READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 23rd

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 23rd

China Not Correcting Actions That Led to Tariffs

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says China hasn’t taken action to correct the practices that led to American tariffs on Chinese imports. The tariffs are currently in place on $250 billion in goods. The trade chief made the announcement at the same time his agency released a 53-page update to its report on its own investigation into China’s intellectual trade practices. “We completed this update as part of the administration’s stronger monitoring and enforcement effort,” Lighthizer says. “The update shows that China hasn’t altered its unfair, market-distorting practices that were the focus of the report in March of this year on our Section 301 investigation.” The announcement from Lighthizer comes just ten days before a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi (Zhee) Jinping in Buenos Aires during the G20 summit. The South China Morning Post website says the discussions could either pause the trade dispute between the two largest economies in the world or it could potentially lead to further escalation.

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Tariffs Headed for WTO Dispute Hearings

Both the United States and opponents of tariffs put in place by President Donald Trump confirmed they want to take their disputes to the World Trade Organization. Those confirmations kickstarted the procedure for the WTO to set up dispute hearings. China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Norway all confirmed that they will take their disputes to adjudication proceedings. The Unites States also confirmed it wants dispute panels set up for trade disagreements with Canada, China, and the EU. Reuters quotes a U.S. trade official as saying, “The United States cannot abide this level of hypocrisy.” That was in response to each challenge to the steel and aluminum tariffs at the center of the trade disputes. Trump first put the tariffs in place by saying they were a national security issue, and as such are exempt from WTO rules. The other countries don’t agree, calling the tariffs thinly-veiled protectionism that has damaged U.S. rivals globally. They want the U.S. to compensate them for damages and imposed their own tariffs in response. WTO dispute panels are set up to settle disputes as peacefully as possible by encouraging each country to bring their policies in line with WTO rules, rather than litigating.

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GOP Lawmakers Want USMCA Passed This Year

A dozen Republican lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, asking him to send final legislative language on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement to Congress as soon as possible. They want Congress to be able to vote on it before Democrats take control of the House in 2019. A Bloomberg report says the legislators think the final passage of the trade pact will be “much more difficult” in 2019 as Democrats have already asked for revisions. So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t shown much interest in dealing with the agreement before the end of the year. Should the president pursue congressional approval this year, the senators say “we commit to working with you in a consultative manner to draft implementing legislation that will win votes in a majority of the House and Senate.” Bloomberg says the White House declined to comment on the long-shot attempt by the 12 Republicans to get the trade agreement over the finish line. All three countries plan to sign the pact at the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Argentina, which begins on November 30th. The pact requires U.S. congressional approval, as well as approval from lawmakers in both Canada and Mexico.

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No Farm Bill Yet, Plenty of Comments

The chairs and ranking members of the agriculture committees in both chambers of Congress remained silent on farm bill progress. The Hagstrom Report says that didn’t stop legislators and lobbyists from discussing the topic in public. Soon-to-be House Ag Chair Collin Peterson says if Congress doesn’t pass the farm bill during the upcoming lame-duck session, he’ll bring it up in January. Peterson says current House Ag Chair Michael Conaway dropped a controversial food stamp provision last week. “I want the ag committee organized as soon as possible so I can take the bill that we have now, pass it in the House, and send it over (to the Senate),” he says. “Even if (Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie) Stabenow doesn’t get everything she wants, let her vote against it if that’s what she wants to do.” Peterson thinks that the nutrition title, one of the biggest sticking points in the conference debate, has finally been worked out. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says the farm bill might be added to the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill that Congress has to pass by December 7th. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters that they want the new farm bill to give them needed management reforms.

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NCGA Wants More Equitable Trade-Relief Payments

The National Corn Growers Association is asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to look at changes in the Market Facilitation Program as the second round of payments draws near. NCGA President Lynn Chrisp wrote a letter to Perdue saying that he’s continuing to hear from farmers who are disappointed in how the USDA calculated the first round of payment to farmers. Chrisp said the calculations were too narrow in scope so the agency didn’t take into account the real-time impacts of trade disputes on markets. The NCGA is asking Perdue to include ethanol and Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) into the way the agency calculates trade damages for corn. According to the USDA’s own methodology, trade damage to ethanol and DDGS amounted to $254 million, something not taken into account during the first round of payments. Chrisp is also asking the secretary to allow farmers hit hard by natural disasters to use an alternative to 2018 production numbers for their MFP calculations. If the agency makes that change, it would allow producers suffering from drought, hurricane damage, or other natural disasters to not be penalized twice.

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CDC Issues Warning About Romaine Lettuce Consumption

The Center for Disease Control issued an unusually strong alert for consumers to avoid eating romaine lettuce. The warning also included retailers and restaurants not selling or serving it. The reason is an E. coli outbreak in the U.S. and Canada that’s sickened at least 32 people. No deaths have been attributed to the outbreak. Politico notes the CDC action says officials have pinned the cause of the outbreak on romaine lettuce. However, the action doesn’t pinpoint the region where the outbreak began. Federal health officials don’t normally take this kind of action until they have more specific information on the source of the outbreak. Officials are stepping up their efforts to prevent future illnesses. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (GOT-leeb) says his agency believes the source of the outbreak likely is California. He also said the industry needs to improve its tracking system in order to find the source when problems arise. “Our first mandate is to protect public health,” Gottlieb says, “all while we fully recognize that this will cause extreme hardship for growers and consumers.” Major produce industry groups say they’re following the FDA direction to pull the product.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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