READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 13th…

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Stabenow Shares Labeling Proposal

Ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, has shared the language of her GMO labeling bill with committee chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican. Stabenow also says her staff has briefed groups on both sides of the debate regarding her proposal. Roberts told the Hagstrom Report that he was reaching out to committee members to hear their concerns and that “any proposal must be vetted by members of Congress and stakeholders.” Roberts says the Stabenow proposal most garner more votes than his compromise bill that failed in the Senate. A spokesperson for Stabenow told the Hagstrom Report “if the chairman and his caucus are serious about getting a bill finished before July first, it’s time they make it clear what they are willing to support.”  Industry groups say they have yet to see the full Stabenow proposal, but many noted the need for Congress to find a compromise before the Vermont Law takes effect in July.

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Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Quietly Begins GMO Labeling

Bottles of Pepsi were recently found sporting the phrase “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” The Consumerist reports Pepsi, along with sister company Frito-Lay, plans to label products on a nationwide basis. The company says the “Partial” terminology can be used on any product that uses less than 75 percent of ingredients from GMO sources. Pepsi has quietly begun the GMO labeling as the company is part of a lawsuit against the Vermont labeling law. Pepsi and Frito-Law are members of trade groups which filed the lawsuit alleging the labeling requirement is unconstitutional. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the rule. In April 2015, the district court denied the trade groups’ request for an injunction and the industry appealed the ruling. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the matter in October last year but has yet to issue a ruling.

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Midwest Farm Debt Accumulating

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank Thursday announced farm debt in the Midwest is increasing. In the first quarter of 2016, the bank says loan demand continued to rise, repayment rates continued to weaken, and almost all district bankers under the KC Fed Bank reported that farm income declined. The Bank released its Ag Credit Survey, which says that although cash rents declined modestly, production costs have remained high and many producers reduced both capital and household spending to cut costs. Farmland values also moderated slightly and were expected to remain under pressure in the coming year. Through the first quarter, survey respondents reported three full years of increasing loan demand amid reduced profits. Bankers noted that poor cash flow prevented many borrowers from paying off loans from the previous year, causing them to carry outstanding debt into the first quarter. Further,  bankers noted that more than 18 percent of loans made in the first quarter involved restructuring existing debt to meet short-term liquidity needs.

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Agriculture Groups Eyeing Next Farm Bill

Farm groups are already looking ahead to the next farm bill. Agriculture and commodity groups are starting meetings regarding issues facing agriculture that the groups deem important for the next farm bill, expected in 2018. The meetings are starting early because, as DTN reports, agricultural groups were not on the same page when the push began for what became the 2014 farm bill. The 2014 farm bill started as a rushed effort in 2011, and the processes dragged into 2014. A lobbyist with the American Soybean Association told DTN “if we want things to come out any differently the next time around then we need to prepare for it.” National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner is chairing the gathering of farm groups, and says “It’s not too early to talk about how the current bill is functioning.” So far, the meetings have been mostly educational but have focused on cotton and dairy producers who are effectively operating with little or no safety net right now. Conner says he hopes the discussions over the next year will create more unity among agricultural groups before the Congress starts on the next farm bill.

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Bayer, BASF, Interested in Monsanto

Both Bayer and BASF are exploring a combination with Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer. Thursday, Bloomberg News reports Bayer was exploring a bid for Monsanto while Street Insider said BASF was also looking into acquiring Monsanto.  High crop inventories and low prices have placed pressure on the industry to consolidate within the last year. Earlier this year, ChemChina agreed to acquire Swiss-based Syngenta for $43 billion, while Dow Chemical and DuPont combined into a $130 billion company last year. Monsanto also made a bid for Syngenta last year. Monsanto officials have long argued, according to Reuters, the company needs to buy or team up with a large crop chemicals maker as farmers increasingly look for one-stop shopping.

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Survey Finds Farmers Want Control of Their Data

A recent survey finds farmers want control of the data being generated on their farms. The Survey released this week by the American Farm Bureau Federation, also shows farmers believe that creating a cooperative-style central storage for their data is the best way to enhance its security and maximize its value. Farm Bureau is a founding member of the Ag Data Coalition, an organization created by several agricultural groups and companies to help farmer’s better store and manage their information in a central location. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says “this survey also shows that we are on the right track.” Survey respondents also ranked vendor transparency high among their priorities. Further, 55 percent of respondents said they did not know if their contracts with vendors indicated they owned or controlled their own data.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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