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

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.

NFU members briefed on Farm Bill details

SaraWyant_Agri-Pulse_BartFischer_HouseAgComm_JoeShultz_SenAgComm_AlexisTaylor_USDA (4)_webA panel discussion during the National Farmers Union Convention in Santa Fe shed a little more light on the new Farm Bill.

Joe Shultz, Chief Economist for the Senate Ag Committee, Bart Fischer, Chief Economist for the House Ag Committee and Alexis Taylor at USDA had the dubious task of explaining the commodity title, crop insurance and implementation of the new Farm Bill to NFU members.

Chandler Goule, Sr. Vice President of Programs at the National Farmers Union says the panel made one thing quite clear.

“You know a lot of the burden is going to be on the grower,” said Goule. “You’re going to have to go in and make these decisions, do you want to be in ARC, do you want to be in PLC or are you going to choose the Supplemental Coverage and I think they laid it out very well that you need to sit down and do your homework before you go into your FSA office this year.”

And have plenty of patience, Goule pointed out that it took 110 weeks to write the bill and USDA has had it for only a month.

“Be patient and let us know what questions you have so we can these programs are developed in the best manner possible,” Goule said.

Audio: Chandler Goule, National Farmers Union (4:50 mp3)

Teske elected NFU Vice President

Donn Teske, Kansas, NFU Vice President (1)_webDelegates to the 112th National Farmers Union Convention re-elected Roger Johnson of North Dakota President of the organization and on the second ballot elected Donn Teske of Kansas as the new NFU Vice President.

Teske has served as President of the Kansas Farmers Union for the past 14 years and has served in various leadership positions at the national level as well.

“Farmers Union is known as being the representative of the family farm and I take great pride in that,” Teske said. “Anybody that wants to make a difference in the political scene or just on the quality of life in the markets has to work together to move forward and if you can’t become part of an organization that can help you toward your goals, the isolated voice speaks very little.”

Audio: Donn Teske, Kansas, NFU Vice President (4:05 mp3)

Indiana Farmers Union’s membership gain

During his State of the Farmers Union address NFU President Roger Johnson recognized the Indiana Farmers Union for their phenomenal growth in membership, growing from 500 members to 1,000.

Indiana Farmers Union President Jim Benham of Ripley County says that growth is a result of a partnership with Hastings Mutual Insurance.

“We’ve worked very hard with Hastings Mutual and Hastings is an A-1 company as far as insuring family farms,” Benham said. “We’re very happy to be a partner with them and the other states in our area and we think it’s a golden opportunity for all of us.”

Benham says while the growth was somewhat of a surprise, they’re hoping it will continue.

Audio: Jim Benham, President, Indiana Farmers Union (4:20 mp3)

National Farmers Union Convention underway

President Roger Johnson kicking off the 112th NFU Annual Mtg. in Santa Fe (2)_webIn his State of the Farmers Union address to kick off the 112th National Farmers Union Convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico, President Roger Johnson said it will be at this meeting during the policy session where members decide what the organization stands for.

“It is that policy from the members, from the grassroots that helps us influence public policy and it’s also the members that keep the leadership focused and that’s why I said membership matters and we’re focusing on that,” Johnson said. “We have to do a better job of getting our message out and the way you do that is to get more members excited and energized and telling us what to stand for.”

In addition to a number of breakout sessions and the election of NFU President and Vice President, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be at the National Farmer Union convention on Monday, March 10.

Audio: Roger Johnnson, President, National Farmers Union (4:10 mp3)

Farm Bill isn’t just the next five years

During testimony in today’s Senate Farm Bill hearing, Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow says as the committee is crafting the upcoming farm bill it is important to look beyond the five years encompassed in the 2012 Farm Bill. 

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson says investing in beginning farmers and ranchers is vital to the continued success of agriculture.  “As a beginning farmer, the one thing you most certainly don’t have is equity,” he says.  “Young farmers are highly leveraged and it’s important that there are programs to take away the extreme variabilities out of the way of their business plan.”

American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman says it’s vital to prepare young farmers and ranchers for the challenges ahead of them in agriculture. “But the best thing we can do for the future,” Stallman says, “is create a business environment for them that is conducive for them being in the business of agriculture.”  He notes that includes watching the regulatory environment to be sure that those restraints aren’t too burdensome.

Ryan Best, National FFA president says for the agriculture industry to continue being successful – it’s important to strengthen support for agricultural education.  “We’re not just providing students with data; we’re not just providing students with the overall concept of what agriculture is,” he says.  “Agriculture education allows students to dive in and get involved first hand and learn about what agriculture is.”  Best says, “We place them on a pathway into a career in agriculture and we see them to that pathway throughout their years of agriculture education.

He added now is an exciting time to be involved in the agriculture industry, especially knowing that we (young people) are a large part of its future.

Give House and Senate leadership credit

Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) says it is time for agriculture to give House and Senate agriculture committee leader’s credit.

“They are the only ones that have taken the legal charge that happened with the Super Committee process legislation seriously,” Johnson said. “What that law contemplated was that all the committees with jurisdiction would come to these 12 members with proposals of where to save money, and so far it is only the agriculture committees that have taken that charge and trying to do something with it.”

Johnson says that’s not to say there aren’t frustrations, because there are, but the NFU President adds it’s a brand new path and it’s the process that’s being used.

Audio: Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union (11:05 MP3)

Ag Committee leaders deserve some credit

The President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) says House and Senate Ag Committee leaders deserve some credit as they work with the Super Committee in developing the 2012 Farm Bill. In a conversation with Brownfield’s Dave Russell at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention in Kansas City, Roger Johnson talked about the importance of not forgetting about the other titles in the Farm Bill and how agriculture needs to be prepared to make some tweaks to deal with the unintended consequences once the legislation is finalized.

Audio: Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union (11:05 MP3)

Reaction to USDA’s GIPSA move is mixed

Ag groups are reacting to the USDA’s latest step on the GIPSA rule.

In general, supporters of the rule aren’t happy and those who wanted to kill the rule remain wary.

USDA on Friday submitted modified sections of the proposed livestock marketing rule to the Office of Management and Budget.  But the agency also threw out some portions of the original proposal—including the sections that prohibit packer-to-packer sales—and postponed decisions on other provisions.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association spokesman Colin Woodall tells Brownfield that while USDA’s actions are positive, the fight is not over.  Woodall points out that USDA still must define competitive injury, undue preference and unfair practices.

”We’re encouraged at where they’re going and some of the provisions they’ve already thrown out,” Woodall says, “but there is still some very significant concern with what they could do on competitive injury, unfair practices and undue preference. 

“Those could have a very devastating impact on the ability of cattle producers to market cattle how they want to, when they want to, and where they want to.”

Meanwhile, R-CALF is critical of USDA’s actions, saying that USDA appears to have put the interests of cattle producers on hold, which the group calls “a huge mistake given the ongoing manipulation-caused volatility in our fed cattle market.”

The National Farmers Union was also critical of USDA for not addressing any of the issues facing beef producers, but said it was encouraged to see parts of the GIPSA rule advanced.

AUDIO: Colin Woodall (4:55 MP3)