READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, February 26th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Progress on Implementing the Phase One Trade Deal with China

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that China has taken numerous actions to begin implementing its agriculture-related commitments in the Phase One trade deal. The countries first entered into the landmark agreement back on February 14. China’s actions toward implementing the deal include signing a protocol that allows the importation of U.S. fresh chipping potatoes. They’ve lifted the ban on imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products, including pet food containing poultry products. China has lifted restrictions on imports of U.S. pet food that contains ruminant material. They’ve also updated lists of facilities approved for exporting animal protein, pet food, dairy infant formula, and tallow for industry use to China. The Chinese government has also updated the lists of products that can be exported to China as feed additives. Additionally, China has begun announcing tariff exclusions for imports of U.S. agricultural products subject to its retaliatory tariffs, and it announced a reduction in retaliatory tariff rates on certain U.S. agricultural goods. Lighthizer says, “We’re already seeing positive results just a month after signing the agreement with China. We will continue to ensure the agreement is strictly enforced for the benefit of our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”

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Wheat Exports Set to Rise

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue had good news for U.S. wheat farmers. Effective immediately, U.S. wheat can now be shipped to Kenya regardless of the state of origin or which port of export it comes from. This important step means that Idaho, Oregon, and Washington can now join the list of states that can ship wheat to Kenya. “America’s farmers in the Pacific Northwest now have full access to the Kenyan wheat market,” says Greg Ibach (EYE-baw), USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “This action proves our commitment to securing fair treatment and greater access for U.S. products in the global marketplace.” The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has been working closely with Kenya for 12 years to address plant health concerns that kept U.S. wheat exports from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, out of Kenya. The export protocol signed off on by Kenya’s Plant Health Inspectorate Service and APHIS gives U.S. exporters full access to the wheat market in Kenya, valued at nearly $500 million annually.

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Doing a Deep Dive into U.S. Dairy Consumption

It’s no secret that the dairy sector has been struggling with low milk prices for years. Agricultural Economic Insights took a deep dive into the U.S. dairy industry in the face of rising bankruptcies among small farmers and big milk processors like Dean Foods. Fluid milk consumption per capita in the U.S. has been falling for decades. However, consumers are actually buying more dairy goods overall, including more butter and cheese. Cheese consumption per capita has doubled since 1975, with mozzarella and cheddar each representing about 30 percent of consumption in 2018; butter consumption has grown by a third since 2001 and a Politico article says part of that surge comes because fat has lost some of its stigma among dietary health advocates. Per-capita yogurt consumption was steadily climbing up till 2014 before dropping over the past five years. Fluid milk consumption dropped more than 40 percent since 1975, or about 1.2 percent per year. In the meantime, alternatives like almond and soymilk have grown in popularity. Overall, the dairy industry is primarily driven by slow rates of changes unfolding over several decades,” says AEI farm economist David Widmar. Farm bankruptcies in the dairy industry jumped by nearly 20 percent in 2019.

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UK Farmers Union Wants High Food Standards in Trade Negotiations

The United Kingdom shouldn’t allow imports of food that fall short of the country’s own standards when it draws up trade agreements. That thought comes directly from the head of the UK’s National Farmers Union. NFU President Minette Batters says domestic production standards should be used as a benchmark in trade talks. Business Times Dot Com says her comments signal that British farmers would face a setback if the government allows imports of products that are treated with certain chemicals or made using lesser animal-welfare rules. After leaving the European Union last month, the UK is working on getting trade talks going with multiple nations that cover everything from food trade to data protection. “It’s not just about chlorinated chicken,” Batters says in a statement. “This is about a wider principle. We must not tie the hands of British farmers to the highest rung of the standards ladder while waving through food imports which may not even reach the bottom rung.” As it has in America, trade uncertainty is weighing down UK farm sentiment, with one-year confidence falling to its third-lowest point since 2010.

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U.S. Facing a Sugar Shortage and Higher Prices

Last year was a rough one for American sugar farmers. The Hagstrom Report says America is facing a sugar shortage after last year’s bad weather in the Midwest, a freeze in Louisiana, and drought in Mexico. The shortage is driving the prices for the industrial sweetener higher, reaching several cents above average. A national refiner of raw sugar is offering refined cane sugar at 44 cents per pound now and 41 cents for the calendar year 2021. That’s compared with the more usual prices of 37 to 38 cents. The bad weather hit particularly hard in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. Those areas have some of the most sophisticated delivery systems to candy makers and other food companies in Chicago and other midwestern cities. The U.S. Ag Department can make changes if needed to its sugar management system to make it easier and cheaper to bring in raw cane sugar from other countries into the United States, but also has no control over the refining process once the sugar enters the country. The U.S. sugar industry used to have 104 production plants but now has 45.

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More Farmers Converting to Organic

U.S. farmers harvested almost 3.3 million acres of certified organic field crops in 2019, with that number driven by 14 percent more organic operations. Those numbers come from Mercaris, the market data service and online trading platform for organic, non-GMO, and certified agricultural commodities. The company’s final 2019 report shows that the number of growers converting land to organic production escalated significantly throughout 2019, adding to the U.S. organic harvest and offsetting the impact of a wet growing season. Producers harvested 1.1 million acres of organic hay and alfalfa in 2019, up eight percent year-over-year with 11 percent more certified organic operations. Thirteen percent more certified organic operations harvested organic corn over 2019, offsetting a significant decline in the number of harvested acres per operation. The number of certified operations harvesting organic soybeans reached 2,835, up 11 percent. The amount of harvested organic wheat acres was driven by expansion in the High Plains region, growing 16 percent in 2019. A release from Mercaris says, “Despite what can fairly be described as the most difficult growing season in more than a decade, 2019 was a remarkable year for organic production.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Tucker 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.