READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, September 15th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, September 15th

Farmers, Ranchers Get More Time to Document Hurricane Damage

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on Wednesday that the USDA will put special procedures in place to assist producers who lost crops or livestock or had other damage to their operation because of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. USDA will also provide loan flexibility to assist farm loan borrowers because the damage was so widespread and severe. Perdue said the impact will be felt for many months down the road. “In addition to on-the-ground efforts to assist producers,” he says, “we’ve adjusted our regular reporting requirements so producers can take care of pressing needs first and deal with paperwork and claims later.” The USDA Farm Service Agency is authorizing emergency procedures on a case-by-case basis for crop and livestock producers in the affected counties. Farm-loan borrowers who’ve received primary loan servicing applications may be eligible for a 60-day extension. USDA also lengthened deadlines for many of their programs, including the Marketing Assistance Loan Program and the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program. The deadlines to file a loss under the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program are also extended. Farmers are encouraged to carefully document their losses from the storms.

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Sunset Proposal in NAFTA 2.0

As the next round of negotiations regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement approach, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is considering submitting a “sunset” proposal. That’s a provision that would automatically cancel the deal five years after approval if the three countries don’t agree to renew it. The USTR began circulating the idea among federal agencies last week in anticipation of tabling the text during the third round of negotiations that start next weekend in Ottawa. At least two agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State Department objected to the idea. A USDA official sent an email to the USTR office, saying, “Termination of NAFTA would be devastating for the U.S. agricultural economy and making such a termination automatic greatly increases the likelihood.” A source who had seen the email told Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report that the same USDA official said one of the biggest benefits of trade agreements are their certainty and “a sunset provision removes any such certainty and will significantly damage investment and trade.”

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Arkansas Makes First Move Toward Possible Dicamba Ban

The Arkansas Plant Board took up a recommendation for a window on dicamba use in the state from January 1 to April 15 in 2018. There are still several steps to go through before the recommendation is approved, including votes from the full Plant Board, the Arkansas Governor, and the State Legislative Council. State officials put together a Dicamba Task Force, which recommended the ban. The recommendation will be considered by the full Plant Board when it meets on September 21 at 1:30. Shawn Peebles, an organic farmer and member of the Task Force, says, “We didn’t recommend a ban forever, but a ban for the 2018 crop to perform more testing. We expect to see more university testing next year.” Peebles says the Task Force will evaluate the 2018 findings to determine the best course of action for 2019. Monsanto, maker of XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, calls the move a step in the wrong direction. “We saw 25 million acres of dicamba tolerant crops that show dicamba can be used safely and effectively,” says Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy at Monsanto. The proposal could affect chemical sales for the company, as well as seed sales since in-season dicamba use is one of the primary benefits of the Xtend technology.

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European Court Rules Against GMO Ban

The European Court of Justice ruled that member state governments cannot ban the cultivation of genetically engineered crops in the absence of scientific evidence that they are a human health risk. American Soybean Association President Ron Moore said the ruling is a comforting one from a scientific standpoint. “The Court’s decision reverses what the EU calls the ‘precautionary principle,’ their long-standing default argument that without proof that a product is unsafe, unverified concerns about safety are sufficient to ban either importation or cultivation,” says Moore. “Over the past 20 years, this unscientific approach has led to a patchwork of unscientific restrictions on EU imports and cultivation of biotech crops by member states.” Those restrictions or prohibitions were put in place in spite of the products being approved by the European Food Safety Authority, as well as numerous other food safety and global health agencies. Moore said the Soybean Association is happy with the ruling and hopeful it will lead to similar science-based stances on genetic engineering in Europe during the years ahead.

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Plant-Based Food Sales Up 8 Percent from 2016

The Plant-Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute released data this week showing that the total market for plant-based food sales is over $3.1 billion. The data shows the growth in plant-based food sales at 8.1 percent over last year. Plant-based dairy alternatives are a fast-growing segment, with 20 percent growth and topping $700 million in sales over the past year. The category excludes milks but does include cheese, yogurts, and ice cream. Yogurt sales jumped 56 percent over last year. The plant-based milk category sales are up 3.1 percent from 2016. Over the same period, Nielsen Research, which did the study, shows cow milk sales down 5 percent. The findings come as a bill sits before Congress which would prohibit plant-based food marketers and manufacturers from using words like “milk,” “cheese,” or “yogurt,” even with the appropriate modifiers like “soy,” “almond,’ and “dairy-free.” The Nielsen Research data even showed that the plant-based meat sector grew by six percent over last year. Bruce Friedrich, Good Food Institute Executive Director, calls it a revolution that’s taking place in the plant-based meat space.

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Higher Ag Exports in 2017 and a Trade Surplus Next Year

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report says the value of farm exports will push higher in 2017, coming on the heels of two straight years of lower numbers for farm goods. The forecast from USDA says fiscal year 2017 will see exports valued at just shy of $140 billion, up $10 billion from last year. That would break the two-year trend of steadily falling export values. The USDA also says the U.S. will see an agricultural trade surplus this year of $23 billion, thanks to stronger exports and more modest increases in imports. The USDA says the increase reflects stronger economic conditions around the world. It’s also coming about because of the lower value of the U.S. dollar, which means foreign buyers get a much better deal in purchasing American agricultural products. USDA has also released a preliminary forecast for 2018 exports, which they say will come in at $139 billion, slightly lower than predictions for this year.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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