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Agriculture News

U.S. farm incomes fall in 1st qtr; trade war remains top risk to agricultural economy -Fed banks

Reuters | Posted on May 12, 2019

U.S. farm incomes in the Midwest and Mid-Southern states declined yet again in the first quarter of 2019 amid ongoing strain from low commodity prices, trade uncertainty and severe weather, according to banker surveys released on Thursday by the Federal Reserve Banks of St. Louis and Kansas City. Most bankers said one of the biggest risks to the farm economy this year remained the trade fight between the United States and China.It marked the 21st consecutive quarter for farm incomes dropping in the Eighth Federal Reserve District, which includes all or parts of seven Midwest and Mid-South states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee."Farmers are running out of capital," one Arkansas banker told the St. Louis Fed, according to the survey. "Commodity prices are too low for input costs and rents (and) land payments."Agricultural credit conditions also deteriorated during the first quarter of 2019 in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, according to a banker survey report released on Thursday afternoon by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.Repayment rates for non-real estate farm loans - such as loans farmers would take to pay for operational costs - were lower than a year ago, and renewals and extensions of such loans were higher, according to the report.


Scientists warn a million species at risk of extinction

Reuters | Posted on May 9, 2019

Loss of biodiversity stems from human activity, report says.* Wide transformation of economic systems needed-report says. Study is the work of 145 expert authors from 50 countries. Report echoes conclusions of U.N. climate change panel.

Economists flee Agriculture Dept. after feeling punished under Trump

Politico | Posted on May 9, 2019

Economists in the Agriculture Department's research branch say the Trump administration is retaliating against them for publishing reports that shed negative light on White House policies, spurring an exodus that included six of them quitting the department on a single day in late April. The Economic Research Service — a source of closely read reports on farm income and other topics that can shape federal policy, planting decisions and commodity markets — has run afoul of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with its findings on how farmers have been financially harmed by President Donald Trump's trade feuds, the Republican tax code rewrite and other sensitive issues, according to current and former agency employees.The reports highlight the continued decline under Trump’s watch in farm income, which has dropped about 50 percent since 2013. Rural voters were a crucial source of support for Trump in 2016, and analysts say even a small retreat in 2020 could jeopardize the president’s standing in several battleground states.

USDA Announces Repayment Options for Producers with Coverage in Previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy

USDA | Posted on May 9, 2019

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that dairy producers who had coverage under the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy), which provided payments to producers when the price of milk fell below the feed costs to produce it, are eligible to receive a repayment for part of the premiums paid into the program. To be eligible for this repayment, which was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, a dairy operation must have participated in the MPP-Dairy during any calendar year from 2014 through 2017, have the repayment calculated and verified by FSA and elect one of two options by September 20, 2019. Operations whose established production history has been transferred to an heir or new owner also are eligible.An operation’s repayment amount is calculated for each applicable calendar year in which that dairy participated in MPP-Dairy, from 2014 through 2017. The repayment amount is equal to the difference between the total amount of premiums paid by the dairy operation for each applicable calendar year of coverage and the total amount of payments made to the MPP-Dairy participating dairy operation for that applicable calendar year. 

Dean Foods Falters in More Concentrated Milk Market

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on May 9, 2019

America’s biggest milk maker is running out of options as milk consumption continues to decline in the U.S. Dean Foods Co.’s sinking sales also have been hurt by big customers such as Walmart Inc.opening their own dairy plants to help guarantee their own supply. The dairy company’s sales last year of $7.8 billion were down 38% from a decade ago.Shares in Dean Foods have lost around 60% of their value this year, and the Dallas-based company’s $141 million market value is about 5% of what it was worth a decade ago.

USDA economists fear crackdown on research

Politico | Posted on May 9, 2019

 Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s plan to relocate the Economic Research Service outside the Beltway has triggered a brain drain of veteran economists, amid staff complaints the administration is cracking down on research that doesn’t align with White House priorities. Perdue’s relocation plan for the agency, which some ERS members believe is retaliation for reports that are unflattering to Trump administration policies, has triggered a brain drain at ERS, your host writes today.A steady flow of veteran researchers has left ERS in recent months, including six economists with more than 50 years of experience who left on one day in late April.The number of non-retirement departures from ERS so far in fiscal 2019 is on track to be more than twice as high as the previous three-year average, according to data collected by employees.Some current and former ERS economists told POLITICO they view the relocation as a form of punishment for the agency’s findings that don’t always align with Republican arguments on issues from taxes and trade to farm subsidies, food stamps and the environment.

Florida Producer Survives Undercover Video Attack

Milk Business | Posted on May 9, 2019

Someone had shot an undercover video on his dairy.  “I’ll always remember that day, Nov. 9, 2017,” Larson recalls. “We really didn’t have any warning. By the time she emailed it to me it was already online. Boy, it was rough. The initial reaction when I first saw it, I was just gut shot. I literally didn’t eat anything for 24 hours. I just wanted to throw up.”Larson’s phone was blowing up with calls, and he couldn’t keep track of them all. There were so many that he couldn’t even get a call in to his office. When he finally made it through, they knew all about the video—they were swamped with calls as well. It got so bad Larson had to unplug the office phones. Some of the calls were press, most were harassment. “Every member of our family and extended family was affected,” Larson says. “Unfortunately, the Larson name was severely tarnished. The activists were so good at their attack, even some people in the industry who knew us began to have some doubts.”The right communications are critical in the first few hours in a situation like this, and Sleper says SMI felt it necessary to take a major role in communications, strategy and decision-making. He says while it takes a team effort between different stakeholders, a cooperative can play a pivotal role with its link between other dairy producer members, customers and stakeholders such as FDF, NMPF and industry experts. 

New York wants to fight climate change through good farming. Here's the dirt.

Grist | Posted on May 9, 2019

Dobson’s work drew the attention of Barrett a few years back. In 2015, she toured the farm for the first time and asked him for advice on how to incentivize climate change–thwarting farming practices. “It just seemed like a no brainer,” Barrett said. “New York can lead on this.” The resulting pilot project, included in this year’s state budget, will test out different methods of farming in a way that promotes soil health and fights global warming.It’s true that nothing quite compares to the natural ability of trees to soak up carbon dioxide. Reforesting parts of the U.S. could sink up 307 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 65 million cars), whereas cover cropping could mitigate 103 million metric tons (another 21 million cars), according to a 2018 study in Science Advances.But humans need farms to survive. And it’s Dobson’s kind of farm that might just help us survive in the long run.

The Mississippi River has been flooding for 41 days now

NPR | Posted on May 9, 2019

The Mississippi River has been at major flood stage for 41 days and counting, and this week a temporary wall failed, sending water rushing into several blocks of downtown Davenport, Iowa. In that same area — the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois — the river crested at a new record height. The National Weather Service says a new record appears to have been set at Rock Island, Ill.The previous area record was set during the Great Flood of 1993 — and as NPR's Rebecca Hersher has reported, that flood caused some $15 billion in damage.Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch says the city had placed temporary barriers to protect against rising water, and a small section of those barriers eventually was breached on Tuesday after holding for weeks."We evacuated about 30 to 40 residents in that area who lived in some condo areas there," he tells NPR's Here & Now. "We deal with [flooding] every year, but this was an unexpected breach and a lot of water got into that area."The upper Mississippi was inundated with massive amounts of rain earlier this week, exacerbating the already high river level. "The state of Iowa has received more precipitation in the last 12 months than any recorded period in 124 years of data," Bob Gallagher, the mayor of the upriver town of Bettendorf, told reporters Friday. "When you get as much rain as we have this year there's just no way to avoid this situation.

America's farmworkers are aging, not being replaced

UPI | Posted on May 9, 2019

The average age of America's hired farm laborers is steadily increasing, threatening the future of the nation's farming industry. The reason is the foreign-born workers, who comprise more than half the workforce, are getting older. At least half those workers are unauthorized. And because the United States is cracking down on illegal immigration, younger immigrants are not arriving to replace them.Between 2007 and 2016, the estimated number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico dropped about 22 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. During roughly that same time period, the average age of migrant and immigrant farmworkers in the United States rose from just under 36 in 2006 to nearly 42 in 2017, according to the report, released last week by the USDA Economic Research Service."This is a pretty big concern," said Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University. "If that group is aging, farmers are going to have more problems finding workers. Their bottom lines will be under pressure."The issue mainly impacts fruit and vegetable growers and dairy farmers -- operations that require human labor to pick ripe produce and milk cows. Commodity crop growers require far fewer hands, as they can use machines to plant, tend and harvest their crops.National farming organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation warn that unless something is done to address the impending labor shortage, produce and dairy farms across the country will struggle to stay in business. As these farms cease operating, the United States instead will import produce, mostly from Mexico and other Latin American countries."We can import workers, or we can import food," said Will Rodger, a Farm Bureau spokesman. "It's really that simple."But addressing the labor shortage is no simple matter.