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Negotiations over NAFTA are bogging down ahead of a major deadline

The Washington Post | Posted on May 10, 2018

Negotiations over a new North American trade deal have hit a major snag, leaving White House officials increasingly uncertain of their ability to hit their May 18 deadline for securing congressional approval of a new deal before year’s end. The main stumbling block involves a dispute over determiningwhich automobiles are given duty-free treatment under the agreement, according to five industry and U.S. government sources.After almost nine months of negotiations, the United States and its trading partners , Canada and Mexico, remain far apart on a host of contentiousissues, including U.S. demands that the treaty mustbe renewed every five years. Missing next week’s deadline could have significant consequences, given the political calendars in both the United States and Mexico. Depending on what happens in the next 10 days, Trump could opt to pause the negotiations, claim a partial agreement or even withdraw from the existing accord, though that appears unlikely. The president’s authority to negotiate trade deals that Congress must approve or reject without amendment expires July 1, coincidentally the date of Mexico’s presidential election.

2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program

USDA | Posted on May 8, 2018

The 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) is providing payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irene and Maria and devastating wildfires. WHIP was authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Sign-up for the new program will begin no later than July 16. FSA will distribute more information on how producers can file claims for WHIP disaster payments at a later date.For questions on how to establish farm records to be prepared when WHIP disaster signup begins, or to learn about other disaster assistance programs, producers are asked to contact their local USDA service center . 

House farm bill helps rich, hurts poor | Posted on May 8, 2018

Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee dished up treats for the insurance and chemical industries, while handing empty bowls to millions of struggling Americans. The farm bill that cleared committee April 18 does nothing to increase transparency or accountability in the crop insurance program which pumps billions of taxpayer dollars into increasingly foreign-owned insurance companies.Insurance company profits from taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance have risen to a 35-percent return on investment, reports the Government Accountability Office, which recommends saving federal dollars by pegging the return to market rates.  The House Agriculture Committee ignored that idea and bragged of making few changes in the $9 billion program. Insurers’ returns have climbed even while farm income has declined in recent years.

Grow, don't gut, CSP funding in the Farm Bill

The Minnesota Post | Posted on May 4, 2018

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, introduced a draft Farm Bill that runs counter to what farmers need. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a program popular with Minnesota farmers, is proposed to be completely eliminated.  CSP is the nation's largest farm conservation program, supporting clean water and environmental benefits while providing farmers with support to implement conservation practices. The program provides financial and technical assistance for farmers to create whole-farm conservation plans, including planting cover crops, developing a grazing plan, implementing no-till and increasing wildlife habitat. Farmers receive annual payments for beginning or maintaining conservation activities; this incentive is critical to expanding conservation practices, which are a public benefit but can present a financial burden for farmers upfront. Aside from environmental benefits, these practices improve a farm’s resilience in the face of extreme weather events, which are becoming increasingly common because of climate change.

Canada's dairy policies still on U.S. NAFTA radar

Feedstuffs | Posted on May 4, 2018

Reports indicate that a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be imminent, but dairy and other agricultural components remain outstanding. Negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico continued to hammer out details of the nearly 20 outstanding chapters this week in hopes of finalizing a deal ahead of Mexico’s presidential elections this summer.

Brown, Thune Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve the Agriculture Risk Coverage Program

Senator Brown | Posted on May 4, 2018

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Thune (R-SD), members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled bipartisan legislation they are advocating to be included in the 2018 farm bill. The Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) Improvement and Innovation Act would improve the current ARC program by modifying the payment calculation and other parts of the program to improve its safety net potential. Currently, no similar legislative proposals to improve ARC have been introduced during the 115th Congress.  By providing more equitable support prices that are reflective of the actual market value for all crops and using a 10-year market price average as a cap on reference prices, the Brown-Thune bill would take an important step toward ensuring farm programs are more fiscally responsible for taxpayers. The bill would also ensure that payments are not being made for base acres on land that is no longer being planted with commodity crops. Beginning farmers would, for the first time since 2002, have a new opportunity, based on planting history, to become eligible for new or additional base acres on certain farms that were previously ineligible or only eligible for limited commodity program assistance.

Next Generation In Agriculture Act Introduced

Beginning Farmers | Posted on May 2, 2018

A bipartisan coalition led by Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Susan Collins introduced the Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762), which will drive investments in the 2018 Farm Bill toward programs and policies that create economic opportunity for beginning farmers and ranchers.

New York Governor Demands Immediate End to ICE Enforcement Actions

Growing Produce | Posted on May 2, 2018

Following reports of an increase in aggressive tactics in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids throughout New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo last week issued a cease and desist letter to halt the enforcement actions or he says he will commence legal action. Cuomo specifically cited the recent detaining and jailing of an employee at a dairy farm in Rome, NY in his letter: “On the morning of April 18, farmer John Collins heard a commotion on his property. Upon investigation, he discovered plain-clothed ICE agents aggressively questioning one of his farm workers while pushing him up against a window. Concerned for his employee and aware that the man’s young children who had been waiting for the school bus were now watching their father being assaulted, Mr. Collins approached your agents to determine what was happening on his privately owned property and to video what was taking place with his cellphone.  He was handcuffed and his cell phone was thrown on the ground.  Your agents did not have a warrant to enter Mr. Collins’s property nor did they identify themselves or their purpose for being there.  They handcuffed him and threatened to arrest him for properly exercising his constitutional rights.”

NAFTA breakup would harm U.S. produce growers, analysts say

Capital Press | Posted on May 2, 2018

A Rabobank report finds the demise of NAFTA would lead to fewer exports of U.S. fruit, tree nuts and vegetables and more imports of produce from Mexico and Canada.While U.S. consumers would likely see lower prices for produce at the grocery store if the North American Free Trade Agreement implodes, U.S. growers of those products would lose out due to fewer exports to Mexico and Canada and more imports from those nations.

New USDA website created to promote rural prosperity

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on May 1, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today unveiled a new interactive webpage to identify best practices for building rural prosperity. “Rural communities need forward-thinking strategies to build strong, resilient futures,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center is focused on identifying unique opportunities, pioneering new, creative solutions to tough challenges, and making Rural Development’s programs easier to understand, use and access.”The webpage highlights effective strategies that have been used to create jobs, build infrastructure, strengthen partnerships and promote economic development in rural America.