READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, February 14th…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, February 14th…

Trump Assigns Japan Trade Talks to Pence

President Donald Trump has assigned Vice President Mike Pence to lead economic dialogue with Japan following meetings with Japan’s Prime Minister. Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Sheen-zoh-ah bay) made no decision regarding bilateral trade negotiations while meeting over the weekend in Florida. Vice President Pence will lead any trade talks with Japan, while Japan appointed its Deputy Prime Minister to lead talks with Pence. The talks will address fiscal and monetary policies, along with infrastructure and trade, according to Reuters. A top economist at Nikko (knee-coh) Securities in Tokyo said Pence “may be easier to work with” and “probably more logical” than Trump regarding trade policy negotiations. Trump has publicly opposed Japan, on both the campaign trail and in office, for its trade and economic policies.

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China, New Zealand to Hold Free Trade Talks

China and New Zealand will hold a series of meetings to promote free trade amid growing concerns over U.S. trade protectionism. The Strait Times, a Singapore-based newspaper, reports officials from both China and New Zealand have confirmed the meetings will take place. China’s Foreign Minister last week met with New Zealand officials. The two reportedly discussed the upgrade of the nations’ bilateral free trade agreement, China’s possible involvement in what remains of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and New Zealand’s role in China’s One Belt, One Road economic strategy. China and New Zealand officials both agreed the consideration of China joining the TPP needs to be discussed further now that the United States withdrew from the trade agreement. New Zealand and Australia have said that they hope to salvage the TPP by encouraging China and other Asian countries to join the trade pact.

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Senate Ag Committee Facing 18 Confirmation Hearings

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold 18 confirmation hearings in the coming months for positions in the Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies. While yet to be scheduled, a confirmation hearing for Agriculture Secretary Nominee Sonny Perdue will be one of 14 for USDA positions, alone. The committee must also confirm replacements for three vacancies at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and one for the Farm Credit Administration board. Senate aides told The Hagstrom Report that considering nominees for confirmation is a primary responsibility of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and will take priority over work on the next farm bill. The committee must confirm the USDA Secretary, Deputy Secretary and a group of Assistant Secretary and Undersecretary positions. Sources close to the transition efforts expect Sonny Perdue’s confirmation to come in early March.

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Groups Urge New U.S. Attorney General to Block Major Ag Mergers

More than 300 groups signed a letter calling on newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to block the three major seed and chemical mergers being reviewed by the Department of Justice. The groups consisting of consumer, food, farm and anti-pesticide organizations say the mergers would increase both food and farming costs, threaten global food security, curtail innovation and limit farmer choices, according to DTN. The mergers involved include Dow Chemical and DuPont, Bayer AG and Monsanto and ChemChina and Syngenta. Regarding the mergers, the letter states: “Conglomerates of such massive scale…pose a real risk to our economy.” The letter argues the mergers would translate into fewer options for farmers and raise input prices. DTN points out that many groups signing the letter have been longtime opponents of biotechnology and pesticides.

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Cotton Acres Forecasted to Increase 10 Percent

The Annual Planting Intentions survey by the National Cotton Council estimates U.S. cotton acres will expand near 10 percent in 2017, compared to 2016. The survey projects 11.0 million acres of cotton will be planted in the U.S. this year. An analyst with the National Cotton Council says the increase in acreage is “largely the result of weaker prices of competing crops and improved expectations for water.” Meanwhile, world cotton mill use is expected to exceed world production in 2017, and global cotton stocks are projected to decline by 7.7 million bales. The majority of the global stocks decline is due to China’s reduced inventories. While China’s increased consumption of reserve stocks has bolstered mill use in 2016, it also has curbed China’s demand for imported cotton, leaving global market price implications unclear.

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Farm Bureau Program Donates More than 28 Million Pounds of Food in 2016

American Farm Bureau Federation members raised more than $1.1 million and donated a record of more than 28.9 million pounds of food to assist hungry Americans in 2016. The donations were part of Farm Bureau’s Harvest for All program. Combined, the monetary and food donations also reached a record level of the equivalent of more than 31 million meals. In addition to raising food and funds for the initiative, farmers and ranchers tallied more than 9,000 volunteer hours assisting local hunger groups in 2016. Now in its 15th year, Harvest for All is spearheaded by members of Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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