WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2016 - President Barack Obama is barely back from his trip to Asia last week, but the U.S. trade relationship with China will again be in the spotlight soon. U.S. farm groups are expecting the USTR and USDA to announce this week a major WTO trade suit against China’s support policies for corn, wheat and rice.

U.S. government officials were not able to confirm the coming action, but industry sources are preparing for announcement after briefings from government officials.

One farm sector source told Agri-Pulse the planned U.S. action is welcome because Chinese policies continue to distort market forces and U.S. producers suffer as a result.

Visiting NFU members get a big welcome in D.C. National Farmers Union members from around the country are descending on D.C. for the group’s annual three-day fly-in event this week and they’re getting a warm reception from USDA today.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson, Risk Management Agency Administrator Brandon Willis, Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller and others will be holding a special briefing for more than 200 NFU visitors today in USDA’s auditorium.

“Throughout the three-day event, family farmers and ranchers will meet with members of Congress, White House officials, and staff from the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to discuss the challenges facing the farm sector and to ask for meaningful action on issues regarding the farm economy, consolidation in ag markets, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Renewable Fuel Standard,” NFU said.

Drought decreases for some farmers and ranchers. The area under drought in the U.S. is shrinking according to USDA data. Just 19 percent of U.S. farm land is suffering drought conditions, a 2 percent drop from a month ago, USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey said in an audio posting.

The decline is most noticeable for corn and soybean farmers, according to Rippey.
“It’s negligible at this point – just 3 percent of both commodities’ production area is in drought as of early September,” he said. That’s down from 7 percent for corn acres and 6 percent for soybean acres in early August.

“Only 15 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory is currently in drought, down 3 percent from five weeks ago,” Rippey said. “Just 14 percent of the U.S. hay production area is in drought. That’s also down three percentage points from early August.”

Still, many areas of the western U.S. are abnormally dry and large portions of California’s agriculture sector are suffering from “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.

Senate Ag Committee to consider new wildfire legislation. The Senate Agriculture Committee will convene Tuesday to mark up new forestry and fire-fighting legislation that was introduced last week by Chairman Pat Roberts. The bill is similar to the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 (H.R. 2647) that passed by the House last year, but gives the government more authority and tools to manage U.S. forestry, according to a statement released by the Committee.

The Roberts bill is popular with scores of groups like the National Wild Turkey Federation, the American Fisheries Society and the American Sportfishing Association.

The groups wrote in a letter: “We support S. 3085, the Emergency Wildfire and Forest Management Act of 2016, which addresses wildfire suppression funding and forest management enhancements. Good proactive forest management coupled with a fire-fighting funding fix is our shared goal.”

U.S. rice gets new shelf space in UK retailers. U.S. long grain rice is getting prized shelf space in ASDA stores, the British subsidiary of Walmart and the second largest supermarket retailer in the UK, according to the USA Rice Federation.

Peacock Rice, distributed by S&B Herba Foods, is selling well on specialized display stands in stores throughout the country, the company said.

"U.S. rice exports to the UK face stiff competition from cheaper Asian rice that has flooded the market over the past several years," said USA Rice Vice President of International Promotion Hugh Maginnis.  "Promoting U.S. rice in such a prominent position at ASDA, the UK subsidiary of Walmart, was a win for the brand and for U.S. rice in general."


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