WASHINGTON, April 22, 2016 - It’s Earth Day. Secretary of State John Kerry will be in New York to join other nations in signing the Paris climate agreement. The commitments in the agreement are non-binding, but President Obama says in his Earth Day proclamation that the targets for greenhouse gas reductions “are ambitious and specific” and “necessary to solving the climate crisis.” 

A leading Republican critic of the agreement, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe, says the Paris agreement “is full of empty promises” that will have no significant impact on the climate.

USDA is marking Earth Day by showcasing water and wastewater projects that the department is funding across the country. USDA’s undersecretary for rural development, Lisa Mensah, and other USDA officials will be visiting projects today in Vermont, Kentucky, New Mexico and California.

EPA advisers wary of EPA reliance on pesticide study. An EPA scientific advisory panel appears unlikely to support the agency’s use of a single epidemiological study to support its proposal to revoke tolerances for the widely-used insecticide chlorpyrifos, reports Agri-Pulse’s Steve Davies. 

At the conclusion of three days of meetings this week, panel members from a variety of scientific disciplines expressed uneasiness with EPA’s reliance on the study conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. The science advisers say they don’t object to using epidemiology to inform EPA decisions. The problem, they say, is using only one such study to make the decision. 

The panel heard criticism of EPA’s proposed use of the study from industry, including Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta and CropLife America. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Farmworker Justice supported EPA.  

EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to decide by the end of the year on its proposal. The scientific advisory panel must deliver its conclusions to EPA within 90 days. 

Roberts eyes ‘breakthrough’ on biotech labeling. There’s still no sign of a bipartisan deal on the GMO labeling issue. But Senate Agriculture Chairmen Pat Roberts, R-Kan., tells Agri-Pulse he’d like to have some progress to show before the Senate breaks for a week-long recess the first week of May. Republican and Democratic aides were working on the issue yesterday. 

“I don’t want to leave for the break … without some degree of a breakthrough so we can see a path forward,” he said.

Sixth Circuit keeps grip on WOTUS case. The fate of the Obama administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule is staying in the hands of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Industry and environmental groups want a lawsuit challenging the rule turned over to the district courts. But the 6th Circuit declined yesterday to reconsider its decision to keep the case at the appellate level. The 6th Circuit issued a nationwide stay of the rule in October.

Yesterday’s Senate vote on the latest GOP attempt to stop the rule made clear that its opponents are going to have to rely on the courts to kill it or else wait for a Republican president. Republicans fell four votes short of getting the 60 necessary to amend the Army Corps of Engineers spending bill to defund the rule.

The two senators still running for president, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, both missed the vote, but they would have cancelled each other out.

Pork leaders think candidates will come around on TPP. Pork industry leaders are dismayed with the criticism that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has received in the presidential race. But the president of the National Pork Producers Council, John Weber, said he thinks the next president will warm up to the deal once in office.

Weber said that the candidates “understand the importance of trade more than they’re what they are letting on during this campaign.”

NPPC CEO Neil Dierks agrees, saying he hopes “cooler heads would prevail.”

“In reality, can you walk away from it? I don’t think so,” Dierks said. “If you do, the willingness is there to do that, maybe we’re condemned to relive the ‘30s with erecting tariffs and everything else which was exactly the opposite thing to do in the middle of a depression.”

Key lawmakers back dairy industry on TPP. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Japan for a G7 ministerial meeting where he planned to push Canada to fulfill its commitment under the TPP to open up access to U.S. dairy products. He’ll have support during those discussions in the form of a bipartisanletter from key members of the House, including leaders of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade.

The lawmakers expressed concern that Canada would try to cut back on existing dairy trade. 

She said it. “For anyone who is passionate about environmental protection, Earth Day is like the Super Bowl and the Final Four combined.” - Jennie Saxe of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region, writing on an EPA blog


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