RDL & Associates and Aronnax Public Strategies Agriculture Practice

If your company or organization is giving consideration to enhancing your current efforts or developing a management plan for your policy and political capital, RDL & Associates would welcome the opportunity to assist you in developing a game plan for success. 

A strategic and tactical communications and government relations plan allows for an organization to effectively hit the ground running at the federal, state and local levels of government and across business sectors.

The partnership between RDL & Associates and Aronnax Public Strategies (APS) works with state affiliates in 22 states, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.

With reauthorization of the Farm Bill approaching in 2018, discussions are currently underway in Washington and within State Capitols about what that bill should look like.  Coalitions are being formed, policies are being considered and strategic planning by stakeholders is well underway. 

There will again be a broad range of issues under consideration, including (but not limited to); commodity support programs, payment limits, biotechnology, conservation compliance, utilization of risk-management tools, federal dairy policy, agro terrorism, food safety, and nutrition programs. 

In addition, policymakers will debate issues regarding business development and retention, transportation infrastructure, technology (including telecommunications), availability of credit, education, housing and health care as they develop agriculture policy and craft the next farm bill.

None of the above issues, however, will be considered in a vacuum because the agriculture policy playing field is extremely complex.  Which is why it is important to have representation at both the State and Federal level of government. 

With over a quarter century of combined experience working within agriculture at both the State and Federal levels, RDL & Associates and APS provide a unique Federal and State government affairs service that is unparalleled.  This innovative services provides agricultural clients with the full range of Federal and State lobbying under a single, cost-effective contract.

Developing such an effort does not have to be cost-prohibitive.  The fee structure for our services can be negotiated so that it best reflects the work expected of RDL & Associates so that it coincides with your organization’s internal budget.

If RDL & Associates might be helpful in developing a government relations effort for your organization, we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you and your colleagues.

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates can be contacted at (651) 247-5458 or via e-mail at daveladd66@gmail.com

We thank you in advance for your consideration.

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Commentary: Time To Move Beyond GMO Controversy And Take Advantage Of Scientific Progress (Peter H. Raven, Ph.D.via F orbes)

For someone who has devoted about 50 years to the preservation of plant diversity, I have been increasingly disturbed by the persistent controversy over GM crops. During my 11 years as chairman of the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council, I’ve had ample opportunities to understand the nature of scientific consensus. I can easily understand why the March 2015 issue of National Geographic listed the belief that genetically modified food is evil as one of the myths emphasized in what it called, “The War on Science,” along with the idea that there was no moon landing, evolution did not occur, vaccinations are bad, and climate change does not exist. Here are some points that I find useful to take into account when thinking about this area.

Gene transfer occurs in nature

Moving genes from one kind of organism to another (horizontal gene transfer) occurs frequently in nature. For example, humans have about 150 identified genes of viral origin in their genomes, and Amborella, a peculiar flowering plant from New Caledonia that has more ancient features than any other, has about 40 such extraneous genes documented to have come from three different kingdoms. So it’s not in any way “unnatural” for horizontal gene transfer to occur.

DNA is a template that provides instructions for the production of proteins. Individual genes are not identified in any way as “pig genes,” “duck genes,” or whatever. Changing the genes on the DNA or inserting new ones, at least for eukaryotes, is not very different from taking a piano score by Mozart and adding new chords. Scientists were concerned about moving genes in the early 1980s, when this first became possible, but eventually worked it out and found no suspecting problems. That all happened nearly 40 years ago.

Using transgenic methods to improve characteristics of a certain organism is one of a host of breeding methods used commonly. These methods have grown in variety and complexity for more than a century.

There are a variety of plant breeding methods

what is a gmo

GMO is a process, not an ingredient

When people say “non-GMO,” they imply that there is a particular substance or “thing” in the food. In fact, what the words really mean is that transgenic methods were not used to produce a particular crop or other product.

The problem is there’s literally nothing there, and especially nothing in common among all GM crops. There’s not only nothing, but also no one has suggested a scientific theory that could make all transgenic organisms dangerous in some hidden or unsuspected way.

So having “non-GMO” products as the fastest growing part of the organic industry amounts to false advertising, when scientists agree that there isn’t even a plausible theory as to why or how they could be dangerous. The only purpose, as far as I can see, is simply to make money. When GM plants were excluded from organic certification, the door was opened to this kind of exploitation. No other method of breeding or selection is categorically excluded, and none should be. The inevitable result is simply to raise costs to the consumer while gaining no advantage of any kind, from a scientific point-of-view. I consider labeling counter-productive, expensive, and useless, in addition to being misleading.

We have many myths about GMOs where the scientific consensus is clear, but people, for whatever reason, choose not to accept it. The long-lasting agitation about GM crops is based on a persistent myth. We say things like, “but can’t we get along without them?” as if they pose some danger. But no one has demonstrated that GM crops pose any unique problem and there seems to be no way for them to be responsible for anything as a class. If there is indeed no danger, then why don’t we just do the sensible thing and use them when the products produced through these (or any other) methods, which are judged better than others by the people who grow or use them?

We need tools to meet the demand of a growing population

We have reached a rapidly-growing world population level of 7.4 billion people, projected to climb to 9.8 billion in 34 years, by mid-century. About 800 million of us are malnourished, and about 100 million are on the verge of starvation at any one time. We are adding a net of 250,000 babies a day. We have to make agriculture in all aspects more efficient and productive. Perennial crops might be part of the answer and polyculture might be another part. This could not possibly be a “one-size-fits-all” situation, considering all the very different situations under which crops have to be grown. But most importantly, we have to be as innovative as we possibly can to find the best solutions for different parts of the world.

We are using an estimated 156 percent of sustainable global productivity overall and any changes in agriculture will have to be conducted within these limits and also will have to make the situation better through improved, sustainable productivity, better storage of food, less waste, and improved transportation/distribution, among other improvements in the system as a whole.

Science operates by consensus, by proposing hypotheses and then attempting to falsify them. If they cannot be falsified, then they are accepted as scientific consensus – considered to be a theory. Science doesn’t tell us what to do. It merely organizes, in the most robust way possible, the facts concerning any particular area. For the major role of human beings in causing rapid climate change (“global warming”), there is an overwhelming scientific consensus. Every single scientific study conducted by any of the world’s science academies have come to this conclusion, as has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and very few scientific experts in any part of this field deny this consensus.

The scientific consensus for the safety of GM (transgenic) organisms is equally robust, with every academy of sciences in the world, from the Pontifical Academy to Royal Society to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, having conducted careful studies of the matter, with no disagreement about the conclusions. Only very few scientists are testing some of the margins of these conclusions, but it is as strong an overall conclusion as it could be.

Those who take a non-scientific point of view in this area have largely been misled by the organic food industry, which makes huge profits if people believe there is a “thing” in food from plants or animals resulting from this particular breeding method that might hurt them in some way.

One can certainly see why a number of Nobel Prize winners got together to denounce the anti-science, destructive opposition to GM crops. Campaigns by the “antis” weaken science, contribute to widespread hunger and sickness, and give them objectives for their campaigns. There are much better and more appropriate objectives that keep us within the realm of science. It is critically important for the world that we move beyond this manufactured controversy and take advantage of our scientific progress. The facts of the situation are clear, and the recent National Research Council study is about as comprehensive as any such study could be. We need to work together to help make the benefits of our scientific advances as widely available as possible.

Peter H. Raven, Ph.D. is one of the world’s leading botanists and advocates of conservation and biodiversity.

 

Average share of income spent on total food in the United States has remained relatively constant since 2000 (via USDA)

In 2014, Americans spent an average of 9.7 percent of their disposable personal incomes (DPI) on food. After falling from 17.0 percent in 1960 to 10.0 percent in 1999, the share of DPI spent on total food by the average American has remained between 9.5 and 9.8 percent since 2000. The share of DPI spent on food away from home  (food purchased from restaurants, fast food places, schools, and other food-away-from-home eating places) was 3.9 percent in 2000, 4.1 percent in 2005 and, after flattening out during the 2007-09 recession through 2012, reached 4.3 percent in 2014. In contrast, the share of DPI spent on food at home (food purchased from supermarkets, convenience stores, warehouse club stores, supercenters, and other retailers) declined from 5.8 percent in 2000 to 5.5 percent in 2014. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials. More information on U.S. food sales and expenditures can be found in ERS’s Food Expenditures data product.

Average share of income spent on total food in the United States has remained relatively constant since 2000

Link: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/detail.aspx?chartId=60258&ref=collection

 

 

EPA’s Corn Ethanol Science Questioned (via The Progressive Farmer)

EPA believes it is keeping up with science when it comes to updating corn ethanol’s greenhouse gas lifecycle profile in the Renewable Fuel Standard despite the ethanol industry’s continued push for a revision, according to a new report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

In addition, EPA has not updated Congress on the environmental effects of the RFS, which the agency is required to do every three years, according to the OIG report released Thursday.

For years, the ethanol industry has pressed EPA to update corn ethanol’s lifecycle profile. The industry contends EPA continues to penalize the biofuel even though advancements in agriculture and ethanol technology have improved its greenhouse gas profile.

Corn ethanol’s GHG lifecycle is important because if the fuel is found to be more carbon-friendly than EPA originally believed, then ethanol has the potential to qualify as an advanced biofuel in the RFS. This would mean more corn ethanol could qualify for the RFS above the 15-billion-gallon cap.

EPA’s modeling shows corn-based ethanol achieves a 21% GHG reduction compared to gasoline, taking into account indirect land-use change. Without ILUC, corn-based ethanol achieves a 52% GHG reduction, according to EPA. Indirect land-use change is a theory that says expanded corn-ethanol production in the United States is causing farmers in other countries to make land use decisions as a result.

Currently, corn ethanol faces E10 market constraints and a blend wall where total ethanol production exceeds the market.

The OIG’s report came about as a result of a Congressional inquiry into the RFS. In addition, the OIG found the EPA has not conducted a so-called “anti-backsliding” analysis of the RFS to determine if the regulation was making other environmental problems worse.

In 2010, EPA completed a lifecycle analysis to determine greenhouse gas reduction thresholds for the RFS. Though the agency was not required to do so, EPA committed to update the analysis as “lifecycle science evolves.” The OIG said the agency does not have a process for initiating such an update.

Further, EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation said it has no plans to update the 2010 lifecycle analysis.

“However, OAR has no plans to update the original 2010 analysis on primary RFS fuel sources (such as corn ethanol), which make up most of the current RFS volume mandates,” the Inspector General said in the report. “According to the EPA, the newer, post-2010 lifecycle analyses do incorporate the latest science and data as much as possible. However, these analyses are for fuel sources (e.g., cottonseed oil) that play a minor role in meeting the current RFS volume mandate.

“The EPA may have no immediate regulatory need to revisit the 2010 lifecycle analysis if its original determinations are still valid. The primary purpose of OAR’s lifecycle analysis is to determine whether fuel sources meet GHG reduction thresholds. According to OAR, the state of science has not changed enough with respect to lifecycle GHG emissions to warrant revisiting its prior GHG determinations for the 2010 fuel sources,” the OIG report said.

The OIG said because grandfathered ethanol plants are not required to meet GHG thresholds, there was no need for EPA to update the analysis.

“In 2010, grandfathered production that is not subject to any GHG reduction requirements was estimated to be at least 15 billion gallons, or over 80% of today’s RFS blending volume. According to EISA, even if the EPA updated the 2010 lifecycle analysis, these grandfathered facilities would not have to adhere to the results of the new analysis.”

However, the OIG said EPA should come up with a process to determine whether lifecycle science has advanced enough to warrant revising GHG thresholds.

“While the immediate regulatory utility of updating the 2010 analysis may be minimal, ensuring the GHG lifecycle analysis is current could provide other benefits, such as informing the EPA’s decisions on setting RFS volumes after 2022, as well as giving policy makers from other agencies and Congress an accurate picture of the GHG emissions from biofuels,” the OIG said.

In response to the OIG report, the EPA Office of Air and Radiation disagreed it needs to update ethanol’s GHG emissions profile.

“OAR does not believe that formal criteria are needed to determine whether the lifecycle GHG threshold determinations should be revisited,” the office said in a response. “OAR continually monitors the science associated with lifecycle GHG emissions of biofuels, and we would be able to identify whether a significant change in the science would warrant revisiting the GHG threshold determinations.”

Bob Dinneen, president and chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Association, said in a statement to DTN Thursday that the OIG report basically says what the industry has been saying for years.

“Indeed, the RFA has repeatedly asked EPA to update its carbon scoring of ethanol blended fuels,” he said. “We are confident that once EPA conducts these required studies, they will show that biofuels like ethanol are significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even above the threshold reductions.”

According to U.S. Department of Energy’s GREET model, corn ethanol from an average dry mill plant reduces GHG emissions by about 34% compared to gasoline, even with indirect land-use change. Indirect land-use change largely has been disproven in recent years, meaning corn ethanol’s GHG reduction profile may be even larger.

BUDGET ISSUES

According to the OIG, the EPA decided not to prioritize complying with the reporting requirements because of budget concerns.

“As a result, the EPA, Congress and other stakeholders lack key information on impacts needed for making science-based decisions about RFS,” the Inspector General said.

The OIG found EPA spent about $1.7 million and the equivalent of four full-time employees in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to develop the first report. The agency did not request funding for reporting in 2012. EPA had requests for funding denied from 2013 to 2015.

“Regardless, the statutory requirement to complete the report does not hinge on yearly, earmarked funding,” the OIG report stated. “Regarding the reporting cycle length, if the EPA finds there have been no relevant scientific advances, it could simply report out on that fact. Lack of scientific advances does not eliminate the EPA’s reporting requirement.”

Read the full OIG report here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-08/documents/_epaoig_20160818-16-p-0275.pdf

Federal dairy issues forum held (via Morning AgClips)

MADISON, Wis. — More than 40 co-op representatives, government officials, and media attended Cooperative Network’s Federal Dairy Issues Forum, Aug. 4, at the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center in Onalaska, Wisconsin. The forum addressed key topics including international trade, immigration reform, the margin protection program, and California’s proposed federal milk marketing order.

“While much of Cooperative Network’s time is spent advocating on state issues, events like these help our members become better informed on a growing number of federal issues that affect the dairy industry,” said David Ward, Cooperative Network director of government relations and dairy. “The forum also gives us the opportunity to interact with Congressional offices to better explain our members’ positions and concerns.” Representatives from the offices of Rep. Ron Kind (D–WI) and Rep. Sean Duffy (R–WI) attended the event.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Jaime Castaneda, National Milk Producers Federation senior vice president of strategic initiatives and trade policy, discussed the importance of the United States moving forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership in order for dairy farmers to get fair access to markets. Castaneda also outlined the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, which would provide Americans increased access to European markets. He said one item of concern to the dairy industry was the European Union’s addition of geographic indicators into the trade agreement. The move would require products marketed under a particular name, for example, Parmesan or Swiss, to be made only in specific European regions, making it more restrictive for U.S. processors to enter the market.

Cooperative Network actively supports the expansion of foreign markets for Midwest agricultural products and urges cooperatives to actively pursue international trade.

IMMIGRATION REFORM

Kelly Fortier, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP partner, and Alex Nowrasteh, Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity immigration policy analyst, detailed recent federal actions and the current presidential candidates’ positions on immigration reform. Fortier said there have been a record number of deportations under the Obama and George W. Bush Administrations and that employer fines for violating immigration rules now range up to more than $21,000.

Fortier contrasted the current presidential candidates’ positions on immigration. She pointed out that Hillary Clinton supports comprehensive reform and the establishment of an Office of Immigration Affairs, while Donald Trump has proposed more restrictive immigration measures that would ultimately hurt the dairy industry.

Nowrasteh explained legislation he has been working on that would allow for a state-based visa (SBV) program. Under an SBV program, the federal government would allow states to create their own selection criteria, including the types of migrant workers whose visas they would authorize and their lengths of stay.

MARGIN PROTECTION PROGRAM FOR DAIRY

The Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP–Dairy) , a new dairy insurance included in the 2014 Farm Bill, has come under recent criticism for not doing enough to help producers in this year’s depressed dairy economy. Robert Cropp, University of Wisconsin–Madison professor emeritus, compared the number of producers who would have received payments under the original feed cost formula to the number of those getting payments now through the MPP. During March and April this year, he said 55 Minnesota producers and 85 Wisconsin producers received MPP payments. Using the original feed cost formula, 634 and 771, respectively, would have received payments.

Cooperative Network’s David Ward presented several possible modifications that could improve the MPP, including changing the feed cost formula; adjusting premiums to encourage producers to purchase additional margin protection; and extending the sign-up period to give producers more time and information on prices and feed costs. Ward also mentioned issuing monthly instead of every-other-month payments to get dollars to producers more quickly.

2018 FARM BILL & CALIFORNIA FEDERAL MILK MARKETING ORDER

A panel including Dave Ladd, RDL & Associates president; Richard Gorder, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation vice president; and Kara O’Connor, Wisconsin Farmers Union government relations director, detailed their expectations for the 2018 Farm Bill. The panelists said more efforts would be made to separate food nutrition programs from the bill. They also emphasized that, while the farm bill was important to the dairy industry, Social Security, Medicaid, defense spending, and the national debt were of greater concern to lawmakers and would likely consume most of the federal budget. Consequently, they said dairy leaders needed to do a better job communicating their priorities to Congress.

Mark Stephenson, University of Wisconsin–Madison director of dairy policy analysis, ended the forum with an update on California’s proposed federal milk marketing order (FMMO). He outlined California’s struggle this year in three areas that have affected profitability: severe drought, lower production per cow, and land use issues. He expressed doubt that a FMMO recommendation for California would be made until a new administration is in place.

Link: https://www.morningagclips.com/federal-dairy-issues-forum-held/

 

Use of crop insurance on U.S. farms continues to grow (via USDA Economic Research Service)

Use of crop insurance on U.S. farms continues to grow
The share of U.S. cropland insured has increased from less than 30 percent in the early 1990s to nearly 90 percent—299 million acres—in 2015. Passage of the Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act in 1994 led to a spike in the use of crop insurance, reflecting the introduction of low-coverage, fully subsidized Catastrophic Risk Protection Endorsement (CAT) insurance and a temporary requirement that producers obtain insurance coverage to be eligible for other commodity support programs. CAT insurance pays only 55 percent of the price of the commodity on crop losses in excess of 50 percent, and farmers have increasingly opted to purchase insurance with higher coverage levels—known as “buy-up” insurance—for greater protection against risk. Premiums for buy-up policies are also subsidized, and these subsidies were increased in the 1994 Act as well as under the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. While buy-up policies are not fully subsidized like CAT insurance—in 2015 producers paid, on average, 38 percent of the total cost of buy-up policies—they in some cases can protect more than 75 percent of the value of a crop. By 2015, buy-up policies covered 95 percent of insured cropland. This chart is from the ERS report, How Do Time and Money Affect Agricultural Insurance Uptake? A New Approach to Farm Risk Management Analysis, released on August 1, 2016.

Video: MN Congressional Candidates Debate At Farm Fest- Full Forum (via The Uptake)

The first inter-party congressional debates of the political season happened Tuesday morning at Farmfest near Redwood Falls, Minnesota. The forum, which focused on rural issues ran for about 90 minutes and included the following participants:

Rep. Tim Walz (D), (First)
Jim Hagedorn (R) (First)
Steve Williams (R) (First)

Rep. Tom Emmer (R) (Sixth )
David Snyder (D) (Sixth)
Bob Helland (D) (Sixth)

Rep. Collin Peterson (D) (Seventh)
David Hughes (R) (Seventh)
Amanda Lynn Hinson (R) (Seventh)

This year’s debates are notable for who is not participating. None of the candidates from the three most closely contested districts debated.

Absent from Farmfest stage this year were the four Republican candidates vying for MN02, the only congressional seat without an incumbent (Rep. John Kline (R) is retiring) and Democrat Angie Craig. Also not attending were both candidates for Iron Range district MN08 —Rep. Rick Nolan (D) and his Republican opponent Stewart Mills. Neither candidate from suburban MN03 — Rep. Erik Paulsen and his Democratic opponent Terri Bonoff — attended the forum.

Farmfest organizers extended invitations to all of those candidates but say a majority of them in each race decided not to attended.

Minnesota’s third and fourth congressional districts are mostly urban and the candidates are typically not invited to the Farmfest forum.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diEmEsoK588

Client Spotlight: Al-Corn Clean Fuel Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Al-Corn Clean Fuel, a farmer-owned ethanol production cooperative located in Claremont, MN, recently celebrated 20 years of successful operations. The event was held at the Four Seasons Building on the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, MN.

“A key element for success has always been a willingness to engage in strategic partnerships, to work with others in the renewable fuels sector” said Rod Jorgenson, Chairman of the Board for Al-Corn Clean Fuel.  “This approach is one of the pillars upon which Al-Corn’s success has been built and the cooperative will continue to collaborate with others in the industry in order to seize market opportunities as they arise.”

The direct benefits to the members of Al-Corn have also benefitted local communities. By processing over 226 million bushels of corn, the cooperative has raised the local price of corn for every farmer in the area, which has helped support land values and rents in the region. Since its founding, Al-Corn has become a significant economic driver, having paid over $3.2 million in property tax to the City of Claremont, the local school district, and Dodge County.

“As the membership of Al-Corn looks to the future, the standard that guides the cooperative is the same as it has always been: dynamic growth to protect and enhance the value of processing so that all members benefit. In doing so, Al-Corn members can be assured of a successful and profitable business for years to come” said Al-Corn CEO Randall Doyal.

Founded in 1994, Al-Corn Clean Fuel is located in Claremont, MN.  The initial investment by Al-Corn members was for facility planning and construction.  Today, members purchase shares so that they can deliver corn and participate in adding value to their corn crop via processing.

For additional information regarding Al-Corn Clean Fuel, please visit www.al-corn.com.