Dept. of Energy panel seeks stronger rules on drilling of gas wells, fracking
New York Times
A federal Department of Energy panel issued recommendations on Thursday for improving the safety and environmental impact of drilling in shale formations for natural gas.
In a report on the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used currently in most oil and gas wells, the seven-member Natural Gas Subcommittee called for better tracking and more careful disposal of the waste that comes up from wells, stricter standards on air pollution and greenhouse gases associated with drilling, and the creation of a federal database so the public can better monitor drilling operations.
The report also called for companies to eliminate diesel fuel from their fracking fluid because it includes carcinogenic chemicals, and for companies and regulators to disclose the full list of ingredients used in fracking.
Farmers Markets on the Rise
The newly released 2011 National Farmers Market Directory shows a total of 7,175 farmers markets in the U.S. this summer, up from last year’s 6,132.
These markets allow farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers and often bring fresh fruits and vegetables into neighborhoods that lacked them.
There could be even more than the 7,000-plus on USDA’s list, says agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. The USDA’s list is compiled as part of a voluntary, self-reporting system by the Agricultural Marketing Service. It used information from farmers market managers collected April 18 through June 24, 2011.
USDA has new scheme to trace animal disease
Food Safety News
For most of the past decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to get farmers and ranchers to accept the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) without success. NAIS was to be a high tech solution, with top down coverage of nearly every critter on the land. But, as everybody in rural America knows, NAIS is dead. Still U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has every reason to worry about tuberculosis, brucellosis, scabies, pseudorabies, hog cholera and like animal diseases. So to improve the traceability of U.S. livestock moving through interstate commerce when animal diseases do strike, Vilsack Tuesday rolled out a new, decidedly low tech tracking system.
Renewable Fuels Standard emerges as ethanol’s Sacred Cow
You wouldn’t know it from the political cloud over ethanol, but the federal government will keep propping up the industry even if Washington eliminates its three-decade-old tax subsidies.
A newer law quietly ensures ethanol’s sustained growth. And that mandate isn’t going anywhere.
By year’s end, the congressional “super committee” charged with reducing the federal deficit likely will topple the $6 billion in annual ethanol industry tax credits and a corresponding government tariff on imported ethanol. But another prong of ethanol’s government support – the “renewable fuels standard” – will remain. And it may ultimately be more important to corn farmers and the ethanol industry.
U.S. DOT: No changes to road rules
If you haul grain as part of a crop share agreement with your landlord, you’re not going to have to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
That’s what the Department of Transportation says in an official guidance issued today, hoping to calm members of Congress and farm groups who feared a new set of burdensome regulations.
Instead, the Department is not changing any federal rules that apply to requirements for CDLs for farmers.