READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 18th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 18th

Perdue: Rural Development Post at USDA to be Confirmed by Senate

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the head of the Agriculture Department’s rural development efforts would be confirmed by the Senate, as included in his USDA reorganization proposal. He made the remarks during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on the state of the rural economy Wednesday. Perdue, who announced the reorganization plan last week, said the head of the rural development mission area under his plan would be an assistant secretary confirmed by the Senate. But, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says the change must be approved by Congress. A spokesperson with the Coalition told the Hagstrom Report that what Perdue said “cannot be true,” unless USDA proposes legislation to Congress to create the new assistant secretary position. By law, USDA is limited to three assistant secretaries, according to the Coalition.

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U.S. Still Likely to Benefit from TPP

The United States stands to benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the trade agreement. New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay told Radio New Zealand the U.S., and other non-TPP countries, will benefit from the changes to the sharing of pharmaceutical information. However, no added benefits extend to agriculture, which TPP was thought to increase U.S. agricultural export sales by $4 billion. McClay of New Zealand was meeting with his counterpart in Japan this week to discuss whether the current text of the TPP should remain in place, or if changes to the agreement should be made. In a news release, Japan and New Zealand officials said the nations “remain committed to maintaining the unity among the TPP nations and “early entry into force” of the agreement. The two countries also confirmed a continued cooperation in concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asia-Pacific trade deal under negotiation that excludes the United States but includes China.

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EPA Launches WOTUS Review Webpage

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a web page to keep stakeholders up to date on the review process and potential changes to the agencies Waters of the U.S. rule. The web page, according to the EPA, will keep the public informed as the EPA reviews the definition of a “Waters of the U.S.” In February, President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA to review the rule and publish a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule, including changes to what shall be considered a “navigable water” under the rule. Farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, have welcomed the review. AFBF says the rule, in its current form, grants regulatory control over virtually all waters. The EPA, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, sent a proposal for overturning the rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget earlier this month. The new EPA web page is available at EPA dot gov slash WOTUS dash rule (https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule).

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OTA Applauds Organic Research Investment Legislation

The Organic Trade Association applauded a bill introduced in the U.S. House that would create new investments into the Department of Agriculture Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. The Organic Trade Association says the investments included in the bill would meet the research needs of the growing organic sector. The Organic Research Act of 2017 would increase annual funding for USDA’s organic research efforts from its current $20 million to $50 million a year from 2018 to 2023. Established in 2002, the program is USDA’s flagship organic research program, supporting research projects that address the critical challenges faced by organic farmers. The bill was introduced by Democrats Chellie (Shell-lee) Pingree of Maine and Jimmy Panetta of California, along with Washington State Republican Dan Newhouse. Organic researchers say the funding is needed because farmers and consumers both are asking for enhanced research in organic farming.

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Grilling Season Poised to Increase Meat Demand

The seasonal grilling period is poised to increase demand for meat, according to statistics compiled by Oklahoma State University. The Food Demand Survey found consumers’ willingness-to-pay for steak increased nine percent this month. Meanwhile, consumers say their willingness-to-pay for chicken breast increased 1.2 percent, and 2.45 percent for pork chops, compared to levels indicated in April. Consumers noted a decrease of interest for deli ham and pasta, according to the survey. The amount spent on food eaten at home in general increased four percent in May from April and expenditures on food bought away from home decreased 4.8 percent. Meat industry publication Meatingplace says consumers expect beef, chicken and pork prices to drop in the next couple of weeks, compared to one month ago.

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Klobuchar, Grassley and Gardner Introduce Rural Hospital Bill

Three central U.S. Senators have reintroduced a bill aimed at helping rural hospitals stay open. The bill was reintroduced this week by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner. Klobuchar, the lone Democrat of the three, says the bipartisan bill will help ensure rural America has access to medical care. The senators noted that 60 percent of trauma deaths in the United States occur in rural areas, where only 15 percent of the population is represented.  The pace of rural hospital closures is accelerating, and many other hospitals that haven’t closed are struggling to keep their doors open, according to the senators. Under Medicare, many rural hospitals are designated as Critical Access Hospitals, meaning they have to maintain a certain amount of inpatient beds as well as an emergency room.  Many hospitals struggle to attract enough inpatients to keep their Critical Access Hospital status. The senators’ bipartisan bill, the Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital Act, would create a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare. The hospital would have an emergency room and outpatient services.  It would not have the inpatient beds that many hospitals are struggling to maintain. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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