The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its “technology transfer” report last week. The report highlights how agriculture research has contributed to public good through new inventions, safety measures and other innovations. Those new inventions include a grape that turns into a raisin on the vine and peanuts without allergens in them.
Editor's note: The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting hosted a reporting workshop on the U.S. visa system in April 2015. It was one of five specialized reporting institutes this year funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation through the The Poynter Institute. Nearly two dozen journalists from around the country attended this two-day intensive workshop. The workshop spurred deep discussion and many story ideas, such as the one below.
States, Cities Call for Skilled Foreign Workers Amid Abuse Claims
By Tim Henderson, Pew Charitable Trust
A computer programmer from India was promised a $46,500 salary in New York, plus tuition to study for a master’s degree. Instead, his annual pay averaged less than $13,000 and his degree was withheld when his employer failed to make the promised tuition payments.
In this tiny town on Montana's Hi-Line, a project is planned that would potentially bring 20 or more foreign high-tech workers to town, pay out more than $1 million in annual salaries, and create Internet resources for residents of the nearby Fort Belknap Indian Community. But questions remain about where foreign workers would live, who's going to pay them and who stands to gain from a project that even leaders of the native reservation it would benefit say they know nothing about.
The Corn Refiners Association is gearing up to take on the sugar industry. According to a June 24 Washington Post exclusive, the Corn Refiners Association plans on investing in a lobbying effort to take apart decades-old sugar subsidies and tax breaks. The Washington Post reported that the association recently hired 10 outside lobbyists.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it would take significant steps toward eliminating trans fats in American food within the next three years. The move will likely change the way major food producers make popular foods, including some coffee creamers, frozen pizzas, refrigerated dough products and fast food. According to experts, this production change will be largely propelled by an increase in the demand for palm oil, a substitute made from certain tropical trees.
Federal agencies are required to buy products made from materials that were once living. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 mandated that if the products are reasonably priced and available, federal agencies have to buy them. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released on June 17 said that in 2013 alone, the biobased product industry contributed $369 billion to the U.S. economy and employed more than 4 million workers.
St. Louis-based seed company Monsanto’s attempts to merge with Swiss chemical business Syngenta are still going strong – even though Syngenta deemed Monsanto’s latest offer “inadequate.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has followed the ongoing saga closely. On June 14, it reported that taxes will likely be key to a takeover.
Three U.S. agribusiness companies face a lawsuit regarding child labor at cocoa plantations. Plantation workers filed the case against Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and Nestlé in 2005 when the workers were 12 to 14 years old. The case is now scheduled for a final ruling in the Supreme Court.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza – bird flu – has affected more than a dozen U.S. states and led to the slaughter of more than a billion birds. Poultry producers in Arkansas alone have had to kill more than 870 million broilers and about 30 million turkeys in attempt to control spread of the virus. In neighboring Missouri, producers have killed more than 440 billion broilers and about 11 million turkeys.
The recently proposed Renewable Fuel Standards sparked a flurry of angry comments from U.S. policymakers, representatives and industry leaders. All renewable fuels face cuts. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed to cut 3.75 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol from original 2014 through 2016 Clean Air Act standards.