NPPC Urges Delay in “Waters of the U.S.” Rule

Aug. 28, 2015, WASHINGTON, DC–Following yesterday’s federal court injunction against a new Clean Water Act (CWA) rule, the National Pork Producers Council today strongly urged the Obama administration to delay implementation of the regulation, which would adversely affect hundreds of thousands of farmers, businesspeople and landowners. The organization also again asked the administration to withdraw it and to work with the agriculture and business communities to craft a rule ensuring the cleanliness of the nation’s rivers, streams and other waterways that the public can understand and with which it can easily comply.

“NPPC applauds the District Court’s decision,” said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “The rule that was blocked is vague and fails to let regulated parties know when their conduct violates the law.

“We all want clean water, but this regulation isn’t about clean water. This massive land grab is about federal control of private property, growing the size of government and allowing activists to extort and micromanage all kinds of farming and business activities.”

The “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule was proposed in April 2014 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify the agencies’ authority under the CWA over various waters. Currently, that jurisdiction – based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions – includes “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The rule would broaden that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also would encompass lands adjacent to such waters.

Thursday the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota stopped implementation of the regulation, which was set to take effect today. “It appears likely that the EPA has violated its congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the rule,” said Chief Judge Ralph Erickson in ruling in favor of 13 states that brought suit in North Dakota against EPA and the Corps of Engineers.

EPA, however, has indicated it only will recognize the injunction in the states that filed suit before the North Dakota court.

NPPC in early July joined other agricultural organizations and business groups in filing a similar lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, arguing that the rule finalized in May “bears no connection” to the CWA and violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution. They also alleged that in writing the rule, EPA and the Corps of Engineers misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s decisions on CWA jurisdiction and subverted the notice-and-comment process by failing to seek public comments on scientific reports used to write the regulation and on major revisions of the proposed rule, conducting an inadequate economic analysis and engaging in an advocacy campaign during the comment period. (Click here to read the complaint.)

“EPA and the Corps of Engineers really failed to work with the agriculture and business communities to come up with a regulation that people could comply with,” Prestage said.

NPPC is backing bills now making their way through Congress that would require EPA and the Corps of Engineers to withdraw the WOTUS rule and to work with affected parties, including farmers, on a new regulation.

NPPC is the global voice for the U.S. pork industry, protecting the livelihoods of America’s 68,000 pork producers, who abide by ethical principles in caring for their animals, in protecting the environment and public health and in providing safe, wholesome, nutritious pork products to consumers worldwide. For more information, visit www.nppc.org.

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“Know Before You Fly” [B4UFLY] Clarifies UAS Ops

August 28, 2015-Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones as they are often called, are increasingly available online and on store shelves. Prospective operators—from consumers to businesses—want to fly and fly safely, but many don’t realize that, just because you can easily acquire a UAS, doesn’t mean you can fly it anywhere, or for any purpose. “Know Before You Fly” is an educational campaign that provides prospective users with the information and guidance they need to fly safely and responsibly.

Know Before You Fly was founded by the three leading organizations with a stake in UAS safety – the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and the Small UAV Coalition. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is partnering with the founding members to spread the word about safe and responsible flying.    The campaign breaks down operational guidelines for three categories of use: recreational, business and public entities. Information includes links to FAA regulations and recommendations for those who want to delve deeper. For more information: http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/.

On February 23, 2015, the FAA released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for small, unmanned aircraft. An NPRM is a public notice issued by law when an independent agency, such as the FAA, wishes to add, remove or change a rule or regulation as part of the rulemaking process. It does not change any existing guidelines, rules, regulations or policy that may be in place. Instead, it opens the door for public comment and the beginning of the rulemaking process. Until the final rule is implemented, and to learn more, please continue to check out this website and the FAA’s Fact Sheet on UAS. You can also track further developments on the NPRM here. If you have additional questions, please email the FAA at UAS-rule@faa.gov.

B4UFLY Smartphone App  (http://www.faa.gov/uas/b4ufly/)

 B4UFLY is a simple, easy-to-use smartphone app that users will be able to access before they operate their unmanned aircraft to determine whether there are any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where they want to fly. The FAA announced the app at the 2015 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Released by the FAA on August 28, 2015 to 1,000 beta testers, this limited beta test is expected to run for several months, after which the FAA plans to make B4UFLY available for the general public. The initial release is planned for iOS devices only, with an Android version to follow.

Key features of the B4UFLY app include:

  • A clear “status” indicator that immediately informs the operator about their current or planned location. For example, it shows flying in the Special Flight Rules Area around Washington, DC is prohibited
  • Information on the parameters that drive the status indicator
  • A “Planner Mode” for future flights in different locations
  • Informative, interactive maps with filtering options
  • Contact information for nearby airports
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Chairman Conaway Pleased with Federal Judge’s WOTUS Block

August 28, 2015-Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, issued the following statement after North Dakota District Court Judge Ralph Erickson issued a preliminary injunction to halt the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule from being implemented in 13 states. It would affect Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

“I am pleased with yesterday’s decision by a federal judge to prevent this disastrous rule from going into effect. Throughout the development of the WOTUS rule, I have been concerned with the Obama Administration’s complete disregard for rural America. Unless the EPA and Corps pull the rule and start over by first consulting farmers, ranchers, and States, WOTUS remains nothing but a gross overreach that punishes the very people it was intended to help. The House Agriculture Committee will continue working to protect the rights of agricultural producers and small businesses across the U.S. and stop the implementation of this rule.”

In March, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry held a hearing to review the impact of WOTUS on rural America. Chairman Conaway and Subcommittee Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) have also released previous statements on the rule. Click here for Chairman Conaway’s statement and here for their joint statement.

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Updated Forecast for U.S. Agricultural Exports

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2015 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today made the following statement on the release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s fourth quarter Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade.

“The strong pace of American agricultural exports continues. Fiscal years 2015 and 2016 exports are forecast to be the third- and fourth-highest on record, respectively. Bulk export volumes are expected to rise in fiscal year 2016 and reach near record levels, and horticultural and livestock product exports are also expected to be higher.

“Today’s forecast provides a snapshot of a rural America that continues to remain stable in the face of the worst animal disease outbreak in our nation’s history and while the western U.S. remains gripped by drought. Thanks to the resilience of our farmers and ranchers, fiscal years 2009 to 2015 represent the strongest seven years in history for U.S. agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling more than $911 billion.

“We expect that new trade agreements, made possible thanks to Trade Promotion Authority, will allow American farmers and ranchers to better reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside of our borders and drive the continued strength of American agricultural exports. USDA will continue to fight to get the best trade deals for farmers and ranchers that open new markets and new customers to them. Expanded trade strengthens the agricultural economy, supports more than one million good paying American jobs, and helps to preserve the rural way of life.”

Quarterly Agricultural Export Forecast

Remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry at the Flag Raising Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy Havana

August 14, 2015 Havana, Cuba–…Thank you for joining us at this truly historic moment as we prepare to raise the United States flag here at our embassy in Havana, symbolizing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations after 54 years. This is also the first time that a United States Secretary of State has been to Cuba since 1945…

We are all aware that notwithstanding President Obama’s new policy, the overall U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba remains in place and can only be lifted by congressional action – a step that we strongly favor. For now, the President has taken steps to ease restrictions on remittances, on exports and imports to help Cuban private entrepreneurs, on telecommunications, on family travel, but we want to go further. The goal of all of these changes is to help Cubans connect to the world and to improve their lives. And just as we are doing our part, we urge the Cuban Government to make it less difficult for their citizens to start businesses, to engage in trade, access information online. The embargo has always been something of a two-way street – both sides need to remove restrictions that have been holding Cubans back.

…I applaud President Obama and President Castro both for having the courage to bring us together in the face of considerable opposition…And we are certain that the time is now to reach out to one another, as two peoples who are no longer enemies or rivals, but neighbors – time to unfurl our flags, raise them up, and let the world know that we wish each other well.

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Secretary of State John Kerry at U.S. Embassy Havana, Cuba

Excerpts from Secretary of State John Kerry at the Flag Raising Ceremony Friday, August 14, 2015, at the U.S. Embassy Havana, Representing the re-establishing of Diplomatic Relations between the United States and Cuba.

As Congress moves forward ending the trade embargo with Cuba, it will create new economic opportunities for U.S. exporters and businesses.

In February 2015, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introducing legislation that would lift the more than 50-year-long Cuban trade embargo.

The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would allow U.S. companies to export their products to Cuba, including agricultural commodities, farm equipment, and other manufactured goods.  While the legislation would permit American consumers to purchase Cuban-made products, the bill would not lift travel restrictions. Additionally, the bill would remove financial restrictions on business transactions and allow U.S. banks to extend credit to Cubans for the purchase of America’s farm goods, auto parts, and other consumer products.

 

USACE Criticizes EPA for Flawed Rulemaking

August 3, 2015, Washington, DC – Internal memos released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reveal the Army Corps of Engineers, the primary regulator over Environmental Protection Agency’s “waters of the United States” rule, believes that the rule will not hold up in the courts and that it grossly misinterprets Corps data.

“Corps data to EPA has been selectively applied out of context, and mixes terminology and disparate data sets,” one memo from General Peabody to Assistant Secretary of the Army reads. “In the Corps judgement, these documents contain numerous inappropriate assumptions with no connection to the data provided, misapplied data, analytical deficiencies and logical inconsistencies.”

Enforcement of the rule is set to begin August 28, 2015, but the more than 50 pages of released documents clearly illustrate the discrepancies between the two agencies that share jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

“These documents clearly show that EPA is not ready to begin enforcement of this flawed rule, and demonstrate why this rule should be withdrawn and rewritten with input from all stakeholders,” said Philip Ellis, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president. “The EPA snubbed concerns from the countryside, and now, these memos reveal they even disregarded concerns from the Army Corps. The fact that other federal agencies’ concerns were ignored is appalling, especially given the scope of this rulemaking.”

The memos show the Corps are so concerned about the implications of this disastrous rule that at one point they state that any reference to the Army Corps name and logo should be removed from all documents pertaining to the rule.

“The EPA placed their radical agenda above the law and went far beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act,” said Ellis. “This rule is nothing more than an attempt to run roughshod over Congress and the courts in the largest land grab in regulatory history. The legal flaws identified by the Corps in these memos are the same vulnerabilities we’ve identified in our lawsuit against this rule. The fact is, cattlemen and women still need certainty in the Clean Water Act, not a radical and arbitrary political agenda.”

NCBA calls for the EPA to immediately withdraw the final WOTUS rule and work with stakeholders and Congress to craft a rule that achieves clarity and works for all landowners.

 

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has represented America’s cattle producers since 1898, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy.  As the largest association of cattle producers, NCBA works to create new markets and increase demand for beef.  Efforts are made possible through membership contributions. To join, contact NCBA at 1-866-BEEF-USA or membership@beef.org.

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