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How bad will Brexit be for UK farmers, retailers and consumers?

The Guardian | Posted on October 19, 2016

Nick Clegg has claimed that quitting the European Union without staying inside the single market will devastate British farming. He said a hard Brexit would be followed by “punishing tariffs” on products including beef, cheese and wine, effectively pricing them out of their biggest export market. The former Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister warned that reverting to rules governed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after the article 50 process has run its course could saddle companies with extra bureaucracy and costs that push them out of business.  In a report published on Monday the Lib Dem MP gives a breakdown of the £11bn worth of agricultural products the UK sells to the EU each year and how they will be hit with an average tariff of 22.3%. This average is constructed from some extreme highs, including 59% on beef, 38% on chocolate, 40% on cheese and and some tariffs that are not so onerous, like the 14% on wine.  Under WTO rules, he says these tariffs will also have to be applied to all imports into the UK until a trade deal with the EU is struck.

More dairy assistance sought

Feedstuffs | Posted on October 18, 2016

As U.S. dairy producers are facing the business-crippling burden of multiyear price lows, some are seeking more direct assistance to give producers a boost. However, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is keeping its eye on the goal of fixing the Dairy Margin Protection Program (DMPP) in the next farm bill. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) led a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of 56 members of the House and Senate in urging Office of Management & Budget (OMB) director Shaun Donovan to free up safety net funds to help dairy farmers across the nation who are struggling with declining milk prices. In a letter sent Oct. 13, Leahy and his partners requested that Donovan do all he can to support Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in using existing authorities to expand and maintain U.S. domestic markets, encourage the domestic consumption of dairy products and help dairy farmers through the ongoing financial crisis. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 11 announced another attempt at purchasing $20 million of cheddar cheese to reduce a private cheese surplus that has reached record levels as milk prices have plummeted. This move by USDA will also help food banks and other food assistance agencies, but many dairy farmers see it as a minimal investment compared to what is needed to help cope with low prices for producers and with surplus supplies.


FDA Working to Define "Natural" and Redefine "Healthy"

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on October 18, 2016

2016 has been an active year for food regulations. From the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act to the revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels, the FDA has been finalizing rules meant to modernize and make our food supply safer, while also helping consumers stay informed and make healthier choices. While the FDA has not yet issued a final rule on the definitions of "natural" and "healthy," the recent request for public comments on the two terms is a promising step towards clarification of an often litigated claim ("natural") and an outdated FDA definition of "healthy."  Natural is the most commonly used claim on new U.S. food products--a $40 billion a year market. However, the FDA (unlike the USDA with respect to meat products[1]) has never formally defined parameters for use of the term on general (non-meat) food products.[2] Consumer preferences are behind the labeling trend, with sixty-two percent of surveyed consumers responding with a preference for a product labeled natural.[3] Historically, the FDA has provided a policy statement about the term natural, but has refused to define the term with an official rule.[4] The FDA's policy statement defines natural as no artificial or synthetic ingredients added to a food that would not normally be expected in the food item.[5] The agency's reluctance to provide an official rule defining natural has led to near constant private and class action litigation over natural claims on a variety of processed, multi-ingredient food products.[6] In response, a variety of consumer groups have relied on state consumer protection statutes to bring lawsuits for deceptive and misleading use of the term "natural" on various products.[7] The result of this ubiquitous litigation is a confusing, piecemeal, state-by-state construction of what may be labeled as a "natural" product--a result that is problematic for both producers and consumers

Vilsack: Embrace science to address global food security

Agri-Pulse | Posted on October 18, 2016

Surrounded by international leaders focused on global food security, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that one of the biggest concerns he has about addressing future food challenges is “our ability to embrace science.” Vilsack said “we are now moving into a new era,” with tools like gene editing, and he expressed concerns that - without public understanding and support - future leaders won't be able to use all of the available new technology needed to boost food production by 50 to 60 percent by mid-century, in order to feed a growing and hungry world population.

Obama relaxes trade restrictions with Cuba

Politico | Posted on October 17, 2016

The administration further relaxed economic restrictions on Cuba Friday, allowing more collaboration on medical research, the approval of Cuban drugs for import and the lifting of monetary limits on cigars and rum imports. The moves make the U.S. openings to Cuba "irreversible," President Barack Obama said in a statement.  The latest changes build on the president's announcement in December 2014 to chart a new course for the U.S.-Cuba relationship, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. The lifting of the limit on cigars and rum applies only to authorized travelers to Cuba.  “The Treasury Department has worked to break down economic barriers in areas such as travel, trade and commerce, banking and telecommunications," Lew said. "Today’s action builds on this progress by enabling more scientific collaboration, grants and scholarships, people-to-people contact, and private sector growth."

Proposed GIPSA rules would change court standard for suing packers

DTN | Posted on October 17, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has sent livestock and poultry marketing rules, which USDA is calling the "Farmer Fair Practices Rules," back to the White House for review. The rules drew both praise and scorn.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent letters to leaders of various meat and livestock industry groups on Thursday detailing why the rules were advanced. Vilsack wrote that the rules "will seek to help balance the relationship between livestock producers, swine production contract growers, and poultry growers and the packers, swine contractors, and live poultry dealers with whom they interact."  The Farmer Fair Practices actually makes up three separate rules by USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Parts of the rules have been under development since the beginning of the Obama administration and led to heated public forums and congressional hearings in 2010 as groups and segments of the industry lined up on opposing sides. Members of Congress maintained the initial proposals went way beyond congressional intent, and the rules had been blocked through language in funding bills until now.  The rules were sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. Once greenlighted by the OMB, the rules will be published in the Federal Register for a comment period. Given the divisions within the livestock industry over the rules, it's also possible these rules could again be delayed or blocked with language in funding bills.

It’s time to come to terms with euthanizing wild horses

High Country News | Posted on October 17, 2016

In September, the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, a group charged with making recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management about its Wild Horse and Burro Program, agreed that tens of thousands of equines in federal holding facilities might need to be euthanized.  This recommendation — you might call it the nuclear option — undoubtedly hit horse lovers like a bomb. Social media mushroomed with immediate rancor. The BLM was inundated by negative feedback and quickly issued a statement saying it would not follow the board’s recommendation.  It’s sad enough that the mustang crisis has devolved to this. It’s also sad that only a tiny fraction of the public has taken time to understand the situation, which has created a genuine cultural and environmental crisis in the American West. As horrifying as its recommendation may seem, the advisory group was only trying to rectify bad decisions regarding wild horses that date back generations. It’s a chronicle that’s echoed by the long history of corporate malfeasance in the mining world.


Our View: EWG Stoops to New Low, Resorts to Pure Fiction in Latest Attack

Farm Policy | Posted on October 17, 2016

With crop insurance's popularity rising in rural America and on Capitol Hill, and with the policy's budget outlays falling, we're guessing one of its harshest critics, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), is running out of believable critiques. So now it's resorted to pure fiction.  The EWG sounded an alarm bell in an article earlier this week, warning, "Billionaire Saudi Prince Khalid bin Abdullah could be raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. taxpayer-funded crop insurance subsidies through farms he owns in Kentucky – but we have no way of knowing for sure."  Actually, we have plenty of information to know for sure. And no, he is not fleecing U.S. taxpayers. Under paragraph 202 of the USDA's handbook for crop insurance program standards, it clearly notes that non-U.S. citizens are ineligible to participate. Since the Saudi Prince is not a citizen, he is not receiving crop insurance assistance. Case closed. But for the sake of due diligence, we decided to assume the Saudi Prince became a U.S. citizen without telling anyone. Even in this unlikeliest of scenario, he still isn't hitting up taxpayers for crop insurance on his thoroughbred horse breeding operation headquartered in Fayette County, Kentucky. Here's how we know. There is no crop insurance product available for horse breeding.There is a livestock crop insurance product, but horses are ineligible for coverage.There is a Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage product to assist ranchers in general, but it's hardly been used in Kentucky.

Western Dubuque to Pay $6M Settlement

DTN | Posted on October 17, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice have filed a complaint against NGL Crude Logistics, LLC and Western Dubuque Biodiesel, LLC and a $6 million settlement with Western Dubuque to address alleged violations of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, alleges that NGL entered into a series of transactions with Western Dubuque in 2011 that resulted in the generation of approximately 36 million invalid Renewable Identification Numbers. RINs are credits created when a company produces qualifying renewable fuel and can be traded or sold to refineries and importers to use for compliance with renewable fuel production requirements. Under the settlement, Western Dubuque has agreed to pay $6 million to resolve alleged Renewable Fuel Standard program violations for generating RINs for renewable fuel that were produced using unapproved feedstocks and production processes. The consent decree does not resolve any claims against NGL.

Pangolins and parrots among winners at largest-ever meeting on wildlife trade

Nature | Posted on October 17, 2016

Elephants, pangolins and parrots are among the species that were given stronger trade protections at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which ran from 24 September to 5 October in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The 17th meeting of the CITES convention was its largest ever, attended by more than 3,500 people, including representatives of 152 governments. Delegates took decisions on 62 trade-restriction proposals in what John Scanlon, secretary-general of CITES, said was “a game changer for the planet’s most vulnerable wild animals and plants”. Here, Nature picks out some of the most significant and keenly anticipated decisions — including whether particular species should be listed in Appendix I or Appendix II of the CITES treaty. The first is for species at immediate threat of extinction, for which countries agree that trade in those species or their products should be largely banned; Appendix II is for those that could face extinction in future if trade restrictions were not implemented.