READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 2nd…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 2nd

White House Says No Changes to RFS

Reuters says the White House is denying a report that President Trump is about to issue an executive order aimed at changing the nation’s biofuels program. This comes after a statement from the Renewable Fuels Association saying a member of the Trump administration informed them an order was pending. News of the pending order and its subsequent denial threw turbulence into the energy and corn markets yesterday. The RFA statement said they received a call from a Trump staffer informing them the order was imminent and would shift the burden of combining biofuels with gasoline away from refiners. The order would require companies farther down the supply chain to handle that. Refiners have long-requested the change, saying the requirement has hammered their profits. White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said yesterday, “there’s no ethanol executive order in the works.” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor issued a statement thanking the White House for putting a stop to the rumors of a pending executive order. Skor added, “The RFS and the point of obligation are working as intended and making sure consumers have a choice of fuel at the gas pump.” Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley spoke with several White House sources and said yesterday, “There’s no reason to believe such an executive order is pending or imminent.”

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Trump Speech Doesn’t Mention Rural America

The Hagstrom Report says President Donald Trump’s first speech before Congress took a more moderate stance but noted that his speech “didn’t mention rural America.” Trump brought up immigration, suggesting a switch “away from lower-skilled immigration to a merit-based system.” While farm and labor leaders say the work done by farm workers is more skilled than most realize, farm labor is still classified as unskilled labor. Trump’s idea has Ag groups concerned that the White House still doesn’t understand how important immigrant labor is to the farm economy. North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp notes some very good things in the President’s speech but says “I expressed concern when previous Presidents didn’t mention rural America and I have the same concerns about this speech. There wasn’t any mention of a farm bill or agricultural workers.” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says Trump failed to mention the words ‘rural,’ ‘farm,’ or ‘agriculture,’ but talked about policies that could have major impacts on rural America. “While he did focus on trade,” Johnson says, “our members are concerned that earlier harsh rhetoric has placed a strain on our trading partners.”

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Farm Credit System Able To Weather Economic Downturn

Loan delinquencies and other signs of repayment problems are expected to increase in 2017 among farmers and ranchers. Politico’s Morning Agriculture Report says in spite of that, the farm credit system should be able to weather the downturn in the Ag economy. That was the message Farm Credit Administration CEO and board chair Dallas Tonsager gave to members of the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee this week. The Farm Credit Administration oversees the banks in the farm credit system. Lawmakers were looking for some assurances that the farm economy isn’t headed for a disaster on par with the 1980’s farm crisis that put tens of thousands of farmers out of business. Young farmers just starting out are the biggest concern for the administration as they don’t have capital and valuable assets built up yet. Tonsager says lenders in the Farm Credit System have a $242 billion portfolio and expect delinquency rates to remain relatively low. He also notes there are more checks in place to ensure that something like the farm crisis of the 1980’s doesn’t repeat itself.

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El Nino May Yet Show Up in 2017

Tropical waters in the Pacific Ocean are said to be warming at an increasingly substantial rate, leading some to believe the time it will take for another round of El Nino appears to be getting shorter and shorter. A Cattle Network Dot Com article notes that El Nino typically appears every two to seven years. Weather forecasters have been looking at the potential of a return of El Nino for a couple of months. El Nino is associated with warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon is known to bring turbulent weather to certain parts of the world and beautiful crop growing weather to other parts of the globe. Some of the more notable impacts include drought in southeast Asia and heavy rains with erosion along the Pacific coasts of North and South America. The cooler temps in the equatorial Pacific bring on a La Nina phenomenon, which experts say just wrapped up a six-month run as cooler Pacific waters along the equator have all but disappeared. This month is the firs time that the International Research Institute and the U.S. Climate Prediction Center say El Nino is the more favored weather scenario over neutral or La Nina Conditions.

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India Reconsidering Wheat Import Tax

Two sources in the Indian government told Reuters this week that India could impose a 25-percent import tax on wheat by the middle of March. That move would reinstate the tariff after a three-month gap as a response to recent large purchases from overseas. India is the world’s second-biggest wheat producer. The government lowered the tariff from 25 percent to ten percent in September of 2016 before scrapping it entirely on December 8. After that move, private traders signed deals to import more than 5 million tons of wheat to help ease a supply shortage after two years of drought. Higher imports and expectations of a bumper crop this year have government officials seriously thinking about re-instituting the import tax. The Prime Minister of India and government officials want to curb imports to avoid a crash in local wheat prices, which would bring on a backlash from millions of poorer citizens. Many businesses that use wheat find it cheaper to import the product from Australia rather than purchase it from the main wheat-growing areas in their own country.

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Cattlemen, PLC Applaud Zinke As New Interior Secretary

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council reacted positively to the Senate’s confirmation of Ryan Zinke as the new Secretary of the Interior. NCBA President Craig Uden called it great news for American ranchers and cattle producers. “Ryan Zinke has an outstanding record of advocating for western communities and ranchers. We look forward to working with Secretary Zinke to restore common sense and balance on issues like public land management, conservation, and endangered species.” PLC President Dave Eliason says having an Interior Secretary who understands public lands and values cooperation with stakeholders is good for everyone. “Secretary Zinke is from the west and understands the challenges of communities with a large federal footprint. We look forward to working with him to restore the role of local input in planning and review processes, fix laws like the Endangered Species Act, and protect grazing rights that are so vital to western economies,” Eliason said. Western ranchers own approximately 120 million acres of the most productive private land in the West and manage nearly 250 million acres of public land.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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