Thu, 22 Mar 2018
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1. Tariffs and Trade:
On March 8, the Trump administration levied tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from all countries outside of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The tariffs met with push back immediately. As Feedstuffs noted, “the agriculture industry fears that it will be the one to pay the price in any trade war.” Grocery Manufacturers Association warned of rising food costs. American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer worried, “We have heard directly from the Chinese that U.S. soybeans are prime targets for retaliation.” However, Bloomberg responded that China is unlikely to disrupt feed imports at the moment.
Des Moines Register quoted Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s defence of the tariffs: “President Trump is a unique negotiator. Sometimes, he keeps people off balance. Even his own staff.” He added that Trump was hoping to put the United States “in a better position to get a better deal on NAFTA than we would have gotten otherwise.”
2 Organic Livestock Rule:
USDA withdrew a proposed update to its Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule on March 12, citing concerns that the rule “exceeds the department’s statutory authority.” The Organic Trade Association opposed the withdrawal and HSUS Acting President Kitty Block complained, “This gift props up factory farming operations that exploit the confusion and imprecision of prevailing standards.” Meanwhile, American Farm Bureau Federation praised the move for giving farmers greater control over production practices, and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) touted the reduction in “red tape.”
3 Conventional Egg Option:
On March 5, the Iowa Senate approved a bill that would require grocers participating in the supplemental food program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to offer conventional eggs if they also sell those from speciality housing — such as cage-free and free range (Des Moines Register). The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey surmised, “Although the law would apply only to stores’ Iowa locations, it’s intended to address a growing national dilemma. The country’s largest grocery chains [including Walmart and Kroger] have committed to cage-free eggs, sending shock waves through the industry — but consumers aren’t buying as they were expected.” Center for Food Safety and other animal activist groups urged followers to pressure Gov. Kim Reynolds to veto the bill. Sen. Dan Zumbach (R-Iowa) called the bill “a home-run, game-winning bill,” because it will ensure a low-cost protein option for low-income Iowans.
4. Renewable Fuels:
Amid a number of legislative meetings regarding Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced legislation on March 8 that included a cap on the price of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). Udall called RFS “a well-intentioned idea that has delivered as intended for the conventional ethanol industry. … But the promised environmental benefits have yet to be realised.” Agriculture and refiner groups including National Corn Growers Association and National Farmers Union opposed the RINs cap. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor told DTN/The Progressive Farmer, “When oil companies try to ghostwrite legislation for environmental front groups, you end up with some pretty backwards ideas.” In an interview with AgriTalk, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) admitted, “I have my doubts that such a compromise [for RFS] is out there.”
5. Glyphosate Trial:
On March 14, expert testimony concluded in a trial between Monsanto Company and attorneys representing farmers who believe that exposure to glyphosate (found in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide) caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Bloomberg). Judge Vince Chhabria, who heard arguments from witnesses on both sides regarding toxicology and epidemiology, will decide which expert testimony will be allowed at trial. According to Bloomberg, Chhabria said, “The evidence that glyphosate is currently causing [non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma] in human beings … [is] pretty sparse.”