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Obstacles to new NAFTA deal include process for resolving disputes, ‘rules of origin’ for autos

Negotiators from Canada, Mexico and the United States have begun their seventh round of discussions for a new, or modernized, North American Free Trade Agreement. And while the dissolution of NAFTA seemed very likely several months ago, negotiations are still alive. To this point, results of the trilateral discussions have been mixed — consensus on some changes, but continued disagreement on issues such as dispute resolution and “rules of origin” that could ultimately block a new deal from being reached.

USDA Decides Not to Impose Additional Regulatory Requirements for Organic Producers and Handlers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule published on January 19, 2017. The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018. Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017.

Judge: Corps Responsible for Flooding, Damage in 4 States

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for causing recurring flooding that damaged farms and property in four Midwest states along the Missouri River. The ruling Tuesday in Washington says the government must compensate farmers, landowners and business owners for the flood damage in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. The damage has been estimated to exceed $300 million.More than 300 farmers, landowners and business owners argued in the lawsuit filed in 2014 in the U.S.

House defeats ‘right-to-try’ legislation to allow expanded use of experimental drugs

In a major setback for Republicans, the House rejected “right-to-try” legislation that would have allowed seriously ill patients to bypass the Food and Drug Administration to get access to experimental treatments. The vote came after a spirited debate in which GOP lawmakers portrayed the measure, which was strongly backed by President Trump and Vice President Pence, as a last chance at survival for desperately ill patients. Democrats said the bill would weaken critical FDA protections without addressing the fundamental obstacles to experimental drugs.

Food stamps fight threatens farm bill before it’s out of the gate

A fight over how tough to make work requirements in the food stamp program is already threatening to derail the House farm bill, which some see as one of the only shots for bipartisan legislation this year. Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee publicly revolted last week after learning that Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) was eyeing stricter work requirements for some 8 million recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, widely known as food stamps.

Feds tell student loan companies to ignore state authority

The U.S. Education Department issued guidance Friday informing state regulators to back off the companies managing its $1.3 trillion portfolio of student loans, arguing that only the federal government has the authority to oversee its contractors.“State regulation of the servicing of direct loans impedes uniquely federal interests,” the department wrote.

U.S. senators tout compromise on manure reports

The legislation would exempt farms from a law spawned by careless handling of industrial waste in the 1970s. The bill, however, leaves open the possibility that producers will someday have to report the volume of gases released by livestock under a different law inspired by the 1984 chemical leak in Bopal, India, that killed up to 20,000 people. Farm groups had sought to exempt producers from both laws, commonly referred to by their acronyms, CERCLA and EPCRA.

These senior EPA officials can now moonlight for secret private-sector clients

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an ethics waiver to one of Pruitt’s political appointees, John Konkus, to let him work for unknown outside private clients. These clients, and their political or commercial interests, won’t be divulged, raising troubling questions about possible conflicts of interest. He is now one of two employees in senior EPA leadership positions allowed to earn $135,000+ government salaries while also drawing paychecks from outside clients that may have a direct stake in EPA’s work.

USDA to Host Roundtables on Rural Opioid Misuse

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced USDA is hosting a series of monthly roundtables on opioids through the summer. “The opioid epidemic in rural communities is more than a public health issue,” Hazlett said. “This is a matter of rural prosperity.


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