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U.S.-China Talks Wrap Up

5 months ago AFBF

Trade talks between the U.S. and China wrapped up this week and covered a wide range of topics. China’s Commerce Ministry released a statement saying the talks are helping to establish a way forward to wrap up the dispute between the two largest economies in the world. However, a Reuters report says the statement didn’t give many specifics on the issues the negotiators are trying to work through. The three days of talks wrapped up in Beijing on Wednesday. It’s the first time the two sides have talked since U.S. President Trump and Chinese President Xi (Zhee) agreed to a 90-day truce during a meeting in Buenos Aires. The Chinese Commerce Ministry statement says the two sides “held extensive, deep, and thorough exchanges on trade and structural issues of common concern, which promoted mutual understanding and established a foundation for resolving each other’s concerns.” The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office issued a statement saying the two sides discussed “ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations.” The Reuters report says China pledged to buy “a substantial amount” of agricultural, energy, and manufacturing goods from the U.S.

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EPA Committing to Higher Ethanol Blends by Summer

The Environmental Protection Agency says it will complete a rule to help boost sales of ethanol-blended gasoline by the time the summer driving season is in full swing. A U.S. News Dot Com article says the agency will complete the task in spite of the partial government shutdown. However, the agency did warn two congressional members that the timeline for getting the new rule in place will be delayed. Just before the November election, President Trump had pledged to get rid of the ban on summer sales of E15 gasoline. The goal was to give a boost to the U.S. ethanol industry that’s been hurt by overseas trade disputes and weak domestic demand. The administration had wanted the rule out by February. Again, EPA says the shutdown will delay that timeline, but a spokesman says the agency will still have the rule published by the summer driving season. The EPA still has a ban in place on summertime E15 sales because of concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days. That’s a concern that biofuels advocates say isn’t accurate. The Trump decision to lift the ban on summer E15 sales was applauded by corn-state farmers and lawmakers. The proposal would likely come with a number of reforms to the credit-trading market that underpins the nation’s renewable fuels policy.

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Iowa “Ag-Gag” Law Struck Down in Court

A federal judge struck down Iowa’s “Ag-Gag Law.” The law prevents journalists and advocacy groups from taking part in undercover investigations of farms, slaughterhouses, and other agricultural facilities. The law, passed in 2012, is called the Agricultural Production Facility Fraud Law. It was widely supported by agriculture groups but was also challenged by groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Des Moines Register says Senior Judge James Gritzner says it’s his judgment that the law “violates the First Amendment.” Proponents say the law prevents what they call “subversive acts.” Opponents say the law made it much more difficult for employees to report unsafe working conditions or other challenges and dangers within the facilities. The Animal Legal Defense Fund says in a statement that “Ag-Gag Laws are an attempt by animal exploitation industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse within the United States. This victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.” The state has not yet ruled out appealing the decision.

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Grassley: Ditch NAFTA if Democrats Hold Up USMCA

Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley says he’ll advise President Trump to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement if Democrats try to reopen the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The Iowa Senator says Democrats problems with the deal include enforcing environmental protections and labor standards. He says those issues can be dealt with through side letters without once again opening up the agreement. “If we get to the point where we have to go back to the negotiating table, I will encourage the president to pull out of NAFTA and hope they (Democrats) are smart enough not to let that happen,” Grassley says. “How can you want to go back to an environment in which there are higher tariffs on our products going into Mexico than there is on Mexican products getting into our country?” Grassley says the president will need to lift steel and aluminum duties on Canada and Mexico “if we want to get agriculture behind the new three-way trade pact when it comes up for a vote in Congress.” Grassley also doubled-down on his demand to be included in U.S. trade talks with the European Union when he met with the EU’s Trade Commissioner for 45 minutes on Wednesday. After the meeting, Cecilia Malmstrom, the Trade Commissioner, said “Europe is not able to negotiate ag products.

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Stabenow Writes Perdue About Shutdown Impact

Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow wrote a long letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, talking about the impact of the government shutdown. The Hagstrom Report says she raised concerns about how it’s impacting farmers, families, and rural communities. Stabenow’s letter says, as of Wednesday, the USDA funding lapse hit 19 days, the second-longest shutdown in history. “I am deeply concerned that the shutdown is having a devastating impact on USDA operations, hurting many American farmers and families,” she wrote in the letter. Stabenow raised a number of questions, including how the shutdown would affect the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill was signed into law by the president just one day before the shutdown began. “Careful and quick implementation of the farm bill is critical to the well-being of American farmers and their families,” Stabenow wrote. “This shutdown will greatly slow implementation of this important bill, making it even more difficult for farmers to make planting decisions for this new crop year.” The letter also highlights a number of impacts the government shutdown is having on USDA customers across the country.

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Taco Bell Promises More Sustainable Beef

Taco Bell recently outlined a series of changes it intends to make in 2019. The goal of the changes is to move the business in an eco-friendlier direction into the future. The food service chain, featuring more than 7,000 restaurants around the nation, says a key part of their promise is to make sure all of their beef Is sustainable. The industry website Meating Place Dot Com says, to accomplish the goal, Taco Bell has joined the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. It’s a network of beef industry experts from the beef supply chain, academia and research, environment and animal welfare organizations, and veterinarians. At the same time, Taco Bell is promising to make its restaurants more appealing to vegetarians. The company says, “Later this year, Taco Bell will be testing its first dedicated vegetarian menu in stores, as well as new featured vegetarian items to try.” Other Taco Bell promises include getting rid of the extra-large soda cups, simpler and higher-quality ingredients, improved recycling, and a goal of creating 100,000 new jobs by 2022.

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The partial government shutdown, about to be the longest in history (Saturday), has now reached a crisis, with federal workers, contractors, small businesses and farmers, not getting paid. The ‘squeeze’ is on as 800-thousand federal workers now miss a paycheck…contractors and small businesses lay off workers…and farmers can’t sign up for new loans, farm bill programs, or tariff rescue payments.

President Trump told reporters as he prepared to leave the White House for the Texas-Mexico border, he has legal authority on his own, to order and fund a border wall

“We’ll have to get a win, or I’ll have to go ‘national security.’  Either we’re going to win or make a compromise…I’m ok to making a compromise.”

Trump walked out of an earlier White House meeting with House and Senate leaders after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was not open to a border wall compromise, even if Trump agreed to reopen 9 shut down departments.

House Democrats moved to fund a handful of agencies, including USDA, in largely ‘show’ votes on bills Senate Republicans refused to take up. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of “political spite”--“flip-flopping” on wall construction they funded during President Obama’s tenure…

“So, let’s call it what it is, a ‘flip-flop’ that is not based on principle, or on evidence, but solely on the fact that President Trump is the occupant of the White House.” 

McConnell and Democrats then engaged in a procedural wrestling match, as Democrats tried to force votes to end the shutdown. Maryland’s Ben Cardin…

“It’s like AT&T, Apple, Lockheed Martin, Google and Exxon Mobil laying off their entire workforce, at one time.  That’s the impact we have now, with 800-thousand workers, not receiving their paycheck.  Kevin Hassett, who is the chair of the White House Council on Economic Advisers, points out that this will cause a `1-point-2 billion dollar ‘hit’ on our economy.  America is being held hostage by President Trump.” 

Trump charged the Democrats don’t care about crime, including gangs, illegal drugs, and human trafficking…declaring his opponents see the shutdown fight as the start of the 2020 presidential race.

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