Ag Today, December 17

U.S. Congress should easily ratify North American trade deal: U.S. trade chief [Reuters]

The U.S. Congress should easily approve a revised North American trade agreement, and increased trade flows will raise U.S. gross domestic product by a third to a full percentage point, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Tuesday….Mexico, the United States and Canada last week agreed to revised terms for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee expects to vote on the legislation on Tuesday, with the full House to vote later in the week, congressional sources said.


U.S. may boost tariffs on EU goods, wants lower trade deficit-Lighthizer [Reuters]

The United States may increase tariffs on European goods as it seeks to slash its chronic trade deficit with the continent, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Tuesday, highlighting a top trade priority for the Trump administration….Lighthizer also touted his new agreement with Beijing, repeating that it would nearly double U.S. exports to China. He said details of the Chinese purchases across U.S. agriculture, manufacturing, energy and service sectors in the “phase one” China trade deal would be detailed in writing.


‘A geological and natural treasure.’ Would Stanislaus County dam put the area at risk? [Modesto Bee]

In Stanislaus County, people of different political stripes sympathize with the need for more water storage for thirsty farms. But a plan for a reservoir in Del Puerto Canyon west of Patterson was bound to touch a nerve. To many West Side residents and others familiar with the site, Del Puerto Canyon is a natural gem and one of the county’s scenic wonders….The Del Puerto Water District, the leading proponent for the reservoir, has also received letters from nature enthusiasts from the Bay Area and the eastern side of the county.


Most recent spike of toxic air pollution has officials rethinking alert system [Fresno Bee]

A sudden and dangerous spike in Fresno’s air quality last week has regional officials re-examining everything from burn-day approvals to public notification systems, authorities said. But officials with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said the unexpected spike of hazardous particulate matter was the result of a perfect storm of circumstances in the Valley….Since the storm was expected to clean out pollution early in the day, Holt said air district staff approved the burning of ag waste as well as wood in homes….Holt said her office continues to search for ways to improve on wood and agricultural burning.


China responds slowly, and a pig disease becomes a lethal epidemic [New York Times]

A devastating disease spreading from China has wiped out roughly one-quarter of the world’s pigs, reshaping farming and hitting the diets and pocketbooks of consumers around the globe. China’s unsuccessful efforts to stop the disease may have hastened the spread — creating problems that could bedevil Beijing and global agriculture for years to come….The epidemic shows the limits of China’s emphasis on government-driven, top-down solutions to major problems, sometimes at the expense of the practical. It has also laid bare the struggle of a country of 1.4 billion people to feed itself.


It isn’t just Uber: California prepares for new gig worker rules…and confusion [Wall Street Journal]

…The debate around Assembly Bill 5, or AB5, as it is known, largely centered on gig-economy workers such as ride-share and food-delivery drivers….However, just weeks before the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, employers and workers in other industries including truck drivers, therapists, and entertainers say it is unclear how AB5 will affect them, leading some to take precautionary measures and others to say they hope a court will clarify the matter soon….“AB5 is going to radically change any industry in California that uses independent contractors or freelancers,” said Tricia Legittino, a California-based partner with law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC.