READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, November 25th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Phase One Trade Agreement may be Heading to 2020

U.S. legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters didn’t stop China’s trade chief from making a phone call recently to invite U.S. negotiators to a new round of trade talks. The Wall Street Journal says U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) were invited to Beijing for more face-to-face trade negotiations. While it wasn’t immediately clear if U.S. officials said yes to the invitation, the Wall Street Journal says U.S. trade officials were willing to meet with their Chinese counterparts. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has yet to respond to requests for comment. The report on the Chinese invitation comes shortly after U.S. legislation on Hong Kong had threatened to push trade talks between the world’s biggest economies off track. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills intended to show support for protesters in Hong Kong. Beijing then accused the U.S. of interfering in its domestic affairs. Trade experts and people close to the Trump Administration say the limited trade agreement could be pushed into next year, news which is not good for U.S. agriculture. The U.S. and China have both imposed tariffs totaling billions of dollars on each other’s goods.

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Doubt Growing on USMCA Passing in 2019

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appears doubtful that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement will be passed this year. After she met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal last week, there was no deal and not much time left on the legislative clock. “We’ve made progress,” she said after leaving the 90-minute meeting. “I think we’re narrowing our differences.” She said earlier in the day that they’ll still have several steps to take even after they finally reach an agreement. The clock is ticking. Last Thursday was the last day before the House takes its Thanksgiving break. The Trump Administration and some Democrats hoped to strike a deal before the week-long recess to give lawmakers time in December to take up the pact. The House only has eight days of official session left in the 2019 calendar year. Lawmakers will stay on for an extra week in December to resolve budget issues and avoid a government shutdown.

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Michigan Joins Four Other States as Cage-Free

A new law says the 15 million egg-laying hens in Michigan’s poultry flocks will have to lay their eggs in cage-free housing systems before 2025. An Associated Press report says Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist (GILL-krist) signed the legislation last week as Governor Gretchen Whitmer is on a trade trip to Israel. The law also prohibits non-cage-free eggs from being sold in Michigan starting in 2025. Gilchrist says the measure ensures Michigan standards for animal welfare are among the strongest in the U.S. At the same time, he says the law ensures egg producers can thrive. Under an older law, each hen was going to have to be confined in a one-square-foot space by April. The new law says each hen has to be housed in a cage-free system by the end of 2024. Michigan is the fifth state and the largest egg-producing state to adopt a cage-free law. The bill is part of a broader update of the state’s animal industry laws. Large restaurant and grocery chains like McDonald’s, Walmart, and Kroger have said they’ll only buy eggs from cage-free farms by 2025.

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Farmers Employing More Farm Workers, Paying Higher Wages than in 2018

U.S. farmers are hiring more laborers than they were a year ago and they’re paying higher wages too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a new report saying that farm operators directly employed 809,000 workers during the week of October sixth. That’s three percent higher than the same time last year. The USDA says farmers paid an average gross wage of $15.02 per hour during the same week in October, four percent more than last year. Field laborers averaged $14.38 per hour, which is five percent higher than last year. Livestock workers earned an average of $13.77 per hour, which is three percent higher than last year. The combined livestock and field worker wages average $14.21 per hour, four percent higher than last year. The report says the 2019 all-hired worker annual average gross wage rate comes in at $14.91 per hour, five percent higher than in 2018. The 2019 field worker’s annual average gross wage rate was at $14.11 per hour, six percent higher than the annual average in 2018. Field workers in Oregon and Washington were among the highest-paid this year, averaging $16.56 per hour, up from $15.62 last year.

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Feed Industry says China still has Partial U.S. Poultry Ban in Place

The American Feed Industry Association says China’s lifting of its ban on U.S poultry imports is only a “partial” lifting. The association has received official confirmation from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that the announcement only includes poultry imports for human consumption. It doesn’t include other poultry products, such as those used in pet foods. At this time, the import restriction for pet foods with poultry products is still in effect. The association says there’s no difference in the risk of introducing poultry diseases between importing poultry for human or animal consumption. AFIA says it is “extremely disappointed to learn that China is implementing only a partial lifting of the ban and we look forward to working with APHIS and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to rectify the situation.” AFIA’s President and CEO, Constance Cullman, says, “China is a valuable market for the entire U.S. animal food industry, for exports of feed, feed ingredients, and value-added products such as meat and poultry.”

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Hoeven, Peterson Ask USDA to Help Sugar Growers

Senate Ag Appropriations Chair John Hoeven (HOH-vehn) of North Dakota and House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota asked the USDA to assist to sugar growers in the Red River Valley. Producers in both states were unable to harvest their crops because of severe weather. The Hagstrom Report says USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey recently made a trip to those areas to see how producers were hit by a wet fall and early snowstorm. Hoeven says, “This has been an unprecedented year of challenges in farm country and we’re working to do all we can to support our producers.” He says sugar growers in the Red River Valley left 118,000 acres of sugar beets unharvested, which is one-third of their entire planted crop. Peterson says, “A tough harvest season has challenged sugar beet growers more than anyone would have anticipated. We’re committed to working with USDA to see if they have a way to access help.” USDA recently announced that the domestic sugar crop was smaller than anticipated due to weather problems. That means the agency expects it will allow an increase in imports.

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.