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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, July 20th

Atypical BSE Case Discovered in Alabama

An atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was found Tuesday in an 11-year old cow in Alabama. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) says the animal never entered the slaughter process and was no danger to the food supply or to human health. APHIS has determined that the cow was positive for atypical BSE, a kind typically found in cows at least eight years old. It’s different from the more well-known classical BSE that was found in the United Kingdom back in the late 1980s. The most common source of classical BSE is typically contaminated feed. The cow showed signs of the disease when it was discovered via routine surveillance in a livestock market. Barry Carpenter, CEO of the North American Meat Institute, says the fact that the animal was found before it entered a processing plant should reassure Americans that the U.S. animal health surveillance system and safety protocols are working to protect the public’s health. Carpenter says, “The U.S. surveillance system for sampling and testing cattle far exceeds recommended international standards.”


No Timeline to Restore Brazilian Beef Imports

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue met his counterpart from Brazil on Monday to discuss the U.S. ban on fresh beef imports from Brazil. Perdue said the U.S. needs to see more progress from Brazil on beef inspections before the ban would be lifted. A Cattle Network Dot Com article says the ban went into effect on June 22nd as the U.S. said a high percentage of beef imports from Brazil did not pass safety checks. American inspections found abscesses on meat from Brazil, which Brazilian farmers claimed were linked to foot-and-mouth disease vaccinations. Back in March, Brazilian meatpacking companies were hit with a scandal involving bribes paid to meat inspectors, which in turn halted Brazil’s protein shipments to many of the largest markets in the world. Perdue says the Brazilian Ag Secretary pushed for a timeline to restore beef imports, but Perdue also said that would depend on progress made by Brazil. The South American nation has been selling beef to the U.S. since they signed an agreement in 2016, ending 17 years’ worth of discussions about Brazilian imports. Beef shipments to the United States represent three percent of Brazil’s totals exports.


Pressure Increases to Help U.S. Cotton Farmers

A bipartisan group of 135 Senators and Representatives wrote letters to the Trump administration asking for help for the nation’s cotton farmers. The group wants the administration, through USDA, to operate the Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program, effective for the 2016 crop year and on an ongoing basis. The letters noted that the U.S. cotton industry has had its share of hard times, enduring a World Trade Organization challenge, increasing foreign subsidies, tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, and a weak U.S. safety net. Those challenges have led to the lowest amount of cotton planted in the last 30 years. Global cotton prices were once $2 per pound and have tumbled to 57 cents per pound, plus, record production costs have been higher than financial returns for three straight years. The group of legislators says the cost share program would help bridge the gap from now until the new Farm Bill is written. Cotton farmers don’t have a safety net similar to what’s available for other farmers, so they’re much more exposed to the volatility in the world markets. Without help, the letters say nearly 18,000 cotton producers will continue to struggle with diminishing returns and higher debt loads.


Court Denies Petition to Ban Pesticide

A U.S. Appeals Court in San Francisco denied a petition from environmental groups to force the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos (klohr-peer’-uh-fohs). Reuters says that decision ends one of three parallel attempts to get the ban put in place. The groups, including Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council, wanted the ban in place because they allege the EPA took too long to make a decision on the safety of the pesticide. The judges wrote in their findings that even though EPA did drag its heels on the matter for ten years, the agency has done what the judges asked it to do. The court had previously ordered the EPA to issue a final decision on the ten-year old petition to ban the pesticide, which is considered a neurotoxin by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The EPA formally denied the petition on March 29th, and the environmental groups alleged the denial was inadequate because it didn’t contain any new safety findings. A lawyer for Earthjustice says the groups are pursuing two other court challenges related the EPA’s decision in March.


H-2A Program May Be Expanded

The House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to the fiscal 2018 Homeland Security Spending Bill that would help dairy producers and other farmers that need year round labor. The amendment would expand the types of businesses that can apply for the H-2A visa program for temporary or seasonal workers. Politico’s Morning Ag Report says it would also nullify the requirement that the work would be short term in nature. Washington Republican Dan Newhouse, a farmer himself, was the amendment author and says, “The amendment is a small starting point of relief we can provide our farmers who need workers.” The amendment doesn’t change how long a worker can stay in the country, which is three years with renewals. It doesn’t change the fact that farmers must first look for American workers. National Milk Producers Federation President Jim Mulhern says the amendment recognizes that we need to create new approaches to getting dairy employers the labor they need. Labor isn’t as on board with the deal. United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez called the program deeply flawed and was “stunned” that two Democrats supported the measure. The group Farmworker Justice says the amendment does nothing to fix H-2A, which it says is “rife with abuses.”


Culver’s Starting the Second Year of #FarmingFridays

The Culver’s restaurant chain successfully debuted the #FarmingFridays social media content series last year. Culver’s has once again invited agricultural influencers to share pictures and videos that show their passion for and knowledge of agriculture. The social media effort is part of the Culver’s Thank You Farmers Initiative, which recognizes the hard work and commitment of the farmers that feed the nation. #FarmingFridays are extending a little longer this year, stretching from April 28 through November 3. One change from last year is the inclusion of the National FFA Officer team, which will take its turn this Friday, July 21. The National Association of Agricultural Educators will share what a day in the life of an Ag educator looks like on September 22. The Peterson Farm Brothers will conclude the social media presentation on November 3. So far, Culver’s has raised over $1 million in support of the National FFA Organization and its Foundation, local FFA chapters, and a variety of local agricultural organizations. More information on the program is available at Culvers Dot Com, forward slash farmers.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service