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Maryland dairy farmer fought the Justice Department — and (finally) won

The Washington Post | Posted on July 7, 2016

Four years after federal agents showed up at his Frederick, Md., farmhouse and told him that they had seized the money in his bank account, dairy farmer Randy Sowers has gotten it all back.  The victory followed political pressure from Congress and legal pressure from the libertarian Institute for Justice on the government to roll back prosecution of the crime of structuring bank deposits to avoid Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements.

Chlorpyrifos decision needs to wait, EPA tells court

Agri-Pulse | Posted on July 7, 2016

EPA says it needs more time to decide whether to cancel the registration of chlorpyrifos and revoke all of the pesticide's food tolerances, as requested in a petition.  In a report filed with 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, the agency asked the court to give it untilJune 30, 2017, to respond to the petition from Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). Last December, the 9th Circuit ordered EPA to make a decision on the petition by Dec. 30. Chlorpyrifos is a broad-spectrum insecticide that has been used for more than 40 years to control pests in a wide variety of crops in the U.S., including alfalfa, soybeans, oranges and peanuts. It is “one of the most widely used active ingredients in insecticides in the world,” according to a paper prepared earlier this year for registrant Dow AgroSciences.

Froman: Rejecting TPP would weaken the US

Agri-Pulse | Posted on July 7, 2016

A rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal would go far beyond just causing U.S. exporters to miss out on lower tariffs, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said today. It would also weaken America and hurt the status of the U.S. as an international leader, he said in an address to the CATO Institute in Washington.  “Rejecting TPP would undermine U.S. leadership, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but around the world,” Froman said in a speech that warned about the consequences of becoming a more protectionist country. “Our allies couldn't help but question whether we had the will to make good on our commitments.”

To make his point, Froman passed along a comment to him from the prime minister of Singapore: “If you're not prepared to deal when it comes to cars, services and agriculture, can we depend on you when it comes to security and military arrangements?”

USDA finalizes crop insurance rules

Agri-Pulse | Posted on July 7, 2016

USDA's Risk Management Agency has announced the completion of the final round of crop insurance provisions stemming from the 2014 farm bill. RMA's Federal Crop Insurance Corporation will leave its 2014 proposal largely untouched save for some native sod provisions.  The final rule will clarify an exception allowing producers to break up to five acres of native sod without receiving reduced premium subsidies on coverage of native sod acreage. RMA began implementation of the provisions for the 2015 crop year, but the final rule “enables RMA to continue to offer and expand on the farm bill provisions for the federal crop insurance program.” USDA says the final rule also completes provisions such as enterprise units for irrigated and non-irrigated crops, adjustment in actual production history to establish insurable yields, farmer and rancher provisions, coverage levels by practice, and the authority to correct errors.

New standards for farm equipment visibility

Farm and Dairy | Posted on July 7, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation published a final rule standardizing lighting and agricultural equipment on highways, that incorporates two American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers standards. Formation of the rule was mandated in the 2012 highway bill.  Prior to the ruling, NHTSA has not regulated the manufacture of most agricultural equipment because it did not have specific authority to do so. Because of this, most states adapted their own regulations for agricultural equipment, which created a varied landscape of regulations.

Scott Cedarquist, director of standards and technical activities at American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, said the ruling was designed to level the standards across the board. “For a lot of larger manufacturers, it won’t matter. Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan already require S279,” he said, referring to the society’s standard Lighting and Marking of Agricultural Equipment on Highways.  The focus of this ruling will mostly be geared toward new equipment, explained Cedarquist. “Old equipment is not required to update and manufactures have a year to comply with the standards (until June 22, 2017),” he said.

Dairies reducing nitrogen, EPA says

Capital Press | Posted on July 4, 2016

Three Lower Yakima Valley dairies have made progress in controlling sources of nitrogen to a drinking water aquifer in the three years since reaching a legal agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA says.  The dairies have made “important progress” and “will continue this work as required by the consent order,” said Lucy Edmondson, director of EPA’s Washington state office.  The Cow Palace, owned by the Dolsen family, George DeRuyter & Son Dairy, and Henry Bosma Dairy and Liberty Dairy, both owned by the Bosma family, have improved field manure application and irrigation practices, the EPA said in a public update.

FDA Fifth Biannual Progress Report on Judicious Use of Antimicrobials in Food-producing Animals

FDA | Posted on July 4, 2016

The FDA issued a letter on June 20, 2016 reminding retail establishments that sell medically important antimicrobials for use in feed or water for food animals that the marketing status of those products will change from over-the-counter (OTC) to prescription (Rx) or to veterinary feed directive (VFD) at the end of calendar year 2016. Once the changes are in place, distributors of those medically important antimicrobials will need to comply with appropriate requirements for Rx and VFD drugs when dispensing these products. The letter also provides retail establishments with recommendations for addressing current and future inventory of medically important antimicrobials for use in feed or water for food animals.

The FDA recognizes the need for continued education and outreach during the implementation of GFI #213 and has made presentations to dozens of stakeholders groups and responded to hundreds of individual questions over the past six months. The agency intends to continue these efforts in the future as resources permit.

Pork producers oppose revised animal welfare standards for organic | Posted on July 4, 2016

USDA has proposed new animal welfare standards for the National Organic Program that, if enacted, would be the first time such standards are codified in federal law. The National Pork Producers Council said this would present serious challenges to livestock producers. “There are a number of problems with the proposed new standards, including: animal production practices have nothing to do with the basic concept of ‘organic’; the standards add complexity to the organic certification process, creating significant barriers to existing and new organic producers; and they could jeopardize animal and public health,” wrote Jeremy Davis, director of grassroots and LEADR for NPPC on the organization’s website.

FDA Critical of GMO Labeling Bill

DTN | Posted on June 30, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration has sent the Senate Agriculture Committee technical comments on the genetically modified food labeling bill that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., have developed in an attempt to preempt state labeling laws. The technical comments surfaced as both sides in the labeling debate are making arguments to the Senate on whether the bill should be passed. The FDA noted that the bill would give USDA labeling authority in an area that is usually reserved for the FDA and that FDA has long held that foods developed with genetic engineering are safe and do not require labeling.

But the FDA also said that: -- Provisions to allow information regarding the GE (genetically engineered) content of food to be presented only in an electronically accessible form and not on the package label would be in tension with FDA's statute and regulations, which require disclosures on food labels. -- The definition of "bioengineering" would result in a somewhat narrow scope of coverage because it leaves out food without genetic material, which means that oil made from genetically engineered soybeans would not be covered. -- It appears that the intent is to have the bill apply to all foods except those that are essentially meat, poultry, or eggs, and that the drafters may have assumed, incorrectly, that products covered by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, or the Egg Products Inspection Act are not covered by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. -- Language regarding exceptions and inclusions is unclear.

Panama Canal Expands For New Trade Opportunities

Growing Produce | Posted on June 30, 2016

he country of Panama celebrated as the first ship passed through the newly expanded Panama Canal. The container vessel COSCO Shipping Panama traveled through the new locks at Agua Clara as thousands cheered amid fireworks and bands playing.  The ship, measuring 158 feet wide and 984 feet long, is among the modern mega-container vessels now able to use the canal after the expansion, which began in 2007 with a price tag of $5.25 billion. The project doubled the waterway’s capacity.  Ports along the U.S. East Coast are deepening their channels and installing new cranes to accommodate the larger ships.