READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, June 6th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, June 6th

Legislation Would End Cuba Embargo

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has come together to co-sponsor legislation that would end the Cuban trade embargo. The bill is called the “Freedom to Export to Cuba Act” and would bring an end to all legal barriers for the U.S. to conduct business with Cuba. Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar (Kloh’-buh-shar) says U.S. policy toward Cuba has been defined by past conflict instead of present reality. She says, “More than 50 years of isolating an island just 90 miles from our border has not secured our interests and has disadvantaged American business owners and farmers.” Wyoming Republican Mike Enzi says the strategy of isolating Cuba has not been successful. “This bipartisan legislation would lift the travel restriction to Cuba, providing new opportunities for American businesses, farmers, and ranchers,” Enzi says. He calls trade a powerful thing, not just for dealing with the flow of goods but the flow of ideas like freedom and democracy. The bill would repeal all restrictions against doing business in Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization that put the trade embargo in place. It also would lift requirements to enforce the embargo and the limits currently in place on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports. The Trump administration is expected to announce its policy on Cuba in the near future.

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‘Pink Slime’ Trial Underway in South Dakota

It’s been roughly five years since ‘pink slime’ was a buzzword in the national media. A Reuters report says the Beef Processors, Incorporated, $5.7 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC television is underway this week in Elk Point, South Dakota. BPI claims ABC television, owned by the Walt Disney Company, and ABC reporter Jim Avila, defamed the company by calling its ground beef product ‘pink slime,’ while making errors and omitting other facts from the story. After the reports aired in 2012, BPI had to close three of its four processing plants while watching revenues drop 80 percent. Elk Point sits in Union County, where election records indicate Donald Trump won 67 percent of the presidential votes. Trump uses the term “fake news” to say that some media outlets can’t be trusted. BPI lawyers declined to say whether or not “fake news” would be part of their strategy. During a January pre-trial hearing, BPI lawyer Eric Connolly said ABC broadcast and online reports about lean finely textured beef, or LFTB, used unreliable sources and purposely set out to stir up public outrage. Connolly told the judge during the hearing that the ABC story amounted to “fake news.” BPI lawyers say ABC used the term ‘pink slime’ 137 times in their reports.

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Trump to Talk Rural Infrastructure Improvements

The national infrastructure will get some attention from the White House this week as the administration gets set to put out details on a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says Donald Trump will visit Ohio and Kentucky on Wednesday to speak on waterways and rural America. Trump will give more details on his vision for improving the national infrastructure. One of the ways the administration is proposing to support a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan is through public-private partnerships, an idea that is drawing concerns from rural states. State officials and lawmakers in rural areas have warned the administration about relying too heavily on that type of model. They aren’t practical arrangements in rural areas because of the smaller population numbers. People willing to risk capital on those type of projects typically want to make their money back via tolling or other fee-based ideas. The recent Trump budget proposal included creating a fee for commercial businesses to use the nation’s waterways, an idea that didn’t sit well with groups like the National Grain and Feed Association. 

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Dairy Exports Higher for 11 Straight Months

U.S. dairy production keeps going higher and processing facilities are running at or even over capacity, so the need for growing exports has never been greater. Farm Journal’s milk business dot com reports that dairy exports topped year-ago levels once again for the eleventh straight month. Exports of products like milk powder, cheese, butterfat, whey, and lactose were up 12 percent over last April. The value of exports was 23 percent higher than last year, totaling $461 million in sales.  The Export Council says the export levels of nonfat dry milk and skim milk powder, whey products, and lactose were at record highs over the first four months of 2017. Among the top export markets, sales to China and Southeast Asia were up 91 percent and 23 percent respectively. Japan sales were the highest they’ve been in 21 months. Cheese exports were 27 percent higher than April of 2016. The USDEC predicts that cheese sales will continue to grow in Australia, which will pass Japan soon as the third-highest export market for cheese. 

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Perdue Travels to Canada for Trade Discussion

Sonny Perdue is in Canada today for his first international trip as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He calls the U.S.-Canada bilateral trade relationship important to the prosperity of both countries, saying before he left, “I look forward to strengthening the relationship with our neighbors to the north going forward.” Perdue will meet with Canada’s Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay and other Canadian officials to talk about a host of priority agricultural issues between the two countries. Both the U.S. and Canada are two of the world’s largest agricultural producers with a shared border, so each is an important market for the other’s agricultural products. In 2016, the U.S. exported $20.2 billion worth of agricultural products to Canada, which made Canada the second-largest market for the U.S. Over the same time frame, Canada exported $21 billion worth of agricultural products to the United States. As part of an effort to boost U.S. trade, Perdue will appear at an event in Toronto which will kick off a two-week event showcasing U.S. food and beverages.

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U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Heads to Washington

The United State’s Cattlemen’s Association will bring a delegation of producers to Washington D.C. this week to talk issues with legislators. States represented at the fly-in will include Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas. USCA President Kenny Graner says this is an opportunity for cattlemen to put a face on the issues being debated in D.C. “This year, we have a strong contingent of livestock haulers who will meet with staff at the Department of Transportation regarding the pending implementation of electronic log devices as well as concerns about the hours of service rule,” says Graner. USCA Vice President Bert Paris will speak with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his staff on issues affecting public lands users across the west. Graner says, “Other issues producers will touch on include the ongoing discussions on animal ID and traceability, along with ongoing issues with Brazil, Chinese trade, and the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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