READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, July 18th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, July 18th

China Approves More GMO Crops

China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced it has approved two more genetically modified crops for import into the country. A Reuters article says it’s the second move in the past month to expand access to biotech seeds as a part of Beijing’s 100-day trade talks with Washington. The Ministry approved Syngenta’s 5307 insecticide-resistant corn sold under the Agrisure Duricade brand. It also approved Monsanto’s 87427 glyphosate-resistant corn, sold under the Roundup Ready brand. The approvals are good for a period of three years, starting from July 16th. The move brings the total number of approved genetically modified crops to four. Four other products are still on a waiting list for Beijing approval, including products from Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow. A DuPont spokeswoman said the company was disappointed its Pioneer insect-resistant corn was not included. The other three on the waiting list were Dow’s Enlist soybeans and two alfalfa products from Monsanto. The moves come as China promised to speed up the review process for GMO crops. While GMO crops can’t be planted for food in the country, corn and soybeans can be imported and used in animal feed products.

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Farmers Worried About the Future of Health Care

It may not be front and center in agriculture like the farm bill discussion is, but farmers have a lot to worry about as Congress debates the future of health care. Politico’s Morning Ag Report says farmers have been struggling for some time with low commodity prices and a sharp drop in farm income. In turn, that’s led to a push on promoting exports and shoring up the farm safety net. But the concern in rural America about health care has never been higher, even though roughly 90 percent of farmers currently have health insurance. Most farmers get their health insurance through off-farm employment, something they have to have because farming is a dangerous occupation. A new university-led survey shows just how much farmers are concerned about the high cost of health care. Nearly half of them are worried they might have to sell off land or other assets to help pay for the cost of health care. National Farmers Union State Presidents met last week in North Dakota. They’ve started hearing so much about health care from their members that the board has bumped it higher on their list of priorities in Washington.

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Ag Lenders Pessimistic About Farm Profits

Farmers are still feeling the pressure of a lagging farm economy. A joint survey from the American Bankers Association and the Federal Ag Mortgage Corporation confirms the pressure. Nearly 90 percent of ag lenders report an overall decline in farm profitability over the last year. 84 percent indicate there are higher levels of operating leverage as a result. The survey of 350 ag lenders showed that 60 percent of all borrowers are profitable, but only 54 percent of those same borrowers are expected to stay profitable through the rest of 2017. The degree of pessimism varies by location. Lenders in the South and West said a majority of their customers were profitable in 2016. Corn Belt lenders expect only 55 percent of their customers to remain in the black through 2017. Things are tougher in the Plains states. Lenders in those locations expect only 45 percent of their customers to remain profitable through the rest of this year. A Farmer Mac analyst said the grains, cattle, and dairy sectors have been hit hardest as market prices remain at the low end of the cycle. Lenders that work primarily with poultry, vegetable, fruit, and nut farmers are more optimistic about the future.

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China Purchasing Near Record Number of U.S. Soybeans

A Chinese delegation signed contracts on Sunday to purchase a large amount of U.S. soybeans. The contract is for the purchase of 460 million bushels of U.S. soy worth more than $5 billion. It’s a large increase from the $1 billion contract signed a year ago at this time. The delegation of Chinese buyers represents 11 different companies. China has a growing middle class that’s eating more meat and consuming more protein, plus it has the largest swine herd in the world. That makes China the number one customer for American soy. The Chinese demand for soy is large as it purchases more than 60 percent of all soybeans exported around the world. The United States Soybean Export Council’s China Director says this ceremony represents the value of the 2017 soybean crop, even before it’s harvested. They also called it evidence of the enhanced trade agreements between the two countries. USSEC Chair and Nebraska farmer Jim Miller says U.S. soybean farmers should be confident in the long-term demand for their product. “U.S. soybean farmers have done an exceptional job of meeting the global demands of their customers,” Miller says.

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U.S. Winter Wheat Harvest Forecast Improves

As the American wheat harvest rolls along, the government forecast last week calls for growers to bring in 1.28 billion bushels of winter wheat. The latest projection is two percent higher than the previous month’s forecast, but it’s still 23 percent lower than 2016. The forecast based on July 1 conditions projects a 49.7 bushel per acre average. Hard red winter wheat projections are estimated at 758 million bushels. Kansas is the nation’s biggest wheat producer with 324 million bushels expected to be cut this year. That number is 37 percent below last year when Kansas had an unusually good harvest, but it’s still a lot better than most experts predicted. An Associated Press report says Kansas was hit hard by wheat streak mosaic disease, brutal hail storms, and that poorly-timed late spring snowstorm. “We could have been looking at another phenomenal crop in western Kansas if not for disease pressure,” says Aaron Harries, Marketing Director for Kansas Wheat. He says there was a widespread surprise that the wheat crop in western Kansas recovered from the spring snowstorm as well as it did.

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Love for Bacon Pushing Pork Belly Prices to Record Highs

America loves its bacon, and that love is pushing pork belly prices to record highs. Prices for the part of the hog that’s used to make bacon have jumped roughly 80 percent higher this year. This comes in spite of frozen reserves at a low not seen in sixty years. Market research firm Nielsen says Americans bought 14 percent more bacon in stores during 2016 than they did in 2013. “The consumer has simply woken up to the joys of having bacon on more and more things,” says Arlan Suderman, Chief Commodities Economist at FC Stone. A Market Watch Dot Com article says bacon no longer takes a back seat to the more prized cuts like pork chops and tenderloins. Over the past ten years, bacon popped on menus across the country on everything from BLTs to breakfast specials. As an example, fast food chain Arby’s recently introduced a series of triple-thick bacon sandwiches. Bacon-themed festivals have popped up across the country as well.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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