Reps. Conaway and Thompson slam Adminstrations’ WOTUS Rule

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2015)  – House Committee on Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5) released the following statement in response to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers final “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. This rule further obscures the original intent of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by significantly expanding waters subject to federal jurisdiction.

“America’s farmers and ranchers deserve a government that will review and address their concerns.  Instead, the process by which this rule was established ignored them. Even input from the states was ignored, clearly displaying the arrogant, ‘government knows best’ attitude ever-present in this Administration.

“Through hearings, letters, and public forums we have repeatedly asked the Administration to work with stakeholders to achieve the goals of the CWA rather than act as a schoolyard bully. Our requests were dismissed in favor of the expansion of federal authority despite bipartisan opposition from Congress and the public.

“It is ironic that the agencies’ defense of this rule is that it provides clarity to producers regarding what is and is not regulated. These hollow assurances hold little comfort for farmers and ranchers who will face steep civil fines for any violation.

“This is why the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015. We must enact this legislation that forces EPA and the Corps to pull this regulation and do as they should have from the beginning: work with states and local stakeholders to develop a new and proper set of recommendations.”

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Southern Peanut Farmers Federation submits comments on “actively engaged” in farming proposed rule

This past March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued their proposed rule to define what it means to be “actively engaged” in farming and therefore eligible to receive federal farm payments. After review by the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation (SPFF) members, there are important issues that concern Southern agriculture including, but not limited to, the limits on the number of farm managers. The SPFF joined other agricultural organizations in comments to USDA on the proposed “actively engaged” definition. The SPFF is comprised of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, the Florida Peanut Producers Association, Mississippi Peanut Growers Association and the Georgia Peanut Commission.

View the comments submitted by the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.

Congressman Bishop offers congratulations to new FSA appointees

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 21, 2015) – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, gave his congratulations to Mr. William Brim and Dr. Ivery Clifton who have been appointed to the Georgia State Farm Service Agency (FSA) Committee:

“I am delighted to congratulate Mr. Bill Brim and Dr. Ivery Clifton on their appointments to the Georgia Farm Service Agency! Bill Brim exhibits a passion for Georgia’s agriculture, as well as a wealth of knowledge and experience which will serve the state’s farmers well at the State Committee. Dr. Ivery Clifton has unparalleled expertise in the business of agriculture by virtue of his extensive educational, teaching, and practical experiences in Agriculture and brings phenomenal knowledge and wisdom to the Committee. Both of these individuals will undoubtedly help Georgia’s farmers access the services of FSA so they can continue producing the highest quality, safest, most abundant and affordable food and fiber in the world.”

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USDA reminds farmers to certify conservation compliance by June 1 deadline

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds farmers that the 2014 Farm Bill requires producers to file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form (AD-1026) with their local USDA service center by June 1, 2015, in order to become or remain eligible for crop insurance premium support.

Most farmers already have a certification form on file since it’s required for participation in most USDA programs such as marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans and disaster assistance. However farmers, such as specialty crop growers who receive federal crop insurance premium support, but may not participate in other USDA programs, also must now file a certification form to maintain their crop insurance premium support.

“USDA employees are working very hard to get the word out about this new Farm Bill provision,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “While many producers will not need to take action, we want to help make sure that those who are required to act do so by the June 1 deadline. We want all eligible producers to be able to maintain their ability to protect their operations with affordable insurance.”

Producers should visit their local USDA service center and talk with their crop insurance agent before the June 1, 2015, deadline to ask questions, get additional information or learn more about conservation compliance procedures. Producers that file their form by the deadline will be eligible for federal crop insurance premium support during the 2016 reinsurance year, which begins July, 1, 2015. USDA will publish a rule outlining the linkage of conservation compliance with federal crop insurance premium support. Go to http://go.usa.gov/3Wy5J to view a copy of the rule.

The Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form is available at local USDA service center or online at www.fsa.usda.gov/AD1026form. When a farmer completes this form, USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff will outline any additional actions that may be required for compliance with highly erodible land and wetland provisions. USDA’s Risk Management Agency, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, manages the federal crop insurance program that provides the modern farm safety net for America’s farmers and ranchers.

Time to End the Death Tax’s Hold on Family Businesses, Farms and Ranches

Washington, D.C. (March 27, 2015) – Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) are calling on Congress to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, which takes up to 40% of a person’s property (cash, real estate, stock, or other assets) that he or she leaves to his or her children. Also referred to as the “death tax,” it punishes success and traditional American virtues of hard work and thrift. According to the Tax Foundation, repealing the estate tax would create 39,000 new jobs and boost federal revenue.

“I have heard from farmers, funeral home owners, newspaper publishers, radio station owners, and garment manufacturers about the need for estate tax relief. I believe that the estate tax is politically misguided, morally unjustified and downright un-American,” said Congressman Bishop. “It undermines the life work and the life savings of farmers and small- and medium-sized businesses in Georgia and across the nation.”

To read the complete press release, click here.
To view a picture from the press conference, click here.

USDA Extends ARC and PLC Deadlines

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today provided farm owners and producers one additional week, until April 7, 2015, to choose between Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), the safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill. The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres also will be April 7, 2015.

“This is an important decision for producers because these programs help farmers and ranchers protect their operations from unexpected changes in the marketplace,” said Vilsack. “Nearly 98 percent of owners have already updated their yield and base acres, and 90 percent of producers have enrolled in ARC or PLC. These numbers are strong, and continue to rise. This additional week will give producers a little more time to have those final conversations, review their data, visit their local Farm Service Agency offices, and make their decisions,” said Vilsack.

If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by the deadline, the farm’s current yield and base acres will be used. If a program choice of ARC or PLC is not made, there will be no 2014 crop year payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage for the 2015 through 2018 crop years. Producers who have an appointment at their local FSA offices scheduled by April 7 will be able to make an election between ARC and PLC, even if their actual appointment is after April 7.

These safety-net programs provide important financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. As part of the strong education and outreach campaign launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in September, to date more than 5 million educational postcards, in English andSpanish, have been sent to producers nationwide, and more than 5,000 events with more than 430,000 attendees, including training sessions and speaking engagements, have been conducted to educate producers on the programs. The online tools, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc, which allow producers to explore how ARC or PLC coverage will affect their operation, have been presented to more than 3,400 groups.

Covered commodities under ARC and PLC include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

Producers need to contact the Farm Service Agency by April 7. To learn more, farmers can contact their local Farm Service Agency county office. To find local offices, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Secretary Vilsack Appoints Peanut Standards Board Members

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed three producers and four industry representatives to serve on the Peanut Standards Board. Six members will serve on the board through June 30, 2017. A seventh member will fill a current vacancy through June, 2015.

The Peanut Standards Board is made up of 18 members representing the Southeast Region, which covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida; the Southwest Region, covering Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico; and the Virginia-North Carolina Region. One-third of the board is appointed each year.

Selected were producer Martin L. McLendon of Leary, Ga. and industry representative Elizabeth Kaye Smith of Cumming, Ga. to represent the Southeast Region and producer Marshall Wayne Baker of Portales, N.M. and industry representative Byron Charles Warnken of Pleasanton, Texas to represent the Southwest Region. Producer James Wilson Mason of Harrellsville, N.C. and industry representative Kathryn Olivia Swinson of Mount Olive, N.C. will represent the Virginia-North Carolina Region. James Carlton Gray, Jr. of Courtland, Va. was selected to fill an industry representative vacancy for the Virginia-North Carolina Region, and that appointment ends June 30, 2015.

The Peanut Standards Board is authorized under the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. USDA consults with the board to establish or change quality and handling standards for domestically produced and imported peanuts. USDA is scheduling and will soon announce the date of the full board’s next meeting.

USDA encourages board membership that reflects the diversity of the U.S. peanut industry. All eligible women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities are encouraged to seek nomination for a seat on the Peanut Standards Board.

USDA Implements 2014 Farm Bill Provision to Limit Payments to Non-Farmers

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a proposed rule to limit farm payments to non-farmers, consistent with requirements Congress mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill. The proposed rule limits farm payments to individuals who may be designated as farm managers but are not actively engaged in farm management. In the Farm Bill, Congress gave USDA the authority to address this loophole for joint ventures and general partnerships, while exempting family farm operations from being impacted by the new rule USDA ultimately implements.

To view the press release from USDA in its entirety, please click here.
View 2014 Farm Bill Fact Sheet: Actively Engaged in Farming and Payments Limits

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GPC, Washington DC Office

Next Week at the Agriculture Committee

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2015 – Next week’s schedule for the House Ag Committee is as follows:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 – 10:00 a.m.

1300 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Full Committee – Public Hearing
RE: Examination of the costs and impacts of mandatory biotechnology laws  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 – 1:00 p.m.
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit – Public Hearing
RE:  Reauthorizing the CFTC:  End-User Views

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 9:00 a.m.
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture
RE: To examine the implications of potential retaliatory measures taken against the United States in response to meat labeling requirements

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 1:30 p.m.
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit – Public Hearing
RE:  Reauthorizing the CFTC:  Market Participant Views

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 9:00 a.m.
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management
RE: Implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014:  Commodity Policy and Crop Insurance

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GPC, Washington DC Office

Southern Peanut Farmers Federation praises USDA for 2014 Farm Bill implementation

Pictured left to right: Bob Redding, Georgia Peanut Commission Washington representative, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, Ronnie Lee, Reece Langley, vice president of Washington Operations for the National Cotton Council, and Robbie Minnich, senior government relations representative for the National Cotton Council.

(WASHINGTON, D.C. Feb. 24, 2015) The Southern Peanut Farmers Federation (SPFF) praised USDA for their implementation of the farm bill in a timely manner during the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Hearing, Feb. 24, 2015, in Washington, D.C. Ronnie Lee, farmer from Bronwood, Georgia, provided testimony on behalf of the SPFF and the National Cotton Council.

The SPFF is comprised of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, the Florida Peanut Producers Association, Mississippi Peanut Growers Association and the Georgia Peanut Commission.

“The importance of having a Georgia senator on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee was evident today. Georgia peanut grower, Ronnie Lee, was able to provide testimony about issues important to Georgia’s peanut producers before the Committee,” says Armond Morris, chairman of the Georgia Peanut Commission. “We appreciate Georgia Sen. David Perdue’s efforts to be a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and look forward to working with him for Georgia’s peanut producers.”

“Our industries believe that sound farm policy is essential to the economic viability of the cotton and peanut industries,” Lee says. “It is critical that U.S. farm policy is designed and implemented to provide a sound foundation for agriculture production.”

During the hearing, Lee provided testimony on the importance of sound farm policy, peanut policies, crop insurance enhancements, conservation programs, export promotion programs and more.  One additional part of the testimony focused on the decline of federal government purchases of peanut butter even though peanut butter remains one of the cheapest proteins, helps deter obesity and addresses malnourishment.

Lee stated, “Federal peanut butter purchases reached a peak of approximately 80 million pounds in the mid-1990s, but the amount of purchases have continued to decline with less than 30 million pounds purchased in the 2012-13 time period and even fewer purchases in 2013-14. We understand there are additional variables with regard to these purchases, such as state and local product requests. We would like for USDA to determine what has caused the decline and how, working with USDA, we can turn this situation around.”

Peanut industry leaders worked closely with Agriculture Committee leaders in the United States Senate to create a farm bill that works for all regions of American agriculture. The farm bill was the subject of a long and intense debate, beginning with hearings in 2010 and becoming law on Feb. 7, 2014.

To view Lee’s complete testimony, click here.