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.