Legislative Action News January 20, 2015

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Des Moines Water Works Sues Drainage Districts

The Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees (DMWW) voted unanimously to begin the process to sue drainage districts managed by the Iowa Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors under the Clean Water Act and the Iowa Code, Chapter 455B.111.  The DMWW delivered a 60 day notice of intent to sue the three Iowa county Board of Supervisors as the first step in the process. 

The Notice claims that drainage districts should be regulated under the Clean Water Act as point source polluters rather than non-point source. Non-point source is exempt from regulation under the Clean Water Act.  While no individual farmer is named in the suit, the drainage districts are formed and maintained for the benefit of property owners, largely farmers in the 3 counties.

The Notice asserts the high levels of nitrates coming from the 3 counties force the DMWW to operate its nitrogen removal facility at a cost of $7,000 per day during peak nitrate loads. DMWW claims that regulating the drainage districts is a first step towards providing clean, safe and affordable drinking water for the Des Moines area. Read the DMWW Notice of Intent to Sue.

Farmers in dry California decry water decision favoring fish

Associated Press | The Washington Post — California farmers struggling with drought say a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued Monday that keeps strict water restrictions in place to protect a tiny, threatened fish has forced them to leave thousands of acres unplanted in the nation’s most fertile agricultural region. Read more.

USDA Announces Dairy Margin Protection Program Enrollment

USDA announced that more than 23,000 of the nation’s dairy operations – over half of all dairy farms in America – have enrolled in the new safety-net program created by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as the Margin Protection Program. The voluntary program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.  Dairy producers interested in enrolling in the Margin Protection Program for calendar year 2016 can register between July 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2015.

Regional Conservation Partnerships Announced

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that 115 conservation projects across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in Federal funding as part of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The 2014 Farm Bill created this new conservation partnership program. Partners are expected to bring an estimated $400 million more in private contributions—for a total of nearly $800 million—to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment.

You can find more information about the partnerships here.

House Names Republican Agriculture Appropriators

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will be composed of the following Republican members: Robert Aderholt (AL, Chair), Alan Nunnelee (MS), Kevin Yoder (KS), Tom Rooney (FL), David Valadao (CA), Andy Harris (MD) and David Young (IA). The Democrats have not yet named their members.

USDA grants to benefit Chesapeake Bay Restoration

AP | The Washington Post — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says Chesapeake Bay restoration projects will receive more than $18 million in funding. Read more.

Study: Higher crop protein content linked to value, profitability

Agri-Pulse Staff | Agri-Pulse.com — Farmers have often heard that higher-quality soybeans could generate more value. Now, a new soy-checkoff-funded study shows how much more. Read more.

Location and quality driving current land values

Farmers National Company | Pork Network — Location and quality of land continue to be main drivers of prices for a given tract of land. The lower supply of land for sale and the continued demand for agricultural land is maintaining general stability of the land market. Read more.

New research on millennials in agriculture

Kjersti Hanneman | AgProfessional Magazine - Molly is a farmer. She’s 28 and someday – a day that isn’t all that far off – Molly will inherit her family’s 5,000-acre farm. Read more.