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From corn to Apple: What's behind the US-China standoff

Star Tribune | Posted on February 27, 2019

To hear the Americans tell it, the Chinese have gone on a commercial crime spree, pilfering trade secrets from seed corn to electronic brains behind wind turbines. China has stripped the arm off a T-Mobile robot, the U.S. says, and looted trade secrets about robotic cars from Apple. The alleged victims of that crime spree are individual American companies, whose cases lie behind the Trump administration's core complaint in the high-level U.S.-China trade talks going on in Washington: That Beijing systematically steals American and other foreign intellectual property in a bid to become the world's technology superstar. Yet the odds of a resolution to the trade dispute this week — or anytime soon — appear dim, in part because China's drive for technology supremacy is increasingly part of its self-identity.The seven-month standoff has upset financial markets and likely weakened the global economy. The United States has imposed taxes on $250 billion in Chinese imports; Beijing has lashed back by taxing $110 billion in American products.

US, Canada, Mexico to work together to prevent ASF spread

Watt AgNet | Posted on February 27, 2019

The United States, Canada and Mexico are partnering to prevent the African swine fever (ASF) virus from entering their borders. ASF has been spreading throughout pig farms and wild boar in China and parts of Europe since last summer, and has resulted in the death or culling of hundreds of thousands of pigs. It recently was detected for the first time in Vietnam.Although ASF does not affect humans, it is highly contagious and deadly among pigs, cannot be cured and has no vaccine.At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Annual Agriculture Outlook Forum this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asked his North American counterparts: “Can the North American countries work together to protect their farmers and their agricultural industries from pests and infectious diseases such as African swine fever?”Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Villalobos Arambula said they can: “There is more and more risk because of the communication, because of the export of product, because of trade. We have to strengthen our relationship and we have to strengthen our technical capabilities.”

2018 Farm BIll - Energy and Research

USDA | Posted on February 26, 2019

For energy-related programs, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act) authorizes appropriations of $835 million over 5 years, an increase over the $690 million authorized in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Act). In contrast, mandatory funding over 5 years is $375 million in the 2018 Farm Act, about 55 percent of the $685 million provided by the 2014 Farm Act. Total 5-year funding for energy programs (mandatory funding plus authorized appropriations) declined from $1,375 million under the 2014 Farm Act to $1,210 million under the 2018 Farm Act. The Biorefinery Assistance Program is expanded to assist producers of any combination of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, or biobased products.A new Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program will promote benefits of permanent carbon sequestration, carbon dioxide utilization, and aggregation of organic waste from multiple sources into a single biogas system.Algae is included as an eligible feedstock under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). Other Provisions - Biobased Market Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program, Bioenergy for Advanced Biofuels, Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Analysis of 2018 Farm Bill - Trade

USDA | Posted on February 26, 2019

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act): Consolidates USDA’s four market development and export promotion programs into a new Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Program and provides the Secretary of Agriculture new flexibility in promoting trade.Permits Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program funding for activities in Cuba, with the restriction that funds are not used in contravention of the policy outlined in National Security Presidential Memorandum 5 of June 16, 2017.Expands technical assistance and extension efforts to increase trade and improve global food security.Removes minimum commodity monetization requirement (i.e., donated food sold to fund programming) for nonemergency development programs under Food for Peace.Requires more detailed annual reporting by USDA and USAID on use of funds by cooperators and implementing parties.New Programs and Provisions-Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Program (ATPFP)—With mandatory annual funding of $255 million,  the ATPFP consolidates USDA’s four market development and export promotion programs (Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program, E. Kika De La Garza Emerging Markets Program, and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops) and adds to it the Priority Trade Fund. This new fund provides the Secretary of Agriculture $3.5 million annually to promote trade when the ATPFP’s component programs have applications that exceed available funding. Biotechnology and Agricultural Trade Program—Assists with the removal of nontariff and other trade barriers to U.S. agricultural products produced with biotechnology and other agricultural technologies. The program was originally part of the Food Agriculture and Conservation Act of 1990 and was appropriated $6 million annually from 2002 to 2007.

Tenn. plant workers sue ICE over April 2018 raid, detainments

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on February 26, 2019

Seven workers at a Tennessee beef slaughter plant raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last year are suing the agency for alleged violations of their constitutional rights. The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center and the law firm of Sherrard, Roe, Voigt & Harbison filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of the workers, who were in a group of about 100 Latino employees detained in the April 2018 raid at Southeastern Provision. The suit alleges that ICE officers detained any worker who “looked Latino without regard to citizenship or documentation,” according to a news release from the NILC. The ICE activities represented violations of the workers’ Fourth and Seventh Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit contends.

USDA Expects Exports to Fall $1.9 Billion in 2019, Pending Trade Agreements

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on February 25, 2019

The Department of Agriculture is projecting a $1.9 billion drop in exports this year, led by a decline in trade with China. While talks remain ongoing between China and the United States, USDA during its 95th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum Thursday predicted 2019 fiscal year exports at $141.5 billion. USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson told attendees China is expected to fall from the top market for U.S. exports in 2017, to the fifth largest market in 2019, pending the outcome of trade talks.

Trump tariffs mar US, Mexico, Canada unity message

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 21, 2019

The top U.S., Canadian and Mexican agriculture officials came together today to espouse the benefits of trilateral cooperation and a newly renegotiated North American trade pact, but the unity was marred by the Trump administration’s refusal to lift its steel and aluminum tariffs. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, flanked by Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Mexican Agriculture Secretary Victor Villalobos Arámbula, said he was optimistic the “Section 232” tariffs would be lifted and the countries would ratify the trade pact, but his counterparts were more hesitant.All three officials were on the stage together at USDA’s 95th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum to jointly provide the keynote address for the two-day event. “We don’t know yet,” Villalobos told Agri-Pulse when he was asked if Mexico’s Senate would be willing to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that leaders of the three countries signed in December.MacAulay stressed historical cooperation with the U.S., but also forcefully demanded: “We need steel and aluminum tariffs off.”Perdue, for his part, also stressed an intense desire to see the 232 tariffs lifted. He said he has lobbied the White House and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to do away with the import taxes, but he hasn’t yet been successful.

House Opens Inquiry Into Proposed U.S. Nuclear Venture in Saudi Arabia

The New York Times | Posted on February 21, 2019

Top Trump administration officials have pushed to build nuclear power plants throughout Saudi Arabia over the vigorous objections of White House lawyers who question the legality of the plan and the ethics of a venture that could enrich Trump allies, according to a new report by House Democrats. The report is the most detailed portrait to date of how senior White House figures — including Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser — worked with retired military officers to circumvent the normal policymaking process to promote an export plan that experts worried could spread nuclear weapons technology in the volatile Middle East. Administration lawyers warned that the nuclear exports plan — called the Middle East Marshall Plan — could violate laws meant to stop nuclear proliferation and raised concerns about Mr. Flynn’s conflicts of interest.

Forest Service still facing sexual misconduct problem

Federal News Network | Posted on February 21, 2019

The U.S. Forest Service is still struggling to manage sexual misconduct challenges at the agency. The Agriculture Department’s inspector general said the Forest Service isn’t quickly acting on sexual misconduct and assault allegations and is not identifying applicants who have a history of sexual harassment. Three House committee chairmen said they want a special briefing from the IG and the Forest Service on the recent findings. They’re asking the IG to review USDA’s process for handling sexual assault and misconduct allegations. 

New Farm Bill Makes Way for Plant Biostimulants

Growing Produce | Posted on February 19, 2019

The recently signed Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka, the farm bill)broke new ground on several fronts for growers and industry stakeholders. Among the new farm bill’s many pages is the first statutory language in any federal law about plant biostimulants.The farm bill describes a plant biostimulant as “a substance or microorganism that, when applied to seeds, plants, or the rhizosphere, stimulates natural processes to enhance or benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, or crop quality and yield.”Biostimulants are reportedly playing an increasingly important role with farmers to make their crops more productive thereby increasing farm profitability.