READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, December 21st

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, December 21st

Trump Signs Farm Bill, Won’t Sign Stopgap Funding Bill

President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill on Thursday during a White House ceremony. The five-year bill sets agriculture policy and reauthorizes farm, conservation, nutrition, rural development, agricultural trade, as well as many other programs. The legislation also removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which legalizes hemp production. The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the signing is good news for farmers, who have been buffeted on all sides by trade wars, low commodity prices, and generally uncertain futures. However, the question is whether those reauthorized programs will actually have funding available. A short-term spending bill has made its way through Congress this week, and initially, Trump said he would sign it to keep government funded until February. A CBS News report says Speaker of House Paul Ryan met with the president and then made the announcement that Trump will not sign it. The president wants funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which the Senate bill does not have. Ryan tells reporters,” We want to keep the government open but we also have legitimate concerns about securing our border.”

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USDA Changing State Waiver Requirements for SNAP Benefits

It turns out Republicans could get more stringent work requirements added to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program after all. The USDA is changing requirements for states to issue waivers on SNAP benefits. Politico says it’s not a coincidence that the announcement came out on the same day that President Trump is expected to sign the new farm bill. As the current law is written, able-bodied adults without dependents can’t get SNAP benefits for more than three months during a three-year period. To get more benefits from the program, those able-bodied adults have to be working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month. However, states are allowed to waive those requirements when unemployment spikes or there aren’t enough jobs available. USDA issued a proposed rule that would tighten the requirements states have to meet in order to issue those waivers. An estimated 755,000 of those able-bodied adults would lose SNAP benefits over three years if the proposal is implemented. USDA says the plan should save up to $15 billion over a decade.

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Large Soybean Supply Keeping Prices Low Despite China Purchases

USDA has confirmed China bought even more soybeans, 1.19 million metric tons worth. It’s the biggest purchase China has made in more than a year, and the ninth-largest purchase in the last ten years. However, it’s not been a big boost to soybean prices. Chip Nellinger of Blue Reef AgriMarketing told AgDay TV that it’s good to see China once again in the market for U.S. soybeans. The purchases would have had more effect on the market a few months ago because we didn’t know how big the U.S. crop was, as well as the progress of South American soybeans. Nellinger said the fact that we know the answers to both of those questions has taken some of the excitement surrounding Chinese purchases out of the market. There’s a lot of soybeans still sitting out there to sell yet, both domestically and overseas, which is the biggest challenge to higher prices. Nellinger says, “It’s great that China is buying beans again but we’ve got a lot of beans around the world to still get rid of.” The latest USDA report put carryover at 955 million bushels. Nellinger says it’s definitely putting a lid on prices. Even if China purchases two-thirds of what USDA trimmed off expectations, there’s still a carryover of about 700 million bushels.

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USDA Announces Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA has established the National Bioengineered Food Standard. The standard will require food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers to make sure bioengineered foods are properly disclosed to consumers. Perdue says the new standard will increase the transparency of our nation’s food system by establishing guidelines on how to disclose bioengineered ingredients. “This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” Perdue says. “The standard also avoids a patchwork of state-by-state systems that could be confusing to consumers.” The Standard will define bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and can’t be created through conventional breeding or found in nature. The implementation date is January first of 2020. Smaller food manufacturers will have an implementation date of January first, 2021. There are several disclosure options, including written text, symbols, electronic or digital link, and/or text message. Options like phone numbers or websites will be available to smaller food manufacturers. A congressional law passed in June of 2016 required USDA to come up with a standard to disclose which foods that are or may be bioengineered.

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Ag Groups Support New Food Disclosure Rule

Most key agricultural groups seem to support the USDA’s final rule implementing the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The National Corn Growers Association says the standard is designed to inform consumers about the presence of bioengineered genetic material in their food. USDA’s disclosure standard stands firmly with science is stating there is no risk to eating bioengineered crops. NCGA President Lynn Chrisp says, “American’s corn farmers need a consistent, transparent system to provide consumers with information without stigmatizing this technology.” Dave Stephens, American Soybean Association President, says soybean farmers are pleased that USDA took its time to do the rule in the right way. “We believe it allows transparency for consumers while following the intent of Congress that only food containing modified genetic material be required to be labeled,” Stephens says. The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives also applauded the USDA’s standard. “This rule gives the public more information than ever before on how their food was produced,” says Chuck Conner, NCFC President. “At the same time, farmers and food producers still have access to the technology needed to provide safe and affordable food to a growing world population.”

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NFU Supports USDA-FDA Joint Oversight of Cell Culture Technology

The National Farmers Union supports efforts by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration to establish a joint regulatory framework overseeing the production and sale of animal cell culture technology. NFU President Roger Johnson is asking the agencies to provide clarity to consumers as to whether or not they are purchasing meat products raised in a traditional manner or products grown in a lab. “Animal cell culture technology needs to be regulated and should include roles for both the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the FDA,” Johnson says. “it’s important that this joint regulatory framework promotes fair competition for producers and the health and safety of consumers.” Johnson points out that NFU members oppose labeling alternative protein sources as “meat.” The NFU policy says common names given to meat and animal products are widely understood by consumers to be the tissue and flesh of animals that have been slaughtered for food. “Lab-grown products are likely to be produced by large companies, including the major global meatpackers, which will exacerbate the anti-competitive practices that currently face farmers and ranchers,” Johnson adds. “Fairly and accurately labeling animal cell culture products would provide some protection for family farmers’ and ranchers” market share.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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