READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, October 20th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, October 20th

Senate Ag Committee Sends Ibach, Northey to Full Senate

The U.S. Senate Ag Committee announced today that it voted to send the USDA nominations of Greg Ibach (Eye’-baw) from Nebraska and Bill Northey of Iowa on to the full Senate. Ibach is nominated to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, while Northey is nominated to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. Committee Chair Pat Roberts of Kansas and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan issued a statement saying, “The Senate Ag Committee continues to advance USDA nominees as swiftly as possible, and we expect a quick confirmation from the U.S. Senate. Greg Ibach and Bill Northey are qualified and respected public servants who know agriculture firsthand and they will serve rural America well at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” The Senate Ag Committee held a hearing on the nominees back on October 5. Both nominees have the full support of more than 60 farm organizations.

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Stabenow to Shield Farm Bill from Cuts

Debbie Stabenow, the ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee, wants to defend the farm bill from possible budget cuts that could come during the budget reconciliation process that got started this week. Politico’s Morning Ag Report says she filed an amendment on Wednesday that’s intended to keep all farm bill programs away from any spending reductions from 2019 to 2028. The move is seen as mostly symbolic, coming as the Senate gets ready to consider the GOP budget resolution, which would pave the way for tax reform. The Senate’s budget resolution spares the Ag Committee from having to come up with cuts, while the House resolution calls for $10 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. Those two measures will have to be reconciled. “As we write the Farm Bill,” Stabenow says, “we need to send a message to our farmers, families, and rural communities that they are not on the chopping block for cuts. This amendment protects farm programs from harmful budgets cuts.” She says the amendment also helps to protect America’s land and water, as well as invests in the country’s farmers and small towns.

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Farm State Senators Keep Pressure on EPA

Farm-state Senators have been keeping pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency over its actions on biofuels. Politico’s Morning Energy says the small group of Senators has been blocking votes on EPA nominees. South Dakota Senator John Thune is a member of the group, who says, “We have enough of a bloc of Midwestern Senators that they’re going to have to pay attention to us.” Iowa Senator Joni Ernst held up a scheduled Environment and Public Works Committee vote on Wednesday, saying her frustration level is “pretty high” over the Trump administration’s stance on biofuels. Ernst says, “We want to know that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is going to follow the spirit of the law. I have no doubt that they’ll try to follow the letter of the law. However, the spirit of the law is all about energy independence for the United States.” The group of Senators wants a written guarantee or a public announcement from the administration that they will do everything they can to support the renewable fuels industry in America.

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Ethanol Summit of the Americas Talks Global Usage

More than 15 countries in the Western Hemisphere have sent officials to the Ethanol Summit of the Americas to talk over current and future ethanol opportunities in the region. The event runs through Friday (today) and is sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council, the Renewable Fuels Association, and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. Tom Sleight, U.S. Grains Council president and CEO says increasing cooperation between ethanol industries supports economic growth for all countries involved. “Collaborative efforts like this pave the way for expanded ethanol use across the region,” says Sleight. RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the dialogue is desperately needed across the industry due to a growing protectionism among many countries in the world. “Protectionism will only thwart our efforts to expand this important industry and won’t help to address pressing regional energy and environmental needs,” Dinneen says. In part, because of efforts like the Energy Summit of the Americas, the U.S. set a record for ethanol exports in the 2016-2017 marketing year at 1.37 billion gallons. That’s a corn equivalent of 488 million bushels in corn.

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Rural Mainstreet Index Fears Farm Foreclosure Threat to Banks

The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index is still below growth-neutral, which it has been for some time. The index jumped six points from September to October, but low crop prices are still inhibiting growth. Ernie Goss, author of the index, says, “As a result of low commodity prices and weak farm income, 9.5 percent of bank CEOs expect farm foreclosures to become the biggest threat to banking operations over the next five years,” says Goss. He doesn’t think the bottom is in yet in terms of foreclosures, delinquincies, and bankruptcies. Goss says the bottom is still out there. Lenders who participated in the RMI survey say they’re also keeping an eye on the Federal Reserve for another potential rate hike. Goss says rural bankers are mostly supportive of a possible rate hike, saying, “about 64 percent of bankers expect one more rate hike in 2017.” As combines are rolling across rural America, bankers are reporting mixed results. The survey shows only two percent of bankers expect corn prices from $3.50 to $3.75 were above break-even levels.

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Temps Above Normal in Winter Forecast

The National Weather Service issued a forecast for much-above normal temps across the contiguous 48 states from November through January. The above-normal temps include the Central and Southern Plains, as well as the Corn Belt. One exception is a band that stretches all the way from Washington state through western Minnesota, where the chances are basically equal for either above-normal and below-normal temps. The forecast is also calling for below-normal precipitation in an area from Arizona all the way through the Carolinas. The dry area includes Oklahoma and Texas. In spite of that, the newest Drought Monitor doesn’t mention widespread drought, so the outlook for the Hard Red Winter wheat crop isn’t considered concerning. Above normal precipitation is forecast from Montana through Colorado. The precipitation forecast for the Dakotas, Central Plains, and the Corn Belt is a little more variable, with equal chances for different levels of moisture. The National Weather Service also mentioned that conditions in the ocean continue to move very close to the La Nina state. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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