READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 29th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 29th

Peterson Leading Trade Mission to Central/South America

House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota is leading a trade mission to Central and South America. The Hagstrom Report says the delegation is scheduled to make stops in Brazil, Argentina, and Honduras. They’ll meet with agriculture leaders from the public and private sectors of each country. Patrick Delaney, the committee’s communications coordinator, says discussions will include the effects of the changes in U.S. trade policy. “This includes what openings the administration’s trade war has created for our competition in those countries,” Delaney says, “as well as how Chinese investment has increased the competitive capacity of South American producers.” Other discussions will cover ag trade issues that are important to each country. In Honduras, the delegation members will meet with American service members stationed in that country. Peterson says Trump Administration officials had encouraged him to include that particular stop in Honduras. Delaney didn’t provide the names of other trade delegation members, preferring to leave it up to each member to discuss the trip when they return to the U.S.

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USGC Focusing on Saudi Arabia Opportunities

U.S. Grains Council staff members recently made a long trip to Saudi Arabia with the goal of promoting sorghum and other products to buyers and other end-users in the country. As the Saudi government continues to revise its subsidy rates, that could lead to more opportunities for U.S. sorghum or corn imports used for animal feed. Saudi Arabia purchased 11 million bushels of U.S. sorghum last year, as well as 16.5 million gallons of ethanol. Roughly 80 percent of the country’s poultry market is controlled by 15 farms and 85 percent of the Saudi dairy market is controlled by nine farms. An increasing number of animal feed rations in both industries are coming from imports. The USDA’s Ag Trade Promotion Program is also expanding engagement for potential customers by promoting sorghum and DDGs in Saudi Arabia. Large Saudi importers and end-users will be traveling to a buyer’s conference in Europe this summer. Looking for feed supplies doesn’t end there as a team of Saudi buyers and end-users will also likely travel to the United States this fall.

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Agriculture Consensus on Labor Fixes

Ag industry lobbyists tell Politico that the industry appears to have come together to reach consensus on a potential fix to the shortage in farm labor. The lobbyists tell Politico that the potential fix would give workers a path to legalization for farm laborers currently in the country. It would also expand the H-2A foreign guest worker program to help make it easier for farmers to find the help they need to run their operations. Multiple lobbyists say those are the two elements that would help the potential fix win support from all segments of agriculture. Different segments of agriculture have been sharply divided in recent years on how to fix the labor shortage. Ag groups that lobby in Congress say organizations ranging from fruits and vegetables to dairy are more together on the issue than they’ve ever been in the past. Lawmakers, who return this week from Easter break, are in the beginning stages of negotiating legislation. Discussions in the House will likely pick up steam soon. “We’re hopeful for some sort of grand bargain and that our labor needs are addressed,” says Nick Giordano, VP of Government Affairs for the NPPC. “However, we know the odds are long.”

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NE Right to Farm Legislation Update Set for Final Vote

Nebraska state senators are working on a revised bill that would expand agricultural producers’ protections under Nebraska’s 1982 Right to Farm Act. They’ve sent the legislation on to the final stage of the process. The North Platte Telegraph says Legislative Bill 227 deals with nuisance lawsuits against farms. Senators set a two-year time limit to file nuisance suit against a change in the way a farm or public grain warehouse operates. The bill’s author wants to give farmers and livestock producers more protection when they expand, in case their neighbors consider the expansion an intrusion into their quality of life. Current state law says no suits can be filed over any changes in an agricultural operation if the farm or warehouse already existed and wasn’t considered a nuisance before the change. The bill passed by a vote of 31-7 in the first round before passing in the second round 38-0 after an amendment was inserted that limits nuisance lawsuits to within two years of a supposed “offensive change” to an operation. The amendment says “no lawsuit shall be maintained” if filed after two years. The only way it would be allowed is if the suit is brought to enforce a previous court order telling the producer to correct a previous nuisance.

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More States Working on Hemp Production

A Florida bill unanimously passed by its Senate means hemp could be joining oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes as top Florida crops. An Associated Press article says the bill passed last week with the goal of helping an industry that’s been hard to get off the ground. Hemp can be used to make everything from ropes to building materials to feed. The bill before the Florida legislature would create a state program to administer and oversee hemp growing. Republican Senator Rob Bradley says agriculture has been hit by setbacks like citrus diseases to hurricanes over the last 20 years and hemp could be a valuable addition to farmers’ plans. Further west, Louisiana farmers could be expanding into help growing if lawmakers agree to a proposal going before the full House. The measure would legalize growing and processing of industrial hemp in Louisiana and do so in line with what’s allowed under the federal farm bill. The bill’s author says hemp production would help Louisiana’s struggling farmers and create new jobs. “The idea is to grow and take advantage of a crop we haven’t been growing since 1938,” says Louisiana Ag Commissioner Mike Strain.

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Farm Bureau Wants Congress to Quickly Pass Rural Electric Co-op Bill

The American Farm Bureau is asking Congress to quickly pass the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act. The recently-introduced legislation will ensure that electric cooperatives won’t put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy when they accept government grants for things like expanding broadband or restoring power after storms and other disasters. Most electric cooperatives are tax-exempt. In order to maintain that status, they must get at least 85 percent of their income from members. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act re-characterized those grants as income. The unintended consequence is that the Act makes it much harder for cooperatives to meet the tax-exempt definition. “Farm Bureau works hand-in-hand with rural electric cooperatives on the shared goal of ensuring that rural America and the farmers and ranchers that live there have access to reliable power and high-speed internet,” says AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We are asking lawmakers to act quickly on this important measure to allow rural electric cooperatives to continue their critical work without risking their tax-exempt status.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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