READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 23rd…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 23rd…

Trump Ag Assistant Lists Administration Priorities

North Carolina native Ray Starling is still new to his role as Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture, Agricultural Trade, and Food Assistance. Starling spoke to Penton Agriculture this week about some of the administration’s key priorities when it comes to agriculture. Some of the biggest priorities include promoting agricultural trade, giving farmers access to a stable workforce, regulation reform, and giving agriculture a seat at the table when new regulations are discussed. Starling says, “We are getting to a period of push comes to shove” on accessing a sufficient workforce for American agriculture. Just how this is going to be set up in future policy development remains to be seen, but he said this is a top-of-mind issue. “On the regulatory reform issue, we want to evaluate the current landscape and make it less onerous,” Starling says. “We want to lessen the cumulative impact of those regulations and provide you a stronger voice in the process to vet future regulations.”  He says a voice for agriculture should not only be in place at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but at other agencies as well, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and the Department of Labor.

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3.3% Rise Seen in 2017 Soybean Acres

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will release its Prospective Plantings Report on March 31. In the days leading up to it, several organizations are making predictions as to what the report will show. An Ag Web Dot Com article says Met Life Agricultural Finance is the latest to do so. Met Life is predicting that farmers will increase their soybean acres 3.3 percent over last year. If that comes true, it would raise U.S. soybean acres to 87 million. That number is a bit lower than Allendale’s projection of 88.8 million acres and USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum prediction of 88 million acres. A Met Life report says, “Cyclically low agricultural commodity prices have led to declining financial conditions in the sector, and planting soybeans requires less working capital than corn and cotton.” As an example, the report cites 2015, when the average per-acre operating costs for soybeans was $171 per acre, compared to $334 for corn and $497 for cotton.  Other highlights from the Met Life report include an expectation that farmland values won’t start a recovery until 2019. The report also advises a cautious approach to 2017 because political uncertainty can cause market volatility.

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Brazil Meat Scandal an “Economic Embarrassment”

Brazil President Michel Temer (Mee’-shell Tuh-mehr’) called the recent scandal around Brazil’s sale of expired meats to other countries an “economic embarrassment” on Tuesday while more countries suspended meat imports from his nation. An Associated Press Report says five countries and the European Union have all halted at least some meat imports from Brazil, which will be a major blow to a struggling economy. Temer tried to downplay the scandal, calling it a “fuss.” He notes that only three of the more than 4,000 meatpacking plants across Brazil have been forced to close. Investigators are saying health inspectors were bribed to ignore the sale of expired meat products. Police also say the appearance and the smell of the rotten meat were covered up by chemicals, as well as water and flour. Trade Associations for beef, pork, and poultry producers in Brazil say this could have a major impact on employment across the country. It could put a major dent in the economy as meat exports comprise 15 percent of the country’s total amount of exports. So far, the Brazil government has banned meat exports from 21 plants under investigation.

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Consumer Groups Rally Against Rollbacks

A dozen consumer groups have banded together to work against legislation that would make it more difficult for the government to issue regulations. The groups have dubbed it the “filthy food act,” which they say will make it more difficult to keep the American food supply safe. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says the bill is formally known as the Regulatory Accountability Act, clearing the House in January, with the Senate looking at its own version of the legislation. Groups like the Environmental Working Group, the Consumers Union, and others, say they are working to “raise the alarm” across social media platforms this week. The groups sent a letter to Congressional leaders this week saying, “Food safety rules help to reduce the risks posed by pathogens and pesticides. But the ‘Filthy Food Act’ would create an unprecedented regulatory gauntlet through which no food safety rule or guidance could pass.” They also say the act would cut science out of the regulatory process, replacing public input and expert testimony with mountains of reviews and red tape. The groups also point out that the Food Safety and Modernization Act, passed in 2011 and strongly supported by consumer groups and the food industry, would have been much more difficult to push through if the Regulatory Accountability Act was in place.

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White House Recognizes National Ag Day Tuesday

President Donald Trump proclaimed Tuesday as National Ag Day in America, noting that “American farmers and ranchers help to feed the world.” The proclamation also says farmers help to fuel the nation’s economy and lead global markets in output and productivity. The Trump proclamation also calls agriculture endlessly innovative and the largest positive contributor to the nation’s trade balance. The proclamation was praised by virtually all sectors of agriculture. John Bode, President and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association, said the president recognizes that “improved trade balances and a successful agriculture sector are linked.” Bode says the industry’s exports not only deliver jobs at home, but they’re a fundamental strength abroad. “We are happy to know the White House agrees with this and will look to increase ag exports as they study existing and future trade agreements,” he added.  White House press secretary Sean Spicer mentioned National Ag Day during his daily briefing, saying American farmers are the most efficient in the world, in spite of tighter margins, increasing regulations, and declining exports due to unwise trade policies. Spicer adds, “The President has promised people in the ag industry and rural America that he will not allow this to continue.”

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Meat Groups Want Disease Protection in Farm Bill

Beef, turkey, sheep and pork industry representatives all testified in favor of a stronger program to protect animals from disease, especially foot-and-mouth disease. The Hagstrom Report says the groups gave testimony on Tuesday at a hearing before the House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council both testified in favor of spending $150 million on an FMD vaccine bank. Current foot-and-mouth disease funding is at $1.9 million. National Turkey Federation President and Minnesota turkey farmer Carl Wittenburg said the proposal should build on the 2014 Farm Bill’s authorization of the National Animal Health Laboratory. The new proposal should establish the national FMD vaccine bank, help develop a block grant system that allows states and key groups to target areas of concern, and take full advantage of the science generated by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture program. All the groups giving testimony want the new program to be included in talks as Congress develops the 2018 Farm Bill.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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