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Next Round of Trade Aid Is Still “TBD”

4 years, 6 months ago American Farm Bureau Federation

The U.S. and China recently reached a partial trade deal that included the promise of large agricultural purchases by China. Because of that, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is deciding on whether or not it will go through with the next round of trade relief payments to farmers for their 2019 production. USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky tells Politico that the department is looking to make a final decision in the “very near future.” After a recent Senate Ag Committee hearing, Censky said, “I think we’re very much aware that producers have been impacted by the trade retaliation, they’ve been impacted by weather, and low incomes.” The Ag Department is currently dividing up the $14.5 billion it set aside for direct payments in three installments. The second and third rounds will be available in November and January if they’re needed. The Trump Administration claims that Beijing will soon ramp up its U.S. ag purchases to about $40 billion per year. That could make it more difficult for the USDA to justify giving out the remainder of the $14.5 billion set aside for this year’s direct aid program.


Vietnam Trade Mission Already Generating New Sales

Companies on a trade mission to Vietnam are reporting as much as $5 million in new sales. That report came in last week from USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney. McKinney says the new numbers come from just 14 of the 34 companies traveling with him and are the result of 665 meetings they held with buyers from Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. Other companies will be reporting new sales early this week. During a phone conference with reporters, McKinney said U.S. agricultural exports to Vietnam have grown “incredibly” since 1995 when the United States re-established diplomatic relations with Vietnam following the war. Back then, Vietnam ranked 95th in the listing of countries that imported food from the U.S. The Hagstrom Report says Vietnam now ranks number seven on that same list with $4.2 billion in imports. McKinney notes a lot of future potential for growth as 60 percent of the country’s population is under 30 years old. As an example of how the trade relationship has grown, McKinney says Vietnam has increased its imports of U.S. cotton to more than $1 billion per year. During the phone call from Vietnam, McKinney said the overall relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam is “really, really outstanding and getting better.”


U.S., European Equipment Manufacturers Ask For Trade Negotiation

The American Association of Equipment Manufacturers and the Committee for European Construction Equipment issued a joint statement asking American and European government leaders for a friendlier trade environment. After the recent World Trade Organization ruling on European Airbus subsidies, the U.S. announced tariffs of $7.5 million in European goods, including some construction equipment. “Equipment manufacturers in the U.S. are proud to stand with our European partners in calling on the U.S. and EU policymakers to affirm their commitment to a strong transatlantic relationship,” says Kip Eidenberg, AEM VP of Government Affairs. “Our partnership has brought considerable benefits to consumers, workers, and businesses of all sizes on both sides of the Atlantic.” He also says supply chains drive 80 percent of global trade, and tariffs on European manufacturing products will hurt American businesses that source parts and components from across the EU. “We’re asking Washington and Brussels to recognize the importance of our transatlantic alliance and the negative impacts that tariffs have on equipment manufacturers,” Eidenberg adds.


Vietnam ASV Outbreak Slowing

The government of Vietnam is urging its pig farmers to start rebuilding their herds as the spread of African Swine Fever is starting to show some signs of slowing down. Vietnamese officials are anticipating a surge in pork demand just in time for the Lunar New Year coming up in January. The disease was first detected back in February of this year and has since appeared in all 63 provinces across the country. Reuters said Vietnam was forced to cull more than five million pigs or roughly 18 percent of the total hog herd. That action has since driven up pork prices in the country nearly 70 percent. The head of the Vietnamese Department of Livestock Production tells Reuters that, “Farmers’ efforts to enhance hygienic conditions on farms have helped put a brake on the spread,” while adding that improving weather conditions have helped too. They’re also encouraging larger-size pork farms that meet hygiene requirements to expand their pig production efforts. Vietnamese government officials say the outbreak “has initially been contained and showing signs of slowing down,” but didn’t offer any extra details. While ASF is deadly to pigs and there is no available vaccine, the sickness isn’t harmful to human beings.


Lawmakers Urge USDA to Prioritize CRP State Acres for Wildlife

South Dakota Senator John Thune and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar led a bipartisan group asking USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize enrollment and implementation of the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative within the Conservation Reserve Program. The senators wrote a letter saying they’re “concerned that the decision to limit the practices and associated cost-share incentives available in recent continuous sign-ups, and excluding wildlife practices like SAFE, will decrease landowner interest in CRP and the overall effectiveness of the program.” They say the statutory purpose of CRP is to “conserve and improve the soil, water, and wildlife resources of enrolled land and address issues raised by state, regional, and national conservation initiatives.” The letter says land enrolled in SAFE serves as an example of how USDA, landowners, and other partners can work together to address all three resource concerns on the same acre of enrolled land. The letter to Perdue was signed by another 15 senators from both sides of the political aisle.


USCA Says Washington Grizzly Bear “Restoration” Unnecessary

The United States Cattlemen’s Association is less-than-thrilled with the North Cascades Mountain Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The plan seeks to bring in as many as 200 grizzly bears to the region, despite serious stakeholder concerns, especially when it comes to safety. USCA Public Lands Committee Co-Chair Jack Alexander says, “The original intent of the Endangered Species Act was to serve as a means of ensuring the survival of specific species that faced the serious threat of extinction. We have not yet witnessed the utilization of the law as a tool to promote range expansion for any non-threatened species, as is happening with this ‘plan.’” He points out that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the grizzly bear as a “Species of Least Concern,” due in no small part to its population of over 55,000 in North America. “In short, the basis for this ‘restoration plan’ fails to take into account local stakeholder concerns regarding the safety and well-being of their families, neighbors, and livestock,” Alexander says. “USCA wholly rejects the findings in the draft environmental impact statement and encourages the agencies to reconsider its ‘plan’ to attempt to ‘restore’ a grizzly bear population into the Northern Cascades Ecosystem.”


House Democrats continue to voice optimism they’ll allow a vote on the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal, but they’re making no promises. Republicans are increasingly critical of the delays. “I’m optimistic but we’re not there yet.” The words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi on continued apparent progress in USMCA talks with the administration, as well as labor reform assurances from Mexico.

Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal is also upbeat, but neither he nor Pelosi are willing to predict a House vote before Thanksgiving, also a key threshold in the Democrat’s impeachment schedule. The two demand enforcement guarantees, but House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy says the Democrats have already gotten what they want…

The requirements the Democrats have asked for, have now been met.  Those milestones of the steel tariffs. The idea that Mexico would even have a vote in their own senate to change their labor laws, proves there’s an opportunity now to move forward.” 

Something McCarthy says Mexico’s already done…

Mexico’s already ratified it…Canada’s just waiting for us to act.  You’ve got one person in power that controls it all, the Speaker, to call the bill up.  If the bill is called up, it would pass.  It’ll make America stronger, but more importantly, it would make America stronger in the negotiations with China.  But none of that is being done.” 

Ways and Means Chair Neal insists there’s “still a ways to go” on USMCA, despite weeks of negotiations with U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, and his reputation for working with Democrats.

But the pre-election-year clock is running out, impeachment and fights between the Speaker and the president are taking a toll, and the best hope now is that both sides will see the political upside of doing something almost apolitical these days, which is helping their constituents.

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