READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, February 20th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, February 20th

Trump to Sit Down with Mexican President

The North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations will be just one of the topics President Trump will discuss with the President of Mexico when they meet in the next few weeks. Bloomberg says they plan to discuss the relationship between the two countries and several pending issues. The meeting comes after several months of sometimes contentious NAFTA discussions and Trump’s insistence that Mexico pays for a border wall. Officials from both countries met recently to discuss issues like trade, immigration, security, and energy. They also agreed to set up a meeting between the two presidents in the near future. Trump was scheduled to host Enrique Pena Nieto (Ehn-ree-kay Payn-yah Nee-eh-toe) in January of last year, but Pena Nieto canceled after a dispute erupted on Twitter over the border wall. It was during the presidential campaign that Trump first began to call NAFTA a horrible deal for America and pledged to withdraw if a new deal couldn’t be done. Trump indicated last month that he could be flexible with a deadline on completing NAFTA negotiations right before he repeated his threat to withdraw from the pact if the three countries can’t reach a deal that’s more “fair” to America.

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Immigration Debate in Congress Still Struggling

The Senate’s immigration debate ended on Thursday with no deal. Neither a bipartisan plan nor President Trump’s proposal had the required number of votes to pass. Every proposal considered couldn’t reach the 60-vote threshold. That leaves the undocumented immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in limbo and lawmakers unsure of what’s next in the debate. In the other chamber, House immigration hardliners are getting more uneasy as they continue to push for a floor vote on Virginia Representative Bob Goodlatte’s proposal to reform the H-2A agricultural guestworker program. A Republican amendment aimed to enshrine the president’s four-part immigration framework, which would make cuts to legal immigration, was defeated by a wider margin of 36-60.House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows is calling for new leadership in the House Republican Conference. He’s also repeatedly criticized Speaker of the House Paul Ryan for not scheduling a floor vote. Politico says even if the bill got the 218 votes it needs to pass through the House, it’s unlikely to pass in the Senate.

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Legislation Designed to Save Pollinators Introduced in House

Representatives Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts introduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act. The legislation is designed to protect the health of honey bees and other critical pollinators. Estimates are that the U.S. lost one-third of honeybee colonies between 2016 and 2017, with similar losses occurring in previous years. To help bring a halt to the trend, the legislation suspends the use of bee-toxic insecticides (neonicotinoids), which have been linked to the declining population of pollinators. It also would require the Environmental Protection Agency to do a thorough evaluation to make sure using these insecticides is not adversely affecting pollinator populations. Blumenauer says, “A healthy food system depends on healthy pollinators. To keep the status quo is like flying blind. We shouldn’t be using these insecticides when we don’t know for sure how they’re affecting pollinators. The EPA has a responsibility to get to the bottom of this in order to protect our pollinators.” McGovern says that protecting pollinators is essential to the sustainability of our nation’s food supply. Studies estimate that one of every three bites of food Americans eat is from a crop pollinated by bees.

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MN Students Want GMO Approval Process Streamlined

A group of graduate students at the University of Minnesota is asking Congress to streamline the approval process for GMO crops that produce food and fiber. A DTN article says the seven students are doing graduate work at the Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences. They believe the regulatory hoops that companies need to jump through to commercialize new traits are slowing down innovation. In a letter to U.S. representatives, the students pointed out that it costs companies between $20 million and $30 million to get a new GMO crop from start to finish through the regulatory process. That’s a price tag that limits smaller companies from making inroads into the marketplace. The students say, “Each of us has numerous ideas about genetic modification that could be developed into startup companies and bring more competition in a marketplace that’s dominated by a few mega-companies that can afford the regulatory process.” The letter asks Congress to pass a bipartisan bill that funnels GMO fuel and fiber crops through either the USDA or the EPA, but not both.

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FTC Nominee Pledges to Look Closely at Ag Mergers

The Federal Trade Commission would take a look at past merger deals to see if regulators were too easy on the companies involved. That’s the promise of Joseph Simons, the White House nominee for FTC Chairman. Simons said during a Senate confirmation hearing, he would direct a formal study of closed deals, including some in the agriculture industry. He also said, if confirmed, he would police the conduct of big agribusinesses. He also pledges to sue if wrongdoing comes to the agency’s attention. U.S. agriculture has seen rapid consolidation in recent years, and U.S. regulators have mostly waved the deals through. If the federal government takes a more aggressive stance based on any information gathered as a result of a merger study, it would mark a new era of antitrust policy under Republicans. Simons is the co-chair of the antitrust group at the law firm Paul Weiss, and a former FTC antitrust official during the George W. Bush administration. There are more merger deals in the pipeline that will put antitrust regulators’ approach to the test. Bayer and Monsanto are still awaiting antitrust approval from the U.S.   

 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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