May 18, 2020
NPC’s Quarles: Farmers need ‘meaningful relief’

On May 15, the House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) Act by a vote of 208-199.

The bill is not expected to pass through the Senate nor be signed by President Trump, however.

“NPC believes that Congress and the Administration must do more to support our industry, as evidenced by the numerous images of potatoes being given away due to the food service shutdown,” said National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles. “No farmer should have to make this choice due to a government-mandate. We strongly support the urgent passage of bipartisan legislation that provides meaningful relief to these farmers who are selflessly supporting others during this crisis.”

House leadership released a summary of the agriculture and nutrition provisions in their bill. They include:

  • Producer payments for COVID-19 losses: The bill provides $16.5 billion for direct payments to agricultural producers whose commodities were impacted by market disruptions due to the COVID-19 emergency. (Section 60306)
  • Specialty Crop Block Grant Program: The bill provides $100 million in additional funding to address COVID-19 specialty crop supply chain issues at the state level via the farm bill’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. (Section 60301)
  • Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP): The bill provides $50 million in additional funding to support local farmers, farmers markets and other local food outlets who are impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions through the farm bill’s LAMP program. The bill temporarily waives matching requirements for these additional funds. (Section 60302)
  • Farm to Food Bank Program: The bill provides $25 million for the Farm to Food Bank program and makes program improvements for these additional funds. The funds may be used to cover up to 100 percent of harvesting, processing, packaging, and transportation costs for commodities donated to food banks. Encourages prioritization of dairy, meat, poultry and specialty crops. (Section 60602)

The full summary can be found here.

Final HOS motor carrier rule published

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) this week published a final rule updating hours of service (HOS) rules designed to increase safety on America’s roadways by updating existing regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers. Of particular importance for the ag community, the rule increases the air-mile radius to 150 miles for agricultural products that are ineligible for the agricultural exemption to the HOS rules.

“We appreciate that the Administration continues to make improvements to the Hours of Service rules. Ensuring that agricultural commodities can be safely and efficiently transported is the overall goal, and we believe these modifications are in line with that intent,” said RJ Andrus, NPC vice president of legislative and government affairs.

The final rule includes the following changes:

  • Brings the short-haul on-duty period in line with the rest of the industry, while increasing the air-mile radius of short-haul trucking from 100 air miles to 150 air miles and expands allowable work shift from 12 hours to 14 hours, although total driving time is still restricted to 11 hours;
  • Allows drivers, under certain adverse driving conditions, to extend their driving window by up to two hours;
  • Changes the requirement drivers take a 30-minute rest period within the first eight hours of coming on duty, to after eight consecutive hours of driving time have elapsed, and allows the break to be taken as on-duty, not driving; and
  • Makes modifications to the split sleeper berth provisions of the rule allowing greater flexibility for how a driver splits their sleeper berth time.

The complete final rule is available here.

NPC continues to advocate for further flexibility in the HOS regulations to provide options for drivers who are unavoidably delayed in congested areas that are not considered over-the-road driving conditions, such as marshalling in an intermodal facility at a commercial seaport or distribution warehouse.

Genetically engineered organism movement rule to be published

The final rule of USDA’s Movement of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms regulation is scheduled to be published in Monday’s Federal Register. The rule amends regulations regarding the movement (importation, interstate movement and environmental release) of certain genetically engineered organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering.

According to USDA, this final rule, which marks the first comprehensive revision of the regulations since they were established in 1987, provides a clear, predictable, and efficient regulatory pathway for innovators, facilitating the development of genetically engineered organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks.

The rule will take effect 90 days after date of publication. Visit here for more information.

NPC’s Ag-vocacy campaign

NPC is a grower-created and grower-run organization dedicated to promoting the welfare of the U.S. potato industry on Capitol Hill. To make the biggest impact in Washington D.C. we need growers like you to be a part of NPC Ag-vocacy Campaign and be an ag-vocate for potatoes.

In 2020, NPC is focused potato industry priorities, such as:

  • Advocating for pandemic relief for the potato industry
  • Continuing to build on and expand market access in Mexico, Japan and China
  • Pressing the Senate to take action on the ag labor crisis
  • Filling more Agricultural Research Service positions
  • Addressing comprehensive transportation funding solutions in Congress

Amplify the potato industry’s voice on Capitol Hill and contribute to the Ag-vocacy Campaign today by donating online here or by texting “POTATO” to 41444. Join the campaign by May 29 to be listed in the Annual Potato Yearbook.

75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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