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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, September 25th
U.S., Japan Hit Sticking Point in Negotiations
U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping to sign a limited bilateral trade deal with Japan when he’s face-to-face with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (AH-bay) on Wednesday at the U.N General Assembly. However, Japanese officials are pushing for a provision that the U.S. won’t like. Politico says Japan wants a provision in the agreement that would allow them to “blow up the agreement” and slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm goods if President Trump moves forward with tariffs on automobiles from Japan. Multiple sources who are familiar with the negotiations tell Politico that the request is putting a speed bump in the final stages of the talks. Negotiators are looking to give Japan a full exemption from Trump’s tariff threats. However, Japanese officials are said to “remain cautious” about reassurances from Washington. This pact with Japan is a big priority for U.S. agriculture. Farm exporters say they’re losing market share to competitors like Australia, Canada, and the European Union. Competitors continue to benefit from greater access to the lucrative Japanese market.
More Optimism for Upcoming Talks Between China and the U.S.
The Chinese Vice Premier, who’s leading China’s efforts in the trade talks with the United States, will be back in Washington next week. An Agri-Pulse report says he’ll be across the table from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Earlier this week on the sidelines of the United Nation’s General Assembly in New York, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) said, “We’re looking forward to those conversations.” Deputy Ag Secretary Steve Censky spoke in Kansas City on Monday during the annual Ag Outlook Forum. He said the conversations that took place last week with Chinese officials were “positive and productive.” Several media reports say Chinese buyers purchased between 600,000 and 1.5 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans on Monday for delivery between October and December. The U.S. Soybean Export Council reports that China relaxed import tariffs for the purchases to make sense, given a price spread that favored U.S. soybeans. Additionally, Mnuchin admitted Monday that it was a White House decision to call off a planned trip a Chinese delegation was going to take to Montana and Nebraska this week. Mnuchin said officials “didn’t want any confusion around the trade issues.”
Chinese Demand Pushing Meat Prices Higher
China has recently been buying a lot of meat. The Wall Street Journal says their recent purchases are pushing up the prices of beef, pork, and poultry around the globe. Meat buyers are increasing their activity after African Swine Fever hit the country hard and reduced the size of the world’s largest pig herd by more than a third. Domestic pork prices have jumped in China and meat imports are rising in response and placing a strain on global meat supplies. For example, Brazil poultry shipments to China have jumped 31 percent compared to last year. Retail prices for chicken breasts, thighs, and legs have increased roughly 16 percent. European meat buyers are paying five percent more for pork because more of their domestically produced supplies are heading to China. American shoppers haven’t felt the impact yet, but that may change. Futures prices recently rose after Chinese officials say the country could exempt some U.S. pork and other agricultural goods from punitive tariff increases. Many American meat companies have watched as European and South American competitors have raced each other to supply China’s pork needs.
U.S. Biofuel Industry is Still Waiting
Despite meetings last week at the White House, the waiting is continuing for the biofuels industry. No new details have emerged on the possible reallocation of lost biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply. USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky (SEHN-skee) announced on Monday that the administration isn’t ready to give out details on potential changes in volume obligations to offset lost demand due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s small-refinery RFS waiver exemptions. Censky says the administration wants to ensure that potential policy changes will meet the blend level requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Censky spoke at the Ag Outlook Forum in Kansas City. He says the next steps on any plan coming out of the White House will be taken by Larry Kudlow, the White House Economic Council Director. Censky says he doesn’t have any specific timeframe in mind yet for an announcement. “I’d love to have it sooner than later,” he says. “I think that farmers, as well as the biofuel community would love to have that kind of certainty announced soon. That’s what we’re advocating.” The 31 small-refinery exemptions granted by the EPA amounted to about 1.6 billion gallons taken away from ethanol and biofuel use.
HungerU Launches College Tour to Share Ag Story
This year’s class of HungerU (Hunger You) ambassadors are getting ready to launch a tour of colleges around the country. The preparation work included a day of educational presentations in Washington, D.C. For those who don’t know, HungerU, a Farm Journal Foundation program, is an educational and advocacy platform designed to engage university student populations around the country. A central purpose of HungerU is to communicate outside the agricultural bubble with future influencers, including voters, consumers, and community leaders. The goal is to educate people on the central and necessary role that modern agriculture plays in creating affordable, wholesome food for everyone. This year’s college tour focuses on the Mid-Atlantic states. Just a few of the schools include George Washington University, Howard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and more. This year’s ambassador team combines expertise in areas such as nutrition, communications, gardening, and many more. Additionally, this year’s fall tour marks the third year of the National Corn Growers Association’s partnership in the program
Food and Farm Facts Now Available to Tell the Story of Agriculture
The new Farm and Food Facts book, map, and pocket guide are now available. The information is produced by the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. “Food and Farm Facts provides the opportunity to share the story of agriculture,” says Foundation Chair Zippy Duvall. “It talks about the how and why farmers do what they do to produce food, fiber, and renewable fuel. I hope it also puts into perspective how blessed we are to be Americans.” Food and Farm Facts will help answer questions like, “Where does our food come from and who grows it?” The 32-page, full-color book features updated facts and easy-to-read infographics that can be used in a variety of ways to help increase agricultural literacy. The Farm Bureau Foundation says the book will be a valuable resource in the classroom, at fairs and events, for student leadership organizations, and on social media.