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Commodity Communicator Weekly

January 17, 2014

Following the delegate session of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention, the AFBF Board of Directors met to set AFBF’s strategic action plan to address public policy issues for 2014. The board-approved plan includes focusing the organization’s attention on the following key issues: agricultural labor reform, support for renewable fuels, support for biotechnology, protecting farmers’ interests in regard to new technology systems and data compilation, opposition to expanded federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, and protecting farmer and rancher interest regarding fiscal policy and tax reform issues.


AFBF is preparing to push for more protection for farmers from groups seeking to gain information on their facilities — a move that follows the disclosure last year by EPA of farm information to environmentalists, DTN reports. “Delegates to the group's annual convention adopted new policy this week, stating that such information should remain property of the farmer and warrants protection. Members believe companies have an obligation to fully disclose how they use data, compensate farmers when information is shared with third parties and prevent such information from being subject to federal Freedom of Information Act requests.”


Original Grape-Nuts cereal is joining Original Cheerios in making the jump to conventionally produced ingredients in response to consumer pressure. “We've confirmed our recipe and suppliers do not contain GMO ingredients, and the Non-GMO Project seal will appear on boxes of Grape-Nuts Original on store shelves," said Mangala D'Sa, brand director for the cereal.

Much like Original Cheerios, Grape-Nuts was an easy target to go GMO free. The two main ingredients of Original Grape Nuts wheat and barley have no GMO varieties.  The only ingredient that would need to be sourced conventionally is soy proteins.  Cheerios had to source non GMO sugar and corn starch for its product.

On Thursday, a group of House Democrats and organic food advocates held a press conference to urge President Barack Obama to direct his administration to require the labeling of genetically modified foods. Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.)of Oregon, Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Ann McLane Kuster  (N.H.) and Chellie Pingree (Maine), along with representatives from Stoneyfield Farm Inc., the Environmental Working Group and Center for Food Safety participated in the press conference. These lawmakers are among the 50 sponsors of HR 1699 which would require FDA to label GMO foods.  

In a letter to the President on Thursday, more than 200 advocacy groups and food companies asked the President to make good on a 2007 pledge to “give consumers the right know if their food is genetically engineered.”  They say the FDA already has the authority under current law to set such labeling standards and claim “National polls show that 93-percent of Americans share this view.”

A group of bipartisan Senators, led by Senate Chicken Caucus Co-Chairs Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), has expressed concern over trade restrictions on US chicken products by several countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks.  TPP is a proposed trade agreement currently under negotiation by Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Viet Nam.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) says that, in a letter sent on 14 January, 11 senators urged U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary (USDA) Tom Vilsack to do everything possible to provide for open markets and fair trade of US chicken products. In addition to Coons and Isakson, senators signing the letter are: Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).


The hang up over the Dairy Market Stabilization Program and the lack of working days lawmakers have left in January, means the Farm Bill will have to wait till February at the earliest to be considered. Both the Senate and House will be in recess next week for the observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and House Republicans will be attending their annual retreat for most of the last week in January.

The USDA/RD office currently has no applications for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  While we are still waiting to see what the funding level will be in 2014, some suspect funding will be similar to last year when Arkansas got more than $600,000 in grant funds.  REAP is a 25% cost share program that covers irrigation upgrades, poultry house upgrades, and any other energy project you might be interested on your farm or rural business.  Farm Bureau members have been very successful in getting these grants with members receiving more than $1.8 million in grant funds in just the last 4-years that we have been promoting the program.  If you are interested in finding out more about this program please contact Matt King at


Brazilian cotton producers were in Washington this week to discuss “sensible solutions” to resolving a long-running dispute over U.S. cotton subsidies.  Gilson Pinesso, the president of the Brazilian Cotton Producers Association, known as ABRAPA, met with lawmakers and administration officials.
In a press release earlier this week he noted, “ABRAPA is prepared to recommend alternatives to policymakers and government representatives to end this trade dispute and move on to greater cooperation that advances the interests of both Brazilian and U.S. producers and expands the bilateral cooperation between the two national governments.” On January 15, NCC responded to comments made by the Brazilian Delegation.  The NCC is “deeply disappointed and disturbed by statements to the press made by representatives of the Brazilian cotton industry.”

Brazil is preparing massive trade sanctions against the U.S. after it breached a settlement agreement in the dispute. Until the cotton subsidies could be permanently addressed through legislation, the U.S. is required to pay Brazil $147.3 million annually. However, after sequestration, the U.S. stopped making those payments, breaching the agreement.  This entitles Brazil to retaliate by raising tariffs on U.S. imports and suspending intellectual property rights on U.S. products.

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, S. 1900, has been introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking member on the Finance Committee; and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. This legislation, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), provides for congressional consideration of a trade agreement without amendment, establishes negotiating objectives for trade agreements and provides mechanisms for consultation between the administration and Congress during the process of a trade negotiation.

The principal negotiating objective for agriculture in the legislation is to obtain competitive opportunities for U.S. exports of agricultural commodities through more open and equitable access to foreign markets. Objectives for agriculture in the legislation also include achieving science-based rules for sanitary and phytosanitary measures which are enforceable by full dispute settlement procedures.

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