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China, EU cut imports of Brazil meat amid scandal

Reuters | Posted on March 22, 2017

China and the European Union curtailed meat imports from Brazil on Monday after police, in an anti-corruption probe criticized by the government as alarmist, accused inspectors in the world's biggest exporter of beef and poultry of taking bribes to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats. As the scandal deepened, Brazil's Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said the government had suspended exports from 21 meat processing units.But he also criticized the investigation by Brazil's Federal Police into meatpacking companies, calling their findings "alarmist" and saying they used a few isolated incidents to tarnish an entire industry that maintains rigorous standards.

First U.S. bumble bee added to endangered species list

Reuters | Posted on March 22, 2017

The rusty patched bumble bee became the first wild bee in the continental United States to gain federal protection on Tuesday when it was added to the government's list of endangered and threatened species. The bee, once widely found in the upper Midwest and Northeastern United States, was listed after U.S. President Donald Trump's administration lifted a hold it had placed on a plan for federal protections proposed last fall by the administration of former President Barack Obama.

Trump Applauds Farmers in Ag Day Proclamation

Ag Web | Posted on March 22, 2017

“America's farmers and ranchers help feed the world, fuel our Nation's economy, and lead global markets in output and productivity.  The efficiency of American agriculture has provided this country with abundance our ancestors could not have imagined.”  So begins President Donald Trump’s announcement today that proclaims March 21, 2017 as National Agriculture Day.The proclamation applauds our nation’s farmers as “endlessly innovative,” as well as being determined, self-reliant and a critical component to the nation’s future.


Vermont Digger | Posted on March 22, 2017

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Enrique “Kike” Balcazar, 24, from Mexico, and and Zully Palacios, 23, from Peru, late Friday afternoon, according to an activist with the group Migrant Justice. They are the third and fourth members of the group to be detained by ICE agents this week. Caesar Alex Carillo-Sanchez, who goes by Alex Carillo, was arrested outside the Chittenden County courthouse in Burlington Wednesday morning. Will Lambek, a Migrant Justice organizer, said he received a call from Balcazar around 5 p.m., during which Balcazar said he had been pulled over on Shelburne Road and was being arrested by agents. Lambek showed up just as Balcazar and his passenger were loaded into separate ICE vehicles, he said. Palacios is also a Migrant Justice activist. Neither Balcazar nor his passenger were facing any criminal charges, according to Lambek, and he declined to comment on their immigration status.An ICE spokesman did not return a message Friday seeking confirmation of the arrests and information about what led to the car stop.Balcazar is a prominent member of Migrant Justice, and a regular at protests and rallies. He was an advocate for Vermont’s driver’s privilege card law, a policy implemented in 2014 that allows individuals to get a driver’s license without proving legal presence in the United States.

Texans Receive First Notices of Land Condemnation for Trump’s Border Wall

Texas Observer | Posted on March 22, 2017

The week before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Yvette Salinas received a letter she had been dreading for years: legal notice that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to build a border wall on her family’s land in Los Ebanos. The 21-page document, entitled a “Declaration of Taking,” is addressed to her ailing mother, Maria Flores, who owns the property with her siblings. The letter offers Flores $2,900 for 1.2 acres near the Rio Grande. If she chooses not to accept the offer, the land could be seized through eminent domain. “It’s scary when you read it,” Salinas says. “You feel like you have to sign.” The 16-acre property has been in the family for so long that none of them can remember the year it was acquired. Salinas only knows they’ve had it for five generations. Her uncle runs a few head of cattle on the property, which lies not far from Los Ebanos’ most famous attraction, a hand-drawn ferry that shuttles cars and their passengers across the river to Mexico.

President's budget shuns rural America

KTIC Radio | Posted on March 22, 2017

President Donald J. Trump issued his fiscal year 2018 federal budget blueprint today, calling for a drastic reduction in spending on agriculture and rural related agencies and programs. Lamenting further cuts being proposed for agriculture, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement: “Family farmers and ranchers are currently enduring the worst farm economy in well over a decade and an inadequate safety net that is hamstrung by $23 billion in budget cuts. The last thing our members need right now is more cuts to agencies and programs that provide incredibly important work, especially in the midst of the current farm crisis. These cuts and the message they send to rural America are deeply disappointing. “President Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a $4.7 billion cut to USDA, which equates to a 21 percent drop for programs that serve rural and farming communities across the U.S. This huge cut to discretionary spending will put rural development, food safety, conservation and research programs on the chopping block. “The proposal recommends eliminating the Senior Community Service Employment Program that provides job training for older unemployed Americans. This program serves older Americans across the country, but is critical at addressing the challenges faced by older people in rural America.

Veterans send letter Trump urging rule for ethanol and RFS in his energy plan

Biofuels Digest | Posted on March 22, 2017

more than 120 military veterans working and investing in the ethanol industry sent a letter to President Trump last week, urging him to include a prominent role for ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in his “America First Energy Plan.”  According to the letter, “many of us have witnessed firsthand the dangers of our reliance on oil imports from hostile and unstable parts of the world. We share your belief that the United States can and must do more to insulate itself from the negative impacts associated with oil import dependence and OPEC manipulation. Your continued commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard and pledge to ‘end restrictions that keep higher blends of ethanol from being sold’ are among the strategies that will help free our economy from the influence of OPEC oil ministers once and for all.”  The veterans signing the letter work in 18 different states—from California and Oregon to Ohio and Wisconsin—and represent 41 businesses or organizations directly involved in the U.S. ethanol industry. They served in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy.

OSHA notices disappear as Labor Dept. revamps under Trump

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 21, 2017

The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to issue any public notices of fines for violations so far this year, although officials told The New York Times that enforcement actions are still under way.  OSHA has not posted any news releases covering rule enforcement fines on its website, a major shift from activity under the Obama administration, when the agency issued an average of about 460 news releases per year, the paper reported. Industry associations reportedly are unhappy about Obama-era record-keeping rules ordering companies that were competing for federal contracts to disclose accusations of standard labor violations regarding safety and fair-pay issues that also were publicized by OSHA.

White House budget would cut EPA by 31%, Labor Dept. by 21%

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 21, 2017

The White House 2018 budget requests $5.7 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a savings of $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level. The President’s 2018 Budget:  Discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts —saving more than $100 million for the American taxpayer compared to 2017 annualized CR levels. Reins in Superfund administrative costs and emphasizes efficiency efforts by funding the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account at $762 million, $330 million below the 2017 annualized CR level. The agency would prioritize the use of existing settlement funds to clean up hazardous waste sites and look for ways to remove some of the barriers that have delayed the program’s ability to return sites to the community. The White House 2018 Budget requests $9.6 billion for the Department of Labor, a $2.5 billion or 21 percent decrease from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level. The President’s 2018 Budget:• Eliminates the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s training grants, yielding savings of almost $11 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.• Expands Reemployment and Eligibility Assessments, an evidence-based activity that saves an average of $536 per claimant in unemployment insurance benefit costs by reducing improper payments and getting claimants back to work more quickly and at higher wages. Reduces funding for job training grants. As part of this, eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), for a savings of $434 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. The White House said SCSEP is ineffective in meeting its purpose of transitioning low-income unemployed seniors into unsubsidized jobs. As many as one-third of participants fail to complete the program and of those who do, only half successfully transition to unsubsidized employment.

Senators seek to protect U.S. agriculture from foreign acquisitions

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on March 19, 2017

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) have introduced new bipartisan legislation to give top U.S. agriculture and food officials permanent representation on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.  The “Food Security is National Security Act of 2017” also would include new agriculture and food-related criteria for CFIUS to consider when reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign company.