READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, December 8th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, December 8th

Continuing Resolution Includes FSA Loan Funding

A continuing resolution budget bill to keep the U.S. government funded through April includes language to provide the Department of Agriculture money for farm loans and summer feeding programs. The Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, which covers 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, will maintain government operations at a rate of $1.07 trillion through April 28th, 2017. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill Thursday with the Senate following suit on Friday, according to the Hagstrom Report. The farm loan language for the Agricultural Credit Insurance Fund Program by the Farm Service Agency followed a request for the funding by farm groups. A coalition of farm groups sent a letter to appropriators that it was “absolutely critical” the Farm Service Agency has the resources needed to meet rising demand for farm loans. The bill also includes agriculture emergency watershed and conservation funding.


House SNAP Report: No Gutting Needed, But Changes Recommended

The House Agriculture Committee’s long-awaited report on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program released Wednesday includes several “areas in need of improvement,” but no suggestions of “gutting” the program. House Agriculture Chairman, Texas Republican Mike Conaway, told Politico the report highlights responses to the committee on how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP “can more effectively fulfill its mission.” The Wall Street Journal says the report called for an end to rules that discourage people from finding better-paid work and a reconsideration of banning sugary items including soda. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says sweetened beverages were the second-most common food-stamp purchase at an unidentified leading grocery chain in 2011. SNAP has expanded more than threefold from prerecession levels, to $74 billion last year, even as unemployment has fallen. More than 45 million people received food stamps last year, an average of $126 a month. The report was released to help guide 2018 Farm Bill discussion in Congress.


Trump Picks Oklahoma’s Pruitt to Lead EPA

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Pruitt has spent much of his energy as attorney general fighting the agency he is being nominated to lead, according to the Washington Post. He is suing the EPA over climate change rules and is vastly opposed to the Waters of the U.S. rule, also vastly opposed by agriculture. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duval says the selection of Pruitt to lead the EPA is “welcome news” for farmers and ranchers. Duvall says Pruitt: “Should help provide a new degree of fairness for U.S. agriculture.” Pruitt is also a critic of the Renewable Fuel Standard. He argued in a 2013 Supreme Court brief that EPA ignored the risks of gasoline blended with more than 10 percent ethanol poses to fuel systems of vehicles, and the mandate’s effect on food prices.


U.S. Trade Deficit Widening on Falling Soybean Exports

The U.S. trade gap is widening because of a decrease in soybean exports and other products, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The deficit recorded its biggest increase in more than a year in October, suggesting trade would be a drag on growth in the fourth quarter of 2016. When adjusted for inflation, the deficit rose to $60.3 billion from $54.2 billion in September. However, Reuters says the deficient won’t have a significant economic impact. While the reversal in soybean shipments suggests trade is likely to subtract from GDP growth in the fourth quarter, consumer spending and a firming housing market are expected to keep supporting the economy. Third quarter soybean exports had increased on a surge in soybean shipments to China after a poor harvest in Argentina and Brazil. Meanwhile, exports of capital goods were the highest in October since December 2015.


U.S.-China Talks Falter in WTO Farm Subsidy Spat

Trade officials from the U.S. and China were unable to resolve their disagreements over the Obama administration’s allegations that Beijing provided more than $100 billion in illegal government subsidies for producing rice, wheat and corn. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today newsletter says the United States now plans to ask the World Trade Organization to initiate an investigation into the matter at a meeting next week of the WTO’s dispute settlement body. The U.S. will argue that China violated the terms of a 2001 agreement to the WTO and provided trade-distorting domestic support in excess of its WTO commitments, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office. If the U.S. succeeds, the dispute could force China to reduce its agricultural subsidies or face retaliatory trade tariffs worth tens of billions of dollars.


Agricultural Relationship Key to China Ambassador Nominee

Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad has accepted an offer by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as Trump’s ambassador to China. Branstad was chosen for his longstanding relationship with China that dates to 1985 when Branstad hosted a delegation from China visiting Iowa to learn about agricultural techniques. A Trump transition team spokesperson said Branstad brings a “great grasp” on trade and agriculture issues and has a “tremendous understanding” of China and its people, as reported by the Des Moines Register. A former aide to Branstad called the governor a “known commodity” in China. He is the longest-serving governor in American history, having served four terms in the office from 1983 to 1999 and another term and a half since 2011. He met with Trump earlier this week and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the post after Trump is inaugurated next month.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service