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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, February 28th

Perdue: Remove Tariffs to Pass USMCA

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue used a football analogy to describe the process of passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He calls passage more of a “field goal” than a touchdown. Perdue says the reason for the difficulty is the administration hasn’t yet removed the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from two key North American trading partners. Perdue tells reporters this week that he’ll consider it a “touchdown, a more certain success when we get those tariffs removed.” When the trade pact negotiations were moving along smoothly, Canada and Mexico were exempt from the tariffs. However, when things stalled, that exemption came to an end. As was expected, Mexico and Canada both hit back with retaliatory tariffs. Mexican tariffs have hit American agriculture hard on cheese, pork, apples, and potatoes. Perdue says the tariffs need to go as they accomplished the goal of getting Mexico and Canada to the negotiating table. “Once you’ve achieved your goals with the tariffs, then it’s probably time to look at other ways,” Perdue says. He realizes that the tariffs remain a thorn in the process of getting the deal ratified in all three countries.

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Ag Labor Fix is Tough to Predict

Lawmakers and agriculture industry groups met face-to-face on Capitol Hill this week to discuss the serious labor shortage facing American farmers. They discussed the possibility of a comprehensive legislative package that would ease the chronic problem by legalizing undocumented workers and supporting a steady influx of laborers from other countries. Washington state Representative Dan Newhouse took part in a panel discussion, saying, “This isn’t something we have the luxury of time to take to solve. This is hurting our industry as we speak.” There are two ag labor bills that have been introduced so far this session. They would take care of parts of the broader issue. However, a comprehensive fix has yet to appear. Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts still thinks a bipartisan solution to the problem is possible. “If we can figure out a combination here that makes sense, I think we can sell this,” Roberts says. Politico says the effort to solve the problem could get a boost from President Trump. At the American Farm Bureau national convention last month, the president said he would be pushing for legislation to make the process of hiring more guest workers easier for farmers to accomplish.

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State Ag Departments Want Hemp Standards, USMCA Approval

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture held its winter meeting this week in Virginia. The organization adopted new policies they’d like to see put in place. The Hagstrom Report says NASDA is looking for new policies at the federal level encouraging uniformity among states in hemp regulations. For example, a lack of uniformity in field-sampling standards could cause potential problems in hemp crossing state lines. NASDA is asking the Food and Drug Administration to work with states and develop a model regulatory framework to oversee hemp processing, as well as the manufacturing of hemp-based products. The organization also adopted a policy of asking Congress and President Trump to work together to ensure that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement is successfully ratified and implemented. They want the Section 232 tariffs the Trump Administration imposed on Mexico and Canada removed. Association CEO Barb Glenn says, “To provide certainty for North American farmers and ranchers businesses, urgency must be applied to ratifying USMCA.” She says it’s also critical that the administration removes the Section 232 tariffs. That way, farmers and ranchers can realize net improvements in market access and the benefits that USMCA was negotiated to provide.   

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Commerce Department to Review Argentina’s Biodiesel Subsidies

The National Biodiesel Board wrote a letter to a group of 14 senators and thanked them for asking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to be transparent in the upcoming review of U.S. duties on Argentine biodiesel imports. The department launched what’s called a “changed circumstances” review of those duties. The senators are asking Commerce to develop a complete record of Argentina biodiesel trade actions before they determine if another look at the U.S. import duties is warranted. In the letter, the senators say, “It’s unclear why Commerce would afford a special review to Argentina and its biodiesel industry when the ink on the anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders is barely dry.” They also point out that in the short period since the antidumping and countervailing duty orders were imposed, U.S. biodiesel producers have been able to compete on a more level playing field and the U.S. biodiesel industry has begun to recover from the injury caused by the unfair trade practices of the Argentinian government and biodiesel industry. Kurt Kovarik, NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs, says, “NBB and its members appreciate the leadership of the senators who raised concerns about fair trade with Secretary Ross. Over the past two years, Argentina has made more than a dozen changes to its export tax rates and continued to massively subsidize its biodiesel industry.”

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USMEF Wants Level Playing Field in Japan

Japan is an important trading partner for U.S. agriculture, especially when it comes to beef and pork producers. That was the main topic of a panel discussion during the recent USDA Outlook Forum. USMEF Economist Erin Borror says that Japan is the leading value destination for both U.S. beef and pork. 2018 exports are expected to reach $2.1 billion and $1.65 billion, respectively when year-end data is available. She also warns that the competitive terrain in Japan has gotten much steeper for U.S. exports. That’s because of Japan’s potential trade agreements with Australia, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, and Chile. That situation will only get worse unless the United States can establish similar access to Japanese markets. The U.S. beef export value per head of fed slaughter averaged a record $320.72 in 2018, shattering the previous high of $300.36 that was set in 2014. Japan accounts for one-fourth of that total at $82.75 a head. That ratio is similar for U.S. pork, which averaged $51.46 per head slaughtered in 2018. Japan accounted for 26 percent of the total per-head value.

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Glyphosate in the Courts

A Reuters report says officials working at a health agency in Brazil have found that glyphosate does not cause cancer. The timing is interesting in that a jury in San Francisco Federal Court is about to decide soon whether or not glyphosate in Roundup caused a man’s cancer diagnosis. This is the trial that will likely influence the outcomes of hundreds of other similar trial cases. The opening statements in the Edwin Hardeman suit against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, took place on Monday. The 70-year-old man is the second plaintiff to take Monsanto to court out of potentially thousands who will follow. A San Francisco jury awarded a separate man $289 million after determining that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group did tests that found glyphosate in samples of popular brands of beer and wine. The group found glyphosate in 19 of the 20 brands it tested, but it did say that the levels found were all below the amount that could cause harm to humans.

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.