READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, July 28th…

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USDA Seeking Additional Funding for Farm Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking for other funding sources for the Operating Loan Program that helps farmers. The $2.65 billion allocated for the program has already run out, as requests for federal financial assistance grow amid the worst agricultural downturn in more than a decade. USDA is seeking additional funding to “help bridge the gap in farm operating loans as much as possible” until additional funds are available, according to Reuters. The Farm Service Agency last month suggested funding for this fiscal year would be depleted before the program restarts in October. Loans in the program are considered a “last resort” for farmers, but as the rural sector struggles with low commodity prices and mounting trade competition, farmers are increasingly relying on the FSA for loan assistance. Without the financial support, some farmers may struggle to survive until the next cash injection in the fall. Last month, the FSA told Congress it was tapping into $500 million in emergency funding to bolster a related program, the Guaranteed Farm Ownership Loan Program. However, emergency funding options do not exist for the agency’s Operating Loan Program. Currently, FSA loans are funding more than 113,000 borrowers, totaling nearly $23 billion.


Senators Ask USDA to Address Organic Livestock Rule Concern Before Publishing Rule

A group of bipartisan Senators has signed a letter to the Department of Agriculture requesting the agency address concerns with the proposed organic livestock and poultry rule before publishing the regulation. Led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, 13 Senators in all signed the letter that says “the proposed rule raises significant concerns regarding the impact on current organic poultry and egg producers, as well as access and price for organic consumers.” Further, the group says “proposed changes to outdoor access standards could have a detrimental impact to both animal health and food safety.” Other Senators signing the letter include Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan. On May 26th, leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees sent a letter requesting an extended public comment period. USDA granted an additional 30 days on June 7th.

Trade Visit to Demonstrate U.S. Wheat Competitive Advantages 

Quality control and purchasing managers from three Venezuelan flour mills will visit North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Ohio starting this weekend. The trade mission seeks to educate the delegation from Venezuela about the value of working with the U.S. wheat supply chain, according to the U.S. Wheat Associates. Venezuela imports durum, high protein spring wheat and soft red winter wheat. However, current market conditions there have given durum wheat from Mexico a competitive advantage. U.S. wheat exports to Venezuela are not as strong as they once were, according to USW, in part because increased government intervention and limited access to U.S. dollars have forced millers there to make cost a primary buying decision. A spokesperson for U.S. Wheat Associates says the tour provides “first-hand experience will help increase their confidence in U.S. wheat.”


Vilsack Happy with Clinton VP Pick

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he is not upset that Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not choose him as her running mate and says he will do anything for the Clinton campaign. In an exclusive interview with The Hagstrom Report at the Democratic National Convention, Vilsack says he will be “happy to do whatever” the Clinton campaign asks. Vilsack was a finalist for Clinton’s vice presidential running before Clinton picked Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Vilsack calls Kaine a solid choice and that he moved on over the disappointment of not being picked rather quickly. Jumping on board the Clinton campaign as a cheerleader, Vilsack called the Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump, “not temperamentally fit to be president.” As for what role, if any, Vilsack may play in the Clinton Administration, should she be elected President, Vilsack responded: “my sole focus right now is that Secretary Clinton becomes President Clinton.”


Nebraska Costco Plants Gains Final Approval Despite Lawsuit

Despite a lawsuit filed this week against the proposal, the Freemont, Nebraska Costco poultry processing facility received final approval from the city this week. The approval came just a day after three citizens of Freemont filed a lawsuit accusing the city of illegally designating land for the project as blighted to qualify for the tax increment financing, or TIF funding. The City Council approved issuing a $13.5-million TIF note and Costco also is applying for additional tax incentives, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The company – which intends to process chicken for its retail stores at the facility – is evaluating the proposed site and still must give its final approval to the project. The proposed facility would include a hatchery, feed mill and chicken processing operation and employ up to 1,100 people.

China-based Investment Groups Creates $1 Billion Ag Fund

An investment group based in Beijing, China plans to establish a $1 billion fund for special food and agriculture investment in Australia. Tsing Capital, an investment management company, says the fund will invest in high-tech fermentation and extraction of grains, cane and vegetables, with the intention on supplying the market for health foods and dietary supplements in mainland China. The plan is to invest in the entire supply chain, and will include establishing processing factories, according to the Weekly Times. Representatives from China and Australia plan to raise between $500 million to $1 billion in capital, with the possibility of increasing that amount to $2 billion through loans. Organizers say Chinese demand is driving the investment. The end products for export to China are likely to include high-protein health supplements, tonics, pills and sports drinks, as well as vitamins.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service