The latest on Utah agriculture and what Farm Bureau is doing for you...

Farm Bill Gets a Big Boost on the Hill

Farm bill legislation got a helping hand in the House this week, but not without partisan bickering. House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) announcement this week that he will vote for farm bill legislation when it hits the House floor was a much-needed political boost.

According to Mary Kay Thatcher, American Farm Bureau Federation’s farm policy specialist, “There were a lot of House Republicans that might have been hiding behind Mr. Boehner with the thought that he would vote no on the farm bill and so they thought it would be an easy vote for them.” When Boehner came out and said he would support a farm bill, which he has not done in at least the last two farm bills, “it will take any cover that those folks might have been feeling and they’ll have to go out and vote the will of their districts,” Thatcher said in a Newsline radio story.

Senate Estate Tax Repeal Bill Will be Introduced Next Week

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is expected to introduce The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2013 on Wednesday. The bill would repeal the estate tax, maintain stepped-up basis and make permanent the 35 percent maximum gift tax rate and $5 million lifetime gift tax exemption indexed for inflation.

Farm Bureau supports permanent estate tax repeal and Thune’s legislation.

AFBF backgrounder

Study Shows no Direct Link Between RFS, Retail Food Prices

There is not a direct correlation between the Renewable Fuels Standard and the overall increase in retail food prices since 2008, according to a new study commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association.

“If you take a look at the time since the implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard, and basically we’re five years into the RFS, and you take a look at a comparable period prior to that, what we found is that retail-level food prices have actually increased at a slower rate than was the case before the RFS took effect,” said John Urbanchuk with ABF Economics, the group that conducted the study.

Brownfield Network article

FWS Publishes Proposal to Remove Gray Wolf from ESA List

The Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday published its proposal to delist the gray wolf from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The FWS is proposing to delist the gray wolf while maintaining endangered status for the Mexican wolf by listing it as a subspecies. FWS will accept comments on the proposal through Sept. 11.

AFBF supports delisting of the gray wolf and will file comments on the proposal.

Federal Register notice on the gray wolf

BPI Lawsuit Moved to State Court

A defamation lawsuit brought by Beef Products Inc. against American Broadcasting Companies Inc. and ABC News Inc. has been moved back to a circuit court in South Dakota. BPI sued for defamation in September after coverage of a meat product the company calls lean, finely textured beef, but critics repeatedly described as “pink slime.” BPI claims the network caused damages by misleading consumers into believing the product is unhealthy and unsafe. BPI is seeking $1.2 billion in damages.

Lawyers for ABC had previously argued the suit should be heard in federal district court because the parties involved are from different states.

Capital Press article

USDA Offers Tips for Food Safety in Wake of Severe Weather

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is issuing recommendations to help minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses as severe storms and tornadoes have left thousands in the Midwest without power and threaten more damage to the eastern states. Destruction and power outages caused by severe weather can compromise food storage, especially for frozen and refrigerated foods, and FSIS wants those affected to be aware of resources and measures that can keep food safe to eat longer.

USDA Tips

What Does Rural Really Mean?

A recent Washington Post article proved answering the question “What does rural mean?” is more difficult than one might think. By government standards, there are 15 definitions of the word rural, 11 alone being used by the Agriculture Department. The most expansive definition claims rural is less than 50,000 residents, while fewer than 2,500 people is the smallest government definition of rural, causing problems to those seeking rural development grants. The recently passed Senate farm bill would lower the government’s list of definitions to nine, but the article claims there is already talk of additions to the list come January.

Ticks Linked to Red Meat Allergy

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, doctors are looking into a series of sudden allergic reactions to red meat, oddly enough, linked to an antibody produced by the lone star tick.

Allergic reactions generally don’t occur until hours after eating red meat products due to the digestion process and may occur weeks to months after the tick encounter. Symptoms include vomiting, adnominal cramping, hives and anaphylaxis, and could potentially cause death, although no fatalities have been reported. Researchers are unsure why only certain tick bite sufferers develop the allergy. Further evidence shows other types of ticks may cause similar reactions.

Amazon.com Adds Groceries to Product Lineup

Amazon.com Inc. is venturing into the online grocery market, expanding grocery sales outside their home base of Seattle, which has been available since 2007. AmazonFresh will begin offering food products such as meats and produce in the Los Angeles market as early as this week, becoming available in 20 other urban areas around the globe by 2014.

Dairy Herd Network

Coalition Opposes Congressional Meatless Monday

Compass Group/Restaurant Associates, the British-owned food service provider for the House of Representatives’ cafeterias, is promoting Meatless Mondays as part of its global menu selection. Farm Bureau and other Animal Welfare Coalition members sent a letter to the House Administration Committee requesting the company cease political activity based on misinformation about animal agriculture in the congressional food service areas.

Meatless Monday is a campaign started through the Center for a Livable Future at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and is funded, in large part, by long-time animal rights activists promoting false claims about agriculture.

N.M. Horse Meat Plant Faces Potential New Setback

New Mexico’s attorney general ruled Monday that common veterinary drugs administered to horses would leave their meat adulterated under state law—unfit for human consumption. A representative for Valley Meat Company, a Roswell, N.M., plant working to be the first horse slaughtering facility in the U.S. since the practice was banned in 2007, said the ruling would not impact the plant’s opening because they have an approved drug residue testing program in place.

New York Times article

Stabenow Will Not Include GMO Provision in Farm Bill

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is vowing to keep the Farmer Assurance Provision out of the farm bill. The measure, which critics incorrectly call the “Monsanto Protection Act,” was included in the continuing budget resolution passed in March by Congress and would allow farmers to continue planting and growing approved biotech crop varieties, even if a court or regulatory body determines further testing is needed.

Canada Moves Forward in COOL Settlement

The Canadian government has announced it will move forward in the World Trade Organization dispute settlement process regarding the United States’ amended Country of Origin Labeling rule, stating the trade practices are unfair and damaging. A list of U.S. commodities that face potential bans was also released and included items such as meat, grains, fruit and dairy products.

COOL requires retailers provide consumers with the origin of certain food products, also mandating information about production steps, such as where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered be made readily available.

USDA Proposes Labeling for Mechanically Tenderized Meat

The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing that mechanically tenderized meat be labeled and include cooking instructions, to prevent foodborne illness. According to a recent USA Today article, 26 percent of beef sold in the U.S. is mechanically tenderized.

Certain cuts of beef go through the mechanical tenderization process to increase tenderness, where the meat is pierced by needles or blades to break apart muscle fibers. FSIS said research indicates the tenderization process may spread outside pathogens to the inside of the meat, causing a higher risk of foodborne illness when improperly cooked.

Officials on the Lookout for Citrus Crop-killing Pest

California customs officials are urging residents to not enter the country with citrus from other areas of the globe, as concerns of the threat of Asian citrus psysllids, a citrus crop-killing pest, entering the U.S. grow. The insect carries Huanglongbing disease, also known as citrus greening disease, which affects the tree’s appearance and ability to produce edible fruit, eventually killing the tree.

Obama Administration Will Not Re-propose Farm Labor Rules

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) questioned Acting Department of Labor Secretary Seth Harris on Thursday on the future of the farm labor rules that were withdrawn in April 2012. The withdrawal was spurred by an outpouring of concern by farmers and ranchers. When asked by Sen. Moran if the proposed regulation would be reintroduced, Harris responded, “We have no plans to re-propose it and we won’t be re-proposing it during the rest of the Obama administration.”

DOL’s previously proposed rules would ban children from performing common farm tasks and suggested nixing farm safety and certification programs such as Extension, 4-H and FFA, claiming the programs were too locally driven and lacked federal direction.

To watch the questioning, click HERE.

Immigration Bill Inches Forward

With the farm bill expected to wrap up in the Senate by Monday, the immigration bill will soon take center stage. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture Thursday on the motion to proceed to the landmark bill, setting up votes as early as June 10, according to a Roll Call article.

In a recent Focus on Agriculture column on the topic of immigration reform, Kenneth Dierschke, Texas Farm Bureau president, said, “It is critical that we devise a legal status for the 12 million or so undocumented workers that are presently in the United States and working. The bill they are writing recognizes that it will be impossible to stem the flow of undocumented workers unless we deal with the incentives that lure them here. That’s border security.”

USFRA to Hold Next Food Dialogues Event June 19

The next event in the Food Dialogues series will be held on June 19, focusing on food transparency and how consumers make their purchasing decisions. The event will be hosted at Kendall College in Chicago and will also be live-streamed at www.fooddialogues.com. The series’ purpose is to join consumers with farmers and ranchers in conversations about food and food production.

Russian Bees Buzz to the States

With their hives dwindling and varroa mites being cited as the No. 1 cause, American beekeepers are seeking the help of Russian bee populations, according to Russian newspaper RIA Novosti. Russian bees are twice as resistant to the tiny parasite due to long-term exposure, potentially building a resistance, cited a North Carolina State University study. The foreign bees also produce equal, if not greater, amounts of honey, and fly in temperatures as cold as -38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Counting Cookout Calories

CalorieCount.com has put together a helpful infographic that shows calorie counts of summer picnic and barbecue foods. Barbecued pork became popular in the U.S. before the Civil War when pigs were an inexpensive and convenient food option.

EPA Retreats From Imposing Regs on Farms

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced a new settlement agreement “to ensure that dairy farms, poultry growers and other farm animal operations are on track to reduce pollution flowing into the bay,” according to an AP article published by PilotOnline.com. According to the foundation, the agreement is intended to ensure that the multi-state, EPA-led restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is achieved by 2025. Measures that limit manure and other pollutants from entering streams that feed into the bay are part of the agreement. The settlement agreement is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 2010.

However, according to news reports and an EPA statement, it appears that the agency is retreating from a plan to impose new regulations on runoff from farms and feedlots into the bay.

In January 2011, AFBF filed a lawsuit in federal court to halt EPA’s federal Total Maximum Daily Load or so-called “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay. In its suit, AFBF argued that the federal TMDL violates the Clean Water Act and restricts farming, development and towns for the 64,000-square-mile area of the Chesapeake Bay, regardless of cost.

Click HERE to read the American Farm Bureau News Release on the subject.

USDA Expands Investigation of Biotech Wheat in Oregon

The Agriculture Department has expanded its investigation into the discovery of unapproved biotech wheat developed by Monsanto in an Oregon field. A team of 15 investigators, up from nine last week, is in place, gathering evidence and information. USDA is conducting tests to determine if the biotech wheat is a winter or spring variety.

Preliminary tests of U.S. wheat and flour shipped recently to South Korea showed no evidence of biotech wheat. South Korea sources about half its annual wheat imports from the U.S. Going forward, all U.S. wheat imports will be tested for biotech varieties, according to South Korean government officials.

Learn more by viewing Dr. Robb Fraley’s presentation to media on Roundup Ready Wheat. Fraley is chief technology officer at Monsanto.

New Endowment Sends Students to FFA Leadership Conference

A new endowment to FFA will help students from across the country attend the organization’s annual Washington Leadership Conference. Each year the scholarship will give 110 students around $1,500 to pay for conference attendance, travel, meals and lodging. More than 1,800 students are registered for the 2013 Washington Leadership Conference, the second-largest student experience that the National FFA Organization hosts each year. The conference gives students the opportunity to learn effective strategies to lead local FFA chapters and develop effective community service initiatives for their communities.

The endowment is a gift of Glenn and Maggie Stith of Ankeny, Iowa. According to Glenn Stith, “The most satisfying thing I can do is give back and help young people achieve their dreams and have an opportunity to enjoy a wonderful career like I’ve had.”

Study: Generation Influences Milk Consumption

A recent study published by USDA examines milk consumption by different generations. The report examines trends in Americans’ fluid milk consumption, including average portion sizes and generational differences in the frequency of milk drinking, to investigate possible explanations for the continued decreases.

One explanation is that younger generations drink less milk at mealtimes, reducing the number of consumption occasions. USDA finds that Americans born after 1930 begin the decline in consumption and each subsequent generation drinks less and less fluid milk per day on average. Differences across the generations in fluid milk intake may help account for the observed decreases in per capita fluid milk consumption in recent decades despite public and private sector efforts to stem the decline.

Judicial Win for Maryland Farmers

In what is being hailed as a judicial win for local farmers, Maryland Farm Bureau and the Maryland Department of Agriculture successfully defended farmer privacy in a case that began more than six years ago. In an opinion issued last week, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland upheld the confidentiality of farmer information in nutrient management plans. The court agreed that the identities of farmers with current nutrient management plans are protected indefinitely under the law—not only in the plan summaries but also in other documents held by MDA.

“Maryland Farm Bureau is very pleased that the court affirmed what has been our position all along—that nutrient management plans should be considered confidential business documents and identifying information should not be shared with the public,” said Pat Langenfelder, president of Maryland Farm Bureau.

Grants Given to Study Weather’s Affects on Cattle

The Agriculture Department awarded $19.5 million to further research, education and Extension activities related to climate solutions in agriculture, specifically the affects of climate variability and change on dairy and beef cattle.

The University of Wisconsin and partners received $9.9 million to study the environmental impacts on dairy production systems and create best management practices for producers on the farm. The remaining $9.6 million in funding was awarded to Oklahoma State University and partners, whose focus is to safeguard regional beef production while decreasing agriculture’s environmental footprint.

Forward in the Digital Age

On May 3, the last print edition of FBNews was printed and shipped. The paper, which covers a gamut of agricultural affairs, resumes as a free e-newsletter and website, http://fbnews.fb.org/. Stewart Truelsen explained in this week’s Focus on Agriculture column that, “The newspaper is not a victim of the Digital Age as much as it is a beneficiary of it.”

DriftWatch Crops Registry Expands Nationwide

FieldWatch Inc. has successfully transitioned its national version of the online DriftWatch specialty crop site registry for high-value, specialty crops and apiaries to a new technology platform. The registry allows farmers to identify and map the location of sensitive crops including tomatoes, fruit trees, grapes, vegetables and organic crops, serving as a stewardship resource for applicators to consult before spraying.

A voluntary online registry, DriftWatch originated in Indiana within Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in 2008.

Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill Markup Moved to May 14

Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has announced that the farm bill markup tentatively scheduled for Thursday will be postponed until Tuesday, May 14. Language to be used for the markup is expected to be posted to the committee’s website before the end of the week.

The House Ag Committee also plans to markup the farm bill next week.

Senate Ag Committee farm bill website

House Agriculture Committee website

AFBF Joins Groups in New Crop Insurance Agreement

The American Farm Bureau Federation has joined with a diverse group of 44 conservation, environmental, crop insurance and agricultural organizations in distributing a position paper that outlines a common-sense compromise to link conservation compliance and crop insurance premium assistance and to oppose means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program.

These recommendations have been submitted to Senate and House agriculture committee leadership for their consideration for debate on the new farm bill. In a letter to Senate agriculture committee leaders, the organizations said the position provides “an effective farm and natural resource safety net.”

USDA to Assist Cranberry Growers

The Agriculture Department will purchase up to $5 million in cranberry concentrate due to a record growing year for the crop in 2012 and the effect it could have on cranberry prices. Cranberry growers, as well as several members of Congress, requested the government assistance.

The funding comes from USDA’s Section 32 program of the Agricultural Act of 1935 and will be distributed to federal food programs, school lunch programs and used in food banks.

FWS Continues Review of Lesser Prairie Chicken

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took several actions pertaining to its ongoing review of the status of the lesser prairie chicken on Monday. FWS proposed a special rule for the LPC; reopened the comment period on the original proposal to list the LPC as threatened; and announced the availability of, and solicited comments on, a range-wide conservation plan prepared by the multi-state Interstate Working Group.

AFBF opposes listing the LPC as threatened and filed comments on the FWS proposal during the initial comment period.

FBNews E-newsletter Covers Immigration, Farm Bill and More

Check out the latest FBNews e-newsletter, covering the top news in agriculture. May’s edition includes articles on immigration legislation, the Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act and state issues, such as Illinois’ delayed planting progress. E-newsletter blurbs link to full articles in the new, online edition of FBNews.

Sign up for the e-newsletter HERE.

'Dirty Dozen' Produce List Continues to Ignore Science

The Environmental Working Group has again released its annual “Dirty Dozen” report on fresh produce. Every year, EWG delves into Agriculture Department data and allegedly “counts” the detections of residues from crop protection products on fruits and vegetables destined for grocery stores. The group then lists what it considers to be the most dangerous produce based on frequency of detection. But rather than performing a rational, scientific analysis of USDA data, EWG distorts the figures to imply that crop protection product residue is harmful at any level and that it is widely present.

The report’s end result: scaring consumers, leading buyers away from safe and healthy produce, and garnering publicity. The “Dirty Dozen” list does not take into account the residue tolerance levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency, notes CropLife America. Nor does it pay attention to the actual levels of residues in the various foods that, overwhelmingly, are well within those tolerance levels.

The EWG report forthrightly states that its report “is not built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks.” Yet, science-based risk assessment is established to help ensure human health, while allowing for the use of crop protection products and production of affordable produce. By overlooking the risk assessment and established residue limits, EWG ignores the facts apparently intending to scare consumers into avoiding fruits and vegetables that are proven to be rich with vitamins, help fight cancer and are vital to a balanced diet.

HumaneWatch.org Releases HSUS Spending Report

Humanewatch.org recently released a report showing how few of the millions of dollars the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) raises each year actually reach local shelters across the country. The report, called “Not Your Local Humane Society,” lists each pet shelter grant given by the organization to every state from 2006 to 2008. The data comes from the group’s IRS tax filing information. In Arizona, the group spent just $1 on local pet shelters for every $300 in lobbying expenditures for a “humane farm” ballot initiative and other anti-animal agriculture legislation.

In 2008 HSUS’ budget increased by more than $8 million dollars, yet only 15 states received donations for local pet shelters. From 2006 to 2008, the organization left out five states entirely.

Over the three-year period tracked, HSUS spent nearly $280 mil­lion on salaries, lobbying, advertising, fundraising and other programs. Spending for states’ pet shelters during the same time period totaled just one-fifth of 1 percent (0.2 percent) of HSUS’s total budget. HSUS reported having more than $162 million in assets at the end of 2008.

Looking for more information? See the current Farm Bureau News
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