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Federal Natural Disaster Assistance Programs for Livestock Producers, 2008–2016

USDA | Posted on February 6, 2018

Three disaster assistance programs for livestock administered by the Farm Service Agency and one administered by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are probed, revealing regional differences in payment delivery and how outlays vary by year and program.

Cutting Crop Insurance for Big Farms Would Hurt Small Farmers Too

Farm Policy Facts | Posted on February 6, 2018

America’s largest farms are far less risky than smaller operations and typically have fewer crop insurance claims, according to a new working paper from top agricultural economists. And proposals to exclude those farms from crop insurance could drive up costs for small farmers. The study comes as Congress takes up debate on the future of America’s farm policy.In crop insurance, farmers pay significant premiums for insurance coverage that is delivered by the private sector. Those premiums are discounted to encourage more farmers to participate, which reduces taxpayers’ exposure to costly disasters. The resulting insurance coverage kicks in only if there is a loss – weather disaster or sharp price declines – and only after farmers shoulder a deductible of at least 25%.

Maple syrup producers could face new rules

Farm and Dairy | Posted on February 6, 2018

The recently enacted federal food safety law, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act, includes new requirements for maple syrup producers. The rules differ, depending on the size of operation and how you sell your syrup, and there is still some ambiguity on exactly what a producer must do.In Ohio and Pennsylvania, maple syrup production is regulated at the state level, and is considered a low-risk food because of its contents and simple method of preparation.Ohio producers who gather and boil 75 percent or more of their own sap are considered exempt from state inspection, but may be subject to the new federal rule.

Ethanol CEO says Pruitt trying to "gut" federal mandate

Houston Chronicle | Posted on February 5, 2018

Ethanol companies are enraged by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's comments Thursday that the program ensuring compliance with the federal biofuels requirement needs reform.  "Administrator Pruitt's recent comments completely contradict his own rule and repeated promises to support the letter and spirit of the RFS," he said. "It is an about-face to now try and gut the most successful energy program in American history."

Trump administration bars Haitians from U.S. visas for low-skilled work

Reuters | Posted on February 1, 2018

Haitians will no longer be eligible for U.S. visas given to low-skilled workers, the Trump administration said, bringing an end to a small-scale effort to employ Haitians in the United States after a catastrophic 2010 earthquake.


Perdue Unveils, Interactive Website for Agricultural Producers

USDA | Posted on February 1, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today unveiled, the new interactive one-stop website for producers maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). is now live but will have multiple features added over the coming months to allow agricultural producers to make appointments with USDA offices, file forms, and apply for USDA programs. The website, launched at a breakfast hosted by the Michigan Farm Bureau, gathers together the three agencies that comprise USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation mission area: the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency.

Tax overhaul gives break to farmers who sell to co-ops.

Farm and Dairy | Posted on February 1, 2018

The background to this new tax law is an example of what is wrong with Washington. At the last minute, concerned that the new tax law would eliminate a benefit that co-ops had been using in previous law, two senators got language inserted that they now appear to regret. The language gives a 20 percent deduction of the net proceeds for any commodities sold by farmers. That is huge. It gives a 20 percent deduction of the gross proceeds for any commodities sold by farmers to a co-op. That is gigantic.Just do the math. Farmers are not making a 20 percent margin at current prices. Thus, this law makes farming tax-free for those selling to co-ops and gives a huge break to those selling to other types of companies.

FDA Takes Important New Steps to Strengthen Oversight of Food Imports

FDA | Posted on February 1, 2018

First, the FDA announced that it has recognized the first accreditation body under the voluntary Accredited Third-Party Certification Program created by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).The organization being recognized is ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB), an organization jointly owned by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Quality (ASQ) based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This organization is being recognized because it met the applicable FDA requirements, validated through application review and on-site assessment. FDA is recognizing ANAB for a five year term of recognition. Accreditation bodies recognized by FDA will have the authority to accredit third-party certification bodies, also known as third-party auditors. These certification bodies, once accredited, can conduct food safety audits and issue certifications of foreign food facilities (including farms) and the foods – both human and animal – that they produce.Second, FDA has also launched the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), a voluntary fee-based program which offers expedited review and entry of human and animal food into the United States. Importers interested in participating in VQIP will be required to meet a number of eligibility requirements, which include ensuring the facilities of their foreign supplier are certified under the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program.

A review of the White House infrastructure plan

Strong Towns | Posted on February 1, 2018

Half of the undisclosed amount of money (widely believed to be in the $200 billion range) would go into something called the Infrastructure Incentives Initiative. This has all the hallmarks of the worst of federal infrastructure spending: anything infrastructure-related is eligible, any government or public authority can apply, scoring is heavily weighted to induce local governments to take on lots of debt and there is only faint concern for long term maintenance costs or return on investment. Yuck! But the plan has one provision that changes all of this: Grant awards can’t exceed 20% of total project costs. Wow! I’ve been on projects where the federal government paid 95% — an approach ripe with all the worst kinds of perverse incentives — but that won’t happen here. For a state or local government to get the federal money, they will need to have some serious skin in the game to the tune of 80% of the funding. If that provision makes it through Congress (count me doubtful), it would be transformative.With state and local governments picking up 80% of the tab, I suspect projects will naturally gravitate towards those of the smaller maintenance variety, particularly projects that have a positive return on investment (small, underground, and in older neighborhoods). It’s harder to convince yourself that a negative-returning expansion project makes sense when you are spending your own money (and robbing from your already insolvent maintenance budget to do so). This dramatically reduces the worst incentives associated with federal infrastructure spending.

NAFTA talks set to continue as Canada and the U.S. trade barbs

Toronto Star | Posted on February 1, 2018

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stood on a red-velvet covered box to reach the microphone and fixed her gaze on the back of the room as President Donald Trump’s crusty trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer took swipe after swipe at what he described as unacceptable Canadian trade positions.Then Freeland fired back.If the U.S. wanted to settle its differences on softwood lumber, or on any other points of dispute, it could come to the negotiating table and talk.Canada is “still interested in finding innovative compromises,” she said.“Our job is not to cause the dismantling of cross-border supply chains that have made our industry the envy of the world. It is not to introduce more-or-less permanent uncertainty into our investment business climate. It is not to weaken North American competitiveness, when we should be building it up.”Freeland directly challenged Lighthizer on Monday to live up to what she later called his “rhetoric” and negotiate a deal.