U.S. agriculture is losing markets as Congress fails to address the pending free trade agreements (FTA) of Columbia, Panama and South Korea. That was the message delivered at a press conference by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). NPPC said that analyses done by Iowa State University show that if the United States does not approve the pending FTAs, the United States would be shut out of the affected markets within 10 years. The analyses also shows that the U.S.-Korea FTA would add $10 to the price U.S. pork producers receive for each hog marketed. According to AFBF, in 2008-2009, there was almost a 50% drop in U.S. agricultural exports to Columbia. AFBF said, “For agriculture, Congress’ inaction on these agreements is no longer about potential gains, but now about preventing losing what we already have.” In 2008/2009, U.S. wheat dominated almost 70% of Columbia’s wheat market. According to NAWG, the U.S. share of Columbia’s wheat market could drop as low as 30% if Canada approves its pending FTA with Columbia before the United States does. This would result in an annual loss of more than $92 million for the U.S. wheat industry.

EPA-USDA to Promote Farm Energy Generation — USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have announced a new interagency agreement promoting renewable energy generation and slashing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock operations. EPA and USDA will provide up to $3.9 million over the next five years to help farms “overcome obstacles preventing them from recovering and using biogas.” This will include expanded technical assistance efforts, improved technical standards and guidance for the construction and evaluation of biogas recovery systems, and expand outreach to livestock producers and assist them with pre-feasibility studies. EPA estimates there are approximately 8,000 farms that are “good candidates” for capturing and using biogas. The agreement expands the work of the current AgSTAR program. See www.epa.gov/agstar for additional information.

USDA-DOJ to Explore Poultry Sector — USDA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a joint poultry workshop to explore the issues of consolidation and contracting in the poultry industry. The May 21 workshop will be held at Alabama A&M University in Normal, AL. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack plan to participate in this second in a series of workshops on competition. The first was held on March 21 in Ankeny, IA, and focused on “Issues of Concern to Farmers.” A workshop will be held in June in Wisconsin concerning dairy, and another workshop on beef, pork and meat sectors will be held in August in Ft. Collins, CO.

National Rural Summit — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will host a National Summit of Rural America, “A Dialogue for Renewing Promise,” on June 3 at Jefferson College, Hillsboro, MO. Secretary Vilsack said, “This summit will be an opportunity for rural Americans to share their vision for creating a more prosperous and promising future for rural America. The Obama Administration is committed to strengthening rural America, and now farmers, ranchers and foresters from throughout the country can have the opportunity to engage with key policymakers and community leaders to discuss the priorities and policies necessary to keep its future bright." According to USDA, participants at the summit will take part in plenary and breakout sessions on a multitude of issues which include rebuilding and revitalizing rural America, creating new jobs, improving infrastructure, improving farm competitiveness, and encouraging innovation in renewable energy. Individuals interested in attending the summit may register at www.usda.gov/ruralsummit.

Almanza Appointed FSIS Administrator — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the appointment of Al Almanza as Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) administrator. Almanza has been in a limited-term appointment as FSIS administrator since July 2007. Almanza began his FSIS career in 1978 as a food inspector in a small slaughter plant in Texas. Previously, he was the district manager for the Dallas FSIS District. FSIS has over 9,500 employees and is responsible for food safety and inspection of meat, poultry and egg products.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.