New data from USDA show that China has a long way to go to fulfill its “phase one” commitments, despite a surge in sales in recent weeks. 

The U.S. exported $6.6 billion worth of farm goods to China in the first half of this year, the second lowest amount since 2009.  China pledged to buy $36.5 billion this year. 

US exports to China by year and first half of 2020 (AFBF)

Former Vice President Joe Biden says Trump’s trade policy is failing badly. “Trump hasn’t even managed to secure half of China’s purchase commitments under the agreement. This is only the latest setback for a deal that has failed to deliver for the American people literally every step of the way,” Biden said. 

Read our report on the trade data here

Elsewhere: Biden’s holding a virtual roundtable on rural issues today with Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Peterson looks to boost cattle relief

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says he’s urging USDA to use unspent funds in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to increase payments to cattle producers who he says have been shorted by the current formula. 

Peterson made the comment during an online debate Wednesday with candidates for the 7th and 8th congressional districts in Minnesota. USDA has paid out just $6.8 billion of the $16 billion budgeted for CFAP. Payments to cattle producers have varied sharply depending on when their animals were marketed. 

Meanwhile: Peterson joined House Ag’s top Republican, Mike Conaway of Texas, and leaders of the livestock subcommittee in asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday to provide aid to sheep and lamb producers hurt by the bankruptcy of a lamb processor in Colorado.

By the way: The sharpest disagreement between the candidates during Tuesday’s debate was probably over rural broadband. Peterson called for using the Universal Service Fund revenue to pay for rural broadband. USF funds come from taxes on phone bills. 

But Dave Hughes, a Republican who lost by four points to Peterson in 2018, said that the federal government has no business being involved in broadband development. Hughes is running in next Tuesday’s GOP primary against former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach. 

She signaled support for comments made by 8th District GOP incumbent Pete Stauber, who endorsed a bipartisan bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission to accelerate an existing broadband expansion program.

RMA mulls easing cover crop restrictions

Livestock producers may find out soon whether USDA’s Risk Management Agency will ease restrictions on haying and grazing on cover crops. “There’s some discussions going on; might see an announcement soon,” RMA Administrator Martin Barbre told Agri-Pulse.

The agency eased restrictions last year because of a forage deficit due to the unusually wet spring. Crop insurance rules bar harvesting or grazing of cover crops on prevented planting acreage before Nov. 1.

By the way: RMA is authorizing insurance companies to extend premium payment deadlines by 60 days. Premiums that originally would be due Oct. 1 now aren’t due until Dec. 1.

US group claims cheese name victory

The U.S.-based Consortium for Common Food Names is claiming victory over French and Swiss groups that tried to trademark the cheese name “gruyere” in the U.S.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the request, agreeing with CCFN that “gruyere” is generic name for a common cheese.

"This is a victory for consumers as it preserves a variety of choices for shoppers in the cheese case by safeguarding a term that has been used by cheesemakers outside of Europe for many years," said CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda, who is also a senior vice president for the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

US ethanol exports got a boost in June

The U.S. exported 78.5 million gallons of ethanol in June, a 16% increase over May, according to the latest data compiled by the Renewable Fuels Association. The uptick was largely due to a surge in sales to Canadian buyers who moved up to regain the title of the largest foreign market for U.S. ethanol.

The U.S. sold 27.4 million gallons of ethanol to Canadian buyers in June, an 89% increase from May that helped push U.S. sales back to pre-COVID levels. Other major importing countries included Finland. South Korea and the Netherlands.

Brazil, previously the largest foreign buyer of U.S. ethanol, purchased virtually nothing in June, RFA says.

Report: More research needed on dicamba impacts

Environmental groups say EPA shouldn’t renew dicamba registrations this year until it thoroughly researches the effects of the volatile herbicide on native wildlife and plants.

As the widely used products “move off their intended application site, they pose threats to wild plants and the wildlife that depend upon them,” says a report prepared by the National Wildlife Federation, Prairie Rivers Network and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Loss of native plants and declines in forage quality pose risks to bees and other beneficial insects that rely on pollen and nectar for food.”

Dicamba has been the subject of lawsuits which have resulted in a $400 million settlement for soybean growers and a federal appeals court ruling vacating three of the four products on the market. Registrants and farm groups are pushing for a rehearing in that case.

Hemp: State agencies seeks early action on deadline

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the National Industrial Hemp Council are urging Congress to act quickly to extend USDA’s hemp pilot program through next year.

In a letter to congressional leaders, the two groups said they’re worried that an extension in the House ag appropriations bill won’t be enacted in time. New federal regulations are scheduled to take effect Oct. 31, replacing the pilot program. States also are supposed to have oversight programs in place by that date. 

In a separate letter, NASDA and NIHC are asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue for enforcement discretion in implementing its hemp regulations. 

FDA: Impact of arsenic limit likely minimal

FDA is setting a new action level of 100 parts per billion for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereals. The agency takes into account action levels and other factors in considering whether to pursue enforcement action.

Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says most products on the market already are under the level. Tests done in 2018 showed 76% of samples were at or below the 100 ppb level, compared to 47% in 2014 and 36% between 2011-2013.

He said it. “If we can reach a compromise on these big issues, I think everything else will fall into place. If we can't reach an agreement on these big issues, then I don't see us coming to an overall deal.” - Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on what needs to be achieved by Friday in the negotiations over a coronavirus relief package. 

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