Skip to content Skip to navigation

Federal News

Cotton growers vs. urban farmers: Bitter partisan fight threatens farm bill

Politico | Posted on October 10, 2018

Mounting tensions between two of the lead negotiators on the farm bill are jeopardizing Congress’ chances of passing a measure allocating hundreds of billions of dollars for agriculture and nutrition programs before a new session begins next year. Texas Republican Mike Conaway, the House Agriculture chairman, wants more money for Southern cotton growers. Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, Senate Agriculture’s ranking member, is pushing funds for urban farming and renewable energy. Their bitter fights over farm subsidies have deadlocked talks in a conference committee. The 2014 farm bill expired on Oct. 1 without a single face-to-face negotiating session between top negotiators in the three days before the deadline -- a sign of just how far lawmakers are from any kind of deal.Congress is supposed to reauthorize the sweeping law every five years, but the stalled negotiations show how rancorous partisanship in Washington has overtaken even popular legislation that usually passes with bipartisan support. Rural lawmakers must now return home for midterm elections with little to show their farmer constituents who are hurting from low commodity prices and an onslaught of retaliatory tariffs.If a bill doesn’t pass by the end of the year, lawmakers would likely extend the current farm bill and then need to return to square one on new legislation next year.

Details on New NAFTA: USMCA

DTN | Posted on October 10, 2018

U.S. farmers will have more certainty in Canada and Mexico with the rebranding of NAFTA, including potentially more dairy access in Canada and more equal treatment of wheat products shipped north as well. The deal, announced late Sunday by the Trump administration, will be called the "United States Mexico Canada Agreement," replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement.President Donald Trump, speaking at the White House on Monday, touted the benefits of the trade deal for agriculture, saying, "The agreement will give our farmers and ranchers far greater access to sell American-grown produce in Mexico and Canada."North American trade between the three countries was valued at just under $1.2 trillion last year, though the U.S. ended with a $71 billion trade deficit with Mexico and a $17 billion trade deficit with Canada, according to the U.S. Trade Representative's Office. Canadian officials maintain the U.S. has a trade surplus with it.Canada is the largest U.S. export market for agriculture, valued at $20.5 billion in exports in 2017. Mexico is the No. 3 overall U.S. market, valued at $18.6 billion last year.Much of the agricultural sections are split between agreements between the U.S. and Mexico, and the U.S. and Canada. For instance, the U.S. and Mexico have special language on preferential tariff-rate quotas on sugar and sugar-related items. The U.S and Canada have detailed provisions related to dairy.

A Dispute Over the Commodity Title

Red River Farm Network | Posted on October 10, 2018

n an interview with the Red River Farm Network, Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow said significant issues remain in the farm bill process. “One of them really impacts the Dakotas and Minnesota and that’s the commodity title,” said Stabenow. “I understand the (agriculture committee) chairman in the House is from west Texas and wants to a bill that works for the South, but it takes tens of millions of dollars away from farmers in the Midwest.” Stabenow said she can respect differences of opinion, but (Chairman Michael) Conaway has politicized the farm bill process. “Cotton prices are up 20 percent and everyone else is down 50 percent. We just can’t do a political play that rewrites the commodity title for southern farmers ‘just because.’ We have to have a farm safety net that works.” Stabenow remains optimistic the farm bill can be completed this year.

DHS gets in the weeds on cyber threats to agriculture

FCW | Posted on October 10, 2018

DHS' Threats to Precision Agriculture report looks at cyber vulnerabilities in embedded and connected technologies that harness remote sensing, global positioning systems and communication systems to generate big data, data analytics and machine learning to manage crops and livestock. Cyber threats to the agricultural infrastructure are consistent with other connected industries, said DHS, but given farming's mechanized history, those threats are not well understood or treated seriously enough.The security threats to precision agriculture range from simple data theft, to market manipulations, destruction of equipment, or even a national security concern, according to the report.

Perdue says farmer aid could be less than first estimated

Reuters | Posted on October 10, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $12 billion package to offset farmers losses from the imposition of tariffs American exports could end up shrinking after an agreement to update NAFTA was struck, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. The aid package includes cash payments for farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. The USDA had already outlined the allocations for the first $6 billion at the end of August.Perdue said the picture has changed after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was reached, a revamp of the NAFTA trade agreement between the three nations.

Regulators face food fight over lab-grown meat

Washington Examiner | Posted on October 10, 2018

A food fight has been brewing over how the government should regulate animal tissue grown in labs. The prospect of lab-grown tissue has raised the hopes of animal welfare and environmental groups because it is created without slaughter and meant to substitute for traditional pork, beef, chicken, and fish. But divisions have emerged between the traditional meat industry, who are imploring the government to set rules out of concern for their own industry, and the companies creating the lab-grown foods, who fear that regulation could prevent their products from reaching consumers.Safety regulations have yet to be issued, but they are likely to include standards about how to grow the tissue, how to sign off on its safety, and how to label it in a way that consumers know what they're buying.

CoBank: Loose ends remain in USMCA

Meat & Poultry | Posted on October 10, 2018

Negotiators for the United States and Canada continue work on finishing touches of the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement following a hard Sept. 30 deadline that spurred down-to-the-wire talks on a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement acceptable to both countries, CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division said in an analysis of the USMCA. The USMCA provides the US agriculture sector a level of certainty, improvements in market access for some ag-related products and momentum heading into trade talks with China, according to the report. However, the NAFTA rewrite leaves unanswered the question of when retaliatory tariffs – imposed when the US levied duties on aluminum and steel earlier this year – will end.“The US dairy and pork industries have been hardest hit by Mexican tariffs that were implemented in July as a response to US steel and aluminum tariffs imposed earlier in the year,” CoBank said in its report titled From NAFTA to USMCA. “Negotiations to eliminate the tariffs have begun, but there is no indication of how long they will remain in place.”Exporters of US poultry will receive 47,000 metric tons in tariff-free access to Canada's poultry market in the first year of USMCA. That amount will increase to 57,000 tons by year six and will grow by 1 percent annually for 10 years. US turkey also gained increased access of another 1,000 tons, up from 6,000 tons, sent to Canada in 2017, according to CoBank.However, the value of US meat exports to Mexico and Canada has dropped because of the retaliatory tariffs, pressuring margins especially for US pork producers.

Which US communities are most affected by Chinese, EU, and NAFTA retaliatory tariffs?

Brookings | Posted on October 10, 2018

The United States’ three largest trading partners—China, the European Union (EU), and NAFTA (Canada and Mexico)—have implemented tariffs on over $120 billion of U.S. exports.This short analysis reviews the exposure local communities have to these trade policy changes. It draws on the Export Monitor, a unique dataset developed as part of the Global Cities Initiative, to estimate which local and regional economies rely the most on export industries targeted by retaliatory tariffs. Of course, the U.S.-imposed tariffs on imports also affect cities, regions, and states—as well as the firms, workers, and consumers within them.China, the EU, and the NAFTA countries have now implemented tariffs on about $121 billion worth of U.S. exports. While that number has grown rapidly over the past several months, it still only represents about 6.1 percent of the $2 trillion in total U.S. goods and services exports in 2017. Our analysis indicates China’s retaliatory stance is strongest, accounting for $101.4 billion of the U.S. exports implicated by tariffs. We also estimate $12.8 billion of U.S. exports under Canadian tariffs, $3.5 billion under Mexican tariffs, and $3.3 billion under EU tariffs.Nationally, the tariffs touch about 6.1 percent of exports. But there is significant local variation across the 962 metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, and rural geographies in our Export Monitor database, from a low of 0.3 percent of exports and 0.2 percent of export-supported jobs in Los Alamos, N.M. to a high of 26.1 percent of exports and 24.1 percent of export-supported jobs in Blytheville, Ark.

Abrupt release of hundreds of migrants in Phoenix is 'start of dam breaking'

NBC | Posted on October 10, 2018

Hundreds of migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S. were released from detention in Arizona this week without warning and without instructions on where to go, how to find relatives or travel to their court hearings. A senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News the release is "the start of a dam breaking" as family detention facilities, which now hold thousands of migrants, reach capacity.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are releasing the families from detention en masse without following their usual protocol that ensures immigrants have a means to travel to their court hearing and reunite with potential relatives in the U.S.The adults have ankle monitors to track their whereabouts until their scheduled court date to make their case before a judge for asylum.

Disqualified from SNAP? SAM I Am!

OFW Law | Posted on October 10, 2018

Owners of retail food stores permanently disqualified from participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are saddled with serious consequences in addition to the loss of the store’s ability to accept food stamp benefits (EBT). After USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) permanently disqualifies a store, the agency promptly searches its SNAP retailer database to determine if the disqualified store’s shareholders have ownership interests in other SNAP-authorized stores. A store whose owner has been permanently disqualified from SNAP based on trafficking activity at another store will soon receive a letter from FNS advising that their SNAP authorization will be withdrawn based on the lack of business integrity of the owner. Owners will also not be able to sell or transfer a permanently disqualified store without being subject to a substantial transfer penalty. The transfer civil money penalty (CMP) imposed by FNS is calculated using a complicated formula and can exceed $113,000 – an amount greater than the CMP that FNS can assess against a store in lieu of permanent disqualification from trafficking.