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California adopts landmark Cap-and-Trade

December 31, 2010 --

California adopts landmark Cap-and-Trade
Stoel Rives LLP
by Allison C. Smith

After a marathon 10-hour public hearing, the California Air Resources Board voted 9-to-1 to adopt the state’s landmark Cap-and-Trade Program. My colleague, Lee Smith, and I spent the day at the packed California EPA auditorium, monitoring the hearing. Over 150 people strode up to the podium to give testimony during the public comment period, spanning the gambit from staunch environmentalists, to climate change skeptics, environmental justice advocates, and many, many a representative of soon-to-be regulated industries and businesses. The chain of testimony was broken up six hours into the hearing by a feel-good guest appearance by Governor Schwarzenegger, who waxed eloquent on the mission of A.B. 32, California’s green jobs revolution, and the momentous step that the state’s Cap-and-Trade Program represented. Indeed, there were many thank yous from commenters to ARB staff and the Board for their hard work on crafting the extraordinarily complex Program and trying to make it more palatable for those affected. Regulated entities noted the outstanding efforts that staff had taken to work with them during the development process.

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Judge with animal activist ties riles Cattlemen

December 30, 2010 --

NCBA Opposes Nomination of Federal Judge with Ties to Animal Activists
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposing the nomination of Judge Benita Pearson to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall said Pearson’s connections to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), an organization that advocates giving animals the same legal rights as humans, would make it difficult for her to be an impartial judge in cases regarding actions by animal rights activists.

“Beef cattle producers face enough challenges today from agenda-driven activist organizations whose sole purpose is to end animal agriculture and change the 234-year old fabric of our great nation. The last thing they need is a judge furthering this agenda for well-funded animal rights activist organizations like ALDF and the Humane Society of the U.S. by legislating from the bench,” Woodall said. “There is no room for personal ideology in the court room. Given Judge Pearson’s history of animal rights work, at the very least, we urge the Senate leadership to block her nomination in order for all Senators to do more research into her background on animal rights and how this may affect her duties as an impartial judge.”

Despite claims made by organizations like ALDF that would suggest otherwise, Woodall said multiple generations of cattlemen and women have made a commitment to properly care for livestock. NCBA has producer-passed policy recognizing the difference between animal welfare and animal rights. Specifically, according to NCBA policy, animal rights is a position taken by those who believe that animals have legal and moral rights similar to humans. Animal welfare is the reasonable care of all animals, i.e. good animal husbandry practices. Woodall said U.S. beef cattle producers have been world leaders regarding cattle care, which has been proven by our policies; our code of ethics for marketing cattle; and our extensive industry-led proactive programs.

“Taking care of cattle is our producers’ first and last thought each day. A producer’s priority to care for his cattle doesn’t stop at 5:00 or when the weather turns bad. In fact, from the time our country was founded and every day since, cattle producers have worked to improve cattle care,” Woodall said. “Long before animal activism in the U.S. became a popular ideological social activity, beef producers not only did the right thing daily, but they also created programs based on decades of practical experience, research and the most up-to-date science and education to continually improve cattle care. Those are facts that groups like ALDF and many other activist organizations conveniently ignore.”

Woodall continued, “Judge Pearson’s membership in several animal rights groups; her work with ALDF and her answers to Senate Judiciary Committee members’ questions related to animal rights cause great concern for cattle producers across the country who work day in and day out caring for their animals and producing a safe food supply. We hope Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell will take our concerns seriously and block the nomination of Judge Pearson.”

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What happened in 2010 by Farm Bureau

December 29, 2010 --

By Cyndie Sirekis
American Farm Bureau Federation

As 2010 fades away, Farm Bureau and its farmer and rancher members around the nation are reflecting on some hard-fought victories.

One of these is reform of estate taxes. With passage of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, estates worth less than $5 million are exempt from taxes when the owner dies, with a maximum rate of 35 percent, for the next two years.

Without the changes to the law, a $1 million exemption – which could have applied to as many as 13 percent of farms and ranches whose owners pass away, according to USDA – was slated to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

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Ag. science losing to political science

December 28, 2010 --

News Note: This week the Wall Street Journal did an editorial on the Agriculture Department’s mixing of politics with the science of government regulation. The problems involves the decision of Ag. Secretary Tom Vilsak bringing in activist and biotech opponents to assist in crafting the agency’s biotech regulation. The WSJ sees this as a troubling future trend in federal regulation decision making,

Below is an excerpt:
Full article here,

“According to activists, the Roundup Ready crop menaces the purity of nearby organic fields, potentially cross-pollinating and threatening the livelihood of organic farmers. To mitigate the possible contamination, organic producers have suggested mandatory minimum planting distances and a USDA administered fund that would compensate organic farmers who were harmed by which way the wind was blowing. Some have also suggested a system whereby traditional farmers accept liability for any contamination of organic crops.

If this sounds like vintage antibiotech activist fare with the imprimatur of the USDA, you’re getting the picture. By suggesting that industry and activist groups negotiate compromises in advance of the final ruling on whether to deregulate, Mr. Vilsack is using the Department’s regulatory authority as leverage against businesses whose products are overwhelmingly regulated by USDA.

It gets worse. Mr. Vilsack’s authority in the regulatory decision-making process is based on the assumption of sound scientific data. But according to people who attended the meeting last Monday, the USDA Secretary told the assembled groups that science itself is subjective, and that he could have three different groups bring him three different supposedly scientific opinions.

Momentum for the new regulatory mischief is also coming from Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, whose background helping develop the USDA’s organic labelling guidelines gives her kinship with biotech critics who support minimum planting distances—a plan that would impose a heavy burden on farmers who use the products. As Idaho-based company Forage Genetics pointed out at the meeting on Monday, roughly 20% of the alfalfa hay acres in the country would fall into those “no plant zones,” leaving those farmers “disenfranchised from the benefits of biotechnology and alfalfa because of the accident of where they happen to be farming.”

Full article here,

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Dying wheat fields hit E. Oregon

December 27, 2010 --

Dying wheat fields hit E. Oregon
By Natural Resource News Note:

Investigators are looking into why over 40,000 acres of wheat fields in Eastern Oregon have died prematurely in the fall. The area impacted areas are 16 wheat fields near Pendleton Oregon and other fields in Morrow County. The symptoms are similar but with differences between the two areas making it an open case on whether the two fields are suffering from the same exact problem. “Most of the symptoms in Morrow County are unlike anything I have ever seen,” said Larry Lutcher, an associate professor with the OSU Extension Service to the Salem Statesman Journal. Lurcher also stated, “This does appear to be a new problem a problem that no one seems to have experience with.”

Read more about the dying Oregon wheat fields here.

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Farmers and ranchers continue feeding Oregon’s hungry

December 26, 2010 --

Agriculture remains a key provider to the Oregon Food Bank
By Oregon Dept. of Agriculture,

Oregon farmers and ranchers continue putting food on the plate for many of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, even as the need for hunger assistance reaches unprecedented levels. Donations from such organizations as Farmers Ending Hunger remain strong despite the fact that the agriculture industry is not immune to a struggling Oregon economy. As 2010 draws to a close, the group’s efforts are coming close to last year’s record setting 2.1 million pounds donated to the Oregon Food Bank. There is reason to believe 2011 will eclipse that record.

“One thing has become very clear since our organization got started four years ago,” says John Burt, executive director of Farmers Ending Hunger (FEH). “When presented with a challenge and an issue like the rising tide of hunger in Oregon, our farmers, ranchers, and food processors always step up.”

Since the initial delivery of 173,000 pounds of frozen peas in November 2006, FEH has steadily grown its donations to the Oregon Food Bank, despite an understandable slight drop from 2009. This year’s commodities include 660,000 pounds of potatoes, 350,000 pounds of onions, 165,200 pounds of fresh vegetables, 130,000 pounds of beef, and 200,000 pounds of wheat, in conjunction with the Oregon Wheat Foundation. Most donations have been delivered to the Oregon Food Bank in product form such as pancake mix eventually packaged into 18 ounce bags, frozen hamburger in two pound packages, 10 pound bags of potatoes and onions, frozen green beens, carrots and peas packaged into two pound bags, canned sweet corn, and fresh sweet corn, cauliflower and winter squash.

In total, donations through Farmers Ending Hunger have reached more than 4 million pounds of food since the program began in 2006.

For 2010, the demand for hunger assistance is critical because of Oregon’s high unemployment and the overall economy. Oregon is routinely ranked one of the top five hungriest states in the nation.

“When I started with the Oregon Food Bank in the early 1980s, we were serving about 200,000 people,” says OFB Executive Director Rachel Bristol. “Now it’s close to a million people who are eating out of emergency food boxes at some time during the year. That’s nearly 7 percent of Oregon’s population that goes hungry during the year.”

As expected, overall food donations are down 9 percent compared to last year and food prices are going up- all at a time when the demand has increased. The ability for OFB to go out and buy food is much more difficult. Donations from FEH and the state’s food industry- food processors, wholesalers, and retailers- are the primary source of giving. Retail outlets themselves are responsible for 7 million pounds a year coming to the Oregon Food Bank.

“We bring in truck loads of product, a lot of fresh food from farmers,” says Bristol. “In fact, in this state, we’ve had to get ahead of the curve nationally in being able to handle fresh and frozen product.”

The Oregon Food Bank has had to build the capacity to handle bulk products, both fresh and frozen. Last year, some $2 million was spent throughout the network for freezers and refrigerators.

FEH does its best to get the product suitable for a food box. For instance, the 225,000 pounds of pancake mix supplied to Oregon Food Bank this year relies on the cooperation of several parties that have a hand in the commodity. Farmers Ending Hunger and the Oregon Wheat Foundation provide the raw product. Pendleton Flour Mills turns the wheat into flour. Continental Mills then turns it into pancake mix. Dairy cattle donated by Columbia River Farms in Eastern Oregon is turned into hamburger with the help of Walt’s Wholesale Meats in Woodland, Washington and then packaged by Interstate Meat Distributors of Clackamas, Oregon. Willamette Valley farmers donate processed vegetables- some of which is canned by local processors such as Truitt Brothers and Norpac Foods- and then bagged as a frozen product by volunteers from Marion-Polk Food Share. The collaboration within the agriculture industry allows the donations to be in a form people can use.

“We’ve figured out ways of doing things that don’t cost as much and we have some new partners that help pay for things,” says Burt. “But we really need the public to become a partner and donate.”

The effort is now focusing on expanding the base of contributors, both on the farm and in the non-agriculture community. There is a role for everyone. Farmers agree to donate a portion of their crop prior to harvest. Processors agree to donate a portion of the cost of processing. Farmers Ending Hunger raises funds to pay for the remaining processing, packaging, and transportation. The public participates through the unique “Adopt an Acre” program to help pay the cost of getting the product processed and delivered to the food bank.

Last year’s donations to “Adopt an Acre” reached $33,000. Burt is hoping that 2011 will bring in more involvement from all kinds of Oregonians.

“We’re trying to get more businesses, even non-agricultural businesses, involved and making the local connection to agriculture,” he says. “Farmers are donating, the farm service industry is stepping up too. We’ve been successful in securing some grant money as well. But we need many more donations. We are primed to grow and we have a goal of reaching over 3 million pounds of food next year.”

One of the founding members of Farmers Ending Hunger is Bob Levy of Hermiston, also a member of the State Board of Agriculture.

“It’s encouraging to see that we approached a record high in donations even though it was a tough year for agriculture,” says Levy. “Farmers Ending Hunger has a good four-year track record that bodes well for the future. But we know the need for hunger assistance in Oregon and throughout the country will always be there. We also hope organizations like ours and others will always be there to help.”

For more information, contact John Burt, (503) 931-9232.

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Trees for Troops offers Christmas blessing

December 25, 2010 --

By American Farm Bureau Federation,

It will come as no surprise that America’s Christmas tree farmers are a giving lot. You need to look no further than the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, a charitable organization created by the National Christmas Tree Association in 2005. Since its inception, America’s Christmas tree farmers have used the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation to generously provide a gift of live Christmas trees to military families through the Trees for Troops program.

Since 2005, the Trees for Troops program has touched the lives of more than 67,000 military families at more than 50 bases in the United States and overseas. This year, Trees for Troops is expected to deliver 16,500 real Christmas trees to military families at home and abroad.

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Thermal imagery on wolves helps expose disease

December 24, 2010 --

Thermal Imagery Sheds Light on Wolf Disease
By U.S. Interior Dept., U.S. Geological Survey

Psychedelically colored wolves depicted by thermal imaging will shed light on how mange affects the survival, reproduction and social behavior of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. About a quarter of the wolf packs in the park are afflicted with sarcoptic mange, a highly contagious canine skin disease caused by mites that burrow into the skin causing infections, hair loss, severe irritation and an insatiable desire to scratch.   The resulting hair loss and depressed vigor of the wolves leaves them vulnerable to hypothermia, malnutrition and dehydration, which can eventually lead to death, said Paul Cross, a U.S. Geological Survey disease ecologist, who leads the project along with Doug Smith of Yellowstone National Park.

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Farmers try to kill returning Omnibus bill

December 22, 2010 --

By Oregon Farm Bureau

On Friday, Dec. 17, Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) introduced an omnibus public lands and water bill, the America Great Outdoors Act (S. 303), in the Senate. The bill is a package of 110 separate public lands and water and wildlife bills. The package includes the Chesapeake Bay bill (S. 1816), which is strongly opposed by Oregon Farm Bureau. The package also contains several separate bills that we also oppose that would designate wilderness or new national parks in their states, including national Wild and Scenic River designations in Oregon and expansion of Oregon Caves National Monument

The omnibus bill would enact the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act, which would add new land and agricultural practice restrictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, setting precedent far beyond the Chesapeake Bay. This bill could come to the Senate floor at any time in the next few days and we ask that you contact both Senators Wyden and Merkley immediately making them aware of your opposition.

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FDA mandatory recall mistakes

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NW Law FirmCan Business Lawyers Afford to Practice “Defensively”?
Stoel Rives LLP
By Kenneth Odza

For years, a debate has raged on the merits of vesting the FDA with mandatory recall powers. Mandatory recall is part of the food safety legislation that may or may not pass in this Congress, so it’s worth discussing. At present, the FDA lacks any power to order a recall. Its only legal authority is administrative detention and seizure.

Many, including some regulators, have argued against mandatory recall because it will result in less and less timely recalls. The argument that mandatory recalls may result in less timely recalls goes as follows:

  1. Under the current system (where FDA lacks mandatory recall authority), the onus is on the food seller to initiate the recall. If it doesn’t issue a recall in the face of an FDA request to issue a recall, the food seller faces the dire consequences of FDA’s bully pulpit  (press releases from FDA explaining why the food is unsafe) and possibly a seizure order. In the event of foodborne illnesses, ignoring an FDA request may also be grounds for punitive damages under the laws of some states;
Read the full article and discuss it »
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