READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, February 21st…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, February 21st…

Senate Confirms Trump EPA Chief

The U.S. Senate Friday confirmed the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. On a mostly party-line vote of 52-46, Republicans in the Senate pushed the nomination through, allowing Pruitt to become the next EPA Administrator. The vote followed an overnight rally by Senate Democrats in an effort to delay the vote until next week, after 3,000 some emails between Pruitt and the fossil fuel industry are set to be released. The New York Times says Democrats, environmental groups and even current EPA employees have harshly criticized Pruitt’s record of fighting the mission of the agency he will now lead. Pruitt is welcomed, however, by many agriculture groups because of his opposition to the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule and other regulations.

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Mexico Looking at Argentina, Brazil, for Yellow Corn

Mexico is turning its attention to South America, given uncertainty over U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policies. Mexico’s agriculture minister last week announced he would lead a business delegation to Argentina and Brazil to explore buying yellow corn from the two nations. The trip was attributed to an effort to consider lessening Mexico’s dependence on the United States, according to Reuters. Exact dates have yet to be set, but Mexico confirms the trip will happen within the next 20 days, and Mexico could explore quotas and changing the tariff regime for imports from South America if needed. The announcement follows a threat to retaliate against the U.S. by a Mexican Senator who is considering legislation to direct the country not to buy corn from the United States. The threats stem from Mexico’s opposition to a President Trump proposal to build a border wall and impose a 20 percent import tax on Mexican goods to cover the cost and the consideration of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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Senate Agriculture Committee Holding Farm Bill Field Hearing

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold its first farm bill field hearing this week in Kansas. The hearing, planned for Thursday at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, will feature testimony from a variety of agricultural producers, according to committee sources. Titled “Hearing from the Heartland: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Kansas,” committee members will get an update on “what is working and what is not working in farm country,” according to Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, A Kansas Republican. The field hearing will follow the House Agriculture Committee’s pre-farm bill hearing last week. The Senate Agriculture Committee will live stream the hearing online at ag dot senate dot gov (www.ag.senate.gov). A time for the hearing had not been confirmed as of Friday afternoon.

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Farmers File Class Action Suit over Dicamba Drift

Farmers have filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto over dicamba herbicide drift issues. The lawsuit focuses on the off-label use of dicamba that led to drift damage in ten states last year. DTN says the new case, a class action suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Missouri, has two farmers from Missouri as lead plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed by the same Missouri-based legal firm that also sued Monsanto over dicamba drift in November 2016 on behalf of a Missouri fruit and row-crop operation. Attorneys representing the farmers say they expect “hundreds of farmers” will eventually join the class action lawsuit. The lawsuit is open to farmers who experienced damage from illegal dicamba drift in 2016 from Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Illegal, off-label, over the top use of a Monsanto dicamba product led to drift damage to crops that were not tolerant to dicamba. The new lawsuit contends that Monsanto is responsible for the off-label dicamba use and damage.

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Day Without Immigrants Protests Slowed some Meatpacking Operations

Last week’s Day Without Immigrants protests caused some slowdowns at meatpacking operations in the United States, but Tyson Foods and Cargill said all plants were operational last Thursday. A Cargill spokesperson told meat industry publication Meatingplace the impact was “minimal,” and a Tyson Foods spokesperson said absentee levels at some locations were “higher than normal,” but noted all plants were operating. North American Meat Institute President Barry Carpenter said some operations were slowed or modified because of the protests across the nation. Carpenter said: “We respect the rights of our employees to express themselves,” noting that the meat industry has long supported comprehensive immigration reform. Media reports listed several types of business closures, largely in urban areas, and including grocery stores and restaurants from fast food to fine dining.

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East Coast Dock Workers Starting Contract Negotiation Early

Dock workers and cargo companies along the east coast are getting an early start to contract negotiations, an effort that could prevent a port slowdown like the one seen on the west coast during 2015. The International Longshoremen’s Association held informal contract talks last week with the United States Maritime Alliance, which represents the employers of some 25,000 unionized Atlantic and Gulf Coast port workers, according to the Wall Street Journal. In a joint statement, the two organizations say the discussions were “productive and peaceful.” The meeting came 19 months before the current contract, agreed to in 2013, is set to expire in September of 2018. Talks first began in 2015, after labor negotiations at west coast seaports forced a slowdown in exports and congested ports on that side of the nation.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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