Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thursday June 20 Ag News

June Rural Mainstreet Index Climbs Above Growth Neutral

The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) for June rose above growth neutral for the month. According to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy, the RMI for June indicated positive growth for the region.     

Overall: The overall index climbed to 53.2 from 48.5 in May. This is the sixth time in the past seven months that the index has risen above growth neutral. The index ranges between 0 and 100 with 50.0 representing growth neutral, and an RMI below the growth neutral threshold. 50.0, indicating negative growth for the month.

“Higher agriculture commodity prices and rebuilding from recent floods boosted the Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) for the month. Furthermore, despite the negatives from the trade war, 69.4 percent of bankers support either raising, or continuing current tariffs,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business. 

Below are the state reports:

Nebraska: The Nebraska RMI for June expanded to 50.6 from May’s 45.9. The state’s farmland-price index increased to 44.0 from last month’s 40.4. Nebraska’s new-hiring index declined to 49.5 from May’s 51.5.

Iowa: The June RMI for Iowa expanded to 51.1 from May’s 46.5 Iowa’s farmland-price index sank to 44.1 from May’s 47.2. Iowa’s new-hiring index for June slumped to 48.9 from 53.1 in May. According to James Brown, CEO of Hardin County Savings Bank in Eldora, “If our farmers take advantage of improved corn prices, it will be a much better year for our customers. That will certainly vary region to region depending on planting conditions and ultimate yields.”

Each month, community bank presidents and CEOs in nonurban agriculturally and energy-dependent portions of a 10-state area are surveyed regarding current economic conditions in their communities and their projected economic outlooks six months down the road. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are included.  

This survey represents an early snapshot of the economy of rural agriculturally and energy-dependent portions of the nation. The Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) is a unique index covering 10 regional states, focusing on approximately 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300. It gives the most current real-time analysis of the rural economy. Goss and Bill McQuillan, former chairman of the Independent Community Banks of America, created the monthly economic survey in 2005.

RMA Announces Change to Haying and Grazing Date for Prevented Planting Acres Planted to a Cover Crop

Farmers who planted cover crops on prevented plant acres will be permitted to hay, graze or chop those fields earlier than November this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) adjusted the 2019 final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1 to help farmers who were prevented from planting because of flooding and excess rainfall this spring.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” said Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall.”

RMA has also determined that silage, haylage and baleage should be treated in the same manner as haying and grazing for this year. Producers can hay, graze or cut cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres on or after September 1 and still maintain eligibility for their full 2019 prevented planting indemnity.

“These adjustments have been made for 2019 only,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “RMA will evaluate the prudence of a permanent adjustment moving forward.”

Other USDA Programs

Other USDA agencies are also assisting producers with delayed or prevented planting. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is extending the deadline to report prevented plant acres in select counties, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is holding special sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in certain states to help with planting cover crops on impacted lands. Contact your local FSA and NRCS offices to learn more.

Chairman Peterson Statement on USDA Flexibility in Programs on Prevented Planting Acres

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota issued the following statement Thursday regarding an announcement by USDA’s Risk Management Agency to move the final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1 and to also allow chopping for silage, haylage, and baleage under RMA’s prevented planting provisions. An earlier deadline will significantly increase the quantity and quality of feed available to livestock producers.

USDA also announced that the Farm Service Agency will be extending the deadline to report prevented planting acres in select counties, and that the Natural Resources Conservation Service will hold special sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to provide cost-share assistance in the planting of cover crops on impacted land.

“Farmers are in need of options and common-sense flexibility given this year’s disaster situation, where we have millions of acres of farm and rangeland impacted. The changes announced today by USDA will go a long way toward providing farmers and livestock producers with options to address the forage situation in many parts of the country. After hearing from hundreds of farmers at a town hall meeting, I urged the Secretary to make this change, and I appreciate the willingness of Secretary Perdue to provide this relief to farmers and ranchers.”

 Cattlemen Applaud changes to Prevented Plant Cover Crop Regulations

The harsh winter and wet spring have caused many challenges for Iowa’s farmers. Through phone calls and discussions at June BeefMeets, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s members have made it clear that increased forage access is needed. ICA staff and board members have been reaching out to Iowa’s congressional delegation over the past month to find a solution and provide more flexibility to beef producers across the state.

An announcement from the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) earlier today is welcome news for our producers. For this year only, farmers who plant a cover crop on prevented plant acres will be allowed to hay, graze or chop these fields on September 1st with no reduction to their crop insurance payment. Sileage, haylage, and baleage will also be permitted.

In a normal year, farmers are allowed access to this forage after November 1st and are never allowed to harvest the cover crop.

RMA will continue to evaluate a permanent adjustment. ICA has also advocated for the Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters Act (FEEDD), which would permanently authorize the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to allow haying, grazing and baling of cover crops on prevented plant acres prior to November 1st. Representatives Loebsack, Finkenauer and Axne are all co-sponsors of the bill.

“ICA and its members are appreciative that RMA responded to the concerns of cattle producers in Iowa,” says Matt Deppe, CEO of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “The adjusted timeline provides much more flexibility and forage for cattlemen this fall.”

USDA Action Will Provide "Much-Needed Relief" for Farmers and Ranchers

Today NCBA President Jennifer Houston issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s change to the haying and grazing date for prevented planting:

“When disaster strikes, it is good to know that livestock producers have strong allies in Washington. Today’s move by USDA will provide much-needed relief for hardworking farmers and ranchers trying to recover from this year’s planting season. NCBA worked closely with both USDA and Congress to get this change across the finish line. Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey and Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre deserve a great deal of thanks. The announcement would also not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Angie Craig (D-MN), and Senators John Thune (R-SD), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Joni Ernst (R-IA).”


Today USDA's Risk Management Agency announced that it has adjusted the 2019 final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1, 2019 to help farmers who were prevented from planting because of flooding and excess rainfall this spring. 

Record High Red Meat and Pork Production in May

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 4.57 billion pounds in May, up 1 percent from the 4.50 billion pounds produced in May 2018.

By State          (million lbs.   -  % May '18)

Nebraska ...:          685.7            101      
Iowa ..........:          689.2            107      
Kansas .......:          518.6            101      

Beef production, at 2.33 billion pounds, was 1 percent above the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 2.94 million head, up 1 percent from May 2018. The average live weight was unchanged from the previous year, at 1,316 pounds.

Veal production totaled 6.3 million pounds, 1 percent below May a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 46,200 head, down 1 percent from May 2018. The average live weight was down 2 pounds from last year, at 236 pounds.

Pork production totaled 2.22 billion pounds, up 2 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 10.4 million head, up 1 percent from May 2018. The average live weight was up 2 pounds from the previous year, at 287 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 13.4 million pounds, was down 2 percent from May 2018. Sheep slaughter totaled 209,200 head, 4 percent above last year. The average live weight was 128 pounds, down 8 pounds from May a year ago.

January to May 2019 commercial red meat production was 22.4 billion pounds, up 2 percent from 2018. Accumulated beef production was up 1 percent from last year, veal was down 1 percent, pork was up 3 percent from last year, and lamb and mutton production was up 1 percent.

Mexico Ratifies USMCA Trade Agreement

Mexico on Wednesday became the first country to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement agreed last year by the three countries to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

By an overwhelming majority, Mexico's Senate backed the trade deal negotiated between 2017 and 2018 after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if he could not get a better trade deal for the United States.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had already said the deal would be ratified this week in the Senate, where his leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its allies have a comfortable majority in the 128-member chamber, reports CNBC.

There has been little parliamentary opposition in Mexico to trying to safeguard market access to United States, by far Mexico's most important export market, and the deal was backed by nearly all the opposition lawmakers who voted.

The USMCA was ratified with 114 Senators voting in favor and four against. There were three abstentions.

Three of the four votes against the deal came from MORENA senators, as did one abstention. The other vote against the deal was from an independent senator, while two members of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) also abstained.

USDA Announces Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today it is offering $75 million in funding for the eradication and control of feral swine through the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP) in a joint effort between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The 2018 Farm Bill included this new pilot program to help address the threat that feral swine pose to agriculture, ecosystems and human and animal health.

NRCS will direct up to $33.75 million of the allocated FSCP funds toward partnership efforts to work with landowners in identified pilot projects in targeted areas. Applications are being accepted through Aug. 19, 2019, for partners to carry out activities as part of these pilot projects in select areas of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. APHIS has determined that these states have among the highest feral swine population densities and associated damages in the country.

“NRCS state conservationists and APHIS state directors, in coordination with state technical committees, have identified pilot projects that can be carried out within these target states,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. “Our agencies stand ready to work with partners at the state and local level to respond to the threat of feral swine.”

Pilot projects will consist broadly of three coordinated components: 1) feral swine removal by APHIS; 2) restoration efforts supported by NRCS; and 3) assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners. Projects can be one to three years in duration.

“The projects selected for funding will allow APHIS and NRCS to collectively reduce the damage and disease caused by one of the most destructive and formidable invasive species in the United States,” said APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea. “Overall, this pilot program builds upon and expands work already underway by APHIS’ National Feral Swine Damage Management Program to both manage feral swine and eliminate populations in partnership with local government, the private sector, industry and academia.”

NRCS is now accepting proposals from non-federal partners to provide landowner assistance for on-farm trapping and related services as part of the pilot projects described above. NRCS will provide funding for these services through partnership agreements. The funding limit for a single award is $1.5 million. Awardees will be required to provide at least 25 percent of the partnership agreement budget as a match to NRCS funding.

Additional information on the complete funding announcement and about specific pilot projects, including target areas and the roles for which partner assistance is being requested, can be found on the FSCP webpage.

Applications must be submitted through by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 19, 2019.

NPPC Thanks USDA For Implementing Farm Bill Program to Reduce Feral Swine Populations

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it was offering $75 million in funding—as part of the 2018 Farm Bill-- for the eradication and control of feral swine through the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program. The pilot program is a joint effort between USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). David Herring, president of the National Pork Producers Council and a pork producer from Lillington, North Carolina, issued the following statement:

"We thank USDA for implementing this important Farm Bill program to reduce feral swine populations. Wild pigs are difficult to control and when in close proximity to domestic production, they are almost impossible to control. Most seriously, we are concerned about the spread of feral swine carrying diseases, including African swine fever (ASF), an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks. While outbreaks of ASF continue throughout China and other parts of Asia, there are no reported cases in the United States. With no vaccination available, prevention is our only defense and that's why this program is so vitally important."

This pilot program was one of NPPC's main priorities in the 2018 Farm Bill. According to USDA, there are an estimated five million feral swine in at least 39 states; the cost of controlling them and the amount of damage they do is about $1.5 billion annually.

NPPC continues to advocate for implementation of other Farm Bill provisions, including carrying out Congress' intent to acquire sufficient amounts of Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccines.

Ag Trade Balance Projected to Fall to $8 Billion in Fiscal 2019

U.S. agricultural exports are projected to total $137.0 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019 (October 2018--September 2019), while agricultural imports are expected to total $129.0 billion, according to ERS's latest Outlook for U.S. Agricultural trade.

The $8.0 billion surplus projected for FY 2019 is the lowest since FY 2006, when the U.S. exported $4.6 billion more in agricultural goods than it imported.

Unlike overall U.S. trade in goods and services, U.S. trade in the agricultural sector consistently runs at a surplus.

Although agricultural exports have increased in value since 2016, the value of imports has risen at a slightly faster rate, leading to a declining trade balance.

Relative to the previous Outlook for Agricultural Trade forecasts in February 2019, exports were revised downward by $4.5 billion while imports were raised by $1.0 billion.

The decline in expected export value was primarily due to lowered expectations for corn and soybean exports.

For imports, the increase in the forecast was due in part to an increase in the expected value of horticultural imports like fruits and vegetables.

Presidential Candidates Called Upon to Increase Fairness for Family Farmers

Today, 35 farm and food organizations called on elected officials and candidates running for office to address the disproportionate market power held by the giant agribusinesses that dominate livestock and poultry markets. The list of priorities for creating fair and competitive markets for family farmers is endorsed by groups from across the country that represent producers raising livestock and poultry.

“Our food system is clearly rigged. While just a handful of multi-national corporations have been allowed to exert more and more control over every step of the agricultural supply chain, farmers and ranchers have been left to cope with higher production costs and fewer marketing choices as well as unfair and abusive business practices. These factors have contributed to the increasingly slim profit margins that have forced too many farms to close their doors. Between 2012 and 2017, nearly 70,000 farms went out of business, most of which were mid-sized, family-owned operations,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President, Roger Johnson. “In light of these circumstances, it is critical that we act now to restore fair competition to agriculture. As the field of 2020 candidates vie for the presidency, we urge them to take the issue of corporate consolidation and anti-trust enforcement seriously by incorporating these recommendations into their platforms.”

The policy changes urged by the groups are needed because the largest meatpackers and processors control all stages of food animal production, forcing farmers into one-sided contracts that eliminate market transparency, depress prices, undermine the livelihoods of independent farmers and ranchers, and threaten farmers’ ability to adopt sustainable production practices.

"Our farm advocates have taken in hundreds of hotline calls from livestock and poultry producers in recent years struggling to make ends meet,” said Sally Lee, Associate Director of RAFI-USA. “These are hardworking farmers who are experts at what they do, but the marketplace has been rigged against them. Farmers deserve dignity and respect for their work, and we cannot let their basic rights be written off in the fine print of an unfair contract."

The groups are calling on elected officials and candidates to support measures to rebalance the economic relationships between farmers, ranchers, consumers, workers, and food companies, including policies to:
·     Enforce and strengthen antitrust and fair practice laws, including enforcement of the Packers & Stockyards Act.                     
·     Ensure access to fair farm credit, including holding lenders accountable for equitable lending practices.
·     Restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork.
·     Stop subsidizing overproduction, including restricting government loan guarantees to large-scale contract operations.
·     Break up food and agriculture monopolies, including instituting a moratorium on new mergers in the food and agriculture system.
·     Stop subsidizing foreign corporations, by prohibiting federal procurement programs from buying meat from animals born, raised or slaughtered outside the U.S.
·     Level the playing field for independent processors, including addressing the bias in food safety regulations toward large corporate slaughter and processing facilities.

“NSAC has long championed legislation and rules that maintain fair competition within the livestock industry,” said Candace Spencer, policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “Without fair competition, livestock growers are forced to participate in a system built around inequitable pay and retaliation, with little to no recourse. We support the principles included in this document, which will help the livestock industry make major strides in increasing fairness for livestock growers, and urge elected officials and candidates to do the same.” 

The groups that endorsed the priorities list are the Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Center for a Livable Future, Community Farm Alliance, Dakota Rural Action, Family Farm Action, Family Farm Defenders, Farm Aid, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Farm Women United, Food & Water Watch, Food for Maine’s Future, Government Accountability Project, Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Kansas Farmers Union, Missouri Farmers Union, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, National Center for Appropriate Technology, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Nebraska Farmers Union, New England Farmers Union, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Ohio Farmers Union, Organization for Competitive Markets, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Progressive Agriculture, RAFI-USA, R-CALF USA, Rural Coalition, and Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Taco Bell Refuses to Consider Using Fake Meat

Taco Bell has long had a reputation as vegetarian friendly, but the Mexican food-fast chain is not planning on adding any plant-based meat substitutes from Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods to its menu.

At the beginning of this year, Taco Bell said it would begin testing a vegetarian menu. The news came around the same time that burger chain Carl's Jr. announced it would start selling a plant-based Beyond Meat burger at its 1,100 locations. Since then, competitors like Qdoba and Del Taco have also added plant-based ground beef imitations to their menu.

"We've looked. We've met with Beyond, we've met with Impossible -- our head of innovation knows everybody, and they all know her," Julie Felss Masino, Taco Bell's president of North American operations, said in an interview. "But I think what we're proud of is that we've been doing vegetarian for 57 years."

So Taco Bell is instead going to focus on growing awareness for its own vegetarian options. The chain, which is owned by Yum Brands, plans to roll out the vegetarian menu nationally in the fall.

Today, 9% of its menu is vegetarian, but customers have been swapping out ground beef for beans in their tacos and burritos for years. In fact, the bean burrito is Taco Bell's No. 2 bestseller.

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