READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, January 7th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for New Year’s Eve, Monday, January 7th

China Trade Talks Should Provide Direction

Trade talks between the U.S. and China this week should provide an early indication as to what political tensions between the two nations may disrupt the talks. Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeff Gerrish will meet with Chinese officials in Beijing to begin discussing measures the U.S. seeks to allow the current trade war end between the two. If the talks are favorable to the U.S., Politico reports that could lead to higher level talks with higher ranking officials. The U.S. has set a March deadline for China to agree to trade policy reforms. Meanwhile, China is opening access to its economy back to the United States through purchases of U.S. agricultural products. The state of the Chinese economy is seen as dire by some analysts, which could be a motivation to seek an end to the trade war. However, it remains unclear what specific demands the Trump administration will make and if China deems them reasonable or not.

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Senator Roberts to Retire in 2020

Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas Friday announced he will not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2020 and will retire at the end of this term and the 116th Congress. The current Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman has served eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and four terms in the U.S. Senate. Roberts has chaired six committees and is the only two-time chairman of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees in congressional history. Making his announcement Friday in Manhattan, Kansas, the Senator said he’s “always proudly been a champion for agriculture.” Just last month Roberts helped pass a new farm bill, his eighth farm bill during his tenure on Capitol Hill. In a statement following the announcement, Senate Ag Committee Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow called Roberts a “true friend” who “always puts the needs of our farmers and ranchers first.”

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Shutdown Threatens Year-round E 15 Sales

The government shutdown could delay the year-round sales of E 15 ethanol fuel blends previously promised by the Trump administration. Bloomberg News reports the government shutdown could last a “long time,” and the schedule for getting approval of the higher ethanol blend was already ambitious before the shutdown. The Environmental Protection Agency had planned to present a final rule in May, just four weeks before existing restrictions on 15 percent ethanol begin for 2019. However, with the EPA largely halted due to the shutdown, that timeline is in jeopardy. Renewable Fuels Association president Geoff Cooper said the shutdown “is making a tight timeline even tighter.” Ethanol producers, meanwhile, are tasked with facing historically low ethanol prices. Allowing year-round E-15 sales is thought to provide a small boost in demand.

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Shutdown Delays Smithfield N.C. Trial

A federal judge has delayed the Smithfield Foods trial in North Carolina as the case is another victim of the government shutdown. The start of the case was postponed because juror’s pay could not be guaranteed, according to meat industry publication Meatingplace. A federal judge delayed the trial scheduled to begin this week, and noted the hearing would be rescheduled once funding is appropriated. The hog nuisance case is among several in North Carolina by more than 500 neighbors questioning whether Smithfield’s Murphy-Brown unit adequately managed hog waste. The delay is one of many effects of the government shutdown, including the closure of all Farm Service Agency offices. The Senate Appropriations Committee said last week 52 percent of the Department of Agriculture employees were working without pay.

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USGC Rolls Out Report Citing High Quality, Near-Record Yield

The U.S. Grains Council is rolling out the good news that a warm and moist growing season resulted in near-record yields and good quality for the 2018 corn crop. The 2018/2019 Corn Harvest Quality Report is the Council’s eighth annual corn quality survey. According to the data, the majority of 2018 corn crop conditions were rated as good or excellent during the growing season, leading to strong plant health, good kernel size and a projected crop of 371.5 million metric tons, or 14.6 billion bushels, the third-largest crop on record. The report showed 93.9 percent of tested U.S. corn samples rated at U.S. Grade Number 2 or better; this was largely the result of a warm, wet vegetative period and a moderate pollination and grain-filling period. The drier, moderate temperatures during the second half of the growing season promoted healthy plants, good test weights and low kernel damage.

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USB Awards Grant to Increase Soybean Protein Content

A grant from the United Soybean Board supports Amfora to develop soybean varieties with increased protein content. The grant from USB will provide Amfora with $350,000 in funding for a one-year period. If certain milestones are achieved, USB may, at its discretion, provide additional funding in the following years. Amfora is a self-described biotechnology company that is applying gene editing to sustainably feed the planet. USB CEO Polly Ruhland says increasing the protein content of U.S.-grown soy “is a key strategic objective for USB.” Amfora Chief Science Officer Michael Lassner says the company already demonstrated it can significantly increase the protein content of soybean seed by re-programming a genetic switch in the soybean genome. By doing so, he says, the program could “accelerate the development and launch of soybeans with at least 10 percent more protein across the U.S. soybean belt.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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