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#ShowingUp: Act now in defense of rural Colorado and the agriculture industry so vital to the state

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has appointed Ellen Kessler to the public at large position on the State Board of Veterinary Medicine. Kessler is an outspoken vegan and activist with political convictions that fly in the face of production agriculture and all it entails. To show our support of 4-H, livestock, agriculture, and veterinary practitioners, we are requesting that Ellen Kessler’s appointment to such a post be retracted prior to her confirmation hearing during the upcoming legislative session.

The letter below will be sent to the state office of the auditor, Gov. Polis, and all members of House and Senate agriculture committees on August 14.

You may utilize it as a guide to send yourself with the inclusion of your own comments or add your name by doing any of the following:

  • Sign the petition: https://www.change.org/ShowingUpFP
  • Comment below with your name, email and zip code before August 12, 2020
  • If you would like to add stories of your own experiences either comment below or share your public posts on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #showingup and tag @jaredpolis and @thefencepost
  • Post a screenshot of the letter (download .pdf here) and use the hashtag #showingup and tag @jaredpolis and @thefencepost.

Additional letters addressing other issues important to agriculture and rural Colorado will be added soon, helping you give voice to the concerns of our industry and rural Colorado.

Now is the time to show up for Colorado agriculture.


UPDATE 08/11/2020: Letter from Jerry Sonnenberg, Colorado Senate District 1

Elections are fast approaching, and this governor is making political appointments that appear to be furthering his “War on Rural Colorado.”

Polis’ latest appointment, to the State Board of Veterinary Medicine, is a self-proclaimed “vegan activist” whose response to the outcry against this absurd move was to attack one of Colorado’s premier youth organizations on social media. Ellen Kessler claimed that 4-H clubs – known as one of the first kids’ clubs in America, with a focus on leadership, citizenship, and life skills – “teach children that animal lives don’t matter.”

More than 100,000 currently active Colorado 4-H members and the nearly 10,000 adult and youth volunteer leaders would, I think, disagree with her preposterous charge. 4-H members contribute to their communities and gain practical experience in subject areas that include workforce preparation and career exploration, leadership and volunteerism, character and ethics, food and nutrition, agriculture and natural resources, conservation, consumer decision-making, robotics, rocketry, animal sciences, and public speaking – just to name a few.

This governor and his staff should be embarrassed about this political appointment, especially because it should not be political at all. As a member of the State Board of Veterinary Medicine, Kessler would work closely with the Colorado Department of Agriculture on matters pertaining to Colorado’s livestock industry. How can a professed vegan activist make unbiased decisions about veterinary matters [BA1] in an industry she wants to dismantle?

While I hope that when faced with this nomination the Senate Democrats will take a hard look at the absurdity of this appointment and vote it down, that hasn’t happened in the past. As recently as June, another appointee from this governor to the State Fair Board garnered opposition from both sides of the aisle as an inappropriate selection. The appointment was doomed to fail with bipartisan opposition – until Senate leadership refused to bring the confirmation to a vote. Through political sidesteps and technical maneuvers, that appointee continues to serve.

But wait, there’s more: Jeff Rice and the Sterling Journal-Advocate printed a two-part story revealing that out of 25 boards and 220 appointments, only 12 appointees hailed from east of I-25. That’s right, roughly 5% of appointments are from the eastern third of the state. What a mess Polis has made with his diversification of the boards; perhaps he ought to include some of the folks affected by these appointments, from not only the eastern plains but all of the state’s rural areas.

Maybe Governor Polis had his predecessor John Hickenlooper share the former governor’s quoted beliefs about us “backward thinking” people in rural Colorado. Rest assured, we “backwards thinking” folks will continue to provide the food, fiber, and energy this state and the rest of the world depend on. Rural Colorado is full of intelligent, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth people who would make great appointments to oversee professions like the State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

So how do we show our opposition to Kessler’s appointment? Call Governor Polis’ office at 303-866-2471. Be polite and briefly share why you think any advocate might have a conflict of interest when appointed to a board charged with oversight of the very subject against which they are vocally opposed.

Thank you,

Jerry Sonnenberg
Colorado Senate District 1



Dianne E. Ray, CPA, MPA

State Service Building

1525 Sherman Street, 7th Floor

Denver, Colorado 80203

August 6, 2020

Dear Ms. Ray,

This week, Ellen Kessler, who was recently appointed to the State Board of Veterinary Medicine posted on her personal social media account that, “4-H clubs teach children that animal lives don’t matter.” Kessler is an outspoken vegan and advocate for others to do the same. 

As a member of the Colorado Board of Veterinary Medicine, this appointee will be asked to guide and enforce professional standards for veterinary practitioners. She’ll also be tasked with making, amending, and adopting reasonable rules that govern the conduct of veterinarians, including veterinarians who serve the state’s many large animal and food animal clients.

The members of the state board are given the responsibility of interpreting the Veterinary practice law onto many specific cases in a fair and equitable manner that is in keeping with the intention of the law. Such interpretation is very much at the mercy of the individual board member’s ability or inability to remove their own personal bias or agenda from the equation. The long-established and science-based practices of a medical profession should not be placed on the whim of one individual with a deeply engrained political belief. Veterinarians have dedicated decades of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish their professional career and this gives one person with a personal agenda the power to dismantle their career and reputation permanently.

Due to Kessler’s previous statements that Coloradoans ought to become vegans, I do not believe she will be able to reasonably carry out the great responsibility of overseeing the veterinarians so vital to the agriculture industry. This conflict of interest could be disastrous, even driving desperately needed rural practitioners out of the state. With the state already experiencing a shortage of such practitioners, this would be a blow to the agriculture industry and the people who depend upon it.

I respectfully request that this grave conflict of interest be given consideration prior to Kessler’s confirmation hearing during the upcoming legislative sessions. Supporting Colorado’s agriculture industry has never been more important.

Yours in agriculture,

Rachel Gabel

cc: Gov. Jared Polis, Press Secretary Conor Cahill, Sen. Kerry Donovan, Sen Jessie Danielson, Sen. Don Coram, Sen. Robert Rodriguez, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, Rep. Dylan Roberts, Rep. Donald Valdez, Rep. Jeni James Arndt, Rep. Bri Buentello, Rep. Marc Catlin, Rep. Richard Holtorf, Rep. Rod Pelton, Rep. Brianna Titone, Rep. Perry Will, Rep. Steven Woodrow, Rep. Mary Young.


TAKE ACTION:

This letter will be sent to the state office of the auditor, Gov. Polis, and all members of House and Senate agriculture committees on August 14. You may utilize it as a guide to send yourself with the inclusion of your own comments or add your name by doing any of the following:

  1. Sign the petition: https://www.change.org/ShowingUpFP
  2. Comment below with your name, email and zip code before August 12, 2020
  3. If you would like to add stories of your own experiences either comment below or share your public posts on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #showingup and tag @jaredpolis and @thefencepost
  4. Post a screenshot of the letter (download .pdf here) and use the hashtag #showingup and tag @jaredpolis and @thefencepost.

Oil pipeline negotiations halted until right-of-way agreement reached

Unlimited liability for potential unintentional damage to a midflow pipeline is one of the clauses standing between a group of landowners and the landmen negotiating the Liberty Pipeline easement for Phillips 66.

As of Thursday, Feb. 13, PRO, a landowner group representing approximately 250 miles of landowners property across Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas on the proposed Liberty Pipeline route is pumping the brakes on entering into agreements with Colorado Liberty Pipeline, LLC, based on the absence of language protecting landowners from liability. Without the specific language, according to Conner Nicklas, legal counsel for the group, landowners are depending on the state’s property laws, case law, and the reasonableness of the pipeline company. With state law often favoring the easement holder, the landowner is left open to potential liability in sums that could force the loss of the property.

Nicklas, an attorney with Falen Law Offices in Cheyenne, Wyo., said if a landowner or employee were, for example, building fence unaware of the pipeline’s location and damaged it, triggering emergency procedures and shutdown of flow, the landowner could be liable for damages that could be in the millions of dollars. For this mistake, he said, a multigenerational ag operation could be lost according to property law. It is worthy to note that pipelines are buried under ground at a depth of 3 to 4 feet, it is state law to call and locate lines prior to digging, and pipeline breaches are extremely rare in the U.S.

Language in the right-of-way agreement specifying limited liability for the surface owner could protect the surface owner from unintentional damage to the pipeline.

“I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t like to have to rely on someone else’s benevolence when I could lose everything, including a multi-generational farm or ag operation,” Nicklas said.

He said easements often change hands, increasing the chance the landowner would eventually be dealing with a different pipeline owner, one he or she has never sat in a room with.

Jill Sweeney, communication adviser, Midstream, Phillips 66, said Phillips 66 has been engaging with landowners and has come to an agreement with the majority along the proposed route that originates in Guernsey, Wyo., and spans to Cushing, Okla., where it connects to pipelines that reach markets on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

RIGHT-OF-WAY

Wyoming law, she said, is different than Colorado and oftentimes wording in right-of-way agreements reflect those differences, prompting questions from parties involved in both states.

In terms of liability in Wyoming, condemnation courts evaluate land valuation and contract terms based upon the precedent set by the most recent previous company’s agreement, ensuring that the current agreement meets or exceeds that level.

“We are doing that on the terms and on the price so for Wyoming people to hold out for something more, it doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “In Colorado, it’s different. We feel like there are people thinking because we make that liability agreement in one state, that we would make it in the other. We’re not held to that standard and it’s not our standard practice to use that language.”

An easement and right-of-way agreement filed in Wyoming between a landowner and ONEOK Elk Creek Pipeline, LLC, a foreign LLC organized in Oklahoma, includes a section titled Grantor’s Limit on Liability and Immunity from Vicarious Liability. This section states that grantor (landowner) shall be liable to grantee (pipeline company) only for damage resulting from grantor’s intentional acts, willful misconduct, or negligent acts or omissions. Normal and customary farming is defined outside of negligence as long as One-Call is notified prior to agricultural tilling activities that result in penetration of the surface beyond 30 inches. The agreement also affords the grantor the option to secure comprehensive liability insurance with limits not less than $1 million against loss or liability caused by grantor’s occupation and use of, and activities on the property.

In contrast, one of 10 right-of-way agreements filed in Morgan County between grantors and Colorado Liberty Pipeline, LLC, contains no language addressing grantor’s liability for unintentional pipeline damage. Another such agreement filed in Goshen County, Wyoming, with Colorado Liberty Pipeline, LLC, contains nearly identical content without mention of limited liability for unintentional damage.

Sweeney said about 70 percent of the landowners they’ve negotiated with have entered into right-of-way agreements, signaling that the company is dealing in good faith, something county commissioners will evaluate when condemnation decisions are on the table. Depending on the state, letters will be sent to potential surface owners within the coming week, starting the next phase of the negotiation process and the final weeks of negotiation prior to appearing in condemnation court.

“We are really hoping we can reach a deal and both sides are working hard to find a compromise that will protect the landowner and also fit into Phillips 66’s policy toward landowners before landowners face condemnation,” Nicklas said.

In an effort to communicate their commitment to limiting landowner liability as the condemnation process draws near, the PRO board penned a letter to Phillips 66 CEO Greg Garland. In it, they said the current proposed language holds liable a landowner’s “successors and assigns.” According to the letter, requesting a landowner to sign an easement under the obvious threat of condemnation that requires a landowner be forever liable for the property, even after selling the property, is not good faith negotiating and is an unreasonable request for a landowner.

The language also proposes that a landowner be liable for the intentional acts and willful misconduct of anyone they would otherwise be legally responsible for. The letter reads landowners can be legally responsible for dozens of different people including, employees, guests and family members. According to Nicklas, this could include the acts of an employee outside the scope of their employment, the actions of a hunter on the property, and other examples that exceed the liability exposure a landowner would normally have under any law. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 768-0024.

The war on rural Colorado: The animal rights legislation circus

Colorado’s First Gentleman Marlon Reis has long been forthright about his commitment to veganism and his dedication to fight for the rights of animals and his involvement in and support of legislation thus far in the session both in testimony and on social media has reflected that.

The Humane Pet Act, HB20-1084, which failed on a 6-5 vote in the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee, would have prohibited the sale of dogs and cats in public places or by pet stores, also would have limited breeders to keeping, housing, or maintaining more than 25 dogs, cats, or any combination of more than 25 dogs and cats that are more than 6 months of age and have not undergone sterilization. Bill language also specified enclosure flooring types, limits litters per year, and mandated exercise as well as required engagement in “mentally stimulating and social behaviors.”

Reis said in a social media post that the failure of the Humane Pet Act taught proponents of animal rights that groups opposed to such bills are organized and vocal. He also indicated that the public’s understanding that USDA-licensed facilities and humanely raised animals are synonymous is untrue.

In addition to the Humane Pet Act, Reis is a vocal supporter of SB20-125, Prohibit Exotic Animals in Traveling Performances. Sponsored by Sen. Joann Ginal, D-District 14, without bipartisan sponsorship, the bill was heard on Feb. 13, 2020, by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.

The bill prohibits the use of exotic animals in a traveling animal act, and places restrictions on months of use for an animal used as part of an environmental education program that meets certain standards of accreditation. The bill excludes pet animals, livestock and alternative livestock, defined by statute as domesticated elk or fallow deer.

In his testimony, Reis asked committee members to support the bill and keep in mind the years stolen from animals in the name of entertainment.

“If these animals are lucky enough to live out their days in places like the sanctuary, too often it comes after the best years of their lives are stolen from them by traveling acts,” Reis testified. “For us, cheap thrills. For them, life itself.”

Kelly Sloan, a public affairs consultant representing Trunks and Humps, said he is among those who find mistreatment of animals deplorable but doing away with the use of animals for all purposes is different than eliminating the root problem.

“Let’s go after what the problem is and the problem is animals being treated badly, being treated cruelly, being starved, not being taken care of or denied veterinary treatment,” he said. “If the problem is animal cruelty or animal abuse, let’s deal with that.”

Additional oversight by the state veterinarian’s office or increased reporting requirements could, he said, better address cruelty rather than a blanket ban.

“If your goal is to do away with the use of animals for human use, then I guess that’s a different conversation,” he said.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-District 1, is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and heard testimony Thursday.

“This appears to be just the camel’s nose under the tent for this administration and the animal rights activists to eventually shut down animal agriculture in rural Colorado,” Sonnenberg said. “This bill will do nothing to protect any species. The assertions that were made by those testifying in favor of the bill are the same ones that have been used against agriculture in other states and in other bills.”

Sonnenberg calls this bill a part of the escalating war on rural Colorado.

The bill was laid over to a future date.

Following the Oscar speech comments made by Joaquin Phoenix, Reis shared an article by Erica Chayes Wida. The article, dated Feb. 11, 2020, appeared on Today.com said “various types of abuse against animals that occur within conventional farming operations (have) been well documented over the years”.

The article went on to claim that legislation protecting animals raised for dairy and meat has been slow in implementation, leading to these animals being subjected to cruel acts. Wida also said “this, coupled with a new wave of concern for the environment, has prompted a steady rise in people turning to veganism and plant-based lifestyles over the past few years” and has also been reflected in a significant rise in sales of plant-based proteins and alternative milks.

In a social media post linking Wida’s article, the first gentleman said he found it meaningful to have a high-profile advocate speaking out on behalf of animals and said, “We finally have attention being drawn to the fact that animals deserve better than to be treated as ‘things’ or property.”

A request for an interview with Reis was denied.

Other upcoming bills of interest to animal rights proponents include SB20-142 Pet Animal Facility Licensing, SB20-104 Powers of Bureau of Animal Protection Agents and SB20-164 Treatment Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Rescues. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 392-4410.

USDA designates Scotts Bluff County, Neb., as a primary natural disaster area

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, as a primary natural disaster area. Producers who suffered losses due to snowstorms and freeze that occurred Oct. 9-10, 2019, and Oct. 26-27, 2019, may be eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

This natural disaster designation allows FSA to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.

Producers in the contiguous Nebraska counties of Banner, Box Butte, Morrill and Sioux, along with Goshen County, Wyoming, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is Oct. 7, 2020.

FSA will review the loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster. FSA programs that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.

Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at farmers.gov/recover.

GenCanna exec blames FDA for hemp industry troubles

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — The Food and Drug Administration’s uncertainty over how to regulate hemp, including warning letters to companies for selling products illegally, has diminished the interest of big companies in hemp food products and “frozen” processors’ access to capital, the president of GenCanna, a Kentucky hemp processor that filed for bankruptcy last week, said Feb. 13 at a Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau seminar on hemp.

“FDA does not have a pathway for accepting something that was an illegal substance,” GenCanna President Steve Bevan told attendees at the CIRB annual meeting.

The crop insurers and the companies that issue reinsurance are interested in hemp because the 2018 farm bill made it legal to grow the non psychotropic plant related to marijuana, and the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency has approved one hemp crop insurance product.

Clif Parks of AgriLogic, the College Station, Texas, company that has developed the hemp policy, and Ron Conyea, a hemp farmer from Kentucky, also spoke at the conference.

Bevan explained that there are three hemp products: fiber, seed and flowers used to make cannabidiol (CBD), an oil used without approval to treat a range of medical problems.

In November, FDA warned consumers that it could not conclude CBD is safe for use in human or animal food, and sent letters to 15 companies warning them they were selling products containing CBD in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Bevan called the FDA’s safety concerns “hogwash” and pointed out that the FDA has never removed a CBD product from store shelves. The result, Bevan said, is that big companies are following their lawyers’ advice to stay away from hemp, leaving the market to smaller companies that produce hemp products in their garages or barns.

“I am getting a little more frustrated as we move through time,” Bevan said. “It is apparent FDA has been investigating products for five years.”

Bevan said he had been working with farmers who have been producing the crop in compliance with Agriculture Department rules and with companies, but now products are being removed from the market and firms damaged economically because of the FDA’s “antiquated rules.”

Bevan acknowledged that the hemp industry has problems because it doesn’t have standardized genetics or growing standards and because there is concern that a crop will contain more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol. The government considers hemp with higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol to be marijuana and the law says the “hot” crop must be disposed of.

ANOTHER OPINION

Not everyone buys Bevan’s explanation for GenCanna’s problems. After the company filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 6, Hemp Today reported that contractors for a planned processing plant complained last October that they were owed money.

The Kentucky Hemp Industries Association called GenCanna “a fraud corporation,” and Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., one of the biggest boosters of hemp in Congress, said he was ”very disappointed” in the company.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has urged his state’s congressional delegation to urge FDA to end its “bureaucratic paralysis.”

Bevan said that until last week GenCanna “was up to date on payments to all farmers” and “wants to make everyone whole in every way.”

And Conyea, the farmer who spoke at the meeting, credited Bevan with not giving farmers wild ideas of how much money they would make compared with other people who came from out of state and told farmers to expect “outrageous profits.”

Conyea said his gross revenue from hemp is $7,000 to $9,000 per acre compared to production costs of $3,000 per acre, excluding the cost of genetics.

But some promoters from “out west,” he said, suggested to farmers that they would have revenues of $20,000 per acre.

Conyea said he had become a hemp farmer because wet weather patterns in recent years have lowered yields on traditional crops and because his son and son-in-law, who want to farm, are interested in hemp. Conyea said he regards hemp as “a rotational crop, a risk management tool. It is not a savior.”

No chemicals are approved for use on hemp, and Conyea said he grows it as an organic crop. Conyea said that although he considers it fine that applications are being made to the Environmental Protection Agency for chemicals to be used on hemp, he is “not interested” in getting involved in the problems associated with Roundup and Monsanto, now owned by Bayer.

Some farmers harvest hemp by hand, Conyea said, but noting that this isn’t practical on any large production, he said has used forage equipment to harvest his crop.

Although some organizations have said the government should raise the allowed THC level to 1%, Conyea said that there is no reason for a crop to rise above the allowed THC level. Conyea said he tests his crop frequently and that if the THC level is rising, he harvests it immediately.

He said crop insurance is as vital for hemp as it is for other crops.

“Bankers want the deed to my farm or crop insurance,” Conyea said.

Parks of AgriLogic said his company has developed a policy that will provide coverage for hemp grown for fiber, grain or CBD for the 2020 crop year. The policy will insure loss of production due to multiple natural perils, similar to other major industrial food, feed and fiber crops, he said.

However, coverage for replant, prevent planting, or required destruction of the crop due to THC levels above that allowed by regulators will not be provided by the crop insurance program.

The program will initially be offered in select counties in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin, with expansion to additional areas expected in subsequent crop years. The program will be available through participating Approved Insurance Providers with a sales closing date for the initial year of March 15.

To be eligible for coverage, growers will be required to have a minimum of one year of documented growing experience and be compliant with all applicable regulations and with regulatory agencies governing hemp production for their area.

To be insured, hemp cannot follow acreage that was planted to any of the following in the prior year: cannabis, canola, dry peas, mustard, rapeseed or sunflowers. In addition, hemp cannot follow acreage that was planted to soybeans in the prior year in northern states.

USDA Risk Management Administrator Martin Barbre, who was in the audience during the presentation, said RMA was under pressure from producers to develop a policy as soon as initial hemp rules were announced, and praised AgriLogic for quickly putting together an initial policy. ❖

ICON signs national letter to President Trump

The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska have signed on to a letter to President Donald Trump calling for the end of federal policies that are steadily eliminating family farms across the United States.

“The federal government has been both an active and passive player in the demise of the family farm,” the letter says.

The letter, signed by 11 agriculture groups, calls for a seat at the table when government agricultural policy is created.

It was authored by Gerald Carlin, the chairman of policy development for Farm Women United.

“Family farms are the backbone of this country and they cannot receive a just economic reward for their labor,” the letter says.

The signatories cite an “ever-deepening crisis in agriculture (that) goes back many decades because farmers have no power in the marketplace” and calls on Trump to scrutinize the actions of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“Is it time for a change to another Secretary of Agriculture, one who will finally listen to real farmers, not the “industry?” the signatories ask. “We need a seat at the table. If USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is not this advocate, he should resign or be fired.”

Perdue “dances around difficult issues like a typical politician and seems to attend mostly short-notice meetings with ‘establishment ag’ figureheads,” the letter says.

The status quo of “globalization, corporatization, and consolidation continues unabated,” seemingly with Perdue’s blessing, the letter says.

The federal government has also imposed burdensome regulations on family farmers, including prohibiting public schools from serving whole milk, to the detriment of dairy farmers.

To remedy the situation, the letter calls for Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) to include beef, pork, and dairy products.

Certainly, people should know what country their food comes from, the letter says.

The letter also calls on Trump to address “market concentration and the shortage of, or absence of, competitive markets.”

“We strongly agree with the Farm Women United, especially in calling for Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling,” ICON President Jim Dinklage said. “Livestock prices have never recovered from all time highs when we had COOL.”

Sources: Bush didn’t talk about Trump and RFS to ethanol producers

HOUSTON – Former President George W. Bush, who signed the bills that established the Renewable Fuel Standard, did not talk about the management of the RFS by President Donald Trump and his staff in a closed-door speech to the 25th annual National Ethanol Conference here Tuesday, sources who attended the event told The Hagstrom Report.

Sources said the speech was inspiring and a reminder of an earlier age of more bipartisan politics. They also said that Bush invoked the role of his father, the late President George H.W. Bush, in his life. The sources did say, however, that Bush made some veiled references that were critical of Trump’s “America First” policy.

Renewable Fuels Association President Geoff Cooper said that the media were not admitted to the event and attendees were told they could not take photos or notes at the event at the insistence of Bush’s office. Cooper also declined to reveal how much Bush was paid for the speech.

An RFA spokesman said that a statement in Monday’s Hagstrom Report that a photo opportunity with Bush was auctioned at the RFA Pac reception for $1,800 was incorrect. The photo opportunity was auctioned, but the price reported was not correct, the spokesman said. He declined to reveal how much the winner paid for the photo op.

In a statement after Bush’s speech, Cooper said, “Our industry cannot effectively ‘Focus Forward’ without first celebrating and reflecting on the achievements of the past. We simply would not have the robust and dynamic renewable fuels industry we have today without President Bush’s enduring leadership and vision. The Renewable Fuel Standard has been a tremendous success and provides a firm foundation upon which we will build the future of renewable fuels. We were thrilled to welcome President Bush to the NEC and thank him for all he has done to promote a stronger and more secure energy future.”

RFA noted that the RFS was originally created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed into law by Bush in August 2005. In December 2007, he signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which extended and greatly expanded the RFS. Between these two signature events, in April 2006, Bush spoke to RFA members in Washington, D.C., where he addressed the importance of energy independence and security.

At the 2007 signing ceremony, Bush remarked that the expanded RFS program was a “… major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding production of renewable fuels and giving future generations a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure,” RFA noted.

Reviewing ARC, PLC and SCO commodity safety net programs

For farmers with base acres and eligibility to participate in Title I commodity safety net programs, the deadline for election and enrollment of covered commodities such as corn, soybeans, wheat, seed cotton, rice and peanuts into Agriculture Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage is quickly approaching. The cutoff date for completing the program election and enrollment process for the 2019 crop year is March 16, and the closing date for the 2020 crop year is June 30. (A producer can sign up for both crop years ahead of the March 16 deadline.)

Farmers enrolling in ARC or PLC must make a one-time election on a commodity-by-commodity basis in either ARC-County Option or PLC, or they may enroll all covered commodities in ARC-Individual Coverage. Farmers choosing to enroll commodities in PLC may also purchase additional shallow loss coverage through the Risk Management Agency’s Supplemental Coverage Option program. For example, a producer may enroll all seed cotton base acres in PLC and SCO and enroll all soybean base acres in ARC-CO, or he or she may enroll all seed cotton and soybean base acres in ARC-IC.

There are 22 covered commodities eligible for ARC and PLC. These commodities include corn, wheat, soybeans, seed cotton, grain sorghum, barley, rice-long grain, peanuts, oats, sunflowers, canola, rice-temperate japonica, dry peas, lentils, flaxseed, rice-medium grain, safflower, large chickpeas, mustard, small chickpeas, sesame, crambe and rapeseed. At the end of the 2014 farm bill sign-up periods in 2018, there were a total of 253.8 million base acres enrolled in ARC and PLC, with 68.4 million acres in PLC, 167.9 million acres in ARC-CO and 2.07 million acres in ARC-IC. Figure 1 highlights the base acres for select covered commodities based on the 2018 program year.

To assist farmers in making program decisions, this Market Intel provides an overview of each of the commodity safety net programs.

ARC

Agriculture Risk Coverage is an income support program that provides payments when actual county-level crop revenue, based on county-average yields and the marketing year average price, falls below 86% of the benchmark revenue.

The benchmark revenue is the product of the five-year Olympic moving average of county yield and marketing year average prices. The five-year Olympic average drops the highest and lowest values from the sample and averages the remaining three values. For example, the 2019 program year will average prices and yields from 2013 to 2017.

Program payments under ARC-CO are capped at 10% of the ARC-CO benchmark revenue. ARC-CO program payments are paid on 85% of the farm’s base acres of the covered commodity. Previous Market Intel articles reviewed ARC-CO details and payment expectations for the 2019 program year, i.e., ARC-County, A Bird in The Hand for Some in 2019 at https://www.fb.org/market-intel/arc-county-a-bird-in-the-hand-for-some-in-2019 and What’s in Title I of the 2018 Farm Bill for Field Crops? at https://www.fb.org/market-intel/whats-in-title-i-of-the-2018-farm-bill-for-field-crops.

The Congressional Budget Office’s January 2020 Baseline for Farm Programs projects ARC-CO expenditures over the next 10 years to total $5.29 billion. ARC-CO expenditures are expected to range from a high of $1.06 billion in 2019 to a low of $351 million in 2024. At $1.9 billion, corn is projected to be the maximum outlay over the 10-year period, with the largest expenditure, $401 million, projected in 2019. Soybean projections total $1.27 billion from 2020 through 2030, with the largest outlay projected at $311 million, in 2021. Outlays for wheat are expected to reach $739 million over the 10-year period, with the largest expenditure coming in at $354 million, in 2019. Seed cotton projections come in at $735 million over the next 10 years, with the highest outlay, $75 million, projected to occur in 2021.

While ARC-CO is a commodity-by-commodity program, ARC-IC is a whole farm program that bases program benefits on individual farm yields for all covered commodities. An ARC-IC payment is triggered when the actual crop revenue for all covered commodities planted on the farm is less than 86% of the benchmark revenue and is capped at 10% of the individual weighted benchmark revenue. While ARC-CO program payments are paid based on 85% of the farm’s base acres, ARC-IC limits payments to 65% of the farm’s base acres.

The CBO’s 10-year projections put the ARC-IC program cost at $109 million from 2020 through 2030. The largest expenditure for the program, $23 million, is estimated to occur in 2019.

PLC

The PLC program delivers a deficiency payment when the effective price of a covered commodity is less than the effective reference price, i.e., when the price of a commodity falls below a specific price floor. For example, a $3.30 market year average price for corn is below the effective reference price of $3.70 and would trigger a program payment of 40 cents per bushel. The effective price equals the higher of the MYA or the national average loan rate for the covered commodity.

A new feature in the 2018 farm bill is a floating reference price in PLC. Under a floating reference price, the effective reference price is determined by comparing the statutory reference price to 85% of the five-year Olympic moving average of the MYA price, selecting the higher one, then comparing it to 115% of the reference price and picking the smallest.

Like ARC-CO, PLC program payments are made on 85% of the farm’s base acres and the farm’s PLC program yield. Farm owners will have an opportunity in 2020 to voluntarily update PLC yields of each individual covered commodity on their farm. The updated yield is equal to 90% of each covered commodity’s 2013-2017 simple average yield, but a yield floor equal to 75% of the county yield is in place to address any poor crop yields in the sample period. Yield updates can occur until Sept. 30.

The PLC projections from CBO put total expenditures at $62.98 billion from 2020 through 2030. Those projections run from a high of $7.3 billion in 2022 to a low of $2.03 billion in 2019. Corn is projected to be the largest expenditure overall at $25 billion, with the largest outlay, $3.3 billion, occurring in 2022. A total of $10.5 billion is expected to be spent on wheat over the 10-year period, with the largest expenditure, $1.78 billion, occurring in 2021. Total spending for seed cotton is projected at $4.8 billion and rice is expected to come in at $7.4 billion from 2020 through 2030. Soybeans are projected at $3.04 billion over the 10-year period, with the largest expenditure, $467 million, occurring in 2023.

SCO, commonly known as shallow loss coverage, is a county-level crop insurance product provided by RMA that offers additional coverage for a portion of the underlying crop insurance policy deductible. It is considered a companion plan and can be added as an endorsement to a crop insurance product at a subsidy rate of 65%. SCO provides participating farmers an opportunity to buy up additional coverage, up to 86%, when used with Yield Protection, Revenue Protection or Revenue Protection with the Harvest Price Exclusion policies.

Producers who elect to participate in PLC also have an option to purchase SCO. It is available for spring barley, corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, seed cotton and rice and for alfalfa seed, canola, cultivated wild rice, dry peas, forage production, grass seed, mint, oats, onions, potatoes and rye in select counties.

SCO follows the coverage of the underlying policy, i.e., if Revenue Protection is the underlying policy, then SCO would provide additional revenue protection; if Yield Protection is the underlying policy, then SCO would provide additional yield protection. For example, if a corn grower purchases a Revenue Protection policy with a 75% coverage level as the underlying policy, the grower has the option to buy the additional 11% in SCO coverage up to 86% total revenue protection. A payment is triggered on the underlying policy when the individual revenue is less than 75% of the expected insured level. However, the SCO coverage begins to pay when the county average revenue falls below 86% of the expected level It is paid in full when county revenue falls below the original 75% coverage level of participation.

Producers who elect to participate in either ARC-CO or ARC-IC are not eligible for SCO.

The 2018 farm bill made several modifications to the ARC and PLC programs, and producers now have an opportunity to re-elect on a commodity-by-commodity basis new program determinations for ARC and PLC for the 2019 and 2020 crop years. Then, beginning with the 2021 crop year, producers will be able to make an annual election in ARC or PLC on a commodity-by-commodity basis.

Making these elections can be complex and farmers must consider several factors such as expected prices and yields, as well as the impact of prevented plantings on program performance. To help farmers make an informed decision ahead of the March deadline, there are two web-based decision-making tools available. These include the Gardner-farmdoc Payment Calculator, a University of Illinois tool that offers farmers the ability to run payment estimate modeling for their farms and counties for ARC-County and PLC, and the ARC and PLC Decision Tool, Texas A&M’s user-friendly tool that allows producers to analyze payment yield updates and expected payments for 2019 and 2020. Producers who have used the tool in the past should see their username, and much of their farm data will already be available in the system.

Trump budget cuts ag, SNAP; new tobacco agency proposed

President Donald Trump on Feb. 10 released his proposed fiscal year 2021 budget.

The document published by the Office of Management and Budget titled “A Budget for America’s Future” proposes cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, and to agriculture programs including crop insurance.

The Health and Human Services section also proposes moving tobacco from the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration to a separate agency.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Budget Committee who is rarely critical of the president, said “I applaud the administration for aiming to tackle the debt and deficit by addressing federal spending, but I do not support the disproportionate cuts to important agricultural programs.”

“Our producers have struggled enough with extreme weather and unfair retaliatory actions amid trade disputes. The cuts proposed today would save little but inflict severe pain in American agriculture. Instead of reducing essential services as the administration proposes, I’ll work in Congress to ensure we focus on eliminating waste, fraud and bureaucratic inefficiency.”

Congress, which determines actual expenditures through appropriations bills, is expected to reject most of Trump’s proposals, as it has in past years.

The American Association of Crop Insurers, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Crop Insurance Professionals Association, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, and National Crop Insurance Services issued a joint statement critical of the proposed budget:

“Last year brought unprecedented challenges for rural America. Even now, farmers and ranchers across the country are dealing with the lingering consequences of weather events that destroyed fields and ruined crops. And there looks to be no reprieve from the ongoing rural recession: The USDA estimates that farm cash flow will tighten this year, dropping more than $10 billion, or 9%, from 2019.

“The federal crop insurance program reacted quickly and efficiently to keep many farmers afloat during this difficult time. It’s no wonder then that the nation’s farm organizations teamed up in late 2019 to ask Congress to reject any attempts to cut crop insurance and weaken the farm safety net when it’s needed most.

“It’s inexplicable as to why OMB would target such a critical risk-management tool for budget cuts,” the crop insurers said. “The proposed cuts will make crop insurance unaffordable and unavailable for farmers, seriously undermining the farm safety net.”

Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, said, “Today’s budget proposal relies on optimistic projections for economic growth and unlikely budget cuts to illustrate deficit reduction. The reality is that in order to manage our rapidly growing debt, we need to address the big issues — the aging of our population, rising healthcare costs and inadequate revenues.”

“Economic growth is critical for improving our fiscal situation, but the irony is that the longer we wait to deal with our debt problem, the worse our economy will be,” Peterson said.

“Over the long term, our fiscal path represents an inter-generational injustice that funds current consumption over investment, and passes the bill to our kids and grandkids. With interest costs already at $1 billion a day and doubling every 10 years, we are not taking the right steps to build the future we want.

“This new budget season is an opportunity for the president and Congress to advance fiscally responsible policies that will put our nation in a position to meet our most pressing challenges, now and for the next generation.”

AGRICULTURE BUDGET

“The 2021 budget requests $21.8 billion in discretionary resources for USDA, a $1.9 billion or 8% decrease from the 2020 enacted level. The budget proposes $240 billion in net mandatory savings over 10 years from USDA programs to reduce long-term deficits.

“The budget eliminates duplicative and wasteful programs within the Rural Business Service which gives funds to businesses that could qualify for private sector capital, saving $91 million from the 2020 enacted level.

“Reforms Food Stamp Program to Promote Work — The budget continues bold proposals to reform work requirements for able-bodied adults participating in SNAP to promote self-sufficiency.

“This proposal would streamline SNAP work requirements and apply them consistently to able-bodied adults ages 18 to 65, unless they qualify for specific exemptions. Under the proposal, adults would be required to work, participate in job training, or volunteer at least 20 hours a week in order to receive SNAP benefits.

“The budget also combines the traditional SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer benefits with ‘Harvest Boxes’ of 100% American-grown foods provided directly to households, ensuring that Americans in need have access to a nutritious diet while significantly reducing the cost to taxpayers.

“States would maintain the ability to provide choice to their participants, including by using innovative approaches for the inclusion of fresh products. To bolster state program integrity initiatives, the budget provides for the nationwide implementation of the National Accuracy Clearinghouse, an interstate data-matching system to prevent duplicate participation in SNAP.

“The budget also includes proposals to reserve benefits for those most in need, promote efficiency in state operations, and strengthen program monitoring and oversight.”

“Supports Comprehensive Farm Safety Net Reforms and Reduces Waste — Building on the agricultural reforms proposed in the 2020 budget, the administration continues proposals to modify and target crop insurance, conservation, and commodity programs in a way that maintains a strong safety net, saving $36 billion over 10 years.

“The budget also proposes to eliminate wasteful duplication and excessive subsidies between federally subsidized crop insurance and mandatory disaster assistance. This addresses recent congressional changes that removed safeguards and would ensure that taxpayer funded assistance is limited and that producers do not collect more than 100% for the same loss.”

The document also notes the administration’s efforts to curb opioid abuse and says the budget “proposes $44 million in distance learning and telemedicine grants, of which 20% would be dedicated to projects that combat the opioid crisis and keep rural communities safe.”

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Here are relevant quotes from the Health and Human Services section, including the Food and Drug Administration.

“Improves Access to Rural Healthcare — The budget includes proposals to address the healthcare needs of rural America.

“The budget proposes to expand access to telemedicine services by offering increased flexibility to providers who serve predominantly rural or vulnerable patient populations, including IHS providers and providers participating in Medicare payment models requiring financial risk.

“The budget proposes to modify payments to Rural Health Clinics to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to benefit from primary care services in their communities.

“To address the trend of rural hospital closures, the budget proposes to allow critical access hospitals to voluntarily convert to rural standalone emergency hospitals and remove the requirement to maintain inpatient beds. In addition, the budget maintains funding for Rural Health Outreach grants in HRSA.

“Reforms Oversight of Tobacco Products — The budget proposes to move the Center for Tobacco Products out of the Food and Drug Administration and create a new agency within HHS to focus on tobacco regulation. This new agency would be led by a Senate-confirmed director in order to increase direct accountability and more effectively respond to this critical area of public health concern.

“A new agency with the singular mission on tobacco and its impact on public health would have greater capacity to respond strategically to the growing complexity of new tobacco products. In addition, this reorganization would allow the FDA commissioner to focus on its traditional mission of ensuring the safety of the nation’s food and medical products supply.”

To read the budget, go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/budget_fy21.pdf. ❖

House passes border bill, clearing way to president

The House on Feb. 10 passed a bill authorizing funding for hiring more customs and border agriculture inspectors.

The House passed the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 under suspension of the rules. It had already passed the Senate and will now go to President Donald Trump.

A joint press release welcoming passage of the bill was issued by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chairman Filemon Vela, D-Texas, Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chairman Jim Costa, D-Calif., and committee members Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, and California Democrats Salud Carbajal, Josh Harder, and TJ Cox.

“I know how vital CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) personnel and the work they perform are for the protection and growth of our trade and agricultural sectors,” said Vela.

“Texas farms alone sold $24.9 billion in agricultural products in 2017, but those economic gains are threatened when our international ports of entry do not have the resources to mitigate pest and disease threats, like the African swine fever.

“The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 authorizes the hiring of 240 new agriculture specialists and 200 agriculture technicians until staffing shortages are resolved. It also provides for the assignment of 20 agriculture canine teams to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and foreign animal disease from entering the U.S.

“I am honored to have introduced the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 in the House of Representatives, with support from both sides of the aisle, and to have worked in partnership with Sen. (Gary) Peters (D-Mich.) to ensure this legislation gets signed into law.”

“I’ve long raised the issue of staffing levels at the border. It is critical that we have enough CBP agriculture inspectors, specialists and canine teams to protect our rural communities and our economy from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases,” said Peterson.

“I represent a border district, where agriculture is a top industry, and The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act authorizes the crucial resources to help protect districts like mine. Rural America can’t afford another disaster and we need to do everything we can to prevent these pests and diseases from impacting our farm and rural economies.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, also issued a joint release praising the House action.

“The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 will ensure the safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across our nation’s borders by authorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire additional inspectors, support staff and K-9 teams to fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry,” the senators said.

“This is the result of working together in a bipartisan fashion — a safer and more secure American food supply,” said Roberts.

“This legislation strengthens the agricultural inspector workforce at our borders, giving much-needed and requested backup to the folks helping keep our food supply safe. The Senate passed the bill in October, and I applaud the House for acting. I urge President Trump to swiftly sign this legislation into law.”

“Our farms and crops are under increasing threats from invasive pests and diseases,” said Stabenow.

“That’s why agricultural inspections at our borders are critically important to food safety and the protection of our farmers and consumers.”

“Our country faces a shortage of agricultural inspectors that could leave our agricultural industry vulnerable to diseases, pests, and other threats that could devastate our economy and compromise the health and safety of millions of Americans,” said Peters.

“I’m pleased the House passed my commonsense bill that will help facilitate secure and efficient international trade at ports of entry, and ensure farmers in Michigan and across the country can continue to raise the highest quality products.”

“Hundreds of billions of dollars in goods pass through Texas’ ports of entry annually,” said Cornyn. “This law will boost the number of inspectors safeguarding the safety and integrity of goods and products coming across our border, which will benefit all Americans.” ❖