READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, February 11th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, February 11th

USDA Releases Shutdown-delayed Reports

The Department of Agriculture’s backlog of reports delayed from the government shutdown overall provided a neutral outlook. USDA reported 2018 corn production at 14.4 billion bushels with a national average yield of 176 bushels per acre. Meanwhile, USDA says farmers harvested a record 4.5 billion bushels of soybeans, up three percent from last year, with a national average yield of 51 bushels per acre. As of December 1, 2018, USDA said corn stocks totaled 12 billion bushels, down five percent from last year, and soybean stocks were at 3.74 billion bushels, up 18 percent from last year. The new U.S. ending stocks estimates were neutral for corn, soybeans and wheat, according to DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman. He says the world ending stocks estimates were neutral for corn and wheat, but bullish for soybeans, and that the Grain Stocks report was bullish for corn and neutral for soybeans and wheat. The reports included the February Crop Production Report, WASDE, Crop Production Annual Summary, Grain Stocks and Winter Wheat Seedings, all delayed by the government shutdown. January WASDE reports were skipped by USDA because of the shutdown.

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Hazlett Moves from USDA to White House

Ann Hazlett is moving to the White House from the Department of Agriculture. Last Week, USDA announced that Hazlett will assume the role of  Senior Adviser for Rural Affairs in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Hazlett has served as the Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development at USDA since June 2017. In her new role, Hazlett will help shape policy aimed at improving the quality of life in rural America, coordinate interagency efforts on drug control activity impacting rural communities, and build coalitions and grassroots strategies centered on prevention, treatment and recovery. Hazlett previously led USDA’s efforts to build infrastructure for prevention, treatment and recovery in rural communities. Jim Carroll, who leads the White House Office, says Hazlett has “a critical understanding of the unique challenges facing these communities and is committed to helping them reverse the effects of the opioid epidemic.”

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U.S. Lawmakers from California Introduce Fairness for Farm Workers Act

Legislation introduced by lawmakers from California would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act and end the minimum wage and overtime pay exemptions for farm workers. The Fairness for Farm Workers Act was introduced by Representative Raúl Grijalva (Gre-halv-uh) and Senator Kamala Harris, both Democrats from California, Thursday. In a statement, the lawmakers say that “it’s unacceptable” many farm workers live in poverty, adding it’s time farm workers “receive the wages they deserve.” Harris called the legislation “a major step towards economic justice” for farmworkers. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act established federal standards for minimum wage and overtime pay, but the law excluded millions of agriculture workers who were overwhelmingly people of color. Farmworkers gained some minimum wage protections in 1966, but exclusions on overtime persist today. The Fairness for Farm Workers Act would gradually implement overtime pay over the course of four years and bring greater equity to the American agricultural industry.

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Pelosi: Not There Yet on USMCA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says “we’re not there yet” on reaching an agreement on the U.S.-Mexico Canada trade pact in Congress. Signed by all three nations and awaiting approval by lawmakers, the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement is facing some political obstacles in the U.S. House of Representatives. Pelosi and other Democrats argue that strong enforcement must be “central” to the new pact if the Trump administration hopes to get it through Congress, according to Politico. However, Pelosi says she is “optimistic” that the concerns can be resolved, saying she has “always thought that this was probably one of the easier trade agreements to come to agreement on.” There are still several steps and economic reviews that must be done before the USMCA can be completed fully by the U.S. government. Agriculture groups remain hopeful that the agreement can be wrapped up by the end of this year.

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Stabenow Urges Banks to Consider Farm Bill Dairy Improvements

Senator Debbie Stabenow says the government shutdown, which delayed the dairy safety net improvements from the 2018 farm bill, may be jeopardizing dairy farmers’ ability to access loans and credit. In a letter to three regulators who oversee agricultural credit providers, Stabenow urged lenders to estimate the farm bill benefits as they work with farmers to analyze their financial needs for the upcoming year. Dairy farmers still face a struggling market and the 2018 farm bill, Stabenow says, dramatically expands support for dairy farmers, providing improved coverage options at affordable rates. Stabenow urged regulators to be flexible and work with lenders to ensure farmers are accounting for the benefits they will receive through the new dairy coverage options so they can accurately estimate their income and get the right amount of credit they need. While noting it’s impossible to predict markets, Stabenow says it’s “crucial for dairy farmers and their lenders to understand the new dairy safety net as they discuss financing for the years ahead.”

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Court Will Reconsider Chlorpyrifos Ban

A U.S. appeals court will reconsider its recent decision ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos (clo-PEER-uh-foss). The Trump administration persuaded the court to reconsider the ban, according to Reuters, as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it will again review former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s March 2017 refusal to ban chlorpyrifos for use on crops such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. Pruitt’s ruling reversed a 2015 Obama administration plan to extend a 2000 ban on the pesticide that had covered most household settings. The appeals court directed EPA to ban chlorpyrifos last August within 60 days, citing the agency’s failure to debunk, “scientific evidence” associating the pesticide with harmful effect to farmers and children. The EPA in its appeal of the decision said the appeals court lacked jurisdiction to review the ruling by Pruitt, who later resigned.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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