READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 12th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 12th

Perdue Announces Creation of USDA Trade Undersecretary, USDA Reorganization

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s announcement of a USDA undersecretary on trade was met with open arms by farm groups. The Department of Agriculture will be reorganized to include a trade secretary. He made the announcement to the public during a tour of a grain shipping facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, Thursday afternoon. In a letter to Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, Perdue said the move follows “Congress’s directive in the 2014 farm bill.” Congress directed USDA to establish an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural Affairs and realign the Foreign Agricultural Service to report to the new trade undersecretary. Perdue also announced the creation of an undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, which will oversee the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency. The reorganization also includes eliminating the Rural Development Undersecretary, having the division report directly to Secretary Perdue. In the letter, Perdue stated: “This realignment will re-orient our approach to serving producers and improve our responsiveness to the needs of producers.”

Regional Farm Sector Stress Intensifies

The Midwest farm economy in the Tenth Federal Reserve District weakened in the first quarter of 2017, but conditions varied from east to west. The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s Agriculture Credit Conditions survey reports farm income, loan repayment rates, and the value of most types of farmland all trended lower in each of the districts seven states. However, the deterioration in the western portion of the district was more severe than the moderate weakness in the eastern portion. The district includes Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming. Since 2014, following a drop in the prices of major row crops, farm income has fallen more sharply in the Mountain States and the western portion of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. According to the survey, the gap between the two regions widened during the first quarter of this year. Alongside persistent weakness in cattle and wheat markets, more than 80 percent of bankers indicated farm income was lower than a year ago in the western part of the district versus about 60 percent in the eastern part. 

EPA Delays Implementation of Pesticide Applicators Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would delay implementation of the Pesticide Applicators rule. Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (gright-tins) says the action follows his recommendation to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during a meeting to delay the rule. Greitens says the recommendation was made at the request of Missouri farmers and ranchers. The move, according to the Missouri Governor, proved “the old way of doing business at the EPA is over and done with.” Pruitt said the EPA would delay the rule for 12 months. The Pesticide Applicators Rule would establish a minimum age of 18 and stricter training requirements for people who apply restricted-use pesticides. The extended timeline, according to Pruitt, will give the EPA more time to consult with states and receive feedback from farmers and ranchers about the rule.

Senate Confirms USTR Nominee

After a lengthy confirmation process, the U.S. Senate gave the nod to Robert Lighthizer Thursday to serve as U.S. Trade Representative for President Donald Trump. The Senate approved Lighthizer 82-14, giving the Trump administration its final trade voice needed to move forward with its trade agenda. That agenda includes a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue predicted last week could happen within the next six months. Following the confirmation vote, agriculture groups stressed the importance of trade. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association released a statement calling international trade “vital to the success” of agriculture. NCBA President Craig Uden urged Lighthizer to “focus his efforts on opening and expanding our access to other markets and preventing any action that may hinder our export growth.” U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers welcomed the confirmation vote, and encouraged Lighthizer to quickly name a new U.S. Agricultural Trade Ambassador.

New Zealand Continues TPP Push Without U.S.

New Zealand continues its push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the United States. New Zealand this week completed its ratification process, approving of the final agreement. Although, the future is uncertain for the trade deal given President Donald Trump removed the U.S. from the agreement earlier this year. Despite that, A New Zealand trade official says ratifying TPP “sends a clear message that we see value in a common set of high-quality rules across the Asia-Pacific and we are keeping all of our options open,” according to Politico. The trade official says: “We are still actively exploring alternative options for TPP and expect other TPP partners to also ratify in the coming months.” Trade talks between the 11 other TPP member nations have been ongoing this spring to decide the fate of TPP without the United States, but little movement has yet to surface.

Overall Tractor Sales Trending Higher in 2017

Tractor sales in the United States increased again last month, representing a six percent increase since the beginning of the year. A monthly report by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers shows April tractor sales were up seven percent, compared to April of last year, with more than 67,000 sales reported. For the month, two-wheel drive under 40 horsepower tractors, were up 11 percent from last year, while 40 and under 100 horsepower tractors were up one percent. Sales of two-wheel drive 100-plus horsepower were down eight percent, while four-wheel drive tractor sales were down five percent. For the year, two-wheel drive smaller tractors, under 40 horsepower, are up 13 percent over last year, while 40 and under 100 horsepower are down two percent. Sales of two-wheel drive 100-plus horsepower tractors are down 12 percent, while four-wheel drive tractors are down 10 percent. Combine sales were up 0.3 percent for the month. Sales of combines for the year total 1,034 a decrease of 12 percent from 2016.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service