READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, July 15th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, July 15th

2020 Elections Slowing Down Progress on USMCA

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement has been stalled in Congress for months and it’s not looking good for progress on ratification ahead of the August congressional recess. Politico says the likelihood of getting the agreement through Congress is dropping as the Democratic presidential primary heats up, and Democrats are also holding their ground on Capitol Hill. The administration was hopeful that Congress would move on the trade deal before August, but any vote now likely will have to wait until at least September. The delay is worrisome for Republican leaders who were hoping to give President Trump a victory in a divided government and before the presidential election really heats up. Nine Democrats that serve on a “trade working group” held a meeting last week with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. After the meeting, both sides said the talks are headed in a positive direction but did admit nothing had been resolved yet. The Democratic lawmakers also said they haven’t discussed any timeline for getting the deal through Congress.

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Trump Planning Immigration Raids

President Trump announced that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement will be conducting multiple raids on undocumented immigrants in the next several days. The New York Times says the undocumented immigrants will be held in detention centers until they can be deported. It’s a development that could have a serious impact on farms and food processors across the country. The raids will focus on people who’ve arrived recently in the United States. Fox News says the raids could be a way to force Democrats to change asylum laws. However, The Hagstrom Report says the move could also be a way for the president to draw attention away from the fact that he’s giving up the right to ask people on the 2020 U.S. Census if they are citizens of the United States. In a Rose Garden announcement, Trump said, “I’m ordering every federal government agency and department to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records on the number of citizens and non-citizens currently in our country.” The president says the government will utilize their “vast federal databases” to gain a full, complete, and accurate count of the noncitizen population in America.

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Senators Introduce Legislation to Protect American Agriculture

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation to address a shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and ag industries at the border. Ag inspectors work to prevent the intentional or unintentional entry of harmful plants, food, animals, and goods into the U.S. The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 would ensure the safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across our nation’s borders by authorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire additional inspectors to fully staff America’s ports of entry. Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts was one of several authors of the legislation. Roberts says, “Every day, millions of pounds of produce, meat, and other agricultural good enter the U.S. through our ports of entry. Ag Inspectors are responsible for ensuring that the goods move efficiently across our borders while safeguarding against harmful pests, diseases, and even potential bioterrorism attacks.” Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow says, “It’s critical that we address the shortage of agricultural specialists and hire qualified staff to safeguard our food and our farms.”

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Good News, Bad News Regarding Banks and Farm Lending

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told senators last week that banks remain in good shape to continue lending to farmers and ranchers. That’s despite deteriorating conditions across the agricultural economy. “Our farm belt banks have a lot of experience in dealing with the issues farmers are confronting right now,” Powell said during a Senate Banking Committee hearing. “As a whole, the agricultural sector is in a difficult place.” Powell says he knows it’s a tough time for banks trying to work through some of those difficulties with farmers. However, Reuters says some of the bigger banks in the nation are pulling out of the agricultural sector. After years of falling farmer income and rising pressure from the U.S.-China trade war, JP Morgan and several other Wall Street banks are bailing out of their agricultural portfolios. Reuters conducted an analysis of the farm-loan holdings the banks reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks fell by $3.9 billion between their peak in December of 2015 and March of 2019. That’s a decline of 17.5 percent.  

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Settlement Talks on Missouri Labeling Lawsuit Collapse

Parties on both sides of the lawsuit against the Missouri law that prohibits food manufacturers from using the word meat on products made without animal flesh have been in settlement talks for six months. However, the talks have ended, and the case will continue as filed. Attorneys for both sides have remained in contact by phone but say in court filings that they’d reached an impasse. According to Meating Place Dot Com, the court filings say, “The parties do not believe that additional time will allow for resolution of the impasse. The parties are grateful for the Court’s patience as they attempted to reach a final settlement agreement.” Both parties are asking the court to proceed on the litigation. Tofurkey is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that says the statute presents not only a risk of criminal prosecution but will also force Tofurkey to change the way it does business. The court hasn’t yet issued a date for resuming litigation. A similar lawsuit was also filed in Mississippi, where a law that took effect July 1 prohibits the use of meat terms to describe plant-based foods. Vegan producer Upton’s Naturals is arguing that the ban violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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State Ag Departments Want FDA Help for Hemp Industry

Federal agencies are continuing to work on filing a new regulatory process for hemp products. In the meantime, state departments of agriculture officials are asking the Food and Drug  Administration to create a clear regulatory framework for hemp products as quickly as possible. The ag departments sent a series of comments to the FDA, saying that they have an immediate need for a regulatory system that all states can follow. “Hemp will only become more economically viable to American farmers and ranchers only if you develop a well-defined regulatory framework for its products. Consistency will be the key factor in helping to develop a market for this emerging industry.” The department also reminded the FDA that if they don’t act on it, the cost of missing the mark will be a high one. “If no federal action is taken, states will be forced to develop regulatory structures for the products, and the result will be a patchwork and an inability to sell across state lines,” On the consumer front, NASDA also said there’s increasing confusion in retail aisles about hemp products and the terms that describe them.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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