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Don't count on feds right after hurricane, FEMA chief tells Florida leaders

Orlando Sentinel | Posted on May 24, 2018

FEMA had a warning for local governments at the annual Governor’s Conference on Hurricanes: Don’t count on Uncle Sam to be there immediately after the next natural disaster. “If you’re waiting on FEMA to run your commodities, that’s not the solution,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Wednesday. “I can’t guarantee that we can be right on time to backfill everything you need.”

Scalise Announces Plan for Immigration, Farm Bill Votes Third Week of June

Roll Call | Posted on May 24, 2018

The farm bill, which failed on the House floor Friday, will get a second vote June 22 after a vote on a conservative immigration bill earlier that week, House Majority Whip Steve Scalisesaid Monday. The immigration bill by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas that leaders have scheduled a vote on includes border wall funding, security and enforcement provisions, cuts to legal immigration and a process for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients to obtain three-year renewals of their work permits. “We’re looking at moving the farm bill on June 22 and having the Goodlatte-McCaul bill come up the third week of June,” Scalise told reporters.

Amid ethics scrutiny, EPA’s Pruitt also finds his regulatory rollbacks hitting bumps

The Washington Post | Posted on May 24, 2018

In March, as part of Scott Pruitt’s aggressive campaign to roll back federal regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed relaxing standards for storing potentially toxic waste produced by coal-burning power plants. EPA officials cited a study indicating that forcing utilities to get rid of unlined coal ash ponds too quickly could strain the electrical grid in several regions of the country.But when environmental advocates scrutinized the specifics, they discovered a problem: The evidence cited was not established scientific research. Instead, the agency was relying on a four-page document by the utility industry’s trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, which has acknowledged that its conclusions were not “part of or a summary of a larger study.”Lisa Evans, a lawyer for the group Earthjustice, was among the advocates who seized on that omission, as well as on gaps in technical data and other evidence, to argue that the agency’s action was ill-advised and legally flimsy.


Five years after West Fertilizer explosion, EPA rolls back chemical safety reforms | Posted on May 24, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected next month to roll back chemical plant safety reforms that the Obama administration proposed after 15 people died in a fertilizer plant explosion in West. The rollback means the disaster, which exposed wide safety gaps in the industry and its oversight, will result in no significant federal regulatory changes, as the Austin American-Statesman reports.That angers the mayor of the Central Texas town.

An Immigration Debate Distinct From Economic Realities

Wall Street Journal | Posted on May 24, 2018

There is a good case that America’s economy has never needed immigrant labor more than it does now. The American birthrate has slowed dramatically, with the number of babies born in the U.S. last year hitting a 30-year low. At the same time, Alaska fisheries, New Hampshire restaurants and Maryland crab processors all say they are critically short of workers. Farmers say they need thousands more workers, and some production is moving overseas for lack of labor. There are 6.6 million job openings in the U.S., which means that, for the first time in history.

Farm bill heads through House with animal husbandry amendment

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on May 16, 2018

The U.S. House of Representatives begins debate on the farm bill this week, including an amendment designed to stop states from regulating the way farmers raise food animals in other states.

Been there done that; it was called Freedom to Farm

Ag Policy | Posted on May 16, 2018

Edwards writes, “President Donald Trump proposed cuts to farm programs in the 2019 federal budget, but the longer term goal should be to fully repeal all farm subsidies.” Our response to the goal of fully repealing all farm subsidies will be echoed by many of our readers, “Been there, done that, and the result was a very expensive policy disaster.”In reviewing the 1996 Farm Bill, the Cato bulletin glosses over the impact of “Freedom to Farm” with a simple statement: “But Congress reversed course in the late 1990s, and it passed a series of supplemental farm subsidy bills.”What they don’t tell their readers is that by 1998, farm income had fallen dramatically, crop prices were below the full cost of production, and things stayed that way for four years. In some years and some states, net farm income was less that direct government farm program payments even though the net farm income numbers include the profits being earned by the livestock sector. Crop farmers were using part of their government payments just to pay for production costs.Edwards then writes, “As a result, subsidies over the seven years of the 1996 Farm Bill ended up costing more than double what had been promised.” There is no surprise there. Daryll, in his analysis of the 1996 legislation written at the time, predicted that the legislation would be costly.As we look at the current string of low-price years, there is no evidence that eliminating sensible farm programs would produce different results.The truth is that whenever we write farm programs that do not take account of the economic characteristics of crop agriculture, they will almost always be significantly more expensive than the Congressional Budget Office projections made at the time the legislation is passed.

Migrant labor shortage shakes pro-Trump small biz

Newsday | Posted on May 16, 2018

It’s a complaint echoed by crab processors in Maryland, innkeepers and lobster restaurants in Maine and Texas shrimpers who couldn’t get enough workers under the H2-B visa “guest worker” program for nonagricultural workers. East End farmers also are stymied by “a tremendous shortage of labor for low-skilled jobs,” said Long Island Farm Bureau president Karl Novak in a recent discussion of immigration policy with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), according to Riverhead Local.Even before unemployment hit a 17-year low, Devine said he couldn’t find enough dependable, drug-free U.S. workers. He relied on H2-B for seasonal help, mostly from Guatemala. Recently, he lost a $100,000 account for lack of manpower. The visas were awarded by lottery for the first time this year instead of first-come, first-served. Crab houses in Maryland that weren’t lucky are idle. Local economies are suffering. “The Mexican labor creates jobs for Americans. It’s creating my job,” fisherman Burl Lewis, who sells bait to crabbers, told The Wall Street Journal.Homeland Security plans to issue 15,000 more H2-B visas, but some businesses say by the time eligible migrants could make the trek north, it will be too late.

Farm Bill could threaten 58 million acres of forest land

Newsweek | Posted on May 16, 2018

The Farm Bill, an all-encompassing multi-year piece of legislation that directs what happens at the Department of Agriculture, has gained attention for its proposed overhaul to the food stamp program. While it is typically written with input from both sides of the aisle and passed along bipartisan lines, that’s not the case this year. Critics argue that this year has been unusually partisan and that parts of the new bill come straight from Republican Representative Bruce Westerman’s Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, which worked to ease anti-logging regulations and reduce environmental review processes for logging and construction. These provisions threaten to eliminate the roadless rule, which prohibits most commercial logging and activity through vast swaths of American forest land and preserves them as habitats for threatened species and areas of recreation. Advocates argue that preventing deforestation in these areas protects drinking water for millions of Americans, prevents dangerous mudslides, and can help mitigate the effects of climate change. Some critics argue that having so many trees so close increases the chance of long-burning forest fires, but the large trees found in these areas tend not to burn and catch fire as quickly, and can often mitigate fires.

United States Issues First-Ever WTO Counter Notification Against India’s Market Price Support

USDA | Posted on May 15, 2018

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the United States submitted a counter notification in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Agriculture (COA) on India’s market price support (MPS) for wheat and rice. Filed on May 4, 2018, this is the first ever COA notification under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture regarding another country’s measures. Based on U.S. calculations, it appears that India has substantially underreported its market price support for wheat and rice. When calculated according to WTO Agreement on Agriculture methodology, India’s market price support for wheat and rice far exceeded its allowable levels of trade distorting domestic support. The United States expects a robust discussion on how India implements and notifies its policies at the next COA meeting, which is scheduled for June 2018.