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Environment Roundup

Farm Bill Could Help or Hinder Clean-Water Efforts

Cover crops promote soil health and control erosion and nutrient runoff, but support for them in a new Farm Bill is uncertain. (TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay)

Cover crops promote soil health and control erosion and nutrient runoff, but support for them in a new Farm Bill is uncertain. (TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay)

September 26, 2018

LANCASTER, Pa. - The federal Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, but different versions of its replacement could have a big impact on Pennsylvania's clean-water efforts.

According to current U.S. Department of Agriculture risk-management rules, if something goes wrong with a cover crop, a farmer could lose eligibility for crop insurance. Farmers in the Keystone State are increasingly interested in planting cover crops between cash crops to control erosion and improve soil health.

According to Steve Groff, a Lancaster County farmer and founder of Cover Crop Coaching, cover crops not only help with farm yields but also protect waterways from sediment and nutrient pollution from animal waste and fertilizer that fouls waterways all the way to Chesapeake Bay.

"By using cover crops," he said, "we can help control the nutrients a lot better so that they're not subject to leaching down into the groundwater or running off with the surface water."

The Senate's proposal for a new farm bill includes a legislative fix to insurance rules on cover crops, while the House version would cut almost $800 million from the conservation title over 10 years.

Cover crops have been found to reduce nitrogen pollution by up to 50 percent and phosphorus pollution by up to 36 percent. Groff said they maintain biological activity in the soil for longer periods of time, "which actually has a side benefit of being able to lower our inputs, like fertilizer and so forth, because we're essentially working with nature."

While there is growing interest among farmers in cover crops, Groff said, there's still a long way to go.

"There's not enough adoption yet on every acre," he said. "So until that happens, I'm going to do all I can to educate farmers on how to do this correctly, not only so that they can benefit but also downstream."

He said cover crops also help wildlife species in decline, such as the monarch butterfly and the sage grouse, a Western-state cousin to Pennsylvania's state bird, the ruffed grouse.

More information on cover crops is online at cbf.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA


Social Issues Roundup

 

Immigrant Rights Groups: Hurting Parents Hurts Children

Proposed regulation from the Department of Homeland Security to make it harder for foreigners to come to the United States or stay here would affect more than 382,000 people per year who obtain permanent residence while already in the country. (Pixabay)

Proposed regulation from the Department of Homeland Security to make it harder for foreigners to come to the United States or stay here would affect more than 382,000 people per year who obtain permanent residence while already in the country. (Pixabay)

September 27, 2018

MADISON, Wis. – Immigrant rights groups say the Trump administration's proposed rule to deny visas and permanent residency to aspiring immigrants, who've legally accessed public benefits in the past, is cruel. 

The proposed regulation from the Department of Homeland Security would expand immigration officers' powers to refuse entry to the U.S. if the immigrants previously received a range of taxpayer-funded benefits such as Medicaid, the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy, Section 8 housing vouchers and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. 

William Parke-Sutherland, health policy engagement coordinator with the advocacy group Kids Forward, says the rule attacks families and hurts children.

"You know, this is really going to privilege wealthy families and put them ahead of families that have been waiting years to be reunited,” he points out. “This is unfair, it's unhealthy, and it doesn't represent the values that Americans claim to hold."

Parke-Southerland says numerous organizations in the Protecting Immigrant and Families national campaign are waiting for the official rule to be posted to the federal register, which will trigger a 60-day public comment period. 

The administration's proposal is a departure from current guidelines, which have been in place since 1999 and bars authorities from considering such non-cash benefits in deciding a person's eligibility to immigrate to the United States or stay in the country. 

Parke-Southerland says this has long been a goal for President Donald Trump.

"The Trump administration has been openly hostile to immigrants, immigrant families, and communities of color throughout the administration, and so this is another attack on that," he states.

The changes would apply to those seeking visas or legal permanent residency, but not people applying for U.S. citizenship.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI


Health and Wellness Roundup

MT Programs Face Cuts If Violence Against Women Act Expires

The Violence Against Women Act has provided greater protections for Native American women on tribal lands. (Marvin Lynchard/U.S. Dept. of Defense)

The Violence Against Women Act has provided greater protections for Native American women on tribal lands. (Marvin Lynchard/U.S. Dept. of Defense)

September 24, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – Federal legislation that funds resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence is set to expire at the end of September. 

State attorneys general, including Montana's Tim Fox, and groups across the country are urging Congress to renew the Violence Against Women Act. 

Agencies and organizations in Montana have received more than $70 million through the law since 2005. It's directed more than $6 billion nationwide since the bill was enacted in September 1994. 

"I really can't overstate the importance of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act,” stresses Robin Turner, public policy and legal director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “It was the first comprehensive federal legislation that was designed to end violence against women, to end gender-based violence."

Turner says the legislation also has created vital protections for Native American women. 

When the act was reauthorized in 2013, it granted tribal communities the ability to prosecute non-Native people who commit violence against indigenous women on tribal lands. 

Last week, the Senate included a two-month extension of the law in its spending bill. The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.

Turner says these programs play critical roles across Montana, especially in rural parts of the state where no other services typically are available for those facing domestic violence.

"Our programs would be very, very challenged to continue moving forward, and encountering and responding to domestic violence and sexual violence appropriately, if this bill isn't reauthorized and the funding isn't reauthorized," she states.

proposed reauthorization bill in the House provides additional protections for immigrant survivors of violence. And it includes a provision that closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by prohibiting dating partners under court protective orders from possessing firearms.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT

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