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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.

Trump’s Cuba Moves May Chill Long-Sought U.S. Farm Export Push

Bloomberg | Posted on June 19, 2017

A rollback of Obama administration efforts to open Cuba to U.S. tourism and trade may chill a rebound in agricultural sales to the island nation, setting back a farm-lobby push that’s weathered two decades. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled Tuesday that changes would come as soon as Friday, when President Donald Trump visits Miami. The moves may include new limits on travel and investment policies. While there’s no indications of a clampdown on agricultural sales allowed on a cash-only basis since 2000, cooled relations may drive buyers elsewhere, said Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington.The agriculture sector has long advocated an end to the trade embargo with Cuba in place since Fidel Castro consolidated power in the early 1960s. Companies including agricultural equipment maker Deere & Co. and soybean processor Bunge Ltd., along with the federation, the biggest U.S. farmer group, have supported full farm trade. "If we make it tougher on Cuba, there are other folks ready to line up and say, ‘We can help you with that,’" Young said.

Comment Period on GE Freeze-Tolerant Eucalyptus Extended to July 5, 2017

USDA | Posted on June 19, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced the extension of the comment period to July 5, 2017, on documents related to a petition to deregulate two lines of genetically engineered freeze-tolerant Eucalyptus. The documents are the draft environmental impact statement (dEIS) and preliminary plant pest risk assessment (PPRA) prepared as part of the review of the petition submitted by ArborGen, Inc. This action will allow interested persons additional time to prepare and submit comments. Notice of this comment period closing date was published by the Environmental Protection Agency in the Federal Register on May 19, 2017.

Cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence

Reuters | Posted on June 19, 2017

The World Health Organization's cancer agency says a common weedkiller is "probably carcinogenic." The scientist leading that review knew of fresh data showing no cancer link - but he never mentioned it and the agency did not take it into account.The epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute had seen important unpublished scientific data relating directly to a key question the IARC specialists were about to consider: Whether research shows that the weedkiller glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling RoundUp brand, causes cancer.Previously unreported court documents reviewed by Reuters from an ongoing U.S. legal case against Monsanto show that Blair knew the unpublished research found no evidence of a link between glyphosate and cancer. In a sworn deposition given in March this year in connection with the case, Blair also said the data would have altered IARC’s analysis. He said it would have made it less likely that glyphosate would meet the agency’s criteria for being classed as “probably carcinogenic.”But IARC, a semi-autonomous part of the World Health Organization, never got to consider the data. The agency’s rules on assessing substances for carcinogenicity say it can consider only published research – and this new data, which came from a large American study on which Blair was a senior researcher, had not been published.The lack of publication has sparked debate and contention. A leading U.S. epidemiologist and a leading UK statistician – both independent of Monsanto – told Reuters the data was strong and relevant and they could see no reason why it had not surfaced.Monsanto told Reuters that the fresh data on glyphosate could and should have been published in time to be considered by IARC, and that the failure to publish it undermined IARC’s classification of glyphosate. The legal case against Monsanto, taking place in California, involves 184 individual plaintiffs who cite the IARC assessment and claim exposure to RoundUp gave them cancer. They allege Monsanto failed to warn consumers of the risks. Monsanto denies the allegations.