READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, August 3rd

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, August 3rd

Mexico Releases NAFTA Goals

Mexico says it plans to prioritize free access for goods and services in the upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement Negotiations. Mexico this week announced the nation’s goals for the renegotiation effort, set to begin August 16th. Mexico is also seeking greater labor market integration and a strengthening of energy security, according to Reuters. Additionally, Mexico is looking to unify agricultural, animal and health safety regulations. A document from the economy ministry of Mexico, which outlines the goals, states: “Our objective is to have an expedited negotiation that maintains the benefits that we have achieved during the lifespan of NAFTA,” but also says the renegotiation should serve as a platform for modernization. Those comments are similar to goals expressed by the U.S. agriculture industry. Mexico and Canada, the two trading partners included in NAFTA with the U.S., are the biggest export destinations for U.S. agricultural goods.

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Senate Democrats Revive Bill to End Cuba Embargo

Senate Democrats are pushing back against President Trump concerning Cuba, reviving a bill to lift the U.S. embargo. In mid-June, Trump rolled back former President Barack Obama’s historic opening to the island. The group of Senators, led by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, introduced the U.S.-Cuba Trade Act of 2017, which would establish normal trade relations with the island nation, in addition to lifting the economic sanctions, according to Politico. Wyden says the embargo “only serves to shut U.S. exporters out of a natural market for American agricultural and manufactured goods.” The International Trade Commission estimated easing the U.S. restriction on Cuba could increase U.S. exports by $1.4 billion annually in the next five years, with even bigger gains possible. However, the bill faces stiff opposition from the Republican Party and the Trump administration.

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Trump Endorsed Immigration Bill Could Harm Farm Labor

A bill endorsed by President Donald Trump that would change the U.S. immigration system may harm farm labor. The bill by Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia would reduce the number of legal immigrants coming into the United States and emphasize highly educated immigrants over what are regarded as the low-skilled laborers, which could be interpreted to mean those in agriculture, according to the Hagstrom Report. The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy, Or RAISE Act, does not target the H2A program, which brings in temporary workers, but the bill would have implications for illegal immigrants who may try to qualify for permanent residency and for the prospect of bringing in workers in the livestock and dairy industries, which need year-round workers. The bill seems likely to meet opposition from Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate, but could start the immigration debate and lead to some method of reform.

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Bee’s Are Buzzing Back from Colony Collapse

New data from the Department of Agriculture shows U.S. honey bee numbers increased in the last year. USDA released its honey bee health survey this week, which found the number of commercial U.S. honey bee colonies rose three percent to 2.89 million as of April 1st, 2017 compared with a year earlier. The number of hives lost to Colony Collapse Disorder was 84,430 in this year’s first quarter, down 27 percent from a year earlier. Still, more than two-fifths of beekeepers said mites were harming their hives, and with pesticides and other factors still stressing bees, the overall increase is largely the result of constant replenishment of losses. Colony Collapse, while not a leading cause of loss, has perplexed scientists for more than a decade. May Berenbaum from the University of Illinois entomology department told Bloomberg News that as beekeepers have worked to improve hive conditions, the syndrome has waned as a concern. She says colony collapse disorder has been “more of a blip in the history of beekeeping,” adding that “it’s staggering that half of America’s bees have mites.” She claims that Colony Collapse Disorder has been vastly overshadowed by diseases, recognizable parasites and diagnosable physiological problems.

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Gray Wolf Court Decision Highlights Need for Modernizing ESA

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Public Lands Council say a recent court decision regarding the gray wolf demonstrates the need for modernizing the Endangered Species Act. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday upheld the listing of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act in the Western Great Lakes Region. Public Lands Council executive director Ethan Lane says the decision means Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin will “continue to be held hostage to the whims of radical environmental activists,” instead of celebrating the successful recovery of the species. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall echoed Lane’s comments, saying the thriving population of 4,000 gray wolves threatens farmers and ranchers in the region. Duvall says the court decision “defies common sense,” adding that Congress needs to take action to reform the “broken and outdated” Endangered Species Act.

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Ireland Could be GMO-Free Haven

Ireland Minister of State for Agriculture Andrew Doyle says the island nation should have a status as GMO-free to maintain biodiversity. The Irish Times reports that the comments by Doyle were expressed as his personal opinion, and not that of the nation’s Agricultural and Food Development Authority, which takes the “follow the science” approach. Doyle claims the island could be a “reservoir” of non-GMO seed varieties in the event of an international food scare. Doyle says he believes Ireland could be a seed bank for mainstream arable crops such as wheat, oats and barley, all crops that are not commercially available as GMO products. His comments came as he also says Ireland is “not going to be an organic island” and that he thinks the nation should not try to be, adding that “organic has its place, but it is not mainstream.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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