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Federal News

Farm Bureau Says Labor Visa Backlogs Threaten 2016 Crops

Growing Produce | Posted on April 28, 2016

Agency delays in processing visas for workers who tend and harvest America’s food crops are fast approaching crisis proportions, all but guaranteeing that crops will rot in the field on many farms this year, American Farm Bureau Federation President ZIppy Duvall said recently.

Communications with state Farm Bureaus across the nation have revealed worker shortages in more than 20 states.

“Many farmer members have called us and state Farm Bureaus asking for help,” Duvall said. “They face serious hurdles in getting visas for workers in time to tend and harvest this year’s crops. Paperwork delays have created a backlog of 30 days or more in processing H-2A applications at both the Department of Labor and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

Farmers depend on the H-2A agricultural visa program to fill gaps in the nation’s ag labor system, but, Duvall said, the program is far from perfect. Processing and procedural delays, such as the government’s use of U.S. mail instead of electronic communications, are leading to losses from unharvested crops


Cuba Cuts Some Food Prices, Responding to Public Complaints

ABC News | Posted on April 25, 2016

The Cuban government has announced that it is cutting prices of some basic foods by 20 percent in state-run stores.  The reductions taking effect Friday address widespread complaints that state employees earning about $25 a month cannot afford many staples, including rice and cooking oil.


Even after HSUS lawsuit, USDA approves pork checkoff payments for trademarks

Brownfield | Posted on April 25, 2016

After its review, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has ruled that the National Pork Board can continue to pay its $3 million annual payments to the National Pork Producers Council for the “Pork: The Other White Meat” trademarks. The review was conducted following a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the US in 2012 alleging the payment for the trademarks was an unlawful use of Pork Checkoff Funds.  A district judge dismissed the case and an appellate court reversed that decision last year.


Acquiring true livestock traceability

Manitoba Cooperator | Posted on April 22, 2016

A new mobile tool created by a Canadian producer co-operative offers producers the ability to capture livestock data in the field with the device that is already in their pocket


The arrogance of ignorance

Brownfield | Posted on April 22, 2016

The issue of antibiotic resistance is very real and very serious.  By their nature, bacteria, when their existence is challenged, mutate to resist the challenge.  Antibiotics when used in human medicine or in agriculture present such a bacterial challenge so overuse in either sector leads to an increase in bacterial resistance and can render routine antimicrobial treatments ineffective. Research demonstrates and experts confirm the greatest overuse/misuse of antibiotics occurs in human medicine, either at the doctor’s office or in the hospital.  However, political attention, whether from Congress or activist groups, is focused like a laser on agriculture, yet none of the inflammatory rhetoric and allegations tossed around by on-farm antibiotic critics is directed at the human medical community.  I’ve yet to hear any politician advocate federal oversight of physicians’ prescription habits, nor even a whisper about regulating that authority.  It seems a doctor’s pledge to “voluntarily” cut back on over-prescription or inappropriate prescription of antibiotics is sufficient; doctors, can be trusted because, I guess, they’re doctors.  I had a former deputy commissioner of FDA – a pediatrician – say as much to me during a meeting on this issue when he questioned, “How do you know your farmers are doing what they say they’re doing?”  My response: “The same way you’re confident doctors who say they’re doing the right thing, in fact, are doing the right thing.”


Goat Herd Helps Trump Lower Tax Bite

Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 22, 2016

New Jersey farmland law lets presidential candidate save tens of thousands in property taxes on golf courses


Judge approves $380 million change to landmark 2010 Native American farm suit

Washington Post | Posted on April 22, 2016

A federal judge approved the creation of what is expected to become the largest U.S. philanthropy serving Native American farmers and ranchers, redistributing $380 million left unclaimed in a landmark 2010 civil rights settlement in which the U.S. government agreed to pay for years of official discrimination.  Most of the $680 million in the 2010 settlement went unspent after far fewer people than expected brought successful claims. Instead of the 10,000 anticipated, only about 3,600 applicants were paid.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District approved an agreement over how to handle the remaining funds. Under the new deal, those Native American farmers and ranchers will receive $21,275 in cash and tax payments on their behalf — about $77 million in all — atop the $50,000 apiece most received initially. An additional $38 million will go to nonprofit groups chosen by lawyers who represented those in the class action, and the remaining $265 million will endow a Native American-led trust that will distribute money at its discretion to nonprofit groups over 20 years.


USDA Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program announces shortage areas for 2016

High Plains Journal | Posted on April 22, 2016

Authorized by the National Veterinary Medical Services Act, the VMLRP helps qualified veterinarians offset a significant portion of debt incurred while pursuing their veterinary medicine degrees in return for their service in designated high-priority veterinary shortage situations. If a qualified veterinarian commits to providing at least three years of veterinary services in a designated veterinary shortage area, USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture may repay up to $25,000 of their student loan debt per year.  Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for the attendance at an accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or equivalent.


Senate Barely Blocks Amendment to Block WOTUS Funding

Morning Consult | Posted on April 22, 2016

The Senate on Thursday voted 56-42 to fail an amendment to block funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water of the United States rule in the energy and water appropriations bill.

The amendment offered by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), would have blocked the Army Corps of Engineers from developing, adopting, implementing, administering or enforcing any change to the regulations for the definition of waters under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Under the the WOTUS final rule, the EPA extended its authority to include waters that have a “significant nexus” with “navigable” waters, including a 4,000-foot buffer zone around those waters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued a stay of the rule in October.

On Wednesday, the White House issued a veto threat for the bill if the measure included “problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation.”


Congress again refuses to fund USDA poultry grower rules

meatingplace.com | Posted on April 21, 2016

The House Appropriations Committee narrowly approved an amendment to funding legislation that would stop USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from finalizing rules pertaining to how the Packers and Stockyards Act is interpreted and enforced.

On a 26-24 vote, the committee approved the amendment offered by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) to the fiscal 2017 funding bill that, as similar measures have in previous years, blocked funding for GIPSA final rules that would have sought to ensure poultry grower rights are protected in disputes with contracting poultry processors.


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