READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, September 14th…

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CLICK HERE to listen to TODAY’s BARN Morning Ag News with Brian Allmer…

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

NFU and Farm Aid Looking for Help

The National Farmers Union and Farm Aid groups have partnered to send 275 farm families to Washington D.C. this week to seek help for farmers struggling through the current economic downturn. Both organizations say that America’s farmers can’t afford to wait for assistance until after the November election. They’re asking Congress for emergency relief for the hardest-hit farmers, increased funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture farm loan programs, and resources to help provide a remedy for low commodity prices all be included in the upcoming Congressional spending package in fiscal year 2017. Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President, said, “Low commodity prices and high input costs have been relentless, and 2014 farm bill safety net programs have failed to deliver the relief farmers and ranchers need to help them recover.” Net farm income is forecast to be 43 percent lower than in 2013, yet farm production expenses are four percent higher than last year at this time. “Every week, we hear from family farmers and ranchers facing these challenges on their farms,” said Carolyn Mugar, Executive Director of Farm Aid. “This is becoming the new normal for many farmers and ranchers across the country.”

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Pork Producers Can Challenge Information Release

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pork producers can challenge the public release of their water pollution permit applications. The Courthouse News Dot Com website says those applications contain the estimated amount of waste produced by their operations. However, the applications also contain the name of the facility’s owner, the mailing address, a topographic map of the area around the operation, as well as the estimated amounts of manure, litter, and wastewater produced each year. The Clean Water Act states that these applications will be made public. However, the three-judge appeals panel said personal information is included in those applications, like names, home addresses, telephone numbers, GPS coordinates of those homes, and information that could lead to financial information being gleaned by someone else. The panel said while information about owners can usually be found in the public, farmers can object to having their information put into a central database, which EPA did three years ago and then gave that information to environmental groups through Freedom of Information Act requests. The panel said the EPA’s extensive data collection efforts and environmental groups’ multi-year attempts to access that data show that the EPA has collected data that would otherwise exits in greater obscurity.

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India Wants U.S. to Drop Penalties in WTO Dispute

India will ask the U.S. to drop its plans for $450 million in penalties for non-compliance on a World Trade Organization ruling on poultry imports. Bloomberg reports the Minister of Commerce and Industry from India will discuss the issue with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Frohman during a phone call this week. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today said the penalty is in response to a dispute regarding poultry imports from the U.S., which asked the WTO dispute settlement body to allow $450 million in annual retaliatory trade measures against India. The retaliatory measures would continue against India until they come into compliance with a 2015 WTO ruling to lift the ban on poultry. The ban was put in place several years ago over concerns about avian influenza possibly coming into India. The U.S. argued before the WTO that America hadn’t had an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza since 2004, while India had 90 such outbreaks between 2004 and 2014.  

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U.S. Files WTO Complaint Against China

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative filed a claim against China in the World Trade Organization over market price supports for wheat, rice, and corn. The complaint says that China is using these supports in excess of its commitments under WTO rules. The Hagstrom Report said China’s support for those three commodities are roughly $100 billion over levels China committed to during its accession to the WTO. The excessive market price for wheat, rice, and corn inflates Chinese prices above market levels, creating artificial incentives for Chinese farmers to increase their production. The decision to file the complaint is a victory for rice, wheat, and corn groups that have been talking about the issue of Chinese subsidies for years. The complaint will result in WTO-led negotiations with China over the alleged level of subsidies. If the U.S. prevails, China’s choice would be to reduce the subsidies or deal with U.S.-imposed punitive tariffs on its products. The process is likely to take several years.

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California Governor Signs Farm Worker Overtime Bill

California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would raise the state’s farmworker wages for overtime. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the United Farm Workers supported the legislation, but the Western Growers Association President said it will have the exact opposite effect of what was intended. Tom Nassif said it will actually cause workers to lose wages. Producers will have to cut down on costs of production and they’ll reduce worker hours and may even plant crops that don’t require as much labor. Retail buyers will purchase products from other states to keep their costs down as higher production costs will drive prices on California goods higher. He added, “California farmers compete with farmers in other countries and states with no overtime costs, far lower minimum wages, reliable water supplies, and far less regulatory burden.”

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State Ag Officials Seek OSHA Enforcement Extension

The National Association of State Ag Departments is asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to delay its enforcement of stringent new requirements for the storage of anhydrous ammonia at retail locations. The State Ag Departments sent a letter to OSHA asking them to delay enforcement of the new Process Safety Management rules until July of 2018. OSHA removed the retailer’s exemption from the Process Safety Management anhydrous ammonium requirements after the explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant in West, Texas, back in 2013. Ag groups say the change could be significantly expensive for small, independent retail fertilizer dealers. The letter to OSHA goes on to say, “During a time of low commodity prices and higher input costs, this policy could increase the price of anhydrous ammonia and decrease its availability, without improving safety.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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