House Farm Bill Markup Delayed
Disagreements among the House Agriculture Committee members regarding the nutrition title are stalling movement on the farm bill. Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas says there will not be a farm bill markup next week, citing the committee’s progress in “negotiating to a yes” from both Republicans and Democrats. Conaway and House Democrats are in conflict over the way the nutrition title handles the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the Hagstrom Report. That decision means that Conaway will not meet his goal of holding a markup on the farm bill in the first quarter of 2018. Ranking Democrat on the Committee, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, says Democrats on the committee cannot support the bill in its current form. Last Week, Peterson said the Republican proposal regarding nutrition is similar to what killed the current farm bill the first time it came to the House floor in 2013.
Mexico Seeks Closing Seven NAFTA Chapters in Next Round
Trade officials in Mexico say they hope to close seven chapters in the next round of North American Free Trade Agreement Talks, planned for Washington, D.C. next month. Mexico trade officials told Politico the goal of the next round is to close seven chapters that are 90 percent complete and include telecommunications, digital trade, technical barriers to trade, energy, state-owned enterprises and financial services. Mexico expects the talks in the next round could close a total of 13, or 14 chapters, if all goes well. Agriculture trade, including the trade of dairy products, are not expected to be negotiated until the final rounds of the trade talks. And, an American Farm Bureau Federation economist speculates the talks won’t be finished by the end of this year. Negotiators from the U.S., Mexico and Canada have closed six chapters and four annexes so far, but as all three countries face various elections later this year, which will slow the process.
Federal Judge Rules Army Corps Responsible for Missouri River Flood Damages
Farmers impacted by nearly a decade of flooding along the Missouri River are a step closer to receiving compensation. A federal judge earlier this week ruled in favor of farmers in the case of Ideker Farms vs. the United States of America. Roger Ideker of Ideker Farms in St. Joseph, Missouri, who spearheaded the case, says the ruling “rightfully recognizes the government’s responsibility for changing the river.” More than 350 farmers, landowners and businesses joined the case suing the federal government alleging the Army Corps of Engineers mismanaged the Missouri River. The lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleged the Corps of Engineers violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment that bars the government from taking private property without just compensation. A federal judge ruled in favor of the farmers in five of the six years that the flooding was claimed dating back to 2007, disallowing the flood claims in 2011. Damages, according to the law firm representing the farmers, are estimated to exceed $300 million. The case will next proceed to phase two, where the court will determine the extent of losses.
House Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan STRESS Act to Help Farmers
Lawmakers in the House this week introduced legislation to provide farmers with stress assistance programs. The Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide, or STRESS Act, seeks to make mental health treatment more available for farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers. The legislation was introduced by Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer, along with lawmakers from Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, and other states, in response to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control which found rates of suicide among farmers are the highest of any occupation in the United States. Congressman Emmer says farmers are “in the midst of a suicide crisis.” The bill would reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, a program authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide farmers with stress assistance programs, but has not been funded since being authorized. The National Farmers Union applauded the legislation, saying the bill would provide farmers and ranchers, and their families, access to support they need during extreme times of stress, such as the current farm economy downturn.
House Follows Senate, Introduces Emission Reporting Exemption
The U.S. House, following Senate action, has introduced a bill to stop an unintended regulation of farms. Introduced this week, ACRE, the Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions Act, would avoid unnecessary environmental reporting for farmers and ranchers. The Senate version of the bill, the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM Act, would do the same. Under current regulations, approximately 200,000 farms and ranches could be legally required to report emissions from animal agricultural operations, even though those rules were written to cover industrial emergencies, rather than emissions from farms and ranches. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says “Congress never meant to include agriculture” in the reporting requirement, as part of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as CERCLA. The Environmental Protection Agency under both the Bush and Obama administrations supported exempting agricultural producers, but a federal court found the law did not clearly exclude farms and ranches.
Cranberries Targeted by EU in Trade Spat
The European Union classifies cranberries as a retaliation target in response to President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. Bloomberg reports cranberries are among a basket of all-American goods, from peanut butter to bourbon whiskey and Harley Davidson motorbikes, singled out by the European Union. A lawmaker from Wisconsin says U.S. dairy is on the list as well, though the official list has not been made public yet. For the U.S. cranberry sector, 95 million pounds of cranberries are exported to the EU each year. That’s more than any other destination, and accounts for about 12 percent of domestic production. Cranberry Institute executive director Terry Humfield says targeting the small ag sector “does not make any sense.” Cranberry production is a niche market in the U.S., with roughly just 1,200 producers. However, the United States is the world’s largest producer of cranberries, with output up 20 percent since 2010. Meanwhile, Democrat Ron Kind, a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, says he has spoken with a representative from the European Union recently, who has confirmed U.S. dairy will also be targeted.