Over the past several years, farmers have complained that a dwindling labor force continues to stress production of the state’s multi-billion dollar tree fruit industry.Employment and market experts in the past have questioned whether such a shortage really exists. But recent studies are indicating that our once robust low-wage labor force primarily from Mexico is in fact dwindling, or not keeping pace with industry growth.
US authorities will remove restrictions on importing African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.That means Americans will soon be able to hunt the endangered big game, an activity that garnered worldwide attention when a Minnesota dentist took Cecil, perhaps the world's most famous lion, near a wildlife park in Zimbabwe.A US Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman said the move will allow the two African countries to include US sport hunting as part of their management plans for the elephants and allow them to put "much-needed revenue back into conservation."Critics, however, note the restrictions were created by the Obama administration in 2014 because the African elephant population had dropped. The animals are listed in the US Endangered Species Act, which requires the US government to protect endangered species in other countries.
North Carolina’s two Republican senators said Wednesday they oppose President Donald Trump’s pick to oversee chemical safety at the Environmental Protection Agency, putting his nomination at serious risk. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis issued statements saying they will vote against Michael L. Dourson to serve as head of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.Environmentalists and Senate Democrats have vehemently opposed Dourson, a toxicologist with close ties to the chemical industry. That means only one more Republican “no” vote would likely be needed to torpedo his nomination.The White House and EPA did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday evening. Despite his lack of Senate confirmation, Dourson has already been working at the agency as a senior adviser to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.The Associated Press reported in September that Dourson has for years accepted payments for criticizing studies that raised concerns about the safety of his clients’ products, according to a review of financial records and his published work.
Last year in Nueces County, sorghum farmers raked in $10.9 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies. Corn farmers in Castro County took $12.6 million. In Deaf Smith County, the kingpins of cotton were paid $32.5 million, according to new farm subsidy data released last week. But as the state’s biggest farms drew lucrative paydays, the pocketbooks of small family farmers got thinner. Now, critics of federal farm subsidy programs are calling for reform of a system they say overwhelmingly favors big agribusiness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers a long list of subsidy programs for farmers, and though the payment schemes are complex, they generally involve giving farmers taxpayer money to compensate for low market prices and weather-related crop damage. In 2016, Texas farmers received $1.59 billion in subsidies, more than any other state, and most of that went to growers of a handful of commodity crops — cotton, wheat, corn and sorghum. Eighty-one percent of Texas farmers collected no subsides at all. Farmers of virtually every other crop — from spinach growers in the Rio Grande Valley to peach specialists at the Texas-Oklahoma line — are excluded from the USDA’s most generous safety net. And even within the coterie of farmers who receive subsidies, there’s a huge disconnect between the haves and the have-nots: The top 1 percent of subsidy recipients get 26 percent of all payments, about $1.7 million per recipient.
As Republicans push ahead with their tax reform plan, the small farmer is again invoked. This time it’s about the estate tax. During a speech in North Dakota, President Trump declared, “We’ll also protect small businesses and family farmers here in North Dakota and across the country by ending the death tax.” He added: “Tremendous burden for the family farmer, tremendous burden. We are not going to allow the death tax or the inheritance tax or the whatever-you-want-to-call-it to crush the American Dream.” But few farmers put the elimination of this tax on the top of their wish lists. Only about 20 farms a year are subject to any inheritance tax, and in almost all cases, those farms have adequate liquid assets to cover the taxes without having to sell any part of the business to do so. After searching for 35 years for one example of a family farm that was lost due to the estate tax Iowa State professor Neil Harl stated simply, “It’s a myth.”It is a sales pitch, nothing more, again capitalizing on that mystique of the family farm that people hold so dear. Getting rid of the estate tax is a gift to the very rich, not to farmers. As the old saying goes, ask a farmer what they would do if they won a million dollars: Keep farming till it ran out.While estate taxes are not a threat to the family farm, we face plenty of other challenges. But you’ll never see politicians tackle the greatest threat to the family farmer: unfairly low prices for our products.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is moving ahead with some reorganization moves just a few weeks after hitting the pause button so they could be discussed further. Specifically, in a memorandum issued Tuesday, Nov.14, Perdue said he was directing that the Codex Alimentarius program in USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service be moved to the Office of the Undersecretary for Trade and Agricultural Affairs.He also has decided to eliminate the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) as a standalone agency and move its functions to a new Fair Trade Practices Area in the Agricultural Marketing Service and to AMS’ Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).“The Packers and Stockyards Program, formerly part of GIPSA, and the Warehouse Act functions, formerly part of the Farm Service Agency, will be transferred to AMS and included in the Fair Trade Practices program area,” the memo says. “The grain inspection activities, formerly part of GIPSA, are to be included in (a) new program area” in AMS overseen by a new Deputy Administrator for FGIS. The Food and Drug Administration and food safety groups had criticized the proposed move of the Codex program. In a letter to USDA, Stephen Ostroff, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said that the international Codex Alimentarius program “plays a critical role at the intersection of food safety and trade by developing science-based, voluntary food standards that governments may use to protect consumer health and provide a level playing field for food trade.”“FDA strongly believes that moving Codex to the oversight of a trade promoting, non-science organization could undermine the credibility of U.S. Codex as a science-based enterprise,” Ostroff said. “Transfer of the U.S. Codex Office under a trade umbrella would build a perception that the United States places a stronger priority on advancing trade over public health.”
Opponents of the House tax-reform bill pointed to the impacts of the budget deficit that could require major cuts to farm programs under current law. Unless Congress takes other action, the increase in the deficit in the new tax bill would require 100% sequestration of many farm programs including Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) in January, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday in response to a request for analysis by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.The Statutory-Pay-As-You-GO Act of 2010 "requires that new legislation enacted during a term of Congress does not collectively increase estimated deficits," CBO Director Keith Hall wrote in a letter to Hoyer that was also sent to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.
While the Trump administration continues the federal government's already-massive deportation program, 11 cities and counties will be joining the list of jurisdictions providing legal defense for undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation. The Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit that researches and advocates changes in the criminal justice system, launched the Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network this past week. The cities and counties making up the network will be providing legal counsel for immigrants facing deportation proceedings.Vera says it selected the jurisdictions for committing to invest public money toward defending immigrants against deportation. The nonprofit says it will use a fund it administers to match the public money.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched an interactive research tool called Resistome Tracker. Resistome Tracker is one of the first publicly available tools to provide visually informative displays of antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria. It is designed mainly for public health officials, academics and researchers who are using new genomics technologies to track and treat infectious diseases. Resistome Tracker’s interactive interface allows users to customize visualizations by antibiotic drug class, compare resistance genes across different sources, identify new resistance genes, and map selected resistance genes to geographic region. Currently, Resistome Tracker is focused on antibiotic resistance genes in Salmonella. Salmonella genome sequences from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) public databases are uploaded to Resistome Tracker on a weekly basis, allowing near real-time monitoring of antibiotic resistance. Presently, Resistome Tracker includes WGS data on 97,390 genomes from NCBI, 27,512 of which are U.S. isolates and 8,900 are isolates from the NARMS. Future iterations of the tool will include data on other microorganisms such as E. coli and Campylobacter as well as additional gene categories such as serotype, sequence type and virulence genes.
The World Trade Organization has confirmed a WTO panel finding that Indonesia’s import restrictions for horticultural products and animals and animal products are against WTO rules. The WTO’s rejection of Indonesia’s appeal of the panel finding marks a “resounding victory for the United States that should result in increased export opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers as well as increased Indonesian consumer access to high-quality U.S. agricultural products,” the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said.