READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, February 14th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, February 14th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Tougher Trade “Firewall” Needed for Smaller Ag Sectors

Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Richard Burr of North Carolina are working on bipartisan legislation to give the U.S Commerce Department a greater ability to defend smaller segments of agriculture. Politico says the bill would give the department greater authority to “self-Initiate investigations” to help those less influential sectors combat potential trade manipulation. Peters says, “If you’re a big industry, such as the steel industry, you can hire an army of lawyers and economists to push back against unfairly subsidized trade by foreign governments. If you’re a smaller industry like cherries or blueberries or other agricultural products, it’s a lot more difficult.” Peters sent a letter to Customs and Border Protection this week, calling for an investigation into tart cherry exports from Turkey. He says shortly after the U.S. slapped duties on cherries from Turkey back in 2018, cherry exports from Brazil surged as much as 1,200 percent. He points out in the letter that “Brazil doesn’t appear to have a discernible tart cherry industry.”

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Past Mad Cow Scare Keeping EU Cautious During U.S. Negotiations

A Reuters report says the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the 1990s will likely keep the European Union from easing its strict rules on food safety. That caution will likely continue even though U.S President Trump is threatening to slap tariffs on car imports from the EU if the countries don’t start importing more U.S. farm products. European food and farming exports to the United States are worth $12 billion more than the imports the bloc brings in from the U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue told EU officials last month they should adapt food regulations to reflect “sound science.” However, Reuters says there is very little optimism that the EU will agree. Europeans remember the BSE outbreak and will not accept any lowering of its food standards. A trade specialist with the European Policy Center says no politician will support a trade deal that’s perceived as dropping those stringent standards. Trump has long complained the EU position on trade is “worse than China.” Earlier this week, the president said he’s setting sights on Europe, which raises the prospect of another trade war.

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January Ag Equipment Sales Mixed

The first month of 2020 saw mixed results in the total number of U.S. tractor and self-propelled combine sales. Total farm tractor sales grew compared to January of last year while combines fell by 25 percent. That’s according to data out this week from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Total U.S. farm tractor sales increased 4.7 percent in January compared to last year while January self-propelled combine sales dropped 24.4 percent. Total sales of two-wheel-drive tractors grew in all segments during January by a total of 4.9 percent more than January of 2019. Sales of tractors with more than 100 horsepower led the way in sales growth, up 19.6 percent to 1,361 units. The total number of four-wheel-drive tractor sales fell 6.6 percent to 169 units sold. “The sales numbers we’re seeing for January are in line with our expectations,” says Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of Ag Services at AEM. “With the approval of the USMCA and the Phase One trade agreement with China, we believe we’re seeing some positive trends on the horizon for ag equipment sales.”

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Study Highlights Urban-Rural Divide Over the Environment

Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions issued a new study on the rural and urban divide over environmental issues. The study says rural voters have a deep distrust of the federal government, which explains their split with urban folks on environmental policy. The study says rural Americans matter a whole lot when it comes to the fate of U.S. environmental policy. After all, farmers, ranchers, and forest owners manage a huge part of America’s lands and watersheds. The study finds that 70 percent of rural folks express their support for conserving natural resources, while the same percentage of urban folks feel the same way. However, a stark contrast comes to light when each side is asked about the preferred level of government oversight on the environment. Forty percent of rural voters support less government oversight of the environment and conservation, while 47 percent of urban voters support more government oversight. “My hope is that this will help us understand how to engage with rural constituencies,” says Robert Bonnie, who led the study. “This data shows there is an approach to national climate legislation that empowers states and local government because folks seem more comfortable with that.”

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USDA Selects 30 Future Agricultural Leaders

The USDA announced its selection of 30 college students who will attend the USDA’s 2020 Ag Outlook Forum as participants in the USDA Future Leaders of Agriculture Program. These undergrad and graduate-level students will take part in a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., capped off with their attendance at the Forum on February 20-21. The USDA has hosted students in this program since 2007. The trip to the Forum, which is USDA’s largest annual meeting, gives students real-world learning opportunities in contemporary agribusiness, scientific research, and agricultural policy. The program selects 20 undergrads and 10 graduate students based on their written essays on agricultural careers and challenges. During their visit to D.C., students will take part in a USDA briefing and discussion of career opportunities with agriculture leaders in academics, government, and industry. They will also tour the nation’s capital, attend the Forum, and will meet with Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. The Future Leaders in Agriculture Program is supported by academic institutions, corporations, and government institutions dedicated to promoting the education of the next generation of agriculture.

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NASS Making Changes to its Crop Reporting

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will be making changes to its county-level reporting. More specifically, there will no longer be county-level estimates for dry edible beans, flaxseed, hay (alfalfa and others), as well as potatoes, sugar beets, sugarcane, sunflowers (non-oil and oil varieties), and tobacco. Additionally, NASS will discontinue county estimates based on irrigated or non-irrigated practices for all crops. These changes are effective beginning with the 2019 crop year. The reason for the changes is the lack of funds. The data collection cost for the surveys that the agency uses to gather the data for county-level numbers had been partially funded through a cooperative agreement, which was not renewed. As a result, NASS says it has to adjust its county estimates program to reflect the lower level of funding available. NASS took public comments and reviewed the feedback before deciding to discontinue these estimates. Future NASS reports will still be available at www.nass.usda.gov/Publications.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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