Daily Ag News Summary 07/14/2017

Trump Nominates Censky for USDA’s Deputy Secretary

Following the nomination of Steve Censky by President Donald Trump as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the American Soybean Association (ASA) offered its strong support. Censky has led the association as CEO since 1996.

“Steve has guided our organization for 21 years and in that time he has proven himself as an effective, dedicated and visionary voice on behalf of soybean farmers nationwide. Nobody in agriculture is better equipped to assist Secretary Perdue in meeting the needs of farmers with practical solutions than Steve. He is a perfect fit for this role and we give him our strongest endorsement,” said Ron Moore, ASA president from Roseville, Ill.

The transition would mark a return to both Washington and USDA for Censky. Prior to his service at ASA, he served at USDA in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, including as administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service. Censky came to Washington originally as a legislative aide to then-Senator Jim Abdnor of South Dakota.

“ASA is better and stronger because of the work of Steve Censky,” said Richard Wilkins, ASA chairman from Greenwood, Del. “He has helped us grow through our advocacy for farmers in Washington, and our service to them in their communities. We will be sad to lose his leadership, but glad to know that it will benefit millions of Americans who rely on the work of the department every day.”

Censky grew up on a soybean, corn, and diversified livestock farm near Jackson, Minn., and holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from South Dakota State University, as well as a Master’s Diploma in Agriculture Science from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has not announced when it will hold a hearing on Censky’s nomination

House Ag Committee Talks Technology, Innovation & Precision Farming

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management held a hearing examining technology’s role in the future of farming. Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford (AR-R) and members heard from witnesses about the opportunities and challenges related to investments in new technology for production agriculture.

“Agricultural technology plays a critically important role in the day-to-day decision making process of farmers and ranchers,” said Subcommittee Chairman Crawford. “Given the current state of the farm economy, big data stands to be even more influential for producers when it comes to planting decisions, optimizing yields and increasing production efficiencies. While there are numerous challenges associated with these ever-changing technologies, we must continue taking full advantage of innovations in agriculture technology to ensure America remains the most abundant and affordable supplier of food and fiber in the world. ”

“America’s farmers and ranchers need every tool available to help combat the difficult economic times in farm country,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (TX-R). “From soil health to water usage, big data and agricultural technology are helping lead the way in cutting costs and conserving resources on the farm.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Austin Scott (GA-R), a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit, questioned a panel of witnesses during a hearing entitled, “The Next Farm Bill: Technology & Innovation in Specialty Crops.” During the hearing, he expressed his support for genetically engineered (GE) crops, also known as bio-agriculture, and farm innovation in yielding more reliable crops for producers and more affordable food for consumers.

“Farmers across the world are faced with the challenge of feeding a rapidly expanding population while maintaining the safety, quality, diversity, and affordability in our food supply that we have come to expect,” said Rep. Scott. “GE crops are helping the agricultural community by allowing farmers to produce more food while protecting and preserving the environment.”

Agriculture Gets Break From Electronic Logging Devices

The U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation has included language in an appropriations bill that will delay for one year a requirement mandating the use of the new Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) for livestock and insect haulers.

“For over a year, we have been working to address the need for greater flexibility for our livestock haulers within the ELD mandate,” United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Hilker stated. “The language proposed by Congressman Valadao provides an additional year for our industry to work with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to find acceptable solutions to the restrictive Hours-of-Service (HOS) Rules for livestock haulers. We hope to implement these solutions to HOS rules before the one-year delay expires.”

In May 2016, Joe Goggins testified on behalf of USCA at the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on A Review of the U.S. Livestock and Poultry Sectors: Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges. In his testimony, Goggins stated, “Livestock are a highly perishable commodity. If we hamper the ability to move livestock quickly and efficiently, we might actually limit opportunities for producers in many parts of this country by reducing the number of people interested in buying their livestock.”

Recognizing the importance of the issue and the need for an active voice for livestock haulers, USCA quickly pulled together a working group with industry representatives to draft the language that was included in Monday’s version of the bill. USCA also held a panel discussion with the Livestock Marketing Association and the American Cattle Transporters Advisory Group at the 2016 Cattle Producer’s Forum to further discuss greater flexibility for livestock haulers within the upcoming ELD mandate.