The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was the target of some very harsh criticism at a forum in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.
The participants of the RASG gather prior to yesterdays forum.
The event, which was hosted by the GOP-sponsored Rural America Solutions Group, was entitled “The EPA’s Assault on Rural America”. One of those testifying was Tamara Thies, chief environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Thies accused the EPA of, in her words, “waging an unprecedented war to end modern production of animal agriculture.
Thies cited several examples of EPA’s over-regulation, including its proposal to regulate dust. She says under such rules, farmers and ranchers could be fined for everyday activities like driving a tractor down a dirt road or tilling a field.
Farmers can receive sizable tax write-offs under the small-business law that was signed by President Barack Obama on Monday. The new law raised the threshold on Section 179 expenses from the current limit of $250,000 to $500,000 for tax years beginning in 2010 and 2011. In the past, this deduction did not apply to purchases exceeding $800,000, but the new threshold was raised to $2 million.
With commodity prices rebounding and relatively high crop yields, some farmers are expected to take advantage of the tax benefit. “Now a lot of grain can be reported as farm equipment on the tax return,” said CPA Andy Biebl, a principal with Larson Allen in Minneapolis.
AFBF supported passage of the small-business law
No country has disrupted grain markets over the years more dramatically than Russia — perpetrator of the infamous “great grain robbery,” when the Soviet Union secretly bought up a quarter of U.S. wheat stocks after a poor harvest in 1971.
Even with the embargo, USDA estimates food prices will rise 15 percent in Russia over the next year. Clayton Yeutter, who served as secretary of agriculture in the first Bush administration, calls the embargo “singularly unhelpful” in a period of economic uncertainty.
Even as prices rise, China and India are sitting on very large wheat stocks — a reflection of policies heavily tilted toward protecting domestic consumers. India’s surplus stocks are twice the government’s desired level and China’s amount to 43 percent of its total yearly grain production, according to USDA estimates. China has discouraged exports since 2008 and imported some wheat this year. Indian exports are negligible because the government has been supporting the price of wheat paid to farmers at above the world price.
Yesterday, a group of US Representatives wrote a detailed letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opposing the July 2010 proposed Particulate Matter (PM) standards. Lawmakers state the proposed policy assessment, “lays the foundation for establishing the most stringent and unparalleled regulation of dust in our nation’s history. We urge the EPA to refrain from going down this path.” The letter goes on to read that scientific studies are “ambiguous” in support of the regulation tightening and thus can not be used as foundational support.
The letter represents additional push back from lawmakers. Last week members on the Senate Ag Committee questioned EPA Administrator Jackson about whether her agency “has it in” for American Ag.
Lawmakers respect efforts for clean and health environment, but do not support and find scientific evidence to not support the need for revising the dust standard. Tightening dust regulations will only hurt the rural communities, not benefit them. Some seventy-five US House members, including Colorado Representatives Betsy Markey and Mike Coffeman, signed the letter to Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA.
Transfers from 1950 to the present could take water off one-third of historically irrigated land in the Arkansas River basin — nearly 150,000 of 450,000 acres, according to information compiled by The Pueblo Chieftain today.
The paper notes that an additional 63,000 acres could be taken out of production in the next 40 years to meet a municipal “gap” in water supply. Read the entire piece here.
After a longer than usually August recess Congress reconvened the 2nd week of September. As is normal in an election year, Congress has not handled major policy. Instead it is focusing on smaller, noncontroversial bills which members can campaign on. With the election right around the corner (November 2nd is Election Day) this looks like the last week Congress will be in session before going back into recess to allow members to campaign. Here is a quick recap of what happened in Washington the week of September 20.
The largest offshore wind project in the world opened off the coast of the U.K. yesterday. Swedish energy company Vattenfall, which constructed the wind farm, said the 100 turbines off the coast of Thanet could, at their peak, produce enough electricity a year to power the equivalent of more than 200,000 homes.
Wonder what it will do to seabird populations?
Fans of farmers’ markets don’t always agree on the fine points of what defines the folksy bazaars, but they concur on what farmers’ markets aren’t: chain grocery stores selling fruits and vegetables on their supermarket doorsteps.
Some states have come up with legal definitions for farmers’ markets, and California even certifies farmers and markets that only sell growers’ own produce. But the state can’t prevent an event or store from using the term “farmers’ market.”
Farmers’ market supporters are also becoming concerned about chains that use the term in their names, even though the stores may promote fresh and healthy foods. Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market, founded in 2002, has grown to 51 stores in Arizona, Texas, California and Colorado.
Cynthia Torres, director of the Colorado Farmers’ Market Association, said Sprouts isn’t a “bad organization” and she supports any purchases they make from Colorado farmers. But, she added, “I also want there to be some integrity” for the term “farmers’ market.”
Sen. Mike Johanns (R- Neb.)
The overwhelming message from Senate Ag Committee members Thursday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is the agency seems bent on over-regulating farmers and ranchers.
Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns told Jackson her agency gives “lip service” to ag but is actually hammering the little guy.
“The big guy that can get capital in loans, and access that, will somehow find a way to deal with what you’re requiring even though it’s enormously onerous. And, even when you exempt, or we exempt, the smaller operator they still feel the ripple effects of what you are doing,” Johanns said.
Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack believes antibiotics are being used appropriately. His views are strongly opposed by lead House of Representative proponent to Preservations of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), Rep. Louise Slaughter. Vilsack supports that antibiotics need to be used judiciously and already are being used judiciously by producers. “It doesn’t make sense,” he remarks about the PAMTA proposal.
We need the use of antibiotics in agriculture production. If we are to meet the needs of a growing and hungry population, we cannot limit the resources that are keeping food safe, wholesome and affordable to consumers.
A short bio describes Craig Colorado sheepman Yuri Chicovsky thusly:
You know when you’re driving along a desolate western highway, and you see one of those resilient plants, uprooted by the wind and blown between counties, come to rest in the embrace of a rusty old barbed wire fence? That’s Yuri Chicovsky. A tumbleweed. Who is, until the next big storm, stuck happily between a sagebrush and a strange place. He’s an artist and a teacher and now he’s making his first film.
The upcoming film, “Fortification” gets its name from Fortification Valley near Craig, CO and documents the lives of Northwestern Colorado sheepmen . Yuri describes the documentary film as the movie that will “Change the way you look at sheep, men with moustaches, and guts.” When asked, he also says the movie is about “the smell of sagebrush.” The film also features long time CFB member Albert Villard.
To get the project off the ground Yuri needs your help. His film needs to raise $11,000 in short order. You can help make sure this documentary film about a unique aspect of Colorado agriculture is completed by helping to fund the project. Go to the film’s fundraising site on Kickstarter.com to contribute today!
The Colorado Horse Development Authority is bringing together industry experts in a two-day event. The Colorado Horseman’s Convention will take place October 29-30, 2010 at the National Western Complex in Denver, Colo. The event will be educational and bring opportunities of networking to the horse industry.
Speakers will talk about horseman’s concerns dealing with ownership, participation in the horse industry and tough economic times. For more information, please go to www.ColoradoHorseCouncil.com.
Corn Prices hit a two year high at the close of markets on Friday. Estimates of the size of this year’s crop are being cut an pushing prices up even higher according to MeatingPlace.com. Prices closed in Fridays market at $5.12 to $5.32 a bushel according to data collected by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
The rising corn prices pushed protein stock prices down. As much as a 2.73% decrease in protein stocks has been seen with the increase in corn prices.
The Colorado Farm Bureau is seeking applicants for a Regional Manager position in the San Luis Valley and Southwestern Colorado. Regional Manager’s strengthen county Farm Bureaus by providing leadership training, assisting them in the planning, development and implementation of programs and activities to promote membership growth and implement the policies of the county, state and American Farm Bureau.
For more information about duties, experience and skills required for the position, please see the ‘regional manager position’ tab at the top of this page or click here.
This is a full time position with a full benefit package. Send resume with cover letter to Colorado Farm Bureau, ATTN: Richard Connell, 9177 E. Mineral Circle, Centennial, CO 80112 or fax to (303) 749-7703 or email to email@example.com
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported that, “The United Fresh Produce Association is urging passage of a child nutrition bill by Sept. 30 that would increase purchases of fruits and vegetables for the child nutrition program, but the prospects are complicated by disagreements in the House of Representatives and among advocates over how to pay for the bill.
“The House leadership is trying to figure out whether to bring the child nutrition bill to the floor before the child nutrition programs expire on Sept. 30, but House members and nutrition and anti-huger advocates disagree over whether to offset the cost of the bill by using a $4.5 billion cut in food stamps over 10 years that the Senate used to pass the same bill unanimously this summer. Under congressional budgetary rules, an increase in one program must be offset by a decrease in another program.”
Media attention to animal welfare issues corresponds to lower demands for meat both in that quarter and the following quarter, according to an economic analysis from Kansas State University.
The researchers created an index of stories about animal welfare presented in top U.S. newspapers and magazines from 1982 to 2008 for the analysis. All indices (pork, poultry and beef) have gone up in recent years. Media attention to pork and poultry welfare issues was linked to reduced pork and poultry demand in an economic model that included these indices.
Beef demand did not seem to be directly related to increased media attention, but the industry is not immune, the researchers wrote.
“In particular, this study found increased media attention caused a reallocation of expenditures to nonmeat food rather than reallocating expenditure across competing meat products,” the report says, adding that the pork, poultry and beef industries are at risk if consumers respond to increased media coverage by cutting back on their total meat purchases
The Senate today completed work on H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs Act. The bill passed 61 to 38.
During consideration the Senate defeated an amendment (41-58) offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to extend tax incentives for biodiesel and renewable biodiesel for one year, through 2010. Tax incentives for biodiesel expired at the end of 2009. Farm Bureau is on record in support of the extension of biodiesel tax incentives. The amendment needed a two thirds majority for passage.
The bill as passed includes:
- Increase of Section 179 Expensing;
- Extension of Bonus Depreciation;
- Deductibility of Health Insurance Against Self-Employment Tax;
- Improvements to Disaster Recovery to Include Aquaculture;
- Small Business Export Promotion;
- Enhanced Small Business Trade Opportunities; and
- Increased Deduction for Start-up Expenditures.
After months of hype about the potential for green energy to stimulate job growth and lead the economy out of a recession, the results turned out to be disappointing, if not dismal, says the Washington Times.
- About $92 billion — more than 11 percent — of Mr. Obama’s original $814 billion of stimulus funds were targeted for renewable energy projects.
- Only about $20 billion of the allotted funds have been spent — the slowest disbursement rate for any category of stimulus spending.
- Private analysts are skeptical of White House estimates that the green funding created 190,700 jobs.
- The Department of Energy has acknowledged that as much as 80 percent of some green programs, including $2.3 billion of manufacturing tax credits, went to foreign firms that employed workers primarily outside the United States!
Despite the massive infusion of government funding in recent years, renewable technologies have captured only a tiny share of the energy market and remain heavily dependent on government funding to be viable, says the Times.
The Montana Farm Bureau Federation and the Cato Institute have jointly filed an amicus curiae brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a writ of certiorari to review the Montana Supreme Court’s decision in PPL Montana, LLC v. State of Montana. In PPL Montana, the Montana Supreme Court held that the entirety of the Madison, Clark Fork and Missouri rivers were “navigable” at the time of Montana’s statehood.
The decision unsettled decades of settled law and upended long-established property rights belonging to thousands of Montana farmers and ranchers, according to John Youngberg, MFBF’s vice president of governmental affairs.
Thor Hearne, Robert O’Brien, and Steven Haskins of the law firm Arent Fox LLP represented the Montana Farm Bureau Federation in preparing the brief. “The ruling of the Montana Supreme Court resulted in the taking of property rights that have been held by Montana farmers and ranchers for generations,” Haskins notes. “Those settled property rights cannot be redefined by judicial fiat, particularly when the standard used to determine those rights deviates from United States Supreme Court precedent in such spectacular fashion.”
The U.S. House yesterday passed two Ag Committee bills, the Mandatory Price Reporting Act and the Veterinary Services Investment Act.
The Mandatory Price Reporting Act of 2010 reauthorizes mandatory price reporting programs run by USDA for five years. The act requires livestock sales information to be reported and published in a timely fashion, allowing buyers and sellers to make more informed decisions. The Senate earlier approved this bill so it now moves to the president’s desk for his signature.
The Veterinary Services Investment Act would establish a competitive grant program at USDA to support efforts to increase access to veterinary care in underserved areas. This bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Farm Bureau supported passage of both bills. Read the House Ag Committee news release for more information.
San Luis Valley potato growers are predicting this year’s harvest will help them rebound from 2009. Last year, a freeze affected the quality and size of the valley’s usually superior potatoes.
“We’ve had hot days and cold nights — just absolutely perfect weather for growing conditions,” said Mark Bisel, owner and sales manager of Apex Produce Co. LLC, Center, Colo.
Not only are yields expected to be good, but potato size looks to be much better than last year. The valley’s overall planting acreage is down slightly from 2009, but increased yields will result in about the same volume, grower-shippers said.
The Colorado Farm Bureau, along with 11 other state Farm Bureaus in AFBF’s Western Region, today petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to intervene in defending two agencies against a lawsuit over grazing fees on federal land. Two environmental groups, the Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity are the named plaintiffs in the suit.
The case, filed against the BLM and US. Forest Service seeks a court order to require agencies to reconsider how grazing fees are calculated and to perform environmental impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, (NEPA) prior to issuing grazing permits each year. Attempts have been made to use Congress to change the permit fee in the past but those efforts have ultimately failed.
According to Troy Bredenkamp, Executive Vice President of Colorado Farm Bureau, the effort seeks to increase the cost of permits and also slow down their approval process. “If the plaintiffs are successful, the Forest Service and the BLM would have to conduct an environmental impact study for every permit they issue, every year. This will raise costs to the governing agencies and also potentially cause delays in the permitting process. ”
The Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force will be meeting on September 22, 2010 at the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District office in Salida (339 E. Rainbow). The meeting starts at 2:00 p.m. and is expected to run until 7:00 p.m. Public testimony will be allowed at the meeting in Salida starting at around 5:00 p.m.
Members are encourage to attend and voice their opinion about how the process should be set up.
Governor Ritter created this task force in response to the contentious right-to-float bill (HB10-1188) that was debated in the 2010 Legislative session. The purpose of the task force is not to resolve the legal/policy debate on right-to-float but is to establish a framework to resolve the disputes as they arise. The task force is charged with coming up with a fair and efficient dispute resolution process for boaters (both commercial and private), anglers and landowners. A report shall be submitted to the Governor no later than December 31, 2010.
HumaneWatch brought our attention this morning to a YouTube video which shows Dr. Ron DeHaven, the Executive Vice President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), speaking last August. Mr. DeHaven takes the Humane Society of the United States, and specifically HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, to task for favoring scare tactics and emotionalism over science and real expertise in the horse processing debate:
“Tugging on peoples’ heartstrings to raise money is easy, finding real solutions to animal welfare concerns and the challenges that go with them, is not easy.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that the Agriculture Department will accept 4.3 million acres offered by landowners under the Conservation Reserve Program general sign-up. The selections preserve and enhance environmentally sensitive lands, including wetlands, while providing payments to property owners.
“Interest in this open enrollment period was high, and I’m pleased that producers and landowners across the nation continue to realize the environmental benefits of enrolling land in the CRP,” Vilsack said.
In an effort to help clarify the labeling of food products for consumers, the Corn Refiners Association Tuesday petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow manufacturers the option of using “corn sugar” as an alternative name for high fructose corn syrup.
“Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them,” said Audrae Erickson, CRA president. “The term ‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from—corn.”
According to CRA high fructose corn syrup is not high in fructose when compared with other commonly used nutritive sweeteners, including table sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrates, according to CRA.
The Food and Drug Administration is poised to issue its strongest guidelines ever on animal antibiotics as a means to reduce what it considers a clear risk to human health, the New York Times reports today. The guidelines are expected to end the use of antibiotics for animal growth and call for tighter oversight by veterinarians.
“The agency’s final version is expected within months, and comes at a time when animal confinement methods, safety monitoring and other aspects of so-called factory farming are also under sharp attack. The federal proposal has struck a nerve among major livestock producers, who argue that a direct link between farms and human illness has not been proved. The producers are vigorously opposing it even as many medical and health experts call it too timid,” according to the Times article.
“There is no conclusive scientific evidence that antibiotics used in food animals have a significant impact on the effectiveness of antibiotics in people,” according to the National Pork Producers Council.
Thats what taxes do. They raise the price of goods.
Congress returns to Capitol Hill this week for a final pre-election session with tax cuts expected to lead the agenda. The action begins Tuesday when the Senate will turn to cloture votes on H.R. 5297, the Small Business Job’s and Credit Act of 2010, which includes a number of tax provisions supported by Farm Bureau.
Farm Bureau is also supporting an amendment to the bill by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) that would relieve businesses and farms of burdensome Form 1099 reporting requirements that are part of the massive new health care law.
Update: This morning the Senate failed to pass both the Johanns amendment, and a similar amendment by Bill Nelson of Florida. The Nelson amendment would have increased the 1099 reporting requirement and exempted companies with under 25 employees. The Wall Street Journal has commentary this morning outlining why the Johanns legislation was preferable to the Nelson version.
In addition, Farm Bureau is calling on Congress to keep the current income tax structure in place after it expires Dec. 31. Farm Bureau supports lower income tax rates both for families making more than $250,000 per year and for those making less than $250,000 per year.