NAWG Weekly Update: July 2, 2015

Action on Clean Water Rule Results in Lawsuits

The regulation defining Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act was officially printed in the Federal Register this week. This public printing designated a final action that starts a 60-day countdown for implementation and cleared the way for legal action. In response, four lawsuits comprised of 27 states and state agencies have been filed against the EPA.

  • Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin filed suit in US District Court in Georgia
  • Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming filed suit in US District Court in North Dakota
  • Ohio and Michigan filed suit in US District Court in Ohio
  • Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas filed suit in the US District Court in Texas

Additional lawsuits from agriculture and business organizations as well as environmental groups are expected in the coming weeks.

Efforts to address the EPA regulation are on the list of items to consider when Congress returns from the holiday recess next week. Legislation to send the regulation back to EPA is pending in the Senate but has already been passed in the House. Fiscal year 2016 funding bills for the federal agencies could also restrict funding to implement the regulation. NAWG has endorsed both of these efforts to address the regulation. We encourage all state associations and growers to share your concern regarding the expanded jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act in this regulation with Members of Congress while they are home for the 4th of July.

EPA Releases SPCC Study
The EPA released a study of Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) related to farms on Wednesday. The study, required by the 2014 Water Resources and Reform Development Act, assesses the aggregate aboveground storage capacity threshold for farms subject to SPCC regulations. The 2014 law established an increased capacity exemption between 2,500 gallons and 6,000 gallons aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity as long as the operation has no history of a spill. The upper level for the exemption was subject to change based on the required study. EPA’s study determined there was a lack of data to support a higher threshold for agriculture and that an appropriate threshold for all types of facilities should be 1,320 gallons. However, the law sets a base level exemption of aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity of 2,500 gallons for farms. Self-certification for farms is an option for those with less than 20,000 gallons aggregate aboveground oil storage, with no individual storage container larger than 10,000 gallons and no history of a spill. The study can be found here. An information sheet on the current requirements for agriculture operations can be found here.

U.S. Wheat Growers See TPA as First Step to Increased Export Opportunity
This week marked the end of a successful bipartisan effort and the beginning of better prospects for agricultural trade as President Obama signed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) into law on June 29.

“With reauthorization of TPA, the President has a prime opportunity to help level the playing field for wheat growers and American agriculture,” said Brett Blankenship, NAWG President and a wheat grower from Washtucna, Wash. “It is now up to the Administration to use that authority to negotiate new wheat market access commitments in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and future trade agreements.” Read the full joint statement released with U.S. Wheat Associates here.

NAWG President Hits the Hill on WOTUS, Food Aid
Following the conclusion of the extended process to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) last week, National Association of Wheat Growers President Brett Blankenship was in Washington, D.C., this week, visiting Congressional offices to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the U.S. final rule and the structure of the food aid program.

Following the EPA’s announcement finalizing the WOTUS rule, there are a number of pending Congressional efforts to delay implementation and force the EPA to start over with the rulemaking process. NAWG is supportive of both stand-alone legislation introduced by Senator Barrasso (R-WY) as well as efforts within the Appropriations process to prohibit the use of funds for implementing the rule during FY 2016.

With specific respect to food aid, there have been recent hearings in the House and Senate to look at the structure of the United States’ Food for Peace program and the concept of restructuring the program to allow for more use of cash. President Blankenship discussed the importance of maintaining in-kind food aid and the effectiveness of the current program in meeting emergency needs.

President Blankenship also had the opportunity to attend the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate announcement yesterday. As NAWG continues to support food aid, we would like to extend our appreciation and congratulations to 2015 World Food Prize Laureate Sir Fazle Hasan Abed for his work in striving to achieve global food security.

House Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing on Biotechnology 
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research held a hearing late last week to review USDA Marketing Programs. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Deputy Administrator for Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program Dr. Craig Morris testified. The hearing narrowed in on the ability of USDA to create a GMO-free certification. Currently, USDA provides a third party verification of a standard or marketing claim through their process verified program (PVP). Recently, the PVP approved the first claim that allows a company to label their product as “Non GMO/GE Process Verified.” Dr. Morris specified that this label “does not establish an approved claim for food safety nor does it establish a standard for food safety” and jurisdiction of regulatory food-labeling claims still falls under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Committee will be reviewing the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act and a substitute amendment crafted by the House Agriculture Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The substitute amendment is expected to strengthen coordination between FDA and USDA on biotechnology labeling. You can view the hearing, testimony and opening statement here.