USMCA Enters into Full Force

On July 1, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) entered into force, replacing the decades-old NAFTA. USMCA was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on January 29 after it received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. USMCA advances U.S. agricultural interests in two of the most important markets for American farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses.
 
Key provisions in USMCA for the dry bean industry include:
  • Sanitary/Phytosanitary Measures: The three countries agree to strengthen disciplines for science-based measures that protect human, animal, and plant health while improving the flow of trade.
  • Biotechnology: For the first time, the agreement specifically addresses agricultural biotechnology – including new technologies such as gene editing – to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies.
This high-standard agreement builds upon existing markets to expand U.S. food and agricultural exports and support food processing and rural jobs. Canada and Mexico are the first and second largest export markets for U.S. food and agricultural products, totaling more than $39.7 billion food and agricultural exports in 2018. These exports support more than 325,000 American jobs.

Global Uptick in Pesticide/Herbicide Restrictions Could Disrupt Trade

The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) is keeping a close eye on the changing regulatory environment governing the import of different pesticide/herbicide products. This is an issue that has been brewing for some time but recent health concerns are increasingly translating into import bans on the products themselves and the announcement or notification of intent to lower tolerances or maximum residue levels (MRLs) on imported agricultural products. So far Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, China and the European Union have all announced varying degrees of intent to revisit tolerance levels. This includes precautionary principles (Mexico), future intentions as part of a new Green Deal (EU), and actual notifications to the WTO (China), which is the last step in making a new tolerance level official.
 
The USDBC has long encouraged that countries follow harmonized MRLs as set by Codex but that no longer seems to be an acceptable standard in many of our export markets. Before a notification is made to the WTO and becomes final, the U.S. agricultural community always has the chance to submit commentary but this may or may not alter the course of the intention to lower an MRL. While not all of these affect the U.S. dry bean industry, this is generally a concerning trend as it moves away from harmonization and Codex and could be disruptive to trade. Right now, the USDBC is in an information gathering stage at this point and is planning a new research and advocacy initiative focused on global MRLs for late 2020/21. 

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Signup Now Open

Signup for the $16 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through USDA is now open. Eligible commodities include several specialty crops and non-speciality crops, as well as livestock. USDA is working to identify commodities not included CFAP to potentially be added. Farmers and ranchers who suffered a five percent or greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April or with unharvested, mature crops are encouraged to submit comments to USDA.

CFAP Signup Set to Begin May 26, Program Details Released

Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will begin after Memorial Day on Tuesday, May 26. That is according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who says $16 billion in direct payments will be sent to farmers as soon as one week after USDA launches the portal. The signup window will then remain open through August. Program details were sent out in a news release that can be viewed here. The specific payments rates for eligible commodities are available for non-speciality crops, specialty crops, and livestock.

USDA Hosts CFAP Webinar

On Thursday, USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Agricultural Marketing Service hosted a webinar on how producers can prepare for the upcoming signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. This includes information on how to apply once signup opens and how to initiate contact with FSA. View the webinar here.

Paycheck Protection Program Funds Replenished via CARES Act 3.5

President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion coronavirus aid package. The legislation replenishes $310 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The package also allows farmers to be eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the Emergency Economic Assistance Grant program. Get more information here.

USDA Announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

On April 17, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. This new program takes several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Donald Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to producers, maintain the integrity of the food supply chain and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to food.
 
Areas of the program that are of particular interest to the dry bean industry include:
  • The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.
  • USDA has up to an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. The use of these funds will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis and food bank needs.
 
The full details are available in this USDA press release.

President Trump Pledges Support for Agriculture

President Donald Trump went on-air and online to show his support for farmers Thursday. Comments were made during the White House news briefing on coronavirus. “We have money going out to our farmers in the pretty near future,” said Trump. “Farmers got hurt very badly by all of this; we’re going to be helping out our farmers.” 
 
On Twitter, President Trump also indicated he has directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to expedite help to farmers, especially small farm operations. In Trump’s words, his administration “will always be there for our great farmers, cattlemen, ranchers and producers.” Perdue responded in a tweet, saying USDA is using all of its resources to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers and ranchers hurt by COVID-19.

Walz Signs Executive Order to Help MN Agriculture

Governor Tim Walz today signed Executive Order 20-27 to lift hours of service requirements for truck drivers transporting livestock feed or fertilizer, in order to support Minnesota’s agriculture community while they work to keep Minnesotans fed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
With the ongoing spread of COVID-19 there are heightened concerns within the agricultural industry about the decrease in the commercial driver workforce and the risk it poses to efficient movement of agricultural commodities. Executive Order 20-27 lifts certain regulations on hours of service, helping to facilitate safe and efficient movement of critical supplies.
 
“Minnesota agriculture is critical to both our economic health and our ability to keep Minnesotans fed and healthy during this pandemic,” said Governor Walz. “This measure will help ensure essential agriculture supplies can be transported quickly and efficiently.”
 
Minnesota is one of the top agriculture states in the country—ranking first in grain sales, second in hog sales, and fourth in dairy sales. Commodities such as animal feed and fertilizer are needed to ensure the continuity of essential farming activities and the supply of food in Minnesota and throughout the country.
 
This Executive Order will be effective immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State. 

SBA Paycheck Protection Program Information

As part of the CARES Act signed by President Trump on March 27, the Small Business Administration is directed to administer a new Paycheck Protection Program loan to facilitate the delivery of $349 billion. 
 
There has been a lot of attention to the PPP program because it includes terms to forgive the loan if the proceeds are used for eligible business expenses, primarily payroll and payroll costs such as benefits. The intention of the program is to provide funding to businesses impacted by COVID-19 so that they can avoid laying off employees. 
 
The program funds will be delivered through the Farm Credit associations local banks and credit unions. The SBA is still working out details for this new program so much of this is still in draft form. Read more.