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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 3rd

Disaster Aid Comes Up Short in the Senate

The Senate rejected disaster-relief proposals from both Democrats and Republicans on Monday. Politico says the legislation’s fate is now uncertain after the House passed a $14.2 billion aid package in January. Communities hit hard by disasters have waited months for Congress to approve additional federal aid. States from the Southeast all the way to California have been battered by hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and now floods in the Midwest and Plains states. The $13.5 billion Senate aid package included $3 billion for farm disaster aid, as well as $150 million to rebuild rural facilities. Republicans criticized Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate, many of whom recently campaigned in Iowa, for voting against the GOP plan. It included assistance for Midwestern states recovering from catastrophic flooding last month. Democrats blame Republicans because the GOP took out aid money for Puerto Rico that was included in the House plan. Lawmakers planned to introduce new legislation as early as Tuesday that would provide billions of dollars in new disaster funds for farm-belt states that were hit by the recent flooding.

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Trump Threatens to Close Mexican Border; Ag Groups Concerned

President Trump wrote a series of Tweets on Friday that caught agriculture’s attention. The Hill Dot Com says he threatened to close the southern border unless Mexico took steps to stop the illegal border crossings. The tweets come as the administration continues to warn of a crisis at the border. Trump blames both Democrats and Mexico for the problem, even accusing Mexico of making “a fortune” from the U.S. that is greater than the cost of protecting the border. In the meantime, both the business and ag communities are pushing back against the threat. The president hasn’t said yet how it would actually work, but business groups are preparing for the worst. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the threat alone “creates a degree of economic uncertainty that could potentially wipe out the administration’s other economic policies.” Dairy producers point out that Mexico remains the largest export market for U.S. milk products. Mexico accounted for $1.4 billion in dairy exports last year. Dairy Export Council President Tom Vilsack says, “Closing the southern U.S. border to Mexico would be a gut punch that could set the industry back by a decade or two.” The move would also hurt American consumers at the grocery store because nearly half of the U.S. vegetable imports and 40 percent of fruit imports come from Mexico.

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China Buys More Soybeans Ahead of Negotiations

Monday was the second-straight day that USDA announced China had purchased U.S. soybeans. An Agri-Pulse report says that may be a good sign as U.S. and China trade negotiations are set to resume in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. The USDA says that China purchased 828,000 metric tons of U.S. soybeans for delivery during the 2018-2019 marketing year. Last Friday, USDA made a similar announcement as China purchased 816,000 metric tons. However, soybeans aren’t the only commodities that China has purchased in spite of the ongoing trade war. Just over a week ago, China bought 300,000 metric tons of U.S. corn, which drew praise from U.S. Grains Council President Tom Sleight (Slate). “The corn purchase is very welcome news for U.S. agriculture,” Sleight says, “and we see it as a positive sign for the U.S. and China relationship as the intense negotiations are continuing.” On the trade policy front, a House Small Business Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday that looked at the impact of Trump’s trade policy on agriculture and labor.  

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Corn-Ethanol Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lower Than Standard Gasoline

A new study released this week from the USDA shows that greenhouse gas emissions from corn-based ethanol are 39 percent lower than regular gasoline. The study also shows that when ethanol is refined at natural gas-powered refineries, the greenhouse gas emissions are even lower, coming in at 43 percent less than gasoline. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says the new findings provide even further evidence that biofuels from America’s heartland reduce greenhouse gases even more than first thought. “It also shows our farmers and ethanol plants continue to become more efficient and effective,” Perdue says. “Expanding the sale of E-15 year-round will provide consumers with more choices when they fill up at the pump, including environmentally friendly fuel with decreased emissions.” Perdue also says he appreciates Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler moving quickly to finalize the E-15 rule before the start of the summer driving season. The study was published in the trade journal Biofuels and it supports findings of other research that ethanol has a significantly better greenhouse gas profile than previously thought.

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Meet Chuck, the Virtual Beef Assistant

The beef industry is going high-tech when it comes to promoting its products. The “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” brand is launching what it calls a “beef virtual assistant.” Chuck Knows Beef is powered by Google artificial intelligence and brings together a rancher’s knowledge, a chef’s expertise, and the humor of the average dad into kitchens across the country. The new virtual go-to expert on beef can be found at Chuck Knows Beef Dot Com. Customers can also access Chuck by enabling Chuck Knows Beef with Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant Devices. Chuck will provide instant access to recipes, cuts, nutrition information, cooking tips, and more. Consumers can ask questions like, “What should I cook tonight?; what’s a strip steak?; or at what temperature is a steak well-done?” Chuck can also help shoppers by texting recipe shopping lists to consumers who are out shopping for beef. The new virtual assistant if funded by dollars from farmers and ranchers through the National Beef Checkoff. The goal is to help shoppers feel more confident when approaching the meat case, as well as shopping for and cooking beef for their families.

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Groups Unite to Protect Farm Bill Conservation Funding

Many of the nation’s leading farm, conservation, and wildlife groups worked together to protect Conservation Title Funding in the 2018 Farm Bill. Now, more than 140 of those groups are working together again to protect those hard-fought conservation funds and programs in the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Process. Groups like the National Farmers Union, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Association of Conservation Districts, and many others delivered a letter to appropriators asking them to respect the funding decisions made in the 2018 Farm Bil. They’re also asking appropriators to reject any proposed cuts to farm bill conservation funding through the appropriations process. Farm bill conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and many others all play a vital role in helping farmers keep their operations sustainable and profitable for generations. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says, “As America’s farmers and ranchers endure significant environmental and economic challenges, it’s as important as ever that we maintain funding for voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs.”

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.