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Canfield says Trump tariffs slowed timeline on big manufacturing investments in the state

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield (R) told Bloomberg’s John Lippert that the state of Alabama is seeing delays in big manufacturing investments in due to President Donald Trump’s (R) trade policies and is urging a more conciliatory approach.

“We’ve seen a couple of projects that we’ve been actively working where their timeline has slipped,” Greg Canfield, the state’s secretary of commerce, said in an interview. “The longer this drags out, the more danger there is that we’ll see a real drag on our economy. We’re going to see Alabama lose jobs, and that’s not acceptable.”

Alabama is increasingly reliant on foreign manufacturers such as: Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, Airbus, Toyota, etc. and those manufacturers have to import parts, components, as well as steel and aluminum. Tariffs that the U.S. has placed on those imports, particularly steel and aluminum have made the cost of manufacturing increase. Meanwhile threats of retaliatory from trading partners means an increasing likelihood that they will impose tariffs on our exports.

Since the Mercedes investment in Vance in 1997 the state now has 57,000 autoworkers building about a million cars and light trucks per year.

Canfield would not name the companies that have put their investment plans on hold.

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Canfield said that Trump’s tariffs on imported cars and auto parts will raise the price of every U.S. vehicle, since they all contain foreign components.

“Uncertainty equates to risk, and risk is a very chilling factor when it comes to investing your money. You either invest it somewhere else or you hold on to it until the situation becomes more certain. I want to make it clear we’re not fighting President Trump on this. We’re trying to raise awareness and educate the administration — the U.S. Department of Commerce in particular — and urge a more measured approach.”

Governor Kay Ivey (R) has also expressed concerns about the Administration’s trade policies.

“Import tariffs and any retaliatory tariffs on American made goods, will harm Alabama.” Ivey said in a statement. “Alabama has a rich history as a leader in manufacturing, a legacy which continues in large part, through our five automotive original equipment manufacturers and our over 200 supporting suppliers that have helped establish “Made in Alabama” as an internationally-respected brand/ Last year proved to be a banner year for auto industry growth in Alabama, with nearly $3 billion in automotive-related investments. Before the recent announcement of a new Mazda-Toyota plant, and other automotive-related growth, more than 57,000 Alabamians were already employed by our auto manufacturing sector, a number which is expected to increase. However, this growth could be stymied if tariffs are imposed on the goods we export around the world.”

“In 2017, Alabama reached a record high of $21.7 billion in exports, with our auto industry accounting for $10.9 billion of those exports,” Ivey concluded. “The largest importers of Alabama made goods and services were Canada, China, Germany, Mexico and Japan – all countries which may be forced to reciprocate in response to any new import tariffs.”

“Import tariffs and any retaliatory tariffs on American made goods, will harm Alabama.” Ivey said in a statement critical of proposed new tariffs on foreign imports by the Trump Administration.”

Donald J. Trump (R) was elected President of the United States vowing to fight what he called one sided trade deals.

Retaliation against our trade policies have also begun to affect the market price of some commodities. China purchases 30 percent of the U.S. soybean crop; but has been accused of dumping steel and aluminum on the global market.

The Chinese have put in place tariffs on a range of U.S. agricultural products, including 15 percent tariffs on: fruit, nuts, and wine, and a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork. Trump retaliated by threatening to target an additional $50 billion in Chinese goods. China responded by threatening to impose 25 percent tariffs on: soybeans, corn and corn products, wheat, sorghum, cotton, beef and beef products, cranberries, orange juice, tobacco and tobacco products.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wrote on June 25, “President Donald Trump is standing up to China, which wrongly believes it can bully our farmers to get America to back away from defending our national interests. The president understands that our farmers feed, fuel and clothe this nation and the world, and he will not allow U.S. agriculture to bear the brunt of China’s retaliatory tactics.”

“American producers have benefited from the policies of the Trump administration, including historic tax reforms and reduced regulations,” Perdue continued. “And farmers know that 20 cents of every dollar of their income relies on trade, which is why they are watching the situation with China closely. The simple truth is that when trading partners break the rules, there must be consequences.”

“We have the worst trade deals in the history of the world,” President Trump said in Duluth on June 21. “We gave away our country, but we’re taking it back for our workers, for our companies, for our jobs, for our money, for our taxes. It’s incredible. And you know, we have a lot of friends. But our friends, in many respects, Kevin, treated us worse on trade than the enemies. And we are doing a lot of things about it. We’re renegotiating trade deals left and right, and they’re all coming back.”

“You know, we have, I want to say, right on our side,” Pres. Trump said. “We also have the fact that we have been taken advantage of for many, many years, and it’s not happening anymore. Not happening anymore. And you see it. And you see it going on. And it’s not happening anymore.”

(Original reporting by Bloomberg News, Civil Eats, Fox News, and NBC News contributed to this report.)

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Rural TV Network wants Congress to pass legislation guaranteeing access to rural programming

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Patrick Gottsch and RFD-TV unveiled an advocacy campaign to urge Congress to pass legislation, the Rural Communications Act of 2018, requiring that major multichannel video programming distributors to provide rural content to their subscribers.

The Rural Communications Act of 2018 requires that at least one percent of a distributor’s channels shall host content “dedicated to rural news and weather, information on commodity markets, rural healthcare, rural development, rural education, and other content relating to the needs and interests of farmers, ranchers, and the rural lifestyle.”

RFD-TV is the flagship network for the Rural Media Group, and is the nation’s first 24-hour television network featuring programming focused on the agribusiness, equine and the rural lifestyles, along with traditional country music and entertainment.

Patrick Gottsch is the President and Founder of RFD-TV. On Wednesday, Gottsch had a lengthy conversation with the Alabama Political Reporter about the Rural Communications Act of 2018.

President Gottsch told APR that all they are asking is that the major video delivery companies set aside just one percent of their channels for rural programming. On a 300 channel cable provider that would be just three or four channels.

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APR asked Gottsch if he had a Senator and Congress member to sponsor his bill yet.

Gottsch said that they are considering several and that reception for the bill has been supportive. Everyone I have talked to on Capitol Hill has expressed support for the legislation both from rural and urban districts.

Gottsch and his team argue that multichannel video programming distributors, including the cable companies, are not currently meeting the needs and interest of rural America. It is in the public interest for multichannel video programming distributors to meet the information needs and interests of rural America and there are special need for news, weather, and commodity market information, which is unique to rural America, is being ignored by urban news conglomerates. Recent mergers in the cable TV business have meant that cable TV has become even more over representative of urban America in its current programming.

“There are 70 million people in rural America,” Gottsch told APR, The problems of rural healthcare are different than healthcare in urban America. Rural America deserves to have their news reported. Rural education is different than urban education. Rural America has their own sports. Business channels broadcast from the stock market in New York. Our Market Watch programming broadcasts from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and is agricultural commodity focused.

“Urban cable conglomerates say they provide “rural tv,” but they don’t get it. Petticoat Junction, Beverly Hillbillies, and Dukes of Hazard are not the vital rural programming our viewers depend on,” Gottsch said in a statement. “Farmers and ranchers depend on rural news, weather, and commodities market information. It’s hard to understand why members of Congress, representing their rural constituents, have not cared enough to do anything about this.”

The Rural Media Group owns both RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel, which focuses its programming toward the cattle industry, horse enthusiasts, and rodeo sports.

APR asked would this legislation make you a monopoly or do you think it would encourage more competition in the rural communications sector?

“Absolutely it would lead to more competition,” Gottsch said. “I know of people who have tried to start a competitor rural network.” and they went around and talked to the video delivery companies and they wanted them to buy their way in and the economics just weren’t there.

Gottsch said that he believed that the legislation would lead to RFD-TV having a competitor network,

“Rural folks have to have the ability to communicate,” Gottsch added. Not just to each other but also for rural America to talk to urban America. Comcast currently has 55 Hispanic channels and 8 African American channels. We support that diversity and believe that rural America should also have their voice represented.

RFD-TV would like to be part of everyone’s base channels package and not just be relegated to an upper tier channel that people have to pay more money for.

I have been testifying before Congress and to the FCC about the loss of rural programming Gottsch said. Rural Americans have special needs for news and information that are not being met now. There is a big push for expanding rural broadband and we support that; but we should also have rural programming along with that rural broadband.

“We want to attach this to the farm bill,” Gottsch told APR.

The House of Representatives has passed one version of the Farm Bill that sets Agriculture and supplemental nutrition assistance benefits for the next five years. The Senate has passed a different version of the Farm Bill. The two differing versions of the Farm Bill are now in a conference committee. Only 20 percent of the Farm Bill deals with agriculture policy. Eighty percent of the funding in the Farm Bill actually goes for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many Americans still refer to this program as “Food Stamps.” The House Republican version of the bill requires that able bodied adult SNAP beneficiaries either be enrolled in an approved job training program or work at least 20 hours per week, and that can be in a volunteer role for a government, non-profit cause, or Church. The bipartisan Senate version of the bill has no work requirements to receive SNAP benefits.

APR asked Gottsch, we recently heard from Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) that if the conference committee approves a version of the Farm Bill with work requirements for SNAP that the Senate will not support it. We have talked with Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) and he told us that the House won’t pass a Farm Bill without the work requirements. Are you concerned about the Farm Bill not passing even with your legislation attached.

“I have heard the same thing.” Gottsch said. Gottsch however was optimistic that adding the Rural Communications Act to the bill would help find consensus and help the Farm Bill pass.

Gottsch said that the Rural Communications Act is not unprecedented. In 1893 the Congress passed legislation giving rural Americans free postal delivery (RFD) and in the 1930s urban America had electricity and rural Americans did not. The Rural Electrification Act of 1937 brought electricity to rural areas.

Patrick Gottsch has taken to the air waves, asking his viewers to call their Congress members and Senators to ask them to support the Rural Communications Act of 2018.

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Byrne applauds Austal on LCS contract

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, the U.S. Navy awarded two of three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to Austal USA. Congress appropriated funds for 3 LCS in Fiscal Year 2019.

Two of those will be built by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama. The third will be built by Lockheed Martin in Marinette, Wisconsin. Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) applauded Austal for the contract awards.

“The fact that Austal received two of the three contracts from Fiscal Year 2018 for Littoral Combat Ships is yet another indication of the high quality work being performed at our shipyard in Mobile,” Rep. Byrne said. “This marks the third straight year that Austal has received two of the three contracts – a testament to the fact we are delivering capable ships on time and on budget. Congratulations to the almost 4,000 men and women who work at the shipyard and help equip the Navy with warships.”

Austal USA of Mobile, Alabama was awarded a fixed-price-incentive firm target modification to a previously awarded contract for the construction of two Littoral Combat Ships. The Navy may release a competitive solicitation(s) for additional LCS class ships in fiscal year 2019, and therefore the specific contract award amount for these ships is considered source selection sensitive information so is not being released by the Navy at this time.

The work will be performed in Mobile, Alabama; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Cincinnati, Ohio; Kingsford, Michigan; Bristol, Connecticut, and various other locations of less than 1 percent each and is expected to be completed by September 2024. Fiscal year 2018 Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy funds are obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract modification was awarded via a limited competition between Austal USA and Lockheed Martin.

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The 2019 Defense Department funding bill funded a 33rd, 34th and 35th littoral combat ship, three more than the 32-ship requirement set by the Navy. The Barack H. Obama (D) administration cut the original 55 ship requirement to 32 in 2014. The mission modules that will make each of the ships specialize as a mine sweeper, a submarine hunter or small surface combatant have been delayed due to technical issues.

The littoral combat ship is a set of two classes of relatively small surface vessels designed for operations near shore, the littoral combat zone, by the Navy. Austal builds the trimaran hulled Independence class. Lockheed Martin builds the more conventional Freedom class.

At this point 15 LCSs are deployed with the navy and the other seventeen are in various stages of construction and development. These newest three were not supposed to be built under the Obama administration plan to halt the LCSs at 32. Will there be more LCS’s greenlighted in the 2020 budget is in question.

Currently Austal USA and Lockheed Martin are competing for the contract for 20 new guided missile frigates which will be larger, multi-mission, and more lethal than the two LCSs. Both shipyards have submitted a more stretched design based on their Independence and Freedom class LCS hulls. The Obama Administration Defense Department had capped the number of LCS and frigates at 50. Now it appears that the Republican controlled Congress has reverted back to the original 55 ship requirement. Where the LCS contract was divided between Austal and Lockheed, the contract for the frigate is supposed to go to just one ship builder, dramatically reducing the work at either Mobile or Marinette.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District which includes Mobile where Austal USA builds the Independence class. Byrne is seeking another term; but faces Navy veteran Robert Kennedy Jr. (D) in the November 6 general election.

Original reporting by Defense News’ David Latner contributed to this report. Wikipedia was also consulted.

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Senate passes defense FY2019 appropriations bill

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced final Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019) Defense Appropriations Act. The bill was included in the conference report to accompany H.R. 6157, the minibus appropriations package which also contains the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill.

The package provides $674.4 billion in funding for the Department of Defense, which is an increase of $19.8 billion above the FY2018 enacted level. The House is expected to vote on the legislation next week. If the house passes it, the package will be sent to the President’s desk for his signature.

“This is the most significant step we have taken yet,” said Senator Shelby. “For the first time in a decade, we are sending a Defense spending bill to the President’s desk on time. Returning to regular order has required us all to sacrifice and work together for the good of the process. I want to thank my colleagues – particularly Leaders McConnell and Schumer and Vice Chairman Leahy – for their help in moving the Defense-Labor-HHS conference report before the Senate. This conference report contains critical funding for defense and domestic priorities. It accelerates the rebuilding of America’s military and provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase in nearly a decade. It also increases NIH’s budget by $2 billion and provides critical resources to combat the opioid epidemic.”

The appropriations minibus conference report was approved in the Senate by a vote of 93 to 7.

The Department of Defense portion of the package contains funding for defense priorities throughout the state of Alabama.

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“We must approve defense appropriations legislation to fund military readiness, procurement, and testing — all of which are required to keep U.S. military forces the best trained, equipped, prepared, and strongest force in the world,” continued Senator Shelby. “This historic legislation further highlights Alabama’s strong national defense capabilities and provides our state with the opportunity to continue producing essential tools to support our men and women in uniform. I am confident that this legislation will allow our defense programs to remain of the highest caliber.”

The Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bills represent the majority of discretionary federal spending. Neither has been signed into law before the end of the fiscal year in a decade. The measure provides an outline for military leaders to have the resources they need to meet current and future threats to U.S. national security.

The legislation includes items critical for the Wiregrass including: an additional $95 million for future vertical lift research, which will help accelerate development of helicopters flown at Fort Rucker; $10 million to upgrade Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; $1.0 billion for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles; $111 million for Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs) (The measure also encourages the Navy to evaluate the capabilities and costs of a surface-launched LRASM.); $307 million for Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGMs); $663 million for Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSMs), which recently made its debut in strikes on Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons; $484 million for Hellfire missiles, which are made in Troy and used for training at Fort Rucker; $254 million for Javelin missiles for the Army and Marine Corps.

The legislation has provisions impacting North Alabama including: $11.1 billion for investments in researching transformational technologies to address modern and future Army warfighting needs; $10.4 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), including $1.1 billion to support urgent MDA unfunded priorities and emergent threats; $191 million for Standard Missile Improvements, which are built in Decatur, and supports work done by MDA at Redstone Arsenal and many local companies; $184 million in additional funding to further develop directed energy technology and transition these activities to both offensive and defensive capabilities; $664 million in additional funding to support and accelerate offensive and defensive hypersonics research and prototyping efforts; An additional $15 million to integrate Small Glide Munitions onto on Unmanned Aerial Systems (This highly successful weapon is used by Special Operations Command and built in Huntsville); $306 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense, including $127 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million in Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements. This bill encourages the enhanced use of cyber red teams to address cyber intrusions that threaten our weapons systems, an area of particular excellence for Huntsville.

In space, the defense bill includes” $200 million in additional funding for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development efforts to ensure assured access to space. United Launch Alliance (ULA), which builds rockets in Decatur, continues to be seen as the most reliable and capable space launch provider.

The bill even includes Advanced Shipbuilding Capabilities with $15 million to establish North Alabama as a center for classified, high power large-scale electron beam welding. This technology is critical to new Navy Columbia-class submarines and many high-performance aerospace systems such as hypersonic reentry vehicles, scramjet missiles, and rocket and jet engine turbomachinery.

The legislation has provisions impacting Anniston including: $276 million for Hydra rockets, which are built in Anniston and fired from Army and Marine Corps helicopters; Funding for Army Vehicles which are overhauled and maintained at Anniston Army Depot (ANAD): $2.5 billion to continue modernizing M1 Abrams tanks; $393 million for Stryker vehicles, including an additional $94 million to support increased Stryker DVH A1 conversions; An additional $110 million for Paladin Integrated Management artillery vehicles; and $18 million in additional funding for M88A2 Hercules Improved Recovery vehicles.

The legislation also has provisions impacting Mobile’s shipbuilding industry including: Two additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); One additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship; An additional $700 million in Advance Procurement for LPD and LHA amphibious ships.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Shelby has served the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1986.

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9/11 Memorial stair climb held Sunday in Montgomery

Brandon Moseley

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Most people can easily climb one flight of stairs, but going two flights of stairs in a three-story home is a little more challenging. Many people start looking for the elevator to reach the fourth floor in an office building. Climbing the stairs in a ten-story office building is a cardio workout for most folks.

Imagine trying to climb 110 floors in full firefighter gear with a building on fire and thousands of people needing your assistance? That “worst scenario” is what New York City Fire Department firefighters faced on September 11, 2001.

412 first responders were killed that day, including 343 firefighters.

In honor of those fallen heroes, seven years ago the Pike Road Fire Department organized the Annual Alabama Remember 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Participants climb 110 stories in Montgomery. Obviously, there is nothing like the 110 story World Trade Center towers in Alabama. The closest tower we can come up with in Montgomery is the RSA Tower, the tallest building in Montgomery at 397 feet. To equal the former WTC towers, participants in the Memorial Stair Climb have to climb the stairs in the 22 story tall RSA Tower five times.

This year’s memorial stair climb was held on Sunday, September 16, 2018. The Alabama Remembers 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb is a way for firefighters and members of the community to individually honor and pay tribute to those heroic FDNY firefighters. Opening ceremonies were at 9:00 AM and the climb started at 10:00 AM. Participants raised money and worked at their own pace to complete the challenge. Some firefighters did it in full gear. Individuals, teams, current firefighters, and corporate sponsors all contributed to this event. The City of Montgomery and RSA donated manpower and use of the skyscraper to complete the climb.

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This year’s attendees included: Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Doug Singleton, Economic Developer Nicole Jones, representatives from fire departments across Alabama and the Florida panhandle, and hundreds of participants and spectators wanting to honor the heroic sacrifices of the first responders on 9/11.

The Town of Pike Road shared on social media, “Red, white, and blue (skies) were the center of attention this morning at the #AlabamaRemembers Memorial Stair Climb, hosted each year by Pike Road Fire. Firefighters from across the state came together to pay tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while responding to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It was an honor to be part of this incredible event! Thank you, Pike Road Fire, volunteers, and event organizer Dana Grubbs for all you do for our community with this event, and every day!”

The event coordinator is Dana Grubbs.

“Volunteers climb 22 floors, five times each, to equal the 110 floors of the World Trade Center. It hits home to first responders, because of 343 firefighters who died from the New York Fire Department,” Grubbs said. “That is the largest number of firefighters who died at any one time. The annual event is open to the public. Anyone can come and join us.”
“This was definitely a challenge,” said Trussville firefighter Jacob Carr. “My hat goes off to the guys that actually did it. That is the thing driving me to finish up today.”

Economic developer Nicole Jones completed the climb in a record thirty minutes.

“It is difficult to put into words the emotion experienced today as we climbed 110 stories in memory of fallen 9/11 firefighters,” Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “This beautiful event on a Montgomery Sunday forever etched a token of appreciation for fallen 9/11 firefighters on my heart. Each participant was assigned a fallen hero. To the family of Captain Thomas C. Moody, I will climb annually in your honor.”

The Stair Climb benefits the FDNY Counseling Service Unit (CSU) and the programs provided by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to support the families of our nation’s fallen firefighters.

According to Wikipedia, the RSA Tower was built in 1996 and is the sixth largest building in the state of Alabama. The tallest building in Alabama is the RSA Battle House Tower in Mobile. The RSA Battle House Tower, built in 2007, is 745 feet tall and has 35 floors.

2,977 people were killed in the September 11 attacks. Since 9-11 over 1000 of the workers involved in the aftermath of 9-11, many of them the first responders involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, have died from illnesses associated with the toxic mix of ash and dust swirling from the burning craters of the WTC towers. Over 37,000 are officially acknowledged as having illnesses (many of them lung illnesses) associated with being at or near ground zero in the days and weeks following 9-11. Health officials have suggested that within five years the number who will have died from 9-11 syndrome will exceed the number that died on September 11, 2001.

(Original reporting from WSFA Channel 12 in Montgomery contributed to this report.)

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Canfield says Trump tariffs slowed timeline on big manufacturing investments in the state

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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