WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2016 - Good morning, and thanks for starting your day with Agri-Pulse Daybreak! Let’s start with a few notes on trade.
The U.S. Grains Council and the Renewable Fuels Association wrapped up the 2016 Export Exchange yesterday in Detroit. More than 450 attendees from over 30 countries were there talking about buying U.S. grains and dried distiller’s grains, an ethanol coproduct.
RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen gave a speech at the event breaking down the current state of the U.S. political process. He detailed the prospects of the presidential election and the race to claim the Senate majority, but he also encouraged international grain buyers to look at the history of U.S. trade sentiment rather than election year dialogue.
“Have trust in history. Have trust in the fact that economists, policy makers have always recognized the necessity for trade for our consumers, for our manufacturers, and most certainly for agriculture,” Dinneen said when asked to summarize his remarks.
In his speech, Dinneen said voters are “deeply skeptical” or “downright hostile” about international trade and trade agreements, and “some of the candidates have certainly fed that.”

(Hear more on the Export Exchange here.)
Administration’s full-court press on TPP continues. Seeking to drum up support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership within the ag community, Darci Vetter has recently taken to the airwaves. Vetter, the chief agricultural negotiator with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, spoke with the Red River Farm Network from Grand Forks, North Dakota, yesterday. Among other comments, she said some provisions in TPP were crafted specifically in case China were to join the agreement.
Vetter noted China has said that if TPP eventually takes effect in the Pacific Rim, it “will have to look very closely at becoming part of it to remain strongly economically integrated in that region.” And, she added, “Frankly, we looked at the provisions in TPP and have designed some of them with China in mind.”
She specifically mentioned provisions on state-owned enterprises. Vetter didn’t provide any forecast on lame duck congressional passage of TPP, saying only that she remains optimistic.
In case you’re keeping score at home, Vetter has also spoken recently with the Wall Street JournalAgriTalk, and AgNet West.
U.S. sits out vote on Cuban blockade. U.S. ag producers who want to sell more of their crops to Cuba got some good news on Wednesday. The U.S. abstained in a vote by the U.N. General Assembly as it adopted a resolution to renew its call for an end to the U.S. economic blockade against the Communist nation. It was the first time the U.S. voted that way in 25 years. In the past, the U.S. has always staunchly opposed similar resolutions. Daryl Gates, the president of the Illinois Soybean Growers, applauded the U.S. position change, calling it a “historic moment for relations between the U.S. and Cuba.”
“We believe that the embargo needs to end,” Gates said. “We believe that the improvement of economic trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba is the foundation for future success between the two countries. We believe that the development of the Cuban economy is as beneficial to Cuba as it is the U.S. and our Illinois soybean farmers. It’s an important market for Illinois soybeans and the poultry who consume our protein-rich meal. We support actions taken by both Congress and President Barack Obama to open up relations and trade opportunities with Cuba. Today’s vote re-affirms that progress.”
USDA grants to be unveiled in Wisconsin. This afternoon, USDA will announce recipients of Value Added Producer Grants, a program that could quietly play a role in the next farm bill. The grants are good for up to $250,000 and can be used for anything from developing a business plan to marketing of value added ag products.
In previous years, up to $34 million has been made available through the program. Sam Rikkers, administrator of the USDA Rural Business Administration, spoke with Agri-Pulse earlier this week. He declined to get into specifics on today’s announcement, but he said he expects it to be a “newsworthy” event.
Rikkers will make the announcement in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with Representative Ron Kind, a Democrat from the state’s 3rd congressional district. ICYMI, this week’s newsletter had a story on VAPG grants and why one Washington ag group is worried about the program’s future funding.
Ashford picks up ag endorsement. A vulnerable House Ag Committee Democrat got a little help from the ag community on Wednesday. Nebraska’s Brad Ashford is currently running for reelection in his district – mostly Omaha, the state’s largest city – and is considered to be one of the few conservative Democrats left in Washington. On Wednesday, the Nebraska Farmers Union PAC endorsed Ashford in his bid for a second term, along with the state’s other two incumbents, both Republicans.
John Hansen, the group’s secretary, said “We need to keep Brad on the House Ag Committee, especially since work has already begun on the next farm bill.”
Ashford’s race is rated as either a “toss up” or “leans D” by various polling groups. He has received support from a number of ag organizations including the political action committees for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Crystal Sugar Company, and the National Pork Producers Council.
Pork industry looking for its future leaders. The Pork Checkoff is looking for candidates for its new awards program, the Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. Up to three future farm leaders, ages 18-29, will be chosen for the inaugural 2017 awards. Candidates (including college students) must be involved in raising pigs in a full- or part-time basis and intend to make pig farming their life’s work. They also must be committed to raising pigs using the “We Care” ethical principles.
Applications will be accepted through Nov. 22. “One of the National Pork Board’s primary responsibilities is to train and motivate future pork industry leaders,” said National Pork Board President Jan Archer, a pig farmer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. “The award is designed to recognize and inspire youth who are investing their time and energy into responsible pig farming.” Applications are available at www.pigfarmersoftomorrow.com.
He said it: Speaking at the Export Exchange, the RFA’s Bob Dinneen compared the results of the upcoming elections to an old adage about the wheat harvest.
“We won’t know really what this election is all about until the wheat is in the bin, and I can’t wait until the wheat is in the bin. Please, God, get the wheat in the bin soon.”
Only 11 more days, Bob. 
Dan Enoch contributed to this report.


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