READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, April 6th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, April 6th

Perdue Says Trade War May Affect the New Farm Bill

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says a potential trade dispute with China could have negative consequences on the new Farm Bill Congress is currently working on. Politico says Congress may need to factor in possible trade disruptions while working on the new legislation. China announced that dozens of U.S. farm products, including soybeans and beef, could potentially face a 25 percent tariff if the U.S. follows through on its threat to put a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods. The goal of the Trump administration is to force China to change its intellectual property practices. The Chinese announcement came as Perdue was on his third RV tour of rural America. Perdue tried to reassure Ohio producers that the administration would not allow farmers to be casualties if the trade war escalates. However, he did say Congress may have to draw up a farm bill designed to help producers in case the dispute gets worse. He didn’t go into great detail about what he thought Congress would need to add to the farm bill. Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts said last month that a special payment because of a trade dispute would complicate an already tough funding situation. USDA does have broad authority to distribute emergency funding to stabilize the agricultural economy if it becomes necessary.

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White House Trade Chief Says U.S./China to Hold Trade Talks

A Bloomberg report says that American and Chinese officials have both indicated a willingness to find a negotiated solution to their trade differences. Top government officials are expected to hold talks before American tariffs on Chinese imports will take effect. White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro tells CNBC that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the talks. White House officials have indicated previously that they were willing to negotiate with China, but the Bloomberg report says this is the first indication that talks would take place at the highest levels of government. Navarro says discussions will focus on getting to someplace “where China stops doing what it’s doing in terms of aggressive attacks on our economy.” He didn’t provide more specific details to CNBC about the timing or locations for future talks between the two countries. Larry Kudlow, head of the White House National Economic Council, says America is trying to rally pro-market countries to push back against China’s unfair trade practices. Kudlow says the administration will have more to say about its effort to recruit other major economies to support the U.S. position.

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Growth Energy Responds To EPA Waivers

Growth Energy sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt condemning the decision to give a small refinery waiver to one of the largest refiners in the U.S. They are also demanding a moratorium on waivers being issued by the EPA. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says they want the EPA to immediately stop issuing waivers and end any considering any waiver applications in progress. “We want the agency to conduct a full, transparent public comment process to help assure all stakeholders that the new expansion of small refinery waivers is consistent with the goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard,” Skor says. “EPA appears to be operating under the cover of night to act as a judge, jury, and executioner to effectively reduce the overall demand for biofuels in this country absent any discourse.” Growth Energy says the decisions appear to be timed so they don’t require any discourse in the yearly Renewable Fuels Obligation rulemaking process. That only adds to the impression that the EPA “is pressing its thumb on the scale to grow oil industry profits.” Skor says secret handouts undermine the administration’s commitment to renewable fuels and represent a real threat to hard-pressed American farmers.

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USDA and SBA Join Forces to Help Rural American Businesses

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and Small Business Administration chief Linda McMahon signed a Memorandum of Understanding on strengthening small businesses and the agricultural economies in rural America. They signed the MOU during a stop on Perdue’s “Back to Our Roots” tour in Ohio. The collaboration is designed to do several things, including enhancing investment opportunities in rural America. The organizations also intend to identify ways to increase the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Other goals include improving innovation for rural technical assistance providers and aiding rural businesses in providing tools to export products around the world. SBA Administrator McMahon says as small businesses continue to rise, it’s important to create a better environment to help rural America thrive. She says, “I look forward to working with Secretary Purdue to strengthen America’s many agricultural small businesses.” Perdue says most family farms operate as small businesses, so the collaboration between USDA and SBA makes a lot of sense. Perdue says, “I’m grateful to be partnering with Administrator McMahon and SBA to best help farmers, ranchers, foresters, and small businesses in rural communities thrive.” 

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NPPC Study Shows Losing Foreign Workers Will Hurt Ag

A new study commissioned by the National Pork Producers Council shows the negative effect of agriculture losing access to foreign workers. Given a tight labor market in rural areas, losing foreign workers would lead to a large drop in agricultural jobs. Iowa State University economists discovered that a loss of foreign workers that’s caused by a change in immigration policy will not be offset by native-born workers and permanent residents. Instead, the economists discovered that a limited supply of foreign-born workers would trigger a reduction in demand for workers as production costs increase. It would also decrease agricultural output as farmers would have to abandon labor-intensive operations. The results would be anywhere between a 3.4 and 5.5 percent decrease in the total number of farm workers. Several factors have led to a severe labor shortage in agriculture. Those factors include an eight-year negative population growth rate in rural areas, an aging rural workforce that either can’t or won’t do strenuous agricultural work, and an unemployment rate near four percent. Most economists consider four percent unemployment as “full employment.” NPPC supports legislation that would create a new visa that would allow foreign agricultural workers to remain in the United States for up to three years.

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World Food Prices Rise 1.1 Percent in March

The United Nations food agency says world food prices rose during March, driven by increases in grains and dairy costs. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat, and sugar. The March index was 1.1 percent higher than the February number. When compared to a year ago at the same time, food prices were .7 percent higher than March of 2017. An FAO statement says, “Declines in price quotations for sugar and most vegetable oils were offset by increases for maize, wheat, and most dairy products.” The FAO says global cereal grains production was up in 2017 to 2.64 billion tons, 33 million tons higher than the previous year. However, the FAO also expects production of maize and wheat to decline in 2018, based on early forecasts. The agency predicts wheat output of nearly 750 million tons this year, one percent lower than in 2017.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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