Cuts target farm programs, insurance

DC

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

DC

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

corn

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

DC

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

horses

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

DC

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

exports

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

anguscows

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

DC

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

corn

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

texascapitol

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…