The White House announced in a statement that it will impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods imported from China shortly by June 15, when a final list of covered imports will be announced. Moreover, by June 30 the U.S. “will implement specific investment restrictions and enhance export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology.” The Tuesday announcement came less than 10 days after the U.S. and Chinese governments issued a joint statement in which they signaled continued negotiations and a willingness from China to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural goods and products. China has already imposed $2 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports in response to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs. China has previously announced that if the U.S. were to implement the $50 billion in tariffs as part of the Section 301 investigation, they would retaliate with an equal amount of tariffs. The Chinese retaliatory tariff list includes an additional 25 percent tariff on U.S. agricultural and food products, impacting approximately $16.5 billion worth of imports from the U.S.
A new bill has been introduced that would permit state-inspected meat and poultry to be shipped anywhere in the country. Twenty-seven states have inspection programs that have been judged ‘equal to’ the federal inspection program run by FSIS. Generally, however, meat and poultry produced in a plant under a state program can be sold in-state only. One might ask, “Why is state-inspected meat prohibited from crossing the state line if it was produced in a plant under an inspection system ‘equal to’ the FSIS system?” With such a query, the argument begins anew.A skeptic might say, “State programs are not really equal to the federal program. Political pressure is all that keeps these state programs operating.”In reply we hear, “Many state programs operate quite successfully, some with former FSIS personnel having returned home to live and work.”Another disbeliever will exclaim, “States only run their programs to collect the 50 percent support the feds supply.”An astute observer responds, “FSIS always opposes interstate movement of state-inspected meat and poultry products because the agency doesn’t want to see its monopoly of inspection funds diminished.”Others exclaim, “It wouldn’t be safe to allow state inspected products to move freely around the country.”A common rejoinder sounds like this, “Meat or poultry products from three dozen countries are eligible to enter the U.S. and cross state lines. Foreign programs only need to be ‘equivalent’ to that of FSIS, allowing for important differences. State programs must be ‘equal to’ the FSIS program.”In my opinion, federally approved state programs should be able to export their meat and poultry products anywhere within the United States. Also, the states should be held to the international standard of ‘equivalent to’ FSIS.
The Republican bill that died in the House last week somehow managed to simultaneously offend liberals, conservatives and moderates. The Freedom Caucus gets the blame -- or credit – for defeating the bill, but the more interesting story is why their small number of votes mattered to a bill that is usually a bipartisan slam dunk. The main headlines and analysis of the defeat is focused on the House Freedom Caucus, several members having voted against the bill in an attempt to force a vote on stricter immigration policies. Politico’s Rachel Bade, for instance, reported that, “House Republicans are at each other’s throats after the Freedom Caucus delivered a shock to party leaders on Friday by killing a key GOP bill over an unrelated simmering feud over immigration.”It’s certainly true that the Freedom Caucus played a role in defeating the bill, but it’s also true that numerous Republican moderates were part of the no-vote bloc. Additionally, the Democrats’ 100% opposition is unprecedented in farm bill debates. That’s because farm bills have a long history of bipartisan collaboration and cooperation, a governing norm that was brought up repeatedly as representatives spoke out against the bill during floor debate.
In the national immigration debate, anti-immigrant rhetoric is at a fever pitch generated by politicians bent on inciting a cultural war and exploiting the fears many Americans have about their economic situation and how their communities are changing. But to truly understand the role of immigrants in the United States, we must look to the states and localities where immigrants live. In spite of efforts by fear-mongering politicians to divide us, both “red” and “blue” states have a proud history of advancing policies that acknowledge and encourage the contributions of all members of their communities, regardless of where they were born. In the midst of monumental national policy debates, it is just as critical to focus on the immediate needs of immigrant and refugee families, and the communities where they feel the most direct impact. While year after year the focus has been on the “failure” of federal immigration reform, we have seen local governments enact measures to make college more accessible, to increase public safety by ensuring access to driver’s licenses, to provide children with access health care, and to keep families safe.
A university farm policy specialist says the House defeat of the farm bill may have residual effects on getting farm legislation passed. The future of farm policy depends on lawmakers working together, said Jonathan Coppess, at the University of Illinois.“What’s going on is troubling beyond the defeat of Friday,” Coppess told Brownfield Ag News, referring to the day the U.S. House voted down the legislation. “It is troubling for the long-term viability of the farm bill, because we’re tearing apart the coalition it takes to get a bill through Congress.”A likely short-term fix to turn some of the 30 Freedom Caucus Republicans who withheld support of the farm bill is to get a vote on immigration legislation, said Coppess, adding, however, that that is not a long-term solution.“The ideal situation would be to go back to the table,” said Coppess, “and work out a bipartisan compromise that addressed legitimate concerns about SNAP, about farm programs, about conservation programs, and work back through that bipartisan effort that we have traditionally done on farm bills.”
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing amending the federal meat inspection regulationsto remove a redundant requirement for slaughter establishments to clean hog carcasses before incising. Facilities are now required to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system that identifies potential biological, chemical or physical hazards, and the controls to prevent those hazards at specific points in the process. Since 1997, establishments have been required to address hazards in their HACCP plans, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (Sanitation SOPs) or prerequisite programs and these advancements have made the outdated regulation redundant, FSIS said.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley had some harsh words for House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway of Texas. The Grassley response came as Conaway said Grassley is wrong “every single time” when he complains about loopholes in the process by which USDA makes subsidy payments to farmers. Earlier this week, Grassley had said he would use the Senate farm bill to go after loopholes that non-farmers exploit to collect a lot of subsidy cash from the government. The House version of the farm bill doesn’t contain any payment limitations. House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows failed in his effort to promote an amendment that would rein in how much USDA is authorized to grant farmers coping with low commodity prices. In a three-tweet thread on Twitter, Grassley says Conaway should tell farmers why “I’m wrong for wanting to limit farm subsidies to FARMERS and not WALL ST Bankers living high on the hog. Farm subsidies meant as a safety net for farmers w/dirt under their nails.”
United States Trade Representative Michael Froman announced today that the Obama Administration has launched a new trade enforcement action against Canada at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Today’s action challenges British Columbia’s (BC) regulations that discriminate against the sale of U.S. wine in grocery stores. These regulations appear to breach Canada’s WTO commitments and have adversely impacted U.S. wine producers. Today’s action marks the 26th trade enforcement challenge the Obama Administration has launched at the WTO. The United States has won every one of those complaints that has been decided so far. The BC regulations being challenged by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) discriminate against U.S. and other imported wine by allowing only BC wine to be sold on regular grocery store shelves. These regulations exclude all imported wine from this new and growing retail channel for wine sales in BC. Such discriminatory measures limit sales opportunities for U.S. wine producers and provide a substantial competitive advantage for BC wine. “American winemakers produce some of the highest-quality, most popular wines in the world. When U.S. wine producers have a fair shot at competing on a level playing field, they can compete and win in markets around the globe,” said Ambassador Froman. “The discriminatory regulations implemented by British Columbia intentionally undermine free and fair competition, and appear to breach Canada’s commitments as a WTO member. Canada and all Canadian provinces, including BC, must play by the rules. This Administration is continuing to fight to level the playing field for American producers and workers, so that we can continue to grow our economy and support quality jobs across the United States.”
Newly released emails show senior Environmental Protection Agency officials collaborating with a conservative group that dismisses climate change to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming, counter negative news coverage and tout Administrator Scott Pruitt's stewardship of the agency. John Konkus, EPA's deputy associate administrator for public affairs, repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, according to the emails."If you send a list, we will make sure an invitation is sent," Konkus wrote to then-Heartland president Joseph Bast in May 2017, seeking suggestions on scientists and economists the EPA could invite to an annual EPA public hearing on the agency's science standards.Follow-up emails show Konkus and the Heartland Institute mustering scores of potential invitees known for rejecting scientific warnings of man-made climate-change, including from groups like Plants Need CO2, The Right Climate Stuff, and Junk Science.
Employers can force workers to settle disputes outside of court, the U.S. Supreme Court said this week, which could negatively affect agricultural workers and employees who earn low wages. That’s because ag-sector workers, like farmhands and meatpacking-plant employees, often have to turn to class-action lawsuits to collect unfairly withheld or stolen wages.Monday’s 5-4 decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis originated from three similar lawsuits in which workers challegened their employers’ right to contractually obligate them to individually settle disputes with the help of an arbitrator.Justice Neil Gorsuch said in the opinion that mandatory arbitration agreements do not violate the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees employees the right to collective bargaining. But in her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued the decision was “egregiously wrong” and would result in “the underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers.”Ginsburg might consider migrant farmworkers, people who are employed at meatpacking plants and, in some cases, H-2A visa workers, among the “vulnerable,” said University of Denver law professor Nantiya Ruan. Due to the cost of litigation and the relatively small damages associated with these cases, class-action lawsuits are ag-sector workers’ most feasible means for legal action, she said.