Illinois Farm Bureau urges comments on water rule

Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau Legislative Director, 2014 Illinois State Fair

Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau Legislative Director

Many farm groups continue to fight the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule proposed for the Clean Water Act – and Illinois Farm Bureau is no exception.

Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau Legislative Director, told Brownfield at the 2014 Illinois State Fair that the EPA wants to regulate everything and he thinks the agency is intentionally setting itself up for failure.  Nielsen tells Brownfield Ag News, “Groups are going to say, you’re not enforcing this or that. There’ll be lawsuits filed against the EPA or farmers. And, groups that have had agriculture in their sights for many years over what we do on our farms every day are going to have a field day in court.

Nielsen says the courts will then continue the “gradual erosion of what farmers can do without permits.”

Rich Guebert, President of Illinois Farm Bureau

Rich Guebert, President of Illinois Farm Bureau

Illinois Farm Bureau President Rich Guebert says farmers care greatly about water quality and the environment. Guebert tells Brownfield Ag News, “We’re appropriate in reducing nitrogen and phosphorus run-off and that is our goal. You know, farmers really want to do what’s right and we’ve always done that because want to pass that farm down to our sons and our daughters and grandkids in the months and the years ahead.”

Illinois Farm Bureau is asking farmers to comment on the rule and ask their lawmakers to support bills in the U.S. House that would eliminate the EPA’s “interpretive rule” and end the rulemaking process – sending the EPA and Corps of Engineers back to the states to find a better fit.

Interview with Adam Nielsen (6:30 mp3)

 

Focus on Energy can help with those decisions

SchadrieThe strong milk prices have prompted a lot of improvements and expansions in the dairy industry.  Nicole Schadrie with Focus on Energy encourages producers to get her agency involved.  The right choices in lighting, compressors, plate coolers and other equipment can make a big difference in the cost of operation for years to come.  She points to lighting as an example of the numerous choices out there from LED to fluorescents.

Focus on Energy also launched a new program this summer to help replace small gas-fired grain dryers with more efficient units.

 

Schadrie talks about the program 5:33 mp3

Comparing cover crops

DoolittleThere is an ever-increasing interest in the use of cover crops in today’s agriculture.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has an extensive display of the various cover crops that are being used.  Betsy Doolittle with NRCS says they have stands that are 30-days old and stands that are 60 days to give growers an idea as to what the crops can do.  They are also demonstrating some of the mixes being used.

 

Doolittle talks about the plot 2:30 mp3

Non-ag entities join Nebraska’s water rule fight

Several non-agricultural organizations have joined a coalition of Nebraska farm groups to protest the proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act.

Larry Dix with the Nebraska Association of County Officials says the EPA’s rule would create bureaucratic headaches for county officials.

“We looked at the proposed regulation and we believe that through normal maintenance—through the maintenance of our roadways—any time that we would have to go into the ditch to clear out vegetation or anything of that nature, it would require us to get a Corps of Engineers—a federal permit—in order to do that,” Dix says. “Now you can imagine the delays that that would create.”

Among the other “non-ag” organizations joining the “Common Sense Nebraska” coalition are the Nebraska Golf Course Superintendents Association and the State Home Builders Association.

The coalition was formed by Nebraska Farm Bureau and groups representing most of the state’s major ag commodities.

The Nebraska Radio Network contributed to this report.

ADM settles Clean Water Act violation with EPA

Archer Daniels Midland Company has agreed to settle allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act at five of its storage facilities in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.  The EPA says the facilities, which store large amounts of oil, failed to develop required Facility Response Plans that address worst-case discharges of oil.

The ADM facilities are at Mexico and Deerfield, Missouri; Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa; and Columbus, Nebraska.

In a prepared statement from the company, spokesperson Jackie Anderson says ADM has an environmental compliance program in place to meet the company’s environmental obligations.  In addition to resolving the violations, ADM has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $430,000.

California drought intensifies

California 7-31-14The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows more than half of California; 58 percent is now in the D4 “Exceptional Drought” category.  That is a 22 percent increase from last week as the northern part of the state slipped into the worst category.  The Exceptional Drought area now stretches from Los Angeles through the Central Valley up to Redding in Northern California.

The Drought Monitor says; “California is short more than one year’s worth of reservoir water, or 11.6 million acre-feet, for this time of year.  California’s topsoil moisture (80% very short to short) and subsoil moisture (85%) reserves are nearly depleted.”  The latest Crop Progress Report from USDA shows pastures and rangeland are rated 70 percent poor to very poor condition.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says 55 adult salmon and an unusually high number of juvenile salmon were found dead along a 90-mile stretch of the Salmon River in Northern California’s Klamath Basin.  Low water flows and high temperatures are expected to kill more fish as there is no water available to improve conditions.

The State implemented stricter water use standards on Tuesday giving local authorities the ability to fine water-wasters up to $500 per day.

NCBA official warns of water rule’s ‘significant impact’

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is encouraging its members and all cattlemen to submit comments on the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

NCBA environmental counsel Ashley McDonald says, in the case of cattlemen, the impact of the rule will be significant.

mcdonald-ashley“If you increase regulation by the federal government to include things like ditches, all ponds, any open water within a flood plain and a riparian area—if all those features are now jurisdictional, there are a lot more activities that we are going to need Section 404 dredge and fill permits for,” says McDonald.  “There are a lot more activities that you are going to need a 402 NPDES permit for—things like spraying pesticides and spraying herbicides.”

McDonald says even an activity like brush management may need a permit.

“Those permits—one, they’re not cheap, and two, they take a long time to get through the regulatory system,” she says. “So there’s going to be a lot more permits for cattle producers and there’s going to be a lot more costs and lot more delays in activities—routine activities that everybody has to get done.”

McDonald urges cattlemen to submit comments to the EPA by going to NCBA’s web site, beefusa.org.

McDonald’s comments came in an interview with Brownfield at the start of the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver.

AUDIO: Ashley McDonald (5:28 MP3)

NCBA hammers away at EPA’s water rule

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is encouraging its members and all cattlemen to submit comments on the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

NCBA environmental counsel Ashley McDonald says, in the case of cattlemen, the impact of the rule will be significant.

“If you increase regulation by the federal government to include things like ditches, all ponds, any open water within a flood plain and a riparian area—if all those features are now jurisdictional, there are a lot more activities that we are going to need Section 404 dredge and fill permits for,” says McDonald.  “There are a lot more activities that you are going to need a 402 NPDES permit for—things like spraying pesticides and spraying herbicides.”

McDonald says even an activity like brush management may need a permit.

“Those permits—one, they’re not cheap, and two, they take a long time to get through the regulatory system,” she says. “So there’s going to be a lot more permits for cattle producers and there’s going to be a lot more costs and lot more delays in activities—routine activities that everybody has to get done.”

McDonald urges cattlemen to submit comments to the EPA by going to NCBA’s web site, beefusa.org.

McDonald’s comments came in an interview with Brownfield at the start of the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver.

AUDIO: Ashley McDonald (5:28 MP3)

Sediment closes upper Mississippi

Part of the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Minnesota is closed to barge traffic.  Sand bars high enough to ground towboats have formed near Winona and Wabasha forcing the Army Corps of Engineers to close the river from Winona to Red Wing.  Dan Cottrell, channel maintenance coordinator with the Corps says they found three areas where they did not have the minimum nine feet for a tow.

Heavy rains in late June and early July dumped a lot of sediment into the river. As water levels drop the river loses the ability to carry the sediment so it settles out.

Dredging is underway, Cottrell expects the Winona area to be open by Monday but it will take another couple of weeks to complete the project and reopen to Red Wing.

Ag senators expressed concerns to McCarthy

Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee met this week with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to express their concerns about the agency’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal and other EPA actions that are many view as “anti-agriculture”.

Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, who was in the meeting, describes McCarthy’s attitude as “determined”.

“She was polite and she listened to us, but at the end of the day I’m not certain that we moved the ball down the field at all,” Johanns says. “She’s determined to regulate.  I think she believes she has the power to do that and she’s going to do it.”

Johanns suggested to McCarthy that she scrap the rule and start over.  But he doubts that will happen.

“I do think what’s happening here is the Obama Administration recognizes that they only have a couple years left—and I just think you’re going to see a blizzard of regulations over the next two years and five months,” says Johanns. “So I just think this battle will continue.”

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who was also in that meeting with McCarthy, says it did little to alleviate his concerns that the agency isn’t listening to the people its rules will directly impact.

AUDIO: Mike Johanns (7:17 MP3)