11-22-19 Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Gardner-Backed Legislation to Improve PILT, Extend Secure Rural Schools Program

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Gardner-Backed Legislation to Improve PILT, Extend Secure Rural Schools Program

Washington, D.C. – Today the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on legislation that would reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program and provide greater parity to small counties who receive Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding from the federal government. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) is a cosponsor of both pieces of legislation that will provide funding for critical services in counties with large amounts of federal land.

The committee discussed S. 2108, the Small County PILT Parity Act, which would create four new population tiers so that eligible low population counties (those with populations under 5,000) could receive a higher annual PILT payment. This formula adjustment will help bring parity to lower population counties and help address rising infrastructure and emergency services costs. The committee also heard testimony on S. 430, a bill to extend the Secure Rural Schools program, which ensures counties with swaths of tax-exempt forestlands can adequately provide essential services for their residents.

“These bills will improve the funding for essential services for counties with large amounts of tax-exempt forestlands and federal lands,” said Senator Gardner. “I applaud the committee for holding this hearing to discuss critical federal government programs that support counties with a limited tax base as a result of federal acreage. This will make sure critical services like search and rescue, emergency medical services, law enforcement, schools, and maintenance of roads can continue.”

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 22nd

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 22nd

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Ag Exports Projected to fall $5.2 Billion in 2019

The Department of Agriculture projects the fiscal year 2019 U.S. agricultural trade balance to fall to $5.2 billion. USDA’s Economic Research Service projects exports at $134.5 billion, and imports at $129.3 billion, leaving a $5.2 billion surplus, the lowest since fiscal year 2006. Unlike overall U.S. trade in goods and services, U.S. trade in the agricultural sector consistently runs at a surplus. Although agricultural exports have increased in value since 2016, the value of imports has risen at a slightly faster rate, leading to a declining trade balance. Compared to the previous outlook in May 2019, exports were revised down by $2.5 billion, while imports were raised by $0.3 billion. The decline in expected export value was primarily due to lowered expectations for corn and soybean exports. For imports, the increase in the forecast was due in part to an increase in the expected value of horticultural imports, such as fruits and vegetables. Initial projections for fiscal year 2020 suggest a small recovery in the agricultural trade balance to $8.0 billion.

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China Phase One Delays Continue, China Claims Talks on Track

Promised for mid-November, reports this week suggest an agreement and signing of the so-called phase one trade deal with China faces delays until mid-December. However, China maintains that the talks are on track. A Chinese government spokesperson told reporters this week “China is willing to work with the United States to resolve each other’s core concerns,” adding the “external rumors” regarding the unraveling of the agreement are not true. China has invited the United States to Beijing for talks, possibly next week before the Thanksgiving holiday. Chinese officials suggested the deal could be signed in early December. Despite the claims by China, markets appear to sluggish on any trade news, seemingly growing tired of delayed promises of agreements and little progress. President Donald Trump says the phase-one agreement would include $40-50 billion worth of U.S. ag trade to China over a two-year period. U.S. farm exports to China reached nearly $20 billion before the trade war began, but since fell roughly 50 percent.

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Farm Bureau Calls for Improvements to Ag Labor Bill

While many farm groups seem pleased with the House labor bill, the American Farm Bureau Federation says it falls short of a long-term solution. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says that “While welcome, these changes unfortunately fall short of assuring that American producers will be able to keep their farms going.” Changes made to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act before introduction improve the ability of farmers to retain H-2A workers, take a small step toward protecting farmers from frivolous litigation, and add a study to examine whether the H-2A program affects U.S. farmers’ ability to compete with foreign ag imports. However, AFBF says the key amendments not included in the bill would ensure a fair and competitive wage rate and limitations on the use of federal courts to solve workplace grievances. Duvall says that “once Congress passes legislation, no one will have an appetite to revisit the issue and simply put, this bill’s approach is not yet good enough.”

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Hahn Pledges Transparent Dairy Labeling in Confirmation Hearing

The National Milk Producers Federation welcomed comments made during a confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration. The hearing briefly touched on dairy labeling transparency. NMPF and others are seeking a labeling system that prohibits plant-based dairy imitators from using dairy marketing terms. Rules already do so, but FDA has not enforced them. Hahn voiced his support for “clear, transparent, and understandable labeling for the American people.” Hahn says, “people need this so that they can make the appropriate decisions for their health and for their nutrition.” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “It’s heartening to hear the nominee pledge that an FDA under his leadership will immediately examine this crucial unfinished business.” The comments by Hahn came before the Senate Health Committee. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, called Hahn an “impressive choice” to lead the FDA. Ranking member Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, demanded Hahn commit to putting science, data and families first.

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New Motor Oil Made with High Oleic Soybean Oil Now Available on Amazon

America’s drivers have a new choice that unites performance and sustainability at a competitive cost, according to the United Soybean Board. Biosynthetic® Technologies’ biobased synthetic motor oil, using high oleic soybean oil from U.S. soybeans, is now on commercial shelves. USB Director Mike Korth, a Nebraska Farmer, says, “Soy-based motor oil is another great opportunity to drive demand for U.S. soybeans” and meet consumer sustainability demands. Biosynthetic Technologies’ motor oil is also recognized as a USDA Certified Biobased Product in the United States Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program. The company will market both 5W-20 and 5W-30 through Amazon.com and direct from their website. The product is available for purchase and use immediately. Biosynthetic is also offering farmers a limited-time 20 percent discount to purchase the synthetic oil. They can use code BioTrialFarm available only at motoroil.biosynthetic.com through January 31. USB and USDA have supported the soy-based, drop-in synthetic alternative to petroleum-based motor oil, calling the oils well-suited for high-temperature automotive and industrial applications.

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Farm Bureau Survey: Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Rises Only a Penny

An annual survey finds the Thanksgiving Day dinner average cost this year for ten is $48.91, less than $5.00 per person. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 34th annual survey on Thanksgiving Day meal items increased just once cent from last year. The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables, the turkey,  costs slightly less than last year, at $20.80 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.30 per pound, down four percent from last year. Survey results show retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2010. Although the overall average cost of the meal was about the same this year, there were some price changes for individual items. In addition to turkey, foods that showed slight price declines include cubed bread stuffing and canned pumpkin pie mix. Foods showing modest increases this year included dinner rolls, sweet potatoes and milk. Meanwhile, despite the growing popularity of prepared foods, 92 percent of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving at home or at a family member’s home and most cook their entire meal at home, according to the survey.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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