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Congress seeks to weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2017

On Wednesday, July 26, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed 21 bills during a markup session. One, H.R. 2083, aims to protect salmon by allowing permit holders to kill California sea lions in the Columbia River. Critics caution the bill undermines federal protections such as the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, without addressing the root causes of salmon declines, which include habitat destruction and dams.  Sea lions have noticed that Pacific Northwest dams conveniently funnel fish into predators’ mouths. Well, not exactly. But the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River is an important migratory pathway for salmonid fish, which live in the sea as adults but swim back upriver to spawn. The fish ladders built to help salmon bypass the river’s many dams attract marine mammals, which congregate near the entrance of the ladders and feast. For example, in 2016 California sea lions ate some four percent of salmonids migrating through the Bonneville Dam, according to a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Because salmonid populations have nosedived in recent years, these seasonal feeding frenzies trouble fisheries managers.

Funding Awards to States for FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Implementation

FDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

Our partnerships with states are especially critical when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, which are covered under FSMA’s produce safety rule. States have a long history of successfully working with their farming communities. That’s why we leverage relationships with state-based partners to achieve many of our goals. Today we’re announcing an additional step in these efforts. The FDA is awarding $30.9 million in funding to support 43 states in their continued efforts to help implement the produce safety rule. This is the largest allocation of funds to date, made available by the FDA to help state agencies support FSMA produce safety rule implementation and develop state-based produce safety programs. The FSMA produce safety rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The rule is a critical part of FSMA and was developed after careful consideration of stakeholder comments. It reflects the feedback that the FDA received from thousands of public commenters.The new funding the FDA is announcing today is a key part of the success of this program and the agency’s collaborative efforts with state-based programs. The funding will ensure that awardees have the resources to formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system and develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance. These programs will prioritize farming operations covered by the produce safety rule. The funding will help awardees develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of their farming communities.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Anne Hazlett

USDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

First and foremost, I want to assist Secretary Perdue in executing his vision for creating an environment where rural communities can prosper.   In that, I am specifically focused on taking action to improve the quality of life in rural America-- from greater access to broadband connectivity and medical care to distance learning.  Two issues that I am particularly passionate about are leadership and capacity development in small towns and assisting rural communities in responding to the growing nightmare of opioid misuse and the many underlying challenges that have contributed to this issue. Beyond these external goals, I would like to foster greater synergy between Rural Development and the other mission areas in USDA as well as other partners focused on rural programs within the federal family.  For example, how can Rural Development work more closely with other agencies to address challenges like food insecurity and child summer hunger.

The cost of doing away with USDA Rural Development

Nevada Appeal | Posted on August 1, 2017

Over the years, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants and loans have served as a lifeline for rural communities, providing critical funding for water and wastewater infrastructure, public and community buildings, and essential community service facilities. Yet the president's proposed budget zeros out allocations for Rural Development, leaving small towns with few options and bleak prospects for continued growth. Without Rural Development's services, many small communities will have to put off infrastructure or facility projects. However, "the cost of doing nothing is as costly as the project itself," said Terry Meier, community development specialist with JEO Consulting Group.When necessary projects are left on the drawing board, the quality of life in a small town is impacted along with its economic prospects.Rural Development's loans, grants, and technical assistance help communities fill resource gaps and address quality of life challenges. Funding opportunities are primarily directed toward towns and villages with fewer than 20,000 residents.

Perdue: Current Farm Visa Program "Unworkable"

Ag Web | Posted on August 1, 2017

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the United States' current farm-labor visa program is "essentially unworkable." Perdue did not specify why during a visit to Mexico on Friday, and he said the issue probably will not come up in talks next month on the North American Free Trade Agreement.Mexico says it wants an "integral" approach to renegotiating the 1994 pact that addresses issues such as immigration. The country has also suggested it could look to South American grain if talks don't go well.But Perdue said Mexico may just be talking about alternatives to U.S. grain, which supplies most Mexican feedlots.Perdue noted that U.S. manufacturing has not benefited as much from NAFTA as the farm sector but expressed hope that agricultural products won't be targets of retaliatory measures.

Assessing the Pulse of the Next Farm Bill Debate

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on August 1, 2017

Thirteen agricultural economists put together short papers describing issues that will surface during the writing of the next farm bill. For each issue, the author describes the "policy setting" and details "farm bill issues" that likely will arise during negotiations. Each issue then has a "what to watch for" summary. These papers, along with an overview, are presented in this article.

    Agriculture Secretary Perdue to Kick Off “Back to Our Roots” RV Tour

    USDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

     U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that he will embark on a five-state RV tour, titled the “Back to Our Roots” Tour, to gather input on the 2018 Farm Bill and increasing rural prosperity.  Along the way, Perdue will meet with farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers, students, governors, Members of Congress, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees, and other stakeholders.  This is the first of two RV tours the secretary will undertake this summer.  In making the announcement, Secretary Perdue issued the following statement: “The ‘Back to our Roots’ Farm Bill and rural prosperity RV listening tour will allow us to hear directly from people in agriculture across the country, as well as our consumers – they are the ones on the front lines of American agriculture and they know best what the current issues are,” Perdue said.  “USDA will be intimately involved as Congress deliberates and formulates the 2018 Farm Bill.  We are committed to making the resources and the research available so that Congress can make good facts-based, data-driven decisions.  It’s important to look at past practices to see what has worked and what has not worked, so that we create a farm bill for the future that will be embraced by American agriculture in 2018.”This first RV Tour will feature stops in five states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.  For social media purposes, Secretary Perdue’s Twitter account (@SecretarySonny) will be using the hashtag #BackToOurRoots. 

    Statement of Secretary Perdue Regarding Japan's Planned Increase of Tariff on U.S. Frozen Beef

    USDA | Posted on July 29, 2017

    The government of Japan has announced that rising imports of frozen beef in the first quarter of the Japanese fiscal year (April-June) have triggered a safeguard, resulting in an automatic increase to Japan's tariff rate under the WTO on imports of frozen beef from the United States.  The increase, from 38.5 percent to 50 percent, will begin August 1, 2017 and last through March 31, 2018.  The tariff would affect only exporters from countries, including the United States, which do not have free trade agreements with Japan currently in force.

    Secretary Perdue to announce new mentorship initiative in Iowa August 5, Register Now!

    Farm Services Agency | Posted on July 28, 2017

    On August 5, 2017, Secretary Perdue plans to announce an initiative that will increase access to business mentorships by farmers, ranchers and small business entrepreneurs.  Please join us for this announcement and a panel discussion on supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers! New farmers need people in their corner who can help them navigate the challenges of starting and growing a business.  Advisors from a wide range of backgrounds can support new farmers through agricultural mentorship.  While a generation of farmers prepares to transition off the land, the next generation is exploring ways to get started and grow their operations.  USDA is working with partners like you to ensure that farmers and ranchers have access to the support and tools they need to succeed, and this new mentorship initiative that Secretary Perdue will announce on August 5 is an important tool in the toolbox. I hope that you can join us for this event in person or on USDA’s Facebook page, where we will be broadcasting live!  Please also share this announcement with your membership and producers in Iowa.  Logistics:Where: Iowa Ag Summit held at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. When:  Saturday, August 5, 2017. Events: 11:00am Secretary Perdue’s keynote address and announcement. 3:00pm Panel discussion “Supporting the Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers” Attendance at the Iowa Ag Summit is free but registration is required at, and late registrations will be accepted.

    EPA is asking a climate denier think tank for help recruiting its ‘red team’

    Think Progress | Posted on July 27, 2017

    The Environmental Protection Agency has asked the Heartland Institute, a D.C.-based rightwing think tank that denies the human causes of climate change, to help identify scientists to join the agency’s so-called red team-blue team effort to “debate” the science of climate change. The move is part of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s efforts to undercut established climate science within the agency. In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Pruitt suggested the possibility of creating a red team to provide “a robust discussion” on climate science and determine whether humans “are contributing to [warming].” The Heartland Institute offers a model of what the EPA red team might look like. Their contrarian Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change — often referred to as a red team — publishes regular volumes of a report called “Climate Change Reconsidered.” Heartland communications director Jim Lakely told the Washington Examiner the red team exercises to critique climate science are necessary “to critically examine what has become alarmist dogma rather than a sober evaluation of climate science for many years.” But, as many scientists and experts have noted, the peer review process for scientific publications already requires and facilitates rigorous examination.