The Food & Drug Administration posted changes to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. USDA approved use of dairy checkoff funds in Cuba. The American Farm Bureau urged clarity on Internet sales taxes to protect rural merchants. This and other U.S. dairy policy news can be found here.
Pasteurized Milk Ordinance changes posted
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) posted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s newly released 2015 Grade "A" Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO). The update contains changes made last April during the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) .
The PMO incorporates provisions governing the processing, packaging and sale of Grade "A" milk and milk products, including yogurt, fermented milk products, whey, whey products and condensed and dry milk products. FDA will require implementation of these changes by October 2016, unless other dates are specifically noted.
The next NCIMS will be held in 2017.
Will new policy on checkoff programs lead to U.S. dairy market in Cuba?
President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba was accompanied by an announcement the U.S. agricultural commodity checkoff programs will be allowed to finance some marketing, promotion and research activities there. What impact it has on the U.S. dairy industry will take time, investment and congressional action.
“The current situation is still up in the air since the embargo has not been lifted,” said Wayne Watkinson, legal counsel for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the U.S. dairy checkoff program. “However, the policy change allowing checkoff boards to invest funds under certain situations will begin the process of understanding the Cuban market for dairy products and other commodities.”
Ag community watching Des Moines Water Works lawsuit
Many in the agricultural community are closely watching a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) in Iowa. DMWW has sued because of nitrates in the Des Moines drinking water supply. The lawsuit poses complicated questions about farming and water quality regulation.
In Part 4 of a series in farmdoc daily, Jonathan Coppess of the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics provides an initial review of that lawsuit and preliminary analysis of the legal issues.
The lawsuit is a citizen enforcement action under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and alleges that the drainage districts were violated by the CWA when it discharged nitrate pollution into the Raccoon River without a permit.
The outcome of the DMWW lawsuit is far from certain. Agriculture activities combined with natural events, such as precipitation, are exempt from the CWA's direct regulatory reach. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations specifically include drainage in that exemption. The nitrates that DMWW is suing over originated in farm fields and was in part from natural events. The DMWW lawsuit, however, raises the question as to how far down the tile system the exemption applies. Specifically, it challenges whether the exemption still applies when the water reaches the rivers after it has been collected and carried through manmade drainage infrastructure.
Farm Bureau calls on Congress to address Internet sales tax problem
Now is the time for Congress to move legislation that would provide clarity, uniformity and parity to U.S. merchants by allowing states to collect existing sales and use taxes on remote purchases, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and 25 other organizations told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Virginia) in a recent letter.
Small and rural town businesses provide essential goods and services to their local farmers and ranchers, according to AFBF. However, hometown businesses are at a disadvantage when they compete with online-only retailers, which don't have to collect sales taxes.
Online-only sales also deprive state and local governments of the tax revenue they need to provide essential services. Since local governments and schools rely heavily on property taxes for funding, property taxes are often increased to make up for the lost sales taxes, placing more burdens on farm and ranch owners.
AFBF urged the House Judiciary Committee to consider two approaches: the Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775) or the similar Online Sales and Simplification Act, which will be introduced soon.
The Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 698) is pending in the Senate. That bill would allow states to apply sales tax laws across the board. It allows states to enforce their existing sales tax laws but does not create new taxes or increase existing ones.
USDA will fund Western Lake Erie Basin water quality project
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $41 million in a three-year initiative to support the work of farmers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). The initiative helps farmers and ranchers implement science-based conservation measures to reduce runoff from farms entering the region's waterways.
The funding is in addition to the $36 million USDA already planned to make available in the basin through the 2014 Farm Bill.
According to a report, this initiative will help landowners reduce phosphorus runoff from farms by more than 640,000 pounds each year, and reduce sediment loss by over 260,000 tons over the course of the three-year investment. PD
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