Agriculture can be climate leader with ‘build back’ funding, says Vilsack
The farm sector would gain $27 billion for climate mitigation, including payments for planting cover crops, from the social welfare and climate change bill passed by the House, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Agriculture can lead the way in the fight on climate with climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions and create new and better market opportunities for producers."
Fear of reprisal kept immigrants from accessing federal aid in pandemic
Fear, fueled by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, kept many low-income immigrant families from accessing non-cash benefits and other federal assistance programs they were eligible for in 2020, even as the pandemic deepened economic hardship, according to two new analyses released today from the Urban Institute.(No paywall)
House to begin work on immigration reform, piece by piece
The House will vote on two popular proposals for immigration reform this week, offering a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers and offering legal status to undocumented farmworkers, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The ag labor bill would also streamline the H-2A visa for guestworkers.
With Trump rule, food-insecure immigrants have few options
The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity for households across the country, but undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families have faced unique challenges. That’s in part because they’ve been excluded from the momentary salve of government relief efforts, from stimulus checks to enhanced unemployment benefits. But it also stems from the Trump administration’s hostile immigration policies and rhetoric — and notably the president’s changes to the “public charge” rule, which has led many to shy away even from benefits for which they are eligible. (No paywall)
‘The workers are being sacrificed’
new FERN investigation, published Friday in collaboration with Mother Jones, reporters Esther Honig and Ted Genoways tell the stories of workers in America's meatpacking plants who are facing high rates of Covid-19 — and of the industry's chilling disregard for its workforce. (No paywall)
Climate change is forcing farmers to migrate from Central America
In Central America's Dry Corridor, a historically drought-prone region that stretches from Mexico to Panama and is home to 10.5 million people, climate change is producing longer and more frequent dry spells and forcing a growing number of farmers to attempt to migrate to the U.S., according to FERN's latest story, published with The Weather Channel. (No paywall)
House quietly aims for farm bill revival by June 22
Four days after defeating the farm bill, the House quietly delayed Speaker Paul Ryan's attempt to revive the bill until June 22, with GOP leaders hoping that hardline Republicans will vote for it the second time. Members of the House Freedom Caucus provided the decisive votes against the farm bill to underline their demand for a roll call on immigration controls. (No paywall)
Federal report urges more scrutiny of conditions at meat plants
The Government Accountability Office urged federal regulators, in the words of Harvest Public Media, "to better protect meatpacking workers, who are often exposed to dangerous chemicals, not allowed bathroom breaks and refused medical treatment." The GAO report said workers sometimes decide not to report problems for fear of retaliation, making it harder for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to get a clear picture of conditions.
Hand-wringing and hand-holding ahead of NAFTA talks
At nearly the same time Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was calming fears of a downturn in U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade, some Mexican farm groups demanded that agriculture be left out of the "new NAFTA" negotiations that begin in 16 days.
Deport felons, not farmworkers, says grower group
The Western Growers Association, speaking for produce growers in Arizona, California and Colorado, says immigration reform should go hand in hand with the Trump administration's priority of deporting undocumented immigrants guilty of serious crimes. Western Growers chief executive Tom Nassif said, "Much of our [U.S.] agricultural productivity is owed to the hard work of foreign hands, in particular the harvesting of our nutritious fruits and vegetables."
Higher wages aren’t enough to fill farm labor jobs formerly held by immigrants
California farms are becoming the testing ground for the argument that wages and job prospects for American workers will improve when undocumented immigrants are not available. "So far, the results aren't encouraging for farmers or domestic workers," says the Los Angeles Times, despite offers of higher pay.
Trump budget asks for $1.5 billion to begin border wall this year
President Trump proposed $1.5 billion to begin construction this year of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico — a signature promise of his campaign — ramping up to $2.6 billion in the fiscal year that opens on Oct. 1. The wall would be a concrete part of Trump’s policy of strict enforcement of immigration laws, which could drain the farm labor pool because many farm workers are believed to be undocumented.