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US farmers fear Trump’s assault on WTO hurts them

Bloomberg | Posted on February 28, 2019

Donald Trump’s attack on the World Trade Organization has U.S. farmers worried that the president’s ‘America first’ foreign policy approach will hamstring efforts to defend their interests. The U.S. is strangling the ability of the WTO, which oversees the rules for nearly $23 trillion in commerce every year, to resolve disputes among its 164 members. But when the WTO’s appellate body becomes incapacitated later this year, even the U.S. cases, of which there are at least two pending meant to protect American agriculture, would be derailed.

SNAP proposal means more hunger, not jobs, Democrats tell Perdue

Food & Environment Reporting Network | Posted on February 28, 2019

The Trump administration will shift able-bodied Americans into better-paying jobs through stricter enforcement of a 90-day limit on food stamps, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told skeptical House lawmakers on Wednesday. Democrats such as Rep. Jim McGovern demanded proof that the plan would work and warned of litigation to stop the proposal, which could end SNAP benefits to more than 700,000 people. Congress rejected stricter SNAP work requirements in the 2018 farm law. All the same, President Trump announced “immediate action on welfare reform” as he signed the farm bill. “It’s called work rules, and Sonny is able under this bill to implement them through regulation.”The proposal would restrict state use of waivers that allow so-called able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) aged 18 to 49 to receive food stamps for more than the usual limit of 90 days in a three-year period unless they work at least 20 hours a week or spend equivalent time in job training. The 90-day limit was set as part of welfare reform in 1996.

New Farm Bill includes crop insurance updates

Wisconsin State Farmer | Posted on February 28, 2019

With the 2019 sign-up deadline arriving on March 15, refinements in federal crop insurance from the new Farm Bill were outlined for farmers at the 2019 series of update meetings sponsored by Premier Insurance Solutions LLC.  A policy change for 2019 allows insured farmers to change their elections on the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Risk Coverage (PLC) indemnities for both this year and 2020 and then be able to switch between them in each following year.  Those who choose PLC may be able to update their crop base acres and yields.The fee for catastrophic insurance has been raised from $300 to $655 per policy but “it is not worth it,” Craig Ladwig remarked. He pointed out that any payment would cover only 50 percent of the affected acres at 55 percent of the guaranteed price for the crop.One new provision is the offering of multi-county (they need to be adjacent) enterprise unit policies which serve to reduce the farmer premiums.Although the late 2018 Farm Bill classified industrial hemp as an agricultural product, enabling its commercial production, it is not one of the 130 different crops eligible for crop insurance in 2019.

The 2019 Outlook for U.S. Agriculture From USDA’s Chief Economist

Farm Policy News | Posted on February 27, 2019

Speaking on Thursday at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia, USDA Chief Economist Robert C. Johansson provided a broad outlook for U.S. agriculture.  Today’s update provides an overview of key aspects of Dr. Johansson’s presentation. In his speech Dr. Johansson noted that, “A growing U.S. economy helps farm household income, but falling commodity prices in recent years for a host of reasons have weighed on farm income. Over the past couple of years the dramatic fall in net farm income in 2015 and 2016 seems to be leveling out at a lower level.

The 2018 Farm Bill: Refinancing the Rural Community, Reinvigorating Growth

NYC Food Policy | Posted on February 27, 2019

Called in full the Rural Infrastructure and Economic Development title, Title VI of the Bill covers rural development policies and programs across the U.S. Broadly, these policies are intended to support rural growth and economic sustainability for food suppliers and distributors in non-urban areas. Its two primary policies are: The Rural Development Act (RDA), which provides grants and loans to rural businesses and organizations that are trying to improve their health, community, and economy. Funding is directed towards a wide range projects, including but not limited to building a sustainable infrastructure, supporting rural businesses, expanding rural health care services, and encouraging community development.The Rural Electrification Act (REA), which specifically provides credit, loans, and grants to expand access to telecommunications services in rural areas.

From corn to Apple: What's behind the US-China standoff

Star Tribune | Posted on February 27, 2019

To hear the Americans tell it, the Chinese have gone on a commercial crime spree, pilfering trade secrets from seed corn to electronic brains behind wind turbines. China has stripped the arm off a T-Mobile robot, the U.S. says, and looted trade secrets about robotic cars from Apple. The alleged victims of that crime spree are individual American companies, whose cases lie behind the Trump administration's core complaint in the high-level U.S.-China trade talks going on in Washington: That Beijing systematically steals American and other foreign intellectual property in a bid to become the world's technology superstar. Yet the odds of a resolution to the trade dispute this week — or anytime soon — appear dim, in part because China's drive for technology supremacy is increasingly part of its self-identity.The seven-month standoff has upset financial markets and likely weakened the global economy. The United States has imposed taxes on $250 billion in Chinese imports; Beijing has lashed back by taxing $110 billion in American products.

US, Canada, Mexico to work together to prevent ASF spread

Watt AgNet | Posted on February 27, 2019

The United States, Canada and Mexico are partnering to prevent the African swine fever (ASF) virus from entering their borders. ASF has been spreading throughout pig farms and wild boar in China and parts of Europe since last summer, and has resulted in the death or culling of hundreds of thousands of pigs. It recently was detected for the first time in Vietnam.Although ASF does not affect humans, it is highly contagious and deadly among pigs, cannot be cured and has no vaccine.At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Annual Agriculture Outlook Forum this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asked his North American counterparts: “Can the North American countries work together to protect their farmers and their agricultural industries from pests and infectious diseases such as African swine fever?”Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Villalobos Arambula said they can: “There is more and more risk because of the communication, because of the export of product, because of trade. We have to strengthen our relationship and we have to strengthen our technical capabilities.”

2018 Farm BIll - Energy and Research

USDA | Posted on February 26, 2019

For energy-related programs, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act) authorizes appropriations of $835 million over 5 years, an increase over the $690 million authorized in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Act). In contrast, mandatory funding over 5 years is $375 million in the 2018 Farm Act, about 55 percent of the $685 million provided by the 2014 Farm Act. Total 5-year funding for energy programs (mandatory funding plus authorized appropriations) declined from $1,375 million under the 2014 Farm Act to $1,210 million under the 2018 Farm Act. The Biorefinery Assistance Program is expanded to assist producers of any combination of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, or biobased products.A new Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program will promote benefits of permanent carbon sequestration, carbon dioxide utilization, and aggregation of organic waste from multiple sources into a single biogas system.Algae is included as an eligible feedstock under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). Other Provisions - Biobased Market Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program, Bioenergy for Advanced Biofuels, Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Analysis of 2018 Farm Bill - Trade

USDA | Posted on February 26, 2019

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act): Consolidates USDA’s four market development and export promotion programs into a new Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Program and provides the Secretary of Agriculture new flexibility in promoting trade.Permits Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program funding for activities in Cuba, with the restriction that funds are not used in contravention of the policy outlined in National Security Presidential Memorandum 5 of June 16, 2017.Expands technical assistance and extension efforts to increase trade and improve global food security.Removes minimum commodity monetization requirement (i.e., donated food sold to fund programming) for nonemergency development programs under Food for Peace.Requires more detailed annual reporting by USDA and USAID on use of funds by cooperators and implementing parties.New Programs and Provisions-Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Program (ATPFP)—With mandatory annual funding of $255 million,  the ATPFP consolidates USDA’s four market development and export promotion programs (Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program, E. Kika De La Garza Emerging Markets Program, and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops) and adds to it the Priority Trade Fund. This new fund provides the Secretary of Agriculture $3.5 million annually to promote trade when the ATPFP’s component programs have applications that exceed available funding. Biotechnology and Agricultural Trade Program—Assists with the removal of nontariff and other trade barriers to U.S. agricultural products produced with biotechnology and other agricultural technologies. The program was originally part of the Food Agriculture and Conservation Act of 1990 and was appropriated $6 million annually from 2002 to 2007.

Tenn. plant workers sue ICE over April 2018 raid, detainments

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on February 26, 2019

Seven workers at a Tennessee beef slaughter plant raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last year are suing the agency for alleged violations of their constitutional rights. The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center and the law firm of Sherrard, Roe, Voigt & Harbison filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of the workers, who were in a group of about 100 Latino employees detained in the April 2018 raid at Southeastern Provision. The suit alleges that ICE officers detained any worker who “looked Latino without regard to citizenship or documentation,” according to a news release from the NILC. The ICE activities represented violations of the workers’ Fourth and Seventh Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit contends.