With the help of Helena Bottemiller Evich
— Some employees of the Ministry of Agriculture will see their salaries increase at the end of the monthas part of President Joe Biden’s decision to raise the federal minimum wage.
– During a visit to California on Friday, Biden administration officials rolled out more funds for natural disaster restoration and forest fire mitigation projects.
— The largest agricultural lobby group has come out in favor (partially) of
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WILD FIREFIGHTERS TO SEE A SALARY INCREASE: About 130 federal wildland firefighters and many other Agriculture Department employees will soon see a modest pay increase following the Biden administration’s mandate to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The pay increase, announced by the administration on Friday, will affect nearly 70,000 federal employees across all agencies. The Office of Personnel Management has ordered agencies to make salary adjustments by January 30.
The unions take a lap of honour: “Since the inception of our first wildland firefighter bargaining unit, this union has been advocating for federal wildland firefighters to be fairly compensated for the grueling and potentially deadly work they do to protect our country,” said Randy Erwin, National President. of the National Federation. of Federal Employees-International Association of Machinists, in a statement. “Early in his presidency, President Biden promised to ensure that no federal firefighter would be paid less than $15 an hour. Today, the President delivered on that promise. Not just for our wildland firefighters, but for all government employees.
Among the other beneficiaries are “plant protection technicians at the Ministry of Agriculture”, reports Erich Wagner, of the government executive. “If an agency misses the Jan. 30 deadline, they will be required to make wage increases associated with setting a $15 minimum wage retroactive to that date.”
INCOMING FUNDING FOR NATURAL DISASTERS: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Vice President Kamala Harris announced $1.36 billion in disaster relief funds for the Forest Service to support post-disaster recovery and restoration, including nearly $600 million for recovery efforts in California following the devastating wildfires of 2020 and 2021.
Harris, in remarks alongside California lawmakers Governors Gavin Newsom and Vilsack, touted the administration’s focus on wildfire prevention rather than firefighting.
“It’s the best way to fight, we believe,” she said. “Not just to focus on reaction, but on prevention. What can we do in terms of resilience?
How it works: The Forest Service will use stimulus funds, bolstered by the new bipartisan infrastructure law, for hazmat cleanup, reforestation, watershed restoration, and infrastructure repair (such as trails, roads, bridges, and facilities). The funding will also support Southeast communities and others recovering from hurricanes.
More money: The USDA also announced investments of more than $48 million through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, a collaboration between the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service with agricultural producers and forest owners.
FARM BUREAU MIXED ON CATTLE BILL: The American Farm Bureau Federation officially supports the bipartisan Livestock Price Discovery and Transparency Actled by Sens. Senator Chuck Grassley and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) which aims to increase price transparency in regional livestock markets — with the exception of the bill establishing mandatory minimums for negotiated purchases.
“While Farm Bureau supports robust brokered sales, delegates voted to oppose government mandates that require livestock processing facilities to purchase a set percentage of their live animal supply through cash offers,” said the organization said in a statement. The influential farm group debated the legislation at its annual convention earlier this month.
The White House is still weighing: Regular MA readers may recall that the White House is still reviewing the bill and has not yet given its approval, although an official told MA that the administration supports “key elements” of the bill.
DHS TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS THREATEN ACCESS TO AG WORKFORCE: The Department of Homeland Security began this weekend to enforce vaccination mandates for all travelers entering the United States by land and sea. Although the new regulations do not apply to U.S. citizens, the Farm Bureau has denounced the rule regarding potential labor issues.
“We are extremely concerned that [DHS] The decision to require essential workers to be vaccinated before entering the United States will limit agriculture’s ability to produce safe and nutritious food,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. .
Unlike similar restrictions in the past, the new move does not include an exception for essential travel. The new rules went into effect on January 22 and are due to expire on April 21, unless changed or rescinded.
BIDEN ISSUES MORE DRILLING PERMITS: The Biden administration approved nearly 900 more oil and gas drilling permits on public lands in its first year in office than the Trump administration, reports Ben Lefebvre of Pro Energy.
By the numbers: Most of the 3,557 permits the Biden administration approved last year were in New Mexico, according to Interior Department data compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity. The Trump administration has approved 2,658 permits, according to CBD’s tally.
The nonprofit group lambasted the Biden administration, saying the increase in drilling approval rates went against its promise to reduce methane emissions in the United States and the need to end the consumption of oil and gas to counter the worst effects of climate change.
Agency response: The Department of the Interior was legally required to process drilling permits, a department spokesman said Friday. The agency was strengthening environmental protection regulations in its rental requirements and drilling permits, including consideration of the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, the gatekeeper added. word.
STABENOW CLIMATE HELPS HEADS TOWARDS INVARIANT: First in MA: Adam Tarr, a longtime agriculture worker in DC who was most recently a top climate policy aide for the Senate Agriculture Committee, heads to lobbying/communications outlet Invariant for advising food, agriculture and environmental clients.
As a senior committee official, Tarr focused on climate and conservation issues and helped shape the climate-focused farm provisions in the Democrats. Build Back Better Package. Tarr also served in various positions at the USDA during the Obama administration, serving as senior adviser to Vilsack (during his first stint as general secretary) and as chief of staff for the Office of Food Safety.
A climate-focused farm bill on the horizon? “There’s a lot of companies, NGOs, there’s a lot of groups and a bunch of members, saying, ‘We want to see climate play a bigger role in agricultural policy,'” Tarr told MA “I think that’s going to play into the farm bill.”
– Latest wave of coronavirus adds further pressure on supply chains as workers report sick, once again resulting in empty shelves in grocery stores in some parts of the country. The Wall Street Journal has the story.
— The disruption caused by the Omicron variant is also leaving food banks without enough volunteers in some areas. The Associated Press has more.
— Soaring grocery prices could lead to higher hunger rates, by CNN Business.
— The Brazilian meat giant JBS plays a major role in the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Bloomberg has the story.
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