READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, July 23rd

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, July 23rd

Still No EU/U.S. Trade Talks a Year Later

Politico says it’s been almost a year since the U.S. and the European Union struck a temporary truce in transatlantic trade tensions. However, there seems to be little left in the new phase of trade relations as no trade talks have started. EU trade boss Cecilia Malmstrom has said the U.S. will likely slap retaliatory tariffs on $25 billion worth of European imports. It’s part of a dispute that began because of airline subsidies. Washington has also started an investigation into a digital services tax in France. Several EU officials are also warning that President Trump will soon carry out a longstanding threat to impose auto tariffs, possibly as soon as November. The EU Commission’s second-highest ranking trade official will be in Washington through today (Tuesday) for meetings with Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeff Gerrish and other key players in the Washington trade community. Earlier this year, Trump had agreed to hold off on his plan to impose new tariffs on European Union imports while the two sides worked to avoid a full-blown trade war. In announcing the cease-fire, the two sides said they had agreed to remove all non-auto tariffs, increase cooperation on energy purchases, as well as work together to help reform the World Trade Organization.

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New Zealand Pushing for Bilateral Trade Deal with the U.S.

The United States doesn’t seem to be as interested in trade deals with most of the Asia-Pacific region. The Washington Post says those words come directly from New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda (Ja-SIN-dah) Ardern (AR-dern), who spoke last week about trade with America. Ardern also expressed her concerns about China’s growing influence in the region. Ardern spoke with her counterpart from Australia to talk about greater regional cooperation. She says, “There has been a view recently that the United States hasn’t given our region the same level of attention it’s given to others. That’s becoming a concern for both New Zealand and Australia.” Arden’s comments come as her country pushes for a free-trade deal with the United States. Last week, the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister made a speech in Washington D.C. and pushed for a new trade deal. Winston Peters says, “New Zealand has a real concern about the lack of U.S. trade agreements with the Indo-Pacific region.” Australia has had a free-trade agreement with the United States that dates back to 2005.

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Chinese Buyers Seek Tariff Exemptions for Purchasing U.S. Farm Goods

Bloomberg says some Chinese companies are applying for U.S. tariff exemptions as they inquire about the possibility of buying U.S. agricultural goods. That announcement comes over a week after President Donald Trump had complained about China not increasing its purchases of U.S. products. The exemption applications will be evaluated by experts that are appointed by the Customs Tariff Commission. Last week, Trump said once again that he could impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports because China wasn’t buying the large volumes of U.S. agricultural goods that he claims Chinese President Xi (Zhee) promised to buy. The two leaders then agreed to a truce in their endless trade conflict after talks had collapsed in May. A release from the official Chinese news agency (Xinhua) says, “In order to meet the needs of Chinese consumers, Chinese enterprises are willing to continue importing certain agricultural products from the U.S. that are marketable in China.” Chinese authorities told the news agency that they’re “hopeful” that the U.S. will meet China halfway and “earnestly implement its commitments.”

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U.S. Ethanol Plants Expected to Cut Output

In the coming weeks ahead, U.S. ethanol plants will sharply cut down on their output. Reuters says it’s due to a steep rise in Midwest corn prices and the U.S-China trade dispute, which have both led to weak margins and oversupply. Most U.S. ethanol production takes place in the Corn Belt. The margins to produce ethanol in that region have fallen to a four-year seasonal low, while ethanol inventories haven’t been this high in nine years. Industry sources told Reuters that the glut in ethanol means inevitable cuts, especially as corn prices are making production costs even more expensive. That could ultimately boost fuel prices. Josh Bailey, CEO of Eco-Energy, which markets and distributes ethanol, says, “Plants have exhausted all resources and I think we will start seeing some real cuts in production.” He says most producers are losing money on every gallon of ethanol they produce because of the weak margins. Producers have been fighting with deteriorating market conditions for the past year. Pacific idled parts of its plant in Aurora, Nebraska, late last year and has no near-term plans for a restart. Green Plains agreed to sell three of its ethanol plants to Valero, as well as suspended its quarterly dividend.

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More African Swine Fever Shows Up in Bulgaria

African Swine Fever continues its march across the globe. Over the weekend, U.S. News Dot Com says Bulgaria reported an outbreak of African Swine Fever at a breeding farm for pigs in the northeast part of the country. A spokeswoman for the National Food Safety Authority says, “All pigs on the holding, about 17,000 animals, will be culled.” It may not stop with just that farm, either. All pigs in a three-kilometer quarantine zone established around the farm may also be culled as well. Bulgaria has stepped up its efforts to prevent the spread of deadly African Swine Fever into its national herds after reporting more than 30 cases of the disease in several regions of the country earlier this month, including areas around the border with Romania. ASF is a highly contagious disease that affects domestic pigs as well as wild boar. It does not affect human health.

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Legal Advocacy Group Gearing Up to Take Down “Big Ag”

A legal advocacy group that calls itself the Public Justice Food Project says it’s expanding efforts toward “dismantling systems that prop up industrial agriculture.” Meating Place Dot Com says they’ll do that by bringing litigation “built to win and focused on high-impact structural reform.” This effort will include expanding the group’s legal staff. One of their more recent additions is Brent Newell, a leading attorney on air pollution and climate change impacts from “industrial animal agriculture.” Part of their push is a new website, food.publicjustice.net, which will provide resources for lawyers looking to apply their skills to suing “Big Ag.” They’ll also have resources to local communities, farmers, workers, and others who want to support Public Justice’s work. Public Justice’s attorneys have been the lead counsel in two cases involving independent beef producers against multinational meatpackers. They’ve also led efforts to strike down state laws barring undercover investigations at agricultural facilities.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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