A bipartisan weather bill years in the making quietly died on the floor of the House of Representatives. Supporters of the bill say it was necessary to maintain U.S. excellence in research and forecasting and the National Weather Service’s ability to issue lifesaving warnings. It also would have bridged federal agencies and private companies in a discipline where advances are being made across all sectors. The Weather Research and Forecasting Act of 2015 — which had Democrat, Republican, bicameral and weather enterprise support — passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Dec. 2 but was left withering on the vine in the House, ostensibly because of a decades-old water dispute in the South.The bill would have been the first major piece of weather legislation since the early 1990s. It prioritizes accurate forecasts and warnings and collaboration with the private sector through competitive grants. It aims to improve tornado warnings, including the ability to warn of a tornado more than one hour in advance. It continues the Hurricane Improvement Forecast Program, which saw its funding slashed in 2015, much to the disappointment of the weather community and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
There has been a great deal of media coverage surrounding FDA’s new enforcement initiatives under the Food Safety Modernization Act (“FSMA”). With the new regulations going into effect, the agency has also adjusted its approach as it relates to other areas of enforcement. Although FDA leadership implored last week that the agency is here to “help food companies enhance their existing food safety programs,” and to “educate before it regulates,” those statements stand in stark contrast to ongoing reports of: (1) FDA and DOJ criminal investigations initiated against companies such as Chipotle, Blue Bell, Dole and others; (2) FDA’s new strategy to conduct routine microbiological “swab-a-thons” in all registered food facilities (and then force expansive recalls based only upon environmental test results); and (3) FDA’s recent use of armed U.S. Marshals to seize millions of pounds of milk products from a major dairy cooperative in Virginia. The statements from FDA regarding its interest in gently helping the food industry to do a better job also stand in opposition to the agency’s decision to bestow all of its FDA inspectors with the fear-inducing title of “FDA INVESTIGATORS.” Now, what were commonly referred to as routine “FDA inspections,” are incresingly characterized as “FDA investigations.” When asked about the meaning and connotation of the title "investigator," some ageny employees confirmed that the title is used to “give them more power.” If an FDA employee is told that he or she is an “investigator,” however, and that he or she must “go investigate a food facility,” isn’t the hypothesis being tested that the food company has already committed crime?
A continuing resolution budget bill to keep the U.S. government funded through April includes language to provide the Department of Agriculture money for farm loans and summer feeding programs. The Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, which covers 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, will maintain government operations at a rate of $1.07 trillion through April 28th, 2017. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill Thursday with the Senate following suit on Friday, according to the Hagstrom Report. The farm loan language for the Agricultural Credit Insurance Fund Program by the Farm Service Agency followed a request for the funding by farm groups.A coalition of farm groups sent a letter to appropriators that it was “absolutely critical” the Farm Service Agency has the resources needed to meet rising demand for farm loans. The bill also includes agriculture emergency watershed and conservation funding.
Japan’s parliament on December 9 approved the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in spite of promises from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that the U.S. would withdraw from the deal. The trade agreement, which in addition to the U.S. and Japan, involves Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The agreement was agreed to by negotiators from all involved countries in October 2015 and signed in February. From there, governmental bodies from all participating nations were to vote for ratification.
Three more trade groups representing poultry, livestock and other meat producers are criticizing USDA rules released yesterday that the agency contends will “protect the rights of farmers” in their dealings with processors. The agency’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) said its Farmer Fair Practices Rules were designed to overturn the “most harmful practices hurting farmers.” The changes also provide “common sense protections” to restore fairness for farmers and protect farmers from anticompetitive business practices, the agency said in a news release.
California farmers and Southern California cities were aghast last winter when much of the heavy rainfall that fell in Northern California washed through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and out to sea. In their view, it represented a lost opportunity to capture high river flows and pump water to arid regions south of the Delta. This winter could prove dramatically different. Upending a fragile, decades-long balance between human needs and the environment, Congress passed a wide-ranging water bill last weekend that is likely to result in greater pumping of Northern California water to farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The bill, co-authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, despite furious opposition from Feinstein’s longtime Senate ally, fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer. With more storms heading toward Northern California this week, the bill could affect operations in the Delta right away if signed by President Barack Obama. The bill is designed to route more of the Sacramento River’s flows to the giant government-run pumping stations near Tracy, which deliver water to California’s dry interior and southern expanse via the State Water Project and Central Valley Project. That would mean less water in the rivers for fish and wildlife, and less flowing to the San Francisco Bay and out to the ocean.
Authorities have designated all of Scotland and England an Aviation Influenza Prevention Zone in order to protect commercial and backyard poultry flocks from the avian influenza outbreak that so far has affected 14 European and Asian nations in recent weeks. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has yet to be confirmed in any part of the United Kingdom, but officials at the Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are concerned enough to order poultry farm managers and others to keep birds inside for the next 30 days, according to several local media reports. Similar restrictions have already been introduced in Wales and the British Poultry Council has noted that there are no threats to Christmas turkeys, most of which have already been processed for sale.
President-elect Donald Trump has selected fast-food executive Andy Puzder to run the Labor Department, which oversees OSHA, enforces wage rules and manages guest-worker programs on which many farms and others in the food industry rely. Trump said Puzder “will fight to make American workers safer and more prosperous … and he will save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages.” Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. burger chains. Puzder has argued for the need for low-skilled immigrant workers in his industry and others. During a 2013 appearance with the American Enterprise Institute, Puzder said that immigrant workers “always have the thank-God-I-have-this-job attitude.”He was a strong supporter of the Senate's 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have offered illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and expanded access to low-skilled guest workers. His one gripe about the bill was the amount of spending it would have devoted to border security, a central priority of the Trump campaign. “I don't know when it became a conservative Republican principle that increasing the size and intrusiveness of government was a good thing,” Puzder said at the 2013 forum.One issue that will give some in agriculture pause is that he supports the E-Verify system and says it has helped ensure that workers in his restaurants are legal. Growers have been fighting mandatory E-Verify bills in Congress, saying they won't be able to hire enough legal workers until Congress acts on broader immigration reform. There are also differences in the restaurant industry over E-Verify.
Since being named the President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee as administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, sitting Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt made his first public appearance at a Bartlesville Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting this morning. KWON Radio News Director Charlie Taraboletti had the chance to visit with Pruitt briefly at the breakfast, where Pruitt offered some comments regarding his stance on a couple issues he will soon be given authority over, including the Waters of the US rule (WOTUS) and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “I think the states across the country and the Sixth Circuit obviously has spoken to this already; that there is great concern about the definition that’s been deployed and established,” Pruitt said, referring to the WOTUS rule and the way it was implemented. He explains that federal agencies currently have a view that if something is not acted on or defined specifically by congress, then they believe they have the authority to indecently act on their own, making policy up without oversight and essentially legislating through regulation. Pruitt goes on to say that he hopes this view will change during the transition of the new administration and that all branches of government will act within their appropriate parameters.Looking at the Renewable Fuel Standard, Pruitt contends that like many other well-intended rules that have failed to meet their expectations and objectives, he thinks it wise for congress to consider revisiting and reevaluating.“I think the congress needs to look at that and say, ‘is it (working) today?’” Pruitt suggests, “and I think there are some that are looking into that.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is President-elect Donald Trump's selection to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Farmers and ranchers who have been concerned for years about what they perceive as an ever-increasing weight of regulations including the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule may be pleased with Trump's selection. On the other hand, Pruitt has been an outspoken critic of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Pruitt led a number of states in filing one of many lawsuits against EPA challenging the WOTUS rule as an unconstitutional power grab. A federal court put the rule on hold nationally pending a number of legal challenges. It is widely believed the Trump administration would eliminate the rule. On the biofuels front, the next EPA head will determine the future of the RFS. The oil and gas industry has generally called for repeal or reform of the RFS. Pruitt has been an open critic of the RFS and has ties to the oil and gas industry.