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Farm family leaves for Mexico amid questions over immigration crackdown

Wisconsin State Journal | Posted on June 23, 2017

Hernandez worked on the Knoepkes’ farm in Pepin County for 16 years. He shared that home with his wife and two young sons, Thomas, 5, and Liam, 4. That day, at Thomas’ last day at Noah’s Ark Preschool, he cried as he told his classmates that he will not be starting kindergarten with them in the fall. He had never been to Mexico.Earlier this month, Hernandez and four other men, who for years had milked and cared for cows on dairy farms among the hills of western Wisconsin, drove away in the direction of their mountainous hometown of Texhuacan. A few days later, Tepole and the children flew out of Chicago.The Hernandez family left, in part, because of the threat of deportation — which could ban them from returning to the United States for 10 years — and what they described as increasingly harsh rhetoric by President Donald Trump and others toward immigrants, especially those here illegally.They moved here to America’s Dairyland, the nation’s top cheese state and No. 2 milk producer, attracted by a dairy industry dependent on undocumented immigrant labor to keep cows milked three times a day, year-round. They have raised their children in communities where American workers stopped answering “help wanted” ads for cow milkers long ago.And now, they have gone home.“Miguel has been our right hand,” Knoepke said. “He treated (the farm) like he owned it. We’re really saddened, scared. I don’t know. It’s sad.”In Wisconsin, farmers like Knoepke depend heavily on workers like Hernandez. Seeing him and the other workers leave worried this first-generation farmer with 650 cows.“I don’t know where the industry would be without (immigrant labor) right now,” Knoepke says.There are temporary visas for seasonal agricultural workers, but year-round workers who make up the vast majority of the labor force on Wisconsin’s large dairies have no special protections, and many are in the country illegally. Knoepke says Congress “better do something … because (workers) are leaving. You see it right here. They’re packin’ up.”Hernandez’s brother, Damaso, who also works at a western Wisconsin dairy farm, says many workers he knows plan to leave because, “They’re scared of the government.”“It’s strange, it’s difficult because all the Hispanic people knew the Americans here in Wisconsin were supporting Donald Trump. I think they made a mistake, because a lot of people are fleeing for precisely that reason.”

Enlist corn trait approved for import to China, available for 2018

Successful Farming | Posted on June 23, 2017

Enlist corn will be available for farmers in the U.S. starting in the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences made the announcement after China approved the import of corn grown with the new trait. The announcement was made along with approval for Monsanto’s Vistive Gold soybeans and renewed approvals for 14 other GMO crops.

Trump Cuba Actions Raise Ag Concerns

DTN | Posted on June 23, 2017

Several ag groups on Friday expressed concern over President Donald Trump's announcement that his administration will make it harder for Americans to travel to Cuba and restrict some business activities with the island nation location only 90 miles from Florida. The Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation, the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union, the U.S. Grains Council and wheat groups all said that the changes, while not related directly to agriculture, could hurt U.S. exports.Trump said on Friday he was rolling back some of President Barack Obama's steps to liberalize relations with Cuba because they had not led to more liberal social policies and democracy there."We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of Castro regime," Trump said."They will be restricted. We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people, so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country's great, great future -- a country of great potential."But Trump did not move to close the U.S. embassy in Cuba or the Cuban embassy in Washington, and did not end direct commercial airline flights or cruise ship stops.American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall urged the administration to exercise caution in rolling out any new restrictions on doing business with Cuba that would limit U.S. agricultural export opportunities.

Rural Areas Brace for Health Care Bill Impact

Roll Call | Posted on June 22, 2017

The Senate historically has paid special attention to the needs of rural areas, but as the chamber readies its health care bill, there are concerns that the bill would undermine coverage in those places more than anywhere else. While the exact text of the Senate bill is not yet posted publicly, all signs point to somewhat similar language to the House bill (HR 1628), which would reduce funding for Medicaid compared to current law and impose caps on Medicaid funding. Under the House bill, older people also would face higher premiums — and rural areas tend to be home to a large number of older Americans. These proposals worry advocacy groups, as rural areas are disproportionately affected by cuts to Medicaid and premium increases. Rural areas already have more uninsured and underinsured people per capita than the rest of the country. In addition, these organizations are expressing frustrations over the increased levels of bad debt to rural hospitals and the need for marketplace changes.

EPA wants to offer 1,200 buyouts

The News & Observer | Posted on June 21, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to offer buyouts and early retirement to 1,200 employees, according to two news organizations that received copies of an internal memo. Federal News Radio and Government Executive reported that the federal agency plans to submit the buyout proposal to the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget this month. Both agencies must approve the request.


‘I Need More Mexicans’: A Kansas Farmer’s Message to Trump

Bloomberg | Posted on June 21, 2017

Undocumented immigrants make up about half the workforce in U.S. agriculture, according to various estimates. But that pool of labor is shrinking, which could spell trouble for farms, feedlots, dairies, and meatpacking plants—particularly in a state such as Kansas, where unemployment in many counties is barely half the already tight national rate. “Two weeks ago, my boss told me, ‘I need more Mexicans like you,’” says a 25-year-old immigrant employed at a farm in the southwest part of the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s trying to get his paperwork in order. “I said, ‘Well, they’re kind of hard to find.’” Arrests of suspected undocumented workers have jumped 38 percent since President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders targeting immigration in January. The crackdown is having a deterrent effect along the southern border: Apprehensions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection totaled 118,383 from January through May, a 47 percent decrease from the same period last year, which indicates fewer people are trying to enter the U.S. illegally. Michael Feltman, an immigration lawyer in Cimarron, Kan., says his firm has seen more people coming in with naturalization questions over the past six months than over the previous four years combined. “I’m really worried every little traffic ticket’s going to turn into detention,” he says.

What will Trump do with half a million backlogged immigration cases?

The New Yorker | Posted on June 21, 2017

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions travelled to Nogales, Arizona, to make an announcement. “This is the Trump era,” he said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigrations laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.” While his tone was harsh, and many of the proposals he outlined were hostile to immigrants, he detailed one idea that even some of his critics support: the hiring of more immigration judges. U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of over half a million cases—and each one, on average, takes almost two years to close. These delays mean that everyone from asylum seekers to green-card holders faces extended stays in detention while awaiting rulings. Speaking about the problem, one immigration judge recently told the Times, “The courts as a whole lose credibility.” Roughly three hundred judges nationwide are responsible for the entire immigration caseload, and hiring is slow—filling a vacancy typically takes about two years, according to the Government Accountability Office. In Nogales, Sessions said that he would try to streamline the hiring process. But until that happens the Administration has been relocating judges to areas where they’re deemed most necessary. “We have already surged twenty-five immigration judges to detention centers along the border,” Sessions said, as if talking about military troop levels.

Perdue Meeting on Agriculture a Prelude to Nafta Renegotiation

Bloomberg | Posted on June 20, 2017

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue meets Tuesday with his counterparts from Canada and Mexico for what he called candid talks on “irritants” in the three-way trade relationship that will be a prelude to a renegotiation of Nafta set to begin later this summer.New rules on Canada’s dairy-supply system and how Mexico plans to enforce a recently concluded agreement limiting its sugar exports to the U.S. will be among the topics of discussion when Purdue plays host to Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Mexican Agriculture Secretary Jose Calzada in Savannah, Georgia.Farmers tend to support the North American Free Trade Agreement, but agricultural shifts since its 1990s implementation require a review of the accord, Perdue said in an interview. Frank discussions now may make farming issues less divisive during the formal negotiations on revamping Nafta that may begin as soon as August.

Perdue names 3 to leadership team as USDA reorganization takes shape

Agri-Pulse | Posted on June 19, 2017

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today named Jason Hafemeister as his acting Deputy Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs and two other individuals to key leadership roles as he continues the reorganization plan he announced a month ago. Robert Johansson was appointed acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, while staying on as USDA’s Chief Economist, a position he has held since July 2015. And Dan Jiron will fill the role of acting Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.“Today we continue our progress of making USDA the most effective, the most efficient, and the best managed department in the U.S. government,” Perdue said in a release. “These three career USDA employees have already shown the leadership and expertise needed to deliver the highest quality service to our customers – the people of American agriculture.  I welcome them to the leadership team and I thank them for their dedication to agriculture.”


U.S. exports to Mexico fall as uncertainty over NAFTA lingers

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 19, 2017

Friction between the U.S. and Mexico over trade is starting to cut into sales for U.S. farmers and agricultural companies, adding uncertainty for an industry struggling with low commodity prices and excess supply.Over the first four months of 2017, Mexican imports of U.S. soybean meal—used to feed poultry and livestock—dropped 15%, the first decrease for the period in four years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Shipments of U.S. chicken meat fell 11%, the biggest decline for the period since 2003. U.S. corn exports to Mexico declined 6%. Mexico is the largest U.S. export market for those commodities.The numbers reflect how Mexican companies are now increasingly buying grain on a short-term basis and purchasing more chicken from Brazil, troubling some industry officials and analysts. The trade data, which is the latest available, indicates that Mexico is starting to follow through on aspirations to buy food from a wider range of countries, and reduce reliance on the U.S.“We have to send a signal to policy makers in Washington, and emphasize that we are not sitting still,” said Raúl Urteaga Trani, head of international affairs for Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture, who last month shepherded officials from 17 Mexican companies on a trade mission to South America, focused on corn, soybeans and wheat.