READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, January 5th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, January 5th

Arkansas Plant Board Rejects Proposed Changes to Dicamba Regulations

The Arkansas State Plant Board, as well as the board’s pesticide committee, made no changes to its proposed regulations on dicamba use in the state. An Arkansas Department of Agriculture spokesperson says, “The board met on Wednesday to consider a request from a subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council to reconsider its recommendations on ‘scientific-based evidence,’ as well as creating northern and southern zones in the state, and ambient temperature and humidity as they relate to nighttime temperature inversions.” Both the plant board and the committee voted in favor of retaining the recommendations as they are currently written. The current recommendations prohibit the application of dicamba-based herbicides after April 15th of this year. However, according to Arkansas policy, the discussion isn’t done yet as the rule-making process in Arkansas is a little more complicated than many other states. The proposed regulations once again will head to the Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee for consideration on January 16th.

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Eleven States Support Injunction Against California’s Prop 65 Regulation

Attorneys General in 11 states have filed a brief in support of a preliminary injunction that multiple Ag organizations are seeking against California’s Prop 65. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the California Chamber of Commerce have also filed briefs in support of the injunction. Even though there is no scientific evidence to support Prop 65, it requires that any products possibly containing dicamba to bear what the groups call a “false and misleading label.” Gordon Stoner, President of the National Association of Wheat Growers, says he’s pleased that the attorneys general from several states across the nation have stood up for agriculture and consumers against the unconstitutional action. “California’s flawed Prop 65 regulation will cause irreparable harm to the agricultural economy and impact farmers and ranchers everywhere. Our coalition of support for the injunction is growing with the addition of these attorneys general and the national and California Chambers of Commerce.” The states included in the brief include Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.  

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USDA Wants More Done to Combat Crop Insurance Fraud

The Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the Risk Management Agency hasn’t done enough to combat crop insurance fraud. Since 2001, the RMA has contracted with the Center for Agribusiness Excellence at Tarleton State University in Texas to collect data on producers who have unusual crop insurance claims that merit further review. Every year, the center produces lists of producers that might need to be spot-checked by the Farm Service Agency, as well as by private insurance companies. Most farmers that wind up on the spot-check list reduce their claims after a review. In 2015, those lowered claims saved about $61 million. However, the USDA says the Risk Management Agency needs to expand its use of the data turned up by the Center for Agribusiness Excellence. For example, the inspector general says the RMA hasn’t collected information from the insurance reviews to identify any possible weakness in the insurance program. The IG also found that the Farm Service Agency is more likely to find fraud than most insurers are. The RMA is also going to finalize some changes in their review processes to better identify the root causes of insurance claim errors.

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Winterkill Likely in Wheat Belt

A large portion of the nation’s winter wheat crop lacks a protective layer of snowcover and meteorologists are saying the recent deep freeze is doing some damage. Snow cover is adequate in the northern plains and the northern Midwest. However, an Agriculture Dot Com article says the snow cover is very thin in the central and southern plains as well as the southern-most parts of the Midwest. Donald Keeney is a senior agricultural meteorologist for Radiant Solutions who says widespread winterkill likely occurred on Monday, January first. His report says winterkill likely occurred in much of southeast Colorado and Kansas, as well as central Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana. “Damage occurred in about a quarter of the hard-red wheat belt in the central plains, with about five percent of the soft-red wheat belt in the Midwest seeing some impact too,” says Keeney. Experts at Kansas State University say the winter wheat crop has the best chance of surviving a deep freeze in December, January, and early February. However, with the combination of little-to-no snow cover and brutally-cold temps, that means there likely will be at least some winterkill.  

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Dairy Farming Desperate for Immigration Reform

Next to the cost of feeding their animals, the cost of labor on dairy farms will always take up a large share of the budget. A Milk Business Dot Com article says labor costs will rise in the new year. As of January first, farmers in some of the largest dairy-producing states now face government-mandated higher minimum wages. California farmers with 26-or-more employees now have to pay $11 per hour. All Washington businesses now have to pay $11.50 per hour. The pay increase isn’t the biggest concern for dairy farmers. Instead, it’s the lack of available people to work. The industry worked throughout 2017 to bring forward immigration reform that would work for dairy farmers because they don’t have access to the H-2A program as they aren’t seasonal employers. Tonia Van Slyke is the executive director of the New York Dairy Association, who says her state and others that rank high in dairy production need a viable guest-worker program in order to find help on their operations. President Trump and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue have both said that immigration reform that works for farmers is a top priority.

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“Connect Americans Now” Formed to Improve Rural Broadband Access

A group of community leaders, rural advocates, and industry innovators have come together to form “Connect Americans Now.” Their goal is to work with the Federal Communications Commission and other policymakers to ensure that there is sufficient unlicensed broadband access in every market in the country. The end-goal is unlimited broadband connectivity by 2022. Richard Cullen, the executive director of Connect Americans Now, says all Americans deserve access to high-speed internet, regardless of where they live. “Without a broadband connection, students struggle to keep up on their assignments,” he says, “Americans can’t fully utilize telemedicine, farmers are denied the promise of precision agriculture, and businesses can’t tap into the benefits of online commerce.” CAN will be forming partnerships across rural areas to educate Americans on the benefits of increasing internet access. They’ll also be spearheading a campaign in Washington, D.C., where the FCC has the authority to make sufficient unlicensed spectrum available in each market for high-speed internet.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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