READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, July 19th…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, July 19th

Trump Administration Releases NAFTA Objectives

The White House released its objectives for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Monday afternoon. There weren’t a lot of surprises in the document, with heavy emphasis placed on reducing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. One of the biggest goals that agriculture wanted was to maintain duty-free status on agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada, something included in the plan released on Monday. An Agri-Pulse report says the 18-page Summary of Objectives also includes the need to eliminate non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports. The administration also wants to promote greater regulatory compatibility to reduce burdens associated with unnecessary differences in regulation. That may be good news for U.S. dairy producers who are upset over Canada’s pricing policy that hurts American cheese exports and other dairy products. The U.S. Trade Representative’s plan also wants negotiators to find a way to prevent sanitary and phytosanitary barriers from blocking exports. Those kinds of barriers have been preventing America’s potato farmers from expanding exports further into Mexico.  The new plan stresses the administration’s goal of updating and strengthening the rules of origin laws, however, it doesn’t ask for a reinstatement of Country of Origin Labeling on beef and pork imports from Mexico and Canada.

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Ag Reacts to NAFTA Renegotiation Plan

House Ag Committee Chair Michael Conaway of Texas reacted positively to the U.S. Trade Representative’s objectives for the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. The plan details how the administration wants to expand market opportunities and tighten enforcement of existing trade obligations to protect U.S. producers. “The administration’s objectives for renegotiating NAFTA clearly demonstrate a commitment to protecting market access while outlining ways to level the playing field,” says Conaway. National Association of Wheat Growers President David Schemm says they’re pleased that the objectives call for maintaining existing reciprocal duty-free market access and they don’t want to do harm to existing trade relationships. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reacted positively as well, saying the overall renegotiation goals are good for the beef industry because they encourage the continuation of terms that have benefitted the industry for decades. Those terms include duty-free access and science-based sanitary and phytosanitary standards. NCBA President Craig Uden says, “It’s difficult to improve on duty-free, unlimited access to Mexico and Canada. We’re pleased that objectives include maintaining that reciprocal duty-free market access for agricultural goods.”

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House Budget Wants $10 Billion Cuts to Ag Spending

The House GOP released its budget this week, calling for $10 billion in spending cuts to agricultural programs through the next ten years. However, Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says the plan doesn’t necessarily say how to go about getting to that number. It does recommend reigning in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending by promoting “state flexibility,” but it doesn’t go into any further detail on how to do that. While agriculture won’t be happy with the spending squeeze given that farm income is down so sharply, the $10 billion is actually much lower than the $70 billion initially proposed. Politico says it now appears that House Ag Chair Conaway will be given the flexibility he’ll need to write a farm bill. The wiggle room in putting the farm bill together will likely make it a lot easier for the House and Senate to get on the same page when it comes to putting the nation’s farm programs together.

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U.S. Dairy Increasing Pressure on Canada

The U.S. dairy lobby is putting increasing pressure on Canda as the talks to redo NAFTA draw closer. People close to the situation told Reuters that America’s dairy farmers want concessions that Canada doesn’t seem likely to grant. The deal could be a hindrance to the upcoming NAFTA talks, under which Canada sends a lot of its exports to the United States. Dairy farmers have been upset for some time at Canada’s “supply management system,” which is what Canada calls its system of tariffs and quotas designed to keep domestic prices high and limit imports. A deal last year that allowed Canadian dairy farmers to sell their milk proteins to domestic processors at a discount, drastically slowing American imports. The U.S. Dairy Export Council announced its intentions to pursue challenges with the World Trade Organization. Canada has been in trouble because of its dairy policy in the past. A WTO panel ruled in 2002 that Canada had breached its trade obligations through illegal subsidies to its dairy industry. The U.S. and Canada would go on to settle the issue in 2003. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said earlier this month that all options should be on the table and that dairy is still a concern.

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Perdue Farms to Upgrade Animal Welfare Standards

The nation’s fourth-largest poultry producer, Perdue Farms, announced it’s adopting new animal welfare standards that increase the well-being of its broilers. The announcement came from the Perdue Animal Welfare Summitt, which brought together animal care experts from around the globe, advocates, researchers, and farmers. Jim Perdue, Chairman of Perdue Farms, said trust is earned by responding to consumers and other stakeholders and includes a willingness to make changes in policies. Perdue became the first major company to promise a future supply of poultry that meets the animal welfare criteria outlined in the Joint Animal Protection Agency Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare Issues. Those standards were agreed upon by a coalition of nine industry groups as a meaningful change to broiler production. Some of Perdue’s improvements will include more room for chickens to move, more light during the day, and longer periods of lights-out for rest. Other changes include more chicken houses with windows as well as controlled-atmosphere stunning.

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ND Crops and Pastures Continue to Wilt

Crops and pastureland are continuing to suffer from the intense drought in North Dakota, with no relief in sight yet. This week’s report from the USDA shows that some farmers have begun haying small grain crops that are no longer worth harvesting. One of North Dakota’s staple crops is spring wheat and 45 percent of that crop is in poor to very poor condition. Many of the state’s other crops are in the same situation. Topsoil moisture supplies are 65 percent short to very short. Subsoil moisture is at 58 percent in both those categories. Out in ranching communities, 74 percent of pastureland and range conditions are poor to very poor. Available stock water supplies are only at 56 percent in those same categories. The latest U.S. Drought Weather Monitor map shows three-fourths of the state in some stage of drought.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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