READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, January 15th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

McConnell: Senate to Process USMCA This Week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests the Senate will vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement this week. Bloomberg News expects a vote Thursday, as the Senate committees required to sign off on the implementing legislation are doing so quickly. However, a final vote has not been confirmed. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the agreement on a vote of 16-4 Tuesday morning. The Senate Budget Committee also approved the trade agreement Tuesday. Up next, the bill must be approved by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, along with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee today (Wednesday). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee changed its hearing from Thursday to today (Wednesday), and the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to do the same, sending the agreement to the full Senate for approval. The House of Representatives is expected to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate this week, but the trials won’t likely start until next week, offering a small window of opportunity for the Senate to pass the agreement.

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China Imports of U.S. Soy, Pork, Rebound

China’s purchases of U.S. pork and soybeans rebounded in November and December, ahead of today’s (Wednesday’s) signing of the phase one trade agreement between the two nations. Reuters reports that Chinese agricultural imports from the United States were at 14.1 billion yuan, or $2 billion, in December. A Chinese customs spokesperson says the increase in imports of soybeans and pork comes as “positive U.S.-China trade sentiment has boosted companies’ confidence in December.” African swine fever has severely reduced China’s hog herd, the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork. China has since increased exports of U.S. pork to record levels. Pork exports to China and Hong Kong were up 49 percent in value at $1.18 billion from January to November 2019. Consumer prices for pork in China nearly doubled since the initial outbreak of African swine fever, and efforts to rebuild the hog herd in China are slow going. China has also released frozen pork from state-owned reserves to help ease the situation for consumers.

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Trade Group Seeks Accountability and Transparency

A trade lobby group seeks accountability and transparency from the phase one agreement between the U.S. and China. Farmers for Free Trade seeks further details regarding both the China agreement, and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The China agreement includes $40 billion of increased purchases of U.S. agriculture products, according to the Trump administration. Farmers for Free Trade Co-Executive Director Brian Kuehl says, “There is a healthy skepticism about whether American farmers will actually see these purchases, adding “that skepticism is only compounded when we’re told we won’t see the full text of the deal.” Specifically, the organization is asking whether the $40 billion in ag purchases commitment is contingent on any actions by the U.S. and for details on how China will meet the commitment if it’s been made. Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Premier Liu (Lou) He was reported to be in last-minute talks with the U.S. ahead of today’s (Wednesday’s) signing ceremony. A potential phase two agreement is expected to tackle more sensitive issues between the U.S. and China.

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GMA Rebrands as Consumer Brands Association

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is now the Consumer Brands Association, as part of a rebranding effort. Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the association, says the Consumer Brands Association is “an entirely new organization with a focused, compelling agenda.” The association represents the grocery product industry. Research by the organization suggests the association should focus on concerns regarding transportation costs, growing investment and prioritization around sustainability. Board Chairman and CEO of General Mills, Jeff Harmening, says the association “will be a vital reflection of our united interests and alignment with today’s consumer.” From household and personal care to food and beverage products, the consumer-packaged goods sector contributes $2 trillion to U.S. GDP and supports more than 20 million American jobs. As the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the organization saw a handful of companies discontinue membership in 2017 over a GMO labeling disagreement. Several companies that left the organization went on to form the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance.

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USDA Reminds Historically Underserved Producers of Advance Payment Option

The Department of Agriculture reminds historically underserved producers, who are participating in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), of the advance payment option. The advanced payment option allows them to get conservation practice payments in advance of practice implementation. EQIP is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The program provides financial and technical assistance to address natural resource concerns and to deliver environmental benefits. In fiscal 2019, NRCS invested $1.3 billion through EQIP to implement conservation practices on more than 13 million acres. A historically underserved producer includes beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, veteran farmers and limited resource farmers. Under the advance payment option, producers may request payments when they have final designs and job sheets and are ready to begin their EQIP practices. Advance payments provide at least 50 percent of the payment rate for each practice. The funds must be spent within 90 days of receipt and practices must be completed as agreed to in an EQIP plan of operations.

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Illinois Leads Nation in Soybean Production Again

Illinois continues to top the annual crop production report estimate for soybean production, according to 2019 Department of Agriculture estimates. Despite a tough growing season for most of the Midwest, Illinois farmers consistently produced strong soybean yields. Illinois soybean farmers raised 532.4 million bushels of soybeans in 2019 on 9.86 million harvested acres with an average yield of 54 bushels per acre. Illinois Soybean Association chairman Doug Schroeder says 2019 will be remembered as the most challenging growing season on record, but adds “I think this report reflects the Illinois soybean industry’s resiliency and ability to produce a consistent, high quality product year after year.” Iowa ranked second in production with 501.6 million bushels raised on 9.12 million acres. Nationwide, soybean production in 2019 totaled 3.56 billion bushels, down 20 percent from 2018. The average yield per acre was estimated at 47.4 bushels, down 3.2 bushels from 2018. Harvested area was down 14 percent from 2018 to 75.0 million acres.

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.