WASHINGTON, June 20, 2016 - Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations continue and the pace is expected to pick up in July as the U.S. and EU aim to show solid results. The primary goal when negotiators meet next month is likely to get some type of agreement on eliminating trade tariffs, according to David Salmonsen, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

And that may be the low-hanging fruit, says Ken Ash, trade and agriculture director for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Tariff reduction isn’t an easy job, but it’s a much lighter lift that some of the thorniest issues that the two sides will eventually have to address, Ash told Agri-Pulse in an interview.

Negotiating tariffs – what Ash calls “border” issues – is much more straight forward than seeking changes to regulations that touch people’s lives on a day-to-day basis and govern things like food safety, quality and identity.

“We’re talking about regulations that exist in economies already that would have to be brought closer together,” Ash said. “It’s not a classical border measure that’s being discussed. It’s what we refer to as behind the borders - domestic regulation that affects the use of biotechnology or identification of geographical origins (of food). When you’re trying to have more common regulations across sovereign jurisdictions … then who is going to change? And how do you assure your public that you are maintaining the right to regulate?”

USDA keeps Cuba in the spotlight. In a year of slipping U.S. agricultural exports, the USDA is pushing hard to keep alive the promise of increased sales to Cuba - just as soon as Congress tears down the embargo.

Fresh off his week-long trip to Romania, Lithuania and Ukraine, Acting USDA Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse will be keeping Cuba in the spotlight this week. He’s leading a teleconference for U.S. business leaders tomorrow on “the U.S. relationship with Cuba.”

Meanwhile, the USDA on Friday posted on its web site an interview with Ron Moore of the American Soybean Association to highlight a recent sale of soybean oil to Cuba.

“The United States Soybean Export Council has been down there holding seminars, trying to educate them,” Moore said. “We’re trying to create a presence there.”

But it’s not just USDA … Federal lawmakers, industry groups and private businesses are also pushing harder to forge closer ties to Cuba and prepare for the fall of the trade embargo. The USA Rice Federation reports that its members are doing their part by supporting new State Councils for Cuba in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

USA Rice quoted American Rice Inc.’s Keith Gray – a member of the newly formed Texas State Council - who said: "It's really exciting to be a part of this historic movement and to be one of the 40 founding members of this State Council, leading the charge for lifting the Cuban embargo. Access to the Cuban market would surely benefit my business, but more importantly the businesses of the hundreds of rice and other crop farmers that we work with to purchase grains.”

Meanwhile, in the Senate, North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Arkansas Republican John Boozman succeeded last week in getting legislation attached to the financial services spending bill that would lift the ban on U.S. financing for agricultural exports to Cuba.

Craft beer popularity drives hops acreage to new record. As more and more Americans reach for a cold IPA, farmers are responding with more acreage devoted to hops, according to USDA data.

“We’re looking at a 17 percent increase from last year,” said Lance Honig of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Servicein recording posted Friday. “When we see strong prices and strong demand, it really tags back to these craft breweries.”

The data shows farmers planting about 51,000 acres of hops in Idaho, Washington and Oregon this year, up from about 44,000 acres last year.

He said it: “Hillary supported NAFTA and she supported the trade deal with China, Vietnam, South Korea – and if elected will implement the TPP she loves so much – guaranteed.” That was Donald Trump, trying to slam Hillary Clinton in a statement that was released in response to the AFL-CIO endorsement of Clinton.


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