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Lesson #1: Every farm bill is unique – the last one was a doozy

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 14, 2017

The process for writing what was expected to be the 2012 farm bill started in a fairly routine way: staff discussions, member meetings and hearings to gather input from farmers and consumers. Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., described that hearing as “two-and-a-half hours to kick off two-and-a-half years.” If only it had been so simple and so quick. That’s not to say that previous farm bills – beginning with the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 – had any less drama and lacked political intrigue. After all, in the midst of the Great Depression, congressmen wanted to quickly pass a bill to “Relieve the existing National Economic Emergency by increasing agricultural purchasing power,” as they noted at the start of their legislative text.


USDA Announces Recommended Decision on California Federal Milk Marketing Order

USDA | Posted on February 11, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced its recommended decision to establish a California Federal Milk Marketing Order.  The marketing area of the recommended FMMO would incorporate the entire state of California. Where appropriate, the recommended California FMMO proposes adoption of uniform order provisions contained in the 10 current FMMOs.  These uniform provisions include, but are not limited to, dairy product classification, end-product price formulas and the producer-handler definition.  The proposed order would recognize the unique market structure of the California dairy industry through tailored performance-based standards to determine eligibility for pool participation.  The proposed order provides for the recognition of producer quota as administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture


Refugees In US Brave Snow To Walk Across Canada Border In Fear Of Trump

International Business Times | Posted on February 9, 2017

Refugees fearful of President Donald Trump's immigration policies have been braving freezing winter temperatures to walk across the border from the U.S. to Canada. The Welcome Place refugee assistance agency in the province of Manitoba provided assistance to 91 claimants between Nov. 1 and Jan. 25, Reuters reported. That number was more than the agency typically helps in an entire year. Most walked into Canada across the freezing prairies along the border. Over the weekend, 22 refugees crossed the border on foot near Emerson, Manitoba, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The Guardian said that one agency opened claims for 10 refugees in one day last week, a first.  Refugees were walking across the border and avoiding official border crossings because of a 2004 agreement between Canada and the U.S., advocates told Reuters. The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country agreement has required refugees to apply for asylum in whichever of the two countries they arrive in first. This means that refugees were often rebuffed at the U.S.-Canadian border when trying to enter Canada. “They’re not crossing at the actual point where there’s an immigration and customs offices,” Rita Chahal of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, told the Guardian. “They’re walking through prairie fields with lots and lots of deep snow. In Europe we’re seeing people in boats; now just imagine a prairie flatland and snow for miles and miles.”


Rural Republicans question using private cash to fix infrastructure

The Hill | Posted on February 9, 2017

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee convened a hearing on Wednesday to get input from transportation leaders from rural regions as lawmakers and the new administration assemble an infrastructure package.   “Funding solutions that involve public-private partnerships, as have been discussed by administration officials, may be innovative solutions for crumbling inner cities, but do not work for rural areas,” Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said.  “Public-private partnerships and other approaches to infrastructure investment that depend on a positive revenue stream from a project are not a surface transportation infrastructure solution for rural states.” Infrastructure advocates have warned that the model would favor urban areas over rural ones, because investors would only be attracted to projects that can recoup their own investment costs through some of sort of revenue stream like user fees or toll ways. Those types of projects tend to be concentrated in more populous areas with higher traffic. Part of the reason why rural states depend heavily on the government for transportation dollars is they tend to have smaller populations and thus less revenue to keep up with aging infrastructure in sprawling areas. Rural states, particularly in the west, also have a large number of federal parks and public lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) pointed out that the issue also affects broadband in rural areas, which can hurt school children trying to use the internet for homework, she said.
 


Hemp industry members file legal challenge against DEA’s new marijuana extract rule

The Denver Post | Posted on February 9, 2017

The hemp industry has taken the DEA to court in the wake of a controversial new rule on marijuana extracts. Denver’s Hoban Law Group, representing the Hemp Industries Association, Centuria Natural Foods and RMH Holdings LLC, on Friday filed a judicial review action against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging the agency overstepped its bounds when enacting a rule establishing coding for marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil. The action, Hoban attorneys allege, puts at risk a booming cannabis and hemp industry and a wide variety of hemp-based products currently on the market. The DEA last month confounded many in the cannabis industry with the filing of a final rule notice establishing a Controlled Substances Code Number for “marihuana extract,” and subsequently maintaining marijuana, hemp and their derivatives as Schedule I substances. DEA officials said the code number would assist in the tracking of materials for research and would aid in complying with treaty provisions. However, compliance attorney Hoban and others expressed concern at the time that the language could result in federal agencies viewing products produced from marijuana and hemp as illegal.


USDA delays organic animal welfare rule

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 9, 2017

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is delaying the effective date of a new rule on organic livestock and poultry practices to comply with a Trump administration directive. The rule had been scheduled to go into effect March 20; the new date is May 19. Reince Priebus, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, issued a memo Jan. 20 to federal agencies directing them to “temporarily postpone” for 60 days any regulations that had been published in the Federal Register but not yet taken effect.


Tax Reform and Trade Policy

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on February 7, 2017

President Trump has returned trade policies and related taxes to the spotlight. The Trump administration floated the idea of a 20% border tax adjustment or a tariff on Mexican imports to have Mexico pay for the wall. This article looks further at the issue of border tax adjustments, tariffs and trade policies.  According to basic economic theory, a standard tariff is a tax applied to imported products and is therefore generally expected to increase their cost. Accordingly, much of the burden of a tariff would fall on US consumers. By comparison, a border tax adjustment is a recalibration of a domestic tax, such as a sales tax or a value-added tax, designed to put traded and domestically produced goods on the same tax footing In other words, a border tax adjustment isn't a border adjustment if it isn't adjusting for a specific approach of domestic taxation, like a value-added tax. Nor is a border tax adjustment applied to a single country. In fact, if it isn't adjusting for domestic tax rules, it looks a lot like a tariff, and, like a tariff, it would run counter to US trade commitments and would therefore likely generate trade retaliation.


Deal allows Yellowstone bison slaughter

The Washington Post | Posted on February 7, 2017

A deal will allow the mass slaughter of hundreds of wild bison migrating from Yellowstone National Park, while sparing 25 animals that American Indian tribes want to start new herds. It resulted from two weeks of intensive negotiations and removes a political obstacle for the park after Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on Jan. 19 temporarily blocked Yellowstone’s plan to kill up to 1,300 of Yellowstone’s 5,500 bison this winter.  The terms are likely to dampen public outcry by averting slaughter for most of a small group of bison that had been earmarked for a conservation effort intended at establishing new herds elsewhere.


Court revives suit over government pesticide approvals

The Washington Post | Posted on February 7, 2017

A federal appeals court revived a sweeping lawsuit accusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of endangering scores of protected species by approving toxic pesticides without required consultation with wildlife officials. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of a lower court ruling in the 2011 suit against the EPA by two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America. The groups say the EPA has approved hundreds of pesticides that are known to be harmful to endangered and threatened species such as the California condor without legally required consultations with wildlife officials that could limit the pesticides’ impacts.


Foundation for Biomedical Research Statement on USDA Record Access

Foundation for Biomedical Research | Posted on February 7, 2017

the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced discontinued electronic access to inspection reports, annual reports and enforcement records from its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website known as the Animal Care Information System (ACIS). The move, which appears to have been made based on privacy concerns, has received criticism from animal welfare groups stating that the decision removes transparency related to how tax dollars are being used.   Foundation for Biomedical Research President, Matthew R. Bailey said “I would certainly agree that protection of personal information is of utmost importance, especially given the rich history of targeting the individuals involved in animal research. However, this change also makes it more time consuming, although not impossible, for organizations like FBR to analyze trends in animal use in research.”


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