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NAFTA ‘benefits both sides,’ says MacAulay

The Guardian | Posted on August 3, 2017

Farmers and producers in the western states see the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as providing benefits to both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, says Canada’s minister of agriculture and agri-food. Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay was in Portland and Oregon recently to promote the importance of the bilateral trade relationship between the Canadian and the U.S. agriculture sectors.
During an interview with The Guardian, MacAulay said he saw support for NAFTA from both sides of the border.“‘Be careful with how you fix something that’s not broken.’ That’s a fair thing to say, and I’ve heard it a number of times,” said MacAulay. “They understand quite well how it’s benefited the agricultural sectors.”

White House commission on drug abuse recommends increasing Medicaid spending

Think Progress | Posted on August 3, 2017

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, established by President Donald Trump in March in response to a nationwide epidemic, publicly released their interim recommendations. The commission, which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), said the best way to “rapidly increase treatment capacity” is to expand the availability of treatment under Medicaid with more federal funds. The commission, which also includes the governors of Massachusetts and North Carolina, calls expanding the availability of Medicaid “the single fastest way to increase treatment availability across the nation.”

In California's poultry plants, refugees fill the vacuum left after President Bush's immigration raid

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on August 3, 2017

Al Souki does not complain. He fled war-torn Syria and worked backbreaking 12-hour shifts in his home country and Jordan before making his way to the United States. He is grateful for the $10.50 an hour he collects at the poultry plant. “I like work. I need work,” he said in the smattering of English he has picked up. “Without work, not a man.” Al Souki needs the work—and employers in the meatpacking industry say they need workers like him. Refugees have increasingly become vital workers in an industry with high turnover. And the growing unrest and bloodshed in the Middle East and elsewhere have readily supplied them in places like the Central Valley. The refugee and immigrant populations ”certainly have been a significant part, an integral part of our workforce for decades,” said Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council.It’s difficult to know exactly how many refugees work in this occupation but roughly one-third of workers in the industry in 2010 were foreign-born, according to a peer-reviewed article in Choices, a publication of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Assn., a nonprofit that serves those who work in agricultural and broadly related fields of applied economics. Mark Lauritsen, director of the food-processing division at the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, estimates that nationwide tens of thousands of refugees are part of the roughly 250,000 unionized meat and poultry plant workers.

The Great Corn Clash Is Coming as U.S., Brazil Farmers Face Off

Bloomberg | Posted on August 2, 2017

Brazilian farmers are in the midst of collecting their biggest corn harvest ever and American supplies are also plentiful -- setting the stage for a stiff battle to win world buyers in the second half of the year. It’s a turnaround from just a year ago when U.S. exporters were seeing sales boom as a drought plagued Brazil’s fields. This year, the South American growers enjoyed much better weather and crop supplies have gotten so big that farmers are already short on storage after collecting a massive soybean harvest just a few months earlier. That’s giving exporters incentive to push corn shipments out quickly and could mean a squeeze for hedge funds that are betting on a price rally.

Group pushes FDA to act on soy milk labeling petition

The Hill | Posted on August 2, 2017

The Good Food Institute is calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to a 20-year-old petition and clarify once and for all that soy-based beverages can be labeled as “soy milk.”  The nonprofit, which works to promote plant-based meat, dairy and eggs, asked the FDA in a letter Monday to respond to the petition the Soyfoods Association sent on Feb. 28, 1997, asking the agency to allow manufacturers to use the term “soy milk.”The GFI has also submitted a petition of its own.The group asked the FDA in March to amend its regulations to clarify "that new foods may be named by reference to other 'traditional' foods in a manner that makes clear to consumers their distinct origins or properties." The GFI is threatening to sue if the FDA decides to restrict the use of the term “soy milk,” claiming it will have violated the First Amendment.The National Milk Producers Federation is pushing back. The group claims plant-based “milk” imitators are using dairy terminology and imagery to advertise their products as suitable replacements for cow’s milk and urged the FDA in a meeting last week to enforce its food standards.

Congress seeks to weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2017

On Wednesday, July 26, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed 21 bills during a markup session. One, H.R. 2083, aims to protect salmon by allowing permit holders to kill California sea lions in the Columbia River. Critics caution the bill undermines federal protections such as the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, without addressing the root causes of salmon declines, which include habitat destruction and dams.  Sea lions have noticed that Pacific Northwest dams conveniently funnel fish into predators’ mouths. Well, not exactly. But the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River is an important migratory pathway for salmonid fish, which live in the sea as adults but swim back upriver to spawn. The fish ladders built to help salmon bypass the river’s many dams attract marine mammals, which congregate near the entrance of the ladders and feast. For example, in 2016 California sea lions ate some four percent of salmonids migrating through the Bonneville Dam, according to a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Because salmonid populations have nosedived in recent years, these seasonal feeding frenzies trouble fisheries managers.

Funding Awards to States for FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Implementation

FDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

Our partnerships with states are especially critical when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, which are covered under FSMA’s produce safety rule. States have a long history of successfully working with their farming communities. That’s why we leverage relationships with state-based partners to achieve many of our goals. Today we’re announcing an additional step in these efforts. The FDA is awarding $30.9 million in funding to support 43 states in their continued efforts to help implement the produce safety rule. This is the largest allocation of funds to date, made available by the FDA to help state agencies support FSMA produce safety rule implementation and develop state-based produce safety programs. The FSMA produce safety rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The rule is a critical part of FSMA and was developed after careful consideration of stakeholder comments. It reflects the feedback that the FDA received from thousands of public commenters.The new funding the FDA is announcing today is a key part of the success of this program and the agency’s collaborative efforts with state-based programs. The funding will ensure that awardees have the resources to formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system and develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance. These programs will prioritize farming operations covered by the produce safety rule. The funding will help awardees develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of their farming communities.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Anne Hazlett

USDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

First and foremost, I want to assist Secretary Perdue in executing his vision for creating an environment where rural communities can prosper.   In that, I am specifically focused on taking action to improve the quality of life in rural America-- from greater access to broadband connectivity and medical care to distance learning.  Two issues that I am particularly passionate about are leadership and capacity development in small towns and assisting rural communities in responding to the growing nightmare of opioid misuse and the many underlying challenges that have contributed to this issue. Beyond these external goals, I would like to foster greater synergy between Rural Development and the other mission areas in USDA as well as other partners focused on rural programs within the federal family.  For example, how can Rural Development work more closely with other agencies to address challenges like food insecurity and child summer hunger.

The cost of doing away with USDA Rural Development

Nevada Appeal | Posted on August 1, 2017

Over the years, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants and loans have served as a lifeline for rural communities, providing critical funding for water and wastewater infrastructure, public and community buildings, and essential community service facilities. Yet the president's proposed budget zeros out allocations for Rural Development, leaving small towns with few options and bleak prospects for continued growth. Without Rural Development's services, many small communities will have to put off infrastructure or facility projects. However, "the cost of doing nothing is as costly as the project itself," said Terry Meier, community development specialist with JEO Consulting Group.When necessary projects are left on the drawing board, the quality of life in a small town is impacted along with its economic prospects.Rural Development's loans, grants, and technical assistance help communities fill resource gaps and address quality of life challenges. Funding opportunities are primarily directed toward towns and villages with fewer than 20,000 residents.

Perdue: Current Farm Visa Program "Unworkable"

Ag Web | Posted on August 1, 2017

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the United States' current farm-labor visa program is "essentially unworkable." Perdue did not specify why during a visit to Mexico on Friday, and he said the issue probably will not come up in talks next month on the North American Free Trade Agreement.Mexico says it wants an "integral" approach to renegotiating the 1994 pact that addresses issues such as immigration. The country has also suggested it could look to South American grain if talks don't go well.But Perdue said Mexico may just be talking about alternatives to U.S. grain, which supplies most Mexican feedlots.Perdue noted that U.S. manufacturing has not benefited as much from NAFTA as the farm sector but expressed hope that agricultural products won't be targets of retaliatory measures.