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Federal News

Trump declares opioid crisis a 'health emergency' but requests no funds

The New York Times | Posted on October 27, 2017

President Trump on Thursday directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, taking long-anticipated action to address a rapidly escalating epidemic of drug use.But even as he vowed to alleviate the scourge of drug addiction and abuse that has swept the country — a priority that resonated strongly with the working-class voters who supported his presidential campaign — Mr. Trump fell short of fulfilling his promise in August to declare “a national emergency” on opioids, which would have prompted the rapid allocation of federal funding to address the issue.His directive does not on its own release any additional funds to deal with a drug crisis that claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016, and the president did not request any, although his aides said he would soon do so. And he made little mention of the need for the rapid and costly expansion of medical treatment that public health specialists, including some in his own administration, argue is crucial to addressing the epidemic. Mr. Trump said his plan would include a requirement that federally employed prescribers be trained in safe practices for opioid prescriptions, and a new federal initiative to develop nonaddictive painkillers, as well as intensified efforts to block shipments of fentanyl, a cheap and extremely potent synthetic opioid manufactured in China, into the United States.He also said he would act to suspend a rule that currently prevents Medicaid from funding many drug rehabilitation facilities.


The Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan

The Nation | Posted on October 26, 2017

A leaked draft of a five-year plan reveals how the DOI will prioritize “energy dominance” over conservation. In the next five years, millions of acres of America’s public lands and waters, including some national monuments and relatively pristine coastal regions, could be auctioned off for oil and gas development, with little thought for environmental consequences.  The Department of the Interior’s strategic vision states that the DOI is committed to achieving “American energy dominance” through the exploitation of “vast amounts” of untapped energy reserves on public lands. Alarmingly, the policy blueprint—a 50-page document—does not once mention climate change or climate science. 


Hispanic ranchers dealt blow in lengthy battle over grazing

Santa Fe New Mexican | Posted on October 26, 2017

A group of Hispanic ranchers has been dealt a blow in their yearslong feud with the federal government over grazing rights on land in New Mexico that has been used by their families for centuries.Attorneys for the ranchers argued that the U.S. Forest Service violated the law when deciding to limit grazing on historic land grants even though the government has recognized that the descendants of Spanish colonists have a unique relationship with the land.The ranchers claimed the agency failed to consider social and economic effects that would result from limiting grazing in a region where poverty and dependence on the land for subsistence is high.In a recent ruling, U.S. District James Browning dismissed remaining counts against the government, finding that the National Environmental Policy Act does not require the Forest Service to consider social and economic effects that are a direct result of an agency’s action.The law narrowly centers on effects to the physical environment, the judge ruled. The ranchers say they are disappointed and that the Forest Service had a responsibility to consider a history in which they claim the property rights of Hispanics have been ignored and an institutional bias has been allowed to persist.


California conflagration prompts more calls for wildfire funding fix

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 26, 2017

If Congress spent more money to prevent fires, it wouldn’t have to spend so much to fight them. Advocates and politicians from both parties agree. But that doesn’t appear to result in any action. We’ve grown accustomed to disagreement creating political impasse. But is political division so bad that there’s no progress even when folks agree on a solution? That’s the question Western conservation groups are asking as they push Congress to reform the way the government allocates funding to fight wildfires. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dylan Kruse of Sustainable Northwest. “We have more than 100 legislators from both parties in agreement. We have more than 200 organizations calling for the same legislative package. Everybody knows we need to fix this problem. And still, while disaster funding is moving, once again the chance to solve the problem is lost.”Kruse’s frustration, along with a chorus of other rural voices in the West, is about how the federal government spends more and more money fighting catastrophic wildfires while reducing money from programs that could keep the fires from getting out of hand in the first place.A further complication is that wildfires are not treated like other disasters, such as hurricanes and flooding, where Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding can support emergency response and re-building.


EPA scrubs a climate website of ‘climate change’

The New York Times | Posted on October 25, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency has removed dozens of online resources dedicated to helping local governments address climate change, part of an apparent effort by the agency to play down the threat of global warming. A new analysis made public on Friday found that an E.P.A. website has been scrubbed of scores of links to materials to help local officials prepare for a world of rising temperatures and more severe storms.The site, previously the E.P.A.’s “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments” has been renamed “Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments.” About 15 mentions of the words “climate change” have been removed from the main page alone, the study found.Among the now-missing pages are those detailing the risks of climate change and the different approaches states are taking to curb emissions. Also edited out were examples of statewide plans to adapt to weather extremes.An E.P.A. spokesman said the original pages have been archived and remain available by searching through the agency’s web archive, a link to which is at the top of its energy resources page.


Lawmakers Urge Consistent Approach to Federal Regulation of Biotechnology

DTN | Posted on October 25, 2017

In a letter to three federal agency heads on Tuesday, a group of 79 bipartisan members of the United States House of Representatives expressed concern about the direction being taken to regulate agriculture biotechnology. In particular, in the letter to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Scott Gotlieb, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the lawmakers pointed to two regulations currently being re-drafted.


Canada and Mexico prepare for life without NAFTA

CNN | Posted on October 25, 2017

Officials from the two nations are meeting with counterparts from Peru and Chile for the first time in Colombia this week to discuss a potential trade deal. Canadian officials hinted that the talks may be a message to President Trump and the U.S. The meeting in Colombia "sends a strong signal to the world on the importance of free trade to increase growth and prosperity," Canada's Ministry of International Trade said in a statement.


Canadian government gives over $1 million for animal welfare projects

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 25, 2017

The Canadian government announced an investment of up to C$1.31 ($1.03 million) to support its livestock sector in efforts to raise healthy, productive and well-cared for animals.  The investment will be divided among four projects:Up to C$223,929 ($177,540) to develop a new livestock transport on-line certification program that will simplify, standardize and provide an opportunity for truckers, shippers and receivers to more easily access the training necessary to improve handling practices. Up to C$160,713 ($127,410) to update the Transportation Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals during transport. Up to C$813,200 ($644,683) to develop an emergency management plan for the Canadian livestock industry to help mitigate, to respond to, and to recover from major hazard emergencies.  Up to C$112,180 ($88,933) to revise the Chicken Farmers of Canada's (CFC) animal care assessment program to meet the new Code of Practice for hatching eggs, breeders, chickens and turkeys. The project will strengthen the poultry industry's capacity to respond to ever increasing demand by markets to demonstrate effective animal care standards.


Federal Ban Leaves Thousands of Pets Behind in Puerto Rico

Daily Beast | Posted on October 25, 2017

Animals larger than 20 pounds aren’t being allowed on planes, forcing families to choose between their two- and four-legged loved ones. Meanwhile, shelters are overflowing. The majority of the airlines leaving San Juan do not allow families to be accompanied with many pets. This is because federal authorities have taken custody of cargo compartments in order to transport supplies, and the feds are not allowing animals larger than 20 pounds to fly, according to Sylvie Bedrosian, president of Pet Friendly Puerto Rico. Bedrosian estimates that about 2,000 locals left their pets behind as a result of the embargo.


Michigan apple growers could lose millions without migrant workers

Detroit Free Press | Posted on October 25, 2017

Here in the Sparta area, north of Grand Rapids, finding migrant workers like Carlos and Hernandez to clear the orchards is getting increasingly difficult. Most of them have come from Mexico; some are undocumented. This year, Michigan had roughly 45,000 jobs available for migrant workers, starting with bedding plants in February, vegetable and fruit season starting with asparagus and wrapping up with apples in the fall, and ending with Christmas trees in November, according to a statement from the Michigan Farm Bureau.While better work opportunities have conspired to lured many young migrant workers away from Michigan agriculture, the Trump administration's immigrant policies have also threatened to shrink the migrant worker pool. The days of having to turn migrant workers away are over, farmers say.  “The border is essentially closed,” said Steffens, a fourth-generation apple farmer. “It’s very difficult for them to get here.”For years, labor struggles have been the biggest issue for the apple industry nationwide according to the Virginia-based U.S. Apple Association. “It’s really all of labor intensive agricultural that has been struggling with this issue probably for a decade. Think produce, think dairy, think anything that can’t be harvested with a combine," said Diane Kurrle, the associations senior vice president. Harvest workers in the apple industry Kurrle said, support on average 2 to 3 other full time jobs year-round. "The economic stability of rural communities is really at stake (in the U.S.) also when you think about the domino impact of losing those harvest workers and what that would mean for the community," she said. For Michigan farmers and workers it's most likely, only the beginning of the tough road ahead. 


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