WASHINGTON, June 14, 2016 - North Dakotans will vote today on whether to maintain the state’s longtime ban on corporate farming. The state legislature last year voted to allow corporate ownership of dairy and hog operations under certain restrictions. Voters today are considering whether to strike down the new law and preserve the longstanding ban on non-family corporations.

The issue pits the North Dakota Farmers Union against the North Dakota Farm Bureau. The Farmers Union mobilized a petition drive to get the new legislation referred to voters. A poll that NDFU released in March indicated that 75 percent of North Dakotans support the corporate ban. The Farm Bureau, which supported the legislation, argues that the corporate farming ban is hamstringing the state’s agriculture sector.

Today’s vote won’t be the end of the issue. The Farm Bureau earlier this month filed suit to get the corporate farming ban overturned.

China’s soybean production is on the rise. China is on a mission to boost its soybean production and that could impact imports, according to a newly released report by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

USDA’s latest supply and demand estimate put Chinese soybean production for the 2016-17 marketing year at 12.2 million tons, but the FAS sees it at 12.5 million tons. But that’s just the beginning, FAS said. China is expected to be producing at least 18.9 million tons by 2020 thanks to a concerted effort under the country’s latest “Five Year Development Plan.”

To get there, China is already cutting support for corn production and subsidizing an increase in soybean planting.

“The government intends for the newly added domestic soybeans to be primarily directed towards food use,” FAS said in the report. “By 2020, the government also plans to upgrade the quality of domestic soybeans, increase the protein content by 2 percent, and oil content by 1 percent from the current level.”

FAS said the plan may depress imports, but there’s no sign of that happening yet. China is still forecast to import a record 87 million tons for 2016-17, up from 83 million for 2015-16.

Groups urge House action on catfish inspection. Groups like Freedom Works, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and Heritage Action for America are anxious for the House to finish what the Senate started and kill USDA’s catfish inspection program.
In a series of letter to lawmakers and op-eds, the groups are urging the House to vote on a measure to give back catfish inspection duties to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and prevent the expensive process that USDA is going through now to take on oversight of domestic production and imports.

“If the USDA’s catfish inspection program is not dismantled, American taxpayers and consumers will end up footing an unnecessary bill,” said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, in an opinion piece published Sunday. 

Williams and leaders of 11 other groups sent a letter last week to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking them to take up the measure that the Senate passed on May 25.

Using estimates from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the groups compared $14 million that USDA is expected to spend every year and the $700,000 the FDA spends.

House GOP sets anti-regulation agenda. House Republicans today will roll out the third part of their campaign agenda - a plan to roll back government regulations. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway was part of the task force that was assigned to develop the proposals. A key priority of the plan will be to ensure that regulations are minimally intrusive and imposed only as a last resort. Last week, GOP leaders announced principles for overhauling welfare and nutrition assistance programs. 

He said it: “Researchers at USDA are an incredible treasure to our country and they don’t get the recognition they deserve because they are so humbling,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last night at the National Arboretum’s Dinner Under the Stars event. But the spotlight was actually on the secretary. In front of major farm and food industry players, including Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, Vilsack was presented with the Arboretum’s Medal of excellence, which is awarded to “individuals who have made significant contributions in leadership and advocacy in the utilization and conservation of plant resources for enhancing the economic, environmental and aesthetic value of American landscapes.”
Sara Wyant and Phil Brasher contributed to this report.


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