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Canadian Milk Protein Imports Declining

USDA | Posted on April 18, 2018

Canadian imports of milk protein substances (MPS) declined in 2017, after reaching a peak in 2016. Canada’s cheese production, which has used increasing volumes of MPS, and cheese consumption have grown twenty percent over the past five years, reaching approximately 475,000 metric tons in 2017. In February 2017, Canada introduced class 7, a milk price class that provides Canadian manufacturers access to milk for ingredient processing.

Farm bill changes expand legal entities and family eligibility for commodity programs

The Progressive Farmer | Posted on April 17, 2018

While most of the focus on the House farm bill is on changes to nutrition programs, a new kerfuffle has cropped up over changes to farm programs that would benefit LLCs, S corporations and farmers who want to enroll cousins, nieces and nephews for commodity payments. The changes, if they become law, would expand the eligibility of pass-through entities for farm-program payments to include limited-liability corporations and S-corps, as a way to avoid adjusted gross income caps for commodity payments. Currently, joint ventures and general partnerships are not subject to payment limits or income means testing. New language would expand those provisions for LLCs and S-corps.In a response to DTN, House Agriculture Committee GOP staff stated there have been several examples of farmers forming LLCs based on advice of attorneys who did not understand the impact of limiting the entire farm to a single $125,000 payment limit. In at least some instances, that failed decision on which entity to form has led to bankruptcies, committee staff wrote in an email. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition came out aggressively Monday against the new language in the farm bill, stating the changes would "pave the way for further farm consolidation."Ferd Hoefner, a policy analyst for NSAC, said some of the language in the House bill would go "back to the days of the full-on Mississippi Christmas Tree."Hoefner said in an interview, "It's just a complete evisceration of means testing and payment limits."

Even if Trump wants to rejoin TPP, that ship may have sailed

The Hill | Posted on April 17, 2018

One week into his term, President Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which had been intended to help the U.S. and allies rein in China’s push for economic dominance. The U.S. withdrawal amounted to a unilateral gift to China. Now, 15 months later, in the midst of a bilateral trade face-off with China, President Trump announced during a meeting with farm-state agricultural interests that the U.S. may “rejoin” TPP and asked his advisers to prepare options.U.S. markets surged in response to the good news that the U.S. might once again value and reap the benefits of multilateral trade agreements. At about the same time, President Trump decided to ease his demands on U.S. and North American content for autos covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).News that the president may now perceive strategic value in joining TPP, avoiding a dismantlement of NAFTA and in working with others to engage China on economic issues, is very positive. We congratulate the administration on this smart pivot. There are good reasons why the president may have taken this decision now, but there are also real barriers — both domestic and international — to the U.S. rejoining TPP.First, the other 11 original TPP signatories have moved on. In early March, they signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), after more than a year of re-negotiation.More than 20 TPP provisions, including many that reflected U.S. interest in protecting intellectual property rights, were suspended and do not now appear in the CPTPP. On the other hand, CPTPP does cover service sectors and agricultural products, unlike many other trade deals, and offers benefits for U.S. agriculture.

Farm Bill end of payment limitations would pave way for further farm consolidation

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition | Posted on April 17, 2018

Included in the draft farm bill presented by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) last week were several provisions that would reverse decades of precedent, and usher American agriculture into a new era of unlimited farm subsidies for the nation’s largest mega-farms. As part of its ongoing analysis of the Chairman’s draft bill, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reviewed these provisions and found that they would promote land and economic consolidation, with the primary beneficiaries being the largest, wealthiest farm operations.Though limitations adopted in the final 2014 Farm Bill were far from game changing, they did make at least some effort to level the playing field for family farmers and reduce abusive subsidy schemes used to circumvent the law. The Conaway proposal makes a complete 180° turn from these reform efforts, and effectively ensures that payment limitations will never actually apply to anyone who cares to avoid them.

ASPCA joins lawsuit over USDA organic rules

Capital Press | Posted on April 17, 2018

The ASPCA and Animal Welfare Institute have joined the Organic Trade Association in its lawsuit against USDA for not implementing new organic livestock standards. The original lawsuit, filed in federal court last September, was aimed at USDA’s repeated delays in implementing the standards that were finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration. OTA revised its complaint to reflect USDA’s plan, announced last month, to withdraw the final regulation.USDA stated the rule exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program.

Trump says he’s in no hurry to finish NAFTA. That’s good because it may take awhile

The Washington Post | Posted on April 16, 2018

Diplomats from the United States, Canada and Mexico had hoped to announce progress toward a replacement for the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement by Friday, when regional leaders are scheduled to meet in Peru for the Summit of the Americas. President Trump’s decision to skip the meeting to monitor the Syrian situation reduced pressure to make a public statement. “We don’t have as many concrete results as you may have expected,” said one individual familiar with the talks, who was not authorized to speak publicly. Officials hope to cobble together an agreement in principle by early May so that the president can notify Congress of his intent to sign the deal — as required under legislation granting him negotiating authority — in time for a potential vote late this year.

Immigration judge quotas will not eliminate the backlog crisis

The Hill | Posted on April 12, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has established performance goals for the immigration judges in an effort to deal with the immigration court backlog crisis. In addition to meeting at least half of the deadlines for specified types of cases, judges will have to complete at least 700 cases-a-year to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating. They currently average 678 cases-a-year. The National Association of Immigration Judges opposes the performance goals. Among other things, they point out that the current backlog cannot be attributed to a lack of productivity on the part of judges, and the imposition of quotas and deadlines on judges will impede justice and due process. But here’s a better reason to oppose the quotas: Session’s performance goals are not an effective way to deal with the backlog crisis.

USDA orders volume controls on cranberries

Capital Press | Posted on April 10, 2018

Cranberry handlers were ordered by the USDA to withhold from U.S. consumers 15 percent of the 2017 crop to raise prices that farmers receive. The reduction applies to cranberries grown by approximately 1,100 farmers in 10 states, including Oregon and Washington. Growers and handlers petitioned the USDA for volume controls to chip away at a huge surplus.The USDA projects the order will divert as many as 110 million pounds of cranberries to charities, animal feed or foreign markets.

USDA offering funding to address opioid crisis in rural communities

CBS | Posted on April 10, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications to a pair of grant programs that aim to address opioid misuse in rural communities. The federal agency is setting aside $5 million in the Community Facilities Grant program and is giving priority to Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program applications that propose innovative projects addressing the issue."The opioid epidemic is dramatically impacting prosperity in many small towns and rural places across the country," said Anne Hazlett, the assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development. "This this focused investment, we are targeting our resources to be a strong partner with rural communities in building an effective local response to this significant challenge."Under the Community Facilities Grant program, rural communities, nonprofits and federally recognized tribes can apply for grants of up to $150,000 for projects like mobile treatment clinics. They can fund up to 75 percent of an eligible project.

Alleged employment tax violations at heart of ICE-raided plant issues

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on April 10, 2018

The owner of a Tennessee meat plant where immigration officials conducted a raid last week is being accused of “willfully” attempting to skirt federal employment tax rules and filing false federal tax returns, according to the IRS search request that led to the raid. The affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court , Eastern District of Tennessee, Greenville Division, accused Southeastern Provision President James Brantley and others at the family-owned company of the tax charges in addition to employing “illegal aliens” in violation of federal laws. The 26-page affidavit said an investigation found that Brantley, his wife, daughter and another employee specifically paid Hispanic workers at the meat plant a total of more than $25 million in cash on a weekly basis since 2008.