READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 10th…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 10th

Mexico Eager to Start and Finish NAFTA Negotiations

Mexico is taking a ‘sooner rather than later’ approach when it comes to potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. A top Mexican official told CNNMoney last week: “It will be in the best advantage of the countries involved that we finish this negotiation within the context of this year.” That’s because Mexico will hold a presidential election in July of next year and the current president has reached term limits, meaning there is no guarantee the next administration will come to the negotiating table. Mexico’s top trade official argued it will be challenging to ratify a deal by mid-2018, but he would like to wrap up negations by the end of this year. The U.S. is already undergoing the administrative steps to start negotiations. The earliest that talks can take place would be the end of July. Mexico and the U.S. remain at odds of the details of the negotiations and Mexico’s trade negotiator warns the threat of tariffs from the U.S. risked opening a “Pandora’s box.” He argues that lobbyists in Mexico would urge him to strike back against major U.S. exports to Mexico like apples and corn.

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USTR Nomination Vote Could Reach Full Senate After Recess

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah is hopeful his committee can advance the nomination of Robert Lighthizer, President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, when the Senate returns from its two-week Easter recess. Hatch attempted a committee vote Thursday, but was forced to delay the vote after just one Democrat, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, showed to the committee meeting. Democrats on the committee are concerned that Lighthizer, who Reuters calls a veteran trade lawyer and Reagan-era Deputy Trade Representative, needs a congressional waiver from a 1995 law prohibiting USTR candidates from working on behalf of foreign governments. Wyden said Democrats’ concerns needed to be addressed, but he was “confident that we can find a way to have a positive, strongly bipartisan markup of Mr. Lighthizer.” The waiver could be included in a catch-all spending bill Congress needs to pass to avoid a government shutdown when the Senate returns April 24th. Committee Chairman Hatch said he was hopeful the committee could then send the nomination to the full Senate.

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USDA: Agriculture a $992 Billion Economic Factor

Data by the Department of Agriculture shows agriculture and agriculture-related industries contributed $992 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2015, a 5.5-percent share, the most recent USDA statistics.The output of America’s farms contributed $136.7 billion of this sum, about one percent of GDP. USDA says the overall contribution of the agriculture sector to GDP is larger than that figure because related sectors rely on agricultural inputs like food and materials used in textile production to contribute added value to the economy. In 2015, farming’s contribution to GDP fell for the second consecutive year after reaching a high point of $189.9 billion in 2013. A major reason for the downward trend has been falling commodity prices like corn and soybeans, which peaked around 2013 and have since declined by at least 30 percent. The food service category, eating and drinking places has expanded over a similar timeframe and may be a beneficiary of the lower commodity prices at the farm level.

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March FAO Food Price Index Slips

A measure of global food prices retracted during March. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index averaged nearly 171 points in March 2017, down almost five points from February, but still 13 percent above its level a year earlier. The Index consists of the average of five commodity group price indices, weighted with the average export shares of each of the groups for 2002-2004. With the exception of meat, the indices of all other commodities used in the calculation of the index dropped in March, especially those of sugar and vegetable oils. The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 147.8 points in March, down 1.8 percent, and the Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 167.6 points in March, down for the second consecutive month, dropping 6.2 percent from February. The dairy index averaged 189.8, down 2.3 percent, and the meat index average 163.2, up 0.7 percent. Finally, global sugar prices were down ten percent.

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Brazil Investigation Leads to Processor Closures

Brazil’s tainted meat corruption probe uncovered tainted meat samples and will result in the closure of some processors. As part of the investigation, the nation found eight samples of meat out of 302 tested positive for bacteria contamination. Unrelated problems uncovered at three processors led the government to order the cancellation of their Federal Inspection Service registrations, closing them permanently. The Brazilian government didn’t give details about the reasons to close those plants, in a published statement, according to meat industry publication Meatingplace. A spokesperson for Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry says: “Other meatpackers may also have their registration revoked as our audits proceed.” Brazil now expects “normal calendar” audits of meat processors will continue. The investigation was launched when alleged bribes to public inspectors to allow tainted meat pass inspections were uncovered. Almost all international markets that had blocked Brazilian meat purchases temporarily after news of the investigation have resumed imports, with only a few Caribbean countries still maintaining embargoes. Slovakia reported last Friday that it had found Salmonella in poultry meat samples imported from Brazil.

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Ag Leaders Meet with EPA Administrator

A coalition representing various agriculture groups recently met with leadership from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Production Agriculture CEO Council, which includes CEO’s of the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association and others, met with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and other EPA staff members. The agriculture leaders focused on topics important for agriculture, including expressing the importance of the Ag Liaison position at EPA. The Coalition also talked with EPA staff about Renewable Fuels and providing certainty and predictability in the marketplace, the need for more timely decisions from EPA on registration and re-registration of crop protection products, and the need to reform the consultation process among EPA, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service for required Endangered Species Act reviews of registrations and re-registrations of crop protection products.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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