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EPA Finalizes Rule to Repeal WOTUS

4 years, 8 months ago AFBF

The Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday published the final rule repealing the Waters of the U.S. rule. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers effort repeals and returns the law to provisions in place prior to 2015. The new rule will go into effect on December 23, 2019. However, legal challenges are expected from environmental groups. First announced in September, the American Farm Bureau Federation at the time called the rule a victory for farmers and ranchers. The EPA attributed the repeal to four factors. First, the agency says the 2015 rule did not implement the legal limits on the scope of the agency authority under the Clean Water Act as intended by Congress. EPA also says the Obama-era rulemaking failed to adequately consider states’ rights. The repeal is an effort by the EPA to avoid interpretations of the Clean Water Act that “push the envelope of their constitutional and statutory authority.” Lastly, the EPA and Army Corps conclude that the 2015 Rule’s distance-based limitations suffered from “certain procedural errors” and a lack of adequate record support.

EPA’s Wheeler: Response to RFS Proposal a “Knee Jerk” Reaction

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler this week downplayed criticism towards the EPA's small refinery exemptions proposal. Wheeler told reporters, "I think a lot of people who had a knee jerk reaction" because the rule "wasn't exactly what they were expecting," according to Politico. Wheeler, along with President Donald Trump, this week reiterated that the proposal would get the Renewable Fuel Standard to the 15 billion gallons of ethanol, as per requirements of the law. President Trump claimed during a Cabinet meeting Monday the rule was “fully approved,” while Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue suggested agriculture was confused about the new rule. Perdue stated, “Once they fully understand what you’ve done here, they’ll be fine as they see it implemented.” The ethanol industry called the rule a “bait and switch” attempt to avoid fixing demand problems created by an excess of small refinery waivers issued by the Trump administration. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the proposal “will do nothing to bring back the ethanol plants that have shut down.”

USDA Announces More Rural Broadband Investments

The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced investments into a $9.7 million high-speed broadband project in South Carolina. The project will create or improve rural connectivity for 3,900 rural households in the state, and is part of the USDA ReConnect Pilot Program. USDA last Friday announced the first investment in the program, funding a $2.8 million infrastructure project in Tennessee to improve broadband access for nearly 350 households. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says of the program, “We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-Connectivity.” In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. Secretary Perdue announced the program in December 2018, called “ReConnect,” to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. USDA received 146 applications this summer, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations.

NCBA Applauds Livestock Risk Management and Education Act

The cattle industry welcomed legislation introduced this week that would provide grants to certain state land-grant universities to better equip livestock producers with risk management training. South Dakota Republican Representative Dusty Johnson this week introduced the Livestock Risk Management and Education Act in the House of Representatives. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says the bill “speaks directly to our core values as an industry,” adding the legislation gives producers the latest farm management resources and tools to help them navigate dynamic markets. NCBA announced support for the bill following its introduction. The legislation would authorize the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to provide resources to improve livestock producers’ knowledge of futures markets, and to help them better manage market volatility. Representative Johnson says an understanding of futures contracts and risk management strategies will allow producers to better anticipate cattle prices. Republican Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma joined Johnson in introducing the bill.

Legislation Introduced to Help Support Rural Hospitals

New legislation in the Senate would support rural health care providers to deliver high-quality care. Introduced by Kansas Republican Pat Roberts and Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. the Rural ACO Improvement Act would fix a glitch in the program, according to the lawmakers. The legislation would change the accountable care organizations, or ACO, reimbursement formula which inadvertently punishes rural health care providers when they reduce costs. The bill would put rural providers on a level playing field with their urban counterparts and ensure that all providers are rewarded equally for their work to deliver value in health care. ACOs are made up of groups of health care providers that share responsibility for providing coordinated care to patients to improve health care quality and reduce unnecessary spending. When ACO providers work together to improve care and lower costs below what Medicare expected to spend, Medicare saves money. The health care providers in ACOs are then able to receive a share of those savings.

USDA Publishes Pumpkin Production

With Halloween approaching, many consumers are searching for the nearest pumpkin patch. Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture just updated pumpkin production data, showing production is widely dispersed throughout the United States. All U.S. states produce some pumpkins, but according to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture, about 62 percent of pumpkin acres were grown in only ten States. Illinois is consistently the nation's largest producer of pumpkins, the majority of which are used for pies and other processed foods. Pumpkin production from the other states surveyed annually by USDA is primarily destined for decorative, or carving, use. While 2019 production has not yet been surveyed, early feedback indicates an average year for Illinois and California with a healthy crop. Retail prices for pumpkins typically fluctuate from week to week leading up to Halloween. At the end of the first week of October, average retail price for jack-o-lantern style pumpkins was $3.42 per pumpkin compared to $3.32 for the same week in 2018.


National Ag News Audio

Suggested lead: Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley says he’s worried for the first time, the House may not vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement this year.

Grassley chairs the Senate panel that handles trade, and was asked if House impeachment action and a Senate trial would likely 'eat up' much of the fewer than 30-days left on this year's legislative clock…

"I'm worried, very worried, for the first time, starting about now…whereas, up 'til now, I thought things were going."

The Senate Finance Chair says there could still be a “breakthrough” on USMCA, though talks between Democrats and U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer are in private.

And Grassley also worries about Lighthizer’s negotiating strategy…

“By satisfying too much, what Democrats want, he wants to make sure he doesn’t lose Democrat votes. So, I’m going to be talking more about the very question you asked me…but, until now, I haven’t been inclined to do that, but I’m getting worried.”

And not just about USMCA. Grassley’s also unhappy with Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to restore ethanol gallons lost to small oil refinery waivers—despite new assurances from EPA’s chief, Agriculture Secretary Perdue and President Donald Trump of a 15-billion-gallon mandate.

Grassley says he’ll work with the ethanol industry to submit comments on the rule, and continue to hold the administration “accountable for following the law.”

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