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Federal News

The E.U.-Japan Trade Deal: What’s in It and Why It Matters

The New York Times | Posted on July 10, 2017

The European Union and Japan announced a broad agreement on Thursday that would lower barriers on virtually all the goods traded between them, a pointed challenge to President Trump on the eve of a summit meeting of world leaders in Germany. Though the deal still needs further negotiation and approval before it can take effect, it represents an act of geopolitical theater, a day before a Group of 20 summit meeting begins in Hamburg. At a meeting of G-20 finance ministers in March, Steven Mnuchin, the United States Treasury secretary, pointedly declined to endorse a statement in favor of free trade. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said the deal signified the creation of “the world’s largest free, advanced, industrialized economic zone.” The core of the agreement aims to increase the flow of Japanese cars to Europe and of European food to Japan.


Feds to pay local governments $465 million for 2017 land use

Capital Press | Posted on July 9, 2017

The U.S. Department of the Interior will pay nearly $465 million this year to local governments primarily in rural areas that have come to rely on the funds because they cannot levy taxes on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the sum in Nevada on Monday. The $13 million increase this year is slightly less than the average annual growth of $22 million over the last decade. Most of the money goes to Western states, where the Interior Department collects most its $8.8 billion in annual revenue from commercial activities on public lands. California will see more than $48 million this year from the program. Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Utah will each receive between $30 million and $40 million.


New insecticide to remain on market despite ESA violation

Capital Press | Posted on July 9, 2017

Cyantraniliprole, a new insecticide that’s significant for blueberry and citrus growers, will remain on the market even though a federal appeals court has ruled its approval violated the Endangered Species Act. he chemical provides a new weapon against the spotted wing drosophila in blueberries and the Asian citrus psyllid in citrus crops.Environmental groups — Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and Defenders of Wildlife — filed a lawsuit against EPA claiming the agency never studied CTP’s potential effects on threatened and endangered species.According to the plaintiffs, CTP may be “fairly persistent” in an agricultural environment even as it degrades, raising the possibility the chemical will accumulate over time.The plaintiffs pointed to EPA’s own ecological risk assessment that found the insecticide is expected to be sprayed in areas inhabited by 1,377 endangered species. The D.C. Circuit said it’s convinced that leaving CTP’s registration in place while EPA further evaluates the chemical will maintain “enhanced protection of environmental values.”


The dark side of Trump’s much-hyped China trade deal: It could literally make you sick

The Washington Post | Posted on July 8, 2017

The first known shipment of cooked chicken from China reached the United States last week, following a much-touted trade deal between the Trump administration and the Chinese government. But consumer groups and former food-safety officials are warning that the chicken could pose a public health risk, arguing that China has made only minor progress in overhauling a food safety regime that produced melamine-laced infant formula and deadly dog biscuits. Chicken from China will not be labeled, and a representative from Qingdao Nine-Alliance Group, the first exporter, did not specify the name brand it’s being sold under. The privately owned chicken company, one of the largest in China, already supplies markets in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Exports of poultry, largely chicken and duck, are expected to swell under the terms of a May trade deal that would send more U.S. beef to China and expand Chinese poultry sales into the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently proposed a rule allowing China not only to cook, but also raise and slaughter the birds that it ships here as chicken nuggets and flash-steamed duck breasts.


Mexico is no longer no. 1 U.S corn-buyer after trade tensions

Bloomberg | Posted on July 8, 2017

Mexico is no longer the biggest buyer of corn from the U.S.,  a sign that trade tensions are pushing American grain toward other markets while its southern neighbor lines up new suppliers. Sales to Mexico through May were $1.04 billion, down 6.7 percent from a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday in a monthly update. That contrasts with the 32 percent increase for the overall value of U.S. corn exports in the period, during which the average dollar value of the commodity was little changed. Japan boosted its purchases 53 percent to $1.19 billion to become the largest importer of American corn. Mexico initiated talks with other major corn exporters this year after it was criticized by President Donald Trump, who said the country has taken advantage of its northern neighbor through the North American Free Trade Agreement, taking away jobs and investment.


Farm Bill Math Updated in New Congressional Budget Office Baseline

Farm Bureau | Posted on July 6, 2017

The change in farm bill outlays is due to a variety of factors. First, price expectations for several covered commodities have changed due to different supply and demand conditions. For example, consider that record yields and larger domestic inventories have weakened corn prices in recent years and led to higher ARC-CO payments. CBO’s June 2017 projections are for marketing year average corn prices to remain below $4 per bushel over the next decade. These lower corn prices contribute to an additional $4.8 billion in ARC-CO and PLC outlays over the next 10 years. While government costs of the corn program have increased due to weaker prices, other commodities saw their outlays decrease due to higher market prices. For example, tighter supply conditions in peanut markets resulted in the CBO raising their price forecasts in nearby years. In March 2016, CBO estimated the five-year average peanut price at 17.4 cents, and in the most recent baseline, the five-year average price was 21.5 cents per pound, Figure 2. These higher peanut prices lowered forecasted PLC payments by $1.7 billion over 10 years. This reduction in baseline spending was expected as forward contracts to peanut producers have been reported in the range of $400 to $500 per ton. 


NC businesses feel the pain of cuts to seasonal worker visas

WBTV | Posted on July 6, 2017

International workers are the backbone of the Seaside Farm Market in the remote northern Outer Banks town of Corolla. Only 500 people live there, but up to 50,000 visit every week in the summer.But for the first time in 23 years, the family-owned produce and seafood market didn’t open this summer. Owners Bill and Julie Grandy weren’t able to get the H-2B visas they needed to bring in the workers from Mexico they’ve employed for years.They didn’t get a single local applicant for jobs advertised at $15 per hour, Bill Grandy said, calling Corolla a “black hole” for local labor. The husband and wife have both had to take other jobs.“It’s devastated us,” he said. “We have a half a million dollar investment just sitting there generating no money. I don’t know how to describe it other than (total) disaster.”H-2B visas are designed for businesses to fill seasonal non-agricultural jobs. In North Carolina, they’re mainly used in the landscaping, tourism and seafood processing industries. North Carolina uses more H-2B visas than any state besides Texas and Colorado, receiving 4,324 worker certifications in fiscal year 2017, according to data from the Office of Foreign Labor Certification.


Trump vows to ‘unleash’ American energy but unveils only modest new steps

The Washington Post | Posted on July 5, 2017

President Trump vowed to “unleash American energy” on Thursday, pledging to bolster the ailing nuclear industry, open up new offshore areas for drilling, and help seal deals for oil pipelines and coal exports.Riding a wave of shale drilling that doubled the country’s total oil and gas production during the Obama administration, Trump said: “We’re here today to usher in a new American energy policy, one that unlocks millions and millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in wealth.”But energy experts were not impressed with the measures Trump unveiled Thursday, saying they would have little effect.“We’re going to be an exporter,” he said. “We’re going to export energy all around the world, all around the globe.” And he celebrated “near limitless supplies of energy” in the United States, adding: “We are now on the cusp of a true energy revolution.”The United States exports liquefied natural gas (LNG) in tankers, natural gas through pipelines, and petroleum, though it remains a net importer of 4.8 million barrels a day of crude oil and refined petroleum products — about a quarter of total U.S. oil consumption.Trump said his administration would take steps to “to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector,” which he said “produces clean, renewable and emissions-free energy.”He didn’t describe those steps, saying that he awaits a “complete review.” But few expect the administration review to include a carbon tax, a policy that would greatly benefit nuclear energy and simultaneously acknowledge the problem of climate change.


Agro-terrorism prevention bill lands on Trump’s desk

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 29, 2017

A bill designed to heighten preparedness of the nation’s food, agriculture and veterinary systems has been sent to President Trump’s desk for his signature. The U.S. Senate passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act unanimously on May 24, and the U.S. House voted last week to send this legislation to the president to be enacted into law. Sponsored by Rep. David Young (R-Iowa), the legislation addresses concerns highlighted by the 2015 avian influenza outbreak that wiped out millions of layer hens, turkeys and backyard flocks. Response efforts revealed problematic breaks in the federal government’s ability to communicate with stakeholders and react quickly to large-scale animal disease outbreaks. The disaster also raised concerns among farmers and producers about how well the country would be able to share information and respond to agro-terrorism threats and attacks.


USDA Seeking Public Input on GMO Labeling

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on June 29, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public input on GMO labeling. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service posted 30 questions for the public this week regarding labeling food items containing genetically modified ingredients. The feedback will help the agency develop a proposed rule governing how food manufacturers disclose when products contain genetically engineered ingredients. Questions include: What terms should be interchangeable with “bioengineering”; whether AMS should require disclosures for foods containing highly refined products, such as oils or sugars derived from bioengineered crops; and the amount of a bioengineered substance needed to deem it bioengineered.


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