March 24, 2017

Senate Confirmation Hearing Starts Today For Sonny Perdue

Sonny_Perdue_at_rallyThe last member nominated to fill the Cabinet of President Donald trump will go before the Senate Ag Committee today.  Former Georgia Governor and nominee to becoming US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is scheduled to begin is long awaited questioning at 9 am central time Thursday.  Perdue will be introduced by his cousin and fellow republican, US Senator David Perdue, also of Georgia.

The lack of urgency behind Perdue’s nomination raised concerns in rural america, a major contributor to President Trumps Victory.  After being the last member nominated just a day before Trumps inauguration, it took another seven weeks for the nomination to become official and all the paperwork to be submitted.  Despite that, Perdue is expected to be confirmed fairly quickly.  Several major farm groups as well as previous Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack have all endorsed him leaving few major hurdles.  His business and professional experience is likely to aid the process.  Aside from serving as former governor, Perdue was trained as a veterinarian and also owned several commodity export and trading companies.  His ethics paperwork states he will unwind himself from involvement in Perdue Management Holdings LLC and Perdue Business Holdings Inc.

If confirmed, analysts caution Perdue’s job won’t be easy.  He’s taking the reins of a industry that has struggled the past few years and is facing the crafting of a new farm bill.  Trade disputes and rising rhetoric with major trade partners Canada, Mexico, and China will also be big challenges.  Perdue will have to manage all this with a base that feels neglected and a proposed budget that would leave his agency with the lowest discretionary funds since 1988.


China Bans Brazilian Beef In Wake of JBS, Meatpacking Scandal

beef-carcassesIn the wake of news last week that Brazilian authorities had raided JBS and other large meat packers on charges of government bribery and sale of adulterated meat product, China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has announced that all clearance of Brazilian meat products will be put on hold.  The declaration includes product already in warehouses and in transit, with approximately 3400 tons estimated to be on ships alone.  No word just yet on how many tons are in estimated to be in Chinese warehouses.

The raids came after reports surfaced that JBS SA as well as competitor BRF SA and several smaller regional companies had bribed government officials to overlook sanitation violations.  In particular, the raids surfaced on the question of whether or not the companies had processed rotten meat, shipped salmonella tainted cargoes, and forged certificates on Chinese, EU and Middle Eastern bound containers.

So far, the EU has not slapped any restrictions on Brazil’s products, although analysts say there is a high possibility of that happening in the near future.  The raids have also resulted in the arrests of 5 employees; 3 from BRF and 2 from JBS, as well as 20 government officials.  One BRF plant has been ordered temporarily closed as well as two operated by a smaller company Grupo Peccin.


Ag Groups Conduct ‘Substantive, Productive’ Meeting with Trump Administration on Trade

Executive staff leaders from 11 major U.S. agricultural and agribusiness organizations commended the Trump administration for engaging in a substantive and productive meeting today focused on the importance of continued growth of food and agriculture exports.

port2The meeting followed a series of written communications to the Trump administration from the broad-based U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade, as well as a number of the individual organizations, stressing the importance of agricultural trade.  Those communications also have expressed an eagerness on behalf of the food and agriculture sector to work actively and constructively with the administration in preserving the major benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement to the sector while seeking further improvements to modernize the 23-year-old accord, as well as to reinvigorate trade negotiations with important U.S. agricultural trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn participated in the meeting with representatives from the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Corn Refiners Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Grain and Feed Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, North American Export Grain Association, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation and USA Rice.

“It is clear from this meeting and other interactions that the Trump administration understands and intends to pursue expansion of U.S. food and agriculture exports which contribute to U.S. manufacturing, job creation and economic growth,” the groups said following the meeting.  “We are committed to offering substantive proposals and ideas, and look forward to further opportunities to work with the administration and its trade team as they develop specific strategies for engaging in trade negotiations with our most important trading partners.  We are pleased that we received assurances from the Trump team that it will take us up on that offer.”

During the meeting, the agricultural organizations noted that 95 percent of their potential customers live beyond the U.S. border, and that the diverse food and agriculture sector supports more than 15 million U.S. jobs, creates more than $423 billion in annual U.S. economic activity, and is the single largest U.S. manufacturing sector, representing 12 percent of all U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Corn Refiners Association News Release