READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 23rd 

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USMCA Senate Prospects, Markup January 7, 2020

Following a landslide vote to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in the House last week, the trade deal heads to the Senate. A vote, expected in January, could come early in the month, pending how the impeachment articles are handled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week elected to hang on the impeachment documents, rather than send them off immediately to the Senate. Pending on how long she chooses to hold them, the action could clear a window for the Senate to consider USMCA. Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley Friday announced his committee intends to hold a markup hearing on January 7, 2020, based on the expectation that the Senate will have received the legislation beforehand from the House of Representatives. Grassley says, “This markup will move us closer to ratifying USMCA in early 2020. Senate leadership expects they could quickly consider and pass the agreement within a couple of days. However, if the Senate must start the year with impeachment trials, then a vote will come near the end of January, following the hearings.

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USCA Disappointed in Lack of COOL in USMCA

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association expressed disappointment last week because country of origin labeling was not included in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The group penned a letter to President Donald Trump following House passage of the USMCA implementing legislation. Leo McDonnell, USCA Director Emeritus, writes, “This administration promised to “Make America Great Again,” but it is becoming evident this does not include U.S. ranchers.” He calls the lack of COOL in USMCA “disheartening at best.” The letter presented years of data, dating back to 1988, as evidence of unfair trade in the beef sector by Canada and Mexico, in making a case for the necessity of COOL. However, COOL, which is illegal by World Trade Organization standards, was in place, but repealed by the U.S. Congress after Canada and Mexico planned trade retaliations. McDonnell concludes, “I appreciate that USMCA may be too far along to address some of these measures, but I feel it is important that, at the minimum, the record needs to be set straight.”

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Ernst Will Call for Wheeler Resignation if RFS Doesn’t Reach 15 Billion Gallons

Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa says she will call for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s resignation, if the Renewable Fuel Standard doesn’t meet the statute requirement of 15 billion gallons. Her comments follow Wheeler’s final supplement rule released by his agency last week. In a joint statement with Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Ernst says, “We will keep holding EPA’s feet to the fire to ensure they truly uphold the RFS as intended.” Ernst alleges that the industry was “guaranteed a deal” earlier in the year that would appease biofuels producers. The agreement would account for all lost gallons to small refinery exemptions. However, the industry says EPA’s plan to reallocate exempted gallons based on a three-year rolling average won’t make up for the four billion lost gallons. The agreement that the Iowa Senators say made earlier in the year would have based the three year average on actual gallons waived.

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Iowa Ag Secretary: RVO Ruling Hurts Rural America

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig (Nayg) says the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule regarding Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for 2020 “creates unnecessary uncertainty in our markets,” and is “detrimental to so many across rural America.” The EPA proposal did not follow a request from the biofuels industry. Naig calls the rule flawed, adding, “We must continue to work together to hold the EPA accountable for ensuring the 15 billion gallons mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard are met.” He made additional calls to invest in biofuels infrastructure. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship administers the Iowa Renewable Fuel Infrastructure program, which offers cost-share grants to help fuel retailers install infrastructure to increase the availability of ethanol and biodiesel. Secretary Naig has requested $3 million in the fiscal year 2021 to continue supporting the program. To date, the program has distributed or obligated over $33 million, with $200 million added in private economic activity. 

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Seven Sue USDA Over Pork Processing Revisions

Seven organizations last week jointly filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture over its decision to reduce oversight at pig slaughterhouses and eliminate limits on slaughter speeds. The groups claim the changes ”expose pigs to greater suffering,” and defy federal slaughter, meat inspection, and environmental protection laws. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on behalf of Farm Sanctuary, Animal Equality, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, Compassion Over Killing, Mercy For Animals, and North Carolina Farmed Animal Save. In a statement, a spokesperson from the law firm filing the suit says the revised regulation “reads like a joint venture between big business and the federal government.” The lawsuit challenges USDA’s revocation of limits on the number of pigs that can be slaughtered per hour. The lawsuit also challenges USDA’s decision to remove and relocate federal inspectors in slaughterhouses.

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Broadband Map Fix Will Reveal Needs

The House of Representatives passed legislation last week that will improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps to better identify needs. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act requires broadband providers to report more specific data to create a significantly more accurate and granular National Broadband Map. With more precise data, federal agencies can target funding to areas that need it most. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says, “it’s critical” to do so, adding “broadband is a necessity.” Current broadband coverage maps are inadequate, according to AFBF, because they rely on census block data to determine which areas are covered. Census blocks “are too large in rural and remote locations to accurately determine need.”  In addition to creating more accurate maps, the bill requires the FCC to establish an audit process that ensures internet service providers are providing accurate data used to create the maps. It also would create a user-friendly process to challenge the data.

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.