Washington Insider-- Thursday

Chesapeake Bay Progress Report

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

House Ag Chairman Conaway Criticizes Turkish Import Duties on US Cotton

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, issued a statement after the Turkish government announced a 3% duty on all U.S. cotton fiber imports into Turkey.

This action, he said, follows the country’s unfounded investigation into whether U.S. cotton was dumped into Turkey, an allegation the National Cotton Council has challenged, saying it has no merit.

“American cotton growers remain under assault, and the problems just keep coming. Just last week, China announced it will start selling off government-owned stockpiles, a result of their reckless policy that has depressed world cotton prices and that continues to hang over the market," Conaway said. "Add to that the fact that India’s minimum support price and input subsidies have resulted in India topping China as the world’s largest producer. Now Turkey, the nation’s second largest cotton customer, is slapping U.S. cotton exporters with a three percent duty as retaliation against a U.S. investigation into Turkish steel exports. This investigation was blatant retaliation, violated WTO procedure, and was anything but transparent. The findings are baseless and the duties should be dropped immediately."


Nestlé Drops GMOs, Artificial Ingredients in Some Ice Cream

In a move to simplify ingredients, Nestlé announced it is making some changes to more than 100 of its ice cream products that include removing artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup and GMO ingredients.

The changes — different for each product — will impact six brands including Dreyer’s, Haagen-Dazs, Outshine, Skinny Cow, Nestlé Ice Cream and Nestlé Drumstick.

Other changes include the use of fresh milk from cows not treated with rBST, the addition of more real fruit or fruit juice and a reduction in sugar by an average of 11% on select products.

Nestlé last December announced that it will transition to using only cage-free eggs in all of its U.S. food products, including ice cream, within the next five years. Nationwide roll-out for the newly updated products began in March 2016.

“Nestlé Dreyer's Ice Cream understands that consumers want to know what's in their food, where those ingredients come from and how the food products they purchase are made,” says Robert Kilmer, president, Nestlé Dreyer's Ice Cream. “We are the industry leader when it comes to innovation and, as consumer demand centers on transparency and choice, we are responding with new ways to make ice cream even better. Using simpler ingredients that our consumers can recognize, and removing those that don't belong, is a natural next step for our brands.”


Washington Insider: Chesapeake Bay Progress Report

The Chesapeake Bay Compact consists of seven states and the District of Columbia. Its main focus is to implement conservation programs that reduce pollution in the Bay. The programs it includes are quite controversial and highly specific, focused on agricultural practices, industrial and municipal sources. The program’s progress is being watched very closely by advocates and opponents alike.

Bloomberg is reporting this week what Compact program managers call good news; that the level of pollution is falling faster than expected in response to the tough rules now in place for the area. The report reflects data released by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership of government, nonprofits and academics that is overseeing clean-up operations.

The report indicated that phosphorus levels declined 20% and sediment loads dropped by 7% between 2009 and 2015, according to computer simulations. Phosphorous declined 1.7 million more than the target, to 15.4 million pounds; sediment reduced 39 million pounds more than the target, to 8.035 billion pounds. Nitrogen loads fell 8% to 259 million pounds in 2015—but missed the target by 11 million pounds.

“I'm encouraged that we're moving in a very positive direction,” Nick DiPasquale, the program's director, told the press last week. Scientists are finding evidence that the bay is improving, including “significant increases” in bay grasses, an increasing shad population and a rising number of blue crabs, he said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources also reported that the blue crab population increased 35% over last year to 553 million, the fourth-highest level in two decades. The population of female blue crabs in the Bay has increased 92% since it was surveyed last winter, the Chesapeake Bay Program said earlier this month.

The reduction in nutrient and sediment pollution, which surpassed expectations, resulted from better agricultural practices, a drop in nitrogen due to Clean Air Act regulations and upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, the group said.

Nutrient reductions in the wastewater sector accounted for 41% of the nitrogen reductions and 38% of the phosphorus reductions between 2014 and 2015, computer simulations showed.

DiPasquale attributed the shortfall in the nitrogen goals to Pennsylvania, which is not getting the reductions it needs from the agricultural sector, Bloomberg noted.

The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release in mid-June milestone evaluations that would give more detail on how each state is doing, DiPasquale said.

Phil Cha, vice chair of the environmental law group at Archer & Greiner PC in Philadelphia, told Bloomberg that the reductions in the total maximum daily load showed “significant progress.” “The fact that they exceeded the TMDL targets for phosphorus and sediment is really, really good news,” he said.

Cha said he would be listening for more news about how the drop in pollution is affecting the Bay overall. “How's the bay recovering? That's what everybody wants to know,” he said. “That's the ultimate question.”

Conservation efforts based on TMDL levels are highly controversial among many agricultural groups, who favor more traditional conservation and soil management efforts and believe that these provide sufficient runoff control. However, many water experts say that cleanups of severely polluted areas requires tougher, more interventionist efforts and that management on the basis of TMDLs is essential to equitably identify pollution sources and implement effective controls.

Thus, areas like the Maumee River in Ohio with severe water-quality problems are watching progress in Chesapeake programs very closely as they decide how to proceed. Thus, the effectiveness of the Chesapeake Compact programs in broadly controlling pollution from the full range of sources is of immediate importance to producers involved and should be watched closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

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