EPA grant money used for a clean water campaign targeting farmers was spent properly, the agency’s Office of Inspector General concluded in a report released today. Some of the money went for billboards in Washington state that said “Unregulated agriculture is putting our waterways at risk” and featured a web address – http://www.whatsupstream.com– where visitors could contact state legislators to voice their concerns. But when the news broke that EPA was helping fund the “What’s Upstream?” campaign, farmers and their allies in Congress protested. Fully a third of the House of Representatives sent a letter to then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy objecting to the grant, which was made to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC). Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairmen of the Senate Environment and Public Works and Agriculture committees, respectively, asked for an investigation, saying they were “troubled to learn that EPA’s financial assistance appears to improperly fund an advocacy campaign in Washington state that unfairly targets and demonizes farmers and ranchers.”
The head of Bethel Heights Vineyard looked out over the 100 acres of vines her crew of 20 Mexicans had just finished pruning, worried about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its crackdown on immigrants.From tending the plants to harvesting the grapes, it takes skill and a strong work ethic to produce the winery's pinot noir and chardonnay, and native-born Americans just aren't willing to work that hard, Patricia Dudley said as a cold rain drenched the vineyard in the hills of Oregon. "Who's going to come out here and do this work when they deport them all?" she asked.President Donald Trump's hard line against immigrants in the U.S. illegally has sent a chill through the nation's agricultural industry, which fears a crackdown will deprive it of the labor it needs to plant, grow and pick the crops that feed the country.Fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and cattle farmers and owners of plant nurseries and vineyards have begun lobbying politicians at home and in Washington to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes the harm to their livelihoods.Some of the farm leaders are Republicans who voted for Trump and are torn, wanting border security but also mercy toward laborers who are not dangerous criminals.Farming uses a higher percentage of illegal labor than any other U.S. industry, according to a Pew Research Center study.Immigrants working illegally in this country accounted for about 46 percent of America's roughly 800,000 crop farmworkers in recent years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture.
The World Trade Organization ruled Tuesday that Mexico's tuna industry has been harmed by U.S. "dolphin-safe" labeling rules and says the country can seek retaliatory measures worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The decision said Mexico's economic damages from the labeling rules amounted to $163 million a year. The Mexican government issued a statement saying it would "immediately ask the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body for authorization to suspend benefits" and also begin an internal process of targeting imports from the United States. In past decisions, the WTO has held that the U.S. "dolphin-safe" labeling improperly interfered with trade. Mexico's statement said its tuna industry meets "the highest international standards for the protection of dolphins and sustainability."
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that will direct his new agriculture secretary to identify and eliminate what Trump says are unnecessary regulations that hurt farmers and rural communities. The order also establishes a new task force charged with reviewing policies, legislation and regulations that unnecessarily hinder agricultural and economic growth.
When the National Organics Standards Board delayed a vote in November on whether produce grown on hydroponic and similar systems could be organic, members wanted to step back and gather more information on the issue. Companies marketing organic greenhouse bell peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables grown on hydro- and aquaponic systems might have to wait another year before the issue is decided. The NOSB’s three-day spring meeting in Denver ended April 21, with no formal vote or action taken in regard to hydroponic and container growing, and it is unlikely there will be a vote in 2017. “The NOSB decided this was something so fundamental to the organics industry, they want everyone participating in the policy developing process for how to handle container and hydroponic growing systems,” said Lee Frankel, executive director for the Coalition for Sustainable Organics.
A rule exempting livestock farms from reporting certain air pollutant emissions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been overturned by a federal appeals court. However, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is most likely to affect large livestock operations or those with disproportionately high emissions, experts say.In 2008, the EPA exempted most farms from reporting ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from animal waste to EPA under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA.The EPA had determined that requiring such emissions reports from farms is “unnecessary because, in most cases, a federal response is impractical and unlikely.”The agency issued a similar exemption to the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act, or EPCRA, which requires reporting of those pollutants to state and local governments. However, the EPCRA exemption didn’t apply to large facilities, such as those with more than 1,000 cattle or 10,000 sheep. The Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental group, filed a lawsuit against the exemptions while the two agriculture groups — the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and the National Pork Producers Council — challenged the provision that excluded large confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, from the exemption.
America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.The Census of Agriculture highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The 2012 Census of Agriculture revealed that over three million farmers operated more than two million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. This was a four percent decrease in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income, and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).
Canada's ambassador to Washington said Tuesday night that President Donald Trump is wrong when he says Canada's trade practices in the dairy industry are "very unfair." Ambassador David MacNaughton said in a letter to the governors of Wisconsin and New York that Canada is aware of their letter to Trump asking him to address Canadian dairy practices."Canada does not accept the contention that Canada's dairy policies are the cause of financial loss for dairy farmers in the United States," MacNaughton said. He said the facts don't bear that out and attached a U.S. Department of Agriculture dairy outlook report that "clearly indicates the poor results in the U.S. sector are due U.S. and global overproduction." Trump spoke out against Canada on Tuesday in a way he's not done before, saying Canada has been "very, very unfair" to dairy farmers and "we're going to start working on that." Canada has decided to impose import taxes on ultra-filtered milk, a protein liquid concentrate used to make cheese. It had been duty free but Canada changed course after milk producers there complained. About 70 dairy producers in both U.S. states are affected. MacNaughton writes that the Canada dairy industry is less protectionist than that of the U.S, which he says has employed technical barriers to keep Canadian dairy out of the U.S. market.
U.S. President Donald Trump promised on Tuesday to defend American dairy farmers who have been hurt by Canada’s protectionist trade practices, during a visit to the cheese-making state of Wisconsin. Canada's dairy sector is protected by high tariffs on imported products and controls on domestic production as a means of supporting prices that farmers receive. It is frequently criticized by other dairy-producing countries."We're also going to stand up for our dairy farmers," Trump said in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "Because in Canada some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers and others."Trump did not detail his concerns, but promised his administration would call the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and demand an explanation."It's another typical one-sided deal against the United States and it's not going to be happening for long," Trump said.Trump also reiterated his threat to eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico if it cannot be changed.U.S. dairy industry groups want Trump to urge Trudeau to halt a pricing policy that has disrupted some U.S. dairy exports and prioritize dairy market access in NAFTA renegotiation talks.
President Trump has not been shy about expressing his attitude toward foreign trade. Throughout the campaign, as well as after assuming office, he has repeatedly argued that it is better to buy American goods rather than imported ones, and has criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement as a bad deal for Americans. In light of this, it is hard not to feel a sense of irony at the latest news from the dairy sector. A new policy from Canada allows the country to block imported dairy products from America, particularly milk that has been heavily filtered. Unsurprisingly, American dairy farmers are crying foul, claiming that the policy violates NAFTA, gives Canada an unfair advantage on the world market, and will cost approximately 10,000 American jobs. They are asking President Trump to intervene on their behalf. Not to sound callous, but I have to ask: What did they expect?When the policy set forth by the president of the United States is one that demonizes trade with other countries, derides our trade agreements as worthless, and conceives of global economics as a zero-sum competition with winners and losers, can you really be surprised when other countries react in the same way? If Trump has no regard for NAFTA, why should Canada? If buying Canadian imports is bad for America, why is buying American imports any better for Canada?This is one of the reasons why protectionism is so dangerous. It not only harms the domestic economy, but it sends a signal to every other country that it’s “us or them” — and if they want to keep up, they had better be at least as aggressive as we are. This is how trade wars start. And if it’s allowed to get out of hand, pretty soon nobody is trading with anybody, with each country becoming its own isolationist island.