READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, August 30th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, August 30th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Top Ag Lawmakers Meet Ahead of Farm Bill Conference

The top lawmakers on the farm bill conference committee met this week, ahead of the first formal meeting next week. The farm bill conference is set to meet September 5th, in the first public meeting likely dominated by posturing and speeches. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts told Politico that he, Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway ranking member Collin Peterson, had made “real progress” during the meeting, but did not get into specifics. Roberts is hopeful to submit a conference report to the committee, if ready at the time. Much of the work on the farm bill is ongoing at the staff level, and that’s expected to continue. The committee faces the task of merging the two versions of the bills, including the controversial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements.

BSE Confirmation in Florida Considered Atypical, Not Worrisome

The Department of Agriculture says a Florida case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (in-sef-o-lop-athy)  has no impact on the BSE free status of the nation. USDA says the BSE case is considered atypical, not classical, the much more worrisome form of BSE. The disease was discovered on a six-year-old mixed-breed beef cow in Florida and was tested by a lab at Colorado State University as part of routine surveillance of cattle that are deemed unsuitable for slaughter. BSE is not contagious and exists in two types – classical and atypical. Classical BSE is the form that has been linked to disease in people. Atypical BSE is different, and it generally occurs in older cattle, usually eight years of age or greater. It seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations, according to USDA. This is the nation’s 6th detection of BSE. Of the five previous U.S. cases, the first, in 2003, was a case of classical BSE in a cow imported from Canada. The rest have been atypical.

Canada Ready to Make Concession on Dairy Trade

Despite posturing by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (true-doh) that Canada ‘won’t back down on dairy issues, Canada is ready to make concessions. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland rejoined the discussion in Washington this week. The Globe and Mail reports Canada is ready to make concessions to the Trump administration on Canada’s protected dairy market in a bid to save a key NAFTA dispute-settlement system, preserve safeguards for cultural industries and avert tougher pharmaceutical patent protections. Canada’s dairy, egg and poultry sectors operate under supply management that protects Canadian producers from foreign competition by charging tariffs up to 275 percent on imports. Trudeau said this week Canada will “defend supply management.” However, sources close the negotiation say Canada’s plan is not to dismantle the supply management system entirely, but that negotiators will agree to change one rule that blocks U.S. farmers from exporting ultrafiltered milk to Canada, and also offer the United States a percentage of the Canadian dairy market.

R-CALF Looking for COOL in NAFTA

R-CALF is hopeful the details of the U.S.-Mexico announcement as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations will include country-of-origin meat labeling. R-CALF, a long-time supporter of COOL, in a statement by its CEO said: “We hope that a further release of details will show that COOL will be required for Mexican beef and beef from Mexican cattle.” The organization says trade agreements, like NAFTA, allow unlimited numbers of tariff-free cattle from countries like Mexico, where cattle are overproduced at a significantly lower cost, and displace opportunities for current and aspiring U.S. cattle producers to expand or start their herd. R-CALF continues to argue that because beef from these imported cattle can be sold as a “Product of USA,” multinational beef packers “wallow in higher profits” because they can import lower-cost cattle into the U.S. market. The organization claims that Since NAFTA, the U.S. imports on average 1.1 million Mexican cattle each year, and since U.S. domestic cattle shrank by 6.5 million.

Environmental Groups Seek Clean Water Language in Farm Bill

Environmental groups want clean water regulations in the farm bill. A coalition of environmental groups penned a letter to the farm bill conference committee with suggestions the coalition claims will “help address the challenges facing the nation’s drinking water supplies.” In a news release on the topic, the Environmental Working Group claims that America’s drinking water is under threat from polluted farm runoff, noting that About 1,700 public water systems across the country are contaminated with levels of nitrate that exceed what the National Cancer Institute says increases the risk of cancers. Much of the provisions in the letter pertain to the Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The letter seeks several reforms under the conservation title of the farm bill, including a proposal that reserves 40 percent of the acres enrolled through the continuous CRP sign-up for practices that will protect water quality in watersheds where lakes, rivers and streams are impacted by sediment and nutrients or by harmful algae blooms.

Vegetarian Food Company Sues Missouri over New Law

A vegetarian food company is challenging a new law in Missouri regarding meat labeling. The law, taking effect next week, prohibits food manufacturers from using the word “meat” on products made without animal flesh, and will make Missouri the first state to regulate meat labeling. However, Tofurky, the manufacturer of vegetarian products labeled as hot dogs, burgers and others, is challenging the law in court. The Oregon-based company contends that the provision barring food producers from “misrepresenting” their products as meat – as in calling them sausage and hot dogs – if they are not made from livestock or poultry is too vague, according to meat industry publication Meatingplace. Missouri lawmakers passed the law earlier this year, and it was signed by now-former governor Eric Greitens. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is expected to defend the law in the wake of the Tofurky lawsuit.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service