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Canada and Mexico prepare for life without NAFTA

CNN | Posted on October 25, 2017

Officials from the two nations are meeting with counterparts from Peru and Chile for the first time in Colombia this week to discuss a potential trade deal. Canadian officials hinted that the talks may be a message to President Trump and the U.S. The meeting in Colombia "sends a strong signal to the world on the importance of free trade to increase growth and prosperity," Canada's Ministry of International Trade said in a statement.


Canadian government gives over $1 million for animal welfare projects

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 25, 2017

The Canadian government announced an investment of up to C$1.31 ($1.03 million) to support its livestock sector in efforts to raise healthy, productive and well-cared for animals.  The investment will be divided among four projects:Up to C$223,929 ($177,540) to develop a new livestock transport on-line certification program that will simplify, standardize and provide an opportunity for truckers, shippers and receivers to more easily access the training necessary to improve handling practices. Up to C$160,713 ($127,410) to update the Transportation Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals during transport. Up to C$813,200 ($644,683) to develop an emergency management plan for the Canadian livestock industry to help mitigate, to respond to, and to recover from major hazard emergencies.  Up to C$112,180 ($88,933) to revise the Chicken Farmers of Canada's (CFC) animal care assessment program to meet the new Code of Practice for hatching eggs, breeders, chickens and turkeys. The project will strengthen the poultry industry's capacity to respond to ever increasing demand by markets to demonstrate effective animal care standards.


Federal Ban Leaves Thousands of Pets Behind in Puerto Rico

Daily Beast | Posted on October 25, 2017

Animals larger than 20 pounds aren’t being allowed on planes, forcing families to choose between their two- and four-legged loved ones. Meanwhile, shelters are overflowing. The majority of the airlines leaving San Juan do not allow families to be accompanied with many pets. This is because federal authorities have taken custody of cargo compartments in order to transport supplies, and the feds are not allowing animals larger than 20 pounds to fly, according to Sylvie Bedrosian, president of Pet Friendly Puerto Rico. Bedrosian estimates that about 2,000 locals left their pets behind as a result of the embargo.


Michigan apple growers could lose millions without migrant workers

Detroit Free Press | Posted on October 25, 2017

Here in the Sparta area, north of Grand Rapids, finding migrant workers like Carlos and Hernandez to clear the orchards is getting increasingly difficult. Most of them have come from Mexico; some are undocumented. This year, Michigan had roughly 45,000 jobs available for migrant workers, starting with bedding plants in February, vegetable and fruit season starting with asparagus and wrapping up with apples in the fall, and ending with Christmas trees in November, according to a statement from the Michigan Farm Bureau.While better work opportunities have conspired to lured many young migrant workers away from Michigan agriculture, the Trump administration's immigrant policies have also threatened to shrink the migrant worker pool. The days of having to turn migrant workers away are over, farmers say.  “The border is essentially closed,” said Steffens, a fourth-generation apple farmer. “It’s very difficult for them to get here.”For years, labor struggles have been the biggest issue for the apple industry nationwide according to the Virginia-based U.S. Apple Association. “It’s really all of labor intensive agricultural that has been struggling with this issue probably for a decade. Think produce, think dairy, think anything that can’t be harvested with a combine," said Diane Kurrle, the associations senior vice president. Harvest workers in the apple industry Kurrle said, support on average 2 to 3 other full time jobs year-round. "The economic stability of rural communities is really at stake (in the U.S.) also when you think about the domino impact of losing those harvest workers and what that would mean for the community," she said. For Michigan farmers and workers it's most likely, only the beginning of the tough road ahead. 


ICE to target employers who hire illegal immigrants

Washington Examiner | Posted on October 25, 2017

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is prepared to criminally prosecute illegal immigrants in the workplace, as well as those employers who hire them."While we focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, under the current administration's enforcement priorities, workers encountered during these investigations who are unauthorized to remain in the United States are also subject to administrative arrest and removal from the country," ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said. This week, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said his agency will increase workplace immigration enforcement effort four to five times the level current.


Still Waiting for FEMA in Texas and Florida After Hurricanes

The New York Times | Posted on October 25, 2017

According to interviews with dozens of storm victims, one of the busiest hurricane seasons in years has overwhelmed federal disaster officials. As a result, the government’s response in the two biggest affected states — Texas and Florida — has been scattershot: effective in dealing with immediate needs, but unreliable and at times inadequate in handling the aftermath, as thousands of people face unusually long delays in getting basic disaster assistance. FEMA has taken weeks to inspect damaged homes and apartments, delaying flood victims’ attempts to rebuild their lives and properties. People who call the agency’s help line at 1-800-621-FEMA have waited on hold for two, three or four hours before they even speak to a FEMA representative.Nearly two months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, and six weeks after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10, residents are still waiting for FEMA payments, still fuming after the agency denied their applications for assistance and still trying to resolve glitches and disputes that have slowed and complicated their ability to receive federal aid. One of the most significant problems FEMA has had in Texas and Florida is the backlog in getting damaged properties inspected. Contract inspectors paid by the agency must first inspect and verify the damage in order for residents to be approved for thousands of dollars in aid. FEMA does not have enough inspectors to reduce the backlog, and the average wait for an inspection is 45 days in Texas and about a month in Florida, agency officials said.


Bipartisan legislation to support American farmers competing in global agricultural markets

River Bender | Posted on October 25, 2017

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-NH) in co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to expand access to new markets for Illinois farmers who sell their goods in an increasingly competitive global economy. The Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act would provide long overdue funding increases to two U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs that generate outstanding return on investment for taxpayers, the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP). Between 1977 and 2014, these programs generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested.


New Report Illustrates Why USDA Must Not Allow Chinese Poultry or Brazilian Fresh Meat Imports

Common Dreams | Posted on October 25, 2017

In an audit released October 13, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General once again found that the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) inadequate oversight of imported meat and poultry is putting U.S. consumers at risk. FSIS is supposed to determine whether countries that export meat, poultry, egg products or catfish have a regulatory system that can meet the standards required in the United States. However, the OIG audit reveals that FSIS is not doing enough oversight of the process used to determine which countries have “equivalent” food safety systems. “This report shows why we must not allow imports of Chinese poultry or Brazilian fresh meat,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “USDA must fix its oversight system so it can keep potentially dangerous food imports off of our shelves.” The audit states, “without more robust controls over ongoing equivalence evaluations of foreign countries’ food safety systems, we concluded that FSIS’ inspection program is vulnerable to weaknesses that increase the risk of adulterated or unsafe meat, poultry, or egg products being imported into the United States.” The OIG found that FSIS fails to conduct audits of other countries’ food safety systems in a consistent, timely manner and that FSIS is not able to adequately monitor which facilities in exporting countries are eligible to send product to the U.S. The OIG also found that FSIS failed to address recommendations made in previous audits of this program about how it conducts audits of other countries’ food safety systems.


Trump’s BLM removes a hurdle for controversial Cadiz project

High Country News | Posted on October 25, 2017

The Trump administration on Friday removed a major obstacle that had long stalled a project designed to pump groundwater from the Mojave Desert to communities in Southern California. The planned 43-mile pipeline would follow an already existing railroad through public land; the Bureau of Land Management sent a letter last week to Cadiz Inc., the company behind the pipeline, stating that the company did not need federal permission to begin construction. The announcement reflects the Trump administration’s determination to prioritize large infrastructure projects over environmental protections. The Cadiz project has drawn a lot of attention in Washington, D.C., both because of what’s at stake for the desert ecosystem and because it reflects a major shift in priorities from the Obama administration. The issue was prominent in the confirmation hearings for Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former industry lawyer whose clients’ businesses relied on decisions made by Interior. Bernhardt did legal work for Cadiz Inc., and a former law partner of Bernhardt’s is the president and CEO of the company. Bernhardt’s former law firm was paid in stock and stands to profit from the project’s success. Bernhardt told senators in his confirmation hearing that he would avoid conflicts of interest. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Jeff Krauss wrote in an email: “Deputy Secretary Bernhardt has played absolutely no role in anything related to the Cadiz project.”


In Congress, an effort to curtail national monuments

High Country News | Posted on October 25, 2017

On Oct. 11, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a proposal from its chairman, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to overhaul the Antiquities Act. Bishop’s “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” would severely constrain the power of the president to designate national monuments. It would limit the size of monuments a president could designate as well as the kinds of places protected. The 1906 Antiquities Act allows a president to act swiftly to protect federal lands facing imminent threats without legislation getting bogged down in Congress. Many popular areas, including Zion, Bryce and Arches national parks in Bishop’s home state, were first protected this way. Under Bishop’s legislation, any proposal for a monument larger than 640 acres — one square mile — would be subject to a review process: Areas up to 10,000 acres would be subject to review under the National Environmental Policy Act, while those between 10,000 and 85,000 acres would require approval from state and local government. The bill would allow emergency declarations, but they would expire after a year without congressional approval. It would also codify the president’s power to modify monuments — a power that has been contested in light of the Interior Department’s recent recommendations that President Donald Trump reduce the size of several monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. 


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