READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 12th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 12th

EPA Nominee Opposes RFS, WOTUS

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency. In the past, Pruitt has filed legal challenges against the “waters of the United States” rule and greenhouse gas regulations. Agri-Pulse reports that Pruitt met this week with Trump about the position. Pruitt has been a vocal critic of the Renewable Fuels Standard, calling the RFS a “flawed program.” Pruitt has also filed legal challenges against the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank law, under which the Administration has implemented new regulations on the futures market. Pruitt was first elected Oklahoma Attorney General back in 2010. He’s established a “federalism unit” within the state Solicitor General’s Office to challenge regulations. Pruitt also questioned the legal and scientific basis for the Obama administration to attack climate change, saying, “Scientists continue to disagree about the extent of climate change and its connection to the actions of mankind.” Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, says he expects no problems with getting Pruitt confirmed in the Senate.

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Lukewarm Reaction to EPA Chief Nominee

North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp recently met with President-elect Trump and remains as a potential cabinet pick. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says that doesn’t mean she’s ready to rubber-stamp Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General Trump has nominated to take over as Chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt isn’t a believer in climate change and isn’t a fan of the Renewable Fuels Standard, which Heitkamp says, “Gives her pause.” Heitkamp does share Trump’s concerns regarding overregulation, but she “also wants clean air and water. If we’re going to have an EPA administrator who understands rural America, that means they also have to understand the needs of farmers and want to support those farmers.” Senate Ag Committee Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is also skeptical of Pruitt. “We were promised a farmer-friendly EPA by President-elect Trump, yet his nominee wants to upend one of the most successful drivers in rural America.” Stabenow adds that this appears to be the President-elect saying one thing to the American public and doing something else.

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Farm Credit System Reports Increasing Stress

The Farm Credit System’s quarterly report says stress levels are still high in the ag sector of the economy. In fact, the operating report says stress levels are high in many different sectors of agriculture. Farm debt levels are still high while cash receipts continue to decline. Interest rates remain low but are slowly beginning to rise. That’s combined with commodity prices that’ll remain low thanks to record or near-record production in corn, soybeans, and wheat. All of these factors are also putting downward pressure on farmland prices. High production numbers are also weighing down price and profit margins in the dairy and protein industries. Overall, the quarterly reports say the Farm Credit System is financially sound and safe, well set against the risky environment in agriculture. The System reported modest loan growth, favorable earnings, and higher capital levels in the first nine months of 2016. The System’s portfolio loan quality is in good shape, but credit risk measures are showing increasing stress.

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China Proposes New Food Safety Rules on Imports

The Chinese government recently proposed a draft rule on food imports that has the European and U.S. governments concerned. Trade officials from both nations are concerned that the new rules could hamper billions of dollars in goods like coffee, pasta, and biscuits, that are all shipped to the number two economy in the world. The proposed rule is part of a push by China to increase its oversight of the country’s large food supply chain. The new rule for shipping food imports into China will require imports to have health certificates with them, even if the products are designated as low risk. Pork Network Dot Com says the new regulations will add costs and logistical headaches to a large number of companies that do business in China. Germany’s Ambassador to China, Michael Clauss, told Reuters, “The new draft has clearly crossed a line from protecting the consumer to outright protectionism of the domestic producer.” Chinese producers will not be required to meet the same standards. The Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine is the group that oversees food import safety and a Reuters request for more information from the agency was not responded to.

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Bayer/Monsanto Asks Soybean Growers for Support

Monsanto and Bayer officials met together with about 200 members of the American Soybean Association and asked them to support the proposed merger between the two companies. Monsanto Chief Technology officer Robb Fraley and Bayer AG Board Member Liam Condon talked about the potential $66 billion-dollar acquisition of Monsanto with members of the ASA and the United Soybean Board at the USB Winter Meeting in St. Louis. Fraley told the crowd, “I’m here to ask for your support.” Farm Journal research says the merger would create a company controlling nearly 37 percent of the corn seed market and 30 percent of the market for soybean seeds. The deal is in the hands of regulators and won’t close until late next year. Condon reinforced the message he’s already given to regulators: that they’re willing to sell off where the companies overlap if objections are made on anti-trust grounds. Condon said those objections may happen in cotton and canola, saying those are two of the more likely areas.  

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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