We’re now halfway through 2017, and this serves as a good reminder that the US Department of Agriculture is a tad late in submitting its annual report to Congress on the dairy and fluid milk promotion programs. Several years late, in fact. The Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983, which created the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program, requires USDA to submit an annual report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on the dairy promotion program. The enabling legislation for the Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program, the Fluid Milk Promotion Act of 1990, also requires such a report.But the most recent report posted on the website of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (which has oversight responsibility for both dairy promotion programs as well as a number of other promotion and research programs covering everything from eggs and cotton to popcorn and softwood lumber) covers 2012 program activities. That’s practically ancient history.
A judge has accepted a guilty plea in an investigation of illegal labor at dairies in Michigan’s Thumb region. Madeline Burke pleaded guilty to hiring people without verifying that they were eligible to work in the U.S. The government says the workers were in the U.S. illegally.Burke and her husband are natives of Ireland. They operate two dairies near the tip of the Thumb. Burke has agreed to pay a fine of $187,500, which adds up to $1,500 per illegal worker.
US dairy farmers tend to be conservatives, but many depend on immigrant workers to keep their operations running. Republicans' tough stance on immigration has created a political rift between some farmers and their representatives. This disconnect highlights the complicated place farmers hold in American politics.
A federal court denied a request from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) seeking a rehearing following a recent ruling issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requiring additional waste emissions reporting requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations. The court’s ruling rejected an exemption from reporting under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), two programs that are meant to inform the National Response Center and local first responders of hazards that may call for emergency action.
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 ..."Nick Giordano, vice president and council for global government affairs at the National Pork Producers Council, said farm groups recognize there is an overcapacity of steel and aluminum in the world. Farm groups and other industries are concerned, however, that the Trump administration's plan would boomerang against other exporting industries. Giordano also pointed out that roughly 25% of pork is exported, and in the case of a crop such as wheat, as much as 50% is exported.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today gave the go-ahead to conduct emergency haying on Conservation Reserve Program lands to help provide feed for livestock in drought-stricken areas of Montana and North and South Dakota. “Because of the rapidly worsening drought and increasing degradation of existing forage, the Secretary is authorizing emergency haying beginning July 16,” the Farm Service Agency said in a notice. Farmers typically would be allowed to start haying on Aug. 1. The notice applies to certain counties in the three states that are suffering through D2 drought conditions or worse, as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor, and counties located in a 150-mile buffer.
The European Union and Japan announced a broad agreement on Thursday that would lower barriers on virtually all the goods traded between them, a pointed challenge to President Trump on the eve of a summit meeting of world leaders in Germany. Though the deal still needs further negotiation and approval before it can take effect, it represents an act of geopolitical theater, a day before a Group of 20 summit meeting begins in Hamburg. At a meeting of G-20 finance ministers in March, Steven Mnuchin, the United States Treasury secretary, pointedly declined to endorse a statement in favor of free trade. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said the deal signified the creation of “the world’s largest free, advanced, industrialized economic zone.” The core of the agreement aims to increase the flow of Japanese cars to Europe and of European food to Japan.
The U.S. Department of the Interior will pay nearly $465 million this year to local governments primarily in rural areas that have come to rely on the funds because they cannot levy taxes on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the sum in Nevada on Monday. The $13 million increase this year is slightly less than the average annual growth of $22 million over the last decade. Most of the money goes to Western states, where the Interior Department collects most its $8.8 billion in annual revenue from commercial activities on public lands. California will see more than $48 million this year from the program. Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Utah will each receive between $30 million and $40 million.
Cyantraniliprole, a new insecticide that’s significant for blueberry and citrus growers, will remain on the market even though a federal appeals court has ruled its approval violated the Endangered Species Act. he chemical provides a new weapon against the spotted wing drosophila in blueberries and the Asian citrus psyllid in citrus crops.Environmental groups — Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and Defenders of Wildlife — filed a lawsuit against EPA claiming the agency never studied CTP’s potential effects on threatened and endangered species.According to the plaintiffs, CTP may be “fairly persistent” in an agricultural environment even as it degrades, raising the possibility the chemical will accumulate over time.The plaintiffs pointed to EPA’s own ecological risk assessment that found the insecticide is expected to be sprayed in areas inhabited by 1,377 endangered species. The D.C. Circuit said it’s convinced that leaving CTP’s registration in place while EPA further evaluates the chemical will maintain “enhanced protection of environmental values.”
The first known shipment of cooked chicken from China reached the United States last week, following a much-touted trade deal between the Trump administration and the Chinese government. But consumer groups and former food-safety officials are warning that the chicken could pose a public health risk, arguing that China has made only minor progress in overhauling a food safety regime that produced melamine-laced infant formula and deadly dog biscuits. Chicken from China will not be labeled, and a representative from Qingdao Nine-Alliance Group, the first exporter, did not specify the name brand it’s being sold under. The privately owned chicken company, one of the largest in China, already supplies markets in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Exports of poultry, largely chicken and duck, are expected to swell under the terms of a May trade deal that would send more U.S. beef to China and expand Chinese poultry sales into the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently proposed a rule allowing China not only to cook, but also raise and slaughter the birds that it ships here as chicken nuggets and flash-steamed duck breasts.