READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, June 14th

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USTR Tai heads to Brussels this week for European Negotiations

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is in Europe this week for negotiations with her European counterparts. Tai says she will take part in “intense negotiations” to resolve the 16-year dispute over Boeing and Airbus subsidies and find a path forward on products like steel and aluminum. The talks will also give the U.S. and European Union a chance to champion the rights and interests of workers in those industries while also creating new standards to combat the harmful industrial policies of China and other countries that undermine the ability of other countries to compete. The ambassador says trade is essential to a functioning global economy, but it’s clear that past promises made to workers on trade were not kept. The consequences for workers who lost their jobs to unfairly traded imports created a “trust gap” with the public about free trade. Tai says based on conversations so far, she’s “optimistic that we will be successful.” Tai made her remarks last week during an AFL-CIO Town Hall.

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Judge Halts USDA Debt Relief Plan

A Wisconsin federal judge ordered the USDA to at least temporarily stop $4 billion in loan debt relief payments intended for minority farmers. DTN says the move is in response to a lawsuit filed by white farmers who are not eligible for the same debt relief funds. That’s just one of five federal lawsuits filed against Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to block USDA from paying off loans for minority farmers without also doing the same for white farmers. The temporary restraining order late last week keeps USDA from paying out any money to minority farmers while the U.S. District Court in eastern Wisconsin considers a more extensive preliminary injunction request filed by attorneys for 12 white farmers from nine states. An attorney for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty says, “the Court recognized that the federal government’s plan to allocate benefits based on race raises grave constitutional concerns and threatens our clients with irreparable harm.” A spokesman for USDA says the department disagrees with the judge’s decision but did confirm that the debt-relief program is on hold for now.

**********************************************************************************************    USDA Working to Strengthen Enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act

The USDA will begin work on three proposed rules to support the enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act. The 100-year-old law was originally designed to protect poultry farmers, hog producers, and cattle ranchers from unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices in meat markets. USDA will take three actions related to rulemaking in the months ahead. First, USDA intends to propose a new rule that will provide greater clarity to strengthen enforcement against unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices. USDA will also propose a new poultry grower tournament system rule, with the current inactive proposal to be withdrawn. The agency will also re-propose a rule to clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate harm to competition to bring an action under Section 202 of the Act. “The pandemic and other recent events have revealed how concentration can take a painful toll on independent farmers and ranchers while exposing working family consumers to higher prices and uncertain output,” says Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Packers and Stockyards Act is 100 years old and needs to take into account modern market dynamics.” He says as the agency works to strengthen the resiliency of the country’s supply chains, enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act will be critically important.

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U.S. Farm Tractor Sales Drop in May

Sales in the under-40 horsepower tractor category pulled total U.S. farm tractor sales negative, while all other segments and Canada continue strong growth. The latest data from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers shows that U.S. total farm tractor sales fell 3.9 percent in May compared to 2020, making it the first overall negative sales result in a year. U.S. self-propelled combine sales climbed a healthy 33.2 percent. Only the sub-40 horsepower segment saw a decline in year-over-year sales, dropping 8.9 percent, but that was enough to bring a negative result to total farm tractor unit sales. All other segments were positive, with the biggest gains in the articulated four-wheel-drive segment, up 62 percent to 253 units sold. The mid-sized 40-100 horsepower units were up 6.7 percent, and the 100-plus horsepower two-wheel-drive tractors were up 28 percent. Year-to-date farm tractor sales remain up 25.8 percent. In Canada, May monthly tractor and combine sales were positive through all segments, with the biggest growth in combine harvesters, up 166 percent to 109 units sold. “While the sub-40 segment fell a bit, they’re still up a strong 26 percent year-over-year to date,” says Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of Ag Services with AEM.

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NCBA Petitions to Change “Produced in USA” Label

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association petitioned the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to eliminate using “Product of the USA” labels for beef products. The Hagstrom Report says the NCBA wants to eliminate other broad U.S. origin labeling claims for beef and establish a “Processed in the USA” label instead. “The ‘Product of the USA’ label doesn’t meet the expectations of today’s consumers and disincentivizes the use of voluntary, source-verified claims that allow cattle and beef producers to more effectively distinguish their product in the marketplace,” says NCBA President Jerry Bohn. The headline on the NCBA news release says the move would “increase producer profitability.” Other groups have called for strict country-of-origin labels on meat which Congress passed but later rescinded after a World Trade Organization panel found the labels resulted in discrimination against Canadian and Mexican meat. The voluntary labels that NCBA supports represent investments made by producers to continually improve their products and meet consumer demand. “Marketing through source-verification will provide a more accurate and truthful description of the products,” Bohn adds, ‘which will reduce the potential for consumer confusion while increasing the ability of cattle producers to capture additional premiums for their product.”

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Food Import Costs Expected to Hit Record Levels in 2021

The costs of importing food are expected to reach record levels this year. The U.N. Food Agency says that will put intense pressure on the world’s poorest countries, whose economies have already been hit hard by COVID-19. Reuters says the high costs may continue for a long period as nearly all agricultural commodities have become more expensive in recent months, while a rally in energy markets could boost farmers’ production costs. The Food and Agriculture Organization says the problem is not that the world faces higher prices; the issue is vulnerable countries. The FAO’s Food Outlook report says the world’s food import bill will reach $1.71 trillion, up 12 percent from 2020. The FAO says nations classified as Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries are forecast to see their food import costs jump 20 percent this year. International aid organizations are already warning officials of rising numbers of malnourished people in the world as COVID-19 compounded food insecurity linked to conflict and poverty in states like Yemen and Nigeria. The FAO’s monthly food price index recently hit a 10-year high in May, including sharp rises for cereals, vegetable oils, and sugar.

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.