READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 29th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 29th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Hong Kong Trade Status, U.S. Relationship with China, in Limbo

The Trump Administration sent a formal notice to Congress that it doesn’t see Hong Kong as an autonomous region from China. Politico says that puts Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory at risk and opens up Beijing to sanctions. The move would hurt Beijing but also lessen Hong Kong as an Asian center for business and finance. “I fully expect the U.S. to proceed with sanctions on individuals and entities deemed to be undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy,” says Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Politico says Beijing recently proposed a “national security law” that would bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and give China more authority to crack down on protests. What’s next for the U.S. is currently up to President Trump, who hinted at the possibility of sanctions on the Asian nation. China has already vowed to retaliate if the U.S. takes strong actions because of its moves against Hong Kong. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell says the possibilities include personnel sanctions, visa sanctions, economic sanctions, as well as numerous other options. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says any changes to Hong Kong’s status could have serious impacts on the more than 1,300 U.S. companies that operate in the island nation.


Brazil’s Ag Exports to China are “Booming”

The first four months of 2020 were profitable for Brazilian ag exporters. Brazil’s agricultural exports to China were worth $31.4 billion from January through April. MercoPress reports that it marked a 5.9 percent increase year-over-year. The growth in agricultural exports to China resulted in a more than 11 percent increase in export volume, while the index price actually suffered a drop of 4.7 percent. The Brazilian Department of Trade and International Relations says those sales numbers broke the record for the largest amount ever shipped between January and April. The agricultural exports accounted for almost half of the total number of Brazilian exports (46.6 percent) during the first four months of this year. Brazil took in $4.57 billion worth of imports, which resulted in an agribusiness trade surplus of $26.83 billion during that time. Soybean exports were big from January through April, setting records in terms of revenue worth $11.5 billion and quantity at 33.66 million tons shipped. That’s despite a 4.2 percent drop in the average price for soybeans. Brazil sent China a whopping 73.4 percent of its total grain exports and sold a record $2.13 billion worth of fresh beef to China.


African Swine Fever Impact Even Greater in 2020

Experts are saying that the African Swine Fever outbreak that continued last year could have an even bigger impact in 2020. The Guardian says that the highly-contagious virus that is fatal to pigs is still spreading at a rapid rate. While human attention is on the COVID-19 outbreak, the concern is growing around the world that countries are not putting enough focus on halting the spread of ASF through better biosecurity practices, cooperating on vaccine development, or being transparent about the scope of outbreaks. Despite being present in the world for more than 100 years, there is still no vaccine for the disease that kills almost every animal it infects. “The ASF virus is much more potent than COVID-19 because it can survive in the environment or processed meats for weeks and months,” says Dirk Pfeiffer, a veterinary science professor at City University in Hong Kong and one of the world’s leading experts on ASF. The disease reached China in the fall of 2018 and unofficially led to culling more than 200 million pigs from the world’s largest hog herd. Global ASF infection numbers by the end of April showed this year is close to or above the infection numbers from 2019. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe are the current focal points for outbreaks, with new outbreaks showing up in India and New Guinea.


House, Senate Ag Committees Get Low Grades on Oversight

The House Agriculture Committee got a D grade and the Senate Ag Committee received a C- on oversight. Those grades came from the Lugar Center, which was founded by former Indiana Republican Senator and Ag Committee Chair Richard Lugar, in a report that measured congressional oversight. The Hagstrom Report says the Congressional Oversight Hearing Index categorizes and catalogs all congressional hearings held over the past 12 years, which totals up to about 20,000 hearings. After looking through all the data, the index assigns grades to the oversight performance of current congressional committees and past committees going back to 2009. “Most Americans agree that robust congressional oversight of the workings of our government and society is an important element of American Democracy,” says Dan Diller, policy director at the Lugar Center. “Until now, there’s been no objective criteria for gauging whether congressional committees are living up to their oversight responsibilities.” Of the 17 House Committees the center graded, nine received A’s, two got B’s, and three were given C’s. However, the Senate grades weren’t as high. Of the 17 Senate committees given grades, just two got A’s, none were given B’s, four received C’s, and eight Senate committees were given F’s.


Second Annual “BeSure!” Campaign is Underway

The second “BeSure!” campaign supported by the National Corn Growers Association is off and running through July. The effort is aimed at helping pollinators by promoting best management practices and habitat creation year-round. BeSure! centers on promoting proper use of neonicotinoid (neo-NIH-cuh-tih-noid) products to protect honeybees and other pollinators critical to the food supply and ecosystem. This year, the campaign is seeking to reach not only growers and applicators, but also golf course, turf, and ornamental landscape managers. In its debut year, BeSure! focused its messaging on major crops in the Midwest that utilize neonicotinoid-treated seeds, such as corn and soybeans. This year, the campaign is expanded to include neonicotinoid foliar sprays, soil drenches, and granule uses on fruits, nuts, vegetables, turf tress, and ornamental plants that bees visit regularly. “Neonicotinoids are widely used in agriculture and a variety of landscape and nursery settings,” says Tom Smith, executive director of the National Pesticide Safety Education Center. “Regardless of the application method, product label directions should always be followed, and responsible stewardship practices used to protect pollinators.” Other companies behind the BeSure! Campaign include the American Soybean Association, American Seed Trade Association, CropLife America, and the Agricultural Retailers Association.


Governors Ask Congressional Leadership to Support Ethanol Relief

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to leadership in both chambers of Congress asking them to support relief for the biofuels industry. The Midwest governors are asking Congress to make sure that relief for the biofuels industry is included in Phase 4 COVID-19 emergency relief package currently making its way through Congress. Governor Noem and Governor Walz are the chair and vice-chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition. The governors pointed out that nearly three-fourths of the nation’s 204 ethanol plants are fully or partially idled, resulting in workers being laid off, lost markets for farm commodities, and constrained supplies of critical ethanol co-products. “We’re pleased to see that two bills were recently introduced in both the Senate and the House,” they wrote in their letter. “The Senate’s Renewable Fuel Feedstock Reimbursement Act of 2020, introduced by Senators Grassley and Klobuchar, and the Renewable Fuel Reimbursement Program Provision included in the HEROS Act, provide critical emergency relief to renewable fuel producers.” They say these initiatives provide responsible and much-needed economic relief to their states’ biofuel producers. “Our states’ ethanol industries have become an irreplaceable contributor to our nation’s economy, and they must be preserved,” the governors concluded.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service