READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, April 25th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, April 25th

Senate Confirms Perdue as USDA Secretary

The U.S. Senate Monday evening voted to confirm Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, just shy of 100 days after his nomination announcement by then President-elect Donald Trump. The Senate voted 87 – 11 to confirm Perdue. The White House said over the weekend Perdue would be sworn in Tuesday and immediately begin work at the Department of Agriculture. Perdue and his family were in the Senate gallery during the vote. The confirmation is a long-awaited win for agriculture and farm groups who are dealing with trade issues with Canada over dairy, disaster relief efforts from plains wildfires, and beginning farm bill talks. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson told the Capital Press the former Georgia Governor will “have some catching up to do.” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, also from Georgia, said in a recent editorial that the vote to confirm Perdue was “overdue,” adding “there’s important work ahead for the agriculture secretary.”

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Trump Promises Ag Executive Order Tuesday

The White House over the weekend promised an executive order for agriculture. In a memo to reporters, the White House press office said President Donald Trump would hold a roundtable discussion with farmers on Tuesday, and sign an executive order to protect and provide relief for rural America. Details on the executive order are similar to the Rural Council established by an executive order by President Barack Obama in June 2011, according to DTN-Progressive Farmer. The expected Agriculture and Rural Task Force Executive Order would create an interagency task force to examine the concerns of rural America and suggest legislative and regulatory changes to address those concerns. Even before the Senate confirmation vote, the White House also said Sonny Perdue would be sworn in as Agriculture Secretary Tuesday.

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AFBF Labor Expert Taking USDA Post

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s immigration and labor expert is heading to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. AFBF’s director of congressional relations for labor and immigration, Kristi Boswell, will serve as a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Boswell starts next month at USDA and Politico reports she will be working on labor and immigration issues. Boswell is a registered lobbyist and under Trump administration rules, may require a waiver to work on any issues that she previously lobbied on. Boswell grew up on a farm in southeastern Nebraska where her family raised corn and soybeans, according to AFBF.  Before joining USDA and AFBF, Boswell practiced corporate defense litigation in Nebraska and worked as a political aide for a Nebraska state senator.

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U.S., EU, Opening Door to TTIP Talks

The European Union and the United States could soon be reviving negotiations of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over the weekend told the Financial Times reducing the trans-Atlantic trade deficit in goods is a top priority. The $146 billion trans-Atlantic trade deficit is only second to China’s $347 billion deficit. Ross was hosting the European Union’s trade commissioner Monday to discuss how to proceed with TTIP talks that were launched under the Obama administration. Politics, negotiations and the United Kingdom vote to leave the EU stalled the talks. But the talks will likely remain stalled as Germany has an upcoming election in September, and Ross said the first priority of the U.S. regarding trade is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ross expects a NAFTA agreement will be reached by mid-2018.

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Syngenta Corn Lawsuits Underway

The first of several lawsuits filed against Syngenta is underway. Syngenta is facing dozens of lawsuits that claim a move by the company depressed corn prices in 2013. The farmers involved claim Syngenta’s selling of a corn trait that was not approved to export to China, and found in shipments of U.S. corn to China, depressed U.S. corn prices and cost farmers millions of dollars in lost sales, according to Bloomberg News. Syngenta denies that China’s rejection of its GMO seeds harmed farmers in any way, saying it was the huge corn crop in 2013 that pushed prices lower. In June, Syngenta faces trial in a class-action lawsuit brought by Kansas farmers seeking $200 million, plus punitive damages. Another trial involving Minnesota farmers claiming $600 million in damages is set for August. Winning the lawsuit may be a tough sell, according to an ag-policy expert, who said the company had a green light from U.S. regulators to sell the GMO corn and there was no requirement to wait for Chinese officials’ approval to market the trait to U.S. farmers. A lawyer for Syngenta called the claims “speculative, at best.”

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NFU President Attends March for Science in D.C.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson spoke to thousands attending the Washington, D.C. March for Science over the weekend that also included former Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. Johnson spoke at the flagship march held in Washington, D.C., saying: “Farmers Union members are acutely aware of the important roles that science and science-based policies play in the success of American family farm operations.” Johnson says that by joining the March for Science movement, he hoped to “to highlight the need for life sciences research, science-informed policy, and effective communication of the latest advancements in science and technology.” Johnson called on the federal government to base policy on sound science and facts, noting that family farm operations are heavily impacted by federal policy. Johnson also said there should be more publicly funded, independent and peer-reviewed agricultural research to inform both farmers and policymakers. More than 70 percent of U.S. agricultural research is financed through private dollars. In a news release, Johnson noted that other Farmers Union leaders participated in marches in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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