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POLICY WATCH

NDEE to Resume Livestock Inspections, Extends Livestock Capacity Allowance

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) will resume doing on-farm livestock inspections soon but will contact producers ahead of time to ensure open communication as well as follow social distancing and other COVID-19 protective measures during inspections. NDEE Director Jim Macy shared the information during a conference call this week with Nebraska agricultural organizations and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Macy also shared that the agency has extended a previous allowance granting livestock operations to have more livestock on-site than they are currently permitted for. The allowance has been extended until Aug. 1, 2020.

Decision Affirms NRCS Must Obey Its Own Rules

An ongoing battle over a farmer’s right to use and care for his own land is one step closer to being resolved. A determination by the director of USDA’s National Appeals Division admonished the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for failing to obey its own rules, favoring a farmer who battled NRCS for more than a decade. Resolution of the issue could have nationwide ramifications.

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PPP Reforms on the Way?

Congress is continuing to work on reforming the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with the House passing their version of the reform package this week. The Senate is expected to take up their version next week. While each bill does offer some needed reforms including extending the terms of the loans, many of the ag specific reforms Farm Bureau has pushed for were not included in either bill. While both chambers will need to work out the differences between each bill, it is expected that many of the reforms Farm Bureau has been pushing for weeks, could be included in the next COVID-19 relief package that continues to work its way through Congress.

Fate of “Phase One” China Deal

In comments made this week, U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he did not expect President Donald Trump to walk away from a Phase One trade deal with China despite concerns over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A strong supporter of the agreement, Grassley told reporters he felt reassured that Trump would stick to the deal after a private conversation with the president late last week. “I was very satisfied with his answer and you know I wouldn’t be satisfied…if I didn’t feel like the president was going to maintain that trade agreement with China,” the senator said during a call with agriculture reporters. The president’s criticism of China over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak increased recently over a national security law that would reduce the separate legal status of Hong Kong, sparking questions about the U.S.-China trade deal’s future.

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