May 27, 2015

EPA Issues Finalized Waters Of The U.S. Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued it’s finalized Waters of the U.S. rule in a move they are calling “historic”.  The issuance of the rule brings to a close months of debate and discussion between the agency and the agricultural community, although some speculate that either Congress or the court system could step in delaying implementation.  By law, once the rule is finalized, the regulations will become effective 60 days after being published in the Federal Register, which will happen today.

According to EPA, the new rule is a rule of definition, not a change in regulation.  Administrator Gina McCarthy has iterated many times that this rule is a clarification of current law as decided by the Supreme Court and not an expansion of current powers.  Among the items highlighted in the EPA release, the rule will “provide certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters” and “clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters”.    Administrator McCarthy has said the rule does not change the permitting process.

Reaction in the ag community has been tentative at best.  The American Soybean Association says the document, which totals more than 290 pages, will take time to review.  The National Cattleman’s Beef Association was more straightforward in their reaction, issuing a statement that says the “flawed rule comes from a flawed process” and added that EPA has effectively written of rural America.

The agriculture industry has been concerned about the regulation of drainage ditches on farmland.  The EPA and Army Corps said the only ditches that would be covered under the rule are those that look; act and function like a tributary and could carry pollution downstream.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the final rule singled out land and water features considered to be unique – including Prairie Potholes – as still subject to case-by-case determinations.

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EPA Deputy Administrator Ken Kopocis tried to allay agricultural concerns during a press call with farm broadcasters.

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McCarthy said farmers will not be required to obtain Clean Water Act permits if they don’t already have them.  She also said it does not cover tile drains, irrigation or water transfers.

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The American Farm Bureau has led opposition to the rules, saying they could make business more difficult for farmers.  The group said Wednesday that it would wait to review the final rules before responding.

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USDA Develops Sales Lead System For Beginning Exporters

There are a variety of ways for U.S. ag products sellers to connect with potential buyers – and now – the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed another way called the Trade Lead System. Christian Foster – USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Office of Trade Programs Deputy Administrator – says the system is online and free…

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Foster says buyers can filter out leads based on specific products they want. For sellers – he says the system is geared toward smaller American companies who may not be as involved so far with exporting…tape

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If you’d like more information, visit www.fas.usda.gov/trade-lead-system.

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Trade Promotion Authority Passes Major Senate Hurdle

mitch-mcconnell-floor-speech-conTwelve Democrats joined 50 Republicans to end a Senate filibuster of President Obama’s top domestic priority – trade promotion authority. The vote greased the skids for final Senate passage of TPA – needed to secure a Trans Pacific trade deal among the U.S. and 11 Pacific nations – which could dramatically boost U.S. farm exports to Asia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the Senate floor…

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Finance Chair Orrin Hatch crafted the TPA bill and stressed the importance of the latest vote as debate wound down on TPA…

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The Democrats’ filibuster was broken by a deal to vote on a measure to renew the controversial export import bank. Top Finance Democrat Ron Wyden…

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Thursday’s vote was seen giving TPA supporters the votes needed for final Senate passage of fast track – a huge win for major farm groups. An even tougher battle still looms in the U.S. House.

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