READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, December 3rd

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, December 3rd

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

USMCA Deal Could Emerge This Week

A final agreement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is within days, according to some in Washington. A Mexican trade official last week told reporters Mexico was expected to approve changes to the agreement this week, which could then set up a vote in Congress. The official said, “maybe days, so maybe sometime next week,” regarding timing, according to Politico. The comments followed a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau (true-doh), and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. A vote doesn’t mean the deal can be completed still in 2019, but would mark significant progress to finalizing the trade pact within the next few months. USMCA is one of many legislative items on the agenda this month, as Congress must also yet again work towards funding the federal government. Lawmakers may also consider two farm labor bills, and provisions regarding biodiesel tax credits, as part of a broader energy bill. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives continues its impeachment investigation this week in the House Judiciary Committee.

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Ross: Ball in China’s Court on Trade

Trade negotiations with China continue as the U.S. and China seek to wrap up a phase one agreement, promised two weeks ago. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business News, “the ball is in China’s court,” in an interview Monday. He says the talks are making progress, but described the negotiations as “one step forward, one step backward.” If nothing happens before December 15, President Donald Trump plans to move forward with a round of tariffs on China, as Ross called the date a “logical deadline.” China wants the U.S. to roll back tariffs in making the agreement. Meanwhile, Ross again confirmed China promised $40-$50 billion of purchases of U.S. ag products as part of the agreement. China was a near $20 billion market for U.S. agriculture before the trade war began. However, that market has dropped roughly 50 percent since the trade war began, as retaliatory tariffs by China focused on U.S. agricultural products.

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Trump Imposing Tariffs on Brazil, Argentina

President Donald Trump Monday announced new tariffs on Brazil and Argentina, citing harm to U.S. farmers. Trump says the tariffs on steel from Brazil and Argentina are in response to the “devaluation of their currencies.” Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn before departing for the NATO gathering in London, President Trump stated,  “Our steel companies will be very happy, and our farmers will be very happy.” Trump says the currency devaluation is “very unfair” to U.S. farmers and manufacturers. Brazil and Argentina are serving as alternative markets of soybeans for China, allowing China to avoid tariffs on U.S. agricultural products stemming from the tit-for-tat trade war between China and the United States. The United States is the top soybean-producing country in the world, followed by Brazil, Argentina and China. President Trump also called on the Federal Reserve to “likewise act ” against all countries that are takin advantage of a strong U.S. dollar.

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BP, Bunge, Merge Brazil Sugar and Ethanol Operations

British oil company BP and U.S. commodities group Bunge Monday announced the completion of a deal to combine sugar and ethanol operations in Brazil. The partners call BP Bunge Bioenergia a leading company in the sugar, ethanol and low carbon bioelectricity market in Brazil. The deal creates the world’s second-largest cane processor, according to Reuters. The 50-50 joint venture will manage 11 plants in five Brazilian states, and include capacity to crush 32 million metric tons of sugar cane annually. First announced in July, the Monday announcement indicates the partnership obtained all needed regulatory approvals. The sugar processing season in Brazil is coming to an end, with many mills stopping processing efforts. The new joint venture between BP and Bunge will target joint operations to begin during the next sugarcane season, which starts in April. The joint venture also focuses on ethanol, as demand in brazil is growing ahead of a new federal program next year to boost the use of biofuels in Brazil.

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Canada Ag, Propane, Seeks Priority in Resuming Normal Rail Operations

Amid the fallout of an eight-day CN Rail strike, Canada is facing similar propane woes as seen in the Midwest United States. Agriculture groups, along with the Canadian Propane Association, are asking for their products to take priority above other shipments as the railway works to get trains moving. However, the rail operator has stated no product would take priority. The Canadian Propane Association in a recent statement said, “the propane industry is now facing significant logistical challenges of getting the supply chain back to normal.” The strike occurred as harvest season ended and farmers, along with grain companies, seek to ship products. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture last week said the delays in rail service have resulted in significant costs for farmers. The group says the strike came at “the worst possible time” for farmers. However, the organization says, “we can express relief that a resolution was found, and these delays and losses are not continuing to mount.”

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USDA Announces Fellowships to Develop the Next Generation of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture Monday announced fellowship opportunities connecting agency resources with faculty and staff at land grant and other universities. The USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement made the announcement, which seeks to connect participants to USDA and other federal resources while focusing on student development. The fellowship is available for faculty and staff at Hispanic Serving Institutions, 1994 Tribal Colleges and Universities, and 1890 Land-Grant Universities. Participants in the program will receive access to long-term collaboration opportunities, and then share what they learned with students and colleagues at their home institutions. Each program offers opportunities for Education Fellows and Science Fellows. Education Fellows participate in a week-long program in Washington, D.C. scheduled to start June 15 and end on June 19, 2020. Science Fellows participate in a two-week program, consisting of one week in Washington, D.C. and a second week at a USDA research location, ending on June 26, 2020.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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