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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.

New U.S. Ambassador to China Touts Agricultural Trade

Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 29, 2017

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad touted trade as he took the helm of an important diplomatic mission that has been mired in uncertainty under the Trump administration. China’s Foreign Ministry refers to Mr. Branstad as an “old friend.” Chinese government advisers say Beijing hopes his agricultural background and ties with Mr. Trump will make him a strong voice in favor of trade inside the administration.Mr. Branstad concentrated most of his brief comments Wednesday on trade, saying he hoped to help reduce trade barriers in a way that would both benefit Chinese businesses and increase U.S. jobs.

House Subcommittee Funding Bill for USDA Cuts Less Than Trump Budget Plan

DTN | Posted on June 29, 2017

Agriculture isn't likely to see the kind of federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration if the discretionary appropriations bill approved Tuesday by a subcommittee is any indication. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies advanced a bill funding fiscal year 2018 discretionary programs for USDA and other agencies at just more than $20 billion, cutting $1.1 billion from last year's bill, or about 5.2% less than current funding levels.If the appropriations hold, USDA would receive about $876 million less than this year's discretionary budget. The funding bill, which was approved in a voice vote, advanced to the full committee. The committee is advancing multiple appropriation bills this week.Yet the $1.1 billion spending cut, if it holds, will be $3.7 billion less than President Donald Trump's proposed spending cut just for USDA. The Trump budget calls for a $4.8 billion cut from USDA discretionary programs, which the White House intended to use to offset spending increases in defense and homeland security, including funding for a border wall.

Senate health care bill called Anti-Rural

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 29, 2017

The head of the National Rural Health Association said the organization will oppose the Senate’s healthcare bill because the legislation will hurt rural America. “In its current form, this bill is anti-rural,” said Alan Morgan, NRHA chief executive officer.The bill, named the Better Care Reconciliation Act, contains several provisions that would hit especially hard in rural areas, Morgan said.Among these are deep cuts in Medicaid spending and an end to Medicaid expansion. About 45 percent of rural children use Medicaid, compared with 38 percent in metropolitan areas, according to a Georgetown University study.The bill would reduce funding for treatment of opioid addiction, another issue for rural America. The rate of opioid overdose deaths is 45 percent higher in nonmetropolitan counties, according to NHRA. The Senate bill provides $2 billion to fight opioid addiction in 2018, while the House version of the bill, called the America Health Care Act, provides $45 billion over 10 years.“They actually found a way to make the House bill worse,” Morgan said. “You really had to work to do that.”