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Judge approves $380 million change to landmark 2010 Native American farm suit

Washington Post | Posted on April 22, 2016

A federal judge approved the creation of what is expected to become the largest U.S. philanthropy serving Native American farmers and ranchers, redistributing $380 million left unclaimed in a landmark 2010 civil rights settlement in which the U.S. government agreed to pay for years of official discrimination.  Most of the $680 million in the 2010 settlement went unspent after far fewer people than expected brought successful claims. Instead of the 10,000 anticipated, only about 3,600 applicants were paid.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District approved an agreement over how to handle the remaining funds. Under the new deal, those Native American farmers and ranchers will receive $21,275 in cash and tax payments on their behalf — about $77 million in all — atop the $50,000 apiece most received initially. An additional $38 million will go to nonprofit groups chosen by lawyers who represented those in the class action, and the remaining $265 million will endow a Native American-led trust that will distribute money at its discretion to nonprofit groups over 20 years.

USDA Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program announces shortage areas for 2016

High Plains Journal | Posted on April 22, 2016

Authorized by the National Veterinary Medical Services Act, the VMLRP helps qualified veterinarians offset a significant portion of debt incurred while pursuing their veterinary medicine degrees in return for their service in designated high-priority veterinary shortage situations. If a qualified veterinarian commits to providing at least three years of veterinary services in a designated veterinary shortage area, USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture may repay up to $25,000 of their student loan debt per year.  Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for the attendance at an accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or equivalent.

Senate Barely Blocks Amendment to Block WOTUS Funding

Morning Consult | Posted on April 22, 2016

The Senate on Thursday voted 56-42 to fail an amendment to block funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water of the United States rule in the energy and water appropriations bill.

The amendment offered by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), would have blocked the Army Corps of Engineers from developing, adopting, implementing, administering or enforcing any change to the regulations for the definition of waters under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Under the the WOTUS final rule, the EPA extended its authority to include waters that have a “significant nexus” with “navigable” waters, including a 4,000-foot buffer zone around those waters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued a stay of the rule in October.

On Wednesday, the White House issued a veto threat for the bill if the measure included “problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation.”

Congress again refuses to fund USDA poultry grower rules | Posted on April 21, 2016

The House Appropriations Committee narrowly approved an amendment to funding legislation that would stop USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from finalizing rules pertaining to how the Packers and Stockyards Act is interpreted and enforced.

On a 26-24 vote, the committee approved the amendment offered by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) to the fiscal 2017 funding bill that, as similar measures have in previous years, blocked funding for GIPSA final rules that would have sought to ensure poultry grower rights are protected in disputes with contracting poultry processors.

New Food Safety Law Gives States a Big Role

Pew Trust | Posted on April 21, 2016

With the most extensive food safety regulations in history set to take effect soon, state agriculture officials across the country are preparing to enforce the federal law, but say their ability to inspect farms and enforce the new standards depends on the receipt of promised federal funds.

It gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration new authority to regulate the production of fresh fruit and vegetables. It also imposes the same food safety standards on imports as it does on domestic foods, and includes provisions to create a more integrated food safety system across all levels of government — federal, state and local.

Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices

USDA | Posted on April 21, 2016

This proposed rule would create greater consistency in organic livestock and poultry practices. AMS has determined that the current USDA organic regulations (7 CFR Part 205) covering livestock health care practices and living conditions need additional specificity and clarity to better ensure consistent compliance by certified organic operations and to provide for more effective administration of the National Organic Program (NOP) by AMS.

FDA posts answers on new livestock antibiotics policies

FDA | Posted on April 21, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration has posted a document answering key questions that had been posed to the agency regarding the new policies and requirements concerning the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food animals.  The questions were asked during a series of workshops conducted last year by Farm Foundation at 12 locations nationwide. At the workshops, producers, veterinarians and feed suppliers had the chance to discuss the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and two related guidance documents with FDA and USDA officials.