Proposed EPA Water Rule Could Expand Regulatory Authority Over Streams and Wetlands

A new EPA rule could drastically expand the agency's regulatory authority over streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The agency released a draft report in September titled "Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters," that would be used to provide the scientific basis for analyzing the relationships between small bodies of water and larger ones. According to the report, streams, regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, are connected to and exert an influence on downstream waters. Read more >>

USDA Finalizes Import Regulations for "Mad Cow Disease" 

In November, the USDA announced a final rule that will align the Agency's import regulations for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease") with international standards. According to a USDA November news release, the final regulation will allow for the safe trade of bovines and bovine product, while still protecting the U.S. from the introduction of BSE. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow praised the new rule by stating, "I applaud USDA's actions to make sure that American's beef producers have access to new export markets...This effort is crucial to breaking down other countries' unfounded trade barriers, and re-opening trade markets that are closed to U.S. beef. American agriculture has long set the gold standard for food production. [These] actions will ensure U.S. beef producers can operate on a more level playing field and help grow our agriculture economy." 

Organic Farmers Effected by Farm Bill Extension

The Farm Bill extension that was passed last January to give Congress more time to get the final bill passed no longer contained an annual federal subsidy that helped certified organic farmers cover the cost of getting their operations inspected. This is a critical step in the three year process of getting a farm certified as organic and has impacted small farmers in particular. To listen to an interesting discussion of how this has affected both certified and non-certified organic farmers, visit http://michiganradio.org/post/farm-bill-extension-causes-trouble-organic-farmers.

2013 Corn Crop Production Expected to Set Records 

According to the Michigan Ag Connection, Michigan's crop yields are expected to hit record numbers this year for corn. The average corn yield is expected to be a record 156 bushels per acre, in comparison to a yield of 133 bushels in 2012, and the previous record of 153 bushels set in 2011. Harvested acres are 2.34 million acres, down slightly from the 2012 acreage of 2.39 million. Read more >>

Anti-Disclosure Provision in Farm Bill Being Considered

According to the Associated Press, Congress is considering a provision in the farm bill that would prohibit the government from disclosing information about farmers or their employees. The House version of the bill would disallow the EPA and other federal agencies from disclosing the addresses, and other identifying information, of an owner, operator or employee of an agricultural operation. This would prevent the public from learning about agricultural and/or large-scale livestock operations. The anti-disclosure provision is a result of the EPA mistakenly releasing names and other personal information about some farmers and employees twice this year.

Governor Snyder Signs MISS Dig Legislation

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation into law on November 27, 2013, creating the MISS DIG Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act (Public Acts 173 and 174). The new laws update a forty year old statute designed protect Michigan's underground infrastructure. "As more and more of our important infrastructure is placed underground, this needed legislation will better help Michiganders protect it and themselves from damage and danger," Snyder said.

Supported by Michigan Farm Bureau, the Bureau states that the law "provides clarity on the MISS DIG process for farmers by focusing efforts on risk management and providing greater incentives for compliance." Specifically, the legislation clarifies, among other things, when farmers are required to call MISS DIG, defines farming operations, forms a voluntary farm member registry, and creates certain liability protection for farmers and excavators.

The new laws requires farmers to comply with the law by May 1, 2014.