WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2016 - Canada and the European Union passed a major obstacle Sunday when leaders signed off on the massive Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), but both sides still have a long way to go before the pact is ratified and takes effect. But that still hasn’t stopped U.S. farm groups from worrying about the impacts that the deal will have on the U.S.
Canada has always been a tough market for U.S. dairy exporters, but CETA would allow the EU to more than double shipments of cheese to Canada. That’s a major concern for U.S. producers and exporters, but the deal isn’t written in stone yet. Canada, all 28 EU member countries and the European parliament will have to ratify CETA and that may not be an easy task.
Meanwhile, Canada has also agreed to allow U.S. dairy exporters more access to its northern markets as part of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Obama Administration still desperately wants Congress to approve TPP this year, but that seems unlikely while opposition remains strong from both Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and both houses on Capitol Hill.
You can read more in depth about the dangers and benefits from CETA for the U.S. agricultural sector when Agri-Pulse releases its weekly newsletter Wednesday morning.
Cheap Chinese corn threatens U.S. sorghum exports. U.S. sorghum exports to China have been growing sharply over recent years – China now consumes more U.S. sorghum than the U.S. domestic market does – but falling prices for Chinese corn could cool off some of the trade, according to a newly released report from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
“In recent years, U.S. sorghum has been very attractive to Southern Chinese feed producers due to its lower price compared to domestic corn, and the absence of import restrictions,” the report said. “As a result, feed millers and producers have become very familiar with using U.S. sorghum and incorporating it into their feed rations. This year, however, robust supplies of domestic corn and subsequent lower corn prices could impact the volume of U.S. sorghum sales.”
The U.S. exported a record of about $2.1 billion worth of sorghum to China last year, but shipments have cooled off this year, according to FAS data. China imported just $731 million worth of the grain from January through August in 2016. That’s down by half from roughly $1.4 billion in the same time period in 2015.

APHIS to allow port incineration of packaging materials to fight pests.Often it’s the wooden pallets and other packaging materials – called dunnage – in a ship that contain dangerous pests like beetles and locusts that can threaten crops and livestock. There are complicated procedures designed to insure the dunnage doesn’t contain pests, but sometimes threat of infestation is detected.
Now, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is offering transportation companies a new option if the wooden pallets or other packaging materials is believed to be a threat: they can have the stuff incinerated at approved facilities near ports.
“This action will allow APHIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to more effectively address potential pest risks presented by the dunnage,” APHIS said in a Monday announcement.
GAO asks Transportation Department to plan for West Coast ports.International trade is expanding fast with larger ships requiring massive improvements to infrastructure. The Department of Transportation needs a new plan to help development at West Coast ports, according to a new study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
“Some infrastructure and operations at major West Coast ports are strained in the face of recent changes in global shipping, but port stakeholders are attempting to address these constraints,” the report concluded. “For example, as the shipping industry deploys larger vessels capable of delivering more cargo, some port terminals lack big enough cranes, or other infrastructure, needed to handle these vessels.”
An overall freight strategy is needed to improve the supply chain, the GAO said and the DOT agreed.
Avoid another port dispute? Three Western lawmakers urged the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to continue discussing an extension of their contract covering 29 West Coast ports in a letter sent Monday. The current contract doesn’t expire until 2019, but the last prolonged contract dispute lasted a year and cost the U.S. economy about $7 billion. 
“During the 2014-2015 disruption at the 29 West Coast ports, our growers were forced to dump spoiled produce, our manufacturers were delayed waiting for necessary parts, and our retailers were faced with empty shelves,” the lawmakers wrote, while urging a resolution “so that we can all avoid this same outcome and the repeat of these devastating stories.”
EPA is issuing a new general permit under the Clean Water Act allowing for the discharge of pesticides used in certain situations. The permit covers biological pesticides and chemical pesticides that leave a residue, and would apply to control of mosquitos and other flying insects, weed and algae pest control, animal pest control, and forest canopy pest control, in Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington, D.C. and certain other territories such as Puerto Rico, as well as tribal Indian lands and federal facilities in many locations. 
The permit requires applicators to minimize both the amount of pesticide used and the frequency of applications in order to reduce the chances that the receiving waters will become polluted and endangered species will be harmed. According to the Federal Register notice to be published today, "All decision-makers are also required to control discharges as necessary to meet applicable water quality standards and monitor for and report any adverse incidents."
Steve Davies contributed to this report.


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