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Dairy group head wants immigrant labor, access to foreign markets – Twin Falls Times-News

TWIN FALLS — What federal immigration and trade policy will look like in 2017, and how they will affect the dairy industry in Idaho, are still big question marks.

But the head of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association hopes some of the regulatory policies and appointments coming out of the Trump administration will be better for his industry than Obama’s.

Bob Naerebout said he’s glad a Republican president will both appoint the next Region 10 Environmental Protection Agency administrator and fill any upcoming federal judicial vacancies. He pointed to the “ag security” or “ag gag” law — as its supporters and opponents respectively called it — banning secret taping on farms. Idaho’s state law was overturned in court, but a similar law in Wyoming has been upheld.

“Judges do make a difference,” Naerebout said. “Different judge, different ruling.”

Naerebout is also glad that Donald Trump’s win means the EPA’s “waters of the United States” rule, a clean-waters rule extending federal environmental protections to streams and wetlands that flow into navigable rivers, is likely dead. Many agricultural groups opposed the rule.

“Mr. Trump has made commitments that the rule would not go into effect,” he said. “We’ll watch what he does on that rule.”

Immigration and trade were two major campaign issues for Trump — he ran against free trade and in favor of taking a hard line on illegal immigration — and his policies on both could have major implications for Idaho agriculture.

“Their policies and actions they take in those fields will greatly affect the vitality of rural Idaho,” Naerebout said.

Many workers in Idaho agriculture are immigrants, both legal immigrants and refugees and undocumented ones. And Naerebout said competition from imports is much less of an issue for his industry than being able to access foreign markets — about 15 percent of dairy products produced in Idaho are exported.

“Negotiated trade deals are extremely important to our industry,” he said.

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Naerebout said the U.S. could have done a better job with both the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was passed under President Bill Clinton’s administration, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was negotiated under Obama but has not been ratified by the Senate. Naerebout said the Canadian market, for example, is still closed to Idaho’s dairy exports under NAFTA, and under the TPP’s terms the Japanese market is not as open to American dairy as he would like. However, the Dairymen’s Association did support the TPP despite these misgivings.

Trump has said the TPP will not move forward in its current form, and he criticized both the TPP and NAFTA frequently during the campaign.

With local unemployment so low, Naerebout said, any changes in immigration or refugee policy that reduce the size of the labor pool will hurt his industry. Dairy work is year-round, and the current agricultural visa programs are seasonal, which would make it even tougher to replace anyone were federal laws or enforcement priorities to change without addressing this. Naerebout said foreign-born workers are important not only in agriculture but in sectors such as construction, food processing and the service industry.

“They contribute greatly to our community both in diversity and work force development,” Naerebout said.

Naerebout said he expects to see immigration legislation in Congress this year, and his group will work to make sure rural Idaho’s interests are represented.

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Gambia Ruler Predicts Landslide; Internet Blocked Amid Vote – New York Times

BANJUL, Gambia — Voters in the tiny West African nation of Gambia cast marbles Thursday in an election widely expected to keep the country’s ruler of more than two decades in power despite a unified challenge from the opposition.

Polls closed at 5 p.m. and election workers were expected to work late into the night tallying results.

Earlier in the day, after voting with his wife in the capital, Banjul, President Yahya Jammeh predicted a decisive win.

“This will be the biggest landslide in the history of the country,” said Jammeh, who was met with cheers as he walked toward a sport utility vehicle that whisked him away from his polling site. The president refused to comment when asked whether he would concede in the event of defeat.

His challenger Adama Barrow said he believed Gambians were ready for change after more than 20 years of the Jammeh regime.

“He is not going to be re-elected — his era is finished,” Barrow said.

Most voters refused to comment on which candidate they were backing. “I have to be careful of what I say. Yes, everybody has his or her own opinion to say whatever or do whatever he or she wants to do, so we wait until polling is closed and sit at home and listen to the results,” said voter Victor Clayton-Johnson.

Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994 and then swept elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 after a 2002 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits. Critics say those elections were not free and fair and accuse his regime of corruption and flagrant human rights abuses.

The president’s supporters praise his efforts to boost economic development in the small country that is dependent on tourism and agriculture.

While the U.S. government praised Gambia for “high voter turnout and generally peaceful conditions,” it cited areas that remain a concern.

“In the run-up to the election, we did have some concerns about undue pressure, intimidation,” as well as the disruption of internet services, phone services, and other factors that may have disrupted the flow of information to voters, Mark Toner, deputy State Department spokesman, told reporters Thursday.

Barrow, a former businessman and United Democratic Party leader, emerged this year as the candidate for an alliance of eight opposition parties. Former ruling party deputy Mama Kandeh is running for the Gambia Democratic Congress, the only opposition party not in the coalition.

More than 880,000 voters were registered to participate at more than 1,400 polling stations, where they were asked to place a marble in either a green, silver or purple drum depending upon their choice.

The African Union sent a handful of observers to this country of 1.9 million but there are no observers from the European Union or the West African regional bloc ECOWAS because the Gambian government did not grant them accreditation.

Jammeh said before the vote that he would not allow even peaceful demonstrations, dismissing them as “loopholes that are used to destabilize African governments.”

In a statement Thursday, rights groups criticized the circumstances under which the vote took place, especially the cutting of internet services and international calls.

All internet services were blocked at about 8 p.m. Wednesday night, while messaging services such as Whatsapp and Viber were blocked weeks before the vote, Human Rights Watch said.

“This is an unjustified and crude attack on the right to freedom of expression in Gambia, with mobile internet services and text messaging cut off on polling day,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

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Associated Press writers Lekan Oyekanmi in Banjul and Abdoulie John in Dakar, Senegal, and Vivian Salama in Washington contributed to this report.

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