Leaders in the biofuels industry wrote President Donald Trump on Friday after learning Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had floated a proposal to the White House that would essentially cap prices for renewable identification number (RIN) credits at 10 cents apiece. The proposal from the Texas senator, negotiating on behalf of oil refiners, spurred major players in both biofuels and commodity crops industries to send a letter Friday to President Donald Trump detailing why the RIN market exists, how it is operated by EPA, and some of the problems EPA has in providing transparency on RIN trading.Most importantly, the letter praised President Trump for his support of the biofuels industry and reiterated the need to ensure any policy changes don't undercut billions of dollars in biofuels infrastructure that has been put in place since the Renewable Fuel Standard was created.
On Cargill’s new FedByTrade website, the Houfek family tells how selling meat to foreign countries has supported two generations working at the company’s packing plant in Schuyler, Neb. Four hundred miles north, in Hopkins, Brian Donovan, an operations manager in Cargill’s salt division, stands ready to explain how providing de-icing and water conditioning products to Canadians keeps dozens of U.S. workers on the payroll.As President Donald Trump’s disparagement of free trade agreements pushes America away from deals like the 11-nation Trans Pacific Partnership and the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, Cargill, one of the world’s largest private companies, is pushing back.The Minnesota-based shipping and agriculture giant has enlisted its 155,000-person workforce in a political trade war. It just launched FedByTrade, where its employees, customers and communities can tell stories of regular Americans who depend on international trade for their livelihoods.
Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee have written to Stephen Vaden, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be USDA’s top lawyer, seeking more information about the reassignments of at least a dozen department employees, all members of the Senior Executive Service. Among the questions posed by the senators: “Were any of the reassignments …. made because of the political affiliation of the individual reassigned or because the individual had worked closely with Obama administration leadership officials at USDA? If yes, please explain.” Vaden's response to that question, provided that same afternoon, was a simple "No." Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, and two other Democrats joined the panel’s Republican majority on Dec. 11 when the committee approved Vaden’s nomination. But Stabenow said at the time that she still needed answers about whether the personnel moves involved retaliation. The full Senate has yet to vote on the nomination.
Radio interference from a farm's massive metal crop-watering structure is causing havoc for air traffic in the sky over Georgia, federal authorities said in a lawsuit filed this week. The irrigation structure is on a south Georgia farm where the Federal Aviation Administration has a radio transmitter to relay signals that keep aircraft on course, according to the federal lawsuit.Interference caused by the 1,200-foot-long (370-meter-long) structure forced the FAA to shut down its transmitter in February, affecting operations of nine airports. The proximity of Robins Air Force Base makes the situation even more serious, the government said in its complaint.
It's been a long battle, but cotton farmers will finally get the opportunity to sign up cottonseed in an emergency disaster bill Congress is expected to pass before leaving town for the holidays. House Republican leaders on Tuesday released a hurricane and wildfire disaster package that would also attempt to deal with problems in the cotton and dairy programs and cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but the bill's future was uncertain.Republicans had indicated they would add the disaster package and several other measures to the continuing resolution, but Politico reported that the Republicans had abandoned plans to fund the Pentagon for the rest of the fiscal year and decided that the disaster bill would have to have a separate vote.The prospects for other add-ons -- such as funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, veterans' health care, Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies, a renewal of the cyber surveillance tools and a tax bill waiver from statutory Pay-As-You-Go rules -- are also uncertain.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it has denied a petition by environmental groups to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations like factories under the Clean Air Act. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, in a letter to petitioners, acknowledged livestock are potential sources of air pollutants. The agency, however, doesn’t have a reliable method for estimating animal emissions. Until it does, new rules could be unjustified and ineffective, according to Pruitt.
As we write this column in the week before Christmas 2017, it has been nearly three months since category 5 Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. Unlike the Texas coast which was drenched with rainfall from Hurricane Harvey that just weeks earlier was measured in feet, some 40 percent of the island still is without electrical power and damage to major roads and bridges makes many communities on the island difficult to reach with most of those in rural areas. According to Refugee International, “the U.S. response remains too slow and bureaucratic.” They point out that “the initial deployment of the US military was insufficient – for example, it paled in comparison to the magnitude of the US military response surrounding the Haiti earthquake in 2010” and Puerto Rico is a part of the US with the residents holding US citizenship.
The herbicide glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. That is the conclusion reached by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its draft risk assessment released this week. The assessment is set for a 60-day public comment period early in 2018. The EPA said in a news release this week that a proposed interim registration review decision for glyphosate is set for publication in 2019. That decision would propose a variety of mitigation steps to reduce glyphosate risks, if measures are needed. EPA said it also conducted an "in-depth review" of the glyphosate cancer database.
USDA is offering grants for innovative ideas for conservation strategies and technologies. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest $10 million in the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, funding innovative conservation projects in three focus areas: grazing lands, organic systems and soil health. Grant proposals are due Feb. 26, 2018. "Conservation Innovation Grants play a critical role in developing and implementing new methods to help our customers conserve natural resources, strengthen their local communities, and improve their bottom lines," said Rob Johansson, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. "Today's announcement supports our efforts to help producers build economically-strong and resilient farms and ranches by providing producers tools to utilize across their working farmlands.”
As the NAFTA negotiations have stalled, farmers and ranchers in Canada, the United States and Mexico have grown increasingly concerned that this free trade deal is in jeopardy. They’ve been voicing their concerns, to the point where U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross argued U.S. agriculture groups and farmers were complicating the NAFTA trade negotiation process by speaking up, basically telling the farm community to be quiet. “As one special interest group, say agriculture, for example, gets nervous, they start screaming and yelling publicly. They start writing letters, soliciting the Congress people, and [then] they start screaming and yelling in public. It just complicates the environment and, frankly, makes the negotiations harder,” said Ross, as reported by Politico a few weeks ago. Really Wilbur? Essentially Wilbur Ross is saying “trust us.”Ross has even made comments trying to downplay the significance of agriculture, saying “they’ve just got to get used to the fact that they’re a minor part of the economy and that trade policy isn’t going to be constructed around their interests.”Does Wilbur Ross have no clue how many jobs are created by agriculture and food industries in the U.S. and the rest of the NAFTA region? Congrats to U.S. agriculture stakeholders for not taking Mr. Ross’s comments seriously, and in fact, raising their volume.