READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, November 20th

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USDA Cancels Trade Aid to Smithfield

The Department of Agriculture has canceled trade mitigation program payments to Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods following industry complaints. Politico reports USDA canceled a $250,000 contract with Smithfield following public complaints that a Chinese-owned company would receive U.S. relief funds intended for farmers losing money from the U.S.-China trade war. Smithfield has requested that USDA terminate the contract and no funds have been transferred, according to USDA. The contract was part of the Food Purchase and Distribution Program within the $12 billion trade mitigation package. Iowa Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley was a vocal critic of the payment, saying he didn’t understand why Smithfield qualifies for the funding that was meant to help U.S. farmers. Last month, a Smithfield Foods statement noted the company met USDA’s eligibility standards, while pointing out the Smithfield is still a U.S.-based company employing thousands of Americans and that its U.S. meat products are made in its nearly 50 domestic facilities.

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Former China Trade Chief Criticizes Handling of Trade War

China’s former trade chief says the nation’s tactics in the trade war with the U.S. are not well thought out. In criticizing the handling of the trade war, Long Yongtu (Lawgn Yawng-Too) told a Chinese media event that it was inappropriate to involve political considerations in trade talks, according to the South China Morning Post. The official said: “We don’t think deeply enough,” referring to the focus on politics rather than economic impact. He claimed it was “unwise” to impose tariffs on U.S. soybeans because “targeting agricultural products should be the last resort.” China responded at the beginning of the tit-for-tat trade war by implementing a 25 percent duty on U.S. soybeans, altering global soybean trade. Yongtu said, “China is in dire need of soybean imports.” China has sourced much of its recent soybean purchases from Brazil since the start of the trade war with the United States.

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USDA, FDA, Agree to Joint Cell-Cultured Food Oversight

The Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration agreed to a joint regulation of cell-cultured foods. The announcement last week follows a public meeting from last month featuring discussion on how best to regulate cell-cultured, or so-called lab-grown products. Feedback from the meeting suggested a joint-regulatory approach. Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports that FDA will manage cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. USDA will take over during the cell harvest stage, and then will oversee production and labeling of cell-based meat products. The two agencies will work out technical details on collaboration and information sharing. In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib said, “USDA and FDA are confident that this regulatory framework can be successfully implemented and assure the safety of these products.”

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USCA Encouraged by Cell-cultured Joint Regulation

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association applauded the joint regulatory effort on cell-cultured products announced last week. The organization says the announcement by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration follows suggestions from its membership. FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labeling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry. USCA says it has “repeatedly stated that interagency collaboration is key” for this regulation. As the process moves forward, USCA says rulemaking to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on the definitions of ‘beef’ and ‘meat’ must be addressed. USCA says labeling must be truthful and transparent for consumers.

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Midwest Farmland Values Mixed

Midwest farmland values were mixed in the third quarter, according to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. An agriculture survey from the Chicago Fed, as part of a slew of third quarter Fed reports, show farmland values were one percent lower than last year. The district covers parts of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. This was the first quarterly decline for agricultural land values in the region since the fourth quarter of 2016. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents expected farmland values to be stable during the fourth quarter of 2018, but 32 percent expected a decrease in farmland values in the final quarter of this year and only two percent expected an increase. However, the report says agricultural land values would have experienced more downward pressure in the absence of exceptional crop yields. In 2018, the region’s corn and soybean yields jumped to all-time highs, 198 bushels per acre for corn and 59 bushels per acre for soybeans.

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Ag Coalition Discusses Trade with Cuba

Delegates from the U.S. agriculture industry were in Cuba earlier this month for the Cuba-U.S. Agriculture Business Conference. The 20 conference participants met with Cuban government officials and farmers. While about 30 percent of Cuba’s land area is currently used for farming, Cuban farmers do not have access to the latest technologies, equipment and inputs. Much of the food for Cuba’s 11 million people and four million annual tourists must be imported, including an estimated 30 million bushels of wheat, which comes primarily from the EU and Canada. There are many advantages of importing food from the United States, most notably the proximity in terms of getting high-quality food in a timely and freight-efficient manner. Arkansas U.S. Representative Rick Crawford spoke to the group regarding legislation that would allow for better trade of food between the U.S. and Cuba. Crawford said “It’s about U.S. ag commodities and market access to areas that have really been difficult for us, and this is a market that I would certainly like to see us participate in.”

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.