Friday, September 30, 2016

UI-Led Research Team Investigates How Plants Respond to Drought MOSCOW, Idaho — Sept. 30, 2016 — A team of scientists led by Daniel Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Forestry, Rangeland and Fire Sciences in the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources, met in September at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to answer questions about how plants transport water. The National Science Foundation awarded over $1 million to the research team to determine how plants respond to stress, such as drought. A better understanding of this stress response will help researchers develop better practices for crop and forest management in drought conditions. Researchers from all over the world participated in the project, including scientists from Australia and Canada. The diversity of the group was one of the things that made the project successful, Johnson said. “This was a major breakthrough in the field of plant physiology as many of these scientists had very different opinions on methodology,” Johnson said. “So the idea was to get everyone together in the same room all doing measurements together to figure out what works and what doesn't.” The team studied American chestnut saplings that were grown at the UI Center for Forest Nursery and Research. The saplings had been separated into groups based upon the amount of water they received before the experiments. The saplings were then X-rayed using a three-dimensional technique at Berkley’s Advanced Light Source facility. When a plant doesn’t receive enough water, it can create gas bubbles that can block the plant’s vessels. In some cases, a plant will repair itself. Other times, the plant will die from the blockage. The scientists are interested in understanding why plants react differently. The X-ray results provided information about the plants’ water transport systems. Cross-sections of the sapling stems were examined under a microscope to see which vessels were transporting water. A third technology, called conductivity apparatus, measured the flow of water through the stem. And finally, the samples were placed in a centrifuge to simulate the stress of drought conditions. Measurements from all four processes were then combined to start to create a comprehensive picture of the plants’ internal systems. “Our understanding of water transport function in plants has always been hindered by a disagreement in the science community on the measurement protocols that produce accurate results,” Johnson said. “This has been a major roadblock for plant physiologists and ecologists who want accurate and accepted scientific models to use in predicting plant population range shifts under climate change. In this instance, this team of highly qualified scientists is all working together to develop unified findings and recommendations. Our intent is to create a methodology that is widely accepted and can be used to propel us forward in creating better measurement, and in turn, better management practices.” The research team is now analyzing the data gathered from the experiments. Their results will be published, and will be the basis of a workshop to be held in August 2017 at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon. This workshop will be aimed primarily at graduate and post-doctoral students and will focus on teaching them how to incorporate these methods into their own research. With better methodology in place, the team hopes that more students will feel confident in entering this area of research. ________________________________________

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MOSCOW, Idaho — Sept. 30, 2016 — A team of scientists led by Daniel Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Forestry, Rangeland and Fire Sciences in the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources, met in September at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to answer questions about how plants transport water.
The National Science Foundation awarded over $1 million to the research team to determine how plants respond to stress, such as drought. A better understanding of this stress response will help researchers develop better practices for crop and forest management in drought conditions.
Researchers from all over the world participated in the project, including scientists from Australia and Canada. The diversity of the group was one of the things that made the project successful, Johnson said.
“This was a major breakthrough in the field of plant physiology as many of these scientists had very different opinions on methodology,” Johnson said. “So the idea was to get everyone together in the same room all doing measurements together to figure out what works and what doesn't.”
The team studied American chestnut saplings that were grown at the UI Center for Forest Nursery and Research. The saplings had been separated into groups based upon the amount of water they received before the experiments. The saplings were then X-rayed using a three-dimensional technique at Berkley’s Advanced Light Source facility.
When a plant doesn’t receive enough water, it can create gas bubbles that can block the plant’s vessels.  In some cases, a plant will repair itself. Other times, the plant will die from the blockage. The scientists are interested in understanding why plants react differently. The X-ray results provided information about the plants’ water transport systems. Cross-sections of the sapling stems were examined under a microscope to see which vessels were transporting water. A third technology, called conductivity apparatus, measured the flow of water through the stem. And finally, the samples were placed in a centrifuge to simulate the stress of drought conditions. Measurements from all four processes were then combined to start to create a comprehensive picture of the plants’ internal systems.
“Our understanding of water transport function in plants has always been hindered by a disagreement in the science community on the measurement protocols that produce accurate results,” Johnson said.  “This has been a major roadblock for plant physiologists and ecologists who want accurate and accepted scientific models to use in predicting plant population range shifts under climate change. In this instance, this team of highly qualified scientists is all working together to develop unified findings and recommendations. Our intent is to create a methodology that is widely accepted and can be used to propel us forward in creating better measurement, and in turn, better management practices.”
The research team is now analyzing the data gathered from the experiments. Their results will be published, and will be the basis of a workshop to be held in August 2017 at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon. This workshop will be aimed primarily at graduate and post-doctoral students and will focus on teaching them how to incorporate these methods into their own research. With better methodology in place, the team hopes that more students will feel confident in entering this area of research.
________________________________________

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Overland Park Convention Center one of the first to offer fully interactive, computer-simulated convention center experience with virtual reality goggles.



Overland Park, Kan. (Sept. 29, 2016)—Overland Park Convention Center (OPCC) customers can now experience fully immersive, visual and sound environment of beautifully decorated event rooms, delivered through a special headset device utilizing the latest Samsung Galaxy 7 phone and Beats headphones to produce a stunning audio visual experience.

“This investment is one of the first immersive sales tools in the convention center industry, using the latest in dynamic VR software and the creative productions of one of Hollywood’s most respected visual entertainment producers, V Squared Labs,” Brett C. Mitchell, General Manager of OPCC, said. “The sound track deepens and expands the illusion of actually being in the decorated rooms. The experience of the high-definition images is dynamic in that one moves through the facility simply by looking in a specific direction.”

With a major investment recently completed in upgrading to one of the world’s fastest, free Wi-Fi systems for convention centers, this is one of the newest technologies just released by OPCC to enhance event sales. This innovative system is delivered through its technology partnership with Neil Reid and Associates, and visual entertainment producers, V Squared Labs.

To generate this experience, V Squared Labs spent three days on-site with an HD, 3D camera digitally filming fully decorated event areas at OPCC. The 3D images were then “stitched” together so while wearing the headset, customers can virtually move through the decorated spaces by moving their head or body and can enjoy every cubic foot of the event space in any direction. The digital headset layers with a custom digital soundtrack which deepens and expands the immersive experience.

To further expand availability of this experience, OPCC customers can also virtually see and hear the decorated facility from any tablet, phone or laptop computer through a browser interface. OPCC believes this investment is one of the first immersive sales tools in the convention center industry, using the latest in dynamic VR software.

“The effect is so compelling and immersive that the experience can be enjoyed while sitting in a chair—the illusion of being in the room is powerful enough that one forgets where they are actually located,” Neil Reid of Neil Reid and Associates, said. “OPCC is one of the finest convention centers in the world, and the latest technology investment by their team demonstrates clear leadership in harnessing one of the most powerful internet experiences available.”

OPCC has released this technology to their sales department. To experience this immersive technology and learn more about what OPCC can offer, please call (913) 339-3000. For a sneak peek of this technology, visit https://opconventioncenter.com/upcoming-news/virtualtour/.

National Restaurant Association Applauds Senate Introduction of Legislation to Delay and Update DOL Overtime Rule



(Washington, D.C.) Today the National Restaurant Association issued a statement of support for the Senate Introduction of the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools and Nonprofits Act and the Overtime Reform and Review Act. These bills would offer a six month delay of the December 1 implementation deadline and make much-needed modifications to the Department of Labor’s new overtime regulation.

“As the December 1 deadline nears, we thank Chairman Alexander and Senators Lankford, Scott, Flake and Collins for their leadership in introducing this critical legislation. Delaying the implementation date, allowing for a more gradual phase-in period, eliminating automatic indexing and carefully studying the impact this rule will have is crucial for small businesses navigating yet another burdensome regulation.”

Currently, the Department of Labor’s overtime rule more than doubles the salary threshold for non-exempt employees with automatic increases every three years.  The Overtime Reform and Review Act would phase-in the threshold increase over a 5 year period with a “pause year” after the first year to provide an opportunity for agencies to assess the impact and allow exemption for certain entities from further increases based on the assessment, and prohibit automatic indexing.  The Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools and Nonprofits Act would provide a six month delay in implementation.

The Department of Labor’s updated federal overtime regulation takes effect Dec. 1, 2016. The National Restaurant Association has been working closely with members of Congress to find solutions for our membership as they navigate this rule. With the passage of H.R. 6094 in the House and the introduction of legislation in the Senate, the Association is asking the Senate and the Administration to listen to the concerns of small businesses and act quickly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Western Growers’ Board of Directors Endorses Senator John McCain




IRVINE, Calif., (September 21, 2016) -- The Western Growers Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed Senator John McCain.
Tom Nassif, President and CEO of Western Growers, issued the following statement: “In a recent column, I wrote, ‘We need fewer politicians and more statesmen.’ John McCain is among the statesmen we need now more than ever. Throughout his career, Senator McCain has sought to advance pragmatic conservative solutions to some of our most challenging problems. He is a leader among those who place problem-solving ahead of gridlock. We are proud to once again endorse Senator McCain for reelection to the U.S. Senate and we look forward to working closely with him next year and in the years to come.”
“I am honored to have the support of Western Growers,” said John McCain. “Western Growers represents some of the hardest working people in America who produce the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including half of its fresh organic produce. I am grateful for the support of an organization that is creating jobs, protecting crops and water resources, and supporting those who feed our country.”


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Big City Health Officials from Across America Speak Out about Zika’s Toll Cite Consequences of Lack of Congressional Action


WASHINGTON, D.C – Members of The Big Cities Health Coalition voiced their concerns about the lack of Congressional funding for the Zika virus response today, detailing the ways in which their communities have been affected, and how they have addressed the public health emergency in the absence of federal funds.
The Coalition consists of the 28 largest, most urban public health departments in the country, representing approximately 1 in 6 Americans. These local health departments are on the front lines of fighting the outbreak by educating the public and health care providers about Zika, screening travelers from countries where the outbreak is more advanced, and scaling up mosquito control programs.
Since January 2016, health officials at the federal, state, and local levels have been concerned about potential spread of the Zika virus in the United States. While most people have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all when infected with Zika, the virus has a severe and troubling impact on some infected adults and unborn babies. In the absence of Congressional action on Zika emergency funding, the federal government has shifted funds from other programs to pay for Zika. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moved funds from state and local health departments’ emergency preparedness activities to pay for a response to the outbreak.
Below, health officials from across the nation describe the impact if Congress fails to approve funding to address the Zika threat and restore emergency preparedness funding.
South
Stephen Williams, M.Ed., MPA, Director, Houston Health Department - If funding for Zika is not provided, then we will allow Zika to get a foothold in the mosquito population. This will result in many babies being born with microcephaly...The City of Houston has taken a leadership role in combating Zika in our community but, like many other big cities, does not have the funds to respond to a local transmission event of Zika. Funding will allow us to conduct active surveillance to pinpoint if and where local transmission is occurring. Without increased funding we are blind.
Zachary Thompson, Director, Dallas County (TX) Health and Human Services Department - It is not if, but when Dallas County will see local transmission of the Zika virus outbreak similar to Florida. The local transmission of the Zika virus is a clear and present public health danger to the residents of Dallas County. I have first-hand experience responding to the first confirmed Ebola cases in the United States. Federal funding is needed now for local health departments to continue to provide public education, contact investigations, and ground/aerial spraying to protect residents, and especially pregnant women, from the Zika virus.  
Vinny Taneja, Director, Tarrant County (TX) Public Health; Vice-Chair, Big Cities Health Coalition - More than 20 imported cases of Zika have already been reported in Tarrant County. We are working every day to avoid local transmission in our communities. Our efforts require money for education, source reduction, larviciding and adulticiding. We need Congress to approve the Zika funding bill.
Vincent R. Nathan, PhD, MPH, Interim Health Director, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District - In Texas, and along the Gulf coast, essential (supplemental) funding is needed for local health departments.  We cannot spray ourselves out of this problem. Funding should be for: educational campaigns (media and printed materials); purchase of Zika traps for use in high risk areas, sentinel sites to identify mosquito populations, and increased local laboratory capacity.
Northeast
Mary Bassett, MD, MPH, Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - In New York City, 64 pregnant women have tested positive for the Zika virus, and one baby has been born with microcephaly. As an international travel hub, New York City has some of the highest numbers of travel-related Zika cases in the United States, and we do not anticipate these numbers will subside. In the absence of federal funding, New York City has invested millions of dollars in the fight against the Zika virus. But, we need Congress to act to immediately to approve an emergency funding package for a comprehensive public health response to the Zika virus and restore funds cut from the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program.
Midwest
Gretchen Musicant, Commissioner of Health, Minneapolis Health Department; Chair-Elect, Big Cities Health Coalition - The lack of designated Zika funding has meant that public health emergency preparedness efforts in Minnesota have been cut by 7%. This funding needs to be restored so that local and state public health agencies are able to respond to unexpected threats to health. Even though there are no locally infected cases of Zika in Minnesota, there have been 47 confirmed travel-associated cases of Zika in Minnesota, and we are expecting that the increase of travelers from Minnesota to Florida and other Southern states over the winter will lead to an escalation of cases.
Julie Morita, MD, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health – Chicago is a major travel hub and so far over 1,000 returned travelers have required Zika testing through our public health labs and hundreds more through commercial labs. We have increased mosquito surveillance and control activities, handled hundreds of telephone calls from health care providers and patients, created and launched a large public education campaign, and tracked outcomes of infected pregnant women and their infants. This has put a strain on our communicable disease, environmental health, maternal and child health, and public information divisions. Securing funding to fight Zika is crucial to protecting the health of Chicagoans. A coordinated, national public health response is necessary to limit transmission in the highest risk communities and prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.
West
Patty Hayes, RN, MN, Director, Public Health -- Seattle & King County - Public Health – Seattle & King County has had over 525 reports related to possible Zika infection and has tested over 365 people. We’ve also invested significant time reaching out to health care providers to ensure clear understanding of the ever-changing guidance and responding to questions from labs and providers. During the period of January 1 – June 30, 2016, Public Health staff have spent approximately $200,000, including about 1,900 hours of staff time—even in an area where mosquitoes do not currently carry the disease.
Public Health – Seattle and King County is 100% reliant upon federal grants to ensure that the health department is ready to respond to emerging health threats and disease outbreaks. Cuts to emergency preparedness funding would result in reductions in staffing for infectious disease monitoring, less capability in field operations, and diminished coordination with healthcare providers.
Sara Cody, MD, Health Officer and Public Health Director, Santa Clara County Public Health Department, CA - In Santa Clara County, the lack of dedicated Zika funding has both strained our capacity to respond to Zika, and diverted resources from our overall public health disaster planning and response. Although we have not yet identified the mosquito vector in our county, we are a large and diverse county with residents who travel internationally. We have diverted resources to support laboratory testing, provider education, public information and surveillance. The cut in Public Health Emergency Preparedness funds resulted in elimination of a position that was charged with conducting and coordinating county disaster planning efforts, as well as overseeing our training and exercise program.
 Joseph P. Iser, MD, DrPH, MSc, Chief Health Officer, Southern Nevada Health District - We live in a state and county that currently doesn’t have the Aedes mosquito, but without these resources we will not be able to keep the mosquito—and the infection—out of the county to keep our citizens and 42 million visitors safe from this disease.
Cynthia Harding, MPH, Interim Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health - Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has been working diligently with local vector control agencies and other emergency response partners to respond to Zika and respond to the threat of local transmission. If Zika funding is not approved, our public health system’s ability to find cases through laboratory testing and to prevent additional cases through vector management will be diminished, restricting our efforts to prevent local Zika transmission in Los Angeles County. In addition, if public health emergency preparedness funding is not restored as part of the Zika funding, this will impede our ability to respond to other emerging infectious diseases, pandemic flu, acts of bioterrorism, or other such incidents, leaving our public health system less prepared and our communities more vulnerable to further threats that come our way.
The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact more than 54 million people, or one in six Americans. The Big Cities Health Coalition is an independent project of the National Association of City and County Health Officials. For more information, please visit www.bigcitieshealth.org.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New Local Initiatives to Address the Rural Opioid Epidemic


WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2016, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new USDA initiatives to strengthen outreach and education resources at the local level to combat the rural opioid epidemic, including an expanded series of state-led opioid awareness events and increased access to information in USDA local offices. The effort begins on Monday, Sept. 19, coinciding with President Obama's designated Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week from Sept. 18 – 23.
Opioid addiction, including heroin and prescription drug misuse, is a fast-growing problem that played a role in more than 28,000 deaths in 2014. The opioid crisis disproportionately affects rural communities in part due to the lack of outreach and treatment resources available in remote areas. In January, President Obama tapped Vilsack to lead an interagency initiative focused on curbing rural opioid misuse. Over the past nine months, Vilsack has visited regions of the country that have been hit hard by opioid addiction to host a series of White House Rural Council Townhalls to hear from local leaders fighting the epidemic on the ground and discuss possible solutions.
"Over the past few months, I've seen firsthand the devastation that opioid addiction is causing in communities across the country. After hearing from mothers and fathers who've lost their children to opioid misuse, and listening to mayors and medical personnel appeal for greater treatment resources, it's clear that rural communities need our help." said Vilsack. "In order to better serve our communities, I've directed USDA's local teams to step up as leaders and expand our resources and programs to battle the opioid epidemic."
To continue the important conversations happening in rural communities devastated by the opioid crisis, leaders from USDA's Farm Service Agency and Rural Development offices in key affected states will host opioid awareness events to bring together government officials, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue, forge partnerships, identify possible solutions and highlight the need for more treatment resources in rural communities. The series will kick off with these four events in September with more to follow in the coming months:
September 19 : Tolland, Connecticut
September 20: Brighton, Colorado
September 26: Grants Pass, Oregon
September 29: Fayetteville, NC
Vilsack also announced that USDA will display information about addiction resources from the Centers for Disease Control in all of its local offices. USDA's Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Services offices serve millions of Americans across the country each year and for many people in rural communities this may be the only face-to-face interaction they have with the federal government. USDA's offices can play an important role in raising awareness about the issue and helping people connect with resources. 44 percent of Americans recently said they or someone they know has been addicted to prescription pain medicine.
USDA has taken a number of steps to use its resources to help battle the opioid epidemic. In March, Secretary Vilsack announced that the Rural Health and Safety Education grant program could be used for communities to conduct drug addiction awareness efforts. USDA's Distance Learning and Telehealth Medicine Grants have been used to help hospitals in rural communities use telemedicine to better treat individuals struggling with addiction and the Community Facilities Grants and Loans Program has allowed communities to build treatment and recovery facilities. In August, the Secretary announced that USDA was leveraging its rural housing programs to provide more housing for individuals in recovery. More information on the opioid epidemic and USDA's response can be found at www.usda.gov/opioids.
The President has proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to support states in expanding treatment options. Recently, Congress passed legislation aimed at addressing the crisis; however did not provide any funding that would expand resources.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Farm Bureau Urges Congress to Break Down Barriers with Cuba



WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2016 – American agriculture is poised for substantial growth in the Cuban market but financing restrictions are placing U.S. farmers and ranchers at a serious disadvantage in this nearby market, the American Farm Bureau Federation wrote in official comments to the House Agriculture Committee.
The committee held a hearing today exploring the benefits of American agricultural trade with Cuba. AFBF has long supported opening trade with this market, just 90 miles off our coast. “Real opportunities exist for increased sales of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba as growing demand is driven by 11 million Cubans and by increasing tourism,” AFBF wrote. Yet, the U.S. has fallen from being the number one supplier of agricultural products to number five due to restrictions imposed on financing those sales.
“U.S. agriculture is at a global disadvantage as we watch foreign competitors continue to take away our market share,” AFBF said. “There is no better time than now to provide American farmers and agribusinesses the tools they need to expand agricultural exports to Cuba and help our industry survive this difficult economic environment.”

Statement by Bob Young, Chief Economist, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Bayer-Monsanto Merger



WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2016 – “Market forces led to deals like the one announced today, but we know that major-company mergers have a profound impact on the tools available to farmers and ranchers, sometimes to their detriment.
“This deal between Monsanto and Bayer comes close on the heels of the proposed Dow-DuPont merger. Farm Bureau believes the Department of Justice should undertake a close review of the overall business climate that has encouraged these combinations, rather than evaluating them in isolation. Consumers must continue to have fair access to the best technologies and innovation.
“Farmers and ranchers, in particular, are interested in how these deals will impact research and development budgets for companies like Bayer and Monsanto. We depend on access to enhanced technology, and would hate to see agricultural innovation suffer at the cost of business decisions.”

EPA Violated Personal Privacy of Farmers, Ranchers



WASHINGTON, D.C., September 12, 2016 -- The Environmental Protection Agency has violated the personal privacy of tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers, according to a unanimous ruling issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The ruling in American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council vs. EPA concerned the federal agency’s 2013 release to three environmental groups of a vast compilation of spreadsheets containing personal information about farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry in 29 states. The case also related to similar personal information from farmers and ranchers in seven additional states that had yet to be released. The information included the names of farmers, ranchers and sometimes other family members, home addresses, GPS coordinates, telephone numbers and emails. EPA claimed that it was required to disclose the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“This was an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy by a federal agency in violation of law,” said AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen. “The court’s decision is a vindication of the right of farm families to control their own personal information. Farmers and ranchers have a strong privacy interest in their personal information, including their home address, even when they live and work on the farm.”
Farm families usually live on the farm and the court took note that EPA’s disclosures in this case could facilitate unwanted contact and harassment of farmers and ranchers by the FOIA requestors and others. According to Steen, “this case assures us that individuals still have a privacy interest in their personal information. The fact that government agencies may have that information and even store it on the Internet does not eliminate the individual’s privacy interest.” According to the court, “EPA’s release of the complete set of data on a silver platter, so to speak, basically hands to the requesters a comprehensive database of their own, whatever their motives might be.”
“EPA now has to ‘recall’ all of the personal information it unlawfully released, but unfortunately that information has now been in the hands of the FOIA requestors for three years, and many feel that the damage is done,” Steen said. “AFBF will continue to work to ensure that personal information about farmers and ranchers is not disclosed by EPA.”

DeLauro Calls on U.S. Department of Labor to Investigate Chipotle for Wage Theft Against Nearly 10,000 Workers

Workers allege that the corporation forced them to work “off the clock” hours without compensation

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today wrote to the U.S. Department of Labor, urging the agency to open an investigation into Chipotle Mexican Grill for recent allegations that the corporation has engaged in wage theft against its employees.

Nearly 10,000 workers from restaurants across the country have joined a class action lawsuit against Chipotle, alleging that they were forced to work “off the clock” hours without receiving compensation for those hours, or overtime pay. The workers also allege that Chipotle uses timekeeping technology that automatically punches workers off the clock, even if they are required to continue to work.

“Wage and hour violations pose a serious and growing problem for working Americans across industries, and wage theft disproportionately affects low-wage, hourly workers. A 2008 survey conducted by the National Employment Law Center of 4,387 low-wage workers in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago found that 68 percent of them experienced some form of wage theft in the workweek immediately before the survey was conducted,” DeLauro wrote in the letter.

“These accusations are in direct contradiction to federal wage and hour law, as defined in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, depriving workers of the wages and earnings to which they are legally entitled.  I urge you to immediately conduct a thorough investigation into these claims.  We must hold employers who violate their employees’ rights accountable,” continued DeLauro.

Earlier this year, DeLauro introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act, which would crack down on employers who engage in wage theft. This bill would give workers the right to receive full compensation for all of the work they perform, as well as the right to receive regular paystubs and final paychecks in a timely manner. It would also provide workers with improved tools to recover their stolen wages in court and make assistance available to build community partnerships that enhance the enforcement of and improve compliance with wage and hour laws.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, 2016


By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term  effects on a child's health and well-being--it puts our young people at higher risk for health problems in adulthood and it can strain our economy in the years ahead. But collaborative efforts in recent years have helped our Nation make progress and begin to reverse these trends. By fostering environments that support healthy choices and giving families the knowledge and resources they need to make smart decisions, we can move closer toward ensuring all our children grow up healthy. Every September, as children begin the new school year, we recommit to solving the epidemic of childhood obesity within the next generation.
Over the course of my Presidency, we have put forward new programs, policies, and initiatives that put children on a path to a healthy future. At the launch of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, I established the first-ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop a national action plan to mobilize the public and private sectors and engage families and
  communities in an effort to improve the health of our   children. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let's Move! is focused on helping   children lead a healthier life during their earliest months and years; providing healthier foods in our   schools; ensuring every family has access to healthy,   affordable food; and getting children to become more   physically active. Everyone has a role to play in   ensuring all of our kids grow up healthy, including  parents and caregivers, elected officials from all  levels of government, schools, health care   professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations, and the private sector. For the past 5   years we have welcomed students to the White House from across our Nation to create original and healthy   recipes in our annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and  Kids' ``State Dinner.'' The First Lady has also invited   students to join her in planting and harvesting the  White House Kitchen Garden to learn about where their   food comes from and experience firsthand how healthy food can be fun and delicious. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration introduced a modernized Nutrition Facts label--which includes more realistic serving sizes and information  on added sugars--to provide families with the accurate  information they need to make healthy choices. We know   there is a strong connection between what our kids eat and how well they perform in school, too. That is why,  in 2010, I signed the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a law that improves the quality of school  meals and snacks for over 50 million students so they have the fuel they need to focus on their education and   grow up healthy. A recent study showed that because of the increased availability and variety of fruits and  vegetables in school meals, students have been empowered to make healthier choices since these   standards were updated. The Act increased the number of students who could get school meals at little or no   cost and ensured that any food or beverage marketed to children at school meets specific nutrition standards. It also helped bring about the first major revision of nutrition standards for the Child and Adult Care Food  Program since its inception more than 40 years ago.
In addition to improving the nutrition of the food our children eat, we will keep striving to create opportunities for kids to become more physically active. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that kids be active for at least 60 minutes every day, but less than one-third of teenagers have met that goal in recent years. Last year, the Surgeon
General called on communities to recognize the importance of exercise by walking more and by improving the walkability of our neighborhoods. Through our `Every Kid in a Park'' initiative, we have opened up our National Parks to fourth graders and their families for free, so that children from all backgrounds, parts of the country, and walks of life can get outdoors more
easily.
This year, as we observe National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, let us renew our commitment to giving America's daughters and sons a healthy start in life. Let us continue to encourage parents and caregivers to make nutritious choices and help their children do the same, improve access to healthy and affordable foods in  our communities and our schools, and promote active
lifestyles. We must each do our part to reduce childhood obesity and empower our children to reach for the brighter, healthier future they deserve.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2016 as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. I encourage all Americans to learn about and engage in activities that promote healthy eating and greater physical activity by all our Nation's children.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

E-I-E-I…Go! Lang Diesel, Inc.® Kicking Off First ‘On the Farm’ Karaoke Contest

Family owned business calling on farm families to find harmony during harvest by submitting videos

(HAYS, KS) September 6, 2016 — As harvest season shifts into high gear, one of AGCO’s top performing dealers is putting the fun into farming, and is calling on area farmers and their families for help. Hays, Kansas based Lang Diesel, Inc. is starting a three-week long social media singing competition on Thursday, Sept. 8, called LDI’s On the Farm Karaoke Contest. The contest is a spinoff of the popular carpool karaoke videos taking the internet by storm, but encourages people to play along from a piece of their own equipment and gives them a shot at a substantial prize.

To participate, individuals or groups will climb in their cab and record a video singing karaoke to a song of their choice. Next, they will enter the contest by posting the video to LDI’s Facebook page. People may also enter by visiting LDI at the Kansas State Fair, running Sept. 9 – 18, in Hutchinson, Kan. The LDI booth will be located at 212 – 214 Lake Talbott Ave., where LDI employees can help visitors record videos from machinery on display and upload entries on their behalf.  Only appropriate entries will be accepted and all explicit or profane content will be removed at the discretion of LDI.

After the contest ends on Friday, Sept. 30, and LDI has received all submissions, the public will use Facebook to vote on their favorites. Voting will run from Oct. 1 – 8, and users may vote once per day to narrow entries down to five finalists. A panel of neutral judges will choose one contest winner, who will receive a free Arctic Cat 150 ATV valued around $3,800 and suitable for riders ages 14+. The four remaining finalists will all receive a prize package courtesy of LDI.

“We think the On the Farm Karaoke Contest is a unique way to bring families and farmers together during the stressful harvest season, and celebrates all of the success in agriculture that often spans multiple generations,” said LDI Marketing Director Shelly Macumber. “We hope people let loose, get creative and have some fun with their entries because at LDI, we know we cannot wait to watch them.”

For more information and complete contest details, please visit LDI’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LangDieselInc.

Number of U.S. Households Experiencing Food Insecurity Declines Significantly in 2015



 WASHINGTON,  September 7, 2016 – More than 42.2 million Americans lived in households that were struggling against hunger in 2015, according to new data released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service. The 2015 numbers represent a significant decline from 2014, with the rate declining from 15.4 to 13.4 percent.
“These numbers of food-insecure households are better than the last few years, but they are still above pre-recession levels,” said Jim Weill,  president of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). “We know what it takes to end hunger in this country, so there can be no more excuses. More must be done to raise employment rates and wages, and to protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs to ensure more low-income Americans get the nutrition they need for their health and well-being.
 In virtually every respect, these hunger data reflect the struggles that tens of millions of Americans – and especially people of color, families with children, rural families and Southern families – are having to avoid deep hardship in their lives.”
 One key positive development is that the rate of households with food insecure children did drop below pre-recession levels and in fact is the lowest in any year since this survey began in 1998.
Other findings from the USDA report include:
The rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with children headed by single women or single men, women and men living alone, and Black- and Hispanic-headed households.
The number of individuals in households that faced the deepest struggles with hunger – “very low food security” – was 4.6 percent in 2015.
The number of children living in food insecure households in 2015 improved by more than 2 million, declining from 15.3 million in 2014 to 13.1 million in 2015, with the rate among children declining from 20.9 percent to 17.9 percent.
Households in more rural areas are experiencing  considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those inside metropolitan areas, with higher rates of food insecurity (15.4 percent compared to 12.2 percent), higher rates of food insecurity in households with children (20.5 percent compared to 15.9 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (6.1 percent compared to 4.9 percent).
The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably from state to state from 2013-2015, ranging from 8.5 percent in North Dakota to 20.8 percent in Mississippi.
FRAC outlines recommendations for addressing food hardship, including boosting jobs, wages, and public programs for struggling families, such as benefits and eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and child nutrition programs. These and other recommendations are described in FRAC’s Plan of Action to End Hunger in America.


Friday, September 2, 2016

National Family Meals Month set for September

ARLINGTON, VA – September 1, 2016 – In one short year, the family meals movement established by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation last September has gained significant momentum.  More than 100 grocery store chains and food manufacturers across the country have committed to helping Americans enjoy the benefits of one more meal at home each week as the nation prepares to celebrate National Family Meals Month™ this September.  To ensure that family meals register on consumers’ radar screens, FMI is blanketing the nation with educational messages this month – including a new exciting on –air promotional campaign that will air on Litton’s Weekend Adventure, a 3-hour block of programming that airs on ABC Stations nationwide each Saturday morning.
“We could not be more excited about all the support we have gained for the family meals movement in the past year,” said Sue Borra, RD, executive director of the FMI Foundation.  “The campaign has been embraced by retailers of every size and a diverse group of food manufacturers.  Moreover, we know it is having an impact.  According to Nielsen Perishables Group, among consumers who saw the campaign last September, a whopping 74 percent took action!  This September, we hope to inspire even more grocery shoppers to enjoy more family meals. That’s why we are particularly excited about our partnering with Litton Entertainment which is helping us amplify the family meals message in a significant way.”
Throughout September, Litton will assist in highlighting National Family Meal Month and encourage viewers to share a meal through custom creative on-air spots that will air on its educational and informational Saturday morning programming block that airs on ABC stations nationwide.  The promotion will be themed to encourage millions of viewers to “share an adventure and a family meal.” Litton also will showcase the promotion through its social media channels.
“We believe this promotion on Saturday morning television will not only reach millions of families with our important messages, but it also will demonstrate the extraordinary success we can have to grow this movement when we work with the right strategic partners,” Borra continued.
The FMI Foundation launched National Family Meals Month in September 2015 to help American families achieve the goal of sharing one more meal each week at home with items from the grocery store.  It is simple for consumers.  It also makes great business sense for food retailers and has the potential of millions – hopefully more – meals per week with food sourced from grocery stores.