READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, May 22nd

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, May 22nd

Canada and Mexico React Cautiously to NAFTA Letter

Canada and Mexico issued carefully worded statements following the announcement letter outlining President Donald Trump’s intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement was sent to Congress, according to the Hagstrom Report. Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said: “We are at a critical juncture that offers us an opportunity to determine how we can best align NAFTA to new realities.” Freeland pointed out that NAFTA supports nine million jobs in the United States that depend on trade and investment with Canada. A statement from Mexico reaffirmed the nations willingness to update the agreement. The statement says: “Our countries deserve a modern instrument to regulate our trading and economic relationship.” Meanwhile, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says he is confident the move to renegotiate NAFTA will “result in a better deal for our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers. “

Trump Plan to Balance Budget Includes Farm Subsidy Cuts

A budget plan President Donald Trump is expected to submit to Congress Tuesday includes steep cuts to farm subsidies, according to Bloomberg News. The 2018 budget proposal, which would begin the process of balancing the budget within ten years, would make cuts to mandatory spending on an array of social programs while sparing the Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs. The budget proposal will also include Trump’s proposal to overhaul the tax code. But, with an effort of eliminating the federal deficit, many suspect tax cuts will be offset by the elimination of credits and deductions, a move opposed by agriculture groups who say farmers need both. Bloomberg News says the possibility of proposed cuts to target price supports and crop insurance led House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway to seek a meeting with White House director Mick Mulvaney. However, Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky signaled that lawmakers would seek substantial changes to the proposal, calling it a “process of negotiation.” McConnell added: “We haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to any president’s budget since I’ve been here.”

Senate Ag to Hold Farm Economy Hearing

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the farm economy conditions Thursday, May 25th. Announced by leadership of the committee, Senators Pat Roberts, and Debbie Stabenow, the hearing is titled “Examining the Farm Economy: Perspectives on Rural America.” The hearing is recognized as the start of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill hearings. It follows two “boots on the ground” field hearings in Kansas and Michigan, according to Chairman Roberts. Ranking Democrat Stabenow says the committee “must understand the current state of the farm and rural economy because our farmers and families are already doing more with less.” Witnesses for the hearing have not been determined but will be announced before the hearing.

Stabenow Expresses Concerns with EPA Scientist Dismissals

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee has expressed concerns over the dismissal of scientists by the Environmental Protection Agency. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow specifically voiced her concerns over EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s move to dismiss nine members of the Board of Scientific Counselors, a major scientific review board within the agency. The board reviews the research carried out by EPA scientists to ensure the integrity of the agency’s research findings, including studies on pesticide safety and water quality. Stabenow expressed concern over the dismissals in a letter to Pruitt, citing the importance of the board’s role in safeguarding American agriculture. Stabenow pointed out scientist on the board rationally serve at least two terms, regardless of a change in Administration. In the letter, she asks Pruitt for names of who was dismissed and issues likely to come before the board in the next year, among a host of other questions regarding the review board.

Canada Defeats GMO Labeling Bill

Members of Canada’s Parliament defeated a GMO labeling bill last week. The bill was handed a landslide defeat, with 67 members voting yes, and 216 voting no. The bill would have mandated GMO labeling in Canada. Online food industry publication FoodNavigator-USA reports the bill specified that Canada’s Food and Drugs Act be amended to say “No person shall sell any food that is genetically modified unless its label contains information to prevent the purchaser or the consumer of the food from being deceived or misled in respect of its composition.” However, critics pointed out that the bill failed to properly define the term genetically modified, with opponents arguing the wording of the bill was too vague. The vote follows a similar move by the United States the passed the U.S. Congress last year.

USDA Investigating Unapproved GE Petunias

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services is investigating imported unapproved genetically modified petunias. USDA says the GE petunias produce various hues of orange, red and purple colored flowers. The petunias have been imported into the U.S. from Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, South America, as well as the countries of Australia, Israel and Mexico, and distributed without proper authorization. USDA says APHIS is working in close cooperation with breeders and growers represented by the American Seed Trade Association and AmericanHort to ensure the GE petunia varieties are withdrawn from distribution. APHIS says Petunias are annual, ornamental plants that have no sexually compatible wild relatives in the United States. Several distributors have already voluntarily removed GE petunias from distribution and destroyed them in accordance with APHIS guidance.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service