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Court denies growers’ request on wage rates

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week denied a request by growers to throw out wage rates for temporary foreign workers that had been set by the Labor Department.

Peri & Sons Farms, Inc., and the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) had sued Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, alleging that the department violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it lacked statuory authority to promulgate Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) without first making a finding on whether the employment of H-2A workers adversely effected the wages of domestic agricultural workers.

The plaintiffs also argued that the Labor Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it disregarded certain factors.

The court said the plaintiffs' claims are "time-barred," and also dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

Public Citizen and TexasRioGrande Legal Aid represented three South Texas farmworkers who intervened as defendants in the lawsuit, saying that the growers were seeking to circumvent wage rules that protect American agricultural employees from cheaper foreign labor.

After the ruling, Public Citizen said, "The court's rejection of the growers' attempt to stop implementation of the AEWR will keep at least $123 million in the pockets of H-2A workers, and will benefit U.S. laborers who compete with or work alongside the foreign farmworkers."

Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, an assistant professor of food studies and affiliate of the Departments of Geography and Women's and Gender Studies at Syracuse University, said in a news release, "This is an important decision in maintaining a reasonable wage safeguard for all agricultural workers in the U.S."

"Most farmworkers in the United States live below the poverty line and struggle with food insecurity," she said.

"When guestworkers are brought in, without a higher wage standard, the effect is to lower the standard for local workers. This decision protects against that. While maintaining a higher wage for all workers does not make up for all the injustices workers suffer in our food system, it protects a necessary regulation to assure these standards are not further denigrated."

Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, co-counsel for the United Farm Workers, said, "The growers' arguments, in this case, were based on their view that wages of farmworkers in the U.S. are too high, not on any valid legal claim."

"The H-2A program requires employers to offer market-rate wages before being allowed to hire foreign workers based on a claim of a labor shortage," Goldstein said.

"Farmworkers' wages are not too high; many farmworkers' wages and working conditions are utterly inadequate. The law does not and should not guarantee agricultural employers access to unlimited numbers of vulnerable foreign workers at substandard wage rates," he added. "We are pleased that the judge dismissed this lawsuit."

"Farmworkers, who are already among the lowest-paid workers in the nation, should be paid more, not less," said Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers.

"The pay freeze as demanded in the suit filed by the National Council of Agricultural Employers would have put the lives of guest workers in serious peril and would have dragged down wages for domestic U.S. farm workers laboring alongside H-2A guest workers. We are elated to claim this dismissal as a victory for all farm workers."

–The Hagstrom Report

USDA sets Dietary Guidelines meeting, leadership

The Agriculture Department and the Health and Human Services Department announced Tuesday that the first meeting of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be held in the USDA Jefferson Auditorium on March 28 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and March 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This is the first of five meetings to be scheduled for the committee — the dates of the subsequent meetings will be announced.

Registration for in-person attendance is open and closes March 26 at 5 p.m., and the public may also submit comments throughout the deliberations. (See links below.)

"USDA is committed to ensuring the process for developing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is transparent and data-driven," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

"We are looking forward to kicking off the committee's review of the scientific evidence, along with public engagement throughout the process. The comment period is open, and we encourage everyone to visit the redesigned Dietary Guidelines website."

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be chaired by Barbara Schneeman, a former member of the faculty at the University of California at Davis who also served as the director of the Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration. and Ron Kleinman, the physician-in-chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children, will serve as vice chair.

Much of the committee's work relies on conducting systematic reviews of published scientific evidence. USDA has changed the name of the Nutrition Evidence Library — the team responsible for this work — to Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review (NESR).

USDA has updated the Dietary Guidelines website and launched a new site for the NESR to make following the work easier.

–The Hagstrom Report

Trump, Bolsonaro talk potential wheat, pork, beef trade

After President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced Tuesday that Brazil has agreed to implement a duty-free tariff rate quota (TRQ) for wheat, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) said they were pleased that Brazil would live up to "a longstanding obligation" under its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments.

"This agreement opens an annual opportunity for U.S. wheat farmers to compete on a level playing field for 750,000 metric tons (about 28 million bushels) of wheat under the TRQ," the wheat groups said.

"We are grateful to the Trump administration for championing the interests of U.S. farmers and specifically to chief agricultural negotiator Gregg Doud and USDA Undersecretary Ted McKinney for prioritizing the issue of Brazil's TRQ commitment," said Chris Kolstad, USW chairman and a wheat farmer from Ledger, Mont.

"This new opportunity gives us the chance to apply funding from the Agricultural Trade Program and other programs to build stronger relationships with Brazilian millers and a more consistent market there for U.S. wheat."

The groups said, "Brazil was the largest wheat importer in Latin America and the fourth largest in the world in marketing year 2017/18. Most imports originate duty-free from the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

"Wheat from all other origins requires payment of a 10 percent duty. Brazil agreed to open the TRQ to all origins, including the United States, in 1995, but then notified the WTO that it wanted to remove the TRQ.

"Those negotiations were never concluded. Brazil did open the TRQ temporarily in 2008, 2013, and 2014 when there was a shortage of wheat within Mercosur. During those years U.S. wheat made up more than 80 percent of imports from outside Mercosur."

In a statement, the White House said, "President Bolsonaro announced that Brazil will implement a tariff rate quota, allowing for the annual importation of 750 thousand tons of American wheat at zero rate."

"In addition, the United States and Brazil agreed to science-based conditions to allow for the importation of United States pork. In order to allow for the resumption of Brazil's beef exports, the United States agreed to expeditiously schedule a technical visit by the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to audit Brazil's raw beef inspection system, as soon as it is satisfied with Brazil's food safety documentation.

"The presidents instructed their teams to negotiate a mutual recognition agreement concerning their trusted trader programs, which will reduce costs for American and Brazilian companies."

The United States Cattlemen's Association said it "remains strongly opposed to any reopening of beef trade with Brazil."

The group noted that FSIS audited the Brazilian beef industry in 2017 due to "a high number of rejected exports from the country attempting to make their way into our borders."

In total, over 1.9 million pounds of Brazilian beef product has been rejected, it said, due to "public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues."

"The final audit report included horrific examples of a lack of equivalent food safety standards and protocols, at even the most basic level," USCA said. "Brazil has consistently shown to be a bad actor in the global marketplace."

–The Hagstrom Report

Lensegrav Ranch Hybrid Vigor Bull Sale

TSLN Reps: Dan Piroutek & Scott Dirk

Date: Mar. 16, 2019

Location: Faith Livestock Auction

Auctioneer: Lynn Weishaar

Averages: 101 yrlg Black Hybrid Bulls avg. $4,683

Dave and Rhonda Lensegrav raise these bulls on their ranch, north of Faith, in the Meadow area. Dave Lensegrav had to postpone his sale for one week, and fortunately, was able to hold it just one week later. These bulls are stout made, with depth of body, plus mass and thickness throughout. The uniformity and quality stayed until the very end of the sale. I thought this was, perhaps, the strongest set of bulls Dave had ever produced. Loyal repeat buyers competed with each other, the telephone, and the internet to make this a very strong sale.

Top Selling Bulls:

Lot 71: $12,500 to Irving Kurt Puckett, Kyle, South Dakota – Baldco Traction 155 x 111 – LWN 54X – Moore Bando Conn. Easy – Amigo (13/16 AN, 3/16 GV)

Lot 58: $11,000 to Larry Thompson, Glenham, South Dakota – LEN 66B x Pioneer (13/16 AN, 3/16 GV)

Lot 75: $9,000 to Irving Jordan, Faith, South Dakota – Baldco Traction 155 x LEN 129X – 85 Crossover CRD 131H Conn. Canyon (7/8 AN, 1/8 GV)

Lot 12: $8,000 to Julie Goodman, Oelrichs, South Dakota – SAV Real McCoy 4822 x LEN24 – Legend 2 – VRD 198U – Net Worth (3/4 AN, 1/4 GV)

Lot 35: $8,000 to Doug Gardner, Hammond, Montana – LEN 258C – 28 x 211L 11/16 AN, 5/16 GV)

Lot 54: $8,000 to Ken Elkins, Taylor, North Dakota – LEN 10 – 147B x LEN Shep (3/4 AN, 1/4 GV

Larson Ranch 50th Annual Bull and Bred Heifer Sale

Date of Sale: Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Location: Presho Livestock

Auctioneer: Matt Lowery

Representative: Curt Littau

Averages:

36 yearling registered angus bulls – $4,850

13 yearling commercial angus bulls – $3,419

26 yearling Charolais bulls – $4,400

5 yearling Simmental bulls – $2,900

22 Two-year-old angus bulls $4,727

5 Two-year-old Charolais bulls – $6,650

156 commercial black angus bred heifers – $2,056

76 commercial F1 BWF bred heifers – $2,159

57 commercial Red Angus bred heifers – $1,942

18 Purebred Charolais bred heifers – $1,889

The Larson Family once again offered a powerful set of yearling bulls and bred heifers to a large crowd of buyers for their 50th annual production sale. New to the program this year was a set of two-year-old bulls which the Larson's are planning on expanding on in the future. Bidding was active and DVAucitons once again provided a number of buyers for the sale.

Representative sales include the top selling yearling Angus bull Lot #22, a son of "Brookdale Responder 63," purchased by Jerry & Laura Osterberg for $8,000. The top selling yearling Charolais bull Lot # 81, a son of "Lt Ledger 0332 P," purchased by Steve Thomas and Kent & Sonja Aasby for $15,000. Top selling two-year-old Angus bulls were Lot #205 and Lot #208 each selling for $6,750 and purchased by Larry Ryno and Jerry & Laura Osterberg respectively. There were two Charolais two-year-old bulls purchased by Steve Thomas and Kent & Sonja Aasby , Lot #225 selling for $11,000 and Lot #226 selling for $10,000, that topped the sale for all two-year-olds.

In the bred heifer division sales ranged from $1,800 to $2,275 with the commercial F1 bwf heifers leading the pace.

Hirshberg: ‘Facts’ about conventional foods do not disparage them

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has told organic producers they should not disparage conventional foods, but Gary Hirshberg, the co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, the largest producer of organic yogurt, said Tuesday that telling consumers organic foods do not contain the 700 chemicals in conventional foods is not disparaging the competition, just presenting the facts.

"I don't think we should be disparaging. I think we should speak with facts," Hirshberg said as he pointed to an ad that showed a list of chemicals and the phrase "Skip this ridiculously long list of chemicals and just go organic."

A variation of the ad said, "Over 700 reasons to just go with organic." The ads feature the USDA Organic seal.

Hirshberg made the remarks when The Hagstrom Report asked him what he thought about Perdue telling the conventional corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum farmers at the Commodity Classic in Orlando, Fla., in February that he had told organic industry leaders they should not disparage foods produced conventionally.

Hirshberg spoke in Washington Tuesday at an event titled "Get Ready for the Next Generation of Organic" at the Arizona State University Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems.

There is conflict within the organic food industry, with some organic producers maintaining that organic food must be produced and sold by small operations.

But Hirshberg said, "I have come to terms with what is called selling out." He added, "I have shelved my own rebellious instincts in favor of market dominance."

Hirshberg said Stonyfield was the first organic company to sell to Walmart and that he "took grief from the left in New England for selling out to big bad Walmart."

"Organic never set out to be food for the elite," he said.

Kathleen Merrigan, the executive director of the center who wrote the organic standards act when she was an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and later served as Agriculture deputy secretary, said she agreed.

"I am not appalled at having Walmart sell organics," Merrigan said.

Hirshberg and Merrigan agreed that they both approve of organic aquaponics — produce grown in water — even though some purists maintain that organic food must be grown in soil.

Hirshberg seemed to delight in the battle between organics and conventional foods for market share. He noted that organics are growing in grocery store sales while many conventional foods are flat or declining. Organic consumers are presumed to be white and upper income, but Hirshberg said the gowth in organics last year was led by Hispanic consumers.

Millenial consumers, he said, don't have as much money, but they are buying more organic fruits and vegetables, which are lower in cost, and less meat and dairy items, which are more expensive.

Among millenial consumers, Hirshberg said, the trends are based on "absolute distrust of institutions," including both government and companies, confusion due to the proliferation of labels such as fair trade and reenerative, and millienials' "absolute confidence that they can get information from their fingertips."

The last, Hirshberg said, is a problem because the information on the Internet "is not always reliable."

For all consumers, he said, "concern about chemicals in the food supply has never been greater." That concern is growing as the Environmental Working Group and others publish reports showing the presence of glyphosate in oats and beer, pesticides in strawberries and insecticides in children's urine, he said.

Consumers are worried that "exposure to pesticides in the womb can affect children's brains" and that working in conventional agricultural fields or even near them "can affect people," he said.

As a business person, Hirshberg said, his obligation is "to make sure I am balancing the benefits to the farmer and the consumer."

Stonyfield is paying farmers twice the price for milk that conventional farmers get, he said, and has a "long list" of conventional dairy producers who would like to convert to organic.

But Hirshberg said he can't promise to buy from them because organic dairy products, while growing, are growing slower than the rest of the organic food sector. The biggest reason for the shift to plant base foods is concern about animal welfare, he said.

In a jab at a competitor, Hirshberg said that conventional farmers who are selling to Chobani and other competitors are getting such low prices that they are living off their assets and not painting their barns.

The organic business is getting harder because there is an "explosion of venture capital" in the sector, Hirshberg said.

"Some valuations are absurd," he said, noting that Lactalis, a French-based dairy multinational, paid "twice revenues" to buy Stonyfield, which had earlier been acquired by Groupe Danone, another French company.

For the future, Hirshberg said, the organic industry needs to keep standards high to maintain consumer confidence. The 2018 farm bill will help discourage imports of animal feed that is falsely labeled as organic, but the origin of livestock rule and the pasture rule need to be better enforced while the organic livestock and practices rule that the Trump administration withdrew "needs to come back," he said.

He noted that the 2018 farm bill also increased the budget for organic research, which he said is vital to proving what organic agriculture can do.

Hirshberg also said growers and companies need to support the voluntary checkoff, and he urged the industry to support the next generation of farmers, noting Stonyfield's backing of the Wolf's Neck Farm, a training center.

Hirshberg said the single biggest need is consumer education because there is so much confusion over the proliferation of labels.

But Hirshberg said he is not worried about competition from foods labeled "local."

Noting that he has operations in New Zealand, Hirshberg said. "I live and grow in many bioregions. Is it a competitor? I don't think so. Where possible, do both."

–The Hagstrom Report

Trump talks tough on China, EU trade

President Donald Trump took a hard line on tariffs on Chinese goods today, which BBC News noted caused the Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S&P to fall.

Speaking to reporters before he left on a trip to Ohio, in response to a question about whether he would remove the tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, Trump said, "We're not talking about removing them. We're talking about leaving them and for a substantial period of time, because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China, that China lives by the deal. Because they've had a lot of problems living by certain deals and we have to make sure."

The Chinese imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm products and it seems unlikely they will remove them if the U.S. tariffs are not removed.

Trump added, "But we're getting along with China very well. President Xi is a friend of mine. The deal is coming along nicely. We have our top representatives going there this weekend to further the deal. But, no, we have — we're taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money. And for a period of time, that will stay."

Trump was apparently referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, whose travel plans have been reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Asked whether he will impose tariffs on European Union autos, Trump said, "It's up for review, and the European Union has been very tough on the United States for many years but nobody talked about it. And so we're looking at something to combat it."

"Not only do they charge our companies — if you look, it was 1.6 billion to Google; it just happened yesterday. And a lot of other things. A lot of litigation.

"But I say the European Union has been as tough on the United States as China, just not as much money involved.

"We'll see what happens. We'll see whether or not they negotiate a deal. If they negotiate a deal, a fair deal, that's a different story," Trump said.

–The Hagstrom Report

Carmichael Herefords 50th Annual Proven Genetics Sale

TSLN Rep: Scott Dirk

Date of Sale: March 17, 2019

Location: Sale held at the ranch, Meadow, SD

Auctioneer: Doug Dietterle

Averages:

16 Yearling Herefords bulls – $4,437

50 Two Year Old Hereford bulls – $4,546

Comments

The weather finally cooperated for Carmichael Herefords to hold their 50th Annual Bull Sale. After having to postpone twice because of weather, the third try finally worked, giving the Carmichaels a great beautiful sunny day for the sale. With a lot of road conditions still compromised, the crowd was maybe lighter than past years, but the bulls were in great sale shape and sold quite well.

Top selling yearling bulls:

Lot 13, KC L1 Domino 18065, a 3/18 son of CL 1 Domino 420B 1ET with epds of BW 0.9 WW 59 YW 93 Milk 22 selling to LeRoy Scott, Highmore, SD for $6,000.

Lot 17, KC L1 Domino 18082, a 4/18 son of CL 1 Domino 420B 1ET with epds of BW 3.7 WW 57 YW 90 MIlk 22 to Mortenson Cattle Co., Hayes, SD for $6,000.

Lot 7, KC Mr. Freckles 18039, a 3/18 son of KC Mr. Freckles 16059 with epds of BW 4.9 WW 63 YW 96 Milk 29 selling to Tonya Lawhead, Lodgepole, SD for $5,500.

Top selling Two Year olds:

Lot 45, KC L1 Domino 17049, a 3/17 son of B&D L1 Baron 4273, with epds of BW 4.1 WW 65 YW 101 Milk 34 selling to Todd Gerbracht, Meadow, SD for $8,500.

Lot 28, KC L1 Domino 17011, a 3/17 son of HH Advance 2008Z with epds of BW 3.8 WW 58 YW 92 Milk 28 to Larry Dolezel, Belvidere, SD for $8,000.

4 bulls sold at $7,500 each

Lot 31, KC L1 Domino 17026, a 3/17 son of B&D L1 Baron 4273 to Kennedy Ranch, Faith, SD.

Lot 44, KC L1 Domino 17038, a 3/17 son of HH Advance 2008Z to Davis Ranch, Belle Fourche, SD.

Lot 63, KC L1 Domino 17088, a 4/17 son of B&D L1 Baron 4273 to Niederman Ranch, Morristown, SD.

Lot 76, KC L Domino 17156, a 5/17 son of HH Advance 2008Z sold to Larry Dolezel, Belvidere, SD

Flat Water Gang Red Angus Bull Sale

TSLN Rep: Scott Dirk

Date of Sale: March 18, 2019

Location: Sale held at One Box Convention Center, Broken Bow, NE

Auctioneer: Scott Weishaar

Averages:

95 Yearling Red Angus bulls – $3,343

This was by far the best set of Red Angus bull offered by Sandbur Ridge Red Angus, Cooksley Red Angus and Birnie Red Angus, the breeders that make up the Flat Water Gang. These 3 breeders all have slightly different breeding programs, but the bulls in this sale were very consistent and uniform from top to bottom.

Top Selling bulls:

Lot 50, Ridge Right Kind 8146, a 2/18 son of 5L Right Kind 1942-62B, with epds of CED 12 BW 0 WW 67 YW 104 Milk 25 sold to Craig Seier, Petersburg, NE for $8,000.

Lot 35, Ridge Provision 8074, a 2/18 son of Ridge Provision 6013 with epds of CED 9 BW 0.8 WW 73 YW 16 Milk 28 sold to Rich Red Angus, Vinton, IA for $7,000.

Lot 62, Cooksley Gladiator 8217, a 3/18 son of Bieber Gladiator C386 with epds of CED 17 BW -3.8 WW 66 YW 102 Milk 23 went to Daigger/Orr Angus, North Platte, NE for $6,750.

Lot 4, Ridge Malbec 8098, a 2/18 son of Red U2 Malbec 195D with epds of CED 17 BW -4.5 WW 52 YW 81 Milk 26 sold to Jo Vogel, Lakeside, NE for $6,000.

Lot 86, Ridge Crisscurrent 8124, a 2/18 son of KDS CrossCurrent 423 with epds of CED 9 BW 1.3 WW 67 YW 104 Milk 25 went to Rich Red Angus, Vinton, IA for $6,000.

The sale fell on the heels of the major winter storm that dropped several inches of rain and in some cases up to a foot or more of snow. Many roads in their customers areas were flooded out or blocked so the crowd was smaller than past years and not as eager to bid. The sale average reflects that, however the sale average does not reflect on the quality of the bulls offered.

TSN Simmentals Sale

TSLN Rep: Chris Effling

Date of Sale: March 19, 2019

Location: Platte Livestock Market Platte, South Dakota

Auctioneer: Preston Burma

Averages:

41 Simmentals and Sim-Angus Bulls – $3,402

Lot 20 at $5,750, TSN Nightride F405 Dob 3-10-2018, J Bar J Nightride x TSN Miss Top Grade Bo81, sold to Jensen Cattle Company, White River, SD.

Lot 5 at $5,500 TSN Sure Fire F175, Dob 3-18-2018, GAR Sure Fire x TSN Miss Tanker Y767, sold to Jeff Kuhlman, Wagner, SD

Lot 36 at $5,500 TSN All Around F607, Dob 2-15-2018, WS All Around Z35 x TSN Miss Cowboy D 178, sold to Mitch Beutty Cedar Rapids, IA.

Lot 43 at $5,400, TSN All Around F637, Dob 2-11-2018, WS All Around Z25 x TSN Miss Cowboy D769, sold to Benda Ranch Simmentals Kimball, SD.