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Montana Ag Network: U.S./China trade progress, African swine fever

Major steps were made this week between the U.S. and China on trade.

The two nations have “pretty much agreed on an enforcement mechanism,” a major hurdle in trade talks between the two nations. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that both sides have agreed to establish enforcement offices as part an effort to reach a trade agreement.

Enforcement is a top priority and one of the most difficult to agree on, as previously stated by the Trump Administration.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue described ongoing talks with China to cut ethanol tariffs “positive” for U.S. farmers. However, Perdue warned the talks were not over. Perdue said lowering ethanol tariffs in China “would obviously be good for our domestic corn industry,” but “it’s never over till it’s over with the Chinese.”

The threat that African swine fever poses to the world protein sector is escalating.

Citing an abundance of caution, the National Pork Producers Council announced its decision to cancel the World Pork Expo 2019 as African swine fever continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia. World Pork Expo, held each June at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, hosts approximately 20,000 visitors over three days, including individuals and exhibitors from ASF-positive regions.

The decision to cancel this year’s World Pork Expo comes as U.S. pork producers are in Washington this week for the NPPC’s Legislative Action Conference. Pork producers are asking Congress to appropriate funding for 600 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors to further strengthen defenses against African swine fever.

Despite the cancellation, the National Swine Registry, Certified Pedigreed Swine, and the American Berkshire Association are still planning a live swine show during the week of June 2-8, 2019.

A bill seeking to limit the use of agricultural checkoff funds has been reintroduced in the Senate and it has the backing of several current or former presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle.

The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act of 2019 was reintroduced last week by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah. The bill was co-sponsored by Sen Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“Checkoff programs force farmers to pay into a system that sometimes actively works against their interests,”  Lee said. R-CALF-USA applauded the reintroduction of the bill, calling the mandatory checkoff a “cattle tax.”

Animal rights group like Animal Wellness Action support the bill. The bill was previously introduced during Congress’ 2017-2018 session and was supported then by the Humane Society of the United States.

While animal rights groups and some agriculture groups want to see reforms or even an end to check off promotion programs that are utilized by corn, soybean and cattle industries, there is still large support for the beef checkoff.

Earlier this year, an independent survey of beef producers found 74 percent continue to approve of the Beef Checkoff Program; this finding is 5 percent higher than the survey a year ago.

Also, the more producers know about the program, the more supportive they are. The random survey of 804 beef and dairy producers nationwide was conducted by the independent firm Aspen Media & Market Research. The survey found that in addition to stronger support of the checkoff compared to a year ago, a substantial majority of beef and dairy producers continue to say their beef checkoff is a good value. For more on that study visit beefboard.org.

-Reported by Lane Nordlund/MTN News

MTN News

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