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Agriculture News

Grants to Improve Massachusetts Farm Food Safety | Posted on February 4, 2019

The Baker-Polito Administration today awarded $300,000 in grants to 21 Massachusetts farms to install practices that improve food safety within their operations. The Agricultural Food Safety Improvement Program (AFSIP) is a competitive grant program that allows agricultural operations to complete food safety upgrades on their farms, enabling the operations to meet buyer demands, increase consumption of local food and protect public health by reducing food safety risks. 

Farm subsidies to leap on $9.8 billion in trade aid

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 4, 2019

Government payments to farmers are forecast to hit their highest level in more than a decade because of the trade assistance being provided to producers this year, and the total could go even higher if Congress, as expected, authorizes a new round of disaster aid. The Trump administration's temporary Market Facilitation Program, launched last fall to compensate farmers for lost exports of soybeans and other crops due to retaliatory tariffs, will pay out $9.8 billion in fiscal 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office's latest projection of farm program costs. The $17.2 billion in total farm program spending that CBO estimates for FY19 doesn’t include additional disaster assistance that Congress is considering for producers harmed by hurricanes and wildfires in 2018. A bill passed by the House would authorize $3 billion in agricultural disaster aid. 


Dairy economists: Not a lot to be optimistic about

Capital Press | Posted on February 4, 2019

The government shutdown left a void in market data for the dairy industry, with no reports on milk production, stocks, prices, world supply and demand and exports. Markets have been struggling for four years, with 2018 the worst for milk prices and dairy farmers, Bob Cropp, University of Wisconsin dairy economist, said.The effects are increasingly being felt, judging from conversations with dairy producers and bankers, Stephenson said.“The persistence of this downturn is really starting to take its toll,” he said.Farms are exiting at an increased rate, people are getting discouraged about the dairy industry and cow values are really low, almost at cull cow prices, he said.

Our government's dairy conundrum

The Week | Posted on February 4, 2019

The United States' dairy surplus has reached a record high, rounding out at 1.4 billion pounds of cheese. Reports attempting to quantify this astonishing amount have deferred to metrics like "enough to wrap around the U.S. Capitol." Suffice to say, nobody's suggesting we could consume it all. In the past, the U.S. government has supported dairy farmers through various programs and agencies, accumulating a staggering surplus with policies unique to this industry. What it's done with that surplus has changed the American welfare state and diet forever.

America’s Twin Deficits since 1980

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on February 4, 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, reduced business and personal taxes with anticipated economic stimulus effects.  However, this Act may worsen the trade deficit by stimulating imports, and the Congressional Budget Office forecasts it will increase the Federal fiscal budget deficit.  This article reviews what is often called “America’s twin deficits” using data from the US National Income and Product Accounts, (see first Data Note and Source).  The review starts with 1980, when President Ronald Reagan’s election launched the US on a fiscal policy path dominated by tax cuts.

Lawyers appeal dismissal of lawsuit filed on horse's behalf

Capital Press | Posted on January 29, 2019

Attorneys for a once-neglected horse are filling an appeal after an Oregon judge dismissed their lawsuit last year, finding that animals don't have a right to sue. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports lawyers from the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the horse's former owner for lifelong costs of medical care.The horse named Justice was discovered in March 2017 covered in lice, 300 pounds underweight and with frostbitten genitals.Washington County Pro Tem Judge John Knowles tossed the lawsuit in September, saying "non-human animals are incapable of accepting legal responsibilities."He said granting legal standing to animals could result in a "flood of lawsuits."

Idaho to pay legal fees after losing 'dairy spying' lawsuit

The Seattle Times | Posted on January 29, 2019

A panel of Idaho officials will meet next week to consider paying $260,000 for attorney fees and other costs after losing a lawsuit over an unconstitutional law that sought to criminalize surreptitious filming at agricultural operations. The law was dubbed the “ag-gag” law by critics. It was passed by the Legislature in 2012 after an undercover investigator for a group called Mercy for Animals filmed workers abusing cows at an Idaho dairy.

Agriculture disaster spending bill socializes risks while privatizing profits

Des Moines Register | Posted on January 27, 2019

The latest agriculture disaster spending bill provides further proof that despite all rhetoric, lawmakers are not concerned with helping farmers and ranchers protect themselves from risks they cannot manage on their own. Instead, it’s the latest instance of tapping the Treasury to socialize risks while privatizing profits. The result shovels more federal dollars to powerful interests who can – and should – do a better job of managing predictable risks in their chosen line of work.

Farmers, enviros alarmed by USDA’s new wetlands rules

Agri-Pulse | Posted on January 27, 2019

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is likely to receive a decidedly mixed bag of comments on a rule it issued last month that seeks to clarify when producers have wetlands on their farms. Wetland advocates are concerned that NRCS is trying to weaken its highly erodible land protections by allowing faulty maps to be used to determine whether wetlands exist on the landscape. Enacted in the 1985 farm bill, the so-called "Swampbuster" language prohibits farmers who have converted wetlands to cropland from receiving USDA program benefits.The American Farm Bureau Federation, on the other hand, is worried NRCS may be giving itself too much leeway to determine when wetlands exist on the landscape.For its part, NRCS says it is simply trying to make everything clearer for producers trying to figure out what’s on their lands.

Study: Tariffs on metals will cost U.S. agriculture billions

UPI | Posted on January 27, 2019

United States tariffs on steel and aluminum will cost the nation nearly $2 billion in agricultural exports each year -- even if a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada is ratified, according to a study from Purdue University. Purdue economists said the trade deal would increase food exports to those countries by about $454 million annually. But if the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum -- and the associated retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural products -- remain in place, exports to those countries will decrease by $1.8 billion."In terms of exports, it is relatively sizable when compared to the relative benefits we would get from the new trade deal," said Maksym Chepeliev, a research economist at Purdue, who was one of the authors. In the face of those losses, dozens of national agricultural groups joined together to ask the Trump administration to lift the tariffs on steel and aluminum."For many farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, the damage from the reciprocal trade actions in the steel dispute far outweighs any benefit that may accrue for them from USMCA," the groups wrote in a letter to the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.The letter was signed by representatives from 46 groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Pork Producers Council.The Trump administration levied a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from Canada and Mexico on June 1. Canada and Mexico responded with a tariffs on U.S. products, including pork and corn.The USMCA was signed by leaders of the three nations Nov. 30, but it awaits Congress' approval for the U.S. to formally enter into the agreement.