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Poverty, Hunger, and US Agricultural Policy: Do Farm Programs Affect the Nutrition of Poor Americans?

American Enterprise Institute | Posted on January 30, 2017

Farm subsidy programs have little impact on food consumption, food security, or nutrition in the United States, despite occasional claims to the contrary. The modern era of federal farm commodity subsidies began with the New Deal more than 80 years ago. Farm subsidies and related land retirements, market regulations, and trade policies have an array of small and offsetting impacts on farm commodity prices. When filtered through the supply chain, their impacts on retail prices and food consumption are surely tiny. We conclude that farm programs do not affect food prices in a direction that protects the poor, and the people whose incomes are most improved by farm policies are not the same people who are at risk of poverty and hunger.

Rogue Twitter accounts spring up to fight Donald Trump on climate change

The Washington Post | Posted on January 27, 2017

What started as a gritty protest by a former Badlands National Park Service employee who wanted to give President Trump a piece of his mind snowballed overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday into a Twitter movement in support of climate change science. An anonymous group of people who claim to be National Park Service employees created an account using the agency’s official arrowhead logo as an avatar and unleashed on the Trump administration for muzzling federal workers, particularly those at the Environmental Protection Agency who have been barred from speaking to the press and public through social media.

EPA Freezes Grants, Tells Employees Not To Talk About It, Sources Say

Huffington Post | Posted on January 27, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency has frozen its grant programs, according to sources there.EPA staff has been instructed to freeze all its grants ― an extensive program that includes funding for research, redevelopment of former industrial sites, air quality monitoring and education, among other things ― and told not to discuss this order with anyone outside the agency, according to a Hill source with knowledge of the situation. An EPA staffer provided the information to the congressional office anonymously, fearing retaliation.It’s unclear whether the freeze is indefinite or temporary as the agency transitions fully to the Trump administration; the Senate has not yet confirmed Trump’s pick for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. It’s also not clear the immediate impact the grant freeze would have on programs across the country, since EPA grants are distributed at varying intervals and frequency. 

Struggling U.S. farm sector faces new threat as TPP dies

Reuters | Posted on January 26, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to back out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, a $62 billion market for U.S. farmers, provides a fresh threat to a slumping agricultural economy that has grown increasingly dependent on exports. Agricultural groups expressed disappointment over the move and urged the new administration to find alternative ways to boost product shipments to Asian countries. Trump announced the cancellation on Monday, quickly fulfilling a campaign promise.

Ag coalition asks Trump to preserve NAFTA 'windfall'

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on January 26, 2017

More than 130 agricultural trade groups and companies have sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in a way that expands on gains it helped the sector achieve. The letter notes that North American intraregional food and agricultural trade is now largely free of tariff and quota restrictions.

Trump Withdraws U.S. From Trans-Pacific Partnership

Growing Produce | Posted on January 26, 2017

one of his first moves as President, Donald Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). By signing the order, President Trump says he seeks to negotiate trade deals with individual countries.

Regulatory overreach sinks another farm family

Farm Futures | Posted on January 26, 2017

The court decision against this farm family demonstrates why there is so much anger against Washington bureaucracy.  he story starts in June, 2002, and was finally determined on April 11, 2016. Arland and Cindy Foster farm in Miner County, S.D. Their farmland is in Prairie Pothole country. EPA, under its WOTUS regulation, seeks to regulate Prairie Potholes. USDA also regulates Prairie Potholes because in 1985 USDA was authorized to determine whether certain farm lands qualify as wetlands. The Fosters initially sought a wetlands determination for 0.8 acres in 2002. In 2011, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) finally concluded the site was a wetland. USDA’s National Appeals Division (NAD) then issued a 14-page decision saying that NRCS from 2002-2011 had followed “…the proper procedures and had appropriately found that Site 1 was a wetland and that the Fosters had not met their burden of proving the NRCS’s determination was erroneous.”

States sue to block last-minute Obama environmental rule

The Hill | Posted on January 26, 2017

Thirteen states are asking a federal judge to block a last-minute Obama administration environmental rule aimed at preventing coal mines from fouling thousands of miles of streams. The states on Tuesday filed a petition in U.S. District Court seeking an injunction against the Stream Protection Rule, a proposal from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.  The rule would prohibit changes to land near coal mines, which would stop miners from dumping debris near streams and rivers. It would also require new testing and monitoring of streams near coal mines. Attorneys general filing the suit said the rule violates the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, which gives authority to regulate coal mines to the states, rather than to the federal government. “This rule tramples states’ retention of sovereign authority under the Tenth Amendment and seeks to destroy an entire industry, displacing hardworking men and women and setting a precedent to disregard states’ own understanding of major industries within their borders,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement.

EPA Staff told to 'stand down' on axing climate page

EEnews | Posted on January 26, 2017

Trump administration officials appear to have walked back plans to scrub climate change references from U.S. EPA's website.  "We've been told to stand down," an EPA employee told E&E News today. That new directive comes after staff were told yesterday to remove the agency's climate change page from its website, worrying climate change activists and sending data specialists scrambling to download files.  The backlash that erupted after reports surfaced last night that the climate page would be eliminated may have prompted administration officials to change course. News of the plans was first reported last night by Reuters. EPA's press office did not respond to requests for comment today. It's unclear whether the agency's climate page will remain indefinitely, or only temporarily. "It's not imminent," the EPA staffer said of its removal. Just yesterday, staffers had gotten opposite instructions. "The word that came down was 'scrub,'" that employee said. The directive was "clearly from the political people. ... It came from the White House." The controversy over the climate change page comes after EPA was directed to halt its social media and scale back communications with the press. The Trump administration removed the White House climate change website on its first day in office. EPA career staffers, former agency employees and environmentalists view the changes as a troubling sign of how the new administration plans to deal with climate change policies and the agency's workforce.

'Family Farm Relief Bill' could help local dairy farmers

Post Star | Posted on January 26, 2017

Finding workers who are willing to show up at 4:30 a.m. and work for more than 12 hours a day for minimum wage is not easy.In fact, it’s almost impossible to find Americans who will do the job, say many dairy farmers in Washington County.But foreigners are not allowed to have a work visa for year-round agricultural work. That means dairy and meat farmers often hire workers who do not have authorization to work here. New York's U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, is proposing to change that by making the H-2A visa a three-year visa for year-round agricultural workers. As part of the proposed Family Farm Relief Act of 2017, farmers would also no longer have to advertise for local workers before applying for visas, nor would they have to complete a “prevailing practices” survey of employment practices in the area. The requirement to hire any qualified American who applies through the first half of the work period would also be abolished, and farmers would no longer have to offer the job first to the foreign workers who worked for them in previous years. Workers would have to leave the country for three months after their three years were up, and could then return on another H-2A visa.Farmers are enthusiastic about the proposals, but many were hesitant to discuss the matter on the record since they use foreign labor now.Some farmers try to make ends meet with a small farm instead. The year-round work becomes a family’s mission.If the farm grows beyond what the family can manage, they often turn to foreign workers.