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Money talks when trying to influence climate change legislation

Science Daily | Posted on July 19, 2018

Climate lobbying is big business. A new analysis shows that between 2000 and 2016, lobbyists spent more than two billion dollars on influencing relevant legislation in the US Congress. Unsurprisingly, sectors that could be negatively affected by bills limiting carbon emissions, such as the electrical utilities sector, fossil fuel companies and transportation corporations had the deepest pockets.

USDA responds to SNAP issues at farmers market, but does not clarify

Modern Farmer | Posted on July 19, 2018

After widespread outrage in the news and on social media, the USDA has responded to reports that SNAP will not be available to use at many farmers markets. use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets has been increasing more and more each year. But the system used to actually process the payments is supported by a middleman between the USDA and the markets. Until recently, that middleman was the Famers Market Coalition, but the USDA recently awarded the contract to a new middleman. That middleman is a brand new and totally unknown company called Financial Transaction Management, LLC, and it told the biggest processing companies that their technology will not be supported in the future. This means that those processing companies can no longer afford to offer their technology. Even more convoluted: FTM has yet to announce a replacement for those processing companies. Therefore, starting July 31st, those who receive SNAP benefits will no longer have a way to purchase healthy food or support local farmers throughout most of the country.

House sends farm bill to conference

The Progressive Farmer | Posted on July 19, 2018

The House on Wednesday passed by voice vote a motion to proceed to conference on the farm bill, which is numbered HR 2 and titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The House also passed a Democratic motion to instruct conferees to insist on 10-year permanent funding for an animal vaccine program. The House bill has permanent funding, but the Senate bill has only an authorization for appropriations.That recorded vote was 392 to 20.House leadership also named House conferees on the farm bill Wednesday afternoon. The Senate must now also proceed to conference and appoint conferees. The Republican list consists of 29 members and seems to reflect the fact that 2018 is an election year and that Ryan has made nutrition programs a priority in the bill. In a statement accompanying the list, Ryan ignored the agricultural sections of the bill and emphasized the bill as a piece of social legislation. "We see this farm bill as pivotal for building a sturdier ladder of opportunity in America," Ryan said. For the full list of House Republican conferees, click here, and for the full list of House Democratic conferees, click here.

Determining tariff damage will be hard

Brownfield Ag News | Posted on July 17, 2018

How will the USDA estimate tariff damages to farmers? “We have analytical procedures that can give us some idea but it’s really going to be really hard,” says Carl Zulauf, Ohio State ag economist. US Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue continues to say there will be help for farmers hurt by the trade disruptions, “I’ve kind of set a deadline for myself, not for anyone else, as Labor Day. That if we can’t have some resolution on trade by Labor Day then we need to look at mitigation procedures and protections for ag producers that really have a negative impact of trade on their bottom line.” Perdue made those comments in Georgia. But, Zuloff says determining how trade disruptions affect prices – aside from a dozen other factors – will be VERY difficult, “We’ve never really been in this situation.” Zulauf says if a damage number comes up as early as Labor Day, it’s going to have a lot of uncertainty around it. USDA could decide to give out partial payments then, and again later as more market impact is known.

Blame Congress for immigration inaction that jeopardizes American agriculture

The Hill | Posted on July 17, 2018

For more than 50 years, since the nullification of the Bracero Treatyand left-unprotected U.S. border, the issue of illegal immigration has vexed our democracy. If there is one thing worse than the byzantine immigration system left in its wake, it’s the unending blame game from the very people charged with providing sound immigration policy: Congress.   On one side are the hardliners more than willing to cast the first stone at the illegal immigrant, yet completely unwilling to see their own neglect of leaving a border wide open to a poverty-stricken nation for so many years. On the other side of the aisle are the power-hungry politicians who hide behind the façade of compassion while taking votes from anyone, legal or not, to broaden their political base. mployers are blamed for hiring illegal immigrants but by law are not allowed to question their documentation, which places these employers in the crosshairs of conflicting federal and state laws. Wayward city leaders are blamed for protecting hard-working mothers and fathers and their children who seek to stay in America. Legal and illegal families believe they have nowhere to turn, and border security guards are forced to separate children from parents as they cross the open border with Mexico. The best response Congress can muster is half-baked, sound-bite solutions such as, “Build a wall,” “Give them citizenship,” “Finance the Dreamers,” “Legalize the Dreamers,” “Make them touchback,” or “Send them all back.”

Scrapping dairy management system 'unacceptable,' Canadian diplomat says

Politico | Posted on July 17, 2018

Canadian Deputy Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman said that scrapping the nation's dairy supply-management system — a proposal the U.S. made in the NAFTA renegotiation — is "unacceptable." Canada is America's "second-largest export market for dairy," Hillman pointed out. Despite that robust cross-border business, many in the U.S. think that trade in dairy is more restricted than it is, she said."There's a misconception out there that Canada has tariffs in the dairy sector," Hillman said, "which is just not true.""As for the discussion on NAFTA, the request that's been put on the table is that we get rid of supply management," Hillman said. "That's unacceptable for us. We won't do that." The proposal, put forth by U.S. officials in October, attacks Canada's dairy supply-management system by demanding that Canada eliminate an industry pricing classification that lowered domestic prices for certain skim-milk products to the minimum global price. Canada's supply management system seeks to steady income in the Canadian dairy and poultry sectors through use of import barriers and supply quotas. But the pricing policy also increased competition against U.S. imports of ultrafiltered milk, a milk protein concentrate, which U.S. farmers had been exporting duty-free north of the border, where they had developed a lucrative market among Canadian cheesemakers.

Nearly $2 Billion Now Available for Eligible Producers Affected by 2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires

USDA | Posted on July 17, 2018

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that agricultural producers affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 now may apply for assistance to help recover and rebuild their farming operations. Signup begins July 16, 2018, and continues through November 16, 2018. “Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.” Additional payments will be issued, if funds remain available, later in the year. The program, known as the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP) was authorized by Congress earlier this year by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

FDA Adds New States to Cooperative Agreement Program to Support Produce Safety

U.S. FDA | Posted on July 15, 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced new cooperative agreements with Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi and American Samoa, as well as renewed agreements with 43 other states, in support of efforts to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. In this third year of the State Produce Implementation Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP), awardees are being provided with the resources to formulate and implement produce safety systems; develop and provide education, outreach, and technical assistance; deliver produce safety training; recruit personnel; and develop inventories of farms covered by the Produce Safety Rule to target outreach, education and inspection activities. The funding can also be used by states to support the On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR) program, a voluntary program to help farmers learn about the Produce Safety Rule and determine how prepared they are to comply with the rule’s requirements. The availability of CAP funding was first announced in March 2016. Bids were open to all states and U.S. territories. The FDA announced the first cooperative agreements with $21.8 million for 42 states in September 2016, and the second-year agreements, which awarded $30.9 million to 43 states, were announced in July 2017. Today, the FDA is announcing $32.5 million in funding for the 46 states and one territory. Successful implementation of the Produce Safety Rule depends on partnerships between the FDA and the states, both to deliver education and technical assistance to farmers and to provide on-going inspections, compliance, and oversight. The Produce Safety Rule, which the FDA finalized in November 2015, establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.

Trump Falsely Claims It’s ‘Impossible’ for American Farmers to Do Business in Europe

The New York Times | Posted on July 15, 2018

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that it is “impossible” for American farmers to sell their products to the European Union is wrong. In fact, the 28 countries of the European Union are the United States’ fifth-largest export market for agricultural goods, like tree nuts and soybeans, totaling $11.5 billion in 2017, according to the Department of Agriculture.But the United States did import about $10 billion more in agricultural products, like wine, beer and chocolate, from the European Union than it exported there. (Overall, the United States has had an agricultural trade surplus with the rest of the world since 1960.) The European Union does impose a higher average tariff on agricultural products (11 to 12 percent) than the United States (about 5 percent), but about a third of farm goods enter both the European Union and the United States tariff-free, according to the World Trade Organization.

How Rare Earths (What?) Could Be Crucial in a U.S.-China Trade War

The New York Times | Posted on July 14, 2018

Amanda Lacaze grabbed her iPhone and rattled off the names of the special minerals needed to make it. The screen was polished with lanthanum and cerium. The inside has a magnet made with neodymium and praseodymium.Those minerals almost certainly came from China. Ms. Lacaze’s job is to give the world an alternative source, in case a global trade war spirals out of control and China cuts off supply.Right now, she can’t. Her company, Lynas Corporation, can provide only a fraction of the minerals — known as rare earths — that China produces. And even that source isn’t a sure thing: The work is so volatile, complex and expensive that Lynas once came close to collapsing. The Trump administration amped up its trade fight with China on Tuesday when it threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, ranging from frozen catfish fillets to copper wires to piston engines. China has threatened to match them dollar for dollar.But it has other ways to retaliate beyond tariffs. It could refuse to buy American products, like planes from Boeing. It could intensify regulation of American companies doing business on the mainland. It could threaten to offload a piece of its huge portfolio of Treasuries, which could rattle the bond market. And in one of its more strategic weapons, Beijing could use its dominance to cut off key parts of the global supply chain. China is the major supplier of a number of mundane but crucial materials and components needed to keep the world’s factories humming. They include obscure materials like arsenic metals, used to make semiconductors; cadmium, found in rechargeable batteries; and tungsten, found in light bulbs and heating elements.