HEAD OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
Trade – Two rounds of NAFTA renegotiation meetings are completed. A large number of issues have been tabled, including the desire for expanded use of U.S.-made materials in automobiles and other products and disagreements about the mechanisms for resolving trade disputes and whether steps should be taken to raise salaries for Mexican workers. “We must have a trade agreement that benefits all Americans and not just some at the expense of others,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Tuesday at a news conference with Mexican and Canadian officials. “I am hopeful we can arrive at an agreement that helps American workers, farmers and ranchers, while also raising the living standards of workers in Mexico and Canada.” The next round of scheduled for Ottawa from September 23-27.
The administration chose to begin the Labor Day long weekend with a threat to pull out of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Many people reached out to their congressional delegation to prevent this from happening. Korea has become the 2nd largest customer of U.S. beef and is a significant importer of pork and grains. As of Wednesday afternoon, we received reports that the discussion on KORUS was shifting from “withdrawal” to “negotiation” or “amendments” at best. All commodity groups in D.C. are continuing to pay very close attention to this. I was interviewed by a reporter from the Washington Post on both Monday and Tuesday of this week. Here is a link to the article: Republicans and Democrats urge Trump not to break ‘vital’ deal with South Korea. Senator Deb Fischer also reached out directly to the White House; a copy of her letter can be seen here.
Tax Reform – Funding was secured for Hurricane Harvey relief, so Congress can jump into their major task at hand now that they are back on the Hill. A significant piece of the President’s tax plan does directly affect farmers and ranchers – that being the estate tax. Ag groups have consistently asked to have the estate tax completely repealed and President Trump is out in the country assuring people that is his intent. Sonny Perdue is very much standing behind Trump on tax reform. “It’s an old, not-so-funny joke that farmers live poor and die rich, because of the value of the land they own. It isn’t right that a family’s hard work will be punished by the Death Tax, through which many farms have to be broken up or sold off just to pay the tax bill,” he said in a statement.
Congratulations to Greg Ibach – Nebraska Director of Ag, Greg Ibach has been nominated by President Trump for the position of Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. If confirmed, Ibach will have jurisdiction over USDA’s Ag Marketing Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration. Congratulations Director Ibach!
Nebraska’s “Team of 5” took time to hold a Farm Bill Listening Session during the Nebraska State Fair with all major commodity groups.