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ARA applauds Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Suzanne Spaulding's call to provide multi-year authorization of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards during this Congress. As a vital private industry stakeholder, ARA has worked closely with DHS to create a program that protects our critical infrastructure from a terrorist attack while allowing the flexibility to supply our growers in feeding the world.

DHS’s current leadership has made great strides in reforming the current CFATS program, and our joint efforts deserve long-term authorization. We urge the Senate to take up CFATS legislation and get it to the President’s desk by the holidays. A multi-year re-authorization will give agricultural retailers the regulatory certainty required to make the nation safer.

Read the full editorial here (The Hill).

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Ohio Agribusiness Association President Chris Henney made a presentation this morning during the agricultural outreach meeting conducted by Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water. 

Henney discussed OABA's proactive work on water quality, dating back to a 2011 algal bloom in Lake Erie. Working with a diverse group of stakeholders in Ohio, a series of actions were put in place including mandatory certification for fertilizer applications of 50 acres or more and a voluntary 4R Retailer Certification program set up by OABA in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy and other organizations. 

The program created audit-able criteria based on 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles. More than 50 retail locations have committed to join the program, and OABA expects to announce the first four successful applicants next week. Henney also provided information to EPA on the extent of nutrient stewardship research that is being done by the 4R Research Fund, as well as partnership efforts with NRCS and Certified Crop Advisers in Ohio.

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Farm Foundation 9-2014

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced proposed regulations to the "Waters of the U.S." to clarify Clean Water Act protection for water resources. The proposal, which is open for public comment through Oct. 20, focuses on streams and wetlands that feed into navigable lakes, rivers and estuaries. How the nation should approach water quality policies was the subject of a Farm Foundation Forum at the National Press Club September 12. ARA President & CEO Daren Coppock attended the forum.

Tracy Mehan, national source water protection coordinator for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, spoke on behalf of regulators. Mehan is also an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law, a member of the Environmental Law Institute, and a former assistant administrator for water at the EPA.

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In a press conference Sept. 25, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it approved the first commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the continental United States.

The petition, filed under Section 333 of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act, allows six film companies to commercially fly their UAVs on "closed sets" without airworthiness certificates via Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA). A seventh petition was also filed as a part of this request, but is still pending FAA approval. Read more...

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Two of the biggest fertilizer producers in the world are in talks about what could be the next inversion deal to be announced. 

CF Industries, based in Deerfield, Ill., near Chicago, and Yara International of Norway both confirmed on Tuesday that they were in discussions about a deal that would essentially be a merger of equals. Read more (NY Times)... 

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Just as legislative business wound down before the November mid-term elections, the House Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry held a hearing on a topic that even a partisan Congress appears to agree on - the importance of soil health. 

At the hearing, the "Benefits of Promoting Soil Health in Agriculture and Rural America," ranking member Thompson (R-Penn.) and ranking member Walz (D-Minn.), both underscored the importance of conservation programs, including those conservation practices outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill in promoting soil health. Read the full article |

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AgProfessional and the Agricultural Retailers Association have initiated the Precision Impact Awards to recognize local retailer operations or local management individuals for excellence in incorporating precision ag into their retail operations and their farmer customers' operations. This award provides an outlet to show the public that ag retailers using precision ag technology are promoting good stewardship and are responsible environmentalists.

Submit a nomination here!

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Nominations are now open for AGCO's 2014 Operator of the Year program, which recognizes the invaluable role of these professionals in supporting the agricultural industry. The finalists and winner will be recognized at the ARA Annual Conference & Expo, December 2-4, in New Orleans. Read full story... 

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Application technology is rapidly changing how crop protection products are applied. The Asmark Institute's unique mobile Professional Applicator Training Course focuses on maximizing performance while minimizing spray drift. This year's course centers on liquid systems with a focus on post-foliar applications.

Credits for both CCA and the Department of Agriculture, or the governing body responsible, will be requested in the states where training occurs in accordance with state requirements. Several dates and locations are available.

The one-day course, offered at 36 locations nationwide, is led by Robert E. Wolf, Ph.D.

https://www.asmark.org/TrainingCourses/PATCourse.cgi

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Each hour-long session is designed to assist critical infrastructure owners and operators, physical security and information security professionals, Chief Information Officers, risk managers, business continuity planners, information technology directors, and local homeland security and emergency management staff in their efforts to enhance the preparation, security, and resilience of communities and their critical infrastructure assets.

Preparedness: Topics are designed to assist private industry and governmental partners and any other critical infrastructure practitioners in enhancing their preparation and resilience efforts:

  • Risk Management - Learn from a panel of Minnesota-based Critical Infrastructure practitioners that includes Grant Hosmer, Critical Infrastructure Coordinator for the City of Minneapolis, Glenn Sanders, DHS Protective Security Advisor for Minnesota, and the Downtown Security Executive Group, who will discuss infrastructure resilience planning and threat assessment associated with large-scale public events such as the 2014 Major League Baseball All Star Game by leveraging public/private partnerships and strategically utilizing risk management tools and resources.
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AgGateway recently today that President and CEO Rod Conner is resigning effective January 1, 2015, in order to lead the newly formed AgGateway Global Network; and that current Executive Vice President and COO Wendy Smith will move into the role of AgGateway President and CEO beginning in 2015.

Conner has served as president since 2009 and has been in AgGateway leadership for the past decade, through a period marked by significant year-to-year growth in both the association's membership and productivity. Membership has grown in that time from fewer than a dozen companies to more than 200, and from eBusiness projects in two industry segments to current work under eight active Councils - for crop nutrition, crop protection, seed, feed, grain, precision agriculture and ag retail, as well as for the allied providers that support the industry.

Smith has worked closely with Conner through most of this growth. She has served in her current role since 2010, and before that time was an active volunteer in the organization while working as Regional Commercial Manager at BASF. Smith has over 30 years of work experience in the agricultural industry in a diverse set of roles, from research scientist and technical service training manager to new business development manager. She holds a B.S. in Plant and Soils Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a PhD in Botany from the University of California, Riverside.

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CropLife America recently hosted the third meeting of interested ally associations with member interests related to advancing precision agriculture. With 14 such trade groups and related non-profits attending, including Agricultural Retailers Association, this was the most robust turnout yet.

Plans are now being finalized for an official roll-out of the new coalition in early September, which will kick-off with a Capitol Hill Precision Ag Forum on September 18.

Some of the issues identified for the coalition include: (1) increase awareness of the productivity improvements and sustainability enhancements that precision provides, especially focusing on awareness by government officials at all levels; (2) seek greater collaboration across various sectors of agriculture, addressing issues like "big data" privacy and security, rural broadband capacity, and usability of precision data; and (3) help identify and address barriers to precision adoption.

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A common-sense, bipartisan bill to simplify Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance for seasonal employers was introduced in the House on Monday.

The “Simplifying Technical Aspects Regarding Seasonality (STARS) Act of 2014” would define “seasonal employee” as a worker employed on a seasonal basis for  months or less during a calendar year, consistent with current Department of Treasury regulations. The STARS Act would also simplify the methods seasonal employers would use to determine business size and whether they are required to comply with the ACA Employer Mandate.

Currently, there are different definitions of seasonal and different lengths of time that would constitute the difference between a small or large employer in ACA under current law. These discrepancies have led to uncertainty for seasonal employers attempting to remain compliant, and has opened up many businesses to unforeseen tax liabilities.

The Agricultural Retailers Association has been lobbying with dedicated coalition partners and is pleased to see a bill introduced to alleviate these complexities.

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The Agricultural Retailers Association applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing H.R. 935, "The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act," which received a bipartisan majority vote of 267-161 on the house floor today. Read the roll call vote.

The legislation amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify Congressional intent regarding the regulation of the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters. If also passed by the Senate, producers would no longer be required to obtain additional permits to spray pesticides over water provided the chemical has already been approved for sale under current pesticide law (PL 94-140). 

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AgGateway is introducing a comprehensive agricultural glossary that can be freely accessed and used by the industry to facilitate accurate communications. 

The glossary is a one-stop location in the form of an online wiki for agriculture terms, definitions, acronyms, key words and synonyms. The glossary pulls from a number of established industry sources and includes government definitions for key terms, from "field" and "production" to "irrigation" and "pump." 

There are currently more than 3,000 terms in the glossary. 

The glossary is now available at http://agglossary.org. A major impetus for creating the new glossary is the need for defined terms when establishing eBusiness connections between companies, which is AgGateway's mission. 

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CF Industries recently announced a new partnership with Chevrolet to benefit the National FFA Organization (FFA). CF Industries is donating $600,000 to FFA to support excellence in farmer education and fertilizer best management practices. 

"Our future farmers must rise to the challenge of growing enough food to feed a global population projected to reach nine billion by 2050," said CF Industries President and CEO Tony Will. "The efficient use of fertilizer is essential to meet this challenge. Teaching tomorrow's farmers the best information about fertilizer is truly in everyone's interest."

The pilot program will be funded through the sale of voluntary carbon reduction credits earned from fertilizer manufacturing. CF Industries operates facilities that installed nitrous oxide abatement technology in 2008, earning credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) recently introduced DISCLOSE 2014 with numerous cosponsors, including Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The legislation, like its predecessors in the 111th and 112th Congresses, is designed to chill the political speech of corporations, business interests, and others, while giving labor unions special protections.

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to have a hearing on the legislation tomorrow, and a mark-up of the legislation could occur before or, shortly after the August recess.

ARA has signed onto a multi-industry letter voicing strong opposition to the bill to Chairman Schumer, Ranking Member Roberts and members of the Rules Committee.

"The legislation is purported to be even-handed in its treatment of labor unions, corporations and business associations, but the reality is that it is designed to burden business groups significantly while effectively exempting labor unions," the coalition states in its letter. "The legislation's manifest purpose is to impose exceptional burdens on the speech of corporations and business interests based on their identity as corporations and their presumed hostility to the political objectives of the legislation's supporters."

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) assistance for losses to bush or tree fruit crops due to frost or freeze during the 2012 crop year.

The program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides supplemental NAP payment to eligible producers.
NAP enrollment began July 22. Applications must be submitted to FSA county offices by Sept. 22, 2014.

Interested producers can view the 2012 NAP Coverage for Frost, Freeze or Weather Related Fruit Losses Fact Sheet at http://go.usa.gov/5kSQ, or visit a local FSA office. To find out if land is located in an eligible frost/freeze county, visit http://go.usa.gov/53rz. Read more...

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Do you know an employee or customer who would make a great spokesperson for American agriculture?

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is looking for the new Faces of Farming & Ranching. To help put a real face on agriculture, USFRA will select standout farmers and ranchers who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories of continuous improvement and who are actively involved in sharing those stories in public and on social media.

To apply, visit www.FoodDialogues.com/Faces to complete an application entry form, and to submit a video no longer than three minutes that shows your operation and your role on the farm/ranch. Entries will be accepted beginning on Thursday, July 10 until Sunday, August 10, 2014 at midnight CT.

ARA would welcome the opportunity to endorse a candidate and be willing to assist in the application process. 

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