READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, May 16th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, May 16th

Proposed Tariff Hearings Underway in Washington

Hearings are underway in Washington, D.C. on a proposed list of Chinese products the U.S. has targeted with 25 percent tariff. The three-day event features testimony from more than 100 witnesses. One of those testifying is farmer Michelle Erickson-Jones, a member of Farmers for Free Trade, who says the U.S. farm community is already feeling the effects of the threatened tariff response by China. The Montana rancher says the market interruptions can “devastate ag prices and drive U.S. farmers out of business.” The hearings come as the U.S. and China are discussing a potential agreement that would soften China’s tariff stance on U.S. agricultural products. The administration over the weekend hinted lifting an export ban on China’s ZTE, a smartphone maker, as part of the talks that are ongoing this week, in exchange for status quo agricultural trade. A delegation from China is visiting with U.S. trade officials in Washington, D.C. in a possible effort to avoid a trade war.

Soybean Growers Submit Comments on Tariff Proposal

The American Soybean Association recently submitted comments on the Section 301 tariffs to the United States Trade Representative during the 30-day open comment period. USTR recently initiated an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 into the government of China’s acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation. A slew of tit-for-tat tariffs between the U.S. and China include a 25 percent tariff on soybean imports into China. As part of its comments, the American Soybean Association told USTR that the tariffs have already created uncertainty in the marketplace and threaten the long-standing work of the U.S. soy industry to establish and expand foreign markets for U.S. soybeans. ASA asked USTR and the Trump administration to “reconsider the Section 301 tariffs and allow soybean farmers to be part of the solution instead of collateral damage from a potential trade war.”

Trump Exploring Exports Under RFS, Scaling Back Hardship Waivers, E15 Sales

The Trump Administration will scale back hardship waivers under the Renewable Fuel Standard, according to Reuters. A source tells Reuters that the move includes counting ethanol exports towards biofuel usage quotas set under the RFS. The move seeks to ease tension between the oil and corn industries which have been at odds for months regarding the RFS, including multiple White House meetings. The corn industry, however, considers the exports action against the law, arguing that the RFS quota is for domestic use, not international. Biofuels groups say the move could spark further trade tensions. But, the action by the White House would also allow for year-round sales of E15, a win for ethanol producers. Regarding the hardship waivers, which Senator Chuck Grassley says is taking away corn demand, the Senator says he will call for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation if he pushes changes that “permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons.”

OTA Comments on USDA Halting Organic Checkoff Proposal

The Department of Agriculture has stopped consideration of a national organic checkoff program. The Agricultural Marketing Service published the proposal this week to terminate the rulemaking for the organic checkoff. USDA says the decision is “based on uncertain industry support” for the program and “substantive issues” with the proposed program. The Organic Trade Association however says the USDA actions reflects a pattern of holding back forward progress on organic by USDA. Organic Trade Association CEO Laura Batcha argues that there is a need for an organic checkoff, and says organic dairy and egg prices are flattening “because of USDA’s failure to move the animal welfare rule forward.” OTA says the USDA statement on uncertain industry support is “simply wrong,” adding that 11,000 supporters commented directly on the proposal.

Farmers Union Urges USDA to Proactively Address Farm Suicide Crisis

The National Farmers Union says many farmers and ranchers are coping with alarming levels of stress, and that farmers and ranchers commit suicide at a rate five times that of the general population. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, NFU President Roger Johnson urged the Department of Agriculture to “develop a response to the farm suicide crisis.” Johnson noted that financial risk, volatile markets, unpredictable weather, social isolation, and heavy workloads can all place significant strain on farmers’ and ranchers’ mental and emotional well-being. Johnson highlighted USDA’s vast network, including more than 2,100 Farm Service Agency offices that interact with farmers and ranchers on a daily basis. He proposed that USDA develops training materials to help FSA personnel better identify and respond to the signs of mental stress, and assess the causes of mental stress in farmers and ranchers, and identify best practices in responding to that stress.

Equipment Sales Sluggish, but Positive

The latest monthly tractor and combine sales report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers shows increased combine sales. U.S. retail sales of combines jumped almost 59 percent last month, compared to April of 2017. However, total tractor sales in the U.S. rose less than one percent, versus this time last year. AEM Senior Vice President of Ag Services Curt Blades notes that the downward trend in net farm income “obviously is a concern” since it is such a big factor in equipment sales. He says there is still a lot of uncertainty with the year one-third over. The report goes on to show that while sales of tractors over 100 horsepower jumped almost 18 percent in Canada, they fell about seven percent in the U.S., compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, Canadian retail sales of combined didn’t fare quite as well as the U.S., as they rose just 9.2 percent, compared to a year ago.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service