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US Congress approves Colorado River drought plan

AP News | Posted on April 11, 2019

A plan to address a shrinking supply of water on a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West is headed to President Donald Trump. The U.S. House and Senate approved the Colorado River drought contingency plan. Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming spent years negotiating the drought plan. They aim to keep two key reservoirs from falling so low they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower.Mexico has promised to store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border if the U.S. legislation is approved by April 22.

FDA Advancing Beneficial Animal Biotechnology Product Development

FDA | Posted on April 11, 2019

Last October, the FDA announced its Plant and Animal Biotechnology Innovation Action Plan, which focuses on the agency’s risk-based regulatory framework. This framework will help secure confidence in the safety and performance of plant and animal-based innovative products for consumers, patients, and America’s global trading partners. Making sure these products are safe and perform as expected is critical to maintaining consumer and commercial confidence in them and realizing their potential benefits for human and animal health. The FDA’s science-based review standards are internationally respected. They provide assurance to global consumers and regulators that animal biotechnology products evaluated by the FDA and exported from the U.S. to other countries are safe and effective. We are taking new steps to advance a framework that allows these products to efficiently secure the FDA’s approval. Our steps are aimed at making sure our approach is tailored to the opportunities enabled by these technologies, and the unique ways in which many genome-altered animals are raised on farms.

Leading trade associations urger Trump not to impose vehicle tariffs

AEM | Posted on April 11, 2019

Several leading trade associations, including the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association (TEMA), the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the Remanufacturing Industries Council, the American Rental Association (ARA), Associated Equipment Distributors (AED), the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA), and the American Bus Association (ABA)sent a letter to President Trump warning about the economic threat of the Section 232 Investigation on the national security implications of imports of automobiles, including cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks, and automotive parts:

6 states, DC sue over changes to school lunch rules

Ap News | Posted on April 11, 2019

Six states and the District of Columbia sued the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, saying it weakened nutritional standards in school breakfasts and lunches when it relaxed the requirements affecting salt and refined grains last year. The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court asked a judge to overturn the changes, saying they were carried out in an arbitrary and capricious manner.The government “significantly weakened” nutritional standards for sodium and whole grains, according to the lawsuit, without giving the public a chance to comment on them and in opposition to nutritional requirements for school meals set by Congress.The states and D.C. said the standards should be based on recommendations of the U.S. government’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the National Academy of Sciences and scientific research regarding children’s nutrition.

USDA Launches New Features to Help with H-2A Applications, Managing Loans

USDA | Posted on April 11, 2019

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched two new features on to help customers manage their farm loans and navigate the application process for H-2A visas. “Customer service is our top priority at USDA and these new features will help our customers as they manage their farm loans and navigate the H-2A temporary agricultural visa program,” said Secretary Perdue. “In my travels across the country, I have consistently heard people express a desire for greater use of technology in the way we deliver programs at USDA. As we adopt new technology, we are introducing simple yet innovative approaches to support our farmers, ranchers, producers, and foresters as they support the nation every day. It’s my goal to make USDA the most effective, most efficient, most customer-focused department in the entire federal government, and is a big step in that direction.”

How climate change is fueling the U.S. border crisis

The New Yorker | Posted on April 5, 2019

The western highlands, which extend from Antigua to the Mexican border, cover roughly twenty per cent of Guatemala. The population in the highlands is mostly indigenous, and people’s livelihoods are almost exclusively agrarian. The malnutrition rate, which hovers around sixty-five per cent, is among the highest in the Western Hemisphere. In 2014, a group of agronomists and scientists, working on an initiative called Climate, Nature, and Communities of Guatemala, produced a report that cautioned lawmakers about the region’s susceptibility to a new threat. The highlands, they wrote, “was the most vulnerable area in the country to climate change.” In the years before the report was published, three hurricanes had caused damage that cost more than the previous four decades’ worth of public and private investment in the national economy. Extreme-weather events were just the most obvious climate-related calamities. There were increasingly wide fluctuations in temperature—unexpected surges in heat followed by morning frosts—and unpredictable rainfall. Almost half a year’s worth of precipitation might fall in a single week, which would flood the soil and destroy crops. Grain and vegetable harvests that once produced enough food to feed a family for close to a year now lasted less than five months. “Inattention to these issues,” the report’s authors wrote, can drive “more migration to the United States” and “put at grave risk the already deteriorating viability of the country.”Guatemalan migration to the U.S., which had been steady since the late nineteen-seventies, has spiked in recent years. In 2018, fifty thousand families were apprehended at the border—twice as many as the year before. Within the first five months of the current fiscal year, sixty-six thousand families were arrested. The number of unaccompanied children has also increased: American authorities recorded twenty-two thousand children from Guatemala last year, more than those from El Salvador and Honduras combined. Much of this migration has come from the western highlands, which receives not only some of the highest rates of remittances per capita but also the greatest number of deportees. In recent years, U.S. immigration policy in Central America has largely relied on the idea that, in order to control the flow of immigrants heading north, the government should make it as painful as possible to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. “It’s always been about deterrence,” a former official at the Department of Homeland Security told me. “Unless you send a message, people will keep coming.” On Friday, Trump announced that he was cutting all aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, because the three countries “haven’t done a thing for us.”Even approaches that have accounted for the root causes of regional mass migration have underestimated the impact of climate change. Sebastian Charchalac, an agronomist and environmental consultant told me, In most of the western highlands, the question is no longer whether someone will emigrate but when. “Extreme poverty may be the primary reason people leave,” Edwin Castellanos, a climate scientist at the Universidad del Valle, told me. “But climate change is intensifying all the existing factors.” Extended periods of heat and dryness, known as canículas, have increased in four of the last seven years, across the country.  Climate change is outpacing the ability of growers to adapt. Based on models of shifting weather patterns in the region, Castellanos told me, “what was supposed to be happening fifty years from now is our present reality.”

US sues California, says water policy violates state law

Capital Press | Posted on April 4, 2019

The federal government sued California on over a water policy it said violates the state's environmental protection law. The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in Sacramento federal court to block a contentious plan approved in December to increase river flows in the San Joaquin River and three tributaries to help revive dwindling salmon populations. It was part of a larger effort to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which state officials called an "ecosystem in crisis." The delta supplies water for the majority of California's people and farms. Once-thriving fish in the delta, which flows out to San Francisco Bay, have plunged from some 70,000 adult Chinook salmon returning to the San Joaquin basin in the fall of 1984 to just 10,000 in 2017.

Why current U.S. immigration challenge reflects ‘complete political failure’

PBS | Posted on April 4, 2019

Federal immigration officials in El Paso say they're overwhelmed by a massive influx of families seeking asylum. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has responded to the surge by moving personnel in from other areas, but that could exacerbate the problem by further slowing processing of asylum requests. Amna Nawaz reports and talks to Bob Moore of Texas Monthly about the ‘completely new’ situation.

Fight Over Money For Puerto Rico Brings Disaster Aid Bill To A Standstill

NPR | Posted on April 4, 2019

There are few things Democrats and Republicans in Congress usually agree on, but one of them is rushing federal money to victims of natural disasters.That sentiment crumbled this week when the Senate failed to advance two separate disaster funding bills. Both included bipartisan funding to help relieve damage across the country from flooding, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes. But a fight over assistance for Puerto Rico has derailed getting a deal on the entire package.The political fight intensified last week after President Trump told Senate Republicans in a closed-door lunch at the Capitol that he would not support sending any additional money to Puerto Rico, according to several people familiar with the conversation. Democrats, who had already been pushing for additional federal resources for Puerto Rico, responded by insisting that any disaster spending bill must help victims no matter where they reside.

2019-2020 Farm Program Decision and Fairness across Covered Commodities

Farm Policy News | Posted on April 4, 2019

The PLC (Price Loss Coverage) program option makes payments only if MYA (marketing year average) price is below ERP.  Thus, a key program decision factor is the relationship between a covered commodity’s expected MYA price and ERP.  Assuming a simple forecast that 2019 MYA price is the currently projected 2018 MYA price, expected 2019 MYA price ranges from 23% under ERP for long-grain rice to 51% above ERP for sesame seed (see Figure 1, Appendix Table 1, and Data Note 1).  Corn, soybean, and wheat MYA price is 4% under, 2% over, and 6% under ERP, respectively, as of March 2018.  Only 1 other covered commodity (dry peas) is within their range of values.  Ten covered commodities have a MYA price that is 13% or more under ERP.  The lower is MYA price compared to ERP, the more likely will a PLC payment be triggered.  As of March 2018, this simple forecast analysis suggests corn, soybeans, and wheat will have a closer program decision than most other covered commodities and that it will be critically impacted by how demand and supply evolve over the 2019 production period.  Small decreases in supply or small increases in demand could eliminate 2019 PLC payments for corn, soybeans, and wheat.  Alternatively, the likelihood of PLC payments will increase if supply and demand changes for these crops lead to lower prices.  Other key program decision factors include that: (1) ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) program option, but not PLC, pays on yield variation, (2) PLC pays over a wider, often much wider, range of MYA prices as ARC payments are limited to 10% of its benchmark revenue while PLC payments are bounded by the lower US loan rate, and (3) PLC payments start at 100% of ERP while ARC payments start at 86% of benchmark revenue.