READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 16th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, November 16th

Roberts, Conaway, Engaged in Finger-pointing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel calls passing a farm bill a top priority for the lame duck session, but the conference committee must first come to an agreement. Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts was hopeful for an agreement Thursday, but said House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway refused to come to an agreement, blaming the delay on the Texas Republican. However, Conaway called Roberts comments “finger-pointing” that would not help to bring about a deal, according to Politico. Roberts noted that Conaway was holding out on signing the conference report because he has concerns with at least six titles of the bill, including commodity, nutrition and conservation. Roberts said of the conference committee leadership he is “very troubled by the fact that we have agreement among three, but we can’t get the fourth one.” Conaway says he has “some things” he hasn’t agreed to, but adds that so does Roberts, and Ranking Senate Ag Member Debbie Stabenow and Ranking House Ag Member Collin Peterson. Conway concludes “pick your poison as to who you think is standing in the way.”

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Lower Income Continues to Pressure Farm Finances

Farm income and credit conditions continued to deteriorate in the third quarter of 2018, according to a Federal Reserve Bank survey. The Tenth District Survey of Agricultural Credit Conditions shows more than half of bankers reported lower farm income compared to a year ago, and the decline in farm income was sharpest in states with higher concentrations in corn and soybeans. The district includes seven Midwest and Plains states in the Western Corn Belt. The survey found prices for most major commodities remained lower than a year ago amid elevated supply expectations and ongoing trade disruptions. The prolonged period of depressed farm income has placed more pressure on borrower balance sheets. According to bankers across the region, many crop producers in 2018 had a modest deterioration in working capital. For the fifth straight year, a majority of bankers reported having borrowers with some depletion of short-term operating funds. Stress on farm finances also contributed to an increase in the expected sale of mid- to long-term assets in 2018.

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U.S., Brazil Soybean Price Gap Narrowing

The price gap between U.S. and Brazilian soybeans is narrowing, a signal some suggest that trade progress could be made between the U.S. and China. CNBC reports narrowing U.S.-Brazil soybean price differentials imply greater market optimism regarding a meeting between President Trump and China’s President at the upcoming G20 Summit. Even with the 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans, the average differentials have shifted from a 24 percent U.S. discount to Brazil in mid-October, to a 17 percent discount last week and a 13-15 percent discount this week. Market experts say the differential could partly account for any movement of U.S. beans to South America for local crushing or even re-export. The G20 Summit, where President Trump and his counterpart from China are expected to discuss trade on the sidelines, begins November 30th.

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Animal Welfare Institute Sues USDA over Label Claims

The Animal Welfare Institute is suing the Department of Agriculture for what it calls “unreasonable delay in responding” to a 2014 petition. AWI asked the agency in 2014 to require independent certification of certain animal raising label claims. The Administrative Procedure Act requires federal agencies to respond to petitions for rulemaking within a reasonable time. After four and a half years, the organization says it has not received a reply from USDA. The petition specifically asked USDA to require third-party audits to substantiate holistic claims, such as “humane” and “sustainable,” so that consumers know these claims are verified prior to appearing on food labels. According to an October online survey of more than 2,000 consumers commissioned by AWI, 86 percent of meat/poultry/egg/dairy consumers agreed that the government should not allow the use of claims like “humanely raised” on food product labels unless verified by an independent inspection.

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USDA Invests to Improve Rural Health Care for Nearly 2 Million Rural Americans

The Department of Agriculture is investing $501 million to improve rural health care infrastructure. USDA Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced the funding Thursday that will help 60 projects across 34 states in areas that serve rural communities. Hazlett says strong healthcare programs help towards “increasing prosperity in rural America.” The announcement came on National Rural Health Day, which is held annually on the third Thursday of November to focus on the specific health care issues facing rural communities. USDA says the funding announcement complements the finalization of a partnership between USDA and the National Rural Health Association to identify issues causing financial strain on rural hospitals.

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CHS Foundation Donates$1.5 Million to South Dakota State University Precision Ag Program

The CHS Foundation announced a $1.5 million grant to support the South Dakota State University precision agriculture program. The funding will support the construction of the new Raven Precision Agriculture Center on campus. A university spokesperson called the gift from the CHS Foundation “pivotal” in allowing the campus to make a “globally preeminent precision agriculture program a reality.” SDSU is the nation’s first land-grant university to offer a bachelor’s degree and minor in precision agriculture. The degree will provide students with access to cutting-edge developments in the intersection of agronomics, high-speed sensor technology, data management and advanced machinery development. Final construction plans are in-progress of the new facility. Some ground work is expected to begin this fall, with construction starting in the spring of 2019.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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