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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, August 29th

Perdue Calls for Investigation Into Cattle Markets After Kansas Fire

U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue has been monitoring the impact of a fire at the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kansas. As a part of that monitoring effort, Perdue says, “I have directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an investigation into recent beef pricing margins to determine if there is any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition, or other unfair practices.” Perdue says if any unfair practices are found, his agency will take quick enforcement action. The USDA remains in close contact with plant management and other stakeholders to understand the fire’s impact on the industry. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was pleased with Perdue’s announcement. NCBA President Jennifer Houston says the announcement demonstrates the government’s understanding of the extreme strain placed on the cattle industry by the plant fire in Kansas. “We encourage USDA to look at all aspects of the beef supply chain and to utilize internal and external expertise in the investigation,” she says. “We believe it adds transparency that will help build confidence in the markets among cattlemen and women.”  

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The List of Asian Countries Battling ASF Continues to Grow

African Swine Fever has now claimed another country in Asia. The disease is now in Myanmar (ME-yahn-mar), a country west of the previous known outbreaks. A National Pork Board release says if eastern Russia is included, that makes eight Asian countries that are struggling with the disease. The World Organization for Animal Health says two provinces in far-eastern Russia that aren’t far from the Chinese border have recently reported new outbreaks of the disease on multiple farms. While ASF cases have been found in eastern Russia before, these provinces hadn’t been affected by outbreaks until recently. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization says Myanmar’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation confirmed the first ASF outbreak occurred on August 1. It’s in the northwest part of the country near the Chinese border. Other outbreaks then occurred on August 10 and 11, respectively, also in the northeast part of the country. Elsewhere, officials in the Philippines have seen suspiciously high mortality in backyard pigs recently. As a result, the multi-island nation is setting up animal inspection points and a quarantine area so officials can check pigs for signs of African Swine Fever. Many cities and provinces within the country are taking additional action to help prevent the spread of ASF.

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Michigan Lawmakers Ask Trump to “Stop Choosing Oil”

Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters recently joined five other senators in asking the Trump Administration to support a strong Renewable Fuels Standard. The administration recently took more action to benefit oil companies and undercut American-grown biofuels. The Environmental Protection Agency issued 31 small refinery hardship waivers, which allows oil companies to blend less biofuel into gasoline. The August 8 announcement effectively cut demand for biofuels by over 1.4 billion gallons. Stabenow says, “The President needs to stop putting the interests of big oil companies ahead of farmers who are already struggling thanks to the administration.” The effect of the 31 small refinery waivers is compounded by the 54 additional waivers the EPA has granted over the last two years.” “I’m disappointed that our farmers continue to be undermined by the Trump Administration’s waivers for big oil companies,” Peters says. “The RFS was created to reduce our reliance on foreign oil sources and shift us to homegrown biofuels that we grow and produce domestically.” The Administration’s use of waivers has increased 370 percent, with some of them going to the world’s largest oil companies. Recently, more than 13 ethanol plants and eight biodiesel plants have idled their production or shut down entirely across the country.

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Hemp Production and Processing Rules Expected in September

The USDA is expected to issue new rules for growing and testing hemp sometime next month. Capital Press reports that has farmers feeling anxious about establishing consistent standards for producing the booming crop. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon tells the Capital Press that he expects the USDA to issue those regulations sometimes within the next two to four weeks. Wyden was one of the sponsors of legislation decriminalizing hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 passed with bipartisan support and classified hemp as an agricultural product. “I think it’s pretty obvious that you are on the right side of history,” Wyden said during remarks to a crowd at the Western U.S. Hemp Growers Conference and Expo on August 19 in Portland, Oregon. “You don’t have thousands of farmers moving into this space for nothing. Hemp can be used to make multiple products like paper, textiles, clothing, and building materials. The primary use in the market today is for an extract called CBD Oil, which companies put into everything from cosmetics to beverage, touting health benefits.

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Coalition Says Tariff Increases “Come at the Worst Possible Time”

Americans for Free Trade has a lot to say about the pending U.S. tariff increases on Chinese goods. The coalition of over 160 businesses set a letter to President Trump asking him to postpone tariff increases that are scheduled to take effect next week. The association says the proposed tariff increases come as consumers draw nearer to the holiday shopping season, which means costs will rise in the coming months.  The letter says, “These tariff rate increases, some starting as early as Sunday, come at the worst possible time, right in the middle of the busy holiday shopping period. U.S. consumers are driving the growth of the U.S. economy and we want to ensure that their confidence remains high.” Americans for Free Trade represents many of the sectors and products that will be hit hardest by recent trade war escalation. Starting on September 1, approximately $112 billion in goods will be hit by a 15 percent tariff, including products that range from clothing and footwear to televisions and Christmas decorations. “We want to ensure that economic prosperity continues for the American families, farmers, and workers we employ every day.”

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Conagra Teams With HSUSA on Chicken Welfare Standards

Conagra Brands recently announced steps it will implement when it comes to company treatment of broiler chickens in its supply chain sourcing practices. The company worked with the Humane Society of the U.S. on the new goals, which add higher standards to the company’s existing broiler policy. Conagra says it will work with suppliers, peers, and external stakeholders to implement several improvements in its treatment of chickens by 2024. Among the improvements, Conagra says it will provide birds with more space to perform natural behaviors, including a stocking density of no greater than six pounds per square foot and no use of broiler cages. They’ll also be tracking supplier compliance with the new standards through third-party auditing. In a statement, Conagra says it’s proud to work with the Humane Society of the United States, as well as others in the food industry, to take meaningful steps toward positive change in broiler chicken welfare practices. HUSU says, “We applaud Conagra for addressing the most pressing concerns related to chicken meat production.”

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.