The Trump administration’s new rule narrowing the reach of the Clean Water Act takes effect today. 

Late Friday, a federal judge in San Francisco denied a request to block implementation of the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule. More than a dozen states — including California — and two cities sought to ditch the rule, which replaces the Obama era “waters of the U.S. rule,” which expanded the jurisdiction of the anti-pollution law. 

The case will proceed, but U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s denial of the injunction request seemed to signal bad times ahead for the plaintiffs, who were opposed by more than 20 other states. The judge “knocked down virtually every argument they made,” said attorney Mark Ryan of Ryan & Kuehler in Winthrop, Wash., who worked on the 2015 WOTUS rule while at EPA.

But he also says the decision doesn’t bode well for cases filed by cattle producers in Oregon, Washington and New Mexico who claim the new rule still exceeds the authority that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have under the Clean Water Act.

Ninth Circuit allows dicamba use

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision late Friday allowing dicamba use to continue this growing season.

In a one-sentence order, the court denied the petitioner groups’ emergency motion that sought a halt to over-the-top dicamba use on soybeans and cotton following the court’s June 3 decision vacating registrations of Xtendimax, Engenia and FeXapan. 

The court also granted motions by CropLife America and grower groups to participate as friends of the court, allowed BASF and Corteva Agriscience to intervene (Bayer is already an intervenor), and ordered briefing for next week on BASF’s motion to stay the June 3 decision.

The American Soybean Association said EPA’s June 8 order allowing continued use of existing stocks through July 31 “provides for an orderly management of the distribution, sale, and use” of the three herbicides. An immediate ban “would have financially devastating consequences on America’s soybean growers,” ASA said.

Deadline here for CFAP comment

Today’s the last day for farmers and commodity groups that think they were unfairly denied coronavirus relief payments to make their case to USDA. Those commodities include several types of wheat as well as apples. More than 1,200 comments have been posted at so far. 

USDA says it was especially interested in getting information with respect to nursery and aquaculture products and cut flowers. But the requests for additional coverage go well beyond those to include hemp, tobacco and clams. 

A farm in Hawaii asked for assistance for several crops, including coffee and cacao. “It is important to remember that all agriculture, whether it is for food, or not, supports our nation’s small businesses and family farms,” wrote representatives of the Hawaii farm.

For more about this week’s policy agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead

USDA’s CFAP gets scrutiny at WTO

CFAP is getting close scrutiny and some criticism by World Trade Organization members. The European Union has expressed concern over the size of the program and it wasn’t alone in its alarm that the aid could be market-distorting.

The U.S., at a Friday meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture, argued that CFAP won’t distort planting decisions because payments are only based on past production or supplies, but that didn’t end the debate.

Keep in mind: Australia and Paraguay say they are worried that CFAP would set a new precedent for future programs, and Canada has urged the U.S. to confirm that the payments were only temporary. U.S. officials responded that more CFAP spending could be on the way.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency has made $2.9 billion in payments so far under CFAP to 220,280 farmers as of June 15.

China bans chicken from Tyson plant

Sources tell Agri-Pulse that China has banned imports from a Tyson plant in Arkansas, citing coronavirus testing results among workers. Tyson reported Friday, saying it had tested 3,748 of its employees at seven of its Arkansas facilities from June 4-13 and 481 tested positive for COVID-19. About 95% showed no signs of infection when they were tested.

Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, says there is no justification for China’s action, which comes as poultry exports to China have been soaring. 

Read our report here

House sets FY21 appropriations schedule

The House Appropriations Committee will begin moving fiscal 2021 appropriations bills starting next month. 

The Agriculture bill, which funds USDA, FDA and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is scheduled for subcommittee action on July 6. The full committee will take up the Agriculture bill on July 9. 

The Interior-Environment bill, which funds the Interior Department, EPA and the Forest Service,  and the Energy-Water bill, which funds the Army Corps of Engineers, are scheduled for subcommittee action on July 7 with full committee action on July 10. 

Waivers would cost ethanol industry 2.4B gallons

Ethanol leaders say there could be 2.4 billion gallons of lost ethanol usage, if EPA grants all 52 small refinery waiver petitions dating back to 2011.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor tells Agri-Pulse the 2.4 billion is on top of the 4 billion gallons already waived due to exemptions granted by EPA. “We are as an industry looking at what recourse we have. Ultimately, this comes down to political pressure,” Skor says.

She said it. “It’s our industry’s time to finally take our rightful place on the plate.” - Cathy Burns, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association. 

During the United Fresh Produce Association’s online United Fresh Live! conference, she and other industry leaders said that the increase in at-home eating caused by the pandemic is introducing more consumers to fresh fruits and vegetables. But, she said, “It is going to take all of us working together to deliver flavorful, consistent-quality product to really experience that joy of fresh.”

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