Judge Opens Door to New DACA Applicants

A U.S. federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to keep in place deportation protection for 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”

In a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump’s efforts to end the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, District Judge John Bates also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to accept new applicants to the program.

The 2012 policy enacted under former President Barack Obama allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors, were enrolled in or completed high school and did not have a serious criminal record to live and work in the country for two-year renewable periods without the fear of deportation.

DHS rescinded the program in 2017, arguing the prior administration lacked the legal authority to create it. 

Trump gave lawmakers a March deadline for coming up with a permanent fix for DACA recipients, but the Republican-led Congress has not acted. Several federal courts have also ruled existing DACA protections must remain in place while the overall legal challenges continue.

Judge Bates wrote in the Tuesday decision that the DHS decision to rescind DACA was “arbitrary and capricious because the department failed to adequately explain its conclusion that the program is unlawful.”

He put his ruling on hold for 90 days to give the department a chance to “better explain its rescission decision.”

There was no immediate response from the Trump administration.

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Judge Opens Door to New DACA Applicants

A U.S. federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to keep in place deportation protection for 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”

In a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump’s efforts to end the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, District Judge John Bates also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to accept new applicants to the program.

The 2012 policy enacted under former President Barack Obama allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors, were enrolled in or completed high school and did not have a serious criminal record to live and work in the country for two-year renewable periods without the fear of deportation.

DHS rescinded the program in 2017, arguing the prior administration lacked the legal authority to create it. 

Trump gave lawmakers a March deadline for coming up with a permanent fix for DACA recipients, but the Republican-led Congress has not acted. Several federal courts have also ruled existing DACA protections must remain in place while the overall legal challenges continue.

Judge Bates wrote in the Tuesday decision that the DHS decision to rescind DACA was “arbitrary and capricious because the department failed to adequately explain its conclusion that the program is unlawful.”

He put his ruling on hold for 90 days to give the department a chance to “better explain its rescission decision.”

There was no immediate response from the Trump administration.

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US Pecan Growers Seek to Break Out of the Pie Shell

The humble pecan is being rebranded as more than just pie.

 

Pecan growers and suppliers are hoping to sell U.S. consumers on the virtues of North America’s only native nut as a hedge against a potential trade war with China, the pecan’s largest export market.

 

The pecan industry is also trying to crack the fast-growing snack-food industry.

 

The retail value for packaged nuts, seeds and trail mix in the U.S. alone was $5.7 billion in 2012, and is forecast to rise to $7.5 billion by 2022, according to market researcher Euromonitor.

 

The Fort Worth, Texas-based American Pecan Council, formed in the wake of a new federal marketing order that allows the industry to band together and assess fees for research and promotion, is a half-century in the making, said Jim Anthony, 80, the owner of a 14,000-acre pecan farm near Granbury, Texas.

 

Anthony said that regional rivalries and turf wars across the 15-state pecan belt — stretching from the Carolinas to California — made such a union impossible until recently, when demand for pecans exploded in Asian markets.

Until 2007, most U.S. pecans were consumed domestically, according to Daniel Zedan, president of Nature’s Finest Foods, a marketing group. By 2009, China was buying about a third of the U.S. crop.

 

The pecan is the only tree nut indigenous to North America, growers say. Sixteenth-century Spanish explore Cabeza de Vaca wrote about tasting the nut during his encounters with Native American tribes in South Texas. The name is French explorers’ phonetic spelling of the native word “pakan,” meaning hard-shelled nut.

 

Facing growing competition from pecan producers in South Africa, Mexico and Australia, U.S. producers are also riding the wave of the Trump administration’s policies to promote American-made goods.

 

Most American kids grow up with peanut butter but peanuts probably originated in South America. Almonds are native to Asia and pistachios to the Middle East. The pecan council is funding academic research to show that their nuts are just as nutritious.

 

The council on Wednesday will debut a new logo: “American Pecans: The Original Supernut.”

Rodney Myers, who manages operations at Anthony’s pecan farm, credits the pecan’s growing cachet in China and elsewhere in Asia with its association to rustic Americana — “the oilfield, cowboys, the Wild West — they associate all these things with the North American nut,” he said.

 

China earlier this month released a list of American products that could face tariffs in retaliation for proposed U.S. tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Fresh and dried nuts — including the pecan — could be slapped with a 15-percent tariff, according to the list. To counter that risk, the pecan council is using some of the $8 million in production-based assessments it’s collected since the marketing order was passed to promote the versatility of the tree nut beyond pecan pie at Thanksgiving.

 

While Chinese demand pushed up prices it also drove away American consumers. By January 2013, prices had dropped 50 percent from their peak in 2011, according to Zedan.

U.S. growers and processers were finally able in 2016 to pass a marketing order to better control pecan production and prices.

 

Authorized by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, federal marketing orders help producers and handlers standardize packaging, impose quality control and fund research, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees 28 other fruit, vegetable and specialty marketing orders, in addition to the pecan order.

 

Critics charge that the orders interfere with the price signals of a free, unfettered private market.

 

“What you’ve created instead is a government-sanctioned cartel,” said Daren Bakst, an agricultural policy researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

 

Before the almond industry passed its own federal marketing order in 1950, fewer almonds than pecans were sold, according to pecan council chair Mike Adams, who cultivates 600 acres of pecan trees near Caldwell, Texas. Now, while almonds appear in everything from cereal to milk substitutes, Adams calls the pecan “the forgotten nut.”

 

“We’re so excited to have an identity, to break out of the pie shell,” said Molly Willis, a member of the council who owns an 80-acre pecan farm in Albany, Georgia, a supplement to her husband’s family’s peanut-processing business.

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US Pecan Growers Seek to Break Out of the Pie Shell

The humble pecan is being rebranded as more than just pie.

 

Pecan growers and suppliers are hoping to sell U.S. consumers on the virtues of North America’s only native nut as a hedge against a potential trade war with China, the pecan’s largest export market.

 

The pecan industry is also trying to crack the fast-growing snack-food industry.

 

The retail value for packaged nuts, seeds and trail mix in the U.S. alone was $5.7 billion in 2012, and is forecast to rise to $7.5 billion by 2022, according to market researcher Euromonitor.

 

The Fort Worth, Texas-based American Pecan Council, formed in the wake of a new federal marketing order that allows the industry to band together and assess fees for research and promotion, is a half-century in the making, said Jim Anthony, 80, the owner of a 14,000-acre pecan farm near Granbury, Texas.

 

Anthony said that regional rivalries and turf wars across the 15-state pecan belt — stretching from the Carolinas to California — made such a union impossible until recently, when demand for pecans exploded in Asian markets.

Until 2007, most U.S. pecans were consumed domestically, according to Daniel Zedan, president of Nature’s Finest Foods, a marketing group. By 2009, China was buying about a third of the U.S. crop.

 

The pecan is the only tree nut indigenous to North America, growers say. Sixteenth-century Spanish explore Cabeza de Vaca wrote about tasting the nut during his encounters with Native American tribes in South Texas. The name is French explorers’ phonetic spelling of the native word “pakan,” meaning hard-shelled nut.

 

Facing growing competition from pecan producers in South Africa, Mexico and Australia, U.S. producers are also riding the wave of the Trump administration’s policies to promote American-made goods.

 

Most American kids grow up with peanut butter but peanuts probably originated in South America. Almonds are native to Asia and pistachios to the Middle East. The pecan council is funding academic research to show that their nuts are just as nutritious.

 

The council on Wednesday will debut a new logo: “American Pecans: The Original Supernut.”

Rodney Myers, who manages operations at Anthony’s pecan farm, credits the pecan’s growing cachet in China and elsewhere in Asia with its association to rustic Americana — “the oilfield, cowboys, the Wild West — they associate all these things with the North American nut,” he said.

 

China earlier this month released a list of American products that could face tariffs in retaliation for proposed U.S. tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Fresh and dried nuts — including the pecan — could be slapped with a 15-percent tariff, according to the list. To counter that risk, the pecan council is using some of the $8 million in production-based assessments it’s collected since the marketing order was passed to promote the versatility of the tree nut beyond pecan pie at Thanksgiving.

 

While Chinese demand pushed up prices it also drove away American consumers. By January 2013, prices had dropped 50 percent from their peak in 2011, according to Zedan.

U.S. growers and processers were finally able in 2016 to pass a marketing order to better control pecan production and prices.

 

Authorized by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, federal marketing orders help producers and handlers standardize packaging, impose quality control and fund research, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees 28 other fruit, vegetable and specialty marketing orders, in addition to the pecan order.

 

Critics charge that the orders interfere with the price signals of a free, unfettered private market.

 

“What you’ve created instead is a government-sanctioned cartel,” said Daren Bakst, an agricultural policy researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

 

Before the almond industry passed its own federal marketing order in 1950, fewer almonds than pecans were sold, according to pecan council chair Mike Adams, who cultivates 600 acres of pecan trees near Caldwell, Texas. Now, while almonds appear in everything from cereal to milk substitutes, Adams calls the pecan “the forgotten nut.”

 

“We’re so excited to have an identity, to break out of the pie shell,” said Molly Willis, a member of the council who owns an 80-acre pecan farm in Albany, Georgia, a supplement to her husband’s family’s peanut-processing business.

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Beijing Auto Show Highlights E-cars Designed for China

Volkswagen and Nissan have unveiled electric cars designed for China at a Beijing auto show that highlights the growing importance of Chinese buyers for a technology seen as a key part of the global industry’s future. 

General Motors displayed five all-electric models Wednesday including a concept Buick SUV it says can go 600 kilometers (375 miles) on one charge. Ford and other brands showed off some of the dozens of electric SUVs, sedans and other models they say are planned for China. 

Auto China 2018, the industry’s biggest sales event this year, is overshadowed by mounting trade tensions between Beijing and U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to hike tariffs on Chinese goods including automobiles in a dispute over technology policy. 

The impact on automakers should be small, according to industry analysts, because exports amount to only a few thousand vehicles a year. Those include a GM SUV, the Envision, and Volvo Cars sedans made in China for export to the United States. 

China accounted for half of last year’s global electric car sales, boosted by subsidies and other prodding from communist leaders who want to make their country a center for the emerging technology. 

“The Chinese market is key for the international auto industry and it is key to our success,” VW CEO Herbert Diess said on Tuesday. 

Volkswagen unveiled the E20X, an SUV that is the first model for SOL, an electric brand launched by the German automaker with a Chinese partner. The E20X, promising a 300-kilometer (185-mile) range on one charge, is aimed at the Chinese market’s bargain-priced tiers, where demand is strongest. 

GM, Ford, Daimler AG’s Mercedes unit and other automakers also have announced ventures with local partners to develop models for China that deliver more range at lower prices. 

On Wednesday, Nissan Motor Co. presented its Sylphy Zero Emission, which it said can go 338 kilometers (210 miles) on a charge. The Sylphy is based on Nissan’s Leaf, a version of which is available in China but has sold poorly due to its relatively high price. 

Automakers say they expect electrics to account for 35 to over 50 percent of their China sales by 2025.

First-quarter sales of electrics and gasoline-electric hybrids rose 154 percent over a year earlier to 143,000 units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That compares with sales of just under 200,000 for all of last year in the United States, the No. 2 market. 

That trend has been propelled by the ruling Communist Party’s support for the technology. The party is shifting the financial burden to automakers with sales quotas that take effect next year and require them to earn credits by selling electrics or buy them from competitors. 

That increases pressure to transform electrics into a mainstream product that competes on price and features. 

Automakers also displayed dozens of gasoline-powered models from compact sedans to luxurious SUVs. Their popularity is paying for development of electrics, which aren’t expected to become profitable for most producers until sometime in the next decade. 

China’s total sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans reached 24.7 million units last year, compared with 17.2 million for the United States. 

SUVs are the industry’s cash cow. First-quarter sales rose 11.3 percent over a year earlier to 2.6 million, or almost 45 percent of total auto sales, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. 

On Wednesday, Ford displayed its Mondeo Energi plug-in hybrid, its first electric model for China, which went on sale in March. Plans call for Ford and its luxury unit, Lincoln, to release 15 new electrified vehicles by 2025. 

GM plans to launch 10 electrics or hybrids in China from through 2020. 

VW is due to launch 15 electrics and hybrids in the next two to three years as part of a 10 billion euro ($12 billion) development plan announced in November. 

Nissan says it will roll out 20 electrified models in China over the next five years. 

New but fast-growing Chinese auto trail global rivals in traditional gasoline technology but industry analysts say the top Chinese brands are catching up in electrics, a market with no entrenched leaders. 

BYD Auto, the biggest global electric brand by number sold, debuted two hybrid SUVs and an electric concept car. 

The company, which manufactures electric buses at a California factory and exports battery-powered taxis to Europe, also displayed nine other hybrid and plug-in electric models. 

Chery Automobile Co. showed a lineup that included two electric sedans, an SUV and a hatchback, all promising 250 to 400 kilometers (150 to 250 miles) on a charge. They include futuristic features such as internet-linked navigation and smartphone-style dashboard displays. 

“Our focus is not just an EV that runs. It is excellent performance,” Chery CEO Chen Anning said in an interview ahead of the show. 

Electrics are likely to play a leading role as Chery develops plans announced last year to expand to Western Europe, said Chen. He said the company has yet to decide on a timeline. 

Chery was China’s biggest auto exporter last year, selling 108,000 gasoline-powered vehicles abroad, though mostly in developing markets such as Russia and Egypt. 

“We do have a clear intention to bring an EV product as one of our initial offerings” in Europe, Chen said. 

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Beijing Auto Show Highlights E-cars Designed for China

Volkswagen and Nissan have unveiled electric cars designed for China at a Beijing auto show that highlights the growing importance of Chinese buyers for a technology seen as a key part of the global industry’s future. 

General Motors displayed five all-electric models Wednesday including a concept Buick SUV it says can go 600 kilometers (375 miles) on one charge. Ford and other brands showed off some of the dozens of electric SUVs, sedans and other models they say are planned for China. 

Auto China 2018, the industry’s biggest sales event this year, is overshadowed by mounting trade tensions between Beijing and U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to hike tariffs on Chinese goods including automobiles in a dispute over technology policy. 

The impact on automakers should be small, according to industry analysts, because exports amount to only a few thousand vehicles a year. Those include a GM SUV, the Envision, and Volvo Cars sedans made in China for export to the United States. 

China accounted for half of last year’s global electric car sales, boosted by subsidies and other prodding from communist leaders who want to make their country a center for the emerging technology. 

“The Chinese market is key for the international auto industry and it is key to our success,” VW CEO Herbert Diess said on Tuesday. 

Volkswagen unveiled the E20X, an SUV that is the first model for SOL, an electric brand launched by the German automaker with a Chinese partner. The E20X, promising a 300-kilometer (185-mile) range on one charge, is aimed at the Chinese market’s bargain-priced tiers, where demand is strongest. 

GM, Ford, Daimler AG’s Mercedes unit and other automakers also have announced ventures with local partners to develop models for China that deliver more range at lower prices. 

On Wednesday, Nissan Motor Co. presented its Sylphy Zero Emission, which it said can go 338 kilometers (210 miles) on a charge. The Sylphy is based on Nissan’s Leaf, a version of which is available in China but has sold poorly due to its relatively high price. 

Automakers say they expect electrics to account for 35 to over 50 percent of their China sales by 2025.

First-quarter sales of electrics and gasoline-electric hybrids rose 154 percent over a year earlier to 143,000 units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That compares with sales of just under 200,000 for all of last year in the United States, the No. 2 market. 

That trend has been propelled by the ruling Communist Party’s support for the technology. The party is shifting the financial burden to automakers with sales quotas that take effect next year and require them to earn credits by selling electrics or buy them from competitors. 

That increases pressure to transform electrics into a mainstream product that competes on price and features. 

Automakers also displayed dozens of gasoline-powered models from compact sedans to luxurious SUVs. Their popularity is paying for development of electrics, which aren’t expected to become profitable for most producers until sometime in the next decade. 

China’s total sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans reached 24.7 million units last year, compared with 17.2 million for the United States. 

SUVs are the industry’s cash cow. First-quarter sales rose 11.3 percent over a year earlier to 2.6 million, or almost 45 percent of total auto sales, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. 

On Wednesday, Ford displayed its Mondeo Energi plug-in hybrid, its first electric model for China, which went on sale in March. Plans call for Ford and its luxury unit, Lincoln, to release 15 new electrified vehicles by 2025. 

GM plans to launch 10 electrics or hybrids in China from through 2020. 

VW is due to launch 15 electrics and hybrids in the next two to three years as part of a 10 billion euro ($12 billion) development plan announced in November. 

Nissan says it will roll out 20 electrified models in China over the next five years. 

New but fast-growing Chinese auto trail global rivals in traditional gasoline technology but industry analysts say the top Chinese brands are catching up in electrics, a market with no entrenched leaders. 

BYD Auto, the biggest global electric brand by number sold, debuted two hybrid SUVs and an electric concept car. 

The company, which manufactures electric buses at a California factory and exports battery-powered taxis to Europe, also displayed nine other hybrid and plug-in electric models. 

Chery Automobile Co. showed a lineup that included two electric sedans, an SUV and a hatchback, all promising 250 to 400 kilometers (150 to 250 miles) on a charge. They include futuristic features such as internet-linked navigation and smartphone-style dashboard displays. 

“Our focus is not just an EV that runs. It is excellent performance,” Chery CEO Chen Anning said in an interview ahead of the show. 

Electrics are likely to play a leading role as Chery develops plans announced last year to expand to Western Europe, said Chen. He said the company has yet to decide on a timeline. 

Chery was China’s biggest auto exporter last year, selling 108,000 gasoline-powered vehicles abroad, though mostly in developing markets such as Russia and Egypt. 

“We do have a clear intention to bring an EV product as one of our initial offerings” in Europe, Chen said. 

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US-China Trade Fight Reaches Top American Court in Antitrust Case

President Donald Trump’s trade fight with China moved inside the white marble walls of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, where lawyers for both countries faced off over whether Chinese companies can be held liable for violating U.S. antitrust laws.

The nine justices heard arguments in an appeal by two American companies of a lower court ruling that threw out claims of price fixing against two Chinese vitamin C manufacturers based on submissions by China’s government explaining that nation’s regulations.

The arguments provided both countries an opportunity to air their differences over an aspect of their trade relationship.

The Supreme Court took the unusual step on April 13 of granting China the ability to present arguments even though it is not an official party in the case. Typically, only the U.S. government is reserved that privilege.

The world’s two economic superpowers are engaged in an escalating trade fight. The United States, accusing China of unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property, has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese industrial and other imports. China has threatened comparable retaliation against U.S. exports if Washington pushes ahead with the tariffs.

None of the heated rhetoric over tariffs trickled into Tuesday’s arguments, which remained respectful. The lawyer representing China, Carter Phillips, urged the justices to defer to China’s explanation about Chinese regulations. A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said that such deference comes with limits.

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US-China Trade Fight Reaches Top American Court in Antitrust Case

President Donald Trump’s trade fight with China moved inside the white marble walls of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, where lawyers for both countries faced off over whether Chinese companies can be held liable for violating U.S. antitrust laws.

The nine justices heard arguments in an appeal by two American companies of a lower court ruling that threw out claims of price fixing against two Chinese vitamin C manufacturers based on submissions by China’s government explaining that nation’s regulations.

The arguments provided both countries an opportunity to air their differences over an aspect of their trade relationship.

The Supreme Court took the unusual step on April 13 of granting China the ability to present arguments even though it is not an official party in the case. Typically, only the U.S. government is reserved that privilege.

The world’s two economic superpowers are engaged in an escalating trade fight. The United States, accusing China of unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property, has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese industrial and other imports. China has threatened comparable retaliation against U.S. exports if Washington pushes ahead with the tariffs.

None of the heated rhetoric over tariffs trickled into Tuesday’s arguments, which remained respectful. The lawyer representing China, Carter Phillips, urged the justices to defer to China’s explanation about Chinese regulations. A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said that such deference comes with limits.

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Egypt’s Rice Farmers See Rough Times Downstream of Nile Mega-dam

Rice farmers in Kafr Ziada village in the Nile River Delta have ignored planting restrictions aimed at conserving water for years, continuing to grow a medium-grain variety of the crop that is prized around the Arab world.

A decision thousands of kilometers to the south is about to change that, however, in another example of how concern about water, one of the world’s most valuable commodities, is forcing change in farming, laws and even international diplomacy.

Far upstream, close to one of the sources of the Nile, Ethiopia is preparing to fill the reservoir behind its new $4 billion Grand Renaissance Dam, possibly as soon as this year.

How fast it does so could have devastating consequences for farmers who have depended on the Nile for millennia to irrigate strategic crops for Egypt’s 96 million people, expected to grow to 128 million by 2030.

Safeguarding Egypt’s share of the Nile, on which the country relies for industry and drinking water as well as farming, is now at the top of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s agenda as he begins a second term.

At the same time, authorities are finally tackling widespread illegal growing of the water-intensive rice crop, showing a sense of urgency that even climate change and rapid population growth has failed to foster.

The crackdown means Egypt will likely be a rice importer in 2019 after decades of being a major exporter, rice traders say.

Cairo has decreed that 724,000 feddans (750,000 acres) of rice can be planted this year, which grain traders estimate is less than half of the 1.8 million feddans actually cultivated in 2017 — far in excess of the officially allotted 1.1 million feddans.

Police have started raiding farmers’ homes and jailing them until they pay outstanding fines from years back.

“The police came to my house at three in the morning and took me to the station to pay the fine,” said Mohamed Abdelkhaleq, head of the farming association in Kafr Ziada, some 125 km (80 miles) north of Cairo in Beheira governorate.

“Even if the fine is 1 Egyptian pound (5 U.S. cents), they’ll come to your house.”

Three other farmers reported similar experiences and said this year they would not plant rice.

Reda Abdelaziz, 50, said some people have become afraid to leave the village.

“If you’re traveling and they take your ID card and see you have a fine on you, they’ll put you in jail,” he said.

Abdelkhaleq took to the local mosque’s loudspeaker last month to say the government was doubling the fine for unauthorized rice cultivation to 7,600 pounds per feddan.

Mostafa al-Naggari, who heads the rice committee of Egypt’s agricultural export council, says if the government sticks to the new approach Egypt will likely have to import as much as 1 million tons of rice next year.

“The dam has opened the door for there to be more of an awareness of water scarcity issues, but Egypt has for a long time needed to review its water allocation policy,” he said.

No Agreement

Egypt has long considered the Nile its own, even though the river and its tributaries flow through 10 countries. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat famously said in 1979 that he was prepared to go to war over the Nile if its flow was ever threatened.

But any threat from Ethiopia in the past was empty — until now. The new dam, cutting through the Blue Nile tributary just before its descent into southeastern Sudan, will offer Addis Ababa immense political leverage over its downstream neighbors.

Sudan and Egypt are the biggest users of the river for irrigation and dams. Egypt wants to be assured that the dam will not affect the river’s flow, estimated at about 84 billion cubic meters on average per year.

Ethiopia aims to use the dam to become Africa’s biggest power generator and exporter, linking tens of millions to electricity for the first time.

The two countries have not been able to agree on a comprehensive water-sharing arrangement despite years of negotiations.

Ethiopia was not party to and does not recognize a 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan that gave Cairo the rights to the lion’s share of the river. For its part, Egypt refuses to sign on to a 2010 regional water-sharing initiative that takes away its power to veto projects that would alter allocations.

Ethiopia says that its dam won’t affect the Nile’s flow once its 79-billion-cubic-meter reservoir is filled. The issue is over how fast that happens. Ethiopia wants to do it in as little as three years; Egypt is aiming for seven to 10, sources close to the matter said.

There’s no doubt the flow of the Nile will be affected during those years. What’s not known is how dramatically, and there is little data available to answer that question.

Sources at Egypt’s irrigation ministry have estimated the loss of 1 billion cubic meters of water would affect 1 million people and lead to the loss of 200,000 acres of farmland.

On that basis, “if (the dam is) filled in 3 years it might destroy 51 percent of Egypt’s farmland, if in 6 years it will destroy 17 percent,” said Ashraf el Attal, CEO of Dubai-based commodities trader Fortuna and an expert on Egypt’s grain trade.

Be Ready to Adapt

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has said Egypt requires an “urgent and massive” response to maintain food security in coming years for a number of reasons, including water scarcity, urbanization and the effects of climate change.

Talks among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the dam in early April stalled over what Sudan’s foreign minister called “technical issues”. No date has been set for the next round.

“The filling of the GERD is just the most critical issue for the three countries to decide upon, and now, ahead of the first filling,” said Ana Cascão, an independent researcher on Nile hydropolitics.

“A fair and equitable filling strategy must take into account different scenarios on climate and rainfall variability — if it will be one of drought, then the three countries are ready to agree on a slower filling,” said Cascão.

Rice farmers, who typically begin planting at the end of April, said they may now leave their lands fallow given the difficulty of quickly switching to other summer crops like cotton and corn that require different machinery and techniques.

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty told Reuters the situation posed a big threat to crops, livelihoods and even political stability if efforts to coordinate fail.

“Imagine to what extent these people will become vulnerable,” he said.

($1 = 17.6400 Egyptian pounds)

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Egypt’s Rice Farmers See Rough Times Downstream of Nile Mega-dam

Rice farmers in Kafr Ziada village in the Nile River Delta have ignored planting restrictions aimed at conserving water for years, continuing to grow a medium-grain variety of the crop that is prized around the Arab world.

A decision thousands of kilometers to the south is about to change that, however, in another example of how concern about water, one of the world’s most valuable commodities, is forcing change in farming, laws and even international diplomacy.

Far upstream, close to one of the sources of the Nile, Ethiopia is preparing to fill the reservoir behind its new $4 billion Grand Renaissance Dam, possibly as soon as this year.

How fast it does so could have devastating consequences for farmers who have depended on the Nile for millennia to irrigate strategic crops for Egypt’s 96 million people, expected to grow to 128 million by 2030.

Safeguarding Egypt’s share of the Nile, on which the country relies for industry and drinking water as well as farming, is now at the top of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s agenda as he begins a second term.

At the same time, authorities are finally tackling widespread illegal growing of the water-intensive rice crop, showing a sense of urgency that even climate change and rapid population growth has failed to foster.

The crackdown means Egypt will likely be a rice importer in 2019 after decades of being a major exporter, rice traders say.

Cairo has decreed that 724,000 feddans (750,000 acres) of rice can be planted this year, which grain traders estimate is less than half of the 1.8 million feddans actually cultivated in 2017 — far in excess of the officially allotted 1.1 million feddans.

Police have started raiding farmers’ homes and jailing them until they pay outstanding fines from years back.

“The police came to my house at three in the morning and took me to the station to pay the fine,” said Mohamed Abdelkhaleq, head of the farming association in Kafr Ziada, some 125 km (80 miles) north of Cairo in Beheira governorate.

“Even if the fine is 1 Egyptian pound (5 U.S. cents), they’ll come to your house.”

Three other farmers reported similar experiences and said this year they would not plant rice.

Reda Abdelaziz, 50, said some people have become afraid to leave the village.

“If you’re traveling and they take your ID card and see you have a fine on you, they’ll put you in jail,” he said.

Abdelkhaleq took to the local mosque’s loudspeaker last month to say the government was doubling the fine for unauthorized rice cultivation to 7,600 pounds per feddan.

Mostafa al-Naggari, who heads the rice committee of Egypt’s agricultural export council, says if the government sticks to the new approach Egypt will likely have to import as much as 1 million tons of rice next year.

“The dam has opened the door for there to be more of an awareness of water scarcity issues, but Egypt has for a long time needed to review its water allocation policy,” he said.

No Agreement

Egypt has long considered the Nile its own, even though the river and its tributaries flow through 10 countries. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat famously said in 1979 that he was prepared to go to war over the Nile if its flow was ever threatened.

But any threat from Ethiopia in the past was empty — until now. The new dam, cutting through the Blue Nile tributary just before its descent into southeastern Sudan, will offer Addis Ababa immense political leverage over its downstream neighbors.

Sudan and Egypt are the biggest users of the river for irrigation and dams. Egypt wants to be assured that the dam will not affect the river’s flow, estimated at about 84 billion cubic meters on average per year.

Ethiopia aims to use the dam to become Africa’s biggest power generator and exporter, linking tens of millions to electricity for the first time.

The two countries have not been able to agree on a comprehensive water-sharing arrangement despite years of negotiations.

Ethiopia was not party to and does not recognize a 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan that gave Cairo the rights to the lion’s share of the river. For its part, Egypt refuses to sign on to a 2010 regional water-sharing initiative that takes away its power to veto projects that would alter allocations.

Ethiopia says that its dam won’t affect the Nile’s flow once its 79-billion-cubic-meter reservoir is filled. The issue is over how fast that happens. Ethiopia wants to do it in as little as three years; Egypt is aiming for seven to 10, sources close to the matter said.

There’s no doubt the flow of the Nile will be affected during those years. What’s not known is how dramatically, and there is little data available to answer that question.

Sources at Egypt’s irrigation ministry have estimated the loss of 1 billion cubic meters of water would affect 1 million people and lead to the loss of 200,000 acres of farmland.

On that basis, “if (the dam is) filled in 3 years it might destroy 51 percent of Egypt’s farmland, if in 6 years it will destroy 17 percent,” said Ashraf el Attal, CEO of Dubai-based commodities trader Fortuna and an expert on Egypt’s grain trade.

Be Ready to Adapt

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has said Egypt requires an “urgent and massive” response to maintain food security in coming years for a number of reasons, including water scarcity, urbanization and the effects of climate change.

Talks among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the dam in early April stalled over what Sudan’s foreign minister called “technical issues”. No date has been set for the next round.

“The filling of the GERD is just the most critical issue for the three countries to decide upon, and now, ahead of the first filling,” said Ana Cascão, an independent researcher on Nile hydropolitics.

“A fair and equitable filling strategy must take into account different scenarios on climate and rainfall variability — if it will be one of drought, then the three countries are ready to agree on a slower filling,” said Cascão.

Rice farmers, who typically begin planting at the end of April, said they may now leave their lands fallow given the difficulty of quickly switching to other summer crops like cotton and corn that require different machinery and techniques.

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty told Reuters the situation posed a big threat to crops, livelihoods and even political stability if efforts to coordinate fail.

“Imagine to what extent these people will become vulnerable,” he said.

($1 = 17.6400 Egyptian pounds)

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