Dicamba: EPA Aiming to Allow Use in 2018, With Additional Rules

Reuters writer Tom Polansek reported yesterday that, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is aiming to allow farmers to spray the controversial weed-killer dicamba next year, but with additional rules for its use, an official with the agency said on Tuesday.

Reuben Baris, acting chief of the herbicide branch of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs, said the agency had not yet determined what steps it would take to mitigate problems associated with dicamba. The herbicide, which fights weeds resistant to another herbicide called glyphosate, was linked to widespread crop damage this summer.

“The EPA has been discussing with state regulators ways to prevent such crop damage.”

The article noted that, “Baris told a meeting of state regulatory officials in Washington, D.C., that the agency was ‘very concerned with what has occurred and transpired in 2017.’

“‘We’re committed to taking appropriate action for the 2018 growing season with an eye towards ensuring that the technology is available, number one, to growers but that it is used responsibly,’ he said.

“The EPA is in negotiations with Monsanto and BASF, which sell dicamba herbicides under different brands, to make changes regarding how they are used, Baris said.”

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Lack of Enforcement at Ports Contributing to “Bogus Organics” Reaching the U.S.

Peter Whoriskey reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Bogus ‘organic’ products may be reaching the United States because of lax enforcement at U.S. ports, according to a new audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, a finding that helps explain previous reports that millions of pounds of fraudulent ‘organic’ corn and soybeans had reached American ports.

The USDA lacks procedures to check that a shipment meets organic standards, the report found.

“The USDA ‘was unable to provide reasonable assurance that … required documents were reviewed at U.S. ports of entry to verify that imported agricultural products labeled as organic were from certified organic foreign farms,’ according to the report released Monday. ‘The lack of controls at U.S. ports of entry increases the risk that nonorganic products may be imported as organic into the United States and could create an unfair economic environment for U.S. organic producers.'”

The Post article stated that, “The inspector general’s report adds that the confusion at the ports is so deep that some ‘organic’ shipments — legitimate or not — are fumigated after arrival with pesticides prohibited under USDA organic rules.”

Mr. Whoriskey also noted that, “The report from the inspector general comes as the USDA faces growing doubts about whether food granted the ‘USDA Organic’ label actually meets organic standards. This year, news stories have raised questions about the production methods used in organic milk, organic eggs, as well as imported organic products of all kinds.

“In May, The Washington Post reported that millions of pounds of ‘organic’ corn and soybeans had been shipped to the United States through Turkey despite evidence that they had been grown conventionally. Subsequently, the USDA revoked the ‘organic’ designation from two of the companies involved in importing.”

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Iowa Petition to Tighten Livestock Facility Rules Fails

Donnelle Eller reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission denied a petition Monday that would have made it tougher for animal feeding operations to be built in Iowa.

Petition supporters sought to strengthen the state’s master matrix — a scoring system designed to give local residents input on proposed animal feeding operations — saying the changes would better protect people living near livestock facilities from odor and water pollution.

“But opponents said the petition would make it so difficult to get a passing score, it would result in a statewide moratorium on livestock facilities. That’s a controversial proposal for a state that’s a national leader in pig, egg, turkey and cattle production.”

The Register article noted that, “Environmental groups Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch filed the petition.

“It called for increased distance requirements between neighbors and hog confinements, cattle feedlots and other livestock facilities; greater credit for odor and pollution controls; and a higher overall score for construction approval, among other action.

“The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommended against adopting the petition.”

Ms. Eller added that, “Ag groups opposed the petition, saying ‘wholesale substantive changes’ violate the Legislature’s mandate.

“The petition’s effect would be to ‘stop the growth of livestock farms — a result that the Legislature went to great lengths to avoid,’ associations representing Iowa cattle, pork, poultry and turkey producers and corn and soybean growers said in a joint letter to the commission.

“The meeting, held at the Capitol, overflowed with supporters and opponents of the petition’s proposed changes.”

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Farmers and Ranchers Affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma Granted Extra Time, Procedures, to Document and Claim Disaster Losses

A news release on Wednesday from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) indicated that, “Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced special procedures to assist producers who lost crops or livestock or had other damage to their farms or ranches as a result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Also, because of the severe and widespread damage caused by the hurricanes, USDA will provide additional flexibility to assist farm loan borrowers.

“‘The impact is shocking and will be felt for many months,’ said Secretary Perdue. ‘In addition to efforts being made on the ground to assist producers, we have taken a hard look at our regular reporting requirements and adjusted them so producers can take care of pressing needs first and mostly deal with documentation and claims later.  President Trump’s directive is to help people first and deal with paperwork second.  And that’s what USDA is doing.’

“[FSA], is authorizing emergency procedures on a case-by-case basis to assist impacted borrowers, livestock owners, contract growers, and other producers. The measures announced today apply only to counties impacted by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-determined tropical storm, typhoon, or hurricane, including Harvey and Irma that have received a primary Presidential Disaster Declaration and those counties contiguous to such designated counties.”

The release added that, “Financially stressed FSA farm loan borrowers affected by the hurricanes who have received primary loan servicing applications may be eligible for 60 day extensions.  Full details are available at https://go.usa.gov/xRe8V.

“A more complete listing of all of the special farm program provisions is posted at https://go.usa.gov/xRe8p.”

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As Hog Production Expands in Minnesota, Disputes Arise Over Air Quality

Josephine Marcotty reported on Friday at the Minneapolis Star Tribune Online that, “Neighbors engaged in a pitched battle against a big hog feedlot in Goodhue County say that four other facilities owned by the same company may have routinely violating state air standards over a five-week period this summer.

“Using a hand-held air quality monitor, neighbors took turns checking the air just outside six hog facilities owned by Kohlnhofer Farms in southeast Minnesota for a total of 15 hours. During that time, they said they found the air frequently exceeded maximum emissions levels for hydrogen sulfide.

“It shows that ‘there is little or no enforcement of state feedlot air quality rules, and it’s up to citizens to determine that there is a problem,’ said Katie Doody of the Land Stewardship Project, a farm and rural community advocacy group that has joined local residents in opposition to the proposed 4,700-hog facility in Zumbrota Township.”

The Star Tribune article indicated that, “The company said in a statement that its preliminary review of the group’s air monitoring results show that they ‘do not show any violations.

“‘This study is little more than a thinly veiled attempt to use incomplete and questionable data to create supposed air quality concerns by intentionally misreading applicable health and legal standards,’ the company said.

“The proposed hog farm, Circle K Farms, is one of several large animal feedlots in the state that have generated fierce opposition in their communities. While officials from the livestock industry say that such conflicts are the exception, the growth in the number of increasingly large hog facilities in Minnesota may be driving the controversy.”

Ms. Marcotty added that, “Hog production in the state nearly doubled between 2006 and 2014, according the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. And the number has continued to grow in recent years as operators in Iowa and other states seek less dense regions to expand and escape the risk of infectious livestock disease.”

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Dicamba Issues in Arkansas, 2018 Considerations

Pam Smith reported yesterday at DTN that, “Arkansas farmers could see a narrow window for using dicamba herbicides in soybean and cotton crops next year. The Pesticide Committee of the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) voted on Tuesday to restrict dicamba use in row crops, allowing it only from Jan. 1 to April 15 during the 2018 season.

“The committee’s actions generally rubber-stamped the recommendations of an 18-member dicamba task force appointed by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this summer. The task force was asked to review dicamba technology, investigate current problems with its use and application and make recommendations for future use.

“As of Sept. 11, there have been 966 dicamba misuse complaints filed in Arkansas.”

Ms. Smith explained that, “The pesticide committee recognized that the task force struggled to come to consensus and that the April 15 date was not popular with all farmers or industry representatives as that date greatly limits the post-emergence or ‘in-crop’ use of dicamba formulations known as Engenia, XtendiMax and FeXapan.

“However, the committee noted that farmers would still have opportunities to use the formulations in spring burndown or preemergence applications without plant-back provisions required when they used the older, more volatile dicamba formulations. Also, depending on the earliness of planting during the season, the April 15 date might allow some in-season post-emergence applications.”

Ms. Smith also pointed out that, “The spray ban is far from decided and goes before the full Plant Board during its quarterly meeting Sept. 21. Proposals favored by the full board must then go through formal rulemaking — which includes both legislative and governor approval.

There was no reference made during the meeting of Monsanto’s petition last week challenging the validity of University of Arkansas findings on their product. The company threatened a lawsuit if the state goes through with the proposed ban and if XtendiMax with VaporGrip herbicide is not approved by Arkansas for use during the next growing season. When interviewed by DTN, ASPB staff had no comment other than indicating lawyers are examining the petition.”

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Manufacturing Start-ups in India Garner Attention

Simon Mundy reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “Start-ups in ecommerce, apps and IT services have swept India over the past decade — producing a cohort of young tech multimillionaires. Their peers in hardware have received less attention, and their expansion has been more modest. Between 2014 and 2016, hardware-focused Indian start-ups raised $210m, according to the research group Tracxn — just 1 per cent of the total funding for unlisted technology companies in India.

But even this sum represents an eightfold increase on the previous three years in a manufacturing sector that accounts for only 17 per cent of gross domestic product and has traditionally been divided between slow-moving conglomerates and sub-scale, low-tech local industries.”

The FT article noted that, “Investors chasing quick returns have tended to shun the developers of physical products, [SS Pillai, of Proklean, which produces a probiotic cleaning product for use in textile processing] says. ‘If it’s ecommerce, SoftBank is willing to come and pump in billions of dollars,’ he says, referring to the Japanese group that is one of the major investors in Indian start-ups. ‘But they’re not looking at companies like ours. It’s one of the challenges we are facing today — over the past year, we’ve spent a significant portion of our time raising money instead of doing business.'”

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California Initiative Seeks Cage Free Requirement for Egg Production

Patrick McGreevy reported recently at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “Nine years after California voters decided that egg-laying hens must be given more space, animal-rights activists on Tuesday filed papers for a new initiative requiring the birds to be kept cage-free.

“The initiative’s language, submitted to the state by the Humane Society of the United States, addresses the group’s concerns that 2008’s Proposition 2, which required hens to have more room in their habitats, did not achieve the right conditions for farm animals, including pigs and calves.

“An economic study commissioned last year by the egg industry for a similar ballot measure in Massachusetts estimated that switching to cage-free farming would add one or two cents to the price of each egg purchased by consumers.”

Mr. McGreevy indicated that, “The state attorney general’s office must now approve the initiative’s title and summary before supporters can begin circulating petitions. They need to collect 365,880 signatures within 180 days in order to have the measure placed on the statewide ballot in November 2018.

Egg production is a $1-billion industry in California, with some 15.5 million egg-laying hens producing nearly 5 billion eggs annually, mostly on family-owned farms.”

The L.A. Times article added that, “Public attitudes have shifted even more in favor of animal rights since Proposition 2. Citing public demand, Subway, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Walmart, Target, Costco and other businesses have said they will make a transition to eggs from cage-free hens over 10 years.

“In addition, laws banning or restricting cages in egg production have been adopted by six additional states: Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Rhode Island and Ohio.”

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Organic Trade Association 2018 Farm Bill Priorities

A recent update from the Organic Trade Association (OTA) included an outline of the organization’s priorities for the next Farm Bill.

Some of the items from the OTA outline included the following:

* “The next farm bill must include support and adequate funding for the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to keep pace with industry growth, set uniform standards, and carry out compliance and enforcement actions in the U.S. and abroad.”

* “While all domestic and imported organic products must meet USDA’s strict standards, a greater emphasis on authority and capacity to conduct investigations will keep organic markets strong.”

* “U.S. organic exports are up 60%, creating jobs in the U.S. and driving demand overseas. Expansion of the Market Access Program (MAP) will create new opportunities for U.S. farmers, especially when targeted to emerging growth sectors.”

* “Accessing the opportunities provided in organic farming requires equal and comparable access to USDA programs that provide invaluable support to U.S. agriculture. Organic focused research, risk management tools, data collection and direct dialog between industry and USDA are critical to organic farmers’ success.”

* “Organic farmers need USDA to continue making improvements in the farm safety net in order to achieve appropriate risk management tools for organic farms. Congress should direct the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to prioritize development of additional organic price elections for crop insurance coverage, and review policies that cap Contract Price Addendums at two-times the conventional price election for any specific crop.”

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Dicamba Issues in Iowa

Donnelle Eller reported earlier this week at The Des Moines Register Online that, “About three-fourths of Shane Susie’s 80-acre soybean field was damaged after getting hit with dicamba that drifted over his crops from neighboring fields.

“The herbicide also savaged his family’s trees, flowers and vegetable patch.

“‘We’re not eating anything out of it this year,’ said the 30-year-old who farms near Kingsley in northwest Iowa.”

Ms. Eller noted that, “He estimates his soybean damage losses at $15,000. With drought worries and low corn and soybean prices, “it will be a tough year.” he said. “It makes a challenging year more challenging.”

“Susie and other Midwest farmers have been drawn into a national debate swirling around whether new dicamba versions are safe for growers to use.

Nationally, 2,242 farmers say dicamba has damaged an estimated 3.1 million acres, a University of Missouri report shows.”

The Register article explained that, “Iowa ag leaders are investigating a record 258 crop damage reports from pesticide misuse this year. About 100 complaints on 150,000 acres are tied to dicamba.”

Ms. Eller added that, “The Iowa Soybean Association said it’s working with farmers, researchers, manufacturers and others to find answers, so growers ‘can continue to have access to these important products and they can be assured that their own and their neighbors’ crops won’t be affected.’

“Susie, a Beck’s Hybrids seed dealer, worries that his losses won’t get covered, given the ongoing debate about whether the responsibility for the damage lies with dicamba makers or those applying their products.

“Insurance adjusters have determined their clients followed label instructions when spraying the dicamba that damaged his fields. His only other option is to file a lawsuit against the applicators or join a class action suit against dicamba makers.”

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