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Federal News

California conflagration prompts more calls for wildfire funding fix

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 26, 2017

If Congress spent more money to prevent fires, it wouldn’t have to spend so much to fight them. Advocates and politicians from both parties agree. But that doesn’t appear to result in any action. We’ve grown accustomed to disagreement creating political impasse. But is political division so bad that there’s no progress even when folks agree on a solution? That’s the question Western conservation groups are asking as they push Congress to reform the way the government allocates funding to fight wildfires. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dylan Kruse of Sustainable Northwest. “We have more than 100 legislators from both parties in agreement. We have more than 200 organizations calling for the same legislative package. Everybody knows we need to fix this problem. And still, while disaster funding is moving, once again the chance to solve the problem is lost.”Kruse’s frustration, along with a chorus of other rural voices in the West, is about how the federal government spends more and more money fighting catastrophic wildfires while reducing money from programs that could keep the fires from getting out of hand in the first place.A further complication is that wildfires are not treated like other disasters, such as hurricanes and flooding, where Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding can support emergency response and re-building.

EPA scrubs a climate website of ‘climate change’

The New York Times | Posted on October 25, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency has removed dozens of online resources dedicated to helping local governments address climate change, part of an apparent effort by the agency to play down the threat of global warming. A new analysis made public on Friday found that an E.P.A. website has been scrubbed of scores of links to materials to help local officials prepare for a world of rising temperatures and more severe storms.The site, previously the E.P.A.’s “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments” has been renamed “Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments.” About 15 mentions of the words “climate change” have been removed from the main page alone, the study found.Among the now-missing pages are those detailing the risks of climate change and the different approaches states are taking to curb emissions. Also edited out were examples of statewide plans to adapt to weather extremes.An E.P.A. spokesman said the original pages have been archived and remain available by searching through the agency’s web archive, a link to which is at the top of its energy resources page.

Lawmakers Urge Consistent Approach to Federal Regulation of Biotechnology

DTN | Posted on October 25, 2017

In a letter to three federal agency heads on Tuesday, a group of 79 bipartisan members of the United States House of Representatives expressed concern about the direction being taken to regulate agriculture biotechnology. In particular, in the letter to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Scott Gotlieb, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the lawmakers pointed to two regulations currently being re-drafted.

Canada and Mexico prepare for life without NAFTA

CNN | Posted on October 25, 2017

Officials from the two nations are meeting with counterparts from Peru and Chile for the first time in Colombia this week to discuss a potential trade deal. Canadian officials hinted that the talks may be a message to President Trump and the U.S. The meeting in Colombia "sends a strong signal to the world on the importance of free trade to increase growth and prosperity," Canada's Ministry of International Trade said in a statement.

Canadian government gives over $1 million for animal welfare projects

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 25, 2017

The Canadian government announced an investment of up to C$1.31 ($1.03 million) to support its livestock sector in efforts to raise healthy, productive and well-cared for animals.  The investment will be divided among four projects:Up to C$223,929 ($177,540) to develop a new livestock transport on-line certification program that will simplify, standardize and provide an opportunity for truckers, shippers and receivers to more easily access the training necessary to improve handling practices. Up to C$160,713 ($127,410) to update the Transportation Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals during transport. Up to C$813,200 ($644,683) to develop an emergency management plan for the Canadian livestock industry to help mitigate, to respond to, and to recover from major hazard emergencies.  Up to C$112,180 ($88,933) to revise the Chicken Farmers of Canada's (CFC) animal care assessment program to meet the new Code of Practice for hatching eggs, breeders, chickens and turkeys. The project will strengthen the poultry industry's capacity to respond to ever increasing demand by markets to demonstrate effective animal care standards.

Federal Ban Leaves Thousands of Pets Behind in Puerto Rico

Daily Beast | Posted on October 25, 2017

Animals larger than 20 pounds aren’t being allowed on planes, forcing families to choose between their two- and four-legged loved ones. Meanwhile, shelters are overflowing. The majority of the airlines leaving San Juan do not allow families to be accompanied with many pets. This is because federal authorities have taken custody of cargo compartments in order to transport supplies, and the feds are not allowing animals larger than 20 pounds to fly, according to Sylvie Bedrosian, president of Pet Friendly Puerto Rico. Bedrosian estimates that about 2,000 locals left their pets behind as a result of the embargo.

Michigan apple growers could lose millions without migrant workers

Detroit Free Press | Posted on October 25, 2017

Here in the Sparta area, north of Grand Rapids, finding migrant workers like Carlos and Hernandez to clear the orchards is getting increasingly difficult. Most of them have come from Mexico; some are undocumented. This year, Michigan had roughly 45,000 jobs available for migrant workers, starting with bedding plants in February, vegetable and fruit season starting with asparagus and wrapping up with apples in the fall, and ending with Christmas trees in November, according to a statement from the Michigan Farm Bureau.While better work opportunities have conspired to lured many young migrant workers away from Michigan agriculture, the Trump administration's immigrant policies have also threatened to shrink the migrant worker pool. The days of having to turn migrant workers away are over, farmers say.  “The border is essentially closed,” said Steffens, a fourth-generation apple farmer. “It’s very difficult for them to get here.”For years, labor struggles have been the biggest issue for the apple industry nationwide according to the Virginia-based U.S. Apple Association. “It’s really all of labor intensive agricultural that has been struggling with this issue probably for a decade. Think produce, think dairy, think anything that can’t be harvested with a combine," said Diane Kurrle, the associations senior vice president. Harvest workers in the apple industry Kurrle said, support on average 2 to 3 other full time jobs year-round. "The economic stability of rural communities is really at stake (in the U.S.) also when you think about the domino impact of losing those harvest workers and what that would mean for the community," she said. For Michigan farmers and workers it's most likely, only the beginning of the tough road ahead. 

ICE to target employers who hire illegal immigrants

Washington Examiner | Posted on October 25, 2017

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is prepared to criminally prosecute illegal immigrants in the workplace, as well as those employers who hire them."While we focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, under the current administration's enforcement priorities, workers encountered during these investigations who are unauthorized to remain in the United States are also subject to administrative arrest and removal from the country," ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said. This week, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said his agency will increase workplace immigration enforcement effort four to five times the level current.

Still Waiting for FEMA in Texas and Florida After Hurricanes

The New York Times | Posted on October 25, 2017

According to interviews with dozens of storm victims, one of the busiest hurricane seasons in years has overwhelmed federal disaster officials. As a result, the government’s response in the two biggest affected states — Texas and Florida — has been scattershot: effective in dealing with immediate needs, but unreliable and at times inadequate in handling the aftermath, as thousands of people face unusually long delays in getting basic disaster assistance. FEMA has taken weeks to inspect damaged homes and apartments, delaying flood victims’ attempts to rebuild their lives and properties. People who call the agency’s help line at 1-800-621-FEMA have waited on hold for two, three or four hours before they even speak to a FEMA representative.Nearly two months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, and six weeks after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10, residents are still waiting for FEMA payments, still fuming after the agency denied their applications for assistance and still trying to resolve glitches and disputes that have slowed and complicated their ability to receive federal aid. One of the most significant problems FEMA has had in Texas and Florida is the backlog in getting damaged properties inspected. Contract inspectors paid by the agency must first inspect and verify the damage in order for residents to be approved for thousands of dollars in aid. FEMA does not have enough inspectors to reduce the backlog, and the average wait for an inspection is 45 days in Texas and about a month in Florida, agency officials said.

Bipartisan legislation to support American farmers competing in global agricultural markets

River Bender | Posted on October 25, 2017

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-NH) in co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to expand access to new markets for Illinois farmers who sell their goods in an increasingly competitive global economy. The Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act would provide long overdue funding increases to two U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs that generate outstanding return on investment for taxpayers, the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP). Between 1977 and 2014, these programs generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested.