READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, January 29th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, January 29th

Some Sections of NAFTA Negotiations Closer to Completion

While the U.S. is still unhappy with the slow pace in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations, there are some sections that are close to completed. Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator says that the sixth round of talks could lead to a revamped sanitary and phytosanitary chapter of the pact. Politico says that chapter covers rules on food safety and animal and plant health. While Canadian officials said there were discussions on that chapter Thursday, even though it’s not finished, they’re more hopeful that it’s close to being wrapped up. Talks on Canada’s dairy supply management system are stalled, which may mean it takes a backseat on things like automobiles, government procurement, and dispute settlement. Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for trade policy with the National Milk Producers Federation, says he believes there is still a way forward on dairy negotiations, and he feels that the Canadian government believes that too.


No NAFTA, No Trump Re-election

Trade was a big topic at the Agri-Talk Farmers Forum on Wednesday. Farmers at the show were of the opinion that if President Trump pulls out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he may not see another term in office. One day earlier, Trump said the negotiations were moving along well. He added, “I happen to be of the opinion that if it doesn’t work out, we’ll terminate it.” That didn’t sit well with the farmers, legislators, and ag industry stakeholders in attendance. Frank Howey, a North Carolina farmers, says, “Republicans are supposed to be free-traders and Trump got elected by U.S. farmers. If he does us wrong on trade, he will not get re-elected.” Top Republicans in the legislature are studying the options they may have to override a possible Trump withdrawal from NAFTA. Agri-Talk host Chip Flory says that shows how far the problem has come.”You have a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican in the White House,” Flory says. “If the Republican President withdraws from NAFTA, then you’ll have a Republican-controlled Senate looking for ways to overturn that withdrawal.” A new study from the group Farmers for Free Trade showed just how much a withdrawal would cost farmers and the economy. For example, cheese would face a 45 percent tariff rate without NAFTA.


U.S. Food Exports to Cuba Rising

The hard-line rhetoric against Cuba in Washington, D.C., has led to a chink in the diplomatic ties formed in the Obama-era. However, the amount of food exports going from the U.S. to Cuba paints a very different picture. The U.S-Cuba Trade Economic Council released numbers showing that agricultural exports to Cuba totaled up over $250 million in 2017. Those numbers stretch from January to November, and they show an increase of $50 million in exports of food products and other agricultural commodities in comparison to 2016. The report from the U.S.-Cuba council shows that, in terms of overall dollar value, chicken makes up more than half of the exports to Cuba. Chicken has consistently been at the top of the list of the items that Cubans buy most from the U.S for a decade. The island country also regularly purchases U.S. soybeans and corn. Cuba largely relies on imports for agricultural products. However, U.S. policy toward Cuba doesn’t allow private financing for Cubans to buy goods from the U.S., making it tough for American producers to fully tap into the market.


Dairy Industry Emphasizing Unity

International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes gave his annual state-of-the-industry speech to the Dairy Forum in California. One of his highlights focused on the unity between dairy producers and processors. The Hagstrom Report says that unity that has led to joint positions on the upcoming farm bill, as well as the Trump Administration’s strong advocacy for dairy in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Jim Mulhern, National Milk Producers Federation CEO, says, “This is the first time my career that producers and processors have been united for a farm bill. It’s the first time in living memory that Congress won’t have to choose between one side or another. That’s a real accomplishment.” The goal of their collective efforts is to help make way for a new farm bill that will improve the Margin Protection Program for dairy farmers while enhancing risk management options for processors. At the same time, they’d like to improve nutrition and build domestic demand through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The House recently included provisions to help the nation’s dairy farmers in the disaster bill put together to aid hurricane victims. That bill is currently under consideration in the Senate.


Broadband Coalition Praises Connectivity Act

The Agricultural Broadband Coalition applauded bipartisan leadership in both houses of Congress for introducing the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018. The group calls it a milestone piece of legislation that will aid in revolutionizing farming across America. The bill is designed to help deploy broadband across rural America, including ranchland and cropland. Broadband connectivity is growing more important for production agriculture. Nick Tindall, senior director for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, says they applaud the legislation as a way to make sure the federal government evolves along with the technology that’s changing modern agriculture. “This legislation creates a clear mandate for the FCC to work with other branches of government to develop a comprehensive strategy to update our rural infrastructure,” he says. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall adds, “Broadband deployment in unserved and underserved croplands and ranchlands is essential to farmers and rancher who produce food, fuel, and fiber, across the U.S. and for customers around the world.” The legislation would create a task force designed to take a comprehensive look at broadband distribution, where it falls short, and come up with recommendations to improve access across all rural areas.


U.S. Red Meat Production Sets December Record

American red meat production totaled 4.40 billion pounds in December of 2017, up slightly from December of the previous year. For the calendar year 2017, commercial red meat production was 52 billion pounds. That was three percent higher than the previous year. Additional packing capacity helped make 2017 a very good year for pork producers. Large export demand at home and overseas kept cattle supplies busy. Pork production hit a record high of 2.23 billion pounds in December, up one percent from 2016. Hog slaughter totaled 10.5 million head, down slightly over the previous December. Beef production in December reached 2.15 billion pounds, down one percent from 2016. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.58 million head, down one percent from December of the previous year. Lamb and mutton production was 12.8 million pounds in December, down two percent over December of 2016. Sheep slaughter was just 188,100 head, a five percent drop from 2016.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service