Wisconsin IoH bill headed to governor’s desk

The Wisconsin State Senate, concurring with changes made by the Assembly two weeks ago, passed the Implements of Husbandry bill on Tuesday sending the legislation to the Governor Walker for his signature. The bill would, among other things, increase the gross weight for farm equipment on roadways to 92,000 pounds with no more than 23,000 pounds per axle

There is a provision to allow tillage, planting and harvesting equipment to exceed 23,000 pounds per axle weight. Towns and counties have the authority to adopt a resolution or an ordinance to establish a local permitting process to issue no-fee permits for approved routes for tillage, planting and harvesting equipment.

 

Clean Action Plan targets methane

The White House has announced the next step in the President’s Climate Action Plan designed to develop homegrown energy, reduce carbon output and slow climate change.  The next effort targets greenhouse gas emissions with a focus on methane from livestock, landfills and coal, oil and gas production.

The White House says agriculture accounts for 36 percent of the human-generated methane in the U.S and cattle are a major contributor. The plan for agriculture is targeting the more-than-9 million dairy cows in the country. In June, USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy in partnership with the dairy industry, will jointly release a “Biogas Roadmap”. An outline of voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

The National Milk Producers Federation president and CEO Jim Mulhern praised the effort saying the announcement saying it will “accelerate the adoption of biogas systems and other cost-effective technologies.” Mulhern says it formally recognizes biogas systems such as anaerobic digesters as a proven technology to mitigate environmental risks. That should attract additional third-party investment to support further development and utilization of the technology.

A number of agricultural interests praising the effort for seeking results through encouragement rather than regulation.

Read the White House plan here:

 

Pork producers say bill would devastate expansion

Members of the Illinois Pork Producers Association have met with state lawmakers about a bill that they say would have a devastating impact on future livestock expansion.  Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of Illinois Pork says the Prairie Rivers Network is behind the Livestock Management Facilities Act, introduced in the Illinois House, “You know, heaven forbid I had a son or daughter that wanted to come back to the farm and add a barn so we could afford to have them there. It would certainly, severely, impact that ability.”

He says the measure would give counties far too much control, “The county now could say, yea or nay, on any new livestock farm or expanded farm before they could ever be constructed. That, obviously, is a significant change.”

Kaitschuk says there are mechanisms in the state to protect and enforce water pollution laws, “So, mechanisms currently exist in the state of Illinois, so why do we need this — other than just the fact that some people are just not going to like livestock operations?”

Kaitschuk says lawmakers they spoke with understand Illinois Pork’s concerns about House Bill 5637 which is poised to take a major step backwards in the process. But, amendments can always be added, so, – in his words- “nothing’s ever dead here in Springfield.”

Interview John Kaitschuk (6:00 mp3)

EPA water rule to affect more than farmers/ranchers

The Center for Rural Affairs says the proposed rule from the EPA and Corps of Engineers clarifying which waterways fall under the Clean Water Act is good for rural America.  But, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the rule is a vast overreach and will be detrimental to farmers and ranchers. Ashley McDonald, NCBA’s environmental counsel says, “You know, it’s very costly. It’s going to be very time consuming and it’s going to be a big headache for cattle producers across the country.”

John Crabtree is Media Director for the Center for Rural Affairs tells Brownfield Ag News, “I think the NCBA’s reaction is where the overreach is.”  Crabtree says the rule provides clarity and removes the confusion caused by Supreme Court rulings that were vague about which waterways were covered, “The water that falls on and crosses our land and feeds the rivers is crucial to agriculture but it’s also crucial to the people downstream that drink it. And, so, we have a shared responsibility and this rule helps everyone see what their role is and what their responsibility is.” Both groups urge people to submit comments on the rule – which will be open for public comment for 90 days.

Interview with John Crabtree (9:00 mp3)

EPA’s McCarthy defends CWA rule

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy disputes claims from some politicians and farm groups that the proposed new Clean Water Act (CWA) rule will require farmers to obtain new permits for certain farming practices.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Wednesday, the day after the new CWA rule was released, McCarthy said that farming practices that do not require permits today won’t need them when the rule becomes law.

“It’s not taking away any of the agricultural exemptions,” McCarthy says. “What’s it trying to do is provide clarity so you don’t have to go and ask. 

“That’s what this rule does.  It actually worked with the agricultural community to identify those practices that we could highlight.  It even set up a really good process to expand on that, but it didn’t take away a single agricultural exemption that currently exists.”

But some farm-state senators remain skeptical, among them Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso.

“So what about the farmers and ranchers who use these 53 new covered practices, but don’t specifically follow the Natural Resources Conservation Services’ federal definition of these farming practices perfectly to a tee in the newly expanded federal waters,” Barrasso asked McCarthy.  “Would they need to get a new Clean Water Act permit or be penalized?

“Nobody needs to get a permit under this rule, should it go forward as proposed, that didn’t need it today,” McCarthy’s responded.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has criticized the new rule saying it expands the federal government’s CWA jurisdiction and will require cattlemen to obtain “costly and burdensome” permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout.

Barrasso joined Nebraska Republican Senator Deb Fischer in asking McCarthy to extend an announced 90-day comment period to 180 days. The public-comment period does not begin until EPA posts the rule in the federal register.

AUDIO: McCarthy-Barrasso exchange (:52 MP3)

California drought getting worse

Despite recent rains, the drought in California continues to worsen. This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor shows 99.8 percent of the Golden State is in at least Moderate Drought. 95 percent of the state is in Severe Drought, nearly 72 percent is Extreme and 23 percent is in Exceptional Drought.

The National Drought Summary says the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada stands at about 12 percent of normal. That has prompted Governor Brown to implement mandatory restrictions on water use in the state. For the first time in history the state will not send any water from reservoirs to local agencies affecting one million acres of farmland.

 

Rural Affairs group says EPA rule is good

The Center for Rural Affairs says the proposed rule from the EPA and Corps of Engineers clarifying which waterways fall under the Clean Water Act is good for rural America.

But, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the rule is a vast overreach and will be detrimental to farmers and ranchers. Ashley McDonald, NCBA’s environmental counsel says,  “You know, it’s very costly. It’s going to be very time consuming and it’s going to be a big headache for cattle producers across the country.”

John Crabtree is Media Director for the Center for Rural Affairs tells Brownfield Ag News, “I think the NCBA’s reaction is where the overreach is.”

Crabtree says the rule provides clarity and removes the confusion caused by Supreme Court rulings that were vague about which waterways were covered, “The water that falls on and crosses our land and feeds the rivers is crucial to agriculture but it’s also crucial to the people downstream that drink it. And, so, we have a shared responsibility and this rule helps everyone see what their role is and what their responsibility is.”  Both groups urge people to submit comments on the rule – which will be open for public comment for 90 days.

Interview with John Crabtree (9:00 mp3)

Mixed reaction to EPA’s CWA rule

So far, a mixed reaction from the ag community to the EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act rule.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) calls it an “ag-friendly announcement”.  NFU says the rule maintains agricultural exemptions, adds new exemptions and encourages enrollment in USDA conservation programs.   Best of all, NFU says, the EPA rule will provide certainty surrounding Clean Water Act requirements for agriculture in the wake of complicating Supreme Court decisions.

But a much different reaction from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).  NCBA calls the EPA proposal to put more small streams, waterways and wetlands under Clean Water Act protection “a vast overreach”.  NCBA president Bob McCan says the proposal will require cattlemen to obtain “costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout.”

The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days.

Getting to know NatureWise

MooreNatureWise is a renewable energy program from Wisconsin Public Service. Mike Moore says they buy electricity from wind generation, solar and anaerobic digesters and then in turn sell that energy to their customers.

One unique aspect of the program involves 51 schools in the WPS service area where they have installed solar panels on the schools and also furnish a 26-week curriculum on solar energy for the school’s science department. They are also developing a curriculum on anaerobic digesters.

AUDIO: Moore talks about the program 2:30 mp3

Details are available on the WPS website here:

 

NCBA blasts EPA’s water rule

The EPA has issued its much-anticipated “waters of the U.S.” rule.  And at least one farm group is not happy.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) calls the EPA proposal to put more small streams, waterways and wetlands under Clean Water Act protection “a vast overreach”.  NCBA president Bob McCan says that, under the proposed rule, essentially all waters in the country would be subject to regulation by the EPA and the Corps of Engineers, regardless of size or continuity of flow. 

“This is a step too far, even by an agency and an administration notorious for over-regulation,” says McCan. “This proposal by EPA and the Corps would require cattlemen like me to obtain costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout. These permits will stifle economic growth and inhibit future prosperity without a corresponding environmental benefit.”

McCan says that, for the first time, ditches are included in the definition of a “tributary” and now will come under federal jurisdiction. Activities near a jurisdictional ditch will now require a federal permit.

“This proposed regulation and the burdensome federal permitting scheme will only hinder producers’ ability to undertake necessary tasks and, in turn, result in an exodus of ranchers from the field,” he says.

The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days.