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Buckeye Farm News
USDA to partner with FDA on food safety
USDA’s fresh produce chief will join the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop new food safety rules as part of a cooperative initiative between FDA and USDA. Leanne Skelton, chief of the fresh products branch of USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), will be with the FDA for six months as she helps the agency develop new safety regulations for produce. Through the initiative, FDA is gathering information and seeking feedback from the fresh produce industry, including small and organic farmers, on the impact such rules may have on their businesses and lives. In addition, USDA and FDA officials have been traveling together to meet with farmers and local food safety officials.
EPA launches new evaluations of atrazine
Some environmentalists believe the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to review the herbicide atrazine is the first step toward phasing out the product, while manufacturer Syngenta maintains EPA will continue to permit its use. EPA recently announced that it will evaluate the potential cancer and non-cancer effects on humans of atrazine over the next year. Atrazine is the most important herbicide in soil-saving growing practices such as no-till and conservation tillage. Farmers use atrazine to control weeds on about two-thirds of the country’s corn and sorghum acreage.
Estate tax legislation introduced in the House
H.R. 3905, the Estate Relief Act of 2009, has been introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would phase in a $5 million exemption, with a 35 percent rate over 10 years. “We are pleased there is bipartisan support to do better than current law in the House and commend the sponsors of the bill for working to increase the exemption,” said Bob Stallman, president of American Farm Bureau. “Extending the current estate tax exemption of $3.5 million per person and the tax rate at 45 percent, is a non-starter for Farm Bureau, which supports an increase in the exemption to $10 million a person.” Stallman said 80 percent of farm and ranch assets are land based. “When estate taxes exceed cash and other liquid assets on hand, surviving family members can be forced to sell land, buildings or equipment needed to keep their businesses operating,” he said. “Sadly, it takes 2 1/2 years of farm returns for a moderate-sized farm operation to pay off the estate tax owed.
Sign-up for 2010 DCP/ACRE programs begin
USDA said the sign-up period for the 2010 DCP/ACRE programs has begun. Sign-up will continue through June 1, 2010. Last year approximately 255 million base acres on about 1.7 million farms were enrolled in the Direct and Countercyclical Program (DCP) and the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program. Farmers may request advanced direct payments for 2010 up to 22 percent of their total direct payments. These advanced payments will be issued beginning Dec. 1. Farmers should visit their local FSA office to sign-up, or they can utilize USDA’s Web site, www.fsa.usda.gov/dcp.
National Institute for Food and Agriculture launched at USDA
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) during a recent speech on the role of science and research at USDA at the National Press Club. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman commended Vilsack and Undersecretary Raj Shah for creating NIFA. “This new agency represents an opportunity to advance and expand food and agricultural science and education with the U.S., thereby improving agricultural productivity, rural development and human health,” Stallman said. According to Vilsack, USDA’s science and research efforts are strengthened by the formation of the new institute. NIFA was created by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill and is aimed at enhancing USDA’s research efforts by working with top scientists from around the world. “USDA science needs to change to respond to pressures, to ensure the sustainability of the American food, fuel and fiber system and to address some of America’s, and the world’s, most intractable problems,” Vilsack said.
AFBF raises concerns with House health care bill
The American Farm Bureau Federation is opposed to the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) because it requires compulsory national health insurance and a government-run health insurance program. Farm Bureau backs market-based health insurance reform, and the $894 billion House bill fails to meet that goal. Farm Bureau is also concerned that the bill will add to the federal deficit. The bill is paid for primarily by imposing a surcharge on taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $1 million (married filing a joint return) and $500,000 (single) at a rate of 5.4 percent.