READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, September 12th…

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Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Groups Support Heritage Foundation Farm Bill Report

The Environmental Working Group and the Union of Concerned Scientists gave their reactions to the Heritage Foundation paper on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. The Heritage report called for an end to commodity support programs and federal crop insurance, saying that farm programs should only help in times of deep crop losses. The Hagstrom Report says Environmental Working Group Vice President Scott Haber said the report confirms how far the “so-called safety net” has strayed from its intended purpose. “It’s to help farmers weather the ups and downs in agriculture, and not to guarantee a level of income that’s well above incomes in average American households.” He said the EWG doesn’t support all the recommendation in the Heritage Foundation report, but they are pleased that the report will force policymakers to examine these programs more closely. Mike Lavender is the Washington representative for the Food and Environment Program within in the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said, “The Heritage report highlights many of the ill effects of the current farm program.” Lavender said there must be continued support for farmers, especially when they need it most, but added, “That support shouldn’t come at the cost of incentivizing certain crops and practices over others or supporting the largest and wealthiest farm businesses over others.”

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Russia to Become Top Wheat Exporter in 2016-2017

Most of the major wheat producing countries around the world have had very good growing conditions through the entire season. Countries like the U.S., Australia, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan are expecting record yields during harvest. Russia is expecting its biggest wheat harvest in history despite having a much lower number of acres devoted to the crop than it has since the 1970’s. That historic output combined with some of the cheapest wheat in the world in the Black Sea region has Russia poised to become the top wheat exporter at 30 million tons in the 2016-2017 marketing year. Russia would take the top spot from the European Union, which has been hit hard in the western part of the continent by bad weather this year. That’s expected to lower both the quality and quantity of their wheat harvest. Russia has been steadily gaining on the EU in wheat export market share over the last three years. The gains by Russia and the European Union are coming mostly at the expense of the United States, which has seen its share of the wheat market steadily moving lower in recent years.

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European Union Suspends Dow DuPont Merger Review

The European Union’s antitrust regulator said the deadline for a review into the proposed Dow DuPont merger has been suspended because the companies have yet to turn in the required information. A European Commission spokesman said, “To comply with merger deadlines, the companies must submit the required information to investigators in a timely fashion.” A Dow Jones report said the EU opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed deal on concerns that the merger would cut down on competition in crop protection, seeds, and certain petrochemicals. The proposed merger was first disclosed in December of 2015, and would unite the two companies before the split into three separate units. Dow and DuPont quietly made concessions to the EU in July in order to address concerns about antitrust issues. The commission will restart its clock on the merger review once the companies submit the required paperwork. The most recent deadline for the review had been set for early 2017. 

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Ag Producers Cut Expenses by Nine Percent

Farmers and ranchers cut their production costs by roughly nine percent last year. A report in Successful Farming said the cuts were caused by an end to the agricultural boom and a resulting collapse in farm income. Farmers paid out a total of $362.8 billion last year, the lowest outlay since 2012 according to estimates from the USDA Farm Expenditures Report. The peak outlay for expenses was 2014, when farmers spent nearly $400 billion, just as commodity prices began a sharp decline. Average spending per farm last year was $171,000, down just over $15,000 from the previous year. Crop farmers were aggressive in cost cutting, lowering expenditures by $22 billion dollars, or 11 percent from the previous year. The biggest cuts were in equipment, fuel, and farm repairs and supplies. Rent was the biggest single expenditure and it dropped five percent from the previous year to $25.4 billion. University of Illinois Grain Economist Gary Schnitkey says farmers should expect marginally lower revenues from corn and soybean this year, with another drop in revenues in 2017. He said farmers will need to continue to cut costs, especially if they have a low amount of working capital.

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EPA Decision on Dicamba Expected Late in 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency set a goal of issuing a decision on Monsanto’s new dicamba products by the end of this year. The products are designed to be used with the Roundup Ready Xtend crops. However, the approval process has been bogged down by reports of farmers using an older version of the herbicide and have done some damage in nearby crops that aren’t resistant to the weed killer. In April, the EPA proposed allowing the use of the herbicide designed to be used with the Monsanto Xtend crops, but it hasn’t actually approved it yet. Some farmers filled in the gaps with older versions of the herbicide. The acting Director of the EPA’s pesticide registration division, Michael Goodis, said those uses are illegal and could be subject to criminal prosecution. Goodis also said the chemical’s effects on nearby crops raise concerns about Monsanto’s new herbicide being contained in fields where it’s applied. 

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Vilsack:  Clear View of GMO Rules Before 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects to release a notice of proposed rulemaking for GMO labeling regulations before the end of this year. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack also said the USDA will release a request for proposal for a study on the effectiveness of electronic communications of GMO information. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today says the study is mandated by law and the RFP will come out in October. Vilsack hopes the study is complete by the summer of 2017, saying to the department’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, “We’re very committed to getting this done in the time frame that Congress directed.” 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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