READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 5th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 5th

FDA to Address GMO Misinformation

Included in a budget deal to avert a government shutdown is funding for the Food and Drug Administration for consumer outreach and education regarding agricultural biotechnology. The Washington Post reports the money is to be used to tout “the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian impacts” of biotech crops and their final food products. The bill includes $3 million for the campaign, that comes after More than 50 agriculture and food industry groups had signed a letter last month urging the funding to counter “a tremendous amount of misinformation about agricultural biotechnology in the public domain.” It’s unclear what the FDA campaign will look like, or when it will launch. The Washington Post points out that the $3 million allocated is little more than a speck in the FDA’s total allocated budget of $2.8 billion. The budget specifies only that the initiative be developed in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, and include the “publication and distribution of science-based educational information.”

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Farm Banks Increasing Ag leading

Farm banks increased agricultural lending by 5.3 percent in 2016 and held $103.4 billion in farm loans at the end of the year, according to the American Bankers Association’s annual Farm Bank Performance Report. Asset quality remained healthy at the nation’s more than1,900 farm banks as non-performing loans have fallen to a pre-recession level of 0.54 percent of total loans. ABA defines farm banks as banks whose ratio of domestic farm loans to total domestic loans is greater than or equal to the industry average. An ABA spokesperson stated: “We’re continuing to see a decline in farm income, but the good news is farm banks are in good shape to assist their farm and ranch customers as the ag economy takes a turn.” At the end of 2016, banks held $176 billion in farm and ranch loans. In addition, more than 97 percent of farm banks were profitable in 2016, with 60 percent reporting an increase in earnings.

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Farmers Union Calls on Senate to Reject AHCA

The National Farmers Union is calling on the U.S. Senate to reject the House-passed American Health Care Act. NFU says the act will cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance, lessen protections for those with preexisting conditions, and adversely affect family farmers and rural Americans. NFU President Roger Johnson expressed disappointed in House passage of the bill, saying many of the issues from the original legislation opposed by NFU in March still exist in the bill. Those issues include caps to Medicaid, and basing subsidies on age. Johnson says: “House leadership has made the legislation worse by providing even fewer protections for family farmers and rural Americans.” The recent MacArthur amendment to the bill, which allows states to apply for waivers to parts of the law, would be “particularly detrimental to individuals with preexisting conditions,” according to Jonson. He says the National Farmers Union priority for any health care bill is that “it offers coverage for more people rather than fewer.”

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USDA Announces Arrival of First Shipments of U.S. Beef to Brazil

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Thursday that the first shipment of fresh U.S. beef has arrived in Brazil following a 13-year hiatus. The entrance of American beef into the Brazilian market ushers in promising long-term economic opportunity for U.S. beef producers, according to Perdue, who says: “I look forward to Brazilians getting the opportunity to eat delicious American beef, because once they taste it, they’ll want more of it.” Brazil closed its market to imports of U.S. fresh beef in 2003 over concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (in-sef-o-lop-athy), or BSE.  Since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have worked continuously with Brazilian officials to regain market access. Brazil officially reopened the market on August 1, 2016, based on the United States’ classification by the World Organization for Animal Health as a negligible risk country for BSE.

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Perdue Planning First Farm Policy Speech

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will speak in Iowa Friday, giving his first major farm policy speech. The Department of Agriculture says Secretary Perdue will travel to Nevada (nu-vay-duh), Iowa, to speak at the Couser (cow-zer) Cattle Company and host a town hall meeting with farmers. Perdue will tour the facility and speak to farmers in the morning at the facility north of Des Moines, Iowa. The trip follows another busy week in Washington, D.C., in which the secretary met with dairy leaders and members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Last week, Perdue’s first trip out of Washington, D.C. was to Kansas City, Missouri, to tour agriculture facilities and host a town hall meeting at the American Royal complex.

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California Wine Sales Reach New Record

California wine shipments to the U.S. reached an estimated retail value of $34.1 billion in 2016, up 4.6 percent, according to the Wine Institute. The state shipped an all-time high of 238 million cases in the U.S. in 2016, up two percent from the previous year. California wine sales to all markets, including shipments to the U.S. and exports, also set a record of 285 million cases in 2016. In a news release, the Wine Institute says California wines in the U.S. market have increased from 191 million cases shipped in 2006 to the 238 million cases in 2016, noting the growth trend is driven by population increases, and that baby boomers are being joined by millennials as frequent wine consumers.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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