READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, January 28th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, January 28th

Trump Announces Temporary End to Partial Government Shutdown

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he has reached an agreement to reopen the federal government for three weeks. That three-week continuing resolution will allow furloughed federal employees to return to work. Trump also promised to get them their back-pay, “As soon as possible. It will be quick.” The remarks come on the 35th day of the shutdown. Members of the Senate from both parties have recently pushed Trump to temporarily reopen the government and restart serious negotiations on a wider-reaching immigration deal. Trump did mention the importance of allowing immigrants to legally enter the country to work, something very important to agriculture. The three-week resolution will allow the government to reopen nine unfunded departments, which includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Two bills to reopen the government were shot down in the Senate on Thursday. That got serious negotiations going for the first time in weeks. Trump had asked for a “down payment” on funding for a border wall in exchange for reopening the government, but it’s still unclear if he got what he asked for. Trump said he has other options that would allow him to build the southern border wall. Right now, It’s unclear if he’ll take any steps if lawmakers temporarily fund the government but don’t reach a solution on immigration.

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Energy Report Proves Need for Higher Ethanol Blends

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released its Annual Energy Outlook for 2019 report. It’s a federal forecast for anticipated energy needs in the future. Chris Bliley, vice president of regulatory affairs for Growth Energy, says this report underscores the importance of providing lower-cost options at the fuel pump. “America’s thirst for clean, affordable fuel options is set to remain strong for decades to come,” he says. “Consumers deserve a cleaner, more affordable options, and that’s exactly what higher ethanol blends like E15 can deliver. Regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency must act quickly on the president’s promise and open the door to competition at the fuel pump year-round.” The new EIA report predicts that “motor gasoline and diesel fuel retail prices will increase by 76 cents per gallon and 82 cents per gallon, respectively, between 2018 and 2050. The jump in fuel prices over that time frame will come because of rising crude oil prices. Additionally, the report also concludes that light-duty vehicle miles traveled will jump by 20 percent, going from 2.9 trillion miles in 2018 to 3.5 trillion in 2050. The rise in miles traveled comes as a result of rising incomes and a growing population.  

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U.S. Cancels Preliminary Meeting With China Ahead of Talks

A CNBC report says the White House turned down a planning meeting with China last week over disagreements on enforcing intellectual property rules. U.S. Trade Representative officials were set to meet with two Chinese Vice Ministers to try to help resolve trade differences before a March 1st deadline. A source close to the situation told CNBC that the meeting was called off. President Trump has said if no agreement is in place by March 1st, he’ll reinforce punitive tariffs on about half of all the goods China sends to America. The White House told CNBC that “teams from both countries remain in touch ahead of the visit by the Chinese Vice Premiere this week.” The Treasury Department and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office both didn’t answer requests for comment by CNBC. White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow told CNBC that no meetings were canceled last week and that the only one on the schedule is when the vice premiere comes to Washington, D.C., for official negotiations. Joseph Lupton, a global economist for J.P. Morgan, says, ”I would characterize things as going in the right direction. Last week, China offered an olive branch, saying it would lower tariff rates and would pledge to import up to $1 trillion of U.S. goods by 2024.”

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Tariff Mitigation Payments May Not Be What Was Expected

A senior USDA official says the amount of money sent to farmers to help mitigate the financial damage from the trade war may not be as much as expected. An Agriculture Dot Com article quotes USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey as saying up to two-thirds of the Trump trade aid payments were made by early January. Northey says, “up to $5 billion of the $8 billion we expect to make in mitigation payments” has already gone out to farmers. Northey didn’t give any additional information as to why the figure didn’t quite measure up to the initial $9.6 billion in payments that were estimated to go to producers of almonds, cotton, corn, dairy, pork, soybeans, sorghum, sweet cherries, and wheat. USDA is also aiding growers by purchasing $1.2 billion worth of food to give away and providing $200 million to ag export groups for trade promotion work. Also, the temporary agreement to reopen the government on Friday was good news for recipients in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The agreement is expected to allow nine unfunded agencies to reopen, including USDA. There were a lot of questions about how the USDA would make SNAP payments in March. The program’s reserve fund was too small to pay out March benefits in full.

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Plant-Based Protein Shipment Numbers Are Climbing

The NPD Group, a market research company, says shipments of plant-based proteins to foodservice providers have jumped 20 percent last year, compared with 2017. The NPD Group says consumers are seeking out “options they perceive as better for them.” Every region around the country saw double-digit growth through the year that ended in November of 2018. The most plant-based volume and shipment growth took place in the western United States, followed closely by the southern U.S. The firm says up to a quarter of the national population, many of whom say they aren’t vegetarian or vegan, eat and drink plant-based foods and beverages, as well as consume regular animal protein. The NPD Group says one of the main reasons that plant-based foods have become more accepted nationally is animal-welfare concerns. They also want to know more about how products are brought to market. Burger substitutes are the biggest plant-based foodservice category, seeing double-digit year-over-year growth in pounds that are shipped to operators. The group also said smaller, more affluent homes earning at least $100,000 a year are the biggest consumers of the plant-based burgers.

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Feeding America Doors Open for Federal Employees

Feeding America issued a statement in support of federal workers who are coming to its food banks to help make ends meet because of the recent government shutdown. The statement came about as a reaction to comments from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. On Thursday, Ross was quoted as saying he couldn’t understand why unpaid federal employees were going to food banks. The Feeding America statement says “Feeding America and our network of 200-member food banks know that just one missed paycheck can be the difference between making ends meet and needing our help.” The Hagstrom Report quotes Feeding America as saying it’s growing increasingly concerned about the hardships federal employees went through as approximately 800,000 workers were due to miss a second paycheck on Friday. President Trump announced a temporary agreement to reopen the government on Friday, but the shutdown is a perfect illustration of what Feeding America knows all-too-well; millions of hard-working Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and never are far from becoming food insecure. Because of the very real danger that the shutdown posed to so many affected workers, the Feeding America network of food banks and 60,000 partner agencies have extended their hours, hosted mobile food distributions, and increased their supplies to meet more needs.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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