READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, January 25th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, January 25th

TPP Member Nations Seek to Save Trade Agreement

Trans-Pacific Partnership member nations are hoping to salvage the trade deal after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement by executive order. Fulfilling a campaign pledge, Trump signed the order this week, pulling the U.S. out of the massive trade deal. Both Australia and New Zealand remain hopeful the deal can be salvaged without the United States. Both nations talked with Japan on continuing the agreement, according to Reuters. Australia’s Prime Minister said the U.S. withdrawing from the deal is “a big loss,” but added there is potential for China to join the agreement. China has proposed a counter pact, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific and has championed the Southeast Asia-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Meanwhile, TPP requires ratification by at least six countries accounting for 85 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the member nations. A meeting between the remaining TPP nations is expected in the coming months, according to a New Zealand trade official.


Trump Freezes EPA Grants and Communications

The Donald Trump administration has ordered a freeze on grants and contracts from the Environmental Protection Agency and ordered EPA staff to halt external communications. A memo to EPA staff instructs the employees not to publish press releases, blog messages or social media postings. The memo also says media request will be carefully screened and no new content can be placed on any EPA website. Political analysts say the move is not uncommon, but further overreaching than a typical freeze by a new administration, according to the Huffington Post. The EPA awards roughly $4 billion in grant funding each year. President Trump and his transition team have promised a reduction of regulatory grasp by the EPA, specifically targeting Clean Air Act regulations and the Waters of the U.S. rule.


Agricultural Research Service Receives Communication Guidance

An internal email sent to the Agricultural Research Service allegedly directs the department not to release any public facing documents, but the Department of Agriculture says the email “was flawed” and that new guidance would be issued to replace it. According to Reuters, the email was sent Monday, the first business day of the new Donald Trump administration. The email directed ARS staff not publish press releases, photos, fact sheets or social media content until further notice. A similar memo was sent to staff of the Environmental Protection Agency. However, in a statement, USDA said peer-reviewed scientific papers from the unit should not be blocked, adding that ARS “is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between scientists and the American public.” The Agricultural Research Service is tasked with scientific research info issues facing agriculture, including long-term climate change.


GIPSA, Organic Livestock Rules, Suspended for Review

The Donald Trump administration has suspended all new or pending regulations from taking effect for 60 days to allow for review by new leadership. For agriculture, that means the organic livestock welfare rule announced in the final week of the Obama administration will be suspended for at least another 60 days, along with the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration regulations announced last month. At the least, the suspension adds 60 days to all pending regulations before taking effect or resuming a comment period in the Federal Register. The organic welfare rule would set strict guidelines for raising organic livestock. The GIPSA rules refer to the practices of poultry and meat processors relative to the farmers that supply them with live animals.


2016 Biodiesel Market Skunks Previous Records

U.S. consumers saw a record of almost 2.9 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel in 2016, outpacing the previous record by nearly 40 percent. Also for the first time, the monthly market topped 300 million gallons, with December’s numbers coming in at 362 million gallons. The National Biodiesel Board welcomed the numbers but says that success is undermined by imports. Imports provide more than a third of the U.S. biodiesel market. Figures by the Environmental Protection Agency show the 2.9 billion gallons represented an 800 million gallon increase of biodiesel and renewable diesel from 2015.  At the same time, domestic production rose from about 1.4 billion gallons in 2015 to more than 1.8 billion gallons in 2016, well below available capacity, according to NBB. Imports increased by more than 50 percent from an estimated 670 million gallons in 2015 to over one billion gallons in 2016, which the Biodiesel Board says shortchanges potential economic benefits to U.S. producers.


Non-Browning Genetically Engineered Apple to Reach Stores Next Month

The first genetically engineered apple variety will reach store shelves next month after years of development and protest. A limited “test run” release of the non-browning Arctic Apple branded fruit is expected to find its way to select Midwest grocery stores in February. The apple variety has been genetically modified to eliminate the browning that occurs when an apple is left out in the open air. Genetic engineering advocates tell the Washington Post the apple could be a turning point in the debate over genetically modified organisms. While genetic modifications have in the past been mainly defended as a way to protect crops, the Arctic Apple would be one of the first GMOs marketed directly to consumers. The founder of the company marketing the Arctic Apple says: “We see this as less about genetic modification and more about convenience.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service