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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, August 21st

Trump Allegedly Seeks to Lesson Blow from EPA Waivers

President Donald Trump this week asked cabinet members to appease farmers angry over small refinery waivers. Following a rash of blowback from ethanol and commodity groups, Trump held a meeting to find a solution. Representatives from the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, along with the Environmental Protection Agency attended a two-hour meeting Monday on the subject, according to Reuters. However, no clear action has been identified so far. The EPA has received 42 requests for small-refiner exemptions for 2018, while there are only 48 classified small refineries in the United States. The waivers exempt refineries from provisions in the Renewable Fuel Standard. Farmers argue that reallocating the exempted gallons of biofuel would be a good start in addressing the issue. The National Corn Growers Association says the waived volume now accounts for 4.04 billion ethanol gallons. NCGA President Lynn Chrisp says, “waivers reduce demand for ethanol, lower the value of our crop and undermine the President’s support for America’s farmers.”

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U.S. Comments on Hong Kong Could Jeopardize Trade Talks

Any U.S. attempt to sway China’s dealings with Hong Kong could jeopardize efforts to reach a trade agreement. Communist party leaders in China say, “Events in Hong Kong were the internal affairs of China, and linking them with trade negotiations was a dirty aim,” according to the South China Morning Post. The remarks followed Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks that the Trump administration would continue to urge Beijing to resolve differences with the protesters peacefully. China officials say the U.S. would “be naive in thinking China would make concessions if they played the Hong Kong card.” Further trade talks are planned for early September. However, Hong Kong, and the U.S. selling fighter jets to Taiwan, has brought further political uncertainty to the mix. The talks stalled earlier this year, and China announced it would stop purchasing U.S. ag products this month, following more tariffs announced by President Trump. China was once a $24 billion market for U.S. agriculture, falling to $9 billion last year.

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U.S. Dairy Seeks Swift Trade Deal with Japan

A coalition of U.S. dairy groups is urging the Trump administration to reach a trade agreement with Japan quickly. More than 70 dairy groups and companies sent a letter to Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week asking the administration to finalize a strong trade deal with Japan quickly. The coalition, including the National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council, say Japan is an established market with a growing demand for dairy products. The letter states that a robust trade agreement with Japan “will bring a much-needed boost to the economic health of the U.S. dairy industry.” The letter says the Japan-EU agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership have allowed the European Union, New Zealand and Australia to position themselves to take sales from the U.S. dairy industry. The U.S. exported $270 million in dairy products to Japan in 2018. Once the trade deals are fully implemented, the U.S. risks losing $5.4 billion in total export sales.

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FSA Announces Payment Acceptance of Debit Cards, AHC

The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency is expanding its payment options to now accept debit cards and Automated Clearing House or AHC, debit. The paperless payment options allow FSA customers to pay farm loan payments, measurement service fees, farm program debt repayments and administrative service fees, as well as to purchase aerial maps. Previously, only cash, check, money orders and wires were accepted. By using debit cards and ACH debit, transactions are securely processed from the customer’s bank through Pay.gov, the U.S. Treasury’s online payment hub. While traditional collection methods like cash and paper checks will continue, offering the new alternatives will “improve effectiveness and convenience to customers while being more cost-effective.” In 2017, the average cost to manually process checks cost USDA more than $4.6 million. The expanded payment options will cut the time employees take processing payments by 75 percent. The announcement, USDA says, marks the beginning of a multi-phased roll-out of new payment options for USDA customers.

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Elanco to Acquire Bayer Animal Health

Elanco Animal Health has entered into a $7.6 billion agreement with Bayer to acquire its animal health business in a transaction valued at $7.6 billion. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, will double Elanco’s companion animal business. Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says the acquisition by Elanco will “give rise to a leading competitor in the animal health industry, benefiting customers, employees and shareholders alike.” Following the transaction, Elanco will become the second-largest global animal health company. Elanco will finance the transaction through both cash and equity. Bayer will receive $5.3 billion in cash, and $2.2 billion or approximately 68 million Elanco Animal Health common shares. The transaction is expected to close in mid-2020, subject to regulatory approvals and other standard closing conditions. Elanco is a global animal health company that develops products and knowledge services to prevent and treat disease in food animals and pets in more than 90 countries. The company employs more than 5,800 employees.

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Target Launches Grocery Brand

Target this week announced the introduction of Good & Gather, a company-owned food and beverage brand. The flagship brand will offer a wide range of food and beverage products that prioritize taste, quality ingredients and ease, at a great value, according to the company. Good & Gather will be available in stores and online for same-day delivery beginning September 15, 2019. The assortment will include new and trend-forward products such as avocado toast, salad kits and beet hummus alongside everyday staples such as milk, eggs and cheese. By the end of 2020, it will include more than 2,000 products across food and beverage from dairy to produce, ready-made pastas and meats to granola bars and sparkling water. Good & Gather is Target’s largest owned brand launch. Developed by Target’s internal team, the products are made without artificial flavors and sweeteners, synthetic colors and high fructose corn syrup. However, in a news release, Target notes that some products, such as fresh vegetables and eggs, never contained these ingredients.

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.