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(VIDEO) EPW Committee Testimony: WOTUS Rule Won’t Hold Up In Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today participated in a hearing focused on reviewing the technical, scientific, and legal basis of the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.  Fo...

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(VIDEO) EPW Committee Testimony: WOTUS Rule Won’t Hold Up In Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today participated in a hearing focused on reviewing the technical, scientific, and legal basis of the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.  Fo...

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Ag Groups Fear Potential Withdrawal of NAFTA

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2017) – Following reports Wednesday that an executive order is being prepared that would withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) many U.S. Ag groups released reacted with concern over the potential move. National Pork Producers C...

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Cool Weather in the Midwest Endangers Corn, Soybean Seedlings

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- April is drawing to a close and farmers are itching to get planters rolling. However, a cool, wet trend moving across the Midwest this week puts corn and soybean seeds at a high risk of imbibitional chilling, agronomists warn. Imbibitional chilling occurs when corn or soybe...

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White House Takes Important First Step to Reining in the Antiquities Act

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2017) – The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applaud the executive order signed today that calls for a review of designations made under the Antiquities Act by previous presidents. Dave Eliason, PLC president, said while the Act was inte...

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Vomitoxin makes nasty appearance for U.S. farm sector

A fungus that causes “vomitoxin” has been found in some U.S. corn harvested last year, forcing poultry and pork farmers to test their grain, and giving headaches to grain growers already wrestling with massive supplies and low prices. The plant toxin sickens livestock and can also make humans...

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Crops

Corn with a cover of grass

The phrase “a double-edged sword” describes something that is beneficial in some ways but problematic in others. One example is removing maize stover (the husks, stems and leaves of corn plants) from fields. Maize stover is used to make cellulosic ethanol, a renewable biofuel. And renewable biofuels are beneficial to the environment. However, removing the stover can harm the environment because it can cause the soil to erode and lose nutrients. Taking up this double-edged sword is Cynthia Bartel, a doctoral candidate at Iowa State University. She’s finding a way to lessen the harm and increase the benefits of removing maize stover. “While water and wind erosion are substantial problems for maize stover removal, soil quality preservation is an even greater constraint,” she explained. Bartel needed to find a way to remove the stover but preserve the soil quality. So, she turned to previous research for ideas and found that cover or companion crops can improve soil quality. Bartel liked the idea of using cover crops, but was curious about a different type of cover crop. Instead of annual cover crops, which must be replanted every year, Bartel continued research at Iowa State University (ISU) involving perennial groundcover, and specifically grasses. “We envision that perennial grass seed might need to be purchased and planted only every four to five years, which would greatly reduce expenses compared to annual covers.” Using a perennial groundcover could be a win-win, including natural resources preservation in addition to reducing costs. However, Bartel needed to determine if perennial groundcover and maize are compatible. She also needed to determine if using a perennial groundcover crop is both environmentally and economically beneficial. To explore these questions, the ISU team conducted a field study at two locations in Iowa. In some areas, they planted Kentucky bluegrass with the maize. In other areas, they planted creeping red fescue with the maize. The team closely monitored and analyzed the crops over two years. “The success of the system largely depends on using a compatible species,” she explained. And compatibility depends on several factors. A compatible grass would easily and reliably grow in the area where it is planted. But, it would go dormant in the summer during corn’s growing season. The team discovered that the older grass varieties originally selected for the project failed to establish. In addition, the modern grass varieties stayed green too long. Not finding a perfect match on the first try didn’t deter the researchers though. “We identified key challenges in varietal selection to ensure that further research efforts are focused effectively,” Bartel explained. In addition to compatibility, Bartel studied the grasses’ impacts on the maize. She found that the maize crops did produce less grain in the first year. However, in the second year, the normal control maize and the maize with grass had similar yields. Plus, the grass didn’t negatively impact the quality of the stover in the second year or the quantity of the stover in either year. “Ultimately, there may be some yield penalty for perennial grass establishment in exchange for the natural resources benefits,” Bartel concluded. “But refining the system further, to ensure compatibility between the row crop and grass cover species, should largely minimize that penalty.” Bartel’s field study began exploring one possible way to lessen the harm and increase the benefits of removing maize stover. Now future research can build on her work. Read more about Bartel’s work in Agronomy Journal.

Nebraska Extension Field Crop Scout Training is May 10

Growers and industry representatives who want to learn how to better manage corn and soybean pests are encouraged to register for Nebraska Extension's field crop scout training course May 10 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center (formerly the Agricultural Research and Development Center) near Mead.  The training is designed for entry-level scouts who are working for crop consultants, industry agronomists or farm service centers in Nebraska and neighboring states, said Keith Glewen, Nebraska Extension educator. It is also ideal for growers who scout their own fields or who are interested in improving productivity, as well as for students employed by agribusinesses. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the course running from 8:25 a.m. to 5 p.m. Course topics include how corn and soybean plants grow and develop; soybean and corn insect management; using knowledge of plant morphology and a seedling identification key to identify weeds; and crop diseases and quiz nutrient deficiencies. "Some of the benefits registrants stated the training provided included practical/working knowledge and better accuracy in field scouting," Glewen said. "Other participants appreciated the hands-on, practical format." Cost for the program is $165, which includes lunch, refreshments, workshop materials and the instruction manual. Attendees should pre-register to reserve their seat and to ensure workshop materials are available the day of the training session. Updated reference materials are included in this year's take-home instruction manual. Certified Crop Adviser continuing education credits are available with six in pest management, one in crop management and 0.5 in fertility/nutrient management. For more information or to register, contact Nebraska Extension at 402-624-8030 or 800-529-8030, e-mail Keith Glewen at kglewen1@unl.edu or visithttp://ardc.unl.edu/crop.shtml.

Cool Weather in the Midwest Endangers Corn, Soybean Seedlings

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- April is drawing to a close and farmers are itching to get planters rolling. However, a cool, wet trend moving across the Midwest this week puts corn and soybean seeds at a high risk of imbibitional chilling, agronomists warn. Imbibitional chilling occurs when corn or soybean seeds first take in water (imbibition) after planting. If that water is below 50 degrees, it can damage or even kill the seeds. A lot of corn acreage is at risk of this phenomenon this week if growers plant now, said DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson. "It looks like about 40% of the intended corn acreage will be affected by the cold and wet pattern," namely Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Michigan, Anderson said. Together, those states account for roughly 36 million corn acres out of the 90 million predicted by USDA's March 31 Prospective Plantings report. Based on weekly crop progress reports, up to 34.5 million acres of that remains unplanted -- or 38% of the U.S.'s potential corn acreage, Anderson said. CORN SEEDS In northwest Iowa, farmer and agronomist Jay Magnussen has watched warily as corn seed was planted, despite forecasts for cool temperatures and rain. "We just had rain and it's only 40 degrees out," he told DTN. "Pretty tough conditions for corn seedlings." Corn seeds take in water in the first 24 to 48 hours after planting, which kick-starts germination, explained Mark Licht, an Iowa State Extension cropping systems specialist. Water below 39 degrees can damage the cell membranes within the corn seed, which will hamper growth and emergence and -- in severe cases -- prevent germination altogether. In Magnussen's neck of the woods, up to 25% to 30% of corn is in the ground, he estimated. A lot of that went in over the weekend, but even those growers aren't necessarily safe, Licht noted. "You're not quite out of the woods even if you planted corn seven days ago," he said. After germination, the plant's first root (the radicale root) elongates, the mesocotyl pushes up toward the surface, and secondary roots (seminal roots) start to stretch out, as well. This is a vulnerable time for the corn seedling. "There is some loss of vigor for seedlings planted a week ago and now facing cold weather," Licht said. "They are still losing some vigor and at greater risk for pathogenic infections of the radicale, the seminal roots and the mesocotyl." SOYBEAN SEEDS Soybean seeds take in water a little faster than corn seeds, a group of five University of Nebraska scientists noted in a Crop Watch article on imbibitional chilling. After the first 24 hours, the seed's water uptake slows and then it can better withstand cool soils. However, soybeans are slightly more cold sensitive than corn. "Chilling injury occurs with temperatures of less than 50°F within 24 hours of planting," the Nebraska scientists wrote. "Germination failure and seedling death occur at soil temperatures around 40°F. The longer the seed is in the ground at warm soil temperatures before cold temperatures occur, the less chance there is for chilling injury." WHAT TO DO NOW If you haven't planted yet, check your soil temperatures daily and watch the 5-to 7-day forecast, Licht said. "It may not be perfect but it will tell you the direction things are going," he said. Aim for soil temperatures above 50 degrees. Many land grant universities post state soil temperatures online (see Nebraska's here: http://bit.ly/…), but be sure to check your field individually on the day of planting. Take a look at the label of your hybrid or soybean seed, as well, the Nebraska scientists added. They may have varying levels of cold tolerance. Finally, if you already planted and fear for your seeds, scout during and after emergence, Licht said. Swollen seeds with no germination or spotty germination are evidence of imbibitional chilling, according to Purdue University's corn agronomist Bob Nielsen. Twisted or "corkscrewed" seedlings mean germination occurred but cold temperatures or compacted soil restricted the mesocotyl's growth later on. See the University of Nebraska CropWatch article here: http://bit.ly/…. See information on poor corn emergence from Nielsen, here: http://bit.ly/….

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Livestock

NCTA‘s Rittenhouse and Smith are associate professors

Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture faculty members Mary Rittenhouse and Douglas Smith of Curtis are among University of Nebraska personnel honored this week in Lincoln. The pair of professors are among honorees recognized on April 25 with a public reception at the University of Nebraska's International Quilt Study Center. Ron Rosati, PhD, Dean of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, said the two met faculty criteria in 2017 to qualify for promotion from assistant professor. “Promotion to associate professor is a major milestone in the career of a faculty member,” Rosati said. “Being promoted to this rank means your peers have evaluated your professional accomplishments and they feel you have achievement sufficient to warrant this honor.” Rittenhouse and Smith are among 13 fulltime faculty at the agriculture college, which is part of the University of Nebraska system. Prior to joining NCTA in 2015, Rittenhouse previously was with the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Kearney. In addition to serving as division chairman and teaching courses in economics and agribusiness, Rittenhouse chairs is the coordinator of the NCTA Accreditation Committee. Smith joined the faculty in 2011 and also is the NCTA Aggie Livestock Judging Team Coach. He serves as a Professor of Practice with the UNL Agricultural, Leadership, Education and Communications department. “Doug and Mary are outstanding faculty – highly competent and very dedicated to their students,” Rosati noted. “This recognition is very appropriate.” Rosati said the two faculty members will be recognized at NCTA's campus during year-end activities in May. The NCTA graduation is at 1:30 p.m. on May 4 at the Curtis Memorial Community Center. Final actions on promotion recommendations will be made by the Board of Regents later this summer.

Man Arrested for NE Colorado Wildfire

Authorities have arrested a man suspected of starting a wildfire that scorched more than 30,000 acres, destroyed three homes and killed hundreds of head of cattle in northeastern Colorado. The Denver Post reports 39-year-old Patrick Svoboda was arrested last week on arson and reckless endangerment charges stemming from the March 6 fire northeast of Sterling. Investigators say Svoboda was welding on a metal feed trough in a dry cornfield in roughly 50 mph (80 kph) winds on the day the blaze began, sending flames racing across the parched prairie more than 20 miles toward the town of Haxtun. According to an arrest warrant, a sheriff's deputy who pinpointed the ignition point on Svoboda's property knocked on his door only to be greeted by a lawyer who said Svoboda would not comment.

Some High Plains Farmers Struggling After Fires and Drought

Deep snow is melting into Western mountain streams, but some farmers and ranchers on the high plains are struggling amid a lengthy dry spell and the aftermath of destructive wildfires. A swath of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas has been in a drought or near-drought condition for six months, putting some of the winter wheat crop in doubt. The March fires burned nearly 2,100 square miles (5,400 square kilometers) in the four states. Six people died. Agriculture officials say the fires also killed more than 20,000 cattle and pigs and damaged or destroyed about $55 million worth of fences. “The first word you think of is devastating, financially,” said David Clawson, a farmer and rancher in southwestern Kansas who lost 40 head of cattle to the fires and is also president of the Kansas Livestock Association. “But it's hard to really quantify yet. We're just 30 days into it.” “That first week, we were in shock,” said Clawson. The governors of Kansas and Texas have signed disaster declarations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn't calculated the total damages, but Texas alone estimated the cost to farmers and ranchers to be $25.1 million. April rains on parts of the high plains have eased the drought and helped the grassland recover, but it could be weeks or longer before cattle can be turned out to graze, leaving some ranchers a choice of buying costlier feed or culling their herds. “Some of the ground will not be grazed this year at all to let it recover,”said Oklahoma Agriculture Commissioner Jim Reese. The U.S. Drought Monitor, operated by federal weather and agricultural agencies, showed much of the area either abnormally dry or in a moderate drought on April 18. The outlook through June was for drought to persist in a crescent-shaped area from northeastern Colorado, across southwestern Kansas and into central Oklahoma. Drought could worsen in the Texas Panhandle, the outlook said. Scant precipitation last fall left newly planted winter wheat struggling to take hold in many areas.“It needs to germinate and emerge to hold the ground from erosion,” Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown said. Farmers won't know how healthy the wheat crop will be for a month or so.“We just don't know if we've got enough green growth and root strength,” Brown said. Crops and grassland across the high plains thrived last year after a far worse drought from about 2010 to 2015. Some ranchers had just begun to rebuild their herds after cutting back during the earlier drought, when grazing was poor. Stanley Barby, a lifelong rancher in the Oklahoma Panhandle, said he had been adding to his herd slowly to protect the recuperating grassland. “We were trying to let that grass recover from the drought and so we didn't overgraze,” he said. “We stocked really slow.” But, the thicker grass turned into fuel for last month's wind-driven wildfire. “That's why the fire was so hot, why it did so much more damage than usual,” he said. Barby said his ranch is 65 to 70 square miles (160 to 180 square kilometers), and fire charred about 50 square miles (130 square kilometers). He lost nearly 50 cattle, three houses and more than 150 miles (240 kilometers) of fence. “We just put our heads down and go to work,” he said. Barby, Clawson and other farmers and ranchers said they were overwhelmed by a flood of donations from farmers, ranchers and others who offered feed, fencing materials and cash. Students and 4-H members helped clean up.“They're just showing up, not asking for anything,” Clawson said. “We're just very grateful for all the support that we've gotten, and the thing is, none of us know how to say thank you, or in the right way,” he said.

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Technology

FieldNET® by Lindsay Introduces New Irrigation Management Tool

Officials today announced the launch of FieldNET Advisor, a new tool from FieldNET by Lindsay. FieldNET Advisor uses patented technology to deliver growers the information they need to make faster, better-informed irrigation decisions. “FieldNET Advisor is a game-changer for growers and the irrigation industry,” said Brian Magnusson, vice president of technology products at Lindsay Corporation. “This innovative solution uses FieldNET’s industry-leading remote irrigation management platform to drastically simplify and automate the use of proven irrigation scheduling methods, which are backed by more than 40 years of research, to help growers decide precisely when, where and how much to irrigate.” Magnusson said FieldNET Advisor provides growers with continuously updated, science-based irrigation recommendations that are customized for each field. After entering the field’s crop type, hybrids and planting dates, FieldNET Advisor will: Track the available soil water throughout the field by combining a soil map of the field, proprietary dynamic crop canopy and root growth models, the most accurate hyper-local weather data available powered by DTN/The Progressive Farmer, and the applied irrigation history. Create a high-resolution map showing the amount of water available to the crop across the entire field. Forecast the crop’s future water needs and predict when and where, without additional irrigation, the yield will begin to decline due to water stress. It also calculates the amount of yield that would be lost due to the stress, which varies based on the crop’s development stage and the severity of the stress. Automatically generate variable rate irrigation (VRI) prescriptions, which are continuously updated to account for actual and forecasted weather, changing crop water requirements, and as-applied irrigation. Integrate into FieldNET’s powerful remote monitoring and control platform, giving growers the ability to immediately put their irrigation decisions into action and monitor their progress. “This incredibly powerful new tool takes the hassle out of irrigation and helps growers better optimize their irrigation management” Magnusson said. “FieldNET Advisor gives growers information that’s based on years of proven crop research to help them make better-informed decisions about when to run their irrigation systems and how much water to apply – helping improve yields while reducing overwatering and the related input costs and nutrient losses.” Magnusson added that for growers who already have FieldNET remote monitoring and control equipment installed on their pivots, FieldNET Advisor requires no additional hardware or sensors. For more information about FieldNET Advisor, talk to your local Zimmatic dealer or visit www.fieldnetadvisor.com.

New Online Tool Helps Growers Find On-Farm Research Results

A new tool is available on the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network website that allows growers to click on a map of Nebraska to find out about research projects conducted on farms in their area. The result finder contains over 600 studies and is updated annually. The finder is also mobile friendly and allows growers to select one, several or all counties. The database behind the map allows growers to search by keyword, filter results by year, crop, irrigation, topic and subtopic, or explore using the map. "We have an abundance of information available to growers and crop advisers," said Laura Thompson, Nebraska Extension educator. "We wanted to make the results finder easy to use and data-rich. New data will be added each year as studies are completed." The results finder is under "Research Results" on the on-farm research website at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/farmresearch. While the finder is the newest way to obtain research results, the 2016 growing season research results book is also available on the website as a PDF. The book was produced for the network's research update sessions held at several sites across Nebraska earlier this year and contains results of studies completed during last year's growing season. "We make the research findings available in several ways so that growers and crop advisers can learn in the way that works best for them – whether that is the searchable database, the PDF book or networking at our update meetings," Thompson said. "Websites and booklets are great tools, but we frequently hear from growers that they find great value in the interactions with other growers at the annual update meetings." The on-farm research network is a collaborative partnership that includes Nebraska Extension, the Nebraska Corn Board, the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, the Nebraska Soybean Checkoff and the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission. The goal of the network is to put to use a statewide on-farm research program addressing critical farmer production, profitability and natural resources questions. For more information, contact Thompson at 402-472-8043 or laura.thompson@unl.edu, or contact a local Nebraska Extension office.

Team of BSE Capstone Students Helps John Deere Take Air Out of Hydraulics Problem

A team of biological systems engineering students is taking inspiration from race-car engines to help John Deere prevent air bubbles from damaging an oil filter in of one of its tractors. As part of their senior design capstone project, the team of Luke Johnson, John Nielsen, Aaron Steckly and Bennett Turner used 3-D printing to create a corkscrew-like device that uses centrifugal motion to remove air from the hydraulics and return clean oil through the system. "The problem they were having is they wanted filtered clean oil coming from the transmission back to the clean-oil reservoir," Johnson said. "Out of that pump they were having that cavitation problem. There was air entrained inside the oil and it was going through that filter and impact loading that filter. "When the air slams into the filer, it destroys the paper element inside. Our device increases the life of their filter." From the early days of the fall semester, the team "locked on" to using centrifugal force to separate the fluids, Turner said. "We knew the constraints – it couldn't be too big, it had to work at a certain incline, they didn't want us to use electricity to power it. In the end, it was the most practical thing we could apply," Turner said. Johnson said it was the first step in bringing together the knowledge they had learned in their college classes with their experience from other areas. "We kind of knew we wanted to do it this way because, when you think two fluids with different densities, you know you can separate them if you spin them," Johnson said. " The device consists of a box into which tubes for intake and output are attached. The intake tube brings the "dirty" (mix of oil and air) fluid mixture into the top of the box, where it feeds into the 9-inch long, corkscrew device. The denser oil circulates around the outside of the spiral and into the output tube. The lighter air is sent up through a center tube and out of the box. (Courtesy Image) Because all existing devices were on a much smaller scale, the capstone team had to scale-up to meet the size demands of the John Deere tractor. The team found success on a smaller-scale version of their device, using low flow rates and a similar but smaller centrifugal device used in race-car engines. "We noticed that when we'd go up to higher flow rates, like the ones in the tractors, it wasn't nearly as effective," Steckly said. Using calculation techniques they learned in fluid dynamics classes, the team realized that it had to make the centrifuge larger. "The viscosity of the oil was not as much the problem as the flow rate, the volume we needed to push through it," Steckly said. "That's when we knew we had to make this larger in scale. "It didn't take too many iterations. We scaled up the diameter of the new hole, the intake, and based on that we knew that we could increase the flow and it should work." Working with a larger-than-usual budget for a senior capstone project – John Deere gave the team about $12,000 – keeping costs down was always a factor, Nielsen said. "The budget we had to work with gave us a lot of freedom, but we have always been very cost-conscious," Nielsen said. "Machining a part would be very expensive." Choosing to manufacture the part on a 3-D printer was the logical choice. Not only would they save hundreds of dollars, the team also could rely on Nielsen's experience in that field. "I have an internship and that's my job – to design and 3-D print things," Nielsen said. "I have a printer at home, but I usually print small stuff, like handles for Yeti mugs. "This part was a much larger scale than anything I've ever printed. It took close to 40 hours to print and we had to use my company's printer because it has a 1-cubic foot volume." When the new, larger-scale device was assembled and tested, it was easy to tell that the decision to scale up was the right one. "It's one thing to conceptualize it and design it and you can see pictures of it how it's supposed to be than having it made." Johnson said. "Not just having it be a physical thing that you can touch, but knowing that it works. That's pretty awesome." And the experience of working for a real client and developing a real product is something the team members value. "It most definitely gives us an edge because it's putting us in a more real-world scenario – we're actually working on a project that has deadlines, and we have to meet them. There's really no other option," Johnson said. "We have to complete the whole engineering process on one part, and that's something we hadn't experienced before."  

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Ag Policy

(VIDEO) EPW Committee Testimony: WOTUS Rule Won’t Hold Up In Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today participated in a hearing focused on reviewing the technical, scientific, and legal basis of the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.  For years, Fischer has sounded the alarm about the WOTUS rule and the harmful effects it would have on all Nebraskans. In today’s hearing, Fischer asked a series of questions about the legality of this rule.  Excerpts from Senator Fischer’s exchange with Dr. Michael Josselyn PhD, PWS Principal, Wetlands Research Associates, and Mr. Misha Tseytlin, Solicitor General of Wisconsin, at today’s hearing are below.  Senator Fischer: What about states that were not included in the Geosyntec analysis? Nebraska wasn’t included. Can you conclude that over 90 percent of the state would be regulated under that final WOTUS rule?  Dr. Josselyn: In fact in the WOTUS rule, in the preamble, they talk about the fact that the 4,000 foot limit was meant to include most of the wetlands in any state.  Senator Fischer: Mr. Tseytlin do you believe that the Clean Water Act regulates all water in a state?  Mr. Tseytlin: That is not within the coverage of the act. The act applies to navigable waters, and under Justice Kennedy’s approach, waters that have a significant nexus to those navigable waters.  Senator Fischer: Dr. Josselyn, in November 2015, four months after the final rule was published, EPA added a review of 199 jurisdictional determinations to the WOTUS Rule docket.  In this review, EPA found that only two positive jurisdictional determinations would change to negative, affecting approximately one acre of wetlands. EPA used this analysis to show that the rule would not cut off jurisdiction. However, the EPA’s analysis also shows how the rule expands federal control over land.   Of the 199 jurisdictional determinations EPA evaluated, 57 were negative. In 47 of those 57 negative jurisdictional determinations, the Corps concluded that federal jurisdiction did not exist because there was no surface connection to navigable water.  Based on the definition of “significant nexus” under the new WOTUS rule, do you agree that most of the 47 negative jurisdictional determinations evaluated by the EPA could become positive jurisdictional determinations under the final rule?   Dr. Josselyn: Yes, senator, I did look at that study and the WOTUS rule also includes shallow, sub-surface ground water connections as a potential. That could make some of those features that had isolated surface water to be connected. Secondly, the WOTUS rule expands the definitions of tributaries, so there could be far more tributaries mapped in proximity to these features and that could also expand the jurisdiction for those areas.  Senator Fischer: Thank you, and Mr. Tseytlin, the Department of Justice used the November 2015 document to defend the rule in the brief they filed on January 13 of this year. Would the EPA’s post hoc rationalization of their 4,000 foot threshold be credible to a court? What’s your opinion on that?  Mr. Tseytlin: It would not be legally permissible in court under the Supreme Court’s Chenery case. The rule can only be upheld on the basis of the record that was before the agency when it issued the final rule.  Senator Fischer has been a leader on additional legislative efforts to stop WOTUS. Last Congress, she helped introduce the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which would have required the Obama administration to consult states and stakeholders before imposing federal regulations on state-owned water resources. She also helped introduce the Defending Rivers from Overreaching Policies (DROP) Act. This bill targeted the flawed science used by the EPA to expand the definition of water.

Ag Groups Fear Potential Withdrawal of NAFTA

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2017) – Following reports Wednesday that an executive order is being prepared that would withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) many U.S. Ag groups released reacted with concern over the potential move. National Pork Producers Council President Ken Maschoff: “The North American Free Trade Agreement has been a tremendous success for the U.S. pork industry, which has seen an explosion in exports to Canada and Mexico since the deal was implemented in 1994. “In fact, Mexico and Canada are now our No. 2 and No. 4 markets, so we absolutely must not have any disruptions to U.S. pork exports there. Even a short-term interruption in our exports would have a significant negative economic impact on U.S. pork producers. “Abandoning NAFTA and going back to pre-NAFTA tariffs would be financially devastating to U.S. pork producers. Tens of thousands of U.S. jobs dependent on those exports would be lost. “The bottom line is U.S. pork trade with Canada and Mexico has been very robust, and we need to maintain and even improve that trade. We’re all for modernizing NAFTA, but we cannot support efforts that would undermine the livelihoods of America’s 60,000 pork producers.” U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight: "We are shocked and distressed to see news reports that the Trump Administration is considering an executive order to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). "Mexico and Canada are among our largest and most loyal grain export markets, and our organization has worked closely with partners in both countries for more than 30 years. "An executive order as reported will have an immediate effect on sales to Mexico, market prices and the profitability of U.S. farmers, who are already facing below cost of production prices. Our top grain market is not a negotiating tactic. "There is strong support and rationale to update and modernize NAFTA. Before today, we believed we were on track to have a reasonable discussion about how to update the agreement in ways that make sense for all parties. We hope we can get back to that position soon." National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock: "Mr. President, America's corn farmers helped elect you. We are strong supporters of your administration and continue to stand ready to work with you to build a better farm economy. That begins with strong trade policy. "Withdrawing from NAFTA would be disastrous for American agriculture. We cannot disrupt trade with two of our top trade partners and allies. This decision will cost America's farmers and ranchers markets that we will never recover. "NAFTA has been a huge win for American agriculture. Corn and corn product exports today account for 31 percent of farmer income. Mexico is the top export market for corn. Canada is also a top market for corn and ethanol. With a farm economy that is already weak, losing access to these markets will be a huge blow that will be felt throughout the ag value chain. “Mr. President, agriculture and rural America are counting on you. We urge you not to withdraw from NAFTA." American Soybean Association President Ron Moore: “Without mincing words, initiating a process to withdraw from NAFTA is a terrible idea, and it will only mean a longer and more difficult struggle for farmers to recover in this economy. With surplus production and domestic prices lagging, we need more opportunities and easier avenues to sell our products abroad, and signaling the U.S. intent to withdraw from NAFTA runs absolutely counter to that goal. Soybean farmers sent more than $2.5 billion in soybeans, meal and oil to Mexico last year, making it our number two market overall and the leading purchaser of U.S. meal and oil. Canada is number three in meal sales and number 10 in oil. Add to that the sales of the meat, dairy and eggs that require soy meal as animal feed, our North American partners are unquestionably among the most vital and vibrant markets for American soybeans. “If any actions to announce the intent to withdraw from NAFTA are underway, the administration should immediately abandon such plans and focus instead on ways to work with Canada and Mexico to modernize and optimize the agreement during a renegotiation. ASA has been supportive of the administration’s efforts to improve NAFTA. That’s where the action should be; beginning withdrawal procedures before modernization negotiations even take place are counterproductive and send the wrong signal. Further, a U.S. Trade Representative is still waiting to be confirmed, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue just was sworn in yesterday. We need to give both time to have input on NAFTA modernization.” U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers said they are alarmed over media reports today that the Trump Administration is considering a withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico is our largest U.S. wheat buyer, importing more than 10 percent of all U.S. wheat exports this year. NAFTA truly opened the door to the strong and growing market opportunity in Mexico. Closing that door would be a terrible blow to the U.S. wheat industry and its Mexican customers. USW and NAWG understand that there are several elements of the trade agreement that could be re-examined and modernized. However, we believe withdrawing from NAFTA would be a serious mistake. It could lead to new tariffs on U.S. wheat and threaten to undermine the long-standing, loyal relationship U.S. wheat farmers have built with Mexico’s wheat buyers and food industry. That would be devastating to U.S. wheat farmers already facing unprofitable prices and increasingly aggressive wheat exporting competitors. Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson: “Today we learned President Trump’s administration is considering an executive order to have the U.S. withdraw from NAFTA. This dangerous move could cost Nebraska farmers and ranchers more than $2.6 billion per year in agricultural exports. Such a loss couldn’t come at a worse time as farm and ranch families already face significantly lower prices for virtually every agricultural commodity produced. We also remain very concerned that the proposed action could threaten Nebraska’s broader economy as we have already witnessed significant state revenue shortfalls as a direct result of a weakened agricultural sector. Canada and Mexico are two of Nebraska’s largest export markets with billions of dollars’ worth of beef, hogs, corn, soybeans, and other agricultural products being exported each year. Rather than entirely throwing out an agreement which has clearly boosted Nebraska agricultural exports and farm and ranch family income, the president should work to update and improve it. The families who have dedicated their lives to producing the food that too often gets taken for granted should not be used as a geopolitical football to help gain leverage over our trading partners. This proposed move would be nothing short of a slap in the face to the farmers and ranchers who played a significant role in his election. President Trump should reconsider this decision.” Congressman Adrian Smith: “I strongly oppose withdrawing from NAFTA,” Smith said.  “Canada and Mexico are two of our largest trading partners, both representing billion-dollar export markets for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.  While there is nothing wrong with taking a look at a 25-year-old agreement to see what has been working and what hasn’t, the current market access granted to U.S. exporters must be the baseline for any renegotiation.  I have and will continue to express this position to the Trump administration and look forward to working with the White House to strengthen NAFTA.”

Democratic Senators Seek Assurances From Trump Pick for FDA

A group of U.S. senators led by Elizabeth Warren is pushing President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration for more information on how he plans to staff the agency. The Massachusetts Democrat has sent a letter to Dr. Scott Gottlieb asking how he'll ensure the agency has the resources needed to protect the health of Americans after Trump's January executive order imposing a hiring freeze on federal agencies, including the FDA. The freeze was recently lifted, but administration officials say many jobs will go unfilled to reduce the federal workforce. The senators say the FDA must remain a robust agency. The letter was also signed by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

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