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No vote on hydroponics from USDA organic board

The Packer | Posted on April 24, 2017

When the National Organics Standards Board delayed a vote in November on whether produce grown on hydroponic and similar systems could be organic, members wanted to step back and gather more information on the issue. Companies marketing organic greenhouse bell peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables grown on hydro- and aquaponic systems might have to wait another year before the issue is decided. The NOSB’s three-day spring meeting in Denver ended April 21, with no formal vote or action taken in regard to hydroponic and container growing, and it is unlikely there will be a vote in 2017. “The NOSB decided this was something so fundamental to the organics industry, they want everyone participating in the policy developing process for how to handle container and hydroponic growing systems,” said Lee Frankel, executive director for the Coalition for Sustainable Organics.

Air emissions exemption for farms overturned

Capital Press | Posted on April 23, 2017

A rule exempting livestock farms from reporting certain air pollutant emissions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been overturned by a federal appeals court. However, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is most likely to affect large livestock operations or those with disproportionately high emissions, experts say.In 2008, the EPA exempted most farms from reporting ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions from animal waste to EPA under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA.The EPA had determined that requiring such emissions reports from farms is “unnecessary because, in most cases, a federal response is impractical and unlikely.”The agency issued a similar exemption to the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act, or EPCRA, which requires reporting of those pollutants to state and local governments. However, the EPCRA exemption didn’t apply to large facilities, such as those with more than 1,000 cattle or 10,000 sheep. The Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental group, filed a lawsuit against the exemptions while the two agriculture groups — the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and the National Pork Producers Council — challenged the provision that excluded large confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, from the exemption.

Census of Agriculture Countdown Begins

USDA | Posted on April 19, 2017

America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.The Census of Agriculture highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The 2012 Census of Agriculture revealed that over three million farmers operated more than two million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. This was a four percent decrease in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income, and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).

Trump is wrong when he says dairy practices unfair

ABC News | Posted on April 19, 2017

Canada's ambassador to Washington said Tuesday night that President Donald Trump is wrong when he says Canada's trade practices in the dairy industry are "very unfair." Ambassador David MacNaughton said in a letter to the governors of Wisconsin and New York that Canada is aware of their letter to Trump asking him to address Canadian dairy practices."Canada does not accept the contention that Canada's dairy policies are the cause of financial loss for dairy farmers in the United States," MacNaughton said. He said the facts don't bear that out and attached a U.S. Department of Agriculture dairy outlook report that "clearly indicates the poor results in the U.S. sector are due U.S. and global overproduction." Trump spoke out against Canada on Tuesday in a way he's not done before, saying Canada has been "very, very unfair" to dairy farmers and "we're going to start working on that." Canada has decided to impose import taxes on ultra-filtered milk, a protein liquid concentrate used to make cheese. It had been duty free but Canada changed course after milk producers there complained. About 70 dairy producers in both U.S. states are affected. MacNaughton writes that the Canada dairy industry is less protectionist than that of the U.S, which he says has employed technical barriers to keep Canadian dairy out of the U.S. market.

Trump vows to back U.S. dairy farmers in Canada trade spat

Reuters | Posted on April 19, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump promised on Tuesday to defend American dairy farmers who have been hurt by Canada’s protectionist trade practices, during a visit to the cheese-making state of Wisconsin. Canada's dairy sector is protected by high tariffs on imported products and controls on domestic production as a means of supporting prices that farmers receive. It is frequently criticized by other dairy-producing countries."We're also going to stand up for our dairy farmers," Trump said in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "Because in Canada some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers and others."Trump did not detail his concerns, but promised his administration would call the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and demand an explanation."It's another typical one-sided deal against the United States and it's not going to be happening for long," Trump said.Trump also reiterated his threat to eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico if it cannot be changed.U.S. dairy industry groups want Trump to urge Trudeau to halt a pricing policy that has disrupted some U.S. dairy exports and prioritize dairy market access in NAFTA renegotiation talks.

When Trump gives you protectionism ... Canada blocks your milk exports

Conservative Review | Posted on April 19, 2017

President Trump has not been shy about expressing his attitude toward foreign trade. Throughout the campaign, as well as after assuming office, he has repeatedly argued that it is better to buy American goods rather than imported ones, and has criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement as a bad deal for Americans. In light of this, it is hard not to feel a sense of irony at the latest news from the dairy sector. A new policy from Canada allows the country to block imported dairy products from America, particularly milk that has been heavily filtered. Unsurprisingly, American dairy farmers are crying foul, claiming that the policy violates NAFTA, gives Canada an unfair advantage on the world market, and will cost approximately 10,000 American jobs. They are asking President Trump to intervene on their behalf.  Not to sound callous, but I have to ask: What did they expect?When the policy set forth by the president of the United States is one that demonizes trade with other countries, derides our trade agreements as worthless, and conceives of global economics as a zero-sum competition with winners and losers, can you really be surprised when other countries react in the same way? If Trump has no regard for NAFTA, why should Canada? If buying Canadian imports is bad for America, why is buying American imports any better for Canada?This is one of the reasons why protectionism is so dangerous. It not only harms the domestic economy, but it sends a signal to every other country that it’s “us or them” — and if they want to keep up, they had better be at least as aggressive as we are. This is how trade wars start. And if it’s allowed to get out of hand, pretty soon nobody is trading with anybody, with each country becoming its own isolationist island.


Reshaping NAFTA could benefit Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina

U.S. News & World Report | Posted on April 19, 2017

Among other threats targeting Mexico during his election campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump harshly criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement.   As Trump has pointed out, NAFTA contributed to a U.S. trade deficit with Mexico reaching US$63.2 billion last year. This is the country's fourth-largest trade deficit, after China, Japan and Germany. America's deficit with the other NAFTA nation, Canada, was slightly over US$11 billion in 2016.But that's only part of the story. Remove cars and auto part imports, for example, and the U.S. deficit with Mexico virtually disappears. Overall, NAFTA has been beneficial to Mexico, Canada and the U.S. alike. Since it was signed in 1994, foreign direct investments (FDI) in Mexico have averaged 2.6 percent of GDP (compared to 1 percent for two decades before NAFTA). At present, annual bilateral trade between the U.S. and Mexico is running at US$580 billion. Much of Trump's outdated protectionist rhetoric hinges on manufacturing, outsourcing of jobs to Mexico and immigration. Agriculture – a key link between the two nations – does not seem to have entered his calculations.Globalization may have contributed to manufacturing job losses in the U.S., but it has had significant benefits for the American agricultural sector. U.S. exports of agricultural products to Mexico have increased nearly fivefold since NAFTA was signed.For the 2014–15 crop marketing year, U.S. corn production was 360 million metric tons, 13 percent of which was exported. Mexico accounted for 23 percent of these exports.In 2016, Mexico imported US$17.9 billion in American agricultural products: US$2.6 billion in corn, US$1.5 billion in soybeans, US$1.3 billion in pork and US$1.2 billion in dairy products.Around 98 percent of the corn that forms a staple of the Mexican diet comes from the U.S. Mexico also buys 7.8 percent of all U.S. pork production.As America threatens to close its agricultural export door, it has damaged Mexico's confidence in the reliability of its major supplier – perhaps permanently. In a January 2017 Washington Post opinion piece, former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo wrote that it was a "waste of time" to play "NAFTA tweaking games with the Trump Administration."Though Mexico currently has free trade agreements with 45 countries (more than any other country in the world), agriculture has consistently been the most sensitive issue in Mexico's free trade agreements. Trump has changed that.Today, the country is accelerating its search for new partners to meet its national agricultural needs. Sensing long-term opportunities, Brazil and Argentina – both major exporters of beef, wheat, soybeans and other prized U.S. agricultural products – are elbowing their way to the front of the queue. Neither currently has a free trade agreement with Mexico.


Future of U.S. exports

The Progressive Farmer | Posted on April 17, 2017

Lately, China has increasingly turned to South America to fill more bean demand. The U.S. has exported 26.74 mmt of soybeans to China so far in the 2015-16 marketing year. During the same period, U.S. soybean exports to China are down about 2.74 mmt from a year ago, but Brazil's exports to China are up 5 mmt and Argentina's soybean exports to China are up 1.8 mmt from a year ago, according to Informa Economics. "Brazil's currency is such that Brazil's farmers are selling everything they have got and U.S. producers are holding on to their beans waiting on higher prices," Sutter said.

iry farmers worry about trade to Mexico

The New York Times | Posted on April 17, 2017

U.S dairy farmers already struggling with low milk prices worry President Donald Trump's talk of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement could harm trade to Mexico, its biggest export market. About 15 percent of dairy production in the United States is exported with one-third valued at $1.2 billion going to Mexico in the form of milk powder, cheese and whey protein, according to the National Milk Producers Federation, which says trade with Mexico is its top priority. That's nearly double the value exported to Canada, the country's second biggest export market, according to the United States Department of Agriculture."The income of dairy farmers, whether they're in Vermont or California, depends heavily on our export to Mexico," said Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president responsible for domestic and international policy for the federation. Anything that happens that reduces the ability to trade products to Mexico will be troubling for dairy producers in the United States, said Scott Brown, a dairy economist with the University of Missouri."Can we renegotiate and get a better NAFTA deal? Only time will tell. Those trade agreements traditionally have taken a lot of time and effort to get everybody on the same page and we know we've benefited tremendously on the NAFTA agreement that we have," Brown said.



Fruit growers, poultry producers worry that anti-immigration rhetoric will hurt business

Penn Live | Posted on April 14, 2017

With this year's growing season about to get into full swing, the hardline anti-immigration rhetoric coming out of the White House is about to play out across the fields brimming with peach and apple blossoms. Increasingly fruit and vegetable growers like Peters are anxious that they will not be able to fill the thousands of jobs needed to operate and deliver their goods to markets."Certainly the political rhetoric will have an impact," Peters said. "Even before the rhetoric we didn't have enough workers.  The whole need for labor isn't something new that suddenly happened in the last three to four months." But growers are increasingly worried that the anti-immigration rhetoric has the potential of keeping workers away not only out of fear of deportation, but for those who enter legally, out of a desire to avoid being the target of hateful rhetoric."This year I don't think a lot are going to come out of fear," said Garcia, who has worked for Peters for the past four years. "A lot come from far away and they are scared that they will come all that way and the police can come and deport them. I think we are not going to see a lot of workers."