READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, August 10th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, August 10th

Foreign Investment in U.S. Farmland Rising

A Chinese firm made big news in 2013 by spending $4.7 billion to acquire U.S. processor Smithfield Foods. In that same deal, the company also acquired over 146,000 acres of U.S. farmland worth more $500 million. The group, now known as WH Group Limited, became one of the largest foreign owners of U.S. land. That purchase is part of a surge of foreign investment in American farmland and it’s raising concerns in Congress and among rural advocacy groups. Tim Gibbons, a director for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, calls the situation a national security concern. “I think the more control foreign interests have in our food system, the less we have, obviously,” says Gibbons, “and when foreign entities buy farmland, my assumption is we’re never going to get it back. They’re going to hold on to it.” The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting says foreign companies have been investing in American farmland at a record rate for the past decade, with foreign-owned land reaching an area the size of Tennessee by 2014. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow authored a bill this year to give food and agriculture officials a permanent role on the federal committee in charge of reviewing foreign investment in the U.S., something the agriculture industry has never had.   

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Senate/FCC Expanding Rural Broadband Access

The Federal Communications Commission and the Senate are taking specific steps to bring more broadband access into underserved rural areas. The FCC is moving forward on plans for something called a “reverse auction” next year, which would provide nearly $2 billion over the next ten years to expand high-speed access in rural areas that don’t have a fixed broadband service. The commission is looking for comments from interested parties as to how they should run the auction, including how interested parties can participate in the auction, how potential bidders would submit bids, and how the FCC will process those bids to determine both the winners and the support amounts. FCC Chairman Ajit (Ah-jiht’) Pai (Pie) says he expects the auction to attract providers that haven’t ever received universal funding. “I’m thinking about small competitive providers and electrical cooperatives that want to bring fiber to neighbors currently on the wrong side of the broadband divide,” Pai said. The auction idea has been in development since first being proposed in 2011.

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National Potato Council on Continued Mexican Potato Ban

A Mexican judge recently made a decision to continue the ban on importing U.S. potatoes into most of Mexico. Imports are currently allowed in land close to the U.S. – Mexican border but are prohibited from going further into the country. The NPC says the ruling ignores science and interferes with the role of the Mexican plant health regulatory authority. Experts from Mexico, USDA, as well as third-party experts, have all reviewed the impacts of importing fresh American potatoes into the entire Mexican countryside. The plant health authority has published a Pest Risk Assessment that shows any possible risk from the entry of fresh U.S. potatoes can be mitigated. The Potato Council says the ruling will not limit the movement of U.S. potatoes into the legal 26-kilometer zone that starts at the U.S. border. The judge’s ruling is expected to be appealed by all parties with a direct interest in the case. U.S. potatoes were approved for access into the entire Mexican country back in 2013, but Mexican potato growers filed a legal challenge to that action.

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USDA Reports Preview

The August World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates on Thursday will include the first USDA yield estimates of the season. The August report has historically pushed the markets up or down significantly. In January, USDA predicted the corn yield at just under 171 billion bushels. Farm Journal’s Ag Web Dot Com says most analysts agree that Thursday’s estimate will likely come in well under the USDA baseline. Pro Farmer’s Brian Grete (Gray’-tee) says corn yield will likely be in the mid-160 range. The Gulke Group’s Jerry Gulke says the likely corn yield estimate will be near the Informa Economic’s estimate of 166. Gulke also doesn’t expect the soybean yield estimates to come in lower than expectations, saying, “I’d be surprised if USDA lowered the soybean yield more than a bushel.” USDA will also release the supply and demand numbers on Thursday and it’s important that the demand side stays high to keep markets afloat. “What we don’t want to see is them lower both corn yield and corn demand,” Gulke added. “If they lower the demand side such that it overshadows any loss in production, that won’t sit well with traders.” USDA does have the potential to lower world demand because of huge South American crops.

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Poll Shows Americans Support Tax Reform for Farmers

A new poll shows a large majority of American voters support tax reforms, including some changes that would help America’s farm and ranch families. The survey, conducted by Morning Consult, found that 7 out of 10 American voters agreed passing tax reforms should be an important priority for Congress. Over half the voters supported specific tax reform provisions that would be a benefit for farmers and ranchers. Some of the provisions include allowing farmers to deduct machinery purchases in the year they’re made, decreasing capital gains taxes, and eliminating the death tax. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says Americans are ready for tax reform. “Many Americans know the toll that taxes take on our farm and ranch families,” Duvall says. “Congress must take action to provide tax relief. Farmers and ranchers will be sharing that message with lawmakers until the job is done.” Tax rates are a key area ripe for reform. The Morning Consult poll shows that 63 percent of respondents agree that federal income tax rates are too high. Two out of three voters in the survey say farmers and ranchers should get special tax treatment because of the challenges and risks that are specific to agriculture.

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Cotton Harvest is Underway

The 2017 cotton harvest is underway, including Texas, which is the number one cotton-producing state in the nation. Cotton pickers have begun rolling across southern Texas. Farmers say early yields are good and may actually be higher than yields in 2016. In some areas across southern Texas, early reports say farmers are getting 2.5 bales of cotton on dryland acres. Texas farmer Charles Ring says he’s done with sorghum and corn harvesting on his operation and their attention is now on cotton. Ring says they’re pulling in 2.5 to 2.75 bales on dryland acres before they start harvesting cotton on their irrigated acres. Crop quality is said to be good even though it hasn’t rained on their fields since it opened. The latest USDA crop condition report this week says the cotton crop is 57 percent good to excellent across American fields.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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