Rural Radio Network
Supreme Row judging was held at the Nebraska Cattlemen's Classic on Saturday night. All the winners from all the breeds throughout the week come back to name a grand champion bull and female. Winning the Supreme Row bull this year was the Balancer/Gelbvieh Bull owned by J.J. Boehler of Orleans,...Read More
Supreme Row judging was held at the Nebraska Cattlemen's Classic on Saturday night. All the winners from all the breeds throughout the week come back to name a grand champion bull and female. Winning the Supreme Row bull this year was the Balancer/Gelbvieh Bull owned by J.J. Boehler of Orleans,...Read More
NCBA Friday called an editorial on Country of Origin Labeling #FakeNews that recently aired on Tomi Lahren's show. Lahren's show on The Blaze gets quite a bit of internet airplay and she again took on the issue of Country Of Origin Labeling on beef and called out the National Cattlemen's Beef Ass...Read More
Brandon Benitz continues his weekly “Chat with the Chancellor” series, this time joined by the President of the University of Nebraska system, Dr. Hank Bounds, for his monthly segment. This month, they talked about Dr. Bounds' biggest takeaways from the Board of Regents' meeting in late Janua...Read More
Is there such a thing as too much meat? Maybe, according to the USDA World Agricultural Board. In an initial 2017 outlook comments for the beef, pork, and poultry industry, USDA cited 2016 as a record year for meat production in the U.S., which could weigh down markets as production continues to cl...Read More
In its early forecast for crop production, USDA's Outlook for crops lowers corn, soybean and wheat production for the 2017-18 crop year. In its early forecast for crop production, USDA's Outlook for crops lowers corn, soybean and wheat production for the 2017-18 crop year. (Logo courtesy of U...Read More
Grain Storage Tips
Warmer weather has made farmers anxious to start field work. Recently, I saw several farmers spreading fertilizer, shredding stalks, baling stalks, and hauling corn. We had a farmer come into our office last week asking about grain storage. He found crusting in the top layer of his corn bin, which has never happened before. There are many factors we can look at in this case, and I’m going to briefly touch on a few. Molds, insects, moisture, and condensation. These topics can sometimes be difficult to deal with when considering grain storage. Target moisture of grain depends on how long you plan to store it. If you harvested the grain last fall and plan on selling/feeding it by April, moisture should be somewhere around 15.5%. If you plan to hold it for longer than a year, grain moisture must be lower. If corn isn’t stored at a proper moisture, it can potentially lead to rotting issues. Fungal growth in the bin would cause discoloration of the grain and potential clumping/crusting. Insect damage can also cause crusting due to excessive webbing in the top 6 inches of corn. In this particular instance though, moisture was low and there was no sign of fungal growth or insects. Another possible option is condensation. When corn is stored in the bin, aeration is necessary until optimum moisture and temperature are reached. During this process, air circulates through the grain. Typically, grain will be cooler near the sides of the bin, warmer towards the center, and will dry down faster towards the bottom. This is deceiving because grain at the bottom will test lower in moisture than at the top. If you stop aerating before optimal temperature and moisture are reached for the entire bin, excess moisture will condense towards the top and freeze, causing a crust to develop. Crusting can cause difficulty when aerating or moving grain. If you can break up the crusted layer and aerate intermittently over the winter, it might help prevent further crusting. Make sure to check your bins regularly and aerate if necessary.
USDA Outlook Forum Sees Lower Production in 2017
In its early forecast for crop production, USDA's Outlook for crops lowers corn, soybean and wheat production for the 2017-18 crop year. In its early forecast for crop production, USDA's Outlook for crops lowers corn, soybean and wheat production for the 2017-18 crop year. (Logo courtesy of USDA) USDA pegs corn production at 14.065 billion bushels, 7% below a year ago with an average yield of 170.7 bushels per acre, down from last year's record yield of 174.6 bpa. USDA projects corn acreage at 90 million planted acres, down 4 million from 2016. Despite USDA boosting soybean planted acres for this spring by 4.6 million acres to a record 88 million acres, USDA still lowers projected soybean production to 4.18 billion bushels, 3% lower than 2016 with an average yield of 48 bpa, down 4.1 bushels from 2016. Wheat production is projected at 1.837 billion bushels, down 20% from last year with a yield expected at 47.1 bpa, down 10% from last year. Planted wheat acres are projected at 46 million, down 4.6 million from last year. The USDA Outlook is the department's first major forecast of the 2017-18 marketing year, which will be updated in the March 31 prospective plantings report. "USDA's corn and soybean estimates are neutral with ending stocks staying close to this season's estimated amounts," said DTN Analyst Todd Hultman. "Because early trendline yields are below those we saw in 2016, there is room for more bearish supply increases, should we get a fifth consecutive year of good growing weather." Hultman said USDA's estimate for wheat is slightly less bearish than the current season, but also has room to show a higher yield if weather cooperates once again. "As said before, these estimates are early starting points in a conversation that has a long way to go," he said. CORN With estimated production at 14.065 billion bushels, supplies for the 2017-18 crop year will decline from the 2016-17 record high, but still remain relatively large. Beginning stocks from the old crop are forecast at 2.32 billion bushels. Total corn use for the 2017-18 crop is projected at 14.22 billion bushels with a total supply of 16.435 billion bushels, which includes 50 million bushels of imports. Feed and residual use for the new crop is pegged at 5.45 billion bushels, down 150 million bushels from 2016-17 while ethanol use is increased to 5.4 billion bushels, up 50 million bushels from the old crop. USDA lowered corn exports for the 2017-18 marketing year to 1.9 billion bushels, down from 2.225 billion bushels for the 2016-17 crop. The rationale for lower exports is increased global competition due to abundant supplies in Argentina, Brazil and Ukraine. Beyond strong production in South America, USDA noted Ukraine has increased its exports to Asia and is taking some market share from the U.S. Ending stocks are projected for the new crop at 2.215 billion bushels with a stocks-to-use ratio of 15.6%, slightly better than the 2016-17 crop. The 170.7 bpa is based on weather-adjusted trends assuming a normal growing season weather. USDA pegs the season average price for corn at $3.50 a bushel, up 10 cents from the 2016-17 crop. SOYBEANS With a carryover of 420 million bushels, USDA projects production at 4.18 billion bushels, imports at 25 million bushels and at total supply of 4.625 billion bushels. Due to a projected yield decline to 48.1 bushels per acre, USDA pegs total supplies at 4.625 billion bushels, still 97 million bushels higher than total supply for 2016-17 due to the higher beginning stocks. Total domestic soybean use is projected to slightly increase to 2.08 billion bushels. USDA cites the higher pork and poultry production as driving slightly higher domestic use for the crop. USDA bumps up exports to 2.125 billion bushels for the 2017-18 crop, a 75-million bushel increase from 2016-17. Strong global demand will lift exports for all major production areas, driven mainly by China, which drives two-thirds of global soybean trade. Further demand in Asia, the Middle East and Africa also will provide support for an increase in global soybean exports. Ending stocks for the 2017-18 crop are also projected at 420 million bushels, the same carryover number used for the old-crop stocks, putting the stocks-to-use ratio at 10% USDA projects the season average price for soybeans at $9.60 per bushel, up 10 cents from the 2016-17 crop. WHEAT Wheat production is projected to decline to 1.837 billion bushels, a decline of 473 million bushels from the 2016-17 crop as planted acreage declines by 4.2 million acres and yield declines to 47.1 bpa. With a carryover of 1.139 billion bushels and imports of 120 million bushels, USDA projects the total wheat supply at 3.096 billion bushels for 2017-18. Total domestic use for wheat is projected at 1.216 billion bushels, down 30 million bushels from the 2016-17 crop. Wheat exports for the 2017-18 crop year are projected at 975 million bushels down 50 million bushels from the old crop. That puts total use at 2.191 billion bushels, down 80 million bushels form the old-crop usage. Ending stocks for the 2017-18 crop are projected at 905 million bushels, down 234 million bushels from 2016-17. USDA projects the average season price for wheat will be $4.30 a bushel, up 45 cents from the 2016-17 crop. COTTON USDA projects a small increase in cotton production in the U.S. in 2017 with production pegged at 17 million bales, up .2% from the 2016 crop. Planted acres will increase to 11.5 million acres, up 1.5 million acres from 2016.
Plains HRW is Generally Dry and Vulnerable to Frost Damage
USDA reported state planted area statistics for hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) winter wheat in its Jan. 12 Winter Wheat and Canola Seeding Report. At this week’s Wheat Quality Council and Plains Grains Inc. board meetings in Kansas City, MO, however, HRW producers shared state updates of crop conditions, soil moisture conditions and planted area. A summary of what we learned from the producers supplemented with current USDA data by state follows. Colorado. Colorado farmers planted 891,000 hectares (2.20 million acres) of wheat in the fall of 2016, down 6 percent from 2015. Farmers reported that southeast Colorado planting conditions were very dry, but the rest of the state had ample moisture. According to USDA data, topsoil moisture is short or very short for 35 percent of the state, compared to just 22 percent short or very short at the same time last year. Subsoil moisture is 42 percent short or very short across the state compared to 23 percent last year. Farmers noted warm weather has pushed the crop 7 to 10 days ahead of normal across the state, which makes it more vulnerable to late frost damage. On Jan. 30, USDA rated 36 percent of Colorado winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 47 percent good to excellent when the wheat went into dormancy last fall. Kansas. Farmers reported western Kansas is very dry. Subsoil moisture is rated at 41 percent short or very short, compared to 22 percent last year. USDA rated 37 percent of topsoil moisture as short or very short, compared to 19 percent in 2016. Early planted wheat established good stands last fall, but later planted wheat condition is more uncertain. On Jan. 30, USDA rated 45 percent of winter wheat as good to excellent compared to 52 percent good to excellent reported on Nov. 28. Last fall, Kansas planted 3.00 million hectares (7.40 million acres), down 13 percent year over year and the lowest planted area in 60 years. Montana. Last fall, wet field conditions prevented some wheat planting in Montana. With a poor outlook for winter wheat prices, strong competition from peas and lentils shifted more acres in Montana. They planted 770,000 hectares (1.90 million acres) of wheat in 2016, down 16 percent from 2015. Farmers noted normal crop development and sufficient soil moisture, though some areas had below normal snow cover that increased the risk of winterkill. USDA rated topsoil moisture supplies at 13 percent short or very short, 77 percent adequate and 10 percent surplus, compared to 17 percent short or very short, 79 percent adequate and 4 percent surplus last year on the same date. On Jan. 30, USDA rated 70 percent of Montana winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 77 percent good to excellent when the wheat went into dormancy last fall. Nebraska. Farmers reported good stands last fall, but western Nebraska is dry. The last measurable precipitation for that region occurred on Christmas day. USDA rated subsoil moisture supplies at 31 percent short or very short, compared to 19 percent on the same date last year. Topsoil moisture supplies are 23 percent short or very short, compared to 14 percent last year. With wheat now 5 to 7 days ahead of normal, the Nebraska crop is also more vulnerable to late frost damage. USDA rated 47 percent of Nebraska winter wheat in good to excellent condition on Jan. 30, compared to 53 percent good to excellent last November prior to dormancy. Nebraska farmers planted 441,000 hectares (1.09 million acres) of wheat in 2016, down 20 percent from 2015 and the lowest planted area on record for Nebraska. Oklahoma. Most of Oklahoma received precipitation over the last few weeks that prevented further depletion of soil moisture, but it was insufficient to alleviate drought conditions. USDA rated topsoil moisture supplies at 38 percent short or very short compared to 60 percent short or very short last year. Subsoil moisture supplies are 56 percent short or very short, compared to 70 percent one year prior. Farmers noted wheat development is 12 days ahead of normal making it more vulnerable to late frost damage. Oklahoma farmers planted 1.82 million hectares (4.50 million acres) of wheat in 2016, down 10 percent from the prior year because late-season rain prevented some wheat planting. USDA rated 33 percent of Oklahoma winter wheat in good to excellent condition on Jan. 30, compared to 53 percent good to excellent when the wheat went into dormancy last fall. South Dakota. Beneficial moisture last fall allowed for good stand establishment in South Dakota. Abundant snow cover is protecting the wheat and limiting winterkill risk. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 84 percent adequate, compared to 79 percent adequate last year. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 23 percent short to very short, 76 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus compared to 26 percent short or very short, 72 percent adequate and 2 percent surplus in 2016. USDA rated 62 percent of South Dakota winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 51 percent good to excellent when the wheat went into dormancy last fall. South Dakota farmers planted 364,000 hectares (900,000 acres) of winter wheat, down 24 percent year over year. Texas. Last fall, Texas farmers planted 1.82 million hectares (4.50 million acres) of wheat, down 10 percent from the prior year in very dry field conditions. In the past two years, Texas planted wheat area has dropped by 20 percent. Early planted wheat emerged last fall, but the later planted wheat did not emerge until after beneficial precipitation fell in December. Farmers estimate the earlier planted wheat is 7 days ahead of normal development, while the later planted wheat is still emerging. USDA reported 93 percent of winter wheat had emerged by Jan. 30. On Jan. 30, USDA rated 29 percent of Texas winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 41 percent good to excellent when the wheat went into dormancy last fall. USDA will release its next crop progress update Feb. 28 and will resume weekly crop condition reporting April 3.
(VIDEO) NCC Names Supreme Row Bull And Heifer
Supreme Row judging was held at the Nebraska Cattlemen's Classic on Saturday night. All the winners from all the breeds throughout the week come back to name a grand champion bull and female. Winning the Supreme Row bull this year was the Balancer/Gelbvieh Bull owned by J.J. Boehler of Orleans, Ne. He was sold to Dave Strolberg of Strolberg Farms of Axtell. The Supreme Row Heifer champion this year was the Simmental female owned by Chris Ford of Ford Farms/Voss Ranch of Bruce, South Dakota and Felt Farms of Wayne, Nebraska. She was sold to Bill Muller of Miller, Ne.
Cattle Groups Duel Over Latest COOL Video
NCBA Friday called an editorial on Country of Origin Labeling #FakeNews that recently aired on Tomi Lahren's show. Lahren's show on The Blaze gets quite a bit of internet airplay and she again took on the issue of Country Of Origin Labeling on beef and called out the National Cattlemen's Beef Association while doing it. NCBA has this response with their own video: [embed]https://youtu.be/RsgqlPsqH70[/embed] You can watch the original Tomi Lahren video here. R-CALF Immediately shot back with a video of their own. https://www.facebook.com/RCALFUSA/videos/10154442692627684/
NPPA Announces Participants in 2017 Pork Mentorship Program
Members of the 2017 Pork Mentorship Program (l-r) Vanessa Knutson, Thomas Waldo, Marissa Kegley, Fina Choat, Cheyenne Gerlach, Catherine Jones and NPPA President Russ Vering. The Nebraska Pork Producers Association is proud to welcome participants of the 2017 Pork Mentorship Program. This year, six students will participate in the program, which has worked to further develop youth leaders through individual and group based learning experiences since 1999. Participants in the 2017 Pork Mentorship Program are: Catherine Jones of Omaha, is a junior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication; Cheyenne Gerlach of DeWitt, is a freshman at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying Agricultural Economics; Fina Choat of Saint Edward, is a freshman at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying Pre-Veterinary Medicine; Marissa Kegley of Kearney, is a freshman at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying Animal Science; Thomas Waldo of DeWitt, is a junior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying Agricultural Economics; Vanessa Knutson of Palmyra, is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying Agricultural Education with an option in teaching; The 2017 Pork Mentorship Program is comprised of six members attending college at the University of Nebraska– Lincoln, with academic majors that represent a cross section of interests and disciplines within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Each year, participants in the Pork Mentorship Program participate in activities that encourage personal growth, career readiness, and develop leadership skills, while expanding their knowledge of the pork industry. Participants are also active in projects that encourage giving back to their community. Each of the participants will receive a $500 scholarship upon the successful completion of requirements throughout the year-long program.
Precision Ag Makes Farming More Sustainable, Profitable
Lincoln, Neb. — Farmers have numerous sources of technology and data available to use in their operations, but many producers struggle with what kind and how much technology they need. Understanding which technologies and datasets are important and how to best use them is the focus of Joe Luck’s work as Nebraska Extension precision agriculture engineer. “To me, precision ag has become a catchall term, but basically it refers to hardware and software systems that improve knowledge and decision support to make farming more manageable, sustainable and profitable,” said Luck, who also is an assistant professor of biological systems engineering. Precision agriculture hardware includes field application equipment and sensor platforms that control products and record as-applied data. Software can then be used to collect and analyze the information with the goal to improve a crop production system. Luck’s extension work encompasses site-specific management strategies; precision agriculture technology use; and farm management software training. In one project, for example, Luck and other members of the multidisciplinary UNL Precision Ag Research and Extension team are working with producers and local and regional industry partners to examine how one new technology— the multi-hybrid planter—might benefit producers in the future. This planter can plant at least two seed varieties in one trip through a field or manage various seed treatments from separate bulk tanks on the planter. Five corn and three soybean fields were planted this year on both dryland and irrigated land. While more than one year of data is needed, the project team believes that preliminary data from this first year will help build future studies. Results from the field sites will be distributed through Nebraska Extension. Luck also is developing instruments and tools that producers can use to collect information in their operations for improving crop input and water use efficiencies. In Nebraska, technology adoption ranges from those who don’t use technology at all to producers who use it extensively, he said. And, he added, “The technological needs of a producer farming 1,000 acres are very different from a producer farming 10,000 acres.” Luck estimates that over 50 percent of farmers engage in some form of agricultural technology. But, he cautions, while technology can be a useful management tool, farmers still need to make decisions. As part of his extension work, Luck conducts workshops and meetings to share information about precision ag with producers to improve their operations. “I really enjoy talking with people and helping them solve problems,” he said. Part of Luck’s research deals with “big data,” which is often defined as an accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools. University-based research will be an important part of the larger discussion regarding big data applications in agriculture, he said. UNL is a founding member of the Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC), which is aimed at helping farmers better control, manage and maximize the value of the data they collect daily in their fields. "There have been extensive activities focused on agriculture data management platforms within the past couple of years, and we're excited to be part of such advances in which the farmers' needs are at the core of the platform development process with input from a variety of industry partners,” Luck said. "I think the development approach taken by the ADC will serve as an industry model for adding value to small and large farm operations with respect to agricultural data privacy, access and utilization.” Ultimately, Luck hopes all of his work will have an impact beyond Nebraska and will help corn and soybean producers feed the hungry worldwide. His research is funded by public and private organizations, including local commodity boards, industry groups and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Study Details Retail Trends Across Nebraska
Nebraska’s retail activity is shifting toward urban centers according to a new study conducted by the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The study found that population is the largest factor affecting retail activity. “Retailing is an important sector of the state’s economy and is watched as an indicator of overall economic performance,” said Bruce Johnson, professor emeritus of agricultural economics and a co-author of the study. Total taxable sales for the state were over $23 billion in 2015. Using data from the Nebraska Department of Revenue, the study investigates retailing activity and trends at different spatial scales from 1990 to 2015. The report contains data on taxable sales volume for every Nebraska municipality in the last quarter century. “Rising unemployment and income stagnation, which reduced buying power and uncertainty among consumers, during the most recent recession years slowed the growth of the retail sector significantly,” said Anil Giri, assistant professor of biology and agriculture at the University of Central Missouri and co-author of the study. Despite the recession, metropolitan areas saw a slight increase in retail dollar volume between 2005 and 2010. The study also found that the higher performing retail centers across the state almost always use the local options sales tax as a means of revenue generation for the municipality. Recession impacts did not appear to be uniform across the city size classes of Nebraska communities. The smallest class of towns of less than 500 people saw an increase in retail. This could be attributed to basic inelastic goods and services that people need regardless of the economic situation. The full report is available online.
CPNRD-Ron Bishop College Scholarship Applications Due March 15
The Central Platte Natural Resources District is accepting applications until March 15, 2017, for the CPNRD-Ron Bishop College Scholarship Program. Each year the CPNRD provides 10 students majoring in a natural resources field with $1,000 scholarships. The NRD’s Programs Committee ranks applicants according to their major and grade level, with the highest rankings going to those already enrolled in college and pursuing a natural resources career. Students must also reside within CPNRD boundaries; which reach from Gothenburg to Columbus along the Platte River (map and application attached). Some of the careers that qualify: -Agriculture: Business Representative, Engineer, Inspector, Agronomist, Applied Science/Diversified -Biologist -Engineer: Civil, Mechanical, Chemical -Conservationist, Resources Management -Environmental Educator -Geographic Information Systems Specialist -Geology Engineering -Grazing Livestock System -Hydrologist, Hydrogeologist -Mechanized Systems/Soil and Water Conservation -Rangeland Management -Soil Conservationist/ Soil Engineer -Vocational/Agriculture Educator -Water Resources Specialist -Other related careers Applications are available on the CPNRD website at: cpnrd.org/cpnrd-school-page or by contacting Marcia Lee at (308) 385-6282 or email: email@example.com.
Ag Industry Execs Brace for More Low Returns, Volatile Trade
While it's true that the farm economy has historically cycled through ups and downs with some regularity, don't expect to ride the up cycle anytime soon. That was the message from Rajiv Singh, Rabobank's North American wholesale CEO. Based on the company's models, "Crop farming will not see a typical upturn but rather an extended period of low returns," Singh told attendees of the 2017 Ag Outlook Forum, during a panel discussion with other industry executives. "Using corn as a proxy for the markets, [our models] still predict corn around $4 for the next five years; even in the best-case scenario, it's slightly over $4; worst case, it's around $3.20," he said. Singh's prediction was echoed somewhat by fellow panel speaker, Luke Chandler, John Deere's deputy chief economist. Chandler noted that in John Deere's 179-year history, the company had only seen declining sales for three years in a row three times -- most recently from 2013 to 2016. "And in that 179 years, we've never had four years of declining sales," Chandler added. "So we're hoping 2017 doesn't create new history for us." The industry executives also stressed the importance of preserving standing trade partnerships -- as well as forging new ones -- and expressed concerns over the damage volatility and uncertainty in this arena could do to the current farm economy. WHERE DO WE STAND? Both Chandler and Singh sought to place the current environment of low and declining commodity prices within a historical context. Traditionally, the farm economy sees a short and modest growth rally after a financial downturn, Singh said. It grew 33% from 1992 to 1996, and 39% from 1986 to 1988. Knowing this, we should set our expectations fairly low, Singh said, which will seem especially painful, given that this most recent downturn was preceded by one of most impressive growth rallies in history -- a 278% increase in the farm economy from 2001 to 2011. Chandler pulled up historical data on ag equipment sales to put the current downturn in perspective. During the financial crisis of the '80s, the industry's tractor sales saw a 60% decline; the early '90s saw 23% decline and the late '90s brought with them a 35% decline. Currently, industry tractor sales are 60% below where they stood in 2013, just as they were in the 1980s -- a disturbing comparison that Chandler was quick to soften: "Thankfully, our net income is nowhere near where it was in the 1980s, and it's certainly worth noting also that the peaks that we came off before going into this downturn were as high as we've ever had in history." ALL EYES ON TRADE RELATIONS For panelist Beth Ford, Land O'Lakes' COO, finding new outlets for dairy products -- in particular the milk powders that go into products like chocolate and baby formula -- is one of the most pressing priorities for the dairy industry. International markets such as Mexico are essential to this effort, and the new administration's message on trade has spooked markets and dropped powder prices significantly in a matter of two weeks, Ford noted. "I think the administration and President [Donald] Trump understand the importance of trade -- it appears to me he is re-setting the frame...to one-on-one negotiations," she said. "Those need to happen with speed. What is the real challenge to us is the resulting uncertainty and the inability to understand where we need to make investments," she said. Chandler agreed, noting, "U.S. agriculture probably has the most to lose of any sector when it comes to trade." John Deere was a vocal supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Trump recently scuttled with an executive order. "There was a lot of opportunity in there," Chandler said, citing potential beef export opportunities to Japan as an example. "For now, we'll just have to wait and see [on trade policy], but there certainly is a lot to lose," he added.
Sasse Offers New EPA Administrator 100 Day Agenda
Fremont, NE - Today, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse sent Scott Pruitt, the newly confirmed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a letter inviting the administrator to Nebraska and outlining a constitutional, pro-growth agenda for the first hundred days. "Nobody knows the nightmare of federal red tape like the Nebraska farmers and ranchers dealing with the EPA," said Sasse. "Nebraskans like me are encouraged by Mr. Pruitt's record of fighting the EPA's unconstitutional Waters of the United States rule and understanding that laws are made by Congress not Washington bureaucrats. I've invited Mr. Pruitt to visit Nebraska and outlined ten common-sense goals for his first hundred days." In the letter, which can be found below, Senator Sasse urged Administrator Pruitt to: 1. Withdraw the Waters of the United States Rule and Restore State and Local Control Over Non-Federal Environmental Protection. 2. Put a Stop to EPA Freelancing in Implementing the Renewable Fuels Standard. 3. Improve Coordination with Federal Agencies. 4. End Abusive “Sue and Settle” Practices. 5. Eliminate the EPA's “Clean Power Plan.” 6. Reduce Needlessly Costly Regulations. 7. Protect the Privacy of Farmers and Ranchers. 8. Collect Additional Information on Mining Rules. 9. Review Rule for the Nebraska Regional Haze Federal Implementation Plan. 10. Decentralize EPA Enforcement Actions. Dear Administrator Pruitt: Congratulations on your confirmation to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Please accept my invitation to visit the state of Nebraska. Our farmers and ranchers would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and share their unified work to protect their land and the environment. In your testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, you referenced three principles that you believed would help the EPA promote a healthier environment, a stability in managing our natural resources, and a stronger economy: the rule of law, cooperative federalism, and public participation. I agree with your assessment. Sadly, the EPA has not been marked by these principles, but has instead acted in a manner that has left many Americans, especially Nebraskans, concerned that their voice is not heard at the EPA. Furthermore, the EPA’s overreaching regulatory hand has shaken the confidence of state governments and citizens in cooperative federalism and the rule of law. I am hopeful that as you begin your service at the EPA, you can again make the EPA an institution that respects the Constitution by recognizing that the legislative branch not the executive branch writes the laws. As you prioritize the workload of the EPA, I would like to bring to your attention several items that are important to Nebraskans and humbly request that you prioritize these areas in your first 100-days as Administrator. Withdraw the Waters of the United States Rule and Restore State and Local Control Over Non-Federal Environmental Protection: Nebraska is a rural state where one-in-four jobs is tied to agriculture.I have heard from many Nebraskans who believe that the EPA has been on a single-minded quest to extend federal power and expand federal jurisdiction through the Clean Water Act so that joint EPA and Army Corps of Engineers regulatory authority would cover all waters where Congress left the authority to the States. Understanding that litigation on this issue is ongoing, I request that the EPA enforce the law and seek Congressional input if the agency encounters an ambiguity in the law instead of unilaterally rewriting the law. Please withdraw the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule forthwith and consider revisions, with input from the states, that would protect the cooperative federalism envisioned in the Clean Water Act as well as define the term “navigable waters” in a manner that does not go beyond the statute.I am deeply skeptical of approaches that assume that textual ambiguity in a statute confers broad discretionary power to any federal agency. Please also strike any memoranda of understanding that may hinder the withdrawal of the WOTUS rule. Put a Stop to EPA Freelancing in Implementing the Renewable Fuels Standard:The passage of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in 2007 specified the annual volume targets of biofuels to be blended with gasoline. Unfortunately, the EPA has previously proposed rules that unilaterally rewrote the annual volume limits set by Congress. Please review the text of federal law as written by Congress, release annual volume limits in a timely manner, and judiciously consider the general waiver authority provided in statute. Regulatory impediments, such as constraints on sales and the lack of a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver for blends above E-10 should not interfere with consumer-based marketplace decisions. The EPA has previously argued that the Clean Air Act precludes the granting of a RVP waiver to blends over E-10 because it would cause vehicles and engines to exceed their emission standards in use. Please review the federal law related to any applicable RVP waiver and determine if you agree that statutory changes are necessary to authorize the EPA to provide a waiver for blends above E-10. Please specify the necessary changes that Congress should examine. In 2010, EPA established a process for companies to petition EPA to allow new fuels to qualify as a renewable fuel under the RFS program. These petitions are known as “pathway petitions.” Cellulosic biofuel companies have waited on average more than 30-months and advanced biofuel companies have waited on average more than two-years for the EPA to approve their pathway petitions. Please review the regulatory approval process and make appropriate changes so that pathway petitions are approved in an expedited manner consistent with the statute. If there are changes to federal law that would expedite the approval of these applications, please advise me of those changes. Improve Coordination with Federal Agencies: Interagency memoranda of understanding (MOUs) are often created to encourage effective coordination and cooperative working relationships. Please identify all existing MOUs, especially those that involve the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Interior, and the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine effective interagency coordination. Please immediately suspend all MOUs designed to expand EPA authority. Please review any MOUs or other practices, guidance, or other documents that create duplicative reporting and enforcement authorities. Please freeze or reevaluate any attempts to further federalize state implementation plans or delegation agreements. End Abusive “Sue and Settle” Practices: Nebraskan farmers and ranchers have consistently and overwhelmingly expressed concern about the use of settlement agreements or consent decrees whereby the EPA has invited lawsuits from third parties, then committed itself to perform what would otherwise be discretionary acts in agreements convened pursuant to the lawsuits. This practice, known as “sue and settle,” perverts the legal structure under which the agency operates and ignores federal law that otherwise requires the use of notice and comment rulemaking. Please identify any litigation where consent decrees or settlement agreements are pending and withdraw them for further review. Eliminate the “Clean Power Plan”: The EPA has proposed new rules on carbon-dioxide emissions, commonly referred to as the Clean Power Plan. These transformative rules place enormous economic burdens on electric generating utilities, especially for a 100-percent public power state like Nebraska. Please rescind these extra-legal Clean Power Plan rules. Reduce Needlessly Costly Regulations: Industry has often made attempts to comply with a regulation through comprehensive planning and significant investments in obtaining the technology available for compliance only to have those investments stranded with regulations and aggressive deadlines that do not allow for reasonable compliance. Please undertake a comprehensive review of the many regulations EPA has promulgated that overlap and have compounding effects on industries where significant investments have been made to reach compliance on existing regulations. Protect the Privacy of Farmers and Ranchers:In 2013, EPA responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by releasing sensitive, private and personal information relating to more than 100,000 farmers and ranchers, including individuals from Nebraska. In a unanimous ruling, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that EPA “abused its discretion in deciding that the information at issue was not exempt from mandatory disclosure under Exemption 6 of FOIA.” Exemption 6 relates to “information involving matters of personal privacy (protected under the Privacy Act or contains sensitive personally identifiable information).” Please conduct a comprehensive and immediate review of all EPA FOIA practices so that the agency does not release or otherwise distribute the private information of my constituents in violations of FOIA exemptions. Collect Additional Information on Mining Rules: In January 2015, EPA issued a proposed rule to revise 40 C.F.R. Part 192 - Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings and Uranium In-Situ Leaching Processing Facilities. This rule would require uranium recovery operators to conduct up to 30-years of groundwater monitoring following uranium production. In January 2017 EPA released a re-proposed rule for a 180-day comment period. As you evaluate the necessity for this rule, please consider collecting additional data on the costs and benefits before moving forward with a final rule. Review Rule for the Nebraska Regional Haze Federal Implementation Plan: On January 18, 2017 EPA issued a proposed rule to revise portions of the Nebraska Regional Haze Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) applicable to the Gerald Gentlemen Station, owned and operated by the Nebraska Public Power District. Given that this proposed rule was issued two-days before Inauguration Day, please review the rationale for revising the FIP. Decentralize EPA Enforcement Actions: The Clean Water Act is landmark legislation from which EPA derives substantial authority. When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it affirmed that it is Congressional policy to “recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use of land and water resources, and to consult with the Administrator in the exercise of his authority under this Act.” This policy, known as cooperative federalism, is a key principle that is essential to the protection of our environment and enforcement of federal environmental law and affirms that states have the primary responsibility to protect their respective environments. Unfortunately, the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has often engaged in aggressive criminal and civil investigation and enforcement without consultation or cooperation with the states. Please evaluate how EPA enforcement and inspection efforts are structured and review ways to decentralize any overly aggressive efforts from headquarters and develop a more collaborative effort with states and regional offices. I look forward to working with you to increase transparency and accountability in the EPA’s regulatory process. Thank you again for your willingness to serve as Administrator of the EPA and congratulations on your confirmation. Sincerely, Ben Sasse
Chairman Roberts Listens to Kansas Producers at Manhattan Hearing on Farm Bill
MANHATTAN, Kan.,– Continuing his commitment to put the concerns of farmers and ranchers first, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry today held the first hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill in Manhattan, Kan., at Kansas State University. The hearing is titled, “Hearing from the Heartland: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Kansas.” “We start the journey to a successful and timely 2018 Farm Bill in the Heartland, because that is where it matters most…on our farms, ranches, businesses, and city and county halls across the countryside,” Roberts said. “Producers, agribusinesses, and our rural communities are the ones who sign up for programs, comply with regulations, and feel the pain first-hand of over-burdensome or under-supportive policies. “So it is only right that we start this conversation here, with you. No one understands the impacts of Farm Bills or policies set in Washington like America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Your experience – your story – is what we need to hear before we start writing a new Farm Bill.” Chairman Roberts welcomed the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Ranking Member, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., back to Kansas. The Committee also heard testimony and was welcomed by U.S. Representative Roger Marshall of Kansas’ Big First District, a member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, as well as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. Jackie McClaskey, and President of Kansas State University and Retired U.S. Air Force General, Richard Myers. Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow heard from two panels of witnesses representing agriculture and other stakeholders in rural communities. Most of the proposals involved relatively modest changes to the commodity and conservation programs, but a dairy industry witness noted that the Margin Protection Program is not working and suggested that dairy farmers should have access to another risk-management program as well. Kent Moore, executive director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, suggested that since farmers are reluctant to respond to surveys the Farm Service Agency uses in determining county-level farm program benefits, USDA should use Risk Management Agency statistics. Cherise Tieben, city manager of Dodge City, Kansas, said that Roberts' intervention for an upward adjustment to the population limit for USDA housing programs had allowed the city to get $9.9 million in loans for the construction of housing. That has allowed "the retention of existing businesses, the ability of existing businesses to grow and improves opportunities to recruit new business to our community." Stabenow stressed the importance of a bipartisan coalition to pass a new farm bill. "Agriculture needs a big tent coalition of farmers, ranchers, commodity groups, rural economic development and food access advocates, bio energy leaders and conservationists working together," Stabenow said. At the end of the hearing, Roberts promised, as he has previously, that "there will be a next farm bill." To the tough economic times, Roberts said, Congress must find a "solution within the budget and the trade rules." At a press conference before the hearing, Roberts had said the biggest issues in agriculture are trade and President Donald Trump's uncertain trade agenda. "Trade is on the minds of every farmer, every rancher and, I assure you, it is on the mind of Sen. Stabenow and myself," Roberts said. "Trade is the biggest danger to the farm industry," Roberts said, adding that it is also the area that could "quickly turn things around" in the "rough patch" the farm economy is experiencing. Roberts noted that Trump "wants to concentrate on good bilateral trade agreements." But with the Trans Pacific Partnership from which Trump withdrew "in the past" and no one sure what "operation" Trump wants to do on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Roberts said he has asked the White House and Trump's incoming trade officials to "announce, within weeks, months, if possible, the countries we are working with" so that members of his committee can be of help. Roberts said that with so much uncertainty about Mexico, it is "no secret" that Mexico may buy its agricultural imports from countries other than the United States. Roberts also said the Senate Agriculture Committee has not yet received the paperwork from the White House so it can schedule a confirmation hearing for Sonny Perdue, Trump's nominee for Agriculture secretary. "Sonny Perdue is just waiting." If the Senate were to hold a hearing on Perdue, he would win quick approval, Roberts added. Committee aides have said the committee cannot schedule a hearing until it receives the paperwork. The White House is known to be looking at Perdue's business activities since he left the governorship in 2011. Politico has said repeatedly that nominees are becoming nervous that the White House is not providing them proper backing as the confirmation process proceeds. Stabenow did not comment on these high-profile issues, but joined with Roberts in saying that she wanted to listen to the farmers before deciding what changes need to be made to farm policy. The farm bill provides rural America with an economic development policy that lasts five years and affects far more than farmers with its conservation and water and sewer and broadband programs. Roberts repeated previous statements that he wants to finish the next farm bill before the current one expires on Sept. 30, 2018. Roberts and Stabenow both noted that the current bill has saved more money than expected. Stabenow lamented that congressional budget procedures do not allow the committee to apply savings from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to farm programs. The SNAP savings have occurred because the economy has improved and the program is serving fewer people. Roberts said he could not promise that there would be no cuts, but Congress will keep in mind there are problems in farm country and that the current bill has saved money. "This blueprint is different because of the tough times we are facing right now," Roberts said, comparing the current atmosphere with 2014, when the last bill was written.