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Lawmakers Join Forces in Bipartisan Attempt to End USDA Kitten Testing

Roll Call | Posted on June 12, 2018

Kittens and cupcakes in the Rayburn building caused a buzz Thursday among staffers and interns, but the reason for their presence was anything but a cute ball of fluff. For the past 50 years, the Department of Agriculture has been forcing 100 kittens each year to eat toxoplasma-infected raw meat to test their stool, according to Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Bishop. The parasite causes toxoplasmosis and is found only in cat feces, putting the brunt of these experiments on kittens. They are needed to breed the parasite, which is then studied, according to a report by watchdog group the White Coat Waste Project. Researchers later kill the kittens because they are deemed unfit for adoption given the potential health hazards they could cause owners, according to a USDA Agricultural Research Service spokesperson. The spokesperson called the estimation of 100 cats per year used in experiments a “serious over-estimation” and said the cats are essential to this sort of research.

The last thing America's dairy farmers need is a trade war with Mexico

The Hill | Posted on June 12, 2018

esides providing healthy and affordable food, dairy farmers are the backbone of a substantial contributor to the U.S. economy. America’s dairy products industry creates an economic ripple effect that is responsible for $24.9 billion in state and local business tax revenues and $39.5 billion in federal business tax revenues. It supports nearly three million workers, generates more than $39 billion in direct wages and has an overall economic impact of more than $628 billion. But this year, June has our dairy farmers more than a little on edge. Just a few days ago, they received news that their biggest foreign customer, Mexico, is threatening retaliatory tariffs on cheese, among other agricultural products. If these are enacted, the impacts could be detrimental to the industry. Like much of American agriculture, it is highly dependent on exports, especially with our NAFTA partners. 

Senate Ag Committee releases draft of Farm Bill

U.S. Senate Ag Committee | Posted on June 11, 2018

This is the draft of the Senate Agricuture Committee Farm Bill

Mexico imposes tariffs on US agricultural products

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 11, 2018

In retaliatory move, Mexico targets American farm products, including pork, cheese, apples, potatoes, whiskey and cranberries

Farm Bill: South vs. Midwest

Fox News | Posted on June 11, 2018

The U.S. Senate is set to vote next week on its version of the Farm Bill. The legislation is pitting Midwestern lawmakers against Southern lawmakers over two competing subsidy programs that both say are essential to farmers in their regions.  The debate over the Farm Bill is always contentious. It usually pits Democrats against Republicans. But this issue has lawmakers from different regions battling each other. In the South, crops like rice and peanuts need a lot of water and fertilizer. Yields are comparatively steady but subject to steep fluctuations in world markets. In the fertile soils of the Midwest -- where corn and soy are king -- farmers need less fertilizer and irrigation but are more susceptible to bad weather conditions. The differences have led to a split between lawmakers vying for resources in the 2018 Farm Bill. "In Congress, you a lot about Democrats and Republicans fighting each other. You get into things like the Farm Bill and it doesn't have anything to do with Democrats and Republicans, it has to do with regional agriculture," explains Sen. John Boozman (R-AR). Sen. Boozman says his state relies on a program known as the PLC (Price Loss Coverage) that provides subsidies to farmers if crop prices drop. Farmers in the Midwest prefer the ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) program which bases its subsidies on crop revenues. During Farm Bill negotiations, Southern lawmakers say their Midwestern counterparts sought to boost the ARC program by depleting PLC."

U.S. Supreme Court ties, allowing landmark culvert order to stand in Washington

Capital Press | Posted on June 11, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court today split 4-4 and will let stand a lower-court order requiring Washington to remove hundreds of culverts to protect tribal fishing rights, an order that farm groups warn will bolster legal challenges to dams and irrigation systems. The tie, made possible by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recusal, is a victory for 21 Western Washington tribes that had previously prevailed in U.S. District Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Washington appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing the order misinterpreted the Stevens Treaties, which the tribes signed in 1854 and 1855.Several Western states, including Idaho, had filed briefs urging the high court to overturn the culvert-removal order. The Washington, Oregon and Idaho Farm Bureaus also filed briefs, echoing the states’ concerns.Former Justice Department lawyer Nathanael Watson, who litigated tribal cases, said the tie vote improves the negotiating position

Trade war breaks out: Will it reach chicken and turkey?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 11, 2018

Something that nobody wanted has started – a trade war. At least nobody on the south side of the Rio Grande wanted it, because on the other side it seems that it was wanted. In response to tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Mexican government has decided to impose several tariffs on various American farm products.  For many, that was a lukewarm response, or even timid, very timid, since Mexico "punished" the U.S. with tariffs on cranberries (how many cranberries do Mexicans eat?) and bourbon (maybe we do consume more this, but I doubt it is consumed more than tequila). Corn?  In 2016, Mexico imported 54,500 metric tons of corn from Brazil. By 2017, this figure increased to 583,200 metric tons, and in the first quarter of 2018 it is already at 107,000 metric tons.

Farm bill targets food stamps — but not the well-off farmers who have been on the dole for decades

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on June 9, 2018

As more than a million Americans face losing food stamps under President Trump’s vision for reauthorizing the farm bill, his vow to wean families off dependence doesn’t apply to thousands of others who have been relying much of their adult lives on payments from the government’s sprawling agriculture program.And many of those farmers have been getting aid for far longer than the average 10 months that a food stamp recipient gets help. In fact, 27,930 farmers have been collecting for 32 years, a report shows. The assistance is supposed to keep their farming operations afloat, but it flows in good years and bad.

Trump seeks to reorganize the federal government

Politico | Posted on June 9, 2018

The Trump administration is preparing to release a sweeping plan for reorganizing the federal government that includes a major consolidation of welfare programs — and a renaming of the Health and Human Services Department. The report, set to be released in the coming weeks by the White House Office of Management and Budget, seeks to move safety-net programs, including food stamps, into HHS.  The plan would also propose changing the name of the sprawling department, while separately seeking cuts at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department. The $70 billion food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is run by the Agriculture Department and makes up the vast majority of the department’s budget. The program helps more than 40 million low-income Americans buy groceries each month.“You have low-income assistance in a bunch of different shops without one point of oversight and without a whole lot of communication,” said one of the people with knowledge of the plan. “Why not have one federal agency responsible for execution?”The report, which is expected to recommend big changes at many federal agencies, is almost complete and is expected to be introduced this month, according to one administration official. Sources in and outside the government have been told the rollout will happen in late June. The plan is still being finalized and some of the details could change, but one of the people familiar with the report said the proposal to reorganize HHS has widespread buy-in at OMB.OMB spokesman Jacob Wood declined to comment on the plan.The biggest changes outlined by the White House are unlikely to be implemented because moving multibillion-dollar programs and renaming federal departments generally requires congressional action. But the plan, like the president’s annual budget, demonstrates the administration’s thinking on a range of domestic policy issues. It also offers a strong political selling point for the Trump White House as it tries to burnish an image of an administration dedicated to conservative principles and smaller government.“The administration already put a lot of stuff out in this year’s budget related to cuts, but that was the easy stuff,” the administration official said. “This [report] is the harder stuff.”It’s unclear exactly how HHS would be reshuffled, but sources said its new name would emphasize programs that provide assistance to low-income Americans, potentially restoring the term “welfare” to the title of the department. HHS — a sprawling Cabinet-level agency that spends roughly $1 trillion annually —already oversees the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to low-income people, as well as Medicaid, the health coverage program for the poor that insures more than 70 million Americans.

Trump aims to split up NAFTA negotiations, deal with Canada and Mexico separately

The Washington Post | Posted on June 9, 2018

President Trump wants to end the three-party talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, aiming instead to deal separately with Canada and Mexico to restructure the trade accord, a senior adviser said Tuesday. Trump does not intend to withdraw from NAFTA, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox & Friends.” But after more than one year of multilateral discussions, he feels the current approach hasn’t been fruitful and a new one is needed, Kudlow said. “His preference now — and he asked me to convey this — is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately,” Kudlow said. “He prefers bilateral negotiations.”  It wasn’t immediately clear how such an arrangement would work. The United States, Mexico and Canada agreed to NAFTA in the 1990s, and all three countries have worked to renegotiate the deal since Trump became president. Changes would have to be agreed to by all sides.