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USDA Expands Access to Capital for Rural Businesses

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers today unveiled new rules to expand access to capital for rural businesses.   "Access to capital is one of the most important needs for businesses," Rikkers said. "USDA is partnering with the Treasury Department and other agencies to ensure that rural businesses have the resources they need to prosper and grow.

How the buffalo survived to become our new national mammal

The bald eagle has been the national symbol since 1782, but the Western artist Charlie Russell was right: The buffalo was far more important to the story of the American West. Congress agrees on very little these days, but this May, it successfully passed a bill that was quickly signed by President Obama. The National Bison Legacy Act designates the American bison, most often called the buffalo, as our first national mammal. What’s more, the bill enjoyed the support of a wide array of ranchers, environmentalists, zoos, outdoorsmen and Native Americans.

While everyone was paying attention to Zika, a much deadlier mosquito-borne virus began to spread

While the Zika outbreak was dominating the headlines, another mosquito-borne virus has taken hold in Africa: yellow fever. And with the large population of migrant Chinese workers in the affected area, scientists worry the disease could unleash its first outbreak in Asia. The authors of a recent paper called the current situation "unprecedented in history," writing that it is "critical" to assess the risk now and act quickly "so that a global catastrophe can be averted."  Yellow fever causes 180,000 cases and 78,000 deaths in Africa per year.

Supreme Court ruling offers clues on fate of Obama rule

Enforcement of the Clean Water Act could undergo a wave of changes in the wake of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on a key wetlands case, legal scholars say. The opinion is also offering clues to the possible fate of the administration's new water rule.  The Supreme Court ruled 8-0  in the case Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co.

Groups worry FSA may run out of funds for loan guarantees

Farmers and ag lenders relying on Farm Service Agency direct loans or guarantees could see those loans delayed this summer as demand is quickly draining available funds.  Several ag groups are sending a letter to members of the House and Senate appropriations committees highlighting the escalating demand for these loan programs and pointing out the USDA's Farm Service is expected run out of funds later this month for direct operating loans and guaranteed operating loans.

School lunch advocates oppose House block grant plan

Critics of a U.S. House bill by the education committee say the legislation, which would set up a block grant pilot program in three states, is a first step toward eliminating a federal guarantee of nutritious meals for all school children.  The block grant provision will cut funds for school meal programs and nullify crucial federal mandates, including student eligibility rules for free and reduced price meals and nutrition standards, the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) said

Battle Reignites Over Proposed GIPSA Rules

USDA, livestock producers and Congress could find themselves in a race to see whether the Obama administration is going to dramatically overhaul rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act this year or face another appropriations rider that would block such action.

New Overtime Rules - Are Your Employees Still Exempt?

The Department of Labor this week announced a final regulation that changes the tests for determining whether executive, administrative, and professional employees are exempt from federal overtime requirements.  Now is the time to evaluate whether your employees qualify as exempt.  The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt.

Rural Mainstreet Economy Remains Weak for April: Almost One-Third of Bank CEOs Support April Fed Rate Hike

For an eighth straight month, the Rural Mainstreet Index fell below growth neutral. • Almost one-third of bankers support an April Federal Reserve short term interest rate hike. • Farmland prices remained below growth neutral for the 29th straight month. Cash farmland rents are down by 7 percent over the past year. • More than four of ten bankersreported rising regulatory costs are the biggest threat to banking operations over the next five years.

Agriculture groups push OSHA to rollback misguided fertilizer regulation

Nebraska farmers and fertilizer dealers are working together with members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation to fix a misguided regulatory proposal by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to the storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. “The regulatory proposal was initiated under a false premise, is unnecessary, and will cost Nebraska cooperatives and Nebraska farmers millions of dollars collectively,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson.

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