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News stories tagged with "washington"

Photo: David Sommerstein
Photo: David Sommerstein

Farmers ratchet up pressure for immigration reform

Prospects for comprehensive immigration reform are growing slim as Congress is running out of working days in 2013.

That's a huge concern for dairy farmers. Several thousand undocumented Latino immigrants are estimated to work on dairy farms in New York and Vermont. Farmers say they can't find local people to milk the cows reliably.  Go to full article
Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx swears in U.S. Seaway Administrator Betty Sutton Tuesday. Photo: St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx swears in U.S. Seaway Administrator Betty Sutton Tuesday. Photo: St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation

St. Lawrence Seaway has a new chief

The new Administrator for the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence Seaway was officially sworn in at a ceremony in Washington yesterday. Betty Sutton becomes the tenth person to hold the post and the second woman.  Go to full article
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in Massena on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Photo: Natasha Haverty
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in Massena on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Gillibrand defends brownfield cleanup funding

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was travelling across upstate on Monday touting a bill she says will make it easier to redevelop environmentally-contaminated properties known as brownfields. Her effort comes a few days after a House committee voted to cut funding for brownfield cleanup.  Go to full article
Former Ohio Rep. Betty Sutton. Photo via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Sutton">Wikipedia</a>
Former Ohio Rep. Betty Sutton. Photo via Wikipedia

Sutton appointed to top Seaway post

President Obama has nominated a former Ohio Congresswoman to be the next U.S. head of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Betty Sutton represented a district that included Akron and a slice of Lake Erie from 2007 to 2012. The White House announced the appointment in a press release Wednesday.

Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrooks has been filling in as interim head since Terry Johnson was fired from the post last year, reportedly for political reasons. Johnson was a college friend of President George W. Bush, who appointed him.

The Seaway Administrator post carries a seven year term, designed to ride out the political shifts of changing presidential administrations.  Go to full article
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh)
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh)

Owens: rural America losing clout in farm policy

Lawmakers and agricultural leaders are searching for a way forward after the Farm Bill went down in flames in the House last week.

Many Republicans bristled at the nearly $100 billion a year price tag. About 80 percent of that is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP -- better known as Food Stamps. Some Democrats voted no to protest of cuts to that program. In the end, the farm bill went down by a significant margin, even though GOP House Speaker John Boehner voted for it.

It's unclear if the House will take up the Senate's version - which passed earlier this month - or seek to extend the 2008 farm bill for another year.  Go to full article
Juan Carlos (left) lives in a converted farm office in the barn of this dairy farm. He and Freddy want to be able to go home and come back to work on dairy farms here. Photo: David Sommerstein
Juan Carlos (left) lives in a converted farm office in the barn of this dairy farm. He and Freddy want to be able to go home and come back to work on dairy farms here. Photo: David Sommerstein

What undocumented dairy workers think of immigration reform

Dairy farmers - and their workers - have a lot at stake in the immigration debate underway in Washington.

A survey by Cornell University found that 2,600 Spanish-speaking people work on New York dairy farms. Of them, two thirds or more are here illegally. That's in part because there's no visa program for the kind of year-round workers dairy farms need.

The Senate's reform plan offers dairy farms new options for a legal supply of immigrant labor.

Undocumented Latino workers are scattered on bunches of dairy farms in the North Country. David Sommerstein spoke with some of them to see what they think of immigration reform.  Go to full article
People like Evaristo would become much more visible members of North Country communities if immigration reform passes. Photo: David Sommerstein.
People like Evaristo would become much more visible members of North Country communities if immigration reform passes. Photo: David Sommerstein.

How would legal immigration reshape the North Country?

Congress remains deeply divided over the shape of immigration reform. A split within the House GOP caucus endangers any kind of new legislation.

But let's imagine for a moment that the several thousand Latinos working on dairy farms in New York and Vermont could get legal working papers.

How would that change the region's rural communities?

Tom Maloney of Cornell University has been talking with dairy farmers and Latino dairy workers about this for years. He told David Sommerstein farmers are ready to guide their undocumented workers towards legal status.  Go to full article
Green groups are hoping the new water levels plan improves wetlands along the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Jenni Werndorf
Green groups are hoping the new water levels plan improves wetlands along the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Jenni Werndorf

Another new St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario water levels plan

People along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario will get a chance to weigh in on a new water levels plan next month. It's called "Plan 2014". Regulators say it's better for Lake Ontario property owners than a plan released last year.  Go to full article
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens

Owens seeks compromise on farm bill

This week the Senate passed a five-year, nearly $500 billion farm bill. About three-quarters of that pays for the food stamp program, which would be cut by $400 million a year. Direct farm subsidies are largely replaced by subsidies for crop insurance. And there are a barrelfull of other items from land conservation to support for young farmers.

This is pretty much where things stood a year ago. But House Speaker John Boehner refused to let his chamber's version of the farm bill come to the floor for a vote. Conservative Republicans believed the bill contained too much government spending.  Go to full article
Secretary Ray LaHood listens to lock leader Steve McCargar, Potsdam. Photo: David Sommerstein
Secretary Ray LaHood listens to lock leader Steve McCargar, Potsdam. Photo: David Sommerstein

Transportation chief says goodbye to Seaway

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's farewell tour swung through Massena yesterday. One of the few Republicans in President Obama's cabinet, LaHood announced he was stepping down last January.

Obama's nominee to replace LaHood, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, breezed through a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

LaHood has overseen the St. Lawrence Seaway for four years. As David Sommerstein reports, he said the Seaway will always occupy "a niche" in the nation's infrastructure.  Go to full article

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