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USDA forecast record U.S. sugar production

Capital Press | Posted on September 5, 2016

While U.S. sugar beet and sugarcane crops are not yet harvested — and Louisiana’s flooding illustrates that anything can happen in an otherwise excellent growing year — USDA’s Economic Research Service is projecting record sugar production.  ERS is forecasting domestic raw sugar production at 9.208 million tons for 2016/17, eclipsing the high mark of 9.05 million tons established in 1999/2000. The forecast includes 5.32 million tons of beet sugar and 3.89 million tons of cane sugar.

NGFA to 'carefully examine' STB rail rate review proposal

Agri-Pulse | Posted on September 1, 2016

The National Grain and Feed Association will be taking a close look at a Surface Transportation Board proposal to develop a new rail rate review process designed to make it easier for grain shippers to challenge unreasonable rates.Under procedures outlined in the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), the STB would design a “comparison group” of similar rail shipments that it would use to judge the reasonableness of the rate being challenged.

Deere Deal for Monsanto’s Precision Planting Opposed by U.S.

Bloomberg | Posted on September 1, 2016

Deere & Co. was sued by U.S. antitrust officials seeking to block its purchase of Monsanto Co.’s Precision Planting LLC equipment business, a deal the government says would eliminate competition and raise costs for farmers. Deere’s acquisition would combine the only two significant U.S. providers of high-speed precision planting systems used by farms, giving the company control of close to 90 percent of the U.S. market, the Justice Department said Wednesday in a complaint filed in federal court in Chicago. "If this deal were allowed to proceed, Deere would dominate the market for high-speed precision planting systems and be able to raise prices and slow innovation at the expense of American farmers who rely on these systems,” said Renata Hesse, the head of the antitrust division. Both companies said they would contest the lawsuit, arguing the combination will benefit farmers. The U.S. allegations are “misguided,” Deere said in a statement. "Competition in precision agriculture is strong and growing in all of these channels."


Statement from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on Farm Income Forecasts for 2015 and 2016

USDA | Posted on September 1, 2016

"Today's farm income forecast underscores the unique ability of American farmers and ranchers to plan ahead and make sharp business decisions in a challenging market, as net farm income for 2015 was revised up significantly to $80.7 billion-an increase of 43 percent since the February forecast. Falling production expenses, including the price of fuel and inputs, was the largest contributor to this latest rally by farmers. Just last week, farm exports for 2016 were revised up to one of the highest levels on record, demonstrating that U.S. farmers and ranchers continue to beat expectations. Overall, farm income over the last five-year period reflects the highest average five-year period on record. Although net farm income for 2016 is forecast to decline relative to 2015, the 2014 Farm Bill has provided for a comprehensive farm safety net that will ensure financial stability for America's farming families. Farm Bill program payments-including Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), and the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP)-are forecast to increase nearly 25 percent to $13.5 billion in 2016. For producers challenged by weather, disease and falling prices, we will continue to ensure the availability of a strong safety net to keep them farming or ranching.  "The estimates today also showed that debt to asset and debt to equity ratios-two key indicators of the farm economy's health-continue to be near all-time lows. In addition to strong balance sheets, median household income for farming families remains near historic highs. In 2016, higher off-farm earnings are expected to help stabilize losses due to low commodity prices."

USDA Announces Initiative to Provide Transitional Housing for Rural Americans in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders

USDA | Posted on September 1, 2016

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced an initiative that will use USDA's rural development resources to help fill the need for transitional housing for people recovering from opioid and other substance use disorders. In January, President Obama tasked Vilsack, who is chair of the White House Rural Council, with leading a federal interagency effort focused on rural opioid use. The initiative is the result of a conversation Secretary Vilsack had in May in New Hampshire at the Hillsborough County Superior Court, where individuals involved with the state's drug court program told him that a lack of access to affordable housing made it challenging for participants to successfully complete their recovery from addiction.

15 NY counties named drought disaster areas

Democrat and Chronicle | Posted on September 1, 2016

Monroe and Ontario counties were among fifteen New York counties designated Monday as primary natural disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to recent drought-related losses.

Mapping the Farm Bill: Expanding the Traditional Farm Coalition

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on September 1, 2016

The traditional corn-cotton-wheat coalition covered an extensive area of national production but concentrated within regions: corn in the Midwest, cotton in the South, and wheat split north to south in the Great Plains. USDA-NASS planted acres data indicates a significant change in commodity plantings over the course of farm bill history (1933 to 2014) as shown in Figure 1. Perhaps, the most notable trend is the increased acres planted to soybeans, going from negligible acres in 1933 to the second-largest crop in the country at over 83 million acres in 2014. The increase in soybean acres appears to have come largely at the expense of acres planted to wheat, cotton and other feed grains (grain sorghum, barley and oats). Acres planted to rice and peanuts are significantly smaller than the other crops and less clear in Figure 1. Peanut acres spiked during World War II, breaking 5 million acres planted in 1943. Rice acres have never topped 4 million acres, with an all-time high of 3.827 million acres in 1981. Importantly, these crops have all long been covered by the programs in the commodity title of the farm bill and thus play a role in the farm coalition and farm bill debates.

The Effect of Medicaid Expansion on Marketplace Premiums

U.S. Health and Human Services | Posted on September 1, 2016

This issue brief examines whether and how much of the Marketplace premium differences between expansion and non-expansion states are  due  to the direct impact of states’ decisions to expand Medicaid. We estimate that Marketplace premiums are about 7 percent lower in expansion states, controlling for differences across states in demographic characteristics, pre-ACA uninsured rates, health care costs, and state policy decisions other than Medicaid expansion (e.g., allowing transitional policies, rating area design), and limiting the analysis to neighboring counties, which might be expected to have similar populations.

USDA makes $11.7m egg purchase

Feedstuffs | Posted on August 31, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans Aug. 24 to purchase shell eggs and egg products for surplus removal.

New rules for Drones go into effect

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Posted on August 31, 2016

The FAA said Monday there will be 600,000 commercial drone aircraft operating in the U.S. within the year as the result of new safety rules that opened the skies to them. The rules governing the operation of small commercial drones were designed to protect safety without stifling innovation, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at a Washington D.C. news conference.  “With these rules, we have created an environment in which emerging technology can be rapidly introduced while protecting the safety of the world’s busiest, most complex airspace,” he said.  Among the FAA’s rules:Drones must weigh less than 55 pounds.A drone can be operated only in daylight.The drone must remain close enough for the person at the controls to see it at all times.The drone can’t be flown over people.Drones must not fly higher than 400 feet.But perhaps the FAA’s biggest move is ending the requirement that only licensed aircraft pilots can fly drones that are being used for business purposes.