READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, March 27th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, March 27th

China: U.S. Has “Severely Damaged” the Multilateral Trade System

Steel and aluminum tariffs crafted by the Trump administration based on national security have “severely damaged” the multilateral trade system, according to officials from China. In a translated news release, a Chinese trade official says the nation will take legal actions through the World Trade Organization to “maintain the stability and authority” of multilateral trade. The comment came late last week as China announced a list of 128 products to target in retaliatory measures, including U.S. soybeans and pork. China made a World Trade Organization filing Monday to seek consultations regarding the issue. China calls the move by the U.S. a “safeguard measure” as outlined in WTO rules. Being the two biggest economies in the world, China says the U.S. and China must “focus on cooperation” to promote trade relations between the two countries. The first flight of tariffs from China focuses on fruit, wines and ethanol, among other products, worth an estimated $1 billion. The second flight, should China move forward, covers pork, recycled aluminum, and other products.

Trade Tiff with China Serves as Negotiating Primer

A leading U.S. agricultural economist suggests that the trade issues with China serve as a vehicle for negotiations. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says China may be simply signaling the U.S. that the nation wants to negotiate, just as the U.S. has seemed to signal to China in crafting the tariffs. That seems to be the case, too, according to action by some Trump administration officials. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that U.S. officials were discussing with China several issues, from finance to manufacturing, which could ease trade tensions. Hurt points to the proposed tariffs on U.S. soybeans in response to the U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel as a signal of negotiation. He says that China needs U.S. soybeans, and would rather not start a trade war. The list of proposed tariffs by China on U.S. imports also includes a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork.

Association of Equipment Manufactures Urges Trump to Lift Tariffs

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers is urging President Donald Trump to lift his tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. In a statement, AEM President Dennis Slater said the mere threat of tariffs or quotas has already contributed to higher steel prices, disrupted business operations for equipment manufacturers, and caused uncertainty in the business climate. AEM represents manufacturers of equipment, including agricultural machinery. The association says the tariffs will have negative impact on equipment manufacturers and their employees. Slater said he was encouraged by the exemption offers for some of equipment manufacturers’ largest suppliers of steel, but notes that the overall industry exemption process is confusing and burdensome for businesses. Slater concludes that the best thing President Trump can do to mitigate the negative impacts of the tariffs is to “end them, immediately.”

Growth Energy Objects to EPA-Refiner Settlement

Growth Energy has filed comments with the Department of Justice outlining the biofuel industry’s objections to a proposed settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and a Pennsylvania refiner. The proposed settlement, between Carlyle Group-owned Philadelphia Energy Solutions, or PES, and the EPA was filed and drafted as part of the ongoing PES bankruptcy proceedings. The current settlement agreement would pardon the refinery of key obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the proposed settlement “sends a terrible message to investors who have played by the rules.” Growth Energy alleges that the Carlyle Group pulled hundreds of millions of dollars out of the company and failed to make clean energy investments that have allowed other refiners to thrive. Growth Energy says the proposed settlement would unjustifiably allow PES and its parent companies to substantially avoid their environmental obligations, among other things.

Research Finds New Direction for Halting Citrus Greening

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service says a new study has discovered a path forward to halting the citrus greening epidemic. The research is inching closer to helping scientists understand how to block citrus greening from infecting citrus trees. The disease infects citrus trees through bacteria carried by tiny insects. The researchers have found that young insects appear to be resistant to the bacteria, which needs to pass through the insect’s guts to multiply. The next step will be to identify the mechanism for the resistance in the insects so that it might be manipulated to also halt the spread of the bacteria by the adult insects. Researchers say further studies will help in developing ways to block transmission of the disease by insects in citrus groves. If the research pans out, citrus growers will be “in a much better situation in terms of disease control,” potentially saving the U.S. citrus industry. There is much more to learn, but researchers add that the more they learn, the closer the U.S. will “get to moving citrus production past the threat of citrus greening.”

USDA Announces Support for Veterans and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

The Department of Agriculture Monday announced up to $8.4 million in available funding for training and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. The funding through USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement was originally authorized by the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990. USDA says the grants “seek to enhance the equitable participation” of socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers in USDA resources and programs, such as Farm Service Agency loans or grants through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Projects may focus on conferences, training sessions, educational materials, or new programs to help those farmers and ranchers thrive and succeed. Eligible applicants include community-based organizations, networks, or coalitions of community-based organizations, institutions of higher education, and others.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service