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March 31, 2014
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Ag Notebook: Ag’s exemptions, exclusions from EPA clean water proposal; Neb. operation earns national organic honor

Ag’s exemptions, exclusions from Clean Water Act expanded by new proposal

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.

The agencies, according to an EPA news release, are launching a robust outreach effort over the next 90 days, holding discussions around the country and gathering input needed to shape a final rule.

Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

The proposed rule also preserves the Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture. EPA and the Army Corps have coordinated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop an interpretive rule to ensure that 53 specific conservation practices that protect or improve water quality will not be subject to Section 404 dredged or fill permitting requirements.

Any ag activity that does not result in the discharge of a pollutant to waters of the U.S. still does not require a permit.

For more information, go to www.epa.gov/uswaters.

— Staff reports

Linwood farmers earn Outstanding Organic Family Farm Award

Bernard and Sharon Kavan of Linwood were recognized as the “Outstanding Organic Farmers of 2014 of the Year” during the annual meeting of the Organic Crop Improvement Association in San Antonio, Texas.

The annual award honors “producers who certify to the Organic Crop Improvement Association’s level of excellence.”

The Kavans have had an OCIA certified organic farm near Linwood since 1987, although their organic farming practices go back to the 1970s when the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosted tours on their farm to showcase their practices.

According to Bernard, “Prior to OCIA certification you were at the mercy of the buyer as to the price you received and whether you got paid or not. Organic certification standardized and stabilized the organic market.”

Bernard’s crop rotation consists of oats seeded with alfalfa the first year, followed by a year of haying to extend the growing time of the legume and to reduce tillage. The third year is corn to make use of the nitrogen supplied by alfalfa. Soybeans are grown in the fourth year and corn in the fifth, and then the rotation is repeated.

He has also produced soybeans for the tofu market and blue corn for chips and popcorn.

The Kavans have a herd of mixed breed cattle to strengthen this rotation by making use of the oats and alfalfa as haylage.

UNL has even conducted bird studies on his farm, recording the number of species on his organic land.

— Organic Crop Improvement Association

South Sioux City group named Nebraska small business of year

Cardinal Farms, a longtime Siouxland agribusiness that expanded into fish farming last year, has been named the Nebraska small business of the year for 2013 by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Dakota City company, run by Doug Garwood and his son, Scott, was chosen based on its history as an established business, growth in number of employees, increase in sales and unit volume, response to adversity and innovation in products and services offered. It was nominated for the honor by Loren Kucera, director of the Nebraska Business Development Center in Wayne.

The Garwoods have been invited to Washington, D.C., the week of June 20 to compete against candidates from all 50 states and territories for the SBA’s national small business of the year.

Cardinal Farms, which traces its family ownership back six generations to 1868, develops crops on 1,400 acres of northeast Nebraskafarmland, and hauls manure through its trucking operation for global food conglomerate Tyson Inc. With six full-time and six seasonal employees, they also sell pesticide-free, home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers grown in a hydroponic greenhouse.

Since 2000, the company’s revenues have more than tripled.

— Sioux City Journal

Neb. farmer receives Medal of Honor posthumously

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, R-Neb., issued the following statement on the service and sacrifice of Donald K. Schwab, U.S. Army veteran and Hooper, Neb., native, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House March 18:

“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to First Lieutenant Donald Schwab for his heroic acts of service during World War II. Schwab demonstrated uncommon valor on the battlefield in Lure, France, as he bravely led his men into combat before charging the enemy alone, forcing the Germans to retreat. I join the president, Nebraskans, and all Americans in thanking First Lieutenant Schwab and each Medal of Honor recipient for their extraordinary service on behalf of our country. We honor these great Americans and all our nation’s heroes who fight dutifully to protect and defend our freedom.”

According to the U.S. Army’s website, Medal of Honor nominee Donald K. Schwab was born, Dec. 6, 1918, in Hooper, Neb. He joined the U.S. Army upon graduation from high school.

Schwab distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on Sept. 17, 1944. His courage and determination resulted in the dismantling of a strong German position and he would take one prisoner of war.

Schwab served with the U.S. Army until Oct. 26, 1945. Upon exiting the service Schwab returned to Hooper, Neb. and began a farming career. He later was employed with the postal service in Nebraska until retirement.

Donald Schwab died on Feb. 19, 2005, at the age of 86.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Schwab received the Distinguished Service Cross (this award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor on Mar. 18), Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Silver Service Star, two Bronze Service Stars and Bronze Arrowhead Device, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, French Fourragere, Honorable Service Lapel Button-WWII.

– Office of U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

25 drug companies to phase out animal antibiotics

Twenty-five pharmaceutical companies are voluntarily phasing out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals processed for meat, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

Citing a potential threat to public health, the agency in December asked 26 companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for animal growth promotion. The FDA did not name the one company that has not agreed to withdraw or revise its drugs.

Accoridng to an Associated Press report, the companies will either withdraw the drugs from animal use completely or revise them so they would only be able to be used with a veterinarian’s prescription.

Withdrawing the animal drugs is designed to limit antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans as that resistance has become a growing public health problem. Repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead germs to become resistant to the drug so that it is no longer effective in treating a particular illness.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released estimates that more than 23,000 people a year are dying from drug-resistant infections.

— Staff reports

Vilsack discusses farm bill’s ‘improvements’ to programs

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced increased opportunity for producers as a result of the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill expands lending opportunities for thousands of farmers and ranchers to begin and continue operations, including greater flexibility in determining eligibility, raising loan limits, and emphasizing beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.

Changes that will take effect immediately include:

• Elimination of loan term limits for guaranteed operating loans.

• Modification of the definition of beginning farmer, using the average farm size for the county as a qualifier instead of the median farm size.

• Modification of the Joint Financing Direct Farm Ownership Interest Rate to 2 percent less than regular Direct Farm Ownership rate, with a floor of 2.5 percent. Previously, the rate was established at 5 percent.

• Increase of the maximum loan amount for Direct Farm Ownership down payments from $225,000 to $300,000.

• Elimination of rural residency requirement for Youth Loans, allowing urban youth to benefit.

• Debt forgiveness on Youth Loans, which will not prevent borrowers from obtaining additional loans from the federal government.

• Increase of the guarantee amount on Conservation Loans from 75 to 80 percent and 90 percent for socially disadvantaged borrowers and beginning farmers.

• Microloans will not count toward loan term limits for veterans and beginning farmers.

Additional modifications must be implemented through the rulemaking processes. Visit the FSA Farm Bill website for detailed information and updates to farm loan programs.

— U.S. Department of Agriculture


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