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Farm Bill details, Commodity classic schedule, EPA proposed biofuel requirements and more

• Jun 28, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Here is a roundup of recent farm-related news releases:


EPA increases proposed RFS volumes

The American Soybean Association (ASA) is pleased with the proposed biodiesel and advanced biofuels volumes released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which opens the door for the growth of future biodiesel volumes.

In the rule, EPA calls for biomass-based diesel (BBD) volumes within the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) of 2.4 billion gallons for 2020, a 300 million gallon increase over the 2019 levels.

ASA President John Heisdorffer, a soybean producer from Keota, Iowa, applauded EPA, saying, “This increase supports a valuable, growing market for soybean oil. We have an increased capacity on the domestic market to meet the demand for renewable fuels blended into the nation’s fuel supply.”

Yet, Heisdorffer pointed out that proposed future increases in BBD volumes could be negated by the unwarranted waivers of RFS volumes that EPA has recently granted some oil refiners.

“The waived volumes need to be reallocated to ensure the RFS remains whole and that proposed future increases are meaningful,” Heisdorffer explained. “The biodiesel industry has the potential to support agriculture by creating jobs, diversifying fuel sources, and reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. We encourage the EPA to continue supporting growth by limiting waivers that water down the benefits of these increased levels.”

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Commodity classic releases 2019 schedule

Commodity Classic has released its tentative schedule for the 2019 show slated for Thursday, Feb. 28 through Saturday, March 2 in Orlando, Fla. Commodity Classic is America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused educational and agricultural experience.

The 2019 schedule includes extended trade show hours, allowing attendees to spend even more time with the wide array of exhibitors on the huge trade show floor. Exhibit space is selling out fast, ensuring that attendees will have the opportunity to visit hundreds of booths featuring the latest technology, innovation and equipment.

A full slate of educational sessions—selected by the farmer committee that leads Commodity Classic—will provide information on a wide range of critical topics important to America’s farmers. The Main Stage on the trade show floor returns in 2019 and will offer a full slate of outstanding presentations from agribusiness leaders, well-known ag personalities and other speakers.

The popular General Session, which typically features an inspirational speaker and commodity association leaders, is scheduled for Friday morning. In 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke to the thousands in attendance and he will be invited to do so again in 2019.

Other scheduled events include What’s New and Mini What’s New sessions which feature emerging services and technologies, and awards banquets and policy development sessions for the sponsoring commodity associations. Commodity Classic also offers plenty of opportunities to network with thousands of fellow farmers from across the nation and around the world.

The 2019 Commodity Classic will conclude on Saturday night with the Evening of Entertainment, which traditionally features a nationally-known performer.

A detailed outline of educational sessions, speakers and events for 2019 will be available this fall.

To view the 2019 schedule and stay updated on the latest information about the 2019 Commodity Classic, visit CommodityClassic.com and sign up for email updates.

Established in 1996, Commodity Classic is presented by the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

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NCGA Statement: EPA proposed biofuel requirements

The following is a statement from North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), on EPA’s Proposed Biofuel Requirements for 2019.

“For corn farmers, what’s not included in EPA’s proposed rule says more than what’s included.

“It is encouraging that EPA is following Congressional intent and proposing some growth in the RFS volumes and continuing to propose an implied 15-billion-gallon volume for conventional ethanol. However, by continuing to allow retroactive exemptions to refineries, EPA will undercut the volumes in this rule, rendering the proposed blending levels meaningless. Furthermore, the proposed rule states that EPA will not consider comments on how small refinery exemptions are accounted for.

“EPA also had an opportunity to propose a remedy for the 1.6 billion gallons the agency has retroactively waived from the 2016 and 2017 volume requirements over the past year. NCGA believes that if EPA is going to grant retroactive waivers to cut volume requirements for certain refineries, then EPA must also reallocate those gallons to others, so the obligation to blend renewable fuels is not lost.

“Every gallon of renewable fuel blending waived by EPA reduces the clean air benefits of the RFS and costs consumers choice and money at the pump, particularly today when ethanol is considerably less expensive than gasoline. EPA is also missing an opportunity to propose the removal of the outdated regulatory barrier limiting year-round sales of ethanol blends greater than 10 percent, such as E15.

“America’s farmers are experiencing their lowest net farm incomes since 2006, along with the increasing threat of a trade war. The EPA can provide more certainty to farmers by addressing the gallons already exempted, spelling out how future exemptions will be handled to ensure waived gallons are reallocated and moving forward with a stronger RFS that supports America’s farmers and their rural communities.”


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Sen. Brown introduced amendment included in Farm Bill to provide funding for HBCUs

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) today announced that his amendment to provide additional funding and research opportunities for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) like Central State University in Ohio was included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s recently passed bipartisan Farm Bill.

This provision would increase the research capacity and outreach of 1890s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by creating six Centers for Excellence and Leadership on campuses like Central State University in Ohio. The bill is expected to be considered by the Senate on the floor this week.

Brown’s amendment was based on the bipartisan REAL Opportunity Act, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC) and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO). Brown had his amendment included in the Farm Bill, which was passed out of the Agriculture Committee two weeks ago and is expected to be considered on the Senate floor this week. Brown, a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urged his colleagues in both the House and the Senate to pass this bipartisan bill.

“By creating these Centers of Excellence at 1890 Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Central State University in Ohio, we invest in groundbreaking research and the economic development that HBCUs spur throughout their local communities,” said Brown. “HBCUs have fostered generations of African American professionals who would have otherwise been denied opportunities due to segregation and continue to play a vital role in the education of our youth. I hope Congress will pass this meaningful, bipartisan legislation immediately.”

“1890 HBCUs contribute more than $4.4 billion to their local economies and provide pathways of opportunity for 1000’s of Americans. That is why this bipartisan Act is essential. We must work together to ensure these schools finally receive the resources they need to continue their groundbreaking research and extension programs both locally and nationally,” said Congresswoman Adams. “As a proud alumna of NC A&T State University, an 1890 Land-Grant University, I have witnessed firsthand the impact these institutions have and I am pleased that Senator Brown successfully spearheaded an effort to include these Centers of Excellence in the Senate farm bill. Now, I urge my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to ensure this language is incorporated in the final farm bill.”

“As a proud alumnus of Lincoln University, an 1890 Land-Grant University, I understand firsthand the important role these institutions play in their local communities,” said Congressman Luetkemeyer. “By supporting research on regional priorities, the REAL Opportunity Act strengthens both HBCUs’ capacity for leadership and the communities they serve. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this important legislation, and I thank my colleague Congresswoman Adams for her leadership.”

The designated lead universities at each center would be required to develop public-private partnerships, to ensure that their research activities provide increased access and economic returns to farmers and rural communities, and to contribute to poverty reduction, reduce health disparities and economic vulnerability of local communities. Additionally, this legislation would authorize $20 million in federal funding over five years to be divided evenly between the Centers.

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American Farmland Trust celebrates legislative victories for farmland protection

American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food, supports today’s passage of the House Farm Bill as an important milestone for farmland and ranchland protection and a vital step in the passage of a timely 2018 Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill provides essential funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), along with other important conservation programs and beginning farmer programs.

AFT’s recent report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland”, showed that the loss of farmland is serious and accelerating. Almost 31 million acres was lost to development between 1992 and 2012, nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously shown.

“That’s 3 acres a minute, 175 acres an hour, gone forever. We need farmland to feed us and sustain our economy—but also to help restore our planet,” says John Piotti, president and CEO of AFT.

“The Farm Bill gives us a chance to stem the loss,” he continued. “Restoring funding to ACEP at $500 million annually -- as it was in 2017 -- is an essential first step. The House version of the Farm Bill does that and AFT urges that this level of funding be established in the final bill.”

AFT considers ACEP to be one of the most powerful tools available to protect farmland. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has worked with state and local entities and agricultural land trusts — many of whom utilize ACEP funds — to protect over 6.5 million acres.

Importantly, the House bill also improves the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), boosting funding and adding provisions to help project partners measure beneficial outcomes. This will enable RCPP to model how other federal programs can more effectively achieve conservation goals.

The bill includes two new initiatives — a Commission on Farm Transition and a Farmland Tenure, Transition and Entry Data Initiative — that AFT believes will provide valuable insights to guide future policies to attract and support the next generation that works the land.

“In the next 10 to 15 years, one-third of agricultural land will change hands,” says John Piotti “We know that ACEP is a vital tool in addressing the enormous land transition challenge ahead. Selling an agricultural conservation easement allows farmers and ranchers to extract equity from their land without selling it for development. It can finance retirement and help transfer the family farm to the next generation. It also makes land affordable for the next generation. Tools like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) are also needed, and we applaud the House for making farm transfer and succession a specific, allowable focus of that program.”

AFT notes that Farm Bills have historically relied on bipartisan support, as well as cooperation between the agricultural, anti-hunger and conservation communities.

Said Piotti: “As this process moves forward, we urge Congress to maintain this traditional bipartisanship and collaboration. We look forward to working with both sides of the aisle in both the House and Senate as the bill moves through the legislative process.

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Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation grants support local initiatives

Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation recently awarded $21,500 in grants to eight organizations of which five were county Farm Bureaus.

The foundation’s Action & Awareness grants, which ranged from $1,500 to $3,000, focus on four core areas: economic development, education, environment and the human-animal bond. The grants support efforts to promote and improve Ohio’s agricultural industry as well as local communities.

Grant recipients and projects:

Ashland County Farm Bureau to support a grain bin safety training site that is planned to be built at the Wayne County Regional Training Facility in Apple Creek.

Harrison County Farm Bureau for its FFA Career Day and Family Chicken BBQ in conjunction with Harrison Central FFA. The event will educate young people about the wide range of career opportunities in the agricultural industry as well as the projected shortage of qualified ag employees.

Highland Youth Garden to provide funding for a gardener/educator to support the educational programs at the inner city Columbus garden.

Muskingum County Farm Bureau for its Farm City Day, which will educate youths and nonfarming families about today’s agricultural industry.

Pike County Farm Bureau to support its Grain Bin Safety and Educational Training Event for first responders and fire departments in the county. The county Farm Bureau also plans to purchase a grain bin safety tube for the community.

Sunbury Urban Farm in central Ohio for its Farm Day Camp where children spend the summer planting, caring for, harvesting and cooking the vegetables grown in a garden.

Together We Grow Inc. in Newark to support the purchase of mechanized farm equipment to help the organization more efficiently run its growing community garden programs.

Wayne County Farm Bureau to support a promotional video of the Wayne County Farm Tour that will be shown at the county fair and through social media.

Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, public, charitable organization registered in Ohio. Since 1985, the foundation has provided funding across the state for both small and large projects, including the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center on the Ohio State University campus. It also endowed Ohio State’s C. William Swank Chair for Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.

The next application cycle for an Action & Awareness Grant is July 1 to Oct. 2. Grants may be used for general support, startup funding for new organizations, program expansion or capital for equipment necessary to implement eligible programs. Learn more at ofbf.org/foundation/aagrants/.

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USDA enhances the quality of life in rural areas by building or improving essential community service facilities

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $237 million in 119 rural community service facilities (PDF, 291 KB) in 29 states.

“At USDA, we believe in rural America and in the promise of small towns and the people who call them home,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, we are committed to being a strong partner to local leaders in building healthy, prosperous futures for their communities.”

Hazlett announced the funding following a meeting here of the Western Governors Association. USDA is supporting these quality-of-life projects through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. For example:

The city of Box Elder, S.D., is receiving a $3.2 million loan to construct three streets and make utility improvements to promote economic development. The project will complement the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s (SDDOT) decision to eliminate a dangerous intersection. SDDOT is contributing $2.35 million to this project. Two local developers have committed $500,000 each, demonstrating a public-private partnership and exceptional community support.

The Bear Lake Community Health Center, Inc., in Brigham City, Utah, is receiving a $405,000 loan to purchase a medical facility building. Bear Lake serves a large rural population in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. It plans to double its Brigham City staff from five to 10 this year. Two exam rooms will be used for screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment for opioid misuse in addition to regular medical visits.

The Village of Sand Lake, Mich., is receiving a $735,000 loan to improve Lake Street in the downtown business district. The village will reconstruct the street and sidewalks, make storm and sewer improvements to eliminate frequent flooding, and install decorative lighting.

The projects that are being announced today will help improve the quality of life in rural communities in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for USDA Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally and state-recognized Native American tribes. Applicants and projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. There is no limit on the size of the loans. Loan amounts have ranged from $10,000 to $165 million.

The 2018 Omnibus bill increased the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget for the Community Facilities Direct Loan program to $2.8 billion, up $200 million from FY 2017.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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OPSB sets hearings for proposed solar farm in Vinton County

The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) will hold a hearing to allow members of the public to express their views regarding Vinton Solar Energy, LLC’s proposal to construct a solar powered electric generation facility in Vinton County. The local public hearing is scheduled as follows:

July 24, 2018, at 6 p.m.

Vinton County Community Building

31935 State Route 93

McArthur, Ohio 45651

The Vinton Solar Energy Facility would consist of multiple arrays of photovoltaic solar panels with a combined generating capacity of up to 125 megawatts. The proposed facility would be located on approximately 1,950 acres of leased land in Elk Township. Vinton Solar Energy plans to interconnect the facility to the electric transmission grid via American Electric Power’s nearby 138 kilovolt Elk Substation.

The adjudicatory hearing in this proceeding will begin at 10 a.m. on August 1, 2018, at the offices of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Hearing Room 11-D, 180 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215.

The OPSB postponed both hearings last fall in response to a request from Vinton Solar Energy to suspend the schedule in this case until the company obtained the required system impact study from PJM Interconnection. The PJM study was completed earlier this month.

Additional information regarding the proposed facility is available on the OPSB website at www.OPSB.ohio.gov in case number 17-0774-EL-BGN.

The Ohio Power Siting Board reviews applications for the construction of major utility facilities in Ohio. Together with Ohio’s elected officials, citizen stakeholders, and the energy industry, the Board strives to build a strong and competitive foundation for Ohio’s future.


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