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Farm News- Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

FTC Commissioner Unhappy with Proposed Meatpacker Plan

FTC Commissioner Rohit (Row-HEET) Chopra says the USDA should try again on its proposed rules that would amend federal protections for independent farmers and ranchers in dealings with large meatpackers. Chopra wrote a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue saying the proposed changes “would make a bad situation even worse.” Politico says the USDA rules excluded an Obama administration proposal that would have helped livestock producers win lawsuits against larger agricultural conglomerates. Critics of the proposed rule say it would allow meatpacker discrimination to continue against industry suppliers. “Rather than spelling out for farmers which specific abusive practices are illegal, USDA did the opposite and made it clearer for incumbent packers and processors when it’s legally justifiable to use abusive practices,” says Chopra, who is one of two Democrats sitting on the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission polices business competition, including certain agricultural mergers. Chopra says the rules fail to address consolidation in the meat industry, which leaves farmers with fewer choices on where to sell their animals. Cattle, pork, and chicken slaughter are controlled in the U.S. by just four companies.

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China Re-Opening to U.S. DDGs Exporters

China is working on opening up its market once again to U.S. exporters of DDGs. An Agri-Pulse report says China announced a list of companies that once again are eligible to export the product. U.S. companies don’t export DDGs to China at this point. However, negotiators fought hard to get China to agree in the Phase One Trade Agreement to re-certify U.S. producers to sell to their Chinese clients as trade will pick up once again between the two countries. China’s General Administration of Customs released a list of almost 90 companies that are eligible to export DDGs to the Asian country. At one time, China was the largest overseas market for U.S. DDGs. However, trade came to a stop after the Chinese government put steep anti-dumping tariffs and countervailing duties in place three years ago. Before that, the U.S. exported as much as $1.6 billion worth of DDGs to China as recently as 2015. One industry source tells Agri-Pulse that the fact that China agreed to re-certify U.S. DDG suppliers is a “key part” of getting trade going again. After all, the source says, “If you can’t get the permit, it won’t matter if there are no tariffs or up to 100 percent tariffs, which makes getting the certification so vital.”

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RFA, Biofuels Industry is Nervous about Turmoil in Energy Markets

The Renewable Fuels Association is calling on the government to help the liquid fuel industries, which includes ethanol producers, during this time of uncertainty. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley says biofuel industry leaders were “very nervous” when he met with them recently. The Hagstrom Report says Grassley doesn’t think there will be much agreement in Congress on helping “Big Oil,” but did note that if there was any government assistance given out, it should include ethanol. Renewable Fuels Association President Geoff Cooper says the biofuels industry employs 350,000 Americans throughout the Heartland and notes that they’re carefully watching the government’s response to turmoil in the energy markets. “Our industry is being adversely affected not only by the economic constraints caused by the coronavirus, but also by the oil price war, ongoing trade disputes, and EPA’s small refinery waivers,” Cooper says. “Ethanol futures prices hit a record low in recent days as the virus is expected to negatively impact domestic and international fuel demand in the near term.” The administration’s response to the turbulence has centered around crude oil producers, but Cooper says biofuels are suffering as well.

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U.S. Pork Producers are Committed to their Responsibilities

The National Pork Producers Council supports the Trump Administration guidelines for maintaining the continuity of critical U.S. infrastructure, which includes the food supply. U.S. pork producers supply the world’s safest, most nutritious, and lowest-cost pork in the world and remain committed to supplying Americans and other consumers around the world with the healthy protein they need to have. “We are committed to maintaining the core infrastructure of America’s food supply: farms,” says NPPC President Howard Roth, a Wisconsin pork farmer. “Pork producers and other farmers take seriously the special responsibility we hold for keeping people fed. Telecommuting is not an option for us; we are going to report to work as always while we take all the necessary precautions to protect our health and the health of those we work with.” The coronavirus guidelines NPPC will follow include listening to and following directions of local and state authorities; staying home if they feel sick; keeping the entire household at home if someone has tested positive for coronavirus; washing hands regularly and keeping a recommended distance from other people off the farm.

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USDA Partnership to Deliver Food to Closed Rural Schools

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced his agency has begun a collaboration to deliver food to a number of rural schools that are closed around the country. The USDA is partnering with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and several other partners to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals to students in rural schools shut down by COVID-19. “Feeding children who are affected by school closures is a top priority for USDA, which is working together with private sector partners to deliver boxes of food to children in rural America who are affected by school closures,” Perdue says. “The agency and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing while still receiving healthy and nutritious food.” He says that USDA has already taken action to ensure children are fed in the event of school closings and will continue to waive restrictions and expand flexibilities across its programs. Jon Banner is President of the PepsiCo Global Foundation, who says millions of schoolchildren don’t know where their next meal will come from if schools close down. “In the face of this unprecedented crisis, the private sector must help ensure these students have access to nutritious meals,” Banner says.

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Feeding Minds Press Announces New Children’s Book

During a time when consumers are more curious than ever about where their food comes from, a new children’s book looks to answer some of those questions, particularly about dairy farming. “Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish,” is now available from Feeding Minds Press, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s publishing venture. “Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish” is a delightful and educational story that we hope will engage young readers and spark curiosity about where their food comes from,” says Daniel Meloy, executive director of the Foundation. “That’s our goal with every resource the Foundation provides, and we’re excited to add this story to the growing library of books that tell the story of modern agriculture.” In this “dairy-tale,” a boy named Chuck wishes for all the ice cream he can eat, prompting his “Dairy Godmother” to show up to grant his wish with a dairy farm, where he gets a firsthand look at all the hard work and care that goes into producing his favorite treat. Just like youngsters, adult readers can also learn more about the real work of a dairy farm. The book is available directly from Feeding Minds Press, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

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