READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, January 19th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, January 19th

Vilsack’s Week Early Departure Meant to Save Tax Dollars

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stepped down a week early from his cabinet post to “save taxpayers a few bucks.” Vilsack told Reuters he and his family were taking a trip to Mexico this week and did not want the federal government to pay for a security detail to travel with him. Vilsack served as Ag Secretary for all eight years of President Barack Obama’s time in the White House. Following his exit, The U.S. Dairy Export Council confirmed Vilsack would be its next president and CEO, taking over the duties next month. Vilsack said he left extensive briefing books and electronic information about the agency for the Trump Administration. Vilsack said it would take the next Agriculture Secretary “some time” to absorb all the information Vilsack’s team has prepared. President-elect Trump has yet to name his nominee for Agriculture Secretary.

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NPPC Calls Organic Animal Welfare Standards “Another Poke in the Eye”

In a parting gift from the Obama administration, the Department of Agriculture has issued a regulation that adds animal welfare standards to the nation’s organic food production law. The National Pork Producers Council, which opposes the move, says the gift “is not welcomed” by the pork industry. USDA’s amendment to the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 would strictly dictate how organic producers must raise livestock and poultry and specify which standard practices are allowed and prohibited in organic farming. NPPC calls the regulation an overreach of standards that are not based on science and outside of the scope of the organic food production law. NPPC says some of the standards even could jeopardize animal and public health, as the provision on outdoor access conflicts with best management practices to prevent swine diseases that pose a threat to animal and human health.

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USDA Modifying COOL Regulations for Venison

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to publish a proposed rule to amend country-of-origin labeling regulations adding venison under the labeling law. While Congress repealed COOL regulations for beef and pork in 2015, the regulations still require retailers to notify their customers with information regarding the source of other certain foods, including lamb, goat and chicken, farm-raised fish and fruits and vegetables. The Agricultural Act of 2014 directed USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to add muscle cuts of venison and ground venison to the list of covered commodities subject to mandatory COOL requirements, according to meat industry publication Meatingplace. Comments on the proposal must be submitted by March 14.

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China Halts Ethanol Shipments

Buyers in China have canceled up to seven ethanol import shipments due to arrive by April, the first sign a likely hike in import duties is threatening to stall demand. The import tariff is likely to rise to 30 percent from five percent and would shut imports out of the market based on current prices, according to Reuters. Seven cargoes could equate to between 266,000 and 443,000 cubic meters of ethanol. Ethanol shipments to China in the first 11 months of 2016 hit 765,000 cubic meters, up 51 percent on the prior year, while 2015 imports of 686,000 cubic meters soared 2,741 percent from the year before. There has been some confusion over the 2017 tariff after the government said it would adjust the tax to “protect” the domestic industry but did not provide further details. If the tariff moves forward, U.S. ethanol shipments to China would stall due to a lack of profit margins.

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Farm Leaders Taking Part in Inaugural Parade Friday

Leadership from national farm organizations will represent agriculture during the inaugural parade for President-elect Donald Trump Friday. Several agriculture association leaders will drive tractors in the parade, including American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, American Soybean Association President Ron Moore, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance CEO Randy Krotz, National Pork Producers Council President John Weber, and National Association of Farm Broadcasting past and current presidents Mark Oppold and Max Armstrong. The farm leaders will take part in the RFD-TV Rural Tractor Brigade, driving new tractors along the parade route. Members of the National FFA will carry the banner for the Rural Tractor Brigade and lead the contingent of tractors in the parade.

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USDA Announces Funding to Support Agricultural Education at Land-grant Universities

The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced $18.9 million in funding for land-grant universities to obtain or improve agricultural and food sciences facilities and equipment. The funding, according to USDA, will help land-grant universities sustain their programs in agriculture, food and human sciences. Previously funded projects include an outreach and teaching facility for livestock at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. The project also provided outdoor laboratory facilities for veterinary faculty and students. Land-grant institutions must apply before early March. Since 2009, USDA has invested in land-grant initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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