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How many apples can you eat in a day before any pesticide residue poses a health risk?

May 12, 2011

If you’re a man, you’d have to eat 571 apples in a day, according to a new website launched by a not-for-profit organization of conventional and organic fruit and vegetable growers called the Alliance for Food and Farming.   

The website — safefruitsandveggies.com — is designed to provide the unemotional, non-hysterical  facts on pesticide residue, a subject that receives a lot of alarming, high volume news media coverage which is evidently scaring people away from eating ANY fruit or vegetables.

This is a passage from the website’s “about us” tab:

Issues like pesticide residues have an impact on both organic and conventionally grown produce. Recent surveys show that 29% of consumers are buying less fruits and vegetables due to concerns about pesticide residues. Health experts around the world agree that consumers should be eating more fruits and vegetables of all kinds. This is why the Alliance adamantly encourages consumers to eat more produce, whether it is organically or conventionally grown.

The website states 60-percent of American consumers to express a high concern about pesticide residues, much of it based on misleading information like EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

The Alliance’s information is based on peer-reviewed science from major universities, former government regulators, and nutritional experts and takes on the lists and shopping guides that are causing consumers to turn their backs on fresh, nutritional and safe food.    

Their pesticide residue calculator that computes the amount of a fruit or vegetable a man, woman, teenager, or child would have to consume to become impacted by residue is well done and puts the issue in proper context.

Great to see conventional and organic producers lay aside any differences they have  to get the truth out about the safety of our food supply.

By the way, a man can consumer more than 133,000 servings of celery in a day without any effect even if the celery has the highest residue for celery ever recorded by FDA.

 

 

Who are the most endanged House members? NJ says Illinois has four of the top ten

April 25, 2011

National Journal considers IL-8's Joe Walsh to be the third most vulnerable U.S. House Republican in the upcoming redistricting.

Practically the day after the 2010 election, Rep-elects Bobby Schilling and Bob Dold were considered two of the House’s most vulnerable Republicans.

Now it appears National Journal’s redistricting prognosticators say no fewer than four Illinois Republican U.S. Representatives are in danger of being drawn out in the upcoming remap. 

Illinois is one of a few states where Democrats hold all of the redistricting cards.   And with five of the 87 Republican House pickups, another creatively drawn Illinois map might provide a way for Dems to claw back without being forced to spend a lot of campaign cash. 

If nothing else, they can create potentially expensive primary batttles and force Republicans to spend precious campaign resources.

8th District Rep. Joe Walsh is the third most endangered R, according to National Journal’s David Wasserman.   Walsh is followed closely by neighboring Bob Dold, who has the distinction of being the House Republican with the most Democratic leaning congressional district.  

The others who could be forced into primaries are 13th District Rep. Judy Biggert and Schilling, who fully expects to be drawn into a district with neighboring Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria.

National Journal also speculates Schilling could also be thrown into a primary race with Rep. Don Manzullo.

As a result of reapportionment, Illinois will lose one of its 19 U.S. House seats in 2012.

Walsh, however, was the most active fundraiser in the first quarter of the five Illinois Republicans, collecting $371,000.   Democrat Debbie Halvorson, defeated last year by ACTIVATOR-endorsed Adam Kinzinger, told the Chicago Tribune she is waiting until the map is drawn before deciding whether to run again. 

Halvorson of Crete has $232,000 remaining from her last race.

To say they’ve been all over the map would be an understatement.

President proposes to cut $4 trillion over next 12 years

April 14, 2011

It’s a week for budget cutting proposals in Washington.   And, by the way, it appears the 2012 presidential campaign is fully underway.

President Obama’s much-anticipated plan builds on the recommendations of his fiscal commission and proposes to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over the next 12 years (instead of the usual 10 year program).

The president’s plan differs significantly from the House Budget Committee blueprint in that it raises taxes on Americans who earn more than $250,000 per year and limits itemized income tax deductions for people in the upper two percent of all wager earners.

House Speaker John Boehner and Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan were highly critical of the President’s proposals.

In his speech, Obama condemned the House Republican plan for creating Medicare vouchers and turning Medicaid into a block grant program for states. For more details, see the President’s Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility.

As for farm programs, it appears President Obama is pulling from the recommendations of the fiscal commission on mandatory spending programs.   The commission report proposed cutting farm programs by $10 billion over 10 years. 

The House GOP budget calls for a $30 billion cut in farm programs over 10 years, and deep cuts to food and nutrition programs which make up the bulk of USDA spending.

Illinois reaction

8th District Rep. Joe Walsh says he’s not buying President Obama’s proposal to sell “massive tax increases as spending cuts.”

17th District Rep. Bobby Schillling says the President “fails to acknowledge that our country has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Senate’s Gang of Six working on a bipartisan plan to cut the deficit,  said Wednesday  that a vote on increasing the federal debt ceiling will fail in the absense of a long term plan to cut the debt.

Ag programs on chopping block in FY 2011 budget deal

April 12, 2011

Congress will vote this week on the nearly $40 billion in non-defense discretionary spending cuts agreed to last Friday night as part of a deal to avert the first federal government shutdown since 1995.

$12 billion in cuts were made as a result of the three previous continuing resolutions.   The proposed CR adds an additional $28 billion in cuts.   

A summary document put out by the House Appropriations Committee says all non-defense government agencies will experience an across-the-board cut of .02 percent.   USDA’s share of the discretionary cuts total $3 billion compared to 2010 funding levels, or about 15 percent. 

Here is a program-by-program list of USDA cuts.  Remember, farm programs like DCP, crop insurance, and conservation programs represent mandatory spending and are NOT subject to cuts.

USDA (cuts expressed in millions of dollars)

Agriculture Dept. – Office of the CIO -$22  
Agriculture Dept. – Building Operations and Maintenance -$40  
Agriculture Department Administration -$12  
National Agriculture Statistics Service -$5  
Agricultural Research Service – Salaries and Expenses -$44  
National Institute of Food and Agriculture -$126  
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service -$41  
Agricultural Marketing Service -$4  
Farm Service Agency – Farm Assistance -$44  
Farm Service Agency – Agriculture Credit Insurance Fund -$433  
Natural Resources Conservation Service -$118  
Rural Development – Salaries and Expenses -$10  
Rural Housing Insurance Fund Program – loan subsidies -$151  
Rental Assistance Program -$24  
Renewable Energy Program -$34  
Rural Water Loan Subsidies and Grants -$40  
Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program Loans and Grants -$16  
WIC -$504  
Foreign Food Assistance and Related Programs -$194  
Wetlands Reserve -$119  
Conservation Stewardship -$39  
Environmental Quality Incentives -$80  
Fruit and Vegetable Program -$41  
Biomass Crop Assistance -$134  
Dairy Subsidy -$350    (Note: This reduction is the result of the one-time emergency assistance payment during the last fiscal year.)  

EPA: No need to cry over spilled milk

April 12, 2011

In her testimony a month ago before the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency never had any plans to subject spilled milk to the Oil Pollution Spill Control Countermeasure rule.

The rule applies to farmers who store more than 1,320 gallons of fuel oil.   They are required to develop and implement plans to prevent and respond to oil spills.

Leading up to the committee hearing, members of Congressnewspaper opinion pages, and farm groups used the potential of SPCC regulation of spilled milk as an example of EPA regulators gone wild.

In her testimony, Jackson called the milk rule one of the five regulatory myths and mischaracterizations (dust, cow tax, spray drift, and national numeric nutrient standards) of EPA agricultural regulation pervasive in rural America.  

I would argue each of the myths or mischaracterizations have more of a basis in fact than the administrator would care to publicly admit.

In the hearing, Jackson said EPA was working with the milk industry to exempt spilled milk from the decades old regulation and blamed lawmakers for writing a broad statue.

And finally is the notion that EPA intends to treat spilled milk in the same way as spilled oil. This is simply incorrect. Rather, EPA has proposed, and is on the verge of finalizing an exemption for milk and dairy containers. This exemption needed to be finalized because the law passed by Congress was written broadly enough to cover milk containers. It was our work with the dairy industry that prompted EPA to develop an exemption and make sure the standards of the law are met in a commonsense way. All of EPA’s actions have been to exempt these containers. And we expect this to become final very shortly.

Today, EPA announced that it has officially given milk a pass.   In a news release, Jackson said it would save the milk and dairy industries about $140 million per year.

In response to feedback from the agriculture community, EPA determined  that this unintended result of the current regulations – which were designed to prevent oil spill damage to inland waters and shorelines –placed unjustifiable burdens on dairy farmers. To ensure that this outdated rule didn’t harm the agriculture community while the mandatory regulatory process proceeded, EPA had delayed SPCC compliance requirements for milk and milk product containers several times since the SPCC rule went into effect. Today’s formal rule change reflects EPA’s commitment to common-sense, responsive, and transparent rule making. It’s also consistent with the president’s executive order on improving regulations.

In the name of common sense, let’s hope EPA clears up some of the other “myths” in the same fashion.

Federal gov’t shutdown avoided; next up the FY 2012 budget

April 10, 2011

President Obama is getting used to it.  

Like last December’s tax deal, he once again shared the credit for keeping the federal government operating until Congress can sign off on an FY 2011 budget deal which cuts non-defense discretionary spending by $38.5 billion.   Votes are scheduled this week.

President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the budget agreement late Friday night just hours before federal agencies, like USDA, would have been forced to implement shutdown contingency plans. 

“This is an agreement to invest in our country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them. I certainly did.”

In his weekly YouTube address, the President compared the budget cuts to how a family must make ends meet.

Speaker Boehner was able to extract more cuts than Democrats were comfortable with.   As part of the deal, the Senate will debate and vote on both healthcare repeal and Planned Parenthood spending.  The GAO will study the economic impact of “Obamacare” and the Dodd-Frank financial services law.   The IRS will be barred from hiring any more agents. 

While not every Republican will vote for the final deal, the Speaker is getting credit for more than driving a hard bargain.   POLITICO’s John  Bresnahan and Jake Sherman heap on the praise.

In a larger sense, Boehner has achieved more than just a short-term budget victory — in his first three months as speaker, he’s helped turn the entire Washington dialogue into a debate about the size and scope of government. He started the year by getting rid of earmarks, he’s pushing through some of the deepest spending cuts in American history, and he’ll now try to get most of the GOP Conference on board with Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal 2012 budget — one of the most audacious long-term spending plans in recent memory.

Rep. Ryan released the Path to Prosperity last week.   The 74 page document is a summary of the House Republicans’ proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins this October 1.     Chairman Ryan also released his own YouTube video describing PtP’s highlights.

Along the pathway are proposed budget cuts for farm programs — $30 billion in cuts over 10 years to direct payments and to crop insurance.    More later on the proposed farm program cuts in the House Republican plan.

Blog update: 1099 repeal passed, H.R. 872 passed, H.R. 910 passed, Federal gov’t on verge of shutdown

April 7, 2011

The March 2011 IFB Leaders to Washington trip from March 13-15 was very timely for a couple of issues and successful. What an excellent group. They worked hard, made good contacts and represented their counties and IFB extremely well.

A county Farm Bureau manager sent me a brief missive.

“You need to update your blog.”

Tell me about it. 

March was a busy month packed with two trips to D.C., including the annual IFB March Leaders to Washington program, AFBF’s new member reception, a meeting with U.S. DOT officials over an unwelcome and unfortunate new interpretation of federal trucking regs, and my first lengthy family vacation in recent memory.

No excuse though for letting Working the Hill go for a month.   I pledge to do a better job of keeping things updated here.

Because there’s only so much you write in a single post, and there’s been so much happening on federal legislative agenda that I will try to parcel things out over the next several days.  (Oh yeah, the White House finally reached a deal to allow an overdue vote on the U.S.-Colombia FTA.)

I’ll start with the passage this week of H.R. 4 in the U.S. Senate — the long-awaited final vote on an IRS Form 1099 repeal bill that almost didn’t go to a vote.  Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn held up the vote for a day or two with his demand for a vote on an amendment that would eliminate the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit, better known as the “blenders credit.”   

Sen. Coburn claimed he had 60 votes to kill the blenders credit and may eventually get his amendment considered under a “suspension of the rules” which requires a supermajority 67 votes to pass.   A Coburn spokesperson quipped that the vote itself would be subsidized in favor of the ethanol lobby.  

Regardless, no one who supports VEETC and federal support for renewable fuels at a time of $4 per gallon gas wants to see any vote, but the credit will expire at the end of the year unless it is replaced with something else.    

That alternative — a variable credit — is beginning to take shape.

Back to 1099 repeal.  

When the amendment to repeal 1099 using the same “pay-for” approved last month in the House finally went to a vote, it was overwhelming — 87-12 — with Sen. Kirk voting in the affirmative.

Sen. Durbin and a few of his colleagues argued that forcing taxpayers to repay federal health insurance subsidies when their incomes rise above allowable limits represents a tax on the middle class.

Still, President Obama signaled this week that he will sign the welcome repeal measure and our members and other self-employed individuals will avoid what would amount to a paperwork nightmare starting in 2012. 

Illinois Farm Bureau appreciates the support of Sen. Kirk and the 13 Illinois members of the U.S. House who voted in favor of one of our top 2011 Federal legislative priorities — the repeal of the 1099 requirement.