There is continued uncertainty this week surrounding the use of dicamba herbicide. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wants to know by Tuesday why EPA decided to allow continued over-the-top use of dicamba on soybeans and cotton despite the court’s order vacating those registrations.

On Friday, the court ordered EPA to respond by Tuesday to the petitioner groups’ request to enforce the court’s June 3 order. The petitioners then have until Thursday to file their reply.

Also Friday, BASF, maker of Engenia, and Corteva, maker of FeXapan, moved to intervene in the Ninth Circuit. Bayer (Xtendimax) intervened a year ago.

On June 8, EPA issued a cancellation order for the three herbicides, allowing continued use of existing stocks by applicators and growers through July 31, prompting the petitioners’ emergency motion on June 11.

Senate nears passage of lands bill 

The Senate has key votes scheduled this evening on the Great American Outdoors Act, a landmark lands conservation bill that is opposed by groups representing cattle and sheep producers. 

Despite that opposition, preliminary votes on the measure last week have shown that it has more than enough votes to pass. The bill would provide permanent funding of $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a portion of which is used to pay for federal land acquisitions.

The Senate is scheduled to vote this evening to insert the bill text into a House-passed measure that is serving as the legislative vehicle. The measure still needs House approval before it heads to the White House for President Trump’s signature. 

For more about this week’s ag policy agenda, be sure and read this week’s Washington Week Ahead. 

Sonny Perdue visiting national grassland in Wyoming last year (USDA)

Forest Service ordered to facilitate grazing

Even as the Senate is considering the lands bill, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is looking to ease the way for grazing and energy development on land controlled by the Forest Service, including national grasslands. 

memorandum issued by Perdue orders the Forest Service to make clear in forest plans that “grazing and support for grazing on the national grasslands is essential for their management.” 

The Forest Service also is required to streamline renewal of range permits and range improvements and to make it easier for USFS employees to work with ranching families. 

Take note: The Forest Service manages 3.8 million acres of national grasslands across 12 western states. Most of the land is on the Great Plains.

Key lawmaker: Too early to know what farmers need

A senior Republican on the House Agriculture Committee tells Agri-Pulse he thinks it’s premature to determine what farmers will need in a second round of direct payments this year. 

"I’m not sure we’re going to know until we get closer to harvest time, and then we’re going to have to work fast,” says Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford, one of three candidates to succeed Mike Conaway as the Ag committee’s top Republican. 

Waiting until later this year to design a second round of assistance will ensure that it better reflects the needs of various commodity sectors, Crawford says. 

We have a pair of interviews with Crawford at, our Washington Week in Review and another for this week’s Agri-Pulse Open Mic.

UK can warm up to US beef – eventually

It’s going to take a while to build up consumer acceptance of U.S. beef in the U.K., but Kent Bacus, director of international trade and market access for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, says it will only be a matter of time. 

At one point there were protests in the streets of Seoul against U.S. beef, Bacus noted, but now South Korea is the largest (on a per-capita basis) importer of U.S. beef. Still, the British have been operating for a long time under an “EU mentality” when it comes to issues such as growth hormones, so it’s going to take time to “develop that trust with British consumers.”

U.S. negotiators are going to have to convince their British counterparts to lift the country’s EU-holdover ban on beef from cattle treated with growth hormones. But there has already been steep resistance to doing that ahead of the second round of talks scheduled to begin this week.

US apple exports to rise on bumper crop

U.S. apple farmers will be reaping the reward of ideal growing weather in Washington, boosting production and exports, according to a new USDA report. Production this year is expected to climb by 300,000 tons to reach 4.8 million tons.

“Higher and good quality supplies are expected to boost exports over 100,000 tons to 860,000, especially to top markets Mexico and Canada,” USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service says in a new report.

One country that won’t likely be a target for more U.S. apples is China. Chinese farmers are also expected to have a bumper crop this year – increasing production by 8 million tons – and the country is expected to export more to Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Despite the increased production, China is still expected to import more, USDA says. But U.S. apples are still subject to Chinese trade war tariffs.

Grain buyers welcome locks and dam maintenance projects 

Despite lock and dam repairs on an inland waterway in the nation’s midsection being a temporary inconvenience, grain terminals are welcoming summer improvements.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin scheduled maintenance on five locks and dams on the Illinois River in July.

Scott Strickland, general manager of Consolidated Grain and Barge Co., says the repair will be worth it despite the disruption. “From a long-term perspective this is going to allow us to remain viable ... for years and generations to come,” he told Agri-Pulse.

Why it matters: The Illinois River is a major throughway for ag shippers like CGB because it connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. 

Washington farmworker strikes end

The last strike by fruit packing workers in the Yakima Valley has been settled, with Columbia Reach Pack agreeing to provide personal protective equipment for free.

The company also said it would not retaliate against workers, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic. The agreement is the last one reached to resolve a series of strikes throughout the valley. Workers at Allan Bros., Matson Fruit and Monson Fruit also signed agreements.

In addition, “Frosty Packing employees returned to work after the company offered a bonus program,” the newspaper reported. “Most of the employees who participated in a strike in Hansen Fruit also returned to work.”

He said it. "We have limited resources. We’ve already added another $2 trillion to our national debt. Let’s just show some restraint and make this (next round of aid) a little more targeted.” – Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark.

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