READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 16th

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Details Emerging on the U.S. and China Phase One Agreement

Both China and the U.S. officials confirmed on Friday that they’ve reached a “Phase One” agreement. Emerging details show the agreement includes some tariff relief, increased agricultural purchases, as well as structural changes to intellectual property and technology issues. However, a CNBC report says some details of the partial accord between the world’s two largest economies remain cloudy. As Chinese officials briefed reporters of some details on Friday morning, President Trump also announced some of the terms of what he called an “amazing deal.” The U.S. does plan to eliminate tariffs on multiple Chinese goods in stages, which was a priority for Chinese negotiators. Details on when that would take place weren’t announced. Trump announced that the U.S. would cancel its next round of tariffs on Chinese goods that were scheduled to go into effect over the weekend. Via Twitter, Trump announced the White House will leave 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in imports in place, while also cutting existing duties on another $120 billion in goods. Beijing will increase its agricultural purchases from the U.S. by a significant amount, though Chinese officials didn’t say by how much. Politico says some of the details include China giving up its restrictions on growth hormones for beef and easing an approval process for genetically modified crops.

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Ag Reacts to Phase One U.S., China Trade Deal

Reaction from U.S. agriculture and its stakeholders across the country is positive regarding the “Phase One” trade deal between the U.S. and China. Colin Woodall, CEO of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says the agreement is welcome news for the U.S. beef industry. “We’re optimistic that this positive news will bring long-lasting relief to farmers and ranchers who’ve been targeted by China’s retaliatory tariffs for many months,” Woodall says. “China’s unjustifiable non-tariff barriers and restrictions on science-based production technologies must be addressed as part of this agreement.” Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau, says farmers are looking forward to getting back to business around the globe. “China went from the second-largest to the fifth-largest market for U.S. agricultural products since the trade war began,” Duvall says. “Reopening the door for trade with China and other countries is key to helping farmers and ranchers get back on their feet.” Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley of Iowa says easing tensions and lowering tariffs are welcome news. “This paves the way for a broader agreement that must address non-tariff barriers and intellectual property issues,” Grassley says. U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers say they’re looking forward to learning more about the agreement.

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Senate Republicans Appear Unhappy About USMCA Changes

Some Senate Republicans appeared to be unhappy with the final agreement on changes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement worked out between the White House and House Democrats. Politico says the Republicans appeared to be “grumbling” as they came out of a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week. Conservatives say they were left out of the negotiations and think the new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement is too liberal. Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey is especially unhappy with the Trump Administration, describing the deal as a “terrible new standard” for future trade agreements. One of his biggest concerns is a key provision regarding prescription drugs. Senator John Cornyn of Texas says he’ll likely support the agreement but thought the Finance Committee had been “frozen out.” Reports say it’s unlikely that Republicans won’t support the deal. Republican supporters are confident the deal will win approval, especially because it just needs a simple majority to pass. Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley says he’ll skip the optional mock markup process, setting up a quick consideration of the agreement.

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House Votes Expected on Appropriations, USMCA, and Impeachment This Week

Congress took a long weekend out of town as soon as a White House Congressional Ball wrapped up last Thursday. The House is expected to cast some key votes this week, starting on Tuesday, and the chamber will likely be in session through Friday. The House will meet at nine a.m. for legislative business, with votes expected sometime between nine and ten o’clock that morning. The Hagstrom Report says House and Senate appropriators and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) reached an agreement on all 12 major appropriations bills last week. A vote on the bills is expected on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland says the agreement reached on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement “could be brought to the floor sometime this week, provided the president has submitted the implementing legislation to Congress.” Hoyer also says if the House Judiciary Committee marks up the articles of impeachment, “a path forward will be announced” on that as well.

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Roberts says Arkansas Senator will be the Next Ag Committee Chair

Current Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts will be retiring soon, so the logical question is who will replace him. Roberts, the longtime Senator from Kansas, says he expects John Boozman of Arkansas to take his spot as Chair. He told the National Journal last week that he thinks Boozman will be an excellent committee Chair. The report quoted Roberts as saying, “the soft-spoken senior appropriator from Arkansas will replace him as chairman, and that he’ll be excellent.” The National Journal notes that Boozman isn’t the most senior member of the Ag Committee. However, more long-standing members have other responsibilities. For example, Mitch McConnell can’t serve as the Senate Majority Leader and the head of a committee at the same time. In an interview, Boozman says as chair, he would focus on the farm bill and promoting bipartisan cooperation. He’s also planning to take up child-nutrition legislation if the push by Roberts to get it passed falls short of a December deadline.

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USDA to Make $550 Million Available for Rural Broadband Internet Infrastructure

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says his agency will make $550 million available through its ReConnect Pilot Program. The application window for the funding will open on January 31st of next year. “The second round of ReConnect funding will help USDA be an even stronger partner in closing the digital divide in America’s rural communities,” Perdue says. “Our core mission at USDA is to increase rural prosperity by boosting economic opportunity in rural America.” USDA knows that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-Connectivity. Perdue made the funding announcement during a stop in Iowa, alongside Governor Kim Reynolds. Perdue was in the state to congratulate the Farmers Mutual Telephone Company of Stanton, Iowa, which received $6.4 million in first-round ReConnect program funding. The funds help the company connect 477 households, 35 farms, and 21 businesses to the internet. In the second round, USDA will make up to $200 million in grants available, up to $200 million in 50-50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million available for low-interest loans. To learn more about the program, go to www.usda.gov/reconnect.

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.