READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, June 13th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, June 13th

China, U.S., Expected to Sign Dairy Agreement

The United States and China are expected to sign an agreement Thursday to promote U.S. dairy products. Politico reports the two countries are expected to sign a memorandum that will allow further market access for U.S. dairy producers. U.S. Dairy Export Council CEO Tom Vilsack said last week that he has been working for months to reach an agreement between China and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A policy change announced by China in 2014 and implemented last year required certification of U.S. dairy products to meet Chinese food safety standards, something the FDA called “challenging to accomplish.” A new registry program approved by China will allow immediate access to more than 80 U.S. milk processors to China.

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Mexico Shopping for Non-U.S. Pork

Concerns over the U.S.-led effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement has prompted Mexico to consider other options for pork imports. National Hog Farmer magazine reports U.S. pork industry leaders shared that message at last week’s World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. For instance, if the U.S. would abandon NAFTA, Mexico would be poised to place a 20 percent duty on pork, which has sent Mexico searching for other potential suppliers. Last year, 26 percent of U.S. pork was exported with the largest volume shipped to Mexico, accounting for 90 percent of the pork imported into the country. And, global pork trade is extremely competitive as other leading pork-producing countries are eager to step up and supply Mexico with pork. National Pork Producers Council immediate past president John Weber says that while gaining new market opportunities is a leading offense priority, its top defensive priority is NAFTA. He says: “We want to protect pork exports to two of our biggest markets – Canada and Mexico.”

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Opposition Rising Against Perdue Rural Development Pick

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s move to name Anne Hazlett as his assistant on rural development is drawing criticisms. Perdue announced Hazlett as his assistant on rural development this week, replacing the former undersecretary role for rural development. Hazlett has been the chief Republican counsel on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Hazlett will oversee the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Housing Service within USDA, and report directly to Perdue. However, Senator Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, says many rural groups are concerned with the move that eliminated the undersecretary position because it lowers rural developments profile at USDA, according to the Hagstrom Report. In a USDA news release, the department said: “It is important to note that the systems, functions, and internal structure of the Rural Development agencies will not be changing.” Perdue defended the change during testimony to Senators Tuesday, saying Hazlett is working today at USDA, while the nominations for undersecretary positions remain delayed in the vetting process.

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Rural Unemployment Rates Declining

Unemployment rates in rural areas of the nation are steadily declining, a trend first started in 2010. Farm Journal’s AgWeb reports that rural and urban unemployment rates have since fallen toward pre-recession levels. The overall unemployment rate as of 2016 was 5.7 percent in rural areas and 5.2 percent in urban areas. Before that time, unemployment rates in rural America roughly doubled from 2007 to 2010. While higher educational status correlates to lower unemployment, rural Americans of all education levels saw declining unemployment rates since 2010. Those with less than a high school diploma saw unemployment rates fall from around 15 percent to just below 10 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, those with a bachelor’s degree or higher saw unemployment rates fall from around four percent to two percent.

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Syngenta, BASF, Seeking to Purchase Bayer’s LibertyLink Business

BASF and Syngenta are among the bidders to purchase Bayer’s LibertyLink business. Bloomberg Business News reports the two companies have submitted bids to buy the LibertyLink business that Bayer is required to sell to get regulatory approval for its $66 billion takeover of Monsanto. Representatives for BASF, Syngenta and Bayer declined to comment to Bloomberg. However, executives of BASF and Syngenta have previously said that they would consider bidding for the assets that Bayer’s selling to complete the merger with Monsanto this year. Bayer may also sell garlic and pepper seed operations separately or as part of the whole package. In total, the disposals may fetch $2.5 billion to $3 billion. While BASF has sat out the agrochemical industry’s buying spree so far, Syngenta is in the midst of being acquired by ChemChina, and DuPont agreed to sell its crop-protection assets to FMC in March to get a merger with Dow Chemical past regulators.

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Vilsack Joins Feeding America Board

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has joined the board of directors of Feeding America, the nation’s largest anti-hunger organization. Feeding America represents 200 food banks across all 50 states in the country and provides food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. Vilsack became president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council in February of this year, after serving eight years as the nation’s 30th Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack joins the 19-member board of Feeding America comprised of business and non-profit leaders, including representatives from Wal-Mart, Kroger, Morgan Stanley, Allstate and various food banks. Vilsack reportedly joined the organization’s board of directors Tuesday.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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