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Agro-terrorism prevention bill lands on Trump’s desk

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 29, 2017

A bill designed to heighten preparedness of the nation’s food, agriculture and veterinary systems has been sent to President Trump’s desk for his signature. The U.S. Senate passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act unanimously on May 24, and the U.S. House voted last week to send this legislation to the president to be enacted into law. Sponsored by Rep. David Young (R-Iowa), the legislation addresses concerns highlighted by the 2015 avian influenza outbreak that wiped out millions of layer hens, turkeys and backyard flocks. Response efforts revealed problematic breaks in the federal government’s ability to communicate with stakeholders and react quickly to large-scale animal disease outbreaks. The disaster also raised concerns among farmers and producers about how well the country would be able to share information and respond to agro-terrorism threats and attacks.

USDA Seeking Public Input on GMO Labeling

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on June 29, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public input on GMO labeling. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service posted 30 questions for the public this week regarding labeling food items containing genetically modified ingredients. The feedback will help the agency develop a proposed rule governing how food manufacturers disclose when products contain genetically engineered ingredients. Questions include: What terms should be interchangeable with “bioengineering”; whether AMS should require disclosures for foods containing highly refined products, such as oils or sugars derived from bioengineered crops; and the amount of a bioengineered substance needed to deem it bioengineered.

New U.S. Ambassador to China Touts Agricultural Trade

Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 29, 2017

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad touted trade as he took the helm of an important diplomatic mission that has been mired in uncertainty under the Trump administration. China’s Foreign Ministry refers to Mr. Branstad as an “old friend.” Chinese government advisers say Beijing hopes his agricultural background and ties with Mr. Trump will make him a strong voice in favor of trade inside the administration.Mr. Branstad concentrated most of his brief comments Wednesday on trade, saying he hoped to help reduce trade barriers in a way that would both benefit Chinese businesses and increase U.S. jobs.

House Subcommittee Funding Bill for USDA Cuts Less Than Trump Budget Plan

DTN | Posted on June 29, 2017

Agriculture isn't likely to see the kind of federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration if the discretionary appropriations bill approved Tuesday by a subcommittee is any indication. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies advanced a bill funding fiscal year 2018 discretionary programs for USDA and other agencies at just more than $20 billion, cutting $1.1 billion from last year's bill, or about 5.2% less than current funding levels.If the appropriations hold, USDA would receive about $876 million less than this year's discretionary budget. The funding bill, which was approved in a voice vote, advanced to the full committee. The committee is advancing multiple appropriation bills this week.Yet the $1.1 billion spending cut, if it holds, will be $3.7 billion less than President Donald Trump's proposed spending cut just for USDA. The Trump budget calls for a $4.8 billion cut from USDA discretionary programs, which the White House intended to use to offset spending increases in defense and homeland security, including funding for a border wall.

Senate health care bill called Anti-Rural

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 29, 2017

The head of the National Rural Health Association said the organization will oppose the Senate’s healthcare bill because the legislation will hurt rural America. “In its current form, this bill is anti-rural,” said Alan Morgan, NRHA chief executive officer.The bill, named the Better Care Reconciliation Act, contains several provisions that would hit especially hard in rural areas, Morgan said.Among these are deep cuts in Medicaid spending and an end to Medicaid expansion. About 45 percent of rural children use Medicaid, compared with 38 percent in metropolitan areas, according to a Georgetown University study.The bill would reduce funding for treatment of opioid addiction, another issue for rural America. The rate of opioid overdose deaths is 45 percent higher in nonmetropolitan counties, according to NHRA. The Senate bill provides $2 billion to fight opioid addiction in 2018, while the House version of the bill, called the America Health Care Act, provides $45 billion over 10 years.“They actually found a way to make the House bill worse,” Morgan said. “You really had to work to do that.”

Michigan native Matt Mika discharged from hospital after GOP baseball shooting

WXYZ | Posted on June 28, 2017

Michigan native Matt Mika has been discharged from George Washington University Hospital just over a week after he was shot at the GOP baseball team practice. Mika, who is the director of government relations for Tyson foods, underwent multiple surgeries after he was shot multiple times.A relative told 7 Action News that Mika suffered broken ribs, a sternum injury and some type of injury to his lungs.

Rural and Urban Differences in Air Quality, 2008–2012, and Community Drinking Water Quality, 2010–2015

Center for Disease Control | Posted on June 28, 2017

Patterns for all three air-quality measures suggest that air quality improves as areas become more rural (or less urban). The mean total number of ozone days decreased from 47.54 days in large central metropolitan counties to 3.81 days in noncore counties, whereas the mean total number of PM2.5 days decreased from 11.21 in large central metropolitan counties to 0.95 in noncore counties. The mean average annual PM2.5 concentration decreased from 11.15 μg/m3 in large central metropolitan counties to 8.87 μg/m3 in noncore counties. Patterns for the water-quality measure suggest that water quality improves as areas become more urban (or less rural). Overall, 7% of CWSs reported at least one annual mean concentration greater than the MCL for all 10 contaminants combined. The percentage increased from 5.4% in large central metropolitan counties to 10% in noncore counties, a difference that was significant, adjusting for U.S. region, CWS size, water source, and potential spatial correlation. Similar results were found for two disinfection by-products, HAA5 and TTHM. Arsenic was the only other contaminant with a significant result. Medium metropolitan counties had 3.1% of CWSs reporting at least one annual mean greater than the MCL, compared with 2.4% in large central counties.

EPA, U.S. Army Move to Rescind 2015 "Waters of the U.S."

EPA | Posted on June 27, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Army, and Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) are proposing a rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 defining "waters of the United States" or WOTUS. This action would, when finalized, provide certainty in the interim, pending a second rulemaking in which the agencies will engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of "waters of the United States." The proposed rule would be implemented in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance, and longstanding practice. "We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," said Administrator Scott Pruitt. "This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine 'waters of the U.S.' and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public." This proposed rule follows the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution. To meet these objectives, the agencies intend to follow an expeditious, two-step process that will provide certainty across the country.The proposed rule would recodify the identical regulatory text that was in place prior to the 2015 Clean Water Rule and that is currently in place as a result of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit's stay of the 2015 rule. Therefore, this action, when final, will not change current practice with respect to how the definition applies.

USDA bans fresh Brazil beef imports over 'recurring' safety concerns

USA Today | Posted on June 23, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture halted imports of fresh beef from Brazil on Thursday over recurring safety concerns about the products. Since March, USDA officials increased testing to cover "100% of all meat products" coming from Brazil, and turned away 11% of the country's fresh beef products, the USDA said in a statement.  In total, the health officials have turned away 1.9 million pounds of Brazilian beef products over health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues.According to the USDA, the rejected products never made it to grocery store shelves. The ban could come as a blow to Brazil, which is one of the world's top exporters of beef and poultry. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement that while "international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers." According to Reuters, several global buyers including China, reduced Brazilian meat imports following an investigation into corruption within the Brazilian meat industry. 

Joint statement of Perdue, MacAuley and Calzada

USDA | Posted on June 23, 2017

Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay; Mexican Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food Jose Calzada; and United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement at the conclusion of their first trilateral meetings in Savannah, GA, June 19-20, 2017.“Our three nations are connected not only geographically, but through our deeply integrated agricultural markets. Our trading relationship is vital to the economies - and the people - of our respective countries. We are working together to support and create good jobs in all three countries. We share a commitment to keeping our markets open and transparent so that trade can continue to grow. That mutual commitment was reaffirmed in our discussions this week.“The North American Free Trade Agreement has greatly helped our respective agricultural sectors as well as our consumers who have benefitted from an ever-growing variety of safe, affordable food products all year around. While even the best trading partnerships face challenges from time to time, our agricultural differences are relatively few in the context of the $85 billion in agricultural trade that flows between our three nations each year.“Over the years, the United States, Mexico, and Canada have also worked collaboratively to protect plant and animal health, conduct joint research, and share best practices. These efforts have helped to eradicate several pests and diseases from the region, differentiating us from the rest of the world. Our three countries remain committed to continued collaboration to ensure a safe and reliable regional supply chain that makes the North American agriculture sector more competitive.