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USDA terminates Chinese-owned Smithfield farm aid contract

Reuters | Posted on November 20, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture terminated a $240,000 purchase contract with Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods that had been awarded under the Trump administration’s agricultural trade bailout program, a move taken at the company’s request, a department spokesman told Reuters. The move comes weeks after Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, one of the country’s biggest farm states and the biggest hog-producing state, slammed Smithfield for receiving what he said was aid from the USDA that was meant to help American farmers hurt by China’s trade tariffs. “Smithfield requested to terminate their contract awarded under the Food Purchase and Distribution Program. USDA has agreed to the termination,” Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the USDA, told Reuters.Murtaugh said the transfer of funds for the food purchase contract had not yet taken place, and that Smithfield’s request to cancel the contract was received on Nov. 13.Smithfield, owned by Chinese conglomerate WH Group (0288.HK), was not immediately available for comment. The company is the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer with $15 billion annual revenues, according to its website.

U.S. House passes bill to drop legal protections for gray wolves

Capital Press | Posted on November 17, 2018

The Republican-controlled House passed a bill to drop legal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48 states, reopening a lengthy battle over the predator species. Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century. Since securing protection in the 1970s, wolves have bounced back in the western Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.The Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the wolf’s status and is expected to declare they’ve recovered sufficiently to be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act.The House bill would enshrine that policy in law and restrict judicial review of listing decisions. The measure was approved, 196-180, and now goes to the Senate, where prospects are murkier.

US appeals court rules against Trump on DACA immigration program

CNBC | Posted on November 15, 2018

A U.S. appeals court in California ruled that President Donald Trump's administration must continue DACA, a program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants.The ruling represented another legal defeat for Trump over DACA.DACA offers protections to roughly 700,000 young adults, mostly Hispanics, who entered the country as children.

Lawsuit against USDA takes aim at animal welfare label claims

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on November 15, 2018

The Animal Welfare Institute has sued USDA for failing to mandate third-party audits of food label claims such as “humane” and “sustainable.” The animal activist group, in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accuses USDA of an unreasonable delay in responding to the organization’s 2014 petition for rulemaking. The petition asked the agency to require independent certification of animal raising claims including “animal compassionate” and “raised with care.”

One of Trump’s Top EPA Officials Was Just Indicted on State Ethics Charges

Mother Jones | Posted on November 15, 2018

A senior Environmental Protection Agency administrator responsible for nine southeastern states has been indicted by an Alabama grand jury on charges he conspired to violate ethics laws, reportedly in connection with a messy bribery scandal that has links to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and has roiled local politics. The Alabama Ethics Commission announced that a grand jury had indicted Onis “Trey” Glenn, the EPA official, and Willie Scott Phillips, his former business partner, on a variety of state ethics charges. The press release was short on details, but the charges include inappropriate solicitation or receiving of money or other items of value and allegations that Phillips violated rules against the “use of office for personal gain.” Glenn was indicted separately from Phillips on multiple counts of conspiracy or complicity. reported that the charges stem from Glenn and Phillips’ involvement with an effort by the Drummond coal company to block an EPA cleanup of the 35th Avenue neighborhood of north Birmingham—an impoverished, mostly African American area that suffered decades of pollution from neighboring industrial sites. 

Vietnam becomes 7trh county to ratify trans-Pacific trade agreement

Reuters | Posted on November 14, 2018

Vietnam’s lawmaking body, the National Assembly, unanimously ratified a landmark 11-country deal that will slash tariffs across much of the Asia-Pacific.One of the region’s fastest growing economies, its status cemented by strong exports and robust foreign investment, the Southeast Asian nation is believed to be among the largest beneficiaries of the trade deal.The ratification makes Vietnam the seventh country to have passed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the National Assembly said in a statement.

Report: USMCA will cause US ag exports to decline by $1.8B

Watt AgNet | Posted on November 14, 2018

 A new report says the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will expand U.S. agricultural exports by $450 million, but those gains will be negated by retaliatory tariffs by Canada and Mexico against the U.S. The study, “How U.S. Agriculture Will Fare Under the USMCA and Retaliatory Tariffs,” says retaliatory tariffs will cause U.S. agricultural exports to decline by $1.8 billion and that, with continued tariffs from China and other trading partners, “the United States would see a decline in agricultural exports of $7.9 billion, thus overwhelming the small positive gains from USMCA.”The USMCA maintains relatively free market access across the United States, Mexico and Canada, particularly in agriculture. It improves market access for U.S. dairy and poultry exports to Canada, providing a positive export bump in those sectors of $450 million. Dairy exports are expected to increase by 5 percent and exports of other meat products by 1.6 percent.USMCA has measurable impacts on exports of dairy and poultry to Canada, and “modest” impacts on farm income and labor demand.The USMCA was reached in a “volatile trade policy environment” that will create headwinds for U.S. farmers due to retaliatory measures by not only Canada and Mexico, but other nations such as China. Specifically, retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico could cause U.S. agricultural exports to decline by $1.8 billion, and by $1.9 billion to these two key trading partners, and the broader trade retaliation could cause U.S. agricultural exports to decline by $7.9 billion, thus overwhelming the small positive gains from USMCA.In the 25 years since NAFTA was formed, the share of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico has increased to almost 30 percent, from 14.2 percent. The analysis cites a study which indicates “a withdrawal from NAFTA, with tariffs reverting to MFN levels, would create a decline in U.S. agricultural exports of more than $9 billion and a loss of export revenue of $12 billion with the two NAFTA partners.”

Caravan To Nowhere: Five Fallacies That Stall Immigration Discourse

Forbes | Posted on November 14, 2018

The pending confrontation is tragic, considering the U.S. tradition of win-win outcomes for immigrants like me and the nation that receives our creative energy and industry.The results are indisputable. Fed by a steady stream of the world’s outcasts — the tired, poor and tempest-tossed masses memorialized on the Statue of Liberty — the United States has emerged as the world’s No. 1 economy.A recent Kauffman Foundation report shows that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and over 50 percent of billion dollar startups in the United States had an immigrant founder. As an added bonus, a National Foundation for American Policy brief connects higher levels of immigrants in the labor force to lower unemployment for U.S. natives.Despite the benefits, conversations about immigration have grown unproductive. The first error occurs when people frame the debate in terms of skilled versus unskilled labor, or legal versus illegal status. The implication, often stated directly, is that immigrants create value for the United States only when they arrive with money, education and paperwork.Multiple studies debunk this elitist view. As a group, immigrants are more alike than different regardless of rank and class. Elitist attitudes lead to a second error — the notion that somehow today’s immigrants are not as good as the ones who came before.People who raise alarms about uncontrolled immigration sometimes point to security risks. But most fears are based on economic concerns. Critics see poor families coming across the border and worry about who will feed them, house them, educate them and provide health care.Some of the suspicion is a natural result of the growing U.S. appetite for positive rights.

ICE, Seaboard reach $1 million settlement

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on November 12, 2018

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Seaboard Corp. announced the pork processor has agreed to pay just over $1 million in a civil settlement that concludes an investigation into alleged employment of unauthorized workers from 2007-2012. The government investigated whether Seaboard’s Guymon, Okla., plant hired and employed unauthorized workers and failed to properly complete employment eligibility forms. The investigation also looked into allegations that healthcare claims for certain Seaboard employees, who were enrolled in a private health insurance plan provided by Seaboard, were improperly submitted to the Oklahoma Medicaid Program in the same time period.The agreement requires Seaboard to pay $750,000 to ICE and $256,000 to the State of Oklahoma’s Office of the Attorney General. The settlement was predicated upon Seaboard’s cooperation in the matter and on compliance measures taken by Seaboard prior to and during the course of the investigation, ICE said in its statement.

Oregon ranchers volunteer to test new wolf deterrence strategy

Capital Press | Posted on November 12, 2018

Two Eastern Oregon ranchers have volunteered to test a new strategy aimed at preventing further conflicts between wolves and livestock. Rodger Huffman, president of the Union County Cattlemen’s Association, and Cynthia Warnock, president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association, will work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop site-specific wolf plans at their respective ranches, emphasizing the use of non-lethal deterrents up front to minimize predation.The proposal was outlined by a group of stakeholders tasked with finding common ground on a five-year update of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which is now three years past due. Participants in the work group include a mix of farming, ranching, hunting and environmental interests, led by Deb Nudelman, a professional mediator hired from Portland.