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April 18, 2014
Volume 14
Issue 14

FEDERAL NEWS

EPA PROPOSES AGRICULTURAL WORKER PROTECTION STANDARD REVISIONS   EPA's Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a regulation aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. The proposed rule extensively revises the existing WPS in several areas, including training, notification, hazard communication, minimum age and personal protective equipment. The current comment deadline is June 17, 2014. AFBF requested a 90-day extension of the comment deadline.

The EPA issued the proposed rulemaking at one of the busiest times of year for farmers. Farm Bureau members who would be most affected by the proposed changes are now cultivating soil and planting crops. AFBF pointed out that the existing WPS provisions have been in place for approximately 20 years and the issue surrounding the revisions has been ongoing for at least a decade. A 90-day extension of the comment period, given the context of the dialogue that has surrounded this topic, is a reasonable request.

The proposed changes in the rule are extensive and will impact many of our members directly. Examples of such proposals include:

  • Altering the family farm exemption.
  • Increasing legal obligation related to training of workers, content of training materials and timing of training.
  • Imposing stricter requirements related to personal protective equipment and availability of decontamination supplies.
  • Imposing buffer zones related to application of pesticides that could reduce available acreage for crop production.

For more information please contact Amy Cornell or Kyle Cline.

TAX REFORM: SECTION 179 BILL INTRODUCED IN U.S. HOUSE; SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES EXPIRE ACT   Last week, the Senate Finance Committee approved the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act. The bill extends for two years all but two of the tax provisions that expired at the end of last year. All of the expiring provisions supported by Farm Bureau were included in the two year extension, including Section 179, bonus depreciation and biodiesel tax credits among others.

On the House side, Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) have introduced H.R. 4457 to make permanent a Section 179 small business expensing maximum limit of $500,000 with the dollar per dollar phase-out threshold set at $2 million. This tax deduction is one of the tax extenders that expired at the end of last year. On Jan. 1, the maximum deduction shrank to $25,000. The Tiberi/Kind bill retroactively returns the deduction to last year’s level and makes it permanent. H.R. 4457 was also co-sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.). The bill could reach the floor in early May.

Members are urged to contact their representatives to express their support for the Farm Bureau-supported provisions during committee consideration of the tax extenders and the ongoing debate of tax reform.  

For more information about tax reform, or to learn how to engage on the issue, contact Kyle Cline, national policy advisor, 317-692-7845.

EPA PROPOSES RULE TO EXPAND REGULATED WATERS OF THE U.S. DEFINITION   On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule that would assert CWA jurisdiction over nearly all areas with any hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters, including man-made conveyances such as ditches. This rule, if implemented, would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority, and it would bypass Congress and supersede its original intent of the law. The rule is flawed in a number of ways. The most problematic of these flaws concerns the significant expansion of areas defined as “waters of the U.S.” by effectively removing the word navigable from the definition of the CWA and creating ambiguity in interpretation.

Farm Bureau members are urged to contact their representatives to express their concerns with this troublesome EPA rule. We are also asking members to take photographs of your fields and farmsteads where there is either standing or flowing water following rain events. Areas you may want to document include low lying flooded areas from overflow of rivers and streams and flowing water in man-made conveyances such as ditches and driveways. These photos may be used to show members of Congress what the EPA rule may actually translate to on the farm in terms of regulated jurisdiction. You may send these photos to Kyle Cline or Justin Schneider.

GMO LABELING LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN CONGRESS   On April 9, a bi-partisan group of representatives introduced H.R. 4432, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. H.R. 4432 would create a national labeling program while affirming the Food and Drug Administration’s role as the nation’s food safety authority. 
 
The national conversation about food with biotech ingredients, more commonly referred to as GMO food or just GMOs, has increased in recent years, along with state and local ballot initiatives or legislative efforts to require the labeling of biotech foods. One major concern for Farm Bureau is that multiple state-level GMO safety and labeling laws would be misleading and result in higher food prices for consumers, without improving food safety. To avoid the confusion, Farm Bureau is supporting a national approach to the labeling of foods made from ingredients derived from biotechnology when labeling is deemed appropriate for health or safety reasons - when a biotech food differs materially from a food product made from conventionally grown ingredients.

Members are encouraged to get involved to help build support for this bill. Farm Bureau asks that members contact their representatives to express support for H.R. 4432, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, use social media to post messages in support of the bill and effort, and consider writing an op-ed for the local newspaper.

For more information or assistance in getting more involved, please contact Kyle Cline.

HORSE SORING LEGISLATION PASSES SENATE COMMITTEE   On April 9, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved S. 1406, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and cosponsored by 50 senators. Farm Bureau has several concerns with this legislation.

Our concerns with the PAST Act focus in part on the scope of the bill, which the Tennessee walking horse industry feels would negatively impact the entire breed, rather than those violating the anti-soring laws that have been in place for decades. An additional concern is that this bill was strongly supported by the Humane Society of the United States and featured as one of their top legislative priorities for the year. The clear track record of HSUS attacks on livestock, dairy and poultry producers raises substantial concerns that this is yet another tip-of-the-iceberg tactic in their strategy to shut down animal agriculture.  

On the House side, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (as does Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.), has made it clear she is working to prevent the committee from bringing the bill up for consideration.

For more information or assistance in getting more involved, please contact Kyle Cline.

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