READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 30th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 30th

EPA Waivers Lower Ethanol Production Six Percent

The Environmental Protection Agency has granted Renewable Fuels Standard waivers to dozens of refineries over the last couple of years. The Renewable Fuels Association analyzed the EPA’s own compliance data and found that the exemptions lowered volumetric obligations by at least 1.6 million gallons over that time period. The volume lost over the last two years is ten times greater than the collective losses from 2013-2015. Despite receiving numerous requests for information from ethanol industry stakeholders on the exact number of waivers, the EPA hasn’t disclosed the number of waivers it’s granted and how much blending volume those exemptions effectively erased. An RFA analysis of EPA database information shows, “The EPA data strongly implies that small refiner exemptions have effectively lowered the 2017 required volume of renewable fuels by 1.1 billion gallons, or six percent.” The RFA analysis also says that the data shows small refiner exemptions also effectively reduced the 2016 RFS requirement by 523 million gallons. RFA President and CEO Bob Dineen says, “This analysis, based on EPA’s own data, confirms our concerns and sheds light on the scope and magnitude of Administrator Pruitt’s campaign to undermine the RFS. “


EPA Chief Faces Tough Questions

A Politico report says Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt had a simple task during recent Congressional hearings, which was to keep his conservative backers happy. In turn, that may keep the president happy. Democrats and environmentalists panned Pruitt’s job performance as the EPA head is facing a number of ethical and spending questions. Most Republicans seemed pleased enough with his performance that he may have saved his job, for now. However, President Donald Trump hasn’t weighed in with his thoughts yet. One Republican who is close to the White House tells Politico that, “As long as Pruitt’s explanations hold and there are no crazy discrepancies or smoking guns, I don’t think that creates any red flags for Pruitt.” Pruitt’s shifting answers to questions about controversial staff raises for two of his aides raised concerns that he hasn’t been completely up front. Pruitt also used the two hearings before lawmakers to blame his torrent of scandals on EPA career staff. Pruitt said during one hearing, “Let me be very clear: I have nothing to hide as it relates to how I’ve run the agency for the past 16 months.”


NC Residents Win Big Money from Smithfield

A federal jury reached a verdict worth $50 million in the first of 26 lawsuits against North Carolina pork producer Murphy Brown. An Indy Week Dot Com reports says the jury took less than 24 hours to reach the verdict against Murphy Brown, a subsidiary of Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods. The plaintiffs contended that the company’s waste-management plan makes their lives miserable. The plan consists of storing excess hog waste in open-air cesspools, as well as liquefying and spraying the remains on nearby fields. The plaintiffs say the odors and mist from the spray drift onto their properties, that the hogs attract swarms of insects and buzzards, boxes with dead hogs smell especially bad, and the stench limits their ability to go outside. The trial involved ten plaintiffs who live near Kinlaw Farm in Bladen County, North Carolina, who contracts with Smithfield to raise 15,000 hogs. Smithfield Foods says in a news release that they will file an immediate appeal of the verdict.


American Veterinary Association Pleased With House Farm Bill

The American Veterinary Medical Association is pleased with the animal health priorities in the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill. Among the highlights, the AVMA is pleased with the new authorizations and funding for a National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, The National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and a livestock vaccine bank with immediate attention to foot-and-mouth disease. Dr. Lauren Stump, Assistant Director of Government Relations for the AVMA, says the House Agriculture Committee’s work on the farm bill is a great step in the right direction to effectively respond to and prevent animal diseases. “We don’t know when the next major outbreak will occur, but it’s of paramount importance that we prepare for when it does,” she says. “We must take a proactive approach to animal health so we can stop animal diseases before they spread.” Stump says they look forward to continuing to work with Congress to help lawmakers pass a farm bill that achieves the goals of protecting animal agriculture and ensuring consumers have access to safe and nutritious protein.


Syngenta Says European Decision Takes Ag In The Wrong Direction

The decision by European Union member states to back the European Commission’s proposal on further restricting the use of neonicotinoids disappointed Syngenta, but it wasn’t unexpected. The company says that wasn’t the right decision for the future of agriculture or the environment in Europe. Syngenta says agriculture needs all the options it has to help farmers ensure that consumers have access to safe and affordable food. Farmers also have to be able to minimize the negative impact and amplify the positive effects agriculture has on the environment. Syngenta says the Commission relied on an unapproved regulatory document called the Bee Risk Guidance Document in making its decision. Syngenta says the decision to propose a further ban on neonicotinoids will not address the challenges we face in ensuring a safe and reliable food supply, while also taking care of the environment. They say the Bee Risk Guidance Document is so conservative and so far removed from the reality of modern agriculture that it would ban most, if not all, agricultural chemicals.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts a large increase in cotton production in Texas, the biggest cotton-producing state in the U.S. Cotton industry observers are noticing cotton production shifting northward into Kansas and Oklahoma. CoBank issued a report looking at the reasons for cotton increasing into new areas. The report says the reasons behind the expansion include unprofitable prices for grain crops, declining water availability, round bale harvesters, better genetic varieties of cotton, and increased optimism about a cotton program re-entering the 2018 Farm Bill. A CoBank senior analyst says the projections of increased cotton planting are sending signals to the cotton industry that it will need more ginning capacity and storage capacity. Ben Laine of CoBank says, “We’re already seeing some cooperative gins in Kansas expanding capacity, with some doubling their previous year’s capacity, and others in three more states increasing their capacity by as much as 30 percent.” While the cooperatives are expanding, the bigger question is how sustainable cotton will be in some of these new areas. Laine says, “If cotton is included in a rotation, the underlying infrastructure investments and the long-term economics compared to other crops show cotton is sustainable in these typically grain-dominated areas.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service