READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, May 30th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, May 30th

Roberts/Stabenow: No More Cuts to Agriculture

The Senate Ag Committee heard testimony this week from several economists on the challenges that currently exist in farm country. The Hagstrom Report says Republican Ag Chair Pat Roberts of Kansas and Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan both came to the same conclusion: no more cuts for farm bill programs. At what he described as the first farm bill hearing in Washington, Roberts did say the nation’s debt is approaching $20 trillion. However, he said between the savings from the last farm bill and the Ag Department’s crop insurance negotiation, “everyone on this committee thinks agriculture has already given at the store.” Roberts emphasized the importance of producers having risk management tools at their disposal. “Let me emphasize that crop insurance is the most valuable tool in the risk management toolbox,” he said. Stabenow focused more on the proposed Trump budget released earlier this week, saying, “It cuts crop insurance by $29 billion which would take away a critical part of the farm safety net when it’s needed most.” A panel of economists and Ag business members testified that economic conditions for farmers and ranchers continue to get worse, but it’s still not as bad as the farm crisis of the 1980s.


Senate Passes Bill to Address Potential Agro-Terrorism

The U.S. Senate passed legislation designed to address the potential threat of agro-terrorism and keep the American food supply safe. Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts co-sponsored the legislation in the Senate and says an attack on the nation’s food supply would cause irreparable damage. “This legislation reaffirms the important role for the Department of Homeland Security in preventing agro-terrorism,” Roberts said. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, and the spread of any deadly pathogen among our livestock and plant populations would be deadly,” House Republican Dan Donovan introduced similar legislation in the House, saying “This bill is essential to enhancing our preparedness against possible agro-terrorism and our emergency response measures.  The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act requires the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, 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 receive attention and are integrated into the DHS’s domestic preparedness policy initiatives. After House consideration, the bill would head to the president’s desk for his signature.


Oklahoma Beef Council Embezzler Pleads Guilty

Former Oklahoma Beef Council employee Melissa Mortenson pled guilty this week to embezzling $2.6 million from the beef checkoff over the course of seven years. She now awaits sentencing from the court. The Beef Council Board of Directors says this is a significant step towards bringing the criminal matter to a conclusion. “We are indebted to federal investigators for the speed at which this has moved,” a Board-issued statement says, “We believe this has been due in part to the quality of evidence we have turned over to investigators.” The Board is aggressively pursuing efforts to maximize the $2.68 million dollar restitution awarded by a civil court last month. The board says the matter has been incredibly complicated as it’s moved through civil and criminal courts. They’re limited in the information they can release to the public and will be for a few months as the case moves into the sentencing phase. The Oklahoma Beef Council has taken several steps to strengthen internal mechanisms to ensure accounting integrity and has retained an outside accounting firm to provide additional oversight.


USDA Revises Angus Certification Requirements

The USDA Ag Marketing Service announced this week that it’s revising the live animal specification used for all Angus Certification Programs. The goal is to reflect changes in cattle genetics and marketing, with the proposals to take effect on July 1. A Meating Place Dot Com article says the revised specifications for phenotypic evaluations require that cattle have a main body that’s solid back with no color behind the shoulder, above the flanks, or breaking the midline behind the shoulder. Those color requirements do exclude the tail. The current requirements (Schedule GLA) say that cattle must be 51 percent black, along with other exclusionary criteria. AMS officials say the current Schedule GLA has served the industry well. “As cattle genetics change over time,” the announcement says, “opportunities for updates should be considered that better reflect the current populations and marketplace.”  The goal of the new requirements is to provide more objective criteria for identifying eligible cattle. The agency also mentioned it’s making the changes in response to a request from beef industry stakeholders.  


China Issues “Wish List” for U.S. Trade

China has issued a list of concessions that it says can help deliver a “win-win” trade relationship with America. The list is part of a 117-page document released Thursday by the Ministry of Commerce. China would like to improve infrastructure cooperation with the U.S. and accept greater imports of goods ranging from soybeans to aircraft. The report acknowledges the Trump Administration’s grievances with China and with globalization, urging “balanced development” of trade ties in future talks. A 100-day review of the bilateral trade relationship is due to finish up in July. A deal earlier this month allows more U.S. access into the Chinese market for beef, natural gas, and financial services. China would like to increase imports of agricultural products like soybeans and cotton. It would also like to speed up negotiations with the U.S. on traceability, inspection, and quarantine procedures on U.S. beef to be sold in the Chinese market. Bloomberg said the 117-page paper could be seen as China indicating a more stable negotiating environment between the two countries. In return, on the “ask” list, the report argues that the U.S. should stop using the so-called alternative state approach when calculating dumping margins in WTO trade disputes. That would be a big step that could push China toward being considered a market economy by its major trading partners.


Farm Machinery Markets Beginning to Stabilize

A DTN article says signs are showing that the farm machinery industry is starting to stabilize after prices had been free falling for some time. “We are seeing signs that after several years of steep declines, key agricultural markets may be stabilizing,” says Samuel Allen, John Deere Chairman and CEO. That doesn’t mean farmers have started to replace the equipment bought during the most recent boom years of 2011-2013. Lower sales have led to layoffs, cutbacks, and tighter profit margins at farm equipment manufacturing sites. Sales numbers in the first quarter of 2017 offered some hope. AGCO reported an increase of 6.3 percent in North American sales. John Deere released second quarter sales numbers this week showing net income 62 percent higher than this time last year. However, that number does reflect some cost cutting measures taken by the company in recent months as well as non-ag sales numbers. The under-40 horsepower tractor market has been a bright spot for manufacturers. At the end of this year’s first quarter, sales were up 12 percent over the same time last year.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service