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U.S. says farmers could get cash aid by October but will not be made whole

Reuters | Posted on July 31, 2018

U.S. farmers could receive cash payments from a planned $12 billion aid package as soon as late September, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Reuters on Saturday, warning that the program will not make tariff-hit farmers whole. The program includes cash for farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. It offers government purchases of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and nutrition programs. And it promises a trade promotion program to develop new markets.

Trump’s plan to bail out coal, nuclear misguided

The Vindicator | Posted on July 31, 2018

During the 2016 presiden- tial election, Republican Donald J. Trump embraced a simple and straightforward political strategy: Tell the people what they want to hear. Thus, Trump told autoworkers in the Mahoning Valley he would boost domestic production of cars, SUVs and trucks; promised coal miners in West Virginia he would revive the failing mining industry; told former steelworkers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties he would resurrect the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River; assured white Americans that their economic pain was caused by immigrants sneaking into this country and stealing their jobs; and, he told all Americans that unfair trade practices were the reason this country’s imports were far outstripping exports.Finally, the Republican candidate for president told oil and gas producers that his administration’s policies would bolster America’s energy independence and maintain its standing as the world’s leading producer of oil and gas. But the problem with promising everything to everyone is that you have to deliver if you win. And that’s when reality hits.Just ask Bill Siderewicz, president of Boston-based Clean Energy Future LLC., which is building a $900 million natural-gas power plant in the village of Lordstown.Last Sunday, Siderewicz let loose a verbal barrage against President Trump for directing U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to bail out the coal and nuclear industries.

Congresswoman questions USDA on Chinese chicken

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on July 31, 2018

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue questioning USDA’s process for approving three new Chinese poultry processing plants as eligible to export product to the United States. DeLauro says internal emails, produced through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) took a “stunningly passive approach” in that process, and that two of those three facilities were not audited by the agency.

Trump’s renewable fuels policy really cost corn growers $3.65 billion in 2017?

Biofuels Digest | Posted on July 30, 2018

In Washington, new evidence has appeared that a Trump Administration shift on US low carbon fuel policy may have cost US corn growers an estimated $3.65 billion. The mechanism? A secretive effort by Administration officials installed at the US Environmental Protection Agency that destroyed an estimated 1.37 billion gallons of annual demand for low-carbon renewable fuels, in favor of fossil fuels. Officials at the agency exploited a loophole in US low carbon fuel legislation that allows small oil refineries to gain hardship waivers in cases of severe distress from complying in full with US low carbon fuel laws.  Now, evidence on the scale and nature of hardship waivers has appeared in response to Freedom of Information Act and Congressional requests.  The EPA has now acknowledged that the number of hardship waivers granted in 2017 by the Trump Administration is nine times the average annual level granted from 2013 to 2015.Based on EPA’s admissions, the Renewable Fuels Association estimates that “small refiner exemptions have resulted in effectively lowering the 2017 required volume of renewable fuels by 1.37 billion gallons, or 7%. The data also show that small refiner exemptions also effectively reduced the 2016 RFS requirement by 523 million gallons.”The losers? Corn growers, it appears. In 2013 the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University published a study which looked at the impact on corn prices from a 1.4 billion gallon decrease in ethanol demand. The Center found that the impact was 25 cents per bushel. Applying that figure to the 14.6 billion bushel 2017 corn crop leads to the lost profits figure of $3.65 billion.

A unified meat industry is appealing directly to Trump to settle the cell-cultured meat debate

Quartz | Posted on July 30, 2018

The American meat industry today sent a letter to the White House, appealing directly to the president to clarify the regulatory future of high-tech, cell-cultured meats. The letter asks Donald Trump to give the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) sole regulatory authority over a class of products that have not yet hit the consumer market: meat grown from cells in a process that doesn’t require slaughtering animals or running large-scale farms that pump massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The one-page document was signed by the so-called Washington, DC “barnyard,” which includes seven powerful trade groups representing the interests of an industry that contributes roughly $1 trillion to the American economy each year. The FDA has been adamant that it should be the agency to do the job, taking the bold step on July 12 of hosting a public meeting to discuss how future food safety and food package labeling policy might be shaped. That meeting was the first time cell-cultured meat companies, traditional meat groups, health advocates, animal welfare activists, and government officials convened in the same room to discuss the topic. But meat groups took umbrage at the FDA’s seemingly unilateral action, and are now for the first time asking as a unified chorus that the USDA be assigned oversight power. T “If cell-cultured protein companies want the privilege of marketing their products as meat and poultry products to the American public, in order to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace, they should be happy to follow the same rules as everyone else,” the letter states.

How farm aid became a fixture

The Wall Street Journal-subscription may be required | Posted on July 30, 2018

The U.S. government has been spending directly on agricultural-support programs ever since the Great Depression.  “Most of these [programs] were put in place in the 1930s originally as temporary programs,” said Joseph Glauber, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Here we are, however many years later, and they’re ingrained.”Over the century following the country’s founding, the U.S. government supported agricultural production through steps such as public land sales and establishing the land-grant university system, which pursues regional crop research. Government spending also funded early irrigation and drainage projects that boosted agricultural output.It worked—in some cases, too well. American farmers’ expanding harvests helped pushed down crop prices in the years leading up to the Great Depression, prompting the government to look at national-level farm support programs. The 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act, part of the Depression-era New Deal, introduced government price supports, paying farmers to leave grain and cotton fields idle and shrink hog herds. The government also purchased farm goods and subsidized export sales. Farm incomes improved, but the U.S. agricultural sector didn’t fully recover until World War II jump-started demand.

Trump’s trade war boosts the economy — before it bites

Politico | Posted on July 30, 2018

President Donald Trump is likely to get one of the best headlines of his presidency on Friday with a highly tweetable report expected to show the U.S. economy grew at its fastest rate in years in the second quarter.But the big number risks becoming fool’s gold.Economists warn that Trump’s trade war sped up U.S. exports in the second quarter as China and other countries rushed to snap up American soybeans and other products ahead of impending tariffs, lifting growth in ways likely to be reversed in the coming months. And as Trump continues to argue that the strong economy and stock market offer him leeway to press his aggressive approach, his trade battles could wind up slowing an economy that is among the GOP’s strongest selling points to voters.“We are going to see a spike in growth in the second quarter that’s in part related to front-loaded soybeans and other exports and that’s going to be paid back in the next quarter,” said Eric Winograd, senior U.S. economist at Alliance-Bernstein.Wall Street’s concern over potential trade wars was on display Wednesday as shares spiked on initial reports of a deal between the U.S. and the E.U. to avoid Trump’s threatened 20 percent tariffs

State Ag Officials Praise FDA For Produce Safety Funding

NASDA | Posted on July 26, 2018

Members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) today praised the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their expanded $32.5 million commitment to 46 states and one territory to support the proper implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. “NASDA Members have a long history of successfully working with farmers to grow our safe food supply,” said NASDA CEO Dr. Barbara P. Glenn. “We praise the FDA for making their largest funding commitment to date as we work cooperatively towards the proactive and integrated food safety system envisioned by Congress in 2011.”FDA received funding to initiate the integrated food safety system in 2016. The number of states receiving funding to implement the Produce Safety rule has grown from 42 in 2016 to now 46 and one territory. Funding has steadily grown from $21.8 to $32.5 million. The state agency cooperating with FDA in 44 of the states is the department of agriculture. The vast majority of funding recipients are operating education and outreach programming as well as compliance and enforcement. FDA will have a presence in states and territories who have not applied to cooperatively implement the rule.

Midwest Lawmakers United Against Tariffs as Trump Unveils Farm Bailout

Roll Call | Posted on July 26, 2018

Lawmakers from the Midwest are sticking together in their criticism of President Donald Trump for the White House’s bailout proposal for farmers acutely feeling the recoil of a trade war the president himself started. Across party and ideological lines, senators and House members from Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, and elsewhere across the Midwest assailed Trump’s plan to send an additional $12 billion to farmers affected by Chinese and European counter-tariffs on U.S. agriculture.

USDA Announces $12 Billion Short-Term Tariff Relief Program

Ag Web | Posted on July 26, 2018

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a $12 billion program to help farmers who are currently bearing the brunt of President Trump’s trade tactics.  The programs include a market facilitation program which would result in farmer payments, a food purchase and distribution program which would purchase surplus of goods going to nutrition programs, and a trade promotion program to provide private sector assistance to new markets.  “The Trump Tariff Aid plan draws on the financial resources of a program known as the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and Section 32 funding,” said Jim Wiesemeyer Pro Farmer’s Washington policy analyst. “The initiative does not authorize any new money and thus not need approval from Congress. But U.S. taxpayers will see deficits go still higher.” Officials called this program a "one-time" action. While farmers should be prepared to take advantage of the program, how it will actually work is still unclear.“USDA says it will take some time to develop the needed rules and regulations for the efforts and there will be a Federal Register notice published,” Wiesemeyer said. “There will be a relatively simple signup —producers will need to tell USDA what their 2018 production is for the crops targeted, and that level of what they actually produced times a payment rate and producers would get a payment based on that formula.”Specific details for how the program will work, how the program will be implemented and how farmers can sign up for payments have not been announced. According to USDA undersecretary, Greg Ibach, the details will be released closer to Labor Day when USDA plans to fully implement the program.