READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 17th…

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 17th

Trump: Healthcare Reform Before Tax Reform

In a Fox Business interview, President Donald Trump put a priority on health care reform before he’ll turn his attention to tax reform. The President said in the interview, “I have to do health care first. I really want to do it right.” He says tax reform is critical to the economy and to large and small businesses. However, he says healthcare reform could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars, which would then help tax reform. “We’re saving tremendous amounts of money when we get this done,” Trump said, “and all that savings will go into tax reform.” The biggest tax reform that agriculture would like to see is a repeal of the estate tax. Over 30 Ag organizations like the American Farm Bureau sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, and ranking Democrat Richard Neal of Massachusetts. The letter called the estate tax “especially damaging to agriculture because it’s a land-based, capital-intensive industry with few options for paying the estate tax when it comes due.” The groups also asked lawmakers to make sure the benefits of estate tax repeal aren’t undermined by eliminating or restricting the use of the stepped-up basis.


Group Wants Congress to Cap Ag Subsidies

The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform wrote an op-ed piece for the National Review Dot Com on agricultural subsidies. The piece by a senior research fellow refers back to higher than expected costs for the Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs in the 2014 farm bill. The piece says those costs are almost double the original estimates, $32 billion over five years rather than the projected $18 billion first forecast. The Foundation says agribusiness groups are after even more handouts as lawmakers prepare to develop the next Farm Bill. The Heritage Foundation is calling on Congress to keep the interests of the taxpayer in mind when developing the upcoming Farm Bill. They want Congress to get rid of the ARC and PLC programs in the next Farm Bill. In the meantime, they’d like to see caps on those programs, ensuring that they aren’t open-ended programs and give taxpayers at least some protection. They note that a House amedment when the programs were first written would have capped outlays but the amendment was removed by legislators during final Farm Bill negotiations.


Stockholders Approve Farm Credit Merger

Three Farm Credit organizations received stockholder approval to merge their businesses together into one organization. As of July first, Farm Credit Services, AgStar Financial Services, and Badgerland Financial will become Compeer Financial. The boards of directors of each organization first began looking into the possibility of merging assets back in February of last year. Each recommended moving forward with the idea in August of 2016. The new organization will do business in 144 counties across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. They’ll have 47 offices, nearly 50,000 clients, and $18.6 billion in assets. AgStar President and CEO Rod Hebrink has been selected to lead the new Compeer Financial. The merger will help draw on the strengths of each organization, but it also will provide expanded capital for Compeer to invest in new technologies and other resources to support the client base. It also allows the group to diversify its portfolio, which creates additional stability and gives the organization a much better chance to share earnings with their stockholders through a cash patronage program.


Group Sues to Ban Processed Meats in CA Schools

The Los Angeles, California, school district is being sued by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine because of processed meats on the district’s breakfast and lunch menus for children. An Associated Press report says the group filed a similar lawsuit against school districts in San Diego County. They’re asking the court to ban the districts from offering processed meats because they say there is a recognized association between eating processed meats and developing cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The suit claims serving processed meats violates the California Educational Code, which says foods must be of the “highest quality and provide the greatest nutritional value.” The Physicians Committee is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group that advocates in favor of a vegetarian or a vegan diet. The North American Meat Institute calls the lawsuit a publicity stunt. “We stand by the nutrition benefits that meat, both fresh and processed, provide for growing children, such as being a good source of iron, zinc, and Vitamin B12,” said spokeswoman Janet Riley.


Immigration Raids Could Send Milk Prices Soaring

Continued immigration raids on American dairy farms could send milk prices soaring. Jaime Castaneda, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Trade Policy for the National Milk Producers Federation, says the price of a gallon of milk could possibly approach $8. The Hagstrom Report says Castaneda was part of a panel on immigration at the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference. He estimates 80 percent of the nation’s milk supply comes from dairy farms that employ foreign labor, saying if there’s a continued effort to remove workers, there will be a significant shortage of milk and higher prices. He says the nation’s dairy producers have high expectations that Congress could resolve the farm worker immigration problems. However, he says, “We see what happened with the health insurance fiasco, with the probability of having something pass diminished.” The United Fresh Produce Association notes there is a proposal to move the worker program from the Labor Department to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President for Public Policy, asked the panel, “Is there a will to move the farm worker program to the USDA?”


DDG Prices at Lowest Point in a Decade

Recent trade tensions have hit the dried distiller’s grain market hard. Prices for the U.S. corn byproduct used in animal feed have dropped to the lowest they’ve been at for this time of year in a decade. Earlier this year, China imposed import tariffs on the product, slowing American exports to the world’s largest market. A Bloomberg Report says the tough stance on trade by the White House is making things risky for DDG sellers. Any threat to crop shipments means inventories, which are already piling up, will continue to expand. Other countries have stepped in to make purchases but they won’t be able to fill in the gap left by China. “There’s no home run out there like China,” says Kurt Shultz, Senior Director of Global Strategies at the U.S. Grains Council. “U.S. agriculture is dependent on trade. If we don’t have all the doors open to trade that we can, we put the farm economy at risk.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service