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November 4, 2013
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Ag Notebook: Pushing for more water storage, putting federal land in state hands

Rep. Tipton urges more Water storage

More storage is needed to prevent flooding and provide certainty for Western agriculture during droughts, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said Tuesday.

“Without the ability to store the water that falls on Colorado’s slopes, the West as we know it would not exist,” Tipton said during a House water and power subcommittee hearing.

The committee heard testimony from water experts, including a hydrologist, a state regulator from Oregon, a Trout Unlimited lawyer and a farmer on how federal red tape in water projects could be reduced.

“There has never been a more prescient time for development of water projects,” said hydrologist Robert Shibatani of Sacramento, Calif. He made the case for storing excess flows of water in any basin where they exist.

Committee members agreed on the need for more storage, but differed in approach. Democrats said other approaches such as conservation or market approaches that don’t increase federal spending to be developed more fully.

Tipton and other Republicans said federal regulations have hindered water development that could have benefited Colorado.

Despite warning, Wyoming lawmakers want to study wresting federal land

A Wyoming Legislature task force on Thursday decided it wants an in-depth study into plans for the state to gain control over federal lands, despite an opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office that such an attempt would rest on shaky legal footing.

Earlier this year, the Wyoming Legislature ordered a legislative task force to study the issue of federal land ownership in the Cowboy State.

Success is similarly unlikely for Wyoming, Williamson wrote in the opinion, obtained by the Casper, Wyo., Star-Tribune on Thursday from the governor’s office.

The four lawmakers on the Wyoming Task Force on Transfer of Public Lands have read the opinion and have discussed it during talks on regaining lands from the federal government.

Predators of prairie dogs released in Colorado

About 30 black-footed ferrets that are natural predators of prairie dogs have been released in Colorado by wildlife officials, which is welcome news for ranchers who say the prairie dogs are destroying prime rangeland.

“These are killing machines,” said Pete Gober, who coordinates the black-footed ferret release program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They are wild animals that just have one thing in mind — killing prairie dogs.”

In 1967, the black-footed ferret was listed as endangered and protected. Colorado law prohibited any state role introducing endangered species without legislative approval. However, state law was relaxed this year to let ferrets be released on private land under new deals with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Neighboring landowners also are protected if they do not intentionally kill the wild ferrets.

Ag exporters, farm groups press on Chinese approvals of biotech traits

In a letter today to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and U.S. Canola Association raised concerns regarding ongoing delays, lack of transparency and arbitrary decisions in China’s process of approving new biotechnology traits.

The letter comes as the three administration officials prepare for a meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade with the nation’s largest trading partner this December.

“China is now the largest export market for U.S. agricultural goods valued at over $32 billion in 2012,” wrote the groups. “However, in spite of our growing successful trade relationship, China’s biotech approval process has gone from being slow but predictable to being even slower, unpredictable and non-transparent.”

The groups maintain that China’s position as a major buyer of U.S. commodities means that the current, arbitrary Chinese approval system is effectively preventing U.S. farmers from adopting the new technologies needed to increase yields, fight pests and weeds, enhance quality and improve environmental performance.

Corn in a Crunch

Corn prices fell Friday to a three-year low under $4.26 per bushel.

Weak exports and expectations for a record-breaking crop are also weighing on prices, which have declined over 80 cents (-16 percent) over the last two months.

Though bad news for farmers, this decline helps meat and ethanol producers who benefit from lower corn prices.

U.S. Cattlemen’s Association opposes Congressional intervention In COOL

The United States Cattlemen’s Association joined the National Farmers Union, the American Sheep Industry Association and the Consumer Federation of America in a joint letter sent to House and Senate Farm Bill conferees this week voicing strong support for U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) and opposing any attempt to make modifications through the farm bill to the underlying COOL law or to U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations which became final just a few months ago.

COOL opponents recently sent a letter to House and Senate Farm Bill conferees urging them to utilize COOL placeholder language in the House version of the farm bill as a mechanism to drastically change the law. The letter specifically references the need to insert language in the farm bill that will halt all current action regarding the program and negate the actions currently underway at the World Trade Organization.


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The Fence Post Updated Nov 1, 2013 02:33PM Published Nov 15, 2013 02:51PM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.