Monday, January 11, 2016

DeLauro Joins Members of Congress and a Broad Coalition Against TPP Ahead of the State of the Union



WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today joined Members of Congress and a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and faith leaders to stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership ahead of the State of the Union. Members of Congress and the coalition highlighted the impact that a bad trade agreement will have on American jobs and wages, while calling on Congress to reject the agreement.

“Tomorrow night at the State of the Union, the President will promote this agreement before Congress and the American people. But we know TPP is too dangerous for us simply to stand aside and let it pass. While the Administration has called it the most progressive agreement in history, the details of the TPP tell a very different story – one that spells danger for our middle class,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3). “The greatest economic challenge facing our nation today is that too many Americans are in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on. When the jobs and wages of working families are jeopardized by a bad trade agreement, we risk engaging in a global “race to the bottom” that our country cannot afford, and that our middle class does not deserve.”

“While President Obama is likely to set important goals for the country in his last State of the Union Address, we will remain vigilant in our opposition to his disastrous trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25). “I have never seen a trade agreement that has benefited the American manufacturer or the American worker, and the TPP is no different. This trade deal will ship more American jobs overseas, lower wages here at home, and force us to do business with notorious human rights violators such as Malaysia, a country with one of the most egregious records of human trafficking. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to stand up for the American worker and oppose the TPP.”

“We’ve heard over and over again how free trade deals are supposed to benefit Americans, but workers across the United States know first-hand the disastrous impact that decades of failed trade policies have had. The impact of these policies has been catastrophic on our nation’s family-wage jobs, yet President Obama is still trying to push through the Trans Pacific Partnership, a new, massive trade deal that will permanently cripple American manufacturing. We need a trade policy that works in favor of American families, not against them,” said Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-4).

“The American people know the true costs of bad trade deals: American jobs sent overseas, community divestment and lower wages.  As Members of Congress, we simply cannot allow another bad trade deal to ship more jobs overseas while driving communities deeper into poverty,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13).

“Because TPP is manifestly bad for the U.S. economy and American families, the President will try to sell this deal as a method of containing and combating China.  But China is a big beneficiary of this deal, because it enshrines the idea that currency manipulation is allowed and is part of 21st century trade agreements,” said Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-30).  Moreover, the “Rules of Origin” provisions state that goods that are 70% made in China can be labeled “Made in Vietnam” and then be fast-tracked, duty-free into the United States.”

“Drive through my hometown of Flint, Michigan, and you will see the devastating impact bad trade deals have had on our economy, our communities, and our people. The American people do not want another bad trade deal that forces our workers to compete on an uneven playing field. Congress should reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership – America cannot afford to lose thousands of good-paying jobs to foreign countries,” said Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-5).

“We have seen and experienced how previous trade agreements have destroyed entire domestic industries, causing massive job losses for Americans across the country, and increased our trade deficits.  The American people deserve stronger economic security and a better future, not a one-way ticket to their jobs being shipped to other countries,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2).

“Our trade agreements should advance an economy that creates good jobs in America. Unfortunately, the TPP doesn’t even come close to that goal,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “It’s a corporate giveaway, putting jobs at risk rather than growing opportunity for all. We will not stand by while another trade deal lines the pockets of CEOs at the expense of working people.”

"Americans from all walks of life—teachers, parents, nurses, public employees—believe that the primary measure of a successful trade deal must be to grow jobs and wages here at home. The TPP falls short of that metric and in doing so fails to help American workers get and stay ahead. That’s why the AFT is standing with this diverse coalition to reject this deal,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Despite all the promises we’ve heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, working people know that this trade deal would be a disaster. It would continue the offshoring of jobs and weakening of our communities that started under NAFTA and hasn’t stopped. It would mean labor and environmental standards that might look good on paper but fall flat when it comes to enforcement. It’s a corporate dream, but a nightmare for working people,” said CWA President Chris Shelton.

“The TPP has been presented to American agriculture as a potential boon for exports and the economy, much the same as they were promised before many other trade deals signed in the last twenty-five years. Unfortunately for family farmers, ranchers and their rural communities, the TPP will be just like the other trade deals, undermining U.S. sovereignty, increasing competition from abroad, and failing to address currency manipulation and our enormous trade deficit,” said Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union.

“After thorough review, it is clear that the TPP will not improve the lives of people at the margins of society. Congress must answer Pope Francis’s call to say no to ‘an economy of exclusion’ by rejecting the TPP. Trade deals must uphold the common good rather than cater to the special interests,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS.

“If we can’t keep fossil fuels in the ground, our climate is toast. Under TPP, sore losers like TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, can launch tantrum lawsuits making future climate action more difficult. The climate movement won’t let this past us without a fight,” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director of 350.org.

“For years, environmentalists, workers, and our allies have joined together to reveal the threats of this deal, urge Congress to put an end to it, and build a new model of trade that puts people before profits. With corporations like TransCanada exploiting trade rules to undo environmental protections, it's more important than ever before to stand together and urge Congress to reject the toxic Trans-Pacific Partnership. American jobs, the quality of our air and water, the stability of our climate, and the state of our union are at stake,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club’s Executive Director.

“The TPP contains many provisions of concern to small businesses, which made up just a fraction of the business interests serving as advisors during the draft process,” said Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of the Main Street Alliance. “The TPP allows large, international corporations to challenge US labor, environmental, and public health laws and threaten the way we do business in America. As well, the intellectual property provisions would delay the introduction of low-cost generic medication— jeopardizing access to affordable healthcare, a founding principle of the Main Street Alliance.”

Mark Lynas: Pro-Science Means Pro-GMO


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016 – World-renowned environmentalist Mark Lynas shared his experience of moving from anti-GMO activist to advocate for biotechnology at a featured workshop at the 97th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
Lynas told an audience of farmers and ranchers how he changed his mind on GMOs when he came face-to-face with the science supporting biotechnology.

“As a scientist, you must have data to back up what you’re saying,” Lynas said. “And I realized I wasn’t holding myself to the same scientific standards on GMOs as I applied to my research on climate change. You can’t pick and choose where you use science to back up your argument: You have to be consistent.”

He also asserted that we need more advances in technology, and that GMOs are critical to helping farmers around the world feed a booming population.

“Science and technology need to keep progressing to preserve the resources we have left,” he said. And Lynas is backing up his belief in GMOs with action: He is now working with Cornell University to help develop GM crops that will help farmers in developing countries grow better crops without pesticides.

Even with clear scientific support, Lynas acknowledged, it’s difficult to convince the general public on biotechnology because of the scare tactics employed by activists. But he believes transparency can go a long way in building trust with consumers: “Transparency on GMOs will help dispel fears because people assume something is risky if they think information is being withheld from them,” Lynas said.

But this is where farmers can help bridge the gap, he said.

“People need a believable source of information. As farmers, you have credibility because you understand what you’re doing and why. You can explain the real benefits GM crops have for both the land and consumers.”

Farm Bureau Urges House Support for Resolution Disapproving EPA’s WOTUS Rule



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016 – The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support S.J. Res. 22, a resolution to disapprove the Waters of the U.S. rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.

“The EPA rule poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and private landowners by permitting EPA to regulate well beyond limits authorized by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court,” AFBF President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to House members.

“Simply put,” Stallman continued, “EPA’s rule significantly expands the scope of ‘navigable water’ subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction. With that expansion comes the threat of citizen lawsuits. As a practical matter, EPA’s proposal will mean increased enforcement against farmers, greater expenses for permitting, potential delays in managing agricultural operations and the unquestioned exposure of legal liability attendant with lawsuits from activists.”

Stallman also pointed out that EPA unlawfully manipulated the rulemaking process through an unprecedented marketing campaign designed to generate public support and discredit anyone who had serious concerns, as well as hoping to influence Congress.

“GAO’s recently issued opinion states unequivocally that EPA violated the law,” Stallman wrote. The GAO opinion came on the heels of a judgment by the Small Business Office of Advocacy that the agency had violated its obligations under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.

The letter can be found at: http://www.fb.org/issues/docs/clean-water-rule-response.pdf

Balance Sought for Landowners Dealing with Environmental Regulations


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016—The breadth, vagueness and punitive nature of many environmental laws provide challenges and uncertainty for farmers, ranchers and other property owners when it comes to navigating today’s environmental landscape in their farming and ranching activities.
“Environmental law can be harsh, especially for everyday people,” said Jonathan Wood, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation. “The statutes are very broad, vague, and punitive. Pacific Legal Foundation and Farm Bureau are advocating for more sensible policies to protect landowners.”
Wood echoed the chorus of voices from farmers and ranchers from around the country in advocating for a balanced approach to enforcement of environmental laws during a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show.
Having grown up on a small ranch in Texas, Wood learned the importance that water plays in agriculture. This has influenced his and the Pacific Legal Foundation’s work in cases dealing with the Clean Water Act and the ambiguities and uncertainties related to the selective interpretation of the act by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Despite assurances of exemptions for agriculture, farmers and ranchers have repeatedly been intimidated by the punitive nature of large fines and potential prison sentences for actions involving water – even when such projects have beneficial impacts for wildlife and the environment. Such is the current situation for Andy Johnson, a rancher from Wyoming who created a stock pond to provide water for his livestock.
“We are challenging an outrageous example of EPA overreach against a private citizen who has done nothing wrong,” Wood said.  “Andy Johnson constructed a pond for his livestock by damming a stream on his private property with no connection to any navigable water.  Under the plain terms of the Clean Water Act, he was entirely within his rights, and didn’t need federal bureaucrats’ permission.
“But EPA regulators have decided they know better than the law,” Wood continued.  “By trying to seize control of Andy Johnson’s land — and threatening him with financial ruin — they are imposing their will where they have no authority.  Ironically, EPA is attempting to destroy a scenic environmental asset that provides habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans water that passes through it, all in the name of enforcing the Clean Water Act.”
In addition to the threat posed by fines and the breadth of impacts environmental rules can have, the vagueness of these rules and their interpretations by agencies will continue to pose a challenge to agriculture until the courts or Congress provide further guidance. This is why recent decisions – such as the Sackett case in Idaho – have been beneficial to farmers and ranchers, because the court ruled that private landowners have a right to direct judicial review regarding EPA decisions on land use.
“Agencies like the EPA or Fish and Wildlife Service…are motivated by single-minded and very aggressive views of their role in the world, which is to stop things that change the environment – even if those changes might be positive,” said Ellen Steen, AFBF’s general counsel. “When you have people like that populating agencies, we’ll always have agencies pushing the boundaries…and this is where the courts come in.”
Recent court decisions have provided landowners with remedies against agency actions, but landowners have continued to be the ones pushing for relief. Wood is hopeful that current and future cases will continue to balance the scale with landowners and agency actions.

Town Hall Meeting With Tom Vilsack and Bob Stallman Focuses on Farm Policy


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 11, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman focused on farm policy and USDA’s priorities during a town hall-style conversation at the 97th AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
“It’s very important for AFBF and USDA to have a good working relationship, and we do.” Stallman said. “We’ve worked together on a lot of issues facing farmers and ranchers, to the benefit of American agriculture and consumers alike.”
In his opening remarks Vilsack thanked Farm Bureau members for their help in securing the 2014 farm bill and passing trade promotion authority. He also thanked Stallman for his friendship and leadership over the years.
“The close working relationship between USDA and Farm Bureau is critical to addressing the issues facing U.S. agriculture,” said Vilsack. “Without Farm Bureau’s grassroots advocacy we would not have had the 2014 farm bill and we certainly wouldn’t be as far along in the trade discussion as we are now.”
Vilsack discussed the challenges and benefits of the farm bill and the importance of opening up new markets through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“The Asian market is the fastest-growing market in the world,” Vilsack said. “And consumers there will be looking for the high-class products that American farmers and ranchers can provide.”
Vilsack took a variety of questions from a standing-room-only crowd of farmers and ranchers on the IDEAg Trade Show floor.
“This country is great because we have great farmers,” Vilsack emphasized. “The average American doesn’t worry about where their food will come from because of the hard work farmers and ranchers do every day.”

First-Ever Drone Flight Calculator Launched



Measure Releases Application to Assess Benefit of Drones in Precision Agriculture
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Measure, the nation's leading operator of drones, today released the first-ever Drone Flight Calculator to help farmers assess the value of using drones in their agriculture operations. The web-based application is the direct result of a study and flight operations conducted with the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2015. Available free of charge at www.measure.aero, the Drone Flight Calculator allows farmers to input data such as fertilizer use, farm size, and crop type to see how drones can improve operations and cut costs.
"The Drone Flight Calculator allows farmers to easily determine if drone technology can improve their operations," said Measure CEO Brandon Torres Declet. "While drones have been marketed to farmers, until today no tool existed to help growers quickly and easily calculate the benefits of drones."
The American Farm Bureau Federation recognized early that precision agriculture and drones in particular are important to the future of farming, but the relevant data has not been available until now. The Drone Flight Calculator quantifies the economic benefits of Drone as a Service® for any type of scouting including crops such as soy, corn, or grapes. Once farm-specific data is entered, the Calculator provides economic returns on a per acre and per growing season basis. Farmers can also learn how much they can expect to save on inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation.
In July 2015, Measure and the American Farm Bureau Federation released a study identifying the broader benefits of drone technology in precision agriculture. The study highlighted the best use cases for drones such as field scouting, 3D terrain mapping, and crop insurance. The study was sponsored by a number of industry leading companies such as PepsiCo, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Richardson International, and Lockheed Martin