03-01-19 Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation Empowering Local Governments and Prioritizing Health and Safety of Coloradans

Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation Empowering Local Governments and Prioritizing Health and Safety of Coloradans

Denver, CO – Majority Leader Steve Fenberg today introduced SB19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations, a piece of oil and gas legislation that will empower local governments and prioritize the health and safety of Coloradans. Co-sponsored in the House by Speaker KC Becker, the legislation seeks to provide the most meaningful changes to oil and gas regulations Colorado has seen in over 60 years.

“Colorado’s communities simply cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Majority Leader Fenberg. “We also must empower communities to take control over what’s happening in their backyards and equip them with the tools they need to stand up for their best interests. These common-sense reforms will ensure the industry operates in an accountable and cooperative manner.”

“Coloradans deserve a government that works for them – not the special interests. It is past time for action on this critical issue,” said Speaker KC Becker. “Let’s work together to update our antiquated oil and gas laws to give local communities more of a say when it comes to development near their homes and schools and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

In the last decade, oil and gas development in Colorado has rapidly evolved, introducing new technologies and expanding heavy industrial operations to populated urban and suburban neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as the industry has changed, our laws and regulations have not kept pace, leaving our neighborhoods, communities and our environment to bear the impacts and increasing risks.

Key elements of the bill include: Continue reading

03-01-19 U.S. Department of Interior Partners with Private Land Owners to Fund Conservation Initiatives

U.S. Department of Interior Partners with Private Land Owners to Fund Conservation Initiatives

WASHINGTON – Today, Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced that through continued implementation of Secretarial Order 3362, “Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors” $1.5 million in private land habitat projects were approved. The funding and technical support is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.

“The important role that private lands play in conservation cannot be overstated,” said Acting Secretary Bernhardt. “Of course, our public lands play a pivotal role conserving habitat and migration corridors as well, but we must continue to be a good neighbor and all work together. The projects we are funding today will result in invaluable conservation to benefit mule deer, pronghorn, elk and other wildlife.”

Of the 11 states identified in the Order, 8 states submitted projects. The state funding breakdown is below:

  • Arizona: $200,000
  • Colorado: $100,000
  • Idaho: $245,190
  • Montana: $152,600
  • Nevada: $235,000
  • New Mexico: $75,000
  • Washington: $194,802
  • Wyoming: $293,800

Continue reading

03-01-19 U.S. Senators Bennet, Gardner & Colleagues Introduce PFAS Action Plan of 2019

U.S. Senators Bennet, Gardner & Colleagues Introduce PFAS Action Plan of 2019

Bipartisan bill would designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under our environmental protection laws

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), with a bipartisan group of colleagues, today introduced legislation that would mandate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), within one year of enactment, declare per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, and also enable a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation.

“It is inexcusable that the Trump administration continues to delay action to address PFAS contamination across the country,” Bennet said. “This bipartisan bill will ensure contaminated sites are cleaned up and resources are available to communities in Colorado so they have access to safe drinking water. Passing this measure is one of many steps we must take to address this public health threat with the urgency it requires.”

“This bipartisan legislation will allow EPA to pursue polluters responsible for PFAS contamination and provide the communities remediation options through Superfund,” Gardner said. “PFAS contamination is a serious issue facing our communities and we need to act quickly to address this challenge. I will continue working to make sure Coloradans have access to clean and safe drinking water.”

Continue reading

03-01-19 NAWG and the National Wheat Foundation Named New Board Officers at the 2019 Commodity Classic

NAWG and the National Wheat Foundation Named New Board Officers at the 2019 Commodity Classic 

ORLANDO (March 1, 2019) – The National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Wheat Foundation wrapped up the 2019 Commodity Classic with a new slate of officers.

NAWG President and Southwest Oklahoma farmer Jimmie Musick has passed the gavel down to Vice President Ben Scholz, a farmer from Texas. Michigan wheat farmer Dave Milligan moved up the ranks of leadership becoming NAWG’s new Vice President. Nicole Berg, wheat farmer from Paterson, Washington, becomes NAWG’s new Treasurer. Oregon wheat farmer, Brent Cheyne will serve as NAWG’s new Secretary. Jimmie Musick will continue to serve on the executive committee in the role of Past President. Continue reading

03-01-19 NAWG: Leading Agriculture Organizations Endorse USMCA

NAWG: Leading Agriculture Organizations Endorse USMCA

ORLANDO (March 1, 2019) – The National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers today announced their support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Continue reading

03-01-19 USDA Secretary Perdue Reiterates Need to Restore Original Intent of SNAP: A Second Chance, Not A Way of Life

USDA Secretary Perdue Reiterates Need to Restore Original Intent of SNAP: A Second Chance, Not A Way of Life

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2019 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today reiterated during a U.S. Senate hearing the need to restore the original intent of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is to be a second chance and not a way of life. Secretary Perdue’s comments come on the heels of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishing in the Federal Register a proposed rule to move more able-bodied recipients of SNAP benefits to self-sufficiency through the dignity of work. The rule aims to restore the system to what it was meant to be: assistance through difficult times, not lifelong dependency. This proposed rule focuses on work-related program requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) and would apply to non-disabled people, between the ages of 18 and 49, with no dependents. The rule would not apply to the elderly, the disabled, or pregnant women. Those who are eligible to receive SNAP – including the underemployed – would still qualify.

Despite the absence of any statutory changes to the welfare reform legislation of 1996, an abuse of administrative flexibility in SNAP has undermined the ideal of self-sufficiency. When then President Bill Clinton signed the legislation that instituted work requirements for ABAWDs he said, “First and foremost, it should be about moving people from welfare to work. It should impose time limits on welfare… It [work] gives structure, meaning and dignity to most of our lives.”

During today’s hearing, Secretary Perdue was asked about work requirements and his proposed rule. He said:

“What was accepted by the U.S. Senate and passed was the same bill that’s been there since the beginning of the Welfare Reform regarding the work requirements of 20 hours per week. And what you also passed was not a prohibition, it was no change to the fact that in one section it says that the Secretary may waive that applicability and we plan to do that for the ABAWDs. We think the purpose is to help people move to independency… We should help people when they are down but that should not be interminably.”

“…You all also provided for a 12 percent cushion for states that they could use for any purpose. But, we do not believe in states where unemployment is 4 percent that ABAWDs should be able to stay on food assistance interminably.”

You may click HERE or on the image below to watch Secretary Perdue’s remarks:

Background: Continue reading

03-01-19 U.S. Senator Bennet Cosponsors Bill to End Federal Prohibition of Marijuana…

U.S. Senator Bennet Cosponsors Bill to End Federal Prohibition of Marijuana

Criminal justice reform bill would expunge records for use and possession & reinvest in low-income and minority communities

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today cosponsored the Marijuana Justice Act to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.

“This long-overdue change will help bring our marijuana laws into the 21st century,” Bennet said. “It’s past time we bring fairness and relief to communities that our criminal justice system has too often left behind.”

The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of drug policy that has disproportionately affected low-income communities and communities of color. Beyond removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances – making it legal at the federal level – the bill also would automatically expunge the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, and it would reinvest in low-income and minority communities through a community reinvestment fund. This fund could be used for projects such as job training programs, re-entry services, and community centers. Continue reading

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 1st

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 1st

Chinese Grain Subsidies Are Too High

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), along with other commodity groups and the USDA, welcomed a ruling from the World Trade Organization dispute panel regarding Chinese grain subsidies. The WTO panel ruled that Chinese government payments to farmers for grains exceeded China’s WTO agreements and significantly distort global wheat trade. The dispute panel formed after the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office challenged China’s domestic agricultural support programs for wheat, corn, and rice through the WTO dispute settlement process back in September of 2016. USW President Vince Peterson says they’re pleased that the Trump Administration has continued to support his group through the dispute. “U.S. farmers have been hurt by China’s overproduction and protectionist measures for too long,” Peterson says, “and it’s past time for China to start living up to its commitments.” A 2015 Iowa State University study said China’s domestic market support price for wheat at the time of almost $10 per bushel cost U.S. wheat farmers between $650 and $700 million annually in lost income by preventing export opportunities and suppressing global wheat prices. “The past two decades have been a lost opportunity for the WTO negotiating function as major countries like China have refused to take on new responsibilities,” Peterson says. “Perhaps this will be the wake-up call countries need to realize restricting trade opportunities hurts everyone.”


Lighthizer Cautious About China Trade Progress

At a hearing with the House Ways and Means Committee this week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said it’s unclear if negotiations with China will bring the trade war to an end. Politico says that’s a far more cautious outlook than President Trump has presented recently. Lighthizer says “much still need to be done” before a deal can be reached between the two countries. He also warned that negotiations, as well as the broader U.S. trade agenda, will crumble if Congress doesn’t pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Pact.  “It just has to pass,” Lighthizer says. “If it doesn’t, you’ll have no credibility at all with China and you’ll have no credibility on any deals with your other trading partners.” The USTR office is set to formally postpone raising duties on $200 billion in Chinese goods, which was set to happen on Saturday. There is no new date set for potentially hiking up the tariffs. Lighthizer is planning a trip to Tokyo, Japan, probably in the next month, to discuss China and open up U.S.-Japan trade negotiations.


Will E15 Rule Be Ready for Summer Driving in 2019?

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue appeared before the House Ag Committee to talk about the state of farm country in rural America. Perdue said that he didn’t expect the Environmental Protection Agency to complete its E15 rulemaking process in time for the 2019 summer driving season. An Ethanol Producer Dot Com article says during an appearance before the House Agriculture Committee, Perdue was questioned by three members on E15 and the refinery exemptions granted under the Renewable Fuels Standard during the hearing. At that point in time, the USDA was encouraging EPA to announce discretionary enforcement of current regulations. However, the next day, Perdue made an announcement that he’d just been informed by EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler that the E15 rule allowing year-round sales of higher ethanol blends will very likely be ready by this summer. In talking to reporters, Perdue says, “Today, Acting Administrator Wheeler told me it was very likely that they could get the rule done and would do so, if at all possible.” EPA says it’s working “expeditiously” to finish the rule by June first. The agency also expects to have a draft rule proposal later in March.  


Wheeler Confirmed as Head of EPA

The Senate approved Andrew Wheeler as the Head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The former coal lobbyist was confirmed by a vote of 52 to 47. The Washington Post calls Wheeler a “veteran of Washington political and industry circles who’s aided in President Trump’s push to roll back environmental regulations put in place under former President Obama.” At his confirmation hearing in January, Wheeler talked about the dozens of rules that the EPA has rolled back over the past few years. He also made it explicitly clear to lawmakers that he intends to continue the Trump Administration’s reversal of environmental regulations. “Through our deregulatory actions, the Trump Administration has proven that burdensome federal regulations are not necessary to drive environmental progress,” Wheeler said at his confirmation hearing. “Certainty and the innovation that thrives in a climate of certainty are key to progress.” In addition to the rollbacks, Wheeler has also rolled out initiatives aimed at reducing lead exposures around the country.


Farm Debt Levels Equalling 1980s Farm Crisis

The amount of farm debt has risen rapidly to $409 billion. That’s up from $385 billion in 2018. U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says demand for loans remains “historically high.” A Reuters article says the strain on the American farm belt is becoming more and more comparable to the agricultural crisis of three decades ago. The strain is being caused by multiple factors, including commodity prices remaining low for an extended period of time, storms damaging crops, and the loss of export markets due to trade disputes with key trading partners. “Farm debt has risen more rapidly over the last five years, increasing by 30 percent since 2013,” Perdue said in testimony before the House Agriculture Committee. “It’s up from $315 billion in 2013 to $385 billion in 2018. That number has now risen to $409 billion this year. We last saw those levels in the 1980s.” USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson says USDA is concerned about a potential decline in farmland real estate values in the years ahead. Those real estate prices have been a key support for equity in U.S. agriculture. However, Johansson is quick to point out that it hasn’t happened yet. The amount of farmland that may come up for sale in the future is a big concern to ag bankers. Lenders fear that could trigger an across-the-board drop in land prices.


USDA Begins Process to Regulate Hemp Production

The USDA is moving forward on the process of creating regulations that would oversee commercial hemp production in the United States. The Packer Dot Com says once the information-gathering is wrapped up, the agency will then use the information to write regulations that will include provisions for federally-regulated hemp production. The regulations will also include a process for submitting state, as well as Indian tribal production plans to the agency. USDA says regulations for states and tribes who submit plans will include things like land to be used for planting, testing, effective disposal of plants and products, compliance with law enforcement, and many others. The law requires USDA to complete reviews of its plans within 60 days once the regulations are effective. USDA is also required to establish a plan to monitor and regulate hemp production in states or Indian tribes that don’t yet have an approved state plan. The USDA’s intention is to roll the regulations out by the fall of this year in order to make sure growers who want to plant hemp can be ready for the 2020 growing season.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service