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Trump administration considers change in calculating U.S. trade deficit

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on February 22, 2017

The Trump administration is considering changing the way it calculates U.S. trade deficits, a shift that would make the country’s trade gap appear larger than it had in past years, according to people involved in the discussions. The leading idea under consideration would exclude from U.S. exports any goods first imported into the country, such as cars, and then transferred to a third country like Canada or Mexico unchanged. Economists say that approach would inflate trade deficit numbers because it would typically count goods as imports when they come into the country but not count the same goods when they go back out, known as re-exports. Data on trade balances and surpluses, widely followed by Congress, are at the center of a political battle over whether existing trade agreements should be retained, renegotiated or tossed out altogether. A larger trade deficit would give the Trump administration ammunition in arguing that trade deals need to be renegotiated, and might help boost political support for imposing tariffs.  Career government employees objected last week when they were asked to prepare data using the new methodology, according to the people familiar with the discussions. These employees at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office complied with the instructions, but included their views as to why they believe the new calculation wasn’t accurate.

More than 500 groups urge Congress not to cut farm bill

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 22, 2017

More than 500 national, state and local farm, conservation and nutrition organizations have signed a letter urging the House and Senate budget committees not to propose cuts in the farm bill that this Congress will be writing. The groups point out that the 2014 farm bill was required to make $23 billion in cuts, and that spending on crop insurance and nutrition assistance is dropping sharply, according to recent cost estimates.

Round 2 in Hawkes v. Corps of Engineers Goes to Landowners

Texas Agriculture Law Blog | Posted on February 22, 2017

The litigation continues for the parties involved in Hawkes v. US Army Corps of Engineers.  This Clean Water Act case made its way to the United States Supreme Court last year, where the Court held that a landowner has the right to challenge an approved jurisdictional determination by the government that his or her property was a “water of the United States,” and therefore, subject to the Clean Water Act. After that decision, the case was sent back to the trial court for consideration of the merits:  Does the Hawkes’ property constitute a “water of the United States?”  A couple of weeks ago, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota sided with the landowner, finding that the property was not a water of the US and not subject to federal jurisdiction

How Canada Cut Foreign Workers and Hobbled Its Meat Industry

Bloomberg | Posted on February 22, 2017

For a glimpse at how Donald Trump’s “America first” approach to immigrants may affect the meat industry in the U.S. -- the world’s largest beef producer -- look no further than across the northern border to Canada.  Three years after former Prime Minister Stephen Harper tightened restrictions on foreign workers to force employers to hire more Canadians, processors from British Columbia to Nova Scotia say the move compounded a labor shortage from which they have not recovered. The Canadian Meat Council estimates the industry has 1,650 vacancies at 19 rural abattoirs, or 9 percent of total employment at those facilities. Carving up carcasses and packaging meat is messy, physically demanding work. And while workers get health and other benefits, the starting pay is below the national average. That’s why the $24.1 billion ($18.4 billion) Canadian industry -- like its neighbor in the U.S. -- has grown increasingly dependent on foreign labor. Maple Leaf Foods Inc. said last year it was seeking to hire Syrian refugees to fill job shortages.

Dairy farmers eager for Trump to ease milk glut

Farm Futures | Posted on February 22, 2017

Blame Canada. That’s what U.S. farmers say about some of the bubbling gluts weighing on the milk market, and they are eager for President Donald Trump to do something about it.  While growers and exporters of U.S. crops and food products have expressed anxiety over Trump’s restrictive immigration policies and determination to renegotiate trade deals, dairies see him as an opportunity to crack what they see as Canada’s protectionist milk practices and to help ease oversupply in some regions. A key battleground is the little known market for ultrafiltered milk, a concentrated ingredient used to boost protein content in cheese and yogurt. Canada is creating incentives for processors to buy from domestic manufacturers. U.S. producers say that could be a disaster, and they allege the new policy would violate trade agreements. Companies in Wisconsin and New York alone might lose $150 million in sales north of the border.


Group sues feds for delaying bumblebee's endangered listing

ABC News | Posted on February 16, 2017

An environmental group is suing the Trump administration for delaying an endangered-species designation for the rusty patched bumblebee.  The Natural Resources Defense Council says the U.S. Department of Interior broke the law by postponing the listing without public notice and comment. It was scheduled to take effect Feb. 10. But one day before that, the department put off the effective date until March 21 because of the administration's temporary freeze on new regulations.

Increased immigration enforcement sets agriculture industry on edge

The High Plains Journal | Posted on February 16, 2017

After hundreds of arrests of undocumented immigrants by immigration police, the Trump administration’s increased focus on immigration enforcement has some of the country’s largest farm groups worried.  Undocumented immigrants make up a significant portion of the country’s agricultural workforce. A 2016 Pew Research Center study showed undocumented workers are in about 26 percent of the nation’s farm jobs, the highest percentage among all occupations Pew included in the study. A crackdown on immigrant workers could put farms at-risk, and agricultural trade groups are taking precautions.  “I think it’s fair to say that everyone in agriculture is nervous and on edge,” says Jackie Klippenstein, an executive with Dairy Farmers of America, a co-op that counts 14,000 dairy farms in 48 states among its members. In the last decade, the nation’s dairies have frequently been the subject of immigration audits, where workers have been charged with using false documents and owners find themselves coughing up thousands of dollars in fines. Many dairy farmers already struggle to find enough labor to keep farms up and running, Klippenstein says, and raids make it even harder to fill positions milking cows and tending to the herd.

ers supported trump. His proposals have them thinking again

Huffington Post | Posted on February 16, 2017

When President Donald Trump was elected last fall, it was with an apparent majority of the nation’s farmers behind him.  But now, three weeks since Trump’s inauguration, some of those farmers appear to be having second thoughts.Dairy farmers and fruit and vegetable growers, both of whom rely heavily on an immigrant workforce to harvest their goods, are expressing fears that Trump’s promise to up immigration enforcement and build a border wall with Mexico could eliminate much of its workforce.Commodity farmers are also concerned that a 20-percent import tax on Mexican goods ― an idea the Trump administration has floated ― could hobble their businesses.Many agriculture industry groups are similarly dismayed by plans to jettison both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North American Free Trade Agreement.Of course, the impact of these proposed actions won’t stop at the farm. If they are carried out, American eaters — as well as the environment — could bear that brunt as well.

Public Support for Environmental Protection

University of New Hampshire, Carsey School | Posted on February 16, 2017

partisan divisions on environmental protection have widened, with Republican leaders frequently in opposition.1, This opposition took a strong form in the 2016 presidential campaign, when Republican Donald Trump called for abolishing the EPA and eliminating many environmental regulations. After taking office he seemed to moderate his position on abolishing the EPA, but he nominated as director someone who has sued the agency to halt its enforcement activities. In Congress, some Republicans have introduced bills to terminate the EPA, or restrict its capabilities for monitoring, enforcement, and research. Does public opinion now mirror the stark party-line divisions among political leaders? To find out, we placed a question on the Granite State Poll, a quarterly random-sample telephone survey. Although this poll focuses on New Hampshire residents, previous studies have found that their responses to environmental questions often resemble those on nationwide surveys. Large majorities of men, women, and every category of age and education favor maintaining or strengthening environmental protection rules. Majorities of liberals, moderates, and moderate conservatives support environmental protection. So do most Democrats, Independents, and non-Tea Party Republicans. Even among the most conservative, environmental protection still has substantial support although it falls short of a majority.

Trump's Immigration Crackdown Triggers Anxiety Across U.S. Farms

Bloomberg | Posted on February 16, 2017

Recent raids by U.S. immigration authorities targeting undocumented immigrants are creating a wave of distress through America’s agricultural sector, an industry that’s heavily dependent on foreign workers. Hundreds of arrests have been made in at least six states over the past week. That’s left undocumented workers afraid to travel and farmers pondering whether they can risk hiring them, according to organizations representing both groups. Farms in the western U.S. have already dealt with a dwindling labor supply, partly because of tightened border security for years, said Pete Aiello, general manager at Gilroy, California-based Uesugi Farms. He worries that things will get worse this year and his company may not be able to find enough contractors. “The mood is not good,” Aiello said. “It’s one of pretty significant trepidation.”