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U.S. House OKs farm bill with major food stamps changes

Reuters | Posted on June 21, 2018

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a massive Republican farm bill with changes to the government food stamps program that make it unlikely to become law in this form. The Senate is considering its own farm bill with no major changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) used by more than 40 million Americans, or about 12 percent of the total U.S. population.  The House passed the $867 billion farm bill in a 213-to-211 vote, earning the support of some conservative Republicans who helped defeat it in May after its renewal became entangled in an unrelated debate over immigration.

Trump to propose government reorganization, targeting safety net programs

The New York Times | Posted on June 21, 2018

President Trump plans to propose a reorganization of the federal government as early as Thursday that includes a possible merger of the Education and Labor Departments, coupled with a reshuffling of other domestic agencies to make them easier to cut or revamp, according to administration officials briefed on the proposal. Mr. Trump and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, the architect of the plan, have sought to redefine as welfare subsistence benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and housing aid. It is part of a rebranding effort, championed by conservative think tanks and House Republicans, to link them to unpopular direct-cash assistance programs that have traditionally been called welfare.“They have been using the word welfare because it is pejorative,” said Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. “The programs you can call welfare are actually very small in comparison to SNAP, which is an income support necessary to help families, workers and millions of kids.”At the heart of the plan is expected to be an attempt to shift SNAP, which serves more than 42 million poor and working-class Americans, to the new agency from the Agriculture Department. Conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and Koch-related entities, have long sought to de-link food aid from agriculture in hopes of cutting costs.

Double whammy: U.S. pork, fruit producers brace for second wave of Chinese tariffs

| Posted on June 21, 2018

U.S. producers of pork, already saddled with duties enacted in an earlier round of the escalating trade dispute with China, are bracing for further pain after Beijing hit the products with additional tariffs due to come into effect next month.  China implemented a 25 percent duty on most U.S. pork items on April 2, and a 15 percent tariff on a range of fruits and nuts, in response to U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum products. Last week it included both categories in a second round of tariffs to be imposed on July 6. No other products have been listed twice.  Pork now faces cumulative import duties of 71 percent, not including value added tax, according to a formula published on the website of China’s finance ministry last week. Cumulative duties on fruit amount to 50 percent.  “The additional tariff will put us out of business,” said Zhong Zheng, founder of China-based Heartland Brothers, which sells U.S.-produced Berkshire pork to Chinese supermarkets and restaurants. The United States shipped $489 million worth of pork to China last year, and had the biggest share of import volumes in the first quarter of 2018, at about 117,000 tonnes, according to Chinese customs.

Immigration officials arrest 146 workers at Ohio meat plant

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 21, 2018

pecial agents from U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) have arrested 146 workers at the Fresh Mark meat processing plant in Salem, Ohio, for alleged immigration violations, the agency said. ICE said it identified the employees as part of a year-long investigation into whether the company hired illegal aliens at its meat processing and packaging plants. Search warrants were served at Fresh Mark locations in Massillon and Canton, Ohio, as well as the Salem plant.

U.S.–China Trade Dispute and Potential Impacts on Agriculture

Choices magazine | Posted on June 21, 2018

Threats of Chinese tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports shook the U.S. agricultural sector. Attention focused on the potential loss of farm income, with a surge of short articles published in the popular media. To help provide a deeper analysis on the trade policy impact, we organize this China theme issue with five articles: Zheng et al. and Taheripour and Tyner estimate the loss on multiple relevant crops using a partial equilibrium model and a general equilibrium model, respectively. Both studies focus on soybeans, while wheat, pork, and a few other commodities are also considered. Hansen et al., Countryman and Muhammad, and Liu et al. examine sorghum, wine, and cotton, respectively, and point out potential export reductions as a result of such tariffs. Although the current trade dispute continues to evolve, it is valuable for us to understand the potential negative impact and to be informed of possible consequences. It is our sincere hope that U.S. and Chinese negotiators will reach an agreement, since both countries ultimately lose with a trade war, as seen from the 1930s Smoot–Hawley Tariff.

House Rejects Conservative Immigration Bill; Delays Consideration of Compromise

Roll Call | Posted on June 21, 2018

Goodlatte-sponsored bill goes down as leaders look to round up support on second measure. The House on Thursday rejected, 193-231, an immigration bill conservatives favor, an outcome Republican leadership had been predicting for months, even as House leaders delayed a vote on a compromise immigration bill. The vote on final passage of the compromise measure is being moved to Friday to provide more time to answer members' questions about the bill, a GOP aide confirmed. The measure by Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte did not include many changes he’d been working on over the past few months to improve the bill’s chances for passage. In the hours before the vote, members were still confused about which provisions made it in and which did not.

ICE arrests 146 at Fresh Mark plant

Meat + Poultry | Posted on June 21, 2018

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed search warrants at four Fresh Mark meat processing locations in Ohio and made 146 arrests at the company’s Salem, Ohio, location for immigration violations. The arrests are a culmination of a year-long investigation into evidence that Fresh Mark willfully and knowingly hired illegal aliens using identification that belonged to US citizens. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents Fresh Mark employees, called the raids an “…egregious show of force,” in a statement. “We are outraged by the actions of Donald Trump,” Appelbaum said. “One hundred and forty people couldn't go home to their families last night, and their children were left on their own to fend for themselves – that is unconscionable.” Appelbaum went on to say the RWDSU stands with all immigrant workers trying to support their families and better their lives.

The FMD bank in farm bill

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on June 21, 2018

While the U.S. has a very vigorous inspection system and some of the best sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions in the world, we have seen over and over that it is impossible to keep insects, weeds, and diseases out. According to the National Beef Association, we currently do not have the resources to deal with a large outbreak of FMD. The current FMD vaccine bank in the United States is located at Plum Island, NY, and only contains enough vaccine to meet the need of a small, confined FMD outbreak. Additionally, preparation of a vaccine, from onset until delivery of a ready-to-administer dose, would currently take weeks. By the time vaccines could be administered, the entire beef industry would be in devastation. Worldwide FMD vaccine production is also limited, and there is no surge capacity available to produce the millions of doses needed in the event of a large-scale outbreak in the United States. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, full mandatory funding of $150 million a year for five years is proposed. It provides for a robust U.S. FMD vaccine bank, capable of responding rapidly and effectively to any potential FMD outbreak. While this is a significant budget request in an already tight spending situation, Congress needs to see this for the priority that it is.

China announces equal penalties to retaliate for U.S. tariffs

Capital Press | Posted on June 20, 2018

A $50 billion list of possible U.S. trade targets announced in April included soybeans, light aircraft, orange juice, whiskey and beef. China’s government responded quickly to U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff hike on Chinese goods by announcing Friday it will immediately impose penalties of “equal strength” on U.S. products. The Commerce Ministry said it also was scrapping deals to buy more American farm goods and other exports as part of efforts to defuse a sprawling dispute over its trade surplus and technology policy.

The FDA regulates food. USDA regulates meat. So who gets to regulate lab-grown meat?

The New Food Economy | Posted on June 20, 2018

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its intent to regulate lab-grown meat—a declaration that provides some clues about how the federal government will treat a new technology that upends some notions about food and agriculture. In some ways, it’s unremarkable that lab-grown meat would fall under FDA’s purview. It’s the federal agency that’s already in charge of ensuring the safety of most foods, from Hot Pockets to baby carrots and coconut water. What is surprising, though, is FDA’s signaling that it wants domain over a meat product. That’s always been the responsibility of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In theory, USDA regulates meat, poultry, and most “egg products,” like pourable egg whites, and FDA regulates everything else. In practice, the relationship between the two agencies is byzantine. A jurisdictional disagreement over mislabeled egg rolls led to a protracted regulatory standoff last year; FDA is responsible for closed-faced sandwiches, while USDA regulates their open-faced counterparts. This announcement suggests more confusion. While USDA will continue to regulate meat from animals, FDA wants to oversee cell-cultured meat grown in labs.