READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, February 6th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday,February 6th

Trump: Change NAFTA to NAFFTA

President Donald Trump has suggested changing the acronym of the North American Free Trade Agreement when renegotiating the trade deal. Trump wants to include an extra ‘F’ in the term NAFTA. The extra “F,” he explained, would stand for “fair.” Agri-Pulse reports most U.S. farm groups like the current U.S., Canada and Mexico trade pact and do not want to see it dismantled. Trump says the current deal is “very unfair” to American workers and companies that do business in the United States. Agricultural trade between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years after tariffs were reduced or eliminated under the agreement. President Trump, however, was quick to blast the current deal last week, saying he wants to see NAFTA renegotiated quickly. Mexico is a major foreign market for agricultural commodities. Meanwhile, the U.S. is a key importer of Mexican fruit, vegetables and livestock.

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GMO Labeling Bill Facing Uphill Battle

The GMO labeling bill passed by Congress last year faces an uncertain future. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard passed by Congress last year preempts a patchwork of state laws mandating labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms. The law set a deadline for the Department of Agriculture to release rules for complying with the law by July 29th, 2018. USDA took steps toward implementing the law, and while a proposal for the rule was not expected until later this year, USDA was working to publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to pose questions to the public. However, the proposal was withdrawn under the new Donald Trump Administration. In addition, under a new executive order aimed at reducing regulations, USDA may need to find two other regulations to eliminate before it finalizes the rule in 2018. The American Soybean Association says it is unclear how exactly the executive order will impact the implementation of the GMO labeling law and other rules required by statute, but more direction is expected after the anticipated confirmation of Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture.

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Farm Groups Endorse Agriculture Secretary Nominee Perdue

More than 650 agriculture organizations have endorsed President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a letter to House and Senate agriculture leaders last week, 669 agricultural organizations endorsed Sonny Perdue, the nominee for Agriculture Secretary. A Trump transition team official says the letter was written on behalf of “farmers, ranchers…and all other segments of the agriculture community.” The letter urged Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, to hold a prompt hearing to move Sonny Perdue’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote. Highlighting Perdue’s personal and professional life in the letter, the groups agreed that he is “imminently qualified” to lead USDA. Perdue, a former Republican governor of Georgia, said he was “honored that so many organizations came together to support” his nomination. Perdue has also received the endorsement of former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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State Agriculture Leaders Call Food Safety a Farm Bill Priority

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has listed food safety as a 2018 farm bill priority. Specifically, NASDA prioritized the need farmers and ranchers may have for low-cost loans to upgrade infrastructure to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Online publication Food Safety News reports the move is not premature, noting Congress plans work on the 2018 farm bill later this year. The first in-field farm bill hearing is scheduled for later this month. Although, some lobbyists are expecting the farm bill to be delayed in a similar fashion to the 2014 farm bill, which took an extra year to finalize. Other priorities for NASDA focus on enhanced funding for invasive species programs, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Market Access Program. The group also wants robust funding for research, new tools for animal disease coordination and investments in voluntary conservation programs. NASDA represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories.

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First Syngenta Viptera Corn Case Scheduled for June

A Kansas City, Kansas federal court will hold the first of several class-action lawsuit hearings against Syngenta over Viptera corn in June. DTN reports the first trial is scheduled for June 5th, according to a court order issued last week in the U.S. District Court of Kansas. Syngenta is facing several lawsuits regarding the MIR162 GMO strain under the name Agrisure Viptera. The lawsuits claim the company should have inspected and prevented harvested Viptera corn from being shipped to China in 2013 and 2014. Plaintiffs in the case allege Syngenta sold Agrisure Viptera, which was not approved for import by China at the time and was found in shipments of corn to China, causing significant losses to corn farmers across the United States. That’s because the discovery of MIR162 in export shipments lead to a pause in corn exports to China, a move the farmers claim depressed corn prices. All farmers in the United States who priced corn for sale after November 18th, 2013, were approved last fall as a major class in the ongoing lawsuit. DTN says many other Syngenta trials also will be scheduled in the Kansas court, in a Minnesota state court and in other courts as well.

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South Dakota Considering Country-of-Origin Labeling

A group of South Dakota state Congress members has introduced a bill that would require retail beef products sold in the state to bear a country-of-origin label. Online publication Meatingplace reports the rule would exclude prepared and ready-to-eat foods. Mandatory federal country-of-origin labeling was bitterly opposed by the meat processing industry and ultimately dismantled by a series of World Trade Organization decisions. WTO approved retaliations by Canada and Mexico, but Congress acted in late 2015 to remove COOL requirements for beef, pork and poultry before the retaliation efforts were put in place. However, Silvia Christen of the South Dakota Stock Growers Association, which promotes the state’s independent livestock producers, said her group supports the measure because it is what consumers want.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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