December 17-18, 2014
MO-AG Winter Convention;
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News You Can Use
Waters of the United States (WOTUS)
Your comments to EPA are needed NOW!
Do you recognize this picture? If you are an agricultural retailer, could this be your customer? Could you need a permit before applying pesticides or fertilizer on this field? If the EPA’s proposed Water of the United States (WOTUS) goes into effect, costly regulations and permits and outright reduced agricultural production is what we could be facing in the future. Whether you a retailer or in any segment of agribusiness, the proposed WOTUS rule will negatively impact you because it will negatively impact all sectors of agriculture.
Your voice counts! Add your voice to the growing list of those expressing concern about EPA’s proposed WOTUS rule. Tell EPA ‘NO’ to WOTUS. Comment on the rule before the October 20, 2014 deadline.
To see more information on how to comment: CLICK HERE.
To see MO-AG’s comments: CLICK HERE.
To see a you-tube video featuring a “This Week in Agribusiness” report on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s visit to Missouri and responses by MO-AG President Steve Taylor and Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst; CLICK HERE.
To utilize a GIS based mapping program (Agriculture’s WOTUS Mapping Initiative (AWMI)) to see what ditches and small streams may be determined ‘jurisdictional’ in your area, CLICK HERE.
To see a description of how to use AWMI, CLICK HERE.
Steve Ells didn't really say that, did he? The Chipotle chairman and co-CEO didn't actually accuse opponents of GMO labeling of being greedy? Ells has reportedly received stock awards since 2011 worth more than $250 million and yet now he offers himself as a social conscience for consumers. That's gall. Ells recently claimed opponents of labels that would read "Produced with Genetic Engineering" were putting "profits ahead of consumer preferences." Bowing to consumer preferences is a sensible strategy for restaurants like Chipotle and stores like Whole Foods, but is it a good reason for government to adopt a labeling mandate when such labels traditionally have been reserved for safety, health and nutrition information? On its website, Chipotle cites the World Health Organization's definition of GMOs, but fails to note that WHO vouches for GMO safety, as does virtually every other relevant international group - from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to the European Commission. A 2010 report by the NAS on the "Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States" also concluded, "Generally, GE [GMO] crops have had fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GE crops produced conventionally." Surely this might be of mild interest to a company that touts its commitment to "responsible" farming practices. Source: Denver Post
Herbicides Are The Problem?
Last year's half-baked and unsuccessful proposal to ban genetically engineered crops in Los Angeles has not improved with time. Yet here it is before the City Council again, complete with wild statements about bioengineered food, chock full of inconsistent logic and, just like last year, rendered virtually meaningless because there are no such crops in the city and no plans to grow them. The problem is not the genetically engineered plants, it is the heavy application of the herbicides. The proper response is a regulation on pesticide and herbicide use, not a ban on the crops. And not all genetic engineering of crops is designed to build resistance to pesticides. Scientists have, for instance, developed a form of rice that contains significant amounts of vitamin A, an innovation that could prevent blindness and death for millions of people in Asia and Africa. Scientists are at work on oranges they hope will resist citrus greening, a disease that threatens to wipe out orange groves throughout the U.S. What if future projects included drought-tolerant crops that could survive the kind of prolonged dry spell California has been experiencing? Why would we want to ban such products without any scientific indication that they're unhealthy or unsafe? Making sound policy requires lawmakers to rise above irrational fears and easy generalizations and to become informed about science. Source: LA Times
World Needs Agricultural Technology
World Food Prize laureate Sanjaya Rajaram told a Washington audience that developing countries can use improvements in seed technology and more modern farming techniques to help feed burgeoning populations. The plant scientist received the prize on World Food Day for research that is credited with increasing world wheat production by more than 200 million tons. "I cannot differentiate the technology which the big farmers and corporations use and the technology which would be needed by the very small farmers," Rajaram said at the 2014 World Food Day Discussion. In his remarks, Rajaram highlighted success stories involving the spread of agricultural technology to the developing world. In his repeated pleas for the spread of technology to these small farms in developing countries, Rajaram was referencing things that might sound like commonplace to American producers. Rajaram said the knowledge of agricultural advances often doesn't make it to the remote areas that could greatly benefit from higher-production hybrids. Without the use of hybrids, soil management, and better use of fertilizer, Rajaram said the problem of world hunger could simply continue for generations to come. "If you want to keep the traditional technology for them to follow, we (are) basically preaching poverty in perpetuity," Rajaram said. "They will remain poor, they have been for thousands and thousands of years." Source: Agri-pulse
Small Business on WOTUS
The EPA's meeting to evaluate the impact of the proposed waters of the U.S. rule on small businesses has come "too little, too late," according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. "Both the law and good sense require the agencies to meet with those businesses most likely affected by expanding the definition of regulated waters prior to publishing the rule in the Federal Register," said NRECA Executive Director Jo Ann Emerson. As recently as Oct. 1, the EPA was criticized by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy for improperly certifying that the proposed rule clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction wouldn't have significant impacts on small businesses. The SBA Office of Advocacy said the agencies should have conducted a Small Business Advocacy Review panel prior to releasing the proposal for public comment. Source: BNA
Current Status of UAVs (Drones)
The FAA bans commercial use of drones no matter how seemingly benign. FAA officials say rules to address the special safety challenges associated with unmanned aircraft need to be in place before they can share the sky with manned aircraft. Unless FAA officials receive a complaint or chance upon a news story that mentions drone flights, they have little ability to find out about violations. The ban was further undercut this month when a federal judge dismissed the only fine the FAA has imposed on a commercial drone operator. The judge said the agency can't enforce regulations that don't exist. The FAA, which contends it controls access to the national air space, has appealed.
The drone industry and some members of Congress are worried the United States will be one of the last countries, rather than one of the first, to gain the economic benefits of the technology. "We don't have the luxury of waiting another 20 years," said Paul McDuffee, vice president of drone-maker Insitu of Bingen, Wash., a subsidiary of Boeing. "This industry is exploding. It's getting to the point where it may end up happening with or without the FAA's blessing."
In Japan, the Yamaha Motor Company's RMAX helicopter drones have been spraying crops for 20 years. The radio-controlled drones weighing 140 pounds are cheaper than hiring a plane and are able to more precisely apply fertilizers and pesticides. They fly closer to the ground and their backwash enables the spray to reach the underside of leaves. The helicopters went into use five years ago in South Korea and last year in Australia.
Jim Williams, head of the FAA's drone office, said writing rules for the U.S. is more complex than other nations. The U.S. has far more air traffic than anywhere else and a greater variety of aircraft, from hot-air balloons and old-fashioned barnstormers to the most sophisticated airliners and military and business jets. At low altitudes, the concern is a small drone could collide with a helicopter or small plane flown by a recreational pilot. Source: AP
Ford West ResponsibleAg Training Center
The Asmark Institute announced plans to recognize Ford B. West for his years of service to the fertilizer industry by dedicating a new training center in his honor. A dedication ceremony to commemorate the launch of the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture will be held on October 27, 2014 in Owensboro, KY. Mr. West served as the President of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), a national organization representing the agricultural nutrient industry. He retired in 2013 after 34 years of service to TFI and the industry.
"Ford West is known throughout the U.S. for his impeccable integrity, tireless work ethic and an inherent ability to quickly dissect complicated issues into a simple plan of action. It is very fitting that we honor him by creating a first-of-its-kind learning center that advances safety and compliance for the ag industry," said Allen Summers, President of the Asmark Institute.
The facility will be used as a national training and education center for personnel employed in the agricultural input industry. Among other programs planned for the new facility, will be the training of auditors to implement ResponsibleAg, an industry-led effort to assist agricultural retailers with compliance on a myriad of federal environmental, health, safety and security regulations.
Crop Production Services (CPS) recently donated the retired facility to the Asmark Institute to help make this national training center possible. The retired facility served as a retail farm center until 2014 when CPS consolidated local operations and closed the site. The Asmark Institute anticipates the renovation and construction project, which includes training scenarios, to cost one million dollars. Renovations at the new center will be complete this fall and include a classroom and computer lab along with the typical equipment and simulated operations found at ag retail locations nationwide.
Taylor Tours ResponsibleAg Training Center
MO-AG President Steve Taylor joined with his counterparts from other states and attended a briefing and tour of the ResponsibleAg training center in Owensboro, KY. The briefing included a detailed description as to how the audit process will be conducted by ResponsibleAg auditors.
ResponsibleAg is a voluntary industry-led initiative to help fertilizer storage and handling facilities achieve and maintain federal regulatory compliance. MO-AG is committed to providing information to its members about the ResponsibleAg initiative. Taylor stated, "The drive to Owensboro was definitely worth it because I now have a much better idea of how ResponsibleAg auditors will be trained and how they will interact with MO-AG members who might potentially participate in ResponsibleAg." The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and the Agriculture Retailers Association (ARA) formed ResponsibleAg and first Board of Directors and Executive Director of ResponsibleAg was just recently named. More information about ResponsibleAg and how fertilizer facilities can participate will be available in the weeks and months to come.
Right to Farm Recount Status
Several hundred uncounted ballots might change the narrow margin of victory for Amendment 1, promoted by supporters as the "right to farm" measure, but they won't be enough to overturn the result. A recount is likely for the proposal that unofficial returns show passing by 2,528 votes out of nearly 1 million votes cast statewide. The voting showed a clear rural-urban split, failing in all but one county with more than 20,000 votes and passing in all but three counties with fewer.
Laura Swinford, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jason Kander, said the office has no statewide figures on outstanding military ballots. Supporters and opponents of Amendment 1 are closely watching the process of certifying the result. "It is just hard to make up 2,500 votes," said Dan Kleinsorge, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care, the campaign committee established by supporters. "It is a narrow margin, but I just don't know where they find it."
Under state law, counties have until Aug. 19 to certify their election results to Kander's office. The statewide tallies must be certified by Aug. 26. After that, opponents have seven days to request a recount. Source: Columbia Tribune
New Technology Tools Moving Forward
Regulators said they are leaning toward approval of a new line of herbicide-tolerant crops developed by Monsanto Co even though they could increase problematic weed resistance for farmers. Under the draft EIS by APHIS, the agency said its analysis shows the new genetically modified cotton and soybean plants should be approved.
"It is an important step in the regulatory process and we are encouraging farmers to urge APHIS to complete this action as soon as possible," Michelle Vigna, Monsanto's product manager, said in a statement. Monsanto developed the new soybeans and cotton to resist a new herbicide that combines dicamba and glyphosate and which Monsanto is branding as Roundup Xtend.
APHIS also issued a final EIS for genetically altered corn and soybean plants developed by Dow AgroSciences. That EIS also states that the agency intends to approve the products. APHIS has already said in January that it was leaning toward approval for Dow's products. Dow has developed what it calls Enlist corn and soybeans that resist a new herbicide developed by Dow that includes both glyphosate and 2,4-D.
Both Monsanto's and Dow's new cropping systems have seen regulatory decisions delayed by intense opposition from many consumer, environmental and farmer groups who say there are a host of concerns with both products. "We are outraged," said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network North America. "Despite all of this public outcry, what these decisions show is that USDA is much more interested in working with Dow and Monsanto and getting their products to market than in protecting the public."
Alongside the USDA/APHIS regulatory process, the EPA is concluding its concurrent review of the related herbicides. Source: Reuters
Enlist Hits Milestone
The USDA announced the completion of the Final EIS for Enlist corn and soybeans and that its "preferred alternative" is to deregulate Enlist. The only remaining action before regulatory approval of the Enlist traits is USDA issuance of a Record of Decision along with the registration for Enlist Duo™ from U.S. EPA. Enlist cotton is under a separate review at USDA which is underway.
American farmers urgently need new technology to address resistant and tough weeds. The number of farmers impacted by tough weeds in the Midwest now tops 61%. Dow AgroSciences and university data show that Enlist will be a tool to help address these significant weed control challenges.
We look forward to USDA finalizing its review and deregulating the Enlist traits so that growers in the U.S. can access the Enlist system in 2015. Source: Dow Agrosciences
Nixon Vetoes Agriculture Legislation
Governor Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed two agriculture omnibus bills because they contain language that would transfer regulatory control of captive deer to the Department of Agriculture. The sponsors of those bills say those vetoes will be easy overrides in September. Senator Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) says the bill is worded so as not to violate the Constitution by specifying that captive deer are not wild. "Actually if you look at the Constitution, it says, 'wildlife,'" says Munzlinger. "If you look at the (legislation's proposed) definition of 'livestock,' it says 'anything not taken from the wild,' so I think if you look at clear definitions the governor was clearly wrong in his veto of Senate Bill 506."
Munzlinger accuses the Governor of standing against private property rights, and the House sponsor of those bills, Representative Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany), agrees. Guernsey says the new regulations, "literally allow unaccountable, unelected officials a power grab to confiscate and regulate private property and farmers specifically, unlike we've ever seen before in the State of Missouri." Nixon, in his veto messages on the bills, calls it, "unfortunate," that the legislature amended the deer language to, "two pieces of legislation that otherwise contain worthy provisions advancing Missouri agriculture."
Both lawmakers believe the vetoes will be overridden in September's veto session. Guernsey states, "We've passed and overridden the governor's veto on agriculture legislation before. This isn't the first time the governor's vetoed agriculture's priorities. I'm confident that if you look at the votes on all ten of these individual proposals, they passed out of the House and the Senate with pretty significant margins in a bipartisan fashion, so we're going to do everything we can to override the veto." Source: Ozarkfirst.com
Koster Endorses 'Right to Farm' Amendment; Nixon Skeptical
Supporters of a pro-farming measure on the Aug. 5 ballot picked up an important endorsement Wednesday when Attorney General Chris Koster announced his support. Koster, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016, said at a news conference at the Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters that recent attempts to restrict agricultural producers show the need for Amendment 1, called "right to farm" by supporters. "How would you feel if voters placed a limit on how successful you could be?" Koster said.
The endorsement is the latest from prominent politicians. One name absent from that list is Gov. Jay Nixon, who is barred from seeking another term and said yesterday he is leaning against the measure. "I always have a deferral position of unless I really, really am for it, then I'm not for amending the constitution," Nixon said. Amendment 1 was submitted by lawmakers and would, if approved, add a section on farming to the state Bill of Rights. It would protect all current farming practices, requiring a much higher level of scrutiny for new and existing regulations. Supporters hope amending the Missouri Constitution could provide a legal shield against efforts by animal welfare groups to restrict particular farming methods or by organic food advocates to prohibit genetically modified crops. Opponents contend the proposed amendment could be cited by corporate farms to try to avoid regulations against pollution and unsanitary conditions.
Nixon said he doesn't think the amendment will have that big of an effect. "I don't see the underlying problem at the level that proponents say, nor do I see the negatives of it at the same tone that the opponents say," Nixon said. Former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, vice president of outreach and engagement for the Humane Society of the United States, said he is pleased with Nixon's stand and disappointed with Koster's position. Maxwell is working with Missouri's Food for America, the umbrella opposition group, and he said he thinks opponents are finding that residents are skeptical of the measure. "The governor is probably taking a softer position that many Missourians are waking up to, and that is to vote no if you don't know what it will do," Maxwell said. Missouri law limits foreign ownership of farmland, with no more than 1 percent allowed to be in foreign hands. Maxwell pointed to that limit as one likely to be targeted for litigation. "Unlike the governor, I do think this will have dire effects."
Koster said in his news conference that the courts would have to be convinced the law limiting land ownership serves a "compelling state interest" to survive a challenge. Koster did not dismiss the likelihood that current restrictions might be challenged but said he expects that most regulations would survive that challenge. "All rights granted to citizens, even those placed in the constitution, are subject to reasonable restrictions," Koster said. Source: Columbia Tribune
Agency Scrutinizing Ammonium Nitrate is Scrutinized
The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has an important job: it's charged with independently investigating major chemical accidents and making recommendations to industry, regulators and labor groups. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a scathing report on the CSB that pointed to widespread management problems. The man at the center of lawmakers' fury is Rafael Moure-Eraso, the CSB chairman appointed by President Obama in 2010. Current and former employees and board members have pointed to Moure-Eraso's leadership as the cause of many of the management problems at the agency. House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told Moure-Eraso plainly: "I really believe it's time you go."
The White House didn't respond to a request for comment about whether President Obama still has confidence in the chairman. Since Moure-Eraso took over the chairmanship, at least nine investigators and employees resigned or requested to be transferred from the Washington, D.C., office, according to the House report. U.S. EPA's inspector general -- charged with overseeing the chemical board -- reported last year that CSB had steadily fallen behind in accomplishing its objectives of releasing timely reports. In 2012, the board completed just two of the eight investigations it planned to finalize. The OIG also found that CSB had a backlog of six investigations that had been open for more than three years, including three involving fatalities.
Source: E&E Publishing
MO-AG editor's note: CSB was a lead investigating agency into the cause of the incident in West, Texas involving ammonium nitrate. To date, CSB has not issued a definitive report as to the cause of that incident.
Focus on Pollinators
The White House today announced the first comprehensive pollinator initiative ever created across the federal government. Among the directives in the memorandum are actions increasing forage on federal lands, assessing the effects of pesticides including neonicotinoids, including native seeds in post-fire restoration, landscaping federal facilities for pollinators, educating the public about pollinators, and more. All details are at http://pollinator.org/PR_whitehouse.htm.
The memorandum is the result of a nearly 20-year campaign to increase awareness and action for honey bees and other pollinators and marks a new dawn of wise land management across the country. Importantly, President Obama is joined in supporting pollinators by the bi-partisan list of 45 governors who have signed proclamations for National Pollinator Week supported by millions of constituents across the country who care about this issue.
This year, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and 45 governors designated June 16-22 through proclamations-the most ever-as a week to celebrate and protect the nation's pollinating animals. Pollinators, like bees, butterflies, birds and other animals, bring us one in every three bites of food and maintain our environment. Pollinators are responsible for about $16 billion in U.S. agricultural production and world-wide human food production at $190 billion. Pollinators form the underpinning of a healthy and sustainable future for food and the environment, but have shown disturbing signs of decline.
Source: Pollinator Partnership
Environmentalists Pollinator Reaction
Environmental groups have a clear message for what the Obama administration's next move should be to protect bees: suspend the use of neonicotinoids. The White House on Friday announced the formation of a federal task force to draft a 'National Pollinator Health Strategy' prioritizing research and other efforts to help stem bee losses and protect other pollinators. While environmental groups are largely supportive of the move, they say the president is skirting taking the action he really needs to take.
"This gives us hope that EPA really needs to move more quickly than it has" to assess the risks of pesticides to pollinators, "but I'm reluctant to say that it's going to force EPA to do what it needs to do," Larrissa Walker, head of the Center for Food Safety's pollinator campaign, said.
MFC on HSUS's Front Organization
Missouri Farmers Care (MFC) released the following statement on the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)-funded Missouri's Food For America political action committee attacking Amendment #1, the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment:
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is trying to put a farmer face on an anti-farmer message by paying Joe Maxwell and recruiting his allies to attack Amendment #1. Amendment #1 is supported by the tens of thousands of family farmers that make up Missouri Farmers Care's member organizations, by over 1,000 family farmers that have endorsed the amendment on Missouri Farmers Care's website, and by over 1,000 family farmers that have contributed their own hard-earned funds to Missouri Farmers Care to fight for passage of the amendment. Amendment #1 is supported by family farmers and the associations that are led by family farmers because it protects all of Missouri agriculture.
HSUS is once again at work in Missouri using a campaign based on scare tactics and misinformation. We believe the vast majority of Missourians will support Amendment #1 as is protects the ability of both farmers and consumers to have the maximum number of choices in how food is produced, and what kinds of food are available at supermarkets, farmer's markets, and everywhere else food is sold and consumed. Source: MFC
GAO on Ammonium Nitrate
Gaps in the multi-agency regulation of the explosive chemical ammonium nitrate may allow unsafe facilities to operate and poor planning to persist, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The GAO report highlighted holes in the system for tracking facilities with ammonium nitrate, lack of data sharing between oversight agencies and regulations that are outdated and ineffective. The report comes as the Obama administration's chemical safety working group prepares its status report for the president. The White House created the working group in August 2013 as a response to the April 2013 explosion at a Texas fertilizer facility.
"Last year's devastating ammonium nitrate fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, is a tragic example of what can happen when there are inadequate protections on the use of highly explosive chemicals as a result of regulatory gaps and loopholes," a group of senior congressional Democrats said in a May 21 statement. The problems identified in the GAO report are "unacceptable," said Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.).
The GAO report noted that OSHA's explosives and blasting regulations fail to prohibit storing ammonium nitrate in wooden bins or wooden buildings, as they were in the Texas blast. Other regulatory gaps noted in the GAO report include that ammonium nitrate isn't covered by either OSHA's process safety management standard or the EPA's risk management program.
The GAO report also faulted OSHA for conducting little outreach to the fertilizer industry, which was largely unaware that it had to comply with the agency's regulations for storing ammonium nitrate. In his written response to the GAO, OSHA chief David Michaels said that the agency and the chemical safety working group has identified ways to boost industry outreach. OSHA is "evaluating options for targeting high risk fertilizer facilities for programmed inspections," Michaels said. OSHA is actively working with the Agriculture Retailers Association (ARA) to form an alliance to better inform employers that handle ammonium nitrate. One key part of that alliance should be an agency interpretation on what is or isn't compliant under the explosive and blasting standard, Michael Kennedy, public policy counsel for the ARA.
For a copy of the GAO report, CLICK HERE Source: BNA
Farming Rghts Amendment On August Ballot
"Governor Nixon understands the importance of agriculture to the state of Missouri and the urgency of this issue," Missouri Farmers Care Chairman Don Nikodim said. "The Farming Rights Amendment will protect farmers and ranchers by enshrining their right to produce the food that Missouri's economy depends on. Missouri agriculture is united in support of the Farming Rights Amendment and we are looking forward to educating voters across the state on the importance of this issue."
With the August 5 election date just 10 weeks away, Missouri Farmers Care is mobilizing for a summer of campaigning. "We have been working on this issue since the legislature passed this referendum with an overwhelming bipartisan majority during the 2013 session," Nikodim said. "Missouri agriculture is ready to take our case to the voters and we are confident that Missourians will protect family farmers and ranchers." A recent poll commissioned by the Missouri Liberty Project found that 69% of likely voters support Amendment 1.
Source: Missouri Farmers Care
Missouri Ballots and Issues
Gov. Jay Nixon referred five measures to the August primary ballot while leaving three proposed constitutional amendments for the November election. Nixon's office said it put several measures on the August ballot because of the large number of issues referred to this year's ballot.
Here are the issues that voters will see on the ballot Aug. 5:
* Transportation sales tax: Proposes a three-quarters-cent sales tax increase for roads and other transportation projects that is projected to raise $534 million annually for a decade. It would be the largest tax increase in state history and would help a transportation system facing declining funds.
* Guns: Defines the right to bear arms as "unalienable" and would require the state to defend against any "infringement." It would include the keeping of ammunition and defending one's family with a firearm as constitutional rights.
* Farming: Establishes the right to farm within the Missouri Constitution.
* Lottery tickets for veterans: Directs the Lottery Commission to develop a new lottery ticket to benefit state veterans homes.
* Electronic privacy: Adds electronic communications and data as things protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Here are the issues that voters will see on ballots Nov. 4:
* Early voting: Permits early voting for six business days ending the Wednesday before an election.
* Budget: Gives the legislature new authority to override gubernatorial budget cuts.
* Child sex abuse: Allows evidence about prior criminal acts to be used against people facing prosecution for child sex offenses.
Source: Associated Press
Organic Notches a Win in Oregon
I am saddened by the passage of Measure 15-119. This crop ban has divided our community and shows a general lack of understanding about the benefits of modern agriculture. The result is bad public policy and disrespect for private property rights.
I am concerned that Jackson County lacks the resources and expertise to implement the measure. It is unfortunate that county inspectors will now be charged to police what farmers do on their private property. Most voters are not familiar with the intricacies of biotechnology and agriculture. Yet they were tasked with making a decision based on misleading sound bites and an internet filled with fear. It's clear to me by the outcome of this vote that we farmers must do a better job engaging with the public. Consumers are more and more interested in where and how their food is raised. Farmers need to show the public how we are growing the safest products in the world. As we learned in Jackson County, if we don't tell our story others will define what we do, even if they have to twist the facts.
If we had to take a loss, I'm proud to have been on the side of science and the public good. As a farmer, my nature is optimism. My hope for a future of cooperation and coexistence remains strong.
Barry Bushue, President, Oregon Farm Bureau
Oregon Organic Legal Challenges
A ban on genetically engineered crops in Oregon's Jackson County may face lawsuits based on the state's right-to-farm law, which protects common farm practices. Opponents say the prohibition is ripe for a court challenge under Oregon's right-to-farm law, which restricts private lawsuits and local ordinances against common farming practices. "We believe there is a conflict there," said Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, which opposed the Jackson County ballot initiative. "Farmers in the county who grow GMO crops, like biotech alfalfa, would have to plow them under within a year. While there haven't been any decisions made yet, there's likely to be some legal action over the ban on genetically modified organisms. We're going to do everything we can to defend our farmers. The right-to-farm law is broadly worded to protect reasonable farm practices" Dahlman said.
The question is whether growing GMO crops would be considered a protected "generally accepted" farm practice now that Jackson County voters have declared such crops illegal. Litigation against the GMO ban would not be surprising, said George Kimbrell, attorney for the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit that supported the ballot initiative. However, the prohibition is "well crafted" to be congruent with the right-to-farm law and Oregon's constitution, he said.
Cost of GMO Labeling
In a new study, Cornell University found that in New York a proposed genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling bill could cost families as much as $800 per year. The study evaluates additional costs passed from the industry to consumers if forced labeling is made law in New York State. It's not only families who will be shelling out more for food. The state could also be facing millions of dollars in added costs to implement and monitor the labeling initiative. It would also account for a loss in farm income.
"American families deserve safe, abundant and affordable food," Claire Parker, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, said in a news statement. "GMOs have been used in our food supply for more than 20 years and no study has ever shown them to be unsafe or different from foods without GMOs. Repeated studies, however, have shown that the high cost of mandatory labeling would dramatically increase the price of groceries at the checkout aisle for consumers." Source: PorkNetwork
Vilsack Promotes Organic Crop Insurance
Add a new crop insurance program to the spoil of riches being enjoyed by the organic industry thanks to the new farm bill. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack used his presentation at the Organic Trade Association's policy meeting, in Washington, D.C., to announce the creation of a pilot version of the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program in certain states and counties as soon as 2015. Vilsack stated "Reducing the risk that organic farmers feel will encourage them to maintain their certification and continue producing products, which is good for the rural economy and also satisfies consumer demand." Vilsack stated that he used his trip to Mexico to push agriculture officials there to move ahead with an equivalency agreement for organic products to better facilitate trade between the two nations and also expand the market for organic products.
The Organic Trade Association were told to continue pushing their cause in Congress because it has bipartisan appeal. 'I love organic agriculture in particular because it's pure commercial interest at its core,' Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) told those gathered at a reception hosted by the Organic Trade Association. Source: Politico
West Texas - One Year Anniversary
Regulatory gaps at the county, state and federal levels allowed the devastating explosion at a Texas fertilizer facility to happen, and weaknesses in zoning codes means it's likely that other facilities storing hazardous chemicals are dangerously close to populated areas, according to Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board officials. The Chemical Safety Board found 1,351 facilities nationwide that store ammonium nitrate, the chemical that detonated in April 2013 at West Fertilizer Co. in West, Texas. "Farm communities are just starting to collect data on how close homes or schools are to AN storage, but there can be little doubt that West is not alone and that other communities should act to determine what hazards might exist in proximity," lead CSB investigator Johnnie Banks said in prepared remarks.
The community clearly wasn't aware of the potential hazard at West Fertilizer, Banks said. The McLennan County emergency planning committee didn't have an emergency response plan for West Fertilizer, as it might have under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, because of a retail facility exemption under the law. Meanwhile, at the state level, Texas has no fire code, and it prohibits counties under a certain population level from having them. Furthermore, there is no regulation at the federal level stopping businesses from storing ammonium nitrate in combustible wooden bins or wood buildings without sprinkler systems, Banks said.
But Banks said OSHA needs to clarify its existing coverage of ammonium nitrate under the standards so that fertilizer distributors understand what they must do. "While we believe regulations must be addressed here, I do want to commend the industry for taking recent steps to get fertilizer distributors and others to carefully handle ammonium nitrate," CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said in prepared remarks. Moure-Eraso applauded the Fertilizer Institute and the Agricultural Retailers Association's third-party auditing program for fertilizer retailers, called "Responsible-Ag," as well as their efforts distributing a guidance document for safe handling and storage of ammonium nitrate.
The CSB must complete several steps before closing its West investigation, including ammonium nitrate blast modeling and impact analysis, lab testing of the chemical, and fire code and regulatory analysis. Source: BNA
More Lengthy, Complex OSHA Inspections
According to OSHA's FY 2014 budget proposal documents, the agency is exploring a new inspection system that could allow inspections to be rated on complexity, providing an incentive for OSHA compliance officers and area offices to focus their time and efforts on more complex inspections. This means that employers, who may not have seen much inspection activity in the past, or only general inspection activity, may soon see more and/or different types of inspections.
OSHA says it is at a crossroads concerning how it will direct its enforcement resources. The agency has always operated under the assumption that "more inspections are better," as the more establishments inspected, the greater OSHA's presence and impact. Consequently, there has always been pressure on the agency to conduct more inspections than it did in the previous years. The problem with this model, OSHA now believes, is that not all inspections are created equal. Some inspections, such as those dealing with process safety management (PSM), ergonomics, complicated electrical and machine guarding or industrial hygiene inspections dealing with unknown or unique chemicals, take more time and resources to complete than the average or typical OSHA inspection. The agency has never accounted for the resource needs of these complex types of inspections in its enforcement strategy.
With the burden to conduct more and more inspections with possibly fewer resources over the next several years, OSHA field personnel would find themselves forced to conduct less time-intensive, shorter inspections rather than the more complicated inspections. Under the current system, the only incentive for a compliance officer is to meet the inspection goals - there is no incentive for them to do the larger more complicated inspections. This is why in FY 2014, the agency intends to explore an inspection weighting approach in order to direct inspections to high hazard operations - including inspections of refineries and chemical plants, emerging chemical and health issues and workplace violence.
Right now, each inspection, whether it takes six months or six hours, is weighted the same. OSHA's current internal system does not take into account the wide array of resource intensive inspections performed by the agency. OSHA is not implementing the new weighting system this year, but is examining FY 2014 data to establish a solid baseline. Source: Asmark Institute
Blunt Condemns EPA/COE Rule
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) condemned the draft Clean Water Act rule released this week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (COE). The rule would reportedly give the federal government regulatory authority over millions of acres of wetlands and streams by greatly expanding its authority over Waters of the United States. Blunt stated "This proposed rule would have a devastating impact on Missouri farm families. I will fight the EPA's proposal and I will keep fighting the Obama Administration's attempts to takeover Americans' private properties."
Source: Senator Roy Blunt Press Release
Congress on WOTUS
The Obama administration will receive no funding to support its proposed rule to define the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act if the administration does not first provide Congress with cost estimates and other details, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, warned during a March 26 hearing. "There will be not a penny for that program unless we know in advance the cost of putting it in place, and determine who owns what portions of those streams, and a lot more details," Rogers said. The lawmaker's reference to "that program" was a reminder that Congress can block a rule by specifying through appropriations that no money can be spent on developing or enforcing the rule. Rogers was addressing Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, during a hearing of the Committee. The Corps and the EPA jointly developed the proposed rule.
"You don't have any idea what it would cost?" Rogers asked. "Not at this time," Darcy said. There had been "general discussions on the cost overall," she said, but the discussions had not delved into such details as the expense of mapping affected areas and determining ownership of the areas. The rule would not only apply to navigable rivers and their tributaries and adjacent wetlands but to intermittent or ephemeral streams and artificial channels if they can flow with water that could reach a navigable river. The rule also would allow the EPA and the Corps to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to regulate geographically isolated water bodies and wetlands based on how they are judged to affect the physical, biological and chemical integrity of navigable waters.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, speaking March 26 during a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the proposed rule does not take away "a single agricultural exemption that current exists" under federal law. Senate Democrats acknowledged the proposal would impose compliance costs but argued the costs of dirty water would be significantly higher. They also argued strongly that the EPA was well-within its authority to propose the new water regulation. "The cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action. Many studies have shown that the cost of dirty water is far higher than the compliance costs," Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said. Boxer added that she hasn't yet reviewed the rule.
Legislation known as the Defense of Environment and Property Act aims to cut back the federal government's authority to regulate wetlands. Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, who introduced the bill, said the legislation would rein in the EPA. American Rivers, a non-profit environmental group, explained what it saw as drawbacks of the bill stating "It forces the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to get specific permission from States before doing anything to control pollution or protect land and water resources - essentially disrupting the careful balance of state and federal responsibility for land and water management." Sources: BNA & Water Online
Food Safety Modernization Act implementation
Margaret Hamburg fielded a flurry of questions from Republican senators anxious about the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The FDA's commissioner opened the 90-minute hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by recounting how her agency issued no less than seven major FSMA rules last year and pleading again for more money. But the committee members were less interested in talking about FDA's funding problem and instead wanted to focus more on the regs themselves. In particular, the GOP lawmakers expressed concerns about FDA not following the letter of the law in issuing all the FSMA regulations.
"I have heard a number of concerns from food producers about the overly prescriptive framework considering the preventive controls for human food,' Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) Enzi said. "What concerns me even more is that it doesn't appear the FDA has adhered to the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act by publicizing the proposed rule."
Hamburg said she had not heard the concern. "If anything," she added, "I think we have really done a remarkable job of outreach and engagement and taking comments and responding to comments. I will go back and ask some questions about that." Source: Politico
In 2008, HSUS succeeded in passing a ballot initiative in California that would ban farmers from housing egg-laying hens in enclosures that are too small for the birds to lie down, stand up or fully spread their wings. Two years later, the California legislature extended the regulation to all eggs sold in the state, effectively imposing the regulations on any state wishing to sell eggs in California.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued to block California's law on Feb. 3 saying it would hurt his state's egg producers, which sell about a third of their eggs in California. Missouri attorneys said in a court filing that farmers there would face the choice of spending $120 million to bring their henhouses into compliance or having to forgo sales in California. The lawsuit contends the law violates Constitutional provisions allowing free commerce among the states. Officials representing Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Alabama recently joined it.
Joe Maxwell, HSUS Agriculture Director and former Missouri Lt. Governor, in an interview with Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WNAX, claimed Nebraska shouldn't complain that California requires other states to meet its standards to sell eggs in the state. "I would expect that the governor and the Attorney General there should look at their own laws and look at which ones those in place that protect their own producers before they go out and make those broad statements. I believe very strongly in states having the ability and a sovereign right to regulate to some degree their industry," Maxwell stated. "In this case, the evidence is clear that chickens in barren battery cages for which California has outlawed have a greater propensity to have salmonella and the state of California should have the right as it sees fit to protect its citizens."
In a separate news release, HSUS asserted the right of states to regulate agriculture. HSUS stated in the news release California has a right under the Constitution to regulate or eliminate "an unsafe and inhumane products from its local market, regardless of the product's place of origin."
Source: Wall Street Journal & Nebraska Radio Network
Missouri River Lawsuit
Enduring four floods in seven years, farmers, property owners and small businesses along the Missouri River say there's no longer any flood protection. They are suing the U.S. government for failing to protect their property and not providing just compensation. "For decades, these Missouri River residents invested their fortunes and futures in developing farms, businesses and communities on this land in reliance on the corps managing the river in a way that would deter flooding," said R. Dan Boulware, a member of the St. Joseph Bar, plaintiffs' lead counsel and a partner in the Polsinelli law firm. "Valuable farm ground is being permanently destroyed and a way of life is now threatened."
A lawsuit will be filed which includes more than 200 plaintiffs from Northwest Missouri, Northeast Kansas, eastern Nebraska, western Iowa and South Dakota. The suit seeks damages believed to be in excess of $250 million. The suit alleges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now manages the Missouri River to preserve endangered species habitat rather than control flooding. The claims seek compensation under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. "The Constitution essentially says that, if you are going to make people sacrifice their property for a public good, like protection of native species of wildlife, then you have to pay them just compensation," stated Benjamin Brown, a co-counsel and partner with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll of Washington, D.C., the other legal firm representing the plaintiffs. Source: St. Joseph News-Press
Business representatives painted a portrait of OSHA as a runaway agency that routinely short-circuits the rulemaking process to ram through its agenda during a recent House subcommittee hearing.
Many of its actions amount to substantive changes that evade impact analysis, public comment or clearance from other administration agencies that ordinarily serve as a check, said Brad Hammock, an attorney testifying on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Hammock pointed to OSHA's December 2013 memo instructing regional administrations on how to enforce the combustible dust requirement in the hazard communication regulation and its October 2013 online posting of annotated permissible exposure limits as further examples of the agency's overreach.
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), the committee chairman, said these actions reflect OSHA chief David Michaels' "frustration with the rules he must follow before imposing new regulations on workplaces."
According to Walberg, Michaels has "promised to find creative solutions to adopt his policy priorities, and that is precisely what the agency is now doing." Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) noted that it takes OSHA between 7 and 19 years to issue new standards.
Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation and a corn farmer in Volga, S.D., told the panel that a June 2011 OSHA memo pulled small family farms involved in grain operations-which had largely been exempted from OSHA enforcement since 1976-under the agency's purview. "Rather than working cooperatively with industry, OSHA apparently reached the conclusion that it was preferable to penalize small farmers through enforcement," VanderWal said. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab announced Jan. 22 that OSHA would review its farm inspection guidelines.
In other OSHA news, at another meeting, OSHA chief David Michaels said recently that the agency is changing the way it counts inspections to take into account the fact that "not all inspections are created equal." Michaels said OSHA will use two systems of crediting the work of inspectors during 2014: the old system of giving each inspection equal weight-regardless of its complexity-and the new system based on "inspection units," which factors in the time and resources involved. The agency will then move fully to the new system in 2015. Michaels also discussed OSHA's online tools to help employers switch to safer chemicals. Source: BNA
OSHA Addresses Fertilizer Safety in Letter
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is partnering with the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute to reach more than 7,000 agricultural retailers, distributers, producers and other facilities in the fertilizer industry to remind employers of the importance of safely storing and handling ammonium nitrate. In the letter, OSHA provides employers with legal requirements and best practice recommendations for safely storing and handling ammonium nitrate.
To view a copy of the letter, CLICK HERE
Source: OSHA News Release
Ohio Law Would Require Fertilizer Application Certification
Ohio commodity groups are supporting changes to legislation that will require one farmer per farm operation to be certified to apply fertilizer. The bill (SB 150) has passed the Ohio Senate and was expected to be considered in the House. "The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) and Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) take the issue of water quality in our state very seriously and began actively working with legislators on SB 150 since it was introduced in 2013," says farmer and OSA president Jerry Bambauer.
Fertilizer certification would piggyback onto the pesticide certification that farmers already go through and will not include added fees. Last year, farmers and other agricultural organizations announced that they are investing over $1 million to support a study to investigate phosphorus use in farming. USDA is adding another $1 million to support the research financed by the Ohio Soybean Council, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program, and others. Source: agriculture.com
Missouri AG Koster Support State Authority
Attorneys general from 21 states are urging a federal appellate court to overturn EPA's Clean Water Act nutrient rules for the Chesapeake Bay, arguing that the standards are illegal and, if left in place, could pave the way for the agency to set similar requirements in other watersheds, including the massive Mississippi River Basin.
"EPA's untenable interpretation of its authority under the CWA has unlawfully usurped States' traditional authority over land-use management decisions," argue State AGs Gregory Zoeller of Indiana, Chris Koster of Missouri and Derek Schmidt of Kansas in an amicus brief filed last week. The case is being heard by Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in Philadelphia. "Its actions have profound consequences for every state and cannot be squared with the CWA."
EDITORS NOTE - Missouri Agribusiness Association (MO-AG) intervened in the Mississippi River Basin lawsuit on nutrient criteria and awaits results of final appeals in court.
Corn Ethanol RFS Battle Heats Up
The EPA has proposed a rule that would result in a 1.4 billion gallon reduction in how much corn ethanol will be required under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Those interested in making comments on EPA's proposed rule (EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0479) have until January 28th to do so. Comments can be made by hitting the 'comment now' button at:
Leading up to the RFS decision, the ethanol debate has escalated. Some have suggested that more ethanol will result in more pollution from fertilizer runoff. MO-AG's national affiliate, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), described this as "character assassination without cause." Going further, TFI stated "Working with farmers, the fertilizer industry has aggressively promoted best management practices to ensure that fertilizer is used in a manner that maximizes food production while protecting the environment. In fact, U.S. farmers produce 87 percent more corn than they did in 1980, using 4 percent fewer fertilizer nutrients. This speaks to agriculture's ability to improve sustainability by increasing productivity efficiently. Through the use of 4R nutrient stewardship (use of the right fertilizer source at the right rate at the right time and in the right place) farmers continue to build on past success. "
The Missouri Corn Growers Association has information on the RFS issue on their website at www.mocorn.org/rfs and the National Corn Growers Association has extensive information on their website as well at http://www.ncga.com/rfs.
OSHA Focuses on Farmer-owned Grain Bins
Nebraska U.S. Senator Mike Johanns is demanding that OSHA stop harassing small, family-run farms. Since 1976, Congress has included language in appropriations bills prohibiting OSHA enforcement actions against farmers with ten or fewer employees. But Johanns says the agency recently violated that rule