Agriculture has officially said goodbye to 2015.
As we continue to look ahead, Doug Peterson, the President of the Minnesota Farmers Union, said it’s important to look back at some of the lessons learned from 2015. One of the key policy items Farmers Union fought for was Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). Thanks to a lawsuit brought by Canada and Mexico, COOL has been repealed in by Congress.
“I don’t think it’s a dead issue necessarily,” said Peterson. “We believe people have a right to know where their food comes from, no different than where their shoes or shirts come from. Now, thanks to Congress’s wisdom, we have no ability to ask that question about where our food comes from.”
Farmers Union believes it boils down to safety.
Country of Origin Labeling, pictured here, was recently repealed by Congress after the US was successfully sued by Canada and Mexico in world court. (photo from foodsafetynews.com)
“When it comes to China and other countries that may not have the same safety standards, be it with workers, food additives, or even testing, not have COOL is something we shouldn’t be allowing.
“If it’s coming from places like India and China, given the track record of some of these countries that had poison in dog and cat food, called melamine, a protein additive that also sickened children, you start to think maybe not having labels isn’t such a good idea,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the verdict against the USA and its Country of Origin Labeling was questionable.
“We lost Country of Origin Labeling, and we couldn’t even keep it voluntary because of the retribution of the world court,” Peterson said. “There are 36 other countries that currently have a Country of Origin standard in place. Canada has a very strong one, and they’re the people that brought the lawsuit against us, along with Mexico.”
He added, “You have to wonder if some of these international companies lobbying our Congress against Labeling Laws aren’t in these other countries too? Plus, if you don’t want labels on foods, what are you trying to hide? I guess that’s my question.”
Waters of the US and the Environmental Protection Agency are going to be another big concern in 2016.
The Minnesota Farmers Union has opposed the EPA’s Waters of the US Rule, calling it government overreach, and a burden on farmers and non-farmers alike. (photo from farmfutures.com)
“I’ve always said the EPA is run by bureaucrats,” Peterson said. “The other thing no one seems to get a handle on is the Corps of Engineers holds final say on a bunch of permitting processes, and that’s just a morass of red tape. Whether you’re doing something good or trying to make improvements, they don’t have the ability within the EPA or the Corps to make good judgments.”
He said the Farmers Union saw that firsthand on their last Fly-In to Washington.
“I asked EPA counsel a question about the Corps permits, and what I got back was ‘well, the Corps doesn’t have a lot of speed and they’re not expediting some things as fast as they should,’ and that’s kind of bothersome. You end up blaming everybody else.”
Will WOTUS ever be officially adopted?
“I don’t think so,” Peterson said. “They’re going to be challenges. Minnesota Farmers Union opposed WOTUS right out of the block because we have our own wetlands conservation act. That’s even more stringent than the EPA.
“When I met with Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator, there seemed to be a lack of clarity even as they were trying to define what they wanted to do. Roughly 36 of the current farming practices are exempted, so you can do things like tiling, ditching, and drainage.
“The issue is when you start looking at adjacent wetlands and how they work ecologically in a system,” Peterson said, “and that’s what they couldn’t answer for people. That’s a problem for the EPA, and the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo is just going to get worse.”
He added, “That’s a terrible prediction for 2016. Another one is not much is going to get done because it’s an election year. It’s going to be a waiting game to see who controls Congress and who takes the White House.
“Think about it,” said Peterson. “What did Congress really get done? “They passed a continuing resolution and went home.
On the state level, Farmers Union will have its eye on property taxes.
The Minnesota Farmers Union will go before the Minnesota Legislature to lobby for property tax relief for farmers in rural areas, who they say carry to much of the burden of school district funding. (photo from agweb.com)
“People are going to ask for property tax relief,” Peterson said, “ because the burden falls on family farmers in rural school districts. That has to be addressed at some point with a new formula. They’ve worked at it, but we still don’t have a tax bill.
“Then, we move into another election cycle,” Peterson said, “so get your earmuffs out and try to figure out who’s going to promise the most and see where the mud sticks.”
Editors note: I thought you might enjoy this explanation of WOTUS, and how the EPA was recently accused of breaking the law in an attempt to “promote” their idea.