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America should look to states on how to shape immigration policy

The Hill | Posted on May 30, 2018

In the national immigration debate, anti-immigrant rhetoric is at a fever pitch generated by politicians bent on inciting a cultural war and exploiting the fears many Americans have about their economic situation and how their communities are changing. But to truly understand the role of immigrants in the United States, we must look to the states and localities where immigrants live. In spite of efforts by fear-mongering politicians to divide us, both “red” and “blue” states have a proud history of advancing policies that acknowledge and encourage the contributions of all members of their communities, regardless of where they were born. In the midst of monumental national policy debates, it is just as critical to focus on the immediate needs of immigrant and refugee families, and the communities where they feel the most direct impact. While year after year the focus has been on the “failure” of federal immigration reform, we have seen local governments enact measures to make college more accessible, to increase public safety by ensuring access to driver’s licenses, to provide children with access health care, and to keep families safe.

Partisan Differences Set Tone for Future Farm Legislation

Brownfield Ag News | Posted on May 30, 2018

A university farm policy specialist says the House defeat of the farm bill may have residual effects on getting farm legislation passed.  The future of farm policy depends on lawmakers working together, said Jonathan Coppess, at the University of Illinois.“What’s going on is troubling beyond the defeat of Friday,” Coppess told Brownfield Ag News, referring to the day the U.S. House voted down the legislation.  “It is troubling for the long-term viability of the farm bill, because we’re tearing apart the coalition it takes to get a bill through Congress.”A likely short-term fix to turn some of the 30 Freedom Caucus Republicans who withheld support of the farm bill is to get a vote on immigration legislation, said Coppess, adding, however, that that is not a long-term solution.“The ideal situation would be to go back to the table,” said Coppess, “and work out a bipartisan compromise that addressed legitimate concerns about SNAP, about farm programs, about conservation programs, and work back through that bipartisan effort that we have traditionally done on farm bills.”

FSIS proposes scrapping redundant hog carcass cleaning rule

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on May 30, 2018

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing amending the federal meat inspection regulationsto remove a redundant requirement for slaughter establishments to clean hog carcasses before incising. Facilities are now required to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system that identifies potential biological, chemical or physical hazards, and the controls to prevent those hazards at specific points in the process. Since 1997, establishments have been required to address hazards in their HACCP plans, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (Sanitation SOPs) or prerequisite programs and these advancements have made the outdated regulation redundant, FSIS said.

Grassley-Conaway Subsidy Feud Escalates

Ag Net West | Posted on May 30, 2018

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley had some harsh words for House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway of Texas. The Grassley response came as Conaway said Grassley is wrong “every single time” when he complains about loopholes in the process by which USDA makes subsidy payments to farmers. Earlier this week, Grassley had said he would use the Senate farm bill to go after loopholes that non-farmers exploit to collect a lot of subsidy cash from the government. The House version of the farm bill doesn’t contain any payment limitations. House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows failed in his effort to promote an amendment that would rein in how much USDA is authorized to grant farmers coping with low commodity prices. In a three-tweet thread on Twitter, Grassley says Conaway should tell farmers why “I’m wrong for wanting to limit farm subsidies to FARMERS and not WALL ST Bankers living high on the hog. Farm subsidies meant as a safety net for farmers w/dirt under their nails.”

United States Challenges Canadian Trade Measures That Discriminate Against U.S. Wine

Office of the US Trade Representative | Posted on May 30, 2018

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman announced today that the Obama Administration has launched a new trade enforcement action against Canada at the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Today’s action challenges British Columbia’s (BC) regulations that discriminate against the sale of U.S. wine in grocery stores.  These regulations appear to breach Canada’s WTO commitments and have adversely impacted U.S. wine producers.  Today’s action marks the 26th trade enforcement challenge the Obama Administration has launched at the WTO.  The United States has won every one of those complaints that has been decided so far. The BC regulations being challenged by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) discriminate against U.S. and other imported wine by allowing only BC wine to be sold on regular grocery store shelves.  These regulations exclude all imported wine from this new and growing retail channel for wine sales in BC.  Such discriminatory measures limit sales opportunities for U.S. wine producers and provide a substantial competitive advantage for BC wine. “American winemakers produce some of the highest-quality, most popular wines in the world. When U.S. wine producers have a fair shot at competing on a level playing field, they can compete and win in markets around the globe,” said Ambassador Froman. “The discriminatory regulations implemented by British Columbia intentionally undermine free and fair competition, and appear to breach Canada’s commitments as a WTO member. Canada and all Canadian provinces, including BC, must play by the rules. This Administration is continuing to fight to level the playing field for American producers and workers, so that we can continue to grow our economy and support quality jobs across the United States.”

Emails Show Collaboration Among EPA, Climate-Change Deniers

NBC | Posted on May 30, 2018

Newly released emails show senior Environmental Protection Agency officials collaborating with a conservative group that dismisses climate change to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming, counter negative news coverage and tout Administrator Scott Pruitt's stewardship of the agency. John Konkus, EPA's deputy associate administrator for public affairs, repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, according to the emails."If you send a list, we will make sure an invitation is sent," Konkus wrote to then-Heartland president Joseph Bast in May 2017, seeking suggestions on scientists and economists the EPA could invite to an annual EPA public hearing on the agency's science standards.Follow-up emails show Konkus and the Heartland Institute mustering scores of potential invitees known for rejecting scientific warnings of man-made climate-change, including from groups like Plants Need CO2, The Right Climate Stuff, and Junk Science.

Supreme Court decision may limit ag workers’ ability to fight for unfairly withheld wages

Harvest Public Media | Posted on May 29, 2018

Employers can force workers to settle disputes outside of court, the U.S. Supreme Court said this week, which could negatively affect agricultural workers and employees who earn low wages. That’s because ag-sector workers, like farmhands and meatpacking-plant employees, often have to turn to class-action lawsuits to collect unfairly withheld or stolen wages.Monday’s 5-4 decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis originated from three similar lawsuits in which workers challegened their employers’ right to contractually obligate them to individually settle disputes with the help of an arbitrator.Justice Neil Gorsuch said in the opinion that mandatory arbitration agreements do not violate the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees employees the right to collective bargaining.   But in her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued the decision was “egregiously wrong” and would result in “the underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers.”Ginsburg might consider migrant farmworkers, people who are employed at meatpacking plants and, in some cases, H-2A visa workers, among the “vulnerable,” said University of Denver law professor Nantiya Ruan. Due to the cost of litigation and the relatively small damages associated with these cases, class-action lawsuits are ag-sector workers’ most feasible means for legal action, she said.

Don't count on feds right after hurricane, FEMA chief tells Florida leaders

Orlando Sentinel | Posted on May 24, 2018

FEMA had a warning for local governments at the annual Governor’s Conference on Hurricanes: Don’t count on Uncle Sam to be there immediately after the next natural disaster. “If you’re waiting on FEMA to run your commodities, that’s not the solution,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Wednesday. “I can’t guarantee that we can be right on time to backfill everything you need.”

Scalise Announces Plan for Immigration, Farm Bill Votes Third Week of June

Roll Call | Posted on May 24, 2018

The farm bill, which failed on the House floor Friday, will get a second vote June 22 after a vote on a conservative immigration bill earlier that week, House Majority Whip Steve Scalisesaid Monday. The immigration bill by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas that leaders have scheduled a vote on includes border wall funding, security and enforcement provisions, cuts to legal immigration and a process for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients to obtain three-year renewals of their work permits. “We’re looking at moving the farm bill on June 22 and having the Goodlatte-McCaul bill come up the third week of June,” Scalise told reporters.

Amid ethics scrutiny, EPA’s Pruitt also finds his regulatory rollbacks hitting bumps

The Washington Post | Posted on May 24, 2018

In March, as part of Scott Pruitt’s aggressive campaign to roll back federal regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed relaxing standards for storing potentially toxic waste produced by coal-burning power plants. EPA officials cited a study indicating that forcing utilities to get rid of unlined coal ash ponds too quickly could strain the electrical grid in several regions of the country.But when environmental advocates scrutinized the specifics, they discovered a problem: The evidence cited was not established scientific research. Instead, the agency was relying on a four-page document by the utility industry’s trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, which has acknowledged that its conclusions were not “part of or a summary of a larger study.”Lisa Evans, a lawyer for the group Earthjustice, was among the advocates who seized on that omission, as well as on gaps in technical data and other evidence, to argue that the agency’s action was ill-advised and legally flimsy.