Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday April 25 Ag News

Ricketts Once Again Fails to Deliver Property Tax Relief

Nebraska Farmers Union’s Board of Directors evaluated the wins and losses in the recently concluded legislative session during their spring board meeting.  Like most Nebraskans, the Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) board was most frustrated over the failure to deliver property tax reform.

The NeFU board gave high marks and thanks to Senator Tom Briese of Albion for having the honesty, courage, and good sense to sponsor LB1084 that would have provided real property tax relief, adequately funded education, provided for a long overdue study of the state’s school aid funding formula, and re-aligned the excessive overuse of property taxes by updating Nebraska’s current income and sales tax exemptions.  The board also thanked the Nebraskans United for Property Tax Reform and Education coalition, and Open Sky Policy Institute for their hard work the past year in developing the coalition package that became the basis for Sen. Briese’s LB1084.  The board re-affirmed their organization’s commitment to being a part of this unique and constructive working coalition.

The NeFU Board of Directors put the primary responsibility for the legislature’s failure to address the property tax crisis at the feet of Governor Ricketts and Revenue Committee Chair Jim Smith.  “Governor Ricketts and Chairman Smith failed to lead real reform efforts at a time when farmers are being forced out of business from low commodity prices.   The Revenue Committee failed to put the competing property tax relief packages on the floor early enough in the session for proper discussion and consideration.  Governor Ricketts and Chairman Smith’s focus was on income tax reductions, not property tax reform. It is not fiscally responsible to support income tax rates and revenue reductions when Nebraska’s current revenues are not sufficient to meet the state budget funding obligations.  Kansas tried that, approach. It did not work.  Nebraskans are clamoring for property tax relief, not income tax reductions.”

The NeFU board added:  “When 72% or 178 out of 244 of Nebraska’s school districts do not currently receive any state equalization aid, and are forced to rely solely on property taxes, something is seriously and obviously wrong, and cries out for remedy.  When Nebraska is 49th in the nation in the percentage (32.5%) of income and sales taxes used for total educational funding from the state, it is high time the state increases the amount of income and sales taxes used to fund education.”

The NeFU board concluded, “It is less than honest and certainly not helpful for Governor Ricketts to continue to pass the buck and blame local schools for using too many property taxes to operate their schools when they receive no state funding.  When schools do not receive income and sales tax revenues from the state, they are forced to rely on local property taxes.  High property taxes are the direct result of an unfair, unbalanced, state tax policy that fails to properly fund K-12 education.  High property taxes are primarily a funding problem, not a spending problem.  After four years, Governor Ricketts now owns our state’s unfair, out of balance, out dated, regressive, property tax intensive K-12 funding policy.” 

NE Ag Study Trip to Germany June 25-29th

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture along with stakeholders organizations like Nebraska Cattlemen have worked with the German American Chamber of Commerce to promote understanding and trade possibilities in both countries.

In September of 2017, the collection of Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Wheat Board, Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture were part of the Transatlantic Agricultural Dialogue with an event at the Raising Nebraska facility of State Fair Grounds. This collaborative effort has been addressing opportunities since 2014. The program is run by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest based in Chicago.

This cooperative effort continues with a return trip to Germany in late June with the focus on “Study Trip to Germany on Consumer Engagement”. This will be a terrific opportunity to visit Germany, connect with German farmers and learn of their efforts to meet the challenges of dealing with consumers not familiar with modern agriculture practices.

Please strongly consider attending.

Field Scouting Basics Workshop a One-Day Course for Crop Scouts

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will offer a Field Scouting Basics Workshop on Thursday, May 10, at the Field Extension Education Laboratory near Boone. Designed for beginning-level crop scouts, the course provides hands-on, in-field experience for the 2018 growing season.

“The goal of the workshop is to provide a hands-on learning opportunity in the field lab, and help participants feel confident when they’re scouting fields in 2018,” said Warren Pierson, program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Scouts are the "eyes and ears" in the field and their reports help drive pest management decisions. Crop scouts often discover other problems in the field, such as nutrient deficiencies, implement malfunctions, and other issues that might not otherwise be noticed during the growing season.”

ISU Extension and Outreach specialists and extension field agronomists provide instruction on the principles of integrated pest management with emphasis on weed, insect and crop disease identification in Iowa corn and soybean production. An overview of basic field scouting skills including sample collection, observation and documentation is also offered.

An optional Agricultural Worker Pesticide Safety Training session is included with registration. Recent updates to the Worker Protection Standard require crop scouts who enter fields where pesticides have been applied to receive training before they begin work and every 12 months.

The Field Scouting Basics Workshop presentation topics and instructors include:
-    Crop scouting tips and tools – Angie Rieck-Hinz, extension field agronomist
-    Corn and soybean growth and development – Mark Licht, extension cropping systems agronomist
-    Weed identification – Bob Hartzler, extension weed specialist
-    Disease identification – Ed Zaworsky, Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic
-    Insect identification – Erin Hodgson, extension entomologist
-    Agricultural Worker Pesticide Safety – Betsy Buffington, extension program specialist

Registration check-in opens at 9:30 a.m. The program starts at 10 a.m. and adjourns at 4 p.m. The optional Worker Protection Safety Training session follows until 5 p.m. Pre-registration is required and must be completed before midnight, May 6. Registration is $100. Additional workshop information and online registration is available at

For assistance with registration, receipts, cancellation or questions on the status of your registration contact ANR Program Services at 515-294-6429 or

Dairy Margin Protection Program Changes: Understanding the Changes, Webinar Offered

Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist

The United States Department of Agriculture made changes to the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for dairy producers within the Bipartisan Budget Act which was signed into law on February 9th, 2018.  These changes included a new signup for 2018 which began April 9th, 2018 and will end on June 1st, 2018.

To learn more about the revised Dairy Milk Protection Program (MPP) producers are invited to attend the upcoming webinar on May 2nd at 11:30 a.m., CST featuring Marin Bozic, University of Minnesota Assistant Professor in Dairy Foods Marketing Economics.  To register for the webinar go to .  After you register, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.  This webinar is hosted jointly by Minnesota Milk, Iowa State Dairy Association, Nebraska State Dairy Association, North Dakota Livestock Alliance, and South Dakota Dairy Producers, and the I-29 Moo-University Collaboration.

It is important to note that the new signup allows producers to make new elections for 2018, even if you had previously signed up that are now retro-active back to January 1, 2018.  Producers should also note that if they previously elected coverage for 2018 they must now make a new election they will not have coverage in 2018.

Producers will need to register and complete form CCC-782, along with electing a coverage level if they want coverage for 2018.  Additionally, a $100 administrative fee will be assessed unless a qualified waiver is available. 

Changes to the Milk Protection Program include the following:
·    Revised premium costs for Tier 1 levels
·    Tier 1 volume was increased from 4 to 5 million pounds
·    Indemnities are now determined monthly
·    There is an exemption for the administrative fee for limited resource, beginning, veteran, and disadvantaged producers.  Dairy operators who were enrolled previous to 2018 and paid the administrative fee may request a refund if they qualify for this exemption.

For additional information about the Dairy Milk Protection Program go to USDA’s web information page at or to access the or to access the Margin Protection Program Decision Tool aid go to .

NCGA Endorses Thune-Brown ARC Improvement and Innovation Act

The National Corn Growers Association today endorsed legislation introduced by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to improve the Agriculture Risk Coverage Program.

"The Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) Improvement and Innovation Act will make needed improvements to the farm safety net, ensuring ARC can continue to be a reliable risk management program for farmers during times of depressed prices. Based on the recommendation of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) grower-led Risk Management Team, NCGA is pleased to endorse this legislation and looks forward to working with the Senate Agriculture Committee on this measure," said NCGA President Kevin Skunes.

The bill incorporates a number of the NCGA Risk Management Action Team's (RMAT) recommendations to enhance the ARC program's effectiveness in a lower price environment.

Soy Growers Applaud Precision Ag Connectivity Act

The American Soybean Association (ASA) today applauded the Commerce Committee for moving forward the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018. ASA President and Iowa soybean grower John Heisdorffer issued the following statement:

“ASA welcomes the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 and thanks Sens. Wicker and Klobuchar and Representatives Lotta and Loebsack for introducing legislation which understands the unique needs of growers in rural America.

“We urge swift passage in the U.S. Senate as wireless broadband connections in the field support on-farm operations and in turn rural communities. This legislation is important to rural America and soy growers everywhere.”

Soy Growers in D.C. to Talk Tariffs, Importance of Trade with China

American Soybean Association (ASA) farmer leaders from across the country took to Capitol Hill today to talk with lawmakers about the potential impact of Chinese tariffs on U.S. soybeans. ASA President and Iowa farmer John Heisdorffer issued the following statement:

“China purchases 61 percent of total U.S. soybean exports, and more than 30 percent of overall U.S. soybean production. In short, trade with China matters and is vital not only to the hundreds of thousands of U.S. soybean producers but the rural economies and communities that depend on them.

“Today we’re asking lawmakers to support their communities and constituents by joining ASA in encouraging the Administration to rethink the Section 301 tariffs and instead, empower soybeans to continue to be part of the solution.

“We’ve come to D.C. and left our fields during planting season to educate and convey the importance of trade with China. Our message is clear: a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans into China will have a lasting effect on every soybean farmer in America.”

Retail Fertilizer Trends - Change Coming to Fertilizer Prices?

According to retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the third week of April 2018, prices continue to be mostly on the higher side. However, there are signs that perhaps this is finally changing.

For the first time in several months, multiple fertilizers were actually lower in price compared to the month before. Both MAP and urea had slightly lower prices with MAP having an average price of $502/ton and urea $368/ton.

The remaining six fertilizers were again higher compared to last month, but these moves were small. DAP had an average price of $484/ton, potash $353/ton, 10-34-0 $431/ton, anhydrous $508/ton, UAN28 $240/ton and UAN32 $275/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.40/lb.N, anhydrous $0.31/lb.N, UAN28 $0.43/lb.N and UAN32 $0.43/lb.N.

Half of the major fertilizers are now higher compared to last year, with prices pushing higher in recent months. Both potash and urea are now 4% more expensive; MAP is 8% more expensive; and DAP is 11% higher compared to last year.

The remaining four fertilizers are lower in price compared to a year ago. Both 10-34-0 and anhydrous are 1% less expensive, while UAN32 is 2% lower and UAN28 is 3% less expensive looking back a year.

EPA Data Shows Small Refiner Waivers Have Lowered 2016, 2017 RFS Blending Obligations by 1.6 Billion Gallons

EPA’s recent actions in exempting small refineries from their Renewable Fuel Standard blending obligations for 2016 and 2017 have effectively lowered the volumetric obligations by at least 1.6 billion gallons, according to an analysis of the agency’s own monthly compliance data by the Renewable Fuels Association. The volume of lost blending obligations for these two years is 10 times the collective volume of lost volume from 2013-2015.

In recent weeks, it’s been widely reported that EPA has exempted as many as 25-30 small refineries from their RFS blending obligations in 2017, and as many as 20 refineries from their 2016 obligations. Despite numerous requests from industry stakeholders, including RFA, and lawmakers for additional information, EPA has not disclosed the exact number of exemptions granted or the volume of required renewable fuel blending that was effectively erased.

However, recently updated data found in EPA’s EMTS database provides some clarity on the volume of gasoline and diesel fuel that was exempted from blending requirements in 2016 and 2017. “The EPA data strongly imply that small refiner exemptions have resulted in effectively lowering the 2017 required volume of renewable fuels by 1.11 billion gallons, or 6%. The data also show that small refiner exemptions also effectively reduced the 2016 RFS requirement by 523 million gallons,” according to the analysis.

Based on EPA’s EMTS database, the actual annual consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel in 2013-2015 was very close to the volume of gasoline and diesel fuel obligated for RFS compliance, as reported by obligated parties. “This means RFS blending obligations applied to virtually every gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel produced and consumed in the United States,” the analysis explained. “However, something clearly changed in 2016 and 2017. The EPA data show large discrepancies between actual gasoline and diesel consumption and the volumes obligated for renewable fuel blending as reported by obligated parties. The difference was 5.2 billion gallons in 2016, virtually doubling to 10.3 billion gallons in 2017. The only reasonable explanation for these large discrepancies between actual gasoline/diesel consumption and the volume of gasoline/diesel obligated for renewable fuel blending is the surge in small refiner exemption approvals,” the analysis found.

“This analysis, based by EPA’s own data, confirms our concerns and sheds light on the scope and magnitude of Administrator Pruitt’s campaign to undermine the RFS,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “While EPA refuses to publicly confirm the details surrounding the numerous small refiner waivers it has issued, this data speaks for itself, showing the demand destruction that has resulted from Administrator Pruitt’s secret small refiner bailouts. Combined with the PES bankruptcy settlement and EPA’s failure to enforce the 2016 RVO as remanded by the courts, Administrator Pruitt’s actions have erased demand for more than 2 billion RINs. These moves are hurting America’s biofuel producers, farmers, and ultimately consumers, and they stand in direct opposition to President Trump’s commitment to protect the RFS.”

FDA Commissioner Pledges More Focus on Mislabeled Imitation Dairy Foods

 U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told a Senate panel on Tuesday that federal standards define milk as a product sourced from animals, and said his agency would be “taking a very close and fresh look” at imitation, plant-derived foods labeled with dairy-specific terms.

In response to questions from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing yesterday, Dr. Gottlieb also admitted that the agency has “exercised enforcement discretion” in not holding food marketers to that standard, as a variety of plant-based foods using dairy-specific terms have proliferated in the marketplace in the past two decades.

NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern said that the FDA “must stop turning a blind eye toward violations of food labeling laws. It needs to use more enforcement, and less discretion, as dozens of brands flagrantly violate government requirements.” NMPF has repeatedly urged federal regulators to enforce U.S. food labeling laws that exclude the ability of plant-derived foods from using the term, as do other nations that also have regulations clearly defining milk.

Mulhern thanked Baldwin “for holding the FDA accountable for its inaction on this matter, and imploring the FDA to do its job.” Last year, Baldwin introduced the DAIRY PRIDE Act, legislation that would compel the FDA to adopt a timetable for taking enforcement action against mislabeled imitation dairy products. More recently, the omnibus spending bill Congress approved last month contains language expressing its concern that dairy labeling standards need to be properly enforced.

Gottlieb told Baldwin that the agency “is committed to taking a fresh look about what we’re doing here” in the area of standards of identity.” He said he “has actively stepped into this issue,” having heard the concerns of Baldwin and NMPF about the lax regulatory environment surrounding misbranded plant products using terms such as “milk,” “yogurt,” “cheese” and “ice cream.”

He added that the agency is requesting more information to inform its next steps. Baldwin told Gottlieb that there is no need “for further review or study.  What we need is the FDA to act, and to issue guidance on enforcement of its existing dairy standards of identity.”

Dairy Industry Commends Congress’ Call for NAFTA Action on Canada’s Dairy Policies

U.S. dairy groups today commended the bipartisan efforts of 68 members of Congress who encouraged the U.S. Trade Representative to eliminate Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy exports and its protectionist pricing policies during the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations. The bipartisan coalition of members of Congress, representing states on both coasts and in the Midwest, sent a letter yesterday to Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, urging him to demand an end to Canada’s trade-distorting Class 7 pricing program, as well as its dairy tariffs, which have created an unfair playing field and essentially eliminated U.S. exports of certain dairy products.

In the letter, Reps. Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa., Ron Kind, R-Wis., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., and 64 additional representatives expressed their concerns about Canada’s unfair trade practices on behalf of America’s 40,000 dairy farmers and the nearly 3 million workers whose jobs are tied to dairy product manufacturing. Canada has imposed stiff tariffs of 200 percent to 300 percent on U.S. dairy exports for many years.

“We commend the efforts of these congressmen for tackling Canada’s ever-expanding list of restrictive trade policies, which have had a negative impact on our U.S. dairy industry and the U.S. economy overall,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “Canada’s Class 7 milk pricing policy, implemented 14 months ago, artificially lowers milk ingredient prices and incentivizes the substitution of domestic Canadian dairy ingredients for imported ingredients. It also promotes the dumping of Canadian proteins onto world markets at below-market prices.”

“Our dairy farmers are facing dire economic conditions this year, and the Canadian pricing scheme and tariffs are curtailing much-needed markets for U.S. dairy products. NAFTA should not be concluded without securing provisions that curb Class 7 and any other trade-distorting pricing scheme to ensure that U.S. dairy products can compete fairly in Canada, as well as in other markets,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “It is time to for Canada to eliminate all dairy tariffs so we can have true free trade across North America for all commodities.”

“It is critical that the U.S. pursue an aggressive strategy to stop Canada’s ongoing and intentional disregard of its trade commitments to the harm of U.S. dairy farmers and exporters. Otherwise, Canada’s new policies will chip away not only at the current trade with Canada but also at our trade surpluses to other markets that import milk powder as well,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

With a level playing field in export markets, the U.S. dairy industry will continue to keep and create jobs in states across the country. The industry supports nearly 3 million workers, generates more than $39 billion in direct wages and has an overall economic impact of more than $200 billion, according to IDFA’s economic impact tool, Dairy Delivers.

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