READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, December 13th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, December 13th

Farm Bill Passes House of Representatives, Heads to President Trump

The House of Representatives followed through with passage of the farm bill Wednesday, sending the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 to President Trump for signature. House members voted 369 to 47 in favor of the bill. Of the votes against the bill, 44 were Republicans and just three were Democrats. The action followed Tuesday’s passage in the Senate, 87 to 13. The long-awaited five-year farm bill replaces the expired 2014 farm bill. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, says the bill “sets us on a better path – for producers, for rural communities and American consumers.” The House action met obvious fanfare from the agriculture community. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, whose department will be charged with implementing the bill once signed, said there were “missed opportunities” in forest management and work requirement for certain SNAP recipients, but adds the bill does provides a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers, “who need the dependability and certainty” from Washington.

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Heitkamp Farm Bill Amendment Supports Ag Trade to Cuba

An amendment included in the farm bill allows the Department of Agriculture to use funds for Cuba-related trade activities. The Amendment by Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota permits the use of Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development funds for Cuba. The amendment, according to the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, represents not only the opportunity to increase the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture, but the first legislation passed regarding Cuba in 17 years. USACC Chair Paul Johnson called the inclusion a “step in the right direction towards normalizing trade with Cuba. Heitkamp introduced the amendment in June with Senator, John Boozman of Louisiana, both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Heitkamp said at the time the legislation would “support farm families and rural communities, especially as they face uncertainty.” The amendment allows funding to go toward trade servicing, technical assistance, and trade promotion activities in Cuba.

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Organic Farmers Association React to Farm Bill

U.S. organic farmers offered applause for the passage of the farm bill which supports organic farmer priorities. Stating, “organic farming is at a critical junction,” Association President Dave Colson says farmers “need support to diversify their production and enter new markets, like organic.” The farm bill, the association says, helps to enhance USDA’s enforcement of the organic label so that all producers are farming within consistent and fair standards. It will also support programs to grow domestic production to meet the increasing demand for local, organic food. Overall, the bill includes priories such as a commitment to organic integrity, mandatory funding for the organic certification cost-share program, and permanent mandatory funding for organic research. Despite the organic community’s united opposition, conferees made two changes to the National Organic Standards Board. The first changes voting procedures that affect decisions about allowed synthetic materials and the second will allow farm employees to represent a farm on the board farmer seat.

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China Makes Down Payment on U.S. Soybean Purchases

China appears to have begun following through on planned purchases of U.S. soybeans. Reuters reported Wednesday that China made its first major purchase of U.S. soybeans in more than six months. Chinese state-owned companies purchased at least 500,000 metric tons of U.S. soybeans, the equivalent of roughly 18 million bushels. The purchases follow an announcement after talks between the U.S. and China at the G20 Summit that China will resume buying U.S. ag products. Traders told Reuters the soybeans are expected to be shipped from grain terminals in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the most direct route to Asia. Historically, China is the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans, importing about 60 percent of all U.S. soybean exports last year, valued at more than $12 billion. Those purchases stopped this year, however, as China implemented a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans as part of the U.S.-China trade war.

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WOTUS Litigation Anticipated

The proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule changes by the Trump administration are bound for litigation. Environmental groups are promising to challenge the rule applauded by the agriculture industry. The proposal will be subject to a 60-day comment period before finalization. Once the Trump administration finishes the rule, its expected to face numerous lawsuits and seems destined for the Supreme Court. Under the plan, federal pollution safeguards for tens of thousands of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands would be rolled back, and Politico reports, despite a promise that every landowner could easily know whether a waterway falls under the federal purview, water experts say they are scratching their heads about the definitions. USA Today points out that two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 came down on the side of landowners, ruling that ponds at the bottom of a gravel pit and a marsh miles from any lake or river were not navigable and thus not subject to the act.

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AEM Shows Equipment Sales Improving in 2018

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ November U.S. Ag Tractor and Combine Report from November shows overall sales remained positive year-to-date. U.S. Sales of self-propelled combines gained 9.2 percent in November compared to last year, and U.S. sales of four-wheel-drive tractors increased 60.7 percent month-over-month. November year-to-date U.S. sales showed a 16.6 percent growth for combines and 15.9 percent growth for four-wheel-drive tractors. Total November sales of two-wheel-drive tractors declined .9 percent compared to last year, a two percent gain for under-40 horsepower tractors, a 7.8 percent drop for 40-100 horsepower tractors, and a 4.4 percent gain for 100-plus horsepower tractors. November year-to-date growth for overall U.S. sales of two-wheel-drive tractors grew 6.9 percent; under-40 horsepower tractors gained 9.3 percent; 40-100 horsepower tractors increased 1.4 percent, and 100-plus horsepower tractors grew 5.5 percent. Curt Blades, AEM senior vice president of ag services, says overall, sales “have been resilient this year. However, end of year sales are softening as “trade issues remain a major concern.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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