Federal: Organic rule delayed
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is delaying the effective date of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, which were published in the Federal Register Jan. 19, 2017, for an additional six months to Nov. 14, 2017, to allow time for further consideration by USDA. The effective date for this rule was initially March 20, 2017, and was subsequently delayed to May 19, 2017. The final rule amends the organic livestock and poultry production requirements by adding new provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter and avian living conditions; and expands and clarifies existing requirements covering livestock care and production practices and mammalian living conditions. AMS will publish a proposed rule that solicits public comments on the direction that USDA should take with respect to the rule. The public will have a 30-day comment period to specify whether USDA should: (1) Let the rule become effective; (2) suspend the rule indefinitely; (3) delay the effective date of the rule further; or (4) withdraw the rule. Learn more about the rule and delay at http://tinyurl.com/Organic-Delay.
Federal: IA ambassador to China?
President Donald Trump nominated long-time Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be the U.S. ambassador to China and it was expected that the Senate would vote to confirm him last week. According to reports, the Senate is likely to confirm Branstad due in part to his long-standing relationship with China and agricultural acumen. He is said to have a good, longrunning relationship with now-Chinese President Xi Jinping, who he first met back in the 1980s when Xi was an agricultural official visiting Iowa.
State (IA): Leopold correction
As reported in the April 24 Legal Ledger, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University was almost certainly going to be shut down. That prior brief reported that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed the legislation that would have defunded the center. This was inaccurate. While Branstad did sign legislation at the time reported, it did not include the budget, though it was expected that he would. Friday, May 12, Branstad used several line-item vetoes in the Iowa budget legislation which would preserve the Leopold Center’s funding, albeit at reduced levels. We apologize for the inaccuracy.
State (OK): Accountant charged
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Oklahoma has charged former Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC) Accountant Melissa Morton of taking $2.68 million from the OBC over a seven-year period. She is charged with one count of bank fraud and two counts of filing false tax returns. According to the charges, Morton wrote about 790 fraudulent checks to herself from the OBC’s bank account between 2009 and 2016. Morton used the money to finance a children’s clothing boutique, the charges claim. In a statement, OBC said it notified oversight authorities when initial evidence of the crime was discovered and began an internal investigation and terminated Morton’s employment. Additionally, it hired an accounting firm to perform an extensive forensic analysis and assessment. “We informed local authorities of the matter as the internal investigation was nearing completion. The case was quickly shifted to federal authorities and we have cooperated fully with investigators on the case,” OBC said. Peter Scimeca, an attorney for Morton, said in an email to The Oklahoman that his client is remorseful and is in the process of selling all her assets to repay the money. The next step will involve a hearing with a plea entered by the defendant.
State (WA): Clean air exemption
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed SB 5196 exempting certain cattle feedyards from violations under Washington’s Clear Air Act (Act). The Act exempts odors caused by agricultural activities consistent with good agricultural practices on agricultural land unless the Department of Ecology determines the odors have a substantial adverse effect on public health. Before issuing a notice of violation under the air pollution control statutes for agricultural activity, the Department of Ecology or local air pollution authority is required to consult with a recognized third-party expert to determine whether the activity is consistent with good agricultural practices. Fugitive dust caused by good agricultural practices is exempt. Any notice of violation must include a detailed statement with evidence as to why the activity is inconsistent with good agricultural practices or has a substantial adverse effect on public health. The exemption applies to cattle feedlots with operational facilities, which have an inventory of 1,000 or more cattle in operation between June 1 and Oct. 1 where vegetation forage growth is not sustained over a majority of the lot. The measure takes effect July 23, 2017. Details about the legislation are available online at http://tinyurl.com/SB5196-WA.