Reports indicate that a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be imminent, but dairy and other agricultural components remain outstanding. Negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico continued to hammer out details of the nearly 20 outstanding chapters this week in hopes of finalizing a deal ahead of Mexico’s presidential elections this summer.
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Thune (R-SD), members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled bipartisan legislation they are advocating to be included in the 2018 farm bill. The Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) Improvement and Innovation Act would improve the current ARC program by modifying the payment calculation and other parts of the program to improve its safety net potential. Currently, no similar legislative proposals to improve ARC have been introduced during the 115th Congress. By providing more equitable support prices that are reflective of the actual market value for all crops and using a 10-year market price average as a cap on reference prices, the Brown-Thune bill would take an important step toward ensuring farm programs are more fiscally responsible for taxpayers. The bill would also ensure that payments are not being made for base acres on land that is no longer being planted with commodity crops. Beginning farmers would, for the first time since 2002, have a new opportunity, based on planting history, to become eligible for new or additional base acres on certain farms that were previously ineligible or only eligible for limited commodity program assistance.
A bipartisan coalition led by Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Susan Collins introduced the Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762), which will drive investments in the 2018 Farm Bill toward programs and policies that create economic opportunity for beginning farmers and ranchers.
Following reports of an increase in aggressive tactics in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids throughout New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo last week issued a cease and desist letter to halt the enforcement actions or he says he will commence legal action. Cuomo specifically cited the recent detaining and jailing of an employee at a dairy farm in Rome, NY in his letter: “On the morning of April 18, farmer John Collins heard a commotion on his property. Upon investigation, he discovered plain-clothed ICE agents aggressively questioning one of his farm workers while pushing him up against a window. Concerned for his employee and aware that the man’s young children who had been waiting for the school bus were now watching their father being assaulted, Mr. Collins approached your agents to determine what was happening on his privately owned property and to video what was taking place with his cellphone. He was handcuffed and his cell phone was thrown on the ground. Your agents did not have a warrant to enter Mr. Collins’s property nor did they identify themselves or their purpose for being there. They handcuffed him and threatened to arrest him for properly exercising his constitutional rights.”
A Rabobank report finds the demise of NAFTA would lead to fewer exports of U.S. fruit, tree nuts and vegetables and more imports of produce from Mexico and Canada.While U.S. consumers would likely see lower prices for produce at the grocery store if the North American Free Trade Agreement implodes, U.S. growers of those products would lose out due to fewer exports to Mexico and Canada and more imports from those nations.
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today unveiled a new interactive webpage to identify best practices for building rural prosperity. “Rural communities need forward-thinking strategies to build strong, resilient futures,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center is focused on identifying unique opportunities, pioneering new, creative solutions to tough challenges, and making Rural Development’s programs easier to understand, use and access.”The webpage highlights effective strategies that have been used to create jobs, build infrastructure, strengthen partnerships and promote economic development in rural America.
With a preliminary NAFTA deal reportedly near, attention is turning to how it could potentially affect U.S. agriculture. Canada's dairy market is protected by high tariffs and has been a key bone of contention, but experts expect only "marginal" concessions from Ottawa. There's also an anti-dumping provision aimed at Mexico that has been sought by Florida specialty crop producers but analysts say it could ignite trade retaliation.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed an "international priorities" page from its website in December, according to a report released this week by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI). The page had listed climate change, clean air, clean water, e-waste, toxic chemicals and strong environmental institutions among its international priorities.EDGI also reports the agency removed its “International Grants and Cooperative Agreements” and “International Cooperation” pages. The "International Cooperation" page said the EPA sought to "promote sustainable development, protect vulnerable populations, facilitate commerce, and engage diplomatically around the world” with “global and bilateral partners.” An EPA spokesperson told Think Progress that the agency continually updates its website to reflect new initiatives. This is not the first time the agency has removed references from its website, with the EPA under the Trump administration removing various references to climate change from its website in the past.
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture approved a new edition of the Farm Bill on April 18. The farm bill, HR 2, is required to authorize farm and food program support which expires this fall. The committee wrote strong legislation for sheep producers with new authorization of funding for minor use minor species pharmaceutical development – a top ask of the American Sheep Industry Association. This program for pharmaceuticals development and labeling for American application is critical for minor species, such as sheep. ASI is pleased with this opportunity for annual funding under the U.S. Department of Agriculture in cooperation with FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine as the existing program, while successful, has exhausted funding and would not be able to continue.The committee addresses a key trade issue for wool suit and fabric manufacturers in the United States with establishment of a textile trust. This provision to address a trade loophole under the North American Free Trade Agreement is key to wool manufacturing and an American customer base for United States wool growers. ASI is a key partner of the wool textile business and spurred creation of this successful provision in the years following NAFTA implementation.This version of the Farm Bill increases funding in reauthorizing a competitive grant program to strengthen infrastructure in the lamb and wool businesses, which is another ask of ASI in formal testimony before the House agriculture leadership.
Farmers for Free Trade released a report that will highlight California concerns that retaliatory tariffs from China hurt commodities like almonds, grapes, apples, and what the group calls “many other iconic California exports.”