READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 24th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 24th

Administration Discord Over China Tariffs

Sources close to the White House tell Bloomberg that President Donald Trump backed off imposing billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods because of discord within the administration. There’s also concern within the White House over the possibility of harming negotiations with North Korea. Trump also reportedly succumbed to pressure from farm-state Republicans, who heavily lobbied the administration to settle its differences with China, which had threatened to levy its own tariffs on American agricultural imports. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) said over the weekend that the administration’s plan to impose tariffs on Chinese goods has been suspended. However, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon told Bloomberg the deal was “capitulation.” Some White House officials say the retreat on tariffs is a result of discord on Trump’s economic team. Bloomberg says divisions are raw between free trade supporters like Mnuchin and White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow and the China hawks led by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. Mnuchin and Navarro were said to have argued over China policy during a trip to Beijing earlier this month, and Navarro wasn’t as deeply involved during negotiations last week with a Chinese delegation that made a trip to Washington, D.C.

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U.S.-China Trade War a Win For Other Nations?

A Politico report says the real winners of a trade war with China could be some of America’s top global trade competitors. As the two countries push toward a trade deal, long-term trends could be stacked against American producers when it comes to Beijing’s consumption. China will likely keep pouring resources into other countries in an attempt to diversify its sources for everything from agricultural goods to consumer goods. Brazil could bring millions of new acres into production faster with the help of Chinese investments in its roads and railways, which could be a detriment to American growers. The South American nation has taken over the globe’s number one spot as top soybean producer, supplanting the U.S. USDA estimates show that Brazil is already projected to increase soybean acres dramatically over the next 10 years. The challenge will be difficult to overcome for U.S. producers, who have all but maxed out their growable acres. China is also encouraging its own soybean farmers to increase their production.

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Japan, Russia, and Turkey Talk Potential Trade Retaliation

The World Trade Organization says Japan, Russia, and Turkey have all warned the United States about possible trade retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. An Agriculture Dot Com article says those tariffs would up the total U.S. tariff bill around the world to $3.5 billion annually. The three countries recently notified the World Trade Organization of their compensation claims. That follows similar moves by the European Union, India, and China. Each filing showed how much the U.S. tariffs would add to the cost of steel and aluminum exports to the United States. Russia says the Trump-imposed tariffs add up to $538 million in duties to its exports. Japan put the amount at $440 million and Turkey added another $267 million. They all reject the view that the U.S. tariffs are a matter of security concerns and are therefore exempt from WTO rules. Neither Japan or Russia specified how they will retaliate against U.S. exports, but Turkey listed 22 American goods it was planning to target, ranging from nuts, rice, and tobacco, to cars and steel products.

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U.S. Government to Spend $50 Million in Seed Quality

The U.S. is trailing China in federal ag research and seed-breeding investments. China has outspent the U.S. in those categories for the past ten years. To help combat the low spending, House Democrats Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Darren Soto of Florida introduced the Seeds for the Future Act earlier this year. A Farm Journal report quotes a release from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition as saying farm businesses need to overcome a host of obstacles to stay viable in today’s economy. The obstacles include increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, invasive pests, and previously unseen crop diseases. The release also says, “The Seeds for the Future Act will increase farmers’ access to these 21st-century seeds by making much-needed investments in breeding programs.” Funding will focus on developing seeds that help farmers combat the challenges they face in today’s growing environments. The Act ensures federal investments to support farmers and researchers who are working to develop seeds that will be effective in diverse farming operations and locations.

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Marathon Petroleum Asks for RFS Waiver

Marathon Petroleum Corporation, one of the largest refining companies in the nation, requested a “hardship waiver” from the Environmental Protection Agency. Marathon wants one of its facilities exempted from its requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor was not pleased with the news. She says, “Two of the largest corporations in the country are set to create an oil monopoly and they’re still expecting ‘small refiner’ handouts. This is what happens when the EPA regulators are permitted to ignore the president’s commitments to rural communities.” Skor says these waivers have already siphoned away billions of dollars from farm families to enrich some of the world’s largest oil companies, as well as a few well-connected investors like Carl Icahn. Skor adds, “Those gallons need to be restored and American consumers need immediate, year-round access to E15 as well.” Even Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley weighed in on the topic, saying, “That an oil company making billions of dollars in profits thinks it’s got a shot at receiving a hardship waiver shows how broken the process is.” The smallest Marathon refiner producers 93,000 barrels of product a day at its Canton, Ohio, location.

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Crop Protection Companies Readying for Robot Sprayers

A solar-powered robot that looks like a table on wheels was recently moving through a field of sugar beets in Switzerland. The robot scans rows of crops with its camera, identifies weeds, and zaps them with blue liquid from its mechanical tentacles. A Reuters report says the Swiss robot is undergoing its final testing before the blue liquid is replaced with actual weedkiller. The machine is a new breed of AI weeders that investors say could disrupt the $100 billion pesticides and seeds industry by reducing the need for universal herbicides and the genetically modified crops that tolerate them. The industry is bracing for the impact of digital agricultural technology and some of the biggest companies are already changing their business models in anticipation. The stakes are high as herbicides are worth $26 billion a year in sales and account for 46 percent of pesticide revenue overall. Industry experts say some of the profit pools that are in the hands of major agrochemical companies could wind up in the hands of farmers and equipment manufacturers. While still in its infancy, the plant-by-plant approach is a marked change from the standard method of crop production.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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