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Ag groups remind Trump of importance of trade

Groups stress importance of exports; USDA encourages use of 'best if used by' date labels on food; House ag committee turnover continues; U.S. to become energy net exporter; it takes a village, and a banker, to raise a child.

The agriculture community is reminding President-elect Donald Trump the importance of international trade to U.S. agriculture and the need to continue to expand agricultural exports.

In a letter to Trump, 16 agricultural organizations say 20% of U.S. agricultural production is exported and that exports account for over 70% for cotton, 60% for soybeans, 50% for wheat and rice and 70% for tree nuts.

The organizations say that U.S. agricultural trade interests must be maintained in both existing markets and expanding access to new markets. The letter states, “Existing markets include China, Canada and Mexico — U.S. farmers’ first, second and third largest foreign customers. U.S. agricultural exports in FY-2016 were nearly $27 billion to China, over $24 billion to Canada and nearly $19 billion to Mexico. Disrupting U.S. agricultural exports to these nations would have devastating consequences for our farmers and the many American processing and transportation industries and workers supported by these exports.”

During the campaign Trump said he would withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and threatened 45% tariffs on China.

Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Farmer Union, National Pork Producers Council and USA Rice.

Best if used by

In an effort to reduce food waste, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a new guidance encouraging food manufacturers and retailers to use a “best if used by” date label instead of “sell by” and “best by” dates.

It has been shown that various date labels cause consumer confusion as to the quality and safety of products. Research shows that consumers easily understand “best if used by” date as an indicator of quality, rather than safety.

Public comments on FSIS’ guidance are due to FSIS by Feb. 7. The issue of food waste is getting more and more attention. The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the issue last year and a number of bills are expected to be re-introduced this session.

11 new members on the House Ag Committee

The turnover of membership on the House Agriculture Committee continues with the assignment of 11 new members. They are replacing members who are moving to other committee or are not returning to Congress.

The new Republican members are Congressmen Jodey Arrington (TX), Don Bacon (NE), James Comer (KY), Neal Dunn (FL), John Faso (NY) and Roger Marshall (KS). The new Democratic members are Congressmen Dwight Evans (PA), Al Lawson (FL), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Jimmy Panetta (CA) and Darren Soto (FL).

U.S. could be net exporter of energy within 10 years

Within the next 10 years, the United States could become a net energy exporter according to the latest annual report of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

According to EIA’s base case, the United States could become a net energy exporter by 2026. The United States has been a net energy importer since 1953. EIA took into consideration various economic, oil price, technological and clean-energy scenarios. The report indicates U.S. energy production could rise by more than 20% from 2016-40.

It costs over $233,000 to raise a child

USDA’s latest “Cost of Raising a Child” report estimates that for a child born in 2015 to a middle-income married couple it will cost $233,610 (in 2015 dollars) on child-rearing expenses from birth through age 17.

Low-income families are estimated to spend $175,000 and high-income families will spend around $372,000. Costs for housing and food are the highest share of expenses accounting for 29% and 18%, respectively, for middle-income, married-couple families. Other child-rearing expenses are childcare/education (16%), transportation (15%), health care (9%), clothing (6%), and other expenses (7%). The report did not include costs related to pregnancy or college expenses. USDA has completed this annual report for 55 years.

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