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USDA Seeks Public Input on Updates to Animal Welfare Act Licensing Requirements

Sierra Sun Times | Posted on August 24, 2017

Marking the 51st anniversary of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today asked for input from the public to help determine potential updates to the law’s licensing requirements.  The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is tasked with upholding and enforcing the AWA.  The AWA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 24, 1966. “As a trained veterinarian, humane standards of care for animals are close to my heart and central to my love and concern for our four-legged friends,” Perdue said.  “Administering the AWA is a key USDA mission, and we are always looking for ways to improve.  We welcome comments from the public as APHIS considers changes to the licensing requirements to help us fulfill this important responsibility.”Each year, USDA issues nearly 6,000 licenses to people who breed, sell, or exhibit animals for commercial purposes.  The department is responsible for ensuring that these licensees comply with the AWA’s humane standards of care, which enables the American public to confidently purchase pets and view animals on public displa

McGovern, others urge USDA to provide relief to dairy farmers

Greenfield Recorder | Posted on August 24, 2017

Several federal lawmakers from Massachusetts joined other Washington lawmakers on Wednesday urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide dairy farmers with relief and new insurance. The two congressman who represent Franklin County in the U.S. House of Representatives, James McGovern and Richard Neal, and U.S. senators from Massachusetts, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, joined 19 others including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy of Vermont in signing a letter to the USDA.According to McGovern’s office, in the letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the members of Congress from both major parties emphasized that safety net programs for dairy farmers, such as the Margin Protection Program have failed to provide farmers with adequate support from price fluctuations. They urged the Agriculture Department to make milk an eligible commodity under the Federal Crop Insurance Program — which successfully insures farmers across the country for hundreds of different kinds of crops — and to work with USDA’s Risk Management Agency to develop new insurance products for dairy producers.“We write today to urge the USDA to use its existing authority to provide relief to dairy farmers in New England and across the country. Dairy farmers have had to cope with double-digit price declines year over year since 2014,” wrote McGovern and 22 other members of Congress. “We urge you to utilize existing authorities to expand and enhance insurance products for dairy farmers. We request that (Risk Management Agency) work with the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. to determine milk as a distinct agricultural commodity eligible for Federal Crop Insurance coverage. Additionally, we would urge the RMA to use existing authorities to develop additional dairy insurance products.”

Providing Insights Into U.S. Food Demand and Food Assistance Programs

USDA | Posted on August 24, 2017

An analysis of data from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) found that SNAP benefits accounted for over 60 percent of the average SNAP household’s food-at-home expenditures. SNAP benefits played a strong role in the food budgets of households with children and those in deep poverty.FoodAPS data revealed that more than 20 percent of the time that food was acquired, it was acquired for free.

Gathering Experimental Evidence To Improve the Design of Agricultural Programs

USDA | Posted on August 24, 2017

Designing or modifying voluntary agricultural programs involves deciding between many design options; testing the options with economic experiments can be a cost-effective tool for developing evidence about which work best. A range of experimental methods, from relatively inexpensive studies in controlled lab environments (often with students) to more expensive studies with targeted populations (such as farmers), can assess the benefits and costs of different design options.Randomized experiments conducted in the course of operating a program enable its managers to test the impact of potential changes in a real-world setting, and provide the strongest evidence of impact before implementing changes.

Immigration and Farm Labor: From Unauthorized to H-2A for Some?

Migration Policy Institute | Posted on August 24, 2017

Although immigrant workers have long been employed on U.S. farms, shifting migration patterns and employer labor strategies are reshaping the agricultural workforce. Migration from Mexico to the United States has slowed with the the 2008–09 recession, improving conditions in rural Mexico, and stepped-up border enforcement.With fewer new arrivals, the agricultural workforce is aging, settling down, and forming or reuniting families, as this analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Worker Survey (NAWS) shows. Between 2000 and 2014, the unauthorized share of workers declined from 55 percent to 47 percent.With the supply of newcomers seeking work on U.S. farms less certain than in the past, farm employers are adjusting how they recruit and retain workers, the author writes. Some have introduced incentives to satisfy current workers and mechanical aids to stretch their productivity, while others have sought to substitute machines for workers or to supplement them with H-2A guest workers. Temporary workers brought in on H-2A visas make up a small but rapidly growing share of the farm workforce and, should this trend continue, have the potential to significantly affect U.S.-born and other foreign-born workers alike.

Sierra Club sues Energy Department over grid study

Washington Examiner | Posted on August 24, 2017

The Sierra Club sued the Energy Department on Monday to release the names of groups and experts that the department consulted while developing a yet-to-be-released study on electric grid reliability. "We want to make sure that when this study is finally released, that the public and policy makers fully understand how it went about doing it, who they were influenced by, and whose views they did not take into consideration," said Casey Roberts, a lawyer with the environmental group. The Sierra Club sued the Energy Department on Monday to release the names of groups and experts that the department consulted while developing a yet-to-be-released study on electric grid reliability."We want to make sure that when this study is finally released, that the public and policy makers fully understand how it went about doing it, who they were influenced by, and whose views they did not take into consideration," said Casey Roberts, a lawyer with the environmental group.

U.S. produce growers deeply divided over NAFTA

Politico | Posted on August 22, 2017

The produce industry is at war with itself over a protectionist proposal the Trump administration is preparing to submit in the NAFTA talks that exposes a deep regional fault line among growers. Southeastern produce growers struggling to compete with cheaper Mexican imports have long lobbied for relief under NAFTA, with little to show for it. Now, with few agricultural groups calling for significant changes to the pact, the “America First” Trump administration has seized on the plight of southeastern produce growers, putting their concerns at the forefront of the national trade agenda.U.S. trade negotiators had been expected to come to the table during the first negotiating round with a proposal that would make it easier for American growers to make the case that Mexico is selling produce at unfairly low prices when crops like blueberries or tomatoes are in season in a particular region. Growers would be able to bring anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases by domestic region and draw on seasonal data, a departure from current trade law, which requires a majority of the industry nationwide to wield at least three years of annual data to prove injury.



U.S. seeks WTO dispute panel on China's grain import quotas

Reuters | Posted on August 22, 2017

The United States has requested a World Trade Organization panel be set up to investigate Chinese tariff-rate quotas for agricultural products, the WTO said on Monday, setting up a showdown between the two largest economies. The row, which includes tariffs for wheat, rice, and corn, was initiated under the Obama administration which sought consultations on Dec. 15, but now the Trump administration has moved ahead with a formal request. The item appears on the formal agenda of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body meeting set for Aug. 31, issued on Monday. China can block this first formal request, but upon a second request at a later DSB, the panel will be set up unless all WTO members agree to block it. In December, the U.S. Trade Representative said that China's administration of the programme breached its WTO commitments and hurt U.S. farm exports. The USTR said global prices for the three commodities were lower than China's domestic prices, yet the country did not maximize its use of TRQs, which offer lower duties on a certain volume of imported grains every year. The USTR said that limited market access for shipments from the United States, the world's largest grain exporter, and other countries. Since then, Australia, the European Union, Canada and Thailand have joined the dispute as third parties.

EPA goes after Times on chlorpyrifos

Agri-Pulse | Posted on August 22, 2017

The EPA is pushing back against a New York Times report that describes some of the internal deliberations leading up to the agency’s decision to deny a petition that sought to ban the widely used pesticide chlorpyrifos. In its story, published in the paper’s print edition Saturday, the Times cited emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request that it said “show how the EPA's new staff, appointed by President Trump, pushed the agency’s career staff to draft a ruling that would deny the decade-old petition by environmentalists.” The article also described a meeting with Washington state Farm Bureau officials at which EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the administration understands the significant economic impact agriculture has in the U.S., and that he was looking forward to working with the farm community. EPA, however, took exception to the article, accusing the Times of reporting “false facts” and “never letting the facts get in the way of a good story.” For good measure, the agency threw in a recent flub where the Times mistakenly said it was the first to report on a draft climate change report that had actually been posted online for months.

US beef struggles in China

Journal Gazette | Posted on August 21, 2017

At the Sam's Club store in Beijing's Shijingshan district, the chilled beef on offer is so dominated by Australian cuts – such as marbled rib-eye steaks and fatty oxtail chunks – that many customers are oblivious to the few packs of U.S. meat available. “I haven't noticed the U.S. beef here,” said Hui Xue, who was shopping for steaks that he cooks once a week. Even if he had spotted the produce, it probably wouldn't have gone into his cart. The American meat – back in China after 14 years as part of a trade deal hailed by the Donald Trump administration – was only available in little strips meant to be stir-fried rather than in larger hunks that can be sizzled on a cast-iron skillet.Viveca Zhang, another shopper at the store, also bypassed the American supply. “I would like to try the U.S. beef, but there are only a few options to choose from,” she said.Their reluctance emphasizes the barriers that U.S. beef faces on its re-entry into the world's second-biggest consumer after being barred in 2003 due to concerns over mad cow disease.While the return prompted fanfare from the Trump administration and promises that shiploads of meat would start arriving at China's shores, producers may have to endure a long slog back into the market. That's because rivals from nations including Australia and Brazil rushed in to dominate sales when the Americans were shut out.“Trade will grow gradually, but I don't think it will increase to the extent that would affect China's beef market, because of its limited supply,” Chenjun Pan, an analyst at Rabobank International, said of the U.S. meat.