READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 9th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 9th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Last Minute Demands Further Complicate USMCA Passage

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has an unlikely ally in Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas when it comes to a last-minute push for changes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. They’re pushing to strip the trade pact of language shielding internet companies from liability over user-generated content. The protection has come under scrutiny in Washington, D.C., as companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, come under fire for harmful content and political misinformation on their pages. Critics are arguing that putting those protections in trade deals limits Congressional ability to reconsider them domestically. However, Republican lawmakers see the effort to eliminate the language as a last chance move to delay the trade deal. Adding in a new and potentially controversial request could significantly delay the process that everyone involved repeatedly says is close to finishing up. Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar (KWAY-ar) said the U.S. put an additional demand on the table that Mexico “doesn’t want to touch.” He didn’t say what the new demand was but did say that it came about as Mexico was “pretty much almost ready to go.”

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China will Lift Some Tariffs on Some U.S. Pork, Soybean

China announced plans on Friday to lift some tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork. A CNN report says the move could be designed to take some of the heat out of the talks aimed at bringing a truce to the trade war. The Chinese finance ministry said last week it would waive taxes on some imports once companies had applied for exemptions. It didn’t specifically say which goods or how many of the goods would be exempted. Back in September, China said it would exclude some soybeans and pork products from its newest tariffs. China’s Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council says it will “dedicate a range of goods to be excluded from tariff countermeasures against the U.S. Section 301 measure.” President Donald Trump had told reporters late last week that talks with China were going well and hinted that he may not place new tariffs on Chinese goods on December 15th as planned. When asked about the new tariffs going into effect on December 15th, Trump said “We’ll have to see. Something could happen but we aren’t discussing that yet. However, we’re having very good discussions with China.”

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China, U.S. still at Odds Over Ag Purchases

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. and China still can’t agree on the size of future Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural commodities. President Donald Trump wants China to commit to buying $40 to $50 billion worth of American farm goods per year, which is significantly higher than the $8.6 billion the country bought a year ago. The administration is also asking China to announce its purchase plans, which the White House says shouldn’t depend on market conditions or other Chinese trade obligations. The two countries are working to get a Phase One trade deal signed ahead of a potential 15 percent tariff increase on Chinese imports that is scheduled to begin on December 15. Trump said last week that something could very well happen with those tariffs but did say the two countries aren’t discussing that yet. The Chinese Commerce Department’s Ministry spokesman also said last week that the two sides remain in “close communication” on trade. He says that China believes relevant tariffs must be lowered if both sides can reach an agreement on the phase one deal.

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NPPC, Farm Bureau Team up to Challenge Prop 12 in California

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau have filed a legal challenge to California’s Proposition 12. The proposition imposes animal housing standards that reach outside of California’s borders to farms across the U.S. “Proposition 12 revolves around a set of arbitrary standards that lack any scientific, technical, or agricultural basis, and will only serve to inflict further harm on U.S. hog farmers,” says Jen Sorenson, NPPC vice president. “U.S. farmers are already fighting to expand overseas market opportunities. We shouldn’t have to fight to keep our domestic markets too.” Prop 12 will force hog farmers who want to sell pork in California to switch to alternative housing systems, at a significant cost to their business. “The law was sold to California voters as a solution to improve animal welfare and food safety,” says AFB General Counsel Ellen Steen. “However, it has nothing to do with food safety and many animals will suffer more injury and illness under its arbitrary rules.” Farm Bureau says farmers are best qualified to make farm-specific and animal-specific decisions on animal care. Prop 12 will drive up costs and force smaller farmers out of business, leading to greater consolidation in the pork industry.

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White House Adviser Working on Biofuel Mandate Plan

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow is working on improving the Trump administration’s plan for bolstering biofuel requirements. Bloomberg says the move comes after ethanol boosters in politically important farm states said the current proposal doesn’t compensate for waivers that exempt some small refineries from the mandates under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Biofuel producers, corn farmers, and Midwest political leaders blasted the Environmental Protection Agency’s current approach to biofuels as inadequate. They say the EPA mandates completely ignored the terms of an agreement reached on October 1st to raise biofuel blending requirements enough to fully offset refinery exemptions. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa says the EPA could have the best of intentions but “farmers don’t believe it” because of the agency’s track record. Oil industry leaders say the EPA’s current proposal is illegal, arguing that it would unfairly force the larger refineries to bear a higher burden of biofuel-blending requirements. EPA is currently reviewing public comments as it prepares a final rule that will set the 2020 biofuel quotas. Kudlow’s work could lead to changes in the final rule that would ensure the final measure is more in line with what Trump gave approved in negotiations that led to the October 1st agreement.

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USDA Reminds Producers to Contact Insurance Agents about Harvest Delays

The USDA is reminding producers with crop insurance are facing harvest delays to make contact with their crop insurance agents by December 10th. Farmers need to file a Notice of Loss by that date or the applicable end of their insurance period to request an extension of time to finish harvest. Once the extension gets approved, an insured producer needs to harvest the crop at the first feasible opportunity. “Farmers are certainly struggling this year because of wet weather conditions,” says Martin Barbre, Administrator of the Risk Management Agency. “Producers covered by Federal Crop Insurance that are unable to harvest on time need to contact their crop insurance agents to file a notice of loss.” The goal of filing the notice is so that crop insurance claims are settled based on the amount of harvested production. For crops like corn and soybeans, the end of the insurance period is December 10th. For other crop deadlines, farmers must make contact with their agents to find out the specific dates.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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