Skip to content Skip to navigation

Federal News

WOTUS controversy: What’s that about?

Ag Policy | Posted on February 7, 2019

On February 28, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13778, “Presidential Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” While not making any immediate changes to WOTUS, the executive order set in motion a process that included the suspension of the WOTUS changes by EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt in January 2018, and the issuance of a new rule, “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States,’” in December 2018 by Acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler.Due to the ongoing government shutdown, the new rule has not been published in the Federal Register. As a result, the 60-day comment period will not start until official publication, but our readers can download the rule from that site and read the rule for themselves.The gist of the change is that it removes ephemeral streams from the jurisdiction of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers which is responsible for the navigable waters of the US. Ephemeral streams are generally described as those which are dry most of the year but regularly flow for 7 days or less as the result of heavy rains or snow melt. Most of the areas affected by the inclusion of ephemeral streams are in the arid west.So why might the original WOTUS rule that was made by the Obama era make sense and why might the repeal be a problem?A better solution changing WOTUS may be to require the federal government to map the areas that it determines are in the watershed of ephemeral streams. Then farmers will not be faced the problem of not knowing whether or not they need to apply for a permit before engaging changes to their land.

USDA Wetlands Rule Draws Agriculture Groups' Ire

DTN | Posted on February 7, 2019

 Agriculture and environmental groups alike are not impressed with USDA's interim final rule on wetland conservation and highly erodible land posted in December. A public comment period on the rule closed on Tuesday. USDA made revisions to codify technical portions of the existing agency policy that had not undergone public review and comment. The revisions amend four sections of USDA's regulations.Agriculture groups, in particular, made the case in public comments that USDA has not followed proper procedure on the regulations from the get-go, and it is making an already confusing situation worse for farmers.

Oregon bill aims to prevent Trump environmental "rollbacks"

Capital Press | Posted on February 7, 2019

A bill requiring Oregon government agencies to protect against “rollbacks” of federal environmental regulations has been dismissed as “political theater” by farm, ranch and timber organizations. Under House Bill 2250, state natural resource agencies would have to monitor whether changes to federal air and water regulations have fallen short of standards enacted under the Obama administration.The Department of Environmental Quality and other agencies would then recommend or take actions to ensure that Oregon’s environmental rules maintain or exceed the federal protections before the Trump administration took office.


Farm Bill says hemp gets a pass on interstate commerce, despite county official claims

Idaho Press | Posted on February 6, 2019

The federal Farm Bill forbids states from preventing the transportation of hemp, and a Colorado company that wants its seized shipment back from Idaho is citing the Farm Bill in a court filing against the state.Still, the Ada County prosecuting attorney’s office argues that hauling hemp through Idaho is illegal and that the seizure was lawful.An Oregon trucker who claims he was hauling hemp from Oregon to Colorado through Idaho was arrested on Jan. 24 on the east side of Boise, and Idaho State Police seized 6,701 pounds of the green leafy substance, which tested positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.The amount of THC is an important detail.Hemp, while not a scheduled substance, contains trace amounts of THC but not enough to produce a high. Under federal regulations, hemp must contain 0.3 percent or less of THC.

China agrees to buy 5 million tons of US soybeans after talks in Washington

Washington Examiner | Posted on February 6, 2019

China has agreed to resume purchases of U.S. soybeans following talks Thursday between President Trump and Beijing's top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He. It will start off by purchasing 5 million metric tons.  "Five million tons of soybeans per day," Trump told reporters at a Oval Office meeting with Liu. "That's going to make our farmers very happy. That's a lot of soybeans."The U.S. Trade Representative's Office clarified that the deal is for a one-time purchase of 5 million metric tons.

Federal government discloses it already shipped plutonium to Nevada, without state's knowledge or consent

Nevada Independent | Posted on February 6, 2019

Federal officials have disclosed that they shipped radioactive plutonium to Nevada in spite of the state’s vehement opposition to the idea and concerns that doing so would be a slippery slope to opening the state up to further nuclear waste dumping. In a federal court filing on Wednesday, National Nuclear Security Administration General Counsel Bruce Diamond stated that the agency sent about half a metric ton of the substance sometime before November 2018, prior to Nevada suing over the proposed move. The transfer was done after a U.S. District Court in South Carolina ordered the material be removed from that state.  

Gains for animal health in farm bill

AVMA | Posted on February 6, 2019

The new farm bill authorizes funding to create a new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, enhances resources for the existing National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and establishes the new National Animal Vaccine and Countermeasures Bank with immediate attention on foot-and-mouth disease. "These programs will provide vital improvements to our national animal disease response capabilities and help protect the livelihoods of ranchers and farmers. This bill is great news for everyone who cares about animal agriculture," said AVMA President John de Jong.The five-year spending law provides $120 million in the first four years for animal health and disease preparedness initiatives. At least $20 million of that will go to the National Animal Disease Preparedness Program. Funding is also allotted for the national animal disease vaccine bank and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

Administration proposes stricter enforcement of SNAP time limit

Food & Environment Reporting Network | Posted on February 5, 2019

Delayed for weeks by the partial federal shutdown, the Trump administration published its proposal to restrict states from allowing able-bodied adults to collect SNAP benefits for more than 90 days if they are not working at least 20 hours a week. The Federal Register notice ignited a campaign to block the proposal, which opponents said is contrary to the 2018 food and farm law. Congress decided against changing SNAP work requirements despite a determined effort by conservative Republicans for broader and stricter work requirements for “work capable” adults aged 18-60 unless they had children below age 6. At present, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) aged 18-50 are limited to 90 days of food stamps in a three-year period unless they work at least 20 hours a week. States can waive the time limit in areas with high unemployment or too few jobs.Anti-hunger activists say the administration proposal will end benefits for several hundred thousand people. In the Federal Register, the USDA said it is “confident these changes would encourage more ABAWDs to engage in work or work activities if they wish to continue to receive SNAP benefits.”Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who chairs the House Agriculture subcommittee on nutrition, sent a letter to USDA asking for an extension of the 60-day comment period, ending April 2, that was announced. “This language was vetted in detail for five full months by Members of the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee before being struck from the final bill,” said Fudge. She said the proposed rule “does just the opposite” of the new law. The anti-hunger group Food Research and Action Center says the proposal would drive up hunger and poverty rates. In an essay published in late January, Cossy Hough, a clinical associate professor at the University of Texas, said there were 775,000 ABAWDs: “The target group is small but particularly vulnerable, as individuals’ average annual income is about $4,800. Stricter work requirements for SNAP recipients are not the way to help people ‘lift themselves out of pervasive poverty.'”

USDA Awards Agricultural Trade Promotion Program Funding

USDA | Posted on February 4, 2019

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $200 million to 57 organizations through the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) to help U.S. farmers and ranchers identify and access new export markets. The ATP is one of three USDA programs created to mitigate the effects of unjustified trade retaliation against U.S. farmers and exporters. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) accepted ATP applications between September 4 and November 2 – totaling nearly $600 million – from U.S. trade associations, cooperatives, and other industry-affiliated organizations. USDA has released a list of the ATP funding recipients.

Farm subsidies to leap on $9.8 billion in trade aid

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 4, 2019

Government payments to farmers are forecast to hit their highest level in more than a decade because of the trade assistance being provided to producers this year, and the total could go even higher if Congress, as expected, authorizes a new round of disaster aid. The Trump administration's temporary Market Facilitation Program, launched last fall to compensate farmers for lost exports of soybeans and other crops due to retaliatory tariffs, will pay out $9.8 billion in fiscal 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office's latest projection of farm program costs. The $17.2 billion in total farm program spending that CBO estimates for FY19 doesn’t include additional disaster assistance that Congress is considering for producers harmed by hurricanes and wildfires in 2018. A bill passed by the House would authorize $3 billion in agricultural disaster aid.