READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 22nd

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 22nd

House Narrowly Passes Farm Bill

The House of Representatives Thursday passed its version of the farm bill 213-211. The narrow vote followed a failed attempt at passing significant immigration reform in the House. The bill again received no support from House Democrats, just as it did when the House failed to pass the legislation previously. Attention now turns to the Senate, expected to consider its version of the farm bill within the next two weeks. The Senate bill was crafted in a bipartisan way and is expected to pass. However, the House version of the bill, greatly differs, with work requirements included for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas says he looks forward to “working with the Senate and the president” to deliver an on-time farm bill. The current farm bill expires in September.

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Trump Reorganization Plan Offers Big Changes to USDA

A government reorganization plan by President Trump would rename the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Health and Public Welfare. Notably, the plan would move the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from the Department of Agriculture to the new so-called welfare department. The plan would also reorganize USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the food safety functions of the Food and Drug Administration into a single agency within USDA. The administration’s proposal would move USDA’s rural housing program to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Many of the proposals would require congressional approval and are expected to face significant opposition from both Democrats and some Republicans, according to the Washington Post. The plan introduced Thursday would also merge the education and labor departments of the federal government, move the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works from the Department of Defense to the Department of Transportation and Department of the Interior, and make consolidations in the Department of Energy.

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EPA RFS Volumes Proposal Expected Friday

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to roll out a proposal for volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2019 today (Friday). Some suspect the proposal will include a reallocation of gallons displaced by hardship waivers, according to Politico. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said late last month that he spoke with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt about the hardship waivers. Perdue said the proposal would require hardship waivers to be granted before the volume requirements for the year go into effect, to allow for reallocation of the displaced gallons to other refiners. This month, administrator Pruitt appeared to reverse course from his alleged attack on the biofuels industry, visiting an ethanol plant in Kansas, and telling a group of agriculture leaders that the EPA would move forward with a waiver to allow year-round E15 sales. Still, the ethanol industry is awaiting further word of action on the issue.

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EU Imposes Retaliatory Tariffs on the U.S.

The European Union’s response to Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs take effect today (Friday). The EU will be charging import duties of 25 percent on a range of U.S. goods. Reuters reports that the European Commission formally adopted a law putting in place the duties on 2.8 billion euros, or $3.2 billion, worth of U.S. goods, including steel and aluminum products, farm produce such as sweetcorn and peanuts, bourbon, jeans and motorcycles. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom stated “we do not want to be in this position,” but adds the U.S. “left the EU with no choice.” President Trump ended an exemption from the tariffs for the EU, along with Canada and Mexico, earlier this month. Canada will impose tariffs on $12.5 billion of U.S. goods, while Mexico has already implemented tariffs on U.S. products, including steel, pork and bourbon.

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Rural Mainstreet Economy Expands for June

The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index measured above growth neutral in June for a fifth straight month. This is the first time since July 2015 the survey has recorded five straight months of overall indices above growth neutral, according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a Midwest dependent on agriculture. However, the overall index slid slightly to 56.1 from 56.3 in May. Further, organizers caution that “the negative impacts of recent trade skirmishes has yet to show up” in the survey results. As part of the survey, bankers responses project farmland prices to sink by another 2.1 percent over the next year, and the confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, fell to 48.8 from May’s 50.0, indicating declining economic optimism among bankers. Bankers also say in the survey that over the past month borrowing by farmers expanded, as the loan-volume index rose to 76.3 from 74.3 in May.

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USFRA Names New CEO

The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has selected Erin Fitzgerald to lead the organization as its next chief executive officer. Fitzgerald formerly served as Senior Vice President of Global Sustainability for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, a part of Dairy Management Inc., which is a forum for the dairy community to address the needs and expectations of consumers. USFRA says “Erin was the obvious choice” to lead the organization, and it was a unanimous decision by the board. USFRA parted ways with its previous CEO, Randy Krotz, in January of this year. USFRA voted to not renew his contract, after serving as the only CEO of the organization since its inception. Fitzgerald will lead USFRA as it approaches its eighth year as an organization. USFRA is composed of more than 100 farmer and rancher-led organizations and ag partners representing agriculture. The organization claims it is committed to helping increase confidence and trust in agriculture.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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