Skip to content Skip to navigation

Federal News

Trump to seek NAFTA fix for southeastern produce growers

Politico | Posted on August 17, 2017

The Trump administration plans to come to the bargaining table during this week's opening round of NAFTA talks with a proposal aimed at protecting U.S. produce farmers from cheaper Mexican imports, POLITICO has learned. The plan would essentially make it easier for growers of fruits and vegetables to allege that Mexico is selling produce in the U.S. at below-market prices by allowing American producers in a given region to band together to bring an anti-dumping case backed by seasonal data, said Joel Nelsen, head of the USDA advisory committee that crafted the recommendation.U.S. trade negotiators are expected to introduce the proposal during a negotiating session on Saturday. The language would make it much easier for produce companies to bring action. Under current trade law, a majority of the industry nationwide must prove injury based on at least three years of annual data.“We reached an agreement that the United States should allow production areas to identify whether or not fruit sold at prices below cost is impacting a product’s revenue, without taking into consideration what’s being done” in other regions of the country, said Nelsen, who is president of the trade association California Citrus Mutual and chairman of USDA’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables. The proposal is likely to please growers in the southeastern U.S., but it could face opposition from powerhouse produce growers in western states, many of whom moved parts of their operation to Mexico to take advantage of the longer growing season there and NAFTA's tariff-free borders. "The only way to really describe it is as Pandora’s box,” Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said of the proposal. The group represents Mexican growers and advocates for free trade in produce in North America. “If Florida does it, if the tomato growers in the Carolinas do it, if the New Jersey growers do it, then you’ve created essentially a year-round tariff."Jungmeyer said such a move would undoubtedly have a ripple effect across the industry. "If this proposal were agreed to by all three countries, you would have the apple growers in Chihuahua, Mexico, as well as in British Columbia, Canada, saying, 'Well, gosh! I want to have my own window! I want to keep out the apples from Washington state, or from Michigan, or New York.'”

Fewer risking illegal border crossings to work on farms

My San Antonio | Posted on August 17, 2017

The profile of the U.S. immigrant farm worker is changing, with fewer chancing an illegal crossing of the U.S.-Mexico border to follow harvests and more settling in with the same employers and establishing roots here, a new study by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute found. The August issue brief, which analyzes data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Worker Survey, found that the percentage of undocumented agricultural workers dropped from 55 percent in 2000 to 47 percent in 2014.

Canada's goals for 'progressive' NAFTA include labour and environmental standards, gender equality

CBC | Posted on August 17, 2017

Sounding optimistic, but warning that negotiations could be difficult, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland used a series of appearances on Monday to explain that Canada will seek to modernize North America's 23-year-old trade deal to update its labour standards, ease cross-border movements of professionals, cut red tape and open up government procurement. Talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement begin on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.Canada, the United States and Mexico are embarking on a "historic project," Freeland said, adding she was optimistic about the talks, but that there would likely be moments of drama and conflict.In a speech at the University of Ottawa, the minister pointed to Canada's free-trade deal with the European Union as an example of the kind of "progressive" trade pact Canada wants to see in a new NAFTA.

Vegetable Growers’ Food Safety Vigilance Is Paying Off (Opinion)

Growing Produce | Posted on August 17, 2017

I wanted to get a handle on just how often food safety recalls involving vegetable growers occur, so I pored through public records from the FDA. The agency reports every recall it issues, from medical devices to vitamins and supplements, to meat and dairy, to produce. It turns out vegetable growers are doing pretty well.There have been 210 food safety recalls so far in 2017 as of this posting. Out of those recalls, only 49 involved foods that included vegetables in some way, including processed foods like carrot muffins and prepared salads, as well as straight up vegetables like salad greens.I read through each formal recall notice and learned that only 19 recalls could potentially be traced back to a grower. Disease Is the Leading Cause of Vegetable Recalls. Fourteen of the 19 recalls involved diseases.Foreign Objects Are a Less Common Cause. There were four recalls generated by detecting foreign objects, although two of the four were from the same incidence. A single recall stemmed from a supply of thyme containing lead.All of these numbers represent a sharp improvement. By this time last year, there were almost double the number of vegetable recalls due to disease. The hard work growers are putting into keeping their produce safe is obviously paying off.

California Nurseryman Settles With Feds Over Plowing Dispute

Growing Produce | Posted on August 17, 2017

John Duarte, and Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) and their co-counsel announced today Duarte Nursery has agreed to a settlement in the federal government’s nearly five-year enforcement action over Duarte’s plowing of his property to plant wheat in late 2012.  Under the agreement, Duarte would admit no liability, pay the government $330,000 in a civil penalty, purchase $770,000 worth of vernal pool mitigation credits, and perform additional work on the site of the plowing,” Francois said in a statement.The case has drawn national attention. Just a few weeks ago American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, calling the Duarte prosecution “a poster child” for abuses by the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. Francois said Duarte would have preferred to see the case through to trial and appealed the court’s liability ruling, which holds that plowing a field requires federal permission — despite the clear text of the Clean Water Act and regulations to the contrary.“John and his counsel remain concerned that legal liability for farming without federal permission undermines the clear protections that the Clean Water Act affords to farming and poses a significant ongoing threat to farmers across the nation,” he said.

Farm Groups Sign Joint Letter Stressing Need to Avoid Disrupting Current Ag Trader

DTN | Posted on August 17, 2017

Three farm leaders from Canada, Mexico and the United States on Wednesday sent a joint letter to their respective trade negotiators as talks began to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The leaders called on trade representatives to streamline regulations and tackle trade barriers without disrupting the current flow of agricultural products among the three countries. Led by Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau, the farm leaders held a signing ceremony and press conference in Washington, D.C., at the National Press Club to discuss the trade pact and reiterate, as they have for months, that the NAFTA talks should "do no harm" to the current agricultural trade flows across North America.Farm Bureau, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Council of Mexico signed a letter stressing that trade negotiators should work to improve NAFTA, but not dismantle the trade pact.

Agriculture industry wants few changes to NAFTA

Washington Examiner | Posted on August 17, 2017

The agricultural industries in the U.S., Canada and Mexico on Wednesday jointly urged the negotiators for the North American Free Trade Agreement to make as few changes as possible to the trade deal, warning that any change could severely disrupt the economies of all three nations. In a public letter, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and Mexico's National Agricultural Council said their industries are integrated as a result of the 1993 trade deal, which has greatly improved efficiency. The letter was addressed to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his counterparts in Mexico, Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Villarreal, and in Canada, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland. The three began the first round of talks to renegotiate NAFTA on Wednesday.

U.S. lawsuit over farmworkers shines light on visa program

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on August 15, 2017

For the last two seasons, G Farms has depended on legal migrant workers to harvest potatoes, onions and watermelons growing in its fields on the outskirts of Phoenix. Now the farm is bearing different fruit: a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit that federal officials and immigration activists say exemplifies the pitfalls of the nation’s agricultural visa program—as Congress proposes changes to it.This year the U.S. Labor Department took the farm to court, saying its owner, Santiago Gonzalez, underpaid some of its 69 workers by not offering a set, hourly wage and housed them in an “encampment” consisting of yellow school buses and semitrailers that “violated numerous safety, sanitation and fire code regulations.”Janet Herold, the regional solicitor in charge of the case for the Labor Department, called the living situations a “horror show” that could have led to many worker deaths.The case is the first time the department won a preliminary injunction against a farm using the temporary farmworker visa, known as the H2A. A federal judge barred the business from housing the workers in the encampment, forcing it to house them in an apartment complex and an extended-stay motel for the rest of the season.

Agriculture on front lines of immigrant worker shortage

Bloomberg | Posted on August 15, 2017

How agriculture handles its diminishing supply of undocumented workers could be a bellwether for other industries that may need to cope with increased immigration enforcement.As the Trump administration continues to crack down on illegal immigration, industries that historically have been dependent on unauthorized immigrants are going to need a plan B. Agriculture is a “great case study in the adaptability of sectors of the economy, given demographic changes,” Michael Fix, president of the Migration Policy Institute, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 10. Even though the number of immigrant farm workers is dwindling, “we haven’t seen disaster yet in agriculture,” he said.The industry’s ability to adapt could determine the future of meatpacking, construction, and other immigrant-dependent industries that are “finding their labor forces drying up,” he said.Between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of the farm labor force made up of undocumented immigrants dropped from 55 percent to 47 percent, according to an Aug. 10 report from the MPI. The report, which relied on data from the Labor Department’s National Agricultural Worker Survey, said the decrease is in large part the result of a drop in unauthorized migration from Mexico during the recession of 2008-2009.

White House opioid commission to Trump: ‘Declare a national emergency’ on drug overdoses

The Washington Post | Posted on August 15, 2017

The President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a preliminary report on Monday stating that its “first and most urgent recommendation” is for the president to “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.” “With approximately 142 Americans dying every day,” the report notes, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”The commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, states that the goals of such a declaration would be to “force Congress to focus on funding” and to “awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.”