READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 5th

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Vietnam to Buy $3 Billion in U.S. Farm Products

Vietnam is committing to buy $3 billion in U.S. farm goods to shrink the soaring trade surplus it has with America. Bloomberg says the Asian nation is looking to appease the Trump administration, which isn’t happy about the deficit. Vietnam is also looking to satisfy the complaints of U.S. companies that face difficulties in accessing Vietnamese markets. A Vietnam Agriculture Ministry spokesman says they “see a lot of room to increase purchases from America, which will significantly help narrow our trade gap with the U.S.,” while also noting that the demand in Vietnam for American farm products is “very high.” Vietnamese companies signed a total of 18 agreements with American producers to buy about $3 billion in farm products over the next two or three years. The deal includes purchasing 100,000 cows, three million tons of wheat and barley worth about $800 million, fruit, and corn and soy animal feed. Vietnam’s exports to the U.S. totaled $61.3 billion in 2019, widening the trade gap to $47 billion, up from $34.8 billion the year before, according to Vietnamese customs data. The U.S. Census Bureau says last year’s trade deficit with Vietnam was $55.8 billion, up from $39.5 billion the year before.

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Texas A & M Analyzes Trade Aid Distribution

Texas A & M University published its analysis of the Trump administration’s trade aid program. The study’s authors say, “There’s no denying that the trade aid package, especially the Market Facilitation Program, has had a significant impact on farm income in the U.S.” Across all of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center’s 63 representative crop farms, the two years of MFP payments in 2018 and 2019 protected $16.4 million in net worth from 2018-2020. Under baseline conditions without MFP, 35 of those 63 farms had a greater than 50 percent chance of ending 2020 with negative cash balances. With the MFP in place, the study says the number dropped to 34 percent. Some have argued that the second round of payments was biased toward Southern states. Most of the variability in county payment rates under MFP can be explained by the underlying damage assessments and the distribution of planted acres in the respective counties. The study authors say even though the highest county payment rates were mostly in counties with cotton production, almost 70 percent of the MFP payments went to producers in Midwestern states. “We find little validity to the argument of regional inequity,” the authors said in a statement.

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Perdue Talks Trade Aid Before House Ag Committee

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue testified before the House Ag Committee and trade aid was a big topic of discussion. Michael Conaway, Ranking Member from Texas, called for another round of Market Facilitation Program payments this year. “The first and second MFP Programs were as justified as they were critical to our farmers and ranchers,” Conaway says. “I strongly believe that unless something gives here soon, an announcement on MFP part three will be vital to the survival of our producers.” Conaway added that folks who are critical about the aid payments should talk to the secretary on how to go about improving the Market Facilitation Program. House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota fears that Donald Trump’s recent tweet signaling the possibility of more aid means the trade agreements aren’t going to pay off soon. Peterson says, “If it weren’t for the payments to farmers through the MFP, farm income would have been in the tank,” he says. “I hope the markets return to normal. However, the president’s comments don’t give me confidence that we’ll see tangible benefits from the new trade deals anytime soon.” Perdue has repeatedly said he believes exports will grow and another round of trade aid won’t be needed.

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Congressman says UK Trade Without Agriculture is a No-Go for Congress

If the U.S. and U.K. were to strike a trade deal that doesn’t include opening up the U.K, market to more U.S. farm goods, that would be a no-go in Congress. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley’s comments are in direct opposition to London’s official negotiating objectives that were made public on Monday. Politico says those objectives included maintaining the U.K.’s strict food safety and animal welfare standards. If it sounds familiar, it should. Agriculture has long been the biggest sticking point in separate but stalled negotiations with the European Union. Trade officials are now aiming to establish a mini deal by March 18. The mini agreement could contain some agriculture concessions from Brussels, but Politico says it likely won’t kick the door open for U.S. meat products. The EU’s top trade official, Bernd (Burned) Lange, was recently in Washington, D.C., to talk to administration officials and lawmakers. Questioned by reporters about the possibility of the EU opening more of its market to U.S. farm goods and dropping their non-tariff barriers, Lange’s answer was, “On agriculture, everyone knows that this is not possible.

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Farmers Union Sets Policy Priorities

The National Farmers Union says it’s looking for measures that will bring some certainty to the farm economy in 2020. The Hagstrom Report says the organization will emphasize bringing the question about agricultural certainty to presidential candidates. Newly elected NFU President Rob Larew spoke to reporters after their annual convention ended, saying, “The special orders the delegates passed to set priorities for 2020 reflected what an awful year 2019 was.” He says farmers were also hurt by “manmade challenges,” a veiled reference to President Donald Trump’s trade policies, as well as a “lack of action” on climate change. The National Farmers Union will also continue to focus on its long-term concerns about agribusiness concentration, as well as the dwindling competition among the businesses that supply farmers with their inputs and buy farmer products from them. Larew says it’s been difficult to get the attention of Washington, D.C. regarding these issues. However, rising concern about antitrust issues and anticompetitive behavior by tech companies could make easier to get D.C. to notice what’s going on with those same issues in agriculture.

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Oil State Senators Pushing Trump as Deadline Looms

The oil industry and allies on Capitol Hill are pushing for the Trump Administration to defend its decision to exempt some oil refineries from blending requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard. The administration faces a Monday deadline to request the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a decision that threatens to curtail the use of the waivers. Republicans from oil-patch states, including Ted Cruz of Texas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, have warned the administration and the Environmental Protection Agency that the decision will have consequences if it’s implemented around the nation. They say potential negative impacts could include strain on refineries, cause a rise in gasoline prices, and put jobs in jeopardy. Although federal law authorizes the EPA to exempt small refineries facing “economic hardship,” a January ruling by a three-judge panel in the 10th Circuit Court places limits on the agency’s ability to hand out large numbers of the waivers. If the decision stands, officials believe only two small refineries would still be eligible for hardship relief. Oil industry allies are hoping that the president will intervene and order a shift in the course of the discussions.

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.