READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, August 28th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, August 28th

NAFTA Nations Sign Non-Disclosure Agreement

The U.S., Canada and Mexico signed non-disclosure agreements before negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement got underway. Officials from Mexico last week confirmed the non-disclosure agreements to Reuters, which reports that the first round of talks this month concluded with signs of deep division on key issues. Per the non-disclosure agreements, each government is barred from distributing texts, emails, proposals and presentations gathered from the other countries. However, information may be distributed between internal government offices and marked with “confidential.” The agreement, which the three nations call standard in trade negotiations, expires four years after negotiations conclude. Further negotiations on revamping NAFTA are due to start in Mexico City September first.

GAO Recommends Lowering Crop Insurance Expected Rate of Return

The Government Accountability Office is recommending that Congress considers directing the Department of Agriculture to adjust the expected rate of return for crop insurance. In 2010, USDA negotiated a set rate of return with crop insurance providers. The return is how much companies can profit from insurance policies. In a report released last week, the GAO found that the expected rate of return was too high compared with market conditions. In 2010, USDA negotiated with insurance companies to set a 14.5 percent target rate. According to GAO’s analysis, which updated information in the study for 2009 through 2015, the reasonable rate of return declined, averaging 9.6 percent. By reducing the expected rate of return, GAO says the federal crop insurance program could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Urban Agriculturalists Hoping for Beneficial Legislation

Proponents of urban agriculture are hoping two bills will be reintroduced this year in time to be added to the 2018 Farm Bill. Bloomberg reports the bills have very different initiatives but similar goals, with hopes to create economic opportunity and show support for farmers and ranchers in urban areas. The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 outlines a plan to establish an Office of Urban Agriculture within the Department of Agriculture and make urban agriculture activities eligible for funding from USDA programs. The bill, introduced by Democrat Debbie Stabenow, was referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Meanwhile, the Urban Agriculture Production Act of 2016 aims to establish an outreach program to award grants to support urban farm outreach activities. The bill was referred to the House Agriculture Committee. Lawmakers plan to reintroduce the bill next month in the U.S. House. There are currently no plans, however, to reintroduce Stabenow’s bill.

Stabenow Concerned with Monument Review

The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee says she is “deeply concerned” with the Trump administration review of national monuments. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted findings to the White House last week as part of a review of 27 national monuments, which includes thousands of acres of U.S. Forest Service land, managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Trump administration has refused to release the report while the White House reviews the findings. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan last week stated failing to release the report is “totally unacceptable.” She says proceeding with the recommendations is “irresponsible and betrays our duty as stewards of our public lands.” However, livestock groups were encouraged by the report. Leadership with the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association say past presidents “have repeatedly abused their authority under the Antiquities Act” by locking up more than 240 million acres without economic analysis.

Low Education Rural Counties Worse Off than Higher Education Rural Counties

New data announced by the Department of Agriculture shows that rural counties with low education levels have worse economic outcomes than other rural counties. USDA’s Economic Research Service classifies 467 counties as “low education” counties, where at least 20 percent of working-age adults, ages 25 to 64, do not have a high school diploma or equivalent. Nearly 80 percent of those counties are rural. A rural non-metro county, as considered by USDA, consists of either open countryside, rural towns with fewer than 2,500 people and urban areas with populations under 50,000 that are not part of larger labor markets, or metro areas. About 40 percent of low education rural counties are also persistent poverty counties, with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher since 1980. Low education rural counties also had a higher average child poverty rate on average than for all other rural counties. Additionally, the unemployment rate of low education rural counties was about a percentage point higher.

Culver’s Restaurants Celebrating Farmers with Corn Mazes

Culver’s Restaurants Thank You Farmers campaign is celebrating farmers through 12 corn mazes this fall. The company announced last week that to date, 33 corn mazes in 19 states have joined together to show support for farmers and the future of farming over the past few years, with 12 corn mazes announced this year. The idea for growing messages of thanks into corn mazes came in 2014 when Culver’s worked with a student agricultural group in Tracy, Minnesota, to bring the first Thank You Farmers corn maze to life. The restaurant chain has continued the fall maze tradition each year, working with corn mazes from Arizona to South Carolina to Michigan. Each maze design includes the Thank You Farmers message, as well as a variety of farm scene elements like cows and tractors.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service