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As NAFTA talks continue, Canada strengthens ag ties with Mexico

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on December 14, 2017

In between rounds of negotiation on possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada’s Agriculture Minister concluded a two-day visit to Mexico City to strengthen bilateral relations and promote trade last week. Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay also attended the Mexican food and beverage trade show Alimentaria, touring the show with Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mexican Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, José Calzada.


US says WTO losing focus on trade, becoming litigation group

ABC News | Posted on December 13, 2017

The United States said Monday that the World Trade Organization is losing its focus on trade negotiation and "becoming a litigation-centered organization." U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also complained that some WTO members try to gain concessions through lawsuits that he said they could never get at the negotiating table."We have to ask ourselves whether this is good for the institution and whether the current litigation structure makes sense," Lighthizer said at the WTO's ministerial meeting


USDA nearing end of feral hog removal

Albuquerque Journal | Posted on December 13, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is nearing the end of an eradication program targeting feral hogs that have been rooting up New Mexico and other parts of the country. The program is set to end in September 2018 and more funding will be needed to continue fighting the pests, USDA District Supervisor for Wildlife Services Brian Archuleta said.


USDA Clears Arizona to Test SNAP Fraud Prevention Improvement

USDA | Posted on December 13, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cleared the state of Arizona to test a program aimed at limiting fraud and reducing illegal trafficking in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) electronic benefit (EBT) cards. The two-year waiver, granted by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), will allow the state to require direct contact with SNAP benefit recipients who request a replacement EBT card more than two times in a 12 month period.


Prevented Planting Option Ended

DTN | Posted on December 13, 2017

USDA Racks Up Cost Savings by Dialing Back Indemnity Potential for Prevented Planting Claims. Farmers in Northern Plains states and parts of the Corn Belt will lose the prospect of larger potential payouts under prevented planting claims following a crop-insurance change announced earlier this week by USDA's Risk Management Agency.For years, the Obama administration repeatedly sought a $1.4-billion cost savings over 10 years by asking Congress to reform prevented planting coverage by eliminating the option of buying 10% higher coverage for prevented planting. Without calling on Congress, the Trump administration made multiple changes to prevented planting insurance this week in line with spending cuts proposed in the Obama era.On Monday, in a memo sent out to insurers and USDA Risk Management Agency field offices, USDA eliminated the Prevented Planting +10 Percent Option for the 2018 crop year and future crop years. USDA kept the 5% option for farmers, though analysis shows very few farmers have taken the 5% option. The 10% option paid out more than $4 billion in indemnities from 1994-2013.


Under Trump, E.P.A. Has Slowed Actions Against Polluters, and Put Limits on Enforcement Officers

The New York Times | Posted on December 13, 2017

The highway billboard at the entrance to town still displays a giant campaign photograph of President Trump, who handily won the election across industrial Ohio. But a revolt is brewing here in East Liverpool over Mr. Trump’s move to slow down the federal government’s policing of air and water pollution.The City Council moved unanimously last month to send a protest letter to the Environmental Protection Agency about a hazardous waste incinerator near downtown. Since Mr. Trump took office, the E.P.A. has not moved to punish the plant’s owner, even after extensive evidence was assembled during the Obama administration that the plant had repeatedly, and illegally, released harmful pollutants into the air.“I don’t know where we go,” Councilman William Hogue, a retired social studies teacher, said in frustration to his fellow council members. “They haven’t resolved anything.”Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, has said the Trump administration’s high-profile regulatory rollback does not mean a free pass for violators of environmental laws. But as the Trump administration moves from one attention-grabbing headline to the next, it has taken a significant but less-noticed turn in the enforcement of federal pollution laws.


Bipartisan bill might seed the future of organic farming

Civil eats | Posted on December 13, 2017

In order to move this needle, Pingree in May introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017 (H.R. 2436), which proposes more than doubling the program’s funding to $50 million per year through 2023, with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Support for the legislation has been picking up steam, with more than 50 new co-sponsors (47 Democrats, 4 Republicans) signing on between September and November 2017. Organizations like the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), and Beyond Pesticides are all lobbying for its passage, and Rodale Institute’s Organic Farmers’ Association included it in the group’s first round of policy positions.But at a time when the administration is largely focused on cuts to agricultural funding, will lawmakers be able to gain enough support to get the increased funding into the 2018 Farm Bill?At this stage in the process, the legislation has strong bipartisan support and Tencer says she’s “cautiously optimistic.” Although it’s not clear where the money will come from, Gandhi says, since the overall tenor of conversations is on paring down costs, “in the big scheme of things, this ask is not that drastic. Its impact on the people who apply for these grants, however, is huge.”


Ag sector fear of NAFTA withdrawal intensifies, despite Trump's reassurances

Agri-Pulse | Posted on December 13, 2017

President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement have kept the U.S. ag sector on edge for months, but many have been able to dismiss the comments as just part of a particularly aggressive negotiating tactic.That time has passed, though, and farm sector leaders are expressing concern that Trump may have no intention of allowing the current NAFTA negotiations to succeed.Whether it’s through so-called “poison pill” proposals designed to doom the talks to failure or whether the White House will simply pull the plug, severing decades-old ties with Mexico and Canada, the prospect of an end to NAFTA is prompting an onslaught of lobbying from CEOs, lawmakers and state leaders across the country.The dairy industry has a lot to lose if NAFTA is scuttled. Mexico - with its 135 million consumers - is the largest foreign market for U.S. dairy products, and the trade pact insures that there are no tariffs on U.S. shipments south of the border.


Perdue: SNAP changes won't threaten 2018 farm bill

Politico | Posted on December 13, 2017

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday that he did not believe that GOP-desired changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, like stricter work requirements for able-bodied adults, would disrupt Congress' ability to pass a farm bill."I think the coalition that has passed the farm bill for years will be maintained," Perdue said during a speech at the National Press Club, referring to the long-standing alliance between anti-hunger and agriculture groups that has been crucial to securing votes for farm bills."By and large, there is a bipartisan group of people that believe able-bodied adults without dependents shouldn’t rely on supplemental nutrition assistance forever," he added.Perdue didn't directly answer a question about whether recent actions by the USDA to give states greater flexibility in administering SNAP were part of President Donald Trump's broad review of welfare programs.


White House pressures Big Corn to meet on U.S. biofuels policy

Reuters | Posted on December 12, 2017

President Donald Trump’s administration called two lawmakers from the U.S. corn belt to convince them to join talks about potential changes to biofuels policy to ease the burden on oil refineries, according to a spokesman for one of the lawmakers and a source briefed on the matter.


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