READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, July 10th

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, July 10th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Coalition Comes Together to Improve Rural Broadband Infrastructure

Minnesota-based farm cooperative Land O’ Lakes announced it has brought together 49 organizations to form the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition. The Hagstrom Report says the coalition’s goal is to “advocate for public and private sector investment to bring high-speed infrastructure to rural areas.” Each of the organizations will contribute some of their resources to help improve access to remote education, health and mental services, job opportunities, and more. Land O’ Lakes says the goal is to connect and lift all American communities through access to modern digital technology. Beth Ford, President and CEO of Land O’ Lakes, says farmers, business owners, and even school children are often on the wrong side of the digital divide in America, a problem that’s only gotten worse since COVID-19 began. “This isn’t just a rural issue,” Ford says. “The American Connection Project Broadband Coalition represents a mix of companies from technology, health care, ag, and more, who understand the ramifications of our country’s broken internet infrastructure. They have the willingness and expertise to help address this need.” The coalition does admit bringing America’s digital divide to an end is a costly goal, but the groups “firmly believe it is worth the investment.”

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Trump, Obrador Celebrate USMCA

U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel (Man-WELL) Lopez Obrador met in Washington, D.C., this week to celebrate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement. The agreement recently became the law of the land in North America. After multiple meetings among senior officials from both nations, the U.S. and Mexican presidents signed a joint declaration commemorating the July 1st entry-into-force of the USMCA. During remarks to reports, Obrador lamented the North American region’s trade deficit with the rest of the world, which he says totals $611 billion. He’s hoping the USMCA will help North America capture a bigger share of the world economic output, which he says has fallen from 40.4 percent in 1970 to 27.8 percent currently. That statistic reflects China’s rising share of world economic growth over the past half-century. Trump continued his attack on the North American Free Trade Agreement, USMCA’s predecessor, blaming it for lost jobs and low wages. Trump also promoted the labor protections in the new deal, saying it will “bring countless jobs from overseas and back to North America.”

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Potato Growers See Mixed Foreign Trade Outlook Ahead

International trade experts within the potato industry are happy with the Phase One Trade agreement between the U.S. and China. However, they’re also concerned with the level of potatoes coming into the U.S. from the other direction, noting that French Fry imports from the European Union are rising rapidly. An Intermountain Farm and Ranch article says the export market for U.S. potatoes continues to grow. While COVID-19 has resulted in a reduction of exports, there are still good things ahead in the international markets. For example, the new agreement with China opens up the Asian nation to chipping potatoes from the Pacific Northwest. However, there is some bad news in the international markets. The U.S. is seeing a continued increase in French Fries imported from the EU. Matt Lantz, the vice president of global access at Bryant Christie, says, “There’s been a major surge from the EU, and I say the term very definitely. I do not say dumping. That’s a legal term that’s very hard to prove.” In 2015, the EU sent $12 million worth of fries to the U.S. In 2018, EU exports jumped to $55 million. Last year, the value of those imports was even higher, coming in at $80 million. In the first four months of 2020, the EU has already sent $44 million worth of fries to the U.S.

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Additional Commodities Now Eligible for CFAP

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says additional commodities have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. USDA says producers will be able to submit applications that include these commodities beginning on Monday, July 13, with the application period ending on August 28. USDA designed the program to help offset price declines and additional marketing costs brought on by COVID-19. The agency also expects additional eligible commodities to be added to the list in the weeks ahead. “When we announced this program, we asked for public input and received a good response,” Perdue says. “After reviewing comments and analyzing our USDA Market News data, we are adding new commodities, as well as making updates to the program for existing eligible commodities.” A few of the additional commodities eligible for CFAP include beets, blackberries, lettuce, green peas, pineapple, fresh sugarcane, and many more. The changes also include expanded funding options for already-eligible commodities like apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, and raspberries. USDA found that these commodities had a five percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April because of COVID-19. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for marketing adjustments. They also say peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for payment under the CARES Act sales-loss category.

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Ag Groups to Launch Town Hall Series on the Future of Trade/Supply Chains

With major agricultural fairs and other events canceled across the country, major ag groups will provide a series of virtual town halls called “AgTalks.” It’s designed to provide a new forum for farmers, ag businesses, and policy leaders to discuss potential solutions to challenges on trade, supply chains, and global competitiveness. 2020 summer events will be held in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. A few of the groups behind the virtual events include Farmers for Free Trade, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and many others. The AgTalks series will focus on the big challenges that agriculture faces on trade, international supply chains, and staying competitive in the international marketplace. The town hall will be led by ag leaders in each of the five states. In a combined statement, the groups say, “American competitiveness in agriculture has been seriously impacted by the surge in non-U.S. trade agreements with key customers, the trade war, and the failure of supply chains strained by COVID-19. This has impacted commodity pricing, increased input costs, derailed relationships with trading partners, and impacted the broader economy.” The first two dates will focus on Iowa and Minnesota, with specific dates coming soon.

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Don’t Leave Dairy Behind in Japan Negotiations

A total of 50 members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week, urging him to work swiftly on a Phase Two Agreement with Japan. The letter was also sent to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. They say the recent Phase One agreement with Japan made progress on several important issues, but American farmers and processors remain at a disadvantage against competitors, thanks to the Japan-European Union and the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership agreements. That’s why Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind and his colleagues are asking Lighthizer and Perdue to maximize opportunities for dairy farmers by addressing these remaining gaps and inequalities in market access during the next round of negotiations. Due to depressed milk prices and a suffering rural economy, dairy farmers are facing tough conditions and struggling to stay afloat. The USDA says 6,000 dairy farms have gone out of business over the last several years, underscoring the need for trade agreements that can expand overseas markets for the U.S. dairy industry. The letter also points out that Japan is one of the top five overseas markets for U.S. dairy products and the demand will only continue to grow.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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