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US sues California, says water policy violates state law

Capital Press | Posted on April 4, 2019

The federal government sued California on over a water policy it said violates the state's environmental protection law. The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in Sacramento federal court to block a contentious plan approved in December to increase river flows in the San Joaquin River and three tributaries to help revive dwindling salmon populations. It was part of a larger effort to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which state officials called an "ecosystem in crisis." The delta supplies water for the majority of California's people and farms. Once-thriving fish in the delta, which flows out to San Francisco Bay, have plunged from some 70,000 adult Chinook salmon returning to the San Joaquin basin in the fall of 1984 to just 10,000 in 2017.

Why current U.S. immigration challenge reflects ‘complete political failure’

PBS | Posted on April 4, 2019

Federal immigration officials in El Paso say they're overwhelmed by a massive influx of families seeking asylum. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has responded to the surge by moving personnel in from other areas, but that could exacerbate the problem by further slowing processing of asylum requests. Amna Nawaz reports and talks to Bob Moore of Texas Monthly about the ‘completely new’ situation.

Fight Over Money For Puerto Rico Brings Disaster Aid Bill To A Standstill

NPR | Posted on April 4, 2019

There are few things Democrats and Republicans in Congress usually agree on, but one of them is rushing federal money to victims of natural disasters.That sentiment crumbled this week when the Senate failed to advance two separate disaster funding bills. Both included bipartisan funding to help relieve damage across the country from flooding, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes. But a fight over assistance for Puerto Rico has derailed getting a deal on the entire package.The political fight intensified last week after President Trump told Senate Republicans in a closed-door lunch at the Capitol that he would not support sending any additional money to Puerto Rico, according to several people familiar with the conversation. Democrats, who had already been pushing for additional federal resources for Puerto Rico, responded by insisting that any disaster spending bill must help victims no matter where they reside.

2019-2020 Farm Program Decision and Fairness across Covered Commodities

Farm Policy News | Posted on April 4, 2019

The PLC (Price Loss Coverage) program option makes payments only if MYA (marketing year average) price is below ERP.  Thus, a key program decision factor is the relationship between a covered commodity’s expected MYA price and ERP.  Assuming a simple forecast that 2019 MYA price is the currently projected 2018 MYA price, expected 2019 MYA price ranges from 23% under ERP for long-grain rice to 51% above ERP for sesame seed (see Figure 1, Appendix Table 1, and Data Note 1).  Corn, soybean, and wheat MYA price is 4% under, 2% over, and 6% under ERP, respectively, as of March 2018.  Only 1 other covered commodity (dry peas) is within their range of values.  Ten covered commodities have a MYA price that is 13% or more under ERP.  The lower is MYA price compared to ERP, the more likely will a PLC payment be triggered.  As of March 2018, this simple forecast analysis suggests corn, soybeans, and wheat will have a closer program decision than most other covered commodities and that it will be critically impacted by how demand and supply evolve over the 2019 production period.  Small decreases in supply or small increases in demand could eliminate 2019 PLC payments for corn, soybeans, and wheat.  Alternatively, the likelihood of PLC payments will increase if supply and demand changes for these crops lead to lower prices.  Other key program decision factors include that: (1) ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) program option, but not PLC, pays on yield variation, (2) PLC pays over a wider, often much wider, range of MYA prices as ARC payments are limited to 10% of its benchmark revenue while PLC payments are bounded by the lower US loan rate, and (3) PLC payments start at 100% of ERP while ARC payments start at 86% of benchmark revenue.

FDA issues revised Q&A draft guidance on Vet Feed Regulation

Feedstuffs | Posted on April 4, 2019

On March 27, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued a draft revised guidance for industry (GFI) #120, “Veterinary Feed Directive Regulation Questions & Answers.” FDA said the guidance is intended to aid industry in complying with the requirements of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule published in June 2015 and serves as a "Small Entity Compliance Guide."The document is organized to help address the needs of all parties involved with a VFD order: veterinarians, VFD feed distributors (e.g., feed mills) and clients (owners or other caretakers of the animals). 

Senators Start Tax Investigation of Land Conservation Deals

Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 4, 2019

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) launched an investigation into syndicated conservation easements, the tax-advantaged land deals that have already drawn scrutiny from the IRS and the Justice Department.

With little flood storage at Gavins Point, U.S. Army Corps took rare steps during flooding

Omaha World Herald | Posted on April 2, 2019

From the air, Lewis and Clark Lake along the Nebraska-South Dakota border appears immense as it stretches some 25 miles behind Gavins Point Dam.It would be logical to think of the sprawling lake — formed by damming the Missouri River — as a big deal in flood protection.It is formed by one of six massive dams on the Missouri River, all operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.Together they constitute the largest reservoir system in the United States.And together, they deny the Missouri River its nearly annual habit of flooding twice a year because of snowmelt — first from the plains and then from the mountains.When an epic storm hit in mid-March, the gargantuan system had 22 percent of its space set aside for flood storage, and a full 96 percent of that stood empty and ready to take in water.The dam, as it turns out, is not designed for significant flood control. So when the Niobrara dumped its floodwater into Lewis and Clark Lake  on the peak day of flooding, 31 times the river’s average March flow was pouring into the lake  the Corps of Engineers had few options but to open the floodgates.The timing couldn’t have been worse: Downstream, the Platte River was pouring even more water into the Missouri River, which was swelling to record levels. South of the Platte, levees were overtopped, broken or weakened. Low-lying neighborhoods, businesses and cropland flooded.




More Than 750,000 Could Lose Food Stamps Under Trump Administration Proposal

NPR | Posted on April 2, 2019

Three-quarters of a million people would likely lose their food stamps later this year under a new proposal by the Trump administration. The goal is to encourage able-bodied adults to go to work and get off government aid. But opponents predict people would go hungry instead, if the rule goes into effect. A public comment period has so far drawn more than 28,000 comments overwhelmingly against the proposed rule.Those affected by the proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are known as able-bodied adults without dependents, or ABAWDs. There were close to 4 million adults in this category receiving food stamps in 2016. About three-quarters of them did not work, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It's part of a broader effort by the administration to impose tighter work requirements on recipients of government aid, such as housing vouchers and Medicaid. A federal judge last week blocked two states, Arkansas and Kentucky, from implementing the Medicaid work rule, calling it "arbitrary and capricious."Others here are struggling with other barriers, such as homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction. Some already work, but not enough to meet the 20-hour-a-week threshold. One man says he has a janitorial job at the Baltimore Orioles' stadium, but only when the baseball team is in town. In the winter, he relies on food stamps.Others here are struggling with other barriers, such as homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction. Some already work, but not enough to meet the 20-hour-a-week threshold. One man says he has a janitorial job at the Baltimore Orioles' stadium, but only when the baseball team is in town. In the winter, he relies on food stamps.

House Ag Chair Pushing for Rapid Dairy Program Implementation

American Ag Network | Posted on April 2, 2019

House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson, Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, along with more than 70 Democratic and Republican colleagues wrote a letter last week to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. They’re asking the secretary to make implementing the dairy provisions in the new farm bill a high priority. The lawmakers are concerned about the continuing loss of dairy farms, as well as just how deficient previous dairy programs were in slowing those farm losses. Peterson and Thompson note that the 2018 Farm Bill can provide much-needed assistance to the nation’s struggling dairy farmers. The letter says, “Provisions of the new farm bill, especially the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program, will provide vital help if they can get it to dairy farmers quickly enough.” Peterson says the average Minnesota dairy farmer earned $15,000 last year, about a third of what they did in 2017. “Given what faces dairy farmers, USDA needs to get a move on implementing these dairy programs as soon as possible,” Peterson says.

FDA Announces Enforcement Discretion of the Produce Safety Rule

Ag New West | Posted on April 1, 2019

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced an enforcement discretion policy for certain crops under the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule portion of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  FDA indicated in a guidance document that the agency would not be holding entities that are growing, harvesting, packing, or holding either winegrapes, hops, pulse crops, or almonds responsible for meeting the requirements set forth by the Produce Safety Rule.Several industry groups that have been affected by the announcement expressed appreciation the FDA has decided to exclude certain crops from compliance expectations.  “This is significant for the California almond industry.  The leadership at FDA has accepted the information and evidence that almonds are in fact rarely consumed raw,” Almond Alliance President Elaine Trevino said in a press release.  “We are pleased the FDA listened to the science and evidence that we presented and took the appropriate action in placing almonds on the rarely consumed raw list.”