NAWG Weekly Update: April 24, 2014
NAWG Staff Attends BNSF Railways Agriculture Products Summit
NAWG staff attended BNSF Railways Agriculture Products Summit in Dallas, Texas this week. The summit included an informational session during which BNSF officials discussed issues effecting the rail industry, an outlook for the upcoming year and a look into the current political climate in Washington. Participants could also take part in one-on-one informational meetings with BNSF employees who specialize in a given commodity. NAWG appreciates the opportunity to continue the discussion on rail issues and how they impact wheat farmers. For more on NAWGs rail policy, visit http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/transportation/.
EPA Accepting Comments on Waters of the US Regulation
On Monday, April 21, the proposed regulation on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the United States was printed in the Federal Register officially starting the 91-day public comment period. The regulation seeks to clarify which waters are jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act (CWA), but concerns remain about EPA’s use of the “significant nexus” definition to determine what other waters are connected to traditional navigable waters under the CWA. The EPA is taking this action as the result of several court cases that have altered the Agency’s implementation of the current regulation including the 2001 Supreme Court decision in the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers and the 2006 decision in Rapanos v. the United States. For several years, there have been legislative efforts in Congress to alter the definition of waters of the U.S., but the legislation has failed. NAWG opposes any efforts to remove the definition of “navigable” waters in the CWA.
Agriculture organizations, including NAWG, are reviewing the regulation to understand the implications for producer members. Adding to the uncertainty of the impact of the proposed regulation, the EPA has not finalized its Connectivity Report that outlines the science behind the connectivity of streams and wetlands relative to large water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans. The Connectivity Report is still undergoing review by the Scientific Advisory Board. NAWG will be developing comments on the waters of the U.S. regulation. Comments will be accepted until July 21 but may be extended due to several requests into the agency for a 6-month comment period. The EPA is undertaking outreach across the country to educate the public and take questions regarding the proposed regulation. Contact your regional EPA office for more information.
USDA Announces $150 Million Investment in Rural American Business
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday the creation of a new investment fund designed to propel the growth of small agriculture-related businesses in rural America. The Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) is part of the Obama administration’s “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative. It will allow USDA to facilitate private equity investments in agriculture-related businesses. Currently, department programs exist to provide loans or loan guarantees for rural businesses.
USDA will also be accepting applications for other Rural Business Investment Companies. Interested applicants have until July 29 to submit their applications for review in fiscal year 2014. USDA will accept RBIC applications through 2016, application material and other information can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_RBIP.html
NAWG Seeks Summer Intern
NAWG is seeking college students interested in gaining real-world experience in policy development through an internship in the NAWG office in Washington, D.C. Applicants can expect a NAWG internship to provide a well balanced, unique-to-D.C. experience in the day-to-day operations of an agricultural advocacy organization. Selected individuals will assist the government affairs department and other office departments as needed. For more information about the NAWG internship program visit http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/other-NAWG-intern-program-description-20130415.pdf.