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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News as heard inside the BARN for June 28th…

Posted by Brian Allmer on June 28, 2013

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Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

“Immigration Reform Makes it Through the Senate”

The U.S. Senate has approved the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 by a vote of 68 to 32. The measure includes provisions to allow current undocumented ag workers to gain citizenship after working another five years in agriculture and create a new guest worker program.  The measure was not supported by Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran or committee members Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Chambliss argued the ag provisions made it too easy for farm workers to gain citizenship and wouldn’t create a stable workforce. He tried to make changes through a series of amendments – but the leadership didn’t allow them to come to a vote. House Speaker John Boehner says the House will not take up the Senate-approved measure. He says they will do their own bill – through regular order – and it will be legislation that reflects the will of the majority and the will of the American people.

The following are key agricultural labor provisions included in the immigration reform bill:

* Current undocumented farm workers will be eligible to obtain legal status through a new Blue Card program if they choose to remain working in agriculture:

* Ag workers who can document working in U.S. agriculture for a minimum of 100 workdays or 575 hours prior to December 31, 2012 can adjust to this new Blue Card status.

* After a minimum of five years, workers who fulfill their Blue Card work requirements in U.S. agriculture will become eligible to apply for a Green Card, providing that they have no outstanding taxes, no convictions and pay a fine.

* A new agricultural guest worker program will be established, with two work options:

* An “At-Will” option will allow workers to enter the country to accept a specific job offer from an authorized agricultural employer, under a three-year visa. Employees will then be able to move within the country, working “at will” for any other authorized agricultural employer during that time. Employers must provide housing or a housing allowance to these workers.

* A “Contract-Based” option will allow workers to enter the country to accept a specific contract for a specific amount of work from an authorized employer. This will also provide for a three-year visa, and require employers to provide housing or a housing allowance.

* All guest workers will be paid an agreed-upon wage under the terms of this agreement.

* There is a visa cap for the first five years of the program while current workers are participating in the Blue Card program. The Secretary of Agriculture has the authority to modify that cap if circumstances in agricultural labor require.

* The new program will be administered by the Department of Agriculture.

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“Administration Applauds Senate Passage of Immigration Measure”

President Obama says the United States delivered for the American people with its vote to approve the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Actof 2013 – bringing us a critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all. The President says the bipartisan bill was a true compromise. While noone got everything they wanted - President Obama says the measure is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that he and others have repeatedly laid out.

If enacted – the President says the Senate bill would establish the most aggressive border security plan in our history and offer a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11-million individuals who are in this country illegally - a pathway that includes passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and then going to the back of the line behind everyone who’s playing by the rules and trying to come here legally. He adds that it would modernize the legal immigration system so that it reflects our values as a nation and addresses the urgent needs of our time and would provide a big boost to our recovery by shrinking our deficits and growing our economy. President Obama says the Senate did its job and now the House needs to do the same. He urges all Americans who support reform to reach out to their member of Congress and tell them to do the right thing – to pass commonsense reform so our businesses and workers are all playing by the same rules and everyone in this country is paying their fair share in taxes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the strong bipartisan vote in the Senate to fix the country’s broken immigration system is good news for farmers and ranchers. He says the Senate plan would ensure the stable ag workforce U.S. producers need to remain competitive with other nations and maintain America’s abundant, affordable food supply. For millions of farm workers who live in the shadows – he says it will provide an appropriate opportunity to earn legal status by contributing to America’s agricultural economy. In addition to being a strongly pro-agriculture bill – Vilsack says the Senate plan would grow the U.S. economy, strengthen the Social Security system and reduce the nation’s deficit. He says the House must continue the momentum toward passage of a comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.

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“Groups Applaud Senate-Passed Immigration Measure”

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition is calling the Senate’s approval of comprehensive immigration reform a landmark achievement in agriculture’s effort to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers have access to a legal, skilled and stable workforce. AWC has worked with the United Farm Workers union over the past six months to develop an agricultural immigration proposal that is reflected in the bill approved by the Senate. According to the Agriculture Workforce Coalition – the provisions contained in the legislation address the status of agriculture’s current skilled and experienced workers and would institute a new, market-based visa program to fix this issue once and for all going forward. In the coming weeks – AWC will work with members of the House as the chamber begins to develop its own immigration reform proposals. The group encourages House members to ensure any legislation contains meaningful reform to meet agriculture’s current and future labor needs.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says the Senate passed a balanced immigration reform bill that includes a fair and workable farm labor provision. He says a comprehensive agricultural labor plan that works for all sectors of agriculture and across all regions of the nation is long overdue. Stallman notes America’s farmers and ranchers depend on the workers who show up every day to tend crops and raise livestock. The Senate-passed bill – he says – will help ensure an adequate supply of farm labor. In addition – he says it provides increased surveillance of high-risk areas along our borders. Stallman says one of the best ways to improve border security is to create a legal, workable way for farm workers to enter the country. This legislation – according to Stallman – is the first step in reforming our broken immigration system and ensuring agriculture has access to a stable and legal workforce. He says Farm Bureau will work with members of the U.S. House to pass responsible immigration reform legislation that includes an earned adjustment for experienced undocumented agricultural workers and a new, flexible guest worker program. Stallman says it’s critical for both chambers to pass legislation that can be reconciled in conference and signed into law.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the Senate’s immigration reform measure includes important provisions that will bring greater stability to the farm workforce and provide a practical, legal means for immigrants to work in agriculture. He says it allows for peace of mind for all parties in agriculture to know that a more easy-to-use and effective system will be enacted. Johnson says he’ll continue to work with the House of Representatives to pass immigration legislation that achieves many of these same ends.

Border security and immigration have been a top priority for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association this year. NCBA President Scott George says this important issue affects all Americans – but especially rural Americans and NCBA members who live and ranch along the nation’s borders. He says the action taken by the Senate is a step in the right direction and NCBA looks forward to engaging with members of the House in ensuring the priorities of cattlemen and women are met in final legislation. George says a strong year-round workforce is paramount to the success of the cattle industry. He says NCBA recognizes the first step in ensuring the success of that workforce is securing and maintaining the borders. He says the conversations taking place on Capitol Hill right now are keeping those issues front and center and NCBA appreciates those efforts.

United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel says the Senate seized the opportunity to enact immigration reform that is desperately needed in the fresh produce industry and many other agricultural sectors. He says the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain and boost the economy. Stenzel cites the efforts of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers – groups United Fresh worked with to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers. As the House prepares to take up immigration reform – United Fresh will continue to cooperate with AWC and other stakeholders to advocate for ag labor provisions as part of any broader reform package to ensure a stable workforce for the fresh produce industry.

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“USDA Announces New Snack Standards for Schools”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the nation’s students will have healthier food options during the school day under USDA’s new Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards. USDA was required to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The nutrition standards announced Thursday – according to USDA – carefully balance science-based nutrition guidelines with practical and flexible solutions to promote healthier eating on campus. They draw on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country.

Vilsack says nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. He says parents and schools work hard to give kids the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong – and providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars will support their efforts. As a mom – First Lady Michelle Obama says she is excited that schools will now offer healthier choices to students. She notes many parents work hard every day to provide healthy, balanced meals and snacks to their kids. But the First Lady says parents don’t always have control over the snacks their children have access to when they’re away from home and these standards will help reinforce the work done at home to help kids stay healthy.

According to a USDA press release – highlights of the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards include:

More of the foods we should encourage - Like the new school meals, the standards require healthier foods, more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein

Less of the foods we should avoid - Food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need

Targeted standards - Allowing variation by age group for factors such as portion size and caffeine content

Flexibility for important traditions - Preserving the ability for parents to send their kids to school with homemade lunches or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like fundraisers and bake sales

Ample time for implementation - Schools and food and beverage companies will have an entire school year to make the necessary changes, and USDA will offer training and technical assistance every step of the way

Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply - Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at afterschool sporting events or other activities will not be subject to these requirements

Flexibility for state and local communities - Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.

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“New School Snack Standards Welcomed”

United Fresh is applauding the Smart Snacks in School standards announced by USDA. The group notes these standards – which must be implemented by July 1st of 2014 – apply to all foods and beverages sold a la carte and will increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. United’s Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra says increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks in school will go a long way towards creating a healthy school food environment and improving nutrition for 32-million school children. In addition – DiSogra says this will drive opportunities for increased produce sales to schools – especially for fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables in convenient single servings. According to United – the new school lunch regulations implemented at the start of the 2012-13 school year doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables served every day and emphasized providing a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables each week.

United Fresh has championed healthier school food environments over the past decade. The group says the new school snack standard complements and supports recent improvements to school meals and underscores their commitment to improving child nutrition. United is the lead advocate for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program – which provides a fresh fruit and vegetable snack to more than four-million low-income elementary school children every day. United is also a founding member of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign – which aims to increase children’s fruit and vegetable consumption and has donated salad bars to more than 25-hundred schools towards achieving that goal. The group plans to continue working with its members, nutrition advocates and stakeholders to maximize opportunities for schools to offer students more fresh-cut fruit and vegetable options.

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“Johanns Questions Use of USDA Funds for Promotion of Health Care Law”

Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns is not happy with a plan to use USDA to promote the health care law. Johanns has written letters to U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to request details of a special contract between the two departments. According to a Johanns press release – USDA has announced nearly 800-thousand dollars in grants from USDA’s Cooperative Extension Service resources to promote the health care law. Johanns says extension funds are supposed to fund programs to educate producers about the latest ag technology and to educate the next generation of farmers. According to Johanns – USDA is not responsible for helping promote the flawed health care law – especially when it means siphoning funds away from higher education programs to keep agriculture on the cutting edge – as well as 4-H youth development programs.

Johanns says Secretary Vilsack has expressed Congress doesn’t provide USDA with enough funds to fulfill its Congressionally-mandated obligations. He questions how they suddenly found almost a million dollars to promote the work of another federal agency. The former Ag Secretary says it’s wrong and should be reversed.

According to the Johanns press release – Secretary Sebelius referenced a special contract between HHS and USDA in a speech to the National Rural Assembly. The next day – USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture posted a grants notice for up to $795,455 of cooperative extension resources to conduct outreach to promote the health care law.

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“Mexico Restricts Live Pork Imports from U.S.”

Citing the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus – Mexico has restricted live pork imports from the United States. At this time – Mexico’s Agriculture Ministry says the virus has not been detected in Mexcio. The Ag Ministry will review imports on a case by case basis and those pigs imported from the U.S. before May 17th will be quarantined and closely observed.

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“Groups Urge Repeal of RFS”

The Renewable Fuels Standard Repeal Act has been introduced in the Senate. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation are urging Congress to repeal the RFS. NTF President Joel Brandenberger says the RFS has been a poorly managed mess and needs a fresh start in order to put a smarter policy on the mix of fuel and feed in place. A joint release issued by the three groups points out that the RFS required 13.2-billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be blended into gasoline last year and mandates 13.9-billion gallons be blended in 2013. They say that will use about 4.9-billion bushels of corn – or about 40-percent of the nation’s crop. National Chicken Council President Mike Brown says chicken producers are already competing with the weather and asks why they must also compete with an inflexible federal mandate that voluntarily places another strain on limited resources. He says the approach taken by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania would let the free market decide whether corn should go to food or to fuel.

Last fall – for the second time since 2008 – livestock and poultry groups asked the administration to waive the RFS. Despite the widespread drought and reduced harvest – the EPA did not use the safety valve built into the biofuels mandate. When EPA is unable to provide a temporary waiver of the RFS during the worst drought in 50 years – NCBA Policy Vice Chair Craig Uden says it’s apparent the RFS is broken. He says NCBA appreciates the efforts of Senators Barrasso, Pryor and Toomey to fix this flawed program.

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“NACD Asks Congress to Regroup and Move Forward with Farm Bill”

National Association of Conservation Districts President Earl Garber is calling on Congress to renew its efforts to pass a five-year farm bill before the current one expires in September. Garber says there are a number of options on the table for moving forward with a farm bill – and failure can’t be one of them. It’s been a week since the House failed to pass its version of the farm bill. Garber says it’s now time to regroup and get the bill done. He says NACD is confident Congress can and will do the right thing and provide needed certainty for farmers and landowners to effectively and efficiently manage their land, resources and businesses for the years ahead. Failure to pass a farm bill – Garber says – would mean the loss of meaningful reform measures that would cut costs while increasing efficiencies and best management tools to care for our natural resources. He says the future of our land, air, water and other natural resources is simply too important to become the victim of politics.

NACD is a strong supporter of the robust and consolidated Title II framework included in the Senate and House versions of the farm bill. The bill will be a key issue on the agenda for next month’s NACD Legislative Conference. The conference will include keynote remarks by Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow and a farm bill panel with Congressional staff. Details are available at www dot nacdnet dot org slash events slash legconference (www.nacdnet.org/events/legconference).

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“Obama Announces Intended USDA Nominations”

President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Krysta Harden for the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture position. He also plans to nominate Robert Bonnie for USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.

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“Break the Corn Rootworm Cycle”

Wet soils and cooler temperatures challenged corn growth early this year – according to DuPont Pioneer Insect Resistance Management Expert Clint Pilcher. These conditions may have also controlled early-hatching larvae by reducing their food source and saturating the soils – but Pilcher says growers should still scout their fields to check the effectiveness of their control program against corn rootworm. He says managing the pest means knowing about larvae and adult beetle populations in fields in order to break the rootworm cycle and manage the population. One way for growers to determine the current level of rootworm pressure and potential threats in the future is to scout for adult beetles in July and August – which helps determine whether to spray the current crop and limit potential for population outbreaks during the next crop season. DuPont Pioneer suggests growers consult their local agronomist to determine the critical population threshold has been met before using an insecticide.

After growers have gone through these steps – DuPont Pioneer suggests growers think ahead for the next crop and controlling corn rootworm. Pilcher says the best thing growers can do to help eliminate rootworm pressure is to rotate another crop – such as soybeans – breaking the corn-on-corn cycle corn rootworms love so much. If growers don’t have the opportunity for crop rotation – DuPont Pioneer suggests using a product with multiple modes of action in corn rootworm-resistant traits.Pilcher says corn rootworms are becoming more difficult to management – so growers must be cognizant of the practices they use so they can be used long term.

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“Taking a Different Approach to Managing Corn Rootworm”

Managing corn rootworm is a common goal for everyone in ag and a top priority for Syngenta – according to Syngenta Solutions Development Manager Bruce Battles. Managing this pest has to start with a change in how growers view corn rootworm management – Battles says. Oftentimes – he says growers react to what they saw in the field during the previous year – but they must take a step back and start thinking about a more proactive, long-term approach to managing the pest. Considering current and historical pest pressures in each field – Syngenta is working to deliver strategic recommendations based on technology preservation and the principles of integrated pest management – according to Syngenta Corn Traits Technical Product Lead Miloud Araba. A lasting management strategy will require more than traits or any singular technology – Araba says – but rather the integration of multiple technologies and control measures.

Most recently – Bt trait technology efficacy concerns in Western corn rootworm have created worries over the most destructive pest in agriculture – which is a complex and resilient pest with a proven ability to overcome traditional farming methods and technology over time. Syngenta Technical Product Lead Caydee Savinelli says in order to maximize crop productivity – it’s imperative to focus on successfully managing corn rootworm. So – Syngenta has invested significant resources to research best practices for corn rootworm management – incorporating expertise, input and data from internal and external sources – to develop a practical set of corn rootworm management recommendations so farmers can successfully control the pest and grow more corn. Battles says there is no one-size-fits-all solution for this pest – but Syngenta is committed to helping growers responsibly and effectively manage pests.

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“NFU All-States Leadership Camp Coming to a Close”

Young adults from across the country are attending National Farmers Union’s All-States Leadership Camp in Colorado this week. NFU President Roger Johnson says a priority for NFU is ensuring the future of family farm agriculture and rural communities is in good hands. He says the next generation is going to make a powerful impact in the society. Farmers Union campers are taking part in cooperative activities and listening to several inspirational speakers at the NFU Education Center. This year’s camp – themed Building Ourselves, Building Our Lives – concludes this (Friday) evening. As a former camper – Johnson says he understands the importance of building leaders in the industry at a young age. He says NFU is proud of these young people and the tradition of NFU’s All-States Leadership Camp.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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