READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 9th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 9th

Trump Waterways Commitment Needs Funding

Farm groups are encouraged by President Donald Trump’s infrastructure commitment for waterways, but Politico questions how the President plans to fund the effort. Trump announced his plan with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke earlier this week. The American Soybean Association says President Trump’s remarks highlighted the importance of the waterways and the need for infrastructure upgrades, specifically citing the backlog in funding needs for modernization of locks and dams that have exceeded their life expectancy and are deteriorating. However, his budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 would cut the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction funding by more than 50 percent, with only enough funding to work on a single new lock and dam project on the system. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains some 12,000 miles of inland waterways. The budget proposal also leaves a diesel fuel tax that the barge industry lobbied for in 2014 in a trust, unused. The industry touted the tax as a way to improve waterways infrastructure.

Senate Committee to Consider E-15 Waiver Legislation

A Senate committee will consider legislation next week that would put in place a permanent waiver to Reid vapor pressure (RVP) requirements to allow E-15 sales year-round. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced the hearing set for Wednesday, June 14th. The hearing focuses on the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, introduced in March by Nebraska Republican Senator Deb Fischer. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House in March by Nebraska Republican Representative Adrian Smith. Each year, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates RVP for gasoline and ethanol blends from June first until September 15. During these months, the EPA restricts the retail sale of fuels with ethanol above ten percent. The legislation would extend the RVP waiver to ethanol blends above ten percent. When introducing the bill, Fischer said the move would increase market access opportunities for higher blends of ethanol by allowing retailers to sell E-15 and higher blends year-round.

R-CALF Seeking U.S. Investigation into JBS Scandal

R-CALF, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, is calling on the U.S. federal government to investigate a corruption scandal by meat processor JBS. R-CALF USA sent a comprehensive, 11-page request to President Trump, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for a full investigation and strict antitrust enforcement action into the corruption scandal. Citing news reports that JBS admitted bribing nearly 2,000 politicians, R-CALF USA wrote that JBS’s business model included unlawful practices to influence policy makers and that is is possible JBS deployed that same business model in the United States. JBS is the second-largest beef packer in the United States and owns the nation’s largest cattle feeding company, which the group contends was used by JBS, in conjunction with imported cattle and beef, to manipulate the cattle markets in 2015 and 2016, causing fed cattle prices to fall by more than $850 per head.

Trump Administration Reviewing Sage Grouse Plans

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke this week announced the Donald Trump administration would review a plan to protect sage grouse in western states. Plans to protect sage grouse have met opposition by industry and farm groups along the way, which argue the rules go too far. Zinke said he assembled a review team comprised of scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the plan. The Washington Post reports the two-month review will take into consideration issues that concern some western politicians: jobs and energy development, some of the very things that scientists say led to the bird’s decline. Zinke’s predecessor, Sally Jewell, defended the existing management plan for sage grouse stemming from the Obama Administration. Jewell says the rules were “designed to be very flexible and to allow the states and the federal land management agencies to work together” on both energy development and conservation.

Global Food Prices Rebound in May

A measure of global food prices increased in May, after a decline in April. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released its monthly Food Price Index Thursday. The index averaged 172.6 points in May 2017, up 3.7 points, or 2.2 percent, from April and nearly 16 points higher than its May 2016 level. The Index consists of the average of five commodity group price indices, weighted with the average export shares of each of the groups for 2002 to 2004.The rebound in the value of the Index followed three months of consecutive declines. Except for sugar, all other commodity indices in the index increased last month. The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 148.1 points in May, up two points from April. The Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 168.7 points in May, posting a monthly increase of 7.6 points, while the Dairy Price Index averaged 193 points in May, up 9.5 points. Meanwhile, the Meat Price Index averaged 171.7 points in May, up 2.5 points, and the Sugar Price Index averaged 227.9 points in May, down 5.4 points from April and marking a 13-month low.

USDA Helping Expand Rural Broadband in Four States

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping four states expand access to rural broadband services. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this week USDA would award loans to help provide broadband service in rural parts of California, Illinois, Iowa and Texas. Perdue says the investment “will connect rural communities to a digital future and will help expand access to high-speed internet, health care, educational and business services in rural communities.” The $43.6 million announced this week would add nearly 1,000 miles of fiber for broadband services. Of that, $24 million is for a project in Texas, and $9 million for a project in California. USDA is providing the loans through the Rural Development Telecommunications Program. The program funds infrastructure and equipment to deliver broadband and distance learning and telemedicine services throughout rural America.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service