ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- The current situation in American agriculture had to share the spotlight this past weekend at the national Farmers' Union annual convention in Kansas City. In a show of unity against the current national crisis over opioid drug abuse, Farmers' Union president Roger Johnson, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duval and USDA assistant Agriculture Secretary for Rural Development, Ann Hazlett, all took to the podium to talk about what they said is now "the worst social problem we have in this country and that rural America is very much a part of the problem." Johnson said three quarters of farm families in this country are affected in some way by opioids, more than any other group in our society. Those farm leaders are all asking Congress to provide more money and resources in the new farm bill to fight the problem that Hazlett said is "the battle for life."
Negotiators from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have finished the 7th round of negotiations trying to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. And when the meetings ended the other Day in Mexico City, U.S. Trade Ambassador, Robert Lighthizer, said they still have a long way to go to get a final agreement. Observers said the talks haven't been made any easier with the threat of new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum as both Mexico and Canada expressed real problems with the proposal. No date for the next round of talks in Washington was set as elections in all 3 countries this year could complicate a final agreement.
If President Trump does end up imposing that increased import tariff on steel and aluminum, your beer and soda is going to cost more. According to a story in the Ag Connection, the 10% tariff would create new taxes of almost $348 million on the American beverage industry. Beer Institute leaders say the added taxes will also mean over 20,00 American jobs in the industry will be lost. Our largest supplier of aluminum is Canada.
Later this spring U.S. farmers will plant about 90 million acres to soybeans, hoping to keep up with Brazilian production. And this year that will be a lot. Brazilian officials predict the 2017-2018 soybean crop in Brazil will be the biggest ever at almost 118 million metric tons. That would be up 4 million metric tons from last year's crop.
It's election time for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board where 8 board seats are up for a vote this spring. In this area that includes District 5-St. Croix and Dunn counties- where Kay Zwald of Hammond currently serves on the board. Also up this year is District 8, now represented by Steve Sternweis of Marshfield. And District 14-Jackson, LaCrosse and Trempealeau counties, currently served by Pat Kling of Jackson county. Nominations for those seats will be taken until March 31st with the elections later this spring.
And today is Day 1 of the 2 day Eau Claire Farm Show at the Cippewa Valley Convention Center at Menard's Old Mill Center. This is the 55th year for the show. Doors open at 9 this morning and parking and admission are free.