Argentine Farmers Set To Strike

Argentine farm groups late this week were considering how to protest the recent increase in government export taxes on grains and oilseeds and other government policies which are cutting producers’ profits.

Producers are also mad about the government's decision to make them pay back some $3 billion in debts to agricultural suppliers at the free market rate when debts in other sectors of Argentina's economy are being converted from dollars to pesos at a one-to-one rate.

The Argentine Rural Confederations (CRA) said Wednesday it expected its 100,000 members to stop selling grains, oilseeds and livestock for four days starting April 28.

The Argentine Rural Society (SRA) and the Argentine Agriculture Federation (FAA), which represent small-estate and large-estate farmers, respectively, told Reuters News Service that they will likely join the CRA protest.

A protest by all three groups could seriously disrupt Argentina’s agricultural markets at a crucial time for exporters who have new-crop export contracts to fill starting in May.

In the long run, however, Argentine crops are still going to make onto the world market, as exports are the only real source of cash for the agricultural sector there.

Russia Keeps Poultry Ban, Bush Gets Involved

Russia said Friday morning that it would not lift its ban on U.S. poultry imports yet as U.S. suppliers had not met its health safety demands. The United States responded by turning up diplomatic pressure to end the ban with President Bush putting in a phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the matter.

During the call, Bush "expressed his hope that all those issues can be resolved quickly," a White House spokesman told Reuters News Service.

According to Reuters, Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Russia would not set a definite date for lifting the ban. "I'm not sure how long it (the decision to end the ban) will take, it may be made quickly or take some days," Gordeyev said.

Another top Russian agriculture official said that the United States had fulfilled just two of 12 conditions that would lift a month-old ban on U.S. chicken and turkey exports to Russia.

It is questionable, however, whether the ban is motivated by concerns about food safety. Some in the U.S. industry have suggested Russia is simply trying to protect its domestic poultry industry by shutting down U.S. purchases. Russia is also angry at the United States for slapping import tariffs on Russian steel.

Even if the import ban is lifted soon, there is the possibility Russia will introduce import quotas for U.S. poultry in an attempt to support domestic producers. Tass News Service reported last weekend quoted Gordeyev as saying quotas could be introduced within a couple of months.

Ag Panel Leaders Meet On Farm Bill

The four leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees met in private on Friday in an effort to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations on the new farm bill.

The discussions included "a couple of proposals" on crop subsidies, a Senate Agriculture Committee spokesman said. The spokesman declined to describe the proposals in detail.

A public negotiating session scheduled for Friday was called off to allow their talks to continue in private. A meeting of the full House-Senate conference committee was scheduled for Monday at noon CDT.

Lawmakers and congressional staffers are expected to work through the weekend in hopes of making progress on the final farm bill. Little progress was made this week on key issues such as payment limitations and the Senate proposal to ban packer ownership of livestock.

Editors note: Richard Brock, Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.