READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, December 13th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

China, U.S. Reach Tentative “Phase One” Trade Agreement

President Trump signed off on the “Phase One” trade deal on Thursday afternoon. The agreement between the worlds’ two largest economies averts the December 15th introduction of a new wave of U.S. tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods. Bloomberg News reports the agreement was reached on Thursday afternoon and presented to the president shortly afterward. The deal does include a promise from China to buy more agricultural products. Officials also talked about possible reductions in existing duties on a number of Chinese products. The terms have been agreed on, but the legal text hasn’t been finalized yet. A White House spokesman declined a request for comment. In addition to a significant increase in Chinese agricultural purchases, officials also say the phase-one pact would include commitments from China to do more to stop intellectual property theft, something the administration has been pushing for. The phase one deal also includes commitments from both countries to no longer manipulate their currencies. Negotiators had been working on the phase one deal for months after the president announced the countries had reached an agreement.

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House Passes Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by a vote of 260 to 165. The bill would ease immigration for agricultural workers. It won the support of over 300 farm groups, as well as the United Farm Workers. The Hagstrom Report points out that the California Farm Bureau supported the bill but the American Farm Bureau Federation did not. AFB fears the bill will lead to higher wages for farmworkers and increase the legal vulnerability of farm employers. President Zippy Duvall says several amendments that would have addressed Farm Bureau concerns were blocked from consideration, so they “do not support the final bill passed by the House.” Heritage Action for America says it grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants without doing anything to “reform our broken immigration system.” Zoe Lofgren of California, the lead sponsor of the bill, says, “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for our farmworkers.” Republicans weren’t happy about the bill’s formula for calculating farm wages and complained that the year-round visa pilot program doesn’t include the meat and poultry sectors. They also objected to providing “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants working on U.S. farms. The bill’s prospects in the Senate and with President Trump are described as problematic.

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Ag Groups, Organizations React to House Passing Labor Bill

Several agricultural groups and organizations reacted positively to the news that the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The National Farmers Union says the bill is the product of negotiations between a diverse array of agricultural stakeholders and farmworker advocates. “Our current farm labor system is badly broken,” says NFU President Roger Johnson. “This bill secures a legal and adequate supply of workers for family farmers and ranchers, as well as stability for farmworkers who help put food on our tables.” United Fresh Produce Association says the produce industry has suffered for far too long under a system that doesn’t meet its need for labor. The organization says, “This represents an important step in ending decades of uncertainty for growers of fresh fruits and vegetables.” Dairy groups, one of the hardest-hit ag sectors when it comes to labor shortages, are also pleased with the bill’s passage. The National Milk Producers Federation says the legislation helps to address the dairy industry’s unique workforce challenges, which is the need for year-round labor. The current labor program is seasonally-based. NMPF CEO Jim Mulhern says, “Agricultural reform is long overdue.” Mike McCloskey, Chair of the NMPF’s Immigration Task Force, says, “The urgency to reform the agricultural labor system cannot be overstated for dairy farmers.”

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United Soybean Board Elects New Chair

The United Soybean Board farmer-directors have elected Jim Carroll III as Chair at the annual board meeting this week. Additionally, 19 new directors appointed by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue were sworn in by the USDA. Carroll is a farmer from Brinkley, Arkansas. He says, “We’ve made great strides to innovate beyond the bushel and infuse every opportunity we can into growing markets and creating new uses for soybeans. We have a lot to be proud of but also have tremendous potential to further demand as we continue our progress through wise and strategic investments.” Carroll says one of his priorities as Chair will be to recognize the performance and sustainability of U.S. soy and to show their customers its many capabilities as a renewable alternative. The recent USB board meeting included remarks from Gregg Doud, Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Doud highlighted recent trade negotiations and opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers in the international marketplace. Other session topics included the Global Landscape for U.S. Soy, What’s Next for High Oleic Soybean Oil, and Agriculture’s Advantage in Capturing Carbon.

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Rise in Iowa Land Prices Not Seen as a  Market Rebound

The difficulties of 2019 for agriculture have been numerous. One positive note at the end of the year is a two percent rise in the price for farmland in Iowa. Favorable interest rates, strong yields, and limited land supply combined to push Iowa’s farmland values up for just the second time in the past six years. An Iowa State University news release says the statewide value of an acre of farmland is estimated at $7,432. That’s a 2.3 percent increase, totaling about $168, since last year. That number represents the average of low, medium, and high-quality farmland prices. An Iowa State University expert says that the reprieve in the land market isn’t driven by a stronger ag economy. “The recent modest increases in land values reflect a lower interest rate environment and slowly improving U.S. farm incomes,” says Dr. Wendong Zhang, leader of the Iowa Land Value Survey effort. While the growth in land values is positive, Zhang says it shouldn’t be thought of as a “sound rebound” in the land market. “Market Facilitation Payments helped to stabilize farm income and the land market,” he adds. “However, escalation of the U.S. and China trade war will put more downward pressure on farm income and land prices.”

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Arkansas Temporarily Stopped from Enforcing Meat-Labeling Law

A federal judge restricted Arkansas from enforcing a law that bans the use of terms like “burger” or “sausage” when selling plant-based or vegan products. An Associated Press report says U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a preliminary injunction keeping the state from enforcing the law against the Oregon-based Tofurky Company, while the constitutionality is being challenged. Tofurky produces products like tofu, as well as plant-based sausage, deli slices, and burgers. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute, and the Animal Defense Fund got behind Tofurkey and filed suit in July. They say the law amounts to an “unconstitutional effort” to boost the state’s meat industry. Under the law, which hasn’t been enforced yet, companies can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation of the labeling law. While putting the injunction in place, Baker did note that Tofurkey does face a credible threat of retroactive penalties under the law. The labeling law is similar to ones passed in other states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Dakota.

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.