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Small Business Retirement Plan Mandates Coming In 2017 in some states

Forbes | Posted on September 20, 2016

Half of private sector employees don’t have access to a workplace retirement savings plan, but by next year several states expect to have new plans up and running. Washington state is anticipating an early 2017 start date for its Small Business Retirement Marketplace, where financial services firms will offer low-cost plans to businesses with less than 100 employees, including solo business owners. The Marketplace will be voluntary for employers—and employees. By contrast, programs in Oregon and Illinois, with expected June 1, 2017 start dates, will be mandatory for employers, while employees will always be able to opt out. In Oregon, employees will be automatically enrolled into a plan that is pooled and professionally managed. In Illinois’ Secure Choice program, employees will be automatically enrolled in a Roth IRA-like savings account.

USDA releases new proposal for emerging animal disease framework

USDA- APHIS | Posted on September 20, 2016

The National List of Reportable Animal Diseases (NLRAD) was created through a deliberative process led by the United States Animal Health Association/American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians’ Committee on Animal Health Surveillance and Information Systems and the National Animal Health Reporting System Steering Committee. The paper proposes a single, standardized list of reportable animal diseases, and outlines who will be responsible for reporting, and describes how diseases are to be reported. Based on the comments we receive on the proposed NLRAD, we will likely begin rulemaking to publish a proposed rule establishing a new part in title 9, Code of Federal Regulations for the NLRAD and associated reporting requirements.   We are seeking stakeholder feedback on the draft plan for responding to emerging animal diseases.Please send your comments by November 1, 2016,

FDA’s next focus: Antibiotics without defined duration of use

Bovine Vet Online | Posted on September 19, 2016

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the agency requests information from the public about how to establish appropriately targeted durations of use for the approximately 32% of therapeutic products affected by GFI #213 with no defined duration of use in order to foster stewardship of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals and help preserve the effectiveness of these antimicrobials in animal and human medicine. Specifically, for certain species and disease indications as listed in the FR notice, the FDA wants to obtain additional information on: The underlying diseases requiring these drugs for therapeutic purposes, and periods when livestock or poultry are at risk of developing these diseases;        More targeted antimicrobial use regimens for these diseases and husbandry practices that may help avoid the need for these antimicrobials, or that may help make more targeted antimicrobial use regimens more effective; and Strategies for updating affected labeling of drug products that do not currently include a defined duration of use.

Feds offer prizes for innovative ways to fight drug-resistant bacteria

Food Safety News | Posted on September 19, 2016

Two federal programs are coordinating on $20 million in prizes for all phases of competition for new, innovative, and novel laboratory diagnostic tests to combat the development and spread of drug-resistant bacteria.  Announced Sept. 8 by the National Institutes of Health and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the competition — the Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge — is designed to tackle what officials call “a rising public health threat.”

Motor Carrier Administration proposes pilot program for veterans

Ag Retailers Association | Posted on September 19, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is accepting public comments on a proposed pilot program to allow a limited number of individuals between the ages of 18 to 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce if they have received specified heavy-vehicle driver training while in military service and are sponsored by a participating motor carrier.  During the 3-year pilot program, the safety records of these younger drivers (the study group) would be compared to the records of a control group of comparable size, comprised of driver who are 21 years of age or older and who have comparable training and experience in driving vehicles requiring a commercial driver's license (CDL).  This proposal was included section 5404 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was signed into law (P.L. 114-94) on December 4, 2015.  ARA supports this pilot program and would like for FMCSA to initiate another one for short-haul drivers between the ages of 18 to 21 transporting farm supplies and agricultural products within a 150 air-mile radius.  We believe a larger pool of eligible drivers to participate in these types of pilot programs will provide FMCSA with improved safety data that is more statistically valid.   ARA encourages members to submit comments to the agency in support of this important pilot program and request they initiate another pilot program for short haul graduated drivers as well as collect driver safety data from all states during the duration of the pilot program on 18 to 21 drivers with CDL's operating a CMV intrastate.   Please submit comments on or before September 21, 2016.

USDA releases guidance on industrial hemp production

USDA | Posted on September 19, 2016

This document is a “Statement of Principles”(link is external) to inform the public how federal law applies to activities associated with industrial hemp that is grown and cultivated in accordance with Section 7606. The term “industrial hemp” includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of such plant, including seeds of such plant, whether growing or not, that is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a tetrahydrocannabinols concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. The term “tetrahydrocannabinols” includes all isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers of tetrahydrocannabinols. The Statement of Principles informs individuals, institutions, and states how to legally participate in industrial hemp research, in states where such activity is legal, if they wish to do so. As reflected in this guidance, eligible National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) program participants may be able to use agency funding for industrial hemp research in some circumstances that are consistent with existing program priorities.

An Agrarian Take on US Economic Malaise

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on September 19, 2016

Understanding the current era of US economic malaise lies, at least in part, with the most basic of American enterprises - the production and marketing of food.   A historical, even defining feature of economic growth has been a decline in the share of expenditures that consumers devote to food and food services (hereafter food). However, since 2002 for the US, Engel's Law, so named for the economist who first observed it, has not held. Real inflation adjusted Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased by 27%, but the share of consumer expenditures spent on food has flat-lined at 11.8%. In contrast, between 1955 and 2002, a period that post-dates the dislocations associated with the World Wars and Great Depression, the share spend on food declined from 23.5% to 11.8%, or on average by 0.25 percentage points per year. As the share spent on food declined between 1955 and 2002, the share spent on medical care and a category of other goods and services grew notably. Medical care's share has continued to grow at about the same rate since 2002; but, as with the share spent on food, the share spent on the other category has changed little (see Figure 3). The other category is diverse. It ranges from cosmetics and jewelry, to education, electronics, recreation and travel. Not being able to spend a greater share on these discretionary goods and services that reflect individual preferences and life styles has likely frustrated consumers and helped create a sense of economic malaise.

US takes China to WTO over farm subsidies

Financial Times | Posted on September 15, 2016

The US has accused China of illegally subsidising rice, corn and wheat farmers, adding agriculture to a growing list of Washington's concerns over Chinese overproduction and distortion of global markets.  The launch on Tuesday of a new World Trade Organisation case comes as President Barack Obama is campaigning to get a vast new Pacific Rim trade deal ratified by Congress later this year and selling it as a vital element of America’s strategic response to China’s economic rise.  It also comes amid global concerns about China’s industrial overcapacity and a heated US presidential election in which global trade and China’s impact on the US economy have been central issues.  Washington has stepped up a trade crackdown on China in recent months, introducing steep anti-dumping tariffs on steel imports, launching a flurry of new WTO cases and pushing to resist China’s demands to be treated as a market economy under WTO rules. Tuesday’s case is the 14th it has filed against China during Mr Obama’s presidency but its first major action against Beijing on behalf of the powerful US grain export sector.

Wisconsin farm groups fight EPA on atrazine levels

Star Tribune | Posted on September 15, 2016

Some of Wisconsin's largest farm groups are worried federal regulators will expand restrictions on atrazine, a weed killer sprayed on corn fields and other crops.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft ecological risk assessment of atrazine this summer and recommended reducing the allowable levels.  Farm groups have asked farmers to contact the EPA and urge the agency to reconsider its stance.  Wisconsin Corn Growers Association officials said the reduced allowable levels would effectively ban the use of the weed killer in nearly 100 herbicide mixes.

Ag Mergers Will Draw Senate Scrutiny Next Week

DTN | Posted on September 15, 2016

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has scheduled some must-see TV for farmers and other involved in the seed, biotechnology and chemical mergers.  Grassley released a witness list late Wednesday for the Sept. 20 hearing by his committee -- Consolidation and Competition in the U.S. Seed and Agrochemical Industry. The hearing will include five of the major players in the current wave of industry acquisitions: the president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences, the CEO of Syngenta International AG, the president and CEO of Bayer CropScience North America, the executive vice president and chief technology officer of Monsanto Co., and the executive vice president of the agriculture division for DuPont and Co.  Along with those executives, the committee hear from the president of the National Farmers Union, the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, the chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation and the president of the American Antitrust Institute.