For The Week Ending July 11, 2014

 

AGRICULTURAL GROUPS SUBMIT ‘WATERS OF THE U.S.’ COMMENTS, HOUSE HEARING HELD

In comments submitted Tuesday to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a group of more than 90 agricultural organizations said an interpretive rule that accompanies a proposed Clean Water Act (CWA) regulation is a legislative rule that must go through notice and comment rulemaking. The group, led by NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the interpretive rule “binds farmers and ranchers with new, specific legal obligations under the CWA. It modifies existing regulations interpreting the statutory term ‘normal farming, ranching and silviculture.’” The interpretive rule would exempt 56 agricultural activities from a proposed rule that would expand the jurisdiction and authority of EPA and the Corps of Engineers over certain waters. Currently, based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, that includes “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The proposed regulation would redefine “waters of the United States” to include, among other water bodies, intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. NPPC previously requested that EPA and the Corps of Engineers withdraw the interpretive rule. Click here to read the comments. In related news, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Wednesday held a hearing to examine the EPA’s “waters of the United States” proposed rule. EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe was the sole witness and was met with serious concerns over the proposed rule from Republicans and Democrats. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the proposed rule was too vague and that “EPA’s re-writing of the law is a terrifying expansion of federal control over the lands owned by the American people.” Perciasepe acknowledged the definition of “water” under the proposed rule is not clear and that EPA should work to clarify the definition. Click here to watch the hearing and read Perciasepe’s testimony. Also on Thursday, while in Missouri on a farm tour and a meeting with the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy attempted to clarify the proposed rule while also suggesting the possibility that EPA may consider withdrawing the interpretive rule if necessary. Click here to read McCarthy’s prepared remarks.

 

HOUSE PASSES VETERINARY MEDICINE MOBILITY ACT

The House Tuesday passed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (H.R. 1528), which amends the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 to permit veterinarians to transport and use controlled substances beyond their primary place(s) of practice. Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., the only veterinarians in Congress, were strong supporters of the bill, which NPPC also supported by signing onto a letter of support sent to Congress last year. The bill was passed by the Senate in January and now goes to the White House to be signed into law.

 

PRESIDENT’S SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COUNCIL HOLD WEBINAR
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Friday held a webinar to discuss a report that is expected to be released in the next several weeks. The webinar called for the creation of alternative antibiotics for agricultural uses to decrease the use of ones relevant to human medicine. PCAST members stated their interest in monitoring antibiotic use in agriculture to better understand agriculture’s contribution to antibiotic resistance in humans. The council is concerned about disease prevention use of antibiotics and said veterinarians have an important role to play in ensuring responsible use of antibiotics. PCAST is an advisory group of scientists and engineers who advise the president and the Executive Office of the President on science and technology issues. NPPC will keep its members up to date on PCAST developments as they relate to animal agriculture.

 

HOUSE PASSES PERMANENT BONUS DEPRECIATION
The House Friday passed on a 258-160 vote H.R. 4718, making bonus depreciation (created in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012) permanent for tax years after Dec. 31, 2013. Bonus depreciation allows businesses to write off half the cost of their investments in equipment in the same year they make the investments. According to the Associated Equipment Distributors, the bill would allow companies that purchase new equipment after 2013 to depreciate 50 percent of the cost in the first year, plus the percentage of the remaining capital cost (basis) that ordinarily would be depreciable over the specified life of the equipment under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System. NPPC supports the legislation and has pushed for its passage. It is unclear when or if the Senate will take up the House-passed bill or its own broader tax measure (S.2260), which would extend the bonus depreciation provision through 2015.

 

VETTER CONFIRMED AS CHIEF AGRICULTURAL TRADE NEGOTIATOR

The Senate Wednesday by voice vote approved Darci Vetter as chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. NPPC strongly supported her nomination. Vetter previously worked for the Senate Finance Committee, served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as deputy undersecretary for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and worked at USTR on agricultural and environmental issues. During her first stint at USTR, Vetter was responsible for facilitating implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and resolving agricultural trade issues with Canada and Mexico, as well as participating in the World Trade Organization Doha Round negotiations.

 

TPP CHIEF NEGOTIATORS MEET IN OTTAWA

Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-member trading bloc of Pacific Rim countries, are taking place this week in Ottawa, Canada. The TPP countries include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. The multilateral session of chief negotiators in the Canadian capital was expected to focus on secondary issues and not on the lynchpin issue of agriculture market access. NPPC and beef, dairy, rice and wheat groups continue to be deeply troubled by an unacceptably weak market access proposal being pushed by Japan. That nation joined the TPP negotiations last year, with strong support from NPPC and virtually all of U.S. agriculture, which assumed that Japan would accept and implement the already agreed on TPP goal of tariff elimination in all products. But Japan is demanding special treatment for its agricultural sector, including the exemption of certain “sensitive” products, including pork, from tariff elimination. The United States never has agreed to allow a trading partner to exempt as many tariff lines as Japan is requesting – 586. In the 17 free trade agreements the United States has concluded since 2000, just 233 tariff lines have been exempted from having their tariffs go to zero. If Japan is allowed exemptions, other TPP countries could pull back on both market access and rules, which would significantly diminish the benefits of the entire agreement and set a terrible precedent for future trade deals. NPPC and other agriculture groups continue to push for a significantly improved Japanese offer that, among other things, eliminates the Gate Price System and tariffs on pork.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

HOUSE COMMITTEE TO HOLD ‘WATERS OF THE U.S.’ HEARING
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee next Tuesday will hold a hearing titled “EPA’s Expanded Interpretation of its Permit Veto Authority Under the Clean Water Act.” Click here to watch the hearing.

 

EPA TO HOLD ‘WATERS OF THE U.S.’ WEBINAR
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency next Wednesday will hold a webinar titled “Ditch The Myth: Let’s Get Serious About Protecting Clean Water” to address concerns and misconceptions about the proposal by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – also known as ‘Waters of the U.S.’ To register, click here.

 

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