READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, September 17th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, September 17th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Senators Grill Administration Officials at Trade Hearing

Ag state senators peppered Trump Administration officials at USDA and the Office of the Trade Representative with questions regarding trade policy. The Thursday hearing focused on the Trump Administration’s policies and the resulting harm to American farmers from retaliatory tariffs. Politico says both Republicans and Democrats gave an earful to USDA chief economist Robert Johansson, Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, and USTR chief agricultural negotiator Gregg Doud. The questions boiled down to “when does the pain end for farmers?” Joe Donnelly of Indiana says, “It seems like the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming at my farmers. They need to know there’s an off-ramp or an end to this.” John Thune of South Dakota says the concern and anxiety level is continuing to rise in farm country. “My impression is that fact seems to fall on deaf ears around here,” Thune says. Republicans asked about the possibility of rejoining the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership. Doud responded by saying the president is correct to prefer a bilateral approach. Thune responded with, “We’ve heard that we’re working on bilateral agreements since pulling out of TPP. I don’t see any evidence of that.”


Trump: the U.S. Under “No Pressure” to Make Deal with China

President Donald Trump pushed back at the Wall Street Journal, which ran an article saying the U.S. was under pressure to make a deal with China. The Hill Dot Com says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) recently invited Chinese officials to come to Washington for negotiations, which Beijing accepted. The Wall Street Journal reported that the invite came about because of political pressure on Trump to at least ease up on trade fights ahead of the November midterms. Trump announced on Twitter that, “The Wall Street Journal has it wrong. We are under no pressure to make a deal with China. They are under pressure to make a deal with us. Our markets are surging, theirs are collapsing. We’ll soon be taking in billions in tariffs and making products at home. If we meet, we meet.” While the U.S. economy is seeing faster economic growth and joblessness at near record-low levels, China’s economy is facing long-term questions, including a sharp drop in its currency value. A new group called Americans for Free Trade launched an advertising campaign to fight back against Trump’s tariffs, saying they’re hurting the U.S. economy.


Soybean Prices Improve 15 Percent if Tariffs Resolved

If the U.S. can get its trade disputes resolved, one economist says soybean prices could jump as much as 15 percent higher. Farm Journal’s Ag Web Dot Com quotes Jackson Takach (TACK-atch) of Farmer Mac as saying there’s no underestimating the importance of trade to agriculture. “One of every $4 or $5 in farm income is from foreign sources,” he says. “Six of our major trading partners who’ve issued retaliatory tariffs represent about 53 percent of our total agricultural exports.” He says recent movement on the NAFTA negotiations and the U.S. signaling a willingness to negotiate with China give him some reasons for optimism. “If we start to lift some of the veil of uncertainty, net cash income reductions could be pretty low,” Takach predicted. “if we can get some of these trade issues resolved, the upside could be pretty high for U.S. agriculture. However, if everything stays the same, I think the USDA predictions for lower net cash income are accurate.” Takach says if the U.S. and China resolve their differences and China drops its tariff, soybean market prices could improve as much as 15 percent.


Mexico Heading to Washington to Move NAFTA Forward

Mexican officials are on their way to Washington to work on the wording of the trade agreement between Mexico and the U.S. A Bloomberg article says they’re prepared to enter a bilateral agreement with the U.S. that would leave current NAFTA partner Canada out of the trading block. Kenneth Smith Ramos, Director of Trade and the NAFTA Office at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, will work on the wording of the agreement that President Donald Trump intends to sign by the end of November. Ramos will be the first high-level Mexican official to make the trip to Washington, D.C. since they announced the framework of an agreement in August. In the meantime, Canadian officials are huddling with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only two weeks after the nation rejoined the talks. Mexico has been vocal in wanting Canada to stay in the pact but is preparing for life without the third trading partner. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is leading the efforts to hammer out a deal. Trudeau says on television that Canada won’t sign any agreement that isn’t too Canada’s advantage.


Roberts Asks Conaway, Peterson, to Remain in Washington

Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts is also chair of the House-Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee. The Hagstrom Report says Roberts feels Congress is running out of time to finish the farm bill conference report before the current bill expires on September 30th. He’s asking House Ag Chair Michael Conaway and Ranking Member Collin Peterson to remain in Washington, in spite of the fact that the House is out of session this week. Roberts told reports that “we’re running out of time.” As the deadline rapidly approaches, Roberts says negotiations could continue if Conaway and Peterson can return to Washington. “If you don’t get it done by that time, you aren’t going to do it,” Roberts says. Key leaders have still not come to an agreement on a budget for each title in the new farm bill. As a result, Roberts says lawmakers might not be able to finish the bill until after the November election. “it might have to be after the election,” he said to reporters. “I don’t know for sure.” The Senate reconvenes on Monday at 5:30 p.m., Eastern Time.


ASF Found in Belgium and Spreading in China

Belgian authorities confirmed that the African Swine Fever Virus has been found in their country. That’s adding to increasing worries about the virus moving into western Europe. The trade association website Meating Place Dot Com says the country’s food safety agency has found the virus in two wild boars in the southern part of the country. Belgian authorities are currently working with several of its government agencies to help prevent the spread from wild animals into its domestic herds. Belgium is currently stressing that there is no disease in the domestic animals. The nation’s food safety agency says wildlife control and prevention in pig farms are currently in effect. In the meantime, live hog and pig products are now banned from an additional ten regions in China. These regions are located alongside the six regions where the virus has already been found. The main goal is to prevent the spread of the disease, especially into central China, where most of the nation’s pork farms are located. The moves have also pressured hog prices in northern China as hog supplies accumulate.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service