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Global trade can make or break American farmers

The Hill | Posted on March 23, 2018

The new tariffs are in direct response to China’s overproduction of steel and aluminum, keeping costs artificially low so that other countries can’t compete — a practice widely known as “dumping.” While the administration has called this act out as cheating, it fails to acknowledge that U.S. agricultural policy has done the same for decades, with an even more critical resource: food. Agricultural dumping — the practice of exporting commodities at prices below the cost of production — can be devastating for farmers in importing countries, while creating unfair competition for producers in exporting countries. The irony in the administration imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum is that one of the U.S.’s main complaints about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) involves Canada’s protection of its dairy industry. Canada’s production quotas prevent farmers from under- or over-producing milk and limit the amount of dairy that can be imported without tariffs. The policy takes farmers’ cost of production into consideration and pays them a fair price, stabilizing prices and supply. This guarantees a fair price to consumers while ensuring a fresh, local milk supply from family farms and does not involve any taxpayer-funded subsidies.Meanwhile, U.S. farmers are now in their fourth year of receiving milk prices below their cost of production. Farmers have had to pour out millions of gallons of milk, literally watching their incomes run down the drain.Farm and trade policies encourage U.S. dairy farmers to produce as much as possible, leading to boom-and-bust cycles that drive small farms out of business and compel mid- and large-sized farms to keep getting bigger.


In a U.S.-China trade war, Trump voters likely get hurt the most

The Washington Post | Posted on March 23, 2018

Politicians, economists and executives agree China isn't playing fair on trade. But there's a lot of disagreement about whether President Trump's hefty tariffs are the right weapon for fighting back. American farmers and Walmart shoppers are likely to feel pain in this fight, and a lot of them voted for Trump. There are two ways Americans are highly likely to get hurt in a U.S.-China trade spat. First, prices on a lot of items will almost certainly rise, and second, China is going to hit back with tariffs on American products. The other knock is expected to come when China fights back. Senior Chinese officials have made it clear they'll take “necessary measures” to retaliate for Trump's tariffs. All indications from Beijing are that China's countertariffs will target goods and jobs in parts of the United States that voted for Trump. At the top of China's list are agricultural products such as soybeans and hogs.Soybeans and grains are the second-largest U.S. export to China. Trump carried eight of the top 10 soy-exporting states, and the critical swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin are in the top 15 soybean exporters, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Airplanes, the top U.S. export to China, could also end up on the hit list.


House GOP to push farm bill linking food stamps to job training

Bloomberg | Posted on March 23, 2018

House Republicans will pursue a law reauthorizing food assistance and farm subsidies without Democratic support after negotiations over changes to the so-called food-stamp program broke down, the chairman of the chamber’s Agriculture Committee said. The Republican plan will boost job training for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, while taking people off the rolls who use state eligibility guidelines to qualify even though they exceed federal asset limits, Representative Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, said Thursday in Washington.Thresholds for assets and incomes also will be updated, while raising the top age at which work requirements for recipients kick in -- a provision at which Democrats balked -- remains up for debate, he said. The panel’s top Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, did not immediately respond to Conaway’s announcement. "The Democratic members have made clear that they unanimously oppose the farm bill’s SNAP language as it has been described to them and reported in the press," Peterson said in a statement last week. "I will not be continuing negotiations with the chairman per the unanimous request of all Democratic members of the committee."


SARL member, Cindy Hyde-Smith Gets Appointment to Mississippi Senate Seat

Roll Call | Posted on March 22, 2018

Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith will be going to the U.S. Senate next month. Gov. Phil Bryant formally tapped the Republican agriculture and commerce commissioner to fill the unexpired term of Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, who is poised to go out with a win on an omnibus spending bill. Currently in his seventh term, Cochran is resigning effective April 1 for health reasons. The senator-designee highlighted her work as agriculture commissioner, while praising President Donald Trump’s work on rolling back regulations, making specific reference to the Waters of the United States rule. Hyde-Smith, a former state senator, also noted her involvement in what was also one of Cochran’s many priorities: the establishment and maintenance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s catfish inspection program. The regulation of catfish and a similar species from Asia has been key to the domestic catfish industry.


Examining Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture

USDA | Posted on March 22, 2018

Agricultural production has shifted to larger farms over the last three decades. Technology has been the primary driver of this shift, which has been large and widespread across crop and livestock commodities. Despite the shift to larger operations, family businesses still dominate U.S. agriculture: consolidation has shifted acreage and production to larger family farms.


Trump’s Under-Radar Farm Chief Remakes Agency

Bloomberg | Posted on March 22, 2018

Perdue is the U.S. secretary of agriculture, running an agency with a $140 billion budget and a low profile. He may be the most aggressive enforcer of President Donald Trump’s pro-business and deregulatory agenda that the fewest Americans have ever heard of. The short Perdue list includes reversing a regulation to boost protection of the welfare of animals in organic-food production; supporting revocation of a 2015 clean-water directive; axing another Obama-era decree giving small poultry producers more power to sue big buyers such as Tyson Foods Inc.; and reorganizing the USDA to give more official power to staffers tasked with promoting production and trade rather than food safety or rural development. Yet there is at least one area important to farmers and Trump where the agriculture secretary has been at odds with his boss: trade. Trump wants to erect new barriers while Perdue and many farmers who depend on exports do not.


Trump hit with new round of immigration lawsuits

The Washington Times | Posted on March 22, 2018

Frustrated with both President Trump and Congress, immigrant-rights activists increasingly are turning to the courts to try to alter the country’s immigration policies — with three new lawsuits filed on Thursday alone against the Department of Homeland Security. One of the suits demands that deportation officers stop arresting illegal immigrants at courthouses, while another accuses Homeland Security of unfairly detaining asylum-seekers while their cases are being heard.A third challenge asks a court to overturn Homeland Security’s decision to end special humanitarian protections for some 50,000 Haitians who will become illegal immigrants in 2019 after their Temporary Protected Status runs out.


U.S. lawmakers seek overhaul of overseas food aid rules

Reuters | Posted on March 22, 2018

U.S. lawmakers launched their latest effort to ease restrictions on international food assistance programs, which they say would free hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get aid to millions more hungry people around the world. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives introduced the “Food for Peace Modernization Act of 2018” which they want to include in the 2018 farm bill. Among other things, the bill would end a requirement that 100 percent of food aid commodities be produced in the United States, changing it to 25 percent. This, the sponsors argue, would drastically cut the amount of food aid money spent on overhead costs like shipping. The measure would also end a requirement to “monetize” food aid, which the bill’s sponsors described as a process in which aid groups must sell U.S. food overseas and use proceeds of those sales to fund development programs.


Zinke brought security team to vacation in Turkey and Greece, records show

Politico | Posted on March 21, 2018

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife took a security detail on their vacation to Greece and Turkey last year, official documents show, in what one watchdog group said could be a "questionable" use of taxpayer resources. Zinke has faced questions for months over his travel expenses and use of official resources, as have other members of President Donald Trump's administration such as EPA leader Scott Pruitt, who was revealed to have spent $30,000 on security for an official trip to Italy last year.


Congress strikes deal to add 'grain glitch' fix to omnibus

Politico | Posted on March 21, 2018

The $1.3 trillion government spending bill expected to be released Wednesday includes a remedy for the so-called grain glitch in the Republican tax law that gives farmers lucrative incentives to sell their products to agricultural cooperatives over other types of businesses, two House GOP aides familiar with the negotiations said. Securing the legislative language, which would amend the Section 199A deduction in the tax code, was among a host of sticking points that congressional leaders had to work out in the final hours of negotiations after Democrats demanded a compromise that would boost the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit in exchange.Democrats at one point had sworn off cooperating with Republicans to fix technical errors and unintended consequences of the partisan tax overhaul, H.R. 1 (115), which cleared Congress with great speed in December. But many vulnerable Democrats facing reelection battles this year in farm states pushed for the Section 199A remedy to be included in the spending package to respond to the outcry from their agricultural sectors back home.The House is hoping to vote on the measure Thursday, which would give the Senate just one day to clear the deal before government funding expires at the end of the day Friday.The technical points of the proposal to change Section 199A were agreed to last week by House and Senate GOP lawmakers after weeks of negotiations with two farm groups — the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the National Grain and Feed Association.While the problem has been dubbed the "grain glitch," it also threatened to disrupt other markets like dairy, livestock and biofuels.


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