READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, January 21st

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Ag Secretary Expecting the Third Round of Trade Aid Payments

Even though the first trade deal with China has been signed, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says he still expects U.S. farmers to get a third-round of 2019 trade aid payments. USDA hasn’t officially announced if and when the farmers would get those payments. Perdue tells Bloomberg that the move is still waiting for approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Perdue says the agreement won’t interfere with the final round of trade assistance payments made under the Market Facilitation Program. “My expectation is the third round will be issued immediately,” Perdue says. “I’m counting on it, but we’ve got to get that allocated through OMB. But I see no reason why we can’t get that done.” The U.S. government instituted the aid program as the trade war with China escalated and the Asian country implemented retaliatory tariffs on American farm goods. The first round of payments was issued last fall, with the second payments coming in the winter. Perdue did say that farmers shouldn’t expect new assistance this year beyond the $28 billion that was previously approved. The administration wants to begin phase two trade talks with China as soon as possible, with President Trump willing to travel to China to help them get going.

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Europe Next in the Trade Negotiation Bullseye

Phil Hogan, the new Trade Commissioner for the European Union, was in Washington, D.C., last week and spoke about the tense relationship between the EU and the U.S. The New York Times says Hogan promises to “robustly defend” European interests as he justified the European position on trade disagreements with the U.S. over airplane subsidies, digital taxes, and the World Trade Organization. He criticized American officials for being inaccurate in claiming that trade between the U.S. and EU was unbalanced, while also saying America’s aggressive use of tariffs against trading partners was “hardly sensible.” His comments came as the U.S. is considering the use of new tariffs against the European Union trading bloc. However, Hogan ruled out the possibility of a three-way trade relationship between the EU, the U.S., and the United Kingdom in a post-Brexit world. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tells Fox Business News that sealing the phase one trade deal with China and congressional passage of USMCA boosts the U.S. negotiating stance with Europe. “Our position is infinitely better already just because of these two deals,” Ross says.

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Foreign Ag Service Chases New Trade Opportunities in 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service was busy looking for new trade opportunities in 2019. Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney says the agency fought throughout the year to unlock new export opportunities for U.S. agriculture around the globe. Last year, the FAS hosted six trade missions and supported exporter participation in 22 international trade shows. Together, those activities resulted in nearly $3 billion in projected 12-month sales of U.S. farm and food products across the globe. The agency also facilitated another $2 billion in exports of American commodities to Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. McKinney says, “While the U.S. was in the process of finalizing the phase one trade agreement with China, we successfully defended U.S. wheat, corn, and rice interests against China at the World Trade Organization.” FAS staff around the globe also helped U.S. exporters in releasing hundreds of shipments that were detained at ports of entry in overseas markets, ensuring that over $95 million in perishable products arrived safely at their final destinations. “USDA efforts to break down barriers and pursue export opportunities resulted in new or expanded market access for numerous U.S. farm products in 2019,” McKinney adds.

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National Biodiesel Conference Looks to the Future

The National Biodiesel Conference and Expo get underway this week at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida on Tuesday. The biggest gathering of the biodiesel industry will unveil “Vision 2020.” The industry will look to the future after ending 2019 with recent policy victories in Washington, D.C. Donnell (duh-NELL) Rehagen (REE-hagen), CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, says, “Last year at this time, U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel producers faced an uncertain future. Thanks to our members and the support of industry champions, we’re going into the new year ready to deliver even more biodiesel to both our transportation and home heating fuel customers.” He says the conference is an opportunity to lay out the road map for the next ten years for a fuel that’s better than ever, cleaner, and now available coast-to-coast. Industry stakeholders at the conference will get new information on the latest vehicle technology, take a deep dive into the future of renewable fuels, and they’ll hear from expert speakers on environmental policy. The vehicle showcases and ride-and-drive events provide a chance to check out the latest biodiesel cars and trucks coming out from the world’s biggest manufacturers. The NBB says biodiesel is a clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification.

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Farm Lending Declines at the End of 2019

Farm lending activity dropped for a second consecutive quarter at commercial banks at the end of last year. A reduction in non-real estate farm lending, particularly for operating loans, was the primary contributor to a reduced volume of loans at banks with portfolios that concentrate heavily on agriculture. The declines came along with additional reductions in production expenses, but reduced loan demand likely also was due to an increase in revenue from government payments connected to the trade disputes that lingered through the year. Following average annual growth of more than 10 percent in 2017 and 2018, and several quarters of sharp increases, lending activity contracted in the second half of last year and, on average, was five percent lower in 2019. Despite decreasing from a year ago, farm lending volumes remained higher than the 20-year average. The total volume of non-real estate loans averaged about $90 billion in 2019 and was about eight percent above the average number stretching back to 1999.

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Bureau of Land Management Taking Steps to Improve Grazing

The Bureau of Land Management recently announced it’s preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on new grazing regulations. The bureau’s Notice of Intent will appear this week in the Federal Register on January 21st. A public comment period is now open and in-person meetings will be held across the western U.S. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Federal Lands Committee and the PLC’s Grazing Regulations Working Group both call this a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for BLM permittees to set the record straight.” The groups say they’ve endured Bruce Babbitt’s “Range Reform” for more than 25 years, with the land, native grasses, and local ranching families suffering as a result. The groups both say this is a great first step to righting that wrong and can’t emphasize enough how important it is for ranchers to submit comments and participate in the meetings. More information can be found on the BLM website.

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.