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Vermont reaps benefits of new Farm Bill, Senate vote is Thursday

first_imgLeahy Ensures That VermontIs A Big Winner In New Farm Bill –Major Boosts For State’s Dairy,Organic,Anti-Hunger And Lake Champlain Priorities ORGANICSAs the father of the national organic standards andlabeling program and author of the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, SenatorLeahy remains organic agriculture’s leading champion and has again madethe further development of organic agriculture a top priority in the FarmBill.  Vermont has taken a strong leadership role in transiting to organicagriculture and now leads in the nation on a per capita basis in organic farmconversions – now with more than 500 organic operations; more than 200are dairies.  In Vermont and elsewhere across the country, organic agriculturealso is beginning to create major new export opportunities for U.S. farmproducts.    Organic Certification Cost Share – The 2008 Farm Bill provides $22 million in guaranteed funding for a national organic certification cost share program to assist producers of agricultural products in obtaining certification under the National Organic Program established by Leahy under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.  Each producer will be eligible for a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the costs of certification, not to exceed $750 annually.  Last year Vermont producers received $165,000 under this Leahy-led effort to assist organic certification. VermontHighlights2008 Farm BillMay 14, 2008Renewal & Expansion Of MILCProgram;More Funds For Lake Champlain Cleanup;Expanded Help For Vermont’s Anti-Hunger Efforts;Another Big Boost For Vermont’s Organic Sector DAIRY FarmlandProtection Program (FPP) — The highly successful and popularFarmland Protection Program was created by Senator Leahy in the 1996 Farm Billand grew out of Vermont’s “Farms for the Future” program. Preserving Vermont’s agricultural lands helps to combat urban sprawl andkeep Vermont farms viable.  Funding for FPP will be increased by more than$700 million over the life of the Farm Bill, allowing FPP to provide matchingfunds to help purchase development rights to keep productive Vermont farmsin agricultural uses.  Total FPP enrollment in Vermont since inception ofthe program is 50,000 acres. “First and foremost,” Leahy said, “this bill makes adramatic improvement in the MILC program that will better help Vermont’sdairy producers compete for a fair price.  By adding the feed costadjuster, the MILC program target price will help keep pace with skyrocketingproduction costs.  And increasing the payment rate and eligible productionwill be essential when the price of milk drops.  These improvements willhelp ensure that dairying remains a vital part of Vermont’s economy andVermont’s heritage.”  Leahy led the MILC negotiations on theAgriculture Committee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch(D-Vt.) worked outside the committee to build support for the plan. Organic Conversion Assistance — The 2008 Farm Bill will expand eligibility of the Environmental Qualities Incentives Program (EQIP – see above) to directly assist producers by defraying the substantial costs of implementing conservation practices when transiting to organic production.  During the required three-year conversion process, producers – especially smaller farms — often struggle to complete the conversion to organic production.  This new initiative will offer producers up to $20,000 per year for up to four years of financial assistance to help in the conversion to organic production.    Organic Data Collection — The Farm Bill will provide $5 million in mandatory funds to ensure that data on the production and marketing of organic agricultural products is included in USDA’s collection of data about agricultural production and marketing.  This mandate and these funds are vital in establishing adequate crop insurance coverage for organic crops in the future.Organic Research — The Farm Bill makes a major commitment for the first time to funding research in organic agriculture.  The bill provides $78 million in new mandatory funds for organic agriculture research and extension, to enhance the ability of organic producers and processors to grow and market organic food, feed and fiber.Organic Crop Insurance Reform – The bill will bar USDA from charging unnecessary and unwarranted premium surcharges on organic crop insurance policies. NUTRITIONThe nutrition title of the Farm Bill, like theSenate’s earlier version, contains crucial anti-hunger efforts such asstrengthening the Food Stamp Program and The Emergency Food AssistanceProgram.  Senator Leahy has long been a leader on these programs, whichoffer a vital safety net to millions of Americans and thousands ofVermonters.  In recent months the number of Vermonters receiving FoodStamps has risen to a 15-year high, with more than 53,000 individuals receivingFood Stamp help.  The new funding for the Food Stamp program in the FarmBill will mean that as many as 23,000 Vermonters will receive as much as $1.5million in new food assistance each year.  The bill includes initiativesto encourage better health and nutrition for children and seniors and tosupport self-sufficiency and food security in low-income communities.  Italso includes a new program authored by Leahy that will assist low-incomepeople by helping food banks acquire perishable food that would otherwise bewasted.  Strengthening Food Purchasing Power of Low-Income Vermonters — When calculating the Food Stamp help an individual or family receives, the rules of the program allow a standard deduction for the cost of such items as housing, utilities and transportation.  A decade ago, the standard deduction was frozen at $134, a move that has caused significant erosion in the purchasing power of Food Stamps, as costs for these items have risen and benefits have not kept pace.  The 2008 Farm Bill increases the standard deduction from $134 to $144 and indexes it to inflation, ending the erosion of benefits and increasing Food Stamp assistance for 20,000 Vermont families.Working Families with Childcare Expenses — Food Stamp rules allow households to deduct up to $175 per month for the cost of childcare, but this deduction has not been adjusted in more than a decade and now covers only about a quarter of the monthly cost of childcare in the United States.  To better support working families, the 2008 Farm Bill will eliminate the existing cap on the deductibility of childcare expenses.  As many as 1000 Vermont families are expected to benefit from this provision.Food Stamp Asset Reform — Despite broad agreement about the importance of family savings, the Food Stamp “asset test” has remained largely unchanged since implemented in 1977 and fails to exempt tax-preferred savings accounts from the current asset limit.  To encourage savings among low-income families, the 2008 Farm Bill will increase the current asset limit to keep pace with inflation and exempts tax-preferred education and retirement accounts from counting against the asset limit. Minimum Benefit – When calculating the monthly benefit for a Food Stamp recipient, if the amount they are eligible for is less than $10 they are guaranteed the minimum benefit.  Seniors and individuals with disabilities make up a significant portion of households that receive the minimum benefit, which for more than 30 years has remained at $10.  For the more than 3000 Vermonters who receive the minimum benefit, the 2008 Farm Bill will increase the level to $14 a month and index it to keep pace with increases in the cost of food.The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) — TEFAP provides commodity food products to food banks across the country, which then distribute those products to food pantries and other community food providers.  The Farm Bill will provide more than $1.2 billion in mandatory commodity purchases for distribution through food banks.  This will nearly double the commodity purchasing clout the Farm Bill will offer to the Vermont Foodbank, with an additional $1 million through the first five years of the bill — enough to provide 770,000 additional meals for low-income Vermonters through the food bank and local food shelves. Fruit and Vegetable Program — To promote child health and nutrition, the Farm Bill expands the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to include every state in the country, targeting those benefits to low-income children.  The proposed funding level would ensure that Vermont receives at least $2.25 million a year to assist in providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to children at school.Senior Farmers Markets and Community Food Projects — Funding for two programs fathered by Senator Leahy — the Senior Farmers Market Program (which provides vouchers for WIC recipients and low-income seniors to use at farmers markets), and Community Food Projects, (which promote self-sufficiency and food security in low-income communities) – are increased by $5 million annually in assured funding in the Farm Bill.  In Vermont, Community Food Project grants have supported the farm-to-school projects which increase access to fresh, healthy, local Vermont foods. Rural Food Bank Infrastructure Grant Program – After consultations with the Vermont Foodbank about the amount of food — especially perishable items — that could be donated to charity but instead are wasted, Senator Leahy proposed the creation of a new targeted grant initiative.  This new program in the Farm Bill will provide grants to assist emergency food organizations in acquiring some of the 96 billion pounds of food that are wasted each year.  For example, the Vermont Foodbank typically cannot afford to receive donated produce from west of the Mississippi due to the high cost of transportation.  This means that substantial amounts of fresh produce available from Western specialty crop states are lost to low-income Vermonters during the winter months when local sources are not available.  By tapping the new Leahy program, the Vermont Foodbank will be able to provide fresh produce and healthy food products at no cost to low-income households and individuals who otherwise could not afford these nutritious foods.   He said the bill’s anti-hunger efforts will make a difference inthousands of Vermonters’ lives.  “When the economy sputters,families suffer in many ways, including hunger and poor nutrition.  Thisbill is a chance to make a bad situation better.  More than 53,000Vermonters rely on federal nutrition programs each year, while thousands morewill receive assistance on an emergency basis to help them through difficulttimes.  The $10.4 billion in additional anti-hunger relief in this bill isvital, and it comes at a crucial time.” COMMODITY PROGRAM REFORM  Senator Leahy led abipartisan coalition in working for several months to secure renewal of andimprovements to the basic safety net for dairy farmers, the Milk Income LossContract (MILC) program.  In the end the MILC program received one of thelargest funding boosts of any commodity in the Farm Bill.  In addition tothe difficult achievement of extending the MILC Program for five years, Leahyand his allies succeeded in including provisions that will expand the MILCprogram in three important ways: 1.  Feed CostAdjuster – For the first time in nearly a decade the $16.94 perhundred weight MILC target price will increase when feed costs increase. The new Leahy-authored feed cost adjuster will increasethe MILC target price any time the composite monthly price of feed (corn,soybeans and alfalfa hay) rises above $7.30 per hundred weight.  For themonth of April, for example, the new MILC target price would be $19.13 perhundred weight.2.  Payment Rate – In 2002 when the MILC program wasestablished, whenever the federal minimum price for fluid milk in Boston fellbelow $16.94 per hundred weight, participating dairy farmers were eligible forpayments on 45 percent of the difference.  In the Fiscal Year 2006 OmnibusReconciliation Bill, the payment rate was reduced to 34 percent in order tomake it possible to extend the program until the Farm Bill could be rewrittenin 2008.  The 2008 Farm Bill will restore the original 45 percentpayment rate for the MILC program. 3.  EligibilityIncrease – Currently producers are eligible to receive MILC paymentson 2.4 million pounds of production per year (approximately 125 cows). The 2008 Farm Bill will increase the eligibility to 2.985 million pounds peryear (approximately 165 cows).  Of Vermont’s approximately 1100dairies that average about 120 cows per operation, more than 85 percent ofVermont’s farms now would be fully eligible for MILC payments under theFarm Bill.  Dairy Product Price Support – The 2008 Farm Bill establishes individual product prices for cheddar cheese, butter, and nonfat dry milk. Commodities — The bill extends the current farm safety net through the 2012 crop year, retaining current base acres and establishing base acres for newly eligible crops.  Target prices for crops are rebalanced and direct payments are maintained.Average Crop Revenue — A new Average Crop Revenue option is added for farmers, including fixed payment rates, recourse loans, and a state-level revenue program for covered commodities and peanuts. The new Farm Bill advances key Vermont agriculture, anti-hunger andenvironmental priorities championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the mostsenior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee of either party, who was aprincipal architect and negotiator of the bill. Father of the national organic standards and labeling program, Leahynoted that organic farming has become the fastest-growing sector of Americanagriculture and is especially robust in Vermont.  “This bill makesthe organic option a realistic option for more farmers in Vermont,” hesaid.  “That’s good for smaller farms in particular, andit’s a solid investment in growing Vermont’s economy.” CONSERVATION/LAKECHAMPLAIN CLEANUP Agricultural conservation, responsible stewardship andenvironmental quality are important to Vermont’s farmers and communitiesand were high priorities for Senator Leahy in writing the 2008 Farm Bill. Several years ago as chairman the Agriculture Committee, Leahy crafted andenacted the first “Green Farm Bills” which forged partnershipsbetween farmers and environmental goals, and since then the Farm Bill hasbecome the most significant ongoing nationwide funding source for conservationand environmental quality efforts such as the cleanup of Lake Champlain. Several of Leahy’s conservation initiatives began as pilot programs inVermont, proved themselves, and since then have expanded nationwide.  Muchof the available funding in the 2008 Farm Bill for Vermont will be directed toaddressing the water quality challenges in the Lake Champlain Basin.  Thiscrucial cleanup funding will be added to the more than $100 million SenatorLeahy has already secured in Lake Champlain cleanup funds. EnvironmentalQuality Incentive Program (EQIP) — A program created bySenator Leahy in the 1996 Farm Bill, EQIP has quickly become a major factor inthe ongoing efforts to clean up Lake Champlain.  Phosphorus levels are oneof the foremost challenges in the Lake’s restoration, and EQIP helpsproducers implement new practices that reduce the phosphorus loading in theLake and its tributaries.  With an increase in funding of $3.4 billion over ten years, theprogram will continue to help producers comply with the State ofVermont’s water quality regulations and assist dairies in implementingenvironmentally beneficial changes in their operations.  The final version of the Farm Bill, filed in Congress only Tuesday,would not only renew but also expand the basic safety net for dairy farmers,the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program; it would bring to Vermont recordlevels of funding and wider access to farmland conservation programs that havebecome crucial engines in the cleanup of Lake Champlain; it would dramaticallyincrease support for food banks and the Food Stamp program; and it would offermore support to help farmers make the transition to the booming organic sector. The 2008 Farm Bill takes significant strides in reforming who iseligible to receive commodity program payments.  First the bill tightensthe adjusted gross income eligibility test by setting new standards for farmcommodity and disaster program benefit eligibility.  To receive farmprogram benefits, an individual’s non-farm income may not exceed$500,000.  If farm income exceeds $750,000, an individual will no longerbe eligible to receive direct payments.  In addition, this Farm Bill alsoincreases transparency and accountability through the creation of a new directattribution rule which will link farm program payments directly to individuals,rather than to corporations and partnerships.  Finally, the three-entityrule, which previously enabled a farmer effectively to receive twice theenacted payment limit, has been eliminated. Leahy said improvements in the Farm Bill’s conservation programswill help limit phosphorus runoff into Vermont’s streams, rivers, andLake Champlain.  “These conservation programs have helped farmersbecome partners in achieving some of Vermont’s most pressingenvironmental goals.  These investments on the farm are important buildingblocks for real on-the-ground action for cleaning up the Lake.” Rural Energy for America Program — Funded in the Farm Bill at $250 million, this program (previously called Sec Below are Vermont highlights of the final 2008 Farm Bill, releasedWednesday by Leahy’s office: $15 Million Small State Minimum – The Leahy “Regional Equity” provision he sponsored in the 2002 Farm Bill will be increased from $12 million to $15 million a year per state.  This Leahy effort helps bring more Farm Bill resources to Vermont and other Northeastern states.  This Leahy provision requires that Vermont and each state receive an allocation of at least $15 million a year in the following working-lands conservation programs: EQIP, FPP, Grassland Reserve Program, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.  This small state minimum guarantees that states like Vermont will receive the necessary program funding to better help farmers in their stewardship of the land.Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) – A program especially important to Vermont, AMA provides $15 million a year in mandatory funding to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality and erosion control, by incorporating conservation into their farming operations.Public Access – The bill will create a new $50 million grant program for states that run programs to encourage owners of private land to allow public access for wildlife-related recreation such as hunting, fishing and birding. ENERGY/RENEWABLEENERGY WASHINGTON (Wednesday, May 14) — Vermont’s clout in agriculturepolicy again is paying big dividends as Congress races to finish work on a newbipartisan five-year Farm Bill.  The House Wednesday passed the newlynegotiated Farm Bill by a veto-proof vote of 318 to 106, and the Senate has setits vote on the bill for Thursday.  The Senate is also expected to passthe bill with more than enough votes to override a threatened presidentialveto.last_img read more

Folksam Liv sees business growth slow after 59% surge in premiums

first_imgSwedish life and pensions provider Folksam Liv reported rapid growth in premiums in the first half of this year, rising 59% to SEK8.94bn (€939m) from SEK5.60bn in the same period last year, but warned that growth would stall in the second half.In its interim report for January to June 2015, Folksam said the continued strong growth was due to a high level of interest in its traditional life insurance, which it said carried good conditions for policyholders.Jens Henriksson, deputy director and group head of Folksam Liv, said: “Folksam Liv is expected to have lower growth in the rest of the year, compared with the first half.”This was because it had made changes to its traditional life insurance pension product and stopped selling the mortgage and insurance product Senior Capital, he said. On July 1, the guarantee level for the company’s traditional pensions was cut, with the return promise applying to only 85% of contributions after that date compared with 95% before.Folksam said most customers had accepted the new conditions and carried on with their pension savings, but that the changes were expected to result in a slowdown in growth in the autumn.Folksam Liv’s return for January to June fell to 3.7% from 5.3% in the same period last year.The solvency level rose to 162% at the end of June from 155% at the end of December, and total assets grew to SEK165.6bn from SEK156.2bn at the end of last year.Meanwhile, local government sector pension fund KPA Pension, which is 60% owned by Folksam and 40% owned by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL), reported a 4.0% return from January to June, down from 6.0% in the same period the year before.Premiums grew in the first half to SEK10.2bn from SEK8.8bn, the fund said.KPA Pension said it had won several pensions contracts in the first half, including contracts from municipalities of the city of Stockholm and of East Gotland.Assets under management grew to SEK134.6bn at the end of June from SEK116.7bn.last_img read more

BSB sliders are approved for use in IMCA Modifieds

first_imgVINTON, Iowa – Two BSB Manufacturing-made sliders have been approved for use in sanctioned IMCA Xtreme Motor Sports Modified events, beginning with the 2014 race season.The sliders, part numbers 7540 and 7540-2, were reviewed by the IMCA executive committee and are available for purchase now.“The big-body BSB sliders satisfy our concerns regarding coil-over eliminators,” explained IMCA Vice President of Operations Brett Root. “They were not allowed in the past because of their resemblance of, and their ability to be converted, into a shock.”“Jay Neal at BSB has changed the initial version of this product to address our concerns, particularly with the gas charging, and at the same time make it possible for IMCA to inspect,” Root continued. “It is in accordance with coil-over eliminator rules and does not jeopardize the shock rules either.” More information about the sliders and other BSB products available by calling the Wellington, Kan., manufacturer at 620 326-3152 and at the www.bsb-mfg.com website.last_img read more

Dodgers’ Julio Urias needs shoulder surgery, will miss 12 to 14 months

first_imgUrías, 20, graduated from the organization’s top pitching prospect to a member of the starting rotation last year. He posted a 5.40 earned-run average in five starts with the Dodgers to begin the 2017 season, then was optioned to the minors on May 21.In six Triple-A starts, Urías was 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA. Friedman said he “definitely” expected Urías to contribute to the major league team at some point again this season. The left-hander’s absence will certainly factor into the Dodgers’ approach to the non-waiver trade deadline July 31.Even if Urías re-discovers his potential, the gradual workload the Dodgers so carefully constructed will be delayed at least a year.“If you’re talking about building a young pitcher up and getting him to a point where we can take off the training wheels, we’re kind of back to that point next year,” Roberts said. “Next year’s essentially going to be a recovery year, a rehab year.”Friedman said Urías was “devastated” by his diagnosis. Once a part of the Dodgers’ October plans, Urías will celebrate his 21st birthday, watch the postseason, and perhaps begin spring training next year on the disabled list.Urías’ innings limit made for an easy culprit in the moment, but a better culprit might be the act of throwing a baseball so hard so early in life.“Every standard about innings, frequency, jump in innings from year to year — all those things were complied with,” Boras said. “You really can’t point to anything with this other than when you have a precocious star with such tremendous arm speed and torque. We’ve worked very hard to get Julio’s body as far as we could but he’s still only 20 years old. And you know, with great arm speed like that you can create a torque that it just may be difficult for the strength, the amount of repetitions in a conditioning program, that can reach a level that can support the torque he can put on his arm.“A pitcher has to pitch and when you’re out there performing you have to expect that he’s going to perform at his highest level. This may be a product of his greatness.”AlsoThe Dodgers placed right-hander Chris Hatcher on the 10-day disabled list with thoracic inflammation and recalled right-hander Ross Stripling from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Hatcher missed time each of the last two years with a strained oblique; this is his first shoulder injury.Hatcher had allowed at least one run in three of his last four appearances. He was 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA in 26 appearances this season.Stripling had a 4.00 ERA in 21 games with the Dodgers when he was optioned to Triple-A on June 16. Since then the Dodgers made only guarded public statements, holding out hope that Urías could return in 2017 with only rest and rehabilitation. They solicited multiple medical opinions. So did Scott Boras, Urías’ agent.Ultimately, there wasn’t much debate. The surgery will be performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.“Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns in what you do on this,” Friedman said. “I think all of us feel very confident that if we didn’t protect him at all over the last couple years, it could’ve happened sooner. It could’ve happened in a more significant way.”Urías’ age and guarded usage makes it tough to compare him to other pitchers, by almost any paradigm. Baseball is littered with horror stories of pitchers whose careers were lost, or at least diminished, by similar surgeries. But they were all older, with more wear and tear on their arms.Urías has no damage to his rotator cuff or labrum. The Dodgers described his tear as “clean.” With surgery, Boras said, “you can almost return the capsule to its normal form because there’s plenty of tissue there to do it.” LOS ANGELES >> The Dodgers signed Julio Urías when he was merely a boy, a 16-year-old throwing faster than some major league pitchers. They protected his golden left arm like no other, removing him from at least one no-hitter every year in order to limit the inherent harm of throwing a baseball.That’s what made this week so tough. An MRI on Urías’ left shoulder Monday revealed a tear in his anterior capsule. He’ll have surgery Tuesday and miss the rest of the season. The timetable for recovery is loosely estimated at 12 to 14 months.“As an organization,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “I just don’t see how we could’ve handled him with more care.”Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman characterized the injury as acute, not the result of wear and tear. Urías, 20, last pitched June 10 for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He felt a “tug” in his shoulder midway through that game, “went back out and pitched two more innings, actually hitting 96 and 97 (mph), and then the next morning woke up really stiff,” Friedman said.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

Sexual abuse trial of Clear Lake man scheduled to start on Tuesday

first_imgCLEAR LAKE — A Clear Lake man who originally entered an Alford plea in a sexual abuse case but had that set aside by a district court judge is scheduled to go on trial tomorrow.61-year-old Amando Montealvo was charged with two counts of second-degree sexual abuse after being accused of sexually abusing two girls under the age of 12 in Clear Lake 13 to 17 years ago. He was sentenced for up to 10 years in prison after entering an Alford plea to one count of lascivious acts with a child as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.Montealvo in January 2018 filed a petition in district court for post-conviction relief, claiming that his attorney failed to properly advise him of the consequences of the plea agreement would have on his immigration status. Court documents state that he is in the United States legally but is not a citizen.District Judge Rustin Davenport this past February ruled that attorney Barbara Westphal did inform Montealvo that he would immediately be removed from the country and that there would be a bar on his legal re-entry if he accepted the plea deal. Davenport says though that Westphal did not advise him that he would be subject to mandatory detention during removal procedures or that he would be subject to 20 years in prison if he attempted to re-enter the United States.Davenport set Montealvo’s conviction aside but ruled the original charges should be re-instated. Montealvo has opted to take the case to trial rather than re-enter plea negotiations.Second-degree sexual abuse is a Class B felony, which means if Montealvo is convicted of both charges, he could face up to 50 years in prison.last_img read more