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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 17th

EPA Lied About Justifying RFS Waivers

A Reuters report says the Trump Administration made it easier for oil refiners to get waivers from the Renewable Fuels Standard. They did so at least four months before the 2017 court decision the administration uses to justify the move to the corn lobby. The Reuters report says the move was motivated by a desire to save the oil industry a lot of money. The timing and motivation for the Environmental Protection Agency’s policy change were revealed through court documents and an interview with a former top agency official. It hadn’t been previously reported and reinforces corn industry concerns that the decision to expand the waiver program was made by the EPA. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa says, “EPA repeatedly told Congress its hands were tied and blamed the courts. That appears to have been a lie. EPA also said it was following the Department of Energy’s recommendations. We know that’s bunk.” Grassley issued a statement saying he was going to “get to the bottom of this.” The waivers saved the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Tariffs on Mexico, Canada, May Be Lifted Soon

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) says the administration is close to “an understanding with Mexico and Canada” to remove tariffs that have been in place for almost a year and have heavily impacted U.S. agriculture. Politico says it’s not clear yet what the potential agreement between the three countries might include. However, any tariff resolution would go a long way toward clearing a path to Congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. That agreement is President Trump’s top trade achievement and his primary legislative priority this year. Democrats are already more optimistic about eventually passing the agreement following a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Many lawmakers and Ag groups consider removing the tariffs even more important than the actual trade agreement. Trump’s tariffs caused Canada and Mexico to retaliate with duties on $17 billion in U.S. exports, including a lot of foods and farm goods. Mexico’s Under Secretary for North America says instead of a quota system sought by the administration, one proposal would involve a tracking system designed to prevent other countries from bypassing tariffs by shipping steel and aluminum through Mexico.

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USDA Enhancing Protection Efforts Against African Swine Fever

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking steps to further its protection efforts against African Swine Fever making its way into the U.S. The agency is implementing a new surveillance plan in which the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will work directly with the swine industry, the states, and veterinary diagnostic laboratories to test for ASF. The disease has never been detected in the United States. As the hog industry knows too well, ASF is a contagious and deadly disease that affects both domestic and wild pigs. It doesn’t affect human health and can’t be transmitted from pigs to humans. In order to make the surveillance program as effective as possible, USDA says it will add ASF testing to their existing classical swine fever surveillance. USDA and its partner agencies expect to begin new ASF testing protocols within weeks. They will test samples from the same high-risk animals, using the same overall process, but test for both diseases instead of one. The surveillance effort will test samples from high-risk animals, including sick pig submissions to veterinary diagnostic laboratories; sick or dead pigs at slaughter; and pigs from herds that are at risk for the disease because of factors like exposure to feral swine or garbage feeding.

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Peterson Vows to Block USDA’s CRP Signup

The Farm Service Agency says it will begin to accept Conservation Reserve Program applications starting on June 3 from farmers who engage in certain practices. The agency will also offer extensions for expiring CRP contracts. FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce also says the FSA will not hold a general CRP signup until December. A Grasslands CRP signup will still be held later this year. The Hagstrom Report says Fordyce announced the signups during a House Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee hearing. However, not everyone was pleased. House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson was furious with the announcement. Peterson said during the hearing that he would block the signup programs, even if he has to file suit against the USDA. Peterson believes that the continuous CRP will take up acreage that will go into the general sign-up. Much of the land that goes into the continuous CRP, which emphasizes improvements in water quality, “does almost zero good for wildlife,” Peterson says. USDA is using rules under the 2014 Farm Bill for the continuous CRP signup but plans to engage in formal rulemaking for the general signup. Peterson doesn’t understand why USDA can hold one signup under the old rules and engage in rulemaking for the other.

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President Unveiling New Immigration Proposal

President Trump is putting a spotlight back on one of his signature issues as the 2020 presidential campaign picks up steam. The Hill Dot Com says the new proposal was put together by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. It would create a merit-based system that gives preference to immigrants that have coveted job skills. The current system gives preference to relatives of other immigrants. The plan will also call for new infrastructure at ports of entry to speed up commerce while cracking down on drug and human smuggling. Officials say that legislative action on this or any other immigration plan may not happen for some time yet. One notable Republican told The Hill that the plan represents a “good-faith effort to start a discussion aimed at finding a resolution.” An adviser who spoke to The Hill anonymously says Trump would use the plan as a tool in the upcoming election if Democrats don’t engage with the administration. The timing of the release is only 18 months before the presidential election. It’s also less than six weeks before the first Democratic presidential debate, which suggests serious negotiations aren’t likely.

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Pork Checkoff Studies How Dining has Changed in Recent Years

The National Pork Board released findings from its Comprehensive Insight to Action research. This time, the research looked at trends in consumer behavior that relate to dining out. The dining landscape has shifted in recent years and multicultural cuisine trends are on the rise in the U.S. The Pork Board set out to understand the needs, considerations, and motivations that impacted where diners go when they head out to eat. The report, called “All About Dining Out; What’s on Trend,” looks into reasons why consumers choose the proteins they eat. It also explores tactics to help food providers meet those needs. Some of the key consumer insights include the three primary drivers for consumer decisions on where to eat, which include taste, health, and convenience. Consumers also typically seek out new menu options. More than a quarter of consumers consistently look for something new to eat and they see dining out as a good way to do that. The study also finds that healthy options are still very important. The Pork Board says restaurants can expand their menus to include more healthy pork choices like a pork tenderloin or pork sirloin chop. Those choices fit right beside other healthy proteins like chicken and seafood.

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.