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Federal News

Does the World’s Top Weed Killer Cause Cancer? Trump’s EPA Will Decide

Bloomberg | Posted on July 19, 2017

Every year, farmers spray, on average, almost a pound of the herbicide glyphosate on every acre of cropland in the U.S., and nearly half a pound on every acre of cropland worldwide. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, a huge source of income for its manufacturer, Monsanto Co., and the foundation for its epochal foray into genetically modified organisms. If you know nothing else about GMOs and Monsanto, know this: The St. Louis-based company reengineered the DNA of corn, soybeans, and other crops for the primary purpose of making them resistant to Roundup. Farmers spray the chemical on crops grown from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds. The weeds die, harvests expand, and expensive, laborious tillage is no longer necessary. Large-scale agriculture is built on this model, and not only in the U.S., which is why Bayer AG, the German drug and chemical company, agreed in September to buy Monsanto for $66 billion, pending regulatory approvals. Other than government antitrust objections, about the only thing that could mess up the purchase would be for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reverse its position on the active ingredient of Roundup, glyphosate.


Agriculture Spending Bill Headed to House Floor

Bloomberg | Posted on July 14, 2017

The 2018 agriculture spending bill approved in committee would provide $20 billion in discretionary spending for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2018 bill by a voice vote July 12. Now it is ready for floor action by the full House. The legislation would provide $1.1 billion less than FY 2017 enacted levels after adjusting for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.The combined total of both discretionary funds and required mandatory spending for programs like nutrition assistance and crop insurance is $144.9 billion, down $8.5 billion from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.


Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions By Federal Reserve District

Federal Reserve Bank | Posted on July 13, 2017

Economic activity expanded across all twelve Federal Reserve Districts in June, with the pace of growth ranging from slight to moderate. In addition, the majority of Districts expected modest to moderate gains in the months ahead. Consumer spending appears to be rising across a majority of Districts, led by increases in nonauto retail sales and tourism. However, many Districts noted some softening in consumer spending, particularly in auto sales which declined in half of the Districts. Manufacturing and nonfinancial services activity continued to grow, with most Districts reporting modest to moderate gains since the last report. Loan demand was steady to increasing in most Districts. Residential and nonresidential construction activity was flat to expanding in most Districts. Most Districts cited low home inventory levels in certain market segments which were constraining home sales in many areas. Agricultural conditions were mixed across the nation as moisture conditions varied considerably; several Districts continued to report weakness in dairy and some crop sectors due to low prices. Energy activity generally improved since the last survey, particularly for oil and natural gas. Coal production remained sluggish although higher than year-ago levels.


Ag Groups Fear Steel Tariffs

DTN | Posted on July 13, 2017

Farm groups are cautioning the Trump administration not to open a "Pandora's Box" by claiming restrictions on steel and aluminum are needed to protect "national security." Eighteen agricultural groups wrote to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Tuesday, stressing that such a move would be a disaster for global trade, "and for U.S. agriculture in particular."The Trump administration is expected to decide any day whether to place tariffs on steel imports, stemming from an April investigation announced by the Commerce Department over whether those imports are harming U.S. national security. It's a rare argument for a major global power to make in a trade case.The farm groups wrote to Ross that it would be "a short-sighted mistake" to restrict imports based on national security claims. The farm groups called on Ross to consider the broader implications for the economy "and avoid igniting a trade war through new restrictions on steel or aluminum trade ..."


Energy Department to industry: Here’s $8M, now (puleez!) innovate down the cost of algae

Biofuels Digest | Posted on July 13, 2017

In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy, through the Bioenergy Technologies Office, announced the selection of three projects to receive up to $8 million, aimed at reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. These projects will deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures. They will also deliver biology-focused breakthroughs while enabling accelerated future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community. This funding supports the development of a bioeconomy that can help create jobs, spur innovation, improve quality of life, and achieve national energy security.Algal biomass can be converted to advanced biofuels that offer promising alternatives to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels.  Additionally, algae can be used to make a range of other valuable bioproducts, such as industrial chemicals, bio-based polymers, and proteins. However, barriers related to algae cultivation, harvesting, and conversion to fuels and products need to be overcome to achieve the Department’s target of $3 per gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030.


Pa. farmer sues government for $8.1 million

Farm and Dairy | Posted on July 13, 2017

A Pennsylvania grain and produce farmer is suing the federal government for $8.1 million in damages and lost crop revenue that he says is the result of flooding caused by the government’s drainage management decisions. Robert Brace, 78, of Erie County, is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He argues that decisions made by those entities cost him more than $8 million that he would have realized from growing the most profitable combination of either cabbages, potatoes or onions. Brace has been in an ongoing battle with the federal government since 1990, when the U.S. EPA sued him for constructing drainage ditches on one of his farms without a permit. He believed he was justified in doing so, because of a “prior converted cropland” exclusion granted to wetlands converted to croplands prior to Dec. 23, 1985.


Now is the time to worry about net neutrality

Daily Yonder | Posted on July 13, 2017

The new head of the FCC is interested in undoing rules that protect free speech, fairness, and privacy on the internet. Digital rights advocate Karen Fasimpaur asks for your help in stopping this rollback.


Russian ban on EU, U.S. produce extended

The Packer | Posted on July 13, 2017

A Russian government news release says the ban, first enacted in August 2014, includes products from the U.S., European Union member countries, and Canada, Australia, Norway, Ukraine, Albania, Montenegro, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The ban had been set to expire Jan. 1, but Russia extended it after the EU extended its trade sanctions on Russia through Jan. 31.Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in a news release that the policy of mutual economic restrictions “does not have a future.” 


We must do more to protect our farms from terror threats

Des Moines Register | Posted on July 13, 2017

Less than four years later, however, after U.S. special forces raided an al-Qaida cave complex in eastern Afghanistan and found documents on sabotaging American farms through the intentional introduction of diseases that could infect livestock and crops, securing our nation’s food supply became a government priority.  In fact, the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was charged with implementing a series of Homeland Security Presidential Directives to safeguard agriculture. HSPD-7, issued in December 2003, added agriculture to the list of industries for critical infrastructure protection, and a month later HSPD-9 established a national policy to protect against terrorist attacks on agriculture and food systems. The Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act, sponsored by Iowa Congressman David Young, directs DHS to coordinate efforts to defend U.S. food, agriculture and veterinary systems against terrorist attacks and “high-risk” events and to collaborate with other federal agencies in bolstering the government’s prevention and response capabilities.Young, who first introduced his legislation in the 114th Congress after the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza killed millions of Iowa’s laying hens, turkeys and chickens, said the response to that outbreak from the federal government, including its communications with farmers, was lacking.


US government agrees to help Maine wild blueberry industry

The Seattle Times | Posted on July 13, 2017

The federal government is again trying to prop up the wild blueberry industry in Maine, where sagging prices jeopardize one of the state’s longest-standing agricultural industries.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved up to $10 million to purchase surplus Maine blueberries, the members of Maine’s congressional delegation said. Wild blueberries are one of the most important crops in Maine, but the industry is struggling with a steep decline in the prices paid to farmers.


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