Public Meetings, Congressional Hearings, Calls for Comments

FINAL WOTUS RULE RELEASED

On Wednesday, May 27, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers released the final rule defining "waters of the United States" (WOTUS), which the agencies have renamed the Clean Water Rule. The final rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is expected in the coming days.  Originally proposed on April 21, 2014, the rule is disturbing to many industry sectors because it would significantly expand Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction for the agencies.

Lawmakers, industry, and environmental groups reacted quickly to the rule. The chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX-11) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), were critical of the final rule, as were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-08).  Chairman Rob Bishop of the House Natural Resources Committee criticized the regulation saying its changes would be unrecognizable by the founders of the Clean Water Act.  Generally agriculture industry groups were critical of the final rule, while environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council were supportive.

In Congress, legislative efforts were already afoot to prevent the agencies from finalizing and implementing the WOTUS rule. In addition to provisions written into funding legislation that would block the rule from moving forward, stand-alone legislation has been considered in both the House and Senate. On May 12, the House passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would order the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA to withdraw the WOTUS rules. In the Senate, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) has introduced a bill - S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act - that would similarly require the agencies to withdraw and rewrite the WOTUS rule.  S. 1140 has yet to be passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, though a subcommittee markup has been completed and Committee Chair Jim Inhofe (R-OK) indicated that the full committee is likely to consider it soon.

The Administration is likely to veto any stand-alone legislation to prevent the WOTUS rule from being implemented.  However, inclusion of a provision to block the WOTUS rule in must-pass appropriations legislation will provide Congress with an opportunity to block the regulation. The House already passed energy and water appropriations legislation that includes a provision to block the WOTUS rule. The Senate is likely to address appropriations legislation in June, when a legislative response to WOTUS is likely to be considered.

FOOD & AGRICULTURE 

  • View Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts' statement regarding the final Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule. Senate Agriculture Committee
  • House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway and Rep. Glenn Thompson spoke out against the WOTUS ruling. House Agriculture Committee
  • View the EPA's press release regarding the Clean Water rule. Environmental Protection Agency
  • On Friday, the EPA released the proposed renewable fuel standards rule. Comments to this proposed rule can be submitted until July 27. Environmental Protection Agency
  • The House Agriculture Committee announced two hearings next week. On Tuesday, the subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management will hold a hearing regarding an "Update on the Financial Health of Farm Country." On Wednesday, the full committee will hold a hearing to review agricultural subsidies in foreign countries. House Agriculture Committee
  • On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine the drought in Western states. Senate Energy and Natural Resources
  • On Thursday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing to examine the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015, H.R. 1017.House Energy and Commerce
  • US Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden joined Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Amy Klobuchar in North Dakota to discuss the importance of women in the agriculture industry especially in leadership roles. Senator Heidi Heitkamp
  • Reuters reports that USDA is looking for more contract workers to help with the bird flu outbreak. Reuters
  • On Friday, Cuba was dropped from the US terrorism list. The Hill
  • Taco Bell announced it will remove "artificial colors and flavors from most of its menu items." Restaurant News
  • Reuters reported that Pizza Hut is also looking to get rid of artificial flavors along with Taco Bell. Reuters
  • The New York Times reports,  "Hormel Foods, the company behind brands like Spam and Skippy, announced on Tuesday that it was acquiring Applegate Farms, a maker of natural and organic meats, for about $775 million." The New York Times
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released a statement on Tuesday regarding Senate passage of Trade Promotion Authority legislation. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA is now accepting applications to provide technical assistance to socially-disadvantaged groups in rural areas. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service initiative has created $1.4 billion in savings, efficiencies, and cost avoidances, while the agriculture sector continues to experience its most productive period in history. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners can now do business with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a new online portal. With the launch of Conservation Client Gateway, producers will have the ability to work with conservation planners online to access Farm Bill programs, request assistance and track payments for their conservation activities. USDA
  • Acting Chief Economist Robert Johansson announced the appointment of Dr. Seth Meyer as the World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) Chairman. Dr. Meyer is currently a Senior Economist with the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) on assignment to WAOB and will assume his new duties May 31, 2015. USDA
  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) released final environmental reviews for proposed land use plans that will help conserve greater sage-grouse habitat and support sustainable economic development on portions of public lands in 10 states across the West. USDA
  • View Tom Vilsack's statement regarding the updated forecast for U.S. agricultural exports. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will invest up to $100 million in a Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership to support the infrastructure needed to make more renewable fuel options available to American consumers. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that an additional 800,000 acres of highly environmentally sensitive land may be enrolled in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) under certain wetland and wildlife initiatives that provide multiple benefits on the same land. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined representatives from Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force, the Kohl's Corporation, and members of the Milwaukee community to bring attention to childhood hunger. USDA

USDA REPORTS

WHITE HOUSE

  • Politico reports, "A federal appeals court has rejected the administration's request to lift an order blocking President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration last November, which had offered quasi-legal status and work permits to millions more undocumented immigrants." Politico
  • The Hill reports, "The Obama administration on Wednesday asserted its authority over the nation's streams, wetlands and other smaller waterways, moving forward with one of the most controversial environmental regulations in recent years." The Hill
  • On Wednesday, Rick Santorum announced he is running for President. The Hill
  • George Pataki also announced he is running for President. The National Journal

CONGRESS

  • Last Friday, the Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The Hill 
  • In Arizona, Ann Kirkpatrick announced she will be running against John McCain for his Senate seat. Roll Call

MEETINGS

June 9, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Forest Service Missoula Resource Advisory Committee  
SUMMARY: The Missoula Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) will meet in Missoula, Montana.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/html/2015-12590.htm 

June 25, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR  
Migratory Bird Hunting; Service Regulations Committee Meeting   
SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (hereinafter Service) will conduct an open meeting on June 25, 2015, to identify and discuss preliminary issues concerning the 2016-17 migratory bird hunting regulations.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-27/html/2015-12665.htm 

FOOD SAFETY

May 28, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Double-Crested Cormorant Management Plan To Reduce Predation of Juvenile Salmonids in the Columbia River Estuary Final Environmental Impact Statement; Record of Decision  
SUMMARY: This notice advises the public of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's record of decision for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Double-Crested Cormorant Management Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement.  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-28/html/2015-13000.htm 

June 29, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Dow AgroSciences LLC: Availability of a Preliminary Plant Pest Risk Assessment, Draft Environmental Assessment, Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact, and Preliminary Determination of Nonregulated Status for Cotton Genetically Engineered for Resistance to 2,4-D and Glufosinate 
SUMMARY: We are advising the public that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has prepared a preliminary determination regarding a request from Dow AgroSciences LLC seeking a determination of nonregulated status for cotton designated as DAS-8191[Oslash]-7, which has been genetically engineered for resistance to the herbicides 2,4-D and glufosinate.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-28/html/2015-12817.htm 

July 15, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Integrated Food Safety System Online Collaboration Development   
SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing the availability of grant funds for the support of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-28/html/2015-12853.htm 

July 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Notice of Request for Extension of Approval of an Information Collection; Customer/Stakeholder Satisfaction Surveys for the National Animal Health Monitoring System and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories  
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice announces the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's intention to request an extension of approval of an information collection to conduct customer/stakeholder satisfaction surveys for the National Animal Health Monitoring System and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories.  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-27/html/2015-12760.htm 

MARKETING

May 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Marketing Order Regulating the Handling of Spearmint Oil Produced in the Far West; Revision of the Salable Quantity and Allotment Percentage for Class 3 (Native) Spearmint Oil for the 2014-2015 Marketing Year  
SUMMARY: The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adopting, as a final rule, without change, an interim rule recommended by the Spearmint Oil Administrative Committee (Committee) that revised the quantity of Class 3 (Native) spearmint oil that handlers may purchase from, or handle on behalf of, producers during the 2014-2015 marketing year under the Far West spearmint oil marketing order.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-27/html/2015-12758.htm 

May 28, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Irish Potatoes Grown in Colorado; Relaxation of the Handling Regulation for Area No. 3  
SUMMARY: The USDA is adopting, as a final rule, without change, an interim rule implementing a recommendation from the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Area No. 3 (Committee) that relaxed the minimum quantity exception for potatoes handled under the Colorado potato marketing order, Area No. 3 (order).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-27/html/2015-12751.htm 

July 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Notice of Request for Revision of a Currently Approved Information Collection 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35), this notice announces the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) intention to request a revision to the currently approved information collection for the Regulations Governing the Inspection and Grading Services of Manufactured or Processed Dairy Products, and the Certification of Sanitary Design and Fabrication of Equipment Used in the Slaughter, Processing, and Packaging of Livestock and Poultry Products.  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-28/html/2015-12813.htm 

OTHER ITEMS

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request May 19, 2015. 
The Department of Agriculture has submitted the following information collection requirement(s) to OMB for review and clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/html/2015-12592.htm  

May 20, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE 
Economic Development Administration Notice of Petitions by Firms for Determination of Eligibility To Apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance  
Pursuant to Section 251 of the Trade Act 1974, as amended (19 U.S.C. 2341 et seq.), the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has received petitions for certification of eligibility to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance from the firms listed below.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-27/html/2015-12771.htm 

May 29, 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Mesotrione; Pesticide Tolerances   
SUMMARY: This regulation establishes tolerances for residues of mesotrione in or on almond, hulls, fruit, citrus, group 10-10; fruit, pome, group 11-10; fruit, stone, group 12-12; and nut, tree, group 14- 12. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-29/html/2015-12938.htm 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY  
Metconazole; Pesticide Tolerances  
SUMMARY: This regulation establishes tolerances for residues of metconazole in or on multiple commodities which are identified and discussed later in this document.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-29/html/2015-12936.htm 

June 25, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration Solicitation of Nominations for Members of the USDA Grain Inspection Advisory Committee  
SUMMARY: The USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the USDA Grain Inspection Advisory Committee.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/html/2015-12528.htm 

June 29, 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 
Proposal To Mitigate Exposure to Bees From Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products; Notice of Availability  
SUMMARY: EPA is seeking comment on a proposal to adopt mandatory pesticide label restrictions to protect managed bees under contract pollination services from foliar application of pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees on a contact exposure basis.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-29/html/2015-12989.htm 

July 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR  
Migratory Bird Permits; Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement  
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, intend to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a proposal to authorize incidental take of migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/html/2015-12666.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
National Agricultural Statistics Service Notice of Intent To Seek Approval To Revise and Extend a Currently Approved Information Collection 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice announces the intention of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to request revision and extension of a currently approved information collection, the Egg, Chicken, and Turkey Surveys.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/html/2015-12640.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Rural Housing Service Notice of Request for Extension of a Currently Approved Information Collection 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice announces the Rural Housing Service's (RHS) intention to request an extension for a currently approved information collection in support of the program for Self-Help Technical Assistance Grants (7 CFR part 1944-I).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/html/2015-12563.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Rural Utilities Service Information Collection Activity; Comment Request  
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35, as amended), the Rural Utilities Service (Agency) invites comments on this information collection for which it intends to request approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/html/2015-12593.htm 

July 28, 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY  
Banda de Lupinus albus doce BLAD; Proposed Pesticide Tolerance  
SUMMARY: EPA proposes to revoke the current exemption from the requirement for a tolerance for residues of banda de Lupinus albus doce (BLAD) in or on all food commodities.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-29/html/2015-12530.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Food and Nutrition Service Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection; Comment Request--Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)  
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice invites the general public and other public agencies to comment on the proposed collection.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-29/html/2015-13024.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
National Agricultural Statistics Service Notice of Intent To Request Revision and Extension of a Currently Approved Information Collection 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995, this notice announces the intention of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to request revision and extension of a currently approved information collection, the Floriculture Survey.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-29/html/2015-13013.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
National Institute of Food and Agriculture Notice of Intent To Extend a Currently Approved Information Collection 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at (5 CFR part 1320), this notice announces the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) intention to request approval for an extension of the currently approved information collection for the NIFA proposal review process.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-29/html/2015-13011.htm 

January 1, 2016
FARM CREDIT ADMINISTRATION 
Organization; Institution Stockholder Voting Procedures 
SUMMARY: The Farm Credit Administration (FCA, we, Agency or our) amends FCA's regulations to clarify and enhance Farm Credit System (Farm Credit or System) bank and association stockholder voting procedures for tabulating votes, the use of tellers committees, and other items as identified.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-28/html/2015-12823.htm 

Call for Comments

IFT calls for comments on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  For details please refer to http://www.ift.org/public-policy-and-regulations/advocacy/ift-comments/call-for-comments.aspx.