READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 28th

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China Corn Imports Hit All-Time High

China imported a record amount of corn in November, giving rise to optimism that prices may be getting into their longest rally since 1988. Pro Farmer says China bought 12 times more corn last month than in 2019. Customs data shows that for the first 11 months of 2020, imports more than doubled to nine million tons, passing China’s World Trade Organization commitments of 7.2 million tons for the first time in history. The surge in corn imports pushed the overall Chinese grain prices higher. An official with the Chinese ag ministry says the Southeast Asian country has boosted imports of other feed grains like barley and DDGs to help narrow the supply gap. Higher prices are likely to give farmers the incentive to increase their corn planting next year, ensuring farmers have basic self-sufficiency. China imported 1.3 million tons of corn in November, up 1,130 percent from November of 2019, while imports for the year totaled 9.04 million tons through November, up 122.7 percent from the same time last year.

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Taiwan Approves U.S. Pork Imports with Ractopamine

Taiwan’s parliament approved a measure that will allow U.S. pork imports containing ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing additive. Reuters says the approval came despite objections from KMT, the main opposition party, which says it creates a health risk for the Taiwanese people. The country’s president decided in August that Taiwan would allow imports of U.S. pork with the additive, which is banned in the European Union and China, and that decision stirred up Taiwan politics. The KMT party has staged loud protests against the move, even throwing pig entrails in parliament last month to protest the approval. The government says no one in the country will be forced to eat the pork, and the move means Taiwan will bring its import policy in line with international norms. Major Taiwan companies are already saying they won’t sell pork made with ractopamine. Taiwan officials are hopeful that easing barriers to U.S. pork imports will make it easier to establish a free trade deal with America. Pork is Taiwan’s protein of choice, with the average per capita consumption around 40 kilograms.  

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Holiday Ham Supplies Stretching a Bit Thin

It’s the time of year when people buy a lot of holiday hams, and some pork products are getting stretched thinner. The Wall Street Journal says it’s due in part to COVID-19 precautions challenging meatpacker workforces to keep up with demand. Some meat suppliers are placing limits on how much pork supermarkets can order, leading to less variety and fewer pork promotions in the days ahead of Christmas. COVID has led to some of the larger processors like Smithfield Foods and JBS providing paid leave for workers who are considered higher risk because of pre-existing conditions or their older age demographic. Some meat companies have hired extra workers to help offset the absences. In another concession to COVID-19 worries, some of the meat plants are spacing workers farther apart, which has slowed the processing speeds in their operations. Grocery companies report that bacon, dinner sausages, and lunch meat have also been in tighter supply during the holidays.

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U.S. Hog Inventory Drops One Percent

As of December 1, U.S. farms contained 77.5 million hogs and pigs, down one percent from December of 2019, and down one percent from September of 2020. Those numbers were published last week by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Of the 77.5 million hogs and pigs, 71.2 million were market hogs, while 6.28 million were kept for breeding. Between September and November of this year, 35 million pigs were weaned on U.S. Farms, down one percent from the same period last year, while U.S. hog producers weaned an average of 11.05 pigs per litter. Hog producers intend to have 3.12 million sows farrow between December of 2020 and February 2021, and 3.12 million sows farrow between March and May of next year. Iowa producers held the largest inventory among the states at 24.8 million head. Minnesota was next with 9.4 million head, and North Carolina finished third with nine million head. To get the most accurate measurement possible of the U.S. swine industry, NASS surveyed more than 6,000 producers across the nation through the first half of December.

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NPPC: Anti-Meat Group Shows “True Colors”

Last week, the head of an anti-meat extremist group posed as the CEO of a major pork producer during a national television interview. The National Pork Producers Council says the conversation contained “outrageous and false claims” about the U.S. pork industry and the challenges it faced during COVID-19. NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth (Rowth) had a sharp response to the interview. “Taking advantage of this black-swan event to drive an anti-meat, anti-livestock agriculture agenda is reprehensible,” Roth says. “These radical extremist groups who typically work shrouded in secrecy and false identities, frequently by breaking the law, are only able to propagate their false narrative by fooling journalists and posing as credible sources.” Despite the enormous challenges of 2020, Roth says hundreds of thousands of committed farmers and others employed in pork production remain dedicated to keeping Americans and consumers around the world supplied with affordable, nutritious protein. “COVID-19 has caused record numbers of Americans to be food insecure,” he adds. “U.S. pork producers are proud to help feed those in need, and these extremist groups should be ashamed of their stunts. Apparently, there’s no low point for their actions.”   

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Popular Organic Weed Killer Under Investigation

Regulators in Washington, Oregon, and California issued “stop-use” orders for a popular herbicide that’s been used on a lot of organic crops. Questions are arising about whether or not Agro Gold WS contains synthetic herbicides like Glyphosate or Diquat. As more questions come up about the product, the state of Idaho is also investigating, and an Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson says the agency is “looking at it more closely.” The product isn’t labeled as a conventional herbicide, which could have endangered farmworkers. They may not have worn enough protective gear or taken enough precautions when mixing or applying the chemicals because they didn’t know what might actually be in the product. Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Roundup. The Florida-based company Agro Research International says it doesn’t add chemicals to the organic product. Their CEO tells the Northwest News Network that he’s fighting back against the investigations. He says the co-pack of two products, Agro Gold and Weed Slayer, has been working well for many years, and they “don’t use chemicals.” He says he’s not too worried about the ongoing investigations, noting that, “If an intruder comes to your house and you have the ammunition to defend yourself, you shouldn’t worry.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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.