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Federal News

Trump on Paris accord: 'We're getting out'

CNN | Posted on June 1, 2017

The decision amounts to a rebuttal of the worldwide effort to pressure Trump to remain a part of the agreement, which 195 nations signed onto. Foreign leaders, business executives and Trump's own daughter lobbied heavily for him to remain a part of the deal, but ultimately lost out to conservatives who claim the plan is bad for the United States."We're getting out. And we will start to renegotiate and we'll see if there's a better deal. If we can, great. If we can't, that's fine," he added.In triggering the official withdrawal procedures, Trump will spark a lengthy process that won't conclude until November 2020 -- the same month he's up for reelection, ensuring the issue becomes a major topic of debate in the next presidential contest. "The United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord," Trump said, saying it would include ending the implementation of carbon reduction targets set under Obama and ending contributions to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund.

National Rural Housing Coalition letter opposing Trump rural development budget cuts

National Rural Housing Coalition | Posted on June 1, 2017

We write to express our opposition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget for Rural Development. This budget if enacted, along with the ill-advised recommendation to eliminate the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development, will substantially diminished resources dedicated to improving rural communities and the lives of rural people.  We believe a better choice for rural America is to continue USDA Rural Development programs at no less than the FY 2017 levels included in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (115-31). This will allow USDA Rural Development to continue its important mission of providing technical and financial assistance aimed at improving the living and economic conditions in rural America. We also urge the Committee to oppose elimination of the Rural Development mission area and the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development. Rural Development needs the time and attention of a management team led by an Under Secretary who is empowered to direct and administer rural development programs and field staff.

Heritage Foundation claims agricultural subsidies are harmful

Farm Futures | Posted on June 1, 2017

Last week I provided a summary of the Heritage Foundation's report on how to change the upcoming farm bill. This week I am addressing Heritage's view on subsidies. It claims "Government intervention creates numerous problems and makes the status quo of agricultural subsidies an untenable situation. Subsidies distort planting decisions of farmers so that instead of responding to the market, they make decisions based on the incentives provided by the subsidies." Heritage goes on to claim that agricultural subsidies lead to "moral hazard" because risk is shifted to taxpayers and not farmers. Heritage claims the Federal crop insurance program costs approximately $15 billion a year which comes from the taxpayer. Further, it claims "...only 25% of agricultural producers received payments...". Furthermore it claims from 2005-2014 corn, cotton, wheat, rice, and soybeans received approximately 90% of farm payments.

Chinese Chicken Is Headed To America, But It's Really All About The Beef

NPR | Posted on June 1, 2017

Cooked chicken from birds grown and raised in China soon will be headed to America — in a trade deal that's really about beef.Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday night that the U.S. was greenlighting Chinese chicken imports and getting U.S. beef producers access to China's nearly 1.4 billion consumers. But the deal is raising concerns among critics who point to China's long history of food-safety scandals.The Chinese appetite for beef is huge and growing, but American beef producers have been locked out of that market since a case of mad cow disease cropped up in the U.S. in 2003. In response, many countries, including South Korea, Japan, Mexico and China, banned imports of U.S. beef.China was the only one of those nations to not eventually lift its ban — and that's a big deal."It's a very big market; it's at least a $2.5 billion market that's being opened up for U.S. beef," Ross said in announcing the trade deal.Many people long had seen China's refusal to lift its ban on U.S. beef imports as a negotiating tactic, a tit for tat aimed at allowing Chinese chicken imports into the United States. The negotiations that led to the new trade deal have been going back and forth for more than a decade, stalled at one point by worries in Congress over China's food-safety practices.American beef producers are rejoicing that the process has finally resulted in allowing them to send beef to China.

He plowed his field; now he faces a $2.8 million fine

USA Today | Posted on June 1, 2017

A farmer faces trial in federal court this summer and a $2.8 million fine for failing to get a permit to plow his field and plant wheat in Tehama County. A lawyer for Duarte Nursery said the case is important because it could set a precedent requiring other farmers to obtain costly, time-consuming permits just to plow.“The case is the first time that we’re aware of that says you need to get a (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) permit to plow to grow crops,” said Anthony Francois, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. The libertarian-leaning nonprofit fights for private property rights and limited government.“We’re not going to produce much food under those kinds of regulations,” Francois said.However, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller agreed with the Army Corps in a judgment issued in June. A trial, in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office asks for $2.8 million in civil penalties, is set for August.The case began in 2012 when John Duarte, who owns Duarte Nursery near Modesto, Calif., bought 450 acres about 10 miles south of Red Bluff.Duarte planned to grow wheat there, according to Francois and court documents.Because the property has numerous swales and wetlands, Duarte hired a consulting firm to map out areas on the property that were not to be plowed because they were part of the drainage for Coyote and Oat creeks and were considered “waters of the United States.”Francois conceded that some of the wetlands were plowed but not significantly damaged. He said the ground was plowed to a depth of 4 to 7 inches.Duarte's wheat was planted but not harvested because in February 2013 the Army Corps of Engineers and the California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board issued orders to stop work at the site. The agencies claimed Duarte had violated the Clean Water Act by not obtaining a permit to discharge dredged or fill material into seasonal wetlands considered waters of the United States.

The EPA just halted an Obama-era methane rule for oil and gas companies, 4 days before it would have taken effect

Business Insider | Posted on June 1, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday halted methane emission standards for oil and gas companies in its latest move to unwind Obama administration climate change rules, amid reports that the United States will withdraw from a global climate change agreement.The agency issued a 90-day stay of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry, which require companies to capture fugitive emissions, obtain engineer certifications and install leak detention devices while it reconsiders the rule.The rule, completed last year under former President Barack Obama, was due to go into effect on June 3.The EPA said it expects to prepare a proposed rule and launch a public comment period after the stay.Environmental groups vowed on Wednesday to block the EPA move in court.

EPA announces 12-month delay of farm worker pesticide-handler rule

Safety + Health | Posted on June 1, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed until May 22, 2018, the effective date for its revised Certification and Training of Pesticide Applicators final rule. EPA stated that it is enacting the delay after receiving requests for more time from states and stakeholders.Published in January, the revised rule initially was slated to go into effect March 6 but has been delayed multiple times.“In order to achieve both environmental protection and economic prosperity, we must give the regulated community, which includes farmers and ranchers, adequate time to come into compliance with regulations,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a May 11 press release. “Extending the timeline for implementation of this rule will enable EPA to consult with states, assist with education, training and guidance, and prevent unnecessary burdens from overshadowing the rule’s intended benefits.”Changes in the revised rule include:Enhancing applicator competency standards to ensure the safe use of restricted use pesticides. Establishing a nationwide minimum age of 18 for certified pesticide applicators and those working under their supervision. Introducing a maximum recertification interval of five years for commercial and private pesticide applicators

Sheep research station on USDA chopping block, again

Capital Press | Posted on May 30, 2017

The beleaguered research station, the only USDA-ARS research facility dedicated to the sheep industry, is being threatened with closure for the third time since 2014.The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station at Dubois, Idaho, is one of 17 Agricultural Research Service laboratories slated for closure under President Donald Trump’s Department of Agriculture FY 2018 budget proposal.Brown said it’s a one-of-a-kind facility in the U.S. doing research on sheep breeding, range management, reproduction and wild/domestic sheep interaction. “It would be irreplaceable. It would be devastating to lose that continuity,” he said.

Trump proposes selling Northwest's transmission grid

Oregon Live | Posted on May 30, 2017

Buried among the revenue-generating ideas in President Donald Trump's new budget proposal is a plan to sell off publicly owned transmission assets, including those operated by the Bonneville Power Administration.For public power companies – and really all utilities in the Northwest – the proposal will ring alarm bells and resurrect a debate about the control of assets that were built with federal dollars but paid for by local ratepayers.Bonneville operates three-quarters of the region's high-voltage transmission system, which it uses to market power from 31 hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin and wheel power around the Pacific Northwest and down to California.  The system spans 300,000 square miles, and includes more than 15,000 miles of lines and 299 substations that deliver electricity to some 12 million people. The agency provides transmission service to regional utilities, commercial customers and independent power producers, and it provides a slew of other services.

Senate Ag Committee Eaxmines Rural America

Senate Agriculture Committee | Posted on May 30, 2017

During the Q and A portion of yesterday’s Ag Committee meeting, Chairman Roberts queried, “As we begin to work on our next farm bill, give me the top three factors, or two factors in the agriculture economy that we should be considering, given this trend that everybody is talking about, and the word ‘prolonged.'” Dr. Johannson noted that, “As you mentioned, there are ways that we can see prices rebound. Whether we have some supply side shock in some major producing part of the globe or if we do start expanding trade quickly, those will also push prices up. But for right now, relative to 2014, stocks are really relatively high.“So back then the farm bill pivoted towards countercyclical types of Title I programs. This time, as you consider farm bill programs, certainly the Title I programs would be one that I would look to in terms of the fact that countercyclical programs may have to be reexamined in the price when we have flat prices relative to volatile prices.”Dr. Kauffman pointed out that, “So we’ve seen persistent cash flow shortages the last several years, demand for financing. As profit margins have remained weak, we’ve seen liquidity decline. That would be the first, is just monitoring the trend in liquidity.“We haven’t seen it turn into an issue of solvency, partly because of farm real estate values. Farm land values have remained relatively strong in some—in most areas, although I would cite that as a second area where, if we did see more rapid declines, then we could start seeing more balance sheet problems for farm operations, as debt to asset ratios could rise further from there.”