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House Ag Committee Approves Two Pesticide Bills

DTN | Posted on February 23, 2017

The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, which would clarify congressional intent regarding pesticide regulation in or around waters of the United States, and H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act, which reauthorizes the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act PRIA was intended to create a more predictable and effective evaluation process for affected pesticide decisions by coupling the collection of fees with specific decision review periods. It also promoted a shorter decision review period for reduced-risk pesticides.

Congress Starts Farm Bill Talks; Dairy Revisions Being Discussed

Lexis Nexis Newsdesk | Posted on February 23, 2017

U.S. dairy industry faced difficult economics in 2016 with dropping milk prices. However, many producers felt the government safety net in the 2014 farm bill did little to help.  As work starts on the 2018 farm bill, the House Agriculture Committee heard shortcomings of the present act and challenges of a farmer-friendly version.  Scott Brown, University of Missouri Extension dairy economist, testified Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C., before the committee in the House of Representatives.  Dairy policy is not easy, Brown testified. Estimates when forming the 2014 Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) did not work as planned. MPP made a big shift in dairy policy. It went from the long-used price support to selling risk management on dairy farm margins between feed costs and milk income. Dairy farmers familiar with milk prices didn't accept margin protection as expected. In 2016, they needed help and MPP paid very little. Milk prices fell from $24 per hundredweight in 2014 to $16 in 2016. Changes in global milk economy affected U.S. producers. Global milk supply grew while a strong U.S. dollar cut U.S. exports. "Domestic milk supply and strong dollar still face U.S. producers in 2017," Brown said. Despite tough times, U.S. dairy herd continues to grow. The recent cow count shows 48,000 cows were added in 2016.

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate, water rules through executive action

The Washington Post | Posted on February 22, 2017

President Trump is preparing executive orders aimed at curtailing Obama-era policies on climate and water pollution, according to individuals briefed on the measures.  While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. Individuals familiar with the proposals asked for anonymity to describe them in advance of their announcement, which could come as soon as this week. One executive order — which the Trump administration will couch as reducing U.S. dependence on other countries for energy — will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities. It also instructs the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing. A second order will instruct the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revamp a 2015 rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, that applies to 60 percent of the water bodies in the country. That regulation was issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gives the federal government authority over not only major water bodies but also the wetlands, rivers and streams that feed into them. It affects development as well as some farming operations on the grounds that these activities could pollute the smaller or intermittent bodies of water that flow into major ones.

Trump proposal would deport more immigrants immediately

The New York Times | Posted on February 22, 2017

Federal authorities would be empowered to immediately deport vastly more undocumented immigrants as part of a broad crackdown being developed by the Trump administration that would significantly change the way federal agencies enforce immigration laws.  Two draft memos signed on Friday by John F. Kelly, the retired Marine general who is now secretary of homeland security, outline an aggressive mission for the immigration authorities that would rescind policies put in place by President Barack Obama that focused mainly on removing serious criminals.  The directives appear to spare many younger immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, known as Dreamers. But some parents of children who enter unaccompanied could face prosecution under the guidelines. The approach laid out in the memos, which have not been finalized and are subject to change by the White House, reflects Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to harden the border and deport people who entered the United States illegally. He has returned to that theme in recent days: At a rally on Saturday in Melbourne, Fla., Mr. Trump highlighted a recent spate of deportations and characterized those being sent out of the country as dangerous criminals.  “We will have strong borders again,” he told supporters, who cheered robustly. “You’ve seen it on television. General Kelly, now Secretary Kelly, he’s really doing the job. You’re seeing it. The gang members — bad, bad people. I said it Day 1. And they’re going out, or they’re being put in prison. But for the most part, get them the hell out of here. Bring them back to where they came from.” Among the most significant changes in the memos, which were obtained by McClatchy newspapers and The Washington Post, would be an expansion of so-called expedited removal proceedings to cover thousands more undocumented immigrants. Under expedited removals, agents from the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement can deport detained individuals immediately. Under Obama administration directives, expedited removal was used only within 100 miles of the border for people who had been in the country no more than 14 days. Mr. Kelly’s memos would expand that to those who have been in the country for up to two years anywhere in the nation.

Trump administration considers change in calculating U.S. trade deficit

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on February 22, 2017

The Trump administration is considering changing the way it calculates U.S. trade deficits, a shift that would make the country’s trade gap appear larger than it had in past years, according to people involved in the discussions. The leading idea under consideration would exclude from U.S. exports any goods first imported into the country, such as cars, and then transferred to a third country like Canada or Mexico unchanged. Economists say that approach would inflate trade deficit numbers because it would typically count goods as imports when they come into the country but not count the same goods when they go back out, known as re-exports. Data on trade balances and surpluses, widely followed by Congress, are at the center of a political battle over whether existing trade agreements should be retained, renegotiated or tossed out altogether. A larger trade deficit would give the Trump administration ammunition in arguing that trade deals need to be renegotiated, and might help boost political support for imposing tariffs.  Career government employees objected last week when they were asked to prepare data using the new methodology, according to the people familiar with the discussions. These employees at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office complied with the instructions, but included their views as to why they believe the new calculation wasn’t accurate.

More than 500 groups urge Congress not to cut farm bill

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 22, 2017

More than 500 national, state and local farm, conservation and nutrition organizations have signed a letter urging the House and Senate budget committees not to propose cuts in the farm bill that this Congress will be writing. The groups point out that the 2014 farm bill was required to make $23 billion in cuts, and that spending on crop insurance and nutrition assistance is dropping sharply, according to recent cost estimates.

Round 2 in Hawkes v. Corps of Engineers Goes to Landowners

Texas Agriculture Law Blog | Posted on February 22, 2017

The litigation continues for the parties involved in Hawkes v. US Army Corps of Engineers.  This Clean Water Act case made its way to the United States Supreme Court last year, where the Court held that a landowner has the right to challenge an approved jurisdictional determination by the government that his or her property was a “water of the United States,” and therefore, subject to the Clean Water Act. After that decision, the case was sent back to the trial court for consideration of the merits:  Does the Hawkes’ property constitute a “water of the United States?”  A couple of weeks ago, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota sided with the landowner, finding that the property was not a water of the US and not subject to federal jurisdiction

How Canada Cut Foreign Workers and Hobbled Its Meat Industry

Bloomberg | Posted on February 22, 2017

For a glimpse at how Donald Trump’s “America first” approach to immigrants may affect the meat industry in the U.S. -- the world’s largest beef producer -- look no further than across the northern border to Canada.  Three years after former Prime Minister Stephen Harper tightened restrictions on foreign workers to force employers to hire more Canadians, processors from British Columbia to Nova Scotia say the move compounded a labor shortage from which they have not recovered. The Canadian Meat Council estimates the industry has 1,650 vacancies at 19 rural abattoirs, or 9 percent of total employment at those facilities. Carving up carcasses and packaging meat is messy, physically demanding work. And while workers get health and other benefits, the starting pay is below the national average. That’s why the $24.1 billion ($18.4 billion) Canadian industry -- like its neighbor in the U.S. -- has grown increasingly dependent on foreign labor. Maple Leaf Foods Inc. said last year it was seeking to hire Syrian refugees to fill job shortages.

Dairy farmers eager for Trump to ease milk glut

Farm Futures | Posted on February 22, 2017

Blame Canada. That’s what U.S. farmers say about some of the bubbling gluts weighing on the milk market, and they are eager for President Donald Trump to do something about it.  While growers and exporters of U.S. crops and food products have expressed anxiety over Trump’s restrictive immigration policies and determination to renegotiate trade deals, dairies see him as an opportunity to crack what they see as Canada’s protectionist milk practices and to help ease oversupply in some regions. A key battleground is the little known market for ultrafiltered milk, a concentrated ingredient used to boost protein content in cheese and yogurt. Canada is creating incentives for processors to buy from domestic manufacturers. U.S. producers say that could be a disaster, and they allege the new policy would violate trade agreements. Companies in Wisconsin and New York alone might lose $150 million in sales north of the border.


Group sues feds for delaying bumblebee's endangered listing

ABC News | Posted on February 16, 2017

An environmental group is suing the Trump administration for delaying an endangered-species designation for the rusty patched bumblebee.  The Natural Resources Defense Council says the U.S. Department of Interior broke the law by postponing the listing without public notice and comment. It was scheduled to take effect Feb. 10. But one day before that, the department put off the effective date until March 21 because of the administration's temporary freeze on new regulations.