GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS – WEEK OF JUNE 30, 2017

Federal Issues

EPA Proposes to Withdraw the 2015 WOTUS Rule
This past Tuesday, June 27, EPA Administrator Pruitt announced the proposal to repeal the 2015 WOTUS Rule. It is important to understand, that action starts the process to getting the 2015 rule repealed and there will be a comment period (the comment period will be for 30 days and dates are yet to be determined). Once the comment period closes, the EPA will finalize the proposal to repeal, at which point the 2015 WOTUS Rule will cease to exist. This will complete step 1 in a 2-step process where step 1 is to repeal and step 2 is to replace with new regulation that minimizes intrusion into private property, gives producers regulatory certainty, and can stand the test of time.

Support of the Administration’s efforts to rescind the 2015 Rule is broad among agriculture and industry organizations, as well as states. You may recall, immediately after the issuance, the 2015 Rule was challenged in multiple courts by all sides (32 states and 53 non-state parties, including environmental groups, municipal entities, farmers, landowners, developers, businesses, and recreation groups). Those parties raised numerous substantive and procedural concerns with the rule, including claims that the rule: would extend jurisdiction and federal regulatory requirements beyond what the Clean Water Act allows, would impose burdensome regulatory uncertainty, and was promulgated through a rulemaking process that failed to comply with mandatory procedural requirements, such as federalism consultation with state and local entities. Federal court orders recognizing the serious concerns with the 2015 Rule stopped the agencies from implementing the rule nationwide in October 2015. Since that time, the agencies have continues to implement the previous regulations. Tuesday’s action simply continues that practice and maintains the status quo.

Senate Ag Passed PRIA
The Senate Agriculture Committee has approved a bill to reauthorize the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, which requires companies to pay fees to help fund registration applications and reviews conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The measure cleared the committee by voice vote Thursday. After the vote, Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a joint statement that the reauthorization was a useful exercise.

“Not only does this legislation provide certainty to the pesticide industry, but it also provides new products to farmers for crop protection and to consumers to protect public health,” they said.

The PRIA bill differs somewhat from the House version that passed that chamber in March. The House bill would reauthorize PRIA for seven years, while the Senate bill would only reauthorize it for three. Because of the shorter time frame, the Senate bill does not include two 5 percent increases in some of the registration service fees contained in the House bill. The text of the Senate bill will not be publicly available for a couple of days, Senate Agriculture Committee spokesperson Meghan Cline said.

Ray Starling, Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture, Trade and Food Assistance
A highlight of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives D.C. Legislative ConferenceRay Starling was to have Ray Starling address the general session. Ray seemed as genuine as can be, has a thorough understanding of production agriculture, and, in his North Carolina drawl, laid out the 4 primary priorities of the White House as they pertain to agriculture. (Note, the position he holds had NOT been filled for the past 6 years of the Obama administration.)

The priorities:
1) Promote Ag Trade (Do no harm while increasing opportunities)
2) Provide access to a reliable, affordable, legal workforce
3) Halt regulatory onslaught
4) Improve infrastructure in rural America

He also noted what this Administration will NOT do:
1) Minimize WOTUS
2) Use the Endangered Species Act to attack farming practices
3) Release sensitive data on farmers
4) Underwrite harmful billboards (i.e. the billboard against dairy production is Washington)
5) Lose sight of the importance of farmer profitability

Mr. Starling assured us that our presence in D.C. was very important; ag is being heard and respected much more so than in recent years, and yes, President Trump absolutely listens to Secretary Perdue!

Hill Visits
I made appointments with 3 of our Congressional offices, expecting to spend 15 to 20 minutes at each, with time to attend a “Buy American” hearing in between. I had great visits at all of them and spent 30 to 40 minutes with every one of them, which allowed as much time for questions back and forth as stating requests on issues. We do have excellent representation working hard on our behalf! They are making progress and working hard on tax reform, year-round sales of E-15, national security, and the beginnings of a 2018 Farm Bill, to name just a few. I will say, it was very interesting to be in town while the Senate was debating health care! Many, many people were exercising their 1st Amendment rights.
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News Articles of Interest

$1.9B ‘pink slime’ libel suit settled

House appropriators advance ag, energy bills

TRUMP TWEETS ABOUT SUGAR – SUGAR, CORN LOBBYISTS PUMPED: Before President Donald Trump insulted MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski on Twitter Thursday morning – which, um, in case you missed it, kind of dominated the news cycle – he sent out another, less-incendiary tweet that made sugar and corn lobbyists happy. “New Sugar deal negotiated with Mexico is a very good one for both Mexico and the U.S.,” Trump tweeted. “Had no deal for many years which hurt U.S. badly.” The deal, announced earlier this month by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, addresses long-running complaints from the U.S. sugar industry accusing Mexico of unfair trade practices.

Sen. Pat Toomey, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board and other conservative voices have bashed the deal. “I disagree-the new sugar deal hikes prices for consumers even more,” Toomey tweeted at Trump. But the sugar- and corn-refining groups side with Trump.

“America’s sugar producers thank President Trump and his team for defending U.S. jobs, supporting America’s sugar farmers, and holding Mexico accountable for breaking U.S. trade law,” Phillip Hayes, a spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance, said in a statement. “The President is right, this is a very good deal,” John Bode, the president and chief executive of the Corn Refiners Association, said in a statement of his own. “It strengthens protections for U.S. Sugar while also protecting U.S corn sweetener exports and the 4,000 jobs those exports support.”

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