WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2016 - Negotiations over a stopgap funding bill have bogged down in the Senate amid a fight over whether to include funding for the water problems in Flint, Mich. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through Dec. 9, but Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and other Democrats promptly criticized Republicans for leaving out the Flint aid. 

Lawmakers have one more week to pass the measure if they’re going to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

The CR also lacks a provision that farm groups and bankers had requested to ensure that USDA could fund a backlog of farm loans this fall. USDA didn’t request the provision. Officials have assured at least one farm group that they believe the Office of Management and Budget will work with the Farm Service Agency to handle its loan needs. 

The CR does include provisions to ensure that USDA can make payments to farmers from the Commodity Credit Corp. and to cover higher costs for food packages distributed through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. 

House set to move WRDA bill. It looks like the House will take up a water projects authorization bill next week. Passage of the bill would set up negotiations with the Senate on a final version that could pass in the lame duck session. 

The Senate version, which passed last week, includes a provision exempting some farmers with aboveground fuel storage tanks from EPA requirements to prepare spill control plans. Lawmakers are trying to get on a schedule of reauthorizing waterway and port projects every two years. 

Livestock producers set steps for cutting antibiotic use. Smithfield Foods, Tyson and other major U.S. and foreign livestock producers have agreed on a series of steps to reduce the use of antibiotics. The list includes an end to the use of antibiotics for growth promotion even in countries where it continues to be permitted. 

The statement also calls for improving reporting on antibiotic usage and development of new practices and products to replace the use of antibiotics in food animals. The statement comes as the United Nations is calling on all countries to have national action plans to fight antibiotics resistance. 

Knut Nesse, CEO of a Dutch animal nutrition company, Nutreco, said at an industry conference yesterday in Washington called the One Health Antibiotic Stewardship Summit that the industry has no choice but to curb its use of the drugs. Consumers “are commanding and demanding more transparency and less use of antibiotics.” 

Chris Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, which also signed onto the industry statement, says his company is just being realistic about where agriculture is headed. “We think with a very long view of where food and agriculture must go to be able to have permission to use the appropriate technologies to feed the soon-to-be 9 or 10 billion people on the planet,” he said.

Beef opening latest ag win for Obama. The Obama administration is keeping the good news coming for agriculture when it comes to trade with China. Last week, the administration announced that it was filing a WTO case over China’s subsidies for corn, wheat and soybeans. Then yesterday, the administration announced that China is ending its 13-year ban on U.S. beef. 

These announcements, plus a U.S. victory at the WTO yesterday over EU subsidies for Airbus, could help blunt campaign criticism of the administration’s trade policy.

OTA chief mulls update to USDA organic seal. Agri-Pulse’s Bill Tomson reports from Baltimore that the Organic Trade Association’s top executive thinks it’s time to consider reworking the USDA Organic seal to better promote organic products. 

OTA CEO Laura Batcha said at the group’s All Things Organic Conference that her group is studying the merits of a customizable label. Outer circles of the seal could incorporate different attributes of what it means to be certified organic. 

One possibility, she says, is a colorful ring with the words “No GMOs” or perhaps “No Antibiotics.” Batcha’s idea received a loud burst of applause from the packed conference room. The non-GMO language would take advantage of a provision in the new GMO disclosure law that allows organic foods to be labeled as non-GMO.

Thompson: Give farmers their due in Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania Congressman Glenn Thompson doesn’t think the EPA is giving farmers enough credit for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. At a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing yesterday, Thompson read a portion of a press release from EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. The opening paragraph of the release partially attributed a drop in sediment and nutrient pollution to “dry weather and below-normal river flow.”

Only at the end of the paragraph did the EPA note that reducing runoff from farmland had lowered nutrients and sediment in local waterways, Thompson complained.

He said it. “EPA is so blatantly tied to their agenda against agriculture that the agency will give more credence to climate change than they do to successful efforts by agricultural producers.” - Thompson, complaining about the EPA press release

Spencer Chase contributed to this report.



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