READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, August 31st

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, August 31st

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Administration on E15: “Let’s Get it Done”

Year-round E15 sales are nearing reality. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reports in Boone, Iowa at the Farm Progress Show that he has spoken with the President, who wants to make an announcement next week. Perdue told the Iowa City Gazette he received a phone call from the White House while attending the outdoor farm show. Trump told Perdue “let’s get it done,” ordering him to meet with Environmental Protection Agency acting administrator Andrew Wheeler. Following the call, Perdue told reporters he expects to have an announcement “sooner rather than later.” Perdue says the action needs to clear some legal and regulatory hurdles, but added Trump gives executive orders, not suggestions, saying “so we’re going to get it done.” The question remains though, at what cost would E15 sales come under the give-and-take operating nature of the Trump administration, more so with the controversial actions around the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Farm Bill Differences Remain

Lawmakers met this week on the farm bill, making “good progress.” However, major differences remain between the House and Senate bills that the conference committee will address next week. Congress returns next week with 16 days in-session scheduled for the Senate in September, and 11 in-session days in the House of Representatives. That means differences in the farm bill must be ironed out quickly to pass the bill before the current one expires at the end of September. Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts told Bloomberg “some real progress was made,” including on the nutrition title. However, Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the panel, indicates there is much work left to do. Stabenow says “there are big differences between the House and Senate farm bills, not just nutrition,” citing specifically the commodity and conservation provisions. The House version of the bill includes work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Freedom Caucus members in the House, the same lobby the voted down the farm bill earlier this year, say: “We want what we have in the House farm bill.”

Texas Rep. Says Farm Bill Must Meet Objectives

A U.S. Representative from West-Texas says the farm bill must ensure a strong, viable ag sector. Republican Jodey Arrington, a member of the farm bill conference committee, penned an editorial this week. The congressman says the mission of the committee is clear: “to establish policies that support a vibrant agriculture economy, strengthen rural communities, maintain food security in America and tighten up work requirements for food stamp recipients.” The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program includes the most controversial changes in the bill, but is largely only supported by House Republicans. Arrington said in his editorial he believes “it would be a travesty” to not make reforms to SNAP, pointing out that SNAP accounts for more than 80 percent of the farm bill’s funding and costs taxpayers more than $70 billion a year. Arrington is one of two West-Texas voices on the conference committee, joining House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway.

Beef and Pork Export Values Expected to Soften in 2019

The tit-for-tat trade war with China means a lower forecast for the value of U.S. beef and pork exports next year. The Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service said in its latest quarterly Situation and Outlook Report released this week that forecasts total exports of beef, pork, dairy, poultry and other livestock products combined are expected to decline $300 million to $30.3 billion next year, compared with 2018. Beef is projected down $100 million as growth in volume is offset by lower values, and Pork is forecast down $300 million despite volume growth. USDA says the lower values are expected due to weaker demand and the pressures from retaliatory tariffs. However, poultry exports are expected to be slightly higher next year. Exports of poultry and poultry products are forecast $100 million higher to $5.3 billion, due to elevated prices and volumes for most products.

Environmental Groups Urge EPA to Revoke Dicamba Approval

Environmental groups are using the courts to argue against renewing approval of dicamba. The groups are arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to analyze the risks of now Bayer’s dicamba-based weed killer posed to nearby crops before approving it in 2016, according to Reuters. Monsanto, a unit of Bayer, urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Bayer expects the EPA to announce its decision on the renewal of dicamba registration by October. The expectation is that the EPA will approve the registration for dicamba. The environmental groups want the courts to force the EPA to vacate its approval of XtendiMax, a Monsanto dicamba-based product, arguing it not only harms nearby crops and plants but wildlife as well. The lawsuit was filed in February.

Companies Targeted by Senator Sanders Fire Back

Companies targeted by Senator Bernie Sanders are firing back, calling his statements inaccurate in his accusations over food stamps. Sanders plans to introduce legislation that would require large companies, specifically, Amazon, Walmart, and others, to pay a 100 percent tax on government benefits to their employees, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a significant portion of the farm bill. Amazon countered this week saying Senator Sanders “continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits.” Amazon says Senator Sanders’ references to SNAP are also misleading because they include people who only worked for Amazon for a short period of time and/or chose to work part-time, both of which would almost certainly qualify for SNAP. Sanders says Amazon’s median U.S. salary is $28,446, but Amazon counters that excluding part-time and global salaries, the U.S. median salary is $34,123. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service