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U.S.-Japan trade agreement moving

Legislative Watch: Japan acting on agreement; MFP payments beginning this week favor the South; U.S.-Korea reach rice pact; propane delivery slow; government open through Dec. 20.

The Lower House of the Japanese Parliament passed legislation ratifying the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement. The legislation will now be considered by the Upper House before the session ends on Dec. 9.

The agreement will gradually reduce or eliminate tariffs and establish new quotas on $7.2 billion of agricultural products. After the agreement goes into effect Jan. 1, nearly 90% of U.S. food and agricultural exports to Japan will either be duty-free or receive preferential tariff access. The agreement restores much of the market access U.S. agriculture would have received under the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

MFP payments favor the South
The administration's Market Facilitation Program is picking winners and losers, according to a report released by a group of Senate Democrats. The report finds that 95% of the top payment rates are going to the southern farmers who the report says have "been harmed less" than other regions of the country. Also, the program is benefiting wealthy farms and foreign companies instead of small farms. The Senators say there is no long-term investment or plan to rebuild markets as a result of the administration's trade wars.

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue the Senators say, "Instead of taking a careful approach like Congress did in the recent bipartisan 2018 farm bill the USDA has replaced markets with short-term, inequitable payouts that lack transparency."

The report finds that out of the 2,091 counties that received MFP payments, 193 counties had a payment rate of $100 per acres or higher. Out of those counties over 95% are in the South. At the same time, 402 counties received the minimum of $15 per acre.

The Senators are asking the USDA to improve the trade assistance program before the next payments are made this month and in January.

Those signing the letter are Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee; Chuck Schumer (NY); Tammy Baldwin (WI); Sherrod Brown (OH); Maria Cantwell (WA); Robert Casey (PA); Tammy Duckworth (IL); Dick Durbin (IL); Kirsten Gillibrand (NY); Kamala Harris (CA); Amy Klobuchar (MN); Patrick Leahy (VT); Jeffrey Merkley (OR); Patty Murray (WA); Gary Peters (MI); Tina Smith (MN) and Ron Wyden (OR).

Second MFP payments this week
The second round of 2019 Market Facilitation Program payments began this week. MFP-eligible commodities will receive 25% of the total payment expected. This is in addition to the 50% payments made earlier this year.

U.S.-Korea rice agreement
United States and South Korea reached a market access agreement for U.S. rice. Korea will now provide access for 132,304 tons of U.S. rice annually, with an annual value of approximately $110 million.

In 2014, the United States, Australia, China, Thailand and Vietnam entered into negotiations with Korea when its special treatment for rice market access under the World Trade Organization expired.

The agreement goes into effect on Jan. 1.

Transportation hinders Midwest propane supply
It has been a tough year farming, now in parts of the Midwest farmers are having a difficult time getting propane delivered when needed. The wet and cold weather is compounding the situation.

A bipartisan group of House members led by Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, wrote the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission highlighting the effects the propane shortage was having on farmers and grain elevators in the Midwest. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) also wrote the FERC concerning the propane shortages in Iowa.

A number of Midwest governors, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, have issued emergency declarations easing oversize load requirements for truckers hauling propane because of the availability of propane.

The propane industry says there are adequate supplies, but transportation is the problem.

FY '20 continuing resolution
President Trump signed a continuing resolution passed by Congress that keeps the federal government funded through Dec. 20.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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