Policy Changes Ripple Down To The Farm

Dec 14, 2018  | 3 min  | Ep4417

Holiday season rollbacks aren’t just for prices.  The EPA is proposing cuts to pollution controls on new coal fired power plants, has reduced renewable fuels mandates, and is washing one more Obama-era policy away.

However, there will be a holiday gift for those in need. The food bill, which we know as the Farm bill, made its way through Congress.

Months of contentious debate and negotiation came to a close this week as the 2018 Farm Bill was approved by both the House and Senate in one of the final acts of the 115th U.S. Congress. Agricultural groups from across the ideological spectrum applauded approval of the legislation. 

Several of the most controversial provisions failed to make the final package. A House proposal to strengthen work rules for those receiving SNAP benefits was tabled by the Senate in the final days of conference committee discussions. 
The failure to lower the cap on farm subsidy payments and an expansion of who could receive those payments garnered a “no” vote from several conservative Republicans, including Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R – Iowa: “And we shouldn’t be subsidizing big farmers to get bigger, and that’s what we are doing, and cutting out beginning and younger farmers getting started.”
Other provisions included a tepid expansion of firefighting funds for the Forest Service to reduce brush in fire prone areas. However, more dollars were provided for programs that fund bioenergy research, support the marketing of agricultural goods abroad and expand organic production. The bill also reduces the cost for dairy farmers to participate in support programs and legalizes the growing of industrial hemp.
Approving the new Farm Bill in the lame duck session avoided a fierce battle among members of the incoming Congress where the House will have a Democratic majority. The measure, with a price tag of nearly $900 billion, heads to the White House where President Trump is expected to sign it.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a long awaited revision of the nation’s Waters of the United States policy, or WOTUS.
The previous version, enacted during the Obama administration, was labeled as government overreach by farmers, ranchers and agricultural groups. Several alleged hefty fines were possible if farm runoff found its way into seasonal pools of water.  
The Trump administration says its newly proposed rule contains straightforward definitions that save money and protect the environment. The measure exempts farm ditches and stormwater control basins where water only runs during heavy rains and certain groundwater events.
In a statement, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said:
“Our proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation applauded the move while the Environmental Working Group warned many of the nation’s small waterways would no longer be protected from pollution. Officials with the EWG believes tap water safety across the country could be in question. 

The clock on a 60-day comment period is already ticking.

For Market to Market, I’m Peter Tubbs.

 

peter.tubbs@iptv.org

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