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FFA Concludes National Convention, Names New Officers

4 years, 5 months ago American Farm Bureau Federation

Students from Montana, Virginia, Puerto Rico, New Mexico, Oregon and Ohio have been elected by delegates throughout the United States to serve on the 2019-20 National FFA Officer team. Kolesen McCoy, an agribusiness and applied economics major at Ohio State, was elected national president. Kourtney Lehman, an agricultural business management major at Oregon State University, was elected national secretary. Lyle Logemann, an agricultural education major at Eastern New Mexico University, was elected western region vice president. Tess Seibel, a nursing major at James Madison University, was elected eastern region vice president. Mamie Hertel, a financial engineering major at Montana State University, was elected central region vice president. Yomar Roman, an office administration major at Universidad de Puerto Rico, was elected southern region vice president. Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, six students are elected by delegates to represent the organization as national officers. Delegates elect a president, secretary, and vice presidents representing the central, southern, eastern, and western regions of the country.




Beijing Considers Axing Extra Tariffs on U.S. Ag Products to Boost Imports

The head of a government-sponsored trade association in China says Beijing could remove extra tariffs on U.S. farm goods to smooth the way for importers to potentially buy up to $50 billion in products. A Reuters article says Beijing would make that move instead of directing importers to purchase specific amounts of goods. President Donald Trump said earlier in October that China would be buying anywhere between $40 and $50 billion worth of agricultural goods as part of a “Phase One” deal to pave the way for an end to the trade war that broke out in 2018. However, that number has become problematic as China wants to purchase U.S. ag products based on market conditions, rather than commit to a specific number. The President of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Exports of Foodstuffs says, “What the government can do is remove the extra tariffs, which both sides need to do. Then, let the companies make purchases based on their own will and market rules.” The chamber president says that would create conditions for a “convenient” and “good” trade environment, rather than creating obligations for firms to buy a certain amount of product during a certain time. While China can step up purchases based on market conditions, $40 to $50 billion is “very high.”


Thailand Wants Talks on Loss of Trade Privileges with the U.S.

Thailand will be looking to start talks with the United States about its decision to end preferential privileges of a large number of exports from Thailand. A New York Daily News article says the acting director-general of the Thailand Commerce Ministry’s Foreign Trade Department says his office had been warning exporters about the potential loss of duty-free access on multiple exports. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced on Friday that it was suspending $1.3 billion in trade preferences for Thailand under the Generalized System of Preferences for its failure to adequately protect worker rights. Thailand wants to initiate talks with the U.S. before the move takes effect in April. Thailand has faced complaints for years over multiple labor issues, especially in its fisheries industry. The U.S. announcement about the revocation says, “Despite six years of engagement, Thailand has yet to take steps to provide internationally recognized worker rights in many important areas identified in a 2015 petition from the AFL-CIO.” The U.S. move drew special attention because it came soon after Thailand had announced a ban on glyphosate. However, both U.S. and Thai officials denied any connection.


NCBA Announces Campaign to Promote its Beef Quality Assurance Program

About 85 percent of U.S. beef comes from farmers and ranchers who are certified in the Beef Quality Assurance Program. However, do consumers know what that means? A new campaign from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association aims to answer that question for consumers. The goal is to close the gap between consumer knowledge and what the country’s producers are doing to produce high-quality beef in a humane and environmentally friendly way. Consumers are also more interested than ever before about how their food is produced. The new campaign began last month with a series of videos from “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner.” The videos highlight how cattle farmers and ranchers raise their cattle under BQA specifications. The videos, as well as corresponding audio clips, will be used to advertise BQA on platforms like YouTube, Hulu, Pandora, and Spotify. Consumers will also get to learn more through interactive “BQ&A” Instagram stories that address common questions about how cattle are raised. The videos, website, and social interactions with consumers give them an overview of what the BQA program is and the ongoing commitment of cattle farmers and ranchers to care for their animals and provide the safest and highest quality beef possible. “The campaign expands the reach of a traditionally producer-facing program,” says Josh White, executive director of producer education at NCBA. U.S. beef producers who have embraced the BQA program are excited that the program is now a “consumer-facing” effort as well.  


USDA Finds New Site in Kansas City for ERS, NIFA

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the USDA officially signed a lease on office space in Kansas City, Missouri. The Hagstrom Report says it’s now the new place of work for most of the employees of the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It’s at 805 Pennsylvania Avenue right in downtown Kansas City. Employees of both agencies who made the move out of Washington, D.C., had been working in another USDA facility. “We’re excited to announce ERS and NIFA’s new, permanent home in downtown Kansas City,” says Perdue. “It provides clarity on commute times and work-life balance for our employees. Both agencies have been working at the Beacon Center after relocating to the region over a month ago.” Perdue says signing the lease is an important next step to maximizing the efficiency, effectiveness, and customer service over the long-term. In a separate statement, USDA also says 90 percent of USDA employees are located outside of the DC area. Before their relocation, ERS and NIFA were the only USDA agencies that didn’t have any representation outside of the nation’s capital. Out of 329 ERS positions, 76 remain in DC. Out of a total of 344 NIFA positions, just 21 remain located in Washington, D.C.


World Wheat Crop Experiencing Mixed Planting Conditions

Drought conditions in the southern U.S. plains continue to be a growing concern for winter wheat producers. The southern plains are the top winter wheat producing region in the country. Extra precipitation helped to boost yields and harvests this year, even though growers planted fewer acres than in previous growing seasons. A return to the more typical arid conditions may put some limit on crop potential come harvest time in 2020. However, other countries that grow a lot of wheat are also having some concerns. Growers in Great Britain are hoping for dry weather to help pick up the pace in planting throughout rain-soaked farm fields. Growers in Ukraine, a major wheat-producing competitor of the U.S. need a good rainfall on their newly planted fields before settling in for the winter. As the planting period is mostly coming to an end in the northern hemisphere, places like France and Germany have seen higher-than-normal rainfall over the past month. That’s not only slowed the harvest of summer crops, but it’s also planting of winter wheat behind schedule. Russia is the world’s top winter wheat exporter and may plant a record amount of the crop this year. Favorable temps and near-normal moisture have made it possible for Russian producers to plant in an ideal timeframe.


Montana Senator Introduces Resolution to Restart COOL

Senator Jon Tester of Montana introduced a resolution in support of the reestablishment of Country of Origin Labeling. The COOL resolution puts forth a firm statement of support for the program, which was repealed back in 2015. The introduction follows months of coordination and collaboration by Tester, who’s been pulling together consumer and producer stakeholders to push the labeling solution forward. U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Director Emeritus Leo McDonnell says pushing the resolution forward could ultimately benefit consumers at their local grocery stores. “Consumers are increasingly seeking out more information on the products they choose to feed their families,” he says. “The U.S. produces the highest quality, safest, and most eco-conscious beef in the world. U.S. cattle producers deserve the opportunity to showcase their product in the retail marketplace.” The group thanks Senator Tester for championing their Truth in Labeling efforts through the introduction of the resolution. “We’re asking other Senators to follow his lead and stand with American consumers and ranching families,” McDonnell says.


The White House and Hill Republicans are in early talks on a new tax cut and growth package that’s likely to be more of a ‘messaging’ vehicle ahead of the 2020 election, than passable legislation. The discussions are “preliminary,” the Washington Post reports and probably more about next year’s election than actual legislating.

But top Ways and Means Republican Kevin Brady tells the paper a key aim is to “make permanent some of the key provisions,” in the 2017 tax bill Brady spearheaded, including provisions for agriculture. Breaks that sunset in 2025 include a 20-percent deduction on pass-through income covering more than 95-percent of farms, and enhanced equipment expensing. American Farm Bureau tax adviser Pat Wolff says Democrats would rather use the tax breaks for environmental and other efforts…

Some of the provisions of the Tax Cut Jobs Act, like the estate tax exemption, the 11-million estate tax exemption, are proposed as a ‘pay-for’ for other initiatives.”  

But White House aides are now said to be pushing for a sharper contrast between Democratic presidential candidates who want to roll back 2017 tax cuts, and President Trump’s tax cut message. Wolff says a roll-back would hit agriculture hard…

So, if you take away the lower rates and changes in capital gains taxes, you’re looking at a significant tax increase for farmers and ranchers.”

Illinois Republican and House Ag panel member Rodney Davis had a similar message…

Provisions that Democrats are putting forward that will raise taxes on these small business owners, these farmers, folks that rely on agriculture and agribusiness, is only going to slow down the job growth.” 

White House officials have hinted other proposals could be in the mix that Trump has discussed before, including reducing the payroll tax and indexing capital gains to inflation, both of which could help producers.

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