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Accurate labels act introduced in Congress

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 8, 2018

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) on Thursday introduced the Accurate Labels Act, bipartisan legislation to provide consumers with clear nutrition information and prevent the issuance of inaccurate, misleading labels. The act would ensure that consumers have access to accurate and easy-to-understand product information by: Establishing science-based criteria for all additional state and local labeling requirements; Allowing state-mandated product information to be provided through smartphone-enabled “smart labels” and on websites, where consumers can find up-to-date, relevant ingredients and warnings; and Ensuring that covered product information is risk-based.


USDA’s Farmers.gov Receives $10 Million in Funding for Development

USDA | Posted on June 8, 2018

the Technology Modernization Fund Board (Board) awarded funding to support the development of USDA’s Farmers.gov customer experience portal, which helps better connect America’s farmers, ranchers, conservationists, and private foresters with vital USDA resources and programs. The Board is chaired by the Federal Chief Information Officer for the Office of Management and Budget .  Following the funding announcement from OMB, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said, “Farmers.gov will provide a user-friendly portal for connecting agricultural producers to the USDA services and programs they need. This new resource also will reduce the time farmers need to take away from their fields today to fill out paperwork. We are very pleased that Farmers.gov is receiving funding to continue its development so USDA can improve the way we deliver services to our customers.”  Farmers.gov is mobile device-friendly and can identify for farmers the most convenient USDA office locations. Additional functions will be added to the site, including an interactive calendar, an online appointment feature, digital forms, and a business data dashboard. Additionally, when the 2018 Farm Bill is signed into law, there will be plain language program descriptions and a tool to determine eligibility.


Senate Ag Leaders Announce No-Drama Farm Bill

Agriculture.com | Posted on June 8, 2018

The Senate Agriculture Committee will vote next week on a bipartisan farm bill that makes few changes to food stamps, farm supports, and crop insurance, a marked contrast to the decision by House Republicans to pursue welfare reform in their farm bill. The biggest argument at the Senate “mark up” was expected to be over tougher limits on subsidies. Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts and the senior Democrat on the panel, Debbie Stabenow, said the committee vote on the farm bill, scheduled for Wednesday, will mean timely consideration of “a bipartisan bill that will provide much-needed certainty for agriculture, families, and rural America.” Details of the bill were not expected to become public until Friday due to last-minute glitches in drafting some of the bill’s language and assuring that the legislation would not cost more than the roughly $87 billion a year that is available.


China warns US trade deals off if tariffs go ahead

Washington Examiner | Posted on June 5, 2018

China warned Sunday after another round of talks on a sprawling trade dispute with Washington that any deals they produce "will not take effect" if President Donald Trump's threatened tariff hike on Chinese goods goes ahead. Tuesday's announcement revived fears the conflict between the two biggest economies might dampen global growth or encourage other governments to raise their own barriers to imports. "If the United States introduces trade sanctions including a tariff increase, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will not take effect," said the Chinese statement, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency. The negotiating process should be "based on the premise" of not fighting a "trade war," the statement said.


Trade, Trust and Trump

DTN | Posted on June 5, 2018

Regardless whether you're a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or a card-carrying Mugwump, I think we can all agree that President Donald Trump is a man not afraid to change his mind. Of course, that's not to say that everyone would characterize this unique flexibility in the same way. But while I'm glad President Trump is not demonically possessed by an irrational need to strictly "stay the course" for its own sake, I am increasingly troubled by the reckless way he likes to shoot from the hip in matters of global trade.The seeds of mistrust now being sown among many of our major trading partners makes me wonder if the White House truly understands the evolutionary nature of the international marketplace, a networking process that slowly improves over time as "non-zero" relationships (i.e., net import and export sums that benefit both sides of a trade) proliferate and compound. But if this criticism is too harsh on the Trump administration, I feel more confident in saying that the president and his entire motley crew (given the extremely short truce in the trade war with China declared just last week, it seems clear that not every team member is rowing in the same direction) could benefit from a season or two of demanding fieldwork and farm management. As far as I'm concerned, the great and abiding ethos of agricultural marketing has always been summarized by the pledge "my word is my bond." Many may think this sounds quaint and unrealistic. But I still think it's the fundamental nail that guarantees 95% or more of the country's farm business. Nevertheless, I would have no qualms testifying before Congress (or perhaps more to the point, chatting over drinks at Mar-a-Lago) about agriculture's extraordinarily high commitment to honor and trust in matters of commerce. Maybe I'm hopelessly naive. But I've seen too many unhedged farmers dutifully deliver contracted corn dollars under the spot market and too many unhedged feedlot managers accept delivery on fall calves tens of dollars above the spot market to think otherwise.


Mexico pork tariff threats push Iowa losses to $560 million

Des Moines Register | Posted on June 4, 2018

Iowa pork producers already dealing with a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork exports to China could face another trade hit, with Mexico considering a 20 percent tariff on hams and pork shoulders.Growing trade worries have cut pork prices in recent weeks, costing Iowa producers about $560 million, said Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University economist.Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. pork, based on volume.Mexico bought $1.5 billion of U.S. pork last year, followed by China-Hong Kong at nearly $1.1 billion.The tariffs are "potentially devastating news for Iowa’s pig farmers and the rural Iowa economy," said Gregg Hora, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.


American farmers worry they'll pay the price of Trump's trade war

The Guardian | Posted on June 4, 2018

As Donald Trump’s trade war escalates, a lot of farmers are worried. Trump was elected, in part, on a promise to put America’s interests first and crack down on what he characterises as a world trade system rigged against the US. But until recently the president has acted like many of his predecessors – talking tough on the campaign trail but backtracking in the White House. All that has changed. Week after week, Trump’s trade talk has seemed to harden. “One of the most concerning things is how this is escalating,” said David Salmonsen, the senior director for congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of US agriculture’s most powerful lobby groups. As the harvesting season begins, China, Mexico, Canada and the EU are all threatening retaliation over Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium. Agriculture is in the firing line. Farmers are often the first to feel the hit in trade disputes that may not involve their own products, said Salmonsen. This time, the scale of the dispute could hardly be worse: US agricultural exports are worth about $140bn a year. Canada and Mexico import about $39bn worth, China’s share is $20bn and the EU around $12bn. All those countries have threatened retaliation over metal tariffs. The problem is that no one, perhaps not even Trump, seems to know what will happen next. Days after the US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said a trade war with China was “on hold”, the senior trade adviser Peter Navarro dismissed that comment as an “unfortunate soundbite”. Senior Republicans including the House speaker, Paul Ryan, have called for Trump to rein in his rhetoric. Conservative economists are disappointed. “It is just increasing tensions,” said Jacqueline Varas, the director of immigration and trade policy at the conservative American Action Forum. “Uncertainty is a huge factor.”


Section 301 Tariffs Coming

NASDA | Posted on May 31, 2018

The White House announced in a statement that it will impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods imported from China shortly by June 15, when a final list of covered imports will be announced. Moreover, by June 30 the U.S. “will implement specific investment restrictions and enhance export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology.” The Tuesday announcement came less than 10 days after the U.S. and Chinese governments issued a joint statement in which they signaled continued negotiations and a willingness from China to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural goods and products.  China has already imposed $2 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports in response to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs. China has previously announced that if the U.S. were to implement the $50 billion in tariffs as part of the Section 301 investigation, they would retaliate with an equal amount of tariffs. The Chinese retaliatory tariff list includes an additional 25 percent tariff on U.S. agricultural and food products, impacting approximately $16.5 billion worth of imports from the U.S.


State inspection programs – the debate continues

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on May 30, 2018

A new bill has been introduced that would permit state-inspected meat and poultry to be shipped anywhere in the country. Twenty-seven states have inspection programs that have been judged ‘equal to’ the federal inspection program run by FSIS.  Generally, however, meat and poultry produced in a plant under a state program can be sold in-state only. One might ask, “Why is state-inspected meat prohibited from crossing the state line if it was produced in a plant under an inspection system ‘equal to’ the FSIS system?”  With such a query, the argument begins anew.A skeptic might say, “State programs are not really equal to the federal program.  Political pressure is all that keeps these state programs operating.”In reply we hear, “Many state programs operate quite successfully, some with former FSIS personnel having returned home to live and work.”Another disbeliever will exclaim, “States only run their programs to collect the 50 percent support the feds supply.”An astute observer responds, “FSIS always opposes interstate movement of state-inspected meat and poultry products because the agency doesn’t want to see its monopoly of inspection funds diminished.”Others exclaim, “It wouldn’t be safe to allow state inspected products to move freely around the country.”A common rejoinder sounds like this, “Meat or poultry products from three dozen countries are eligible to enter the U.S. and cross state lines.  Foreign programs only need to be ‘equivalent’ to that of FSIS, allowing for important differences.  State programs must be ‘equal to’ the FSIS program.”In my opinion, federally approved state programs should be able to export their meat and poultry products anywhere within the United States.  Also, the states should be held to the international standard of ‘equivalent to’ FSIS.


Farm Bill Fail

Daily Yonder | Posted on May 30, 2018

 

The Republican bill that died in the House last week somehow managed to simultaneously offend liberals, conservatives and moderates. The Freedom Caucus gets the blame -- or credit – for defeating the bill, but the more interesting story is why their small number of votes mattered to a bill that is usually a bipartisan slam dunk. The main headlines and analysis of the defeat is focused on the House Freedom Caucus, several members having voted against the bill in an attempt to force a vote on stricter immigration policies. Politico’s Rachel Bade, for instance, reported that, “House Republicans are at each other’s throats after the Freedom Caucus delivered a shock to party leaders on Friday by killing a key GOP bill over an unrelated simmering feud over immigration.”It’s certainly true that the Freedom Caucus played a role in defeating the bill, but it’s also true that numerous Republican moderates were part of the no-vote bloc. Additionally, the Democrats’ 100% opposition is unprecedented in farm bill debates. That’s because farm bills have a long history of bipartisan collaboration and cooperation, a governing norm that was brought up repeatedly as representatives spoke out against the bill during floor debate.


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