WASHINGTON, April 18, 2016 - The Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in the landmarks legal challenge to President Obama’s immigration policy. Agriculture has a stake in the outcome, because the president’s plan known as DAPA would allow many adult illegal immigrants to obtain temporary legal status and protection from deportation. If the program’s allowed to go forward, qualifying farmworkers may leave agriculture behind to look for higher paying jobs elsewhere. 

Texas and 25 other states are challenging the legality of the policy, which has been on hold by lower courts. A 4-4 tie in the case is a distinct possibility. That would essentially kill the DAPA program, because it would leave the lower court rulings in place. 

Families of farmworkers and their advocates are expected to be at the Supreme Court this morning voicing support for the president’s plan, according to the United Farm Workers. 

The crowd is expected to include Marta Montiel, who tends grape vines in California. She says she left her home in Mexico to make enough money for her daughter to get the chemotherapy that she needed. Also expected to be there is 19-year-old Adrian Barajas, who says he looks forward to not worrying about whether his farmworker mother will be deported.

A handful of farms and small farm groups joined chef and food policy advocate Jose Andres and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in signing a brief in support of the administration. The signers include Farmers Investment Co., which says it is the nation’s largest integrated pecan grower and processor in the United States.

Where are you at Daybreak? Iowa Soybean Association leader Mark Jackson went out after a series of heavy rains recently to check on his new water control structures, another example of private investment in protecting water quality. Send us your photos to Philip@Agri-Pulse.com

Conaway: ‘We’ll have to fight tooth and nail’ on spending. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to debate the fiscal 2017 spending bill tomorrow, which could move lawmakers closer to a fight over farm programs on the House floor.

At this point, it’s not certain when or if any of the appropriations bills will reach the House floor, due to the Republican infighting that has made it impossible for GOP leaders to pass a budget. By law, the full House could start debating the individual appropriations bills after May 15 even without the budget. But demands from the House Freedom Caucus for new spending cuts may make it difficult or impossible to move any of those bills. 

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway tells Agri-Pulse he believes House Speaker Paul Ryan is determined to have a floor debate on appropriations bills and also intends to have an open amendment process.

“If it comes up, we’ll have to fight like tooth and nail not to relitigate the entire farm bill itself,” Conaway says. “I’m committed to going down there and defending our side.”

Another unanswered question is whether there will be an attempt to use the appropriations process to force USDA to make cottonseed eligible for the new farm bill programs. Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., last week warned GOP leaders against doing that. 

Conaway says he thinks the most likely source of help for cotton growers are the one-year payments for ginning costs that the Obama administration is currently considering. “Right now our best hope is the ginning thing, but we’ll see,” Conaway says. 

For more on the Agriculture bill and other events this week, read Agri-Pulse’s Washington Week Ahead.

FDA plans return to egg farms The Food and Drug Administration says it expects to resume food-safety inspections of egg operations this summer. The inspections were suspended nearly a year ago amid the devastating outbreak of avian flu.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., wrote FDA last week raising concern that farms in Iowa were not being inspected. In a statement to Agri-Pulse, FDA said it suspended inspections last May at the request of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials. The agency says it’s possible that some states have resumed their own inspections. 

FDA says inspectors are getting additional training in biosecurity measures. 

Study of biotech future underway. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine ishosting a meeting today to launch a review of coming products in agricultural biotechnology. The National Academies is charged with producing a report that the Obama administration plans to use in guiding its broad overhaul of the way the government regulates biotechnology. The final report is expected to ready in December. 

One of the main issues the administration is wrestling with is how to regulate, if at all, the new techniques, such as gene editing, that are being developed to develop new traits in both plants and animals.

She said it. “I have been surrounded by good-hearted immigrant families who work very hard to bring food to the tables” of America - Marta Montiel, who is expected to be at the United Farm Workers rally at the Supreme Court today.


For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com