READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 25th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 25th

USDA-EPA Discuss Year-Round E15

U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency officials met today to discuss ways to increase ethanol usage and to address refiner concerns about volatility in the market for biofuel credits. An Agri-Pulse report says the meeting followed months of discussions at the White House on the issue. It also follows months of concerns over the way EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is overseeing the program. The ethanol industry is pressing the EPA to finally move forward with issuing a vapor pressure waiver that will allow E15 to be sold all year. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says President Trump promised to protect the statutory targets under the RFS. “We support Secretary Perdue’s efforts to ensure the EPA upholds the commitment to rural families,” Skor says, “and there’s no reason to delay or attach unrelated gimmicks to benefit a few refinery owners.” The meeting comes as Marathon, the nation’s second-largest refining company, is seeking a waiver from the RFS blending requirements. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the Marathon request shows that the “embarrassing loophole,” as he calls the RFS waiver authority, needs to be fixed.

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Cattle Groups Applaud Introduction of Livestock Hauling Bill

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, as well as the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, were both pleased with the introduction of the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act on Wednesday. The NCBA says the legislation will reform the Hours of Service Rules in a way that ensures animal welfare, highway safety, and the well-being of livestock haulers. NCBA President and California producer Kevin Kester says the current Hours of Service rules for livestock haulers present big challenges for the industry and can also jeopardize the health and well-being of livestock. “Hauling livestock is much different than hauling products like paper towels or bottles of water,” he says. “Live cattle can’t simply be left unattended in a trailer.” USCA Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hilker says they asked, and Congress answered, calling it a historic moment for livestock haulers. “They get needed flexibility in the restrictive Hours of Service rules,” Hilker says. “We commend the bipartisan group of Senators for working together with the industry for a common-sense solution.” The U.S. Cattlemen look forward to working with members of the House and Senate to get the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act across the finish line.

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U.S. and Mexico Talking Cars in NAFTA 2.0 Discussions

Two sources familiar with the negotiations have told Bloomberg that the U.S. and Mexico are discussing automobiles in an attempt to break an impasse over auto-production rules in an updated North American Free Trade Agreement. The anonymous sources say officials are meeting to discuss Mexico’s automotive proposal. The auto issue has been a key sticking point during the nine months of negotiations between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The push is coming as the Trump Administration tries to get an agreement in time for the current session of Congress to approve the deal before the November midterm elections. If the U.S. can’t hit that deadline, negotiations will run into 2019. Trump said Wednesday that negotiating NAFTA is “very difficult, but autoworkers are going to be very happy with the results.” Mexico and the U.S. have disagreed over the U.S. proposal that 40 percent of a car’s value be made with high-wage labor. People familiar with the discussions say Mexico’s counteroffer is that 20 percent of a car’s value be made with high-wage labor.

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USDA Heavily Involved in Trade Talks

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service has been “intimately involved” with U.S. trade negotiators and will be included in an upcoming trip to China. Politico says the U.S. delegation will be led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says the Foreign Ag Service, “was at Secretary Ross’ left elbow last week during the discussions specifically on commodities we believe we could expand our efforts to China with.” Perdue says China and the U.S. have discussed the possibility of China approving imports of more U.S. food grown using biotechnology. Perdue adds, “We’re also looking at non-tariff measures regarding some of the policies and protocols that restrict U.S. products from going into China. That will be part of the technical discussions as well.” Perdue wants a wider variety of ag exports sent to China, such as soybeans, rice, corn, and poultry, among others. China hinted on Wednesday when it’s Ministry of Commerce posted a statement saying, “China welcomes high-quality, competitive American products to enter the Chinese market.”

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Trump Raises Doubts About U.S.-Chinese Trade

President Donald Trump cast doubts on Wednesday regarding the prospects for talks between the U.S. and China that are aimed at heading off a trade war. An Associated Press report says just four days after the two countries suspended their plans to impose up to $200 billion in tariffs on each other, Trump declared in a tweet that a more detailed agreement “will be too hard to get done.” While he says the talks are moving along nicely, Trump added that the negotiations would require a different structure and would need to allow the U.S. to verify results after completion. It’s not immediately clear what kind of structure the president has in mind. Talks in Washington, D.C., last week resulted in an agreement in which Beijing said it would “substantially reduce” America’s trade deficit with China. However, China didn’t commit to any specific amount of reduction. It also didn’t address the big issues between Washington and Beijing, which is the method China uses to try to overtake the U.S. technological supremacy, which is to demand that U.S. companies hand over some of their technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

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Trump Cabinet Members Modifying H-2A Program

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, as well as the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security are working together to streamline and simplify the H-2A agricultural visa program. The goal is to reduce cumbersome bureaucracy and ensure adequate protections for U.S. workers. The administration is working to modernize the H-2A visa program in a way that’s more responsive to stakeholder concerns and enables agriculture to have more confidence in the program as a valid source for legal labor. They also want to reinforce the programs strong employment and wage protections for the American workforce. By reducing the complexity of the current program, the administration is also planning to incentivize farmers’ use of the E-Verify program to make sure that their workforce is legally authorized to work in the United States. All four of the agencies issued a joint statement saying they’re looking forward to rolling out a more responsive program in the near future.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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