READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, May 7th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, May 7th

U.S.-China Talks End With Little Progress

A Bloomberg report says that two days of trade discussions in Beijing ended with nothing else than an agreement to keep talking. China’s official news agency says the two sides did reach an agreement on some trade issues, but also admitted there were some big disagreements on some major issues. The news report says the sides will continue discussions but gave no hint as to where or when further talks would take place. Neither side briefed the media and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) left Beijing Thursday evening. The discord between the two largest economies in the world will likely mean more skittishness in global markets as trade tensions continue. Shane Oliver, the head of investment strategy at AMP Capitol Investors, tells Bloomberg that a trade disagreement which took decades to build was never going to be solved in just two days. “While a negotiated solution is very likely, it’s going to take some time, and there will be a lot of posturing and near-death moments along the way,” Oliver says. Both sides had a series of tough demands heading into the talks. The U.S. was focused on a trade deficit with China that it says reached over $375 billion last year.

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Conservatives Attack House Farm Bill

Key Democrats in the House are already lining up in opposition to the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill because of proposed changes to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The House version was passed out of the Ag Committee in a partisan, party-line vote. The Hill Dot Com says the bill is now facing attacks from conservative groups. Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, two groups that are associated with billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch, sent a joint letter to Congress in opposition to the bill. The groups actually support changes to SNAP. However, they say the savings are being shifted into other wasteful programs. The groups question the call to redirect expected savings into a SNAP employment and training program. The letter says that “training programs have a poor track record of delivering results.” New estimates from the Congressional Budget Office say expanded SNAP job training could take more than ten years to get going. The letter says the bill is made up of “corporate welfare” and “many other expensive, unfair policies.” Among some of the highlights in the letter, the organizations say the “reckless budget deal and the irresponsible omnibus bill” have made it very important for farm and nutrition programs to be reassessed. They want the programs put on a more “responsible path.”

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USDA-White House Liaison Clovis Leaving Washington

Sam Clovis, the USDA liaison to the White House, is leaving his job in Washington, D.C. Newsmax Dot Com says the former Trump campaign co-chair and policy adviser was nominated by President Trump to be the USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. Clovis withdrew before the Senate Ag Committee could hold a hearing. Senate Democrats and environmentalists came down hard on Clovis over topics like his skepticism regarding climate change, as well as past comments on race and gender. Critics also said he had no scientific experience for a post that would essentially be the USDA’s top scientist. He had most recently been providing some guidance for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. A USDA spokesman says, “Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January 2017, and we are grateful for his time here. He is a good man and a patriot who for decades has served his country admirably. While we are sad Dr. Clovis is leaving USDA, we wish him well in his future endeavors back home in Iowa.”

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Fake Veterinarian Takes Part in Missouri Cattle Fraud Scheme

A man posing as a veterinarian admits to taking part in a $4.7 million investment fraud scheme in Missouri. A Drovers’ report says Robert D. Hawkins has consented that he aided Cameron J. Hager in defrauding more than 90 investors across 21 states in the scheme. The Missouri Secretary of State’s Securities Division says Hawkins allegedly posed as a veterinarian for documents on the company, called 5A Holdings, LLC. Hager served as the owner of 5A Holdings and ran the scheme from July 17, 2015, through March 28, 2018. Hager allegedly told investors he would buy cattle from “financially-distressed” farmers and would have a seasoned veterinarian look them over. He would then feed the cattle until the optimum time came to sell them. The “seasoned veterinarian” was Hawkins, who never actually looked over the cattle because none were ever purchased. Hawkins is cooperating with authorities in any pending proceedings for the case.

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Farm Loan Rates Edging Higher

Interest rates on most types of farm loans continued to move higher. A Kansas City Fed report says, following modest increases in short-term rates, commercial banks raised interest rates on loans used to finance various farm-sector purchases. Following a period of historically-low rates, interest rates increased most significantly on loans used to finance operating expenses. Operating loan interest rates have increased from a low level of 3.5 percent in 2015 to 4.9 percent in early 2018. Interest rates on other types of loans have also increased since 2015 but at a slower rate. In addition to the steady increase in interest rates, very few loans in the first quarter of this year were made at less than four percent interest. Back in 2015, more than 40 percent of farm loans that were used to finance non-real estate originated with an interest rate of less than four percent. Back in 2015, only ten percent of farm loans carried an interest rate of more than six percent. In the first quarter of this year, only 21 percent of non-real estate farm loans were orginated with an interest rate of less than four percent. About 22 percent of the loans originated this year had an interest rate of more than six percent.  

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Trump Nominates Brashears for Top Food-Safety Post at USDA

President Donald Trump nominated Dr. Cindy Brashears to be the Under Secretary for Food Safety. Brashears would be the first person in that position since Elizabeth Hagen left the job during the Obama Administration in 2013. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says the president made a good choice in picking Brashears. “Food safety is directly at the core of USDA’s mission because it directly affects the health and well-being of millions of Americans,” Perdue says. “Dr. Brashears has spent decades finding ways to improve food safety standards through things like innovation, invention, and leadership on research missions across the globe.” Brashears is a food safety and public health professor at Texas Tech University, where she also works as the school’s director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence. Her research focuses on improving food safety standards and making an impact on public health. Some of her research work has led to the commercialization of a pre-harvest feed additive that can reduce E. Coli and Salmonella in cattle. She also leads international research teams to Mexico, along with Central, and South America, to improve food safety and security and to set up sustainable agriculture systems in impoverished areas.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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