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Articles from 2017 In February

Trump takes on WOTUS redo

USDA stream running through field
his Maryland farmer worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to plant buffers and install a stream crossing, reducing erosion and improving the stream’s water quality.

In an executive order issued Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump said his Administration will be reviewing the "waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule. Those in the agriculture industry have considered the WOTUS rule the overregulation poster child, and many quickly praised the President's action in hopes that a more workable solution will come out of the new Administration.

The rule’s jurisdiction – based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions – had included “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters, but the regulation broadened that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters.

The executive order requires the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review the final rule and publish for notice and comment a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule.  It also requires EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to notify the attorney general of the pending review of the rule in respect to how to proceed on the ongoing litigation before the federal courts related to the final rule.

The WOTUS rule was challenged in courts by more than 30 states, environmental organizations and numerous industry groups. In October 2015, a federal appeals court issued a stay preventing the rule’s implementation.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said EPA failed to listen to farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns when drafting the rule and instead created widespread confusion for agriculture.

“Farmers and ranchers have been calling for a commonsense approach to regulatory reform, and today the Trump Administration responded to that call. EPA has too long been characterized by regulatory overreach that disregards the positive conservation efforts of farmers and threatens their very way of life. Today’s action is as much a beginning as an end, and there is much work to do to ensure that any revised rule is transparent and fair for America’s farmers and ranchers,” Duvall said.

National Corn Growers Assn. president Wesley Spurlock welcomed the effort to reduce regulatory burden, saying, “We fully support the repeal of the WOTUS rule. Farmers and ranchers care deeply about clean water, but this rule had significant flaws. It was arbitrarily written, legally indefensible and extremely difficult to implement.”

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) argued that the rule would have given the government broad jurisdiction over land and water use, as well as set up farmers for additional attacks from those who don’t understand normal farming practices.

NPPC president John Weber, a pork producer from Dysart, Iowa, said the rule was a “product of a flawed regulatory process that lacked transparency and no doubt would have been used by trial lawyers and environmental activists to attack farmers.”

National Grange president Betsy Huber said the group is happy that the Administration is taking a step back to allow for more vetting of the WOTUS rule before potential implementation.

“The expansion of the definition of ‘navigable water’ includes puddles, long-dried ditches and other land that collects rainwater but does not act as a waterway. This would bring nearly all of our farms to a halt as they attempted to comply with a rule that intrudes too far into property rights,” she said. "In essence, the WOTUS rule was a veiled attempt to bring entire watersheds under federal land use control, whether the water there was impaired or not.”

Legislative work ahead?

Legislators from both sides of the aisle were present when Trump signed the executive order. In 2015, there was bipartisan work to require a redo of the WOTUS rule, and that work could start up again in the new Congress.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), who was on hand for the signing, was part of the bill introduced in 2015 that offered a compromise fix by scrapping the rule, sending it back to EPA and requiring the agency to take into account stakeholders' concerns.

Heitkamp said she will continue to push Congress to pass legislation to undo the WOTUS rule. If passed, such legislation would go into effect immediately, while the new executive order — although a needed step — still has to go through the rule-making process.

West Liberty Foods to acquire free-range chicken business

West Liberty Foods LLC announced that it has entered into an agreement to purchase the assets of Crystal Lake Farms, which includes its line of slower-growing chickens called Free Ranger. The acquisition will include both breeding stock and processing plant assets to allow West Liberty Foods to produce free-range, slower-growing chickens.

“The acquisition of Crystal Lake Farms and Free Ranger is another exciting step for West Liberty Foods,” said Ed Garrett, chief executive officer for West Liberty Foods. “This expansion of our business will allow us to meet the growing consumer demand for humanely grown, pasture-raised poultry.”

The Crystal Lake Farms broilers carry a Step 4 rating from Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a nonprofit alliance that seeks to improve farm animal welfare through its 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program.

“I am excited about the transaction and with West Liberty Foods and the manufacturing expertise they deliver,” Blake Evans, president of Crystal Lake Farms, said. “The company will continue to innovate around the breed, feed and growing environment.”

Federal appeals court upholds egg carton labeling lawsuit judgment

3dmentat/iStock/Thinkstock White eggs lined up in neat rows

A panel of three judges of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week ruled in favor of several federal agencies after they declined petitions from the animal rights groups Compassion Over Killing and Animal Legal Defense Fund, as well as six individual egg consumers, to enact regulations that would require all egg cartons to identify the living conditions of egg laying hens in production.

The panel held that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service and Agricultural Marketing Service correctly concluded that they lacked authority to promulgate the plaintiffs’ proposed labeling regulations for shell eggs.

The panel also held that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying the plaintiffs’ rule-making petition. Specifically, the panel held that FTC reasonably denied the plaintiffs’ petition in light of the limited evidence before FTC showing any “prevalent” unfair or deceptive practices and that FTC reasonably denied the rule-making petition based on its discretion to combat any potentially misleading egg labeling through ad hoc enforcement proceedings.

Last, the panel held that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration barely met its low burden to clearly indicate that it considered the potential problem identified in the plaintiffs’ petition and provide a reasonable explanation for not initiating a rule-making.

The petitions specifically proposed that each agency develop regulations that would require all egg cartons to bear the labels “Free-Range Eggs,” “Cage-Free Eggs” or “Eggs from Caged Hens” consistent with the living conditions of the hens. The plaintiffs said there is strong consumer interest in buying eggs from hens in cage-free environments but argued that, without the proposed regulations, “consumers are being misled by certain statements and images on egg cartons that imply that the hens are being raised in cage-free environments.”

The plaintiffs also said labels are necessary “because eggs from caged hens are nutritionally inferior to and carry a greater risk of salmonella contamination than eggs from free-range hens."

In response to the claims of an increased risk of salmonella from caged hens, FDA explained that the plaintiffs had provided insufficient reliable, scientific evidence to support these claims.

“While plaintiffs dispute the FDA’s decision to reject their scientific evidence, the court will not second guess the FDA’s conclusion that these studies were insufficiently reliable, largely because they failed to control for relevant variables,” the court opinion stated.

Cheryl Leahy, general counsel for Compassion Over Killing, told the Associated Press that the group will continue fighting against misleading egg carton marketing labels.

The United Egg Producers (UEP) and its members welcomed the court's decision, which "recognizes that authority for food labeling should reside with USDA and FDA.”

“Providing excellent care of their hens while producing safe, high-quality eggs is the responsibility and priority of America’s egg farmers. No matter the type of housing used by farmers, egg production and processing is closely regulated by federal and state agencies to assure eggs are safe for consumers," UEP president Chad Gregory said. 


Photology1971/iStock/Thinkstock raw meat cuts

Beef: Supported by tight front-end supplies of market-ready cattle, the cash trade surged about $5 higher last week to mostly $124-125. Spurred by limited production and higher cattle purchase costs, beef prices escalated as the week progressed, with the blended cutout reaching almost $198/cwt. at week’s end, about $8 above last week’s close. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly “Cattle on Feed” report confirmed larger feedlot placements in January that were 11% higher than last year, as well as 10% larger marketings and a 1% larger Feb. 1 feedlot count. The larger January feedlot placements follow the large increases in November/December. While still historically large, January placements of cattle weighing more than 800 lb. were slightly below last year, but large increases in the 600-800 lb. category will keep the late-spring and early-summer months well supplied. Weekly volumes are expected to move sharply higher in late April, followed by further increases in late spring and summer, regularly reaching into the 520,000- to 530,000-head range and averaging 5-7% above a year earlier.

Pork: USDA also released its "Cold Storage" report late last Thursday, with the industry anxiously awaiting news of a possible rebound in cold storage levels. The report provided mixed results and certainly showed an increase in total cold storage numbers from December's lows. Stocks may not be at appropriate levels yet to alleviate the pull on fresh product during periods of stronger demand that typically lead to extreme price volatility. January's total in cold storage was 526.7 million lb., up 10% from December but below the five-year average by a similar 10%. By starting the year out at such a relatively low number, the industry needs to decide whether stock building should continue at a stronger pace before summer demand increases.

Poultry: Tenders have been over-performers in the early weeks of 2017. The unseasonably warmer weather may have spurred some additional interest in the front half of the bird, playing to the favor of the integrators. In the late-summer to early-fall period in 2016, buyers were converting marketing plans to account for breast meat quality issues, and it appears that much of that purchasing behavior has emerged again, so current market participants are taking advantage of bearish market conditions that materialized in November and December. While it is not necessarily inconsistent for seasonal demand to pick up early in the first quarter of the year, the swings in the market year to date have been remarkable. After remaining relatively flat in the mid- $130s through much of December and January, market activity has created a runup of nearly 25% of January values. Recent market activity suggests that IEG outlook to follow a path slightly above year ago and peak seasonal demand may actually represent the bottom of the trading range.

For a more detailed look at the weekly forecasts for the various meat sectors and meat cuts, subscribe to the "Meat Price Outlook." Contact Susan Dahlgren at [email protected] for more information.

WEEKLY GRAIN MOVEMENT: Rail problems in PNW support Gulf corn bids

doranjclark_iStock_Thinkstock freight rail hoppers and grain silos

Basis bids for corn rose several cents at Gulf of Mexico export points in the past week as exporters move more corn to the Gulf to make up for weather-delayed rail shipments in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).

An export report for the week ended Thursday showed that 736,957 metric tons of grains were loaded at PNW ports, down nearly 8% from the prior week and down 9% from a year ago. Also a U.S. Department of Agriculture report said BNSF Railway’s grain carloads to the PNW during a week in early February were down 26% from a year ago.

The weather problems on the rail routes to the PNW have occurred since December and included freezing rain, drifting snow, avalanches and frigid weather.

A river shipper in the Quad Cities said they are being told that it may be April before rail traffic to PNW returns to normal. The higher values at the Gulf provided opportunities for river shippers to book sales. Corn for March shipment was bit 47 over the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) March this week, up 2 cents from a week ago.

The shipper said navigation on the Mississippi River near him should resume late next week, which is about normal.

Soybean bids at the Gulf have softened, prompting interior Midwest grain elevators to ship to local processing plants. An Illinois elevator said grain dealers are holding a lot soybeans and are constantly watching for market fluctuations to make a sale.

“You are going to have spikes, particularly if someone needs a vessel loaded quickly,” the Illinois elevator said of the Gulf export market. “Selling soybeans is pretty tough right now. Elevators in Illinois have a lot of soybeans.”

Active grain vessel loading

Grain vessel loadings at the Gulf remained active, with USDA reporting 43 vessels loaded during the week of Feb. 16, up 5% from a year ago. Sixty-seven vessels are expected to be loaded in the next 10 days, up 2% from a year ago.

Barge grain shipments during the week ended Feb. 18 totaled 740,704 tons, up 9% from the prior week and up 98% from a year ago, according to USDA’s "Grain Transportation Report."

In the rail sector, grain car loadings totaled 20,477 for the week ended Feb. 11, down 20% from the prior week and down 9% from a year ago.

For truckers, the U.S. average diesel fuel price increased a penny during the week ended Feb. 20 to $2.58/gal. That is up 59 cents from a year ago.

USDA’s latest weekly grain inspections are detailed in the following table and charts.

Corn export destinations, bushels – week ended Feb 23 – USDA

Soybean export destinations, bushels – week ended Feb 23 –USDA

Wheat export destinations, bushels – week ended Feb 23 – USDA

Ag Exports Counts website launches to share export market development

A new site was recently launched at www.AgExportsCount.org to offer information about export market development programs of the U.S. farm bill and the successes they have achieved.

This website is intended to be a resource for information about the outreach supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, including those operated by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) to promote U.S.-produced feed grains, related products and ethanol.

The site features an interactive map of success stories from the many organizations that utilize MAP and FMD funds, including U.S. commodity trade associations, farmer cooperatives, nonprofit state/regional trade groups and small businesses.

The stories span the breadth and depth of American agriculture, from high-volume commodities like corn, sorghum, barley, wheat and soybeans to meat and dairy products, high-value commodities and specialty crops, including fruits, nuts, timber products and more.

The site is intended to help all of these groups -- plus their sister grower organizations and supporters -- easily find information that affects all participants.

It will continue to grow as more backgrounders and studies are added as well as more success stories, including more about feed grains and ethanol.

Friend of ag named to Trump's Council of Economic Advisors

USDA Ken Hammond White House gardens back view

To fill a post left vacant for most of the Obama Administration, the White House appointed Ray Starling to the position of special assistant to the President for agriculture, trade and food aid. Starling currently serves as chief of staff for Sen. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.).

Agricultural groups praised the appointment, saying it sends a clear signal from the Trump Administration about the desire to make the right decisions for agriculture.

Collin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., said Starling “gets it” and explained that he has a sharp understanding of how the economy works and especially of how the agriculture sector operates.

“This is an A-plus appointment,” Woodall said.

John Weber, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said by picking a “true champion of American agriculture” to serve in this key advisory role, “Trump is sending a clear signal of his commitment to reverse unnecessary regulations inhibiting pork producers and all U.S. farmers from doing what they do best: supplying the world with the most nutritious, affordable and abundant food available.”

Starling grew up raising hogs on a farm in North Carolina that his family continues to operate today. Weber said Starling’s “long, distinguished career in agriculture policy has always been informed by a deep understanding of pork producers and a sector so vital to our economy and national security.”

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said at a time when American agriculture faces urgent economic challenges, Starling is a great choice, and his appointment "offers us a clear sign of President Trump’s commitment to hear and consider the challenges faced by America’s farmers and ranchers and their rural communities as he charts this nation’s economic course."

Duvall added, “We look forward to working with Mr. Starling as he advises the President on economic policy matters. With about one-quarter of all U.S. agricultural production destined for foreign markets, certainly, we know that trade and market development are critical issues, but economic policy comes in many forms, including how regulations affect the ability of our farmers and ranchers to remain competitive and profitable. Mr. Starling understands those challenges, and we look forward to supporting him in this very important role.”

Starling's role as special assistant is housed within the National Economic Council, whose functions are best described in the executive order President Bill Clinton issued to create it in 1993: (1) to coordinate the economic policy-making process with respect to domestic and international economic issues; (2) to coordinate economic policy advice to the President; (3) to ensure that economic policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President's stated goals, and to ensure that those goals are being effectively pursued, and (4) to monitor implementation of the President's economic policy agenda.

GRAIN MARKETS: Crops end lower ahead of March deliveries


Corn, soybean and wheat futures closed lower on Monday with the three wheat markets posting the largest losses.

First-notice day for March deliveries is Tuesday and participants in a Reuters’ survey expect 0 to 200 corn deliveries, 200 to 500 soybeans, 100 to 200 soybean meal, 1,000 to 2,000 soybean oil, 0 to 400 SRW wheat and 0-800 HRW wheat.

Outside markets were uneventful with the Dow Jones industrials up about 20 points when the crops closed, crude up 2 cents a barrel, the dollar was slightly higher after being down earlier, and gold was just 50 cents higher.

Exports – USDA, Reuters:

  • Japan seeks to buy 113,167 metric tons of wheat, of which most will be from the United States. The rest will be from Australia. Results are due on Wednesday. From the U.S. it seeks 36,192 of western white, 24,155 of hard red winter, and 25,070 of dark northern spring. Loading is from April 21 to May 20.
  • After the markets closed, Egypt said it seeks to buy an unspecified amount of wheat from a number of sources including the United States for April 1-10 shipment. Results are due on Tuesday. U.S. wheat has not be competitive in previous tenders.
  • Jordan seeks to buy from optional origins 100,000 metric tons of wheat and 150,000 of feed barley. The deadline is March 7 for wheat tenders and March 8 for barley. The wheat if for July 16-Sept.15 shipment and the barley for July 1-31.
  • Weekly U.S. export inspections: corn 57.5 million bushels vs 46 million previous week, soybeans 25.9 million vs 40.2 million and wheat 19.8 million vs 21 million.
  • Libya extended the deadline for offers in its wheat, durum and corn tender to the end of March. It

         seeks 100,000 metric tons of wheat, 50,000 of durum and 75,000 of corn for April-May shipment.

Corn closed lower for the third day with March coming to rest under the 20-, 50- and 200-day moving averages.

Lower wheat futures helped pull the corn down, which had already been under pressure as funds appear to be exiting long positions. The CFTC data released on Friday showed funds added 584 to their net long position as of Feb. 21, but the report showed they bailed out of both short and long positions that week.

Strong domestic cash markets, including the Gulf, may limit first-deliveries. Cash basis bids at the Gulf rose 2 to 3 cents in the past week.

The CBOT estimated Monday’s corn volume at 597,596 compared with Friday’s actual volume of 552,303. Open interest in Friday’s open interest decreased by 58,107 with March’s down 81,695 and May’s up 17,704.

March corn closed down 3-3/4 at $3.60-1/4 per bushel and May down 2-1/2 at $3.68-1/4.

What to Look For: River markets remain strong for corn ahead of the river opening in a few weeks on the upper Mississippi River.

Soybeans closed a little lower as a late buying surge failed to end the market in the black. The March remained under key moving averages but within Friday’s higher range.

Funds were noted sellers. Last week’s CFTC report showed funds were net sellers and parred their net long position by 8,625 contracts as of Feb. 21.

Export sales and shipments are falling off as they seasonally do when South American supplies come on line. The weekly export inspections of 25.9 million bushels were down 36% from the prior week. China was again the leading destination.

The CBOT estimated Monday’s volume at 219,249 compared with Friday’s actual volume of 269,139. Friday’s open interest decreased by 25,991 contracts with March’s down 36,575 and May’s up 6,699.

March soybeans closed down 2-1/2 at $10.11 per bushel and May down 2-1/4 at $10.22. New-crop November dropped ¾ to $10.06-1/4.

What to Look For – Gulf basis bids for soybeans dropped 4 to 6 cents in the past week as buyers turn to South America. 

Wheat futures led the crops lower with March soft red winter settling under key moving averages and at a two-week low, while the hard red winter also was at a two-week low but still above the 50- and 100-day averages.                                 

Winter wheat in the southern Plains will be dry this week amid warm weather. The dry conditions have raised concerns about wildfires from Kansas and south.

Funds were sellers of wheat on Monday, but entered the week net long hard red winter and net short SRW. In the CFTC report, funds were net buyers of both hard red winter and soft red winter.

The CBOT estimated Monday’s soft red winter wheat’s volume at 154,156 compared with Friday’s actual volume of 158,984. Friday’s open interest decreased by 31,994 with March’s down 37,593 and May’s up 2,250.

Chicago’s March soft red winter wheat closed down 12-1/2 at $4.18-3/4 per bushel and May down 9-1/4 at $4.38-3/4. Kansas City’s March hard red winter dropped 9-3/4 to $4.44 and May dropped 10 to $4.57. Spring wheat for March dropped 9-3/4 to $5.35 and May slipped 5-1/2 to $5.48-1/4.

What to Look For – Winter wheat will exit winter dormancy soon to put attention on condition reports from the Southern Plains. USDA last week forecast total wheat production this year to be down 20% due in part to the smallest winter wheat acreage in 108 years.  

WHO announces list of resistant 'priority pathogens'

selvanegra/iStock/Thinkstock bacteria MRSA

The World Health Organization (WHO) published Feb. 27 its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant "priority pathogens" — a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.

The list was drawn up in a bid to guide and promote research and development (R&D) of new antibiotics as part of WHO’s efforts to address growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.

The list highlights, in particular, the threat of Gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. These bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and can pass along genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.

"This list is a new tool to ensure R&D responds to urgent public health needs," said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director-general for health systems and innovation. "Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options. If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time."

The WHO list is divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority.

The most critical group of all includes multi-drug-resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. They include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including Klebsiella, Escherichia coli, Serratia and Proteus). They can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

These bacteria have become resistant to a large number of antibiotics, including carbapenems and third-generation cephalosporins — the best available antibiotics for treating multi-drug-resistant bacteria.

The second and third tiers in the list — the high- and medium-priority categories — contain other increasingly drug-resistant bacteria that cause more common diseases such as gonorrhoea and food poisoning caused by salmonella.

G20 health experts will meet this week in Berlin, Germany. Hermann Gröhe, Germany's Federal Minister of Health, said, "We need effective antibiotics for our health systems. We have to take joint action today for a healthier tomorrow. Therefore, we will discuss and bring the attention of the G20 to the fight against antimicrobial resistance. WHO’s first global priority pathogen list is an important new tool to secure and guide research and development related to new antibiotics."

The list is intended to spur governments to put in place policies that incentivize basic science and advanced R&D by both publicly funded agencies and the private sector investing in new antibiotic discovery. It will provide guidance to new R&D initiatives such as the WHO/Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) Global Antibiotic R&D Partnership that is engaging in not-for-profit development of new antibiotics.

Tuberculosis — whose resistance to traditional treatment has been growing in recent years — was not included in the list because it is targeted by other, dedicated programs, WHO said. Other bacteria that were not included, such as streptococcus A and B and chlamydia, have low levels of resistance to existing treatments and do not currently pose a significant public health threat.

WHO said the list was developed in collaboration with the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tübingen, Germany, using a multi-criteria decision analysis technique vetted by a group of international experts. The criteria for selecting pathogens on the list were: how deadly the infections they cause are; whether their treatment requires long hospital stays; how frequently they are resistant to existing antibiotics when people in communities catch them; how easily they spread between animals, from animals to humans, and from person to person; whether they can be prevented (e.g., through good hygiene and vaccination); how many treatment options remain; and whether new antibiotics to treat them are already in the R&D pipeline.

"New antibiotics targeting this priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistant infections around the world," said Evelina Tacconelli, dead of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tübingen and a major contributor to the development of the list. "Waiting any longer will cause further public health problems and dramatically impact on patient care."

Tacconelli said, "This report marks a major step forward in identifying which bacteria pose the greatest risk for patient care because of a lack of effective treatments. We hope that it will drive governments and research groups working in antibiotic development to set the right research priorities that will reduce the burden of antibiotic-resistant infections globally."

While more R&D is vital, it cannot solve the problem alone, WHO emphasized, noting that to address resistance, there must also be better prevention of infections and appropriate use of existing antibiotics in humans and animals, as well as rational use of any new antibiotics that are developed in future, WHO concluded.


WHO priority pathogens list

Priority 1: CRITICAL

* Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenem-resistant

* Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant

* Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant, ESBL-producing

Priority 2: HIGH

* Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant

* Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant, vancomycin-intermediate and resistant

* Helicobacter pylori, clarithromycin-resistant

* Campylobacter spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant

* Salmonellae, fluoroquinolone-resistant

* Neisseria gonorrhoeae, cephalosporin-resistant, fluoroquinolone-resistant

Priority 3: MEDIUM

* Streptococcus pneumoniae, penicillin-non-susceptible

* Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant

* Shigella spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant

Trump trade agenda still coming together

Darwel/iStock/Thinkstock Signpost TPP trade

The Senate’s expected confirmation Monday evening of Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary sets another piece on the chessboard of the difficult game ahead in leveling the playing field and capitalizing on campaign promises to continue to promote Buy America.

President Donald Trump has said Ross, in his role as commerce secretary, would take the lead role in negotiating trade deals for the U.S., despite the fact that the law states that it is the U.S. Trade Representative ambassador who is to take on the role of negotiations.

Trade – a source of roughly one-quarter of all U.S. farm production -- remains a matter of serious concern to farmers and ranchers under the new Trump Administration. The question remains what the outcome will be of ongoing discussions that, at times, have turned divisive.

Agriculture’s top three trading partners – China, Mexico and Canada – continue to be the focus of many troubling reports. For example, threats by Mexican legislators to stop importing U.S. corn for example has provided a chilling reminder of the benefit the close trading partner provides to U.S. producers.

Tom Sleight, chief executive officer at the U.S. Grains Council, said he must keep reminding customers around the world that the U.S. remains “open for business.” Relationships with overseas customers that have been courted for decades are now being put to the test of protectionism.

Canada and Mexico indicated last week they want to keep the trilateral agreement among them and the U.S. The Trump Administration wants to review the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in January 1994, and the President has made known his preference for bilateral rather than multilateral trade pacts.

Canadian and Mexican officials said tariffs and quotas should not be subject to any renegotiation of NAFTA.

Also on the trade front, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly met last week with Mexico Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo in Mexico City, Mexico, to discuss trade, among other matters.

TPP void

House Agriculture Committee chairman Mike Conaway (R., Texas) said he continues to communicate the vital importance of trade to all of production agriculture. In discussions with Trump’s top economic advisers, he said they’ve discovered trade deficits have two sides of the equation – and exports are a big deal.

In the discussion to focus on renegotiating bilateral agreements after withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Conaway said all agriculture industries except for rice producers were supportive of TPP. “We have a yardstick to measure” if a new bilateral trade deal is better than TPP, Conaway said.

The 11 remaining TPP countries are currently deciding what their next steps will be as a result of the U.S. withdrawing from the agreement. To discuss what comes next, Chile has invited all countries involved and extended invitations to China and South Korea.

A common rallying cry during the Obama Administration touting TPP was the chance for the U.S. to write the rules in the trade region rather than China.

Without TPP, the U.S. misses out on that chance, as well as the ability to open up Japan's agricultural market, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected would account for 68% of the increase in agricultural imports among TPP countries.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. and the National Pork Producers Council both urged Trump to pursue Japan first in bilateral discussions. There was some optimism in February after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Trump on the prospects of a bilateral trade agreement.