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Obamacare Saved This Woman’s Life—and Her Farm

Mother Jones | Posted on August 3, 2017

After battling two brain tumors and breast cancer, Tina Hinchley still milks 130 cows twice a day. Not many people have jobs that are as physically demanding as Tina Hinchley’s. With her husband and four children, Hinchley, 51, milks 130 cows twice a day and works the corn and soybean fields on her family’s 2,500-acre farm in southeastern Wisconsin. To keep things running smoothly, Hinchley says the whole family needs to be healthy and strong. But like everyone else, sometimes farmers get sick.But Hinchley’s symptoms got so bad that she could no longer work in the barn, so her children had to pick up the slack, each of them milking dozens of cows before catching the school bus at 6:45 a.m. When she finally went to the clinic, the doctor immediately ordered CT scan, which revealed a brain tumor. She was scheduled for surgery right away. The surgeon removed the tumor, which turned out to be benign. But then the bill came: $187,000. Hinchley and her husband thought that maybe they would have to sell off their land. They ultimately scraped by, but Hinchley worried constantly. “When we don’t have health care, it’s scary,” she told me. “There is always the fear of: ‘If something happens, we could lose the farm.'”So in 2012, when the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Hinchley signed up for insurance right away.That decision may have saved her life. In 2013, Hinchley was diagnosed with another benign brain tumor as well as breast cancer. It was an extremely difficult time for the family, but having health insurance lightened the burden. “It was just an ease,” Hinchley said.


15 states appeal EPA delay of stricter air-quality standards

AP | Posted on August 3, 2017

Attorneys general from 15 states filed a legal challenge on Tuesday over the Trump administration’s delay of Obama-era rules reducing emissions of smog-causing air pollutants. The states petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s extension of deadlines to comply with the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.Pruitt announced in June he was extending the deadlines by at least one year while his agency studies and reconsiders the requirements. Several pro-business groups are opposed to the stricter rules, including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Infrastructure: Aging River Locks in the Corn Belt Prove Costly

Farm Policy News | Posted on August 3, 2017

Shane Shifflett reported that, “For American producers who rely on the nation’s waterways to export and distribute billions of tons of grains, coal and chemicals each year, aging locks systems on rivers and the frequent delays they cause cost more than just time.“‘If we have a barge stopped on the Upper Mississippi…commodities sit there until the problem is fixed,’ says Rick Calhoun, president of Cargill Carriers, the Minnetonka, Minn.-based barge operator for the largest U.S. agricultural company by sales. ‘There’s no detours, there’s no way to do much but wait. And waiting costs a lot of money.’


NAFTA ‘benefits both sides,’ says MacAulay

The Guardian | Posted on August 3, 2017

Farmers and producers in the western states see the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as providing benefits to both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, says Canada’s minister of agriculture and agri-food. Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay was in Portland and Oregon recently to promote the importance of the bilateral trade relationship between the Canadian and the U.S. agriculture sectors.
During an interview with The Guardian, MacAulay said he saw support for NAFTA from both sides of the border.“‘Be careful with how you fix something that’s not broken.’ That’s a fair thing to say, and I’ve heard it a number of times,” said MacAulay. “They understand quite well how it’s benefited the agricultural sectors.”


White House commission on drug abuse recommends increasing Medicaid spending

Think Progress | Posted on August 3, 2017

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, established by President Donald Trump in March in response to a nationwide epidemic, publicly released their interim recommendations. The commission, which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), said the best way to “rapidly increase treatment capacity” is to expand the availability of treatment under Medicaid with more federal funds. The commission, which also includes the governors of Massachusetts and North Carolina, calls expanding the availability of Medicaid “the single fastest way to increase treatment availability across the nation.”


In California's poultry plants, refugees fill the vacuum left after President Bush's immigration raid

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on August 3, 2017

Al Souki does not complain. He fled war-torn Syria and worked backbreaking 12-hour shifts in his home country and Jordan before making his way to the United States. He is grateful for the $10.50 an hour he collects at the poultry plant. “I like work. I need work,” he said in the smattering of English he has picked up. “Without work, not a man.” Al Souki needs the work—and employers in the meatpacking industry say they need workers like him. Refugees have increasingly become vital workers in an industry with high turnover. And the growing unrest and bloodshed in the Middle East and elsewhere have readily supplied them in places like the Central Valley. The refugee and immigrant populations ”certainly have been a significant part, an integral part of our workforce for decades,” said Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council.It’s difficult to know exactly how many refugees work in this occupation but roughly one-third of workers in the industry in 2010 were foreign-born, according to a peer-reviewed article in Choices, a publication of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Assn., a nonprofit that serves those who work in agricultural and broadly related fields of applied economics. Mark Lauritsen, director of the food-processing division at the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, estimates that nationwide tens of thousands of refugees are part of the roughly 250,000 unionized meat and poultry plant workers.


The Great Corn Clash Is Coming as U.S., Brazil Farmers Face Off

Bloomberg | Posted on August 2, 2017

Brazilian farmers are in the midst of collecting their biggest corn harvest ever and American supplies are also plentiful -- setting the stage for a stiff battle to win world buyers in the second half of the year. It’s a turnaround from just a year ago when U.S. exporters were seeing sales boom as a drought plagued Brazil’s fields. This year, the South American growers enjoyed much better weather and crop supplies have gotten so big that farmers are already short on storage after collecting a massive soybean harvest just a few months earlier. That’s giving exporters incentive to push corn shipments out quickly and could mean a squeeze for hedge funds that are betting on a price rally.


Group pushes FDA to act on soy milk labeling petition

The Hill | Posted on August 2, 2017

The Good Food Institute is calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to a 20-year-old petition and clarify once and for all that soy-based beverages can be labeled as “soy milk.”  The nonprofit, which works to promote plant-based meat, dairy and eggs, asked the FDA in a letter Monday to respond to the petition the Soyfoods Association sent on Feb. 28, 1997, asking the agency to allow manufacturers to use the term “soy milk.”The GFI has also submitted a petition of its own.The group asked the FDA in March to amend its regulations to clarify "that new foods may be named by reference to other 'traditional' foods in a manner that makes clear to consumers their distinct origins or properties." The GFI is threatening to sue if the FDA decides to restrict the use of the term “soy milk,” claiming it will have violated the First Amendment.The National Milk Producers Federation is pushing back. The group claims plant-based “milk” imitators are using dairy terminology and imagery to advertise their products as suitable replacements for cow’s milk and urged the FDA in a meeting last week to enforce its food standards.


Congress seeks to weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2017

On Wednesday, July 26, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed 21 bills during a markup session. One, H.R. 2083, aims to protect salmon by allowing permit holders to kill California sea lions in the Columbia River. Critics caution the bill undermines federal protections such as the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, without addressing the root causes of salmon declines, which include habitat destruction and dams.  Sea lions have noticed that Pacific Northwest dams conveniently funnel fish into predators’ mouths. Well, not exactly. But the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River is an important migratory pathway for salmonid fish, which live in the sea as adults but swim back upriver to spawn. The fish ladders built to help salmon bypass the river’s many dams attract marine mammals, which congregate near the entrance of the ladders and feast. For example, in 2016 California sea lions ate some four percent of salmonids migrating through the Bonneville Dam, according to a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Because salmonid populations have nosedived in recent years, these seasonal feeding frenzies trouble fisheries managers.


Funding Awards to States for FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Implementation

FDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

Our partnerships with states are especially critical when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, which are covered under FSMA’s produce safety rule. States have a long history of successfully working with their farming communities. That’s why we leverage relationships with state-based partners to achieve many of our goals. Today we’re announcing an additional step in these efforts. The FDA is awarding $30.9 million in funding to support 43 states in their continued efforts to help implement the produce safety rule. This is the largest allocation of funds to date, made available by the FDA to help state agencies support FSMA produce safety rule implementation and develop state-based produce safety programs. The FSMA produce safety rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The rule is a critical part of FSMA and was developed after careful consideration of stakeholder comments. It reflects the feedback that the FDA received from thousands of public commenters.The new funding the FDA is announcing today is a key part of the success of this program and the agency’s collaborative efforts with state-based programs. The funding will ensure that awardees have the resources to formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system and develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance. These programs will prioritize farming operations covered by the produce safety rule. The funding will help awardees develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of their farming communities.


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