Ag keeping skeptical eye on T-TIP talks (via Agri-Pulse)

U.S. trade negotiators are in New York City this week for a round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), hoping to make progress on a trade agreement that would cross the Atlantic Ocean in a similar way the Obama administration’s trade efforts have already crossed the Pacific.

Based on where negotiations stand right now, many in agriculture are doubtful that issues they have with T-TIP and the European Union will be addressed to their satisfaction before a new president takes office in January.

“I’m personally skeptical,” Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, said of prospects for completing T-TIP under the Obama administration. “A lot is going to have to happen in a short amount of time for that to be the case.”

Agri-Pulse spoke with a number of Washington agricultural leaders on Monday, and a broad feeling of measured hope filled the conversations. Many groups are behind trade agreements, but are worried that a deal that goes far enough to appease the EU will go too far for U.S. agriculture.

“If this looks like it’s playing out and heading towards an EU-style deal, I would expect a very strong backlash from U.S. agriculture,” Nick Giordano, vice president and counsel for global government affairs with the National Pork Producers Council, told Agri-Pulse “NPPC’s position would be the same as most in agriculture: We’re supportive of the T-TIP negotiations if and only if we’re headed to an outcome that looks like the other U.S. (free trade agreements),” Giordano continued. “If we’re not, then we’re in the danger zone and that’s a problem, and NPPC – I expect – and others are going to be saying, ‘Hey, why are we wasting our time with the European Union, when we can be expanding (the Trans-Pacific Partnership).’

Giordano pointed to ag and food regulations already in place in the EU that are unfriendly to common practices in U.S. agriculture, like the use of biotechnology and antibiotics, as reasons for his skepticism. And he isn’t alone.

“Any product that is safe enough for Americans should be safe enough for Europeans,” Kent Bacus, with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, told Agri-Pulse “We need that kind of equivalency and that kind of understanding because there’s really no reason why we shouldn’t be able to sell the same beef to European consumers that we sell right here in the United States.”

The concerns have also made their way to Capitol Hill, where last week 26 senators sent a letter to U.S. trade negotiators calling on them to continue to fight for a T-TIP agreement that prioritizes U.S. agriculture, including the removal of non-science based regulatory barriers and the reduction and removal of tariffs on agricultural products.”

In the dairy sector, Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation said his board has “seen nothing so far that would alleviate the concerns we have” with T-TIP. “Unless we get some better negotiations and better agreements than what we’ve seen so far with T-TIP, we’ve got some real concerns.”

One agricultural organization that seems to be a little warmer to this agreement than others is also nearly alone in its opposition to TPP: the National Farmers Union. Chandler Goule, NFU’s chief lobbyist, says that NFU is “hoping to position ourselves as one of the go-to organizations” on T-TIP negotiations, noting that NFU policies are much closer ideologically to the EU than many of their U.S. ag organization counterparts.

Goule added that he doesn’t think negotiations on the T-TIP agriculture chapters have started, and he anticipates agriculture topics will be addressed toward the end of the talks “because that’s going to be where some of the bigger stumbling blocks will be.”

Advertisements

Farm Bill Coalition Prepares for a Fight (via Successful Farming)

The 2018 farm bill is just over the horizon – field hearings could start next winter, maybe earlier if commodity prices are frozen at low levels – and the farm bill coalition is linking its arms in readiness. In an exercise that doubled as a warm-up for the new farm bill, the informal alliance united to protect USDA programs from budget cuts this spring, even in programs outside its usual area of interest. As a result, the American Soybean Association (ASA) defended the food stamp program against a proposed 20% cut in funding.

“As we approach discussions of the next farm bill, we have to stand together as a food community,” says ASA president Richard Wilkins. “This partnership is critically important for those of us in production agriculture, since only 60 or 70 members of the House identify themselves as representing rural districts.”

In an outburst of enthusiasm for spending cuts, the House defeated the farm bill in 2013. It was the first time a farm bill failed on a floor vote. Budget hawks saw the chance to split the bill in two and whittle down the pieces. In the end, it was a temporary setback, but the memory remains vivid among the farm bill coalition, which crosses the spectrum of interests from farmers, outdoors enthusiasts, conservationists, environmentalists, and exporters to antihunger activists and rural lenders. Continued pressure for budget austerity could make the 2018 farm bill a target for deep cuts.

Jim Weill of the antihunger Food Research and Action Center says the coalition is an example of strength in numbers and diversity. “For decades, we’ve had important federal nutrition programs side by side with important rural development, ag research, and farm support programs, and that has been important to nutrition,” he says.

The common maxim is that by linking farm subsidies and food assistance, the farm bill appeals to both rural and urban lawmakers.

For now, the easiest and strongest line of defense by the coalition is opposition to reopening the 2014 farm bill, which was projected to save nearly $17 billion. “We made our deal. It was a five-year deal,” says Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union (NFU) president. The unbroken line of opposition to program or spending cuts leaves no opening for attacks on crop insurance just as it stoutly defends public nutrition programs.

It also blocks farm-state lawmakers from helping cotton growers, who say their new support program, a part of the 2014 farm law, has failed them miserably amid a global cotton glut.

House Agriculture chair Michael Conaway (R-TX) launched a series of six hearings this spring. “I am increasingly concerned about the direction the farm economy is headed,” he says. “It is more important than ever that we protect the farm bill” and crop insurance.

“The big issue for the next farm bill will be, is the safety net really working for farmers?” says Johnson. “We have a lot of folks who are beginning to struggle financially.”

Link: http://www.agriculture.com/content/farm-bill-coalition-prepares-for-a-fight

Buffers Discussed on Compass (via Pioneer Public Television)

The State of Minnesota’s buffer strip legislation and how it impacts farmers and landowners in the region was the topic of Pioneer Public Television’s Compass public affairs program airing on Sunday, April 17, 2016.

Walnut Grove Area Farmer Mike Landuyt, Redwood Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Administrator Marilyn Bernhardson, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director John Jaschke and New Ulm area State Representative Paul Torkelson are all interviewed in pre-recorded field segments and in-studio interviews featured in the half hour program.

Hosted by Pioneer’s General Manager, Les Heen and produced by Laura Kay Prosser, this latest installment of Compass sheds light on the differing perspectives on the recent buffers legislation and what it could mean going forward for the region.

The program can be accessed here: http://www.pioneer.org/news/buffers-to-be-discussed-on-compass-april-17

Issue Update: Agriculture Stakeholders Urge Congress to Approve Trans-Pacific Partnership

Although the Tans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the latest incarnation of a Pacific Rim trade agreement, the multilateral trade deal would expand the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement.  That agreement was ratified by Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand in 2005 and entered into force in 2006.

In an effort to move TPP toward ratification, leading agricultural organizations have sent a letter to the leadership of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives requesting support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The broad coalition of stakeholders is asking for congressional approval of TPP in 2016 – a daunting task in an election year.

The agreement has gained support from a large number of farm organizations and agricultural stakeholders because it would substantially expand United States farm exports. According to the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), the TPP has the potential to serve as a major step forward in establishing rules-based global trade that will provide greater access to foreign markets.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, TPP will boost annual net farm income in the United States by $4.4 billion.

In their letter to Senate and House leadership, the groups stated that, if faithfully implemented, “TPP will help level the playing field for U.S. exports and create new opportunities for us in the highly competitive Asia-Pacific region”.  They went on to note that “The TPP is critical to the livelihood of the U.S. food and agriculture sector because it will create conditions that encourage economic growth and increased employment in rural areas and throughout the supply chain.”

Opponents of TPP see things differently.  They believe that, despite presidential promises of job gains, previous Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have resulted in lost jobs and stagnant wages.  They also note that several countries involved in the TPP have long violated fundamental labor rights or have problematic labor histories.

As long as there is the potential for an up-or-down vote on the agreement in 2016, it will remain an election-year issue.  Whether or not the deal is passed, it will put all the incumbents in these races on record supporting or opposing the trade policy.  For this reason, any vote in Congress may be delayed until after the 2016 November elections.

The coalition letter can be accessed here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/phugjn0og5cxjhd/Ag-Food-Industry-Letter-to-House-Senate-Leadership-Support-TPP-in-….pdf?dl=0

For information regarding TPP, please visit https://ustr.gov/tpp/#what-is-tpp

For additional background and analysis, please contact:

Dave Ladd, President
RDL & Associates, LLC
e-mail:       daveladd66@gmail.com
LinkedIn:   http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dave-ladd/0/b87/11
Blog:            https://rdlassociates.wordpress.com/
Twitter:      DaveLadd37

Copyright © 2016 RDL & Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.

Al-Corn Clean Fuel “Quick Facts”: Member Patronage (1996 – 2015)

Since its founding in 1994 with an initial membership base of 50, Al-Corn Clean Fuel now has approximately 470 members who recognize the value of diversifying their operation.

Similar to other agricultural cooperatives, members of Al-Corn Clean Fuel invest financially but also agree to deliver a quantity of corn determined by their investment in the business. This “corn commitment” has been a key contributor to success of the cooperative.

The cooperative was created when depressed corn prices drove local farmers to seek new opportunities to add value to their corn crop. Since 1996, Al-Corn Clean Fuel has generated over $201 million in earnings (after tax) and distributed almost $164 million in cash to its members, an average of 81.3 percent. In addition, members have received $18 million in tax credits.

For the past two decades, Al-Corn Clean Fuel’s model has allowed for development of a firm business foundation based on success, a strong cash position and investments that add value for members and their communities and resulted in competitive returns.

Bar Chart – Patronage Paid (1996 – 2015)

For additional information regarding Al-Corn Clean Fuel, please contact Randall Doyal at RDoyal@al-corn.com or visit al-corn.com.