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Once nearly buried by medical bills, a farmer braces for insurance drought

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 23, 2017

Darvin Bentlage’s health insurance plan used to be the same as all the other cattle farmers in Barton County, Mo., he said: to stay healthy until he turned 65, then get on Medicare. But when he turned 50, things did not go according to plan.  “Well, I had a couple of issues,” he said.That’s putting it mildly.Over two years, he dealt with hepatitis C and diverticulitis. That was on top of his persistent kidney stones, diabetes and other health problems.“I had to go back and refinance the farm,” he said. “By the time the two years was up, I had run up between $70,000 and $100,000 in hospital bills.”He does not want to end up in that situation again, so he is paying close attention to what Republican health care billworking its way through Congress might mean for him.He racked up those medical bills in 2007. Bentlage said that given his preexisting conditions, health insurance became impossibly expensive — a problem because he needed more health care. So when the Affordable Care Act exchanges opened in 2013, he said, “I was probably one of the first ones to get online with it and walk through it.”About a quarter of the people on the exchanges are between 55 and 64, and they have more health problems than younger people do. So they have a lot on the line if the Affordable Care Act gets replaced. Under the GOP plan, older people’s insurance cost could rise dramatically, but the subsidies would be capped at $4,000. That’s less than half of what Bentlage is getting now under the ACA.


Researchers Call Trump’s Proposed NIH Cuts ‘Shocking’

Kaiser Health News | Posted on March 23, 2017

An estimated $5.8 billion in cuts to the National Institutes of Health in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget has universities and medical institutions sounding the alarm. Trump’s spending plan — running into opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike — would cut about 20 percent of the roughly $30 billion budget of the nation’s medical research agency that supports research on cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Zika and other conditions. Research institutions nationwide decried the cuts as potentially devastating to their work. Based in Bethesda, Md., the NIH spends most of its annual budget — about 85 percent — on grants to thousands of researchers and medical institutions across the country.Traditionally, biomedical research has enjoyed strong bipartisan support, surviving ideologically driven cutbacks from one administration to the next. Grant increases to major NIH recipients had been averaging about 3 percent per year during the Obama administration.


USDA announces $6 million to aid fire-affected farmers and ranchers in Kansas

The Hutcheson News | Posted on March 22, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that more than $6 million in funding is now available for those affected by the wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The funding, delivered through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, will assist farmers and ranchers as they attempt to restore grazing lands, rehabilitate devastated landscapes, rebuild fencing and protect damaged watersheds, according to a news release.“The availability of USDA conservation funds targeted toward restoring land impacted by the fires is appreciated," said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, who visited southern Kansas and spoke to ranchers March 12. "I have asked USDA to provide maximum flexibility in administering the federal assistance programs in response to the disaster, and will continue to make clear the urgent need for more immediate assistance to those impacted.”


China, EU cut imports of Brazil meat amid scandal

Reuters | Posted on March 22, 2017

China and the European Union curtailed meat imports from Brazil on Monday after police, in an anti-corruption probe criticized by the government as alarmist, accused inspectors in the world's biggest exporter of beef and poultry of taking bribes to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats. As the scandal deepened, Brazil's Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said the government had suspended exports from 21 meat processing units.But he also criticized the investigation by Brazil's Federal Police into meatpacking companies, calling their findings "alarmist" and saying they used a few isolated incidents to tarnish an entire industry that maintains rigorous standards.


First U.S. bumble bee added to endangered species list

Reuters | Posted on March 22, 2017

The rusty patched bumble bee became the first wild bee in the continental United States to gain federal protection on Tuesday when it was added to the government's list of endangered and threatened species. The bee, once widely found in the upper Midwest and Northeastern United States, was listed after U.S. President Donald Trump's administration lifted a hold it had placed on a plan for federal protections proposed last fall by the administration of former President Barack Obama.


Trump Applauds Farmers in Ag Day Proclamation

Ag Web | Posted on March 22, 2017

“America's farmers and ranchers help feed the world, fuel our Nation's economy, and lead global markets in output and productivity.  The efficiency of American agriculture has provided this country with abundance our ancestors could not have imagined.”  So begins President Donald Trump’s announcement today that proclaims March 21, 2017 as National Agriculture Day.The proclamation applauds our nation’s farmers as “endlessly innovative,” as well as being determined, self-reliant and a critical component to the nation’s future.


ICE DETAINS TWO MORE MIGRANT JUSTICE ACTIVISTS

Vermont Digger | Posted on March 22, 2017

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Enrique “Kike” Balcazar, 24, from Mexico, and and Zully Palacios, 23, from Peru, late Friday afternoon, according to an activist with the group Migrant Justice. They are the third and fourth members of the group to be detained by ICE agents this week. Caesar Alex Carillo-Sanchez, who goes by Alex Carillo, was arrested outside the Chittenden County courthouse in Burlington Wednesday morning. Will Lambek, a Migrant Justice organizer, said he received a call from Balcazar around 5 p.m., during which Balcazar said he had been pulled over on Shelburne Road and was being arrested by agents. Lambek showed up just as Balcazar and his passenger were loaded into separate ICE vehicles, he said. Palacios is also a Migrant Justice activist. Neither Balcazar nor his passenger were facing any criminal charges, according to Lambek, and he declined to comment on their immigration status.An ICE spokesman did not return a message Friday seeking confirmation of the arrests and information about what led to the car stop.Balcazar is a prominent member of Migrant Justice, and a regular at protests and rallies. He was an advocate for Vermont’s driver’s privilege card law, a policy implemented in 2014 that allows individuals to get a driver’s license without proving legal presence in the United States.


Texans Receive First Notices of Land Condemnation for Trump’s Border Wall

Texas Observer | Posted on March 22, 2017

The week before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Yvette Salinas received a letter she had been dreading for years: legal notice that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to build a border wall on her family’s land in Los Ebanos. The 21-page document, entitled a “Declaration of Taking,” is addressed to her ailing mother, Maria Flores, who owns the property with her siblings. The letter offers Flores $2,900 for 1.2 acres near the Rio Grande. If she chooses not to accept the offer, the land could be seized through eminent domain. “It’s scary when you read it,” Salinas says. “You feel like you have to sign.” The 16-acre property has been in the family for so long that none of them can remember the year it was acquired. Salinas only knows they’ve had it for five generations. Her uncle runs a few head of cattle on the property, which lies not far from Los Ebanos’ most famous attraction, a hand-drawn ferry that shuttles cars and their passengers across the river to Mexico.


President's budget shuns rural America

KTIC Radio | Posted on March 22, 2017

President Donald J. Trump issued his fiscal year 2018 federal budget blueprint today, calling for a drastic reduction in spending on agriculture and rural related agencies and programs. Lamenting further cuts being proposed for agriculture, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement: “Family farmers and ranchers are currently enduring the worst farm economy in well over a decade and an inadequate safety net that is hamstrung by $23 billion in budget cuts. The last thing our members need right now is more cuts to agencies and programs that provide incredibly important work, especially in the midst of the current farm crisis. These cuts and the message they send to rural America are deeply disappointing. “President Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a $4.7 billion cut to USDA, which equates to a 21 percent drop for programs that serve rural and farming communities across the U.S. This huge cut to discretionary spending will put rural development, food safety, conservation and research programs on the chopping block. “The proposal recommends eliminating the Senior Community Service Employment Program that provides job training for older unemployed Americans. This program serves older Americans across the country, but is critical at addressing the challenges faced by older people in rural America.


Veterans send letter Trump urging rule for ethanol and RFS in his energy plan

Biofuels Digest | Posted on March 22, 2017

more than 120 military veterans working and investing in the ethanol industry sent a letter to President Trump last week, urging him to include a prominent role for ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in his “America First Energy Plan.”  According to the letter, “many of us have witnessed firsthand the dangers of our reliance on oil imports from hostile and unstable parts of the world. We share your belief that the United States can and must do more to insulate itself from the negative impacts associated with oil import dependence and OPEC manipulation. Your continued commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard and pledge to ‘end restrictions that keep higher blends of ethanol from being sold’ are among the strategies that will help free our economy from the influence of OPEC oil ministers once and for all.”  The veterans signing the letter work in 18 different states—from California and Oregon to Ohio and Wisconsin—and represent 41 businesses or organizations directly involved in the U.S. ethanol industry. They served in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy.


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