READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, February 24th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, February 24th

Ag Groups Ask for Infrastructure Help

Over 200 groups with a stake in agriculture and rural areas sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for rural needs to be part of any plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure. Politico says a few of the groups that signed the letter included Farm Credit Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, and the American Soybean Association, among many others. The letter stated: “Past infrastructure initiatives often focused on urban and suburban infrastructure while not adequately addressing the unique needs of rural communities.” The groups add that American agriculture truly feeds the world and creates jobs. To ensure that America remains a leader in world agricultural production, they say infrastructure needs have to be addressed, noting that the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure threatens that leadership role in feeding the world. The groups caution that the federal government can’t do it alone, saying it should partner with local governments and find private funding sources, a move supported by Trump advisers. Alabama Republican Robert Aderholt is Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who’s promised to make investing in rural infrastructure a high priority in fiscal 2018 allocations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


$1 Trillion Free-Trade Agreement Now In Force

Despite strong anti-trade comments from President Trump, a $1 trillion free trade agreement went into effect on Wednesday of this week, called the Trade Facilitation Agreement. A CNN Money report says the agreement is designed to cut through red tape and help solve problems like border delays and transportation bottlenecks. The World Trade Organization says it will cut a day and a half off the time needed to import goods and cut two days off the time need to export products. The WTO’s Director-General says: “The Trade Facilitation Agreement is the biggest reform of global trade this century.” WTO officials are predicting a 2.7 percent growth in trade around the world by 2030. Officials also say the agreement will cut the cost of shipping goods to other countries by 14 percent. The deal includes all 164 members of the World Trade Organization, including the United States. The U.S. approved the deal during the Obama Administration. A spokesman for the current U.S. Trade Representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comments.


Largest Ag Producers Changing Crop Protection Plans

A new study from Millenium Research shows that the nation’s largest farmers are still uncommitted or making changes to their crop protection plans. The “Farmer Speaks” study shows producers being more aggressive in cutting costs after a tough year in 2016. Growers who farm 1,000 or more acres are planning on making the highest percentage of cost-cutting at ten percent. Crop protection products and seed traits are the two areas where farmers look to make the biggest cost cuts. 25 percent of the respondents say they are using a different weed control system in their corn and soybean fields this year. Corn farmers say they’re looking at a 50 percent change in their crop protection products. Several of the nation’s largest producers say they haven’t made decisions yet regarding crop protection products on at least 1,000 acres. Growers are showing an increasing interest in soybean traits this year. 44 percent of soybean growers making changes this year will use a different product versus 2016. One-third of growers say insecticides and fungicides for soybeans and corn are their most undecided products heading into the planting season.


Dow/DuPont Deal on Track in E.U.; ChemChina/Syngenta Extended

A Dow Jones report says the Dow and DuPont merger looks good for regulatory approval from European Union regulators. People familiar with the deal say it looks to be on track because the companies offered to sell some of their businesses to ease antitrust concerns. The European Commission is the EU’s antitrust watchdog, and appears ready to approve the deal after the companies offered their remedies. However, people monitoring the deal also say the decision is not necessarily completed and some aspects of the deal could change. Another Dow Jones report says ChemChina extended its $43 billion offer for Syngenta to April 28th as it still looks for regulatory approval of the merger. The Chinese state-owned company issued a statement this week saying all other terms and conditions of the offer remain the same. China is pushing to step up scrutiny of the deal in a bid to curb capital outflow, and EU regulators have also asked for more information about the pending merger.


Effective Dairy Safety Net Requires Federal Spending

The first 2018 Farm Bill development meeting took place this week. Legislators have been encouraging the nation’s producers to speak up about what worked in the last Farm Bill and what didn’t. Online publication Milk Business quotes Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts as saying: “We need clear direction on what is and what is not working in farm country.” Dairy farmers have been very vocal of late regarding the Margin Protection Program established in the last Farm Bill. The dissatisfaction began in 2015 and that spilled over into the next year. In spite of the fact that dairy cash flow was down, participation was described as “anemic.” University of Missouri economist Scott Brown said the ongoing concern within the dairy industry is that the MPP doesn’t provide a strong enough safety net. Lawmakers have discussed improving the Margin Protection Program in the next Farm Bill but Brown says that’s going to cost some money. “It’s extremely difficult to construct a strong enough safety net program for dairy while reducing federal spending,” he says, adding: “There’s a high correlation between government expenditures and the effectiveness of the safety net.”


Some Brazil Soybeans Very Muddy

Brazil’s top soybean producing state, Mato Grosso (Mah’-toe Grah’-soh), has soybean fields ready for harvest but are so muddy it’s difficult to walk through, let alone drive a combine through. A Bloomberg report says a week of persistent rainfall has caused some soybeans to begin fermenting. The beans have become engorged in their pods, which have started to open as the oilseeds begin to germinate. Ag forecaster AgroConsult organized a recent crop tour and found damage so bad that some farmers say they are getting paid a third of what they would have in a normal growing season. Mato Grosso is facing its wettest harvest in five years. Insect and weed problems have multiplied after the recent heavy rains, making soybeans more challenging to harvest and potentially adding transportation costs for farmers. The damaged beans are still good enough to use blended with other good crops, but farmers will get less money for their efforts. That’s a tough blow to Brazilian farmers who’ve seen a multiple-year drop in Ag prices, currency appreciation, and a national recession. An AgroConsult analyst says because the damaged crop can still be blended with good crops, the total production estimates for Mato Grosso should remain the same.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service