The Senate Appropriations Committee approved unanimously a USDA-FDA funding bill that rejects President Trump’s proposals to slash spending on rural development, crop insurance, and food stamps. In the first major congressional disagreement with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the $145 billion funding bill overrides his recent elimination of the slot for an undersecretary in charge of rural economic development — and directs the administration to fill the job.
As commodity prices remain low and rural economies struggle, farmers and rural citizens need a strong safety net to stay afloat until conditions improve.However, the budget proposals from the White House and the U.S. House of Representatives do not address that need. The House Budget Committee recently released its 2018 budget proposal, which called for a $10 billion cut in programs under the control of the House Agriculture Committee. And the 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, released by the Congressional Budget Office, called for $8.5 billion less in agriculture funding than the 2017 fiscal year enacted level. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to eliminate its undersecretary position for rural development. We are deeply concerned about these changes.
U.S.-initiated negotiations to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement are bound to be long and hard. Canadian officials maintain that Mexico is the real target of President Donald Trump’s determination to renegotiate what he considers to be a bad deal for America. Nevertheless, there are a number of issues bound to spark friction between Canada and the United States. Here’s a primer on five of them:Dispute resolution mechanism, Dairy, Wine, Investment, Duty Free Cross Border Shipping.
The efforts of eight states to enact work requirements for Medicaid recipients could create special problems for rural participants, according to a new study. Researchers Andrew Schaefer and Jessica Carson at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire found that one in four of potentially impacted Medicaid participants already worked at least part of the previous year or were motivated to work but could not find a job.“As state policymakers consider Medicaid-related work requirements, it is worthwhile to consider the administrative costs of implementing this kind of [work requirement] waiver alongside the benefits of cost savings associated with reducing Medicaid rolls, and the expenses related to increasing the uninsured low income population,” the researchers said. “In both rural and urban places, legislators should consider whether the consequences to families losing health insurance coverage outweigh the relative benefits of enforcing work requirements.” Rural residents participate in Medicaid at a higher rate than metropolitan residents. And rural areas generally have greater unemployment rates or discouraged workers.MaryBeth Musumeci, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, has also studied state-level proposals to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. “The data shows that most Medicaid recipients who can work are already working. There are some additional risks with the work requirements proposals that could complicate the implementation and administration of the program. We’re concerned that many eligible people, especially low and moderate income working people, would fall through the cracks.”
Ask advocates of marijuana legalization how their cause fared during the 2017 state legislative sessions and they’ll tell you that though the gains were incremental, they’re hopeful that several legislatures will eventually make possession and sale of the federally prohibited drug legal. Ask the same of people who oppose legalization and they’ll say it’s been a banner year — they choked efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in many statehouses and stalled implementation of pot sales in at least one other.Lawmakers in at least 23 states considered legislation to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana this year and 16 states weighed bills to establish medical marijuana programs.But even as public support for marijuana continues to grow, few of those measures survived. That’s in part because many lawmakers are concerned that the Trump administration may begin strict enforcement of federal drug laws, political analysts say. Many legislators are also beholden to conservative supporters and face little political pressure to sign off on marijuana legislation, the analysts say.
Massachusetts police do not have the authority to detain illegal immigrants solely to buy time for federal law enforcement officials to take them into custody the state's top court ruled. The decision amounts to a rejection of requests by the federal Immigration and Customs and Enforcement agency for courts and law enforcement agencies to hold illegal immigrants, who are facing civil deportation orders, in custody for up to 48 hours after their cases are resolved. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that doing so amounts to a fresh arrest of the person that is not authorized by state law, in the first such ruling to apply to an entire state, according to Massachusetts' attorney general."Massachusetts law provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody," the court wrote in its decision.
A leaked draft study of the electric grid requested by Energy Secretary Rick Perry found that federal energy efficiency policies are in the process of saving U.S. consumers and businesses more than a half trillion dollars. Meanwhile, the new administration is halting energy efficiency policies and gutting funding for energy efficiency improvements for American homes. Perry’s department is currently being sued by 11 states for stalling efficiency mandates for air conditioners and other high-energy products. Back in April, Perry ordered a study from Department of Energy (DOE) staff to back up his claims that solar and wind power were undermining the U.S. electric grid’s reliability. But a July draft obtained by Bloomberg debunked that attack. Instead, the authors found that “the power system is more reliable today” than ever. After obtaining a copy of the draft, ThinkProgress reported the study concluded a large fraction of America’s aging fleet of coal and nuclear plants are simply not economic to operate anymore. The study has a long discussion of why coal and nuclear aren’t going to become economic anytime soon. For instance, it’s increasingly clear that, for the foreseeable future, natural gas prices will stay low — and that renewable sources of power like solar and wind will continue the stunning price drops they’ve seen in the past two decades, which have upended the global power market.
Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay, said he’s amenable to negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement but hopes the talks proceed with caution. “It’s put a lot of money in the farmers’ pockets in the U.S. and Canada, so let’s be sure to continue down that path,” MacAulay said. “If you’re going to fix something that’s in good shape, be careful.”MacAulay stopped in Portland July 24 for the annual summit of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, a non-profit created by five American states and five Canadian provinces.NAFTA is top of mind in agriculture these days, with negotiations over the agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico set to begin Aug. 16-20 in Washington, D.C.After meeting with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, MacAulay sees an ally who’s also supportive of the strong trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada.
On Tuesday, July 18, a bill to delay the compliance date of the ELD (electronic logging device rule) for two years to December 2019, was filed in the U.S. House of Representatives and referred to the House Appropriation's Subcommittee on Transportation. The bill asks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to consider delaying the implementation of ELD, giving owner-operators two additional years to switch from paper logs to an electronic logging device. The ELD rule is intended to create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage and share records of duty status (RODS) data. An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording. FMCSA notes that drivers not required to use ELD, unless they so choose, include drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days during any 30-day period, "driveaway-towaway" drivers (transporting an empty vehicle for sale, lease, or repair), and drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.
The Trump administration, in an unprecedented decision, has rejected the recommendation of a commission that has long overseen fishing issues along the East Coast, raising deep concerns about political meddling in the ongoing preservation of fragile stocks from Maine to Florida. More specifically, the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stirred worries about the consequences for summer flounder, one of the most fished species in the Northeast. The decline of summer flounder could have a wider impact across the region’s marine ecosystem. Ross earlier this month dismissed the findings of the 75-year-old Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which concluded that New Jersey was violating a conservation plan for summer flounder that all the other states in the compact approved. Many conservationists thought that New Jersey, while following protocols, was bowing to the fishing industry.The decision, which effectively allows New Jersey to harvest more summer flounder, marked the first time the federal government had disregarded such a recommendation by the commission, and it drew a swift rebuke from state officials along the East Coast. “The commission is deeply concerned about the near-term impact on our ability to end overfishing on the summer flounder stock as well as the longer-term ability for the commission to effectively conserve numerous other Atlantic coastal shared resources,” Douglas Grout, the commission’s chair, said in a statement.Millions of pounds of summer flounder, also known as fluke, are caught every year by commercial and recreational fishermen between Virginia Beach and Cape Cod. But the commission — an interstate pact established by Congress to manage migratory fisheries — has determined that fluke are being overfished, with an estimated population that is 42 percent below the level regulators consider to be sustainable. The commission has reduced catch limits significantly since state and federal surveys found the fluke population had plummeted by nearly one-quarter since its 2010 peak. But if the population falls another 14 percent, reaching a critical threshold for the ability of the fishery to rebuild, commissioners will be required by their rules to reduce quotas drastically or implement a region-wide moratorium on catching fluke.