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Imperiled wildlife are caught in a political tug-of-war

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2018

As temperatures climb to triple digits and fires rage from California to Colorado, Western lawmakers and the Trump administration are turning up the heat on the Endangered Species Act. On July 12, the conservative Western Congressional Caucus, which was founded to “fight federal overreach” and advocates for extractive industries, introduced a  nine bill ESA reform package. And in a separate move, the Trump administration is proposing to change how federal agencies implement the law. A common thread in the bills is a push to give more authority to the Interior Secretary and states. The proposed rule changes dial back federal agencies’ ability to pursue policies that hamper development. Taken together, these actions limit the creation and enforcement of endangered species protections while opening up new avenues of influence for special interests.



Opinion: Trumps $12 billion PR stunt

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 2, 2018

Despite strong continued support for President Trump in rural America, farmers fear they will bear the brunt of the retaliatory tariffs from the president’s trade war.  Farm country can ill afford it: In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted 2018 crop profits would hit a 12-year low. Dairy farmers’ prices have fallen 30% in two years, while pork producers have seen a price drop of roughly $20 per head. Overall farm incomes are down nearly 50% from 2013. Long before the trade war began, I and many other farmers feared we were in a farm crisis as bad as that of the 1980s. Now we know it will be even worse. we have a new $12 billion emergency aid package for farmers to ease the sting of the tariffs, clearly designed to keep his rural base firmly behind him. But will it actually solve farmers’ problems? I doubt it. Twelve billion dollars is a lot of money, but spread across all the major agricultural commodities, it will be a drop in the bucket. Details on how the money will be dispersed are still hazy, but I suspect most of it will not find its way into the pockets of struggling farmers. 

AFIA applauds passage of bill to improve process for new animal drug approval

AFIA | Posted on August 2, 2018

he American Feed Industry Association commends Congress for sending a bill to the president this week for signature - the Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2018 (H.R. 5554). This bipartisan legislation will continue providing the necessary resources to support the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine with completing more expeditious reviews of new animal drugs and improving FDA’s review and approval process for animal food ingredients.

Dairy labeling and added sugar labeling for maple make the omnibus spending bill

Politico | Posted on August 2, 2018

Dairy labeling makes a cameo appearance: When debating the so-called minibus, H.R. 6147, on Wednesday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) offered an amendment that, in effect, would block FDA's planned effort to crack down on having the term "milk" used to market plant-based alternatives like soy and almond beverages. The proposal was handily defeated 14-86, Jen and Kaitlyn write. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said during the POLITICO Pro Summit last month that the agency will soon issue a guidance document outlining changes to its "standards-of-identity" for labeling milk. The National Milk Producers Federation, which lobbied against Lee's amendment, said in a statement that the Senate's rejection should send the message to food manufacturers that their days of "inappropriately" using dairy terms on products that don't contain dairy are numbered. The organization argues such labeling is misleading to consumers, but advocates of plant-based food contend the dairy sector hasn't offered any credible evidence to support that assertion. Defending maple: The agricultural appropriations bill would also block FDA from requiring maple syrup and honey to bear an "added sugars" label under the Nutrition Facts panel update. Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King touted that they secured the provision in order to make sure consumers aren't misled into thinking that pure maple syrup or honey contains artificial sweeteners like corn syrup.

U.S. Share of World Economic Growth: Implications for U.S. Trade Policy

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on August 2, 2018

Between 1980 and 1985, the U.S. accounted for 24.6% of world economic growth. Since then, 2 distinct periods emerge, with the millennium being the break point. Until 2000, U.S. share fluctuated around a very slight downtrend. U.S. share of world economic growth was still 24.1% from 1995 to 2000. Since 2000, U.S. share has dropped at an annual rate of around -0.7 percentage point per year. U.S. share was 12.6% of world growth between 2012 and 2017. A common measure of a country’s economic size is its gross domestic product, but arguably a more important measure is its contribution to world economic growth.Economics has clearly established that free trade increases economic growth. However, free trade also produces losers, specifically firms and their workers who do not have competitive advantage.Economics has clearly established that a factor, such as freer trade, which spurs economic growth leads to even more growth. While less than the initial growth, the additional growth can be notable.As the U.S. role in world economic growth has shrunk, its share of freer trade’s additional growth has shrunk. This dynamic has changed the math of the U.S. position on freer trade.When the U.S. share of world economic growth was larger, it could consider whether it might take a smaller initial share of the benefits of freer trade since it was a major beneficiary of the additional world growth. Since its share of additional growth is now smaller, the U.S. is likely to focus more on capturing a larger share of the initial benefits of freer trade.

U.S. says farmers could get cash aid by October but will not be made whole

Reuters | Posted on July 31, 2018

U.S. farmers could receive cash payments from a planned $12 billion aid package as soon as late September, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Reuters on Saturday, warning that the program will not make tariff-hit farmers whole. The program includes cash for farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. It offers government purchases of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and nutrition programs. And it promises a trade promotion program to develop new markets.

Trump’s plan to bail out coal, nuclear misguided

The Vindicator | Posted on July 31, 2018

During the 2016 presiden- tial election, Republican Donald J. Trump embraced a simple and straightforward political strategy: Tell the people what they want to hear. Thus, Trump told autoworkers in the Mahoning Valley he would boost domestic production of cars, SUVs and trucks; promised coal miners in West Virginia he would revive the failing mining industry; told former steelworkers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties he would resurrect the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River; assured white Americans that their economic pain was caused by immigrants sneaking into this country and stealing their jobs; and, he told all Americans that unfair trade practices were the reason this country’s imports were far outstripping exports.Finally, the Republican candidate for president told oil and gas producers that his administration’s policies would bolster America’s energy independence and maintain its standing as the world’s leading producer of oil and gas. But the problem with promising everything to everyone is that you have to deliver if you win. And that’s when reality hits.Just ask Bill Siderewicz, president of Boston-based Clean Energy Future LLC., which is building a $900 million natural-gas power plant in the village of Lordstown.Last Sunday, Siderewicz let loose a verbal barrage against President Trump for directing U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to bail out the coal and nuclear industries.

Congresswoman questions USDA on Chinese chicken

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on July 31, 2018

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue questioning USDA’s process for approving three new Chinese poultry processing plants as eligible to export product to the United States. DeLauro says internal emails, produced through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) took a “stunningly passive approach” in that process, and that two of those three facilities were not audited by the agency.

Trump’s renewable fuels policy really cost corn growers $3.65 billion in 2017?

Biofuels Digest | Posted on July 30, 2018

In Washington, new evidence has appeared that a Trump Administration shift on US low carbon fuel policy may have cost US corn growers an estimated $3.65 billion. The mechanism? A secretive effort by Administration officials installed at the US Environmental Protection Agency that destroyed an estimated 1.37 billion gallons of annual demand for low-carbon renewable fuels, in favor of fossil fuels. Officials at the agency exploited a loophole in US low carbon fuel legislation that allows small oil refineries to gain hardship waivers in cases of severe distress from complying in full with US low carbon fuel laws.  Now, evidence on the scale and nature of hardship waivers has appeared in response to Freedom of Information Act and Congressional requests.  The EPA has now acknowledged that the number of hardship waivers granted in 2017 by the Trump Administration is nine times the average annual level granted from 2013 to 2015.Based on EPA’s admissions, the Renewable Fuels Association estimates that “small refiner exemptions have resulted in effectively lowering the 2017 required volume of renewable fuels by 1.37 billion gallons, or 7%. The data also show that small refiner exemptions also effectively reduced the 2016 RFS requirement by 523 million gallons.”The losers? Corn growers, it appears. In 2013 the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University published a study which looked at the impact on corn prices from a 1.4 billion gallon decrease in ethanol demand. The Center found that the impact was 25 cents per bushel. Applying that figure to the 14.6 billion bushel 2017 corn crop leads to the lost profits figure of $3.65 billion.

A unified meat industry is appealing directly to Trump to settle the cell-cultured meat debate

Quartz | Posted on July 30, 2018

The American meat industry today sent a letter to the White House, appealing directly to the president to clarify the regulatory future of high-tech, cell-cultured meats. The letter asks Donald Trump to give the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) sole regulatory authority over a class of products that have not yet hit the consumer market: meat grown from cells in a process that doesn’t require slaughtering animals or running large-scale farms that pump massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The one-page document was signed by the so-called Washington, DC “barnyard,” which includes seven powerful trade groups representing the interests of an industry that contributes roughly $1 trillion to the American economy each year. The FDA has been adamant that it should be the agency to do the job, taking the bold step on July 12 of hosting a public meeting to discuss how future food safety and food package labeling policy might be shaped. That meeting was the first time cell-cultured meat companies, traditional meat groups, health advocates, animal welfare activists, and government officials convened in the same room to discuss the topic. But meat groups took umbrage at the FDA’s seemingly unilateral action, and are now for the first time asking as a unified chorus that the USDA be assigned oversight power. T “If cell-cultured protein companies want the privilege of marketing their products as meat and poultry products to the American public, in order to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace, they should be happy to follow the same rules as everyone else,” the letter states.