Wednesday, June 8: The Senate Tuesday approved a major overhaul of Toxic Substances Control Act, sending it the President Obama, who is expected to quickly sign it. The normally divided Congress got together this week to take on a major overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, giving the Environmental Protection Agency broad new authority to regulate chemicals in millions of products American use every day. “When Americans go to the grocery store and hardware store, they assume products they buy have been tested and are safe; they aren’t,” Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, one of the bill’s chief authors, said in a press call this week. “For the first time in 40 years we will have a working chemical safety law.”
A coalition representing more than 6,000 organic farmers from the western, midwestern and eastern U.S. has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reject the Organic Trade Assn.'s (OTA) proposal to establish a national organic checkoff program. The 2014 farm bill included language that would allow USDA to institute a multi-commodity organic checkoff program, if desired by the industry. However, members of the No Organic Checkoff Coalition, representing 755 signatories, including 25 organic farmer organizations and businesses, said OTA has largely misrepresented organic industry support. In 2016, OTA has called thousands of certified organic farmers asking them to sign on in support of an organic checkoff. However, during those calls, farmers have not been given the option to register their opposition to the checkoff. Coalition members who have contacted OTA representatives in an effort to record their “no” vote have been strongly persuaded to support the checkoff or have been told that their vote would be recorded as a “maybe,” regardless of their consistent opposition. Thus, OTA data submitted to USDA on behalf of the organic industry support are inaccurate.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should go through a public rulemaking process before imposing new Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations on fertilizer dealers who handle anhydrous ammonia. The fight over the requirements has been going on since OSHA issued guidance last July that revoked the so-called “retailer exemption” from the PSM standards. Ag retailers, who contend that implementing PSM requirements would cost them dearly, protested and then sued. A ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is pending.
Mexico’s Ministry of Economy released its final determination on the antidumping case filed by its domestic growers Tuesday, finding imports from the U.S. did not cause injury to the domestic industry. The country has terminated the antidumping investigation on imports of U.S. apples without the imposition of antidumping duties, and the provisional duties ranging from 2.44% to 20.82% are revoked.
A new rule finalized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collate sale data on antibiotics has annoyed animal producer organizations.
A severe shortage of workers is costing Canada’s farm industry an estimated $1.5 billion a year in lost revenue and is driving up the cost of food for Canadian consumers, anew industry study states. The study, conducted by the Conference Board of Canada on behalf of the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, found there are currently about 59,000 unfilled farm jobs in Canada. And that number is expected to balloon to 114,000 by 2025, as the demand for food and agriculture-industry workers continues to grow and older workers retire. "What that (worker shortages) does for businesses and for industry is that it really constricts them," human resource council executive director Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst explained in an interview Wednesday. "The businesses aren’t running efficiently, they’re unable to meet their production targets and they’re unable to meet any export opportunities that are presented to them because they don’t have enough bodies to do the work."
An animal rights group has filed a complaint against Washington State University, asking the federal government to fine the university over the deaths of two grizzly bears and the overdosing of three bighorn sheep. A group called Stop Animal Exploitation Now asked the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to fine the university $10,000 for each infraction cited in an April 26 inspection report by the agency. The Lewiston Tribune says that report highlighted an incident last March in which three bighorn sheep were given dexamethasone at 50 times the approved dosage for three consecutive days. The report also cited a 2010 incident in which two grizzly bears had to be euthanized after nearly starving to death when they failed to go into hibernation.
Agriculture is an industry that depends heavily on exports with some 30% of our production sold to other countries. That explains the reason why the Ag industry has so much interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that has been negotiated with 12 nations representing 40% of the world’s gross domestic product. Farm organizations and Ag businesses are trying to convince the Congress to approve the deal. Keep in mind that although the TPP has been negotiated, it still must be approved by the Congress and signed by the President.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has analyzed the agreement and, guess what? Agriculture is the big winner. U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman argues that “The ITC report provides another strong argument why TPP should be passed this year.” With implementation, Ag exports would rise $7.2 billion. At first, our dairy industry wasn’t so sure they liked the agreement, but the report predicts an 18% increase in dairy exports. Our beef industry doesn’t have anything to beef about, with an 8.4% export boost. Pork and poultry come out ahead with rice and wheat losing a little. I don’t think there is any question that, on balance, the TPP would be very positive for our industry. However, when the ITC evaluated how the TPP would affect other U.S. industries beyond agriculture, the trade advantage is modest.
Some overdue support and payback are on the way for Native American farmers and ranchers. A $380 million settlement, issued by a federal judge this April, will create a Native American-run $265 million endowed trust for nonprofit organizations working on Indian lands. It will also pay other money to families who sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for discrimination.
The settlement stems from a 1999 class-action lawsuit, filed by Marilyn and George Keepseagle, ranchers from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. The case claimed the USDA Farm Loan Program illegally discriminated against thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers during the previous two decades, denying them opportunities to receive farm loans, technical assistance and other services routinely offered to white farmers and ranchers. Since many tribal farmers have only partial, or fractionated, shares of parcels due to 20th-century Indian land policies, families often lack land equity and struggle to get loans or credit access for farming — even without facing discriminatory practices. The Obama administration originally settled Keepseagle v. Vilsack in 2010, agreeing to pay $680 million to class action claimants.
Cotton producers will receive $300 million in one-time ginning-assistance payments to help cope with the global downturn in prices for the commodity. “The Cotton Ginning Cost Share program will offer meaningful, timely and targeted assistance to cotton growers to help with their anticipated ginning costs and to facilitate marketing,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The payments will be based on a producer's 2015 cotton acreage, multiplied by 40 percent of the average regional ginning cost. Vilsack said the average payment would be about 60 percent higher than producers received in a one-year cotton transition payment under the 2014 farm bill. The Farm Service Agency already has data for the vast majority of producers.