READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 17th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 17th

Farm Groups React to House Passage of Tax Reform

Farm groups offered a mixed reaction to House passage of a tax reform package. The American Farm Bureau Federation called the action a “step closer to a tax code that works for all farmers and ranchers.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association called the passage a “step in the right direction,” noting specifically the language within the package that would immediately double the death-tax exemption and put the tax on the path to extinction in five years. However, NCBA also expressed concern that the reform package would significantly limit the ability of some businesses from deducting their interest expenses. The National Council of Farmer Cooperates called passage of the bill “unfortunate,” as the organization says the reform package will raise taxes on farmers and co-ops across the country by eliminating the Section 199 deduction. And, The National Farmers Union said it was “alarmed” by the passage because the legislation would jeopardize farm bill funding, while increasing the federal debt and harming farmers and ranchers.

Ag Coalition Stressing Importance of NAFTA

A coalition of agriculture groups is stressing the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement to state governors. The coalition representing more than 100 agriculture groups is asking the governors to let President Trump know that they “support a modernized NAFTA that maintains and enhances food and agricultural trade,” according to the Hagstrom Report. The letter comes as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer complained earlier this week about agriculture groups lobbying regarding NAFTA, saying the public comments “makes the negotiations harder.” Meanwhile, top trade officials from Canada and Mexico, along with Lighthizer of the U.S., have chosen not to participate in the current round of NAFTA negotiations. In a joint statement, the trade officials said they would not attend so negotiators can continue to make progress on key chapters discussed during the last round of talks.

Senator Urging Farmers to Stand Up for NAFTA

Republican Senator Jerry Moran (more-ran) penned an open letter to farmers and ranchers this week asking them to “do more” regarding concerns surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement. The letter urges farmers, farm groups, and others, to “raise their concerns” with President Trump. He challenged the industry to do so via op-eds, letters, social media campaigns, and other venues about the importance of trade. Moran says the voice of lawmakers raising alarm only goes so far, adding that “the real power to change the conversation lies with the American people. The senator wrote that he is convinced the U.S. is headed down a path toward withdrawal from NAFTA unless action is taken by agricultural groups to change the administration’s course. Also, Moran stated he was impressed with the knowledge and conviction exhibited in defense of agricultural trade so far.

U.S. Farm Exports Hit Third Highest Level on Record

Agriculture exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal year 2017, climbing nearly $10.9 billion from the previous year to the third-highest level on record, according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The Department of Agriculture announced the findings Thursday, saying that as it has done for well over 50 years, the U.S. agricultural sector once again posted an annual trade surplus. The trade surplus reached $21.3 billion, up almost 30 percent from last year’s $16.6 billion. China finished the fiscal year as the United States’ largest export customer, with shipments valued at $22 billion, followed closely by Canada at $20.4 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico reached $18.6 billion, a six percent gain from last year, while exports to Japan grew 12 percent, to $11.8 billion. USDA says exports are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than one million American jobs both on and off the farm.

Study Says Ethanol Production Creates More Carbon Emissions

A study by the University of Wisconsin says carbon emissions increase when land is converted into crops for ethanol. The study released this week says the carbon emissions increase since the ethanol mandate in 2007 is equivalent to 20 million new cars driving on American roadways every year. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the study underscores the unintended consequences of a federal policy meant to reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels. While adding ethanol means burning fewer fossil fuels, the study found that the benefits were lost as even greater amounts of carbon held in the soil were released into the atmosphere in newly cultivated farm fields. The study noted major land changes between 2008 and 2012, and the shifting of more than seven million acres into cropland. The Renewable Fuels Association responded to the study, saying the results were “grossly overstated.” The association pointed out that corn production has fallen more than three percent between 2007 and 2017, while production per-acre increased by 16 percent over that time.

Biodiesel Board Responds to RFS RIN Concerns

A letter from the National Biodiesel Board to the Trump Administration seeks to clarify issues refineries are wanted addressed. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is holding the nomination of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to the Department of Agriculture, asking for a meeting to discuss renewable identification number credits, or RINs. Cruz says refiners call the RINs expensive, “costing thousands of refinery workers their jobs.” However, the National Biodiesel Board took aim at refiners, specifically PBF Energy. Executives of the company have previously made “strong statements” on the potential negative impact of RIN prices on the company’s earnings. The Biodiesel Board points out that the just reported third-quarter revenue for PBF energy of $5.5 billion, is 22 percent high than compared to last year, calling the RIN concerns “overstated.” The National Biodiesel Board is the U.S. trade association representing the biodiesel and renewable diesel industries, including producers, feedstock suppliers and fuel distributors.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service