READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 30th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 30th

Senators Want Ag Focus in NAFTA Talks

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative wrapped up public comment hearings this week on the upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Ag groups representing American farmers and ranchers had a chance to weigh in on what they’d like to see in the talks. A group of Senators also weighed in on what they’d like to see emphasized in the discussions and their number one topic to address is agricultural exports. 17 lawmakers wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressing appreciation for the administration’s careful approach to strengthening the NAFTA agreement while ensuring that no changes are made that could be harmful to agriculture. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says each of the Senators that signed the letter represents states that have significant agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico. Those countries are two of the top five destinations for American agricultural goods since the deal was signed in 1993. Canada and Mexico take in over one-quarter of the value of goods shipped from the U.S. The letter says, “We request that you avoid any revisions to NAFTA and other previously negotiated agreements that would diminish the opportunities for farmers and ranchers to export their goods, especially given the current state of the farm economy.”

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European Union Close to Trade Deal with Japan

European Union and Japanese officials both say they’re close to signing what would be a major free trade deal, which could potentially jump-start other free trade deals. A European Union negotiator says a deal between the two would let the rest of the world know that two of the largest economies are resisting protectionism in favor of openness and investment. The website U.S. News Dot Com says the E.U. and Japan make up more than a quarter of the world’s economy. They traded more than $140 billion worth of goods last year and a new agreement would boost that number considerably higher. The head of the Japan Foreign Exchange Research Department at JP Morgan says a deal between the E.U. and Japan would make it much harder for American agriculture to compete in those markets. Europe would be able to export agricultural products like cheese and pork with lower tariffs in Japan, which would make it much harder for America to compete in the Japanese marketplace. The U.S. has shown an interest in a free trade deal with Japan, even conducting negotiations in April, but that idea has recently been overshadowed by the upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

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Better Beef Access in China Will Take Time

The U.S. beef industry was understandably excited when China agreed to resume importing product from the U.S. An Ag Web Dot Com article notes that supplies eligible for exports remain few and far between. Derrell Peel, an Ag Economist at Oklahoma State University, says it’s a long-term project to build up beef export numbers to China. “There are some restrictions in place that limit the available supply in the short run,” Peel says, “but we now have access and we know the details so the beef market can start to work.” He says it will take some time but American beef producers will figure out what the restrictions are and how they work. American beef imports have to meet several qualifications, including coming from American born, raised, and slaughtered cattle with traceability going all the way back to birth. It must also come from cattle less than 30 months of age and raised with no growth promoters, feed additives, or chemical compounds. China will test all beef imports at the port of entry. Only a small percentage of American beef meets those specs, so American Farm Bureau Economist Katelyn McCullock said product would have to be raised at the cow/calf level to meet those specifications.

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USDA Authorizes Addition Grazing Benefits in Northern Plains

It was back on June 23rd that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue authorized emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program Acres during the primary nesting season in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. The authorization was good for counties suffering through a severe drought that rated D2 on the U.S. Drought Monitor. However, the drought hasn’t let up, with hot and dry weather forecast to continue through the upcoming week in the northern plains. With the continuation of severe drought conditions, Secretary Perdue is authorizing emergency grazing of CRP acres for any county in which any part of its border lies within 150 miles of a county that’s already been approved for emergency grazing of CRP acres. Eligible CRP participants may graze their own cattle or allow another livestock farmer to use the acreage. Producers won’t see any reduction in their CRP payments because of grazing. Emergency haying is not authorized for now but officials will keep an eye on the situation.

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Ag Terrorism Act Arrives at President Trumps Desk

The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act recently passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives in a bipartisan fashion. It now awaits the final approval of President Trump. A Bovine Vet Online Dot Com article says the language in the bill helps to clarify what the role of the Department of Homeland Security is as it works with other federal agencies to prevent agricultural terrorism. The DHS Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs is the official charged with collaborating between agencies to keep America’s food supply safe. However, the act doesn’t supersede the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture when it comes to food and agriculture. Iowa Republican Representative David Young first authored the bill in 2016 and again this year. It was largely in response to the avian influenza outbreak of 2015, the costliest animal outbreak in U.S. history. An analysis from the Congressional Budget Office says the bill would cost less than $500,000 a year to implement and wouldn’t affect direct spending or revenues. 

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Egg Executives Sentenced to Prison

An Iowa father and son have been sentenced to jail as corporate officials who have legally been found responsible for a foodborne disease outbreak. A Cattle Network Dot Com article says Austin DeCoster and his son, Peter, were sentenced to three months in jail for selling adulterated food as corporate officers. The U.S. District Judge hearing the case noted prison time was a necessary thing to deter corporate officials from selling unsafe food. Both men appealed their sentences, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The DeCosters pled guilty to shipping eggs with false processing and expiration dates on the packages. They also pleaded guilty to bribing a USDA Inspector to approve the poor quality eggs for sale to the public. The company was hit with a $6.8 million dollar fine and the two men each paid an additional $100,000 in fines. Although they did plead guilty, the men stated they didn’t know the eggs were contaminated. However, they did admit they were in a position to stop the problem. Several business groups filed friend-of-the-court briefings to back the DeCosters in their appeal. The business groups all said it’s highly unusual to give executives a criminal penalty and prison time when there is no proof of intention or knowledge of wrongdoing.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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