USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has announced more findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the U.S., this time in what it called a “non-commercial, non-poultry flock” in Maine.
The confirmation in the as-yet unidentified species makes Maine the 13th state in which HPAI has been detected. It also has been found in commercial and backyard flocks in Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia, and in wild birds in Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, and South Carolina.
On Feb. 11, APHIS said it was expanding wild bird surveillance to include the Mississippi and Central Flyways, in addition to an already existing surveillance program in the Atlantic and Pacific Flyways.
The Centers for Disease Control says the recent detections “pose a low risk to the public.”
“Wild birds can carry HPAI A(H5) viruses without showing symptoms, but these viruses can cause illness and death in domestic poultry,” CDC said. “Human infections with HPAI A(H5) bird flu viruses are rare but can occur, usually after close contact with infected birds.”
USDA to put focus on China, climate during outlook forum
Congress is out of session this week, having extended government funding to March 11. That’s supposed to give congressional appropriators time to finally finish work on their government-wide fiscal 2022 spending bill, five months after the budget year actually began. 
USDA, meanwhile, will be holding its annual Ag Outlook Forum online for the second year in a row. This year’s forum will put a focus on climate issues as well as China trade and supply chain disruptions. 
The forum opens Thursday with the department’s 2022 agricultural forecast and a conversation between Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and Elizabeth Economy, an expert on China who's on leave from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to advise the Commerce Department. 
On Friday, Vilsack will be joined by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to talk ag trade policy. 
By the way: The forum also will feature a plenary panel on climate-smart agriculture issues. The panel members will include David Allen, vice president of sustainability for PepsiCo Foods North America; Glenda Humiston, vice president of agriculture and natural resources, University of California; and Mike McCloskey, co-founder and past CEO of Select Milk Producers. 
International ag climate initiative adds new partners, including European Commission
The U.S. and the United Arab Emirates have added seven new members to their Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate effort, the Agriculture Department said Monday.
New government partners include Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, the European Commission, Guyana, Mozambique and Turkey. The initiative, which now has 40 governments involved, announced $4 billion in increased investment in climate-smart agricultural solutions when it launched last year.
On Monday, USDA said AIM for Climate partners have now set a goal of doubling that investment to $8 billion by November, when the next UN Climate Change Conference will be held in Egypt.
“AIM for Climate government partners today demonstrated their strong commitment to work together to close the investment gap in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation, needed to address the twin challenges of global hunger and the climate crisis,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
Read more about the initiative here.
NPPC presses Biden admin on China tariffs
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative laid out in detail last week the ways in which it claims China continues to defy World Trade Organization rules, but the National Pork Producers Council took aim at U.S. and Chinese tariffs. The U.S. maintains Section 232 tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum and the Chinese continue to retaliate with tariffs on U.S. pork, apples and other farm products.
The Chinese retaliatory tariff on U.S. pork is a 25% import tax and it’s taking an especially strong toll as market forces depress American shipments to the Chinese.
“NPPC is continuing to press USTR and the Biden administration to urge China to remove that tariff, which in large part caused a nearly 26% drop in U.S. pork exports to China in 2021,” says NPPC.
Take note: The NPPC says it is also pressing the USTR to lean on China to live up to its “phase one” promise to perform a “risk assessment for the use of the feed additive ractopamine in pork and beef production.”
China’s continued zero-tolerance for ractopamine hasn’t been a major deterrent to trade, but it does make the Chinese market more restrictive than that of countries like Mexico, Japan and South Korea.
Brazil soybean harvest 33% complete
Brazilian farmers have harvested 33% of this year’s soybean crop, but poor weather conditions continue to hurt yields, according to the latest analysis by the Brazilian consulting firm AgRural.
Arid conditions have returned in southern production regions while excessive rains continue to pound the states of Mato Grosso – the country’s largest soy state – and Minas Gerais.
AgRural in January lowered its forecast for Brazilian soybean production to 128.5 million metric tons, and the firm says it will issue a new forecast this week.
Keep in mind: USDA’s production forecast for Brazil is higher, but also bearish. The USDA lowered its forecast on Feb. 9 to 134 million tons, a 5-million-ton cut from its January World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report. USDA also reduced its forecast for Argentine soybean production by 1.5 million tons and trimmed the prediction for Paraguay by 2.2 million tons.
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