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May 26, 2017

Lawmakers Question White House Commitment to Rural Development – Take a Listen

Lawmakers on the House Ag Committee gave Sonny Perdue mostly a ‘thumbs-up’ during his testimony before the full Committee last week, but several lawmakers raised concerns over the announced reorganization of USDA – and the administration’s commitment to rural development.

Illinois Democrat Cheri Bustos aired her concerns over Perdue’s recent move to scrap the Senate-confirmed position of Undersecretary of Rural Development, shifting oversight of related programs to the secretary’s office.

Committee Hearing Audio —>    Undersecretary of Rural Development

Reports later indicated that the Secretary may have misspoken, and that the administration still intends to eliminate the Senate-confirmed leadership position in exchange for a staff level position in the Secretary’s office.

Bustos and several of her Democrat colleagues sent a letter to Secretary Perdue on Friday, urging him not to undermine the USDA’s Rural Development program.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SIGNED COPY OF THE LETTER.

The White House is expected to release President Trump’s budget proposal Tuesday for fiscal year 2018.  Farm groups and lawmakers from across the political spectrum will be watching to see what the White House’s budget priorities will be for the year to come.

 

 

 

 

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East Grand Forks Native Elected President/CEO OF CHS

The nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, announced today that its board of directors has elected Jay D. Debertin as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of CHS.  Debertin succeeds Carl Casale, who led CHS during record performance levels and expansion.

During Casale’s seven years with the company, CHS returned $3 billion to its owners, invested $9 billion in new capital expenditures and nearly doubled the size of its balance sheet from $8.7 billion in 2010 to $17.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2016. Casale focused on prudent fiscal management and enhancing management systems at the company.

“As we take our cooperative into its next chapter, we are confident that Jay is the right leader,” said Dan Schurr, chairman of the CHS Board of Directors. “Jay’s experience in achieving operational excellence and driving results fits squarely with our unwavering goal to deliver returns to our member-owners now and for the long term.”

Debertin previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for the company’s diverse energy operations and processing food ingredients business. He joined CHS in 1984 and has held a variety of leadership positions within the organization in energy, trading and risk management, transportation, and agricultural processing. Jay also serves as chairman of Ventura Foods.

“CHS is strong today because we drive the business with a central purpose in mind and that is to help our cooperatives and farmers grow,” said Debertin. “I look forward to working with our talented group of employees as we concentrate on world-class execution across our system. I see growth and strength ahead for our business.”

Debertin, who is originally from East Grand Forks, Minn., holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., and an MBA from University of Wisconsin – Madison.

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Ag Groups Tenatively Hopeful On NAFTA Renegotiation, But Fear The Unknown

The Trump administration has officially notified Congress on Thursday that it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Agriculture groups have reacted to the news with caution.

The National Pork Producers Council is urging the president to make sure that tariffs remain at zero for pork traded throughout North America. Tariff-free access to Canada and Mexico last year were worth $799 million and $1.4 billion respectively. “Canada and Mexico are our top export markets,” says NPPC President Ken Maschoff, “and we absolutely must not have any trade disruptions.”

U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers are also hoping for caution in the upcoming negotiations. While the groups welcome the chance to improve the agreement, they oppose changes that would limit benefits to wheat growers, especially in the Mexican food processing industries. American wheat imports began surging in Mexico after NAFTA, and Mexico is now the largest buyer of American wheat.  A statement released by the pair read “Negotiating a new NAFTA certainly can make improvements. A good place to start are the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules that the three countries already agreed to as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations”

However, NAWG President David Schemm added a caveat saying:

 “If the administration intends on renegotiating NAFTA, it must guarantee growers that new terms won’t reverse the significant benefits for U.S. wheat farmers, like duty free access. Despite the risks, there’s an opportunity here to get better trade rules in place that will set the gold standard for trade agreements going forward, without hurting wheat farmers and their importing customers.”

For his part, new Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue released a statement saying that NAFTA has been generally good for American Ag but there is always room for improvement.  He added thats part of the reason for the recently announced undersecretary of trade at USDA who will serve as “an unapologetic advocate for American Agriculture”.  While the position has been created, so far no names have been submitted for consideration to fill the spot.  Negotiations with Mexico and Canada could begin as soon as August 16th.

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