WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2016 - Trump transition, soybean export growth potential, and Florida’s big boost from USDA...
The transition continues to roll on and President-elect Donald Trump continues to receive congratulatory calls from world leaders. The latest batch include calls from the presidents of Chile, Costa Rica, Finland, Romania and Rwanda.
Transition officials say that 63 percent of Trump’s cabinet-level appointees have already been chosen, but of course the ag sector won’t be happy until a decision has been made about the next agriculture secretary.
A lot of names have been speculated on, including U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat who hails from North Dakota that we wrote about last week.
But the latest to surface as a possible secretary of agriculture in the Trump administration is South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem. A New York Times reporter tweeted yesterday that she’s being vetted for the Ag post and would be meeting with Trump in New York this week. 
But Noem isn’t going to New York, according to a source, and a statement issued by her office indicated that she planned to stay in Congress. Noem announced last month that she won’t seek re-election to the House in 2018 and will instead run for governor in her home state. 
In her latest statement, Noem said that it was “an honor to be considered by President-elect Trump to join his administration.” But she went on say, “As we tackle tax reform, the 2018 Farm Bill, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and regulatory relief efforts, I’m convinced the best way for me to help President Trump succeed while also producing the greatest impact for South Dakota is to serve out my two-year term in the House of Representatives.”
Noem, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax and trade policy, describes herself as a farmer and rancher, and her husband is a crop insurance agent. 
South America may be a limiting factor in U.S. soybean export growth.The USDA announced on Monday a sale of 256,600 tons of soybeans to China in the 2016-17 marketing year. It’s just one of many such announcements over recent months, contributing to an expected strong year of sales.
But the USDA did not increase its overall soybean export forecast for the U.S. in its latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate. The 2016-17 forecast remained unchanged at 2.05 billion bushels. A new report from the University of Illinois’ Farmdoc Daily says that’s likely due to a rise in competition this year from South American farmers.
The report, which relies on USDA data, stresses that Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay are now forecast to export 2.67 billion bushels of soybeans for 2016-17. That’s roughly 5 percent more that the South American countries exported the previous year.
“(U.S.) Soybean export levels appear sustainable, but there is understandable caution related to the U.S. soybean export forecast,” the report concluded. “While the potential exists for surpassing the soybean export forecast this marketing year, developments over the next few weeks in South American crop production and Chinese soybean buying patterns will be crucial in determining U.S. soybean export levels and, in turn, possible price movements in soybean markets.”
USDA sees improvement in Japan’s biotech approval process. China remains a major obstacle for international approvals of genetically modified seeds and the European process has slowed down, but Japan is a bright spot, according to a newly released report by the Foreign Agriculture Service.
The number of approvals from Japan has declined over the past two years, but that’s because the government has streamlined the process by declaring that stacked biotech events do not need secondary approval if the individual events were already approved separately.
“In addition to managing the review process more efficiently, Japan’s increased familiarity with events using popular transgenes has contributed to more prompt reviews,” the report concluded.
Japan is one of the world’s largest importers of farm commodities and the country gets roughly 90 percent of the corn it imports from the U.S.
Florida school gets a major boost from USDA.  Florida A&M University is going to be able to do a lot more research now that the USDA has given it a 3,800-acre research facility. Robert Taylor, dean of the school’s college of agriculture and food sciences, said the USDA donation will be used initially to teach beginning farmers.
The facility has been abandoned for five years and the university is going to need money it doesn’t have yet to make the facility fully usable as a place of research, Taylor said in an audio posting. The school has already received some funds from USDA to begin restoring the laboratories, but more will be needed to pay for dormitories and other additions.
Philip Brasher contributed to this report.


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