AG NEWS 12/16/2016

Wheat Welcomes Actions on China Trade

U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Wheat Growers Association are happy to see two actions filed against China recently regarding its trade policies. The U.S. Trade Representative is challenging Chinese policies that distort the wheat markets, thereby harming wheat growers around the world. Both organizations say it’s important that the U.S. government take a strong stand on enforcing trade rules. They say it’s crucial for building trust in existing and new trade agreements. The U.S Trade Representative filed the request for a consultation with the World Trade Organization this week. The U.S. Trade Rep says China is not fairly administering its annual tariff rate quotas for commodities like corn, rice, and 9.64 million metric tons of wheat. The request says China unfairly makes it more difficult to export wheat into the country. The request also asks the WTO to convene a panel for a hearing on the dispute it filed back in September against China’s excessive market price supports for corn, rice, and wheat. “The fact is, these two actions go hand in hand, demonstrating how Chinese government policies create an unfair advantage for domestic wheat production,” said Gordon Stoner, president of the National Wheat Growers Association.
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Ag Groups React to GIPSA Rules

The National Turkey Federation is expressing concern over USDA’s final interim rule and two proposed regulations possibly upending contract relationships in place between turkey growers and processors. The USDA wants to make changes in the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration rules that would govern those contracts. The Turkey Federation says the changes would increase costs, reduce overall productivity, and lead to a lot of uncertainty and unintended consequences that would outweigh any potential benefits to changing the rules. “GIPSA’s proposed regulations governing poultry and livestock contracts and marketing could wind up hurting the very producers the department claims it’s trying to protect,” said National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association agrees, saying the rules are “destructive.” NCBA President Tracy Brunner said, “USDA is going well beyond their statutory limitations, limiting marketing options for a product that America is demanding.” Brunner says if the USDA was interested in real solutions, they wouldn’t rush the rules out the door at the end of the current administration. He adds, “Cattlemen and women don’t appreciate Secretary Vilsack throwing a grenade in the building as he abandons it.”
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Group Wants Nutrition Rules Overturned

The House Freedom Caucus is a group of conservative House Republicans that issued a 23-page list of regulations it wants overturned in a Trump administration, and nutrition is a key target. The list includes the Food and Drug Administration’s update to the Nutrition Facts Panel and the updated standards for school meals. Both of those were priorities championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. The document says, “The regulations have proven themselves to be unworkable for schools to implement.” The regulations it’s referring to include the standards that mandate schools to offer more fruits and vegetables and whole grains while cutting back on salt, sugar, and fat. It goes on to say, “Schools are throwing away food that students are not eating.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that schools have almost hit 100 percent compliance to the changes and health advocates say that students have adjusted as well.  Items not on the list to overturn include the FDA’s near-ban of trans fat, policies intended to limit antibiotic use in agriculture, the Food Safety Modernization Act rules, and new stocking requirements for SNAP food retailers.
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Consumers More Educated About GMO’s

A recent study by the NPD Group shows U.S. consumers are more educated about genetically modified organisms, or GMO’s, as well as the benefits of using them in the food supply. The study also finds that many consumers are still concerned. The NPD Group, a global information company, says over half of consumers in 2013 had little to no knowledge of what GMO’s are, but in 2016 that number has shrunk to a third. The study also shows that as consumer awareness grows, they do recognize the benefits of using them to produce better and more resilient crops. Many consumers who are aware of the benefits still seem to have concerns, making GMO’s still the fastest growing food additive concern. Although GMO awareness is growing, the study says most consumers don’t seem to know that the government recently passed a GMO labeling law that goes into effect in 2018. “With the increasing awareness and concern, consumers would benefit from hearing from food manufacturers the reasons why they use GMO’s and how it benefits their customers,” said Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and industry analyst. “Consumers today want to be informed and appreciate it when food companies make an effort to educate them.”
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Republicans Set for Immigration Battle

An article in the Wall Street Journal says Republicans are getting set for a battle over legal immigration. The debate is going to hinge on whether or not Republicans believe foreign workers are a driver for economic growth as business groups say, or if they consider foreign workers as competition for American workers, a position held by the populist wing of the GOP. The business side of the debate is waiting to see if the Trump administration will use executive power to change the legal immigration system and what kind of support for immigration policies remains in Congress. Supporters of legal immigration want expanded opportunities to get green cards and to expand visa programs to get more access to workers. Critics of the plan say expanded access to foreign workers will displace American workers. Milk Business Dot Com says some Republicans argue that immigrants fill jobs that most Americans don’t want, especially in American agriculture. Most Democrats appear to support higher visa numbers, but labor unions have voiced concerns over the impact on U.S. jobs.
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