Sen. Franken Teams up with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to Protect Midwest Family Farmers Who Fall on Hard Times

In Display of Bipartisanship, Family Farmer Bankruptcy Bill Passes Unanimously in U.S. Senate

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. [09/15/17]—The Senate unanimously approved a key piece of bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that will enable family farmers in Minnesota, Iowa, and across the country to get a fairer shake when they fall on hard times.

 

As a part of a 2005 bankruptcy reform bill, Congress passed a provision to address the unique financial situations of family farmers who are reorganizing their assets following bankruptcy. However, a 2012 Supreme Court ruling found that the 2005 law, as written, failed to achieve Congress’ express goal of helping family farmers. Grassley and Franken’s Family Farmer Bankruptcy Clarification Act of 2017 fixes the ruling and ensures that the law, as first intended, will protect our family farmers.

 

“Our bipartisan bill is a commonsense fix to ensure that the law functions as intended and protects family farmers in Minnesota and across the country,” said Sen. Franken. “Getting this measure passed, which I’m glad to say we did in the Senate, will help ensure farmers going through bankruptcy get a fair shake and are able to repay the debts they owe without sacrificing their families’ futures.”  

 

The Family Farmer Bankruptcy Clarification Act will allow struggling family farmers to reorganize their debts to treat capital gains taxes owed to a governmental unit, arising from the sale of farm assets during a bankruptcy, as general unsecured claims.  It also removes the IRS’ veto power over a bankruptcy reorganization plan’s confirmation, giving the family farmer a chance to reorganize successfully.

 

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No, sportsmen don’t support erasing national monuments

 

BY ANDREW BLACK, GARRETT VENE KLASEN, JOHN OLIVAS AND JIM BATES, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS - 09/01/17 02:40 PM EDT

 

 

Supporters of President Trump’s review of over two dozen national monuments argue rolling back public lands might be good for the sportsmen community and wildlife.

While we agree with the premise that sportsmen should be involved in the management and planning process of national monuments, we take exception to some of the assertions argued by designation critics in The Hill, especially about the reference to New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. As local sportsmen who have spent generations hunting and fishing we find it necessary to set the record straight.

As an example of problems that arise “when the monument designation limits vital land management practices,” these critics state that the excellent hunting opportunities afforded in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument (RGDN) are “no longer guaranteed by its proclamation,” and that the management plan in development will halt hunting activities. That’s simply not true.

 

The official monument proclamation for RGDN (and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, or OMDP, in southern New Mexico) reads: “Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to enlarge or diminish the jurisdiction of the state of New Mexico with respect to fish and wildlife management.”

To say that the proclamation removed some sort of guarantee that previously existed is misinformation. The proclamation specifically reaffirms the state’s right to manage fish and wildlife. Translation: no change in any regulations to do with hunting and fishing.

In fact, hunting opportunities have only been enhanced. The herds of elk, mule deer and antelope would simply not survive without the winter range of the RGDN and the wildlife numbers have been increasing since the designation. The monument’s designation also protects over 66 miles of world-class waters, critical habitat to native Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, providing enormous recreational and economic opportunities.

The argument that designations hurt local communities is also a stretch.

Critics claim the need for monument designations to be “locally driven, transparent …. conserve important fish and wildlife habitat and uphold hunting and fishing opportunities…. If the public, especially local communities, do not support the designations, the value is diminished in their eyes.” But the local public does support these monument designations.

The designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument represented the culmination of a two-decade-long collaborative effort driven by local sportsmen and women, business leaders, veterans, elected officials, tribes, land grant heirs, grazing permittees, acequia parcientes and recreational users who worked closely together to protect this iconic landscape holding major historical, cultural, ecological and economic significance. The designation process for both RGDN and OMDP was exhaustive, inclusive, transparent and led by sportsmen, who remain actively engaged in the management planning process.

We find claims like the “designation of large tracts of public lands as monuments without provision for access can lead to a loss of conservation value” to be sweeping and misleading generalizations.

Focusing in on actual landscapes, we have not experienced any restricted recreational access or reduced management of wildlife habitats at the national monuments in New Mexico.

Raising of hypothetical issues that a national monument designation harms these lands is not a reasonable defense against this type of protection.

“If the lack of management results in reduced wildlife populations, loss of recreational opportunities and local economies are hurt as a result,” designation critics claim. What lack of management?

Local economies are benefitting. Ask the many local business leaders, like Taos Fly Shop owner and fishing guide Nick Streit, who make a living in the Rio Grande del Norte and other national monuments. Since RGDN was designated, Streit has had to expand his business to accommodate the increasing number of tourists who come to visit the area and experience firsthand the wild and natural beauty.

Critics of these designations are the waving of a red flag where no real danger is present. Built into the monument designation process is a great deal of input from a diverse array of community members before any official action happens. Before a monument is created this process ensures key issues are taken into account, including a majority of local buy-in, the health of wildlife populations, optimal recreational opportunities and the success of local economies.

We see no need for Interior Secretary Zinke’s national monument review as ordered by President Trump and we certainly do not applaud it. Based on the facts and not hypothetical “what if’s” — the review is unjustifiable.

The critics, who say “national monuments are not always good for sportsmen and wildlife” must have forgotten that it is every sportman’s priority to protect the habitat of big game wildlife and game bird populations — and that national monument designations provide that crucial habitat by protecting public lands from development and disposal.

From our vantage point in New Mexico, the concerns over these designations generate unnecessary fear while focusing on things that are unlikely to ever happen. Zinke’s monument review process has been a wasteful use of federal resources that could be put to much better use for critical projects such as fire response and prevention and vital habitat improvement.

Andrew Black is the director of Community Relations & Education for New Mexico Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit member-driven organization working for wildlife on behalf of sportsmen and women across New Mexico since 1914.

Garrett Vene Klasen is executive director of New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

John Olivas is the owner of JACO Outfitters, a registered guide and outfitter in the State of New Mexico.

Jim Bates is co-chairman of the Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen, a Las Cruces, New Mexico-based sportsmen’s coalition of local, state and national conservation and sportsmen’s organizations.

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Air quality alert issued due to wildfire smoke, now through Saturday, September 2

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is issuing an air quality alert for southwest, western and central Minnesota, effective through 6 a.m. Saturday, September 2.The affected area includes Alexandria, Brainerd, Marshall, Ortonville, St. Cloud, and Worthington. Also impacted are the Tribal Nations of Mille Lacs and Upper Sioux.

Canadian wildfire smoke continues across much of southern, western and central Minnesota. Air pollution monitors are showing an increase in fine particles as thicker smoke moves north from northwest Iowa into the southwestern portion of Minnesota. Smoke will persist and move northward as southerly winds develop across western Minnesota. During this time, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at, or above, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Showers and thunderstorms will approach western and northwestern Minnesota this evening helping to disperse smoke in some areas. Southwest and central Minnesota will continue with higher fine particle levels through the overnight hours until precipitation arrives. By Saturday morning, most areas of smoke will be pushed south and dissipated.

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality:  There are people who are more likely to be affected when fine particle pollution reaches an unhealthy level.

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • People who have heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Children and older adults
  • People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors

Health effects: Air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease as well as lung diseases like asthma and COPD. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, use your inhalers as directed and contact your health care provider.

Take Precautions: Everyone should take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy.

  • Take it easy and listen to your body.
  • Limit, change, or postpone your physical activity level.
  • If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires.
  • If you have asthma or other breathing conditions like COPD make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you.
  • People with asthma should review and follow guidance in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see your health provider if you don’t have an asthma action plan. 

Pollution reduction tips: The main sources of fine particle pollution are combustion activities. Conserving energy and buying clean, renewable energy are great lifestyle choices to help reduce overall pollution.

  • Reduce vehicle trips.
  • Encourage use of public transport, or carpool, when possible.
  • Postpone use of gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment on air alert days. Use battery or manual equipment instead.
  • Avoid burning wood.

For information on current air quality conditions in your area and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email or text message, visit http://www.pca.state.mn.us/aqi. You can find additional information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality at www.beairawaremn.org.

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