READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, August 9th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, August 9th

USTR Seeking Input on KORUS

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office has asked a group of industry advisors to provide feedback on potential changes to the U.S. free trade agreement with Korea. World Trade Online reports that USTR is seeking the feedback by mid-August, after recently asking its industry trade advisory committees for ideas on the implementation of the agreement and issues “impacting fair trade” with Korea. USTR asked for the comments to be submitted by August 15th on the five-year-old agreement, known as KORUS. Korea and the U.S. have been engaged in conversations since Lighthizer requested the review last month, but no official meetings have been arranged. While President Trump has called for a renegotiation of KORUS, Lighthizer said the U.S. was seeking a “modernization” of the deal, with a special focus on the bilateral trade deficit with Korea. Korea, on the other hand, is not interested in making changes to the text of the agreement and instead wants to focus on addressing outstanding implementation issues. Korea is currently the fifth largest U.S. agricultural export market.

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USDA Proposes Less Restriction on Mexican Pork Exports

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to recognize Mexico as free of classical swine fever. The proposal replaces a previous proposal by APHIS that would have recognized Mexico as a low-risk classical swine fever region. Since USDA’s original proposal, Mexico has asked for enhanced evaluations by USDA. With results from the most recent site visits, USDA determined that current conditions support classical swine fever-free recognition for all of Mexico, according to Meatingplace. This newly proposed action would release classical swine fever-specific restrictions on the importation of pork and pork products from Mexico, while continuing to protect the United States against the swine disease, according to USDA. APHIS is inviting public comments on the evaluation for 60 days. APHIS will then review and consider the comments received and make a final determination.

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Zinke Proposes New Sage Grouse Management Plan

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced a new plan to manage sage grouse in 11 Western states. Zinke said the new protocol would go into effect immediately, and the new policy supersedes the Obama administration’s rules. The changes came from a report by a sage grouse task force that Zinke had established. Zinke says the administration will offer states flexibility in how they choose to protect the bird and also will loosen restrictions on energy development in sage grouse habitat. Environmental and animal protection groups denounced the Trump administration as weakening the attempt to increase the sage grouse population and a gift to the oil and gas industry, according to the Hagstrom Report. However, Public Lands Council President Dave Eliason says PLC is “encouraged” by several key priorities in the order. Eliason. Says the report acknowledges the need for a more collaborative approach between grazing permittees and federal leadership.

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Perdue Turning to Industry for Dicamba Fix

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated to reporters this week that he would like to see the industry work out a fix on dicamba issues. Perdue said: “I would much prefer that method rather than a prescriptive, top-down regulation,” in saying that he is “hoping that the industry itself and the producers themselves are working toward a resolution,” according to Politico. Thousands of dicamba drift complaints have been filed across the Midwest and Southeast this year as dicamba-based herbicides have damaged neighboring crops that are not dicamba-tolerant. Last week, Monsanto said it is taking the situation “extremely seriously,” and would offer support to affected growers. Monsanto is the maker of the Roundup Ready 2 Extend crop system, which features dicamba resistant cotton and soybeans.

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Top U.S. Milk Processor Struggling

A new report shows that Dean Foods Company is struggling amid slowing milk sales and rising costs. The news comes as Dean’s largest customer, Wal-Mart Stores, is preparing to open its own milk processing plant, reducing its reliance on Dean. The Texas-based milk supplier this week cut its per-share profit expectations nearly in half. Shares of Dean Foods are down 45 percent this year, and the company’s CEO has pledged to reduce annual expenses by up to $50 million by 2018. The Wall Street Journal says Dean’s recent struggles, however, raised broader questions among some analysts on payoffs from the milk company’s long-term strategy to focus investment on branded milk products. Meanwhile, retailers have added to the price pressure by aggressively pushing for cheaper milk for their own store brands. Wal-Mart’s soon-to-open milk plant in Indiana will cost Dean about 90 million to 95 million gallons’ worth of sales annually. Though Dean has been preparing for the shift.

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Almond Producers Top Users of Pollination Services

The Department of Agriculture says almond growers were the top users of pollination services in 2016. Farmers growing crops that depend on pollination can rely on wild pollinators in the area or pay beekeepers to provide honeybees or other managed bees, such as the blue orchard bee. In 2016, U.S. farmers paid $354 million for pollination services. USDA says producers of almonds alone accounted for 80 percent of that amount, more than $280 million. By comparison, producers of apples and blueberries paid about $10 million each. Pollination services helped support the production of these crops— which, in 2016, had a total production value of about $5.2 billion for almonds, $3.5 billion for apples, and $720 million for blueberries. Over the same period, the number of honey-producing colonies grew by 14 percent.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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