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Trade Negotiations Sow Seeds of Doubt for U.S. Agriculture

Stratfor | Posted on April 14, 2017

Grant Wood's 1930 painting "American Gothic" is quintessential Americana. The austere depiction of a farmer and his land evokes the agrarian core that has long underpinned the United States' geopolitical strength. Today, the U.S. agricultural system is still central to the country's success, though it looks much different now than it did in Wood's time. Small family farms have given way to massive industrial operations, and the agricultural sector as a whole has become far more globalized. In fact, despite its reputation as the "breadbasket of the world," the U.S. agricultural sector depends as much on other countries as they depend on it. The United States exports more than 20 percent of its agricultural production by volume, and export revenues account for about 20 percent of net farm income. As productivity improves each year with help from technological advancements, moreover, it will outpace domestic demand, leaving exports to sustain the U.S. agricultural sector. But the extent to which they can depends in large part on the future of international trade deals such as NAFTA.

What Would You Change About the Federal Government?

OFW Law | Posted on April 14, 2017

President Trump issued an Executive Order (Reorganization EO) on March 13 directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a comprehensive plan to reorganize Executive Branch departments and agencies.  OMB has now issued a Memorandum for heads of Executive Departments and Agencies calling for a Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government an Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.  The Memorandum calls for agencies to take immediate action to achieve near-term workforce reductions and cost savings, including planning for funding levels in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Blueprint; to develop a plan to maximize employee performance by June 30, 2017; and to submit an Agency Reform Plan to OMB this September as part of the agency’s FY 2019 Budget Submission.  An initial, high-level draft of the Agency Reform Plan is due to OMB by June 30. 

China's H7N9 bird flu death toll at 47 in March

Reuters | Posted on April 14, 2017

China reported 47 human fatalities from H7N9 bird flu in March, the national health authority said on Wednesday, compared with 61 deaths in February. It also reported 96 cases of human infection from H7N9 bird flu for last month.

Court requires CAFOs to report air emissions

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on April 13, 2017

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has thrown out a 2008 final rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that had exempted concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from reporting when large quantities of hazardous materials such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are released into the air from animal waste. EPA had reasoned that such reports were unnecessary because a federal response was “impractical and unlikely,” the appeals court noted in its ruling.

NIFA Announces $2.4 Million to Relieve Veterinary Shortages

Bovine Vet Online | Posted on April 11, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $2.4 million in available funding to relieve veterinarian shortage situations and support veterinary services. Funding is made through NIFA's Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. 

China agrees again to allow U.S. beef, ending ban since 2003

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on April 11, 2017

China has agreed once more to allow U.S. beef exports to that country, ending a ban in effect since 2003. The deal was struck over the weekend between President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping.  The opportunity for U.S. beef exporters could be significant. Global AgriTrends calculates the greater China region (China, Hong Kong, Vietnam) as a $7 billion dollar market, according to Stephens Inc. analyst Farha Aslam.In a note to investors, Aslam cautioned, however, that China has twice before agreed to grant market access to U.S. beef but regulatory hurdles have prevented any real trade to materialize.

Activist report finds humane slaughter enforcement lacking

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on April 10, 2017

A new report from the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) concludes that the level of enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act varies dramatically by state, and says repeat violators are a major problem. Overall, humane slaughter enforcement remains low in comparison with other aspects of food safety enforcement, states the report, which is titled, “Humane Slaughter Update: Federal and State Oversight of the Welfare of Meat Animals at Slaughter.” AWI assigns a grade, from A to F, to each of the 27 state-operated meat inspection programs, based on how well they enforce the federal humane slaughter law. Louisiana stands at the bottom of the rankings due to its failure to take any enforcement action for inhumane slaughter in over 12 years, according to the report.

Current Tax Breaks Defended

DTN | Posted on April 10, 2017

Witnesses at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on opportunities for tax reform in rural America declined Wednesday to take a position on the proposed border adjustability tax while saying that a range of current farm and ranch tax breaks should remain in place. Patricia Wolff, senior director for congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that the Farm Bureau has not taken a position on the border adjustability tax because it has positives and negatives, and it has not been put on paper yet."Until we know what the proposal is, it is hard to say the impact it will have on our industry. We need to see how it is structured, how it is written before taking a position," Wolff said under questioning.Wolff noted that the border adjustability tax would tax a product when it is consumed rather than when it is produced. That would mean products being exported would not be taxed, but imports -- including fertilizer and fuel -- would be taxed.Doug Claussen, a certified public accountant with KCoe Isom, LLP, a firm that serves farmers in the Great Plains and California, said that the benefit of not taxing the exported product would go directly to the exporter, and it would be hard for people in agriculture to determine the benefit unless they farm near the border and export directly. A producer in Kansas whose wheat goes to the elevator and from there to the Gulf of Mexico would have a hard time seeing the benefit

Destructive weed threatens U.S. corn fields

Reuters | Posted on April 10, 2017

A U.S. government program designed to convert farmland to wildlife habitat has triggered the spread of a fast-growing weed that threatens to strangle crops in America's rural heartland.The weed is hard to kill and, if left unchecked, destroys as much as 91 percent of corn on infested land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is spreading across Iowa, which accounts for nearly a fifth of U.S. corn production and in 2016 exported more than $1 billion of corn and soy.The federal Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers to remove land from production to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and protect endangered species.The destructive weed - Palmer amaranth – has spread through seed sold to farmers in the conservation program, according to Iowa's top weeds scientist, Bob Hartzler, and the conservation group Pheasants Forever."We are very confident that some of these seed mixes were contaminated," Hartzler said.Hartzler, an Iowa State University agronomy professor, said one seller was Allendan Seed Company, the state's largest producer of local grass and wildflower seeds for conservation land. Palmer amaranth first arrived in Iowa in 2013 but exploded across the state last year, spreading from 5 to 48 of the state's 99 counties, according to Iowa State University. In at least 35 of those counties, the weed was found on land in the conservation program.

Vilsack: Canada intentionally choking off U.S. milk sales

Ag Daily | Posted on April 6, 2017

The National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the International Dairy Foods Association are asking the federal government, and governors in northern states, to take immediate action in response to Canada’s violation of its trade commitments to the United States. Because of the new “Class 7” pricing policy, which is expressly designed to disadvantage U.S. exports to Canada and globally, multiple dairy companies in Wisconsin and New York have been forced to inform many of their supplying farmers that the Canadian market for their exports has dried up. For some farmers, this means that the company processing their milk and shipping it up North can no longer accept it starting in May. This is a direct consequence of the country’s National Ingredients Strategy and new Class 7 milk pricing program. “Canada’s protectionist dairy policies are having precisely the effect Canada intended: cutting off U.S. dairy exports of ultra-filtered milk to Canada despite long-standing contracts with American companies,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “American companies have invested in new equipment and asked dairy farmers to supply the milk to meet demand in the Canadian dairy market. This export access has suddenly disappeared, not because the market is gone, but because the Canadian government has reneged on its commitments.”“Our federal and state governments cannot abide by Canada’s disregard for its trade commitment to the United States and its intentional decision to pursue policies that are choking off sales of American-made milk to the detriment of U.S. dairy farmers,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. “It is deeply concerning that Canada has chosen to continue down a ‘beggar thy neighbor’ path of addressing its internal issues by forcing the U.S. dairy industry to bear the harmful consequences.” Vilsack noted that while farm families in the Northeast and Midwest are suffering the immediate consequences of the loss of Canadian markets, “thousands more will suffer if Canada persists in using its programs to distort the global milk powder markets so critical to tens of thousands of American dairy farmers.”