READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, December 22nd

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, December 22nd

Setting Aside Money In Case of NAFTA Failure?

A Politico report shows just how worried some lawmakers are about the potential failure of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Officials began talking on Tuesday about putting together a potential bailout of sorts for farmers. During a conference call Tuesday morning, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said he was going to ask U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about the rumors in Washington of money being put together and set aside to help farmers in case the NAFTA negotiations fall apart. Grassley says, “I’ve heard rumors that people in the bureaucracy are trying to anticipate what we are going to do to protect small farmers from drops in prices should the U.S. pull out of NAFTA. There’s some talk going around about potentially putting together a pot of money we could use to support prices in case of a collapse resulting from a NAFTA withdrawal.” Grassley says government assistance is the last thing the agriculture industry wants. “Farmers don’t want more money from the federal treasury,” he adds, “they want their money to come from the marketplace.”


Groups Want Tax-Extender Bill Passed in 2017

More than 50 groups representing a wide scope of businesses sent a letter this week to Congress asking for approval of a multi-year extension of a series of expired tax credits. The groups attaching their names to the letter represent energy, agriculture, business, transportation, and real estate. The groups, which include the American Farm Bureau and National Biodiesel Board, say those temporary tax provisions, which expired last year, represent a number of vital American industries and support thousands of jobs. The letter says extending those provisions allows businesses to make plans for the new year. Not extending the credits only creates confusion in the marketplace, which basically increases taxes on a number of industries that create a lot of jobs and promote economic growth. The letter was sent to leadership in the House and Senate, plus the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee. North Dakota Republican John Hoeven is the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. He told Agri-Pulse that action on the bill will likely be delayed until early next year.


Infrastructure Overhaul Talks to Begin in January

South Dakota Republican John Thune, Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, will be very involved with  President Trump’s $1 billion plan to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure in January. A Pro Transportation report says Thune, a rural-state senator, has valuable insights on what farmers and Ag businesses will be looking for in infrastructure investments. Thune says there were few problems with the president’s approach to updating the nation’s infrastructure. He says the bigger question is how the nation will fund it. “There are probably some states that could do more (in terms of funding),” he says, “but I think if states are willing to step up and become bigger partners in the project, there should be some kind of matching benefit to that.” In terms of funding, he told Pro Transportation that, “As a conservative, I think you should be offended by the idea of borrowing money to pay for infrastructure. If we’re going to build things in this country, we need to figure out a way to pay for it.” He thinks lawmakers should be willing to listen to other people’s ideas about how the country will go about paying for such a large project.


Perdue Applauds USDA Accomplishments in 2017

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue talked about the accomplishments of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the first year of the Trump Administration. He says the USDA made breakthroughs on agricultural trade, made strides in reducing burdensome regulations, responded to natural disasters, and battled through the worst fire season on record. Perdue says, “As 2017 comes to an end, the hard-working civil servants who make up the USDA have a great deal to be proud of.” Stakeholder outreach is a big area of improvement. Since taking the job, Secretary Perdue has visited 30 states and six foreign countries. Perdue also took several steps to reorganize the USDA, including the creation of the first-ever Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. He points out that USDA scored a significant victory on the agricultural trade front with American beef re-entering China after an 11-year ban on those imports. U.S. rice also made its first appearance in China, and European Union regulations on U.S. citrus imports were also relaxed during 2017. USDA also responded to concerns by restoring flexibility for the nation’s schools when it came to the national school lunch and breakfast programs.


Hops Industry Toasting This Holiday Season

There’s an awful lot for the hops industry to be toasting to this holiday season. The USDA Economic Research Service released numbers this week showing that hops production in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington jumped 20 percent this year to a record 104 million pounds. While there are other states that produce hops, those three states account for the bulk of the nation’s production. The total number of harvested acres in those three states climbed five percent to 53,282 acres in 2017. The nation’s top hops yield reached 1,959 pounds per acre in 2017, up 246 pounds from last season. The Hops Growers of America says recent trends show that the crop is on track to double its production acreage in just five years. To put it in perspective, the number of acres the U.S. has added in the past five years is larger than the total acreage of most of the other hops-growing countries around the world.  


Foreign Ag Service Contributes to Export Success

International trade was an economic driver for rural America in 2017. U.S. farm and food exports totaled $140.5 billion for the fiscal year, which is the third-highest number on record. USDA Foreign Ag Service Acting Administrator Holly Higgins says she’s proud of the role her agency plays in promoting exports. “Those exports generate 20 percent of U.S. farm income, stimulate rural economic activity, and support more than a million American jobs.” Her agency’s efforts to break barriers and overcome trade obstacles led to many trade successes in 2017, including American beef and rice exports heading to China. Other new or expanded market access for American farm products include poultry and eggs going to South Korea, rice to Columbia, and dried distiller’s grain to Vietnam. FAS is also helping agribusinesses to expand their reach around the globe. The agency organized trade missions to Egypt, Brazil, and India this year. Those missions led to more than $30 million in 12-month projected sales estimates of more than $2.35 billion for participating companies. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service