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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.”


Trump budget OKs sale of wild horses for slaughter

Reno Gazette Journal | Posted on May 26, 2017

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal calls for saving $10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the West without the current requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won’t be resold for slaughter. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also grappled with the spiraling costs of managing the nearly 60,000 horses on the range and another 45,000 currently kept in U.S. holding pens and contracted private pastures.Over the past eight years, BLM’s wild horse budget has more than doubled — from $36.2 million in 2008 to $80.4 million in 2017.Trump’s budget anticipates the $10 million savings would come through a reduction in the cost of containing and feeding the animals. The savings also would include cutbacks involving roundups and contraception programs.The 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act permits the sale of older, unadoptable animals. But for years, Congress has approved budget language specifically outlawing the sale of any wild horses for slaughter.Horse slaughterhouses are prohibited in the U.S. but legal in many other countries, including Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe where horse meat is considered a delicacy.


Trump’s budget seen as ‘slap in the face’ to rural voters who elected him

Idaho Statesman | Posted on May 24, 2017

Two of farmers’ most powerful Republican advocates in the Senate slammed President Donald Trump’s proposal Tuesday to slash crop insurance, warning those and other budget cuts would badly wound one of the president’s most loyal constituencies. Voters who live in rural areas gave Trump a 61-34 percent advantage over Democrat Hillary Clinton in November, according to network exit polls. Kansans voted overwhelmingly for Trump, by 56-36 percent.Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Jerry Moran, who helps set federal spending levels as a member of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, vowed to fight the president’s plan to cut crop insurance by $28.5 billion over 10 years. That’s a 36 percent cut, significantly more than former President Barack Obama ever proposed.A visibly annoyed Roberts called the cuts “not viable” and “very troubling” for Kansas.“We’ve had a freeze, and we’ve had a historic prairie fire, and then we had another freeze and we've lost about 40 percent of the wheat crop,” he said. “How on earth of those farmers supposed to stay in business without crop insurance?”


Trump Administration's USDA budget proposal “fails agriculture”

Michigan Farm Bureau | Posted on May 24, 2017

As USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue outlined major department budget cuts, including a 10 percent overall reduction in personnel, representing 5,263 staff - 973 of them Farm Service Agency positions – for 2018, he didn’t mince words.  Perdue said. “I just don't think it's moral to continue to kick a $20 trillion debt down to our grandchildren without any relief. Overall farm bill spending would be cut $240 billion over a 10-year period. Approximately $46 billion of those reductions would come from agriculture programs – while the other $194 billion would be slashed from the nutrition programs. This includes funding cuts for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children WIC, Rural Development, Forest Service, food safety, research, and conservation activities. It eliminates a number of programs including the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Proposed 2018 funding for mandatory programs is  $7 billion below 2017.These outlays include crop insurance, nutrition assistance programs, farm commodity and trade programs, and a number of conservation programs. The Trump Administration’s 2018 budget also calls for new user fees to cover inspection, regulatory, and oversight activities of meat, poultry, and eggs, enforcement of animal welfare requirements, and user fees for grain standardization and a Packers and Stockyards license fee to cover program costs. Crop Insurance is also targeted for cuts in the 2018 budget proposal, including a proposed $40,000 cap on crop insurance premium subsidies for any one operation. Saying that agriculture has already done its fair share to help reduce the federal deficit during the 2014 Farm Bill debate, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the budget proposal “Clearly fails agriculture and rural America.”  “It would gut federal crop insurance, one of the nation’s most important farm safety-net programs,” Duvall argued. “It would drastically reshape important voluntary conservation programs and negatively impact consumer confidence in critical meat and poultry inspection. This proposal would hamper the viability of plant and animal security programs at our borders and undermine the nation’s grain quality and market information systems. It would stunt rural America’s economic growth by eliminating important utility programs and other rural development programs.”


Trump budget cuts SNAP, crop insurance, conservation, rural development; imposes FSIS, APHIS, GIPSA, AMS user fees

The Fence Post | Posted on May 23, 2017

President Donald Trump's first budget proposal, which is to be released today, calls for cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program totaling almost $193 billion over 10 years and $46 billion in cuts to agriculture programs, according to charts released today by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.In an afternoon reporters' briefing that was also embargoed until 9 p.m., Mulvaney said that the title of the budget will be "A New Foundation for American Greatness," and that the Trump budget is the first one that has been written with the taxpayer considered ahead of the recipients of government programs.Mulvaney, a former Republican House member from South Carolina, said he had gone through the budget line by line and asked "Can I ask a family in Grand Rapids, Mich., to pay for this?"The goals of the budget, Mulvaney said, are to increase military spending, balance the budget in 10 years and achieve 3 percent economic growth in the country. The budget will also deliver on Trump's campaign promises not to cut Social Security or Medicare and to build the wall on the border with Mexico and provide more money for school choice. It also assumes that the health care bill the House passed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) will become law, and makes additional cuts to health programs beyond that.Mulvaney said it was "sad" that the Obama administration could not get to more than 1.9 percent growth and that the Congressional Budget Office has projected the same rate of growth.A 30-year-old American, Mulvaney said, has not lived in the country when it had a higher rate of growth, and he wants to achieve the same level of growth that existed in the 1990s when he was young, quit a job he did not like, and started his own company.Mulvaney said he does not expect Congress to go along with Trump's detailed proposal, but that the president's budget is important because, first of all, it has been required by law since 1974 and because "there is a certain message here" that Trump wants more money for defense, border security, veterans and school choice, and does not want to add to the deficit.


White House budget plan could cut array of programs for farmers, rural America

The Progressive Farmer | Posted on May 22, 2017

Despite a push by farm organizations to double the budgets for a pair of USDA export programs, a leaked copy of the Trump administration's proposed budget zeros out funding for both programs. The White House is expected to release President Donald Trump's budget proposal Tuesday for fiscal year 2018. The plan will recommend Congress cut a broad array of domestic programs, which includes programs farmers rely on for trade, conservation and possibly even commodity programs. Jon Doggett, executive vice president for policy at the National Corn Growers Association, said groups across the political spectrum will be looking at the budget for the White House's overall priorities in the years to come."When the president's budget comes up, there's always a tendency to say the president's budget is dead on arrival. I think it's important to look at this one," Doggett said. "It's important in that it tells us a lot where the Trump administration plans to go in the future, not only as personnel policy, but money policy as well. I think we will have a better idea on how they plan to move forward in reshaping the government."  a spreadsheet of the White House budget plan that showed significant cuts to USDA programs in areas such as trade promotion, agricultural research, biorefinery development, rural housing loans and rural development programs.Under the Agricultural Marketing Service, the budget shows a $263.3 million cut to funds for strengthening markets. That would wipe out the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program, a pair of programs that farm groups say funding should be doubled to help expand markets and counter the loss of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Commodity groups are pushing Congress to double funding for MAP and FMD in the next farm bill. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition cited that the budget would eliminate funding for rural housing and infrastructure programs at USDA, including Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Cooperative Development grants and Rural Housing Assistance. NSAC also pointed to deep cuts in areas such as rural water and wastewater programs.


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