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ICE data shows half of immigrants arrested in raids had traffic convictions or no record

The Washington Post | Posted on May 2, 2017

About half of the 675 immigrants picked up in roundups across the United States in the days after President Trump took office either had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses, mostly drunken driving, as their most serious crimes, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.Records provided by congressional aides Friday offered the most detailed look yet at the backgrounds of the individuals rounded up and targeted for deportation in early February by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents assigned to regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York.Two people had been convicted of homicide, 80 had been convicted of assault, and 57 had convictions for “dangerous drugs.” Many of the most serious criminals were given top billing in ICE news statements about the operation.The largest single group — 163 immigrants convicted of traffic offenses — was mentioned only briefly. Over 90 percent of those cases involved drunken driving, ICE said Friday. Of those taken into custody in the raids, 177 had no criminal convictions at all, though 66 had charges pending, largely immigration or traffic offenses.The raids were part of a nationwide immigration roundup dubbed Operation Cross Check, which accounts for a small portion of the 21,362 immigrants the Trump administration took into custody for deportation proceedings from January through mid-March.

EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades

The Washington Post | Posted on May 2, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information. One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions. The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration’s rollbacks of former president Barack Obama’s climate policies. The change was approved by Pruitt, according to an individual familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, to avoid a conflict between the site’s content and the policies the administration is now pursuing.The staffer described the process of reviewing the site as “a work in progress, but we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.

Sustaining a Healthy Farm Labor Force: Issues for Policy Consideration

Choices magazine | Posted on May 1, 2017

The success and viability of farm businesses depend to a certain extent on the quality and quantity of the labor force. Promoting a healthy workforce is a priority for U.S. agriculture because hired labor is an essential production input, accounting for the third largest production expense (Kandel, 2008). Recruiting and retaining farm workers, however, has usually presented a difficult challenge for farm businesses given high physical demands, heavy workloads, and relatively lower wages in the agricultural sector (Luo and Escalante, 2017a). These employment challenges are further aggravated by health risks: farm employees work under volatile weather conditions and risk contamination from chemicals in the production and processing environments. U.S immigrant health care policies are inextricably linked to the effectiveness of the public health insurance program, which the Trump administration has explicitly targeted for a significant overhaul. A major immigration policy reform in 1996, the PRWORA1996, requires a five-year waiting period for all lawful permanent residents to be eligible for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIP), regardless of financial situation. Undocumented immigrants remain ineligible for all public insurance programs (Ku, 2006). As a result, immigrant workers, especially those who are undocumented, have lower rates of health insurance coverage than citizens  The goal of sustaining a healthy farm workforce is an important policy consideration given the sector’s dependence on labor inputs. This priority is a challenge that must consider several issues. First, replacing foreign workers could be complicated due to difficulties in sourcing and hiring domestic workers to replace displaced undocumented workers. Citizens and green card holders have usually been unwilling to endure demanding, strenuous farm work in favor of better pay, more employee benefits, and more favorable working conditions in other industries (Wozniacka 2013; Wells 2012). When documented domestic workers are hired, some farmers have had to contend with levels of farm labor productivity that are significantly lower than those achieved by former undocumented workers. In less mechanized operations, large quantities of crops remained un-harvested and resulted in huge crop losses 

Trump, Immigration, and Agriculture

Choices magazine | Posted on May 1, 2017

Eight million unauthorized foreigners are part of the U.S. labor force, and at least a million are employed primarily in agriculture. It cannot be a surprise, therefore, to learn that the Trump administration’s plans for a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border, increased deportations, and punishment of “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be disruptive to American agriculture. New enforcement measures to slow the entry of unauthorized foreigners and plans to remove those already in the United States would have a profound impact on American agriculture. Relying on national household survey data, Passel and Cohn (2016b) estimated that 17% of those employed in agriculture in 2014 were unauthorized, followed by 13% unauthorized workers in the construction industry and 9% in the hospitality sector. Slightly different estimates are found by occupation, with 26% of those with farming occupations were unauthorized, followed by 15% in construction, and 9% each in production and service occupations.   According to NAWS, the share of unauthorized workers has been about 50% in all commodities and areas since around 2000. While there are no reliable data, dairy farmers report that approximately half of their workers are immigrants, and that many are unauthorized (Rural Migration News, 2010). On the other hand, farmers in some commodities and areas supplement their workforces through the legal H-2A guest worker program originally created in 1952 to bring in workers for the sugar cane and apple industries. The U.S. Department of Labor certified 165,000 farm jobs to be filled by H-2A workers in FY16, but some workers fill two or more jobs. The H-2A program is expanding, doubling over the past decade. Florida and North Carolina lead H-2A use among the states, accounting for a quarter of all jobs certified. The states of Washington (apples) and California (vegetables) have the fastest growth in certifications, with the number of H-2A jobs doubling over the past five years. It now seems that the period between 1980 and 2010 was one of abundance in Mexican farm labor, and that era is now largely over. Rising labor costs are likely to prompt a new wave of labor-saving mechanization. A variety of machines are being developed to harvest a number of crops, but their adoption and dispersion is always a function of relative cost scenarios. With labor costs continuing to rise, including recent California legislation raising the minimum wage from $10 an hour in 2016 to $15 by 2022, the trend toward labor-displacing technical change will continue. Two scenarios are possible. First, the number of H-2A guest workers could continue to increase, returning some of US agriculture to labor conditions of the Bracero era, when foreign guest workers lived on the farms where they worked and dominated workforces in particular crops.  Second, rising labor costs could prompt labor-saving mechanization and more imports, with the mix between mechanized production at home and imports from lower-wage countries determined by the speed with which management and technical changes proceed versus trade policies and more efficient production of fruits and vegetables for the US abroad.  The exact mix of guest workers, mechanization, and imports thus depends on US migration and trade policies as well as technology improvements and production abroad. 

Spending Plan Includes Reassurance for Legal Pot

Roll Call | Posted on May 1, 2017

usinesses selling marijuana in states where it is legal just got some reassurance from Congress that they don’t have to worry about a federal crackdown anytime soon. The spending bill that will keep the government open until September includes the extension of a policy that prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal money to interfere with states’ medical marijuana laws.


Farms caught in Canadian trade dispute find buyers for their milk

US News and World Report | Posted on May 1, 2017

Just days before they might have had to close, most of the Wisconsin dairy farms caught up in a trade dispute with Canada have found buyers for their milk, enabling them to stay in business. At risk had been some 58 farms ranging in size from 80 to 3,000 cows. There’s also a “Plan B” in the works, said Gefvert, of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. No details have been released, and the plan is only tentative. But it could include finding milk haulers to pick up the product from the displaced farms in hopes of finding a processor for it.Canada has said it’s not to blame for the crisis; it faults American farmers for producing too much milk in a global marketplace flooded with it. But U.S. authorities, including Trump, have said the Canadian dairy system is choking off sales of Wisconsin and New York milk in Canada.“We need to get at the root of the problem,” said Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation in Arlington, Va. “There are long-term ramifications that aren’t as visible as a few dozen farms all of a sudden losing their markets. The longer-term impact will affect a much larger number of America’s dairy farmers from coast to coast.”

Border security can take a heavy toll on endangered wildlife

PBS | Posted on April 27, 2017

In one study from 2011, biologists found border fences increased the risk of population decline and extinction, especially for endangered species. Another study from the same year found border security infrastructure could interfere with black bear breeding. Before the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico went up about 10 years ago, conservationists tried to stop it, but ultimately lost that fight. Eighty percent of Arizona’s border with Mexico has some kind of barrier. Gaps do occasionally exist where wildlife can pass, but finding those places isn’t easy.

Low Farm Prices Impacting Ag Economy– Will Executive Branch Trade Policy Help?

Illinois Farm Policy News | Posted on April 27, 2017

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue addressed USDA staff on Tuesday, after he was sworn into office. During his remarks, Sec. Perdue noted that, “One of the challenges that I heard as I visited with over 75 Senators was- we need to have a good trade policy, because our producers out there have been so productive, we have got a lot of stuff we need to sell.  And, we are going to sell it world-wide: Trade is going to be at the top of our agenda, as well as other things, but we have got to be good traders.  We are in a Nation that has been blessed with abundance.”  And note that Wall Street Journal writer Jacob Bunge reported this week that, “The agricultural sector, which heavily relies on exports, has also watched warily as President Trump’s administration has moved ahead with an overhaul of U.S. trade policy, including withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which farm groups generally had backed.”

EPA Criticized in RFS Case

DTN | Posted on April 27, 2017

Attorneys representing the renewable fuels and petroleum industries argued in federal appeals court Monday on the role the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has in implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard.  In oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, attorneys defending the EPA made the case that the agency has to consider a number of factors when setting renewable volume obligations.Attorneys for a variety of biofuels interest groups argued the agency has not done in its job of setting biofuels volumes high enough according to the statute.Seth Waxman, an attorney for Americans for Clean Energy, told the court EPA's limited role is to set biofuels volumes.Between 2014 and 2016, EPA set volumes below statute for many biofuels categories, prompting a number of biofuels groups and obligated parties in the RFS to sue the agency.Part of EPA's decision to set volumes lower was based on what the agency said was inadequate supply of biofuels.The biofuels industry has maintained the RFS obligations can be met through the sale and purchase of renewable identification numbers, or RINs, as well as actual biofuels gallons."Congress' clear judgement was that so long as renewable fuels are available, requirements must be met," Waxman said.

Senate confirms Perdue as agriculture secretary

The Washington Post | Posted on April 27, 2017

Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue was confirmed Monday as secretary of the Agriculture Department, bringing into President Trump’s Cabinet an experienced politician with deep support among agricultural interests. Perdue faced few obstacles to confirmation — the vote Monday was 87 to 11 — after a collegial confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Agriculture Committee, where senators used their testimony time to raise questions about Trump’s budget. Support for Perdue extended far beyond Washington. The former Georgia governor has received thumbs up from hundreds of food and agricultural groups nationwide, including major groups such as the Farm Bureau and the National Restaurant Association.But Perdue may have to contend with deep cuts to the USDA proposed by the president’s budget, which could disproportionately affect rural residents and farmers nationwide, pitting him between the White House’s priorities and those of rural and agricultural interest groups.