May 26, 2017

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.


U.S. Ag Sec Says Returning Troops Have a Home in Agriculture – South Dakota

Newly confirmed Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue reaffirmed USDA’s commitment to supporting America’s Veterans during testimony before the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

Perdue told lawmakers that will attend an event for veterans and ag outreach efforts in South Dakota tomorrow.

Listen —> Perdue on Vets for Ag

Veterans returning to the United States from active duty face many challenges. Recent data show that 45 percent of armed service members are from rural America.  The agricultural industry is a logical solution to fill the economic gap veterans face.  USDA is committed to assisting veterans start or resume farming and ranching operations in order to strengthen the American economy and provide livelihoods to our returning veterans.

As an example, USDA’s website says the following organizations and programs already specifically target and assist veteran farmers and ranchers.

  • Farmer-Veteran Coalition– This organization helps returning veterans find employment and training on farms and ranches and in other agriculture-related careers.   As the coalition continues to grow, it will expand availability and access to farm education and acquisition programs for hundreds of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots – This program, designed by deans at the University of Nebraska’s College of Technical Agriculture, helps returning veterans enter the agricultural industry. When fully operational, the program will offer agricultural classes and job training and placement at local farms and ranches.
  • Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training– This program serves veterans in Cal Poly Pomona. It provides training and agricultural job skills to help veterans start farms or ranches or obtain other jobs in the agricultural sector.

House Lawmakers and Industry Experts Focused on Vaccine Bank for Livestock in 2018 Farm Bill- Audio

Members of the House Ag committee are giving a lot of weight to the possibility of creating a vaccine bank to stem the risks of an outbreak such as foot-and-mouth disease.

The U.S. has not had FMD since 1929, but lawmakers and animal health experts agree that an outbreak would have devastating repercussions on livestock markets and the industry.

Supporters say that a vaccine bank is like insurance that can reduce the risks of a costly disease outbreak.

House Ag Committee ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota says USDA should start working with trading partners to ease concerns about a vaccine before an outbreak actually occurs.

During a hearing with newly confirmed Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday, Peterson used the example of the H5N2 bird flu outbreak to stress the importance of a vaccine bank – when U.S. trading partners became as reluctant about U.S. producers using a vaccine as the actual bird flu virus itself.      Listen —>  Vaccine Bank 1

Secretary Perdue agreed with Peterson.     Listen —>  Vaccine Bank 2

Liz Wagstrom is the chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council in Washington, D.C., and she agrees that a disease outbreak could be devastating to the U.S. industry. We spoke with her about the idea of a vaccine bank during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s  “Washington Watch” earlier this month.      Listen —>  Vaccine Bank 3

Wagstrom is hopeful that lawmakers will support the vaccine bank concept in the 2018 farm bill.  Listen —> Vaccine Bank 4