Immigration talks see accord on ag workers

Picture courtesy Oklahoma State University

An apparent agreement involving agriculture workers and growers was reached Tuesday as Texas lawmakers separately filed a border security bill in advance of the upcoming debate on immigration reform. A final resolution between groups representing agricultural workers and growers could develop within the next few days. Negotiations were continuing on Capitol Hill. Read more…

Immigration debate now on ag’s turf

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Mark Kelley.

Senate efforts to overhaul immigration law now mainly hinge on a major sector certain to be impacted by the plan: Agriculture. After a bitter fight between interest groups late last week, Republicans and Democrats are closely monitoring sensitive talks between labor and industry over a new program to woo foreign farmworkers. Read more…

Senate immigration bill would set up a new permanent ag worker program

Sweeping immigration legislation taking shape in the Senate will aim to overhaul the nation’s agriculture worker program to create a steady supply of labor for farmers and growers, who rely more than any other industry on workers who have come to the country illegally. Read more…

How one federal program was able to beat the sequester

The sequester was supposed to be something new in Washington: a budget cut you couldn’t beat. But after an extensive – and ultimately successful – campaign by meat industry stakeholders, the money to keep federal food inspectors on the job was found. Read more…

Horse slaughter plant’s lawyer says opening just weeks away

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The lawyer for a New Mexico meat plant that wants to be the first to slaughter horses in the U.S. since 2007 says the facility may be operational in just a few weeks. The company is one of several that have applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to slaughter horses, a practice that ended in 2007 after Congress defunded government inspections at the facilities. That measure lapsed in 2011. The USDA, which would regulate the plant, didn’t immediately comment on the lawyer’s assertion. The agency this month said that once the company meets technical requirements and inspector training has taken place, “the department will legally have no choice but to go forward with inspections.” Read more…

Cattlemen Connect: Rep. Trent Ashby

Check out this first edition of “Cattlemen Connect”, a new video series by TSCRA to help members connect with elected officials. This video focuses on Texas State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Dist. 57, Lufkin, and what topics are influencing his area of the state. Read more…

Cornyn to speak at Cattle Raisers Convention

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn will speak during the Opening General Session of the136th Annual Cattle Raisers Convention, March 22-24 in Fort Worth. Cornyn will update attendants on federal legislation and regulations that could affect the cattle industry, including immigration and border security, federal budget cuts and the Endangered Species Act. Read more…

NCBA favors voluntary COOL

Photo © 2012 Cattlemen's Beef Board

The USDA’s new proposed rule for country of origin labeling (COOL) will just create more problems for the U.S. beef industry, says NCBA President Elect Bob McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Texas, and TSCRA past president. Speaking on NCBA’s “Beltway Beef” audio program, McCan says there is no regulatory fix to bring COOL rules into compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. Read more…

Cuts target farm programs, insurance

Once again, farm programs are on the chopping block in Washington. Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a budget that would trim $4.6 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, by cutting spending on Medicare, repealing part of Obamacare and giving more authority to states to run nutrition programs. But it also targets farm programs. Read more…

Lack of milkers drives immigration debate

The Alpina Foods Inc. plant that just opened in Batavia, N.Y., to feed the nation’s growing appetite for Greek-style yogurt should have nearby dairy farmers such as Matt Lamb scrambling to expand their herds. It isn’t — and not because cows are in short supply. Lamb says he’s reluctant to add to his family’s 5,000-cow dairy operation for fear he won’t have enough workers to milk them every day. That’s partly due, he says, to U.S. immigration laws that were designed for seasonal farm laborers instead of the year-round, seven-days-a-week ones he needs. Read more…

Whole Foods sets GMO labeling deadline

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Whole Foods Market Friday announced that by 2018, all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate if they contain genetically modified organisms. Whole Foods is the first grocer to set a deadline for full GMO labeling. Read more…

USDA issues proposed rule to amend labeling provisions under COOL

Photo courtesy USDA.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a proposed rule to modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut commodities covered under the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program. The proposed rule would modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut covered commodities to require the origin designations to include information about where each of the production steps (i.e., born, raised, slaughtered) occurred and would remove the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the proposed amendments will only further hinder U.S. trading relationships with partners such as Canada and Mexico, and raise the cost of beef for consumers and result in retaliatory tariffs being placed on U.S. export products. Read more…

US meat industry seeks 3-year worker visa in immigration reform

Congress should create a visa program, valid for at least three years, for foreigners willing to work year-round on poultry farms or in meatpacking and processing plants, an industry group said on Tuesday. Read more…

FDA: Rules protect from BSE, but comment period reopens

FDA

The Food and Drug Administration is reopening the comment period for the interim final rule entitled ‘Use of Materials Derived From Cattle in Human Food and Cosmetics.’ The interim final rule protects consumers from exposure to bovine spongiform encephalopathy by prohibiting the use of certain cattle parts in human food, including dietary supplements, and cosmetics. Read more…

Horse slaughter debate heats up

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In the wake of the European scandals over unlabeled horse meat turning up in prepared foods, the issue of horse slaughter in the U.S. has returned to the headlines this week. Horse slaughter has essentially been banned in the United States since 2007, when Congress passed an appropriations bill that specifically prevented the USDA from using funds to inspect horse-slaughter plants. Horses processed for meat in this country must by law have USDA inspection. Congress dropped the ban in 2011, but USDA has yet to approve any horse plants for inspection through its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Read more…

New estimates cut farm bill savings

Writing a new farm bill just got harder. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new estimates on Friday, substantially downgrading the promised savings from House and Senate proposals last summer. The CBO says the Senate-passed farm bill will save only $13.1 billion in 10 years, compared with a promised $23.1 billion last July. The House Agriculture Committee plan, which never made it to the floor, fares better but comes down as well from $35.1 billion to $26.6 billion in 10-year savings. Read more…

Cornyn introduces bill to prevent abuse of Endangered Species Act litigation

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

U.S. Senator John Cornyn introduced the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Settlement Reform Act this week, which will give impacted local parties a say in the settlement of ESA litigation between special interest groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Read more…

Combs: Preserving endangered species the Texas way

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs discusses how Texas is facing the challenge of endangered species in this op-ed in The Washington Times. Read more…

Supreme Court won’t hear pipeline case

photo: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Texas Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from LaSalle Pipeline LP over a jury award to a McMullen County family that has been battling the pipeline company since 2009. The case created a precedent for ensuring that pipeline firms pay something for the diminished value of the so-called “remainder” property that isn’t taken under an easement. And it caused pipeline companies to offer more money for easements. Read more…

The Ag Minute: Market access must be enforced

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This week during The House Committee on Agriculture’s Ag Minute radio show, guest host Rep. Rick Crawford discusses the recent trade setback with one of our major markets for U.S. meat products. Russia’s closed market illustrates the need for effective enforcement by our trade agencies. International trade rules require policies that are based on sound science. Read more…

Transportation bill improves safety and competitiveness

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Last week HR 763 Safe and Efficient Transportation Act was introduced in Congress which would give states the option to allow 6-axle 90,000 pound trucks on the interstate system within their borders. This is an issue that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and many other ag organizations have worked hard to get in place for quite a while. Read more…

Johanns introduces legislation on EPA transparency

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) introduced Wednesday a package of legislation promoting greater transparency and accountability in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory process. The package contains four individual pieces of legislation. Read more…

Public hearing on the lesser prairie chicken next Monday in Lubbock

© Gerard Bertrand

As a reminder, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is hosting a public hearing in Lubbock on Monday, Feb. 11, regarding their proposal to list the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Landowners within the habitat range of the LPC are highly encouraged to attend. Read more…

Feds seek comments on lesser prairie chickens

© Gerard Bertrand

Public meetings are scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11, in Lubbock for updates on the status of efforts to keep the lesser prairie-chicken from being listed as a threatened species. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will take comments on the proposed listing at the meeting, by mail and electronically via the Internet, through March 11. Read more…

EPA proposes 2013 renewable fuel standards

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2). The proposal announced Jan. 31 will be open for a 45-day public comment period and the EPA will consider feedback from a range of stakeholders before the proposal is finalized. Read more…

Perry gives State of the State address

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Gov. Rick Perry in his State of the State address recommended lawmakers provide at least $1.8 billion in tax relief and pull $3.7 billion from the rainy day fund for a “one-time investment” in water and transportation infrastructure. Dave Scott, TSCRA past president, and Jason Skaggs, TSCRA executive director of government and public affairs, attended the event. Read more…

Japan eases trade restrictions on US beef; Good for Texas cattlemen

exports

Joe Parker Jr., president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, made a statement Jan. 28 following the announcement by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack that the U.S. and Japan have agreed on new terms and conditions to expand U.S. beef exports to Japan. The new terms will go into effect Feb. 1, 2013. Read more…

Vilsack stresses importance of new farm bill

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

He says it’s important to convince Congress to pass a farm bill this year with the drought and looming sequester as important reasons for a farm bill to be passed quickly. While there is a farm bill extension to work with Vilsack says USDA will allow farmers to opt in or opt out of the Average Crop Revenue Election program. Read more…

As Texas bakes in a long drought, water becomes a focus for legislators

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Throughout the opening of the 83rd Texas Legislature last week, one of the most frequently discussed topics had bipartisan support: improving the state’s water infrastructure as the population booms and a devastating two-year drought drags on. Read more…

NCBA pleased with proposed estate tax legislation

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New York Congressman Tim Bishop has introduced legislation that would exempt farms and conservation lands from estate taxes as long as they remain in those uses. the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is hailing the move and their Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall says that although it doesn’t permanently eliminate the estate tax like they wanted, it’s at least a major step in the right direction. Read more…

Roberts to plow ahead on new farm bill

Sen. Pat Roberts, promised farmers Wednesday he would dig his boot heel into formation of a new five-year farm bill covering crop insurance, production incentives and nutrition programs. The Kansas Republican, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said during a Topeka meeting of the Kansas Soybean Association that decline in the number of farmers in the U.S. House and Senate weakened the political coalition that traditionally gave rise to federal farm legislation. Read more…

NCBA applauds USDA on final animal disease traceability rule

With the publication of the final Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule in the Federal Register on Jan. 9, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) compliments the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on creating a final rule that includes many of the comments submitted by NCBA on behalf of cattle producers across the country. Read more…

Cattlemen’s Column: The fiscal cliff from this rancher’s perspective

In the January edition of TSCRA’s Cattlemen’s Column, association President Joe Parker Jr., Byers, discusses the fiscal cliff and farm bill from a rancher’s perspective. Read more…

Legislation’s extension leaves farmers with an ‘era of uncertainty’

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Last-minute action by Congress to extend the expiring farm bill provides farmers with a lifeline for this year, but it does little to suppress growing uncertainty among those bracing for significant cuts to support programs. Read more…

Congress approves fiscal crisis bill

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Congress gave its final approval Tuesday to a bill halting massive tax hikes and delaying a risky round of spending cuts, sending the package to the president’s desk and likely averting for now an economy-stalling fiscal crisis. President Obama said he would sign it. The 257-167 vote in the House came after a day of high drama on Capitol Hill, during which conservative House lawmakers voiced serious concern about the Senate bill’s lack of spending cuts. Read more…

House panel to try again with full agriculture bill in 2013

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arm-state lawmakers in the House have conceded they probably won’t be able to attach a long-term extension of U.S. farm policy to any deal to avert tax increases and budget cuts set to take effect in the new year, and will now go back to the drawing board. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat, said the panel probably will begin consideration of a new bill, designed to set farm policy for five years, on Feb. 27. The old law expired Sept. 30. Read more…

NCBA concerned about EPA changing conservation program

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National Cattlemen Beef Association officials are concerned about a possible guideline revision for an important environmental conservation program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley McDonald says it’s the 319 non point source program that gives state’s monies to work with producers on conservation measures under the Clean Water Act. Read more…

EPA retains dust standard

Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it would retain the coarse particulate matter (PM) National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS), eliciting a positive response from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) on behalf of cattle producers across the country. Read more…

Farm bill at the cliff

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With time to reconcile differences between a Senate and House Agriculture Committee farm bill running out, a bipartisan group of 33 senators urged the Senate leadership Thursday to push for including its version of a farm bill in any year-end package of legislation that would deal with the so-called fiscal cliff of expiring tax cuts and reduced federal spending. Read more…

Farm bill in limbo while fiscal cliff talks continue

As Congressional leaders negotiate the Fiscal Cliff, farmers and ranchers are waiting to hear how components of the farm bill will end up. Ag Expert Kent Thiesse says they have been operating without a farm bill since September, he says what may happen is that some of those programs will be extended at year’s end. Read more…