By Dan Nosowitz
The Farm Bill, which is supposed to be passed about every five years but which has for the past few been substantially delayed, finally saw the Senate floor Thursday, where it passed by a vote of 87 to 13.
One of the largest, most complex and most important pieces of legislation of the year, the Farm Bill includes legislation for environmental protections, farm subsidies, food safety, international trade and many other topics, but the majority of the funding is dominated by SNAP, better known as food stamps. The bill that passed the Senate floor on Tuesday clocks in at $867 billion.
Easily the most controversial proposal to the Farm Bill was an attempt by many Republican Senators to impose new work requirements as a prerequisite for receiving SNAP benefits. Various estimates exist for exactly how many people would have lost benefits—it's likely between one and two million households—but none of that really matters, because, due to outspoken opposition from Democrats, that proposal did not make it into the final draft. Donald Trump has been vocal in his desire to cut SNAP, and the Farm Bill does not necessarily limit his ability to do so, according to the Washington Post.
Farm subsidies were also a contentious point in the Farm Bill discussions, with groups like the Environmental Working Group repeatedly laying out the gaping loopholes that allow people to obtain subsidies despite not actually farming. Those loopholes were not closed; in fact, they were expanded, to relatives including nephews, nieces, and cousins, who can be considered performing "farm work" by doing vague "management" which may not be on the farm at all. Chuck Grassley, one of two farmers in the Senate, actually broke from his Republican party and voted against the Farm Bill because of this.
As expected, the Farm Bill also legalizes the national production of hemp, fully removing it from the list of controlled substances—as long as the crop contains less than 0.3 percent of THC. Advocates include Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime supporter of legalized hemp, who hopes his home state of Kentucky will become a major player in what's expected to be a billion-dollar industry. McConnell actually signed the bill with a pen made of hemp.
The bill is enormous, an 807-page behemoth, and everyone is still working their way through it. But the next step is for the bill to pass in the House, and after that to be signed into law by the president. It's expected to do both, as the House and the president have both voiced support for the current bill.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Climate change has been called the biggest challenge of our time. Last year, scientists with the United Nations said we basically have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5ºC to avoid planetary catastrophe.
Amid a backdrop of rising global carbon emissions, there's a real case for pessimism. However, many scientists are hopeful of a way out.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
President Donald Trump has once again contradicted the findings of the U.S. government when it comes to the threat posed by climate change. Days after a Department of Defense report outlined how climate-related events like wildfires and flooding put U.S. military installations at risk, Trump took to Twitter to mock the idea that the world could be getting warmer, Time reported.
Trump's tweet came in response to a massive winter storm that blanketed the Midwest and Northeast this weekend.
By Jason Bittel
Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.
By Rhea Suh
One month on, the longest and most senseless U.S. government shutdown in history is taking a grave and growing toll on the environment and public health.
Food inspectors have been idled or are working without pay, increasing the risk we'll get sick from eating produce, meat and poultry that isn't properly checked. National parks and public wilderness lands are overrun by vandals, overtaken by off-road joyriders, and overflowing with trash. Federal testing of air and water quality, as well as monitoring of pollution levels from factories, incinerators and other sources, is on hold or sharply curtailed. Citizen input on critical environmental issues is being hindered. Vital research and data collection are being sidelined.