READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 26th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 26th

Perdue Off to Work as USDA Secretary

Newly minted Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue ditched his coat and tie, and rolled up his sleeves Tuesday morning, getting to work at the Department of Agriculture during an address to USDA employees. Following Senate confirmation Monday, the former Georgia Governor was sworn in Tuesday morning by Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, also from Georgia. Perdue preached transparency, ethics and customer service, before heading to the White House to take part in a farmer roundtable and the signing of an executive order related to agriculture. Perdue will now head to the USDA Service Center in Kansas City, Missouri this week, and take part in a town hall Friday at the American Royal Complex hosted by the Agribusiness Council of Kansas City. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has also asked the Secretary to visit Wisconsin, where dairy farmers are dealing with what they have called “unfair practices” by Canada.

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Executive Order Creates New Agriculture Panel

An executive order by President Donald Trump creates a panel to look at agricultural issues. Ray Starling, a special assistant to the president on agriculture, says the executive order will sunset the White House Rural Council started under President Barack Obama in 2011. Trump’s White House will then restart a similar inter-agency rural task force to look at legislative, regulatory, or policy issues that hinder economic growth in agriculture, according to DTN-Progressive Farmer. The executive order, signed during a roundtable discussion with farmers and ranchers Tuesday, comes on the same day Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was sworn in. Starling says the new task force will work to promote agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America. The task force will be expected to produce a report within 180 days.

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Trump Administration Imposing Tariff on Canada Lumber Products

The Donald Trump administration intensified a decades-old trade dispute with Canada this week, announcing tariffs up to 24 percent on imported softwood lumber. Bloomberg News reports the step escalates an economic battle among neighboring countries that normally have one of the friendliest international relationships in the world. It follows a fight over a new Canadian milk policy that U.S. producers say violates the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump said last week “we can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage” of the nation’s dairy farmers, while also mentioning lumber, timber and energy. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the tariffs came after the Commerce Department “determined a need” because of the “unfair Canadian subsidies” to the lumber industry. Canada fired back, saying the tariff is an “unfair and punitive duty” imposed on “baseless and unfounded” allegations. The U.S. and Canada have argued since the early 1980s over how much softwood lumber the country’s suppliers can sell in the U.S. and at what price. Canada has vowed to sue the U.S. over the tariffs, if needed.

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Progress on Canada Dairy Issue

The Associated Press reports more farmers impacted by what they call unfair trade practices by Canada have found a buyer for their milk. A Wisconsin state officials told the Associated Press Tuesday that around 15 more farms have found buyers or have promising leads. If those deals go through, that means 20 to 25 of the 58 farms dropped by Grassland Dairy will still need to find other buyers by Monday. President Donald Trump Tuesday in referring to the trade dispute wrote on Twitter that: “We will not stand for this.” His comments were praised by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who said he spoke with Trump about the Wisconsin farmers seeking help after being dropped following a change in Canada’s pricing policy for domestic milk that evaporated the demand for U.S. milk. Trump’s tariff announcement on lumber products from Canada was seen as a response to the dairy issue. Walker said in a separate news release Tuesday that the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority is offering dairy farmers and processors better terms on loan guarantees from now until August, which could encourage processors to make investments to accommodate more milk.

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Rural Economy Index Lower Again

The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index remained weak with a reading below growth neutral for the 20th straight month, according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and energy. Released last week, the index which ranges between 0 and 100, slipped to 44.6 from 45.3 in March. The last time the overall index was at or above growth neutral was August 2015. The farmland and ranchland-price index for April slumped to a frail 30.7 from March’s 33.0. This is the 41st straight month the index has languished below growth neutral. Meanwhile, the April farm equipment-sales index sank to a very weak 21.5 from 22.0 in February, the 44th consecutive month the reading has fallen below growth neutral. Borrowing by farmers soared for April as the loan-volume index advanced to a record 81.6 from last month’s 58.4. And, the confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, slipped to 45.6 from 47.5 in March indicating a continued pessimistic outlook among bankers.

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USDA to Study Antibiotics Use in Pork operations

The Department of Agriculture will begin a four-month study in May on how antimicrobials are used in U.S. swine operations. Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports the agency’s National Animal Health Monitoring System, along with the National Agricultural Statistics Service, is conducting a new data collection and reporting effort that will focus on antimicrobial use and stewardship practices on swine nursery and grower-finisher facilities with a capacity of at least 1,000 head. The study is part of USDA’s Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan released in 2015. The study will gather information on antimicrobial-use practices in 2016 before FDA’s implementation of policies that eliminated the use of medically important antimicrobials for growth promotion purposes in food-producing animals and required veterinary oversight of such antimicrobials in animal feed or water.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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