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Government shutdown? What happens to USDA, FDA, EPA?

If the Senate can’t get enough votes for a stopgap spending bill, that passed in the House last night and would keep the government funded through Feb. 16, it looks like we will be headed toward another federal government shutdown.

A government shutdown doesn’t mean everything comes to a halt though. Only agencies that are deemed nonessential are closed. So what does that mean for some of our ag-related agencies?  Let’s take a trip back in time and see what happened during the last government shutdown in 2013.

  • FDA food inspectors were not working, but USDA food inspectors still logged in. That seems to be the same plan this year. The reason being that the FDA doesn’t conduct food-safety inspections nearly as frequently as the USDA does.
  • The official grain inspection and weighing services provided by USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) continued uninterrupted and will most likely stay open this time since these staff positions are financed by industry-paid user fees.
  • USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) continued to issue phytosanitary certificates for export shipments because they are financed by user fees. APHIS activities associated with foreign plant and animal disease prevention also stayed the course, but activities funded by congressional appropriations were discontinued, including assistance for control of most domestic plant and animal pests and diseases, as well as action on permits or authorizations of biotech-enhanced traits.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, aka SNAP, continued, as did WIC. That should happen again this year, however it is expected several smaller feeding programs will not have enough money to operate. School breakfasts and lunches funded by the federal government would not be affected.
  • The USDA shut down their web site. Agricultural statistical reports ceased publication
  • Most federal agencies will likely be closed again, such as the Farm Service Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency, although some of their essential functions will continue to operate. During the 2013 shutdown, FSA retained only 70 employees – 0.59 percent of its work force; EPA staff was only on hand in the event of an emergency.
  • OSHA stopped all operations except for those that related to “emergencies involving the safety of human life or protection of property.”
  • The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) kept 61 staff members in the 2013 shutdown to continue advising the president on U.S. trade policy.

In total, the October 2013 government shutdown lasted more than two weeks and more than 800,000 federal employees were furloughed.


New York judge rejects farm worker collective bargaining suit

A New York judge has thrown out a lawsuit that sought collective bargaining rights for farm workers.

“New York Farm Bureau learned today that Judge Richard McNally has granted our organization’s request to dismiss the New York Civil Liberties Union’s baseless lawsuit that sought to create collective bargaining rights for farm workers. The Court’s decision is a major victory for New York’s family farms. New York Farm Bureau argued in State Supreme Court in Albany, NY last July that our system of government requires that the legislature change state law, not the courts. The Court agreed.

In his decision, Judge McNally wrote, “…the plaintiffs and the State have not demonstrated that the Labor Law statues are racially discriminatory or that farm workers are a suspect class entitled to constitutional protections. Any changes to the SERA (State Employee Relations Act) should emanate with the New York State Legislature as ‘the legislative power of this state shall be vested in the senate and the assembly.’”

The court previously granted New York Farm Bureau intervenor status in the lawsuit. Our organization petitioned the court in 2016 to become a defendant only after the Governor and Attorney General refused to uphold and defend the State Labor Relations Act from the lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

New York Farm Bureau has long opposed farm worker collective bargaining for one simple reason. Farms do not have a standard eight-hour workday. Last year’s growing season demonstrated that. Weeks of heavy rains followed by shorter bouts of sunshine forced farmers and their employees to squeeze in weeks of work into just a few dry days. Work never stops inside the barn. For instance, cows need to be fed and milked multiple times every day. A farm worker strike or confining work agreements could jeopardize a crop or the health of an animal. Everyone who works in farming understands this, including farm workers. Farmers have great respect for the people who they employ, and this court victory does not diminish that. They value their employees’ commitment, work ethic, and the partnership it takes to get the job done on the farm.

New York Farm Bureau has represented farmers for more than a century, and today’s ruling will go down as another defining moment in Farm Bureau’s long history. New York Farm Bureau will always stand up for our members, either in court or at the Capitol, to ensure that their rights are protected and their voices are heard,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.

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Purple Plow Challenge to address local food insecurity

It’s time for another Purple Plow challenge from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture! The interactive challenge, Growing Your Community, will run through May 1 and asks students to research, design, construct, test, and report on a solution to combat food insecurity in their communities.

The top three entries will win a 3-D printer and Visa gift card to help buy supplies for future maker challenges. In addition, all teams who complete the spring challenge by the deadline will be entered into a drawing for one of eight $500 grants.

The Purple Plow challenge is a great project for a multitude of groups with students in fifth to eighth grade, including maker spaces, after-school programs, in-school lessons, 4-H clubs, library learning, scout troops, and more.

“Purple Plow projects provide students a way to learn by doing. Each challenge encourages students to explore agricultural topics through hands-on learning,” said Julia Recko, director of education outreach at the Foundation.

The Foundation’s Purple Plow contest runs seasonally throughout the year. All challenges are written by teachers, align to national learning standards and are reviewed by industry experts. The resources are made possible through the generous support of title sponsor DuPont Pioneer.

“We’re committed to supporting student exploration in agricultural sciences through initiatives such as the Purple Plow Challenge, which allows students to address food insecurity in their local communities,” said Ronda Hamm, DuPont Pioneer global academic relations leader.

Visit for more information on challenges. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram: @ThePurplePlow.


Fraley: Open letter to Monsanto’s customers regarding dicamba

Happy New Year. Even though we’re still in the early days of 2018, we’re only a few short months from planting. Here at Monsanto, we’re excited for the 2018 season and for growers to once again experience outstanding weed control and yield potential with the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System.

As we’ve previously communicated, the registration for XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology has recently been updated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the product is now a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP). The updated EPA label requires all applicators to complete dicamba or auxin-specific training before applying the product in 2018 and to keep and maintain specified records associated with each application. We’ve taken an in-depth look at the inquiries we received from customers in 2017 and are using that base of information and the EPA requirements to enhance 2018 through extensive training and resources, expanded partnerships, and broad communication to the entire industry.

In 2017, the majority of growers saw tremendous results with the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System. The weed control, performance, and adoption of this technology has been outstanding, as many farmers have reported.

  • Soybean growers surveyed who applied XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology this past season reported 97 percent weed control satisfaction.
  • The Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System yield results from our 2017 trials showed a 5.7 Bu./A. average yield advantage versus the LibertyLink System.
  • Customer demand indicates Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans account for 80 percent of our branded soybean demand, which together with our partners and licensees, supports our estimated 40 million acres of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans planted in 2018—nearly double the number of acres planted in 2017.

As we prepare for 2018, it is important to remember that under the new EPA RUP label, 1) XtendiMax is approved for use only by certified applicators or persons under their direct supervision, depending on state requirements and 2) mandatory training is required for ALL applicators. With that in mind, we’re gearing up with an even more robust communications and training program to help growers and applicators prepare for success this season.

  • This month, we’re kicking off our training program in a number of states with in-person training sessions focused on compliance with the product label, application requirements, required record keeping, understanding of susceptible/sensitive crops, window of application and understanding environmental conditions such as inversions, along with other important topics. To sign up for a Monsanto training event in your area, check out our list of events and look for more events to come throughout January and in the coming months.
  • In some states, training sessions began in December through partnerships between dicamba manufacturers and state associations. In Illinois, for example, we’ve already seen strong feedback from growers who attended trainings hosted by state industry associations, which include presentations from Monsanto and BASF. We are pleased to hear farmers responding well to these efforts, and we’ll continue to participate in these events going forward.
  • In a handful of states, required training must be completed through the state, such as the university extension. A list of states with this requirement are included on our Dicamba Training webpage. We’ll continue to update this page with additional state information as it becomes available.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve also let you know about other efforts underway to help growers maximize their success in 2018. I’m happy to report:

  • Based on customer requests, we will be distributing approximately 1,000,000 spray nozzles at no cost to grower customers ahead of the spray season.
  • The technical support call center will be open by early March and can be accessed by calling 1-844-RRXTEND; applicators and customers can have their questions answered regarding the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System.
  • The RRXTEND Spray App is in development to help applicators create and retain application records and identify weather conditions conducive for successful application, including a tool to forecast inversion risk. We anticipate sharing it with growers and applicators ahead of the application season
    Monsanto seed and crop protection dealers are ready to provide growers with more than 100,000 Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System field flags that will help them identify fields.
  • We’re working with growers to help them take advantage of an additional incentive up to $6 per acre when applying XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, plus additional solutions, through Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Management Solutions. Talk to your chemical retailer or visit to see total incentive opportunities for soybeans or cotton.
  • We’re continuing to add approved tank mix options including herbicides, adjuvants, micronutrients, insecticides and fungicides to to provide growers additional choice and flexibility for efficient, best management solutions.

Our top priority is ensuring grower and applicator success. We know 2018 will bring more positive grower experiences, but as with any new technology, we know you will have questions as well. We are committed to addressing your questions and concerns throughout the season, and we will remain in regular communication with you in the months ahead. Look for more news and updates from us throughout 2018. We’re with you every step of the way this season, and we’ll continue to partner with you to make it even more successful.


robb fraley

Robb Fraley

Chief Technology Officer

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