READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 19th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 19th

House Ag Committee Debates Farm Bill Draft

The House Agriculture Committee Wednesday approved the draft farm bill, with 26 in favor, and 20 voting against the bill. Democrats and Republicans squared off on the nutrition title, which Republicans are seeking to reform to include work requirements. However, Democrats argue the program changes may be too costly, and that the reforms are “not the right way” to help people get work. Georgia Democrat David Scott went as far to call the draft the “most terrible farm bill we’ve ever had.” In opening remarks, Ranking Democrat of the Committee, Collin Peterson, claimed the “flawed bill” is the result of a “bad and nontransparent process.” Chairman Mike Conaway argues that Democrats on the committee, who announced “unanimous opposition” to “partisan policies” regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, “had no interest in negotiating on the SNAP title.”  In his opening statement Conaway focused on the need for a new farm bill stemming from the current agriculture economy, and the lack of will by Democrats to negotiate SNAP.

RFA: Early Evidence of Ethanol Demand Destruction

The Renewable Fuels Association says its found evidence that RIN waivers are destroying ethanol demand. The Environmental Protection Agency has been handing out hardship waivers “like candy,” according to refining executives. The waivers grant refiners a pass on RINs, the mechanism by which Renewable Fuel Standard compliance is tracked. Renewable Fuels Association executive vice president Geoff Cooper says the credits also provide a strong economic incentive for the expansion of ethanol blending beyond E10. Thus, when RIN prices collapse, “the incentive to expand ethanol blending is also weakened.” Cooper says the waivers and other actions by the EPA are rapidly destroying demand for ethanol and corn. A settlement with a bankrupt refiner, the waiver exemption, and failure to enforce 2016 statutory requirements, Cooper says, “effectively reduced the 2016 and 2017 RFS volumes each by one billion gallons or more.”

Perdue Comments on China Sorghum Tariff

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Wednesday called the China announcement regarding U.S. sorghum this week “ludicrous.” China’s anti-dumping investigation has resulted in a 179 percent tariff on U.S. sorghum imports. Perdue says the move by China is “clearly a political decision,” add that the U.S. “rejects their premise.” Perdue goes on to say that U.S. sorghum producers are “the most competitive in the world,” saying the industry does not believe there is any basis in fact for China’s actions. National Sorghum Producers previously said the organization is “evaluating all legal options moving forward.” China is the largest buyer of U.S. sorghum products, purchasing more than $900 million worth last year. China launched the anti-dumping investigation in February. The move is seen as part of an ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

Senators Call for National Security Review of Brazilian Acquisition of U.S. Beef Company 

A group of U.S. Senators are calling for a national security review of the Brazilian acquisition of a U.S. beef company. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, along with Ranking Senate Agriculture Committee Member Debbie Stabenow, and others, are urging the Committee on Foreign Investment to review the proposed purchase of National Beef Packing Company by Brazil’s Marfrig Global Foods. The Senators point out that the proposed acquisition follows a 2017 corruption scandal in Brazil’s food safety system that revealed unacceptable safety and quality issues with Brazilian beef intended for the American market, which included Marfrig Global. Citing the Smithfield acquisition by a Chinese company, and the ChemChina-Syngenta merger, the senators say “it has become increasingly clear that growing foreign investment in U.S. agriculture requires a thorough review process to safeguard the American food system.” The senators also asked the Treasury Department to include both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration in the reviews of foreign acquisitions of major U.S. agriculture assets.

Coalition Works to Expand Rural Broadband 

A coalition of rural and farm groups are seeking to improve rural connectivity to broadband. The first in a series of workshops was held Wednesday at the Department of Agriculture. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai (Ah-jiht’ Pie) joined executives from the five partner organizations for the discussion. The coalition includes the Farm Foundation, The Rural Broadband Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, CoBank, and the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation. Farm Foundation President and CEO Constance Cullman says: “Actions needed to improve e-connectivity vary widely by community and region,” adding that the listening sessions will “highlight common issues,” and challenges. The stakeholders emphasized the need for collaborative efforts to enhance broadband services in rural America. The next listening session will be in June 2018 in Minnesota, with additional sessions to be completed over the next six months.

Universities Create FedbyScience Initiative

A total of 16 public and private universities have joined together to create FedByScience, an effort to boost federal investment in agricultural research. The initiative, timed with the release of the 2018 House farm bill, focuses on demonstrating the ways that U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded universities and researchers are creating a safer, healthier and more productive food system. FedByScience launched April 18th with briefings for Senate and House staffers. The effort tells stories in which scientific discoveries and innovations have improved the way food is produced and distributed. FedByScience co-chair Ronnie Green, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says the universities are joining together to ensure “our stories about the value of food and ag research are heard.” Other participating universities include Colorado State, Cornell, Iowa State, Kansas State, Michigan State, New Mexico State, North Carolina State, Purdue, Texas A&M, the University of California-Davis, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington University in St. Louis.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service