WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2016 - About 100 EU negotiators are in New York this week for the 15th round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations (T-TIP). U.S. and EU trade officials are under a lot of pressure to wrap up the massive trade pact this year out of concern that political support for the pact will wane after new administrations take over next year on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
T-TIP is a good deal for farmers, according to the USDA, which says the pact will reduce tariffs on U.S. agricultural commodities. EU agricultural imports have more than doubled over the past two decades, but not from the U.S. U.S. exports to the region have risen just 17 percent over the same period.
But the negotiators still have many controversial issues to resolve, such as European demands on its Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) list. The Greeks don’t want anyone to use the name Feta cheese, unless of course the cheese is made from sheep milk in Feta, Greece. And EU member states continue to increase the PGI list.
Just last week the European Commission approved the addition of two new items to the protected list: Culurgionis d’Ogliastra, a pasta dish from the Ogliastra province of Italy, and Pizzoccheri della Valtellina, another pasta dish from Lombardy, Italy. There are more than 1,350 products on the EU’s Protected Geographical Indications list
NCGA calls on farmers to write EPA in support of atrazine. If you’re a corn farmer and you want to be able to keep using the herbicide atrazine, the National Corn Grower Association is counting on you to write to the EPA to oppose tighter restrictions. The EPA will be accepting comments on its ecological risk assessment through Tuesday.
The new EPA proposal to reduce the allowable residue level of the herbicide found in fish would effectively ban the popular farming chemical, NCGA says, and that would put a huge burden on farmers. The group points to a 2012 study by the University of Chicago that says farming without atrazine could cause farmers to lose $59 per acre.
“EPA needs to be reminded that atrazine has been around for 50 years, and more than 7,000 scientific studies have proven it is safe,” said Brent Hostetler, chairman of NCGA’s Production and Stewardship Action Team.
Farm Bureau works on farm bill options. Several farm groups are hosting discussions, conducting surveys and gathering information about what they’d like to see in the next farm bill, but the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has probably done the most extensive “homework” to date.
Earlier this year, AFBF President Zippy Duvall appointed a working group of 16 state and two national staff members to look at several different farm bill options and listen to expert opinions on a wide range of issues. They’ll be hosting their fourth in-person meeting next week.
Now, you can view dozens of their options papers, as well as a few Congressional Research Service reports, on their web site.  It’s a treasure trove of background information to help broaden and advance the discussions that are taking place.
Ag research group prepares to counter new pest and disease outbreaks. The next time a new pest or pathogen hits U.S. farmers and ranchers, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) wants scientists to be prepared to begin countering the threat.
The foundation announced that it has set up a new Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program, designed to “accelerate initial research and outreach response to potential emergencies by pre-establishing teams of experts, agreements, and funding sources.”
“The spread of a pest or pathogen can cause immediate and severe damage to multiple industries across the value chain,” the group said in a statement. “Last year, avian influenza outbreaks caused the loss of an estimated 50 million birds nationwide and $1 billion in damage, including 8,000 jobs lost, in Iowa alone.”
FFAR said it will provide up to $150,000 in matching funds for each of the one-year research grants it approves to fight new threats to U.S. agriculture.
Rice group sees some federal aid for farmers in CR. The USA Rice Federation said Friday that it is expecting farmers to get some of the emergency federal aid for Southern flood victims, but it’s too early to say how much. Congress last week passed the continuing resolution, a stop-gap spending measure, to keep the government funded and open through Dec. 9. Included in the legislation was $500 million to help out flood victims in Louisiana and elsewhere. 
"Louisiana is certain to receive a fair portion of those funds given the sheer volume of damage to their farms, businesses, and homes just last month,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government relations. “Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture, Mike Strain, is working to secure a portion of the Louisiana funding to directly aid farmers experiencing non-insured losses to their operations."
Regardless of how much help rice farmers get from the CR, USA Rice will continue working for a specific package for Louisiana producers, Mosely said.
“USA Rice is continuing to work with Congress, the Administration, and Louisiana officials to press for additional disaster aid specifically for Louisiana's agriculture sector and we're treating these initial funds as a down payment until a larger appropriations measure is considered during the lame duck."
Last harvest for First Lady Michelle Obama at White House garden. School kids from across the country participating in the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative will be helping Michelle Obama on Thursday as she brings in her last harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn.
Notable guests expected at the event include The Today Show’s Al Roker, Produce Marketing Association President Cathy Burns, NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning and Sesame Street’s Elmo and Rosita.
On Wednesday, in a lead-up to the event, Obama will give a speech on the past six years of Let’s Move!

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