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Will 2018 Be the Year of Protectionism?

The New York Times | Posted on January 8, 2018

The Trump administration will soon face several major trade decisions that will determine whether the White House adopts the type of protectionist barriers that President Trump campaigned on but that were largely absent during his first year in office.In 2018, Mr. Trump will have several opportunities to punish foreign rivals as the final decider in a series of unusual trade cases that were initiated last year. These cases, which were brought under little-used provisions of trade laws, give the president broad authority to impose sweeping tariffs or quotas on foreign products.The United States has numerous other routine trade cases in the works — like Boeing’s fight with the Canadian plane maker Bombardier. But the ones heading to Mr. Trump’s desk are unique because they fall to the president alone, rather than career bureaucrats, to decide. Many American companies, particularly manufacturers, are cheering on the administration. They argue that they need the government’s assistance to stop foreign companies from flooding the market with cheap products. But others, including consumers and companies that buy steel, aluminum, solar modules and other products, complain that tariffs would make these items more expensive, put American companies out of business and kill more jobs than they create. And some of the measures the Trump administration is considering might violate commitments that the United States has made under existing trade pacts, risking retaliation from other countries.


Tax overhaul will increase food insecurity in Montana

Montana Standard | Posted on January 8, 2018

Congress passed a significant overhaul to our tax system and we in Montana are left wondering what it will mean for us. As members of the Montana Food Security Council, we cannot help but fear the impact on our most vulnerable citizens. We believe that several tenets of the plan will worsen food insecurity in our state. Most low- and middle-income families in the U.S. will see little benefit, with many even experiencing tax increases by the end of the decade. The legislation sets up likely cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other important programs by increasing the federal deficit by an expected $1.4 trillion-$1.5 trillion over the next decade. The idea that tax cuts will boost job creation and stimulate the economy is a hefty gamble considering the lack of sound economic data to support this theory. We are already hearing from House and Senate leadership that cuts to social assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicare or Medicaid will be used to help "pay for" the tax plan. The tax plan will also likely lead to cuts at the state level at a time when Montana is already reeling from drastic budget cuts. In our recent special session, our state cut $76 million from crucial programs and services, including the closure of half of Montana’s Offices of Public Assistance. We will see additional state budget woes in Montana due to the new federal tax plan.


EPA nixes bid to herd livestock under Clean Air Act

Capital Press | Posted on January 2, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it has denied a petition by environmental groups to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations like factories under the Clean Air Act. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, in a letter to petitioners, acknowledged livestock are potential sources of air pollutants. The agency, however, doesn’t have a reliable method for estimating animal emissions. Until it does, new rules could be unjustified and ineffective, according to Pruitt.“Once the agency has sufficient information on CAFO emissions, it will determine the appropriate regulatory approach to address those emissions,” he stated.


More schools participate in USDA Farm to School program

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on January 2, 2018

More schools districts – and therefore more schoolchildren – are learning about healthy eating habits, and more schools would like to be able to source meats locally, according to the latest USDA Farm to School Census. More than 5,200 school districts and 57,600 schools participated in the program in 2015, which tracks local sourcing of food fed to schoolchildren during the course of the day. The first such survey in 2013 found more than 4,300 school districts operating 40,300 schools participated in Farm to School, which was established under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, USDA said.


President Trump says Christmas present is delivered and tax cuts will fuel US economy

DTN | Posted on December 28, 2017

Farmers who receive income from pass-through entities will see a 20% deduction. The effective impact of a 37% tax rate and a 20% deduction for pass-through income would set a top tax rate on business income at 29.6%. The tax accounting firm K-Coe Isom suggested some business considerations for farmers as year-end tax strategies for the bill. One would be to defer income to next year and pay deductible expenses now, because depending on circumstances, farmers could have a lower tax rate for 2018. After 2017, carryback of net operating losses will be limited to just two years instead of five years. So this may be the last chance to recoup income taxes from 2012-2015, K-Coe Isom said.Farmers may need to restructure their operations in order to get maximum benefit from the new law, but K-Coe Isom noted that "rate reductions and estate tax changes beneficial to ag are temporary."

 


EPA lowballs manure rule’s reach, farm groups say

Capital Press | Posted on December 28, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency has underestimated how many producers will have to report that their animals are releasing gas, according to farm groups. The new reporting requirement, forced by an environmental lawsuit and expected to take effect Jan. 22, will apply to hundreds of thousands of farms, not the 44,900 projected by the EPA, the groups say.“This number is woefully inadequate and vastly under-represents the universe of producers who will be impacted by these reporting requirements,” the American Farm Bureau Federation stated in comments to the EPA.


Texas Senator Seeks RIN Cap

DTN | Posted on December 28, 2017

 Leaders in the biofuels industry wrote President Donald Trump on Friday after learning Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had floated a proposal to the White House that would essentially cap prices for renewable identification number (RIN) credits at 10 cents apiece. The proposal from the Texas senator, negotiating on behalf of oil refiners, spurred major players in both biofuels and commodity crops industries to send a letter Friday to President Donald Trump detailing why the RIN market exists, how it is operated by EPA, and some of the problems EPA has in providing transparency on RIN trading.Most importantly, the letter praised President Trump for his support of the biofuels industry and reiterated the need to ensure any policy changes don't undercut billions of dollars in biofuels infrastructure that has been put in place since the Renewable Fuel Standard was created.


Cargill turns to workforce to push back against Trump trade policies

The Cedar Rapids Gazette | Posted on December 28, 2017

On Cargill’s new FedByTrade website, the Houfek family tells how selling meat to foreign countries has supported two generations working at the company’s packing plant in Schuyler, Neb. Four hundred miles north, in Hopkins, Brian Donovan, an operations manager in Cargill’s salt division, stands ready to explain how providing de-icing and water conditioning products to Canadians keeps dozens of U.S. workers on the payroll.As President Donald Trump’s disparagement of free trade agreements pushes America away from deals like the 11-nation Trans Pacific Partnership and the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, Cargill, one of the world’s largest private companies, is pushing back.The Minnesota-based shipping and agriculture giant has enlisted its 155,000-person workforce in a political trade war. It just launched FedByTrade, where its employees, customers and communities can tell stories of regular Americans who depend on international trade for their livelihoods.


Vaden denies politics played role in USDA reassignments

Agri-Pulse | Posted on December 28, 2017

Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee have written to Stephen Vaden, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be USDA’s top lawyer, seeking more information about the reassignments of at least a dozen department employees, all members of the Senior Executive Service. Among the questions posed by the senators: “Were any of the reassignments …. made because of the political affiliation of the individual reassigned or because the individual had worked closely with Obama administration leadership officials at USDA? If yes, please explain.”  Vaden's response to that question, provided that same afternoon, was a simple "No." Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, and two other Democrats joined the panel’s Republican majority on Dec. 11 when the committee approved Vaden’s nomination. But Stabenow said at the time that she still needed answers about whether the personnel moves involved retaliation. The full Senate has yet to vote on the nomination.


FAA: Farm equipment radio interference threatens air traffic

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Posted on December 28, 2017

Radio interference from a farm's massive metal crop-watering structure is causing havoc for air traffic in the sky over Georgia, federal authorities said in a lawsuit filed this week. The irrigation structure is on a south Georgia farm where the Federal Aviation Administration has a radio transmitter to relay signals that keep aircraft on course, according to the federal lawsuit.Interference caused by the 1,200-foot-long (370-meter-long) structure forced the FAA to shut down its transmitter in February, affecting operations of nine airports. The proximity of Robins Air Force Base makes the situation even more serious, the government said in its complaint.


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