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April 23, 2020
A five-minute summary of AAI, regulation, and industry activities for members of the largest state agribusiness association in the nation.
  • The crop progress report is back along with changes due to the pandemic

  • ISU economic impact report shows Iowa ag losing billions

  • USDA Announces food assistance program to help farmers and consumers 

  • Paycheck protection dollars have run out

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NEWS
On April 10, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an enforcement guidance with details on how employers should record occupational illnesses, specifically cases of the COVID-19.

Under OSHA’s record keeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if: (1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);[1] (2) the case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5;[2] and (3) the case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7.[3] On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and the extent of transmission is a rapidly evolving issue.

In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, employers other than those in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work. In light of those difficulties, OSHA is exercising its enforcement discretion in order to provide certainty to the regulated community.

Employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions must continue to make work-relatedness determinations pursuant to 29 CFR § 1904. Until further notice, however, OSHA will not enforce 29 CFR § 1904 to require other employers to make the same work-relatedness determinations, except where:

  • There is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related. This could include, for example, a number of cases developing among workers who work closely together without an alternative explanation; and
  • The evidence was reasonably available to the employer. For purposes of this memorandum, examples of reasonably available evidence include information given to the employer by employees, as well as information that an employer learns regarding its employees’ health and safety in the ordinary course of managing its business and employees.

On April 21, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published their long-awaited rule clarifying the definition of the term, “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), effective June 22, 2020. In a move with tremendous regulatory significance, this rulemaking—formally known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule—significantly narrows the number of waters potentially regulated as WOTUS under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule (the “2020 Rule”) significantly streamlines and narrows the definition of WOTUS. It jettisons the controversial and difficult-to-apply “significant nexus” test in favor of less subjective criteria that more closely align with the plurality decision in Rapanos.

Under the 2020 Rule, to be codified at 33 C.F.R. § 328.3, there are four categories of WOTUS:

  • Territorial seas and traditional navigable waters;
  • Tributaries of jurisdictional waters;
  • Lakes, ponds, and impoundments that contribute surface water flow to a jurisdictional water in a typical year; and
  • Wetlands adjacent to non-wetland jurisdictional waters.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced today that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has issued its first round of hemp licenses and seed permits for the 2020 growing season. To date, 11 hemp licenses and 38 seed permits specific to hemp have been approved since it became legal to possess hemp in Iowa on April 8, 2020. License applications for outdoor hemp crops will be accepted until May 15. There is no deadline to apply for a license for indoor hemp crops.

“The introduction of hemp brings Iowa farmers another cash crop option for the 2020 growing season,” says Secretary Naig. “As with any new market, there are lessons to learn and challenges to overcome, but we continue to hear from farmers who are excited for this new opportunity.”

Farmers who grow many different types of crops and raise livestock will receive direct payments from the United States Department of Agriculture through $16 billion of CARES Act relief money.

USDA has announced it will also spend $3 billion to purchase fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat and other food, which it will then distribute to those in need through food banks and other community groups. 

But in announcing these relief efforts, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was blunt about the fact that there’s nothing directly for ethanol.

“Frankly, at this point there’s just not enough money to go around,” he told reporters in a telephone press conference. “The demand from all of the sectors was even more than we could accommodate.”

A contagious strain of bird flu flying through and wreaking havoc in South Carolina has caught the attention of Iowa agriculture officials.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed on April 9 the presence of highly pathogenic H7N3 avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock in Chesterfield County, SC.

That was the first confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in commercial poultry in the United States since 2017. The strain apparently mutated from a low pathogenic strain that had been found in poultry in that area recently.

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