READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, November 15th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Incoming House Majority Demanding USMCA Changes

With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, key party leaders in the chamber are demanding changes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. The USMCA, an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, is expected to be signed by the U.S., Mexico and Canada during the upcoming G-20 summit at the end of this month. However, Congress must approve the deal on a simple up or down vote. New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, who is positioned to chair the Ways and Means Trade subcommittee, says there needs “to be not only changes in the legislation but more enforcement.” Bloomberg News reports that with a presidential election in 2020, Democrats may be reluctant to approve a deal negotiated by Trump. Democrats may push for tougher labor provisions, a consistent demand by the party in an updated trade agreement. However, so far, no specific changes have been mentioned.

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60 Groups Urge Congress to Protect USDA Agencies from Reorganization

60 farm and food groups, along with others, are urging Congress to block a proposed move of Department of Agriculture agencies out of the Washington, D.C. area. The group penned a letter to leaders of the House and Senate agricultural appropriations subcommittees requesting they protect the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Announced by the American Statistical Association this week, the coalition requested that agriculture appropriators “specify that no funding be used for relocation or realignment of ERS and that no funding be used for the NIFA relocation beyond that already provided for its relocation within the National Capital Region.” The letter states the fundamental concern is that the proposed relocation and realignment will undermine the quality and breadth of the work the agencies support and perform, “work that is vital to informing and supporting U.S. agriculture, food and rural economies.”

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China: Tests Shows Feed Not Contaminated with ASF

Tests show African Swine Fever in China is not linked animal feed, according to a Chinese pork firm. Reuters reports tests “failed to confirm” the presence of African Swine Fever in animal feeds. The test came after recent reports that suspected ASF was linked to animal feed produced by a Chinese company. However, the company confirmed testing failed to show a link. Raw materials and finished products of animal feed were collected and tested last week. Still, contaminated feed is feared to be a contributor in China’s widespread outbreak of ASF, which reportedly has resulted in the deaths of 200,000 pigs since early August. China has previously blamed the outbreak on food scraps, often fed to backyard pigs. Last month, China confirmed 62 percent of the first 21 outbreaks were related to the feeding of kitchen waste. Regulations require that kitchen waste is heated before being fed to pigs, but experts say that step is often skipped. The practice has since been banned.

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Senate Ag Committee Announces Consideration of USDA Nominations

The Senate Agriculture Committee will consider three Department of Agriculture nominations later this month. The Committee will consider the nominations of Mindy Brashears, Naomi Earp, and Scott Hutchins. The hearing was announced by Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow. Brashears, of Texas, is nominated to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, while Earp, of Maryland, is nominated to be an Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Civil Rights. Finally,  Hutchins, of Indiana, is nominated to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education and Economics. Brashears is a current Texas Tech professor, while Earp has once served as the chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, appointed by then-President George W. Bush. And, Hutchins, an entomologist, is a Corteva employee. The committee must consider and approve the nominations that would then be considered by the full Senate. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, November 28th.

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Turkey Prices at Ten Year Low

Ahead of Thanksgiving, turkey prices have hit a ten-year low. A report by Purdue University estimates turkey prices this year for Thanksgiving will average $1.45 per pound. Jayson Lusk, a professor and department head of Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics, says lower commodity prices, such as corn and soybeans used to make feed for animals, is “one of the drivers.” However, the lower prices are a sign of the depressed farm economy, Lusk says, that doesn’t seem to be reversing any time soon. Low food prices can have a ripple effect on other areas of the economy, especially around the holidays when consumer spending spikes. Lusk said it is likely savings accrued during Thanksgiving will be used to supplement holiday or Black Friday shopping.

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Citrus Greening, Storm Damage, Lead to Increased Citrus Imports

Imports of oranges are increasing with domestic production slowing due to citrus greening. A new report by CoBank shows domestic orange acreage is down almost 40 percent from its high of 20 years ago. Citrus greening is the leading cause for the decline, along with recent hurricanes in various citrus growing regions in the United States. CoBank says The U.S. sources virtually all its orange juice imports from Brazil and Mexico, with Brazil accounting for 66 percent of imports in 2017. In Florida, orange production is expected to continue to decline over the next three years as old groves devastated by greening disease are gradually replaced and new ones come into production. In the meantime, imports from Brazil will likely increase. In 2017 the U.S. imported 34.8 million and 17.9 million single strength equivalent gallons of orange juice from Brazil and Mexico respectively, accounting for 99.3 percent of orange juice imports. While supplies have been shrinking, so too has domestic demand for the juice. Current consumption of 2.4 gallons per capita is less than half of the peak of nearly six gallons per capita in the late 1990s.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.