READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 5th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, April 5th…

Perdue Vote Won’t Happen This Week

The U.S. Senate will not be taking a vote to confirm Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue this week. Instead, the Senate will be focusing time on a filibuster and confirmation vote for Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch. With an upcoming recess, the delay means the vote for Perdue won’t happen until late this month, at the earliest. The former Georgia Governor was the final cabinet nomination by President Donald Trump, made the day before Trump’s inauguration. A wait on ethics papers delayed the process further. Perdue’s nomination was voted out of the Senate Agriculture Committee last week, with just one vote against the nomination. Agriculture groups are eager to see Perdue take his office at the Department of Agriculture. Last week, a group of farm organizations signed a letter noting USDA “has been without political leadership for over two months, longer than nearly every other Cabinet-level agency.” The groups added there is a growing list of issues at USDA, “particularly given the troubling economic conditions in rural America.”

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Senate Ag Appropriator Says no Budget Cuts this Fiscal Year

The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations panel says there will be no budget cuts this fiscal year. North Dakota Republican John Hoeven says the current fiscal year is “too far along” to make an adjustment now, as requested by President Donald Trump. The President has proposed an $18 billion cut in discretionary spending, including more than $1 billion from the Department of Agriculture. Hoeven told Politico earlier this week that appropriation bills will be at the 2017 funding levels set by Congress for this year. Any slashing of funding that may occur, as requested by President Trump, would likely be aimed at the spending package needed to keep the government funded past April 28th, when the current continuing resolution expires. Republican leaders in Congress remain confident an agreement on a spending measure will be reached, avoiding any potential government shutdown.

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Purdue Ag Economy Barometer Shows Slip in Confidence

The Ag Economy Barometer from Purdue University found confidence among farmers and ranchers slipped again last month. The Barometer slipped to 124 in March, marking the second month in a row that producer sentiment dropped below the prior month’s level. A rating below 100 is negative, while a rating above 100 indicates positive sentiment regarding the agriculture industry. Recent weakness in the Barometer, which is based on a monthly survey of 400 agricultural producers from across the U.S., followed a sharp improvement in producer sentiment from November through January. Although producer sentiment fell in both February and March, producers remain more optimistic about the agricultural economy than during all but the last two months of 2016. This month’s decline in producer sentiment was driven by weaker expectations about the future as the Index of Future Expectations fell to 126 – 22 points lower than a month earlier.

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AG Sessions Says Deportation to Focus on Felons, not Farm Workers

The Western Growers Association says recent comments by Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicate the Justice Department will focus on deporting felons, not farm workers. Sessions recently told Fox News the Justice Department does not intend to target illegal immigrants who have not committed crimes beyond illegally entering the country. Western Growers Association CEO Tom Nassif called the comments encouraging. Nassif says: “The Attorney General’s comments confirm what we in the agriculture industry have understood to be the Administration’s interior enforcement policy: ICE activities will be directed toward deporting felons, not farmworkers.” He points out that much of our agricultural productivity is owed to the hard work of foreigners, in particular, the harvesting of our nutritious fruits and vegetables. With agricultural employers facing a chronic shortage of workers, Nassif says “we cannot afford to exacerbate this problem by threatening to deport our farmworkers, which the Administration clearly understands.”

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Survey: Consumers Baffled by Food Labels

A recent survey shows global consumers remain baffled by food labels. Sponsored by Elanco, The Truth About Food survey gathered input from 3,300 consumers in 11 countries. Of the findings, online meat industry publication Meatingplace reports the survey shows 82 percent of consumers said they buy organic products mainly because they believe the foods to be pesticide-free. But, In reality, organic farmers may use some chemical substances on their crops manufactured from natural sources. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they buy organic because they believe the products are more nutritious. Further, more than 60 percent of consumers thought no added hormones meant there were no hormones at all in products with that label. Finally, the survey found more than half of the respondents believe the majority of farms are run by corporations. However, In the United States, 97 percent of farms are family owned, and the percentage of family-owned farms globally is 90 percent.

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USDA Authorizes Emergency Grazing in Wildfire Areas

The Department of Agriculture has authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program lands in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the three states most heavily impacted by wildfires last month. USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young issued a memo authorizing the emergency grazing of cattle by ranchers, who are facing the loss of their herds due to lack of sufficient grazing land.  Young says the authorization will allow ranchers “to salvage what remains of their cattle and return to the important business of feeding Americans and the rest of the world.” The authorization follows an order by President Donald Trump to release the CRP grounds for grazing. The USDA action is required to direct the Farm Service Agency to permit the grazing on lands covered by CRP. The move was applauded by Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and the National Cattlemen’s Association.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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