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Congress Turning a New Leaf on Marijuana

Roll Call | Posted on September 8, 2016

Marijuana-related legislation was on a fast track to nowhere until 2014. That was the year Republicans and Democrats alike approved a measure that kept federal authorities from interfering in states that allowed marijuana use for medical purposes. Since then, both houses of Congress have seen a flood of similar proposals. Lobbyists, policy experts and lawmakers who spoke to Roll Call said the trajectory is clear: Congress is leaning toward decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level — and it’s going to happen soon. That could happen as early as the next Congress, to some time within the next 10 years.


Fire breaks out at threatened USDA facility

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on September 7, 2016

A fire broke out Tuesday at a USDA facility in Beltsville, Md., which was one of five offices closed then reopened last week after anonymous emailed threats. USDA issued the following statement: "A fire occurred this morning in a storage shed building at USDA’s Beltsville facility. The fire has been contained, and no personnel were harmed. The building involved houses equipment only, and employees in a neighboring building have been safely evacuated. USDA officials reported the fire, and an investigation into its cause continues." The garage building housed several vehicles, which also caught fire. Prince George's fire investigators and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on the scene.  Last week, threatened offices in Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina and Kearneysville, W.V., reopened two days later with additional security enhancements. Offices in Hamden, Conn., and Leetown, W.V., were to remain closed awaiting security improvements or notifications to union officials.

Chinese Province to Slaughter Chickens More Humanely

The Nan Fang | Posted on September 5, 2016

Independent of any animal welfare law, Shandong is the first province in China to implement its own standards for the humane slaughter of poultry.  Shandong’s food quality authority has implemented suggestions made by the College of Food Science and Engineering at Qingdao Agricultural University that promote the humane slaughter and the safe processing of chickens.  The guidelines say slaughterhouses must avoid frightening or upsetting the birds in order to meet the natural needs of a chicken before and during the slaughter process. That includes no violence during transportation, which can only last three hours at most. Before being slaughtered, a chicken must now be outfitted with a soothing pad on its chest to calm it down, and must lose consciousness through techniques like gas inhalation.

EPA seeking comments on all sulfonylurea product labels

Rural Radio | Posted on September 5, 2016

EPA is seeking public comment by September 12, 2016 on a Proposed Interim Decision (PID) for regulating the class of herbicides known as sulfonylureas.  The sulfonylurea herbicides are currently used on millions of acres in the United States.  Using the most conservative models and endpoints to predict exposures of concern, the EPA has determined that risks to non-target plants warrant additional label restrictions when products are applied either by ground or air.  To protect against the potential damage that these models predict, EPA is proposing that labels would be required to instruct that:All applications of products which include a sulfonylurea must be made using equipment delivering an Extremely Coarse droplet size. All applications would be prohibited when wind speeds at the application site exceed 10 miles per hour. When making aerial applications maximum boom lengths, swath displacement and nozzle orientation would be defined and made mandatory. When making ground application the distance between the spray nozzle and the ground or crop canopy would be restricted to no more than two feet. Tank mixes with with different mode-of-action and and contact herbicides such as glyphosate would be prohibited if the extremely course droplet size is required as these applications generally require small droplet size to be efficacious.

USDA forecast record U.S. sugar production

Capital Press | Posted on September 5, 2016

While U.S. sugar beet and sugarcane crops are not yet harvested — and Louisiana’s flooding illustrates that anything can happen in an otherwise excellent growing year — USDA’s Economic Research Service is projecting record sugar production.  ERS is forecasting domestic raw sugar production at 9.208 million tons for 2016/17, eclipsing the high mark of 9.05 million tons established in 1999/2000. The forecast includes 5.32 million tons of beet sugar and 3.89 million tons of cane sugar.

NGFA to 'carefully examine' STB rail rate review proposal

Agri-Pulse | Posted on September 1, 2016

The National Grain and Feed Association will be taking a close look at a Surface Transportation Board proposal to develop a new rail rate review process designed to make it easier for grain shippers to challenge unreasonable rates.Under procedures outlined in the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), the STB would design a “comparison group” of similar rail shipments that it would use to judge the reasonableness of the rate being challenged.

Deere Deal for Monsanto’s Precision Planting Opposed by U.S.

Bloomberg | Posted on September 1, 2016

Deere & Co. was sued by U.S. antitrust officials seeking to block its purchase of Monsanto Co.’s Precision Planting LLC equipment business, a deal the government says would eliminate competition and raise costs for farmers. Deere’s acquisition would combine the only two significant U.S. providers of high-speed precision planting systems used by farms, giving the company control of close to 90 percent of the U.S. market, the Justice Department said Wednesday in a complaint filed in federal court in Chicago. "If this deal were allowed to proceed, Deere would dominate the market for high-speed precision planting systems and be able to raise prices and slow innovation at the expense of American farmers who rely on these systems,” said Renata Hesse, the head of the antitrust division. Both companies said they would contest the lawsuit, arguing the combination will benefit farmers. The U.S. allegations are “misguided,” Deere said in a statement. "Competition in precision agriculture is strong and growing in all of these channels."


Statement from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on Farm Income Forecasts for 2015 and 2016

USDA | Posted on September 1, 2016

"Today's farm income forecast underscores the unique ability of American farmers and ranchers to plan ahead and make sharp business decisions in a challenging market, as net farm income for 2015 was revised up significantly to $80.7 billion-an increase of 43 percent since the February forecast. Falling production expenses, including the price of fuel and inputs, was the largest contributor to this latest rally by farmers. Just last week, farm exports for 2016 were revised up to one of the highest levels on record, demonstrating that U.S. farmers and ranchers continue to beat expectations. Overall, farm income over the last five-year period reflects the highest average five-year period on record. Although net farm income for 2016 is forecast to decline relative to 2015, the 2014 Farm Bill has provided for a comprehensive farm safety net that will ensure financial stability for America's farming families. Farm Bill program payments-including Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), and the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP)-are forecast to increase nearly 25 percent to $13.5 billion in 2016. For producers challenged by weather, disease and falling prices, we will continue to ensure the availability of a strong safety net to keep them farming or ranching.  "The estimates today also showed that debt to asset and debt to equity ratios-two key indicators of the farm economy's health-continue to be near all-time lows. In addition to strong balance sheets, median household income for farming families remains near historic highs. In 2016, higher off-farm earnings are expected to help stabilize losses due to low commodity prices."

USDA Announces Initiative to Provide Transitional Housing for Rural Americans in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders

USDA | Posted on September 1, 2016

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced an initiative that will use USDA's rural development resources to help fill the need for transitional housing for people recovering from opioid and other substance use disorders. In January, President Obama tasked Vilsack, who is chair of the White House Rural Council, with leading a federal interagency effort focused on rural opioid use. The initiative is the result of a conversation Secretary Vilsack had in May in New Hampshire at the Hillsborough County Superior Court, where individuals involved with the state's drug court program told him that a lack of access to affordable housing made it challenging for participants to successfully complete their recovery from addiction.

15 NY counties named drought disaster areas

Democrat and Chronicle | Posted on September 1, 2016

Monroe and Ontario counties were among fifteen New York counties designated Monday as primary natural disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to recent drought-related losses.