READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 29th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 29th

USDA Eyes New ERS, NIFI Locations by May

The Department of Agriculture will release it’s shortlist of potential spots for relocating the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture “in the coming days.” USDA is working towards deciding on the final relocation spots by early May, according to Politico. An official from USDA told Congress this week that, under the plan, the Economic Research Service would keep 76 jobs in Washington and relocate 253 positions, while the National Institute of Food and Agriculture would retain just 20 employees in Washington, D.C., and move 315 to the new site. However, those numbers are based on currently appropriated positions. President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget calls for cutting the full-time ERS workforce in half, from about 330 positions to 160. USDA will also provide a cost-benefit analysis with the final recommendation. USDA maintains that taxpayers would benefit from the proposal because USDA would save money on rent by moving outside of the nation’s capital. The agency also says employees would benefit from shorter commute times and lower housing prices.

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Abundance of Moisture Limits Drought Conditions

An abundance of moisture across the United States has greatly diminished the Drought Monitor’s findings of drought across the nation. Just this week, officials declared California “drought free” for the first time in seven years. There are no areas of extreme, or exceptional drought classifications in the nation, and very few cases of severe drought. However, dryness intensified across parts of the South, while the overall trend toward drought recovery continued in the Four Corners region. Elsewhere, dryness concerns increased in the Northwest where drought expanded slightly. Most of the nation from the central and northern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast remained free of drought, with severe flooding the primary concern in the nation’s heartland. Over the next week, an unsettled weather pattern will continue over much of the nation. A pair of Pacific storms are expected to bring relief to the Northwest and northern Rockies. As the system marches east, it will produce rain and snow from the central Plains into the Midwest, though the Upper Midwest will remain dry.

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Midwest Flooding Drops Ethanol Production 13%

Flooding in the Midwest impacting ethanol facilities has reduced ethanol production by 13 percent in the United States. Plants in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Missouri were forced to shut down or scale back production during and following the flooding. Rail lines are washed out, hampering the transportation of products to and from ethanol plants. Some have damaged facilities or soaked stored corn, and local roads need repair around the facilities. The U.S. has some 200 ethanol plants capable of producing 1.06 million barrels per day, and about 100,000 to 140,000  barrels per day of capacity has been taken off line due to the floods, according to Reuters. Nebraska officials say crop damage in the state will exceed $400 million. The flooding disaster comes as the industry is in the midst of low prices and demand falling for the first time in 20 years.

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FCA Encouraging Farm Credit System to Work with Borrowers in Flooded Areas

The Farm Credit Administration is encouraging Farm Credit System lenders to work with borrowers who have been affected by the extensive flooding in the Midwest. The mid-March “bomb cyclone” dropped heavy rain and triggered massive snowmelt, which led to widespread flooding in the Midwest, particularly in Nebraska and Iowa. Known damages include loss of livestock, production facilities, and grain in storage. Also, saturated soil is adversely affecting preparations for spring planting. FCA regulations and the solid financial position of lenders offer considerable flexibility in providing disaster relief. FCA says Farm Credit System lenders can alleviate stress for borrowers affected by natural disasters in several ways, including extending the terms of loan repayments and restructuring borrowers’ debt obligations. A Farm Credit Administration official stated, “We encourage institutions to use this flexibility following disasters like this one to help borrowers get back on their feet.”

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Bayer to Appeal $80 Million Jury Decision

Bayer, in response to an $80 million award to a California man suing the company over Roundup, says the verdict “does not change the weight of over four decades of extensive science.” Bayer will appeal the action, which is considered the phase two verdict in the case Hardeman v Monsanto. The jury found Bayer liable for Edwin Hardeman’s cancer. Bayer acquired Monsanto in a deal that closed last year. Bayer notes that the jury deliberated for more than four days before reaching a causation verdict in phase one, an indication that it was very likely divided over the scientific evidence. The legal rulings under which the court admitted expert scientific testimony from the plaintiff that it called “shaky” is one of several significant issues that the company may raise on appeal. Monsanto moved to exclude the same evidence before trial. Bayer offered sympathy for Hardeman and his family, but added “Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”

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Major Food Companies Release Nutrition and Dietary Guidance Framework

A group of major food companies says more can be done to address public health and environmental health concerns, including climate change, through food. The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance was formed by Danone North America, Mars Incorporated, Nestle USA and Unilever to influence food policy. This week, the group released its framework for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The group says the guidelines should be transparent, reflect the current public health environment, incorporate food groups that reflect a wide range of possible healthful diets, and be enhanced through education campaigns, along with clearly stating rational with scientific citations. The groups state the guidelines are “the right place to explore issues like sustainability and emerging areas like Food is Medicine, in order to turn the tide on food and nutrition-related public health concerns.” The framework also says dietary advice should account for how climate change, water scarcity, soil health, and other environmental challenges may impact the availability and nutrient density of foods and beverages.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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