READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 19th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 19th

White House Sends NAFT Redo Notification Letter to Congress

Farm Journals Ag Web Dot Com reports that the Trump administration has officially laid out its strategies to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in a letter delivered today to Congress. The administration’s main goal is to update the Clinton-era trade deal. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently wrapped up two days of meetings with both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, as well as special trade advisory groups from both chambers. By law, those meetings had to take place before the letter could be sent.  The letter was addressed to Chuck Schumer, Orrin Hatch, Paul Ryan, and Nancy Pelosi. In the letter, Lighthizer stressed the need to modernize the agreement. “As I said three days ago when I was sworn in, I believe the President’s leadership on trade will permanently reverse the dangerous trajectory of American trade,” he says. Lighthizer singled out digital trade, which was in its infancy when the original agreement was negotiated, as one of the details needing to be upgraded. Lighthizer added that the administration intends to begin negotiations as soon as possible, but no sooner than 90 days from today.  

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Possible Key Points in the NAFTA Renegotiations

In his campaign for the White House, Donald Trump stressed the dangers of consistently running a trade deficit. A USA Today article says the administration will likely focus on ways to cut into the trade deficit when renegotiations formally begin on the North American Free Trade Agreement. One key point that Trump wants to revise is the “Rules of Origin.” The article says Trump believes too many parts used to assemble goods in NAFTA countries are supplied by non-NAFTA nations. When those goods are assembled, they come into the U.S. tax-free. Government contracts are another key topic for the administration. NAFTA requires the three governments to consider suppliers from other countries when it comes to infrastructure projects. That means the U.S. government must look at Mexican and Canadian suppliers as favorably as it does with American suppliers. However, Trump wants the U.S. government to favor American suppliers and experts worry that could lead to retaliation by Mexico and Canada. American suppliers would have a much harder time getting contracts with Mexico and Canada. Dispute resolution is another item of concern. Current NAFTA rules say disputes should be heard by a panel of members from all three countries. Trump believes cases involving American businesses should be heard in American courts. He believes American businesses don’t always get a fair shake in dispute resolution.

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Ag Groups Concerned About NAFTA Renegotiations

The Trump administration has officially notified Congress it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Agriculture groups have reacted to the news with caution. The National Pork Producers Council is urging the president to make sure that tariffs remain at zero for pork traded throughout North America. Tariff-free access to Canada and Mexico last year were worth $799 million and $1.4 billion respectively. “Canada and Mexico are our top export markets,” says NPPC President Ken Maschoff, “and we absolutely must not have any trade disruptions.” U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers are also hoping for caution in the upcoming negotiations. While the groups welcome the chance to improve the agreement, they oppose changes that would limit benefits to wheat growers, especially in the Mexican food processing industries. American wheat imports began surging in Mexico after NAFTA, and Mexico is now the largest buyer of American wheat. “I cannot emphasize how important our Mexican customers are to U.S. wheat farmers,” says Jason Scott, USW chair. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is also urging the administration not to jeopardize gains made in NAFTA. The National Farmers Union says the negotiations are a chance to make NAFTA work better for family farmers and ranchers across the country.

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Perdue: U.S. Ag in Dire Straits

Sonny Perdue made his first appearance before the House Agriculture Committee this week as Secretary of Agriculture. He says the current U.S. agricultural economy is in “dire straits” but that could be helped by a stronger trade presence abroad. Perdue says he sees challenges ahead as President Trump’s initial budget cuts the USDA allocation by 21 percent. “We’ve got to sell our way out of this supply and demand situation that’s depressing prices right now,” Perdue said to committee members. Perdue announced plans to reorganize the USDA with a goal of bringing in a USDA Undersecretary for Trade. It’s a position authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill but the position was empty in the final years of the Obama administration. As global markets continue to expand, he says it’s important to make sure American agriculture is in position to take advantage of that. Perdue is already looking at candidates. In describing his perfect candidate, he says, “I want someone who wakes up every morning and says, ‘where can we sell more U.S. products today’ and ‘what trade barriers can we take down today?’”

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States Want Clarity in Dairy Terminology

State milk regulators are asking the Food and Drug Administration to give more guidance in the enforcement of the proper use of milk and milk-product labeling standards. They say it’s especially necessary for distinguishing the difference between real dairy products and plant-based drinks. The request for guidance came from the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments, meeting this week in Michigan. The National Milk Producers Federation called it the strongest statement yet that the abuse of dairy terms has gone too far. In a statement, the regulators say, “It’s time for the FDA to work with state agencies in defending standards of identity for dairy products.” Regulators at the conference this week passed a resolution calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help clarify FDA and state responsibilities in enforcing standardized dairy product names. The resolution says, “FDA needs to stop picking and choosing which regulations it wants to enforce.” They say a move like this would also bring the U.S. into closer alignment with trading partners that “don’t allow plant-based imitators to call themselves milk on their package.”

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National FFA Organization Looking for Convention Newsroom Interns  

The National FFA Organization is looking for college students or recent graduates in fields like public relations, journalism, telecommunications, or similar fields, to help share news and feature stories from the national convention. The 90th annual FFA Convention is October 25-28th in Indianapolis. Students and graduates get a small stipend, inside access to the event, tips on becoming a better communicator, as well as clips to help land future professional work. This internship could even be eligible for college credits for those still in school. The stories interns find can be published in many locations, including the national FFA magazine, as well as numerous online and social media outlets. The FFA organization is also looking for young radio reporters to work closely with the National Association of Farm Broadcasting to coordinate and record interviews too. They’re also looking for social media specialists as well. Interested students are encouraged to reach out to the FFA organization through the contact page on their website.  

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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