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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, January 3rd
State Ag Directors Want NAFTA Fixes
As President Donald Trump gets set to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. state directors of agriculture are weighing in on which parts of the agreement they’d like to see fixed. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture is a big booster of increasing trade opportunities and favors deals like NAFTA. However, they’re urging the new president to address what they call a series of unfair practices. The state ag leaders have issues with how Canada classifies all U.S. wheat imports as feed-grade, which is the lowest classification possible. They also don’t like a recent move by Ottawa officials to implement new cheese standards that make it much more difficult to get U.S. cheese imports into the province. They’re also unhappy that a recent glut of Mexican fruits and vegetables into America are driving down prices for U.S. producers. Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller spoke at a recent winter policy conference for state ag directors, saying,” We know NAFTA is probably going to be renegotiated, and we want to be at the table when that happens.”
Vilsack Endorses Perdue as Next Secretary of Ag
Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, received something that none of the other Trump cabinet nominees did. He picked up the endorsement of the person in the Obama administration who held the post he’s been nominated for. An Associated Press report says former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack endorsed Sonny Perdue as a good choice as the new Secretary of Agriculture. Perdue has recently been making rounds on Capitol Hill, visiting with key senators ahead of upcoming confirmation hearings. Vilsack said Perdue’s background as a former Republican governor of Georgia has prepared him to deal with the “challenges and opportunities that exist in rural communities.” Vilsack adds he’s worked firsthand with Perdue and knows how committed he is to the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and producers, regardless of size or production methods. He also expects Purdue to be very supportive of the national forests and the Forest Service, as well as an advocate for the national land grant universities that help to develop the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
Cargill Chief: NAFTA in “Good Place”
As Cargill Chair and CEO David MacLennan looks at the North American Free Trade Agreement, pulling out of the deal would have a “chilling effect on the already depressed agricultural economy.” He says new trade deals must fill the hole left by the Trump Administration’s move to exit the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He adds that it makes “no sense for Congress to try to ratify bilateral trade deals with multiple countries instead of ratifying one giant trade deal.” MacLennan was in Washington this week to testify before Congress, saying there’s not a lot that Cargill wants to change in the North American Free Trade deal. He believes agricultural markets would have an extremely negative reaction if Trump should exit the deal. “I think it’s in a pretty good place right now,” MacLennan added. Trump has vowed to ditch NAFTA if it can’t be renegotiated to be more of a benefit to U.S. interests. A move like this would also create major economic shock in Canada as well as Mexico. After consulting with many business interests in their country, Mexican officials told Reuters they expect negotiations on redoing NAFTA to begin sometime in May.
Trump Trade Policies Good for New Zealand?
The New Zealand trade envoy says a Donald Trump presidency might be good for his country. Special Agricultural Trade Envoy Mike Petersen says, “He (Trump) is really strong on holding countries accountable on their trade obligations and that’s a good thing.” He points to the resolution of a recent trade dispute with Indonesia as an example. The NZ Farmer News website says a trade dispute led to the collapse of New Zealand beef exports to that country. Back in 2013, both the U.S. and New Zealand took 18 trade complaints before the World Trade Organization, which ruled in favor of the two countries in December, ending the four-year-old case. “If he’s stronger on making sure trade partners meet their obligations in the first place, there should be less time spent on trade disputes and more time spent trading,” Petersen said. Trump’s campaign pledge to “make America great again” could have more positive implications for trade. Peterson says, “He’s going to be pro-growth and development, stimulating the U.S. economy with spending on infrastructure and development, which will increase growth and demand for products from partners like New Zealand.”
Missouri Wants to Curb Illegal Dicamba Use
Missouri was a hotbed of complaint last year regarding the off-label use of dicamba as the product drifted onto sensitive crops and plants that weren’t resistant to the product. A DTN report says newe legislation is now before the Missouri legislature that would impose stiff fines on farmers if they misuse dicamba this growing season. Missouri Republican Representative Don Rone says the goal of the legislation is to make sure the state’s growers use the product correctly. Farmers would be fined $1,000 per treated acre if they are caught using the product off-label. The current fine in Missouri is $1,000 per incident. The Missouri Soybean Association says farmers have been at the table during these discussions and they’ll continue to work on this. Communications Director Christine Tew says, “Our position hasn’t changed since last summer, growers must read and follow label directions.” The legislation also designates any fine money that’s collected will go to the school district where the incident took place. The bill also requires product manufacturers to provide grower training, which can be done electronically and requires dealers to ask for proof of taking such a class before a dicamba sale can take place.
Pork Industry Says No Bacon Shortage
A very high demand for bacon has driven pork belly supplies to record lows, prompting talk of a nationwide bacon shortage. However, the pork industry remains confident it can keep up with the increasing demand and avoid a serious shortage of the product. An Associated Press report says the bottom line is a pound of bacon might be a little more expensive over the rest of this winter, but the price should stabilize by this summer. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report says pork belly supplies fell to 17.7 million pounds last month, the lowest number since recordkeeping began back in 1957. Wholesale prices are already showing an increase. While retail prices aren’t increasing yet, they could rise as the industry works to catch up. Steve Meyer, a pork industry economist for Express Markets, says he isn’t concerned about the shortage in pork belly stockpiles as pork production likely will increase 3 percent this year. To keep pace with increased pork demand, the industry is building at least four new processing plants in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Michigan in the next few years.