READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, June 20th…

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Four Days Left for Congress to Beat Vermont Labeling Law

The Senate has just four working days on the calendar between now and July first, the date the Vermont GMO labeling law goes into effect, to reach a compromise on a national GMO labeling law. Politico reports that makes Friday, June 24th, the last day to get legislation to President Barack Obama’s desk to beat Vermont. The House will go on recess on the 24th and not be available to consider any bills passed by the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts continually insist that negotiations are ongoing. The committee’s ranking member, Senator Debbie Stabenow, is demanding a mandatory labeling agreement. The biggest sticking point appears now how the label will be presented to the consumer. The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which previously opposed a mandatory label, now says a smart label directing consumers to more information would be acceptable, but on-package GMO labeling would not be acceptable. The coalition represents 43 national farm groups and countless state organizations.


Direct Payments Expected to Rise in 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says direct payments made to farmers are expected to increase roughly 31 percent this year to $13.9 billion. Direct farm program payments are those paid directly by the U.S. Government to farmers and include fixed payments, crop price and revenue-based payments, and other payments such as conservation payments and disaster relief. The forecast reflects changes made in the 2014 Farm Bill that eliminated several programs and added new support programs, the Price Loss Coverage program, or PLC and the Agricultural Risk Coverage program, known as ARC. PLC and ARC together are expected to account for over $9 billion in 2016, about 96 percent of all crop price, and revenue-based payments. The majority of ARC payments were paid to farms with a history of corn production, followed by wheat and soybeans. PLC payments were primarily made to farms with a history of long-grain rice, peanuts, and canola production.


Spending Bill Bars EPA Funding for Campaigns against Agriculture

A rider on the Senate Interior Appropriations bill seeks to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from funding campaigns against agriculture. The rider, one of many on the bill, followed the EPA billboard funding controversy in Washington State. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, Republican Pat Roberts, applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee for advancing the bill last week. However, Democrats on the Appropriations Committee warned the bill would be a non-starter on the Senate floor. At issue was an advocacy campaign, funded in part by a $20.5 million EPA grant. The campaign included billboards and a website attacking agriculture and urging Washington State lawmakers to increase regulation over the agricultural industry. Other riders on the spending bill include a block on the EPA’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule.


Drought Forcing Brazil to Accept U.S. Genetically Modified Corn Imports

Brazil is working to clear the way for corn imports from the U.S. at the end of this year. Currently, various genetically modified corn traits used in the United States are not approved for import into Brazil. However, DTN reports Brazil is planning to temporarily allow certain GM corn traits to supply the nation’s poultry and pork industry. Brazil’s domestic corn prices have increased significantly on fears of a shortage. A drought, largely driven by El Niño, caused significant losses to second-crop corn in Brazil, dropping production output by 20 percent. Brazil has already imported around 600,000 metric tons of corn this year, mostly from Argentina, and will still need to import more towards the end of this year.


Farmers Stress Importance of Predictable Biotech Regulation to the EU

In a series of meetings, the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Soybean Export Council told the European Union U.S. agriculture needs the EU to adopt a predictable biotech regulatory system. The group traveled to Brussels last week while raising concerns about delays in approvals for soybean and corn biotech traits and transparent regulatory system. The EU recently delayed final approval of three soybean traits and one corn trait that have already gone through the risk assessment and risk management processes, but have still not cleared the final hurdle by the European Commission. The U.S. Grains Council says the European Parliament has complicated the process further by voting on resolutions of disapproval for biotech traits that are cleared for final approval. In meetings with the European Commission, representatives of both groups reiterated they are not seeking to change the EU’s biotech approval regulations or but are seeking improvements to the EU approval system.


Zero Tolerance Ergot Policy Costly for Egypt

The back-and-forth stance by Egypt regarding tolerance levels for the fungus ergot in wheat shipments is costing the nation millions of dollars. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today reports the country says its “unorthodox agricultural measures,” which include a zero-tolerance policy on ergot, come at an annual cost of $860 million, regarding added expenses and lost export opportunities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Egypt reports the country will spend up to $100 million due to unusual inspection and sampling policies for wheat shipments. USDA says the result is “higher food prices paid by Egypt’s overburdened consumers, in complete dissonance with the government’s efforts and trumped up claims it’s trying to make food more affordable.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service