READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 25th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 25th

NAFTA Ministers Back in Washington D.C. After Short Turnaround

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his two counterparts in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are back at it in Washington, D.C. This marks a quick turnaround for the Mexican Economy Secretary and Canadian Foreign Minister, who were just in Washington last week for a meeting that both countries described as “productive.” Negotiators stayed in D.C. over the weekend and kicked off their fourth-straight week of talks on Monday. One source told Politico that the pace of talks in basically up to Lighthizer, saying “concessions right now can only come from the USTR.” The source added that they haven’t seen any concessions from him yet. To further complicate things, President Trump once again took to Twitter and warned that the U.S. might make stricter immigration laws in Mexico “a condition of the new NAFTA agreement.” Mexico quickly dismissed the idea, saying it would be unacceptable to condition the renegotiation of NAFTA to migratory actions outside this framework of cooperation. In spite of the Twitter complication, the outlook is still described as hopeful that the ministers can get a deal done as soon as possible. The quicker it happens, the better the chance of getting an updated pact through Congress this year.


Farmers for Free Trade Report Highlights Damage from Chinese Retaliation

Farmers for Free Trade released a new report that highlights the significant impact that Chinese retaliation from steel and aluminum tariffs will have on a number of U.S. industries. The report shows that many American commodities will be hit hard, including U.S. wine, almonds, walnuts, pork, cherry, and several other commodities. The report also says certain states’ economies will be hit very hard. The report is part of an ongoing effort by Farmers for Free Trade to show the negative impacts tariffs on American agriculture, as well as amplify the voices of farmers who are hurt by them. Some of the top states hit hardest will include California, Iowa, Washington, Missouri, and North Carolina. Chinese retaliatory tariffs are 15 percent on most products, while U.S. pork exports face a 25 percent tariff. Former Senators Richard Lugar and Max Baucus, Co-Chairs of Farmers for Free Trade, say tariffs end up as a tax on American farmers. “They increase the cost of exporting, depress the prices of farm futures, and end up hurting the bottom lines of farmers across the country,” the two say in a release. “They also incentivize trading partners like China to look elsewhere for their imports.” Lugar and Baucus point out that means trading relationships that took decades to develop can vanish overnight. Farmers for Free Trade is a bipartisan campaign to rebuild support for trade at the grassroots level.


Sorghum Prices Falls Three Times Lower After China Tariff Announcement

Grain-handling company Scoular tells Bloomberg that sorghum bids in the Gulf of Mexico have all but disappeared in the wake of a Chinese decision to impose a 179 percent tariff on U.S. imports. Bob Ludington oversees the Omaha, Nebraska-based company’s grain and oilseed division, and says there’s been very little trade. While some U.S. grain elevators are still bidding for sorghum, he says, “Nobody is looking for it in the Gulf.” China had been the biggest buyer of U.S. sorghum. Chinese officials announced there would be an investigation into American shipments back in February. At that point, sorghum prices dropped because of tariff fears, erasing the premium that the grain achieved over corn prices in states like Kansas. Now that the Chinese tariff is in place, sorghum prices must drop in order to attract more domestic and international customers. Sorghum had recently been priced out of the U.S. animal-feed market because of strong Chinese demand. Where excess supplies head now isn’t certain, but Ludington says Mexico is one potential destination.  


Weekend Rains Help Contain Oklahoma Wildfires

Much-needed rain fell in northwestern Oklahoma, an area that’s been hit hard by recent wildfires. Both major wildires had been burning since April 12, damaging approximately 350,000 acres. Rain fell on April 20-21 in the counties hit hardest by those wildfires, helping officials in containing the blazes. An Oklahoma forestry report issued this week shows both major fires are contained and the acreage affected by wildfires has decreased. The 34 Complex Fire has burned over 62,400 acres and is 94 percent contained. The Rhea (ree-ah) Fire has destroyed almost 270,000 acres and is 74 percent contained. The rainfall moisture from last weekend almost equaled the total amount of moisture those same areas had picked up over the previous six months combined. The rainfall totaled over one inch in the area affected by the 34 Complex Fire, and the area affected by the Rhea Fire received just over three-quarters of an inch of rain through the weekend. The weather forecast is promising more rain chances through the rest of the week in areas hit hardest by the wildfires.


EPA Administrator Faces “Watershed” Moment

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is approaching his two separate committee hearings in the House of Representatives with sagging support on the hill. Even his most dedicated backers are starting to express concerns about the controversies surrounding the administrator that have continued to swirl. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, perhaps his biggest ally in Congress, even says it’s “appropriate to have a hearing, in so far as any accusation having to do with his office is concerned.” A CNBC report says, since the hearings were announced, revelations regarding a Washington apartment rental deal with a lobbyist have sparked allegations of ethics abuses and lavish spending. The government’s top watchdog determined just last week that the EPA broke the law by installing a $43,000 soundproof booth in Pruitt’s office. Pruitt will go before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment Thursday morning. He then will appear before the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in the afternoon. The CNBC report says an anonymous White House source says the administration may have told conservative lawmakers not to defend Pruitt too stridently.


Minnesota Struggling with Faulty Seeds

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is warning landowners around the state to be cautious when buying and planting their seeds, especially for conservation plantings. The MDA has recently encountered a lot of issues with seed sold in the state. Over the last two years, the highly-invasive weed Palmer Amaranth was accidentally introduced into the state through conservation seed mixes. The department found seed that was mislabeled with inaccurate information regarding the contents of the seed mix. Also, seed has been sold in Minnesota with very low germination rates. All of these issues are serious violations of state law. Minnesota Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson says Minnesota’s seed industry is very important to agriculture and conservation efforts. “We are fortunate to have many reputable native seed producers that benefit pollinator habitat and conservation efforts,” Frederickson adds. “However, just a few bad players can bring in invasive weeds.” The MDA is urging its landowners to remain vigilant in an effort to better the Minnesota landscape.  

SOURCE: NAFB News Service