READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, July 10th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, July 10th

Mexico is No Longer Top Destination for U.S. Corn

U.S. corn shipments to Mexico have slipped in recent months and Mexico in no longer the number one buyer of American corn. A Bloomberg article says it may be a sign that trade tensions are forcing the country to look elsewhere for corn in case the U.S. is no longer a reliable supplier. Sales through May of this year were down almost seven percent from last year, coming in at $1.04 billion. Japan has become the biggest importer of U.S. corn after boosting its purchases by 53 percent, totaling $1.19 billion. Mexico began looking for other corn suppliers after President Donald Trump’s criticism, which began on the campaign trail when he said Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. through the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexican corn purchases are picking up as the peso rebounds from a record low against the dollar in January. Lesly McNitt, Public Policy Director for the National Corn Growers Association, says the sluggish pace of U.S. corn shipments to Mexico shows the trade relationship may be at risk. “They’re preparing a Plan B,” she said to Bloomberg. Mexico has initiated discussions with suppliers in Argentina and Brazil.

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Pork Wants U.S. Bilateral Trade Deal with Japan

The European Union and Japan formally agreed to the outline of a free trade deal. America’s pork producers want to know why the U.S. isn’t moving on its own bilateral deal with Japan, the highest value market for U.S. pork exports. A Pork Network Dot Com article says now that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has gone away, the U.S. needs to be moving forward quickly on a T.P.P. type of deal with Japan. Under the old TPP, Japan’s tariffs on pork would have been completely eliminated. When their agreement is fully in place, the E.U. will be able to sell pork at a lower tariff rate that will eventually disappear, making it harder for American pork to compete in the market. Other countries are moving ahead on bilateral trade agreements and U.S. pork producers don’t want to miss out on opportunities. “We’ve let the administration know they should focus on the Asian-Pacific area and start with Japan,” says Dave Warner of the National Pork Producers Council. “It’s the fastest growing area in the world.” Japanese consumers purchased $1.6 billion in U.S. pork. Demand is very strong in spite of tariffs and other measures that limit market access. 

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Amazon Food Stamp Policy Ruffling Feathers

Amazon has a new Prime program for the millions of Americans who have EBT cards. The new policy is causing America’s grocers to complain to Washington, D.C. that the online giant may not be playing by the rules. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says USDA feels Amazon isn’t doing anything wrong. The grocery store industry is telling USDA officials and lawmakers that the Prime deal, which includes rapid free shipping and other perks, violates a USDA rule mandating equal treatment for the 42 million people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A grocery store insider who wanted to remain anonymous told Politico’s Morning Ag Report that the “Marketplace has been ruffled. It’s an unfair targeting of SNAP recipients which is creating an unfair playing field.” Grocery retailers are asking lawmakers to take another look at SNAP program guidelines. Those rules are understood to mean that retailers can neither discriminate against SNAP recipients or give them preferential treatment and special programs.

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Russia Extends Ban on U.S. and E.U. Produce

Russia has extended its ban on produce from the U.S. and the European Union through the end of 2018. The ban was first put in place in 2014 and includes the U.S., E.U., Norway, Ukraine, and several other countries. The ban was going to expire on January 1st but Russia extended its sanctions after the E.U. extended its own trade sanctions against Russia through January 31st. The ban applies to fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other agricultural products from a list of countries that put trade penalties in place because of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict. A Packer Dot Com article says the import ban has put the squeeze on American producers as no shipments to Russia means increased competition from the E.U. in other markets. USDA statistics show that apple exports to Russia in 2013 were worth over $13 million dollars. Pear exports that same year totaled $12 million and grape exports were worth $2.7 million.

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States Sue EPA to Prevent Insecticide Use

A coalition of states has filed a legal challenge to a Trump administration decision to keep a widely used pesticide on the market in spite of studies that show it can harm the development of children’s brains. The coalition, led by New York, filed a motion to intervene in the legal battle over continued spraying of chlorpyrifos (Klor-peer’-uh-fahs). The coalition says Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt violated the law by ending his agency’s efforts to ban the pesticide after federal scientists concluded it can interfere with brain development in fetuses and infants. Federal law requires EPA to make sure all food is safe for human consumption, especially children. Studies show that children are much more sensitive to potential effects from pesticides. Pruitt told Congress last month he made the decision based on meaningful data and science. Despite numerous requests from the Associated Press, the EPA hasn’t provided any copies of the data they based the decision on. Chlorpyrifos is commonly sprayed on citrus fruits, apples, cherries, and other crops. Dow, the maker of the product, did not immediately respond to the news.

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Fire Relief Foundation Closing in on Million Dollar Total

Farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses from all over the country have been very generous in donating to wildfire relief. Donations have topped $640,000 for the Drovers/Farm Journal Foundation Million Dollar Wildfire Relief Challenge to benefit ranchers. That total pushes the partnership with the Howard Buffet Foundation more than halfway to its goal. The Foundation agreed to match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $1 million by July 31st. With the match included, the goal is to raise $2 million for wildfire relief for ranchers affected by March wildfires. There’s a lot to rebuild, especially fencing. The damage totaled 1.6 million acres in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Thousands of miles of fencing were damaged, estimated to cover 18,000 miles at a cost of up to $10,000 a mile. Thousands of cows will also need to be added back to herds. Charlene Finck, President of the Farm Journal Foundation, says, “We’re grateful for the outpouring of support to date and we’re working hard to meet the full challenge. We hope that all of agriculture will pull together to meet the challenge by July 31st.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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