READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, April 27th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, April 27th

U.S. Beef Could Expand In E.U. To Help Avoid Trade War

The European Union is preparing to allow more tariff-free U.S. beef into the region as part of an attempt to avoid a trade war. Politico says the move comes at the same time French President Emmanuel Macron (Ma-CRAHN) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are making high-level diplomatic trips to Washington, D.C. Both leaders are trying to dissuade President Donald Trump from slapping tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports, set to begin on May first. An EU concession on American beef may go a long way toward appeasing the U.S. President, who’s made it clear that Europe has “unacceptable” barriers to trade. “Our farmers can’t send their product into the European Union as easily as they should,” Trump says, “and we accept their products. So, we have to make a change, and they understand that.” To make the change happen, the EU would have to alter a 2009 agreement which allowed the U.S. to export 45,000 tons of hormone-free beef without paying dues. European agriculture associations typically don’t favor more beef imports, but Politico says they seem to be supportive of tweaking the quota, especially if hormone-free beef stays on the banned list.

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EPA Chief Faces Scrutiny on Capitol Hill

Lawmakers peppered Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt with questions on ethics and spending allegations that have prompted bipartisan calls for his ouster. An Associated Press report says the EPA boss was on the defensive as he blamed “half-truths” and “twisted” allegations as attempts to undermine the Trump administration’s anti-regulatory agenda. The public questioning on Capitol Hill comes after a month-long bout of headlines surrounding his outsized security spending, first-class flights, as well as a sweetheart deal on a condo lease from a lobbyist. Republicans who support Pruitt’s policy agenda are beginning to say his lapses in judgment can no longer be ignored. Democrats attacked Pruitt at the opening of the hearing. New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone said, “You are unfit to hold public office.” President Donald Trump is standing by his EPA chief. However, White House officials say behind closed doors that Pruitt’s job is in serious jeopardy. Pruitt addressed the allegations against him in passing during his opening statement. He did acknowledge there’s been “a learning curve” and that “facts are facts, fiction is fiction.”

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Former Senators Ask Congress to Investigate EPA/RFS Waivers

Former Senators Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and James Talent of Missouri both played major roles in the legislation that established the current Renewable Fuels Standard. This week, the two say Congress should investigate the waivers to the RFS granted to more than two-dozen refineries by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. In a statement released by the National Biodiesel Board, both men say, “Lawmakers from across the heartland have already demanded the EPA stop abusing these waivers, but Congress needs to do more. The public deserves real answers from Administrator Pruitt about handouts granted under the cover of night.” The waiver provision established by Congress provided some flexibility in dealing with the smallest refining companies who produced fewer than 75,000 barrels a day. It was designed for unique cases that presented disproportionate economic hardship. “But the EPA has warped those provisions to grant tens of millions of dollars in regulatory handouts at the expense of farmers, biofuel workers, and American consumers,” says Dorgan and Talent. “Granting secretive ‘hardship’ waivers to some of the nation’s most profitable petroleum giants undermines the law and destroys demand for homegrown biofuels,” says Kurt Kovarik, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs

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Chinese Sorghum Importers Ask Government to Waive Tariff

Some Chinese sorghum importers have asked their government to waive the hefty tariff imposed last week on U.S. sorghum imports already at sea. A Reuters report says the request comes as companies are rushing to sell China-bound cargo currently stranded on the water at big discounts. The Commerce Ministry slapped a large 178.6 percent deposit on American sorghum in a trade row between the world’s two largest economies. Grain sorghum is used in animal feed and to make liquor. One source tells Reuters his company made the request of Beijing to impose the new tariff on shipments that left U.S. ports after April 18. Companies are making a bid to protect almost a dozen vessels shipping U.S. sorghum that had already left their ports. A second source at a private importer told Reuters that a group of companies, including one government-owned firm, met with Commerce Ministry officials to discuss concessions for the new tariff, but didn’t disclose details of what happened at the meeting. The scramble to secure government concessions underscores concerns among Chinese firms that the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing will inflict financial pain on China

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Ag Groups Applaud Precision Ag Connectivity Act

The American Soybean Association is among agriculture groups applauding the Senate Commerce Committee for pushing the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 forward in the legislative process. ASA President John Heisdorffer says his group welcomes the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018. “This legislation understands the unique needs of growers across rural America,” Heisdorffer says. “We urge swift passage in the U.S. Senate as wireless broadband connections in the field support farm operations and, in turn, rural communities.” The American Farm Bureau says the bill would create a task force designed to focus in on the connectivity and technology needs of modern farmers, who are too often without connectivity in the fields and on the ranches where they work. The Farm Bureau says precision agriculture maximizes yield, lowers environmental impact, and improves farm profitability, which is important at a time when farmers need to maximize every penny they can to survive. The Federal Communications Commission says 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to basic broadband services compared to only four percent of urban Americans.

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Farmers’ Share of the Food Dollar at a Record Low

The Economic Research Service’s Food Dollar Series shows that the farmers’ share of the food dollar fell to 14.8 cents in 2016. That’s a 4.5 percent drop from the previous year and the lowest level since the series first launched in 1993. The farmers’ share of every $1 spent on domestically produced food represents the percentage of farm commodity sales tied to the food dollar expenditure. Non-farm related marketing associated with the food dollar rose to a record-high of 85.2 cents. Those expenses include things like transportation, processing, and marketing. The largest decline in the farmer share of the food dollar was in food not consumed at home. The family farm share of food consumed away from home dropped to 4.4 percent, ten percent lower than the previous year.  The smaller share of the food dollar consumed away from home is due to the cost of restaurant food service and preparation. For all but the food and beverage dollar consumed at home and the food at home dollar, the farmers’ share of the food dollar is at record-low levels.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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