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Farm Policy and Program update from Pro Farmer

Published on: 15:36PM Aug 01, 2014

Pro Farmer Extra

- From the Editors of Pro Farmer newsletter -

August 1, 2014

Blogger's note: Next week in "Pro Farmer Extra," we'll start getting you ready for the 2014 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, sponsored by DuPont Pioneer! Geting ready now!

Today's perspective is by Pro Farmer News Editor Meghan Pedersen and Washington Consultant Jim Wiesemeyer.

Tweaks for WOTUS coming

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Admin. Bob Perciasepe told the House Small Business Committee last week the agency was moving ahead with its waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, though stressing it was “just a proposal.” When asked what it would hurt to withdraw the rule, Perciasepe said, “The harm would be in maintaining the uncertainty that currently exists. We’re going to continue to try to solve that problem.”

One day later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the two agencies would soon release a new series of questions and answers on the interpretive rule associated with WOTUS in hopes of providing some clarification on ag exemptions.

Perspective: This appears to be the closest thing to withdrawing the interpretive rule thus far. Ag interests must decide if the updated questions and answers alleviate their concerns.

Additional details on SCO

USDA officially announced the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) will be available for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring wheat and winter wheat in selected counties for the 2015 crop year. For a map of available coverage for wheat and examples of potential SCO benefits see “Inside Washington Today” on

Also of note, USDA says producers applying for SCO for the 2015 winter wheat crop may withdraw coverage on any farm where they have or intend to elect Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) for winter wheat by the earlier of their acreage reporting date or Dec. 15, without penalty. This gives them more time to make a decision between ARC or Price Loss Coverage (PLC). SCO is only available to producers who choose to participate in PLC, not for those choosing ARC.

If wheat producers withdraw SCO coverage for a farm, they will not be charged a crop insurance premium if they notify agents of their intended election by the aforementioned dates.

OSHA eases grain bin rules

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will not take enforcement actions against farms over the way they manage their grain bins, according to final guidance from the regulator. A revised enforcement memo from OSHA said on-farm grain operations with fewer than 10 employees fall under a long-standing exemption for farms. A Nebraska case first brought attention to the issue last year, when OSHA seemingly reclassified farms with grain storage as commercial grain handlers. A provision in the Fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill required OSHA to consult with USDA on the issue. OSHA subsequently withdrew a field memorandum that had led to the enforcement effort.

Appeals court upholds COOL enforcement

A district appeals court upheld USDA’s right to enforce country of origin labeling (COOL) rules last week. The American Meat Institute and other stakeholders had sought a preliminary injunction to keep COOL from taking effect, saying it violated their free speech rights. The meat industry says COOL will have dire economic consequences, including putting some meat processors out of business.

The verdict is still out on whether this rule will stand up at the World Trade Organization. It reportedly delivered a mixed preliminary decision on the rule that said COOL is discriminatory toward Canada and Mexico’s livestock sectors, though not trade-distorting. But the final ruling could differ from the preliminary decision. If the final decision is in favor of the U.S., both countries plan to retaliate.


Follow Pro Farmer Editorial Director Chip Flory on Twitter: @ChipFlory

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