As devastating images of the 2019 Midwest floods fade from view, an insidious and longer-term problem is emerging across its vast plains: The loss of topsoil that much of the nation’s food supply relies on. Today, Midwest farmers are facing millions of bushels of damaged crops such as soybean and corn. This spring’s heavy rains have already caused record flooding, which could continue into May and June, and some government officials have said it could take farmers years to recover.As scientists who have a combined 80 years of experience studying soil processes, we see clearly that many long-term problems farmers face from floodwaters are steeped in the soil. This leads us to conclude that farmers may need to take far more active measures to manage soil health in the future as weather changes occur more drastically due to climate change and other factors.
High-paying blue-collar jobs lifted incomes in West Virginia, New York and Illinois last year, even though the states lost residents, while farmers and government workers shared the pain of more stagnant income in Nebraska, Maryland and Washington, D.C.The new per-capita income numbers show how national policies and international markets directly affect state and local pocketbooks. Deregulation in the United States and a heat wave in China boosted coal demand in West Virginia, for example, while overseas mining and farming led to more giant truck manufacturing in Illinois. At the same time, U.S. tariffs hurt Nebraska soybean farmers.The administration’s trade war with China took a toll on Nebraska, one of the nation’s most agriculture-dependent states. Sales of soybeans and other food to China suffered, said Ernie Goss, a regional economist at Creighton University in Omaha. Low oil prices also kept a lid on profits from corn-based ethanol, he said.Nebraska ranked last in per-capita income growth, with almost no change after inflation, at about $52,110.
The so-called bomb cyclone that brought heavy snow, blizzard conditions and major flooding to the Midwest in March landed with a resounding meteorological “ka-boom!” and became one of two billion-dollar weather and climate disasters this year. The other was a severe storm that struck the Northeast, Southeast and Ohio Valley in late February. And it’s only April.
African swine fever (ASF) is widespread in China, spreading elsewhere around the world and carries significant potential to impact all animal protein industries in 2019 and beyond.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has given the Environmental Protection Agency 90 days to decide whether to allow the use of chlorpyrifos. The appeals court issued a three-paragraph order today giving the agency until mid-July to respond to objections from farmworker and environmental groups to EPA's 2017 decision permitting continued use of the insecticide.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released 2017 Census of Agriculture data show the amount of land in the largest federal conservation programs has decreased nationwide and in many Midwest and Plains states. But that doesn’t mean farmers are ignoring soil health, nutrient runoff or erosion problems. The census asks about federal conservation and wetlands programs, which Michigan State University researcher Adam Reimer said typically refers to land retirements — taking marginal lands out of production in exchange for money. The largest one, the Conservation Reserve Program, doesn’t allow as many acres now as it did before the 2014 farm bill.
Researchers at the Agriculture Department laughed in disbelief last summer when they received a memo about a new requirement: Their finalized, peer-reviewed scientific publications must be labeled “preliminary.” The July 2018 memo from Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the acting USDA chief scientist, told researchers their reports published in scientific journals must include a statement that reads: “The findings and conclusions in this preliminary publication have not been formally disseminated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy.” The claim that reports are not “formally disseminated” runs counter to the USDA policy that “permits and, indeed, encourages researchers to publish in scientific journals,” Offutt said. The disclaimer has been added to studies published in peer-reviewed journals since at least November. These include a report on pestilent moth larvae caught at the U.S. border, an analysis of food poisoning from chicken livers and a study of the SNAP food assistance program and childhood asthma.“Any scientist reading a journal, seeing that, would be very confused by this statement,” said Ed Gregorich, editor of the Journal of Environmental Quality, which frequently publishes research by USDA scientists.Peer-reviewed articles are the gold standard for sharing scientific information, Gregorich said. After a research team submits an article to a journal, the editors ask other experts in the subject to review the work. Those reviewers, often anonymous, check the study’s experimental designs, statistics and conclusions, and they can ask for revisions or reject the article if it is not scientifically sound.
According to the National Survey of Terms of Lending to Farmers, non-real estate lending continued to increase at a moderate pace in the first quarter. The volume of non-real estate loans increased 9 percent from a year ago (Chart 1). Although the volume of loans to finance operating expenses remained relatively steady, volumes for livestock loans and loans to finance machinery and equipment increased. The increase in livestock lending likely was due, in part, to slightly higher prices for livestock. In addition, volumes for other loans increased notably due to an uptick in both the size and number of loans.
Tariffs are taxes that Americans pay. These taxes are being paid by American farmers, retailers, manufacturers, businesses and consumers. Based on monthly tariffs on imports Americans have paid thus far, every second the trade war drags on costs Americans $1,155. While that number alone is far too high, it doesn't include the cost of retaliatory tariffs that are causing exports to plummet, or the price of programs that are paying our farmers for the losses they have incurred, or the tariffs’ ripple effects on the broader U.S. economy. It also doesn’t include the cost of uncertainty the trade war has created that is preventing American businesses from being able to plan for the future, invest and grow.
When the 2018 farm bill passed in December 2018, the inclusion of a vaccine bank against foot and mouth disease “a huge win for the pork industry,” said Mike Haag, an Illinois pork producer and president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. That project was just one part of a larger effort to improve biosecurity and protection from foreign animal diseases, a issue that has only increased in importance as African swine fever continues to spread across parts of Asia and Europe.