READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, March 12th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, March 12th

No Trump-Xi Meeting Scheduled Yet

There are no in-person trade talks between China and the United States on the schedule right now. A White House official says there’s still “much work left to be done” in the negotiation process. The Director of the National Economic Council says, “We’re on the phone talking with them every day, but no one has made any concrete trip plans yet.” Politico says administration officials have been quick to caution that an agreement with China isn’t “imminent.” That’s in spite of President Trump’s desire to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping sometime this month to hopefully get a deal between the world’s biggest economies wrapped up. Speaking of trade news, Trump recently told reporters he’ll be sending the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to Capitol Hill for ratification “very shortly.” That would jump-start a 90-day clock during which lawmakers would have to approve or reject the president’s signature trade deal. The NAFTA 2.0 deal is likely the biggest item on the congressional agenda this year. While the submission will kickstart the administration’s final push for support, there are still many Democrats that are working on changes to the deal’s drug pricing and labor enforcement provisions.

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Trump Budget Includes Crop Insurance Cuts

The fiscal year 2020 budget submitted by President Donald Trump includes a couple of points sure to ignite debate in the budgetary process. The proposal includes imposing work requirements on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients. The Hagstrom Report says the proposed budget also imposes work requirements on recipients of Medicare and federal housing benefits. The work requirements will likely reduce program participation. That’s part of an administration plan to reduce federal mandatory and discretionary spending. A senior administration official says these are the biggest proposed cuts made by any president in history. However, Congress generally doesn’t follow presidential budgets when they write appropriation bills. The budget proposal is typically seen more as a statement of administration priorities. The proposed budget will also cut back on farm subsidies paid out to farmers in the highest income brackets. It would also reduce the average premium crop insurance subsidy from 62 percent to 48 percent. It would also limit commodity, conservation, and crop insurance subsidies to producers that have an adjusted gross income of $500,000 or less.

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Crop Insurance Industry/NFU Respond to President’s Budget Proposal

Several organizations within the crop insurance industry were not happy with President Trump’s proposed budget announcement this week. The budget included steep spending reductions at the Department of Agriculture and the federal crop insurance program. The president’s budget proposal won’t receive much consideration by Congress. However, the American Association of Crop Insurers, the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, along with many other organizations issued a statement saying they were disappointed with the crop insurance cuts. “Those proposed cuts come just months after the importance of crop insurance was reaffirmed by the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill,” the groups said in a joint statement. “If this shortsighted proposal would be adopted, it would seriously undermine a critical safety net for farmers when they need it most.” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson was in agreement. “There’s a real disconnect between the president’s priorities and the economic realities facing family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities,” says Johnson. “Rather than undermine the 2018 Farm Bill by proposing cuts to important programs, the President should be working to build on that success by providing additional needed support to family farmers and ranchers.”

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Green New Deal Supporters Reaching Out to Ag

The February rollout of the Green New Deal was not well received in agricultural circles. Even some self-proclaimed ag progressives were less than enthusiastic. Allies of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are starting to reach out to agriculture experts to discuss the proposed legislation. A Drovers’ article says it might be a sign that the bill’s sponsor may be trying to engage rural interests. Frank Mitloehner (MITT-lay-ner) of the University of California-Davis is one of the nation’s top agricultural emissions experts. He described himself as “thrilled” when two outreach staff affiliated with Ocasio-Cortez reached out to set up a phone call to discuss the potential for climate mitigation efforts in ag. During the Green New Deal’s introduction, social media exploded after the legislation mentioned getting rid of “farting cows.” Mitloehner says as a result of that term, many of his colleagues aren’t taking the Green New Deal and its supporters seriously. “I hear all these people talking about sustainability in farming,” he says. “Who is more of an expert on sustainability in farming than a farmer? Who has a greater interest in the sustainability of their lands than a farmer?” Mitloehner says farmers should be the ones leading the discussion on sustainability, not Ocasio-Cortez and her supporters.

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Pesticide Registration Improvement Act Now Law

President Donald Trump signed the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act into law. Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow say the move brings certainty to agriculture and other industry stakeholders. “The law will ensure farmers, consumers, and others have an improved process when registering and evaluating the use of pesticides,” Roberts says. “The Senate unanimously approved the bill, which represents the concerns of all stakeholders.” Stabenow says she’s happy the President signed this “long overdue legislation.” PRIA established a framework for the Environmental Protection Agency when registering pesticides. CropLife America released a statement saying the reauthorization will strengthen and improve pesticide registration through 2023. The statement says, “House and Senate leadership, congressional appropriators, and the authorizing congressional committees have worked diligently over the past two years to preserve the benefits and process improvements first realized with the legislation’s original passage in 2004.

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Ag Equipment Sales Remain Positive in February

The latest data from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers shows U.S. sales of ag tractors and combines remained in the plus column in February. Total two-wheel drive tractor sales grew 17 percent compared to February of last year. That category was led by under-40-horsepower machines, which gained 24 percent over last year, as well as a seven percent gain for 40-through-100-horsepower two-wheel drive tractors. February sales of four-wheel drive tractors grew 17 percent compared to the same time last year. Self-propelled combine sales in the U.S. grew 21 percent in February. Canada didn’t fare quite as well, with February gains only for self-propelled combines, up 25 percent, and for under-40-horsepower two-wheel drive tractors, which were 23 percent higher than in 2018. “We’re encouraged that USDA estimates farm income is expected to increase slightly in 2019 after last year’s declines,” says Curt Blades, AEM senior vice president. “Hopefully, that signifies some optimism in the U.S. as the year moves forward. We’re hopeful that the new farm bill will provide more certainty for farmers as they plan ahead.”  

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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