READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 5th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 5th

U.S. and China Stumbling Into Trade War

As expected based off recent events, the U.S. and China are headed for a trade war at the cost of U.S. farmers. China has included soybeans in its latest proposed retaliatory tariffs, following other ag products such as pork and ethanol. Those all stem from the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States, and others proposed this week. The American Soybean Association expressed “extreme frustration” regarding the escalation of a trade war as China is proposing a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans. ASA called on President Trump to withdraw the tariffs that caused the retaliation and engage with China in a “constructive manner.” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says the tariffs are “testing both the patience and optimism of families who are facing the worst agricultural economy in 16 years,” adding “this has to stop.” China purchases 61 percent of total U.S. soybean exports, and more than 30 percent of overall U.S. soybean production.

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NFU: Farmers Need Compensation from Trade War

The National Farmers Union says the Trump administration needs a plan to help farmers through a trade war. With the latest tariff proposal including $50 billion of U.S. goods, including soybeans, corn, beef, and other agricultural products, NFU President Roger Johnson expressed concern “there is not a plan in place” to protect farmers. Farmers are dealing with depressed farm prices and a 12-year low in farm income, and a trade war will “undoubtedly make these conditions worse,” according to Johnson. NFU is urging the President to engage with Congress to develop a farm bill that will protect farmers and ranchers from the collateral damage caused by the developing trade war. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who is traveling this we  ek, said a plan is in the works, but so far has not provided any details.

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Market Experts: Keep China Tariff in Perspective

No one has officially declared ‘war’ in the way of trade between the U.S. and China, but the nations are no doubt in the makings of a trade war. President Donald Trump insisted that “we are not in a trade war with China.” However, China fired back a proposed list of tariffs less than 24 hours after the Trump administration rolled out a tariff proposal against China. While the proposal from China includes a 25 percent tariff on soybeans, market experts say it’s important to keep the soybean market in perspective. In a daily newsletter, Jim Bower of Bower Trading points out the phrase “do what China does, not what they say.” The latest tariffs by President Trump and China are not yet set in stone. Trump will seek comments on his proposal for 30 days, and China allows 180 days for negotiations before implementing the latest proposal. That time allows a chance for both nations to negotiate an agreement if desired. Bower, in his daily newsletter, points out that Brazil, another major source of soybeans, does not have enough of the commodity to fully supply China. And, the only major soybean growing areas of the world are North and South America. Future demand my shift, but global demand should not decrease, overall.

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Agriculture Disappointed in EPA RIN Waivers

The National Corn Growers Association says reported Renewable Fuel Standard waivers granted to a large refiner undermine the RFS. NCGA President Kevin Skunes (skune-ess) says the granting of the waivers significantly reduces the number of gallons of fuel blended with ethanol, “hurting rural economies and the nation’s corn farmers.” Reuters reported earlier this week that the Environmental Protection Agency granted RFS waivers to a large refining company, essentially letting the company ‘off the hook’ from its obligations to blend ethanol fuels. The reports also angered Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who says the waivers, intended for small, struggling refiners, would amount to “a massive government handout to a big corporation.” Andeavor owns the refineries that allegedly received the waivers, and the company made a profit of more than $1.5 billion last year. Grassley says the alleged secret waivers granted by the EPA are more than unfair, adding the practice “may be illegal.”

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USDA Prioritizes Investments to Address Opioid Crisis in Rural America

The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced it will prioritize two key grant programs to address opioid misuse in rural communities. Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett says the focused investment will target USDA resources “to be a strong partner to rural communities” in building a local response to the opioid epidemic. USDA is reserving $5 million in the Community Facilities Grant Program and is giving priority to Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program applications proposing projects to address the opioid epidemic in rural communities. Funding for both programs was made available through the 2018 Omnibus spending bill. USDA points out that the National Center for Health Statistics estimates that nearly 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. More than half of those deaths involved opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin. Learn more about the grants at www.rd.usda.gov.

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Loss of Foreign Workers Would Hurt Agriculture

A new study shows a reduction in the foreign-born workforce, prompted by a change in immigration policy, would not be offset by native-born workers and permanent residents. Iowa State University economists say a tighter supply of foreign-born workers would reduce overall demand for workers. That’s because as production costs increase, agricultural output would decrease as farmers abandon labor-intensive operations. Commissioned by the National Pork Producers Council, the study shows the result would be a 3.4 to 5.5 percent decrease in the total number of farm workers. NPPC says skilled and unskilled foreign workers “have been crucial to maintaining and growing the workforce” needed for the pork industry, adding that if the current labor shortage continues, or worsens, the nation could see “animal health and well-being suffer.”  NPPC supports legislation that would create a new visa that allows non-seasonal foreign agricultural workers to remain in the United States for up to three years while deferring a portion of their pay as incentive for periodic “touchbacks” to their country.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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