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Perdue, Lighthizer talk trade with House Ag

On Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (MN-7) joined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Sec. Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer along with other members of the committee in an executive roundtable on U.S. agricultural trade policy.

Here’s what they had to say:

“We appreciated the opportunity to have Amb. Lighthizer and Sec. Perdue meet with the committee today to underscore the critical importance of trade to the U.S. agricultural economy. Given that agriculture is one of the few areas where the U.S. enjoys a positive balance of trade, we’re eager to work together to continue building on our hard-fought gains. It was also encouraging to hear Amb. Lighthizer express the importance of holding our trading partners accountable, and I look forward to working with him and Sec. Perdue to secure even better deals for America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters,” said Chairman Conaway.

“Today’s roundtable was an opportunity for the committee to hear directly from both Sec. Perdue and Amb. Lighthizer to gain a better understanding of the administration’s plans for agriculture trade. We need to ensure that agriculture is treated fairly in any future trade deals. I take both Sec. Perdue and Amb. Lighthizer at their word that any trade deals will only expand agriculture exports and not take them backward,” said Ranking Member Peterson.

“With the global population expected to hit nine billion by 2050, the U.S. is going to have a major role in feeding a growing and hungry world. At USDA, we like to tell our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers: You grow it, and we’ll sell it. Trade is going to be such an important part of American agriculture, we created an undersecretary for trade at the USDA. Working with President Trump, Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross, Amb. Lighthizer, and our leadership on Capitol Hill, we will help open up new markets and expand existing ones. Because where American agricultural products can compete on a level playing field, they will succeed and lead the way,” said Sec. Perdue.

“I’m honored to meet with the members of the House Agriculture Committee and Sec. Perdue today to further our discussions about protecting and expanding U.S. agricultural exports around the world. America’s farmers and ranchers are second to none, and they have my commitment to fight unfair trade practices and grow more export opportunities. From family farms to food and beverage manufacturing jobs, truly free and fair agricultural trade raises wages and fuels our economy, and I look forward to continuing the conversation and building upon our discussions today,” said Amb. Lighthizer.

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House bill eliminates unnecessary permits on pesticides

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to eliminate an unnecessary, duplicative, and costly regulatory process under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the approved use of pesticides.

H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017, ensures states, local governments, mosquito control districts, and other lawful users of pesticides are able to protect public health and not be overburdened with regulatory processes that provide no additional protections to the environment.

“We’ve seen the consequences of this duplicative and unnecessary permitting requirement since it went into effect in 2011,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the sponsor of H.R. 953.  “Cities and local governments that conduct routine preventive mosquito abatement should not have to do it with one hand tied behind their backs.  This bill ensures the permitting process adheres to EPA’s current authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to approve and regulate these lifesaving pesticides.  This is a commonsense measure that provides peace of mind to those living in communities prone to mosquitos by eliminating the need for a redundant permit that diverts resources from the mission of protecting public health.  Thank you to Chairman Shuster and Chairman Conaway for your leadership in helping pass this critical regulatory reform.”

“This bill eliminates the pointless duplication of regulation over the lawful use of pesticides,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA).  “Under this bill, the use of pesticides will continue to be properly regulated, but without excessive burdens on communities, farmers, and private citizens, and without requirements that cause federal and state agencies to spend limited funds on red tape instead of on protecting public health.  I commend Congressman Gibbs for his long-standing leadership on this legislation.”

“For too long, American farmers and ranchers have been forced to comply with a costly and duplicative pesticide permitting process,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX).  “Pesticides are already fully regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, but a misguided court interpretation has required additional permitting, unnecessarily costing producers both time and money.  I applaud the approval of Mr. Gibbs’ commonsense bill to remove this additional hurdle and look forward to giving farmers and applicators much-needed relief from this needless regulation.”

A large coalition of those affected by the current burdensome regulatory process wrote in support of the legislation, the American Farm Bureau wrote in support of the bill, and the National Association of Counties wrote to highlight the regulatory impacts on county governments.

Prior to the establishment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, pesticides applications were properly regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  However, a 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling imposed an additional regulatory process under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA has estimated that this redundant process affects 365,000 pesticide users, including state agencies, cities, counties, mosquito control districts, water districts, pesticide applicators, farmers, ranchers, forest managers, scientists, and private citizens.

H.R. 953 removes a redundant regulation that was imposed by the Court and not by Congress, and appropriately restores the process to before the Court got involved.

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Wrangler launches new cotton farming initiative

Did you know iconic American denim brand Wrangler purchases roughly half of the cotton for its products from U.S. growers? That’s why it only seems fitting the clothing company has announced the launch of a pilot program to help U.S. cotton farmers reach the next level in sustainable growing practices. The announcement took place at the Sustainable Brands conference in Detroit, where Wrangler co-hosted the Good Apparel pavilion.

The U.S. cotton industry outperforms most other cotton-growing regions of the world on environmental metrics. However, Wrangler wants to determine how even greater environmental and economic benefits can be achieved through a programmatic focus on soil health in the U.S.

“Scientific research shows greater attention to soil health can further reduce the water and energy inputs required to grow cotton and other crops,” explained Wrangler sustainability director, Roian Atwood. “We’re working with a cotton grower in Alabama to explore the best way to implement and measure the effects of robust soil practices like no-till, crop rotation, and cover cropping. We hope to have dozens of growers in the program within a few years.”

The Newby family—seventh-generation farmers from Athens, Alabama—will work with Wrangler and advisors from the Soil Health Institute (SHI) to unlock further improvements in cotton yield, irrigation water, energy inputs, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil conservation. Forty thousand pounds of the Newby’s cotton will be used to make a special collection of Wrangler denim jeans that will be sold in 2018.

“Our family has always looked for new ways to make farming more economical, while taking better care of the land,” said Jerry Allen Newby. “There’s been a learning curve, but we’re beginning to see good results with things like cover crops and soil grid mapping. We’re happy to work with Wrangler, share what we’ve learned, and maybe make it easier for other growers to transition to these practices.”

The pilot program builds on Wrangler’s long-standing commitment to supporting U.S. farming communities. Wrangler has been a corporate sponsor of Future Farmers of America for more than 50 years, and recently hosted a conference at Wrangler headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, to educate FFA youth on the science of soil health.

In addition to the cotton pilot project and soil health education, Wrangler’s other sustainability programs include a commitment to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025, zero waste facilities, and manufacturing and technology improvements that have saved 3 billion liters of water over the last decade.

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Arizona rancher: Rural America is fed up with overregulation

Arizona rancher David Cook testified before the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Wednesday, calling on Congress to remove layers of red tape and overregulation … specifically the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the Wilderness Act.

“I do not believe it was the intent of Congress to disenfranchise communities like mine when laws like FLPMA and the Wilderness Act were originally enacted, but that is certainly where we have ended up,” explained Cook. “The burden of compliance with these processes – not to mention the struggle to have our voice as a stakeholder heard and respected has become the dominant consumer of time and resources for anyone or any entity interacting with federally-managed lands.”

Cook and his wife, Diana, own and operate DC Cattle Company, as well as partner in several ranches in Gila County, Ariz. Gila spans 4,800 square miles and contains less than 5 percent private deeded land. All of the ranches Cook operates must utilize a federal grazing permit with the Tonto National forest to remain economically viable.

FLPMA was enacted in 1976 with the intent to provide direction for the management of public lands, which would emphasize and protect the mandate for multiple use and sustained yield. In his testimony, however, Cook explained that the reality was different.

“Unfortunately and unintentionally, the delegation of authority from Congress to the land management agencies and the resulting unchecked authority over land-use planning has been abused by administrators and capitalized on by radical environmental groups through relentless offensive litigation,” said Cook. “This has led to further restrictions on public lands, specifically for permitted activities, thereby eroding the intent of multiple use. The intent to consult with local governments has not been properly used and instead we have seen de-prioritization of local input in the planning process.”

One example, Cook said, was the “Salt River Six,” which was comprised of six forest service allotments along the Salt River that needed permit renewals.

“USFS consulted with several other federal agencies during a four-year process but would not consult with Gila County about potential impacts to their general plan,” said Cook. “After more than four years of meetings, time, and resources, USFS scrapped the project and started asking permittees to disregard any of the previous years. At present, the situation remains unresolved and six separate ranching operations remain in limbo about the future of their business and no certainty that they will continue to operate. The economic impacts of this uncertainty on a rural economy are devastating.”

At the same time, wilderness designations have severely limited the ability to properly maintain and enhance any ranch improvements despite the original intentions of the legislation to not interfere with these activities. Industries such as cattle grazing see a significant reduction in their ability to maintain the infrastructure in which they need to operate their ranching businesses.

“Special land designations on lands that are already federally owned and subject to management decisions by the federal government, like wilderness designations, only create more burdens for federal agencies and typically serve to erode true multiple use in favor of a ‘hands off’ approach,” said Cook. “This failure of responsible management often leads to dire consequences for our region – economically, ecologically, and culturally.”

Cook also serves as an elected Representative to the Arizona State Legislature. He wrapped up his testimony stressing that these burdensome laws extend far beyond the local businesses and communities he was representing today. In fact, he said, they impact everything in a state like Arizona, from industry, to tourism, to simply bringing necessary services like electricity to rural citizens.

“Rural America is facing on-going and detrimental overregulation, and we appreciate the leadership of Chairman Raul Labrador (R- Idaho) for bringing stakeholders to the table to address the needed reform.”

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