READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, May 31st

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, May 31st

Canada: NAFTA Talks to Start in August

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister told the nation’s lawmakers this week negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement would start in August, the earliest possible by U.S. law. Chrystia Freeland briefed Canadian lawmakers Monday on the negotiation process. She says a time crunch is looming, with the U.S. and Mexico in the biggest hurry to start talks. The Canadian Press reports pre-negotiation consultations will take several months. Then, once talks begin between Canada, Mexico and the U.S., there are only a few months left before political obstacles start popping up, causing potential delays. Those obstacles include the 2018 presidential elections in Mexico and the U.S. midterm election cycle. Currently, the three countries are consulting with domestic partners as they prepare for negotiating positions. Negotiations can begin any time after August 16th, after a 90-day consolation period required by U.S. law.

USDA Political Appointment Nominee’s Expected Soon

Nominee’s for The Department of Agriculture’s political post within the agency are expected within a month or so. Sources close to the Secretary have allegedly told Politico that Perdue has made his picks for key positions within USDA, and those picks could be announced in June. There are nearly a dozen political positions that require confirmation by the U.S. Senate, to go along with near 200-some political appointees within the federal government. No official announcements have been made yet by USDA or Perdue, but several have speculated that Steve Censky, CEO of the American Soybean Association, will be nominated as USDA undersecretary. Other names floated for USDA posts include Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, Indiana Agriculture Department Director Ted McKinney, and Sam Clovis, who has served on the USDA transition team.

Secretary Perdue Continues Farm State Travels

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue continues traveling this week as he will attend the Montana Ag Summit Thursday. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts is expected to join Perdue at the event that was organized by committee member Steve Daines, a Montana Republican. Also attending is a team of Mexican barley and malt importers, who are visiting the U.S. as part of a trip arranged by the U.S. Grains Council to talk trade. The trip comes ahead of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations this fall. Perdue and Roberts are expected to talk about the farm bill, ag technology and bringing youth into agriculture. The trip comes as Perdue enters his second month as Agriculture Secretary and follows a host of trips to farm states in his first month on the job.

TPP Member Nations Moving On

The 11 remaining member nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement are moving on with finalizing the agreement without the United States. Four months after the United States announced it would withdraw from the trade agreement, the remaining 11 TPP countries agreed to “launch a process to assess options to bring the comprehensive, high-quality agreement into force expeditiously, including how to facilitate membership for the original signatories.” The countries agreed on a November 10th deadline at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in Vietnam. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says the move will not draw the U.S. back to the trade agreement, stressing the need for bilateral negotiations. TPP would be worth an estimated $4 billion to U.S. agriculture, if the U.S. were included in the agreement.

FDA Considering Nutrition Facts Panel Delay

The Food and Drug Administration is considering a delaying implementation of a revamped nutrition facts panel on retail goods. Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports the move would follow a request by industry groups that have asked the FDA to delay the new food labels by three years. The updated labels are scheduled to start being used by July of next year. However, industry groups say they need more time to line the nutrition panel up with GMO labeling rules by USDA that are due out next July. In testimony before House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on agriculture, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said: “We’re going to be taking a hard look at the implementation schedule.” Under the Obama administration, FDA announced the changes to reflect updated science, and to provide an update on serving sizes.

Rural America the New ‘Inner City’

The Wall Street Journal has dubbed rural America as the new “inner city,” riddled with low income, sparse access to healthcare, crime and drugs. A special analysis by the publication says data reveals that sparsely populated counties have replaced large cities as America’s most troubled areas by key measures of socioeconomic well-being. The shift began in the 1990s and continues at an accelerating pace. The analysis says rural America now faces higher teen births and divorce rates than urban areas, and education and employment gaps have widened at a faster pace than other areas. The data also says rural areas have become less healthy than America’s cities. In 1980, rural areas had lower rates of heart disease and cancer. By 2014, the opposite was true. The publication says rural America is also getting close to the milestone at which more people are dying than are being born.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service