READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 27th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 27th

White House Readies Order on NAFTA Withdrawal

Two White House sources told Politico that the Trump Administration is considering an executive order withdrawing the country from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Officials say the draft order has been submitted for the final stages of review and could be unveiled soon. Politico says the order could change in the coming days but seems to indicate an intent to withdraw from the sweeping deal by triggering the timeline set forth in the agreement. On the campaign trail, the President pledged to renegotiate the deal signed in 1994 by Bill Clinton. In recent weeks, Trump has increased his rhetoric by vowing to terminate the deal altogether. Pete Navarro, the head of the National Trade Council, drafted the executive order in cooperation with White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The draft order could be a negotiating tactic but should Trump set the process in motion, the prospect of pulling the U.S. out of the world’s largest trade deal could become very real. Trump said he would renegotiate multilateral trade deals like NAFTA, which he called a “job-killer” and “the single worst trade deal ever.”

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Iowa Ag Secretary on White House Ag Round Table

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey expressed his appreciation that President Trump would host the Agriculture round tablediscussion this week, especially because it’s still early in his administration. Northey says he was very encouraged by the discussion that took place. “The president clearly understands the importance of a strong agriculture sector in our nation. It’s great news that Secretary Perdue is in place at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will be a strong supporter of the effort to aid farmers, ranchers, and rural communities,” he says. Northey says the conversation was especially positive regarding items like reducing the regulatory burden on farmers, infrastructure updates, trade, and immigration. Northey, who was at the roundtable, said it’s clear to him that the president understands the need for a reliable workforce for agriculture and is committed to establishing a workable immigration system to fill that need. “My takeaway on trade is the president understands the importance of trade to agriculture and won’t risk undermining the advancements we’ve made in ag trade as they work with our trading partners to address other concerns,” Northey says.  

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Possible Changes in Cotton/Dairy Policies Ahead

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson tells Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report that he’s optimistic that the fiscal 2017 government spending package will include changes to the cotton and dairy policies in the new Farm Bill. He says those potential changes would provide more financial assistance to farmers. The Minnesota Democrat says he and other committee members have been talking with congressional appropriators for some time. Adjustments to the programs in the 2014 farm bill through the appropriations process now mean a Congressional Budget Office score of the 10-year price tag of the law will increase. That means lawmakers will have more funds to work with while they put together the 2018 farm bill. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition believes there’s another good reason for the deal to get done. Republicans that represent cotton states like Mississippi and Texas likely will find willing partners in Democrats that represent the biggest dairy states, including California, Wisconsin, and Vermont. Those willing partners likely include Senate Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, and Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, the panel’s vice chairman.

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Bill Introduced to Reform Biodiesel Tax Credit

Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, along with a bipartisan group of 14 other senators, introduced a bill that would be designed to reform the biodiesel tax credit and extend the new policy for three years. Grassley and Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell are the chief authors of the American Renewable Fuel and Job Creation Act of 2017. The act would extend the biodiesel tax credit for the next three years and reforms the incentive by transferring the credit from the blenders to the producers of biofuels. The switch would ensure that the tax credit would incentivize domestic production and taxpayers wouldn’t be subsidizing imported fuel. Biofuel imports have increased from 510 million gallons in 2014 to approximately one billion gallons in 2016. Foreign biodiesel can benefit from the existing tax credit as well as foreign subsidies, making it much harder for homegrown biodiesel to compete. Grassley says, “U.S. tax policy should support U.S. products and jobs.” Ernst added, “I’m proud to support his legislation with Senator Grassley, which will ensure that we’re not inadvertently supporting foreign-produced biodiesel.”

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Red Meat Demand Remaining Strong

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent Cold Storage Report showed record reductions of beef and pork, which means demand for the products remains high. At the other end of the spectrum, chicken stocks remain historically high. A Meating Place Dot Com article says total beef in cold storage dropped 38 million pounds in March, the biggest drop in March since back in the 1970’s. The 40-million pound drop in boneless frozen beef also set a record for March. Pork also made some historic drops too. Bone-in ham stocks dropped by 21 million pounds, the biggest drop in those supplies in 20 years. Overall, frozen pork supplies were down 10 percent compared to March of 2016. Pork Belly stocks were actually up 27 percent from last month but still 68 percent lower than last year. Chicken stocks technically decreased three percent from last year, but Daily Livestock Report analyst Len Steiner says, “Those stocks are still high relative to historical norms, which will be a factor limiting industry production and expansion.” Turkey supplies were up 16 percent from March of last year, with the overall number of total frozen poultry supplies two percent higher than a year ago.

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Farmers’ Share of the Food Dollar is Still Low

A Farm Journal report says some consumers may still look at grocery store prices and think farmers are making a lot of money off the commodities they produce. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report says for every dollar that consumers spend on food, farmers and ranchers get approximately 17.4 cents. The remaining 82.6 cents of every dollar goes to things like marketing, processing, wholesaling, transportation, and retailing. For example, for every pound of bacon purchased, the consumer spends $5.63 while the farmer earns 75 cents. Consumers will spend $3.99 for a pound of tomatoes and the farmer earns 29 cents. For every pound of lettuce consumers buy, they’ll spend $2.79 while the farmer earns a nickel. Lastly, an 18-ounce box of cereal will cost consumers $4.79 but the farmer will only earn a nickel. Compared to the retail price of most products, farmers will often only make pennies on the dollar. The food dollar series for the USDA’s Economic Research Service measures annual spending by consumers on domestically produced food.  

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USDA Removes Database on Animal Mistreatment

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture shut down a database that includes information about mistreated, injured, or killed farm animals. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service cited privacy concerns in taking down the website information. A CNN Dot Com article quotes an animal activist group saying the agency bowed to pressure from groups that don’t want the information so accessible. The USDA’s website had posted information that included official warnings, pre-trial settlements, administrative complaints, and inspection reports. An announcement from APHIS says the agency made the move to take out certain personal information from website documents involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. Michael Budkie (Bud-key), Executive Director of Stop Animal Abuse NOW!, says the information that was taken down already had redacted sections. “The documents they removed contain virtually no personal information,” Budkie says, “this is not about privacy.” He says the move was made due to pushback from industries that he says “exploit animals.” Documents that had been part of the website information must now be requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a process that can take months.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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