Archives for 2017-07

Congress Reverses Waterway Cuts But Doesn't Provide Funding

House and Senate appropriators have reversed the president’s proposed cuts to Army Corps inland waterways funding, but still provide no money to modernize critical locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
The good news is a reversal of a 17 percent cut the White House proposed to the Army Corps' civil works budget, and full-use of Inland Waterways Trust Fund annual revenues, boosted by higher barge diesel taxes.
Waterways Council Senior Vice-President Debra Calhoun says the downside is a continued lack of planning and design money for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program...
Calhoun says the Upper Miss and Illinois River locks modernization is part of the Army Corps’ priority projects list, and the Trump Administration wants to speed up NESP work from a scheduled 25 years, to 10 years. But Calhoun says there’s a political problem…
Calhoun argues the Upper Mississippi locks have far outlived their 50-year design-life. Many were built in the 1930s and cannot accommodate longer modern barges that need to be separated to get through the ancient locks.
Congress authorized modern new locks on the Upper Miss and Illinois Rivers in 2007, but actual funding was never provided.

Class Action Lawsuit Aimed at Monsanto Over Dicamba Spraying

A lawsuit filed last week accuses Monsanto sales representatives of secretly giving farmers assurances of using “off label” methods for a dicamba herbicide formulation. The St Louis Post-Dispatch reports the lawsuit claims: “This was Monsanto’s real plan: publicly appear as if it were complying, while allowing its seed representatives to tell farmers the opposite in person.” A Tennessee weed management expert, Larry Steckel, says in the suit that “it’s almost impossible” to follow label directions for dicamba-based herbicides, given the recent changes that have surfaced over drift allegations. Formulations were changed to dicamba-based herbicides following an outbreak of drift incidents last year to reduce volatility and drift. However, those changes have not seemed to slow reports of drifts problems in 2017. The suit says the defendants “actually benefit” from rampant drift, because it pressures farmers to adopt dicamba-tolerant seed to avoid damage. Monsanto and BASF indicated to the Post-Dispatch that they were aware of the suit but declined to comment on specific allegations. Both companies cited their efforts to educate growers about correct application of dicamba.

USDA Rural Development Lead Comments on Priorities

The Department of Agriculture’s rural development lead says USDA is seeking to create an environment where rural America can prosper.
Ann Hazlett oversees the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Housing Service. She was appointed to the newly created position of Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development last month.
The appointment is part of a restructuring plan that eliminates the undersecretary position for rural development, a plan that’s met some opposition. USDA says the move allows for an increased emphasis on Rural Development that’s needed in the face of economic difficulties in rural communities.
An Indiana native, Hazlett has worked on agriculture and rural issues for more than fifteen years. She says there are many challenges in rural America that USDA will examine…
Another priority for rural development is delivering broadband internet to rural areas, which USDA considers a necessity…
Hazlett is a graduate of Kansas State University and before her role at USDA served as Chief Counsel to the majority on the Senate Agriculture Committee. By removing the undersecretary position and putting rural programs under an appointed position, Hazlett was able to start work immediately at USDA.
Other divisions of USDA that are overseen by an undersecretary are awaiting new leadership. Currrent American Soybean Association CEO Stephen Censky was nominated by President Trump to serve as the USDA deputy secretary. President Trump has also nominated Ted McKinney for Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Sam Clovis for Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.

McKinney, Clovis, Officially Nominated for USDA Posts

President Donald Trump has nominated Ted McKinney for Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Dr. Sam Clovis for Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. Both have long been rumored to take top seats at the Department of Agriculture for months. McKinney currently serves as the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and Clovis was a Trump Campaign advisor before serving on the USDA transition team. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said McKinney and Clovis would both be assets to the department. Meanwhile, the White House this week also sent to the Senate Agriculture Committee its notice of intent to nominate Stephen Censky for USDA deputy secretary, paving the way for a Senate vote on the nomination.

First Round of NAFTA Talks Scheduled

As expected, U.S. trade officials confirmed this week that North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations would begin August 16th, the first day allowed by U.S. law. The office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced this week that the talks would kick off in Washington, D.C. on August 16th, and the initial rounds of negotiations are scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, August 20th. Earlier this week, the White House released its goals for NAFTA, which includes maintaining duty-free status on agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada. The 18-page Summary of Objectives also includes the need to eliminate non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports. The new plan stresses the administration's goal of updating and strengthening the rules of origin laws. However, it doesn't ask for a reinstatement of Country of Origin Labeling on beef and pork imports from Mexico and Canada.

Grassley: Time For Tax Reform

A longtime respected Ag Senator says it’s time to move on from healthcare to tax reform.
The latest failure of Senate Republicans to come together on repealing and replacing Obamacare is putting pressure on the GOP to cut its losses and move onto to other big-ticket items.
And the wheels are already in motion to advance tax legislation, including reforms key for farmers: lower capital gains taxes, an end to the estate tax, single-year equipment expensing, and cash accounting.
Senate Judiciary Chair and longtime Ag member Chuck Grassley had this, when asked if it’s time to ‘turn the page’…
 Former Finance Chair Grassley says a full-pivot from healthcare to tax reform will happen…and the ‘seeds’ for doing that, including legislative vehicles to move a tax bill, are being planted...
Grassley says that doesn’t guarantee that one of agriculture’s biggest priorities, tax reform, will get done by Christmas…quickly adding, he’s seen more White House input on tax changes than in 30-years, including on two reform bills he helped pass as Finance chair.

Atypical BSE Case Discovered in Alabama

An atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was found Tuesday in an 11-year old cow in Alabama. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) says the animal never entered the slaughter process and was no danger to the food supply or to human health. APHIS has determined that the cow was positive for atypical BSE, a kind typically found in cows at least eight years old. It’s different from the more well-known classical BSE that was found in the United Kingdom back in the late 1980s. The most common source of classical BSE is typically contaminated feed. The cow showed signs of the disease when it was discovered via routine surveillance in a livestock market. Barry Carpenter, CEO of the North American Meat Institute, says the fact that the animal was found before it entered a processing plant should reassure Americans that the U.S. animal health surveillance system and safety protocols are working to protect the public’s health. Carpenter says, “The U.S. surveillance system for sampling and testing cattle far exceeds recommended international standards.”

Senate Ag Chair Looks To Crackdown On Fraudulent Organic Imports

Ag Chair Pat Roberts says he knew a year before a media report that the Department of Agriculture’s Organic Program was not intercepting fraudulent imports of organic food. Roberts may now be ready to seek a fix in the next farm bill. He says the Washington Post reported recently that millions of pounds of shipments of possibly fraudulent “organic” products were imported into the US.
But that was not news to the Senate Ag chairman…
Roberts told a farm bill hearing last week that lawmakers need to ensure that "overregulation and antiquated government processes" are not keeping farmers from succeeding in tough economic times…
Roberts says the Board is not keeping up with the huge growth and new technology in the organic market, while an influx of fraudulent “organic” corn and soybean imports meantime, is cutting into domestic producer profits.
Kenneth Dallmier operates the Clarkson Grain Company, based in Cerro Gordo, and he told the Senate Ag Committee the threat is huge…
USDA recently decertified two of three firms involved in fraudulent shipments, while three key Senate Democrats have asked USDA’s inspector general to boost enforcement of organic import standards.
Dallmier recommended the Ag Committee consider adding staff at vulnerable ports, imposing tougher enforcement on shippers and recall requirements for end-users, and use of electronic farm- to-customer tracking devices that have less tampering risk than paper documentation.

Current Farm Downturn Not Likely to Reach 1980’s Crisis

A report by a Farm Credit Administration economist told the Administration’s board members last week that the current downturn in the farm economy is not likely to reach a 1980s-style crisis. Farm Credit chief economist Stephen Gabriel said the “likelihood of this is very low,” adding that a confluence of adverse factors led to the crisis that occurred in the 1980s. He says it would take a similar combination of adverse developments to create another crisis in the farm economy. While the two periods are similar in some respects, Gabriel points out that interest rates were very high in the 1980s, and today’s interest rates are historically low. The price of oil is another major difference, according to his report. In 1979 and 1980, the price surged, while today it is declining. Also, the general economy is in better shape today than it was in the 1980s. The country experienced two recessions during the 1980s' crisis whereas today we're in an "extended, if lackluster, economic expansion," according to Gabriel.

EPA To Hold RFS Hearing Next Month

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing on its Renewable Fuel Standard volume obligations August first. The hearing, to be held in Washington, D.C., will take public comment on the 2018 renewable volume obligations, along with the 2019 RVO for biomass-based diesel, according to Ethanol Producer magazine. The agency released a prepublication version of the proposed rule earlier this month. The proposal calls for approximately 19.24 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the national fuel supply next year, including 238 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, 2.1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel, and 4.24 billion gallons of advanced biofuel. For 2019, the new proposal calls for the biomass-based diesel RVO to be maintained at 2.1 billion gallons. In a notice posted to its website, the EPA said the hearing aims to provide interested parties the opportunity to present data, views, or arguments concerning the proposal. The agency may ask clarifying questions during the hearing, but will not respond to presentations at that time.

ILFB Ag Industry Tour Of Canada - Interviews With Central IL Attendees

47 Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders toured Canada this week as part of an Ag Industry Tour through the IFB.  Local Farm Broadcaster Jared White had a chance to talk with the following attendees from central Illinois....


Kim May - Christian County



John Klemm - DeWitt County



Andy Lawhead - Piatt County



Tucker Muse - Piatt County



Alec Huisinga - Piatt County



These interviews will be featured in upcoming editions of our local Farm Shows on WHOW & WTIM, as well as in special reports all next week on WHOW.

Ag To US Senate - Export Programs Key In Farm Bill

Agriculture Department export program are key to keeping conventional and organic producers in the black, as lawmakers write the next farm bill. That was the message from producers and ag lawmakers at a Senate farm bill hearing.
39 USDA export assistance programs have no funding guarantee when their 2014 farm bill authority runs out in 2019. Programs including Market Access, Foreign Market Development and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops are among them, returning more than  $28 for every dollar invested, or more than $2 billion a year in net farm income, based on a study by Informa Economics.
Greg Haines with the U.S. Meat Export Federation…
Haines, meanwhile, says red meat exports add some 45-cents to a bushel of corn.
Kenneth Dallmier (dall-myer) operates the Clarkson Grain Company in Cerro Gordo, Illinois and told Senate Ag lawmakers USDA also needs to combat fraudulent imports of organic grain by boosting domestic production, legal liability for fraud, and verification tracking…
But verification is not enough. Ag Chair Pat Roberts says the National Organics Standards Board is plagued by “uncertainty and dysfunction,” hampering regulations needed to keep up with rapid growth and innovation in a sector, many growers now depend on to boost sinking margins.

Tennessee Joins Other States limiting Dicamba Use

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture announced new limits on the use of dicamba-based herbicides this week. The move follows practical bans issued by Arkansas and Missouri for using dicamba for row crop applications, as concerns and drift damages mount. Missouri, however, released its “stop sale, use or removal” order Thursday on dicamba-based herbicides. The new rule in Tennessee restricts application to certified private applicators or licensed pest control operators, certified by the state. The rule also prohibits the use of older formulations of dicamba products for the rest of this growing season and restricts application hours to between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The new rules, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture, is in response to farmer-to-farmer complaints of suspected dicamba drift damage to crops. The measures are in effect until October first of this year, and violators could be fined up to $1,500 per violation. With removal of its ban, Missouri announced similar limits on dicamba use Thursday, which includes wind, time and applicator restrictions, as well as required notification of planned dicamba applications online.

Full House To Consider Proposed Ag Budget That Reverses Many Trump Cuts

House appropriators have sent to the full House, the FY '18 Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration spending bill, reversing many of the president's proposed cuts.
The $145 billion bipartisan House bill is $4 billion above the president’s request, but $8.6 billion below current spending.
Still, it restores many of President Trump’s cuts to rural development, research, crop insurance and international feeding programs.
Appropriations Chair, New Jersey Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen (free-ling-high-zen)…
SNAP is still cut by almost $5 billion, to $74 billion, but an amount that meets SNAP enrollment and Democrats can live with. The minority offered few amendments directed at production agriculture. Riders dealing with horse slaughter and e-cigarette advertising failed…swaps regulatory relief passed earlier by the full House was adopted…and sugar program reform was withdrawn.
Democrats embraced the bill’s inclusion of key trade measures. Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro…
The House USDA spending bill includes $1.8 billion for the new USDA trade mission headed by an Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. The bill reverses the president’s proposal to eliminate funding for the nation’s two international feeding programs, fully staffs county Farm Service Agency Offices, and keeps open 17 USDA research facilities the administration wanted to close.
The bill includes $2.8 billion for Ag research, more than $900 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, about the same for conservation programs, and just over $1 billion for food safety and inspection.

USDA Releases July WASDE, Crop Production Reports

The recent World Agriculture Supply and Demand report by the Department of Agriculture projects corn and soybean farmers will grow more crop than previously anticipated. USDA on Wednesday increased 2017-18 corn production to an estimated 14.255 billion bushels and soybean production to 4.26 billion bushels. Corn production came in slightly above the highest pre-report estimates while soybean production came in higher than the pre-report average estimate as well, according to DTN-The Progressive Farmer. The farm price for the 2017-18 soybean crop was pegged at an average of $9.40 a bushel, a 10-cent bump from last month's estimate. For corn, USDA estimated an average of $3.30 a bushel, down 10 cents from earlier estimates. USDA also raised All-Winter Wheat production to 1.279 billion bushels, up 29 million bushels from the June report estimate.         

CBO Expects Baseline Farm Bill Savings

The Congressional Budget Office is out with its latest estimate of baseline funding available to write the next farm bill. The CBO says the last farm bill saved much more than expected on food stamps and crop insurance. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the budget office expects more baseline savings on farm and nutrition programs over the next ten years…
As producers seek a more certain price-floor amid continued low prices and as crop insurance remains a popular safety net program…
7-point-5 billion a year less than the last farm bill. But Grassley points out, funding for 37-farm bill programs will expire without new funding, while numerous groups are calling for new spending in other areas…
Especially since budget writers could demand additional savings in government programs. House Ag appropriators have already proposed a 5-billion dollar cut in FY ’18 food stamp spending.

Trade Retaliation Worries Ag Groups

18 agriculture groups representing the majority of production agriculture sent a letter to the Trump administration recommending it avoid placing restrictions on steel and aluminum imports. The groups are worried that such a move would negatively impact U.S. food and agriculture exports. The groups said in the letter that, “the aftermath of those restrictions could be disastrous for the global trading system and U.S. agriculture in particular.” The letter points out that many of those countries exporting steel and aluminum are also the same countries that import a large amount of U.S. agricultural goods. The letter stresses that “potential retaliation from those trading partners is very real.” The 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade says national security can be a reason to restrict trade but is rarely done. The organizations point out that no other country can dictate what another’s national security needs are. “Now, every country with a sensitive industry would know it could follow the example of America and find a national security reason to circumvent trade agreements, no matter how flimsy the reason,” they said. The farm groups urged the administration to “avoid igniting a trade war” through the imposition of restrictions on steel and aluminum imports.

USDA Authorizes Emergency Haying in Upper Great Plains

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue authorized the release of Conservation Reserve Program land in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, for emergency haying. The announcement comes after agriculture groups and state legislators made urgent requests to the agency to address the severe drought conditions in the Upper Great Plains region. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the conditions are forcing many farmers and ranchers across the drought-scorched region to make tough decisions about downsizing their herd or even keeping their farms. “Given that they’re also dealing with a severely depressed farm economy, the secretary’s action will go a long way toward alleviating some of the concerns currently facing farmers and ranchers,” Johnson said. The U.S. Cattleman’s Association says the announcement will help provide cattle operations with the tools they need to take care of livestock through an especially difficult time.

Missouri Ag Department Wants Dicamba Ban Lifted Quickly

The Missouri Department of Agriculture issued an order Friday afternoon stopping the sales and use of Dicamba herbicides in the state. Products currently impacted by the order include Engenia (in-G-knee-uh), FeXapan (fecks-uh-pan) plus VaporGrip, and XTENDIMAX (extend-uh-max) with VaporGrip. Director Chris Chinn says the three manufacturers – BASF, DuPont and Monsanto – have been working on new Special Local Use labels, with the hope to quickly lift the order when her department receives them...tape
Chinn says as the delay was under consideration, department officials were in regular contact with Dicamba manufacturers and farmers who suspected damage from its use. Those conversations included touring one of the over 100 fields where damage from Dicamba usage is suspected...tape
Interesting to note, Chinn isn't calling the order a 'ban', but instead 'hitting the pause button'. She adds that the department, Dicamba manufacturers, and Missouri farmers all want a product that effectively manages weeds without harming cash crops...tape
Discussions have also taken place with neighboring states, including Arkansas, where a 120-day ban on Dicamba took effect Tuesday. Chinn says she’s hoping those discussions will yield ways to better utilize this and other pest management technologies...tape
The products impacted by the order were recently approved for use on cotton and soybean plants with traits making them resistant to Dicamba.

Farm & Livestock Groups Continue Manure Reporting Fight

Farm and livestock groups will continue to fight for an exemption from emergency reporting of manure emissions, after the EPA lost a federal court decision to environmental groups that sued over the exemption.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied a request by pork, poultry and other livestock and farm groups to rehear its rejection of an EPA exemption from 2008 U.S. manure emission reporting regulations. American Farm Bureau’s Andrew Walmsley argues that hazardous substance reporting is unnecessary for manure…
Walmsley and other ag leaders expect EPA to ask the court to stay its decision and give the agency more time to figure out a way forward. Without a stay, AFB, National Pork Producers, poultry and cattle groups fear more lawsuits by environmentalists…
Walmsley adds, there’s no way scientifically, to measure manure emissions, creating a reporting ‘headache’ for producers, while possibly overwhelming emergency call centers. AFB, NPPC and other groups hope EPA can come up with a regulatory way out of the manure reporting mess.

Syngenta Settles Nebraska Complaint, Minnesota Trial Next

Syngenta has reached a confidential settlement with a Nebraska farmer who claims the company mishandled marketing of its genetically modified seed, which in turn caused corn prices to plummet. Bloomberg says a settlement heads off a trial that was to start this week. Terms of the settlement were not made public. It was just two weeks ago that Syngenta lost a jury verdict worth $218 million dollars because of a class action suit brought by Kansas farmers alleging similar claims against the company. Syngenta will next face a class action suit, which starts in August, up in Minnesota. Farmers there are seeking more than $600 million dollars. The farmers allege that Syngenta rushed its seed into the marketplace before getting approval from China to export the grain over there. China stopped bringing in shipments of corn in 2013, calling the grain shipments contaminated by the GMO seed. The farmers say that set off a five-year depression in corn prices. They also say Syngenta misled them on when China would approve the seed for import. Syngenta disputes the damage claims, saying it did nothing wrong. The company says it didn’t sell the seed until approved in the U.S. and didn’t need China’s approval to do so.

Missouri and Arkansas Halt Dicamba Sale and Use

The Missouri and Arkansas Agriculture Departments both halted the sale and usage of dicamba in their respective states. Those two states have been in the middle of hundreds of misuse complaints. The Arkansas ban is effective for 120 days while the Missouri Ag Department would like to reinstate product usage this growing season after their investigation is concluded. The Missouri Soybean Association issued a statement saying over 200,000 acres of soybeans show at least some level of dicamba damage. The state’s soybean checkoff issued a statement saying it’s clear some type of action is necessary. Missouri Ag Director Chris Chinn said in a statement on the department’s YouTube channel that they’re actively working on the issue. “I’ve asked the makers of these approved, post emergent products and farmers to work with us to determine how we can expeditiously allow applications to resume this growing season,” she said in the video. Monsanto released a statement saying they’re complying with the order and they encourage all growers to do the same. The 120-day ban goes into effect at midnight on Tuesday, July 11th. Arkansas farmers have filed nearly 600 complaints in which dicamba is the suspected pesticide.

EU & Japan Trade Deal Spells Loss For US

The E.U. and Japan have struck a trade deal in principle that if finalized, could put U.S. agriculture and other products at a competitive disadvantage in the huge Japanese market. The deal still needs technical work before the E.U. and Japan can implement it but this week’s announcement in the lead-up to the G-20 economic summit in Germany signals a possible loss for the U.S. and U.S. agriculture. D.C. Ag trade consultant and a former USDA trade chief, Paul Drazek…
Drazek suggests the US could have had from TPP, what Europe will now get from Tokyo…
Including U.S. beef and pork, which spurred the National Pork Producers Council to redouble its request to the White House to get going on a bilateral deal with Japan, the top market for U.S. pork at 1-point-6 billion dollars last year. Drazek says Tokyo may be in no rush after TPP to do a deal with the U.S.…
Drazek says Tokyo is watching how the U.S. handles NAFTA and whether it tries to add new trade-balancing import restrictions, ones that would also apply to Japan.

Mexico is No Longer Top Destination for U.S. Corn

U.S. corn shipments to Mexico have slipped in recent months and Mexico in no longer the number one buyer of American corn. A Bloomberg article says it may be a sign that trade tensions are forcing the country to look elsewhere for corn in case the U.S. is no longer a reliable supplier. Sales through May of this year were down almost seven percent from last year, coming in at $1.04 billion. Japan has become the biggest importer of U.S. corn after boosting its purchases by 53 percent, totaling $1.19 billion. Mexico began looking for other corn suppliers after President Donald Trump’s criticism, which began on the campaign trail when he said Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. through the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexican corn purchases are picking up as the peso rebounds from a record low against the dollar in January. Lesly McNitt, Public Policy Director for the National Corn Growers Association, says the sluggish pace of U.S. corn shipments to Mexico shows the trade relationship may be at risk. “They’re preparing a Plan B,” she said to Bloomberg. Mexico has initiated discussions with suppliers in Argentina and Brazil.

Farm Groups: EPA's New RFS Targets Mixed

Farm leaders are giving mixed reviews to EPA’s just-proposed 2018 renewable fuel volume targets under the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard.
National Corn Growers President Wesley Spurlock says EPA’s proposal to keep the so-called renewable volume obligation for conventional corn ethanol unchanged from this year is good for farmers and rural communities who dealt with RFS uncertainty the last 3-years…
Others were less supportive. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was “disappointed” EPA proposed no increase in biodiesel production, as well as cuts to advanced biofuels and cellulosic ethanol…cuts that he argues will have a “chilling effect” on investment in the next generation of biofuels.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson read from a prepared statement that while the proposed volume for conventional ethanol meets the RFS statute, volumes proposed for advanced biofuels fail to meet President Trump’s biofuels commitment to farmers…
Johnson says the EPA proposal will ultimately fall nearly 7-billion gallons short of levels Congress prescribed and urged EPA to reconsider the cuts when it finalizes a rule by November 30th. The Renewable Fuels Association also expressed concern about the lower volume target for cellulosic ethanol, but praised that for conventional ethanol, saying it will help drive investment in facilities to accommodate higher ethanol blends.

Optimism Returning to the Ag Producers Barometer

The Purdue/CME Group’s June survey shows producers are a little more optimistic about their financial position than they were last year. The shift is why the June index reading of 131 was unchanged from the May survey. The index has held steady for three straight months and remains well above the low levels of last November. The shift in producer expectations is a long-term trend. At this time last year, just three percent of the producers who responded felt their operation was better off financially than the previous year. That number jumped to 10 percent last fall, dropped a bit in winter, and rebounded to its current level of 13 percent, the highest reading since the survey began in 2015. The shift is likely based on several factors, including farm revenues, which increased after large yields in 2016. Production costs also dropped from the previous year, as did many farmland rental rates.

U.S. House Passes Technical Ag Education Bill

High school career and technical ag education programs recently received a boost from the House of Respresentatives The House of recently passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act for the 21st Century. The measure reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. AFBf director of congressional relations RJ Karney says this is vital legislation for the future of Ag businesses…
The bill provides career and technical education plus post-high school job training and retraining, all of which are necessary to build a skilled workforce. Skilled workers are as necessary in rural America as they are in urban areas…
He says the programs in the Perkins Act are well-rounded ag education programs, covering areas like horticulture, forestry, as well as plant and animal sciences. American Farm Bureau will be working to educate senators on benefits the legislation brings to rural communities…
Again, RJ Karney is the director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C.


The Environmental Protection Agency announced they will put forth a proposal to rescind the Obama-era “Waters of the U.S. Rule,” and will clarify what is the actual law of the land. Ethan Matthews is Director of Public Policy for the National Corn Growers Association and he says corn producers are very happy to hear this news…
Corn growers farm over 90 million acres in the country, which means they have a big role to play in the nation’s water quality. Matthews says they need some certainty over what they can and cannot do and what they need to get a permit for…
Matthews says the announcement came about because the administration in Washington D.C. is listening to farmer concerns and that’s a big change from recent years…
The next step for the administration is for the agency to develop its own rule on Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Matthews said the corn growers are looking for clarity of what’s jurisdictional and what’s not under the Clean Water Act…
He adds it’s important that the new rule doesn’t say “everything under the sun” falls under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Senator Grassley Talk Farm Bill Cuts

The writing’s on the wall for the next farm bill: increasing program competition for evermore-limited dollars. One U.S. Senator sees some pretty stark choices. The central farm bill question will again boil down to nutrition versus farm program spending. Longtime Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley sees just two areas to rein in SNAP or food stamp spending…tape
Grassley says such moves spell out a “middle ground,” more likely to get sixty Senate votes than more severe cuts. House appropriators propose in fiscal 2018 to pare 5-billion in SNAP spending to meet slackening program demand, twice what President Trump proposes. Grassley says similar efforts to prioritize and pare spending are needed for farm safety net programs…tape
A USDA official told the Senate Agriculture Committee last week that popular USDA conservation programs from EQIP and CRP to CSP and the Regional Conservation Partnership are underfunded and oversubscribed by several times. The last farm bill cut conservation spending by 6-billion dollars over 10-years.

Retailers Expect Growth in Precision Farming

The last few years have been a challenge in the precision farming industry. Precision Farming Dealer reports that dealers all over the country have been navigating the instability in commodity prices and cautious buying habits of their customers. The fifth annual Precision Dealers Benchmark Study has a more optimistic tone to it than recent years. Retailers are more optimistic about revenue expectations and business objectives. Dealer responses from 28 states and Canada showed 23 percent of dealers showing growth of eight percent or more, more than doubling the 10 percent of dealers projected a year earlier. On the other end of the spectrum, eight percent of dealers reported revenue dips of eight percent or more. It’s the first time in three years that the percentage of dealers experiencing revenue drops was in single digits. Looking ahead, 59 percent of all dealers forecast at least a two percent gain in revenues this year.  Only 11 percent of dealers in the study are predicting a revenue drop of at least two percent, the lowest number of dealers in the study’s history.

Farmland Market Trend Hard to Define

The Farmers National Company recently released a semi-annual market update on farmland prices and it’s hard to nail down just what the trend is. A Pro Farmer report says the best description may be “steady, with exceptions.” The report says the reason trends are hard to figure out is some farmland sells at better prices than expected while other farmland shows a price decline from previous selling prices. Ag land values in most areas should be expected to continue gradually declining over the next several years if commodity prices and farm incomes remain bottomed-out. Interest rate increases, small tax law changes, and world economic challenges will likely keep the pressure on farmland prices over the next year.  The report says there are potential positives ahead for farm and ranch incomes in the future. If the stress on land prices slows and there are no other shocks to the market, land values should move to stabilize over the next few years.  

Farm Bill Number Crunching

It looks like lawmakers will have $130 billion less to write the upcoming farm bill than they did for the past one. The Congressional Budget Office made that announcement when it published its 10-year baseline projections. The C.B.O. predicts that both farm and nutrition programs would cost roughly $822 billion over the next ten years. That breaks down to $679 billion for the SNAP program and $143 billion for ag programs like crop insurance, commodity subsidies, conservation, and other programs. However, the money lawmakers have available could go even lower if Congress passes a budget resolution. House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican, along with the House Freedom Caucus, had been asking for massive farm bill spending cuts over the next ten years. House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway and Black came to an agreement on a spending number that Conaway says will allow him to write a farm bill. Politico’s Morning Ag Report took a look at costs in the 2014 Farm Bill and found lower numbers than expected. The SNAP program, crop insurance, and conservation programs all cost less than budgeted for, with commodity subsidies the only area that cost more than budgeted for in 2014.


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