uncertain to justify its own proposed ban on food tolerances. The agency announced the decision late today, two days ahead of a court-ordered deadline. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network had petitioned the agency 10 years ago to ban Dow AgroSciences’ organophosphate insecticide (tradename: Lorsban), which is used to control a variety of crop pests, including corn rootworm and soybean aphid. The groups have argued that food residue levels are high enough to pose a risk to the developing brain and nervous system. But EPA said in its news release that its October 2015 proposal to revoke food tolerances “largely relied on certain epidemiological study outcomes, whose application is novel and uncertain, to reach its conclusions.”

Ag groups, EPA settle CAFO lawsuit on personal data access

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on April 3, 2017

A federal district court in Minnesota has approved the dismissal and settlement of a lawsuit that agricultural groups filed to limit the amount of data that the Environmental Protection Agency can release on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), according to court documents. The National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) sued in 2013 after the EPA released extensive personal information on more than 100,000 CAFO operators in 29 states and was prepared to release the same on farmers in six other states. The groups argued that such information is exempted from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Lawmakers call for beef, pork checkoff reform

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 30, 2017

Lawmakers proposed twin legislation in the Senate and House of Representative calling for strengthening pork and beef checkoff program prohibitions against engaging in government policy advocacy, conflicts of interest or anticompetitive activities.  Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act in the Senate while Reps. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.), introduced similar legislation in the House.