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NFU Submits Comments to Proposed Rule on WOTUS Says With Revisions, Rule Could Clarify Farmer Questions While Protecting Environment PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 22, 2014

Contact: Andrew Jerome, (202) 314-3106
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WASHINGTON (September 22, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed rule addressing the “Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Definitions Under the Clean Water Act.” The comments are intended to provide the agencies with advice for drafting a final rule that does not increase CWA jurisdiction and promotes consistent application of EPA policies, which aligns with the agencies’ stated intent.   

“These comments should help the agencies avoid using language that could be taken out of context and used to stretch CWA jurisdiction in the future,” said Johnson. “The agencies’ stated intent is to replace inconsistent practices with clear, bright-line tests through this proposed rule. If NFU’s comments are given proper consideration, the final rule will allow the regulated community the certainty it needs to conduct its business free from fear of undue regulatory interference and without sacrificing the agencies’ ability to protect the United States’ water resources,” he said. “The importance of clean water today and for future generations is critical to the well-being of the nation.”

Johnson pointed out that if NFU’s comments are incorporated into the final rule, a number of important and much needed clarifications will be achieved. Those include:

  • A definition of “tributary” that clarifies without increasing CWA jurisdiction. 
  • A bright-line rule for "adjacent waters," reducing the need for case-by-case determinations.
  • Codification of agency practice in light of Supreme Court rulings, increasing the predictability of jurisdictional determinations by the agencies.
  • An exclusion of ditches that do not connect with wetlands, riparian areas, floodplains, or other waters.
  • An exclusion of ditches without perennial flow from CWA jurisdiction.
  • Affirmation of exemptions for normal agricultural activities.

Johnson urged other groups submitting comments to be constructive in critiquing the rule and to remember that EPA has been ordered by the Courts to write a rule and that it was up to vested interests, like farmers and ranchers, to provide expertise and insight as to how this rule will operate in the real world. “If NFU’s comments are incorporated into the final rule, it will remove a lot of uncertainty and protect family farmers from litigation,” he said.

Read the comments in their entirety here.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Applauds Resolution Designating 2014 “International Year of Family Farming” PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 17, 2014

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Sept. 17, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) today applauded the passage of the Senate Resolution designating 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming (IYFF).” NFU has lead the U.S. Committee for IYFF and played a key role in having the resolution adopted by the Senate. 

“Recognizing the critical role family farmers play in providing food, fuel, feed and fiber to the global population and alleviating hunger and poverty is important because we need to be developing our future farmers – both in the United States and abroad – right now,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.

Senate Resolution 544, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, notes that while agriculture contributes more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and employs 14 percent of the total U.S. workforce, 45 percent of individuals around the world make their living from farming.

“Family farming clearly plays a major role in today’s economy and will continue to play a key role for those living in developing nations,” said Johnson. “For many citizens of the world, the primary key to breaking out of poverty will be farming.”

“Family farmers across the world lift up their communities with every harvest," Senator Amy Klobuchar said. "Today's action in the Senate recognizes that rural communities are the backbone of local economies around the world, and honors the contributions that family farmers make in our global fight to eradicate poverty and hunger."

“I'm glad the Senate passed this resolution recognizing the contributions that family farmers make to the world community. Farming is a tireless and often thankless way to make a living, yet time and time again, family farmers stand ready to feed and fuel societies around the globe," said Senator Charles Grassley. 

Johnson thanked the senators for introducing the resolution and noted that it was fitting given their strong and unbending commitment to agriculture. “These senators have both been great friends and steadfast advocates for family farming and we appreciate the added spotlight they have given those who earn their living feeding the world’s people,” he said.

The resolution also urges other countries and national organizations to undertake activities supporting the IYFF while advocating for the protection and long-term viability of family farms both here and abroad.

Johnson noted that as part of that mandate, NFU will continue to focus its education programs on community engagement, leadership development and youth outreach. “Many of those who have been touched by NFU’s outreach and education efforts have indeed gone on to be farmers, leaders in agriculture, key decision-makers in international food and aid organizations and even elected officials,” said Johnson.

For more information on IYFF, visit www.yearoffamilyfarming.com.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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Farm Safety Should be a Front Burner Issue PDF Print E-mail

For Immediate Release
Sept. 11, 2014                                                                 

Contact: Andrew Jerome, (202) 314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Sept. 11, 2014) – In honor of the United Nations’ 2014 International Year of Family Farming, this month National Farmers Union (NFU) is highlighting the importance of being proactive in the area of farm safety. Agriculture is consistently among the most hazardous occupations in the United States.

“The path to a safer farm and ranch is through proactively addressing ongoing and emerging occupational safety and health issues affecting U.S. agriculture,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Family farmers and ranchers must work together to make farm safety a front burner issue and encourage farmers, producers and agribusiness owners to integrate safety into everyday practice so that it becomes part of their DNA, not just a program or a slogan. Safety is an approach to life and the workplace.”

In an average year, 516 workers die while doing farm work, and each day about 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-time injuries.

“To that end, National Farmers Union is implementing an education and outreach plan to help bring the safety mindset to farmers and ranchers where they live.” said Johnson. “The initiative will be unveiled later this year, and will help NFU make its mark on this important issue.”

To support our efforts, we encourage everyone to get involved and join National Farmers Union. Information can be found at www.nfu.org.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Praises Bipartisan Senate STB Reform Bill Introduction PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Sept. 11, 2014)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Sept. 11, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) praised Sens. Thune (R-SD) and Rockefeller (D-WV) for the introduction of a bipartisan bill that would improve the functioning of the Surface Transportation Board and ensure that the agency is more responsive to the needs of its many customers.

“I commend Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune for addressing this important issue on behalf of our family farmers and their cooperatives’ shipping commodities,” said Doug Sombke, chairman of NFU’s legislative committee and president of South Dakota Farmers Union. “After several STB hearings throughout the past year it's extremely gratifying to know STB and the U.S. Congress are listening to our concerns,” he said.

Sombke noted that while addressing many of the issues facing farmers and shippers who are dependent on shipping by rail, it was unclear if the bill would address the issue of whether the fines assessed to shippers for late or non-delivery could be assessed to the railroad for not meeting delivery deadlines. “I surely hope railroads are held to the same standards as our cooperatives,” he said.

In the upper Midwest, where shipping by rail is often the only option for the region’s farmers, rail transportation is months behind schedule, resulting in farmers and cooperatives being assessed hefty fines for late deliveries. In South Dakota, some farmers have already been forced to pile wheat on the ground because elevators can’t accept the increased liability. At one particular elevator, 3 million of the yearly 15 million bushels of grain will not move before this year’s harvest begins.   

Sombke noted that when the government allows the formation of a monopoly, as it has with the railroad, it should maintain strong oversight to ensure that the rail monopoly is responsive to its captive customers. “We hope this is the beginning of increased congressional oversight of the STB and the beginning of the end of this ridiculous and costly problem,” he said.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Board of Directors Votes to Withdraw from Beef Checkoff Working Group PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 6, 2014

Contact: Andrew Jerome, (202) 314-3106
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National Farmers Union board of directors today voted to withdraw from the beef checkoff working group, effective immediately. NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement:

“After three years of pushing for real reforms in the beef check-off program, NFU has decided that the process has become a bridge to nowhere and a waste of time and resources. The working group was designed to bring together vested parties from across the beef industry and to attempt to reach a consensus on substantial reforms that would make the check-off a stronger, more effective tool for the beef industry. Sadly, it has become clear that in reality, there is no willingness from key players within the group to allow real reforms to take place. NFU remains willing and eager to engage with others who are interested in reforming the beef checkoff, such that it operates in a manner like other checkoff programs.”

The resolution adopted by the board:

NFU has been working for the past three years to reform the beef checkoff system with other beef industry stakeholders. In accordance with NFU’s 2014 national convention Special Order of Business on the beef checkoff, NFU is hereby withdrawing from this working group, as the process is unlikely to result in necessary reform. It is time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to react to beef producers’ demand to reform this system.

The following reforms are necessary:

  • The CBB must have the authority to carry out checkoff projects on its own, similar to other checkoff oversight boards.
  • The CBB must be allowed to enter into checkoff contracts with non-policy organizations and private companies, such as ad agencies and public relations firms, in order to prevent policy-driven organizations from using checkoff dollars to fund overhead for political activity.
  • The beef checkoff must be completely refundable.
  • A referendum on the continuation of the beef checkoff must occur every five years.

It is our recommendation that USDA consider rewriting the beef check off program under the 1996 generic research and promotion act.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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