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Iowa refugee farming program gets federal funding boost

Des Moines Register | Posted on November 1, 2017

A program that helps refugees in Iowa become farmers is growing, thanks in part to a federal funding boost. Organizers with Des Moines-based Lutheran Services in Iowa will use a $24,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer training to refugees about food safety, organic production and crop planning.The grant expands beyond previous USDA awards for the program. It solidifies a yearslong effort to expand the program from one that only offers community garden plots to one that also provides intense one-on-one training so some participants can start independent businesses.

Dept of Energy Subsidy plan for coal and nuclear plants 'will cost US taxpayers $10.6bn a year'

The Guardian | Posted on November 1, 2017

A Trump administration plan to subsidize coal and nuclear energy would cost US taxpayers about $10.6bn a year and prop up some of the oldest and dirtiest power plants in the country, a new analysis has found. The Department of Energy has proposed that coal and nuclear plants be compensated not only for the electricity they produce but also for the reliability they provide to the grid. The new rule would provide payments to facilities that store fuel on-site for 90 days or more because they are “indispensable for our economic and national security”. Just a handful of companies, operating about 90 plants on the eastern seaboard and the midwest, would benefit from the subsidies, the report found.

WTO compliance panel hands U.S. win in tuna-dolphin dispute; Mexico to appeal

Money | Posted on November 1, 2017

The U.S. and Mexico have been locked in a dispute over how tuna is fished in Mexico. The U.S. claims that Mexican fishermen allow dolphins to be netted and killed when they fish for tuna. Therefore, U.S. officials say that Mexican tuna fish can't be labeled "dolphin safe." Mexican leaders deny that the country's fishing industry isn't in compliance with rules imposed by the World Trade Organization and they demand their tuna get the "dolphin-safe" labeling. If it doesn't get that label, several major U.S. supermarkets, like Walmart, won't sell it, even though it can still legally cross the border.In April, the WTO said Mexico had the right to impose tariffs on up to $163 million of U.S. exports, arguing that the U.S. labeling requirements for "dolphin safe" unfairly discriminated against Mexican tuna.The WTO said $163 million was an amount equal to what Mexico had lost as a result of not having the U.S. label.But in a separate proceeding this week, the WTO said that the U.S. labeling is now in compliance with its standards after a unit of the U.S. Commerce Department tweaked its tuna-labeling laws last year.In other words, the ruling from Thursday means the U.S. labeling doesn't discriminate against Mexican tuna.This week's ruling all but dismisses the retaliation decision in April, though it hasn't been officially thrown out. Mexico actually never decided to impose tariffs on U.S. exports.

EPA guidance on reporting air emissions of hazardous substances from animal waste

Farm Forum | Posted on November 1, 2017

EPA released guidance to assist farmers in reporting air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at farms. EPA is making this information available to provide time for farmers to review and prepare for the reporting deadline, currently set for November 15, 2017. “EPA is working diligently to address undue regulatory burden on American farmers,” said Administrator Scott Pruitt. “While we continue to examine our options for reporting requirements for emissions from animal waste, EPA’s guidance is designed to help farmers comply with the current requirements.” On December 18, 2008, EPA published a final rule that exempted farms from reporting air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste. On April 11, 2017, the DC Circuit Court vacated this final rule. In response to a request from EPA, the DC Circuit Court extended the date by which farms must begin reporting these releases to November 15, 2017. Unless the court further delays this date, all farms (including those previously exempted) that have releases of hazardous substances to air from animal wastes equal to or greater than the reportable quantities for those hazardous substances within any 24-hour period must provide notification of such releases.

Taxation for antibiotic use?

American Society of Animal Science | Posted on November 1, 2017

The authors summarized three main points or avenues to reduce the antimicrobials in food animals, which could result in a 9% to 80% reduction in antimicrobial use by 2030. First, they discuss regulations that would put a cap of 50 mg of antimicrobials per PCU per year, suggesting a 64% reduction in antimicrobial use from today’s available data. Second, they discuss limiting meat consumption worldwide to 40 g/day, suggesting a reduction in antimicrobial use of 66% use. Third, they discuss a user fee or tax on current veterinary antimicrobials, suggesting a 31% reduction in antimicrobial use.  Unfortunately, the authors did not discuss the fact that very limited evidence exists to support a claim that growing incidence of AMR in humans is due to livestock producers using antibiotics, even though they are a potential contributor to the problem. During the discussion of global trends, antimicrobial use varied greatly between countries or regions. They cite policy initiatives to aid in reducing antimicrobial use in the EU, but there is unharnessed use in China because of lack of policy. However, they did not dig deeper into their research to better understand the disease challenges in different regions when compared to antimicrobial usage. Furthermore, the authors have not considered how sufficient plant-based food would be produced to feed people adequately if animal units are reduced. Similarly, by-products from sustainable fuel initiatives and the food industry would become waste products rather than affordable and sustainable feedstuffs, as they are in today's livestock sector. Also, as obesity increases, high-protein diets utilizing lean meats have become great alternatives for individuals managing this health concern.

Top Trump official says U.S. isn’t offering ‘anything’ to Canada in exchange for NAFTA demands

Toronto Star | Posted on October 27, 2017

The Trump administration is demanding NAFTA concessions from Canada and Mexico but not offering “anything” in exchange, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday. Ross’s remarkable public statement corroborates the complaints of Canadian and Mexican officials, who have accused the U.S. of taking an unusually and unreasonably hard line in the talks to renegotiate the North American free trade pact.U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said in August that the negotiation would be a “win-win-win” for all three countries, and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has repeated that this is what Canada is seeking. Ross, however, suggested the U.S. was pushing for something different.“We’re trying to do a difficult thing. We’re asking two countries to give up some privileges that they have enjoyed for 22 years. And we’re not in a position to offer anything in return,” he said on CNBC. “So that’s a tough sell. And I don’t know that we’ll get every single thing we want. The question is, will we get enough to make it worthwhile.”

Senators from refinery states request Trump meeting on biofuels

Reuters | Posted on October 27, 2017

Nine U.S. senators from states that have oil refineries sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday urging changes to the country’s biofuels policy and asking for a meeting to discuss the issue. The letter reflects growing tensions between refiners that oppose the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard - a law requiring them to blend increasing amounts of ethanol into the nation’s fuel each year - and the Midwest corn lobby that supports it.The Trump administration bowed to rising pressure from Midwest lawmakers last week, assuring them in letters and phone calls that it would ditch proposals, supported by the refining industry, to overhaul the biofuels policy.The senators said that decision could cost jobs.“If your administration does not make adjustments or reforms on matters related to the Renewable Fuel Standard, it will result in a loss of jobs around the country, particularly in our states,” according to the letter, which was signed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and six others.

Trump declares opioid crisis a 'health emergency' but requests no funds

The New York Times | Posted on October 27, 2017

President Trump on Thursday directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, taking long-anticipated action to address a rapidly escalating epidemic of drug use.But even as he vowed to alleviate the scourge of drug addiction and abuse that has swept the country — a priority that resonated strongly with the working-class voters who supported his presidential campaign — Mr. Trump fell short of fulfilling his promise in August to declare “a national emergency” on opioids, which would have prompted the rapid allocation of federal funding to address the issue.His directive does not on its own release any additional funds to deal with a drug crisis that claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016, and the president did not request any, although his aides said he would soon do so. And he made little mention of the need for the rapid and costly expansion of medical treatment that public health specialists, including some in his own administration, argue is crucial to addressing the epidemic. Mr. Trump said his plan would include a requirement that federally employed prescribers be trained in safe practices for opioid prescriptions, and a new federal initiative to develop nonaddictive painkillers, as well as intensified efforts to block shipments of fentanyl, a cheap and extremely potent synthetic opioid manufactured in China, into the United States.He also said he would act to suspend a rule that currently prevents Medicaid from funding many drug rehabilitation facilities.

The Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan

The Nation | Posted on October 26, 2017

A leaked draft of a five-year plan reveals how the DOI will prioritize “energy dominance” over conservation. In the next five years, millions of acres of America’s public lands and waters, including some national monuments and relatively pristine coastal regions, could be auctioned off for oil and gas development, with little thought for environmental consequences.  The Department of the Interior’s strategic vision states that the DOI is committed to achieving “American energy dominance” through the exploitation of “vast amounts” of untapped energy reserves on public lands. Alarmingly, the policy blueprint—a 50-page document—does not once mention climate change or climate science. 

Hispanic ranchers dealt blow in lengthy battle over grazing

Santa Fe New Mexican | Posted on October 26, 2017

A group of Hispanic ranchers has been dealt a blow in their yearslong feud with the federal government over grazing rights on land in New Mexico that has been used by their families for centuries.Attorneys for the ranchers argued that the U.S. Forest Service violated the law when deciding to limit grazing on historic land grants even though the government has recognized that the descendants of Spanish colonists have a unique relationship with the land.The ranchers claimed the agency failed to consider social and economic effects that would result from limiting grazing in a region where poverty and dependence on the land for subsistence is high.In a recent ruling, U.S. District James Browning dismissed remaining counts against the government, finding that the National Environmental Policy Act does not require the Forest Service to consider social and economic effects that are a direct result of an agency’s action.The law narrowly centers on effects to the physical environment, the judge ruled. The ranchers say they are disappointed and that the Forest Service had a responsibility to consider a history in which they claim the property rights of Hispanics have been ignored and an institutional bias has been allowed to persist.