Trump announces plan to roll back WOTUS rule

President Trump announced a plan to roll back Obama-era clean water regulations that aimed to protect rivers and streams from agricultural runoff and other pollutants. It will remove vast wetlands and thousands of miles of waterways from federal protection.

Organic food industry sues USDA over slowdown of livestock welfare rules

In a challenge to the Trump administration's drive to erase Obama-era regulations, the organic food industry accused USDA of unlawfully delaying animal welfare rules that give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than allowed at conventional operations. Livestock groups and their allies in Congress have alternated between ridiculing the organic livestock rule and trying to scrap it.

Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewel defends Bears Ears Monument

Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewel calls claims that public groups were kept out of the conversation during planning meetings for the Bears Ears National Monument “nonsense.” The monument was designated by President Obama during his final days in office, but current Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that the monument’s boundaries be downsized.

EPA’s Pruitt says he will bring clarity to clean water law

The EPA will provide clarity to the reach of the clean water law with its revisions of the so-called Waters of the United States that was proposed by the Obama administration and blocked by court challenges, said administrator Scott Pruitt in a Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette interview. Pruitt said the new rule would be “objectively measured and traditional in its view of how we should measure waters of the United States.”

USDA releases final rule on animal welfare on organic farms

The USDA wrapped up months of work on animal welfare rules for organic producers today by releasing the regulation two days before the end of the Obama administration. The regulation requires that producers provide outdoor access for poultry while codifying biosecurity practices against disease spread by wild birds.

First bumblebee in U.S. lands on endangered-species list

The Obama administration has granted endangered-species protection to the rusty-patched bumblebee — the first bumblebee in the United States, and the first bee of any kind in the lower 48 states to get the designation, says The New York Times. Seven other bees are listed, but they are all from Hawaii.

Obama administration urges funding of geoengineering research to combat climate change

A White House report submitted to Congress this week recommends that moderate funding go toward geoengineering in an effort to fight climate change, says The New York Times.

U.S. files second WTO complaint against China grain aid

U.S. farmers lost as much as $3.5 billion in corn, wheat and rice sales to China last year because the world's most populous nation used its tariff system to unfairly limit imports, the Obama administration said in a complaint to the World Trade Organization. Separately, the U.S. asked WTO to appoint a dispute panel to investigate its complaint of excessive Chinese subsidies of corn, wheat and rice.

States urge Trump to nix Clean Power Plan

Officials in 24 states want president-elect Trump to cancel the Clean Power Plan put forth by the Obama administration, says Reuters. The plan calls for lowering power-plant emissions 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, but the Supreme Court has delayed its implantation until a U.S. district court in the District of Columbia decides whether the order is legal.

Weeks from departure, Obama team revamps fair-play rules in livestock marketing

As quickly as the Obama administration unveiled a package of rules meant to make it easier for livestock producers to prove unfair treatment at the hands of processors and packers, the largest cattle and hog groups called on the incoming Trump administration to blunt their impact.

Healthy eating is ‘the new norm for our kids,’ says First Lady

Having launched a drive against child obesity in 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the early signs of progress this week and told a White House audience, "I intend to keep working on this issue for the rest of my life."

Resilient, rural America recovers from recession, says Obama

President Obama said rural America is "moving in the right direction" after the 2008-09 recession and a long-running shift toward automation and globalization that "has, in many ways, hit rural communities particularly hard." In an op-ed, the president saluted rural "resilience and ingenuity in the face of a challenge."

Obama kept Vilsack in cabinet with a bigger portfolio

President Obama dissuaded his longest-serving cabinet member, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, from quitting in late 2015 by putting Vilsack in charge of the administration's efforts to stem heroin and prescription opioid abuse in rural America, says the Washington Post. Vilsack felt rural issues were ignored in Washington and, after seven years on the job, there was little left for him to accomplish at USDA.

Organic checkoff goes on the back burner

The industry proposal for a checkoff program to support organic food and products is moving so slowly at USDA that the Obama administration will probably leave office before producers vote on it. The Organic Trade Association submitted its proposal in May 2015 and as recently as this summer hoped for a referendum this year to establish the producer-funded research and promotion program.

Obama links climate change and U.S. national security

A day after warning of potential disruptions worldwide due to climate change, President Obama signed a memorandum "establishing that the impacts of climate change must be considered in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies and plans," said the White House. The memorandum created a Federal Climate and National Security Working Group involving 20 agencies in the job of identifying security priorities affected by climate change and to share information about how to respond to it.

White House unveils two documents on modernizing biotech regulation

Fourteen months ago, the Obama administration launched the first comprehensive review in 30 years of the roles of the USDA, the EPA and the FDA in regulating biotechnology. In a follow-up, the White House released a proposed update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology — the division of labor among regulators, first issued in 1986 — and a national strategy for modernizing biotechnology regulations.

France: U.S.-EU trade pact ‘bogged down,’ may never be final

French President Francois Hollande said the U.S.-EU free-trade agreement under discussion for three years cannot be finalized before President Obama leaves office in January, said BBC News. Hollande was the latest in a series of European officials to question if negotiations can be completed; France's trade minister said he would propose suspension of negotiations at an EU meeting next month.

Obama poised to sign GMO disclosure bill

President Obama is ready to sign the GMOs-in-food disclosure bill that is speeding through Congress and would punctuate more than two decades of controversy over agricultural biotechnology. The House was expected to give final congressional approval to the bill today, sending it to the White House one week after Senate passage.

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