Farmers, fishermen, and forestry workers, who are lumped together by government statisticians, have the highest suicide rate of any occupational cluster: 84.5 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 workers, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis—that would have amounted to almost 900 suicides in 2016. (The CDC does not break out data for farmers specifically.) In general, farmers—at the whims of large agribusinesses, supply and demand, and the weather—always face some degree of uncertainty, with some worries exacerbated by President Donald Trump’s brewing trade war with China. Members of a coalition of agricultural interests, including the National Farmers Union, co-signed a letter in April asking Congress to provide funding for helplines and mental health support groups for agricultural workers. But in dairy circles, the stress is coming to a head as a result of long-standing policies that have nothing to do with Trump.Dairy farmers in the United States are paid by the hundredweight—that’s 100 pounds of milk, about 12 gallons. Milk prices, after peaking in 2014, have plummeted to roughly $15 per hundredweight, forcing many dairy farmers to operate in the red.
With a trade war looming, commodity prices swooning, and the dairy industry in full-blown crisis, a growing number of American farmers are embracing a controversial set of farm policies that would manage the country’s commodity production and stabilize crop prices. The policies, known as supply management, governed U.S. agriculture for decades but were abandoned in the late 20th century as large-scale monocropping and commodity exports came to define farm policy. “Just in the last few months, people are paying attention to it,” says writer and National Family Farm Coalition consultant Siena Chrisman of supply management policy. In prior farm policy debates, she says, “nobody ever wanted to hear about it, nobody cared, nobody knew what it was.” But in the lead-up to the next farm bill, and particularly in light of devastatingly low milk prices, she says, farmers are considering supply management with renewed interest.
The rules that dictate how companies must tell consumers when they are buying genetically engineered food are open for comment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking input on a proposed rule to create the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which was passed by Congress in 2016. Comments are due by early July. The standard will provide a uniform way to offer meaningful disclosure for consumers who want more information about their food and avoid a patchwork system of state or private labels that could be confusing for consumers and would likely drive up food costs, the agency said in a news release.
With the threat of tariffs and counter-tariffs between Washington and Beijing looming, Chinese buyers are canceling orders for U.S. soybeans, a trend that could deal a blow to American farmers if it continues. At the same time, farmers in China are being encouraged to plant more soy, apparently to help offset any shortfall from the United States.Beijing has included soybeans on a list of $50 billion of U.S. exports on which it has said it would impose 25 percent tariffs if the United States follows through on its threats to impose the same level of tariffs on the same value of Chinese goods. The U.S. tariffs could kick in later this month; China would likely retaliate soon after.It can take a month or more for soybean shipments to travel from the U.S. to China. Any soybeans on their way to China now could be hit by the tariff by the time they arrive.“The Chinese aren’t willing to buy US soybeans with a 25 percent tax hanging over their head,” said Dan Basse, president of AgResource, an agricultural research and advisory firm. “You just don’t want the risk.”
Nearly 350,000 acres in northwest Oklahoma burned in two wildfires causing an estimated $26 million in damages for cattle producers.
In its first 2019 projections for U.S. livestock and poultry products, USDA today forecast beef production above 2018 on higher slaughter and heavier carcass weights and pork production to increase as growth in farrowings and pigs per litter supports larger pig crops. Hog weights are also forecast higher in 2019, USDA said in the May World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.
In its first assessment of world supply-and-demand prospects for 2018-19 crops and U.S. grain prices, USDA said today its U.S. feed-grain outlook is for lower production, domestic use, exports and ending stocks. With beginning stocks down from a year ago, total corn supplies at 16.3 billion bushels, if realized, would be down 675 million from the prior year, USDA said in the May World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report.With total U.S. corn supply falling faster than use, 2018-19 U.S. ending stocks are down 500 million bushels from last year to 1.7 billion. The season-average farm price for corn is projected at $3.30 to $4.30 per bushel, up 40 cents at the midpoint from 2017-18.
The 10 winning plaintiffs in a hog nuisance lawsuit won’t receive their $50 million in punitive damages — $5 million each — against Murphy-Brown, as awarded by a jury. Instead, the total amount has been reduced to $2.5 million, just $250,000 apiece, according to a ruling handed down today by US District Court Judge Earl Britt. Including compensatory damages for harm to their quality of life, the plaintiffs will each receive $325,000. Whether the plaintiffs would receive the full and historic amount was in doubt almost immediately after the award was announced.Murphy-Brown attorneys with McGuireWoods appealed the amount, based on a state law and subsequent Supreme Court case that limits punitive damages to “no more than three times the amount of compensatory damages or $250,000 whichever is greater.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig today highlighted key agriculture provisions passed by the Iowa Legislature during the 2018 legislative session. This includes long-term funding for water quality efforts, additional funding for foreign animal disease response preparations, continued funding for the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program and updates to the Iowa noxious weed law. “The state of Iowa is a nationally recognized leader in agriculture production, and the Iowa Legislature has reinforced their commitment to Iowa agriculture through their passage of landmark water quality and agriculture-related legislation,” Naig said. In January, the Legislature passed and Governor Reynolds signed into law SF 512 which provides $282 million for water quality efforts in Iowa over the next 12 years. The legislation provides a growing source of funding, starting with $3.9 million next fiscal year and increasing to over $28 million annually. In addition to SF 512, the Legislature provided $10.2 million to support the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Monsanto has shelved a longstanding project to bring Bt soybeans to the U.S. by the turn of the decade. The company cited low grower demand, but U.S. insect resistance to the proteins in its Bt soybean product is more likely the culprit, entomologists told DTN.Monsanto first launched Intacta RR2 PRO soybeans, which contain the single Bt protein Cry1Ac, in South America in 2013. The company has produced a second-generation product called Intacta 2 Xtend, which adds the Bt proteins Cry1A.105 and Cry2Ab2, as well as dicamba tolerance. Both products target certain Lepidoptera pests of soybean, such as soybean looper and velvetbean caterpillar.Monsanto hopes to launch Intacta 2 Xtend in South America around 2021, Mark Kidnie, Monsanto’s South American lead for corn and soybean technology