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The ARC farm program failed as a widespread safety net for agriculture in 2017

Ag Policy | Posted on December 18, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, a reader from Iowa wrote us, “I stopped into the Farm Service Agency office today…to see if there would be any farm subsidies this year, (as I hadn’t received any yet). They said there would be none for my county and most other counties [in Iowa].  “So, your predictions about ARC [Agricultural Risk Coverage] have come true, a bit more dramatically than I expected.”He then asked, “I wonder what it’s like in other states?”That piqued our interest, so we decided to look up the numbers and share with all of our readers what we found. First, let’s start with Iowa. Farmers in 12 of Iowa’s 99 counties (12 percent) received county ARC payments for corn. With soybeans, the picture is much the same, 11 out of the 99 counties (11 percent). As for wheat, no Iowa counties were listed for ARC payments.Our next step was to look at the other two I’s of the triple I corn belt states, Illinois and Indiana.In Illinois, the picture was not much brighter. For corn, 18 counties (18 percent) received ARC payments, while 19 (19 percent) received soybean payments. In addition, farmers in 37 (36 percent) of the state’s counties received ARC payments for wheat.Moving one state east, the picture for corn remained much the same; 17 Indiana counties (19 percent) received ARC payments. With soybeans, the picture is quite different. Farmers in 35 counties (38 percent of the state’s counties) received ARC payments and a whopping 72 counties (78 percent) qualified for wheat ARC payments.The state with the highest percentage of counties receiving ARC payments for corn was Maine (93.8) followed by South Dakota (67 percent), North Dakota (57 percent), and Kansas (52.4 percent). For soybeans the ranking begins with Ohio (65 percent) followed by South Dakota (59 percent), North Dakota (57 percent), and Michigan (52 percent). Turning to wheat, Idaho (86.4 percent) leads the list of states with the highest percentage of counties receiving ARC payments, with North Dakota (85 percent), South Dakota (80 percent) and South Carolina (80 percent) following close behind.

Groups push for ag to be included in any U.S./EU trade deal

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on December 18, 2018

An ad hoc coalition of more than 50 food and agriculture organizations is insisting that any trade deal between the United States and the European Union include agriculture and that it address the EU’s restrictive tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. farm products. In a letter sent to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, 53 organizations, led by the National Pork Producers Council, urged the Trump administration “to continue stressing to [the EU] that only a truly comprehensive agreement will be acceptable to the Administration and, ultimately, to the U.S. Congress.”The EU has expressed reluctance to include agriculture – as it did during earlier negotiations on the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – knowing it would require lifting import barriers that protect EU farmers and removing regulatory measures that are seen as scientifically unjustified or overly restrictive.The United States had a trade deficit in food and agricultural goods of nearly $11 billion last year. That deficit was $1.8 billion in 2000.

Stabenow: Farm Bill would benefit Detroit's urban agriculture

The Detroit News | Posted on December 18, 2018

Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow on Monday championed reforms to encourage urban agriculture in the 2018 Farm Bill. Stabenow, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, urged President Donald Trump to sign the bipartisan legislation that would widen a safety net for farmers, encourage conservation efforts and protect food assistance programs.Both chambers of Congress passed the bill by wide margins last week."I see through the lens of Michigan, and Michigan really is on every page," Stabenow said during a press conference at Eastern Market. "I'm proud we were able to get this done in the midst of all of what has been happening in Congress...This is something that will be a wonderful Christmas present for many, many, many people."Of particular importance for places such as Detroit, the bill would create the Office of Urban Agriculture in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support urban farming and job creation.

U.S. ethanol producers seek pricing reform as markets plunge, ADM sells

Reuters | Posted on December 18, 2018

U.S. ethanol producers stung by collapsing prices are seeking changes to the way benchmark values for the biofuel are established, arguing the current system used by exchanges is vulnerable to manipulation, according to sources. The push comes as the key farm belt industry struggles with weak demand growth, a loss of export markets due to the U.S. trade war with China, and aggressive selling by global commodities giant Archer Daniels Midland Co that have pushed ethanol prices to 13-year lows.Top U.S. ethanol producer POET LLC has asked the CME Group to change its pricing method for a key swap contract used by the industry to hedge, and the rival ICE exchange is contemplating offering an alternative to CME’s product after discussions with biofuels companies, according to three sources familiar with the moves who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

USMCA will cause US ag exports to decline by $1.8B

Watt AgNet | Posted on November 22, 2018

A new report says the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will expand U.S. agricultural exports by $450 million, but those gains will be negated by retaliatory tariffs by Canada and Mexico against the U.S. The study, “How U.S. Agriculture Will Fare Under the USMCA and Retaliatory Tariffs,” was commissioned by agricultural policy institute Farm Foundation and completed by Purdue University agricultural economists Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, Ph.D., Wallace Tyner, Ph.D., and Maksym Chepeliev, Ph.D.The analysis says retaliatory tariffs will cause U.S. agricultural exports to decline by $1.8 billion and that, with continued tariffs from China and other trading partners, “the United States would see a decline in agricultural exports of $7.9 billion, thus overwhelming the small positive gains from USMCA.”

Beijing issues rare public warning on 'serious' swine fever crisis

CNN | Posted on November 22, 2018

Chinese authorities have announced strict new measures in an attempt to halt the country's fast-growing African swine fever crisis, which has spread to 18 provinces and led to the culling of more than 200,000 pigs.Days after acknowledging the situation was "serious," the Chinese Agricultural Ministry on Friday reported the first outbreak of the disease in the southwestern province of Sichuan in a farm of 40 pigs.The news is especially concerning for officials as Sichuan is the top swine-producing region in China -- a country that produces half of the world's pigs with a current population of around 500 million swine.Although the disease poses no direct danger to human health, its arrival and spread in China have increasingly threatened the pork industry, with major potential impact on supplies and prices in coming months.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the census citizenship case. Here’s why that matters.

Washington Post | Posted on November 22, 2018

Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March that a question about citizenship would be added to the 2020 Census. Wide-ranging opposition followed — from local and state government officials, members of Congress and former Census Bureau directors, all citing consequences for decades to come. Historically, the Census Bureau has worked to guarantee the most accurate count of the entire United States population, notwithstanding citizenship. Census-recorded data has been used to determine how to draw congressional districts, allocate federal funds, and for national disaster and epidemic preparedness.Ross, embroiled in a multistate lawsuit to block the question, has been accused of adding it for partisan purposes. Key issues in the case have made their way to the Supreme Court.The census, which is mandated by the Constitution, may be necessary to a well-functioning democracy, but can this last-minute addition to the survey truly have such dramatic costs?Yes, and one that affects all U.S. residents, including legally documented populations.The most commonly discussed consequences of an undercount are its effect on congressional districts and federal funding. Robert Shapiro, senior policy fellow at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, estimates that more than 24 million people could avoid the 2020 Census to keep their information from being shared with law enforcement. This would affect federal programs, such as Medicaid, Section 8 Housing and school lunch programs.

Immigration and the dairy industry

Daily Sentinel | Posted on November 22, 2018

As dairy operations increase animal numbers, they have also increased dependence on a larger labor pool. That labor pool has become less dominated by family members, and more dependent on foreign born labor. There undoubtedly would be benefits, however, there is significant risk for the dairy industry in any immigration legislation.The most recent significant immigration legislation was the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. In 2013, the full U.S. Senate passed the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” a bipartisan, comprehensive reform bill (S 744).This bill was never given a vote in the House even though it was widely viewed as having sufficient support to pass. The agricultural portion of S 744 was negotiated between agricultural organizations and farm labor representatives to address the needs of agriculture.One more recent proposal was the 2018 “AG and Legal Workforce Act,” HR 6417. This bill would have eliminated the H-2A visa and created an H-2C visa encompassing not only agricultural jobs, but also meat processing and food manufacturing. The bill would have authorized employers to pay below the FLSA minimum wage by imposing deductions and charges on workers.

A $12 Billion Program to Help Farmers Stung by Trump’s Trade War Has Aided Few

The New York Times | Posted on November 22, 2018

America’s farmers have been shut out of foreign markets, hit with retaliatory tariffs and lost lucrative contracts in the face of President Trump’s trade war. But a $12 billion bailout program Mr. Trump created to “make it up” to farmers has done little to cushion the blow, with red tape and long waiting periods resulting in few payouts so far. According to the Department of Agriculture, just $838 million has been paid out to farmers since the first $6 billion pot of money was made available in September. Another pool of up to $6 billion is expected to become available next month. The government is unlikely to offer additional money beyond the $12 billion, according to Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary.The program’s limitations are beginning to test farmers’ patience. The trade war shows no signs of easing, with China and the United States locked in a stalemate that has reduced American farmers’ access to a critical market for soybeans, farm equipment and other products. Europe is planning more retaliatory tariffs on top of those already imposed on American peanut butter and orange juice, and Canada and Mexico continue to levy taxes on American goods, including on pork and cheese.

Mexico authorizes 26 Brazilian meat plants to export chicken

Reuters | Posted on November 21, 2018

Mexico has authorized 26 Brazilian meat plants to export chicken products into the country, Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry said on Monday, as the two nations seek to strengthen commercial ties amid a realignment of global trade partnerships.