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CRS — Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations (February 13, 2015)

March 11, 2015 Comments off

Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

In December 2014, President Obama announced major changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba, including the restoration of diplomatic relations (relations were severed in January 1961), a review by the Department of State of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism (Cuba was designated in 1982), and an increase in travel, trade, and the free flow of information to Cuba. This third step required the Departments of Commerce and the Treasury to amend the embargo regulations, which were announced on January 15, 2015.

When the President announced his policy change on Cuba, he acknowledged that he does not have authority to lift the embargo because it is codified in legislation. While the embargo was first imposed in the early 1960s under the authority of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trading with the Enemy Act, Congress enacted additional laws over the years that strengthened the embargo on Cuba, including the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (which codified the embargo regulations), and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. Congress also has enacted numerous other provisions of law that impose sanctions on Cuba, including restrictions on trade, foreign aid, and support from the international financial institutions.

This report provides information on legislative provisions restricting relations with Cuba. It lists the various provisions of law comprising economic sanctions on Cuba, including key laws that are the statutory basis of the embargo, and provides information on the authority to lift or waive these restrictions.

CRS — Farm Safety Net Programs: Background and Issues (February 6, 2015)

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Farm Safety Net Programs: Background and Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) operates several programs that supplement the income of farmers and ranchers in times of low farm prices and natural disasters. Federal crop insurance, farm programs, and disaster assistance are collectively called the farm safety net.

CRS — Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF): Program Overview and Issues (February 6, 2015)

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF): Program Overview and Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

In the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments of 1996, Congress authorized a drinking water state revolving loan fund (DWSRF) program to help public water systems finance infrastructure projects needed to comply with federal drinking water regulations and to meet the act’s health objectives. Under this program, states receive annual capitalization grants to provide financial assistance (primarily subsidized loans) to public water systems for drinking water projects and other specified activities. Through June 2012, Congress had provided $14.7 billion for the DWSRF program, and combined with the 20% state match, bond proceeds, and other funds, the program had generated $23.6 billion in assistance and supported 9,990 projects. To date, Congress has appropriated approximately $18.2 billion for the program.

The latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) survey of capital improvement needs for public water systems indicates that these water systems need to invest $384.2 billion on infrastructure improvements over 20 years to ensure the provision of safe tap water. EPA reports that, although all of the identified projects promote the public health objectives of the SDWA, just $42.0 billion (10.9%) of reported needs are attributable to SDWA compliance.

Key program issues include the gap between estimated needs and funding; the growing cost of complying with SDWA standards, particularly for small communities; the ability of small or economically disadvantaged communities to afford DWSRF financing; and the broader need for cities to maintain, upgrade, and expand infrastructure unrelated to SDWA compliance.

CRS — Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs (January 12, 2015)

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Researach Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer close to 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The differences and number of these programs has created general confusion about the purpose, participation, and policies of the programs. While recent consolidation efforts removed some duplication, a large number of programs remain.

CRS — Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity (February 2, 2015)

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Industrial hemp is an agricultural commodity that is cultivated for use in the production of a wide range of products, including foods and beverages, cosmetics and personal care products, and nutritional supplements, as well as fabrics and textiles, yarns and spun fibers, paper, construction and insulation materials, and other manufactured goods. Hemp can be grown as a fiber, seed, or other dual-purpose crop. Some estimate that the global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products. Precise data are not available on the size of the U.S. market for hemp-based products, but current industry estimates report annual sales at more than $580 million annually.

Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. Although industrial hemp is genetically different and distinguished by its use and chemical makeup, and has long been cultivated for non-drug use in the production of industrial and other goods, in the United States, hemp is subject to U.S. drug laws and growing industrial hemp is restricted. Under current U.S. drug policy all cannabis varieties, including industrial hemp, are considered Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA, 21 U.S.C. §§801 et seq.; Title 21 C.F.R. Part 1308.11). Despite these legitimate industrial uses, hemp production and usage are controlled and regulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Audit of VHA’s Home Telehealth Program

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Audit of VHA’s Home Telehealth Program
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans, Office of Inspector General

The goal of the Home Telehealth Program is to improve veterans’ access to care while reducing patient treatment costs. The program does this by remotely monitoring patients’ vital signs in the home and intervening early when adverse trends are detected. We determined how effectively the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is managing its Home Telehealth Program. VHA missed opportunities to expand enrollment for Non-Institutional Care (NIC) patients in the Home Telehealth Program. NIC telehealth patients showed the best outcomes, in terms of reduced inpatient admissions and bed days of care (BDOC). In FY 2013, the number of NIC patients-served declined by 4 percent, while the number of Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Health Promotion/Disease Prevention (HPDP) patients-served grew 51 and 37 percent, respectively.

The significant change in the mix of patients receiving care in this program occurred due to a change in the performance methodology. VHA began to measure program performance by the total number of patients-enrolled, rather than focusing on the increase in enrollment for NIC patients. This change in performance metrics encouraged VHA to enroll more HPDP participants. These participants would likely need less intervention from Primary Care physicians, because their health care needs would be less complex. VHA was successful in reaching its new performance metric. However, obtaining this goal did not result in more patients with the greatest medical needs receiving care under the program. As a result, VA missed opportunities to serve additional NIC patients that could have benefited from the Home Telehealth Program. VA could have potentially delayed the need for long-term institutional care for approximately 59,000 additional veterans in FY 2013.

Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway

This publication examines State laws that specify when a State court must provide legal representation for a child involved in child abuse and neglect proceedings and whether that representative must be an attorney, guardian ad litem, or a court-appointed special advocate. The qualifications, training, specific duties, and compensation of the representative also are addressed.

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