Legislative Action News, January 7, 2014

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A Busy Month for Congress

January is set to be a busy month for Congress.  It must pass an omnibus spending bill by January 15th to avoid another government shutdown. The budget agreement reached in December opens the way for the appropriations committee to finish the $1 trillion spending bill, which will include funding for the Department of Agriculture.  A draft of the bill is expected by Wednesday of this week with a possible vote in the House on Friday and the Senate to follow before the 15th.

A farm bill conference committee meeting may occur as early as Thursday of this week.  Negotiations continued over the Holiday recess on the farm bill. The conference meeting, hopefully, is the last step to ratify a framework agreement between the four leaders (Senators Stabenow and Cochran and Representatives Lucas and Peterson). Once the conference committee finishes its work, the House and Senate are expected to pass the farm bill.

A conference report is also expected this month on WRRDA (Water Resources Reform and Development Act). The bill will authorize spending projects across the country including flood diversion in North Dakota, widening a Texas-Louisiana waterway, deepening Georgia’s rapidly growing Port of Savannah and other projects.

FDA Reopens Comment Period

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) announced late in December that it will be seeking additional public comment on revised portions of its new rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act.  The FDA cited the volume of feedback from concerned farmers, researchers, and consumers as influencing FDA’s conclusion that its proposed rules were in need of major changes.

Specifically, the FDA said that significant changes will be needed in key provisions of the two proposed rules affecting small and large farmers. These provisions include water quality standards and testing, standards for using raw manure and compost, certain provisions affecting mixed-use facilities, and procedures for withdrawing the qualified exemption for certain farms.  The FDA plans to publish revised proposed rule language by early summer 2014.  ASFMRA will alert you when the new rules are published so that you can comment timely if you so choose. The proposed rules will have a significant impact on fruit and vegetable production in the U.S.  For more information about the proposed rules and the Food Safety Modernization Act go to http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm379397.htm

County Committee Election Reminder

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that the FSA County Committee Elections began December 20, 2013 with the mailing of ballots to eligible voters. The deadline to return the ballots to local FSA offices is Jan. 17, 2014.

Producers have been instructed to destroy the FSA County Committee Election ballots (FSA-669’s) mailed on November 4 2013. The new ballots mailed to producers will have the word “corrected” printed on the outside of the mailing, the ballot itself, and the return envelope. Producers must complete and return the corrected FSA-669 to have their vote counted.

Eligible voters who did not receive a ballot can obtain one from their local USDA Service Center. The last day for voters to submit corrected ballots in person to local USDA Service Centers is January 17, 2014. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than January 17. Newly elected committee members and their alternates will take office February 18, 2014.

Tax extender expiration would cost farmers
From the American Farm Bureau Federation

More than 50 tax provisions, many of which are important to farmers and ranchers, will expire as revelers ring in the New Year, but lawmakers are resolved to revisit the issues in early 2014.

These provisions are collectively known as “extenders” because they’ve been extended a handful of times beyond their original expirations.  Read more on the Southeast Farm Press: http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/tax-extender-expiration-would-cost-farmers?NL=SEFP-01&Issue=SEFP-01_20131226_SEFP-01_837&YM_RID=sgruba@asfmra.org&YM_MID=1441016&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_3

USDA to Guarantee Single Family Loans in Rural Areas
By Bill Garber

Under an Interim Final Rule released by the USDA, banks and credit unions will be able to make guaranteed single family home loans in rural areas beginning September 2014, the department announced on December 9.

Under the rule, USDA’s Rural Development’s Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP), will allow for the first time mortgage loan terms of less than 30 years and loans for new manufactured homes. The rule allows lending entities supervised and regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Banks, or the Federal Housing Finance Board to underwrite loans guaranteed by USDA Rural Development, referred to in the Federal Register as the USDA Rural Housing Services. Also under the rule, lenders will be able to contract with mortgage brokers, non-approved lenders, or other entities for loan origination services, provided the loan is transferred immediately after closing to an agency approved lender.

View the interim final regulation and submit comments via http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-12-09/html/2013-29084.htm.

Verify Your Information for the 2014 ASFMRA Membership Directory

Deadline is January 15, 2014
It’s that time of year again! Production is underway for the 2014 ASFMRA Membership Directory which is one of the Society’s most valued benefits of membership. As we all know, the directory’s value is only as good as the accuracy of the information in it.

Verify and/or Update Your Information
Is your information correct and up to date? Here’s how to make sure.
1.    Go to the ASFMRA Web site (www.asfmra.org)
2.    Log in (Your username is your first and last name altogether, no space and your password is your member ID number)
3.    Choose Update Profile and review your information
4.    If there are changes that need to be made, choose from the drop down menu Modify My Record and click Go
5.    Your information will be listed and you can make any necessary changes. Then simply click Submit Changes. It is that easy!
6.    If you need to change your company name, simply choose Change Company Affiliation from the drop down menu instead of Modify My Record. Click Go, type in your new company name, and click on Submit. It’s that easy!

The deadline for updating your information is January 15, 2014. If you miss it, your information in the 2014 ASFMRA Membership Directory may not be correct.

The ASFMRA Executive Council Needs Your Input – 2014 Membership Survey

ASFMRA has so much going for it. We are experiencing a growth in younger members, an increase in interest in the designations, and strong support for our annual meeting and summer education week programs.   
What we need now is more input from you to further help us refine what we offer. Please complete the annual membership survey to give your input for the future of ASFMRA!  The ASFMRA Executive Council will be meeting in February to review the direction of the organization. In order to make the best decisions possible for ASFMRA, we need your feedback and input.
The 2014 Membership Survey is now open and waiting for your comments. Grab your coffee and take 10-15 minutes to help guide ASFMRA in a new direction in the coming year!
Need more incentive? Three individuals completing the survey will receive complimentary registrations to the ASFMRA Annual Meeting in Tucson, Arizona scheduled for October 27 – November 1, 2014 at the J.W. Marriott Star Pass. Act fast; the survey will close on January 22, 2014.
If you have already completed the survey, thank you!  If you have not yet done so, please share your input before the survey closes on January 15, 2014.  
The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2014_Membership

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