Rural Development Value-Added Grants

The USDA has issued a total of $25 million in Rural Development Value Added Grants to 247 businesses in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Micronesia.  Stan Gruszynski is USDA Rural Development Director in Wisconsin, he says the purpose of the grants is to create jobs in rural America.  The idea is instead of shipping raw commodities to another state or country for processing, they do it at home.  Grant recipients are as diverse as agriculture itself, everything from specialty cheese to wood products and even pheasants.

The grants are presented every year; Gruszynski encourages people to visit the USDA website and search keywords “value added grant program” to learn more and even apply.  Grant recipients are eligible to apply again if they have a new idea or plan.

Gruszynski talks about the grants 6:24 mp3

Read more from USDA here:

 

Future of immigration reform remains very uncertain

woodall-colin-denver 2011The controversy surrounding the surge of immigrant children across the U.S. southern border has ended any hopes that Congress will tackle comprehensive immigration reform in 2014.  And it’s questionable whether it will even be considered in the next Congress.

Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says his group still favors comprehensive immigration reform.  But Woodall says it must start with border security.

At the recent Cattle Industry Summer Convention in Denver, we asked Woodall about immigration reform and the overall political climate in Washington, D.C.

AUDIO: Colin Woodall (4:22 MP3)

Dairy industry wary of European GIs

National Milk Producers Federation vice president and U.S. Dairy Export Council member Shawna Morris told a Senate subcommittee the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement would be a fine model for the Trans Pacific Partnership…with one exception; Geographical Indicators.

Morris told the Senate Finance Committee trade subcommittee that the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement eliminated nearly all tariffs on U.S. dairy products and our dairy exports have more than doubled the average of the last three years.  However, Korea’s trade deal with the European Union has prompted them to block some U.S. cheeses.  She specifically mentioned gorgonzola, feta, asiago and fontina cheese as products being targeted.

Morris says the EU has also been successful protecting G.I.s in trade deals with Central America, Peru, Columbia, South Africa and Canada.  They are working on similar deals with Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

The European Union contends that a number of products including cheeses and wines can only be produced in specific areas because they possess qualities or characteristics specific to that area.  The U.S. dairy industry counters that many of the cheeses in question would not even be known outside a tiny area were it not for American manufacturers and distribution.  They argue consumers only know the taste and qualities of the American product when purchasing that cheese.

Subcommittee hears pros, cons of SNAP

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition held a hearing addressing the effectiveness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Among those delivering testimony, Robert Doar, a Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute testified that SNAP doesn’t do enough to lift people from poverty.

“I have been a strong supporter of providing aid to people in need, but I also want them to escape poverty,” Doar testified to subcommittee members.  “Assistance programs that do not lead people into employment, but instead finance non-work, will have one sure outcome, they will keep people poor.”

On the other hand, Stacy Dean, a food assistance policy specialist, testified to SNAP’s effectiveness.

“SNAP is a powerful anti-poverty program,” said Dean, during her testimony to the subcommittee.  “While benefits are modest, just $1.40 per person per meal, they do have a big impact.  SNAP lifted about nearly 5 million Americans above the poverty line in 2012, including 2.2 million children.”

It was pointed out in the hearing that in five years, participation in SNAP has grown from 28.2 million to 47.6 million recipients. 

W.H. official hints at higher RFS volumes

Minnesota Senator Al Franken says he is confident that the final biofuels blending mandates in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) will be higher than what the EPA initially proposed.

Franken and other Senate Democrats met this week with White House adviser John Podesta.  Franken says Podesta indicated that the volume numbers will be larger than they were in the preliminary RFS announcement.  Podesta also told the senators that the release of the final rule is “imminent”, but did not offer any further clarification on the timetable.

NFU asks for water map from EPA

National Farmers Union leaders have asked the EPA for a map with estimates of which bodies of water will be considered jurisdictional under the agency’s Waters of the U.S. rule in the Clean Water Act.

NFU President Roger Johnson and members of NFU’s board of directors held a conference call last week with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.  They then sent a letter to McCarthy asking for clarity in some of the definitions in the proposed rule.  Johnson says the EPA proposal has created “LESS clarity, not more as intended.”

The group is also asking for answers to their questions about “wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region, coordination with state agencies and the treatment of unconnected bodies of water that are seasonal.”

Johnson says, at this point, the EPA’s “interpretive rule” has caused “confusion and resentment” in rural America.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest farmer organization, American Farm Bureau Federation, supports efforts in Congress to stop the EPA proposed rule and has asked the EPA to rescind the rule.

National Farmers Union

American Farm Bureau Federation

Vet mobility act passes

Congress has passed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act and President Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

The new law – sponsored by Congressmen Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Ted Yoho of Florida, both veterinarians, allows vets to transport and use controlled substances away from their businesses.  It also lets vets register in multiple states no matter where their business is located.

A narrow interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration put some veterinarians at risk of operating outside the law.

UPDATE:  President Obama signed the bill into law August 1, 2014

McCarthy on “silly” vs “serious” concerns

The Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Senator Roy Blunt suggest EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is trivializing farmers concerns about the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. proposed rule in the Clean Water Act.  On the Senate floor Wednesday, Blunt said there were no silly questions about the EPA’s overreach.  Blunt said, “Administrator McCarthy calls some of the questions about the rule ‘silly’ and ‘ludicrous’ and said that her trip to Missouri is part of her broader campaign to reassure the agriculture community and set the record straight. I hope she’s spending at least as much time in my state listening as she is talking.”

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said McCarthy called farmers “silly and ludicrous.” On the Missouri farm tour McCarthy took Wednesday, she told Brownfield “absolutely not”….and repeated what she was referring to by ‘silly’ and’ ludicrous,’ “Well, we’ve talked about these and I’ll talk about them again. People are concerned — I’ve even heard that we’re regulating the RAIN, okay?  That’s what I mean. All I’m trying to do is to say that we have serious issues here. I understand people have concerns – THOSE are the issues we have to talk about.”

McCarthy says others wrongly criticize the EPA for being on a “land grab” and Brownfield reminded her that Iowa Senator Charles Grassley called it “a power grab”.  She replied, “l know that he did.  I’ve worked with  Senator Grassley before. I have tremendous respect for him. We’ll even work with him as much as we have to to get him to understand that I’m trying to do this for the benefit of both agriculture and the folks that we care about and we work for.”

Senator Blunt says the rule expands the scope of the Clean Water Act rather than narrows it as McCarthy insists.  McCarthy met with Missouri farmers and plans to visit farms in other states this summer.  She spoke to the Kansas City AgriBusiness Council this afternoon. The public comment period on the proposed “interpretive” rule is extended until October 20th (2014).

Missouri Farm Bureau – statement

Senator Roy Blunt – Senate Floor

EPA – Waters of the U.S.

The importance of immigrant workers in dairy

A coalition of business, manufacturing and agriculture groups launched a nationwide push for immigration reform on Wednesday. Laurie Fischer with the Dairy Business Association in Wisconsin says they are calling on Congress and the Administration to work together to get something done. Fischer says she gets more calls regarding immigration than anything else from the members of DBA. The dairy industry, from the farm through the processors to the stores and restaurants, is heavily reliant upon those workers. Employers want to make sure they are legal and the workers want to know they are safe.

AUDIO:Fischer talks about the need 4:20 mp3

A push for immigration reform

A coalition of business, manufacturing and agriculture groups launched a nationwide push for immigration reform on Wednesday. Laurie Fischer with the Dairy Business Association in Wisconsin says they are calling on Congress and the Administration to work together to get something done. Fischer says she gets more calls regarding immigration than anything else from the members of DBA. The dairy industry is heavily reliant upon those workers and producers want to make sure they are legal and the workers want to know they are safe.

Last week, Speaker John Boehner said the House would not take up the Senate’s immigration reform bill prompting concern that nothing was going to be done this year. While the coalition doesn’t support the Senate bill in its entirety Fischer says it is a start.

In reality, she says we probably will not see any Congressional action before the election but we need to keep working at it so by the time the new Congress is set in January, they will have something to vote on that most parties can agree with.

Among the coalition members: the American Farm Bureau, Partnership for a New American Economy, Business Roundtable, AmericanHort, Western Growers, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

AUDIO:Fischer talks about the effort 9:50 mp3