October 26, 2014

USDA Announces Early Roll Out of APH Exclusion Option for 2015 Crops

USDA secretary Tom Vilsack announced implementation of the Actual Production History Yield Exclusion that was included in this year’s farm bill. That means producers won’t have to wait as long as previously thought to take advantage

Vilsack on APH Exclusion

The exclusion allows producers hit by severe weather to receive a higher approved yield and therefore coverage on their crop insurance policies by excluding worst-year yields in 10-year APH calculations. USDA undersecretary Micheal Scuse told House ag lawmakers in July that the APH adjustment wouldn’t be available until fall of next year. But, under pressure to get it done sooner, Vilsack stressed RMA and FSA staff worked extra hard to get the job done now.

House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas welcomed the news from USDA secretary Tom Vilsack announcing Actual Production History adjustment for 2015 spring planted crops.  Lucas says he commends the ag secretary and his team on implementing what he calls a critical provision in the farm bill.  Further, Lucas stated “the APH adjustment means everything to farmers all across the country who have suffered through year after year of devastating drought conditions.” Lucas calls it the difference between having viable crop insurance for the coming year or not. Finally, Lucas said he remains “hopeful that USDA will also work to make the same relief available to winter wheat producers


EPA Announces Voluntary Program to Reduce Pesticide Drift

More stars equals greater potential for reducing spray drift of pesticides in the latest program by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA announced Tuesday a new voluntary Drift Reduction Technology program to encourage the use of verified, safer pesticide spray products. The program is an effort by the EPA to reduce exposure and pesticide movement. Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, stated “Our new star-rating system of products and technologies will help farmers reduce drift, protect neighbors and reduce costs by keeping more of the pesticide on the crop.”

The EPA says this program encourages manufactures to test their technology such as nozzles and spray shields for drift reduction potential. Spray technology manufactures interested in the program can submit data to the EPA. The EPA will evaluate the data and assign a star rating which will be posted on the EPA’s website. The EPA estimates that one to ten percent of agricultural pesticide sprays drift or move from the intended target crop.


WTO Rules Against U.S. Country of Origin Labeling

The World Trade Organization has again ruled against Country of Origin Labeling. The WTO compliance panel decided the rule was less favorable to meat imports from Canada and Mexico and more favorable to domestically produced meats. The ruling was announced Monday. The panel concluded the amended COOL measure “increases the original COOL measure’s detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported livestock in the US market,” according to the reports released by the WTO. The panel pointed to the incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock and a higher recordkeeping burden contributed to the ruling. The United States can appeal the ruling.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told Canada Today he expected the U.S. to appeal. A U.S. Trade office spokesperson told the Hagstrom report  “we are considering all options, including appealing the panels’ reports.” Earlier this year, Canadian agriculture officials said retaliations are likely if the rule is implemented. Ritz said Canada calls upon the U.S. to enact legislative change to eliminate COOL’s discriminatory treatment against Canadian hogs and cattle.”

Response to Ruling

As groups respond to the recent ruling by the World Trade Organization against Country of Origin Labeling, two messages are clear. Groups opposed to the measure are calling on congress to help stop potential tariffs or bring the rule to compliance. Groups in favor of the measure vow to continue fighting for the measure, noting the WTO simply needs the rule to be in compliance with world trade rules. National Catlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan stated the announcement “brings us all one step closer to facing retaliatory tariffs from two of our largest trading partners.” Further, he said there is no regulatory fix to bring COOL into compliance.”  

The National Pork Producers Council President Howard Hill said “Congress and the White House need to address this now.” American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said the decision “ only solidifies what we in the industry already knew to be true: that mandatory country of origin labeling in its current state is an unworkable burden on soybean farmers’ largest customers—the animal agriculture industry.”

The United States Cattlemen’s Association reiterated strong support for the rule. USCA President Danni Beer said “The WTO has never said we cannot require country-of-origin labeling” but rather it needs to be sufficient.” He said this action by the WTO provided “no basis for false alarms about repealing the COOL statute itself.  The National Farmers Union called the ruling positive that the problem is not the rule, but rather how it is to be implemented.