READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 23rd

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 23rd

Peterson: Pelosi Didn’t Direct Farm Bill, but Ryan May Have

Republicans in the House have accused Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of pushing Democrats on the House Agricultural Committee to oppose the House version of the farm bill. The biggest objection is over proposed changes to the nutrition title. However, ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota told the Hagstrom Report that he hadn’t discussed the farm bill with her until last Tuesday evening. Peterson described Pelosi as surprised that Republicans accused her of being behind the Democrats opposition to the farm bill. The House Ag Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 26-20, with all Democrats opposed. Pelosi had issued a statement earlier criticizing the farm bill. However, Peterson said he’d told her they would talk about the bill when he had something to tell her, and that was the Tuesday before the markup. Peterson says Pelosi was not aware of the detailed politics in the committee Democrats’ opposition to the bill. Peterson says he’s seen evidence that the retiring Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is behind the changes to the nutrition title, which attach work requirements to the food stamp program. He says Ryan sees it as his welfare reform bill before he leaves Congress. Peterson says, “The Speaker put this in the bill because he couldn’t get anything else done with welfare reform.”

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Wildfire Aid Amendment Included in Farm Bill Proposal

Wildfires have burned major portions of Oklahoma, as well as several other areas in the High Plains, over the past week. In an attempt to give better aid to people in those areas, a Drover’s report says Kansas Republican Representative Roger Marshall proposed an amendment that was included in the House Farm Bill, which passed out of the Ag Committee on April 18. Marshall says the wildfires burning across Kansas and Oklahoma bring back memories of the wildfires that burned large numbers of acres in 2017. “While the USDA response to help producers recover has been good, it’s important that we take time to figure out how to improve ways to help farmers in the future,” he says. Two separate fires in northwest Oklahoma have burned more than 350,000 acres since April 12. Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado have all been dealing with smaller wildfires over the past few weeks. The amendment is intended to streamline the application and approval processes for producers to get resources more quickly when applying to the Emergency Conservation Program to rebuild their fences. The amendment also simplifies the program administration for Farm Service Agency employees. There aren’t any guarantees the amendment stays in the finished 2018 Farm Bill.

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Dicamba Legal Battle Continues in Arkansas

Nearly 200 farmers have obtained temporary restraining orders against the Arkansas in-season ban on dicamba use. A DTN report says judges in three counties have granted restraining orders in response to last-minutes complaints filed by farmers. The office of State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is filing appeals of those decisions to the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office says those farmers are free to use dicamba while the orders are in place. Nicole Ryan, communications director for the attorney general, says the state Plant Board will enforce the federal label requirements for the farmers who are spraying dicamba while the country restraining orders are in place. “The attorney general will be seeking expedited stays from the supreme court, which would halt the judges’ decisions until the appeals are decided,” Ryan says. In spite of the temporary restraining orders, Monsanto has opted not to sell its XtendiMax herbicide with Vapor Grip Technology, even though it’s registered for use in Arkansas on soybeans and cotton. Spokesman Kyle Richards says the company needs a stable and predictable environment before they’re able to make their product available to growers that want to use it. The Arkansas State Plant Board made it illegal to use dicamba between April 15 and October 31.  

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Soybean Farmers Can’t Replace Chinese Business

U.S. soybean exports could drop as much as 65 percent if the back-and-forth trade rhetoric battle between the two largest economies causes China to slap on retaliatory tariffs. Politico says that number comes from a soon-to-be-published report out of Purdue University. Earlier this month, China said it will put a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans if President Trump follows through on his plan to punish China for forced technology transfers by implementing American tariffs on Chinese goods. If the trade war actually happens and tariffs are put in place, China will rely on Brazil soybeans to fill in the gap. Brazil is currently the largest soybean exporter to China. U.S. soybean farmers likely could find some substitute business by expanding into other markets that currently import Brazilian beans. Wally Tyner, professor of ag economics at Purdue, says, “Brazil will take a big chunk of our market with China, and we’ll take a chunk of Brazil’s business in other countries.” However, increasing exports to other countries like the European Union, Mexico, Indonesia, and Japan, still won’t make up for a major loss of business with China, worth nearly $14 billion.  

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Russia Approves Bayer Acquisition of Monsanto

Bayer announced another country has given its approval of the company’s purchase of Monsanto. A Dow Jones report says Russia has given conditional approval of Bayer’s $57 billion acquisition of Monsanto if the German company agrees to transfer certain technologies to Russian recipients. Under the approval terms, Bayer agreed to transfer molecular breeding assets in several crops for a period of five years. The company didn’t specify who the Russian recipients of the transfer would be. Bayer says it’s agreed to grant non-discriminatory access to digital-farming technologies after the products have been launched in Russia. The approval means Bayer is one step closer to achieving its goal of acquiring Monsanto, first announced in 2016. Bayer still plans on closing out the process in the second quarter of this year. Bayer got conditional approval from the European Commission in March and still awaits approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Rural Mainstreet Index Hurt by Trade Concerns

The Rural Mainstreet Index, which measures the economic outlook in rural America, was hit hard by rural bankers who expressed concerns about trade tensions and their effect on the farm economy. “An unresolved North American Free Trade Agreement and rising trade tensions with China are significant concerns,” says Ernie Goss, Creighton University economist and author of the Rural Mainstreet Index. The confidence index is a sub-category of the overall index and expresses the outlook for six months into the future. It dropped from 58 in March to an index of 50 this month. The index range is 0 to 100, with 50 being a growth-neutral reading. The overall index dropped somewhat but did remain above growth-neutral for a third-straight month. Goss says that indicates an upward trend with improving economic growth. “However, weak farm income continues to weigh on the rural economy,” says Goss. Bankers in the ten-state RMI district have unresolved concerns about trade matters. Over three-quarters of rural bankers (76.2%) say export markets are very important to their local economy.  

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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