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Thread: USDA secretary wants separate immigration program for agricultural workers

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  1. #11
    Super Moderator GeorgiaPeach's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    (Hodge Podge of subjects)

    USDA staffers worry about changes to telecommuting

    January 16, 2018

    With Maya

    CHANGE IN TELEWORK WORRIES USDA STAFFERS: Some studies showthat working remotely increases productivity, cuts turnover and helps the environment by reducing commuting. Yet a plan cut back on the USDA Telework Program for most administrative employees has many agonizing about their job security and scrambling to find child and elder care, Christine reports.

    The new plan: In February, the department will start enforcing a new policy that requires employees to work in a USDA office at least four days a week. Union representatives say that will especially cause hardships for workers who commute long distances, like forest service employees in rural areas.

    A surprise to unions and USDA workers: Although the agency had been communicating with its employee unions for several months about ways to change its Telework Program, Secretary Sonny Perdue wants an even more restrictive policy than had been discussed. It’s also a shock because employees have been strongly encouraged in recent years to work remotely and have carved their lives around that policy, according to union representatives and employees. Some USDA locations have been redesigned under the assumption that there would be fewer people working in the office.

    A glimpse at its effect on USDA workers: One USDA employee’s family is already stretched so thin financially on a government salary that the extra commuting costs may cause bankruptcy. A second employee who chose to have a baby based on the telework policy is scrambling to figure out what to do next.

    Perdue’s Georgia Fridays: While Secretary Perdue may want employees in the office four days a week, he’s found a way to combine monthly trips to his home state of Georgia with his official duties. Check out this sidebar here.


    HOW H-2A OVERHAUL AND FUTURE OF DACA OVERLAP: A House immigration bill could tie an overhaul of the current agricultural guest-worker program to the future of DACA, if House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte gets his way. The House Republican immigration bill includes Goodlatte’s controversial H-2A bill that would revamp the agricultural guest-worker program.

    Refresher on what’s in it for ag: The 414-page immigration bill – which include the same text from Goodlatte’s H-2A bill this fall – essentially scraps the current H-2A program, partially housed in the Labor Department. It would set up a new H-2C visa program that would be handled by the USDA. The program would still be partly overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.

    It would allow agricultural employers – such as meat processors, dairy farmers and loggers – in need of year-round work to apply. This is a sharp difference from the current program that offers guest-worker visas for temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs that last under 10 months.

    Vocal opposition remains: United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO and more than 140 groups have been vocal opponents of the potential H-2A change, saying that it would “create even more unfairness and dysfunction in our immigration system.”
    “Instead of focusing in on providing urgently needed relief for young Dreamers, Republican Bob Goodlatte has chosen to introduce the ‘Nightmare’ bill, which hurts Dreamer families and includes other attacks on new Americans,” Giev Kashkooli, political and legislative director for United Farm Workers told Morning Ag. Among other things Goodlatte's legislation “would undermine the wages and working conditions of all agricultural workers,” Kashkooli said.

    Many agricultural industry groups – particularly those in fresh produce and poultry sectors – expressed support for Goodlatte’s H-2A legislation last year. Changing the H-2A program would remove restrictions and requirements that farmers have complained about for years.

    What do Ryan and Trump think of the bill? The House has not set a vote for the Republican bill that has slim chance of passing the Senate. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have repeatedly said they would like to have a bipartisan legislative solution. But it remains unclear if they will find a replacement for DACA -- which offered 700,000 immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors renewable deferred action from deportation and permission to work. More from POLITICO’s Rachael Bade on the bill here.

    USDA officials are ready to work with Congress to make necessary fixes to the new tax law that has given a huge advantage to farmers who sell their goods to co-ops instead of other types of companies. A late change included in the final version of the tax bill that passed was intended to offset the loss of the Section 199A provision that applied to co-ops.

    “While the goal [of the tax bill] was to preserve benefits in Section 199A for cooperatives and their patrons, the unintended consequences of the current language disadvantage the independent operators in the same industry,” USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach said in a statement. “The federal tax code should not pick winners and losers in the marketplace.”

    Here’s the provision: Sens. John Thune, John Hoeven and other lawmakers – who are now working to tweak it as well – included an offset in the final legislation that gives farmers a deduction of up to 20 percent on total sales made to co-ops (farmers won’t get the same deduction if they sell to companies not structured as cooperatives). The deduction would, in effect, offer a huge incentive for farmers to sell their products to co-ops and move away from selling to independent and private companies.

    Co-ops and independent companies unite: Chuck Conner, president of National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and Randy Gordon, president of National Grain and Feed Association, said they were working with senators to find a fix.

    “The goal of these discussions is to arrive at an equitable solution that preserves the benefits that cooperatives and their farmer patrons previously enjoyed under Section 199 of the tax code, while addressing any unforeseen impacts on producers' marketing decisions,” the groups said in a joint statement. More from Sabrina here.


    — Reviving flood control: Amid the debate over earmarks, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has been pushing to revive the Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps proposal, a controversial $220 million Mississippi flood control project that would improve farming conditions and reduce flooding. Some lawmakers are calling it the epitome of pork barrel projects. More from Pro Energy’s Annie Snider here.

    — FDA rejects Bayer request: The FDA denied on Friday a request from Bayer to approve a qualified health claim, saying there is “no credible evidence” that consuming vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. More from Pro Ag’s Helena Bottemiller Evich here.

    — Vietnam brings WTO case: Vietnam took the first step in bringing a WTO dispute on Friday, arguing that U.S. anti-dumping duties on Vietnam’s exports of fish fillets violate three trade agreements. If the U.S. and Vietnam don’t come to an agreement in 60 days, Vietnam can request for a WTO panel to hear its case. More from Sabrina here.

    — FDA extends deadline: The public will have 60 more days to comment on the FDA’s proposal to revoke its authorized health claim for soy protein and heart health. The deadline is now March 19. More from Helena here.

    — Tribes band together over farm bill:Out of the more than 56,000 American Indian-operated farms and ranches in the U.S., some tribes say they have been ignored when it comes to crafting the farm bill. Now, more than 30 tribes have formed the Native Farm Bill Coalition, which will lobby for a provision to remove cash match provisions so impoverished areas can receive federal funding, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

    — Food insecurity plagues college students: A New York Times op-edargues that onerous work requirements and high college costs are leading to hunger, hampering students’ ability to learn. The first federal briefing on the topic was held last month.

    — Softening on NAFTA? Sen. Joni Ernst told members of the Iowa Corn Growers on Monday that she thinks the president “has doubts” about pulling out of NAFTA. More from The Gazette here.

    — Breeding male and male-ish cattle:Geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam is aiming to use gene-editing tool CRISPR to create bulls that only father males: either typical bull calves or ones with two X chromosomes that are essentially male -- with bigger muscles, a penis and testicles. The bulls would be of value to beef ranchers, she believes. More from MIT Technology Review here.

    — Back to beef: The U.S. is back to being the top beef exporter to South Korea in 2017, as shipments jumped 13.7 percent from the year before, Reuters reports.

    — USDA rule allows pork imports from Mexico: The USDA has finalized a regulation that will allow all Mexican states to export pork to the United States, a move supported by the National Pork Producers Council.

    Last edited by GeorgiaPeach; 02-26-2018 at 11:53 PM.
    Matthew 19:26
    But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  2. #12
    Super Moderator GeorgiaPeach's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Perdue defends foreign farm workers at Ag Outlook Forum

    February 23, 2018

    Hagstrom Report

    In his first speech to the Agriculture Department's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said today that American agriculture faces three challenges — regulation, trade and a legal workforce — but devoted his most surprising comments to a defense of foreign farm workers.

    He did not speak at last year's forum, USDA's prestigious annual conference that attracts people from all over the world, because he had not yet been confirmed.

    Perdue acknowledged that he has worked hard to convey to White House staff the reality of the need for farm workers. Perdue said there are people working in the White House who believe there are domestic workers willing to do the jobs of farm workers, and said he has invited them to visit farms, but that so far no one has taken him up on his offer.

    While President Donald Trump has criticized Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers and as people who take Americans' jobs, Perdue said immigrant farm workers are not taking jobs from Americans, committing crimes, or "putting a burden" on the U.S. criminal justice or welfare systems.

    “The current H-2A is cumbersome, convoluted and does not work for many producers. We could have a better system.” Sonny Perdue, secretary of agriculture

    "The current H-2A is cumbersome, convoluted and does not work for many producers," Perdue said, adding that the system for bringing in farm workers has become "bound up and bundled up in regulations."

    "We could have a better system," he said.

    Perdue did not mention any details of what he has in mind or discuss any congressional proposals, but said "Agriculture is caught in the crossfire" of the immigration debate.

    There are people would like to come to the United States on a temporary basis to work, not to become citizens, he added.

    Perdue also noted that he "poached" Kristi Boswell, former American Farm Bureau Federation immigration specialist, hiring her to work on the immigration issue "full time."Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, with a projection of the crowd at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum behind him. (USDA/Preston Keres)On regulation, Perdue repeated Trump's frequent statements that he promised to get rid of two regulations for each one imposed, but that in reality the administration has gotten rid of 22 regulations for each new one.

    Perdue acknowledged that before he took the job of secretary he had often complained about regulations, but said it is now time to step up and reduce them. He encouraged the attendees to send USDA information on regulations that should be ended, and said that USDA has gotten 300 such recommendations so far. But he also noted that many of those suggestions have focused on regulations imposed by other agencies and said USDA forwards those to those agencies.

    Perdue emphasized that the Trump administration withdrew the Obama era regulation known as the Waters of the United States rule.

    A rainstorm may "create a mud puddle," but that is not a "water of the United States," he said.

    Perdue acknowledged that farm incomes are down, but said the answer is to sell overseas to the growing middle class, particularly in Asia. He said he recognizes there is trade "anxiety," particularly about the North American Free Trade Agreement. But he said he is confident Trump is "a very shrewd negotiator" and "wants the best for the American people." He noted that Trump often "keeps Congress off balance."

    Perdue did not mention the U.S. conflict with Canada over dairy policy that is the biggest agricultural sticking point in the NAFTA negotiations.

    He pointed out that Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney was not at the forum because he is traveling in India where there are "protectionist provisions." USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson said later that McKinney is scheduled to speak at the event on Friday if he gets back on time.

    Perdue noted that he has traveled to 33 states since taking office and said those visits with farmers had helped develop the administration's farm bill principles. But he emphasized that it is the responsibility of Congress to write a farm bill that continues the farm safety net. He noted that the emergency disaster bill helped the cotton and dairy industries and said he expects more help for the dairy producers in the farm bill.

    The aid to farmers hurt by hurricanes and wildfires in the emergency disaster bill was "for extremes," but he said, "but we cannot count on that year in and year out." That is why the farm bill has to maintain the farm safety net, he said.

    Perdue did not mention his controversial proposal to start a pilot project shifting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with boxes of food sent to low income people.
    Last edited by GeorgiaPeach; 02-27-2018 at 12:37 AM.
    Matthew 19:26
    But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  3. #13
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    There's nothing at all wrong with the H2-A temporary ag visa for farm workers. Sure, it requires paperwork and responsibility for making sure they leave on time, but there's no other way to handle such a program. Be strong, Mr. President, and I know you will, there is no reason to change a thing in the H2-A program.
    MW likes this.
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
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  4. #14
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Apr 2016
    Work and then GO home! The whole family does not get to come here.

    Any pregnant ones get booted immediately.
    MW and Judy like this.


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