READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, October 22nd

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, October 22nd

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Hurricane Damage Total in Georgia Up to $3 Billion

New assessments by Georgia state officials show that damage to the state’s ag industry from Hurricane Michael is up to $3 billion. Ag Commissioner Gary Black says, “These are generational losses that are unprecedented and it will take unprecedented ideas and actions to help our farm families and rural communities recover.” One million acres of timber were damaged, adding up to $1 billion dollars in bottom-line damage to the timber industry. Other industries like cotton, peanuts, poultry, vegetables, and pecans were also hit very hard by Michael. Black says, “Unfortunately, our worst thoughts were realized. We saw months and years worth of hard work just laid over on the ground in a matter of seconds.” Black adds that Georgia has led the nation in producing several commodities and now have the dubious distinction of leading in devastation to those same crops. Bainbridge, Georgia, farmer Eric Cohen tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Michael will probably put them out of business. “It’s the storm we always feared,” Cohen says. “Farming is the heartbeat of south Georgia. It won’t just be the farming industry that’s hurting, either.”


EPA Chief Says E15 Expansion Doesn’t’t Need Congress

Andrew Wheeler, Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, says his agency can expand E15 sales to year-round without Congressional approval. Wheeler also said last week that the oil industry needs to drop its lawsuit threat against the move. Last week, President Trump said he was directing the EPA to lift the ban on summertime sales of E15, a move designed to help farmers struggling with low commodity prices. An Agriculture Dot Com article says the oil industry calls the move a violation of the nation’s biofuel law and threatened a lawsuit to block the move. “We do have the authority to move forward on E15,” Wheeler says. “I’d hope the oil industry would join us in helping make U.S. biofuel policy function better for the American public, rather than take it to court.” The oil industry opposes lifting the ban on year-round ethanol because the move would cut into its share of the fuel market. The EPA is already moving ahead on the idea. A filing with the Office of Management and Budget says the agency will release a draft on E15 by February of 2019 and will conclude deliberations by May. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents oil refiners, says the industry will challenge the final proposal in court.


Farm Bill on the Campaign Trail

Vice President Mike Pence made several campaign stops last week, including locations in Kansas and Iowa. Going into the trip, a spokesman confirmed that the vice president would bring up the yet-to-be-finished farm bill during his speeches. The White House message is similar to that of the House Republicans: The unemployment rate is low and a lot of jobs are open. Because of that, Republicans want Democrats to get on board with more work requirements for millions of food-stamp recipients. The House farm bill would greatly expand the pool of able-bodied workers, all of whom would be required to work an average of 20 hours per week. Politico says that’s an idea “dead on arrival” in the Senate. However, the White House also wants to ensure that Democrats don’t get what it calls a “free pass” for voting no on the farm bill. In the meantime, USDA already has a proposal in place to tighten work requirements on able-bodied adults under review at the Office of Management and Budget. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue doesn’t want to get ahead of Congress on the issue, which means it’s uncertain as to when his agency will release the rule.


China Has Culled 200,000 Pigs Due to Swine Fever Outbreak

China, the world’s largest pork producer, has culled 200,000 pigs from its herds due to the outbreak of African Swine Fever. A Reuters report says Chinese health officials made the announcement last week. That number represents a small part of the 700 million pigs that China slaughters every year for food consumption. However, due to restrictions on transporting animals that are designed to help curb the spread of the disease have created tight pork supplies in parts of the country. Forty-one disease outbreaks have affected 27 different cities across the country. The Chinese Animal Health and Epidemiology Center say the disease, which is deadly to pigs but not to humans, is very hard to detect and prevent. China has culled pigs on each of the farms hit by outbreaks, as well as all the animals on other farms within a three-mile range of each outbreak. Most of the swine fever outbreaks have happened in northeast China. That’s an area which typically sends its hogs to slaughter in the south, closer to consumption centers.


U.S. Suspends Pork Imports from Poland

The U.S. suspended pork imports from Poland last week after an outbreak of African Swine Fever in that country. Pork Business Dot Com says the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also has concerns over Polish export protocols. APHIS discovered that a Polish export facility shipping pork to the U.S. didn’t follow the requirements designed to help prevent the spread of serious livestock diseases. The USDA also says a second facility in Poland is under review. African Swine Fever is continuing to spread rapidly in parts of Europe and China. U.S. efforts to keep the highly-contagious disease out of the country are increasing. The USDA is also working with Customs and Border Protection staff to enhance screening of passenger bags coming from Poland. The checks aim to ensure that restricted products are not brought into the country. African Swine Fever has not yet been detected anywhere in North America. The disease is highly-contagious among domestic and feral pigs, but it poses no danger to human health.


Online Grocery Sales to Quadruple

Over the next five years, online grocery sales are expected to more than quadruple between now and 2023. More web-based options will become available and more consumers are expected to give it a try. The prediction comes from a new forecast by market-research firm Packaged Facts. Over the past five years, online grocery sales have already tripled. Most of that growth has come since 2016 as e-commerce platforms and conventional grocery stores have expanded their efforts. Packaged Facts expects more and more people to try online grocery shopping for the first time. Those who are already online shopping are predicted to increase their purchase rate. The fuel for the online grocery boom is coming from increasing smartphone use, better websites and mobile apps, as well as better business models designed for shopping and delivery. Amazon and Walmart are the two biggest participants in online shopping, but more are expected to jump in over the next five years. Walmart’s large number of rural stores is expected to give it a competitive advantage in online shopping over the next five years.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service