The Obama administration will announce today that it will propose opening vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling.
The proposal would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.
Colorado Farm Bureau is holding two Women’s “Ag-Vocates” for Agriculture Conferences. These conferences are being sponsored by the state women’s committee and all women in Farm Bureau are invited.
Women who are not members are welcome too.
The purpose of the conferences is to provide easy tips and tools to help women become more active “Ag-Vocates” for the agricultural industry. We think we have an exciting agenda and want to encourage you to send at least two women from each county to attend one of these conferences.
Two conferences will be held. The first takes place April 30th through May 1st in Castle Rock, CO. The second will be held in Palisade on May 7th and 8th.
Conference agendas and meeting registration forms can be found here.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced a final rule Monday that will phase in greenhouse gas emissions control requirements for new and modified stationary sources such as power plants starting Jan. 2, 2011.
This rule is a key move by EPA to begin regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act. EPA’s action on Monday is a major concern of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s. AFBF vehemently opposes regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act because Congress never intended to use the act to regulate carbon dioxide.
Colorado Farm Bureau strongly backs a Senate resolution to disapprove of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and a companion measure in the House introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.).
“The high costs of this regulation, the unidentified environmental benefits, and the ongoing effort in Congress to decide this issue argues strongly for Congress to use its authority under the Congressional Review Act to intervene in this matter,” wrote CFB President Alan Foutz in a letter to Sen. Bennett, urging him to support the Murkowski resolution. Farm Bureau also sent letters to Colorado’s House delegation urging support of companion legislation being offered by House Ag committee Chair, Colin Peterson.
While sales of organic food have taken a hit in recent months, new research shows that consumers will be purchasing more of the product in the next few years. The natural and organic food and beverage category saw rapid growth of more than 24 percent from 2006 to 2008 but stalled during the recession in 2009, with sales up just 1.8 percent.
Sales are now forecast to grow nearly 20 percent from 2010 to 2012, indicating that going organic has become a way of life for some.
In 2009, SB 09-235 was passed to reauthorize the Habitat Stamp Program. It required an ongoing dialog between stakeholders to focus on finding solutions to outstanding issues of concern. These stakeholders, including the largest sportsmen organizations and the Sportsmen’s Advisory Group (SAG), sat down and discussed how to make the Habitat Stamp Program work for all. The result was the introduction of HB10-1361. Farm Bureau was in active support of this bill.
Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg led the charge to bring together a coalition of representatives from sportsmen groups and Ag landowner groups, including CFB, when it became clear that the Division of Wildlife was not willing to discuss concerns around the Habitat Stamp Program.
This measure would have created the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp Operation, Maintenance, and Enhancement Fund. Money in the fund would be used for the expenses associated with the operation, maintenance and enhancement of property that is purchased using Habitat Stamp funds. Unfortunately, the measure met with extreme resistance from the Division of Wildlife and Director Remington who argued that they never agreed to have further discussions following the passage of SB09-235.
“It is too bad that the DOW has chosen to ignore both Sportsmen and Landowners regarding controversial issues with the Habitat Stamp program,” said Rep Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) the sponsor of the measure. “It is difficult to have a dialog with an agency whose leadership is less than honest.”
Last Monday, a professor and air quality expert at U.C. Davis told a conference of Chemists that despite often repeated claims, it is simply not scientifically accurate to blame livestock for climate change. Professor Frank Mitloehner’s study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Agronomy. It took on the oft repeated notion that CAFO meat production was somehow more carbon intensive than pasture raised beef and milk; or than a person can cut his carbon footprint by consuming less meat.
“We certainly can reduce our greenhouse-gas production, but not by consuming less meat and milk… but by increasing efficient meat production in developing countries, where growing populations need more nutritious food,” Mitloehner says.
Several U.S. farm groups have expressed what they call “grave concerns” with how the new governance structure of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) could threaten the autonomy of the national beef checkoff. That according a report on feedstuffs.com.
Groups including the American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union sent a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to look into the new NCBA structure. One of their concerns is that the firewall that keeps checkoff funds for beef advertising and promotion separate from NCBA dues and other revenue used for industry advocacy may be compromised. NCBA has assured the USDA that their accounting practices are sound.
The 2010 Long Bill (HB 10-1376) has been introduced. The March 2010 forecast indicates that General Fund revenues will increase by $389.4 million (5.8%) for fiscal year 2010-11. General Fund appropriations subject to the statutory limit for fiscal year 2010-11 total $6,938.6 million. This is a 4.6% ($308.3 million) increase.
In addition to the Long Bill, several other bills have been introduced as part of the overall 2010-11 budget package. The budget package will be debated starting in House Appropriations on Tuesday, March 30. Party caucuses will meet tomorrow afternoon. Debate will then shift to the House Floor with the goal of finishing debate and sending the bill over to the Senate by the end of the week.
Department of Agriculture
The main change for CDA is in HB 10-1377, which refinances all of the Inspection and Consumer Services Programs with cash funds for fiscal year 2010-11 and 2011-12. These programs include the fertilizer, feed, large scales, measurement standards, farm products and the commodity handlers programs. Current law stipulates that a portion of the cost of each of these programs is paid by the General Fund. HB 10-1377 removes that General Fund money and allows CDA to increase fees to cover the difference – approximately $1.3 million or near 50%.
According to a piece in the U.S. Banker Magazine, agricultural and rural community banks outshine their peers on profitability and credit quality. The return on assets for all commercial banks averaged 0.04 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with 0.76 percent for those with at least one-fourth of their loan portfolios in the agricultural sector.
As the debate on the Senate version of HB 1188 heats up in the media, John Leede and Charles Thrailkill, members of the Creekside Coalition, filed 20 ballot measures, limiting the use of rivers or targeting rafters with strict liability provisions.
Rafting interests filed 4 of their own initiatives. They say they filed their ballot proposals to ensure Colorado rivers stay open to the public.
While all 24 measures will never be certified, the numbers game is an effort to ensure some measures will make it onto the ballot.
Eric Anderson, spokesman for the Creekside Coalition said, “Until we’re assured that the commercial rafters’ one-sided proposals are not moving forward this year, we need to keep our options open to ensure that property rights in Colorado are protected.”
Ballot supporters need to collect 76,047 valid signatures, which is 5 percent of the total votes cast in the 2006 secretary of state’s race.
A federal survey of farm areas taken last fall found high numbers of adult grasshoppers in parts of Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho. Each female lays hundreds of eggs so that high count could turn into costly grasshopper infestations this summer. Making matters worse is the prevalence of migratory species in the latest surveys — insects that can fly 60 miles in a day.
The Wyoming acreage infested with 15 or more grasshoppers per square yard increased more than 10-fold from 2008 to 2.9 million acres last summer, according to federal surveys.
Regionwide, surveys predict at least 48 million acres of outbreak-level infestation this summer.
“In some states, we may see some of the most severe grasshopper outbreaks that we’ve seen in nearly 30 years,” said Charles Brown, the national grasshopper suppression program manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s.
Obama Administration officials announced on Friday that they will host a White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors on April 16. Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Agriculture Secretary of the Interior, Tom Vilsack are leading the conference. The conference is touted by the White House as an opportunity to begin a new dialogue on national conservation aimed at protecting open spaces and “reconnecting Americans and American families to the outdoors.”
The announcement raises questions about the potential land-grab proposed by Department of the Interior staffers. The Conference would pose an ideal venue to pitch the action to administration staffers and lawmakers. Expect much of the discussion to be focused on the perceived loss of wildland and forests.
Sutley said in a statement, while outdoor locations, including farms, are places many American’s cherish, “too many of these places are disappearing. In launching this conversation, we strive to learn about the smart, creative community efforts underway throughout the country to conserve our outdoor spaces, and hear how we can support these efforts.
The state YF&R committee is currently conducting their yearly planning meeting in Glenwood Springs. The committee is working on developing their social media strategy, creating a framework for collegiate farm bureaus, and charting the course for the program in the coming year.
Deere & Co. announced Thursday that the health care law signed this week by President Barack Obama will raise its costs this year by $150 million.
The biggest U.S. maker of farm equipment became the second major company to say it would take a charge for fiscal 2010. Deere and Caterpillar Inc., which reported that it would record a $100 million charge Wednesday, say the health care overhaul President Obama signed will make a subsidy the companies receive for retiree drug coverage taxable in 2011.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has filed an action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for what the organization calls another example of regulatory overreach. The suit, filed by AFBF and the U.S. Sugar Corporation in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., takes the Corps to task for non-compliance with its own rules regarding prior-converted croplands.
The suit argues that recent action by the Corps goes against the 1993 rule that excluded prior-converted croplands from regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Corps’ actions would subject croplands to federal control if farmers take their prior-converted cropland out of crop production and change its use. There are currently more than 53 million acres of prior-converted cropland in the U.S.
“These lands are out of the realm of Clean Water Act jurisdiction, meaning the Corps can’t regulate them as waters of the U.S.,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This is important because the value of prior-converted croplands is significantly higher than land encumbered by costly federal wetlands regulations.”
USDA, which runs the National Organic Program, considers organic agriculture a “production philosophy” and has stated that an organic label does not imply that a product is superior to conventionally produced foods. Nutritionists are saying there is no need to eat organic to be healthy, and it is more important to choose less processed food and more fruits and vegetables.
Last summer, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a comprehensive systemic review that concluded organic and conventional food have comparable nutrient levels.
Aides to President Barack Obama met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic committee leaders to map out a strategy for gaining the 60 votes needed to pass a comprehensive energy and climate change bill when lawmakers return from the April recess.
The hour-long meeting in Reid’s office Wednesday included White House legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro and Obama’s energy and climate adviser, Carol Browner. “The leader feels before he brings up a bill he wants to know he’s got a shot at getting it through,” Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said before the meeting.
The American Farm Bureau Federation continues to study the massive 2,000-page health care law that was signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Patricia Wolff, AFBF health care specialist, notes a major Farm Bureau concern is increased health insurance costs.
“One of the big concerns is what will happen to health insurance costs because the law is long on mandates and short on things that will guarantee that prices will be contained,” Wolff said. “One of the things missing from the law is tort reform. There’s no mention of doing away or scaling back the lawsuits that people bring against doctors and hospitals. Those lawsuits are believed to increase the costs of health care because doctors and hospitals do extra procedures and order extra tests just to prevent from being sued.”
Wolff said farmers and ranchers who already have health insurance have the option of keeping the health insurance they have or buying health insurance in a new marketplace called an “exchange.” For farmers and ranchers without health insurance, they will have to go out and buy insurance or pay a penalty. These provisions won’t kick in until 2014.
“There are several things in the bill that help with part-time and seasonal workers,” Wolf explained. “The requirement to provide coverage for employees—and that’s for businesses with over 50 people—is only for full-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week. There’s also relief in the bill for those who hire seasonal workers who work on a farm or in a business less than 120 days per year.”
Utah's Flaming Gorge Reservoir
A coalition of Colorado and Wyoming public water providers will study the feasibility of building a pipeline more than 500 miles long, at a cost of $3 billion, to carry water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, on the border of Wyoming and Utah, to the eastern, more populated areas of the two states.
The study will look at how much water is available in the reservoir, how much water members of the study group need, and how it might be delivered to the agencies, said Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.
The study group includes public agencies, who collectively serve more than 500,000 in Denver’s southern suburbs and El Paso County, as well as towns and counties in eastern Wyoming, Jaeger said.
Late Sunday the House approved health care reform legislation on a 219-212 party line vote. Approval of the legislation, which was previously cleared by the Senate, sets the stage for what many are calling the greatest expansion of the nation’s social safety net in the past 50 years. Farm Bureau strongly favors health care reform, but urged House members to vote down the bill, noting that policy changes must be “workable, sustainable and balanced against the overall cost of doing business.”
The House is expected to quickly approve a reconciliation measure that makes mostly procedural changes to the Senate bill. After that, the bill moves to the Senate for a final vote.
The Wall Street Journal has an interactive graphic that shows what changes the bill makes to the health insurance industry and personal taxes, when and at what cost.
GJ Sentinel – The Daily Sentinel
The Colorado Senate did the prudent thing Friday and halted a rafting-rights bill that had been sailing through the …
Raft bill sinks in legislature
Grand Junction Sentinel - Charles Ashby -
Not only would river rafting outfitters have earned the right to float through private land, but everyone else would have, too…
Senate may punt rafting issue to Water Congress
Pueblo Chieftain - Patrick Malone
Some lawmakers want to tackle the issue; others content not to act on it this session…
Rafting bill is thrown overboard
The Durango Herald - Joe Hanel
DENVER – Opponents of a “right to float” bill for rafters have sunk it by turning it into a study. Technically, the bill is still alive…
Good week for future of energy in Colorado
The Durango Herald - Bruce Whitehead
The amendment calls for requiring an evaluation to be done of the criminal and civil trespass issues associated with rafting in Colorado…
Controversial river rights bill hung up in state Senate
Steamboat Pilot - Joel Reichenberger
The current legislation came about because of a disagreement regarding rafting on the Taylor River near Gunnison in central Colorado…
Monday – March 22
HB 1101 – Farm Truck Registration (Senate State Affairs – 1:30 p.m.)
Tuesday – March 23
HB 1361 – Habitat Stamp Program Enhancement (House State Affairs – 1:30 p.m.)
Wednesday – March 24
DOW Briefing on Habitat Stamp Program Pursuant to SB09-235 (Joint Ag Committee – 7:30 a.m.)
SB 139 – Unwanted Horse Checkoff (House Ag – 1:30 p.m.)
HB 1205 – Local Land Use Planning for Military Installments (Senate State Affairs – 1:30 p.m.)
Thursday – March 25
HB 1250 – Water Conservation Board Construction Fund (Senate Ag – 1:30 p.m.)
For the first time in recent memory, the economic forecast that was released today had a more positive story to tell. Due to corporate and individual income tax collections that came in higher than expected, the state budget is approximately $35.1 million ahead of where the General Assembly had originally planned for.
Governor Ritter’s economic team reported that although the news was positive, there would not be any attempts to reverse any of the cuts in the current fiscal year’s budget that ends in June, or reinstate any of the tax credits and exemptions that were removed earlier this year. They also stressed that although it looks as if the economy may be starting to recover, it would be a long process.
The economic forecast being released today starts the process of debating next year’s budget. Stay tuned for updates regarding the debate on the 2010 Long Bill, which is expected to be introduced in the next couple of weeks.
Today, the controversial right-to-trespass bill, HB 1188, was amended to become a study by the Colorado Water Congress. Senator Al White ran the amendment, which recognizes the need to study and potentially clarify the existing law concerning civil and criminal trespass by boaters on rivers and streams flowing through private property in Colorado.
The CWC is directed to study the issue, taking into account the “legal, economic, environmental and law enforcement issues related to boating through private property.”
The amended version of the bill has one more vote to go through in the Senate then it will be sent back to the House. At that time, the House must decide whether to accept the Senate version of the bill. If they do, the bill will be sent to the Governor. If the House does not accept the updated version, the bill may be sent to a conference committee for additional debate.
Thank you to all of you who contacted your Senators. This action today is a positive one and will allow for a broader dialog about the issue of floating through private property.
The ‘Right to Trespass’ bill passed the full Senate today on an amendment that directs the Colorado water Congress to study the issue.
The amendment states that the State “recognizes the need to study and potentially clarify the existing law concerning civil and criminal trespass by boaters on rivers and streams flowing through private property in Colorado.”
The CWC is directed to study the issue, taking into account the “legal, economic, environmental and law enforcement issues related to boating through private property.”. The participants and procedures for the study will be determined by the CWC Board. The study shall be completed by Oct. 2010 and submitted to the General Assembly no later than November 30, 2010.
This post will be updated as we sort through the amendment and the potential is has in the House.
Kentucky’s House Agriculture and Small Business Committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a revised version of a Senate bill that establishes a commission to set care standards for farm animals. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
Kentucky Senate Bill 105 seeks to prevent extremist animal rights groups from setting policy, while also providing a way to push farmers who are “bad actors” out of the business, said Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, the bill’s sponsor.
“The goal of this legislation is to create a commission that provides a vehicle for defining practical animal care standards from a scientific approach, rather than it being an emotion-driven conversation,” Givens said.
The bill was backed by the Kentucky Farm Bureau and creates a livestock commission of 13 voting members, including five commodity group representatives appointed by the governor. One member would be an at-large appointee interested in food safety.
Details of a new climate change bill were revealed in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill between lawmakers and industry groups on Wednesday.
Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) shared an eight-page outline of their draft legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next four decades, including provisions to limit business costs while ramping up domestic production of oil, gas and nuclear power.
The bill is reported to seek greenhouse gas curbs across multiple economic sectors, with a 2020 target of reducing emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels and an 80 percent limit at midcentury. Power plant emissions would be regulated in 2012, with other major industrial sources being phased in starting in 2016.
Among the eight titles of the bill is “America’s Farmers.”
HB 1188 on Senate Floor this Week…Urge a “NO” Vote!
HB 1188 (the right to float and trespass on private property) has unfortunately passed the House and now we need to turn our attention and focus to the Colorado Senate.
The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-3, straight party line vote and is scheduled to be on the Senate floor as soon as Friday, March 19. We need you to act fast and make your voice heard.
Please contact your senator through this easy to use ALERT system and let them know that you oppose HB 1188 and you want him/her to vote “NO” on this egregious bill. If you have the time, please personalize your message to your senator so that they know that you really care and that you are watching their vote in this important issue.
We would also ask that you forward this email to your entire list of friends, family and neighbors so that they can also contact their senators!
You do not need to be a member of Farm Bureau to use this ALERT system, just someone who cares about private property rights.
Do not hesitate and let your voice be heard!
Ag Council members assemble sandwiches at the Denver Ronald McDonald House.
The Colorado Agriculture Council celebrated National Agriculture Week /Day today by spotlighting agriculture’s value to Colorado’s economy and sharing its bounty with those in need.
Together with Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp and State legislators, the Colorado Agriculture Council held a news conference on the West steps of the Colorado State Capitol to recognize the week / day. The news conference was preceded by a “Farm Fresh Food from the Flatbed” drive.
A flatbed truck – a visual display of Colorado agricultural bounty – served as a traveling sandwich line from which industry volunteers provided food to those in need. The drive began at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Denver where the volunteers made sandwiches to be served to seriously ill children and their families. Next the truck traveled to The Gathering Place to deliver additional sandwiches to those in need. The drive culminated at the Capitol where lunch was provided for legislators, legislative staff and volunteers.
Capital Press has the story…
A federal judge in California has struck down an effort to block the planting of genetically engineered sugar-beet seeds this spring.
In a ruling filed today, Judge Jeffrey White denied a motion by the Center for Food Safety for an injunction that would have prohibited beet growers from using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds this spring.
The plaintiffs and industry defendants are scheduled to argue in a July 9 hearing in San Francisco whether the seeds should be permanently prohibited while USDA produces an environmental document to support the agency’s deregulation of the seeds.
The looming threat of an injunction complicated the arguments against the proposed ban on planting biotech beets on leased Boulder County open space late last summer.