READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, December 30th…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, December 30th

China Banning Poultry Imports Due To HPAI

Officials in several regions of China are placing bans on poultry imports from several areas over concerns about the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. The Hong Kong Center for Food Safety has banned all poultry imports from a province in China that is dealing with a confirmed H5N6 outbreak of avian influenza. The protective measure will be in place for the next three months. The Center for Food Safety is also banning poultry imports from Japan and Poland, where the H5N8 strain of influenza has been confirmed. The Chinese city of Wuxi (wuhck-see’) is temporarily suspending poultry imports from an area located near Shanghai after reports of the H7N9 strain of HPAI were confirmed in recent weeks. Wuxi is next to a lake often used as a stop for migratory birds, which a Reuters report says are suspected of spreading the infection as they move farther north. At least seven humans in mainland China have been confirmed as infected in recent weeks, with two of them dying after H7N9 exposure.


Burger King Switching to Antibiotic-Free Chickens

The parent company of the Burger King and Tim Hortons restaurant chains announced it will no longer purchase chickens raised with antibiotics that are also used for humans. A Meating Place Dot Com report says Restaurant Brands International in Ontario, Canada, currently runs more than 19,000 restaurants in over 100 countries and U.S. territories. RBI intends to make the conversion to antibiotic-free chicken at its U.S.-based operations in 2017. The announcement says the conversion will take place in Canada during 2018. It also says the moves at Burger King and Tim Hortons will be moving from antibiotics used in humans but not necessarily animal-specific antibiotics used to keep the animals healthy. The chains will join other establishments like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Papa John’s, and Chick-Fil-A in making the move over the next several years. In 2015, chicken supplier Tyson Foods announced it would also stop using antibiotics that are also used in humans in its operations next year. The restaurant chains and the processor are responding to concerns about consuming animals raised with human-use antibiotics possibly breeding drug-resistant bacteria that would affect human health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says at least two million consumers are infected every year with the so-called superbugs, which also cause 23,000 deaths.  


China to Increase Farmland by 2020

The Chinese government has put together a five-year plan for land management from 2016 through 2020. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today Report says the government will be adding another 3.2 million acres of farmable land to replace some of the nearly five million acres lost since 2003. The new acres would come from cultivation and land management, but the State Council wouldn’t provide any details. Industry estimates say China currently has just over 309 million acres of arable land and currently farms 247 million acres. China also announced five-year plans for the grains and oilseed industries. Those new plans include boosting production of biodegradable plastics made from corn and increasing the use of grains in animal feed. The nation is currently working to reduce its large corn reserve.


Citrus Pest Concerns California industry

California recently passed a state law designed to combat the spread of an Asian citrus pest. All citrus loads transported through California now must be covered, no matter where it’s coming from or where it’s headed. The mandatory tarping regulation is in response to industry concerns over the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid (sill’-lid). A recent analysis by the University of California of the spread of the pest shows a lot of movement primarily along transportation corridors. California officials felt the measure was necessary for preventing the spread of a deadly citrus tree disease that the pest can spread from tree to tree. The Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee recommended the state take those steps, even if citrus loads are just moving from point-to-point within the same county. The California Department of Food and Agriculture will begin contacting growers, haulers, and packers with the updated standards very soon, but they do recommend everyone in the chain to begin preparations for the new requirements as soon as possible.


Still Searching for an Ag Secretary

Two new candidates are expected to interview this week for the Secretary of Agriculture position. A DTN report says Abel Maldonado, Jr., a former California Lieutenant Governor, is set to interview for the post with President-elect Donald Trump this week. The other newest candidate is Elsa Murano, a former undersecretary for food safety at the USDA as well as President of Texas A & M University. Ag Secretary is one of the two cabinet nominations the President-elect hasn’t yet made, the other being Veterans Affair Secretary. Maldonado grew up on a strawberry farm near Santa Maria, California. He helped expand the farm from half-acre to 6,000 acres, employing around 250 people. A Trump spokesman says the plan is to interview Murano this week. A prominent member of the Trump Ag Advisory Council says Murano “is strongly opposed by most the Trump transition team.” Current Texas Ag Secretary Sid Miller is also thought to be traveling this week to interview for the Ag Secretary post.


Debt-To-Asset Ratios Projected to Climb 13%

Economists are watching the farm economy numbers closely. An Ag Web Dot Com article says they’re watching for signs as to the current downturn in the ag economy driving it into a similar spiral seen in the 1980s. 2016 was a challenge, whether producers grew crops, milked cows, or fed beef cattle. Farmers pulled back on inputs where they could, machinery sales slumped, and prices were bad across the board. Nathan Kauffman, an economist with the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, says, “We saw a lot of carry over debt going into 2017 and a significant amount of debt being restructured.” Farm economists are keeping a watchful eye on agriculture debt numbers. The projected 2016 debt-to-asset ratio will rise to 13 percent. By way of comparison, the ratio was over 20 percent in the mid-1980s. There are some clouds on the horizon. American Farm Bureau Economist Bob Young says, “The number of loans or the proportion of loans where the collateral used to secure that note has been the farm land itself took a significant jump in 2016, and that’s concerning.” Kauffman says the extent that farmland value holds up should help soften some of that blow from low prices and the higher ratio.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service