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Why States Don’t Want Trump to Make ‘Very Big Changes’ to NAFTA

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 30, 2017

But as the Trump administration sits down to renegotiate the 23-year-old free trade deal with Canada and Mexico, governors will be hoping for minor adjustments rather than the “very big changes” Trump has promised.Trump’s tough talk wins him applause from voters who blame trade deals for shutting down factories and reducing blue-collar jobs in their neighborhoods. But most economists say that NAFTA had a small part to play in the long-term trends of globalization and automation that changed the kinds of jobs available in the U.S.And today, trade with Canada and Mexico is important to every state’s economy. It’s boosted business for farmers in the Great Plains who export commodities such as corn, and allowed U.S. manufacturers to source parts from all over North America.Some U.S. industries have trade disagreements with the neighboring countries to the north and south. They want those addressed in the renegotiations, but they generally don’t want the deal to be scrapped.Governors tend to focus on how trade agreements such as NAFTA help — or hurt — specific industries in their state, says Matt Gold, a former U.S. trade negotiator who is now an adjunct professor at Fordham University. He said that focus on the nitty-gritty tends to moderate their stance.

Definition of “Waters of the United States”-Schedule of Public Meetings

EPA | Posted on August 29, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) will hold ten teleconferences to hear from stakeholders their recommendations to revise the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Nine of the teleconferences will be tailored to a specific sector, i.e., agriculture (row crop, livestock, silviculture); conservation (hunters and anglers); small entities (small businesses, small organizations, small jurisdictions); construction and transportation; environment and public advocacy (including health and environmental justice); mining; industry (energy, chemical, oil/gas); scientific organizations and academia; and stormwater, wastewater management, and drinking water agencies. One of the teleconferences will be open to the public at large. The teleconferences will run throughout the fall on Tuesdays from 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. eastern time, beginning on September 19, 2017. In addition, the agencies will hold an in-person meeting with small entities on October 23, 2017 from 9:00 a.m.-11 a.m., and will accept written recommendations from any member of the public.

Sign up to receive updates on progress of USDA Bioengineered Food Disclosure Rule

USDA | Posted on August 29, 2017

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard Law was enacted by Congress on July 29, 2016. AMS has two years to establish the standard and the procedures necessary for implementation. AMS sought input from stakeholders through August 25. The public will also have the opportunity to comment on any proposed rule during the rulemaking process. To view the questions under consideration, visit the Proposed Rule Questions Under Consideration page on the AMS Website. Those interested may also subscribe to the AMS Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard topic to receive email updates about the progress of this rulemaking process.

USDA Seeks Public Input on Updates to Animal Welfare Act Licensing Requirements

Sierra Sun Times | Posted on August 24, 2017

Marking the 51st anniversary of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today asked for input from the public to help determine potential updates to the law’s licensing requirements.  The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is tasked with upholding and enforcing the AWA.  The AWA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 24, 1966. “As a trained veterinarian, humane standards of care for animals are close to my heart and central to my love and concern for our four-legged friends,” Perdue said.  “Administering the AWA is a key USDA mission, and we are always looking for ways to improve.  We welcome comments from the public as APHIS considers changes to the licensing requirements to help us fulfill this important responsibility.”Each year, USDA issues nearly 6,000 licenses to people who breed, sell, or exhibit animals for commercial purposes.  The department is responsible for ensuring that these licensees comply with the AWA’s humane standards of care, which enables the American public to confidently purchase pets and view animals on public displa

McGovern, others urge USDA to provide relief to dairy farmers

Greenfield Recorder | Posted on August 24, 2017

Several federal lawmakers from Massachusetts joined other Washington lawmakers on Wednesday urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide dairy farmers with relief and new insurance. The two congressman who represent Franklin County in the U.S. House of Representatives, James McGovern and Richard Neal, and U.S. senators from Massachusetts, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, joined 19 others including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy of Vermont in signing a letter to the USDA.According to McGovern’s office, in the letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the members of Congress from both major parties emphasized that safety net programs for dairy farmers, such as the Margin Protection Program have failed to provide farmers with adequate support from price fluctuations. They urged the Agriculture Department to make milk an eligible commodity under the Federal Crop Insurance Program — which successfully insures farmers across the country for hundreds of different kinds of crops — and to work with USDA’s Risk Management Agency to develop new insurance products for dairy producers.“We write today to urge the USDA to use its existing authority to provide relief to dairy farmers in New England and across the country. Dairy farmers have had to cope with double-digit price declines year over year since 2014,” wrote McGovern and 22 other members of Congress. “We urge you to utilize existing authorities to expand and enhance insurance products for dairy farmers. We request that (Risk Management Agency) work with the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. to determine milk as a distinct agricultural commodity eligible for Federal Crop Insurance coverage. Additionally, we would urge the RMA to use existing authorities to develop additional dairy insurance products.”

Providing Insights Into U.S. Food Demand and Food Assistance Programs

USDA | Posted on August 24, 2017

An analysis of data from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) found that SNAP benefits accounted for over 60 percent of the average SNAP household’s food-at-home expenditures. SNAP benefits played a strong role in the food budgets of households with children and those in deep poverty.FoodAPS data revealed that more than 20 percent of the time that food was acquired, it was acquired for free.

Gathering Experimental Evidence To Improve the Design of Agricultural Programs

USDA | Posted on August 24, 2017

Designing or modifying voluntary agricultural programs involves deciding between many design options; testing the options with economic experiments can be a cost-effective tool for developing evidence about which work best. A range of experimental methods, from relatively inexpensive studies in controlled lab environments (often with students) to more expensive studies with targeted populations (such as farmers), can assess the benefits and costs of different design options.Randomized experiments conducted in the course of operating a program enable its managers to test the impact of potential changes in a real-world setting, and provide the strongest evidence of impact before implementing changes.

Immigration and Farm Labor: From Unauthorized to H-2A for Some?

Migration Policy Institute | Posted on August 24, 2017

Although immigrant workers have long been employed on U.S. farms, shifting migration patterns and employer labor strategies are reshaping the agricultural workforce. Migration from Mexico to the United States has slowed with the the 2008–09 recession, improving conditions in rural Mexico, and stepped-up border enforcement.With fewer new arrivals, the agricultural workforce is aging, settling down, and forming or reuniting families, as this analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Worker Survey (NAWS) shows. Between 2000 and 2014, the unauthorized share of workers declined from 55 percent to 47 percent.With the supply of newcomers seeking work on U.S. farms less certain than in the past, farm employers are adjusting how they recruit and retain workers, the author writes. Some have introduced incentives to satisfy current workers and mechanical aids to stretch their productivity, while others have sought to substitute machines for workers or to supplement them with H-2A guest workers. Temporary workers brought in on H-2A visas make up a small but rapidly growing share of the farm workforce and, should this trend continue, have the potential to significantly affect U.S.-born and other foreign-born workers alike.

Sierra Club sues Energy Department over grid study

Washington Examiner | Posted on August 24, 2017

The Sierra Club sued the Energy Department on Monday to release the names of groups and experts that the department consulted while developing a yet-to-be-released study on electric grid reliability. "We want to make sure that when this study is finally released, that the public and policy makers fully understand how it went about doing it, who they were influenced by, and whose views they did not take into consideration," said Casey Roberts, a lawyer with the environmental group. The Sierra Club sued the Energy Department on Monday to release the names of groups and experts that the department consulted while developing a yet-to-be-released study on electric grid reliability."We want to make sure that when this study is finally released, that the public and policy makers fully understand how it went about doing it, who they were influenced by, and whose views they did not take into consideration," said Casey Roberts, a lawyer with the environmental group.

U.S. produce growers deeply divided over NAFTA

Politico | Posted on August 22, 2017

The produce industry is at war with itself over a protectionist proposal the Trump administration is preparing to submit in the NAFTA talks that exposes a deep regional fault line among growers. Southeastern produce growers struggling to compete with cheaper Mexican imports have long lobbied for relief under NAFTA, with little to show for it. Now, with few agricultural groups calling for significant changes to the pact, the “America First” Trump administration has seized on the plight of southeastern produce growers, putting their concerns at the forefront of the national trade agenda.U.S. trade negotiators had been expected to come to the table during the first negotiating round with a proposal that would make it easier for American growers to make the case that Mexico is selling produce at unfairly low prices when crops like blueberries or tomatoes are in season in a particular region. Growers would be able to bring anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases by domestic region and draw on seasonal data, a departure from current trade law, which requires a majority of the industry nationwide to wield at least three years of annual data to prove injury.