Farmers Union conversation: Part 2

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 Thanks to a lawsuit brought by Canada and Mexico, COOL has been repealed in by Congress.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.

Farmers Union

Country of Origin Labeling, pictured here, was recently repealed by Congress after the US was successfully sued by Canada and Mexico in world court.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.

Farmes Union and WOTUS

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.

Farmers Union and 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WOTUS campaign declared unlawful

BIG NEWS TODAY —

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation,
Regarding GAO Legal Opinion Finding EPA Violated Law Regarding WOTUS

WOTUS campaign ruled illegal

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman issued a statement applauding the Government Accountability Office findings of EPA impropriety when it came to the controversial Waters of the US Rule, or WOTUS (Photo from agri-pulse.com)

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 14, 2015 – “A legal opinion today by the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds that the Environmental Protection Agency broke the law with its social media and grassroots lobbying campaign advocating for its own Waters of the U.S. rule.

“It’s clear from this report that EPA orchestrated this matter in a biased fashion.

“Now it’s up to Congress to clean up this mess by including a corrective measure in the omnibus bill now taking shape on Capitol Hill.

“Courts already have declared serious doubts about the legal authority for the rule. Now, it has become clear that the agency used illegal tactics to manufacture ill-informed support for the rule. Congress should act immediately to prohibit implementation of this rule, which is the product of an unlawful and misguided process.

WOTUS campaign declared illegal

Farm Bureau has campaigned against the Waters of the US Rule put forth by the EPA since the idea was first put out to the public. (Photo from michfb.com)

“We applaud U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe for asking GAO to conduct this investigation.

“The GAO findings vindicate those, like the American Farm Bureau Federation, who have claimed all along that EPA’s tactics advocating for this rule stepped past the bounds of proper agency rule making.

“EPA was focused only on promoting the rule rather than hearing good-faith concerns from a wide cross-section of Americans. The public deserves better when important matters of public policy are at stake.”

 

WOTUS rule postponed nationwide

Here’s a conversation on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals staying the implementation of the controversial Waters of the US Rule (WOTUS):

 

WOTUS

The EPA’s implementation of the Waters of the US Rule was stayed nationwide by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today. (Photo from alaskapolicyforum.org)

The Sixth Circuit has just stayed the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule nationwide, by a 2-1 vote, until it determines whether it has jurisdiction over the petitions for review.  The majority found a substantial possibility of success on both merits grounds (that the rule does not comport with even Justice Kennedy’s Rapanos opinion) and procedural grounds (that significant changes in the rule were never put to notice and comment).

The order is, “The Clean Water Rule is hereby STAYED, nationwide, pending further order of the court.”

A stay has the same practical effect as an injunction – it prevents the EPA/Corps from implementing the rule.

Expect the stay to last until the 6th Circuit makes a decision regarding the jurisdictional issue, which is expected sometime in November.

Here’s the link to the story on KLGR radio’s website:

http://www.myklgr.com/2015/10/09/6th-circuit-court-stays-wotus-rule-nationwide/

Here’s a video from the Kansas Farm Bureau featuring Paul Schlegel, the Director of Environment and Energy Policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C.

 

Farm Bureau Members Travel to Washington, D.C.

Twenty-seven farmers and ranchers from across Minnesota met with their members of Congress in Washington, D.C. during the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF) Farmers to Washington, D.C. trip September 15-19.

Participants met with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken; members of Congress Tim Walz, Erik Paulsen, Keith Ellison, Tom Emmer, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan; and staff members from the offices of John Kline and Betty McCollum.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation

Minnesota Farm Bureau YF&R Members took time out from meetings with elected officials in DC to chat with AFBF President Bob Stallman (Photo from MN Farm Bureau FB page (facebook.com/MNFarmBureau/photos

During their meetings, Farm Bureau members discussed the role of biotechnology both in food production and food labeling, and thanked Representatives Walz, Kline, Paulsen, McCollum, Emmer and Peterson for voting for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act which establishes a federal, voluntary GMO labeling program. The participants also urged the Congressional delegation to act quickly on extending expired tax provisions including Section 179: Small Business Expensing and bonus depreciation, discussed the effects of the Endangered Species Act and reminded them of the importance of passing a long-term transportation bill.

In addition, attendees met with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking for clarification on the new rule that expands the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. Farm Bureau members also discussed the Renewable Fuels Standard as EPA continues to look at volume requirements for 2014-2016. Farm Bureau supports returning the requirements to match the levels set by Congress in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation

After meeting with the EPA to discuss the WOTUS rule, the Minnesota Farm Bureau YF&R members stopped to visit Minnesota Congressman Nolan (Photo from facebook.com/MNFarmBureau/photos)

“This experience outfits young farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to become strong advocates for agriculture and rural Minnesota,” said Miles and Sarah Kuschel, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Committee members. “It also brings politics and rulemaking to life for our Farm Bureau members and instills the importance of discussing the issues that are important to us. If we are not sharing our story, then someone else will be.”

Some of the trip attendees included AFBF YF&R Committee members, state YF&R and Promotion & Education (P&E) Committee members and YF&R contest finalists.

YF&R contest finalists earned this trip by competing in the 2014 MFBF YF&R Achievement Award and Excellence in Agriculture contests held during the MFBF Annual Meeting in November 2014 or the 2015 Discussion Meet held at the MFBF Leadership Conference in January. In addition to the Washington, D.C. trip, state contest winners receive a $500 cash prize, a trip to the AFBF YF&R national leadership conference and a trip to compete in the AFBF contests. For more information about the MFBF YF&R program, contact your county offices or visit fbmn.org.

Minnesota Farm Bureau representing Farmers • Families • Food is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureaus across Minnesota. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education for children. Join Farm Bureau today and support our efforts to serve as an advocate for rural Minnesota, www.fbmn.org.

For more information on the Minnesota Farm Bureau log onto www.fbmn.orgwww.Facebook.com/MNFarmBureau or www.Twitter.com/MNFarmBureau.

MN Farm Bureau Opposes Final WOTUS Rule

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) has significant concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule defining “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

“EPA continues to conduct a messaging campaign to reassure farmers, ranchers and landowners that this rule is harmless. Unfortunately, when we actually read the rule, this is not the case,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap. “This final rule provides no clarity, no certainty and no limits on agency power.”

“Contrary to EPA’s assurances that the final rule would address agriculture’s concerns, it turns out the final rule is even broader than the proposed rule,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap. “For example, the definition of “tributary” has been broadened to include landscape features that may not even be visible to the human eye, or that existed historically but are no longer present. Agencies will be able to use desktop tools, such as aerial photographs and mapping tools the average farmer does not have access to, to make that regulatory determination without ever leaving their desks.”

Kevin Paap

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap (photo from twitter.com/kevinpaap)

“EPA also added entirely new possible jurisdictional features that were not subject to public review during the proposed rule, including prairie potholes, which will affect a significant portion of Minnesota,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap.

“Unfortunately, the rule-making process has failed farmers, ranchers and landowners. Agriculture’s concerns were dismissed as ‘silly’ and ludicrous,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap. “It’s hard to make rules that are workable outside of the Washington D.C. beltway when the agencies made it quite clear that they were genuinely not open to considering objections to the rule.”

“Now that we know what we are working with, it is critical that the Senate takes action,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap. “EPA and the Corps have run around Congress, and it’s time the Senate reestablishes their oversight role in the development of agency rules. MFBF strongly supports legislation that would send EPA back to the drawing board to come up with a rule that is practical and actually achieves environmental benefits in a clear way. We urge Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken to stand up for farmers, ranchers and landowners and support the Federal Water Quality Protection Act.”

Ditch the Rule

Farm Bureau wants the EPA to ditch the controversial Waters of the US Rule (photo from ditchtherule.fb.org)

Minnesota Farm Bureau – Farmers ● Families ● Food is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureau associations across Minnesota. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education for children. Join Farm Bureau today and support efforts to serve as an advocate for rural Minnesota, www.fbmn.org.