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

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

Northey Nomination Still on Hold

The nomination of Bill Northey to a top Department of Agriculture post remains on hold following a White House meeting on the Renewable Fuels Standard. The meeting, requested by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, offered no major breakthroughs regarding what Cruz wants to change in the RFS. Cruz told Politico he is still holding up the vote to confirm Northey, but touted “progress towards a productive solution” that he says would balance the needs of ethanol and oil refiners. A source told Politico that Cruz’s staff said they want to reduce the price of biofuel credits but did not offer any “win-win” proposals to do so. Cruz is expected to propose a cap on RIN prices, but that’s an idea that RFS defenders say would go against the law’s intent. A statement from Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley’s office says: “There was an understanding expressed broadly in the meeting that any outcome can’t undermine the integrity of the RFS.”

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Newly Appointed Minnesota Senator Strong Supporter of Ethanol

The appointed U.S. Senator to take the place of Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota will “fiercely defend ethanol.” The Washington Examiner reports Democrat Tina Smith will add another big voice of support for corn ethanol in Congress. Smith was appointed this week by Minnesota’s Governor to take the place of Franken, who resigned last week over allegations of sexual misconduct. Smith, now formally Minnesota Lieutenant Governor, said on September 16th last year while declaring the date as Ethanol Day, that ethanol is a “critical tool” in the state’s economic development toolbox. The ethanol industry generates nearly $5 billion for Minnesota’s economy and more than 18,000 jobs, according to Smith. However, it is not clear how much she can do as her appointment lasts one year, after which Minnesota will hold a special election to choose a new senator to serve out the remainder of Franken’s term.

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Mexico Sees Possible EU Trade Deal

Mexico and the European Union could place the framework for a trade deal by the end of the year. As talks around the North American Free Trade Agreement drag on, Mexico said this week that the nation is working with the EU to reach the framework for a trade agreement, but differences over agricultural market access remain. The two sides are currently in technical meetings and preparing for higher-level talks next week. Mexico and the EU have an existing accord dating to 2000 that principally cut tariffs on industrial goods. The two parties agreed in 2015 to modernize their trade relations and held various rounds of talks last year.The potential trade deal comes as Reuters says Mexico is aiming to reduce its reliance on trade with the United States. However, trade officials from Mexico did say this week that the goal is to have significant advances in the first quarter of 2018, regarding the stalled NAFTA talks.

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Report Outlines BayerAG-Monsanto Merger Impact

A research document released by Farmers and Families First shows the proposed BayerAG-Monsanto merger would reduce competition and increase cost for farmers. The white paper says the deal would create a $66 billion corporation with “unprecedented control” over the products farmers and agriculture businesses need to grow, produce and distribute food. Farmers and Families First is an advocacy organization that states a primary goal of putting ideas into action that promote innovation, lower costs through competition, and fairness for farmers and families. Online records show that the organization’s website was registered on December 6th, 2017. Washington, D.C. online records indicate the 501(c)(4) non-profit was registered on December, 7th, 2017. The study claims a merged Bayer-Monsanto would control over 35 percent of the global market for corn seeds, roughly 28 percent of the global soybean market, almost 70 percent of the global cottonseed market and up to 69 percent of U.S. approved herbicide-tolerant seeds for alfalfa, canola, corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton.

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Florida Citrus Crop Estimates Decline Further

The Department of Agriculture says Florida will produce four million less boxes of oranges than previously estimated. The decline, attributed to damage from Hurricane Irma, has USDA predicting Florida will produce 46 million boxes of oranges. The decline doubles a previous decrease indicated by USDA in October. A survey of growers conducted post Irma pegged total fruit loss at almost 60 percent with some reports of 100 percent fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state. Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Michael Sparks told the Palm Beach Post: “This is exactly what we thought would happen as the true damage begins to rear its ugly head in the groves across Florida.” The forecast from USDA this week represents a decline of more than 80 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes during the 1997-98 season.

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USDA Seeks Public Input on Child Nutrition Food Crediting

The Department of Agriculture is seeking comments on food crediting, the system USDA says defines how each food item fits into a meal for the National School Lunch Program. USDA says the public input will help USDA officials better understand perspectives on “navigating today’s evolving food and nutrition environment.” To claim federal reimbursement for food served through one of USDA’s child nutrition programs, program operators must serve meals and snacks that meet each program’s specific meal pattern requirements. USDA’s crediting system defines how each food item fits into the meal pattern. USDA is especially interested in understanding both the possible benefits and any negative impacts associated with possible changes to how certain foods may or may not credit. Electronic comments are preferred and may be submitted at the Federal Register today through February 12, 2018.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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