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Funding bill tackles cell-based meat and other food issues

Politico | Posted on February 18, 2019

The latest federal funding package from Congress weighs in on two contentious issues facing the USDA and FDA: oversight of cell-based meat and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s plan to move key research agencies outside of Washington. The legislation, H.J. Res. 31 (116), sets a timeline for the first time for ending any lingering disagreement over the regulation of cell-based meat by giving USDA and FDA three months to “enter into a formal agreement delineating“ their responsibilities. Some livestock interests had lobbied for USDA to have primary jurisdiction over the growing technology.Several members of Congress have also been trying to thwart Perdue’s proposal to relocate the USDA Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The latest funding bill requests a cost-benefit analysis for the plan, with the expectation “that this process will be followed in the future” for other proposed moves, according to report language.


Congress approves agriculture appropriations bill - without disaster relief

AM 1100 | Posted on February 18, 2019

The appropriations "minibus," as it has been called because it covers several federal agencies, includes funding for the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. But the bill's report section also includes language directing USDA to submit estimates of costs to move employees of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of the Washington metropolitan area, and says that Congress supports an "indefinite delay" in the Trump administration's plans to move the Economic Research Service to the Office of the Chief Economist. Other items:Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program- $27 million appropriated, representing a 6 percent increase from FY 2018 and the highest funding level in the program's 30-year history. Agriculture Research – $2.775 billion to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), including:Provides $415 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).Maintains formula researchfunding for land-grant universities.Provides a $1 million increase in ARS funding foreach of the following: Pulse Crop Health Initiative; Chronic Wasting Disease; Sugarbeets; Alfalfa Research; Small Grain Genomics. Maintains funding for UAS Precision Agriculture at $3 million and $8.7 million for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative.Rural Broadband – Provides $550 million for the rural broadband loan and grant pilot program targeted to areas that currently lack access to broadband service.Rural Water and Wastewater – To help address the $3 billion backlog in infrastructure needs in rural America, the bill provides an additional $75 million for rural water and waste program loans and grants. Combatting Opioid Abuse – The legislation helps to combat the opioid abuse epidemic including:$47 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to combat the opioid epidemic using regulatory science, enforcement and innovation.$16 million for Rural Development Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants to help rural communities combat the opioid abuse crisis. $3 million through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for extension and outreach programs in rural communities.

2018 Farm BIll Implementation Listening Session

USDA | Posted on February 14, 2019

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey announced that USDA is hosting a listening session for initial input on the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA is seeking public input on the changes to existing programs implemented by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency. Each agency will take into account stakeholder input when making discretionary decisions on program implementation.  “The 2018 Farm Bill is intended to provide support, certainty and stability to our Nation’s farmers, ranchers and land stewards by enhancing farm support programs, improving crop insurance, maintaining disaster programs, and promoting and supporting voluntary conservation,” said Under Secretary Northey. “We are seeking input from stakeholders on how USDA can streamline and improve program delivery while also enhancing customer service.”The listening session will be held Feb. 26, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. in the Jefferson Auditorium in the South Building located at 14th Street and Independence Ave. S.W. in Washington, D.C. 

Swine fever spreads in Japan, 15,000 pigs to be culled

Reuters | Posted on February 14, 2019

Japan’s swine fever outbreak has spread to five prefectures including Osaka, and more than 10,000 pigs will be culled as part of measures to prevent further contagion, the government said. This is a different strain from the deadly African swine fever China has been battling, an agriculture ministry official said.

Administration rolling back restrictions on agriculture

Capital Press | Posted on February 14, 2019

Farmers and ranchers were hopeful Trump would stand by that promise and loosen the regulatory grip that has put increasing pressure on their livelihoods.Two years later, some reform has already taken place, and other changes are in the works. Some agricultural groups say the biggest factor is the Trump administration is more willing than the Obama administration to listen to their concerns.On the regulatory front, this administration is clearly better than the last, said Paul Schlegel, managing director of public policy for the Farm Bureau.“There is a tendency to listen a little bit more in this administration and welcome input,” he said.Outreach is better, and there’s a willingness to get a feel for what it means to own land and invest in equipment, he said.

Groups to sue US agency over loss of caribou herd

San Francisco Gate | Posted on February 14, 2019

Environmental groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to prevent the recent loss of the last herd of mountain caribou in the Lower 48 states. The handful of remaining animals were relocated into Canada last November, ending decades of efforts to save the southern Selkirk Mountains herd, which were located in a remote part of northern Idaho and Washington state.

The $4.8 trillion immigration issue that is being overlooked by Washington

CNBC | Posted on February 14, 2019

As Congress and President Donald Trump continue to butt heads over a border wall and immigration policy, one of the main issues being overlooked is the contribution refugees and immigrant entrepreneurs have on the U.S. economy. When you pull back the curtain on the issue, the facts are mindblowing. According to the National Immigration Forum, immigrant-owned businesses employ more than 19 million people and generate $4.8 trillion in revenue. They also play a key role in revitalizing neighborhoods, cities and regions that have seen economic decline. The bottom line: Immigrants provide rocket fuel for small business on Main Street and for the Silicon Valley start-up universe. Immigrants account for roughly 28 percent of small business owners in the U.S., and they are two times more likely to become entrepreneurs than native-born businessmen.



The Green New Deal versus rural America

National Review | Posted on February 14, 2019

The Green New Deal is the shiny new object in Washington. Rolled out last week by Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.), the proposal is a grab-bag of policies that covers everything from creating “high-quality union jobs” to universal health care. It has been endorsed by four Democratic contenders for the White House and nearly 70 members of the House of Representatives. The fundamental charge of the Green New Deal is the “green” part: The U.S. is supposed to get to “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.” Achieving such a goal (and doing it in just ten years) would require overhauling nearly every piece of energy infrastructure in the country. That’s where the Green New Deal parts company with the real New Deal — and, in fact, contradicts the achievements of the legislators who helped ensure rural electrification, and by doing so, helped set the table for America’s emergence as an economic superpower after World War II. Two pieces of New Deal legislation changed the shape and structure of America’s energy sector: The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 busted the big electric utilities that had a stranglehold on America’s electric grid, and the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provided low-cost federally backed loans to electric cooperatives and other entities, which allowed them to build their own electric grids and be independent of the big utilities. Those laws helped slash electricity costs for rural customers and led to a broad dissemination of economic and political power across the country that was critical to the development of western and southern states. And that leads to my thesis: If the Green New Deal becomes a reality, it will dramatically increase electricity costs and concentrate economic and political power in big business and in Washington. In short, the biggest costs of the all-renewable-energy push will be paid not by urban liberals such as Ocasio-Cortez, who are pushing the Green New Deal, but by rural Americans who probably voted for Donald Trump.


The big Alaskan land giveaway tucked into a sweeping conservation bill

Washington Post | Posted on February 13, 2019

The Senate passed the biggest conservation bill in years. The Natural Resources Management Act of 2019 swells with more than 100 combined pieces of legislation related to public lands, water and natural resources. Many environmentalists are happy: Wins for public lands and wildlife have been scarce in recent years under an alternately hostile and sclerotic GOP-controlled Congress. The bill is expected to sail through the House. Slice open this giant haggis and peer inside, though: Something reeks. The act contains language that would hand over nearly a half-million acres of federal lands in Alaska — your land and mine — to private hands. That is an area roughly equal to half the size of Long Island, or 31 Manhattans.Alaska’s two senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, say their proposal would correct a lingering injustice by granting up to 160 acres each to Native Alaskans who are Vietnam War veterans and who missed out on an earlier chance to stake a land claim because of military service during that war. They estimate about 2,800 veterans and heirs could take advantage of the program, which means 448,000 acres of land could be handed out. It presents a thorny issue for conservationists: Justice for Native veterans! What anthracite heart could object?


EPA wins new chance to argue against pesticide ban

Reuters | Posted on February 12, 2019

The Trump administration has persuaded a U.S. appeals court to reconsider its recent decision ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the widely-used pesticide chlorpyrifos, which critics say can harm children and farmers.the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it will again review former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s March 2017 refusal to ban chlorpyrifos for use on food crops such as fruits, vegetables and nuts.Pruitt’s ruling reversed a 2015 Obama administration plan to extend a 2000 ban on the pesticide that had covered most household settings.