READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 24th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 24th

Senate Ag Committee Talks with Perdue

Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue appears to have won over the Senate Agriculture Committee and is headed for confirmation by the full Senate, after the committee votes to move Perdue forward. During a confirmation hearing Thursday, Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow announced intentions to vote for the former Georgia Governor to become the next to lead the Department of Agriculture. Much of the hearing focused on what Perdue plans to do as Agriculture Secretary, rather than his qualifications for the job. The hearing came 73 days after President Donald Trump made his final Cabinet selection, being Perdue, a day before Trump’s inauguration. The Committee will hold a separate business meeting to vote on the nomination and has yet to schedule the meeting.

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Margin Protection Program Fix Costly

Dairy groups are asking Congress to tweak the dairy Margin Protection Program, but the fix may prove to be too costly. The House Agriculture Committee Wednesday reviewed the program while seeking options to make MPP more effective for farmers. The National Milk Producers Federation wrote Congress earlier this month suggesting changes to the program. Federation CEO Jim Mulhern testified that “while MPP was, and is, the right approach for the future of federal dairy policy, the program in its current form does not provide meaningful safety net support.” However, a fix could cost near $200 million a year, and the price tag is problematic for lawmakers. House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson said the way that the Congressional Budget Office scores the MPP will cause budget problems for the next farm bill. Peterson says he doesn’t agree with the way the CBO scored the program in 2014, according to the Hagstrom Report. The CBO estimated such a high cost that Congress reduced the feed calculating formula under the program, leading to lower payments and participation. That means Congress has to come up with more money if it is to fix the program in the next farm bill.

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Amid Brazil Scandal, Groups Urging Reconsideration of COOL

Amid a meat safety issue in Brazil and a trade priorities list from President Trump, some groups are calling for the reconsideration of country-of-origin meat labeling. COOL was repealed by Congress in late 2015 when the World Trade Organization authorized retaliatory measures against the U.S. because of the legislation. But, with a recent scandal in Brazil regarding tainted meat being overlooked and a new trade priorities list from the President, groups such as the National Farmers Union are urging the administration to pursue COOL. NFU is urging the administration to keep COOL on the list and to ensure a reinstatement of COOL would be allowable under any renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mandatory COOL, first passed in 2002 and then again in 2008, required that muscle cuts of meat and some vegetables, nuts and fruits sold at retail must contain a label informing consumers about the country where the product was sourced.

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USDA: No Tainted Beef from Brazil has Entered the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week said no tainted meat from Brazil had entered the United States. The comments follow last week’s findings of a bribery scheme at Brazilian meat packing plants to entice inspectors to turn a blind eye to tainted meat and sanitary issues. USDA says that while none of the slaughter or processing facilities implicated in the Brazilian scandal have shipped meat products to the United States, the Food Safety and Inspection Service immediately instituted additional pathogen testing of all shipments of raw beef and ready-to-eat products from Brazil upon hearing reports of the investigation. FSIS has also increased its examination of all these products at ports-of-entry across the country. The agency will indefinitely maintain its 100 percent re-inspection and pathogen testing of all lots of FSIS-regulated products imported from Brazil.

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House Passes Agro-terrorism Bill

The U.S. House this week passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act, agro-terrorism preparedness legislation that’s also up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 406-6. Iowa Republican Representative David Young, a sponsor of the bill, says the legislation is a step “towards protecting America and consumers from agro-terrorism, and other high-risk events that pose serious threats to our food, agriculture and livestock industries.” The Act requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, through the assistant secretary for Health Affairs, to elevate preparedness of our nation’s food, agriculture and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events. The bill authorizes DHS to collaborate with other agencies to ensure food, agriculture and animal and human health sectors receive attention and are integrated into the department’s domestic preparedness policy initiatives. The U.S. Senate version of Young’s legislation has been voted out of committee and is waiting for a vote to be scheduled in the full Senate.

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U.S. Biodiesel Industry Calls Out Illegal Trading

The National Biodiesel Board Thursday filed an antidumping and countervailing duty petition, making the case that Argentine and Indonesian companies are violating trade laws by flooding the U.S. market with dumped and subsidized biodiesel. The petition was filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission on behalf of the National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition, which is made up of the National Biodiesel Board and U.S. biodiesel producers. NBB leadership says the “this is a simple case where companies in Argentina and Indonesia are getting advantages that cheat U.S. trade laws and are counter to fair competition.” Because of illegal trade activities, biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia surged by 464 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to NBB. That growth has taken 18.3 percentage points of market share from U.S. manufacturers. This is not the first time that Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel producers have been charged with violating international trade laws.  In 2013, the European Union imposed 41.9 to 49.2 percent duties on Argentina and 8.8 to 23.3 percent duties on Indonesia. Just last year, Peru imposed both antidumping and countervailing duties on Argentine biodiesel.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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