READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, January 28th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Court Rules Against EPA Small Refinery Waivers

The Environmental Protection Agency must reconsider its small refinery exemptions, following a recent court decision. A document dated January 24 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit says the EPA overstepped its authority to grant three specific waivers in question. The decision is expected to broadly impact the EPA approach to granting waivers, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, which claims the waivers are unlawful. The court ruling stems from a May 2018 challenge brought against EPA by the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol and National Farmers Union. NFU President Roger Johnson says, “We believe this ruling will help restore the ability of the RFS to drive demand.” Among other findings, the court says EPA cannot “extend” exemptions to any small refineries whose earlier, temporary exemptions had lapsed. The court also found EPA abused its discretion in failing to explain how the agency could conclude that a small refinery might suffer a disproportionate economic hardship.

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USDA to Accept Applications for the Second Round of ReConnect Funding

Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA will again accept rural broadband funding request this week. USDA will accept applications for the second round of $550 million in ReConnect Program loan and grant funding starting January 31. The funds will expand public-private partnerships in rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than ten megabits per second download and one megabit per second upload. Secretary Perdue says, “we at USDA are very excited to begin accepting applications for the second round of funds.” Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Through the program, USDA is making available approximately $200 million for grants, as well as up to $200 million for loan and grant combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. More information is available online at www.usda.gov/reconnect.

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Corps of Engineers Monitoring High Water on Upper Mississippi River

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is monitoring high water conditions affecting parts of the Upper Mississippi River in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa as a result of historic flows this winter. Cities from Winona, Minnesota, to Guttenberg, Iowa, have an increased chance of localized flooding due to ice dams. The high water conditions were created by a combination of ice dams and historic high flows. The current river flows are at levels normally observed in late spring. Irregular temperatures have also prevented ice from forming in a stable way, which compounds the ice dam problem. The ice has blocked the river’s normal flow and forced water out of its banks. It has also reduced the ability to actively manage the river water elevations. Depending on temperatures and the rate of ice melt, there could be more high water in the weeks and months ahead. the Corps is working with the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor the river and provide communication with the public.

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Wisconsin Special Legislative Session Focusing on Dairy Crisis

A special session of the Wisconsin legislature opening this week seeks to help the state’s struggling dairy industry. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order last week to authorize the special session to consider eight agriculture-focused bills. They include farmer assistance, stress and mental health support, promoting value-added agriculture, farm grants and a focus on exports. Evers announced the plan during his State of the State Address last week, and says, “It’s about investing in and supporting our rural families and communities.” The governor hopes to increase Wisconsin dairy exports to 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply by 2024. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported earlier this month that last year, Wisconsin lost nearly 700 dairy farms. The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association says the industry is challenged by trade instability, poor weather conditions, a severe labor shortage, and a decline in milk consumption. Association executive director John Umhoefer (um-hay-fer) says, “Urgent action is needed to stabilize and strengthen Wisconsin’s backbone industry.“

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United Nations Declares 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health

The United Nations has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health to bring worldwide attention to invasive pests. The pests destroy up to 40 percent of the world’s food crops and cause $220 billion in trade losses each year, according to the United Nations. They are calling on stakeholders to work together to protect plants against the introduction and spread of invasive pests. The U.S. National Plant Protection Organization—the Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Quarantine—is leading the effort in the United States. Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach (eye-bah), says “we’re urging everyone to take this issue seriously and to do their part.” According to USDA, everyone can help avoid the devastating impact of pests and diseases on agriculture, livelihoods, and food security. Tips to do so include reporting unusual signs of pests, refrain from moving firewood, and declaring food or ag items at U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints when returning from international travel.

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Public Lands Council Names Executive Director

The Public Lands Council Monday announced that Kaitlynn Glover joined the organization as its executive director. The Public Lands Council, known as PLC, is a national trade association representing 22,000 ranchers who raise cattle and sheep on federal land. Glover will serve as the chief lobbyist for the organization, representing cattle and sheep producers in western states on resource issues affecting their operations. The legislative and regulatory portfolio focuses on protecting grazing on federal land, and includes the Clean Water Act, tax policy, the Endangered Species Act, property rights, and other matters. Glover says her top priority will focus on policies that “ensure a strong future for agriculture and healthy public lands.” Glover comes to PLC from Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso’s office. Originally from Wyoming, Glover has strong ties to grazers, recreationalists, and many other users of public land resources. Glover will also lead the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s natural resources policy portfolio in the organization’s Washington, D.C. office.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.