READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 24th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 24th

USDA Announces Support Program for Farmers

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says the agency will take several steps to assist farmers who’ve been hurt financially by trade disputes. President Trump directed Perdue and the USDA to craft a relief strategy to support American agricultural producers while the administration works on trade deals. The President has authorized USDA to provide up to $16 billion in aid programs, which is in line with the estimated impact of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. $14.5 billion of those funds will go to producers as direct payments through the Market Facilitation Program. Payments will be made to producers of grains, cotton, oilseed, peanuts, alfalfa, as well as other non-specialty crop producers. The payments will be based on a fixed rate for the county in which the producer farms, as well as their planted acreage. Additional payments will go to milk producers based on their production history, as well as pork producers on their hog inventory at a time that’ll be announced later. Payments for tree nuts, fresh sweet cherries, cranberries, and fresh grapes will be based on farmers 2019 acreage. USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey says county-by-county payments rates will be less likely to influence 2019 planting decisions and will be easier to administer.

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Ag Groups React to Trade Aid Announcement

The Trump administration announced a new trade relief package in response to the U.S. trade dispute with China. USDA’s trade retaliation relief program includes direct payments to qualifying producers. The National Pork Producers Council says the program will include pork surplus purchases for the benefit of low-income families and others in need. They’re also happy it will include additional funding to develop new export opportunities. The American Soybean Association says it welcomes news of the aid package. “We recognize that these funds will help offset the persisting damage from tariffs, as well as enable new market development,” says ASA President Davie Stephens. However, Stephens emphasized that the soybean industry needs more access to trade. The National Farmers Union is appreciative of the aid package and supports efforts to address China’s unfair practices. “While the trade aid package is an improvement over last year’s Market Facilitation Program, by definition it fails to provide predictable, consistent, and adequate relief across American agriculture,” says NFU President Roger Johnson. House Ag Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Jim Costa of California called the package a “rushed and poorly-planned bailout.” Costa says producers of every commodity have been asking for more access to foreign markets, not aid funds.

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Asian ASF Outbreak Continues to Get Worse

China’s gateway city of Hong Kong is now officially positive for the African Swine Fever Virus. A news release from the National Pork Board says that means the country is nearly 100 percent covered by ASF. The toll ASF is taking on China’s hog herd is now reaching “epic proportions.” Some industry experts say the total loss could approach over 200 million animals. What makes those numbers even worse is the country’s farmers can’t seem to repopulate their herds effectively and keep the new animals from contracting the disease. That’s in spite of the fact that the farmers have depopulated their previous herds, cleaned and disinfected their facilities, and left them idle for months. Animals are still getting sick. This has led to pork shortages across the country, with some production facilities switching to other proteins like chicken and seafood to make ends meet. Last month, China’s Ministry of Agriculture released a 100-day action plan to manage the transition to the ASF self-testing system during the slaughter process and implementing a new system of stationing veterinarians at pig slaughterhouses.

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U.S./Canada Reach Agreement on African Swine Fever

Canada announced it has reached a zoning arrangement with the U.S. that would allow the countries to continue trading hogs and pork products across the border with the U.S. even if African Swine Fever is detected in either country. Politico says trade would continue in “disease-free zones” that would be designated to help contain an outbreak, following the World Organization’s Animal Health guidelines. Pork is a multi-billion dollar industry in both countries. Consequently, regulators from both nations have been working for weeks on plans to manage and mitigate an outbreak should the deadly pig disease make it up to North America. African Swine Fever is decimating hog herds in China, as well as making its way into European countries. It’s a trend that’s already affected global commodity markets and is expected to influence soy exports to China for years.

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Farm Groups Support Agribusiness Merger Moratorium Bills

A broad coalition of 219 farm, food, rural, faith, and consumer advocacy organizations delivered a letter to Congress endorsing food and agribusiness merger moratorium bills introduced in both chambers. The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2019 would put a moratorium in place on large agriculture, food and beverage manufacturing, and grocery retail mergers to allow time to assess the impact corporate consolidation has on farmers, workers, consumers, and communities. It also recommends improvements to antitrust enforcement. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says lax antitrust enforcement has greatly reduced competition in the industries that supply and buy from family farmers and ranchers, saddling them with higher input costs, fewer choices, and less innovation. “After a recent wave of agribusiness mergers, this legislation would provide a much-needed opportunity to evaluate the damage and establish stronger safeguards to prevent this level of consolidation in the future,” Johnson says. “We heartily support this merger moratorium and we urge Congress to do so as well by passing it swiftly.”

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R-CALF Sues Checkoffs in 15 States

Attorneys who represent the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund and the United Stockgrowers of America filed court documents this week challenging the constitutionality of the Beef Checkoff Programs in 15 states. The trade industry website Meating Place Dot Com says the groups contend that the state councils in those 15 states are private corporations that have been keeping half of the mandatory beef checkoff assessments they collect. States named in the suit include Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The lawsuit accuses state Beef Checkoff executives of using the money to fund “private speech,” which R-CALF claims is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The filing says that statute prohibits the government from compelling cattle producers and other citizens to subsidize private speech. R-CALF successfully argued a similar point in a lawsuit filed against the state of Montana and received a preliminary injunction in June of 2017. The organization is also involved in a class-action lawsuit accusing Cargill, JBS, National Beef Packing, and Tyson Foods of violating U.S. antitrust laws.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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