READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, January 14th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, January 14th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

USMCA Likely on Hold for Impeachment Hearings

Impeachment hearings are expected to now delay Senate consideration of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The House of Representatives will vote this week to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Senate leaders say the impeachment trial would last roughly two weeks, with members in session six days a week. That pushes any timeline for USMCA approval into February. Meanwhile, following approval of the implementing legislation in the Senate Finance Committee last week, other committees needing to approve the agreement are doing so quickly this week. The Environment and Public Works Committee, along with with the Senate Budget Committee, both scheduled hearings Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will consider the agreement Wednesday morning, along with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Finally, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider the agreement Thursday morning. However, impeachment must take priority in the Senate, therefor holding up final approval of the agreement until after the impeachment process.

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U.S.-China Agreement Concerns Remain

President Donald Trump and Vice Premier Liu (Lou) He will sign the phase one trade agreement tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at the White House, with roughly 200 people invited to attend. However, some question China’s ability to increase expected purchases, and if the agreement will stick. The American Farm Bureau Federation says the agreement will open the market, but not exclusively to the United States. That means the U.S. will have to compete with other exporters for the expected $40-50 billion increase in annual purchases by China. Meanwhile, A U.S. Chamber of Commerce official told media members Monday the phase one agreement “stops the bleeding,” but doesn’t end the trade war. Reuters points out that the United States has left in place tariffs on $370 billion worth of Chinese imports. Further, negotiations for a phase two deal will probably touch on more difficult issues, including Chinese subsidies for state-owned firms and industrial policies perceived to be creating an uneven playing field.

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GAO to Audit SRE’s Following Request

The Government Accountability Office will review the Trump Administration’s biofuel small refinery exemptions, following a request from lawmakers. Representative Abby Finkenauer (Fink-en-now-er), a Democrat from Northeast Iowa, says, “Granting more than 80 small refinery exemption waivers isn’t just something this administration can sweep under the rug.” Finkenauer, along with a group of lawmakers from ethanol-producing states, sent a letter last August to the GAO, requesting a review of the small refinery exemptions granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. The letter sought review of EPA’s approval process for the exemptions, the role the Department of Energy has in reviewing the exemption applications, and what is considered in the assessment of applications. The GOA responded late last week in a letter, stating, “GAO accepts your request as work that is within the scope of its authority.” Last year, the EPA announced it granted 31 new small refinery exemption waivers. Under the Trump administration, small refinery exemption waivers have more than quadrupled from the previous administration.

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AEM Reports 2019 Full-year Tractor, Combine Sales

Farmers bought more tractors last year compared to 2018, but combine sales remained flat. A new report for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers says for 2019, a total of 244,600 tractors were sold, which compares to 236,180 sold through December 2018, representing a four percent increase during the year. In 2019, two-wheel drive smaller tractors, rated under 40 horsepower, were up five percent, while 40 to under 100 horsepower tractor sales were even. Sales of two-wheel drive 100-plus horsepower tractors were up four percent, while four-wheel drive tractors sales were up six percent in 2019. Meanwhile, combine sales for the year totaled 4,807 compared to 4,839 in 2018. All sectors fell in Canada, with combine sales down 19.4 percent for the year. AEM senior vice president of Ag Services, Curt Blades, concludes, “While growth hit a bump toward the end of the year, ag tractor and combine sales overall for 2019 ended relatively flat.”

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Trump to Attend AFBF Convention

President Donald Trump will again join the American Farm Bureau Federation for its annual convention. The 101st AFBF Annual Convention and Trade Show runs January 17-22 in Austin, Texas. President Trump is scheduled to attend Sunday, January 19. This marks the third straight year Trump has attended the AFBF convention. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says in a statement, “We are grateful that he has made agricultural issues a priority.” Duvall says AFBF welcomes Trump “at a time when there is much to talk about, from trade progress to important regulatory reforms.” The Senate is close to finalizing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and the so-called phase one agreement will be signed this week. Other officials currently scheduled to attend include Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, and Senator Jerry Moran, also a Republican from Kansas, are on the schedule, as well.

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Beef Quality Assurance Program Continues Growth

The Beef Quality Assurance program continues to grow significantly, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. NCBA reports there are now more than 100,000 cattle producers certified through the BQA online learning system. The online option was introduced by NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, in early 2017. Since the BQA program was initiated in the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of producers and transporters have become BQA-certified through in-person and online training, with an estimated 85 percent of the U.S. fed beef supply now touched by BQA-certified operations. The program is a nationally coordinated and state implemented plan. The BQA program provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how commonsense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. Veterinarian Bob Smith, chair of the BQA Advisory Board, says the growth demonstrates that producers and transporters “continue to embrace this tool for optimizing quality in their operations.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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