READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, July 17th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, July 17th

Economists Predict Highest MFP Payments Headed to the Corn Belt

An economic analysis predicts Delta region and Corn Belt farmers will receive the majority of Market Facilitation Program funds. Agricultural Economic Insights projects those regions will benefit the most simply due to soybean production. China has targeted all U.S. agricultural products, but tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork have hurt the most. The White House says it’s approved the $16 billion trade aid program for farmers. The Department of Agriculture is expected to release further details, including payment rates and schedules quickly. $14.5 billion is earmarked for payments to producers. USDA officials last week signaled payments could begin next month. This is the second round of funding made available for farmers as the U.S. remains embattled in a tit-for-tat trade war with China. Previously, the Trump administration allocated $12 billion in payments to farmers, distributed in two payments. The 2019 aid was announced in May, and is expected to include three rounds of payments, along with more funding for trade promotion and commodity purchases.

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Private Analysis Projects Corn Acres at 79.6 Million

A private analysis of farmland predicts U.S. planted acres of corn totals 79.6 million acres this year, 89 percent of the historical norm. AgMarket.net also projects the national average yield could reach 156 bushels per acre, following an aerial photography survey. The effort measured more than 157,000 acres across a five-state area. AgMarket surveyed the corn crop the week before July 4th in the western Corn Belt and the week after July 4th in eastern Corn Belt. The company says the equipment used was sophisticated enough to allow analysts to count stalks and populations to determine yield potential. Meanwhile. the Department of Agriculture in last week’s World Agriculture Supply and Demand report, estimated yield at 166 bushels per acre. USDA’s June Acreage report estimated corn acreage at 91.7 million acres. However, that report did not take into account acres not planted do to spring and summer flooding. USDA has said it will resurvey planted acres and update the projection next month.

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Farm Groups to Evaluate H-2A Proposal

Agriculture groups are evaluating the Department of Labor’s H-2A proposal announced earlier this week. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall welcomed the proposal, thanking the Trump administration for “recognizing the need to reform” the program. However, noting the rule is lengthy, Duvall says AFBF will “evaluate it closely for its potential to assist growers with their labor needs.” A comment period on the nearly 500-page proposal will close in September. The proposal claims to streamline the H-2A application process, strengthen protections for workers, expand enforcement tools, and update methods used to determine the Adverse Effect Wage Rates and prevailing wages. The proposal also expands the program to include employers engaged in reforestation and pine straw activities. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the proposal will release farmers from “unnecessary and burdensome regulations.” The proposal comes as Republican Representative Rick Crawford of Arkansas recently introduced legislation to make similar changes to the program, along with moving authority of H-2A to the Department of Agriculture.

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China Talks Moving Forward This Week

Negotiations this week may lead to a U.S. trade delegation returning to China. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says talks over the phone this week, if productive, will result in a trip to China for further discussions. During a White House briefing, Mnuchin told reporters “I think there’s a good chance we’ll go there,” if the talks this week make “significant progress.” This week marks the second round of negotiations since China and the U.S. agreed last month to restart talks during a meeting at the G20 Summit. President Trump also claimed China would begin making purchases of U.S. ag products. However, China has yet to do so, and Democrats call the claims fake. Trump has expressed disappointment that China has yet to move forward with the purchases. China recently announced economic growth in the nation has slowed to 6.2 percent, its lowest level since 1992. Trump claims via Twitter that the U.S. tariffs are “having a major effect on companies wanting to leave China for non-tariffed countries.”

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Judge Reduces Glyphosate Damage Award, Bayer to Again Appeal

A federal judge reduced a court-ordered penalty against Bayer to $25.2 million from $80.2 million. The award stems from a lawsuit against the company by a California man who claims glyphosate in Roundup caused his cancer. Edward Hardeman says he used Roundup for years, and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, but is now in remission. The federal judge in San Francisco says the higher award was “constitutionally impermissible” because it was nearly 15 times the compensatory damages award, according to Reuters. The judge last year supported the $5.27 million in compensatory damages awarded by a jury. However, the judge stated, “Monsanto’s conduct, while reprehensible, does not warrant a ratio of that magnitude, particularly in the absence of evidence showing intentional concealment of a known or obvious safety risk.” Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, called the decision a “step in the right direction,” but plans to appeal. Bayer says the verdict and damages award conflict with “extensive science that supports the safety of Roundup.”

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USDA Announces Record-Breaking Funding for 2019 Farm to School Grants

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Tuesday announced more than $9 million in USDA Farm to School Program grants will be awarded in 2019. This year marks an all-time high of funding and projects in the program, with grants supporting 126 selected projects across 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in over 5,400 schools. Perdue says the program helps “connect schools with the farmers, ranchers, and producers in their communities,” while inspiring youth to consider careers in agriculture. The record-breaking year for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program was made possible by increased funding from Congress for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The increase allowed USDA to award 52 more grants than the previous highest year of 2016 when 74 were granted. Grants range from $20,000 to $100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities, including planting school gardens, offering taste tests to children, and organizing field trips to local farms and food producers. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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