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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.


10th District manufacturing activity continued to decline

Kansas CIty Fed | Posted on August 25, 2016

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released the August Manufacturing Survey today. According to Chad Wilkerson, vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the survey revealed that Tenth District manufacturing activity continued to decline modestly. “Firms reported another slight drop in activity in August but remained moderately optimistic about activity heading forward,” said Wilkerson. 


FDA awards grants for tribes and local food producers

The Packer | Posted on August 25, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration has awarded grants to help tribal operations and local food producers receive appropriate food safety training.The FDA said the Local Food Producer Outreach, Education, and Training to Enhance Food Safety and FSMA Compliance cooperative agreement was awarded to the National Farmers Union Foundation. The agreement will help deliver science-based, culturally specific food safety training, education and outreach for local food producers and processors.


Your Food Policy Guide to the 2016 Election

Lucky Peach | Posted on August 24, 2016

With each new election cycle presidential hopefuls craft a campaign platform to bring American voters to their side. And while issues like immigration, job security, taxes, healthcare, and gun control have made predictable appearances in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s platforms, issues of food and agriculture—with the exception of a few bullet points in Hillary’s “Plan for a Vibrant Rural America”—are once again glaringly absent. But we are a nation of eaters, and that is not okay. Here’s a look at three important issues and what the November election may mean for our food system’s future.


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