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Chinese Ag Purchases Becoming a Sticking Point in Negotiations

4 years, 6 months ago AFBF

U.S. President Donald Trump has said China will commit to buying up to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural products as part of a Phase One trade agreement between the countries, However, Reuters says that amount is becoming a sticking point in the negotiations. That $50 billion is more than double the amount of U.S. ag commodities that China purchased during the year before the trade war began. People who’ve been briefed on the negotiations say that U.S. officials are continuing to push for that amount in talks, while Beijing doesn’t want to commit to purchasing that number of products in a certain time frame. China would like its buyers to be able to buy based on market conditions. An official of a Chinese state-owned company says China “doesn’t want to buy a lot of products that people here don’t need or something during a time when it’s not in demand. If a lot of U.S. products come into China all at once, the domestic market might not be able to digest them.” As an example, that same official points out that China wouldn’t be able to use large amounts of U.S. soybeans because of the African Swine Fever virus that’s decimated their herds.


Biofuels Groups Ask EPA to Fix Flawed Proposal

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor testified on Wednesday before Environmental Protection Agency officials at a hearing on its proposed supplemental rule on 2020 biofuels targets under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Skor, whose organization represents more than half of U.S. ethanol producers, is asking the EPA to fix the flawed draft proposal and reverse the demand destruction that has shuttered biofuels plants across the country. “As drafted, EPA’s plan fails to accurately make up for lost gallons and betrays President Trump’s promise to rural America,” she said during testimony. “It cuts the fix we were promised in half, if not more, and destroys what may be our last chance to bring back the ethanol plants that have shut down and help to ease the burden facing American farmers.” The National Biodiesel Board also testified on Wednesday and said they appreciate the proposal to account for small refinery exemptions in the future. However, they pointed out that the EPA’s supplemental rule doesn’t do anything about small refinery exemptions before 2020. “Over four billion gallons of demand for biofuels has been lost due to small refinery exemptions from 2016 through 2018,” says David Cobb, NBB Federal Affairs Director. “The impact has been particularly significant for biomass-based diesel producers because biomass-based diesel can be used to satisfy multiple categories of fuel under the RFS.”


Another Attempt to Fix Farm Labor Problems Introduced in Congress

Representatives Zoe (ZOH-ee) Lofgren of California and Dan Newhouse of Washington introduced comprehensive legislation that attempts to overhaul the nation’s agricultural labor programs. Politico says the legislation will attempt to “thread the needle” between agriculture and labor groups that have long butted heads over the issue. The bill, called the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would provide a way to legal status for undocumented farmworkers who’ve been working at least two years on their jobs and are planning to continue. The bill would also put into place a mandatory E-Verify system nationwide for farmers, something that would give conservatives incentive to support the bill. It will simplify the H-2A application process, cap wages for farmworkers, and it will raise funding for USDA programs that support housing for laborers. It also attempts to meet the needs of dairy farmers and others who need year-round labor. The bill offers 40,000 extra green cards for agricultural labor and creates a capped program to grant three-year visas for workers in certain sectors, including dairy. Politico says it’s the latest attempt to bring together labor and ag groups, as well as convince both Republicans and Democrats to pass major reform to the farm labor system. It’s something that has failed multiple times in the past.


House Ag Committee Reauthorizes Commodity Futures Trading Commission

The House Agriculture Committee passed legislation to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission through 2025. H.R.Bill  4895 passed by voice vote on Wednesday morning. “The bill helps strengthen our financial market infrastructure and makes it more resilient,” says Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson. “It also combats fraud and promotes cooperation among the regulators. What’s even more important to me is that it was put together in a bipartisan way that sends a strong message to the Senate.” Peterson says the people that look to U.S. markets for integrity don’t care about political wins and losses, but rather expect legislators to conduct the business of the committee. The bill includes system safeguard requirements for clearinghouses, trading platforms, and swap data repositories. It also clarifies provisions for relief in the event of broker bankruptcy. The bill adds whistleblower protections for employees of organizations that fall under CFTC jurisdiction, as well as enables further cooperation between the CFTC and international regulatory bodies.  


Agency Partnership Designed to Reduce Food Waste

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration announced they’re partnering with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. It’s part of the “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative” launched by the three agencies last year. The agencies will formalize industry education and outreach efforts with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and the National Restaurant Association, which are the three founding partners in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. The alliance is working on three goals, including reducing the amount of food waste, increasing the amount of food donated to those in need, and diverting food waste from landfills. In the United States, more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single biggest type of waste in America’s daily trash. The agencies will contribute to the goal of reducing food waste through research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, technical assistance, and policy discussion.


NCBA Happy with Hours of Service Legislation Introduced in Congress

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is pleased with bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress that would provide flexible and common-sense relief from Hours of Service rules for agricultural haulers. The Responsible and Efficient Agriculture Destination Act would make sure that the current Hours of Service exemption that applies to the 150-air-mile radius from the source of an agricultural commodity adds the same radius flexibility to the back end of a trip or the destination. The bill also clarifies that this exemption would apply in every state on a year-round basis because agriculture and specifically livestock move across the country every day. “Agricultural haulers, especially those that move livestock, face very unique challenges that haulers in other industries don’t face,” says NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “This bill recognizes that need.” The bill was introduced in the House by Democrat Angie Craig of Minnesota and Republican Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania. “On behalf of all cattle producers, I’d like to thank everyone that signed on to this bill, which works toward needed flexibility within Hours of Service regulations for our livestock haulers,” Houston added.  


The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee expressed new confidence this week that House Democrats will allow a vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, key for U.S. agriculture and other sectors. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, who blasted House Democrats last week for stalling a vote on USMCA, now says he’s more confident Speaker Nancy Pelosi will allow a vote…

“I had a meeting with a prominent Republican Congressman, I don’t want to name, because it was a private meeting, but I have regular meetings with him cause we do some of the same things, and he was very positive that they were going to be passing it.” 

Grassley has warned Democrats against letting USMCA spill into an election year when a Senate impeachment trial might also interfere with Senate action on USMCA. Grassley’s Senate Finance Committee is responsible for trade deals, but claims it’s still possible to compress the statutory schedule that allows months for House, White House, and Senate consideration…

There’s just a terrible lot of agreement that can be put into legislative language right now, and it’s being written right now and being reviewed by Congress. And once it’s set up here, it’ll be set up as legislative language.” 

He adds that once the White House sends the House a draft bill to implement USMCA, the Senate can do a required ‘mock mark-up’ of the bill, even before the House votes.

House Democrats have been under intense pressure from ag groups and lawmakers to move USMCA, worth billions in new farm export sales to Mexico and Canada. But the dwindling legislative clock, impeachment, and election politics have all complicated prospects for the trade deal that would replace and modernize NAFTA.

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