READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 16th…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 16th…

Federal Reserve Makes Expected Interest Rate Increase

The U.S. Federal Reserve has again elected to move forward with interest rate increases following a meeting Wednesday. Widely expected, the decision raises the Fed’s benchmark rate to a range between 0.75 percent and one percent. The Fed attributed the change to a continued “moderate pace” of the U.S. economy. For agriculture, a Department of Agriculture economist has previously said interest rate increases mean more of the same for the farm economy, which is slumping amid low commodity prices. The increase will likely impact loans for big-ticket items, such as farm equipment or land purchases, as well as the prime rate, which is the base borrowing rate banks extend to their customers. The rate hike will increase the upward pressure on interest rates that consumers pay overall, but the immediate effect is likely to be modest, according to the New York Times.

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Group Urges Trump to Protect Crop Insurance

A coalition of agriculture groups is urging President Donald Trump and federal lawmakers to protect crop insurance. 60 national farm, lending, ag input, conservation and crop insurance organizations, led by the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, sent a letter to the administration and lawmakers opposing cuts to crop insurance during the upcoming budget and appropriations processes and in the 2018 farm bill. The letter called the 2014 farm bill a “careful balance of priorities” that “should not be reopened.” The groups say any cuts in the next farm bill should be avoided as well, because of the downtrend in the agriculture economy and it’s impact on farmers. The letter was sent to President Donald Trump, House and Senate lawmakers, and Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue.

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Low Pathogen Bird Flu Suspected in Alabama

Low pathogenic avian influenza was reported this week at three northern Alabama sites, after being found recently at two farms in Tennessee, and another in Wisconsin. State officials from Alabama say more chickens have been culled to contain the virus, once it is confirmed. Test results were expected back from the Agriculture Department Thursday. The cases in Alabama are suspected to be the less dangerous form of the bird flu, known as low pathogenic, because the infected flocks did not have high levels of mortality, according to Reuters. An Alabama agriculture official said the cases were found in a commercial breeding facility and a backyard flock. Poultry is the top produced agricultural product in Alabama, which is home to some 5,600 poultry farms. The flocks were within close proximity to a farm in neighboring Tennessee where the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed high pathogenic avian influenza earlier this month. That remains the only confirmed outbreak of HPAI in the United States this year.

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Ethanol Group Applauds Recall of Fuel Economy Rules

The Renewable Fuels Association welcomed a move by the Trump administration regarding fuel economy regulations. The White House this week recalled the Environmental Protection Agency’s federal fuel economy and emissions rules that stem from the Obama administration. The recall allows for a data-driven review of the 2022-2025 standards. RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen says the actions “allow the opportunity for EPA to slow down, remove politics from the process, and take a more comprehensive approach to fuel economy standards.” The Obama-era rules were aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions, and was an action against climate change by the former President. Put forth in 2012, the rules would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, forcing automakers to speed development of highly fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars.

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Senate Homeland Security Committee Passes Agro-Terrorism Bill

The Senate Homeland Security Committee has passed an agroterrorism bill to the full Senate for debate. The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act, introduced by Kansas Republican Pat Roberts and Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to lead the government’s efforts to secure our nation’s food, agriculture and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events. The bill also authorizes the secretary to collaborate with other agencies, to ensure food, agriculture and animal and human health sectors are integrated into the Department of Homeland Security’s domestic preparedness policy initiatives. McCaskill says of the bill: “Congress needs to think forward about the wide array of threats we face and take action before there’s a tragedy, not afterwards,” when it comes to threats to agriculture. The bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Iowa Republican David Young and New Jersey Democrat Dan Donovan.

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Commodity Classic Attendance Second Highest Ever

Despite challenging times in the farm economy, thousands of growers and agricultural advocates attended the 2017 Commodity Classic. Total attendance for the event held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas, was 9,303, the second-largest total in event history, second only to the 2016 Commodity Classic in New Orleans. Growers represented 4,102 of that total. 920 attendees were at Commodity Classic for the first time. National Corn Growers Association Commodity Classic Co-Chair Kevin Ross, a farmer from Iowa, says the attendance demonstrates “the enthusiasm America’s farmers have for continuous learning and improvement.” The trade show featured 425 participating companies, including 83 first-time exhibitors. These exhibitors filled 2,266 booth spaces. The 23rd annual Commodity Classic will take place February 27th-March first, 2018, in Anaheim, California. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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