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

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

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Questions Remain Regarding Second Trade-Aid Payments

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue met with President Donald Trump to talk about a second round of trade-aid payments to farmers. Perdue had said an announcement was coming out on December third but that’s come and gone. It was first delayed as Washington honored the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. Now, the delay boils down to a Chinese soybean purchase and Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney. Politico says the OMB Director is a longtime critic of farm policy. He’s pushing back against the idea of a second round of trade assistance for farmers and ranchers. “OMB and Director Mulvaney, as always, are looking to hold on to money,” Perdue says. “I understand that. I think this is a commitment that the president made and we hope to have it resolved soon.” The first Chinese soybean purchase from the U.S. in six months has brought about questions on whether there should even be a second round trade aid, which could amount to as much as $6 billion. While the soybean purchase is encouraging, agriculture is still being hit by retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Canada, and Mexico.

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China Dropping Tariffs on U.S. Cars and Corn

A Bloomberg report says China is taking even more steps to lessen its trade tensions with the U.S. China confirms it will remove retaliatory duties on American automobile imports and it’s preparing to restart purchasing American corn. The Chinese Finance Ministry says the 25 percent tariff on automobiles will disappear on January first. Sources close to the discussions told Bloomberg that China is preparing to purchase at least three million metric tons of corn. The White House will delay tariff increases on Chinese goods that were set for January first. Bloomberg sources say the corn purchases likely will start as early as next month. The Chinese government is also considering how to handle the 25 percent tariffs on American corn imports that were implemented in July. The moves by China come only two weeks after its president, Xi Jinping, met with U.S. President Trump.

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No Punitive Damages in Latest North Carolina Hog Nuisance Case

The federal judge in the fourth hog farm nuisance lawsuit against Smithfield’s Murphy Brown unit ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t present enough evidence to warrant punitive damages. The Raleigh, North Carolina, News and Observer says the jury in the case issued a verdict in favor of the neighbors that live next to the hog farm in question. The award was $102,400 in compensatory damages that would have to be divided up among the eight plaintiffs. It was a different story in the first three trials. Juries ruled in favor of plaintiffs and tacked on large punitive damages. While a state statute limits the amount of financial rewards, the total still is just under $100 million in each of the three cases. Judge Earl Britt of North Carolina presided over the first three trials but was replaced during this one by Judge David Faber of West Virginia. Smithfield still faces more than two dozen similar suits claiming that it didn’t do enough to manage hog waste. The next trial is scheduled for January.

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USDA Looking To Increase Rural Broadband

USDA is putting up $600 million to start a pilot project intended to build broadband infrastructure in rural America. The money will be available in the forms of loans and grants. USDA is calling effort the “ReConnect Program,” which is designed to connect rural areas that currently have less-than-stellar or no broadband service at all. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, as well as internet service providers and municipalities may apply for the funding. “High-speed internet connectivity is a necessity, not a luxury, and vital for a high quality of life and economic opportunity,” says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We hope that rural communities kick off their planning for rural broadband projects.” Projects eligible for this initiative must serve communities of fewer than 20,000 people. Those communities will either have no broadband service at all or download speeds of less than 10 megabits per second, and less than one megabit per second upload speed. Approved projects must create access speeds of 25 megabits per second for upload speed and three megabits per second on downloads. Priority will be given to projects that propose to deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses, and farms.

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Poll Says Farmers Negative on Ag Policy

The latest Farm Journal Pulse Poll is out, and it shows farmers have a negative view of agriculture policy in the U.S. Of the hundreds of farmers that responded to the poll, 49 percent say current Ag policy is mostly or very unfavorable. While 24 percent of the respondents said they were “neutral” on the question, only nine percent of the hundreds of farmers said the current policy environment was favorable. The poll came out during movement on a number of issues that are important to American farmers. Those issues include trade, Waters of the U.S., and passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in Congress. The poll was done before the U.S. reached a temporary truce in its trade war with China. Despite frustrations with Ag Policy, most farmers don’t seem to place a lot of the blame on President Trump. Out of all the responses, 62 percent rated the president and his administration as mostly or very favorable. Only 24 percent had a mostly or very unfavorable opinion of the president and his policies.

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Romaine Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak Found

A recent E. Coli outbreak that was linked to romaine lettuce has been traced to at least one California farm. However, an NBC report says that’s probably not the only source of the illness. Federal health officials say 59 people were reported sick because of the outbreak, which affected a total of 15 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 23 of the sick have had to be hospitalized, but so far no one has died because of the outbreak. Investigators located the E. Coli strain in the sediment of an irrigation reservoir on a farm in Santa Barbara County along the central coast of California. The Adams Family Farm has stopped shipping romaine lettuce and is working with investigators. Officials say not all of the illnesses can be traced to this single farm, so there’s another source of the infection still out there. “What we’re seeing is there are multiple farms, multiple processors, and multiple distributors in the various steps of the traceback and they don’t all lead back to this specific farm,” says Dr. Stephen Ostroff, a senior adviser to the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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