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Canada 'prepared for the worst' amid squabbles over NAFTA, Freeland says

CBC Canada | Posted on November 22, 2017

Despite making progress on "bread and butter" issues, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said differences remain between Canada and the U.S. on a number of key chapters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Speaking to reporters as the fifth round of negotiations concluded in Mexico City, the Toronto-area minister said "significant" sticking points include the U.S. push to change the rules of origin — which could be detrimental to the Canadian auto industry — and demands for a five-year sunset clause in the deal."There are some areas where some extreme proposals have been put forward, and these are proposals that we simply cannot agree to," she said, while adding the U.S. position of these contentious issues, which were introduced in earlier rounds of negotiations, are largely unchanged.

Trump's NAFTA trade war may derail some small-business manufacturers

CNBC | Posted on November 22, 2017

The Trump administration's effort to win NAFTA concessions from Canada and Mexico is nearing its March deadline. Some small-business manufacturers fear their concerns will be neglected, including supply-chain disruptions for dealers and distributors, price increases they can't pass on to customers, even risk of bankruptcy.As much as 98 percent of exporting companies are small- and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

NAFTA Talks Have Hit a Wall After Mexico and Canada Resist U.S. Demands

Fortune | Posted on November 22, 2017

The United States, Mexico and Canada failed to resolve any major differences in a fifth round of talks to rework the NAFTA trade deal, drawing a swift complaint from the Trump administration on Tuesday that the lack of progress could doom the process. The three nations have vowed to continue talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through March, but the yawning disagreements on core U.S. demands are piling pressure on negotiators to come up with fixes before Mexico’s 2018 presidential campaign begins in the spring.Mexico and Canada have rejected a U.S. proposal to raise the minimum threshold for autos to 85% North American content from 62.5% as well as require half of vehicle content to come from the United States.The two have also resisted a range of other U.S. demands, including a plan to scrap a key dispute resolution mechanism and proposed curbs on Mexican and Canadian agriculture.Minutes after the three countries issued a short joint statement underlining advances and vowing to continue work on concluding negotiations “as soon as possible,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer struck a different tone.“While we have made progress on some of our efforts to modernize NAFTA, I remain concerned about the lack of headway,” he said in a statement. “Thus far, we have seen no evidence that Canada or Mexico are willing to seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement. Absent rebalancing, we will not reach a satisfactory result,” Lighthizer added.

EPA can’t link cows to fouled shellfish

Capital Press | Posted on November 21, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency analyzed dozens of water samples collected in Whatcom County and couldn’t find evidence of cattle causing pollution. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency and Lummi Indian tribe failed to find evidence that cow manure is polluting tribal shellfish beds in Portage Bay in northwest Washington.The study suggests farmers are keeping manure out of the Nooksack River and it tributaries, which drain into the bay, said Fred Likkel, an environmental consultant and executive director of Whatcom Family Farmers.“It shows the farm community has been working very hard for the last number of years to make sure it’s not polluting the shellfish beds,” he said.

22 fishing boats pulled off water in federal crackdown on Codfather fraud racket

Mass Live | Posted on November 21, 2017

Federal regulators effectively pulled 22 active commercial fishing boats off Northeastern waters Monday after determining many of the vessels -- a good deal owned by "Codfather" Carlos Rafael -- were failing to accurately record catches.  The ruling, deemed "huge" and "unprecedented" by The Boston Globe, could hamstring many businesses in the Massachusetts fishing industry, in particular icehouses, fuel companies and others that supply boats. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's regional administrator John Bullard said that Northeast Fishery Sector Nine failed to accurately enforce fishing quotas on cod, haddock, flounder and other bottom-dwelling species.Federal authorities say Rafael falsely claimed his vessels caught haddock or pollock, when they had actually caught other species subject to stricter quotas, like cod. He then sold the fish for cash, some of which was smuggled overseas.Rafael, 65, who himself used to serve as president of Northeast Fishery Sector Nine, owns a groundfishing fleet to rival any in the nation. His alleged fraud may still result in additional NOAA penalties including the seizure of his vessels in relation to ongoing civil proceedings being pursued by the government. 

Lawmakers Push Alcohol Tax Cut Despite Rising Drinking Rates

Roll Call | Posted on November 21, 2017

Deaths linked to alcohol are significantly more common than drug overdose deaths, but lawmakers may promote more drinking through a two-year tax break for producers of beer, wine and spirits as part of the Senate’s tax code overhaul. The tax break, for 2018 and 2019, would save alcohol producers $4.2 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The provisions in the Senate Finance Committee’s tax plan were requested by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, but are based on a bill from Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the committee’s top Democrat. Supporters of the tax break emphasize its benefits for small brewers, whom they tout as job creators. But public health experts who study the link between taxes and alcohol consumption think the economic impacts are overstated, especially since the underlying idea is for people to buy more alcohol.

Trump proposes USDA farm research cuts to pay for storm aid

| Posted on November 21, 2017

The Trump administration would pay for hurricane relief in part by cutting conservation and research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—an idea that's running into a roadblock from advocates for those programs. In its $44 billion request for supplemental appropriations to respond to this year's storms and wildfires, the administration proposed to eliminate all $212 million in funding for improvements to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) buildings and facilities, as well as $1.4 billion from various conservation programs.

Judge issues blow against Trump's sanctuary city order

CNN | Posted on November 21, 2017

President Donald Trump's latest executive order aimed at implementing the hardline immigration policies he championed during his campaign has been blocked by a federal court.US District Court Judge William Orrick issued a permanent injunction Monday blocking Trump's executive order seeking to strip so-called sanctuary cities of federal funding.The ruling represents a major setback to the administration's attempts to clamp down on cities, counties and states that seek to protect undocumented immigrants who come in contact with local law enforcement from deportation by federal authorities. Monday's ruling, which followed lawsuits from two California counties, nullifies Trump's January executive order on the matter, barring the administration from setting new conditions on spending approved by Congress.

Dwindling immigration stresses tree-fruit industry

Yakima Herald | Posted on November 16, 2017

Over the past several years, farmers have complained that a dwindling labor force continues to stress production of the state’s multi-billion dollar tree fruit industry.Employment and market experts in the past have questioned whether such a shortage really exists. But recent studies are indicating that our once robust low-wage labor force primarily from Mexico is in fact dwindling, or not keeping pace with industry growth.

US to allow imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, Zambia

CNN | Posted on November 16, 2017

US authorities will remove restrictions on importing African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.That means Americans will soon be able to hunt the endangered big game, an activity that garnered worldwide attention when a Minnesota dentist took Cecil, perhaps the world's most famous lion, near a wildlife park in Zimbabwe.A US Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman said the move will allow the two African countries to include US sport hunting as part of their management plans for the elephants and allow them to put "much-needed revenue back into conservation."Critics, however, note the restrictions were created by the Obama administration in 2014 because the African elephant population had dropped. The animals are listed in the US Endangered Species Act, which requires the US government to protect endangered species in other countries.