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‘Canada does not treat us right,’ Trump complains on trade, the border

The Star | Posted on February 22, 2018

“We lose a lot of money with Canada. Canada does not treat us right in terms of the farming and the crossing the borders,” he said at a White House event on his new infrastructure proposal. “So they’ll either treat us right or we’ll just have to do business a little bit diff… really differently,” he said. “We cannot continue to be taken advantage of by other countries.” The Canadian government has disputed Trump’s frequent claim that the U.S. “loses” money on trade with Canada. When services trade is counted, the U.S. has a trade surplus with Canada, not a deficit.“The sum of our trade, including both goods and services, is essentially balanced. In fact, in 2016, the U.S. enjoyed a trade surplus with Canada of close to $8 billion (U.S.). In manufactured goods, your surplus was nearly $36 billion,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a speech Friday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. “Those are American numbers, by the way, from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, in the Department of Commerce.”Trudeau also rejected Trump’s conception of trade as a battle between winners and losers.

FDA to investigate after ABC7 exposes euthanasia drug in dog food

WJLA | Posted on February 22, 2018

We tested 62 samples of wet dog food, across more than two-dozen brands for the euthanasia drug pentobarbital.After months of tests and re-tests, one brand repeatedly came back positive for pentobarbital.In total, we tested 15 cans of Gravy Train. Nine cans — 60-percent of the sample — were positive for pentobarbital. And while the levels detected were not lethal, under federal law they are also not permitted at any concentration.Gravy Train is made by Big Heart Pet Foods and owned by Smucker’s. According to Neilsen data, it accounts for more than $40 million of the company’s annual revenue.Big Heart Brands is also the maker of Meow Mix, Milk Bone, Kibbles’n Bits, 9 Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Nature’s Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, Milo’s Kitchen, Alley Cat, Jerky Treats, Meaty Bone, Pounce and Snausages.

Cotton and dairy ride on senate budget package

Succssful Farming | Posted on February 22, 2018

The budget agreement written by Senate leaders includes more than $1 billion for dairy supports as well as larger subsidies for cotton growers, who have pursued aid that could cost as much as the dairy enhancements. Besides providing immediate assistance to producers, the provisions would mean, under arcane score-keeping rules, that farm-state lawmakers can spend more money on cotton and dairy in the 2018 farm bill than is available now.

Trump's Harvest Box could leave farmers with empty plates

Des Moines Register | Posted on February 20, 2018

So why is it such a horrible idea to replace part of the SNAP federal food assistance program, formerly called food stamps, with a box of American-grown food? First of all, the Trump administration’s proposed “Harvest Box” is nothing like Blue Apron, or Hello Fresh, or one of the other meal-subscription services on the market.  Most commercial boxes provide some consumer choice.  If I don’t eat meat or loathe kale, I can choose meals that don’t include them.The Trump administration’s idea sounds more like Hello Fallout Shelter, with its description of “shelf-stable” milk, off-brand peanut butter and canned fruits and vegetables. There was no mention of any choices for recipients except for “take it or leave it.”Imagine the kids’ excitement when the “Harvest Box” shows up with the week’s allotment of whole-wheat pasta and canned beets. It sounds like a recipe for food waste, which not only squanders money but also poses a serious threat to the environment.  In the United States, food waste equals 30 to 40 percent of the food supply, according to USDA. In 2010, food waste totaled about $161 billion worth of food.Money that should be spent on food would be spent on packing and shipping these boxes of disappointment.  The Trump administration didn’t go into detail on how the boxes would be distributed, but convenience is unlikely to be part of the package. In the Iowa Senate, a bill filed by Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, would try to persuade the federal government to prohibit the purchase of soda and other carbonated beverages with SNAP.Only people with their own money should have the luxury of poor nutrition, right? Low-income people should eat grainy peanut butter and canned sauerkraut and like it! But that sort of petty vindictiveness toward children, disabled people and the working poor (the majority of SNAP recipients) shouldn’t take the place of common sense. Besides, conservatives are supposed to want government to get out of the way of personal choices.

Despite tweaks, dairy insurance program not saving Wisconsin farmers

LaCrosse Tribune | Posted on February 20, 2018

Western Wisconsin dairy farmers praised tweaks to a price insurance program Monday but told U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin they face much larger problems, primarily too much milk. Baldwin, D-Wis., met with farmers to talk about legislative tweaks to the program, which was introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill.Known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, the MPP allows farmers to purchase insurance that pays out when the cost to produce milk gets too close to their selling price. But farmers complained the formula doesn’t fully account for feed costs, nor does it factor in the cost of transportation and feed supplements.“It’s not a true reflection of costs,” said Tom Jandt, a small dairy farmer from Barre Mills who said he’s yet to receive any benefits from the program. The MPP was a great idea, said Frank Ponterio, a small dairy farmer from Melrose, but lawmakers changed the feed cost calculations and stripped production limits.“There’s no way of stopping all this milk from being produced,” he said.Despite spending about $10,000 a year for coverage in 2015 and 2016, Ken Wunderlin said he received only about $5,000 in payouts from the MPP.


USDA declares war on spotted lanternfly, will spend $17.5M

The Morning Call | Posted on February 20, 2018

The federal government plans to spend millions of dollars on a massive offensive to fight a foreign invader already in Pennsylvania’s midst. The invader: the inch-long, black-dotted, red-winged spotted lanternfly. Its target: the state’s valuable agricultural commodities, including fruit and hardwoods.The battle plan: surveillance, control and action to halt the invasive bug from Asia.

Senators would exempt farms from emergency waste reporting and superfund laws

The Progressive Farmer | Posted on February 15, 2018

A bipartisan coalition of 20 senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would exempt farmers from reporting requirements for animal waste emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  The bill was organized by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. In a news release, Fischer noted that in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule exempting most livestock operations from the laws' reporting requirements, but that last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled EPA did not have the authority to create this exemption for agriculture.

Trump infrastructure plan leaves out rural broadband funding

CNet | Posted on February 15, 2018

Even though Trump has talked about the importance of expanding broadband in rural areas, he has not committed any funding to help build networks. Instead, his efforts have been aimed at eliminating red tape and regulation to get infrastructure built.  The proposal, which makes no mention of broadband infrastructure, is meant to spur the investment of at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure, according to a White House fact sheet. Under the plan, the feds would contribute a total of $200 billion over the next 10 years. About half that money would be used as part of an incentive program to entice private investors as well as city, state and local governments to invest in infrastructure projects.Rural communities are expected to get $50 billion of the $200 billion in direct federal funding to "rebuild and modernize infrastructure" in rural America, according to the fact sheet. How the funds will be spent will be largely up to individual states. In theory, this could mean that some states could use the money on broadband expansion projects. But the emphasis from the White House seems to be on traditional types of infrastructure, according to the fact sheet

Under the Trump administration, the EPA reduced federal penalties against polluters

Pacific Standard | Posted on February 13, 2018

Under the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency significantly lowered its activity to monitor and enforce regulation against industry polluters, falling to its lowest levels in a decade.The analysis of 2017 enforcement activity shows the EPA opened 115 environmental crime cases over the 2017 fiscal year, compared to the nearly 400 cases opened in 2009 under the Obama administration. The EPA also missed its 2017 target of 14,000 federal inspections and investigations, instead conducting only 11,800. The EPA collected a total of $2.98 million in fines, and issued nearly $1.6 billion, in federal and civil penalties in 2017; the agency collected $14 million in 2016, and issued $5.9 billion.

Sessions clears way for food companies to ignore FDA guidance

Food Safety News | Posted on February 13, 2018

Those guidance documents the Food and Drug Administration hands out to food manufacturers and others don’t mean as much as they once did. The Department of Justice has changed its policy so government lawyers will no longer rely on guidance documents to establish civil law infractions. In his memo on the subject, Sessions said the DOJ would no longer engage in the practice. Actions by an associate AG on Jan. 25 made the policy change official. In the future, DOJ’s civil litigators won’t be able “convert agency guidance documents into binding rules.” And more importantly, noncompliance with any guidance document cannot be used to prove violations involving federal civil enforcement actions.Megan E. Grossman, who chairs the life sciences practice group for the law firm of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney in Philadelphia, is an expert on the policy change. She says FDA “routinely issues guidance documents for all areas under its control, including food, cosmetics, veterinary products, drugs, medical devices, and vaccines, blood, and biologics, among others.”Grossman expects the new DOJ policy “will likely have an effect on the amount of governmental actions” brought against FDA-regulated companies. She thinks DOJ’s civil attorneys will be under instructions that FDA guidance documents cannot be used to prove violations of affirmative civil enforcement actions…”