Federal: Perdue addresses NAFTA
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue tried to allay fears that a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will not negatively affect the nation’s farmers and ranchers. “I can assure you that neither this president, nor [Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross nor I, are going to negotiate or accept a worse deal,” Perdue was quoted in the interview. Perdue additionally claimed that he and Ross talked President Donald Trump out of pulling out of NAFTA in favor of renegotiating. According to the Wall Street Journal interview, Perdue and Ross achieved this by showing Trump a map of which states would lose jobs if the U.S. pulled out of NAFTA. In previous official statements and interviews, Trump has variously claimed he had a change of heart, he always planned on renegotiating, and that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto talked him out of pulling out of the agreement.
Federal: Climate change changes
Recent changes to official government websites and employment are drawing attention to the new administration and how it deals with science. A widely-noted detail of the new administration’s approach to communicating to the public is that many government sites which previously contained considerable data on climate change and efforts to mitigate it are either down, severely reduced in their content, or moved without clear direction to their new locations. “The public has a right to know important scientific information, particularly when it threatens to unravel the web of life we all depend on,” said Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, as quoted in an announcement by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Federal: EPA scientists dismissed
According to a report by the New York Times and other sources, at least five members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Board of Scientific Counselors have been let go. Other sources suggested as many as 12 of the 18-person board had either been dismissed or their terms of service to the board will not be renewed as previously suggested. According to the EPA’s website regarding the board, the board is “a federal advisory committee that provides advice and recommendations to EPA’s Office of Research and Development on technical and management issues of its research programs.” One of the academic scientists who was reportedly dismissed—Dr. Robert Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State University—tweeted on May 5, “Today, I was Trumped. I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.” An EPA spokesman disagreed with the characterization that the academic scientists were fired or dismissed, pointing out that the appointments to the board were not guaranteed. Various sources have quoted EPA representatives, speaking for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, saying that the positions will likely be filled by industry scientists.
Federal: IRS complaint filed on HSUS
The Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit group which positions itself as a watchdog on animal rights groups, announced last week that it had filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against Whole Foods Market, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and Global Animal Partnership (GAP). The group alleges the association between the groups constitutes an “improper profitdriven effort to benefit Whole Foods.” The group alleges HSUS threatens restaurants and other food companies to switch to GAP-certified meat, GAP being a welfare-label program for Whole Foods. The group also notes that there is a good deal of crosspollination between the three groups, with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey sitting on the HSUS board, while HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle sits on the board of GAP. The Center for Consumer Freedom asserts that the activities of the two nonprofit groups—HSUS and GAP—is financially benefiting Whole Foods. “Essentially, it sees HSUS being the ‘enforcer’ pressuring companies to commit to only buying products certified by the Whole-Foods-employee-run GAP.”
Comments: PSA amendment
The extended comment deadline for one of the socalled “Farmer Fair Practices” rules—a trio of proposed rules to the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA)—is coming due. The “Scope Rule” would change the required definitions of providing evidence of harm related to packer treatment of producers and was previously an interim final rule (IFR). Following a previous round of stakeholder comments, however, implementation of the Scope Rule was delayed. The current round of comments asks stakeholders what course of action should be taken: (1) Allow the IFR to become effective; (2) suspend the IFR indefinitely; (3) delay the effective date of the IFR further; or (4) withdraw the IFR. Comments are due June 12 at www.regulations.gov using Docket ID GIPSA-2016-PSP- 0009-RULEMAKING-0348.