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USDA Partners with Communities to Support Opioid Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Opportunities in Rural America

USDA | Posted on September 13, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with rural communities in 22 states to support opportunities for opioid prevention, treatment and recovery. “With its impact on workforce, quality of life and the economic vitality of rural communities from Maine to California, the opioid epidemic is more than just a matter of public health – it is an issue of rural prosperity,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in planning and building local responses to this monumental challenge.”USDA is investing $10.7 million in 85 projects in 22 states through the Community Facilities program. 


Market Facilitation Program: Impacts and Initial Analysis

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on September 13, 2018

USDA released details on aid it will provide to farmers in response to trade disputes, resulting in tariffs instituted by the U.S. and retaliatory tariffs from trading partners, especially China. This article focuses on the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) which will have the largest impact on incomes of Midwest grain farms.   The MFP provides cash payments to farmers for a subset of commodity crops, including corn and soybeans that are commonly grown in the Midwest.  Payments are to be made using a specific rate per bushel on 2018 actual production.  In Illinois, average payments are estimated at $53 per acre for soybeans, $1 per acre for corn, and $5 per acre for wheat.  MFP payments will significantly increase 2018 net farm incomes.  Payment rates for corn are low relative to those for other crops.


USDA sued for allegedly blocking info on experiments that killed 3,000 cats

The Hill | Posted on September 13, 2018

The White Coat Waste Project, a right-leaning advocacy group in Virginia, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this week against the USDA in an attempt to gain information about government experiments that involved euthanizing thousands of cats. The lawsuit alleges that the USDA stopped the group's attempt to obtain information about its research via a Freedom of Information Act request. The group had asked for veterinary records for all “cats and kittens” experimented on at a federal facility in Beltsville, Md. The group released documents earlier this year in which the USDA said about 100 cats are killed annually at the Maryland facility. The cats are reportedly killed after being infected with a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis.


USDA decision ends request to halt mineral leases

Business North | Posted on September 11, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has re-opened the door to mineral exploration in the Rainy River Watershed, allowing companies to lease minerals in the Superior National Forest. USDA’s decision received a warm welcome from mining supporters, who have worried the obstacle would stifle Iron Range economic growth. Environmentalists said it will harm the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.“Today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the right decision for Minnesota’s future and validates the existing environmental review process – which states the proper time to evaluate potential impacts of mining projects is after they have been proposed,” Jobs for Minnesotans said in a news release.  “This mineral withdrawal would have protected the Rainy River watershed and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide mining. Along with impacting the hundreds of thousands of individuals who visit the Boundary Waters each year, this decision will hurt the thousands of people whose livelihoods and economic wellbeing has been built on a thriving outdoor recreation economy in the region,” countered Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.


The E.P.A.’s Review of Mercury Rules Could Remake Its Methods for Valuing Human Life and Health

The New York Times | Posted on September 11, 2018

When writing environmental rules, one of the most important calculations involves weighing the financial costs against any gains in human life and health. The formulas are complex, but the bottom line is that reducing the emphasis on health makes it tougher to justify a rule. Last week the Trump administration took a crucial step toward de-emphasizing the life and health benefits in this calculus when the Environmental Protection Agency said it would rethink a major regulation that restricts mercury emissions by coal-burning power plants.The 2011 mercury rule — based on decades of research showing that mercury damages the brain, lungs and fetal health — is among the costliest but most effective clean-air policies put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Utilities estimate they have spent $18 billion installing clean-air technology, and mercury pollution has fallen by nearly 70 percent.Modifying the rule could have an impact far beyond any immediate concerns about the release of toxic mercury into the air and water. In fact, the re-evaluation fits into a far-reaching administration strategy to loosen environmental rules affecting countless other industries for years to come by adjusting the factors used to judge the benefits to human health that the rule has brought


Minnesota farmers consider asking for government help as trade war worsens downturn that started years ago

Minnesota Star Tribune | Posted on September 10, 2018

The escalating trade war is imposing new burdens on Minnesota’s vast and economically important agricultural sector. Farmers have already endured almost five years of marginal profits as they produced record volumes in summer after summer of good weather. Now, the trade war appears likely to tip them from small profits to sizable losses. Many are reluctantly preparing to take what they consider a distasteful step: turning to the government for help. Last Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started accepting farmer applications for $4.7 billion in emergency aid aimed at helping them through this year. But the market is already signaling danger for 2019. Bankers who provide capital to farmers won’t stand for losses and, instead, will likely force many farmers to sit on the sidelines. As many as 20 percent of farmers in the Upper Midwest won’t be able to get credit to finance spring planting, barring a miracle turnaround in prices, said Al Kluis, a commodity broker in Wayzata. Farmers have lost big foreign markets like China and Mexico, which placed taxes on their products after Trump imposed tariffs on steel imports and pushed to recraft other trade deals. As a short-term response, the Trump administration responded by creating the aid program.


Trump’s Fight With Canada Over Nafta Faces New Hurdles

Bloomberg | Posted on September 6, 2018

President Donald Trump’s effort to force Canada into signing on to a new Nafta on his terms is facing new hurdles thanks to growing opposition at home to his threat to proceed without the U.S.’s northern neighbor. Trump’s frustration spilled into the open over the weekend as he railed against Canada on Twitter -- as well as its many supporters in both political parties. The president has threatened to leave Canada out of a new trade deal already negotiated with Mexico, but without congressional support he lacks leverage to force Ottawa to make concessions.


USDA to Implement Regulatory Reforms to Increase Access to Capital in Rural Areas

USDA | Posted on September 6, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that USDA is hosting listening sessions to solicit feedback on a plan to increase access to capital in rural areas by streamlining regulations for four Rural Development loan guarantee programs. “At USDA, we know that for many rural communities the regulations that govern our programs can be outdated and difficult to navigate,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to simplifying our regulations and streamlining our program resources so we can be a better partner to rural leaders in building prosperity.”The changes will simplify the application process for four Rural Development loan guarantee programs that provide funding to start, improve and expand businesses and build critical infrastructure. They also will incorporate modern lending practices, accelerate the loan approval processes and increase the amount of capital available in rural communities. The programs are the Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program, the Water and Waste Disposal Guaranteed Loan Program, the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and the Rural Energy for America Program


USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure

USDA | Posted on September 6, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.


USDA Launches Webpage Highlighting Resources to Help Rural Communities Bridge the Broadband e-Connectivity Infrastructure Gap

USDA | Posted on September 6, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today unveiled a new webpage featuring information about the importance of rural e-Connectivity and the ways the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing to help deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure in rural America. “Rural high-speed broadband e-Connectivity is as important for economic development as rail, roads, bridges and airports – and as vital as the buildouts of rural telephone networks were decades ago,” Perdue said. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner with rural leaders in deploying this essential infrastructure.”Reliable and affordable high-speed internet e-Connectivity acts as a catalyst for rural prosperity by enabling efficient, modern communications between rural American households, farms, ranches, businesses, schools and health care centers. Yet, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 80 percent of the 24 million Americans who lack broadband access live in rural areas and on tribal lands.USDA plays an important role in helping rural communities bridge this infrastructure gap through program investment, strategic partnerships and best practice implementation by investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure. This new website will provide direct access to information on our decades-long programs that offer more than $700 million per year for modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities. In the coming months, USDA will almost double these longstanding programs with an additional $600 million to expand rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.


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