National Ag News for January 3, 2023

EPA Finalizes WOTUS Definition

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers announced a final rule establishing the definition of “Waters of the United States.” They say the rule reduces uncertainty from consistently changing regulatory definitions, protects people’s health, and supports economic opportunity. The final rule restores essential water protections that were in place before 2015 under the Clean Water Act for traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, and the upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters. “Following extensive stakeholder engagement, EPA is delivering a durable definition of WOTUS that safeguards our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health,” says EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “It also provides greater certainty for farmers, ranchers, and landowners.” Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, says, “This definition provides clarity long desired by farmers, industry, environmental groups, and other stakeholders. It also allows for more effective rule implementation.”

Group Reacts to New WOTUS Rule

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association responded to the newly-Published Waters of the U.S. Rule. The group says farmers and ranchers have dealt with the whiplash of shifting WOTUS definitions for far too long. “While the new rule retains longstanding exclusions for certain agricultural features, it still creates new uncertainty for farmers, ranchers, and landowners,” says NCBA Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart. NCBA previously asked the Environmental Protection Agency to retain agricultural exclusions for small, isolated, and temporary water features that commonly appear on farms and ranches. The new rule fails to clearly exempt isolated and ephemeral features from federal jurisdiction and relies on “case-by-case” determinations to assess whether a feature is federally regulated. Hart says the timing of the rule couldn’t be worse as the Supreme Court is currently considering Sackett v. EPA, which would provide much-needed clarity to the WOTUS definition. “Today’s rule seeks to directly preempt the Supreme Court,” she says.

Two Selected for AFBF Top Honors

The American Farm Bureau Federation will present its highest honors to former Executive Vice President Dale Moore and former North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten. The two will receive the Distinguished Service Award and the Farm Bureau Founders Award, respectively, during the 2023 AFBF annual convention in Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau established the Distinguished Service Award to honor individuals who’ve devoted their careers to serving the interest of American agriculture. The Founders Award is presented in recognition of outstanding achievements and work in the interest of Farm Bureau. Moore, a Kansas native, has been a champion of agriculture in the public and private sectors for more than 40 years. Wooten’s Farm Bureau career spans more than 50 years, peaking when he was elected president of the NCFB in 1999, a position he held until 2019. The American Farm Bureau’s annual convention is January 6-11 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Ethanol Production Hits Lowest Level in Two Months

The Energy Information Administration says ethanol production plunged in the seven days that ended on December 23 to the lowest level in more than two months while inventories rose. Output during the week averaged 963,000 barrels a day, down from 1.029 million barrels a week earlier. The EIA report says that’s the lowest level since the week ending on October 7. The Midwest produces the most ethanol in the country and saw production drop to 906,000 barrels a day, on average, down from 975,000 the previous week. The Midwest drop was the entire loss during the week as production on the East Coast and in the Rocky Mountain regions was steady. West Coast output rose by an average of 1,000 barrels a day to 9,000 for the week. Ethanol stockpiles during the week rose to 24.63 million barrels. That’s the highest level of inventory since the seven days ending on April 8.

Taylor Sworn In as USDA Undersecretary

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is pleased that Alexis Taylor was finally sworn in last week as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. Vilsack says Taylor has had a deep-rooted and impressive career working on matters related to agriculture, trade, and enhancing as many export opportunities as possible for America’s farmers and ranchers. “She’s not only spent her career serving the American people through her work in American agricultural and trade policy but also as a veteran of the U.S. Army,” Vilsack says. “I am confident Alexis is the right person to lead as we continue to address global food security challenges, promote American exports to new and existing markets across the globe, and strengthen trade relationships with our partners.” The secretary also looks forward to working with Taylor to help the agency better serve farmers and ranchers and link America’s agriculture producers to expanded global opportunities.

Important Ag Provisions in the Omnibus Bill

President Biden signed the omnibus spending package into law that diverts a government shutdown and keeps it running until September 30, 2023. The bill with more than 4,000 pages contains many notable items important to U.S. farmers and ranchers. The bill includes $3.7 billion in disaster funding for crop and livestock losses due to drought and other problems in 2022. There is $350 million allocated for rice producer payments to compensate for the drop in revenue this year, as well as $100 million provided for payments to cotton merchandisers as a result of losses related to COVID or supply chain disruptions. Livestock Mandatory Reporting is extended until September 30, 2023. It also includes price transparency as the USDA and the Justice Department are to analyze issues regarding transparent meat pricing and price discovery for cattle producers. Raw or processed chicken imported from China can’t be used in the federal school lunch program.


By Tucker Allmer - The BARN

Tucker 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.

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