U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is prepared to criminally prosecute illegal immigrants in the workplace, as well as those employers who hire them."While we focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, under the current administration's enforcement priorities, workers encountered during these investigations who are unauthorized to remain in the United States are also subject to administrative arrest and removal from the country," ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said. This week, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said his agency will increase workplace immigration enforcement effort four to five times the level current.
According to interviews with dozens of storm victims, one of the busiest hurricane seasons in years has overwhelmed federal disaster officials. As a result, the government’s response in the two biggest affected states — Texas and Florida — has been scattershot: effective in dealing with immediate needs, but unreliable and at times inadequate in handling the aftermath, as thousands of people face unusually long delays in getting basic disaster assistance. FEMA has taken weeks to inspect damaged homes and apartments, delaying flood victims’ attempts to rebuild their lives and properties. People who call the agency’s help line at 1-800-621-FEMA have waited on hold for two, three or four hours before they even speak to a FEMA representative.Nearly two months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, and six weeks after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10, residents are still waiting for FEMA payments, still fuming after the agency denied their applications for assistance and still trying to resolve glitches and disputes that have slowed and complicated their ability to receive federal aid. One of the most significant problems FEMA has had in Texas and Florida is the backlog in getting damaged properties inspected. Contract inspectors paid by the agency must first inspect and verify the damage in order for residents to be approved for thousands of dollars in aid. FEMA does not have enough inspectors to reduce the backlog, and the average wait for an inspection is 45 days in Texas and about a month in Florida, agency officials said.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-NH) in co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to expand access to new markets for Illinois farmers who sell their goods in an increasingly competitive global economy. The Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act would provide long overdue funding increases to two U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs that generate outstanding return on investment for taxpayers, the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP). Between 1977 and 2014, these programs generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested.
In an audit released October 13, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General once again found that the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) inadequate oversight of imported meat and poultry is putting U.S. consumers at risk. FSIS is supposed to determine whether countries that export meat, poultry, egg products or catfish have a regulatory system that can meet the standards required in the United States. However, the OIG audit reveals that FSIS is not doing enough oversight of the process used to determine which countries have “equivalent” food safety systems. “This report shows why we must not allow imports of Chinese poultry or Brazilian fresh meat,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “USDA must fix its oversight system so it can keep potentially dangerous food imports off of our shelves.” The audit states, “without more robust controls over ongoing equivalence evaluations of foreign countries’ food safety systems, we concluded that FSIS’ inspection program is vulnerable to weaknesses that increase the risk of adulterated or unsafe meat, poultry, or egg products being imported into the United States.” The OIG found that FSIS fails to conduct audits of other countries’ food safety systems in a consistent, timely manner and that FSIS is not able to adequately monitor which facilities in exporting countries are eligible to send product to the U.S. The OIG also found that FSIS failed to address recommendations made in previous audits of this program about how it conducts audits of other countries’ food safety systems.
The Trump administration on Friday removed a major obstacle that had long stalled a project designed to pump groundwater from the Mojave Desert to communities in Southern California. The planned 43-mile pipeline would follow an already existing railroad through public land; the Bureau of Land Management sent a letter last week to Cadiz Inc., the company behind the pipeline, stating that the company did not need federal permission to begin construction. The announcement reflects the Trump administration’s determination to prioritize large infrastructure projects over environmental protections. The Cadiz project has drawn a lot of attention in Washington, D.C., both because of what’s at stake for the desert ecosystem and because it reflects a major shift in priorities from the Obama administration. The issue was prominent in the confirmation hearings for Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former industry lawyer whose clients’ businesses relied on decisions made by Interior. Bernhardt did legal work for Cadiz Inc., and a former law partner of Bernhardt’s is the president and CEO of the company. Bernhardt’s former law firm was paid in stock and stands to profit from the project’s success. Bernhardt told senators in his confirmation hearing that he would avoid conflicts of interest. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Jeff Krauss wrote in an email: “Deputy Secretary Bernhardt has played absolutely no role in anything related to the Cadiz project.”
On Oct. 11, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a proposal from its chairman, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to overhaul the Antiquities Act. Bishop’s “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” would severely constrain the power of the president to designate national monuments. It would limit the size of monuments a president could designate as well as the kinds of places protected. The 1906 Antiquities Act allows a president to act swiftly to protect federal lands facing imminent threats without legislation getting bogged down in Congress. Many popular areas, including Zion, Bryce and Arches national parks in Bishop’s home state, were first protected this way. Under Bishop’s legislation, any proposal for a monument larger than 640 acres — one square mile — would be subject to a review process: Areas up to 10,000 acres would be subject to review under the National Environmental Policy Act, while those between 10,000 and 85,000 acres would require approval from state and local government. The bill would allow emergency declarations, but they would expire after a year without congressional approval. It would also codify the president’s power to modify monuments — a power that has been contested in light of the Interior Department’s recent recommendations that President Donald Trump reduce the size of several monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah.
In the wake of the 2017 hurricanes, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing emergency assistance to dairy operators in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. USDA is preparing for signup to begin Oct. 21, 2017. “We’re dispatching additional USDA staff to the island, but we also continue to ramp up material assistance as well,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Dairy producers need help immediately, and the Trump Administration is providing it.”Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s agriculture sector, including dairy operations. Secretary Perdue said the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) is providing up to $12 million dollars to enable operators of Puerto Rico’s 253 licensed dairy operations to purchase feed for cattle. The special initiative, applicable only to Puerto Rico, is called the Dairy Assistance Program for Puerto Rico (DAP-PR). The program will be administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which has offices and staff on the island.“Dairy operations face additional losses unless they have feed for their remaining cattle,” said Perdue. “This funding will enable them to get the help they need until the situation in Puerto Rico stabilizes.”Under the provisions of today’s announcement, dairy operators can apply to FSA to receive vouchers to purchase an estimated one-month supply of feed. The amount of the voucher is calculated based on 100 percent of estimated feed costs per cow for 30 days. There are an estimated 94,000 dairy cows on the island.
Federal officials are attempting to seize more than $70,000 in raw camel milk products stored in a warehouse in Kansas City, KS, including some bearing labels from a Missouri dairy, because they were allegedly shipped in interstate commerce in violation of federal law. In an action filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, KS, the Department of Justice states that inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration estimate about 4,300 8- and 16-ounce bottles of frozen camel milk, colostrum and kefir are stored in the My Magic Kitchen Inc. refrigerated warehouse.More than 3,800 of the bottles contain raw camel milk and products made from it, which sell for $10 to $18 on the internet. A few hundred of the bottles contain pasteurized camel milk products. Kansas does not have any licensed camel dairy operations. If it did, sales of raw camel milk/products would be limited to “on-farm” scenarios. Kansas law prohibits retail sales and herd share sales of unpasteurized milk.The Kansas Department of Agriculture embargoed the products in question in August.Illegal interstate commerce isn’t the only problem with the camel milk products stored at My Magic Kitchen warehouse. They are also considered “new drugs” under federal law because of health claims made on their labels and on the website of Desert Farms Inc., a California company that contracts with a network of raw camel milk producers across the country.
An internal USDA audit has found shortcomings in the agency’s system for ensuring foreign meat and egg inspections are equivalent to those in the U.S. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspections Service is charged with ensuring meat and egg products imported into the U.S. are subject to equivalent protections against food safety hazards.Auditors from USDA’s Office of Inspector General said the agency has a “robust system” for scrutinizing countries that apply to export meat and eggs to the U.S. but found fault with its ongoing monitoring of trading partners once they’ve qualified.The audit said that “without more robust controls” for determining the equivalence of foreign inspections, the FSIS program is “vulnerable to weaknesses that increase the risk of adulterated or unsafe meat, poultry, or egg products being imported into the United States.”In response to the audit, FSIS said it was making improvements to enact many of the audit’s recommendations, though the agency disagreed with some of the characterizations in the report.The report claimed FSIS didn’t consistently follow its own policy for auditing countries based on performance assessments, for example.
he U.S Food and Drug Administration is announcing public meetings to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Francisco, California, regarding its Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative. Congress appropriated $3 million to fund this initiative, which calls upon the FDA to work with USDA to provide education and outreach to the public on agricultural biotechnology and food and animal feed ingredients derived from biotechnology. The purpose of the public meetings is to provide the public with an opportunity to share information, experiences, and suggestions to help inform the development of this education and outreach initiative.Charlotte, North Carolina, Tuesday, November 7, 2017, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm EST. San Francisco, California, Tuesday, November 14, 2017, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm PST