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The Outlook for U.S. Agriculture From USDA’s Chief Economist

Farm Policy News | Posted on March 2, 2017

Dr. Johansson noted that, “Farm income has fallen dramatically since 2013, falling almost 30 percent in real terms. That is the largest 4-year drop in farm income in 40 years, when real farm income fell more than 45 percent between 1973 and 1977.  We have seen record production in major commodities over the past few years, and as a result prices are down significantly.  Baseline projections show flat farm income throughout the 10-year forecast period.”

Decrying ‘small thinking,’ Trump calls for big infrastructure plans

Agri-Pulse | Posted on March 1, 2017

In his first address to Congress, President Trump Tuesday night declared that the “time for small thinking is over” and called for massive infrastructure spending, deep tax cuts and immigration reforms that he promised would unleash new economic growth.  “We will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began,” he said.Trump also touted his “historic effort” to roll back and eliminate “job-crushing” regulations, and his decisions to clear the way for construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.He didn’t mention the “waters of the United States” rule directly, but earlier in the day Trump signed an executive order to withdraw and replace the measure issued by the Obama administration to expand the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.


The Senate Agriculture Committee wants your input into the next farm bill!

Senate Agriculture Committee | Posted on February 24, 2017

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee wants your input into the next farm bill.  By going to this link, you can leave your comments.

New Immigration Rules to Affect Farmers

DTN | Posted on February 24, 2017

Agricultural leaders say farmers aren't panicked yet by the Trump administration's new memos on immigration enforcement, but concerns are growing that illegal immigrants, who are the backbone of most farm labor in the country, could increasingly become targets of deportation. The tighter enforcement could have a major impact on farmers who rely heavily on undocumented labor, said Frank Gasperini, executive director of the National Council of Agricultural Employers. Gasperini told DTN there are increasing concerns from farmers right now over how the Department of Homeland Security will enforce its new guidelines. "There's isn't an awful lot of impact yet, but people are becoming more worried," Gasperini said.  Gasperini also pointed to a section in one of the two Homeland Security memos that noted the federal government would assess all penalties and fines against the workers "and those who facilitate them being here." That statement can be interpreted to mean employers "because they wouldn't be here if it weren't for the jobs." Gasperini estimated more than half of the country's 1.5 million seasonal workers are undocumented. "They are scared and they are reacting like scared people, which is reasonable," Gasperini said. The migrant stream normally starts in Florida and Texas then moves to Georgia, the Carolinas and northward as the seasons change. Five years ago when states started getting tougher on undocumented workers, Alabama lost much of its tomato crop and Georgia lost part of its Vidalia onion crop. Georgia attempted to replace migrant farm labor with prison labor, but that failed. Farmers across the country are affected when the flow of migrant workers is disrupted, Gasperini said. "It hurt states like Michigan badly, and it hurt parts of Pennsylvania and other states as well," he said.

2017 ag policy watch list: issues bigger than the Farm Bill

Agriculture Economic Insights | Posted on February 23, 2017

As you will see from our list, ag policy makers will likely spend most of 2017 on issues much bigger than the Farm Bill.  Trade:The three largest buyers of U.S agricultural exports are Canada, China, and Mexico. Collectively, they accounted for 44% of total ag exports in 2015. These three countries– for better or worse- have been at the epicenter of recent trade discussions. In fact, Mexico suggested last week they would use the U.S. corn market as their front-line defense (or retaliation) in the event of any ”trade war” breaking out. Border Adjustment Tax: A Border Adjustment Tax (or BAT) has been suggested in recent months. There are several details to the proposed tax, but the basics of the plan is to tax all imports at 20% (a short video explanation here). On the surface, this seems to support the U.S. economy, but the devil lies in the indirect impacts the tax would have. Economists who research tax and trade – again, not Brent and David-  estimate the 20% tax would result in the U.S. dollar appreciating.  Many estimates we have seen suggest that it would be roughly a one-to-one relationship, thus the dollar would increase 20%. Renewable Fuels Standard:The RFS has been law since 2005. While many have campaigned against the RFS, a congressional repeal of the RFS seems unlikely. However, the implementation of the RFS is subject to rules from several government agencies, including the EPA. To date, the interpretation of the RFS has been favorable. The new administration could take a critical look at the RFS and relax some of the mandates or change how the law is implemented.

The end of biomedical research on U.S. chimps may imperil their wild brethren

Scienceline | Posted on February 23, 2017

In the dense woods of Northeastern Louisiana, Penny, a 52-year-old chimpanzee, doesn’t let age discourage her – she’s an avid climber of the forest’s lofty conifers. After living for decades as a captive animal in a treeless laboratory, Penny was retired to Chimp Haven in 2011, a spacious sanctuary for retired laboratory chimpanzees. And Penny is hardly alone. She lives here with some 300 other chimpanzees, and after being federally emancipated from research colonies, hundreds more are on their way.  It has been over a year since the National Institute of Health ended its chimpanzee biomedical research program, which experimented on chimpanzees in efforts to advance human medicine. The end of this invasive research, while inarguably fair for apes like Penny, has some researchers alarmed – not for humans but for wild apes. Africa’s great apes are in a bad place. Their meat fetches a high price and their forest homes are being engulfed by swelling human communities. Both chimpanzee and gorilla populations show catastrophic declines. In less than two decades, the chimpanzee population in Gabon was slashed in half, and nearly 80 percent of Grauer’s Gorillas disappeared in a single generation, dropping the population to just 3,800 individuals.  But yet another culprit – invisible and insidious – lurks in the African woods and threatens these fractured, endangered populations: infectious disease. It can come in the form of the ruthless Ebola virus, which has killed  an estimated one in three great apes since 1990. And it can also come from an increasingly present source: humans, who pass deadly respiratory diseases to genetically similar animals. There is a solution – vaccination – but some scientists think the end of the National Institute of Health research program is hampering conservationists’ efforts to develop and test effective vaccines. And time might be running out.

Bill would clarify solid waste disposal rules for ag

Capital Press | Posted on February 23, 2017

Western lawmakers have proposed an amendment to the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act to help farmers understand which manure management rules they’re supposed to follow. HR 848, the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act, would reaffirm and clarify Congress’ intention regarding manure management under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, also known as the Solid Waste Disposal Act. The new legislation would also prevent farmers who are already engaged in legal action or making a “diligent attempt” to work with state or federal governments to address manure management issues from being targeted by citizen lawsuits, according to the lawmakers.

House Ag Committee Approves Two Pesticide Bills

DTN | Posted on February 23, 2017

The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, which would clarify congressional intent regarding pesticide regulation in or around waters of the United States, and H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act, which reauthorizes the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act PRIA was intended to create a more predictable and effective evaluation process for affected pesticide decisions by coupling the collection of fees with specific decision review periods. It also promoted a shorter decision review period for reduced-risk pesticides.

Congress Starts Farm Bill Talks; Dairy Revisions Being Discussed

Lexis Nexis Newsdesk | Posted on February 23, 2017

U.S. dairy industry faced difficult economics in 2016 with dropping milk prices. However, many producers felt the government safety net in the 2014 farm bill did little to help.  As work starts on the 2018 farm bill, the House Agriculture Committee heard shortcomings of the present act and challenges of a farmer-friendly version.  Scott Brown, University of Missouri Extension dairy economist, testified Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C., before the committee in the House of Representatives.  Dairy policy is not easy, Brown testified. Estimates when forming the 2014 Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) did not work as planned. MPP made a big shift in dairy policy. It went from the long-used price support to selling risk management on dairy farm margins between feed costs and milk income. Dairy farmers familiar with milk prices didn't accept margin protection as expected. In 2016, they needed help and MPP paid very little. Milk prices fell from $24 per hundredweight in 2014 to $16 in 2016. Changes in global milk economy affected U.S. producers. Global milk supply grew while a strong U.S. dollar cut U.S. exports. "Domestic milk supply and strong dollar still face U.S. producers in 2017," Brown said. Despite tough times, U.S. dairy herd continues to grow. The recent cow count shows 48,000 cows were added in 2016.

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate, water rules through executive action

The Washington Post | Posted on February 22, 2017

President Trump is preparing executive orders aimed at curtailing Obama-era policies on climate and water pollution, according to individuals briefed on the measures.  While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. Individuals familiar with the proposals asked for anonymity to describe them in advance of their announcement, which could come as soon as this week. One executive order — which the Trump administration will couch as reducing U.S. dependence on other countries for energy — will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities. It also instructs the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing. A second order will instruct the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revamp a 2015 rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, that applies to 60 percent of the water bodies in the country. That regulation was issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gives the federal government authority over not only major water bodies but also the wetlands, rivers and streams that feed into them. It affects development as well as some farming operations on the grounds that these activities could pollute the smaller or intermittent bodies of water that flow into major ones.