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Congressional bill halts USDA's proposed ERS, NIFA move

Feedstuffs | Posted on January 23, 2019

On Thursday, the House revived previously unpublished conference report language in an effort to move the fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations process forward. The specific language expressed concern about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan to relocate and reorganize the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA). The report included language that had not been included in the 2018 Senate-passed FY 2019 agriculture appropriations bill, nor the agriculture appropriations bills put forward earlier this year by the House, according to a release from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), a vocal opponent of USDA’s plan to relocate the offices.

EU open to discussing cars, not farming in U.S. trade talks

Reuters | Posted on January 22, 2019

The European Union is willing to discuss car tariffs but will not remove duties on farm products in trade talks with the United States, its trade chief said on Friday, setting it on a possible collision course with Washington. The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28 member European Union, published two negotiating mandates on Friday, which were notable more for what they left out than for what they included.The EU proposal on tariffs falls far short of the wide-ranging wish-list, including comprehensive agricultural market access, set out by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration a week ago.

Trump trade policy: Playing a game of chicken with American agriculture

The Hill | Posted on January 22, 2019

Not withstanding, the president’s rhetoric, after 14 months of what appeared to be stressful negotiations, the new NAFTA (the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA) ended up looking a lot like the old NAFTA with relatively small changes in the agricultural provisions. The good news was not really that that there was promise of additional access to Canada’s dairy, poultry and eggs sectors (the benefits from which have been estimated to be small, increasing NAFTA exports by about 1 percent). Nor was it that the new agreement contains many modernization features (many of which had been negotiated in the TPP agreement). Far more significantly, the new agreement maintained the tariff concessions that had been negotiated in 1992 under the original NAFTA that substantially expanded access to Canadian and Mexican markets for U.S. agricultural producers. However, even the benefits from the original and new NAFTA agreements are currently being compromised by other trade actions initiated by the Trump administration. In response to the so-called Section 232 tariffs imposed against exports of steel and aluminum to the United States, Canada and Mexico have imposed retaliatory tariffs against a variety of U.S. agricultural products including pork and cheese. Those actions are estimated to reduce U.S. agricultural exports by as much as $2 billion, more than offsetting any gains associated with the changes embedded in the new NAFTA agreement.

How the shutdown will inflict lasting damage

Politico | Posted on January 22, 2019

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history will scar the federal bureaucracy and U.S. economy long after the doors are unlocked and workers return. The feds will struggle to dig out of a backlog of hiring and training that’s essential to pushing out tax refunds, protecting U.S. borders and guiding air traffic. Government contractors are expected to jack up prices on everything from helicopters to IT support, growing wise to an administration that doesn’t pay its bills for weeks on end.And the agriculture industry, real estate sector, oil drillers and global investors are all bracing for years of cascading setbacks spurred by the pause in government loans, permitting and deal-making approval. The enduring pain will extend across the quarter of the U.S. government now largely shuttered.“Even if the shutdown were resolved tomorrow, the fallout is going to last months, if not years,” said former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Trump: US agriculture industry needs immigrants

Watt AgNet | Posted on January 22, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump told members of the American Farm Bureau Federation that the agriculture industry needs immigrant workers, but those workers need to be in the country legally. Trump on January 14 addressed the AFBF national convention.

US Forest Service builds pen for possible horse slaughter

Capital Press | Posted on January 20, 2019

The U.S. Forest Service has built its first corral for wild horses, which could allow it to bypass federal restrictions and sell the animals for slaughter. The agency acknowledged in court filings in a potentially precedent-setting legal battle that it built the new pen in Northern California for mustangs gathered this fall on national forest land along the Nevada border because of restrictions on such sales at other federal holding facilities.The agency denies claims by horse advocates it has made up its mind to sell the more than 250 horses for slaughter. But it also says it may have no choice because of the high cost of housing the animals and continued ecological impacts it claims overpopulated herds are having on federal rangeland."While slaughtering wild horses does not present a pleasant picture, the reality of this dire situation is not pleasant," Justice Department lawyers representing the agency wrote in its most recent filing last month. "The Forest Service is taking a step to reduce what is universally recognized as a natural catastrophe."

Trump: US agriculture industry needs immigrants

Watt AgNet | Posted on January 20, 2019

“When we have proper security, people aren’t going to come, except for the people we want to come, because we want to take people in to help our farmers, etc.” “You need these people. It will make it easier. … I’m glad I told you that because, look, you’re in the business and a lot of people don’t understand this. You need people to help you with the farms and I’m not going to rule this out. … You’ve had some people for 20-25 years that are incredible, and then they go home. And they can’t get back in. That’s not going to happen, but we can’t keep the wrong ones out.”Trump, who was introduced to the crowd by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, stressed to AFBF members that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to agricultural issues.“I know a lot about the farming world."

USDA will open some FSA offices

USDA | Posted on January 17, 2019

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Thursday, January 17 and Friday, January 18, in addition to Tuesday, January 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, January 21.   In almost half of FSA locations, FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline. See complete list.

How the Farm Bill help spur a rural innovation renaissance

Pacific Standard | Posted on January 17, 2019

Rural and small towns in the United States have higher rates of self-employment than their urban and suburban counterparts. More than that, the more rural the county, the higher the rate of entrepreneurship—and these businesses tend to be more resilient because of their engagement with smaller communities. This entrepreneurial spirit, paired with the continued expansion of broadband into rural areas, means that we're now seeing the beginning of what you could call a rural innovation renaissance: The opportunities brought by the digital economy are coming to rural America through remote work opportunities, collaborative technological endeavors, and innovation—led by rural entrepreneurs.

Big winners in Trump rollback of wetlands rules? Developers

AP News | Posted on January 17, 2019

President Donald Trump pointed to farmers Monday as winners from the administration’s proposed rollback of federal protections for wetlands and waterways across the country, describing farmers crying in gratitude when he ordered the change. But under long-standing federal law and rules, farmers and farmland already are exempt from most of the regulatory hurdles on behalf of wetlands that the Trump administration is targeting. Because of that, environmental groups long have argued that builders, oil and gas drillers and other industry owners would be the big winners if the government adopts the pending rollback, making it easier to fill in bogs, creeks and streams for plowing, drilling, mining or building.  Government numbers released last month support that argument.Real estate developers and those in other business sectors take out substantially more permits than farmers for projects impinging on wetlands, creeks and streams, and they stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief from the Trump administration’s rollback of wetlands protections.