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Federal News

NRCS to Help Farmers Measure Conservation Impacts on Water Quality

USDA | Posted on May 2, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of $2 million to help farmers install edge-of-field stations that monitor water quality as it leaves their fields, providing data to evaluate the success of various conservation efforts. The funding is available to farmers located across key watersheds in nine states and is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to measure the effectiveness of a wide range of conservation initiatives.  

“Testing the quality of water as it leaves a field helps farmers and USDA understand which conservation practices work best at preventing sediment and nutrient runoff. Verifiable data gives farmers, USDA and other partners information needed to make targeted conservation investments to improve water quality for everyone,” said USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills.

EPA paying $1 million in response costs after mine spill

Denver Post | Posted on April 30, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it is reimbursing states, tribes and local governments about $1 million for their costs after the agency accidentally triggered a massive wastewater spill from a Colorado mine.

The EPA said the money is being paid to Colorado, New Mexico and Utah state governments, the Navajo Nation and Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and Colorado counties and towns.

Most of the money is for the cost of responding to the spill from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado last August. The agency said it is considering requests for another $570,000 in expenses from the immediate aftermath.

USDA Establishes New Partnerships to Link Underserved Farmers to FSA Programs

USDA | Posted on April 29, 2016

The U.S. Department Agriculture announced cooperative agreements with 55 partners to educate farmers and other producers that have historically been underserved by USDA programs offered through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Nearly $2.5 million will go to nonprofits, associations, universities, and foundations that will provide training and information on FSA programs that provide financial, disaster or technical support. 

Cooperative agreements between $20,000 and $75,000 are being awarded to organizations headquartered in 28 states, several of whom submitted multi-state or nationwide proposals. A listing of cooperative agreements that have been authorized in Round I can be found on the FSA Outreach Website.

Proposals are being accepted for a second round of funding. Applications are due no later than July 11, 2016.

TTIP and Agriculture: Another Transatlantic Chicken War?

Choices magazine | Posted on April 28, 2016

In 1963 the United States and Europe (EU) were engaged in the infamous Chicken War over new tariffs introduced in Europe. Five decades later, tensions over chicken, now relating to food safety issues, still plague U.S.-EU trade relations in agriculture, and are playing an unfortunate role in influencing European public opinion in the debate about a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

At first glance it would appear that there is nothing new under the sun in U.S.-EU trade relations in the field of food and agriculture. Much has changed, of course, over the past 50 years of U.S.-EU trade relations. The current trade tensions over chicken trade are very different in nature from those of the early 1960s. But the two U.S.-EU encounters over chicken can serve as bookends to the story of how transatlantic trade relations in agriculture have changed in the last half century or so. From serious conflicts over market access in the 1960s to mistrust over food safety regulations in the past two decades the trade relationship has never been harmonious. This article explores briefly the changing nature of U.S.-EU trade relations and concludes with some tentative suggestions for a possible landing ground for the negotiations - See more at:

Farm Bureau Says Labor Visa Backlogs Threaten 2016 Crops

Growing Produce | Posted on April 28, 2016

Agency delays in processing visas for workers who tend and harvest America’s food crops are fast approaching crisis proportions, all but guaranteeing that crops will rot in the field on many farms this year, American Farm Bureau Federation President ZIppy Duvall said recently.

Communications with state Farm Bureaus across the nation have revealed worker shortages in more than 20 states.

“Many farmer members have called us and state Farm Bureaus asking for help,” Duvall said. “They face serious hurdles in getting visas for workers in time to tend and harvest this year’s crops. Paperwork delays have created a backlog of 30 days or more in processing H-2A applications at both the Department of Labor and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

Farmers depend on the H-2A agricultural visa program to fill gaps in the nation’s ag labor system, but, Duvall said, the program is far from perfect. Processing and procedural delays, such as the government’s use of U.S. mail instead of electronic communications, are leading to losses from unharvested crops

Cuba Cuts Some Food Prices, Responding to Public Complaints

ABC News | Posted on April 25, 2016

The Cuban government has announced that it is cutting prices of some basic foods by 20 percent in state-run stores.  The reductions taking effect Friday address widespread complaints that state employees earning about $25 a month cannot afford many staples, including rice and cooking oil.

Even after HSUS lawsuit, USDA approves pork checkoff payments for trademarks

Brownfield | Posted on April 25, 2016

After its review, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has ruled that the National Pork Board can continue to pay its $3 million annual payments to the National Pork Producers Council for the “Pork: The Other White Meat” trademarks. The review was conducted following a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the US in 2012 alleging the payment for the trademarks was an unlawful use of Pork Checkoff Funds.  A district judge dismissed the case and an appellate court reversed that decision last year.

Acquiring true livestock traceability

Manitoba Cooperator | Posted on April 22, 2016

A new mobile tool created by a Canadian producer co-operative offers producers the ability to capture livestock data in the field with the device that is already in their pocket

The arrogance of ignorance

Brownfield | Posted on April 22, 2016

The issue of antibiotic resistance is very real and very serious.  By their nature, bacteria, when their existence is challenged, mutate to resist the challenge.  Antibiotics when used in human medicine or in agriculture present such a bacterial challenge so overuse in either sector leads to an increase in bacterial resistance and can render routine antimicrobial treatments ineffective. Research demonstrates and experts confirm the greatest overuse/misuse of antibiotics occurs in human medicine, either at the doctor’s office or in the hospital.  However, political attention, whether from Congress or activist groups, is focused like a laser on agriculture, yet none of the inflammatory rhetoric and allegations tossed around by on-farm antibiotic critics is directed at the human medical community.  I’ve yet to hear any politician advocate federal oversight of physicians’ prescription habits, nor even a whisper about regulating that authority.  It seems a doctor’s pledge to “voluntarily” cut back on over-prescription or inappropriate prescription of antibiotics is sufficient; doctors, can be trusted because, I guess, they’re doctors.  I had a former deputy commissioner of FDA – a pediatrician – say as much to me during a meeting on this issue when he questioned, “How do you know your farmers are doing what they say they’re doing?”  My response: “The same way you’re confident doctors who say they’re doing the right thing, in fact, are doing the right thing.”

Goat Herd Helps Trump Lower Tax Bite

Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 22, 2016

New Jersey farmland law lets presidential candidate save tens of thousands in property taxes on golf courses