Ag Chat with Bob Bosold - Nov. 22

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Round 5 of the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks wrapped up yesterday in Mexico City and observers said U.S., Mexican and Canadian trade officials had a hard time agreeing on many issues. U.S. officials were frustrated that the Canadian and Mexican trade officials didn't make any counter proposals to U.S. positions on key issues like car manufacturing, telecommunications and agriculture. The auto issue might be the most divisive of all issues being talked about. Even the U.S. auto industry thinks President Trump's call for 50% of the parts or 50% of all cars in the region be U.S. made is not workable and over 70 members of the House are siding with the industry and calling for the administration to scale back that proposal. As for agriculture, the Canadians are holding to their position that their supply management programs for dairy and poultry are off the table and not open for any negotiations. They say if the U.S. position doesn't soften on some of these key issues, there won't be any agreement. Negotiators for the 3 countries left Mexico City by agreeing to extend the talks through next March.

Photo: Loren Kerns / CC BY 2.0

Meanwhile a group of 18 U.S. senators from both parties aren't happy with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his recent comments about a NAFTA deal. Ross recently made a comment that any potential damage to the U.S. agricultural sector caused by our withdrawing from NAFTA was simply an "empty threat." And he added that when groups like agriculture start screaming and yelling publicly about what our departure from the deal would mean, it makes people nervous and negotiations that much harder. So now those senators have asked Ross to conduct a "robust" economic analysis to evaluate how any changes to NAFTA would affect the nation's crop and livestock industries. Last year, Canada and Mexico bought a combined $39 billion worth of U.S. agricultural production.

The Trump Administration is looking for ways to offset the $44 billion it has set aside for hurricane relief and agriculture is one industry that's in their crosshairs. Right now they want to take billions from agriculture programs as part of their plan to cut over $59 billion in domestic programs to help pay for all the help they say will be needed. Cuts are being proposed for rural business loans, proposed upgrades to federal research facilities, huge cuts to Pell Grants, over $200 million in cuts from the Agricultural Research Service's building and facilities account, taking away $800 million from the Supplemental Nutrition program for women, infants and children as well as hundreds of millions from various rural conservation programs. But observers say there is no way Congress will go along with such huge cuts.

And if you still haven't shopped for all the fixin's for your Thanksgiving dinner, you're still ok. The price tag for the traditional meal is actually lower than a year ago-by about 54 cents. According to the Wisconsin farm bureau federation, the price for dinner this year will be around $47.26 versus $47.91 a year ago. Nationally the price for tomorrow's feast will average $49.21, or $1.86 more than here in Wisconsin. Prices for the turkey, stuffing and the cranberries have all come down from last year.

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