READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 16th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 16th

Senate Voting on Disaster Relief Next Week

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote on disaster relief next week, right before the lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day. He’s hopeful that the Senate will vote on legislation that the president is willing to sign. While the House passed a disaster bill last week, congressional leaders and the White House have been hard at work on a bipartisan bill that can get through both chambers easily. Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby says that senators are on the verge of an agreement. Politico says McConnell, Shelby, and Trump all have interests that have been holding up the deal. McConnell is a big supporter of the hemp industry and is looking to make sure crop insurance by 2020 for hemp producers is in the legislation. Shelby wants more money for harbor maintenance while Trump is pushing for more funds to address border security. Negotiators say the biggest points of contention yet to work through are nearly settled. Both sides have agreed to provide Puerto Rico with hundreds of millions in additional aid, an important point that Democrats had asked for.

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Bill Introduced to Expand Agricultural Sales to Cuba

Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and John Boozman of Arkansas reintroduced the Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2019. It’s designed to remove a major hurdle that prevents American farmers and ranchers from selling their products in Cuba. The bipartisan bill would support job growth in Colorado and Arkansas, as well as across the country. Fence Post Dot Com says the legislation would lift restrictions on private financing for agricultural exports to Cuba. “We’ve heard loud and clear that American farmers and ranchers want the opportunity to compete and sell their product around the world, including the Cuban market,” Bennet says. “Despite our progress in the 2018 Farm Bill, existing trade restrictions with Cuba continue to put our farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage.” He says the “common-sense bill” would introduce new market opportunities for producers. The biggest barrier for producers who want access to Cuba is the Trade Sanctions and Reform Act, which prohibits providing private credit for those exports. That forces Cuba to pay with cash up front for American-grown food. Cuba has since turned to other countries that can directly extend credit to Cuban buyers for transactions.

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Corn, Wheat Growers Want Better Trade Aid Deal

Corn and wheat lobbyists are making the rounds in Washington, D.C., and trying to get a better trade-aid deal for their growers than they got in the first round. The Hagstrom Report says soybean growers made out much better in the first round of trade aid because they were hit hardest when China stopped accepting soybean imports. U.S. farmers had been the biggest soybean exporters to China in the world. At the time, Ag Department officials said the formula they developed to provide the most aid to soybean farmers was necessary because of World Trade Organization rules. Soybean producers received a Market Facilitation Program payment of $1.65 per bushel. Corn farmers only got one cent per bushel. “A penny didn’t cut it before and won’t cut it now,” says a National Corn Growers Association spokeswoman “NCGA is working to determine if there are some alternative options that can be shared with the administration.” Wheat growers received payments of 14 cents per bushel and weren’t happy with that either. The National Association of Wheat Growers says it has requested a meeting with USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson and Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney.

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Farm Bureau Asking for Quick Resolution to Trade Dispute

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall sent a letter to President Trump and trade was the big topic. He tells the president that American farmers need a swift resolution to the ongoing trade war with China. The six-year downturn in farm prices that has produced “near-unprecedented economic uncertainty and hardship” is getting worse as a result of Chinese tariffs, he wrote to Trump. “U.S. farmers and ranchers now face a third wave of tariff increases by China in retaliation to the latest increase in U.S. tariffs that went into effect on Friday, May 10.” The mere threat sent prices further downward for certain commodities last week. The trade challenges are made even worse by bad weather this spring that’s hurt planting progress. In fact, Duvall tells the President that some farmers may not opt to plant a crop at all this year. An aid package would help some of the distressed farmers continue to operate, but the real solution to the problem is open markets. Duvall says, “We ask that your trade negotiators make a deal as soon as possible to end the tariffs that slash our exports, destroy a once-promising market for agriculture, and make the farm economy worse.”

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European Commission Removes Anti-Dumping Duties on U.S. Ethanol Imports

Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, and the U.S. Grains Council all were pleased that the European Commission won’t renew anti-dumping duties on imports of U.S. ethanol. The decision comes after a review of the anti-dumping action the commission implemented back in 2013 and has been in place ever since. The commission says it found no evidence that would have warranted continuing those duties. They also feel removing the duties would in no way encourage dumping into the EU. “We welcome the European Commission’s decision to open the market to free and fair competition,” says Craig Willis, Senior VP of Global Markets with Growth Energy. “It’s a win-win for our EU trading partners, who will be better positioned to meet their environmental goals while holding down prices for European drivers.” Tom Sleight, U.S. Grains Council President, says the decision will allow more access for U.S. ethanol and is very welcome news for his group. Renewable Fuels Association CEO Geoff Cooper says his organization has always maintained that the penalties were unjustified and unwarranted.

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Ag Equipment Groups Team Up for Ag Teacher Scholarships

Ag equipment dealers and manufacturers continue to take steps to inspire the next generation to consider looking for careers in agriculture. A joint initiative put together by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers looks to make that happen. The goal is to increase the number of equipment-specific courses taught in the nation’s high schools in order to increase awareness of career possibilities in the equipment manufacturing industry. The Equipment Dealers Association and the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association also contributed to the program that’s awarded partial scholarships for equipment certification courses to 36 educators from 12 states. The courses are set to begin this summer. Upon completion, teachers will be certified to teach the same courses to high school students beginning this fall. The new courses could potentially reach up to 1,500 students in the upcoming school year. Curt Blades, Senior VP of Ag Services at AEM, says they’re fully committed to workforce development and are proud to help 36 teachers begin teaching the courses starting in the fall. “By leading a teacher scholarship program in partnership with the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Equipment Dealers Association, we have a greater chance to make students more aware of opportunities on the equipment side of the ag industry,” Blades says.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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