Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday April 18 Ag News

Northeast Nebraska RC&D Receives Grant from Nebraska Environmental Trust

Northeast Nebraska Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) announced today that it will receive $49,280 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the “Early Detection and Integrated Management of Invasive Plants” project. The Trust Board announced funding for the project at its meeting on April 5, 2018 in Lincoln. This is the first year of award with a potential for 2nd year funding totaling $49,280. The project is one of the 105 projects receiving $18,301,819 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year. Of these, 66 were new applications and 39 are carry-over projects.

Invasive species are cited frequently as significant threats to biological diversity in Nebraska’s Natural Legacy Project planning document (NNLP) and to address those issues NNLP recommended development of collaborative conservation efforts to seek effective control measures, increase awareness of biological diversity, and implement strategies addressing specific issues in biologically unique landscapes (BUL’s). The Northeast Nebraska Weed Management Area (NNWMA), established in 2004, seeks innovative, collaborative, and effective means to reduce ecological and economic impacts of invasive and noxious weed infestations.  NNWMA has a diverse group of partners.  Their area covers 8 counties and 4,610,212 acres of private, public, and tribal land.  NNWMA has technical support from the Northeast Nebraska RC&D, a local non-profit. Beginning in 2018 NNWMA will help protect the Elkhorn River in Antelope County and its tributaries from Yellow flag iris (YFI) plants that may inhibit flows, impact native vegetation, and/or impact native wildlife.  This invasive species has the potential to negatively impact BUL’s by competing with or reducing native vegetation, invading areas not typically vegetated, and reducing water flows in small channels. They will also conduct Salt cedar "search and destroy" surveys, acquire biological control agents (insects) to control noxious weeds on ecologically sensitive sites, and conduct annual education and outreach events.  Insect releases will be prioritized and targeted at places where herbicide use is not desired (i.e. high diversity grasslands, wetland/riverine habitats, rangeland with organic designations or sensitive/endangered species, etc.).       Targeted plants are Yellow flag Iris, Spotted knapweed, Purple loosestrife, Leafy spurge, Salt cedar, and non-native Phragmites.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $289 million in grants to over 2,000 projects across the state. Anyone – citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses – can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The Nebraska Environmental Trust works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.


The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has joined 15 other public and private universities in FedByScience, an effort to boost federal investment in agricultural research.

The initiative, timed with the release of the 2018 House Farm Bill, focuses on demonstrating to the public and policymakers the many ways that U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded universities and researchers are creating a safer, healthier and more productive food system.

FedByScience launched April 18 with two briefings for Senate and House of Representatives staff. The effort tells stories in which scientific discoveries and innovations have improved the way food is produced and distributed.

Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green, a FedByScience co-chair, is in Washington, D.C., for the launch.

"U.S. farmers are confronted by turbulent commodity markets, extreme weather and an uneven economy," Green said. "A stronger investment in agricultural research can provide the science and innovation that farmers need to navigate these obstacles. Universities are now joining together to ensure that our stories about the value of food and ag research are heard."

The agriculture and food production industries are facing considerable challenges. Such challenges can only be addressed through additional research, yet the U.S. agricultural research budget has declined in real dollars since 2003. The U.S. has been second to China in total public agricultural research funding since 2008. In 2013, China's spending on public agricultural research and development became nearly double that of the United States.

In addition to Nebraska, other participating universities are Colorado State University, Cornell University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, the University of California at Davis, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington University in St. Louis.

Ricketts Welcomes South Korea’s Consul-General to Nebraska

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts hosted South Korea’s Consul-General Jong-Kook Lee at the Nebraska State Capitol.  Consul-General Lee serves at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chicago, which oversees 13 states in the American Midwest.

“South Korea and Nebraska are great partners,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Beef exports to South Korea increased by 14 percent in 2017.  That increase helped push our total beef exports up by 12 percent from 2016.  I’m glad to have the chance to meet with Consul-General Lee and discuss opportunities to deepen our ties.”

South Korea is Nebraska’s fourth-largest ag export market.  The market is poised to grow following a renegotiated United States-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).


Declining tariffs brought about by KORUS helped America become South Korea’s largest beef supplier in 2016.  America exported $1.1 billion in beef exports to South Korea in 2017.

South Korea is Nebraska’s fourth-largest agriculture export market, with $499.9 million worth of exports in 2016.  They are a top-five customer for Nebraska beef, hides and skins, corn, distillers grains, pork, ethanol, and wheat.
·         Beef: $221.5 million – 2nd largest market
·         Corn: $101 million – 3rd largest market
·         Hides and Skins: $66.4 million – 2nd largest market
·         Pork: $39.2 million – 4th largest market



The U.S. Grains Council confirmed yesterday that Japan has finalized a change in the country’s biofuels policy allowing for imports of the oxygenate ETBE made from U.S. corn-based ethanol. As farmers, we welcome this news as we know that U.S. ethanol can meet Japan’s need for a high octane, low-carbon fuel source in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving air quality.

The best way to enhance farmer profitability is to create new demand for corn through value-added products such as ethanol. With more than $1.2 billion in U.S. ethanol exported last year, ethanol exports have become extremely important to Iowa farmers’ profitability.

Japan will now allow U.S. ethanol to meet up to 44 percent of a total estimated demand of 217 million gallons of ethanol used to make ETBE, or potentially 95.5 million gallons of U.S.-produced ethanol annually. Japan imports nearly all its ETBE from ethanol.

This decision by the Japanese government is based on its evaluation and life cycle assessment update of U.S. corn-based ethanol. The U.S. industry’s efforts to maximize production efficiency through technological innovations that lead to higher GHG emission reductions for corn-based ethanol and the emergence of co-products like distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) have supported this new access to the Japanese market while positively contributing to the feed and energy value chains.

The Council and its partners, Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have been engaging with the Japanese fuel industry and Japanese policymakers to showcase U.S. corn ethanol. USGC also funded a study that helped to dispel myths about U.S. ethanol helping to make the case for opening the door to the Japanese market.

Iowa’s investments in the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) has helped increase demand for U.S. ethanol exports. The Council has strategically focused on the promotion of ethanol for its environmental benefits that include reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Council works to sync global ethanol policies that include a role for trade as well as overcome restraints related to inadequate infrastructure. USGC works in multiple countries, with the focus on Asia as the fastest growing market for fuel consumption in the world.

House Ag Committee Advances Agriculture and Nutrition Act

The House Agriculture Committee today passed out of committee the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2)  – critical legislation to address the economic challenges facing the nation’s farmers and ranchers, while making historic investments in opportunities for SNAP recipients. Upon passage, Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) issued the below remarks:

“Today’s vote was about America’s farmers and ranchers. It was about a better future and greater opportunities for SNAP recipients. It was about fulfilling an obligation to lead, rather than standing on the sidelines.

“I’m disappointed that my Democrat colleagues have turned their backs on America’s heartland – that they’ve chosen partisan politics over the three years of bipartisan work in this committee. Democrats halted talks over their objection to requiring work-capable adults to either find employment or receive free training for 20 hours per week. Yet, despite this turn of events, I remain hopeful. When House Democrats pushed a partisan farm bill that raised taxes in 2008 over Republican objections, Republicans worked alongside Democrats to fend off hostile amendments aimed against the legislation on the House floor and worked in conference committee to achieve a bipartisan farm bill. I am hopeful Democrats will not hold the nation’s farmers and ranchers hostage in this process over the SNAP work and training requirements, which will provide SNAP beneficiaries not just a benefit, but a better future that only a job can provide.

“But we’ll continue fighting, we won’t settle for the status quo – because America needs a farm bill. America deserves a farm bill. And I look forward to taking this vote to the people’s House – to debating these policies on the floor and to sharing our vision with the American people. We have cleared this hurdle and will deliver a strong, new farm bill on time.”

Perdue Statement on House Committee Passage of 2018 Farm Bill

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today issued the following statement regarding approval of the 2018 Farm Bill by the House Committee on Agriculture:

“I commend Chairman Conaway and the House Committee on Agriculture for passing a comprehensive Farm Bill out of the Committee today. The bill closely aligns with the Farm Bill Principles released by USDA in January and is nearly identical to the legislation first introduced last week. We are encouraged that the Committee heard the voices of their constituents, who want to preserve and enhance programs contained in the 2014 Farm Bill, as I learned in my conversations with farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers in 35 states in the last twelve months. As the bill heads to the floor, I hope the House recognizes the long-term certainty it provides for America’s farmers, just as it preserves nutrition programs for people who need help feeding themselves and their families. USDA stands ready to provide technical assistance as the bill progresses in the House, and we look forward to working with our friends in the Senate as well. As Republicans and Democrats have farm interests in their own districts and states, we are hopeful that the 2018 Farm Bill can move forward in a bipartisan manner.”

House Agriculture Committee Approves 2018 Farm Bill

The House Committee on Agriculture today approved the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2), which includes several provisions important to U.S. pork producers. The 2018 Farm Bill is strongly supported by the National Pork Producers Council.

Among the provisions included in the legislation is language establishing and funding a vaccine bank to deal with an outbreak in the United States of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in livestock.

FMD is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep; it is not a food safety or human health threat. Although it was last detected in the United States in 1929, the disease is endemic in many parts of the world.

“Pork producers are pleased that the Agriculture Committee approved the 2018 Farm Bill,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio, and chairman of NPPC’s Farm Bill Policy Task Force. “We now need the full House to pass it soon and the Senate to follow suit. There are several very important provisions for pork producers in this legislation.”

The agriculture panel’s Farm Bill calls for first-year mandatory funding of $150 million for the FMD vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to the states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides disease diagnostic support. For the other years of the 5-year Farm Bill, there’s $30 million in mandatory funding for state block grants and $20 million to be used at the Agriculture secretary’s discretion for the vaccine bank, the NAHLN and the states.

NPPC is urging lawmakers to provide funding of $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million for state block grants and $30 million for the NAHLN for each year of the Farm Bill.

“The United States is not prepared for an FMD outbreak, so we are urging Congress to provide the full five-year mandatory funding,” Heimerl said. “We need this to protect the country from the financial devastation this dreadful disease would wreak on farmers and the U.S. economy.”

The House bill also includes funding for the NPPC-supported Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, both of which help support exports markets for U.S. goods. The programs are consolidated as the International Market Development Program.

Additionally, the measure has money for feral swine eradication. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are an estimated 5 million feral swine in at least 39 states; the cost of controlling them and the amount of damage they do is about $1.5 billion annually.

NCBA Applauds House Agriculture Committee Approval of Farm Bill

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Kevin Kester today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee's markup and approval of the 2018 Farm Bill:

"We want to thank Chairman Mike Conaway and the other members of the House Agriculture Committee who have worked so hard to craft this Farm Bill and to ensure that it protects the priorities of America's cattle producers. We'll continue to work through the Farm Bill process to make sure that it includes authorization and full funding for a Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank, as well as funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), research, foreign market development, and market access programs." 

NCGA Statement on Today’s House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Markup

Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association

“The House Agriculture Committee’s action today is the first step to enacting a new farm bill. NCGA is pleased the bill restores full funding to the Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs and makes administrative reforms to the revenue-based Agriculture Risk Coverage Program (ARC), which are welcome provisions for corn farmers facing uncertain times. NCGA also appreciates the bill’s expansion of grower participation in working lands conservation programs and the research title’s funding for the phenotyping initiative.

“Moving forward, NCGA will remain focused on our growers’ top policy concerns – a robust federal crop insurance program, ensuring the ARC-county program is a viable risk management option, and increased resources for trade promotion programs.

“We urge the House to pass a farm bill that strengthens risk management tools and provides the needed resources to enhance U.S. farmers and ranchers’ competitive position in international markets. NCGA looks forward to working with members of both the House and Senate to build a strong, bipartisan coalition that can support the entire farm bill and see it signed into law this year.”

ASA Following Progress of House Farm Bill

The American Soybean Association (ASA) continues to follow efforts to pass a new farm bill in the House of Representatives, and noted passage of legislation today by the House Committee on Agriculture. ASA strongly supports enacting a new farm bill before the current Agricultural Act of 2014 expires at the end of September. ASA President John Heisdorffer, a soybean farmer from Keota, Iowa, issued the following statement.

“ASA continues to support completing the farm bill process as soon as possible this year to provide the long-term certainty farmers and ranchers need in the face of low farm prices and the volatile outlook for agricultural trade. After today’s Committee action, we hope sufficient votes can be found to pass a bill on the House floor in the coming weeks. However, we are concerned by the absence of bipartisan support for the current bill, and encourage the House and Committee leadership to work toward legislation that can receive the broad support that farm bills traditionally require.”

NAWG Comments on House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Markup

Today, the House Committee on Agriculture marked-up its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, or H.R. 2 Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. In response, NAWG President Jimmie Musick made the following statement:

“NAWG commends the House Agriculture Committee on continuing to move the Farm Bill forward and urges a bipartisan process to enable a bill to pass out of the House. In order for the bill to be completed and reauthorized this year, Republicans and Democrats must work together on legislation that works for both sides and all of agriculture. 

“There are several provisions in H.R. 2 that will be good for wheat growers, and NAWG will continue to work with Congress to make improvements. Absolutely our top priority throughout this process is to maintain a strong crop insurance program. NAWG also envisions a well-rounded Farm Bill to have a strong safety net program which allows producers to choose between revenue-based (Agriculture Risk Coverage) and price-based (Price Loss Coverage) coverage, and improvements to both programs to enable them to serve as a better safety net for wheat growers. 

“We applaud the Committee for including funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program and will continue working to increase resources for both. Additionally, NAWG supports provisions that provide financial incentives for farmers to adopt conservation practices into their operations. The bill also rightly reauthorizes the Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and other important research programs that will help wheat growers continue to produce the highest quality crop. 

“Again, we are pleased that the House has started the Farm Bill reauthorization process and encourage the Senate Committee on Agriculture to do the same.”

NMPF Backs Dairy Safety Net Improvements in House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) today lauded the House Agriculture Committee for approving a draft of the 2018 Farm Bill that contains key dairy policy improvements, a significant first step toward enacting a new Farm Bill before the current one expires this fall.

Among the provisions of significance to the U.S. dairy industry in the House bill are additional improvements to the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP). The measure raises the maximum covered margin to $9/cwt. and adjusts the minimum percentage of milk that can be insured; both measures will offer greater flexibility for dairy producers. It also includes provisions of an important agreement reached between NMPF and the International Dairy Foods Association on price risk management.

“It’s important that the Farm Bill process continue moving forward,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “As U.S. dairy farmers weather a fourth-straight year of depressed milk prices, making additional improvements to the dairy safety net through this farm bill becomes more critical with each passing day.”

The House bill also addresses several other NMPF priorities. The conservation title helps producers access technical and financial assistance to carry out multiple conservation practices on their land and water. Under the trade title, the Farm Bill authorizes the trade promotion programs that are critical to dairy farmers and their cooperatives. The bill also includes helpful provisions intended to increase fluid milk consumption. NMPF looks forward to working with Congress on these issues as the process continues.

In a letter sent to Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) before the committee’s markup, NMPF expressed gratitude for the members’ engagement and efforts in securing the aforementioned NMPF proposals, and others, in the House bill.

“We recognize that the process of completing each Farm Bill is long and complex, with many twists and turns in the road,” said the letter. “As the process continues, we look forward to continuing to work with you and your Senate counterparts to complete work on a bipartisan, bicameral bill that can be signed into law by the President before the current law expires.”

House passes farm bill version that undermines rural America

Today, the House Agriculture Committee passed the draft of the farm bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, that they released last week. During their meeting today, the committee made very few changes to the draft of the bill before voting.

In response, the Center for Rural Affairs released the following statement:

The House Agriculture Committee has passed an entirely partisan bill that would gut working lands conservation, eliminate many long-standing subsidy payment limitations for the largest farms, and remove funding for programs that support rural innovations. These proposals are deeply troubling and must not be included in a final farm bill. 

The draft bill proposes steep funding cuts to working lands conservation programs, by nearly $5 billion over 10 years. Within these cuts is the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). CSP currently protects over 70 million acres nationwide. By removing the program, the draft bill sends the message that conservation should be a low priority for rural America.

While our agricultural system needs a strong safety net, the current crop insurance system provides unlimited support to the largest farms in the form of premium subsidies. The draft bill instead includes proposals that backtrack on existing payment limitations. By removing subsidy payment limits for corporate farms and widening other payment loopholes, the draft bill would practically guarantee a return to unlimited farm program payments. The country needs a farm safety net, not handouts to the largest and wealthiest operations.

Finally, the draft bill proposes to completely eliminate the funding for several programs that support beginning farmers, rural entrepreneurs, and on-farm diversification. These include: the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, and several others.

America needs a bipartisan farm bill that supports rural communities. The House Agriculture Committee was unable to deliver that today.

Current House Farm Bill Fails to Meet Needs of Family Farmers

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee today marked up the 2018 Farm Bill, H.R. 2, sending the bill to the full U.S. House of Representatives for its consideration.

National Farmers Union (NFU), the nation’s second largest general farm organization, opposes the legislation as it is currently written, as it fails to provide an adequate safety net to family farmers and consumers, fails to support the long-term sustainability of family farms and ranches, and fails to ensure fair and diverse markets for farmers and ranchers. In a series of recommendations released today, NFU urged House members to make significant improvements on the floor prior to passing the bill.

“This bill is wholly inadequate for providing family farmers with the resources they need to endure the worst decline in the farm economy in decades,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Congressional leadership’s directive to withhold any additional support has hamstrung the committee’s ability to address the six-year, fifty percent drop in net farm income. This bill lacks the improvements needed to provide sufficient farmer and consumer safety nets, it upends programs that improve sustainability, and it removes programs that aid the growth of fair and diverse markets for family farmers. Farmers Union is also deeply disappointed in the partisan nature of the House Farm Bill deliberations thus far. We urge members of Congress to make significant improvements to the bill prior to its passage.”

In its list of recommendations, NFU urged House members to significantly improve the farm safety net to reflect the current state of the farm economy. It noted the safety net needs to be improved to keep family farmers in business during down market cycles, yet the current version of the House Farm Bill does not provide enough support to help family farmers and ranchers make ends meet.

“Farmers need higher PLC reference prices for commodities that have been underwater for years,” said NFU’s recommendations list. “Dairy farmers need both price supports and a mechanism that manages our nation’s oversupply of milk. At the same time, these programs should be implemented responsibly by capping payments and directing them solely to family farmers.”

NFU also suggested the bill needs to ensure credit availability for family farmers and ranchers, whereas the bill currently does nothing to increase loan authority for FSA’s overall loan portfolio. And to ensure a strong consumer nutrition safety net, the NFU recommended the Farm Bill should maintain funding levels for consumer benefits under nutrition programs. “Unfortunately, the multitude of changes proposed in the bill would compromise food security for working families who currently use SNAP while adding to needless bureaucracy,” said NFU.

NFU’s second major recommendation is to promote the long-term sustainability of family farms and ranches. The organization urged the House to provide incentive-based working lands programs, whereas the current version of the farm bill cuts $5 billion from these programs over the next decade, and it eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). NFU also called for funding to energy programs to be restored, as Farm Bill energy programs help family farmers and ranchers lower their environmental footprint, reduce their energy usage, and improve their bottom lines.

“Sustainability is critical for farm productivity and the health of rural communities now and for generations to come,” NFU said. “The House Farm Bill must be improved to provide family farmers and ranchers the tools they need to be the best possible stewards of our natural resources.”

Finally, Farmers Union urged House members to ensure fair and diverse markets for family farmers.

The current version of the House Farm Bill eliminates mandatory funding for key programs that are critical in promoting access to local, regional and specialty markets. “The Farmers’ Market and Local Foods Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) improve market opportunities and increase the farmer’s share of the consumer dollar. At the same time, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Marketing Assistance (AMA) program make it easier for farmers to transition into organic agriculture. Congress must recognize the value of the programs referenced above and restore mandatory funding,” NFU said.

The House Farm Bill also lacks provisions to ensure the fair treatment of family farmers and ranchers in the exceptionally consolidated markets they operate in. NFU recommended the House include a title that promotes competition in the marketplace, enhances antitrust enforcement, and establishes protections from unfair and deceptive practices in the contract poultry and livestock sectors.

“Farmers Union has tirelessly advocated for these priorities over the past many years,” said Johnson. “We cannot support a bill that does so little to improve the farm safety net, and that guts important conservation and market access programs. If the House of Representatives wants to pass a Farm Bill that is worthy of the men and women who produce our food, fuel and fiber, they need to make significant improvements to the current version of the Farm Bill.”

Most Fertilizer Prices Continue Steady Climb Higher

Most average retail fertilizer prices continued their slow but steady trek higher the second week of April 2018, according to retailers surveyed by DTN.

Snapping a string of four straight weeks where prices for all eight major fertilizers were higher, prices for seven of the eight fertilizers were up while the price of one fertilizer was down last week compared to the previous month. However, for the fourth consecutive week, none of the fertilizers that saw price increases were up by a significant amount.

DAP had an average price of $482 per ton, MAP $504/ton, potash $353/ton, urea $369/ton, anhydrous $510/ton, UAN28 $241/ton and UAN32 $275/ton.

The one fertilizer that was slightly lower in price compared to the previous month was 10-34-0. The starter fertilizer had an average price of $427 per ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.40/lb.N, anhydrous $0.31/lb.N, UAN28 $0.43/lb.N and UAN32 $0.43/lb.N.

Five of the eight major fertilizers are now higher compared to last year with prices pushing higher in recent months. Anhydrous is now 1% higher, potash is 4% more expensive, urea is 5% higher, MAP is 8% more expensive and DAP is 10% higher compared to last year.

The remaining three fertilizers are lower in price compared to a year ago. UAN32 is 2% less expensive while both 10-34-0 and UAN28 are 3% less expensive than a year ago.

Nevada Rancher Warns Senators: Federal Regulation of Groundwater Could Be Worse Than WOTUS

Testifying on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, Nevada rancher Joe Guild today warned members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that federal regulation of groundwater under the Clean Water Act would have a detrimental impact on America’s cattle producers.

“One of the most complex environmental issues facing our country in recent history has been the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempted definition of Waters of the United States, known simply as WOTUS,” Guild testified. “NCBA has worked hard, and continues working to ensure that the definition of WOTUS is not expanded to include water that Congress never intended to regulate. However, if the EPA finds authority to regulate discharges to surface water via groundwater, any progress made on this front will be lost. The regulation of groundwater has the potential to impact even more cattle operations than the damaging 2015 WOTUS definition.”

Guild told Senators about how the Carson River and a tributary run through part of a ranch that he manages in western Nevada, and how he works to move his cattle away from the water to keep it clean.

“I’ve implemented voluntary conservation practices on my operations, including the strategic placement of wells and underground pipelines to move water throughout the operation,” Guild said. “Such voluntary practices increase efficiency and maintain natural resource quality, both on my operation and downstream. However, the expansion of the Clean Water Act to regulate discharges into groundwater would change all of this. Not only would such an expansion directly contradict the intent of the law, but take authority from those who can best manage groundwater quality.”

Wednesday’s hearing was held as an information-gathering session for Senators in response to recent federal court decisions that could undermine the way many states currently regulate groundwater.

“States are uniquely qualified to manage and prevent the discharge of pollutants into groundwater,” Guild said. “Regulation under the Clean Water Act would only lead to unnecessary, duplicative permitting and enforcement, usurping current state authority.”

Secretary Perdue Statement Regarding Chinese Duties on U.S. Sorghum

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today issued the following statement regarding China’s announcement of duties of almost 179 percent on U.S. sorghum imports:

“The international grain market is about the freest market there is, and it is ludicrous to even mention ‘dumping,’ because China can buy product from anywhere they choose. This is clearly a political decision by the Chinese and we reject their premise. Our sorghum producers are the most competitive in the world and we do not believe there is any basis in fact for these actions. As we explore options, we are in communication with the American sorghum industry and stand united with them. The fact remains that China has engaged in unfair trade practices over decades and President Trump is correct in holding them accountable. We remain committed to protecting American agricultural producers in the face of retaliatory measures by the Chinese.”

Coalition works to expand rural e-connectivity

A coalition of stakeholders committed to the expansion of broadband services in rural America today launched the first in a series of workshops to focus attention on the wide-ranging challenges to achieving connectivity, and the opportunities improved e-connectivity could bring to the people and economies of the nation's rural regions.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai joined executives from the five partner organizations --Farm Foundation, NTCA--The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA), National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), CoBank, and the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC)--in kicking off the listening sessions by highlighting the importance of e-connectivity to all sectors of rural America.

The next listening session will be in June 2018 in Minnesota, with additional sessions to be completed over the next six months.

"Broadband is vital to the rural economy in what is now a highly interconnected global marketplace," said Tom Halverson, President and CEO of CoBank. "We need leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington to work together to facilitate broadband investment and ensure that rural America remains competitive and strong."

Achieving e-connectivity across rural America is not a simple task. "Actions needed to improve e-connectivity vary widely by community and region," notes Farm Foundation President and CEO Constance Cullman. "These listening sessions will serve to highlight common issues, success stories to build strong broadband systems, and challenges that are yet to be met."

Executives from regional telecommunications companies participated in the kickoff to provide perspectives on the broadband service issues. This panel included Levoy Knowles of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association, Mel Coleman of the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, and Ken Johnson, Administrator of Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service.

"We are excited for the prospects of enhanced cooperation and coordination between USDA, the FCC, and private operators like those in NTCA's membership--all of whom recognize the value of and critical need for sustainable broadband in rural America. In that spirit, it is an honor to have both USDA Secretary Perdue and FCC Chairman Pai offer remarks at today's kickoff event," said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield. "NTCA's nearly 850 members connect many of America's rural communities to the world with robust broadband, and we are pleased to participate in this collaborative effort to promote better access to rural broadband."

Rural electric cooperatives are well aware of the needs of e-connectivity in their communities, and more than 100 electric cooperatives already are providing broadband service to their members. "The widening digital divide is a national crisis deserving of a national response," said Jim Matheson, CEO of NRECA. "For decades, electric cooperatives have enhanced the quality of life throughout rural America. Now, many of those same electric co-ops are helping reinvigorate rural economies by bringing broadband to rural homes, businesses and farms. High costs to serve areas with low population density remain the biggest obstacle to expanded rural broadband access. An expanded combination of federal grant and loan funding through USDA is a critical step to connecting rural America."

Stakeholders emphasized the need for collaborative efforts to enhance broadband services in rural America. "Leveraging additional investment in rural broadband infrastructure will require a team effort," said Sheldon Petersen, CEO of CFC. "Local partnerships can be a wonderful way to leverage resources, expertise and efficiencies to ensure that rural communities can fully participate in today's 21st century economy."

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