Farm Economists On Farm Economy Now And Near Future

A Senate committee heard from experts on the current state of the farm economy, and indicators on economic direction going forward.  Planting Intentions, Crop Budgets, And Farm Economy-some indicators of how growers are dealing with lower commodity prices and a downturn in the farm economy?Rod Bain, USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson, Nathan Kauffman of the Federal Reserve Bank – Kansas City.

Conaway, Goodlatte Call on Attorney General to Evaluate DOJ Overreach in Prosecuting WOTUS Violation in CA Court Case

May 26, 2017, Washington, D.C. – Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for a review of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to prosecute a California court case alleging violations under the Clean Water Act (CWA) – directly related to both the statutory exemptions for farming and Obama administration’s waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

The letter requests information about DOJ’s process for prosecuting violations of the CWA, citing specific concerns about the case of Duarte Nursery v. Army Corps of Engineers. In the letter, the chairmen note both committees’ concerns that the court’s opinion is “not consistent with legislative intent behind the farming exemptions under the CWA.” The letter also seeks to clarify whether a legislative fix is required to protect farmers, such California farmer John Duarte, from similar prosecution in the future.

Mr. Duarte’s case clearly highlights the need to keep the federal government out of America’s backyards, fields and ditches. Little-by-little we watched the previous administration chip away at the rights of land and property-owners, aiming to expand its authority through broad new rules under WOTUS, all while providing little clarity to farmers and ranchers about what qualifies for exemptions. Our letter aims to work with the new administration to better define current interpretations of both WOTUS and farming exemptions so we can begin to set new rules of the road that will protect our farmers and ranchers from onerous fines, penalties and regulations,” said Chairman Conaway.

“The regulatory overreach of the previous administration is having a negative impact on the lives of hardworking Americans. Congress made its intentions of how the Clean Water Act was to be applied for the health and safety of Americans, but the Obama administration has twisted law to serve a political agenda. We will work with President Trump and the new administration to reverse Obama-era regulations that are hurting American farmers, as well as other industries, and private citizens alike,” said Chairman Goodlatte.

Mr. Duarte’s case stems from a February 2013 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) allegation that the vernal pools on Mr. Duarte’s land are considered WOTUS, thus subject to CWA authority. The Corps argued that based on inconsistent agriculture production patterns on Mr. Duarte’s land prior to his purchase in 2012 he did not qualify for farming exemptions and had violated the CWA when he plowed his field in late 2012. Mr. Duarte now faces fines of roughly $2.8 million and additional costly mitigation measures.

Full text of the letter is available below.
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May 26, 2017

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General of the United States
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

As Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary (“Committees”), we have been following the case of Duarte Nursery v. Army Corps of Engineers very closely. As you may know, the interpretations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and its farming exemptions are critical to farmers and ranchers across the nation and, thus, are of particular interest to the Agriculture Committee, especially given the Committee’s jurisdiction over agriculture generally. The Judiciary Committee’s oversight responsibilities include ensuring that the Justice Department enforces the law as Congress intended.

The prosecution of Mr. Duarte raises concerns that the Congressional intent behind the farming exemptions in the statute is misunderstood. Specifically, it is the Agriculture Committee’s view that even occasional farm activities, including grazing, qualify as “normal” farming under the statutory exemption, and also are part of an established operation for purposes of the exemption. Further, it is the Committee’s view that the activity at issue in this case constitute plowing for the purposes of the exemption.

To better understand the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) process for prosecuting potential violations of the CWA and in order to determine whether or not legislation is required to correct potential misinterpretations of the law, the Committees request the following information:

  • What does the DOJ consider in determining whether or not to prosecute a violation of the CWA?
  • Is it appropriate to seek reduced penalties where the alleged violation is based on a novel or strained interpretation of the underlying statutory authority?
  • Have there been any cases where DOJ has entered into contingent settlements pending an appeal of a CWA case? If so, please describe the circumstances of those cases.
  • Has DOJ ever declined on appeal to advance CWA arguments that were successful at the district court level? If so, please describe the circumstances of those cases.

If you have any questions about this request, please contact Agriculture Committee staff at (202) 225-2171 and the Judiciary Committee at (202) 225-3951.

Sincerely,

Michael Conaway
Chairman
House Committee on Agriculture

Bob Goodlatte
Chairman
House Committee on the Judiciary

cc:        The Honorable Scott Pruitt, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Perdue Discusses Farm Labor Problems with House Ag Committee

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the Administration wants to assure that farmers have access to workers. The problem is how to do it.  Gary Crawford, Sec’y Sonny Perdue and Representatives Jimmy Panetta, John Faso, Rick Allen.

USDA says farms had fewer hired workers last month than April a year ago. Gary Crawford and Sec’y Sonny Perdue.

 

Many Crop Farmers Searching for a Way to at Least Break Even

Some experts say that for many crop producers the goal of at least breaking even could be a harder struggle than last season.

Gary Crawford. Doug Thiessen of Alabama Ag. Credit. Nate Franzen, First Dakota National Bank. Steve Handke, Union State Bank of Everest. Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International. Dr. Joe Outlaw, Texas A&M University. USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson. USDA Outlook Chairman Seth Meyer. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

USTR Gives Congress Official Intent To Renegotiate NAFTA

The Trump Administration has informed Congress it will seek North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations with Canada and Mexico. USTR will intensify its consultations with Congress, a 90-day process, ready to pursue full negotiations as early as August 16th.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue looks forward to getting a better NAFTA deal for American farmers and ranchers.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, Rod Bain, Lesly McNitt of the National Corn Growers Association.

USTR: Trump Administration Announces Intent to Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement

May 18, 2017, Washington, D.C.  United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress that President Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Through these negotiations, the United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico.

In the letter to Congress, Ambassador Lighthizer expresses the Trump Administration’s commitment to concluding the negotiations with timely and substantive results for U.S. consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers.  These goals will be pursued consistent with U.S. priorities and the negotiating objectives established by Congress in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA). Negotiations will begin no earlier than August 16, 2017.

“Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his key promises to the American people. For years, politicians have called for the renegotiation of this agreement, but President Trump is the first to follow through with that promise,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “USTR will now continue consultations with Congress and American stakeholders to create an agreement that advances the interests of America’s workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”  

USTR will publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting public input on the direction, focus, and content of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

President Trump announced the United States’ intention to engage in negotiations related to NAFTA on February 2, 2017. Since then, USTR has begun consultations with committees of jurisdiction in Congress and advisory committees, as outlined by TPA.

Text of USTR Letters to Congressional Leadership.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on NAFTA and U.S. Trade Strategy

May 10, 2017, Washington, DC. – In his remarks at the 47th Annual Washington Conference of the Americas, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross explained the new U.S. administration’s strategy to increase overall commerce while reducing the trade deficit. “We do not seek a trade war, least of all with our fellow citizens of the Americas,” he said, noting the administration’s preference for bilateral rather than multilateral trade deals. Ross also expressed his eagerness to complete a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with trade partners Canada and Mexico, and that the 90-day notice the White House has to submit to the U.S. Congress before starting talks will come soon.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on NAFTA and U.S. Trade Strategy

Excerpts from his remarks at the 47th Annual Washington Conference of the Americas, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross explained the new U.S. administration’s strategy to increase overall commerce while reducing the trade deficit. “We do not seek a trade war, least of all with our fellow citizens of the Americas,” he said, noting the administration’s preference for bilateral rather than multilateral trade deals. Ross also expressed his eagerness to complete a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with trade partners Canada and Mexico, and that the 90-day notice the White House has to submit to the U.S. Congress before starting talks will come soon.

New U.S. Trade Ambassador Brings Ag Trade Experience

Knowledge and support of agricultural trade are among those items that the newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative brings into the position. Senator Pat Roberts asks Lighthizer to be a ‘Champion for Agriculture’ and get commodities moving on the global market.

The U.S. Senate Thursday confirmed Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Trade Representative by a vote of 81-15. Lighthizer served as deputy trade representative in the Reagan administration, 1983-85. Joining Democrats in voting against Lighthizer were Senator John McCain, R-AZ, Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE, and Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

At the time he was chosen by President Trump to serve as USTR, Ambassador Lighthizer was a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (Skadden), where he practiced international trade law for over 30 years. His work there on behalf of American workers and businesses in the heavy manufacturing, agricultural, high-tech, and financial services industries opened markets to U.S. exports and defended U.S. industries from unfair trade practices. He was lead counsel for scores of trade enforcement cases and was a well-known advocate for the type of “America First” trade policies supported by President Trump.

Rod Bain;  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer;  Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee; Kent Bacus of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Under Secretary For Trade Position To Be Established

The creation of a long considered Under Secretary for Trade position within USDA is being established.  The Agriculture Secretary announced a reorganization of the USDA including a new Under Secretary for Trade. Rod Bain and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue.