Groups want to help Vermont defend GMO law

A couple of advocacy groups want to help Vermont defend its GMO labeling law.  Scheduled to take effect in July of 2016, the law is the first in the nation to require labeling of food products which may contain genetically modified ingredients.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group along with the Washington D.C.-based Center for Food Safety have filed to intervene in the case.  They say the state lacks the resources and expertise to adequately defend the law in court.  They offer counsel from the Vermont Law School Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic as well as fundraising capabilities.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and others have filed suit claiming the state does not have the authority over labeling of products in interstate commerce.  The suit also charges that the law imposes burdensome requirements and restrictions on free speech.

Young farmer concerned with water rule

The EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule dominated the discussion on the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers National Affairs Trip to Washington, D.C.

One of the participants, Dustin Fairley, wonders if the EPA hasn’t already set the wheels in motion.

“I serve on our local FSA board and just since the first of the year we’ve had six new rulings on wetland classifications,” Fairley says. “We haven’t had six in the last six years.  So all of a sudden to have six in one year, it kind of makes you a little nervous about how EPA is going about this.

“They have this new proposed ruling, but I kind of think they’re already starting to push that ruling through other routes.”

Fairley says over-regulation of agriculture and regulatory uncertainty are major concerns.

“As a young farmer, these rules will impact everything we do in the future of ag,” he says.

Fairley farms near Fairbury.  He also has a custom farming business.

AUDIO: Dustin Fairley (8:59 MP3)

Disaster Assistance for fruit tree crops

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcing Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) assistance is available for losses to bush or tree fruit crops due to frost or freeze during the 2012 crop year. The program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides supplemental NAP payment to eligible producers.

 

Farmers who did not have access to crop insurance and are in primary and adjacent counties that received a Secretarial disaster designation because of frost or freeze in 2012 are eligible for NAP assistance. Losses due to weather damage or other adverse natural occurrences may also qualify for program assistance.

 

NAP enrollment begins July 22, 2014. Applications must be submitted to FSA county offices by September 22, 2014.

 

To expedite applications, producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the sign-up in this program. Producers also are encouraged to contact their FSA county office to schedule an appointment. Limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and beginning producers are eligible for premium reductions and also may be eligible for fee reductions.

 

Interested producers can view the 2012 NAP Coverage for Frost, Freeze or Weather Related Fruit Losses Fact Sheet at http://go.usa.gov/5kSQ, or visit a local FSA office.

To find out if land is located in an eligible frost/freeze county, visit http://go.usa.gov/53rz.

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

Wisconsin quarantines seven more EAB counties

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is adding seven new southwestern counties to the state’s emerald ash borer quarantine list.  EAB has been found in Columbia, Monroe and Grant Counties.  Because they are now surrounded by EAB-infested counties, Richland, Iowa, Lafayette and Green Counties will also be quarantined.

The quarantine will be put in place temporarily by a Wisconsin emergency rule, until the U.S. Department of Agriculture completes the process to enact a federal quarantine.

DATCP recommends that property owners who have ash trees in quarantine counties keep a close watch for possible signs of EAB infestation:

  • Thinning canopy, D-shaped holes in the bark, cracked bark, branches sprouting low on the trunk, and woodpeckers pulling at bark.
  • Consider preventive treatments if your property is within 15 miles of a known infestation.
  • Consider planting different species of trees that are not susceptible to EAB.
  • Call a professional arborist, and visit emeraldashborer.wi.gov for detailed information.

AFBF sends EPA “counter point” to Congress

The American Farm Bureau Federation is countering statements by an EPA official on the proposed water rule of the Clean Water Act.  Farm Bureau Congressional Relations Director Mary Kay Thatcher tells Brownfield Ag News the AFBF has given that document to members of Congress, “We put out a lengthy paper, sort of doing a point-counter-point on ‘they say this’ but here’s the exact language out of the 350 page rule that we think proves exactly the opposite. So, we have great concern about this.”

Thatcher says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s public relations campaign raises even more concerns because the AFBF believes McCarthy did more talking than listening to farmers, “We just think there’s a HUGE disconnect between what EPA thinks they’re doing and the real effect of what it’ll have in the country and we think that was very well highlighted with her trip to Kansas and Missouri and also in the webinar that EPA did earlier this week where they tried to explain their position.”

Thatcher says this is the biggest issue in agriculture and farmers need to weigh in during the public comment period on the rule, “It’s a hard issue to get your arms around for a farmer but it’s not one we can ignore. We absolutely have to have your input to members of Congress and to EPA if we’re going to win on this issue.”

Thatcher says the House transportation committee voted this week not to let the rule move forward and the House environment committee voted not to fund the rule.  Thatcher says that should send a message to the EPA.

Thatcher spoke with Brownfield at the Kansas City AgriBusiness Council meeting on “big data” on Thursday.

Interview with Mary Kay Thatcher (5:00 mp3)

Wisconsinites like ethanol in the gasoline

The Wisconsin Corn Growers Association says a recent statewide opinion poll shows Badger State citizens support the use of ethanol in gasoline by a 2-to-1 margin.  The poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for WCGA surveyed 500 likely voters around the state.

They found 60 percent of individuals supported blending ethanol into gasoline versus 32 percent who oppose it.  The numbers were consistent across all demographic groups and all geographic regions of the state.

The biggest reason for the support is that ethanol comes from locally-grown corn and is good for the Wisconsin economy.  They also liked that it reduces our dependence on foreign oil and saves consumers money at the pump.

The poll also found that people have an overwhelmingly good feeling about the farmers who grow the corn giving them a positive rating of 70, on a scale of 1 – 100.   70% also agree that “compared to 30 years ago, farms that grow corn are more efficient with more product produced from the same land for less cost.”  Only 18% disagreed.

The impact of the California drought

A new study from the University of California-Davis shows just how serious the drought is in the Golden State.  The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences says this is currently the third-worst drought on record in the state with river water for the Central Valley reduced by roughly one-third.  Groundwater pumping is replacing the river water losses especially in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.

So far, the direct cost to California agriculture is $1.5 billion: $1 billion in lost revenue and a half-billion in additional pumping costs.  428,000 acres or five percent of irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California.

Josue Medellin-Azuara is Senior Researcher at the Center for Watershed Sciences, he says while the groundwater is limiting the agricultural losses this year, if the drought continues this is like a bank account and it will eventually run out and then they will be in real trouble.

The study found consumer food prices are largely unaffected as they are driven more by market demand than drought.  Medellin-Azuara says the bigger impact is on feed crops like alfalfa and corn silage which in turn hits the livestock and dairy industries harder.  So far, the study says the dairy and livestock industry in the Tulare Basin has lost $203 million.  Fortunately, milk prices are at record-highs so dairy producers are able to withstand this for now.  If the drought continues, additional wells in the Tulare Basin are expected to run dry.  “If we keep pumping at these levels to replace surface water we will start seeing serious consequences.”

The study was done at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

AUDIO:Medellin-Azuara talks about the study 9:15 mp3

Read the full report here

NCGA calls for water rule withdrawal

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is calling on the EPA to withdraw its interpretative rule on Waters of the U.S.

In comments submitted to the agency, NCGA said it has serious concerns over the impact of the rule regarding the exemption from permitting under the Clean Water Act. NCGA also voiced strong concerns over the potential legal liabilities which could arise as result of the rule.

NCGA asked the EPA to withdraw the rule and work with the ag community to develop an alternative approach that would allow for farmer comment and an opportunity to protect their interests.

Proving ethanol works

"2014 MIS Friday June 20th  Super Trucks, Sportsman, Legends, Bandits"

In an effort to promote ethanol, the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association is sponsoring the American Ethanol Super Truck series at Madison International Speedway at Oregon, Wisconsin.  Right now, one truck is running on E-98 in the series driven by 17-year-old Michael Raskovic.  This is his first year in the truck after spending three years in late-models.  He likes the way the truck handles compared to the cars and he says there is definitely more torque from the E-98 which really helps on the half-mile paved oval.  Besides Madison, he has run at tracks in Wisconsin Dells, Marshfield and Slinger.  You can follow Michael Raskovic Racing on Facebook.

AUDIO: Mike talks about the truck 4:12 mp3

 

 

Michael’s father, Pete Raskovic has a long history with racing and ethanol; in fact he was in Indy Racing when they switched to all ethanol.  He has been behind Michael’s development as a driver and now serves as Director of Motorsports for the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, he says they are still fine-tuning the truck and sharing what they learn with the other drivers.  The ultimate goal is to have all of the trucks in the series using E-98 next year.

The main purpose of all of this is to prove that ethanol is a viable fuel.  Raskovic says there is no reason that street cars can’t run on E-85 or higher blends.  He contends all of the critics who claim ethanol ruins engines do not have the expertise to make those claims and have never worked in racing.  “I have yet to hear a professor comment on ethanol that was a master technician.”  He believes ethanol must be a part of America’s future; “It’s renewable, it’s sustainable, it’s good for the economy, good for the air and above and beyond all that, it’s a great fuel.”

 

AUDIO: Pete talks about the fuel 12:12 mp3

You can follow the American Ethanol Super Truck series on Facebook and also at Madison International Speeway.com