READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, October 18th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, October 18th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

U.S. Seeking Trade Agreements with Japan, EU, UK  

The U.S. formally announced it will seek trade agreements with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced this week that the U.S. will seek to negotiate three separate trade agreements with Japan, the EU and the U.K. The European Union has downplayed the announcement, despite ongoing exploratory talks since this summer. The EU has previously stated that agriculture would not be negotiated in any free trade agreement with the United States. However, in the announcement, Lighthizer says he is committed to negotiating “with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.” The Trump administration intends to negotiate the trade agreements under Trade Promotion Authority, which allows for a simple yes or no approval by Congress, without amendments. U.S. goods and services trade with the EU totaled nearly $1.2 trillion in 2017, while trade with Japan totaled an estimated $283.6 billion in 2017.

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Pork Producers Encouraged by Trade Announcement

Representatives of the U.S. pork industry say “we’ve got the momentum on trade headed in the right direction.” National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimerl (Hi’-merle) stated “pork producers are hurting because of retaliatory tariffs on pork,” but says their patience is starting to pay off. The comments followed the formal announcement that the U.S. is seeking new free trade agreements with the European Union, Japan and the United Kingdom. That announcement follows the recent completion of negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, now named the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, if approved. Between the USMCA, and the recently updated agreement with South Korea, NPPC points out that the administration has maintained the U.S. pork industry’s zero-tariff access to three of the top five destinations for U.S. pork exports. However, NPPC notes, that while the organization is open to trade negotiations with the United Kingdom, it is skeptical about EU intentions. Heimerl says “The EU has played the United States like a drum in the past,” adding that NPPC expects the U.S. to require the EU to eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. pork.

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McConnell: No NAFTA 2.0  Vote This Year

As expected, the U.S. Senate will not consider the updated North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, in 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Bloomberg News a vote on the updated agreement would not happen until after the New Year, saying “My trade advisers say you can’t possibly do it under the various steps that we have to go through.” However, McConnel said, “There’s no question this will be on the top of the agenda” next year. The outcome of the November midterm elections could make the path forward for USMCA a challenge. If Democrats gain control of the House, they could ask the White House to make changes to the updated agreement before voting, or simply disapprove the agreement altogether. While unlikely, some Republican Senators, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, have commented that a vote this year on the updated agreement would avoid any potential political conflict next year.

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Further Farm Bill Delays Possible

Progress on the farm bill following the November midterm elections could be stalled even further, depending on the need for disaster relief stemming from Hurricane Michael. House Agriculture Committee ranking Democrat Collin Peterson this week speculated congress members from states impacted by the hurricane will pressure lawmakers to “either add something to the farm bill or appropriations,” according to Politico. Peterson says those efforts “could potentially give us more problems to solve than we already have.” The 2014 farm bill expired at the end of September and top ag lawmakers expected the new farm bill to be passed following the midterm elections. Those close to the negotiations continue to work on the farm bill, but the House and Senate are both on recess until after the elections, and conference committee members report little progress on all titles of the farm bill.

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U.S. Now has 6.5 Million Acres of Organic Certified Land

An organic industry data service says the U.S. now has 6.5 million acres of organic certified land. A report from Mercaris (Meh-CAR-us) reveals that, as of August 2018, there are 17,648 U.S. farms certified as compliant with the USDA National Organic Program standards for organic row crop production. The total represents three percent increase from 2017, or 460 new operations across the country. Total land increased two percent from 6.4 million acres. States along the East Coast, through the Corn Belt, and through the West reported the largest gains in total certified operations, with the three regions adding a combined 430 certified organic crop operations. The data company calls the report the only trusted information source on organic farmland statistics because the Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will not be issuing data on organic acreage for 2018.

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Assistance Available for Hurricane Damaged Ag Land through NRCS

Georgia farmers and ranchers who suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality because of Hurricane Michael are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. A series of special sign-ups for agricultural livestock mortality and carcass disposal is being conducted for several counties designated under the expedited major disaster declaration by President Donald Trump. The first sign-up period ends October 26, 2018. A second sign-up period will end November 16, 2018. Farmers and ranchers seeking NRCS financial and technical assistance can sign up at their local NRCS office. This assistance is available to individual farmers and ranchers to aid in recovery efforts on their properties and does not apply to local governments or other entities. For more information on disaster assistance programs for farmers and ranchers, visit farmers.gov/recover.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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