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Groups worry FSA may run out of funds for loan guarantees

DYN | Posted on June 2, 2016

Farmers and ag lenders relying on Farm Service Agency direct loans or guarantees could see those loans delayed this summer as demand is quickly draining available funds.  Several ag groups are sending a letter to members of the House and Senate appropriations committees highlighting the escalating demand for these loan programs and pointing out the USDA's Farm Service is expected run out of funds later this month for direct operating loans and guaranteed operating loans. Roughly $650 million in potential farmer loans could be delayed.  "This substantial shortfall will leave many beginning farmers and others who cannot be fully serviced by commercial credit under current price conditions without the loans they need to stay in business," the letter states. Additionally, there will be a backlog and waiting list for the same kind of loans and loan guarantees for FSA's 2017 fiscal year.  Increasingly farmers are turning to FSA for loans and ag lenders are turning to the agency to guarantee loans. An FSA spokesman told DTN the agency has seen 23% more applications for operating loans this year. Funding obligations for those loans are also up 19% from last year. Additionally, demand for FSA guaranteed real estate loans is up 27%.  ate loans is up 27%.

School lunch advocates oppose House block grant plan

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on June 2, 2016

Critics of a U.S. House bill by the education committee say the legislation, which would set up a block grant pilot program in three states, is a first step toward eliminating a federal guarantee of nutritious meals for all school children.  The block grant provision will cut funds for school meal programs and nullify crucial federal mandates, including student eligibility rules for free and reduced price meals and nutrition standards, the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) said

Battle Reignites Over Proposed GIPSA Rules

DTN | Posted on June 1, 2016

USDA, livestock producers and Congress could find themselves in a race to see whether the Obama administration is going to dramatically overhaul rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act this year or face another appropriations rider that would block such action.

Based on Congressional hearings over the past few days in both the House and Senate, leaders of some livestock groups are upset that the proposals are being revived in USDA's Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration.  USDA came out with a statement after some members of the House Agriculture Committee and livestock groups criticized the department's agenda regarding different provisions that highlighted major livestock industry rifts when they were first debated in 2010. USDA stated Congress should not return back to policy riders in appropriations bills to try to block the changes.

USDA stated, “Any efforts to once again block GIPSA’s rules to ensure fair treatment of livestock and poultry growers are not acceptable to this Administration, and do not look out for the best interests of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The incessant GIPSA rider demonstrates a complete lack of concern for honest, hardworking families. Maybe some people don’t remember the hardships recently suffered by our farming families in 2008 and 2009 when producers in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas lost millions of dollars and their livelihoods when just one of the major poultry businesses went under. The focus should be on how to ensure a fair marketplace and a level playing field for our farming families—nothing less. Just ask the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition—groups that represent our farmers—and you’ll hear that this GIPSA rider is bad for family farmers, bad for the agriculture industry and bad for our rural communities. Everyone deserves a level playing field. Everyone deserves a fair shot.”

New Overtime Rules - Are Your Employees Still Exempt?

OFW Law | Posted on May 20, 2016

The Department of Labor this week announced a final regulation that changes the tests for determining whether executive, administrative, and professional employees are exempt from federal overtime requirements.  Now is the time to evaluate whether your employees qualify as exempt.  The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt.

Rural Mainstreet Economy Remains Weak for April: Almost One-Third of Bank CEOs Support April Fed Rate Hike

Creighton University Economic Outlook | Posted on May 19, 2016

For an eighth straight month, the Rural Mainstreet Index fell below growth neutral. • Almost one-third of bankers support an April Federal Reserve short term interest rate hike. • Farmland prices remained below growth neutral for the 29th straight month. Cash farmland rents are down by 7 percent over the past year. • More than four of ten bankersreported rising regulatory costs are the biggest threat to banking operations over the next five years.

Agriculture groups push OSHA to rollback misguided fertilizer regulation

Farm & Ranch | Posted on May 16, 2016

Nebraska farmers and fertilizer dealers are working together with members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation to fix a misguided regulatory proposal by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to the storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. “The regulatory proposal was initiated under a false premise, is unnecessary, and will cost Nebraska cooperatives and Nebraska farmers millions of dollars collectively,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson.

Anhydrous ammonia is a common fertilizer product used by Nebraska farmers and sold by Nebraska cooperatives and fertilizer dealers. In July of 2015, OSHA reversed a long-standing policy of exempting anhydrous ammonia retail facilities from extensive federal regulations governing management of hazardous chemicals. OSHA initiated the changes as a direct result of an explosion at a fertilizer company in West, Texas in April of 2013. While anhydrous ammonia was present at the Texas facility, its presence was not a contributing factor to the explosion.

Congressman Adrian Smith introduced the Fertilizer Access and Responsible Management (FARM) Act, which would repeal these new OSHA regulations. U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer has also led the charge in the U.S. Senate to address this critical issue.

FDA finalizes antimicrobial ingredient rule

Farm Futures | Posted on May 15, 2016

FDA issued a final rule that requires the sponsor of each approved or conditionally approved new animal drug product containing an antimicrobial active ingredient submit an annual report to the Food and Drug Administration.

The new sales data will improve the agency’s understanding of how antimicrobials are sold and distributed for use in major food-producing species and help further target efforts to ensure judicious use of medically important antimicrobials.

Prior to finalizing this rule, animal drug sponsors were not required to submit sales or distribution data by particular species.

US challenges China on chicken again at WTO

agri-pulse | Posted on May 13, 2016

The U.S. is again challenging China at the World Trade Organization over the country's antidumping and countervailing duties on U.S. broiler chicken, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced.The U.S. poultry industry has lost roughly $800 million per year since China began levying its duties on U.S. chicken in 2010, according to USTR officials who predicted they have a strong case against China.

China still buys chicken paws and wing tips, from the U.S., but total U.S. exports dropped by about 90 percent over two years after China began levying the duties on broilers.

Trump visit to Nebraska highlights tariff beef with Japan

DTN | Posted on May 11, 2016

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump told supporters at a campaign stop in Nebraska that he plans to go tit-for-tat when it comes to tariffs on ag products such as beef.  “There won’t be any more tariffs with Japan, or if there will, we’re going to do it the opposite way to them. "You want to charge a tariff of 38 percent to Nebraska for its beef? Then we’re going to charge you a tariff of 38 percent when you sell your cars to the United States. It’s a very simple thing,’” Trump said. 

Trump added that he would make sure China buys U.S. beef as well. Most of China has not allowed direct imports of U.S. beef. 

Yet Trump opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would lower the tariff on beef going to Japan. Japan's tariffs on beef are 38.5%. Under the TPP, the tariffs will fall over all to 9% over 15 years.

U.S. beef producers have supported TPP partially because it would level the playing field with Australia. Under the existing Australia-Japan FTA Australian beef producers will see their tariff in to Japan drop to 23.5% for chilled beef within 15 years.  The U.S. tariff on imported autos is 2.5% while it is 25% for trucks.

USDA makes $8,7 Million Available for Risk Management Education

USDA | Posted on May 11, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced $8.7 million in cooperative agreements for risk management education and training programs. The funding would give organizations needed resources to develop training and education tools to help farmers and ranchers, especially those traditionally underserved or with limited resources, learn how to effectively managing long-term risks and challenges. Through these partnerships, producers will receive assistance in understanding and using crop insurance programs and other tools so they can make the best risk management decisions for their agricultural operations. Past award recipients have included universities, county cooperative extension offices and nonprofit organizations.

Available funding includes $4.4 million for the Crop Insurance in Targeted States Program. The program backs development of crop insurance education programs where there is a low level of federal crop insurance participation and availability. The targeted states are Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming