READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, May 23rd

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, May 23rd

Farmers Nervous About NAFTA Renegotiation

A large part of rural America voted in favor of Donald Trump during the recent presidential election. An Associated Press report says rural voters were drawn to Trump’s ideas on reducing environmental regulations, increasing law enforcement, and redoing health care. But farmers are looking on nervously as the White House announced last week it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. While Trump called NAFTA a “job-killer,” rural America benefitted from NAFTA as it boosted U.S. farm exports by widening access to Mexican and Canadian markets. After briefly considering the idea of scrapping the deal entirely, Trump’s top trade official, Robert Lighthizer, informed Congress last week that the administration will instead renegotiate the deal. NAFTA, as well as other trade deals, has been good for American farmers, who will take a heavy hit if the White House should ultimately ditch the pact or start a trade war with current trading partners. The U.S. has enjoyed an agricultural trade surplus that stretches back to the 1960s. Last year, farm exports exceeded imports by more than $20 billion.


Crop Insurance Industry Fears Budget Cuts

President Donald Trump’s budget is expected to be released on Tuesday and it’s still not known if or how much the president is expected to cut from farm subsidies and other programs that serve rural areas. Early press reports indicate that farm subsidies will be part of $1.7 trillion in proposed cuts to mandatory spending. House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway told the Associated Press it’s “wrong-headed” to cut farm programs. “Production agriculture is in its worst slump since the Depression,” Conaway says, “with a 50 percent drop in net income. They need this safety net.” The crop insurance industry is anticipating that the President’s budget will include cuts but the extent isn’t known just yet. Dozens of agricultural groups sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, asking that the administration looks somewhere other than crop insurance for possible budget cuts. The groups said in the letter, “Crop insurance is a linchpin of the farm safety net and we urge you to break the tradition set by the previous administration and avoid cuts to the crop insurance program.” The Morning Ag Report stressed that the president’s budget is a “wish list” and cuts to crop insurance will meet opposition on Capitol Hill.


Boston Market Commits to GAP Animal Welfare Standards

The rotisserie-cooking chain Boston Market announced plans to source chickens certified by the Global Animal Partnership and processed via a controlled-atmosphere system. A Meating Place Dot Com article says the pledge will take effect in 2024. Chief Executive George Michel said the multi-step process is considered the most comprehensive approach to poultry production. At the same time, it also meets the highest level of animal welfare standards. “We are committed to meeting these objectives in a way that’s sustainable for our business and our suppliers,” Michel said in a statement. Boston Market follows after a number of other chains that have pledged to meet the GAP animal welfare standards for poultry production. Just some of the other chains include Burger King, Quiznos, Jack in the Box, and Ruby Tuesday’s.  Earlier this year, Boston Market announced a “Quality Guarantee,” promising to serve whole chickens that have never been frozen, raised on U.S. farms without added hormones or steroids, and 100 percent free of antibiotics, MSG, and gluten. The antibiotic-free pledge is set to begin early next year. Boston Market has more than 450 locations around the country.


Wildfire Recovery Donations Continue Rising

Donations are continuing to come into the Drovers/Farm Journal Foundation’s Million Dollar Wildfire Relief Challenge. Farmers, ranchers, and industry partners are doing what they can to take some of the burdens off those who were hit hard by the High Plains Wildfires back in March. As of mid-May, over 600 donations totaling more than $350,000 had come in by mail or been made online. Some of the donations came from farmers and ranchers who live several states away from the affected areas. While they were working in their own fields, several wrote notes about wanting to address the needs of farmers and ranchers still trying to recover. The money will help farmers and ranchers trying to replace thousands of miles of fencing lost in the blaze that ran through Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas. The wildfires scorched 1.6 million acres of ground, destroyed cattle, buildings, homes, and machinery. The Howard Buffet Foundation has agreed to match all donations through July 31 of this year, topping out at $1 million. That means the potential is there for the Challenge to raise at least two million dollars.


Consumers Overwhelmed by Conflicting Food Information

American consumers are getting more information about their food than ever before. However, consumers are still short on nutritional literacy and it may be affecting the nation’s health. Those are just a few of the findings from the 12th annual Health and Food Survey conducted by the International Food and Health Information Foundation. Similar to results from previous years, the Foundation notes that Americans are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of conflicting information available. Foundation CEO Joseph Clayton says, “This year, we’re finding troubling signs that the information glut is translating into faulty decisions about our diets and health.” Eight out of ten consumers responding to the survey say they encounter a lot of conflicting information about what to eat and what to avoid. 77 percent of the respondents says they rely in part on family and friends for health information, topping other sources like news programs and the internet. Some of the most trusted sources include registered dietitians, other health professionals, as well as health-focused websites.


Culver’s Donates 238 Blue Jackets to FFA

Culver’s restaurant chain recently donated over $30,000 dollars to the National FFA’s blue jacket program. The donation will cover the cost of 238 blue jackets, which will be presented to kids from all over the nation that likely couldn’t afford one on their own. The blue corduroy jackets are widely known as the official dress code for the National FFA members that total over 649,000 students from Puerto Rico, the U.S., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “For FFA members who have such a passion for agriculture, wearing the blue jacket is a sign of their commitment to the future of agriculture,” says Jessie Corning, senior marketing manager for Culver’s. “We’re proud to provide jackets to these deserving students.” FFA advisers from all over the country submitted nominations for deserving students. Culver’s will now work with the National FFA Foundation to match deserving students with local restaurants. The blue jackets will be presented to the students at the end of this year. Culver’s blue jacket donation is part of their Thank You Farmers™ program, which raises awareness about the importance of the agricultural industry and supports future Ag leaders. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service