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DOT seeks comment on revising trucking rules

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 29, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it is seeking public comment on revising four specific areas of current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, which limit the operating hours of commercial truck drivers. The upcoming Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), which will be published in the Federal Register, responds to widespread Congressional, industry, and citizen concerns and seeks feedback from the public to determine if HOS revisions may alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on highways and roads. The comment period will be open for 30 days.The four specific areas under consideration for revision are:Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8-hours of continuous driving; and Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

Immigration and an Ohio Town

Wall Street Journal | Posted on August 29, 2018

My hometown of Salem, Ohio was recently in the news and not in a pleasing way. In June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement teams arrested almost 150 Latin American meat-packing plant workers, men and women, mostly Guatemalans, for alleged immigration-related offenses. Fortunately some have since been released, including those who had legitimate documentation but just didn’t have it on them at the time of the raid

Critics of the Endangered Species Act are right about what it does. But they miss the point.

The Washington Post | Posted on August 29, 2018

Much ink has been spilled in the past few weeks — and rightly so — about the imminent threats to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) posed by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress. Critics of recently proposed policy changes — reducing protections for species deemed “threatened,” making it easier to consider economic factors in the decision to list species as endangered and generally clearing the way for faster approval of energy projects — regard them as thinly veiled giveaways to industry lobbyists and interests, rolling back regulations to favor resource extraction and risking extinction of some species.The lobbyists pushing these policies have based their critique o f the ESA on how it attempts to control land use rather than species conservation. After all, they argue, it’s not the endangered land act. And this critique spotlights the core debate over the ESA’s implementation dating back to Day One: Is it about controlling lands or species?While the ESA’s ostensible focus is on the latter, scientists have long argued that the former is essential — and not just to preserve species. For decades, the ESA been a critical signal — and legal recognition — of the many diverse values offered by nature, not merely its economic value as “natural resources.” To roll back this landmark act would be to surrender land and wildlife to relentless cost/benefit analysis and commodification. Far from a perversion of its original intent, as the ESA’s critics maintain, its focus on land use has been intrinsic from the beginning. As enacted in 1973 (and subsequently amended), Section Four requires the interior secretary to “designate critical habitat” for endangered species, Section Five provides for land acquisition for conservation, and Section Nine prohibits “taking” endangered species — a broad, and contentious, prohibition on harming wildlife on state and private lands.

Endangered species law costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars, says CEI

Washington Examiner | Posted on August 29, 2018

Protecting endangered species could be costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars above the federal government’s official estimates, according to a new study. The libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that the cost of protecting animals on the endangered species list skyrockets from tens of billions to hundreds of billions of dollars annually when factoring in broader economic cost, such as lost investment opportunities for energy development.“Whatever the [Endangered Species Act’s] cost is, it is much larger than generally acknowledged, and likely measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” the report concludes. “Unfortunately, the ESA’s poor record of recovering species does not indicate that we are getting what we pay for.”

A $12 Billion False Diagnosis for Trade Wars

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 29, 2018

Call it what you want, but to us the $12 billion that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA will spend to help farmers affected by tariff wars looks an awfully lot like the first installment in a series of “Emergency Payments.”   ake no mistake about it. If we were seeing $5.50 corn along with $14.00 soybeans and China threatened to levy tariffs on soybeans, we would not be reading an announcement about $12 billion in emergency payments to farmers. There would be lots of posturing by various market actors, but certainly not $12 billion. The reality is that the tariff announcement by China was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With the recent years of below-the-cost-of-production prices for most crops and the expectation for continued losses—even in soybeans—for the current crop marketing year, the announcement of the imposition of tariffs by the largest international market for U.S. soybeans sent a shiver down the backbone of US farm country. There is no doubt about it, retaliatory import tariffs on U.S. soybeans by China are unwelcome news, but the underlying price problems farmers are facing in the summer of 2018 are not the result of Chinese tariffs. They are the predictable consequence of two decades of failed US commodity policy. 

Free Press Gets a Boost With Senate Resolution Declaring It Is Not the Enemy

Roll Call | Posted on August 29, 2018

The Senate went on record declaring “that the press is not the enemy of the people” — a rebuke to President Donald Trump, who declares the opposite on a regular basis.  Senators adopted by unanimous consent a resolution from Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York to declare the Senate’s support for a free press and the First Amendment protections afforded to journalists. The resolution text was released the same day 350 newspapers ran editorials designed to push back on Trump’s criticisms of the media.

USDA Forest Service Announces New Strategy for Improving Forest Conditions

USDA | Posted on August 29, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service announced today a new strategy for managing catastrophic wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics. Specifically, a new report titled Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based investment Strategy  outlines the USFS’s plans to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments in areas with the highest payoffs.  “On my trip to California this week, I saw the devastation that these unprecedented wildfires are having on our neighbors, friends and families,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We commit to work more closely with the states to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. We commit to strengthening the stewardship of public and private lands. This report outlines our strategy and intent to help one another prevent wildfire from reaching this level.” A key component of the new strategy is to prioritize investment decisions on forest treatments in direct coordination with states using the most advanced science tools. This allows the USFS to increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that protect communities and create resilient forests.The Omnibus Bill also includes a long-term “fire funding fix,” starting in FY 2020, that will stop the rise of the 10-year average cost of fighting wildland fire and reduce the likelihood of the disruptive practice of transferring funds from Forest Service non-fire programs to cover firefighting costs. The product of more than a decade of hard work, this bipartisan solution will ultimately stabilize the agency’s operating environment.

Judge rules case against withdrawal of organic animal welfare rule can proceed

Agri-Pulse | Posted on August 25, 2018

A District Court judge in California has ruled that a group of organic stakeholders has the legal standing to challenge USDA’s withdrawal of organic animal welfare language earlier this year.

Massive increase in agriculture research funding needed

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition | Posted on August 22, 2018

The United States’ total federal investment in agricultural research has been flat for a long time, a fact that does not bode well for the future of our farm and food system. Not only does the research undertaken today have a profound impact on the what food and agriculture will be like a generation from now, but our chances of successfully tackling major societal challenges related to our current system are being seriously impeded by the lack of sufficient investment. Yet support for upping our game and securing our future through agricultural research sadly seems to be a mile wide and an inch deep in Washington policy circles.

U.S. drops agriculture demand from NAFTA talks: Mexico farm lobby

Reuters | Posted on August 22, 2018

The United States has dropped a contentious demand from the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement to impose restrictions on Mexican agricultural exports, Mexico’s top farm lobby said.A divisive issue has been a proposal by the Trump administration to put seasonal curbs on some agricultural exports to the United States. But a senior executive at Mexico’s National Agricultural Council (CNA) said that had been dropped.Andrade said the move followed a lobbying effort that sought to show that the “seasonality” demand stood to benefit a small fraction of U.S. agricultural producers while putting many other U.S. farmers at risk from Mexican retaliation.