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Trump promised farmers ‘smarter’ trade deals. Now he has to bail them out.

The Washington Post | Posted on September 6, 2018

“Trade, not aid.” That’s what farmers, ranchers and their elected officials keep telling the Trump administration they want. They have worked hard over the years to grow their export opportunities, forging critical relationships in China, Mexico, the European Union, Canada and other markets. Customers around the world have gobbled up U.S.-produced pork, soybeans, fruits and other goods.Yet in a matter of months, President Trump has managed to fray — and possibly sever — many of those ties.For bogus “national security” reasons, among other rationales, he has provoked nearly every one of our major trading partners into slapping retaliatory tariffs on tens of billions of dollars’ worth of American-made agricultural products.

FDA expands Third-Party Certification program

Daily Intake Blog | Posted on September 6, 2018

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) established the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program, which is a voluntary program that allows “accreditation bodies” to apply for recognition by FDA. Recognized accreditation bodies have the authority to accredit third-party “certification bodies,” otherwise known as third-party auditors. In turn, the certification bodies (1) conduct consultative and/or regulatory food safety audits and (2) issue certifications to eligible entities that produce food for humans and animals. As previously mentioned on this blog, FDA has recognized four accreditation bodies, ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS), and the International Accreditation Services, Inc. (IAS) to assess and accredit certification bodies.Today, FDA notified stakeholders of the recently expanded scope of ANAB’s recognition under the voluntary Accredited Third Party Certification Program. 

From Hawaii to Vermont, States Tackle Efficiency Standards

National Research Defense Council | Posted on September 6, 2018

With the Trump administration slowing progress on energy-saving efficiency standards for appliances, equipment, and electronics that save Americans billions of dollars, states are stepping in to try to fill the gap. So far this year, five states have introduced efficiency standards bills and one—Vermont—passed the bill into law. Vermont joins California as a leadership state with a comprehensive suite of state-level energy efficiency standards. Now that legislative sessions have concluded for the year in many states, here’s a look at what happened and where we could be headed in 2019.The federal appliance standards program sets the minimum energy consumption levels for most of the appliances, equipment, and electronics we use every day. But the federal government isn’t the only player in this space – some states have been setting their own standards since the 1970s for products sold in their states and continue to do so today.Over the past decade or so the federal government has done most of the heavy lifting on efficiency standards, which both we and equipment manufacturers prefer. Advocates like a national standard because it guarantees savings in every state in the country, and it’s easier for manufacturers to comply with one nationwide standard than a patchwork of state standards. The Trump administration has signaled a very different view of standards. While we’re going to keep fighting to protect and preserve national standards and the trillions of dollars in savings for consumers, states can help lead the way by pushing forward standards for additional products.

3 reasons to support farm bill’s nutrition provisions

The Farmer | Posted on September 6, 2018

Proposed changes to the farm bill nutrition title threaten to hang up the conference committee. So, it is as important as ever for farm groups to band with their partners in the nutrition community in calling on Congress to protect the integrity of the consumer food safety net.For organizations such as ours, National Farmers Union and Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, there is little to commend in the House version of the farm bill, which was broadly condemned by progressive ag groups, conservationists and anti-hunger advocates. [“Mazon” is the Hebrew word for “food” or “sustenance.”] For those of us who are deeply concerned about the integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and would like to get a strong farm bill passed into law, our message is clear: The conference committee must adopt the Senate’s nutrition provisions and reject the House position.There are three reasons why ag groups should support upholding the integrity of the farm bill’s nutrition title: policy, process and politics.There are three reasons why ag groups should support upholding the integrity of the farm bill’s nutrition title: policy, process and politics.The bill contains changes that will cause millions of Americans in low-income households to lose their benefits, or have them significantly reduced. Many of these Americans live in rural communities and small towns, where a higher percentage of households (16%) rely on SNAP than in urban areas (13%).The second reason is that the House bill is the product of a flawed process. In contrast to the Senate bill, the House bill was a purely partisan exercise.Which brings us to the third reason that agricultural groups should reject major changes to the nutrition title: the politics of getting a unified farm bill passed in both chambers.

While lawmakers laud compromise, Trump urges SNAP work requirements

The Food & Environment Reporting Network | Posted on September 6, 2018

Farm bill negotiators spoke smilingly of comity and compromise while budging not an inch on major issues such as SNAP work requirements on Wednesday during their first, and possibly last, public meeting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after wryly saying, “I can’t remember the last time I appointed myself to a conference,” told his fellow negotiators that if they fail to enact the farm bill before the Sept. 30 expiration of the current law, it will be “a bipartisan failure of extraordinary notice to our farmers and ranchers.” President Trump called for stronger SNAP work requirements in the bill. House Agriculture chairman Michael Conaway, who called for more money for farm subsidies, said compromise on the farm bill was within reach. “Even on SNAP, I have repeatedly stressed that we are willing and able to come to consensus with the Senate.” However, a string of House Republicans continue to insist that more stringent work requirements are the proper choice.“Frankly, a lot of compromise remains to be done,” said Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts, who is the leader of the 56 House and Senate negotiators. In an opening statement, he said, “Getting a farm bill done is paramount to many other issues and concerns.”

Questionable moves at USDA

National Journal Daily | Posted on September 5, 2018

When the House and Senate farm-bill conference committee meets Wednesday, there are some things they should discuss but probably won’t: the Trump administration’s decisions to place the Agriculture Department’s economic research functions directly under the secretary and to move most of the employees of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture out of Washington. Perdue’s argument is that he plans to move the agencies so that the researchers will be closer to the farmers who benefit from their work. He also said it has become harder to recruit employees from the land-grant universities that graduate most agricultural specialists, because the cost of living in the Washington area is so high.National organizations and leaders who have a stake in the USDA’s leadership have denounced the plans. The first and most outspoken opponent is Sonny Ramaswamy, who was director of NIFA for six years until May when his term was up. On his Facebook page, Ramaswamy wrote, “Is this dumb and shortsighted or what? The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which supports the most successful and envied research and extension enterprise in the world, is being proposed to be basically broken up.”In an interview, Ramaswamy said, “I believe the justification to move NIFA fails on all three reasons cited: staff recruitment and retention; bringing NIFA closer to stakeholders; and cost savings.”

China races to corral an outbreak of deadly African swine fever

Bloomberg | Posted on August 30, 2018

The Korean peninsular and Southeast Asia may be next to report outbreaks of African swine fever after the rapid onset of the deadly pig disease in China, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.China announced its fourth case of the disease last week in the province of Zhejiang, four days after it was reported in neighboring Jiangsu, and some 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from where an initial outbreak was discovered Aug. 3 in northeastern Liaoning province.

Kansas Corn Growers Disappointed with Penny from USDA

KTIC Radio | Posted on August 30, 2018

USDA’s trade aid package is a disappointment to corn farmers, according to Kansas Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley, White Cloud. McCauley commented on the one-cent-per-bushel allocation for corn in the Market Facilitation Program announced by USDA today.“I can’t say ‘thanks for nothing’ but one cent per bushel is close to nothing, In fact, this payment only applies to half of your crop so in reality, that’s a half-cent per bushel at this point. A half-cent is no relief from the market destruction we’ve seen for corn.”Earlier this summer, Kansas Corn leaders told EPA they were “mad as hell” about the more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol waivers handed out to oil refiners, while the agency continutes to drag its feet on allowing year-round market access for E15 fuel.“As a corn farmer, I’m starting to feel picked on by the administration. We’ve had to fight EPA on ethanol waivers and are seeing no movement in allowing year-round E15 sales,” McCauley said. “Now, even though National Corn Growers showed USDA that corn farmers have seen a 44-cent-per-bushel loss due to trade issues, we’re getting a half a penny.”

How U.S. Soybeans Can Skirt Trade-War Tariffs to End Up in China

Bloomberg | Posted on August 30, 2018

U.S. soybeans can still make it to China without paying the 25 percent tariff -- they just have to take a 5,500-mile (8,850-kilometer) diversion via Argentina. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how the trade would happen. An unusual flood of U.S. beans to Argentina could be processed by that nation’s huge crushing industry and sent to China as soy meal. Argentina is the world’s biggest exporter of meal, made from the crushed oilseed and used as animal feed.Beans from the U.S. are going to Argentina after one of the worst droughts in decades crippled production on the Argentine Pampas. Processors such as Cargill Inc. and Bunge Ltd. are cranking up purchases of foreign supplies to make up for the shortfall.

The Farm Bill and the ‘Assault’ on Poor Families

The Atlantic | Posted on August 29, 2018

Before the current farm bill expires on September 30, House and Senate conferees will sit down and try to put the finishing touches on a new, thousand-page bill that speaks to all aspects of the nation’s agriculture policy, from farm subsidies to crop insurance to conservation programs. But the legislation, now nearly four years in the making, could be derailed by work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (snap)—also known as the food-stamp program—some of which food and nutrition experts have described as an “assault” on poor families.If they get their way, House Republicans would impose stricter work requirements on snap recipients than the program has ever seen. Their version of the farm bill dramatically increases the need to work, requiring almost anyone receiving snap benefits, including people with children above the age of 6 and all “able-bodied” adults under the age of 60, to work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours a week. Failure to do so (or failure to report to work- or job-training hours) just once, and they’d lose benefits for a full year. Two strikes, and the penalty increases to three years of lost benefits unless they comply with the requirements or receive an exemption.