Agriculture News from Washington

This articles highlights some of the legislation and regulations in the past few months that will impact our farmers, ranchers and rural communities.  As I am live in the Dakotas and we are in the throes of a drought, the USDA has opened up grazing for livestock on CRP land in the Dakotas and Montana.  This is welcome news and hopefully will help ease some of the stress ranchers have seen as many are taking more cattle to the market as they cannot find enough food for them. 

Another big potential impact for ranchers is the opening of the Chinese market for American beef on June 30.  This comes a week after announcing the halting of the imports of Brazilian beef because of safety concerns.  China has closed its doors to U.S. beef imports since 2004.  The reopening of the market of the most populated country on the earth will create more demand for ranchers. 

Agricultural trade is critical for both farmers and the U.S. economy as a whole.  One fifth of all agricultural production is exported and every dollar of exports brings in $1.27 of economic activity.  Each billion dollars of ag exports supports 8,000 jobs in the U.S. economy as well.  It is essential to find ways to be competitive on the world stage with our agricultural products.  The current administration appears to be focused on expanding American exports and opening up new markets. 

The EPA and the U.S. Army moved on June 27 to rescind the 2015 ruling on the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS).  The old ruling had some possibly onerous consequences for farmers with possible federal regulation of water on their land that would not have been considered under federal regulation prior to the 2015 ruling.  Hopefully, this will eliminate more potential federal government red tape to the farm. The new WOTUS will set standards back to those traditionally set by court decisions, agency guidelines, and longstanding practice.

"We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," said Administrator Scott Pruitt. "This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine 'waters of the U.S.' and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public."

Agricultural Secretary Sonny Purdue named Anne Hazlett to lead the Rural Development Agencies in the USDA.  This includes the Rural Housing Authority, Rural Business Service, and Rural Utilities Service.  Her appointment indicates a more important role that Rural Development will play.  She reports directly to Secretary Purdue.  Previously, Rural Development leaders reported to an undersecretary who then reported to the Secretary of Agriculture.

President Trump also created an interagency task force overseen by the Secretary of Agriculture that has heads of 21 different federal agencies involved.  The Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity will identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote in rural America agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life.  Hopefully, positive changes for rural America will result from this cooperation between agencies.