READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, September 21st

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, September 21st

NAFTA Talks Head to Canada Next Week

The third round of formal negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement gets underway next week in Canada. Round three of the talks are planned in Ottaway September 23rd through September 27th. The meeting follows the first set of talks in Washington, D.C., and the second round of talks held in Mexico City, Mexico earlier this month. However, rounds one and two were largely uneventful with little resolution on major trade issues between the NAFTA partners, and there’s a hinting from the administration that a deal may not be reached. Any negative trade impacts to agriculture would be significant. Mexico exports $23 billion of agricultural products to the U.S., while Canada exports $22 billion. Canada and Mexico are top markets for U.S. agricultural products, as well. Corn exports to Mexico alone are worth an estimated $2.6 billion, while soybean exports to Mexico from the U.S. are worth an estimated $1.5 billion. For exports to Canada, it’s estimated that the U.S. exports $4.8 billion worth of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.

Conaway, Perdue, Visit Texas

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Texas Representative Mike Conaway, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, are in Texas this week to survey hurricane damage. The two are visiting the Houston area to survey agricultural damage from Hurricane Harvey. Damages from Hurricane Harvey are estimated to cost Texas agriculture billions of dollars from losses to crops and livestock. The area declared as a disaster by Texas Governor Greg Abbott contains about 1.2 million cattle, which is roughly 27 percent of the state’s cowherd. The losses from Harvey will reduce the state’s expected two million bale cotton harvest by as much as 400,000 bales. Perdue and Conaway will also make a stop at the Houston Food Bank on Thursday. Friday, the duo will travel to West Texas where the two will address the Southwest Council of Agribusiness, which is holding its annual meeting in Lamesa, Texas.

Ag Exports Groups Urge Passage of the CREAATE Act

A coalition supporting ag exports is urging Senators to pass legislation to expand the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program. The Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports and the Agribusiness Coalition for Foreign Market Development say the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports, or CREAATE Act, would boost trade’s impact on U.S. farmer profitability and the U.S. economy. The bipartisan legislation follows a House version of the bill introduced in May. The bill would increase statutory funding for the programs, which are now authorized at $200 million per year for MAP and $34.5 million per year for FMD. The two coalitions say both programs have faced stagnant funding and eroding real dollar impact due to inflation, sequestration, administrative costs and increased global competition.

Milk Processing Expansion Needed

A report by CoBank shows U.S. milk production growth is outpacing processing capacity growth, leaving dairy processors struggling to keep pace. Every year, U.S. dairy farmers produce three billion more pounds of milk than the year before. CoBank says that those increase challenge processers, who will need an estimated 27 billion pounds more of U.S. milk processing capacity over the next ten years if current trends persist. The report says that numerous new plants and plant expansion projects are underway or recently completed, but available capacity remains a challenge at times, especially in the Northeast and Mideast areas, and has strained the ability of dairy cooperatives to fill the role of market balancers. Since these co-ops largely bear the brunt of the near-term oversupply of milk, they are increasingly looking for ways to discourage producers from expanding production.

EPA Mulling Options on Dicamba

The Environmental Protection Agency aims to allow farmers to use dicamba next year, but with additional rules in place. An EPA official in the agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs told Reuters this week the agency had not yet determined what steps it would take to mitigate problems associated with dicamba. The herbicide was linked to widespread crop damage this summer. EPA officials have met with state regulators to find ways to prevent crop damage, along with negotiating with herbicide companies BASF and Monsanto. The comments by the EPA hint that the agency is unwilling to set a ban on the product after a certain date that would prohibit post-emergence or “over the top” spraying of dicamba. An EPA official told state regulators the agency was “very concerned with what has occurred and transpired in 2017,” and says the EPA is “committed to taking appropriate action for the 2018 growing season with an eye towards ensuring that the technology is available,” and that growers use it responsibly.

2016 Organic Sales Up 23 Percent

Sales of organic agriculture products increased 23 percent in 2016, compared with levels from 2015, according to the Department of Agriculture. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service released the annual Certified Organic Survey Wednesday. The survey finds U.S. farms produced and sold $7.6 billion in certified organic commodities, up 23 percent from $6.2 billion in 2015. During the same year, the number of certified organic farms in the country increased 11 percent to 14,217, and the number of certified acres increased 15 percent to five million. California, with $2.9 billion in certified organic sales, continued to lead the nation in certified sales, accounting for 38 percent of the U.S. total. Ten states accounted for 77 percent of U.S. certified organic sales, virtually the same share as in 2015 and 2014. Top organic commodities, according to USDA, include milk, eggs, broiler chickens, apples and lettuce.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service