WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2017 - New EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has only been on the job a few days, but he’s already making big plans for changes at the agency he sued 14 times as former attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt, speaking Saturday at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), said he will be making announcements as early as this week on his plans to rein in the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
“I think there are some regulations that in the near term need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way,” he told a friendly CPAC audience. “And I think maybe next week you may be hearing about some of those as it relates to key issues and we know what those are. We know that the previous administration took (WOTUS) and transformed the Clean Water Act and made puddles and dry creek beds across this country subject to the jurisdiction of Washington D.C. That’s going to change.”
Pruitt went on to reiterate promises that he will be giving individual states far more authority when it comes to policing air and water quality standards. He also pledged to dial back the EPA’s interpretation of federal laws and make sure the agency doesn’t produce regulations that go beyond what lawmakers dictate.
Meanwhile, ethanol sector looks to Pruitt to protect RFS. Five biofuel and farming groups are urging President Trump’s new EPA administrator to protect “point of obligation” regulations that require gasoline blenders use ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply. The Advanced Biofuels Business Council, American Coalition for Ethanol, Growth Energy and the National Farmers Union sent a letter Friday to Pruitt, asking for his help in preserving the status quo.
“While this issue is being addressed in the courts, the renewable fuels industry has continued to work to expand E15 consumption,” the groups said in the letter. “The point of obligation is one of the most important remaining tools to help drive higher blends remaining in the RFS. It creates economic incentives for gasoline retailers to offer higher blends such as E15 by providing an economic incentive for increased biofuels blending. Shifting the point of obligation as urged by its proponents would eliminate this incentive.”
Protecting the RFS is particularly important now because corn production continues to rise and farmers need more than ever the demand that comes from the ethanol industry.
“As growth in the ethanol sector has slowed, corn surpluses are putting pressure on prices and rural economies,” the groups said.
USDA extends comment period for organic check-off program. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has been working for four years with USDA to develop a national research and promotion checkoff program, so it was a disappointment for many in the industry when a 30-day delay was announced last week.
The OTA said it understands the delay for proposed rules that were set in motion by the Obama administration, but the group is also stressing that it hopes there will be no subsequent actions to block the check-off program.
The end of the Federal Register comment period on the proposed check-off program has been pushed back by 30 days to Apr. 19.
“Increasingly, consumers are opting to spend a portion of their families’ food budgets on organic products,” OTA said in a statement Friday. “Currently, domestic organic production is not keeping pace with consumer demand.” 
Broiler production growth expected to slow down over the next 10 years. U.S. broiler production will continue to increase over the next decade, but not at the unusually high rate that it has grown in recent years, said David Stallings, an analyst for USDA’s Economic Research Service. Broiler production grew by 4.3 percent in 2015 alone, according to USDA data, but a new forecast shows that production increases will only be about 1 percent a year over the next 10 years.
That’s largely because people are eating less chicken in the U.S., according to a new audio posting by USDA. The average American is now earing about 90.5 pounds of chicken a year, but that’s expected to be about 89.5 pounds in 2026.
But U.S. production will grow, thanks to expanding exports for rising international demand. The U.S. is now exporting about 6.9 billion pounds of broilers yearly and that’s expected to rise to 8 billion pounds in 10 years.
Peterson: Frustration over dairy insurance program could have been prevented. One of the highest priorities this year for the dairy industry is getting Congress to improve the Margin Protection Plan (MPP), but Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson tells Agri-Pulse the program would have worked just fine if it hadn’t been altered years ago.
“It was CBO that screwed the deal up,” Peterson says in this week’s Agri-PulseOpen Mic Interview. “If they would have left the program the way I did it to start with, we wouldn’t be having a discussion right now about MPP. They made us cut back on the feed cost calculations … and that is what caused the problem.”
Peterson’s assertions are backed up by the National Milk Producers Federation. The MPP would have been much more helpful to dairy farmers had the payout calculation – specifically the feed index – not been cut in an effort to reduce the cost of the 2014 farm bill, NMPF says.
“That feed index was something that we spent a lot of time developing,” NMPF Senior Vice President Jaime Castaneda said in a recent interview.
He said it: “I think it’s justified.” That was EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Saturday at CPAC, when asked what he thought about a consensus in the audience that the EPA should be dismantled.
He went on to explain, “I think people across this country look at the EPA much like they look at the IRS and I hope to be able to change that.”