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Opinion: Trade Agreements: Good or Bad?

Agri-Pulse | Posted on August 15, 2016

Those who forget the lessons of history are potentially destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. About 90 years ago, the U.S. economy was operating at full speed and labeled the “Roaring Twenties” in the post-World War I era. At this same time, Europe's economy was recovering from the wartime devastation and started producing again. Global overproduction emerged. This was particularly true for those in agriculture. Back then, agriculture and the rural economy was a larger part of the general economy. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was being debated in Congress during the Fall of 1929 when the stock markets crashed. Signed into law in 1930, Smoot-Hawley increased tariffs on a wide range of imported goods. Unemployment rose in Europe, and around the world. In the U.S., it rose to 24 percent. More than 5,000 banks failed during the Great Depression. Thousands lost homes and farms because they couldn't make mortgage payments due to low prices, lost jobs, and bank closings. Some economists argue that monetary policy decisions contributed to starting the Great Depression, however, most agree Smoot-Hawley made things worse. The domestic economy did not pull out of the Depression until the end of the 1930s when World War II demand picked the economy up. The bottom line is either a nation agrees to the rules of trade or they don't. You cannot have it both ways. A nation that wants to export, must agree to imports. If there is no trade, then economic growth and incomes for the citizens are much more limited to resources and products that can be produced domestically within its borders. U.S. agriculture has the capacity to produce a lot more food and energy than we consume. People buy it internationally because it is cheaper than the alternatives. The emergence of mass markets also facilitates growth. In the United States, firms produce for one national set of product standards and market regulations instead of 50 states. The recent GMO labeling bill passed by Congress maintains the mass-market concept for the U.S. The European Union (EU) has a similar mass market. However with the Brexit vote, Europe may evolve into two sets of product and trade rules, which may add to the costs of trade in the region as Great Britain seeks full sovereignty, separate from the other EU members. 

Britain's Post-Brexit Promise of Farm And Science Subsidies Is Only Temporary

Forbes | Posted on August 15, 2016

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced that Britain will continue to pay the usual farming and scientific subsidies beyond the time that Britain leaves the European Union. This seems sensible as it at least provides certainty in the short term. We don’t even know how long it will take to leave the EU so the promise PMSEY +% to continue the subsidies to 2020 does indeed make that sense. An entirely unknown date at which they’ll stop would be worse than having them simply stop today.

ESA Takings Challenged

DTN | Posted on August 11, 2016

The Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to repeal a regulation that applies the take provision of the Endangered Species Act to every threatened species listed, according to a 19-page petition. In the petition brought on behalf of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, the group makes the case the law does not give blanket authority to federal regulators to apply its take provision to each of 150 threatened species listed.  A Congressional Research Service report from 2013 said the statute defines a taking as any act that adversely affects a species that includes "to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, capture or collect" a listed animal. The USFWS defines "harm" to include habitat modifications made by private landowners.  There has been an outcry from farmers and ranchers in the West who say the federal government is overreaching and protecting species and their habitats, essentially assuming control of private land after the federal government strikes deals with litigants behind closed doors.

Crushing Zika via genetically modified mosquitoes

CNBC | Posted on August 8, 2016

Oxitec, the British subsidiary of Germantown, Maryland-based Intrexon, received a green light from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday to release the GMO mosquitoes as part of an investigational field trial in Key Haven in the Florida Keys. Residents of Key Haven will vote on the trial in a nonbinding referendum scheduled for November, with final approval to reside with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board. "It couldn't have come at a better time," Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry told reporters. While the company is glad it got the regulatory green light, Florida locals are concerned there may be risks to the human population.

FDA Releases Final Environmental Assessment for Genetically Engineered Mosquito

FDA | Posted on August 8, 2016

he FDA has completed the environmental review for a proposed field trial to determine whether the release of Oxitec Ltd.’s genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes (OX513A) will suppress the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population in the release area at Key Haven, Florida. After considering thousands of public comments, the FDA has published a final environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact that agrees with the EA’s conclusion that the proposed field trial will not have significant impacts on the environment. FDA’s finalization of the EA and FONSI does not mean that Oxitec’s GE mosquitos are approved for commercial use. Oxitec is responsible for ensuring all other local, state, and federal requirements are met before conducting the proposed field trial, and, together with its local partner, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, to determine whether and when to begin the proposed field trial in Key Haven, Florida.

Center for Food Safety to file lawsuit against gmo labeling bill

Food Consumer | Posted on August 5, 2016

Center for Food safety says it will be filing a federal lawsuit asking a court to declare the law unconstitutional.

Canada aiding antimicrobial feed additive development

Watt Ag Net | Posted on August 4, 2016

Canadian government invests CA$3.4 million to help AbCelex Technologies develop new line of antimicrobial poultry feed additives to battle Salmonella, Campylobacter

With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after 'Brexit'?

Los Angeles Times | Posted on August 3, 2016

The market recently was packed with tourists taking advantage of the British pound’s slide against other currencies in the wake of the country’s vote to leave the European Union. But the vendors were not celebrating.  “Brexit” has sown deep uncertainty in Britain’s food system, which for the last 43 years has been entwined with the rest of Europe’s, relying heavily on the EU for everything from pork to peaches to farm subsidies to the labor that picks its tomatoes. Now, the country is going to have to rethink how it feeds itself, from farm to fork. But what Britain can’t do is feed itself. The country imports more than $50 billion a year in food, or nearly half of what it eats. That’s more than double what it exports. Most wine and beef come from mainland Europe, as do about 40% of fruit and vegetables.

USDA Announces Reopening of Brazilian Market to U.S. Beef Exports

USDA | Posted on August 3, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reached agreement with Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply to allow access for U.S. beef and beef products to the Brazilian market for the first time since 2003. Brazil's action reflects the United States' negligible risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and aligns Brazil's regulations to the OIE's scientific international animal health guidelines.

Revenue Insurance Likely to Trigger Corn Payouts

DTN | Posted on August 3, 2016

All signs point to the largest-ever corn crop in history this fall and the third year in a row of plunging farm incomes. But with prices potentially tumbling to $3 by harvest, corn growers with high levels of revenue-based crop insurance could buffer some of the price damage. In fact, many corn growers could trigger 2016 crop insurance payouts with no yield loss.  Producers sometimes forget revenue-based crop insurance protects against a growing-season price collapse as well as sub-par yields, pointed out Jason Alexander, vice president of crop insurance for Louisville-based Farm Credit Mid-America. Since the Risk Management Agency set the spring guaranteed price for corn at $3.86 per bushel on March 1, prices have fallen to about $3.40 and could bottom near $3 by harvest.