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Roby announces a new round of payments to farmers impacted by the trade war

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, announced that farmers who have been adversely impacted by foreign retaliatory tariffs are now eligible for a second round of USDA mitigation payments.

“On Monday, the Trump administration opened the second round of applications for the Market Facilitation Program,” Roby said. “MFP is designed to aid farmers and ranchers whose commodities have been directly impacted by foreign retaliatory tariffs, and President (Donald) Trump authorized USDA to provide up to $14.5 billion in direct payments through MFP.”

“These payments will be made to mitigate the losses for non-specialty crops, specialty crops and animal products,” Roby added.

For more information about eligibility and to apply, click here.

On May 23, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that there would a second round of MFP payments to farmers impacted by retaliatory tariffs.

In May 2018, Trump announced tariffs on goods imported from a number of foreign countries, citing what he felt were unfair trade practices. One of these countries was China. China was the largest purchaser of American agricultural products, particularly soybeans. Prior to 2018, China purchased half of the soybeans grown in this country. China immediately retaliated against American farmers with tariffs and by purchasing fewer American agricultural products

For historical perspective the price of a bushel of soybeans peaked on Aug. 12, 2012, at $17.58. It came back down to more reasonable levels of about $9.88 a bushel. On May 28, 2018, soybeans were trading at $10.21 a bushel. Then the trade war started. By July 19, the soybeans were trading at $8.19. The appearance of some success in trade talks saw soybean prices rise to $9.25 by Jan. 19 of this year. Then the bottom fell out again and price plummeted to $8.09 by May 6. That was the lowest price in 12 years. Soybeans are currently trading at $8.53.

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While China is threatening not to buy American agricultural products ever again, on Wednesday experts in the industry said that Brazil and Argentina, China’s new suppliers, do not have sufficient supply to satisfy China’s needs forcing them to come back to the U.S.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said at a town hall in Hamilton, “I am worried about our agriculture because of tariffs. Soybean farmers and cotton farmers are getting hit hard.”

“You can’t sell the soybeans,” Jones said. “Farmers don’t want a handout; they want a market. The Chinese bought half of our soybeans. If something does not change farmers are going to lose that market in China. There are more and more bankruptcies among farmers there are more and more suicides among farmers.”

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The price of lean hogs also took a hit last year, but there prices have rebounded significantly after the signing of the Mexico, Canada Agreement. Mexico and Canada are the U.S.’s largest purchasers of pork, though China is also huge. Pork producers are hopeful that Congress will ratify the MCA.

There was some good news for farmers on the trade front on Friday when the United States and the European Union have reached an agreement where the E.U. will raise the quota on the amount of high quality U.S. beef they allow into the E.U. The E.U, has agreed to lift the quota from 18,500 metric tons a year to 35,000 metric tons duty free. The beef must be hormone free. Some American ranchers implant sex steroids into their growing calves to increase performance. This is legal in the U.S., but the practice is banned in Europe.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston said in a statement, “This is a good day for American cattlemen and cattlewomen. President Trump and his trade team deserve a lot of credit for standing up for America’s cattle industry and securing this market access to Europe.”

A similar opening up of the Chinese market to American beef is one of the goals of the Trump trade negotiations.

Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.

(Original reporting by RFD TV’s Market Day Watch contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Congress

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Congress

Negotiations on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill appear to have broken down

Brandon Moseley

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The United States Capitol Building (STOCK PHOTO)

Both parties in Congress and the White House hoped to have agreement on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill, but those hopes appear to have been dashed after a Thursday night meeting at the White House.

The Washington Post reports that the White House and Democrats failed to reach an agreement late Thursday night on the fifth virus relief bill. White House officials and Democratic leaders ended a three-hour negotiation with no agreement and both sides far apart on basic issues.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has insisted on a $3.4 trillion package. The White House wants a $1 trillion relief package.

“We’re still a considerable amount apart,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after emerging from the meeting with Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump was called into the meeting several times, but they were unable to resolve key issues.

Pelosi said that the meeting was “consequential,” but blamed Republicans for the breakdown in negotiations.

“They didn’t take the virus seriously in the beginning, they’re not taking the consequences of the virus seriously at this time, and that’s why it’s hard to come to terms,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin said that if the administration decides that further negotiations are futile, Trump would move ahead unilaterally with executive orders to address things like unemployment aid. Schumer said Democrats were “very disappointed” in how the meeting went and that any White House executive orders could be challenged in court.

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Pelosi claimed that Meadows pounded the table at one point. Meadows denies the allegation.

“We are very far apart,” Pelosi said. “It’s most unfortunate.”

Over 30 million unemployed Americans will see their unemployment checks dramatically cut next week without an extension of benefits. Trump has suggested that he could increase the benefits through unilateral executive action. Critics suggest that would be unconstitutional.

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Democrats want about $1 trillion in aid for cities and states, but Trump has dismissed that demand as a “bailout” for mismanaged states and has agreed to just $150 billion in aid for states.

Meadows said that the White House has agreed to go above $1 trillion, but that Democrats still have refused to go below $3.4 trillion. Democrats are also pushing for more money for food stamps, child care and the U.S. Postal Service as part of the plan. All of this would be paid with more deficit spending.

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Corruption

Arrest warrant issued for Rep. Will Dismukes for felony theft

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been accused of theft of property, a Class B felony. (WSFA)

An arrest warrant has been issued for Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, for felony theft from a business where he worked, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said Thursday.

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018, Bailey said during a press conference.

Bailey said the charge is a Class B felony and levied when a person steals in excess of $2,500 and that “I will tell you that the alleged amount is a lot more than that.” 

“The warrant has just been signed, his attorney has been notified and we are giving him until late this afternoon to turn himself in,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the employer contacted the district attorney’s office with a complaint about the theft on May 20, and after reviewing bank records and interviewing witnesses, the decision was made to charge Dismukes with the theft. 

WSFA reported Thursday that the theft occurred at Dismukes’ former employer, Weiss Commercial Flooring Inc. in East Montgomery. Bailey did not provide any more specifics on the charge but said the employer signed the arrest warrant after countless hours of investigation on the part of the DA’s office.

While the charge stems from a complaint filed months ago, Dismukes been in the headlines recently and faced a torrent of calls for his resignation in recent weeks after posting to Facebook an image of himself attending a birthday celebration for the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

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The event was hosted by an individual with close ties to the League of the South, a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In response, Dismukes stepped down from his post as a pastor at an Autauga County Baptist church but defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature.

If convicted of the felony, Dismukes would be immediately removed from his seat in the Alabama House, to which he was elected in 2018.

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In June, the Alabama Democratic Party called for his resignation over previous social media posts glorifying the Confederacy.

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