READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, March 8th…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, March 8th…

Ag Economy Barometer Retracts from January High

The Purdue University Ag Economy Barometer for February dipped compared the January reading. Organizers of the index say the overall producer sentiment reading dipped to 134 compared to 153 a month earlier, 19 points below the record high recorded in January. Despite the drop, the February reading is the second-highest for the index. A reading greater than 100 indicates positive sentiment by producers regarding the ag economy, a reading under 100 suggests the opposite. The two component indices of the Ag Economy Barometer, the Index of Current Conditions and the Index of Future Expectations, also backed off from their January levels. The Index of Current Conditions was 105 in February, down from 118 in January, and the Index of Future Expectations dropped 21 points from its record level of 169, set just a month earlier. The Index of Current Conditions suggests producers feel conditions this winter are only slightly better than during the barometer’s base period of October 2015 to March 2016, when the Index averaged 100. In contrast, producers are substantially more optimistic about future economic conditions than during the fall and winter of 2015-2016, as evidenced by the Index of Future Expectations remaining 48 points higher than during the base period.


Branstad, Grassley, say no Backroom Ethanol Deal in The Works

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says there is no backroom deal to make changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. Branstad, the U.S. Ambassador to China nominee, said he is aware of reports of a deal, but has been assured by the White House the rumors “are not true,” according to the Des Moines Register. A report of a deal to change the burden of blending ethanol last week sent the renewable fuels industry off balance. Trump Advisor Carl Icahn (Eye’-kahn) has requested the change, but apparently, no deal is the works at this time. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley echoed Branstad’s comments on Tuesday, saying the White House has also assured him there is no agreement to change the RFS. However, earlier in the week, the White House did confirm it was reviewing the proposal, but has no position on the issue.


National Farmers Union Cautions Against Health Care Changes

The National Farmers Union is urging caution against potential impacts federal health care reforms may have in rural America. The Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was unveiled Monday night. NFU President Roger Johnson spoke on health care during the NFU annual convention in San Diego, California, this week. Johnson says that during his time as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner between 1996 and 2009, the biggest problems facing farmers was health care. Johnson says that’s not been the case over the last few years, adding that “if we repeal the Affordable Care Act, those voices are going to be front and center again,” according to DTN. The Republican plan would replace federal insurance subsidies with a new form of individual tax credits and grants to help states shape their own policies. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a markup of the bill Wednesday.


Wisconsin Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Stems from Wild Birds

An outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza in Western Wisconsin stems from a virus of North American wild bird origin. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the strain of low pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza was discovered in a flock of 84,000 turkeys in Barron County, Wisconsin, following testing after birds showed signs of depression, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. The virus is not considered to be as serious as the high pathogenic avian influenza found in Tennessee last week. That outbreak has already resulted in the culling of some 73,000 birds. Countries including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong have imposed limits on imports of U.S. poultry from Tennessee and Wisconsin because of the outbreaks. The Tennessee high pathogenic outbreak is the first HPAI outbreak in the U.S. since January of last year. Low pathogenic avian influenza was found in the U.S. as recently as last May in Missouri.


Wildfires Leaving a Disaster for Ranchers

Wildfires raging across three states are leaving behind a disaster for farmers and ranchers. Thousands of acres have been charred between Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and at least three ranch hands in Texas attempting to round up cattle from the fires were killed. A total of five deaths are being blamed on the fires as of Tuesday evening. The dry conditions and high winds continue to fuel the fires. At least 626 square miles have burned in Kansas, and three fires have burned more than 195 square miles of land in Texas. Oklahoma officials estimate more than 400,000 acres have burned in the Northwest portion of the state. The Kansas Livestock Association and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association have both set up relief funds for ranchers in their respective states. The relief fund efforts include cash, fencing and hay needs for the ranchers affected by the fires. Learn more about the relief efforts online at KLA dot org (, or OK cattlemen dot org (


Large Family Farms Continue to Dominate U.S. Agricultural Production

Nearly all farms in the U.S. are designated as family farms, according to new data by the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. USDA found that in 2015, farms designated as family farms accounted for 99 percent of U.S. farms and 89 percent of production. On family farms, the principal operators and their relatives, by blood or marriage, own more than half of the business’s assets. In 2015, 90 percent of U.S. farms were small family operations with under $350,000 in annual gross cash farm income, a measure of revenue that includes sales of crops and livestock, government payments and other farm-related income. These small farms, however, only accounted for 24 percent of the value of production. By comparison, large-scale family farms with at least $1 million in gross annual cash income made up only 2.9 percent of U.S. farms but contributed 42 percent of total production. Nonfamily farms accounted for only 11 percent of agricultural production.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service