Farm News- 6/19/20

Lighthizer Testifies on China Trade Deal, Criticizes WTO

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had a lot to say about the president’s economic agreement with China during testimony in Washington on Wednesday. He says Beijing is buying more American products and that the Asian nation would live up to the terms of the Phase One agreement. Lighthizer says his office is closely tracking the number of goods China is purchasing from the U.S. and is in frequent contact with Chinese officials. The New York Times says even though China has committed to purchasing $200 billion in goods by the end of next year, many analysts say that’s not realistic given the impacts of COVID-19 around the world. “Every indication is that despite COVID-19, China is going to do what it says it will do,” Lighthizer said during testimony. He pointed out the administration’s new or revised trade deals with Japan, Canada, and Mexico have improved terms for American businesses and farmers. However, he was more guarded on a possible deal with the European Union happening soon, accusing the EU of thinly-veiled protectionism. Lighthizer also renewed the administration’s fight with the World Trade Organization, saying the WTO needs “radical reform.”

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Organic Farmers say USDA “Let Down” Organic Dairies

The Organic Farmers Association is asking members of Congress to ensure that USDA’s National Organic Program complies with the law and finalizes the Origin of Livestock rule as quickly as possible. A recent deadline for the National Organic Program to finalize the long-awaited Origin of Livestock rule has passed by. The Association says the rule is necessary to close a loophole in organic dairy standards that has supported rapid growth in larger organic dairies and consequently put family organic dairy farmers out of business across the country. As many as 70 organic farm organizations from around the nation sent a letter to members of Congress, including the House and Senate Ag Committees, asking them to pressure the USDA to make sure the NOP complies with a congressional mandate and finalizes the origin of organic livestock rule as soon as possible. “The organic community is united in the immediate need for this rule,” says Kate Mendenhall, Director of the Organic Farmers Association. “We are disappointed this long-awaited deadline passed without any action from the NOP.” The groups that signed onto the letter agree that continued delays in implementing the rule will prolong the dire economic consequences facing organic dairy farmers, as well as jeopardize consumer trust in the organic label.

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U.S. Dairy Calls for An End to EU Dairy Dumping into International Markets

An economic analysis published this week shows the serious impact of the European Union’s Skim Milk Powder Intervention Program on U.S. dairy. The program hit U.S. farm-gate milk prices especially hard during 2016-2019. The report says the U.S. was economically harmed in three ways. First, the EU program depressed the global price of skim milk powder, lowering U.S. milk prices, and contributing to a $2.2 billion loss in 2018 and 2019. The program also inflated the EU market share, resulting in a drastically smaller export market share for U.S. dairy exporters, which led to export losses totaling $168 million in 2018-2019. Finally, the analysis says when the EU unleashed its stockpile of skim milk powder into the global marketplace, the disposal affected U.S. competitiveness in historically important export markets like Southeast Asia. The International Dairy Foods Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, pointing to the analysis as proof the EU’s SMP Intervention Program has wreaked havoc on the U.S. dairy industry. They’re asking the government to help prevent the EU from using future intervention practices to dispose of dairy products into the global market at discounted prices.

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Farm Progress Show is a Go

The nation’s largest outdoor farm event is on in 2020. The Farm Progress Show is officially a go near Boone, Iowa, despite COVID-19. In making the announcement, organizers say the show is an essential business event that provides farmers with much-needed information and tools. “We know that the market is dealing with a lot of issues,” says Matt Jungmann, the event manager. “However, agriculture is a critical business for this country, and farmers are looking for ways to get better at what they do.” The Des Moines Register says the show attracts thousands of Iowa and U.S. farmers, as well as dozens of agricultural companies. The show is scheduled for September 1-3 and has drawn people from as many as 45 countries in previous years. Organizers say they will take safety precautions, including providing additional space to allow for social distancing, numerous hand sanitizing stations, and enhancing efforts to clean buildings. “Farmers are struggling with low corn, soybean, and other commodity prices, and they need more information and tools to boost profitability than ever before,” show officials said in their statement on Wednesday. The World Pork Expo and the Iowa State Fair were both canceled this year because of COVID-19.

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Growth Energy Applauds Streamlining Biofuels Approval Process

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor is pleased with legislation designed to reduce Environmental Protection Agency delays in approving applications to produce advanced biofuels under the Renewable Fuels Standard. “We applaud the bipartisan legislation designed to break the regulatory logjam holding back cellulosic biofuels,” she says. “Studies show that advanced biofuels can cut carbon emissions by 100 percent or more while providing a low-cost alternative to the petroleum-based aromatics that poison our air and threaten our health.” Growth Energy says major investments in low-carbon biofuels have been held hostage by regulatory delays, even as farmers and biofuel producers work together to harness clean energy from agricultural residue. “By keeping regulatory pathways blocked, EPA has put an artificial cap on advanced biofuels, limiting their growth under the RFS,” Skor says. “This important legislation will help clear the deck on long-overdue approvals and jumpstart growth at a time when revitalizing rural communities has never been more important.” The bill would set a 90-day deadline for EPA to act on petitions that have been pending for more than six months. It would also fast-track approval for advanced biofuels that have already been certified under state-based, low-carbon fuel programs.

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ASA Hires First-Ever Staff Economist

The American Soybean Association hired Scott Gerlt (GER-ult), who is the first person to take on the role of staff economist with the organization. Gerlt lives in Missouri and will work out of the St. Louis office. He’s highly regarded within agricultural economic circles, thanks to his policy work with the Food and Agricultural Research Institute, where he has more than 10 years of experience. Some of that experience includes working with policymakers to develop the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. Gerlt grew up on a diversified farm with both row crops and livestock in Missouri. In the new role, he’ll provide insight on relevant agricultural economics and analysis of current and future ASA policy. ASA CEO Ryan Findlay says, “Having an economist on staff will enrich our internal discussions on issues and strengthen our public arguments for why policymakers need to take action on behalf of U.S. soybean farmers. It’s exciting for ASA to find someone with both his policy experience and enthusiasm for working directly with farmers.” The organization says Gerlt will provide a lot of clarity on what ASA is requesting from policymakers during lobbying and how it will affect U.S. soybean farmers and their communities.

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