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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 31st

Mexico Begins Process to Ratify USMCA

Mexico plans for quick ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, setting the process in motion following action by Canada earlier this week. That leaves the U.S. behind both in the process as the Trump administration has yet to formally introduce the agreement to Congress. Vice President Mike Pence visited Canada Thursday to discuss moving the deal forward as Canada formally introduced the agreement to lawmakers earlier this week. Mexico’s President reported the documents were sent to Mexico’s Senate Thursday, and officials from Mexico were hopeful the U.S. would ratify the deal by July, according to the Associated Press. Mexico’s Senate is in recess, but officials say they would seek a special session to consider the agreement. However, the Trump administration must present the agreement to Congress, and a vote could follow 60 days later. The House must vote on the agreement first, with no amendments, per Trade Promotion Authority. Democrats in the House have questioned provision in the agreement regarding labor and enforcement.

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Court Strikes 2015 Water Rule

A federal court earlier this week invalidated the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers’ 2015 expansion of federal jurisdiction over small and isolated waters. After years of litigation in suits filed by dozens of state governments and trade groups, this is the first court to reach a final decision on the lawfulness of the 2015 Waters of the United States rule. The U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that the agencies violated basic requirements of fair process when they concluded the 2015 rulemaking, without first releasing for comment a key report that was the basis for many of their most controversial decisions. The order came in response to suits by a group of 17 private-sector plaintiffs that included the American Farm Bureau Federation. The groups challenged the 2015 WOTUS rule as unlawfully expanding federal jurisdiction at the expense of state and municipal authority and offending basic rules of fair process. Several other legal challenges to the 2015 rule remain pending in federal courts across the country. The Trump administration has proposed to repeal the rule and issue a new regulation that better defines federal waters.

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Senate Democrats Oppose U.S. Trade Aid for Foreign Companies

Nine U.S. Senators led by Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow are sharing concern over U.S. trade aid going to foreign companies. With the administration using up to $1.4 billion to purchase commodities, the group says the Department of Agriculture is allowing foreign companies to profit from the plan aimed to assist U.S. farmers. Stabenow, the top Democrat of the Senate Ag Committee, points out the first round of trade aid included purchase contracts of nearly $62.5 million in pork products from JBS USA, which is owned by Brazilian parent company JBS SA. A letter to USDA from the Senators calls the move “counterproductive,” adding its “unacceptable that American taxpayers have been subsidizing competitors through trade assistance.” The letter was signed by all Democrats, including Senator Stabenow, along with Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, Washington’s Patty Murray, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin questioned the funding last week in a standalone statement following the announcement of the trade aid program.

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New Census of Agriculture Products

The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Thursday released the 2017 Census of Agriculture State and County Profiles. The profiles provide a summary or snapshot of key pieces of information on land, farms, market value of ag products sold, rankings, and producer characteristics. The profiles are a quick way to see what’s going on with ag in your state and county, to show the value of ag at the local level. The profiles provide producers with a way to evaluate historical trends, assess the need to advocate for policies and programs that support their commodities and communities, and develop new and improved methods to increase agricultural production and profitability. Further, on June 26, NASS will release the Congressional District Profiles and Rankings. Additional Census of Agriculture products, such as the watershed report, zip code tabulations, and race, ethnicity and gender profiles. Access the full 2017 Census of Agriculture report and all associated products such as highlight videos and publications at www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.

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USDA Announces Loans to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure

New loans announced Thursday by the Department of agriculture will help improve rural electric services. USDA says approximately 450,000 residents and commercial customers will benefit from the loans on projects approved in 17 states. Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley made the announcement of the loans, valued at $858 million. Baxley says the investment “creates jobs and helps deliver services such as education, training and health care to build stronger rural communities.” Carroll Electric Cooperative of Arkansas and Missouri received the largest loan, valued at $263 million for nearly 1,000 miles of electric line improvements and smart grid technologies. Meanwhile, a $94 million loan for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Generation in Arizona and Utah will use part of the funds to build a 55.1-megawatt solar facility. Other funded projects for electric cooperatives are located in the Carolina’s, Kentucky, The Dakota’s and Minnesota, along with Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, along with Texas.

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Former Senate Ag Chair Cochran Passes

Former Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman and longtime Mississippi lawmaker Thad Cochran passed away Thursday at 81. Cochran served more than 45 years in the Senate, before he resigned last April due to health concerns. Cochran, a Navy veteran, previously served three terms in the House of Representatives before joining the Senate. Cochran chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time of his retirement. Current Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts in a statement said he treasured Cochran’s friendship, as the two worked on multiple farm bills together. Roberts called Cochran a “good man and a level-headed legislator, qualities that are becoming scarce in Washington.” President Donald Trump on Twitter called Cochran a “real Senator with incredible values.” Cindy Hyde-Smith, then Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture at the time of Cochran’s retirement, was appointed to his Senate spot when he retired. Hyde-Smith won reelection in 2018, defeating former Ag Secretary Mike Espy in a runoff election.

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.