Ag Today January 10, 2019

US Supreme Court declines involvement in state egg law cases [Associated Press]

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to get involved in a legal dispute in which 15 states are seeking to strike down laws in California and Massachusetts that require larger living areas for some farm animals. The attorney general’s office in Missouri, which spearheaded one of the lawsuits, vowed Tuesday to continue fighting for local farmers and consumers and said it was considering the next step. President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice had urged the Supreme Court not to accept original jurisdiction over the states’ lawsuits. It said the dispute over interstate commerce was best suited for a district court. The Supreme Court didn’t cite a reason for rejecting the lawsuits in a brief order Monday, although it noted Justice Clarence Thomas would have granted the motions. The high court on Monday also declined to hear an appeal of California’s 2004 law banning a poultry product known as foie gras, a liver delicacy made by force-feeding ducks and geese. The issue has been simmering in courts since shortly after lawmakers passed the ban, which also prohibits liver produced out of state from entering California.


Bill to protect popular California desert areas — including for off-roading — ready for vote in Senate [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Paul Cook (R-) on Wednesday re-introduced companion bills to expand protections for 716,000 acres of California desert, with backing from a powerful ally, Sen. Murkowski (R-Alaska), who could help win passage this year. The bills aim to include something for everyone who enjoys being outdoors in the desert. Key components include permanent protection for off-roading at six sites covering more than 200,000 acres, as well as 375,000 acres of wilderness in Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, San Bernardino National Forest and eight new Bureau of Land Management areas. An additional 77 miles of waterways would be designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers. “I promised off-roaders and environmental groups that we’d complete the effort to better manage the desert we started almost 25 years ago, and that’s exactly what this legislation would do,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The beauty of California’s desert is unmatched…from desert tortoises to bighorn sheep, breathtaking wildflower blooms to Joshua trees … we have a responsibility to keep it pristine for future generations.”…He noted that the bill protects critical off-roading areas, makes crucial expansions to national parklands and wilderness areas, and represents a consensus on how to manage our public lands in the California desert.


Already reeling from tariff war, some farmers aren’t receiving support checks amid shutdown [Napa Valley Register]

The government check hadn’t arrived, and John Boyd was out of seeds. So he left his family farm here in southern Virginia on Tuesday and went to the local Farm Service Agency office, a last-ditch attempt to see if any essential personnel with the U.S. Department of Agriculture were still working. He was hoping they could help, even with the partial federal government shutdown stretching to its 19th day. The Trump administration had promised to help farmers like Boyd, those who suffered as a result of the international trade war after Chinese purchases of soybeans—once 60 percent of the market—plummeted to next to nothing. With farmers on the edge of ruin, the U.S. government offered $12 billion in support since September, checks that had become a lifeline. But with the government shutdown moving into its third week, Boyd was left waiting for his support check to arrive. Other farmers who still must have their crop totals approved by the government to receive aid were left with no way to apply for it.


US, China leave next steps for trade talks unclear [San Diego Union-Tribune]

The United States says talks in Beijing on ending a bruising trade war focused on Chinese promises to buy more American goods. But it gave no indication of progress on resolving disputes over Beijing’s technology ambitions and other thorny issues. China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday the two sides would “maintain close contact.” But neither side gave any indication of the next step during their 90-day cease-fire in a tariff fight that threatens to chill global economic growth. That uncertainty left Asian stock markets mixed Thursday. Share prices had risen Wednesday after President Donald Trump fueled optimism about possible progress by saying on Twitter talks were “going well!” …However, the USTR statement emphasized American insistence on “structural changes” in Chinese technology policy, market access, protection of foreign patents and copyrights and cyber theft of trade secrets. It gave no sign of progress in those areas.


Truckers’ union goes to court over federal rest time ruling [Southern California News Group]

In a move that pits business interests against organized labor, the federal agency that regulates big-rig traffic late last year issued a ruling that wipes out California labor laws mandating meal and rest breaks for interstate truck drivers. Within a week of that decision, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union that represents truck drivers, filed a legal action in federal court challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ruling. The federal agency is being asked to prove it has the authority to preempt this California regulation, an attorney for the union said. California labor codes mandate workers be granted a 10-minute rest break after four hours of work and a meal break of 30 minutes after five hours. Workers on six-hour shifts are exempt from the five-hour rule. The effort to override the rule for interstate truckers was initiated last fall through a petition by a trade organization, the American Trucking Associations. The FMCSA, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, issued its decision to override California’s regulations on Dec. 21.


Editorial: Trump would be wrong to withhold federal aid from those burned out in wildfires [Fresno Bee]

The mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to coordinate the federal government’s response to “all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made.” Add this to the list: Disasters caused by a president. That is what President Donald Trump managed to achieve Wednesday when he tweeted that he would withhold FEMA aid to wildfire-stricken Californians because of, in his view, how forests in the state had been mismanaged. That mismanagement, he said, caused the horrific wildfires that have scorched the state in the past two years. The president left open a crack of possible help. He’ll withhold assistance “unless they get their act together, which is unlikely.” Reaction from California Democratic leaders was swift and predictable. Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that “disasters and recovery are no time for politics.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said “attacking victims is yet another low for this president.” The incident is just the latest example of how Trump tries to use his position like an imperial ruler. Before getting too worked up, however, it is wise to remember that Trump’s first method of presidential action is to threaten.