READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 28th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 28th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

ITC Investigating Economic Impact of Duty-Free Imports from Kenya

The U.S. International trade Commission announced this week an investigation that will outline the economic impacts of removing import duties on products from Kenya. The move comes at the request of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who asked the USITC to provide the assessment in March. The USITC expects to submit its confidential report to Lighthizer by September 16, 2020. The assessment is part of ongoing trade talks between the U.S. and Kenya. Lighthizer last week released a summary of negotiating objectives including specific goals for goods and commodities, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. The objectives seek to “Secure comprehensive market access for U.S. agricultural goods in Kenya by reducing or eliminating tariffs.” Additionally, the U.S. seeks to provide reasonable adjustment periods for U.S. import-sensitive agricultural products. The trade talks also seek to establish specific commitments for trade in products developed through agricultural biotechnologies, including transparency, cooperation, and managing low level presence issues, and a mechanism for exchange of information and enhanced cooperation on agricultural biotechnologies.

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Stabenow Introduces Food Supply Protection Act

Senator Debbie Stabenow Wednesday introduced legislation to help protect the food supply after the COVID-19 crisis has put an unprecedented strain on farmers, workers, food banks and families. Stabenow, the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Ag Committee, says, “This bill will help strengthen our food supply.” The Food Supply Protection Act will support food banks and non-profits to help increase their capacity and address growing demand. The bill will provide infrastructure grants that can be used for additional cold storage and refrigeration, transportation, personal protective equipment, rental costs and additional use of commercial and community infrastructure. Further, Stabenow says the bill will strengthen food partnerships to prevent food waste and feed families through grants and reimbursements. Additionally, the bill will use grants, loans and reimbursements to protect workers and retool small and medium sized food processors. The bill is supported by more than 40 food and agriculture groups, including Feeding American, the National Farmers Union and the United Farm Workers Union.

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Iowa Ag Department Launches Pork Disposal Assistance Program

The Iowa Department of Agriculture is launching a disposal assistance program to help pork producers who are unable to harvest pigs due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. COVID-19-related worker shortages are causing meat processing facilities to drastically reduce production. Iowa State University estimates that, as of mid-May, approximately 600,000 pigs in Iowa were unable to be harvested. The Department is offering producers $40 per approved animal to help cover some of the disposal costs for market-ready hogs, weighing at least 225 pounds. Producers must provide documentation, including proof of proper disposal, and an affidavit from their herd veterinarian confirming impending welfare issues, to receive funding. The disposal assistance funding will be made available to Iowa producers in at least three rounds. Each approved applicant will receive funding for at least 1,000 animals and up to 30,000 animals per round, depending on the number of applicants. To qualify for the first round of funding, producers must submit their applications to the Iowa Department of Agriculture before May 29.

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H-2A Positions Increase Fivefold Since 2005

The Department of Agriculture says the number of H-2A workers increased fivefold between 2005 and 2019. Calling the data an indicator of the scarcity of farm labor, USDA’s Economic Research Service says the number of H-2A positions requested and approved increased from just over 48,000 in 2005 to nearly 258,000 in 2019. The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program provides a legal means to bring foreign-born workers into the United States on a temporary basis. Workers employed on an H-2A visa are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to ten months at a time. Employers must demonstrate, and the U.S. Department of Labor must certify, that efforts to recruit U.S. workers were not successful. Employers must also pay a region-specific minimum wage, known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. The Economic Research Service says the average duration of an H-2A certification in 2019 was 5.3 months, implying that the 258,000 positions certified represented about 114,000 full-year workers.

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USDA Funding Rural Water and Wastewater Improvements

The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced a $281 million investment for 106 projects to improve rural water and wastewater infrastructure. Announced by deputy undersecretary for rural development Bette Brand, the funding will assist rural communities in 36 states and Puerto Rico. Brand says the investments will “bring modern, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure to rural communities.” USDA is funding the projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Eligible applicants include rural cities, towns and water districts. The funds can be used for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems in rural communities that meet population limits. The funds will help rural communities replace deteriorating, leaking water pipes with new ones, and upgrade water and wastewater handling systems that are decades old. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. For a list of funded projects, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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Propane Council Announces Game and Educational Website

The Propane Education and Research Council this week announced www.PropaneKids.com. The website is an interactive online activity center for parents and caretakers of preschool and young school children looking for learning opportunities. The site includes games, activities, and even science experiments for children that are designed to reinforce the importance of propane safety and education with a focus on the farm. Tucker Perkins, President and CEO of PERC, says, “We wanted to do our part to help provide a fun, free learning center for young children.”  At PropaneKids.com, parents, caregivers, and their children can explore a virtual farm or create their own, play games like farm bingo and spot-the-difference and color digital coloring pages. Americans living on acreages and farms away from the city center are already familiar with propane in use on their land. Nearly 40 percent of farms in America rely on propane in their farming and ranching operations to run pumps and engines, heat buildings, and dry and process crops.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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