READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, March 26th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, March 26th

Omnibus Bill Includes Several Ag Provisions

The omnibus spending bill passed by the House and Senate last week includes many victories for agriculture. Farm groups applauded the inclusion of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM Act, that Act exempts air emissions from animal waste from being subject to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, reporting requirements. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says he was “pleased” with the bipartisan deal, which will fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. Roberts says the bill gives farmers and ranchers “some regulatory relief.” The omnibus bill prohibits funding to implement regulations requiring livestock haulers to install electronic logging devices on their trucks to monitor time behind the wheel. That comes after livestock haulers were granted another waiver extension to the law recently. Also included is a solution to address the U.S. Forest Service budget for wildfire suppression, extension of current law of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, and legislation relating to dairy product labeling.

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Spending Bill Includes Victory for Milk Labeling Standards

The omnibus spending bill passed by the House and Senate last week included language regarding milk labeling. The bill directs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action against mislabeled imitation dairy foods, a move the National Milk Producers Federation says is a major victory for farmers and consumers alike. Federation president and CEO Jim Mulhern says the bill will “ensure action,” following “years of inaction” by the FDA regarding labeling of plant-based beverages as milk. The language in the bill comes from the DAIRY PRIDE Act, introduced in January in the Senate by Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin. NMPF said that Congress’ instructions to FDA should restrict the ability of beverages made from plant foods from using the term “milk” on their labels. The language will also affect products misusing other dairy food names such as “cheese” and “yogurt” that are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations and cited in the congressional bill.

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China Retaliations to Harm U.S. Ag

Agriculture groups say trade retaliation from China will “costs farmers their livelihoods.”  China announced retaliation efforts to the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. The American Soybean Association says “It’s extremely frustrating” the administration is targeting the nation’s largest trading partner during a time of low farm income. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall echoed those comments, stating Friday that if the trade situation “continues to deteriorate,” the lives of farmers and ranchers “will become more difficult.” China is mainly targeting U.S. steel products, fresh and dried fruits, and even ethanol, along with U.S. pork. The National Pork Producers Council says the tariffs by China will hurt the rural economy. Last year, the U.S. pork industry exported $1.1 billion of product to China, making that country the number two value market for U.S. pork. China is considering a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork, along with recycled aluminum goods.

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Trade Issues Pose Farm Bill Challenges

During a Senate hearing last week, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts linked the state of U.S. trade to the farm bill, remarking trade presents more challenges to the farm bill. Speaking last week at a Senate Finance Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Roberts simply said: “This is not a good situation.” Speculating that if Congress needs to add payments for farmers to reduce the impact of any trade retaliation, he says that would be another “dust-up” as lawmakers try to write a farm bill in the backdrop of a “severe budget situation,” along with low farm income. Roberts, during the hearing, told Lighthizer that the top trade official’s agenda must include “a focus on returning the United States to reliable supplier status.” Roberts and the Agriculture Committee is actively working on crafting the next farm bill. During field hearings held regarding the farm bill, farmers testified about the need for continued strong export opportunities as well as business certainty from regulatory reform.  

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Organic Groups Suing USDA over Livestock Rule

Four organic groups have filed a lawsuit against The U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, regarding the organic livestock welfare rule. Led by the Center for Food Safety, the groups say the decision to withdraw the rule was “outrageous and unlawful,” similar to what USDA called the rule. In the March 13th decision, USDA claimed the regulations could not be issued because the agency lacked the authority to regulate practices such as animal space for livestock under the Organic label. The regulations were finalized in the final days of the Obama administration. The Groups say the rule would strengthen the minimum requirements for the care and well-being of animals on organic farms. Represented by CFS legal counsel, the plaintiffs are the Center for Food Safety, Center for Environmental Health, Cultivate Oregon, and the International Center for Technology Assessment.

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USDA Wants Input on Statistics Gathering Programs

The Department of Agriculture is seeking feedback on the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Through the 2018 USDA Data Users’ meeting, USDA will seek comments and input on recent and pending changes in various data and information programs. NASS and partner agencies organize the annual meeting for USDA stakeholders. Other participating USDA agencies include the Agricultural Marketing Service, Economic Research Service, Farm Service Agency, Foreign Agricultural Service and the World Agricultural Outlook Board. The U.S. Census Bureau will also participate. Leaders from each agency will provide an overview of current issues and then take questions and comments. The 2018 meeting will be held from 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 at the University of Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois. Attendees can register online for free at www.usda.nass.gov.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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