WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, spoke on the Senate floor on the importance of passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat colleagues to support this trade agreement.
“On behalf of dairy farmers and farmer-owned dairy cooperatives across the country, NMPF wrote to the President today to commend his Administration for its excellent judgment this month in including a number of European dairy products, particularly cheeses from major EU exporters such as Italy, on a list of WTO-authorized retaliatory tariffs related to the successful U.S. case against European Airbus subsidies. However, we must reject European efforts to deceive the United States about the reality of Transatlantic dairy trade. To that end, we respectfully asked the President to put the needs of U.S. dairy farmers above those of Italian and European farmers by maintaining the retaliatory tariff list against Europe, as the Administration proposed earlier this month.
“The U.S. is running a $1.5 billion dairy trade deficit with Europe because of unfair EU trade practices that largely block our access to their market while they enjoy broad access to ours. EU policies such as Italian-initiated bans on American-made parmesan, asiago and gorgonzola mean that they can ship us $1 billion in cheese each year while U.S. cheese exports to the EU clock in at $6 million.
“In light of this disparity and the EU’s refusal to meet its WTO commitments regarding illegal Airbus subsidies, American dairy farmers saw the proposed retaliatory tariff list’s strong focus on EU dairy and cheeses as at least temporarily creating a slightly more level playing field for Made in America products that face even higher barriers to entry in the EU market.
“Dairy farmers are counting on the President to stand with them and resist Italy’s request that he side with the Italian farmers and cheese makers who have blocked our own great cheeses from EU store shelves.”
Two farm state Senators are promoting legislation that seeks to curb farmer suicides. Announced last month, the Seeding Rural Resilience Act would offer ways to help farmers and rural America deal with stress.
The bill was formally introduced this week by Senator John Tester, a Democrat from Montana, and Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Grassley and Tester say the legislation is receiving praise from farm and mental health organizations. Tester says the legislation “puts us on track towards giving farmers the resources they need” to cope with stress in a tough economy.
Federal data shows the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas. The bill would provide Department of Agriculture employees voluntary stress management training, and for a partnership with the Department of Health to create a $3 million public awareness campaign, and create a path to identify the best practices for responding to farm and ranch stress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says work continues on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, while impeachment proceedings move forward in the House of Representatives.
Still, a fear persists outside of Washington, D.C., that USMCA may not reach the finish line because of the full schedule in Washington. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Pelosi reaffirmed that House Democrats are working towards a solution, saying, “we hope to be on a path to yes.” Pelosi says Democrats are still waiting on assurances about enforceability.
Those in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, remain optimistic House Democrats can reach an agreement with the Trump administration to pass USMCA. The Trump administration threatened when the impeachment inquiry was announced that “House Democrats destroyed any chances of legislative progress,” including USMCA, which will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico’s President recently pledged to sign a letter to U.S. lawmakers urging passage of the agreement. Mexico ratified USMCA this summer, and Canada is expected to do so following its federal elections later this month.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture recently announced additional label restrictions for the 2020 growing season for dicamba. Agriculture Director John Sullivan announced the rules due to a dramatic rise in the number of off-target complaints received during the 2019 growing season, adding “the department is taking action to reduce those numbers.”
The new restrictions halt the use of dicamba after June 20, 2020. The new regulations also prohibit the application of dicamba if the air temperature at the field at the time of application is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or if the National Weather Service’s forecasted high temperature for the nearest available location for the day of application exceeds 85 degrees.
Applicators also must maintain the label-specified downwind buffer between the last treated row and the nearest downfield edge of any Illinois Nature Preserves Commission site. In addition to these provisions’, applicators must follow the federal guidelines when it comes to applying dicamba, including taking an annual certified applicator training course.
USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney will lead a trade mission to Vietnam on October 15-18.
It’s a large trade mission as McKinney will be accompanied by almost 80 industry and government representatives looking to grow agricultural export opportunities into one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. The mission will be based in Ho Chi Minh City, and it will also include buyer delegations from Thailand and Burma.
“The size of this trade mission speaks to the phenomenal potential that exists for U.S. exports in Vietnam and the surrounding countries,” McKinney says. “Since the United States normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995, our agricultural exports have grown exponentially, reaching a record $4 billion last year.” Sales of U.S. food and farm products to Thailand and Burma also set records last year, reaching more than $2.1 billion and $126 million, respectively.
The heads of six state departments of agriculture from Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming will join McKinney on the trip. Officials from agriculture companies and commodity organizations will also be making the journey to Asia with McKinney.
House Democrats are wrapping up a two-day trip to Mexico to discuss the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Led by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, the visit comes as the Democratic Working Group on NAFTA 2.0 “continues to engage in productive discussions with the U.S. Trade Representative regarding important improvements to the agreement,” according to Neal.
Representative Neal also leads the working group on USMCA. The lawmakers are meeting with representatives from the Mexican Government as well as local workers, focusing on enforcement of the agreement regarding labor standards in Mexico.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week maintained “we are making progress” on reaching an agreement to pass the trade deal. The group forwarded a counter proposal to the White House just over a week ago.
Lawmakers Joining Neil on the trip include Representatives Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, Dan Kildee of Michigan, Jimmy Panetta of Jimmy Gomez of California. The group maintains a commitment to reaching an agreement with the White House to pass the trade agreement.
Agriculture is hoping sees momentum building for more trade deals, after President Trump signed a $55 billion dollar trade agreement with Japan Monday.
The American Farm Bureau Federation says it hopes momentum from the Japan deal that lowers or ends tariffs on U.S beef, pork, poultry, corn, wheat, almonds, wine, ethanol and other ag goods, sets the stage for similar deals with other nations.
President Trump says China is key…
Especially U.S. soybeans, possibly a ‘sweetener’ by the Chinese, as a delegation arrives here Thursday for renewed talks.
Trump meantime, is leaning on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, amid the political drama over Democratic impeachment efforts, to allow the US Mexico-Canada Agreement to come up for a House vote…
Pelosi earlier charged it was up to Trump to make concessions on USMCA enforcement language, while Republicans counter Democrats have slow-walked the deal worth billions for US Ag, since last December.
U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the following statement today after President Trump signed the official text of new trade agreements with Japan:
“This agreement between the U.S. and Japan is a victory for Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and ethanol producers. By securing reduced tariffs on a variety of exports like beef, pork and ethanol, this agreement expands markets for Nebraska’s great ag products. I appreciate the administration’s hard work on this deal, and look forward to continuing to work with the president toward additional trade agreements.”
Under these trade agreements, Japan will eliminate or lower tariffs on American beef, pork, wheat, ethanol, and more, as well as expand digital trade between the two countries.
Statement by Steve Nelson, President:
“The trade deal with Japan formally signed today by President Trump makes good on his promise to strike an agreement with one of Nebraska’s most important trading partners. This deal represents a huge win for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. When implemented it will put them on a level playing field with some of our largest competitors that are currently participating in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP). More specifically, Nebraska’s beef, pork, dairy, and ethanol producers, will all greatly benefit from this agreement which significantly reduces or eliminates tariffs and increases overall market access to this important strategic ally and trading partner. We are hopeful this agreement will provide a long-term economic boost and is a sign of more good things to come on the trade front.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Jennifer Houston
“I was deeply honored to attend the ceremony at the White House where we celebrated a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. As the top market for U.S. beef exports, Japan accounts for one quarter of our exports and roughly $2 billion in annual sales. As a beef producer, I understand the value of exports to my bottom line, and President Trump understands that increased access to foreign markets like Japan is the economic stimulus we need. We are grateful for President Trump’s leadership and for the hard work of our trade negotiators who fought hard to strengthen our access to the Japanese market. Because of their efforts, future generations of American ranching families will benefit from trade with Japan.”
Houston hailed today’s announcement as an important step forward for the U.S. beef industry.
“For the past few years, U.S. beef producers have benefited greatly from growing demand for U.S. beef in Japan. While Japanese consumers enjoy high quality U.S. beef, they unfortunately pay a higher price for U.S. beef due to the massive 38.5 percent tariff. Removing that tariff allows more Japanese consumers to enjoy more U.S. beef at a more competitive price. Today’s announcement is welcome news for American families who produce U.S. beef and Japanese families who purchase it.”
ATLANTA (AP) — More than 45 million people across 14 Southern states are now in the midst of what’s being called a “flash drought” that’s cracking farm soil, drying up ponds and raising the risk of wildfires, scientists said Thursday.
The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows extreme drought conditions in parts of Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and the Florida panhandle. Lesser drought conditions also have expanded in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Overall, nearly 20 percent of the lower 48 U.S. states is experiencing drought conditions.
The drought accelerated rapidly in September, as record heat combined with little rainfall to worsen the parched conditions, said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska.
“Typically we look at drought as being a slow onset, slow-developing type phenomenon compared to other disasters that rapidly happen, so this flash drought term came about,” Fuchs said. “The idea is that it’s more of a rapidly developing drought situation compared to what we typically see.”
Fuchs said he expects scientists to have further discussions about flash droughts, and perhaps develop parameters for what constitutes a flash drought.
Climate change is expected to make this kind of drought even hotter in the southern Great Plains, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported recently.
In a separate report this summer, NOAA scientists and researchers with the University of Colorado Boulder studied the impacts of the intense 2017 flash drought in the northern Great Plains, which caused $2.6 billion in losses in the region. A more arid landscape due to climate change “will make droughts of similar intensity 20 percent more likely than in the past,” NOAA said in a summary of the research .
The current drought has been putting stress on a wide variety of crops across the South, including cotton in Alabama, peanuts in Georgia and tobacco in Virginia, according to reports from the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Pumpkins are faring better in Alabama, though they’re somewhat smaller this year due to the drought.
“We would have liked to have had a few more pumpkins this year, but we do have pumpkins and we are selling pumpkins _ that’s the good news,” said Doug Chapman, a commercial horticulture expert with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
In Mississippi, wildfires have been on the rise, Gov. Phil Bryant said this week, as he ordered a statewide burn ban. Outdoor burning is also restricted in parts of several other states including Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the drought center.
The drought was also affecting some water supplies across the region. Lake levels have been falling throughout Georgia, including at Lake Lanier, which provides much of Atlanta’s drinking water.
In North Carolina, rivers and streams are running low, Rebecca Cumbie-Ward, the state climatologist, said in a statement. Some North Carolina water systems are limiting use, and state officials are asking residents to follow those water restrictions .
Alabama Power said last week it was reducing water releases from its hydroelectric dams because of the drought. The move was intended to prevent lakes from shrinking too much.
The Drought Monitor is produced by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NOAA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
CÓRDOBA, Spain (AP) — Olives are harvested the old-fashioned way on Juan Luque’s farm in southern Spain, as men thrash the gnarly tree limbs with poles, raining the small green fruit into the motorized collector waiting underneath.
But for Luque and thousands of other farmers scattered across Europe’s countryside, the brewing tariffs war between Washington and Brussels over subsidies to airplane makers is putting his livelihood and countless jobs at risk.
“It is totally unfair that a commercial war in the aeronautical sector affects the agriculture sector,” he said Friday, working under the hot Spanish sun.
“European authorities must handle this and the Spanish government must handle this so (it) can get solved in a way that doesn’t affect agriculture.”
The Trump administration announced Wednesday a long list of European products it plans to place hefty tariffs on, after getting approval from the World Trade Organization over European subsidies for plane-maker Airbus. The European Union is expecting a similar ruling over U.S. subsidies for Boeing that would allow it to set tariffs on American goods.
Spain, France, Germany and Britain are shareholders in Airbus. The four were targeted with more tariffs that other EU countries.
The U.S. will place a 10% tariff on planes. But the rest of the long list of goods, mostly agriculture products that are very important to Spain such as olives and cheese, are set to be walloped with a 25% import tax.
The Spanish government said Friday that it was summoning the American ambassador in Madrid so that it could express its “complete opposition” to the proposed tariffs.
The director of the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries, Mauricio García de Quevedo, calculates that if the tariffs go into effect they will endanger 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) worth of exports for Spain. The United States is the Spanish food and beverage sector’s second-biggest client after the EU, according to the federation.
“This type of tariff kicks you out of the market, and there is no alternative to the American market,” García de Quevedo told Spanish state broadcaster TVE.
For Rafael Sánchez, the director general of DCOOP, a cooperative of 75,000 farmers in southern Spain, the tariffs leaves Spain at a huge disadvantage to other countries, including EU members Italy and Greece, which were not targeted for olives or olive oil by the proposed tariffs.
“We have been placing big bets on the United States market for many years, for many years we have been the leaders of the olive oil market in the United States with 130 million kilos every year, and now we get a tariff exclusively for the Spanish olive oil?” Sánchez told The Associated Press. “Well that puts us in a much more complicated situation than the one Italy or Greece can find themselves in.”
The U.S. tariffs do not go into effect before Oct. 18, leaving some space for negotiations.
“The government of Spain will bring to bear all the pressure (it can),” Spain’s Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, said Friday.
Planas said Spain was going to push the European Commission to have the agricultural products removed from the American list.
European officials said they hope to engage the U.S. in talks on the new tariffs, but are ready to respond with taxes on American goods if needed.
“The EU must react and probably raise punitive tariffs itself after WTO approval,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter, in an apparent reference to a similar WTO case involving Boeing.
Maas, however, said that the EU “remains prepared to jointly negotiate rules for subsidies to the aircraft industry.”