August 30, 2015

Groups Praise Committee Action on GMO Bill

The National Corn Growers Association today praised the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s approval of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act and called for action by the full House. The legislation will create a consumer-friendly, science-based labeling standard for foods made with genetically modified organisms, as well as for GMO-free foods.

“The committee approval of this legislation sends a strong message about the growing bipartisan support for this legislation,” said NCGA Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team chair John Linder, a farmer from Ohio. “We believe today’s vote builds strong forward momentum and applaud the efforts of the House Agriculture Committee to tackle this issue head on. Now, we urge our congressional leaders to bring this bill up for a vote on the floor before the August recess.”

Introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., 69 Democrats and Republicans have cosponsored the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.

The American Soybean Association is calling on the House of Representatives to take up and pass legislation that would establish a clear and consistent national framework for the voluntary labeling of GMO-free foods, as well as foods containing biotechnology.

“Consumers continue to demand more transparency and accountability from food producers. This bill ensures that a multi-state patchwork of state regulations is avoided, as the wide range of potential individual and conflicting non-GMO labeling schemes,” said Wade Cowan, ASA president and a soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas.

Cowan said,”It’s clear that consumers want practical solutions that give them the confidence they want in their food, and this legislation does exactly that. In the coming weeks, we’ll meet with every lawmaker in soybean country to urge them to support this legislation. It’s a bill that moves us closer to a science-based dialogue on food and farm issues, and we will encourage every member of the House to get behind it.”

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House Science Committee Holds Hearing On EPA Overreach

In the wake of so much controversy surrounding the new Waters of the U.S. Rule, the House Science, Space and technology committee held a hearing with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called “Examining EPA’s regulatory overreach”. Former House Ag Chair and now member of the Science Committee Frank Lucas, seemed to summarize the sentiment of many in agriculture about the new rule:

Lucas WOTUS

Not all the conversations were as polite, however.  Chairman of the Committee Lamar Smith, a republican from Texas had this exchange with the administrator over the transparency

EPA Smith

As of July 8th, 27 states had filed suit in various capacities against EPA and the Army Corp of engineers over the Waters of the U.S. rule.  The basis of those lawsuits is that states, and not the federal government have the primary authority to regulate waters.  The latest set of lawsuit also allege that EPA and the Army Corp made substantial changes to the proposed rule that were included in the final rule and there was no opportunity to comment on those.

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Governor’s Ag Summit Heads to the Hills

The sixth annual South Dakota Governor’s Agricultural Summit hosted by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture will be held tomorrow and Saturday at The Lodge in Deadwood, SD.

SD Governor Dennis Daugaard and Farm Director Rusty Halvorson

SD Governor Dennis Daugaard and Farm Director Rusty Halvorson

A tour kicks off the event this afternoon with a demonstration by the Wildland Fire division, along with a tour of a sawmill,  the Belle Fourche Irrigation District, and the Crow Peak Brewery in Spearfish.  Friday’s program will begin with a “State of Ag Address” from Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch.  Governor Dennis Daugaard will also present the 2015 Ag Ambassador Award during a noon luncheon.

Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry, generating $25.6 billion in annual economic activity and employing over 115,000 people.

Speaking of employment – South Dakota and neighboring states have been trying to attract new dairy operations to the region – most notably from the drought-parched state of California.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor as of June 30, 47% of the state of California was experiencing severe drought.

At the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, more than a half dozen states—Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Nevada—have recently fielded trade show booths trying to convince milk producers to relocate.

The Dakotas may have ample forage, water and resources to attract a new dairy. However, one question is whether there’s enough available labor to support new operations given low unemployment rates in the area and competition for labor resources from the Bakken region.

We posed that question to South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard during a visit to his office at the Capitol in Pierre.

Governor Labor

South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal, a third generation producer from Volga, says his operation has experienced the tight local labor supply first-hand.

VanderWal Labor

Rusty visits with SD Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal

Rusty visits with SD Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal

South Dakota ranks around 21st in the nation for milk production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
California is the leading dairy state in the nation with approximately 1,500 dairies that house some 1.77 million milk cows.   The state accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s milk production.

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