READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, October 25th…

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Rural Mainstreet Index Reaches Lowest Level Since Recession

The October Rural Mainstreet Index by Creighton University fell to its lowest level since April of 2009. The monthly survey fell below the neutral growth mark for the 14th straight month as bankers report one in five grain farmers are experiencing negative cash flows. The index, which ranges between 0 and 100, fell to 31.8 from September’s 37.3. Survey organizer Ernie Goss says lower grain prices and a 19 percent drop in livestock prices over the last 12 months have contributed to the drop. Also tracked by the survey, the farmland and ranchland-price index for October fell to 25.0 from September’s 40.3. This is the 35th straight month the index has landed below growth neutral of 50.0. Finally, the October farm equipment-sales index sank to 13.1 from September’s 14.3. The overall Rural Mainstreet Index represents a snapshot of the rural economy of 10 agriculture-dependent states in the Midwest.


Federal Court to Decide Fate of R-CALF Suit Against Beef Checkoff

A federal court today (Tuesday) will consider a lawsuit against the Beef Checkoff. Food Safety News reports anything from a dismissal to a temporary restraining order for the plaintiffs could occur. The challenge to the Beef Checkoff was filed this spring in a Billings, Montana federal court. The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund of the Stockgrowers of America, or R-CALF, filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees checkoff programs. R-CALF claims checkoff money is being used to promote international and domestic beef, and that there is no way for ranchers to opt out of the fee. R-CALF was a supporter of U.S. Country of Origin Labeling and CEO Bill Bullard says: “there is now a worldwide effort to render the origins of U.S. cattle irrelevant on a global scale.” Bullard says Montana ranchers, and others, deserve the option to opt-out of the worldwide effort. USDA says there is an opt-out option for producers, and is seeking dismissal. Government attorneys argue R-CALF lacks standing to continue the case.


Belgium Region Ignoring Deadline, Leaving Infinite Timeline on CETA

A small region of Belgium that blocked a major trade deal last week between the European Union and Canada won’t give in on its position. Belgium’s Wallonia region had until Monday evening to make a final decision regarding the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, but a leader for the region said: “We will not decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure.” The region is demanding stronger safeguards on labor, environmental and consumer standards, according to the BBC. Canada’s trade minister returned home last week following last minute negotiations saying it seemed “impossible” to complete the agreement. The deal was expected to be signed by the European Commission and Canada during a trade summit later this week. Canada is still holding out hope as the nation’s Prime Minister said on Twitter Monday: “We think Thursday’s summit is still possible.” The trade agreement was considered a stepping stone to other trade agreements, including the failed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and the EU, along with a potential post-Brexit deal between the EU and the United Kingdom.


DuPont Planning Sale of Herbicide Business

DuPont is planning to sell a company-owned herbicide business to reduce potential antitrust concerns to a $59 billion merger with U.S. competitor Dow Chemical Co. Bloomberg reports the sale is expected to generate several hundred million dollars and Delaware-based DuPont is also considering the disposal of insecticide and seed units that might be an obstacle to the deal moving forward. A host of competitors, from BASF to FMC and private equity firms are monitoring opportunities to pick up assets as the biggest-ever wave of consolidation in the agrochemical and seed business spurs antitrust reviews and forced sales. For its part, Dow is selling a unit making copolymers used in food packaging. Dow and DuPont are pushing to complete the merger by the end of this year.


USDA Announces Organic Agriculture Research Funding

The Department of Agriculture last week announced more than $17 million is available for research and outreach activities to support the organic agriculture sector. The grants are funded through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. The organic industry is the fastest growing segment of U.S. agriculture, with sales growing by $4.2 billion last year to reach a record $43.3 billion, according to USDA. Eligible entities for the funding include Land-Grant and other research universities, federal agencies, national laboratories, state agricultural experiment stations, and research foundations along with private researchers. USDA says priority areas include biological, physical and social science research, including economics. Applications are due in January.


Los Angeles Schools Reconsider Flavored Milk

The Los Angeles Unified School District last week voted to loosen restrictions on flavored milks in school. The 6-1 vote allows chocolate and strawberry milk back into the city’s public school lunchrooms through a voluntary pilot program to study the effects of reintroducing flavored milk. The vote overturns a 2011 ban on flavored milks by the school district. Parents and health advocates had lobbied successfully for the ban, arguing that the drinks had unnecessary added sugar and contributed to childhood obesity. However, the LA Times reports the board decision to reintroduce flavored milks was not because of sugar content, but rather a waste problem. The district claims it is throwing out 600 tons of organic waste each day, and much of that is plain milk that schools are encouraged by federal law to offer, but that students are not enthusiastically drinking.


SOURCE: NAFB News Service