READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, September 18th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, September 18th

White House Sends Formal Announcement of Agreement with Japan

The White House has notified Congress it will sign a trade agreement with Japan. President Donald Trump notified lawmakers he will enter an agreement on tariffs and digital trade with Japan, as the two sides wrap up the talks still this month. The White House published the notice Monday evening. Trump told lawmakers he is “pleased to report that my administration has reached an initial trade agreement.” The agreement is expected to be signed along the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. The agreement does not need approval from Congress and can go into effect immediately. The agreement will mostly lower tariffs on U.S. ag products, to levels granted to other exporters to Japan in the Comprehensive and Progress Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The lower tariffs allow U.S. farmers to better compete in the Japanese market. Top U.S. agricultural exports to Japan currently include beef, corn, pork, soybeans and wheat, totally $13 billion last year.

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Trump Backing Plan to Increase Biofuels Production

President Donald Trump will soon unveil a biofuel plan that farm groups are hopeful will increase demand for biofuels production. The President has tentatively approved the plan that will increase biofuel blending requirements, but the administration has not yet publicly announced the plan. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said Tuesday the announcement is coming, and will be a “win-win” for farmers. However, Grassley is unsure when the administration will announce the plan. Reuters says the plan requires the Environmental Protection Agency calculate a three-year rolling average of total biofuels gallons exempted from the mandates under its Small Refinery Exemption program and add that figure to its annual biofuel blending quotas each year. The administration recently granted 31 waivers to exclude refineries from the RFS blending requirements. Trump was planned to meet with oil industry executives earlier this week, as well. Grassley says Trump “listened to Iowans” who spoke out against the small refinery waivers. President Trump ordered a review of the waivers in June.

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Saudi Attacks Represents Opportunity for Biofuels

Drone attacks Saturday in Saudi Arabia that destroyed oil fields show diversification, which includes biofuels, could curb market volatility, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. RFA President Geoff Cooper says the United States imported 2.8 billion barrels of crude oil last year, equivalent to 45 percent of the oil processed by U.S. refineries. $18 billion flowed out of the U.S. economy to Saudi Arabia in return for 330 million barrels of petroleum. However, U.S. farmers helped produce more than 380 million barrels of “lower-cost, cleaner-burning renewable fuel last year-more barrels than we imported from Saudi Arabia.” Cooper says the United States cannot “simply frack its way to energy independence,” in his call to increase biofuels use. Cooper says with enforcement of the Renewable Fuel Standard, removal of regulatory barriers, and a rapid transition to 15 percent ethanol blends nationwide, U.S. ethanol producers could quickly ramp up production and help fill the void in the global liquid fuel supply caused by the Saudi oil attacks.

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Minnesota Lawmakers seek Mississippi River Disaster Funds

Representatives from Minnesota are pushing for funds to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to address issues stemming from Mississippi River flooding this year Democrat Representatives Ron Kind< Angie Craig and Betty McCollum, all representing Minnesota, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget pushing for the distribution of $100 million for flood repairs. The funds were included in the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, and were signed into law by President Trump in June 2019. Those funds have not yet been disbursed so the Army Corps can do their jobs. Right now, the lawmakers say the immediate concern remains keeping the Mississippi River operational for commercial use, which requires additional dredging because of excess sediment build-up this spring. The river is responsible for one-sixth of the nation’s intercity cargo and 25 percent of foreign exports. The letter states the lawmakers urge the Trump Administration “to act swiftly in allocating long-term funding to reinstate emergency dredging operations.”

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USDA Modernizes Swine Slaughter Inspection

The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced a final rule to modernize swine slaughter inspection. For the first time in more than five decades, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is modernizing inspection at market hog slaughter establishments with a goal of protecting public health while allowing for food safety innovations, according to USDA. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the final rule “allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules.” National Pork Producers Council President David Herring says the new inspection system “codifies the advancements we have made into law, reflecting a 21st century industry,” and ensures “a safe supply of wholesome American pork.” In the final rule, FSIS amends the regulations to require all swine slaughter establishments to develop written sanitary dressing plans and implement microbial sampling to monitor process control for pathogens that can cause foodborne illness. The final rule also allows market hog establishments to choose if they will operate under the rule or continue to operate under traditional inspection.

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Peterson, Others, Establish 4-H Congressional Caucus

House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, this week announced the bipartisan 4-H Congressional Congress. Joining Peterson is Republican Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, along with Democrat Henry Cueller of Texas. Peterson, saying he was “a 4-H kid myself,” says he looks forward to growing the caucus “so we can help ensure the next generation of young leaders have access to 4-H experiences that will help them succeed.” 4-H is America’s largest youth development organization, empowering youth through programs and experiences that develop critical life skills and preparing them for life today and a career tomorrow. Thousands of 4-H professionals and educators, as well as 500,000 volunteers serve nearly six million youth in every county in the United States. National 4-H Council president and CEO Jennifer Sirangelo welcomed the caucus, saying “Their support ensures life-changing 4-H experiences are available to young people in rural, urban and suburban communities throughout America.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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