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Soy growers talk tariffs, Sen. Brown presses USDA secretary, web pages launched and more

• May 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Here is a roundup of recent agriculture-related press releases:


Perdue Commemorates First Year at USDA

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue commemorated his first year at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on April 25 by releasing a new interactive website and video.

In his first year, Secretary Perdue and the USDA team made breakthroughs in agricultural trade, moved to reduce burdensome regulations, responded to natural disasters, and battled through the worst fire season on record, among other notable achievements. The website and video capture some of those achievements and more. You may click HERE or on the image below to explore the website.

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Soy Growers in D.C. to Talk Tariffs, Importance of Trade with China

WASHINGTON — American Soybean Association (ASA) farmer leaders from across the country took to Capitol Hill on April 25 to talk with lawmakers about the potential impact of Chinese tariffs on U.S. soybeans. ASA President and Iowa farmer John Heisdorffer issued the following statement:

“China purchases 61 percent of total U.S. soybean exports, and more than 30 percent of overall U.S. soybean production. In short, trade with China matters and is vital not only to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. soybean producers but the rural economies and communities that depend on them.

“Today we’re asking lawmakers to support their communities and constituents by joining ASA in encouraging the Administration to rethink the Section 301 tariffs and instead, empower soybeans to continue to be part of the solution.

“We’ve come to D.C. and left our fields during planting season to educate and convey the importance of trade with China. Our message is clear: a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans into China will have a lasting effect on every soybean farmer in America.”

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Sen. Brown presses Perdue to Invest in Programs that keep Lake Erie Clean and Support Ohio Farmers

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to continue investing in conservation programs that allow farmers to prevent runoff and protect water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

During a hearing for the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 24, Brown condemned proposals in the House to slash conservation funding by nearly $1 billion in the next Farm Bill. Brown told Perdue the USDA cannot walk away from the programs farmers are using to improve water quality across Western Ohio.

Brown also urged the Secretary to extend a three-year, $41 million program that Brown helped create in 2016 that aims to protect Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms.

“Investing in the conservation programs that help producers prevent runoff is good for farmers, it’s good for taxpayers, and it’s good for our environment,” Brown said. “By making sure we have the federal resources to tackle runoff and pollution, we can better ensure that Lake Erie and its tributaries remain viable resources for Ohio businesses and residents.”

Brown has been working to support farmers and protect the water quality of Lake Erie by helping producers reduce runoff.

Last month, Brown introduced bipartisan legislation called the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act with Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), which would refocus federal investments to improve water quality and soil health, while also maintaining profitable farmland.

Brown said these efforts would improve federal conservation programs and better support local farmers by reforming the three largest conservation funding programs to protect waterways while expanding access to quality farmland. With farmland playing such an important role in both Ohio’s economy and environment, Brown said it is important that farmers have the resources they need to protect local waterways while continuing to farm their land.

The GROW Act would do the following:

• Create a new Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) program to better promote water quality. This prioritizes enrolling lands in the Conservation Reserve Program that will best prevent runoff and protect water quality.

• Reserve funding within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for conservation practices that protect drinking water.

• Makes prime farmland ineligible for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

• Makes a number of improvements to the Conservation Stewardship Program to make the program more user-friendly for farmers.

Brown, the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years, is helping write the 2018 Farm Bill. In 2014, Brown was part of the Farm Bill Conference Committee that successfully negotiated a five-year farm bill. Brown is currently participating in hearings being held in the Senate Agriculture Committee on the 2018 Farm Bill.

Brown and his office are also hosting a series of ongoing roundtable discussions with Ohio farmers and stakeholders to discuss their priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill.

Brown is also working again with his colleague Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and the Ohio Congressional delegation to restore funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Brown and Portman helped ensure the government funding measure passed last year, included $300 million for GLRI for the remainder of the fiscal year, battling back reported attempts to cut the GLRI by $50 million.

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USDA Rural Development Innovation Center Launches Interactive Webpage to Share Best Practices for Rural Economic Development

WASHINGTON — Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett on April 25 unveiled a new interactive webpage to identify best practices for building rural prosperity.

“Rural communities need forward-thinking strategies to build strong, resilient futures,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center is focused on identifying unique opportunities, pioneering new, creative solutions to tough challenges, and making Rural Development’s programs easier to understand, use and access.”

The webpage highlights effective strategies that have been used to create jobs, build infrastructure, strengthen partnerships and promote economic development in rural America.

An interactive feature allows webpage visitors to submit comments on ways USDA can improve Rural Development program delivery. Innovation Center staff will review these recommendations and direct customers to resources, services and expertise that will help their communities create transformative solutions to complex rural challenges.

The webpage also highlights USDA resources that can be used for investments in infrastructure and innovation. These resources include USDA’s Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grant Program, Community Connect Grant Program, and Community Facilities Programs.

Secretary Sonny Perdue established the Rural Development Innovation Center to streamline, modernize and strengthen the delivery of Rural Development programs. To do this, the Innovation Center is focused on improving customer service to rural communities and increasing rural prosperity through strategic partnerships and capacity-building, data analytics and evaluation, and regulatory reform.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump, which included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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Soy Growers Applaud Precision Ag Connectivity Act

WASHINGTON — The American Soybean Association (ASA) on April 25 applauded the Commerce Committee for moving forward the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018. ASA President and Iowa soybean grower John Heisdorffer issued the following statement:

“ASA welcomes the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 and thanks Sens. Wicker and Klobuchar and Representatives Lotta and Loebsack for introducing legislation which understands the unique needs of growers in rural America.

“We urge swift passage in the U.S. Senate as wireless broadband connections in the field support on-farm operations and in turn rural communities. This legislation is important to rural America and soy growers everywhere.”

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Secretary Perdue Statement on Senate Confirmation of Ken Barbic

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on April 26 issued the following statement regarding Senate confirmation of Ken Barbic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations:

“As USDA continues its mission of helping agricultural producers feed, fuel, and clothe the world, effective communication with Congress is a key element. Ken Barbic will bring a combination of an agricultural background and legislative expertise to create a free-flowing dialogue and exchange of information with lawmakers. I commend the Senate for its approval of Ken Barbic, and urge Senators to take up other USDA nominees as quickly as possible.”

Barbic most recently served as a senior director for the Irvine, CA-based Western Growers Association, where he has worked for nearly a decade to advance the competitiveness of American produce farmers.

He grew up in Bakersfield in a farming family, which, from an early age, gave him an appreciation for the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture. Prior to his work with Western Growers, Barbic served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Congressional Affairs and as a legislative assistant with the House Committee on Ways on Means. He graduated with honors from Maranatha Baptist University with a B.S. in business management.

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TPP – a Glimmer of Hope for Ag Trade?

There may finally be some good trade news for U.S. agriculture following the recent escalation in a threatened tariff trade war with China and ongoing uncertainty in the final outcome of current “renegotiations” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Ironically, it rests in the possibility that the Trump administration is considering rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country trade agreement that President Trump pulled the U.S. out of in the first week of his presidency in January 2017, according to Michigan Farm Bureau Livestock Specialist Ernie Birchmeier.

The TPP, finalized in February 2016 but not ratified by the U.S. before Trump withdrew the United States’ signature from the pact, is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP) and involves the other 11 original TPP countries.

“Ratification of the CPTPP is expected this spring, and the trade partners could consider adding new members not long after,” Birchmeier said. “There are few differences between the TPP the U.S. signed and the CPTPP, so if the U.S. were to become a member, it would be viewed as a significant win for U.S. agriculture.”

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s projections under TPP, annual net farm income would have jumped by $4.4 billion, driven by an increase of direct U.S. agricultural exports of $5.3 billion per year upon full implementation of the agreement. It is estimated that increased market prospects for U.S. farmers would have added more than 40,100 jobs to the U.S. economy.

Eliminating tariffs and other barriers on United States’ agricultural products going into countries party to the CPTPP – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – would have increased trade for a range of U.S. agricultural products, including beef, pork, fruits and nuts, vegetables, soybeans, poultry, dairy, rice, cotton and processed food products.

“It’s critical to remember that CPTPP is a multi-lateral agreement intended to create high-quality rules and market access for all of its members,” Birchmeier said, adding that, other member-countries are already negotiating and implementing bilateral agreements without waiting for the U.S. to complete action.

“U.S. failure to join CPTPP will not see our trade situation stay the same, but will actually lead to additional declines in net exports and desperately needed market share in important markets,” he said.

CPTPP Projections in the U.S.

• U.S. beef and pork exports are expected to be $1 billion and $940 million higher, respectively.

• Livestock receipts are projected to be $5.8 billion higher with approval than without.

• Net farm income is projected to be $4.4 billion higher.

• U.S. farmers are expected to add more than 40,100 jobs to the U.S. economy.

• Net trade is projected to rise for rice, cotton, beef, pork, poultry, butter, cheese and non-fat dry milk.

• Crop sector, including fruits and vegetable, receipts are expected to be $2.7 billion higher.

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