READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, July 21st

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, July 21st

First Round of NAFTA Talks Scheduled

As expected, U.S. trade officials confirmed this week that North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations would begin August 16th, the first day allowed by U.S. law. The office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced this week that the talks would kick off in Washington, D.C. on August 16th, and the initial rounds of negotiations are scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, August 20th. Earlier this week, the White House released its goals for NAFTA, which includes maintaining duty-free status on agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada. The 18-page Summary of Objectives also includes the need to eliminate non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports. 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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McKinney, Clovis, Officially Nominated for USDA Posts

President Donald Trump has nominated Ted McKinney for Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Dr. Sam Clovis for Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. Both have long been rumored to take top seats at the Department of Agriculture for months. McKinney currently serves as the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and Clovis was a Trump Campaign advisor before serving on the USDA transition team. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said McKinney and Clovis would both be assets to the department. Meanwhile, the White House this week also sent to the Senate Agriculture Committee its notice of intent to nominate Stephen Censky for USDA deputy secretary, paving the way for a Senate vote on the nomination.

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U.S. Drought Monitor Shows More Drought Expansion

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought conditions in the upper Midwest and Plains expanding again. The weekly report says an upper-level ridge of high pressure in the western U.S. inhibited precipitation and kept temperatures warmer than normal across much of the West over the last week. The prolonged and intensifying drought ravaged crops and rangeland in the northern Plains, while soils continued to dry out across the West, Plains and into the Mid-Atlantic region. Extreme drought coverage area now includes 40 percent of North Dakota, 11 percent of South Dakota, and 22 percent of Montana. 65 percent of Montana is classified in a drought condition, while 93 percent of North Dakota is in a classified drought along with 99.97 percent of South Dakota. 74 percent of Nebraska is in a classified drought, along with 40 percent of Kansas, 21 percent of Iowa, and 42 percent of Illinois is classified as abnormally dry. With hot and dry conditions expected across much of the corn belt over the next several days, it’s a safe bet to expect another expansion in drought area again next week.

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Mexican Ambassador Addresses Corn Farmers

Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Gerónimo Gutiérrez (Her-ron-ih-mo-guut-tee-air-ezz) spoke to more than 200 corn farmers from the National Corn Growers Association this week in Washington, D.C. He told the group that the North American Free Trade Agreement has benefited both the U.S. and Mexico agriculture sectors, and that he is optimistic about the prospects of modernizing the trade agreement. Gutiérrez says: “Our agricultural trade through NAFTA has been a success for all parties,” adding that “the challenge is that none of us should stay in our comfort zone.” The Ambassador expressed a strong desire to continue strengthening agricultural trade between the U.S. and Mexico, but he also acknowledged that Mexico must keep its options open and is looking to other markets to secure his nation’s grain supply.

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U.S., China Sign Agreement to Provide Market Access for U.S. Rice Exports

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Thursday announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reached a final agreement with Chinese officials to allow the United States to begin exporting rice to China for the first time. Secretary Perdue says the agreement has been in the works for more than a decade, and says the agreement represents “an exceptional opportunity” with potential for growth in the future. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice. Since 2013, it has also been the largest importer, with imports reaching nearly five million tons last year. When the new rice protocol is fully implemented, the U.S. rice industry will have access to China, significantly expanding export opportunities. U.S. rice exports can begin following the completion of an audit of U.S. rice facilities by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

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FDA Grants to Help States Comply with FSMA Produce Rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is issuing $30.9 million in funding to support 43 states in their continued efforts to help implement the Food Safety Modernization Act’s produce safety rule. The funds represent the largest total of grants made available by the FDA to support compliance with the rule, which seeks to update and strengthen the FDA’s risk-based approach to the oversight of food safety. FDA says the produce safety rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption, and reflects feedback that the FDA received from thousands of public commenters. The $30.9 million grants follow last year’s grant funding by FDA of $21.8 million. Grant award information can be found on FDA dot gov (https://www.fda.gov/ForFederalStateandLocalOfficials/FundingOpportunitie…).

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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