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Agriculture News

Fed survey finds concerns about rising trade tensions

AP | Posted on September 20, 2018

The Federal Reserve reported  that its latest survey of business conditions nationwide found rising concerns over the impact Trump administration trade policies could have on the economy. The Fed’s 12 regional banks said the economy is growing at a moderate pace although three districts — Philadelphia, St. Louis and Kansas City — depicted activity as somewhat below average.While businesses remained optimistic about near-term prospects, the Fed found worries about trade had prompted some businesses to scale back or postpone their capital investment plans. Higher tariffs stemming from President Donald Trump’s get-tough trade policies were reported to be pushing up input costs for some manufactured goods.The Fed survey reported that labor markets were tight throughout the country with construction workers, truck drivers, engineers and other high-skilled workers remaining in short-supply. But the report also found that a number of Fed districts were also seeing shortages of lower-skilled workers at restaurants, retail stores and other places as the country’s unemployment rate has fallen to 3.9 percent, its lowest point in nearly two decades.

USDA proposes clearance for catfish from Vietnam, China and Thailand

Politico | Posted on September 20, 2018

The Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to publish a Federal Register notice formally designating China, Vietnam and Thailand as eligible countries to export catfish and catfish products to the U.S. FSIS said it determined that the inspection system in each country was “equivalent to the system that the United States has established under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and its implementing regulations.” Congress included provisions in both the 2004 and 2008 farm bills transferring catfish inspection to the USDA, from the FDA. FSIS published a final rule in Dec. 2015 that created a transitional mechanism for trade to continue while it determined whether China, Vietnam and Thailand’s inspection systems are equivalent to the U.S. system.

Beware of Disaster Animal Exploiters

Humane Watch | Posted on September 19, 2018

For pet owners in the hurricane’s path, it is wise to prepare ahead of time and take steps to ensure your pet’s safety. For those looking to help out or offer financial assistance to rescue efforts, be advised that giving money to the Humane Society of the United States may not do much—if anything—for animals in need. HSUS likes to tout its “rescue team” and pet shelter “partners” during natural disasters.We previously detailed how, in the wake of 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, HSUS gave a measly $8,000 to “help” its shelter partners take in animals. This is pocket change compared to the HSUS budget of $126 million that year.Contrast this with an organization like American Red Cross, which had relief costs for Hurricane Matthew estimated to be in excess of $20 million.

Farm victim of ‘patent troll’ lawsuit

Capital Press | Posted on September 19, 2018

An Oregon farm that sells organic foods and other products online is accused of patent infringement in a “patent troll” lawsuit.The vaguely threatening letter over alleged patent infringement that Azure Farms received last year didn’t make much of an impression on David Stelzer.Stelzer, the company’s founder and CEO, consulted with his information technology employees, who assumed the letter was a scam.“I didn’t give it a second thought,” he said.Now, the Oregon company is the defendant in a lawsuit that alleges its online website for selling organic food and other products has violated a patent for automated financial transactions owned by Landmark Technology LLC of San Diego, Calif.Stelzer said his website isn’t much different from multitudes of others that sell products online, making him think the plaintiff has filed a “nuisance lawsuit” aimed at a quick settlement.“I have no clue what they are after,” said Stelzer, who farms nearly 2,000 acres. “They’re basically saying because we have a working website, we have patent violations.”

Dairy export numbers hint at tariff effects

Capital Press | Posted on September 19, 2018

Aside from the data, USDEC says numerous exporters have talked of lost contracts, expectations of losing contracts and adjusting prices lower to hold onto market share. U.S. dairy exports in July were seasonably lower and the lowest since January, but they were still ahead of year-ago levels.Suppliers shipped 170,100 tons of milk powders, cheese, butterfat, whey and lactose, up 11 percent over July 2017. Those exports were worth $434 million, a 3 percent increase over a year earlier, U.S. Dairy Export Council reported.But the data also seem to show some effects from retaliatory tariffs on U.S. dairy by China and Mexico, with a big hit to whey and cheese exports to China and a slight drop in cheese exports to Mexico — the top market for U.S. cheese.

Federal Reserve September Beige Book

Federal Reserve Bank | Posted on September 19, 2018

Reports from the Federal Reserve Districts suggested that the economy expanded at a moderate pace through the end of August. Dallas reported relatively brisk growth, while Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Kansas City indicated somewhat below average growth. Consumer spending continued to grow at a modest pace since the last report, and tourism activity expanded, to varying degrees, across the nation. Manufacturing activity grew at a moderate rate in most Districts, though St. Louis described business as little changed and Richmond reported a decline in activity. Transportation activity expanded, with a few Districts characterizing growth as robust. Home construction activity was mixed but up modestly, on balance. However, home sales were somewhat softer, on balance--in some cases due to reduced demand, in others due more to low inventories. Commercial real estate construction was also mixed, while both sales and leasing activity expanded modestly. Lending activity grew throughout the nation. Some Districts noted weakness in agricultural conditions. Businesses generally remained optimistic about the near-term outlook, though most Districts noted concern and uncertainty about trade tensions--particularly though not only among manufacturers. A number of Districts noted that such concerns had prompted some businesses to scale back or postpone capital investment.

USDA raises US, global year-ending corn stocks estimates for 2018-19 to above market expectations

S & P Global | Posted on September 19, 2018

The US Department of Agriculture projected Tuesday domestic corn stocks at the end of the 2018-2019 marketing year, which closes August 31, 2019, to be at 1.774 billion bushels (45.062 million mt), down 228 million bushels from its 2017-2018 estimates of 2.002 billion bushels but up 90 million bushels from its prior forecast for the period.USDA's domestic corn stocks estimates for the next marketing year was within the top end of the range of analysts' expectations of 1.477 to 1.785 billion bushels, but above the average analysts' expectations of 1.693 billion bushel, sources said.The increase in the 2018-2019 year-ending stocks projection reflected an increase in production due to a higher yield estimate."Corn production is forecast at 14.827 billion bushels, up 241 million from last month on an increased yield forecast," the USDA said. "If realized, the crop would be the second highest on record.""Corn supplies are higher from last month, as a larger crop more than offsets a small decline in beginning stocks due to higher estimated exports for 2017/18," the agency said. "Feed and residual use for 2018-2019 is raised 50 million bushels with a larger crop and lower expected prices."

Federal Reserve: Observations on the Ag Economy- August 2018

Illinois Farm Policy News | Posted on September 13, 2018

Since the last report, weekly comparisons indicated lower commodity cash prices for some recently tariffed agriculture exports such as soybeans, and the USDA has announced a financial relief program for affected agriculture producers. Sixth District- Atlanta– “Agriculture conditions across the District continued to be mixed. Drought conditions were little changed from the previous report; most of the District remained drought free although there were reports of abnormally dry conditions in much of Louisiana and in parts of Mississippi and Alabama. August production forecasts indicated year-over-year increases in rice, soybean, and cotton, while peanut production was down. Year-over-year prices paid to farmers in June were up for corn, cotton, rice, soy- beans, broilers, and eggs, while beef prices were down.Seventh District- Chicago– “Overall crop yields in the District appeared set to forge a new record as the result of widespread good weather. Contacts expected a record harvest for soybeans but not for corn, reflecting the shift in the composition of crops in this year’s plantings.

Tariffs Hit Fruit Growers Hard at Harvest

Growing Produce | Posted on September 13, 2018

Ray Norwood, Director of Sales and Marketing for Auvil Fruit Co., told the news outlet the operation had to lower prices and find alternative destinations for the cherries. Auvil Fruit Co. exports about 80% of the operations’ cherries. Apple growers are equally nervous about the harvest season this year, with China imposing stiff tariffs on U.S. goods including fruits and nuts in retaliation to a U.S-imposed tariffs on imported goods from China.Tariffs on 10 fruit and tree nut exports are expected to cost U.S. growers around $3.4 billion annually, according to a recent study from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Agricultural Issues Center.In California, fruit and tree nut exports account for half of production and in Washington, about 30% of apples are exported.

Tariffs will cost U.S. dairy farmers $1.5B this year

Capital Press | Posted on September 13, 2018

A study by Informa Economics found retaliatory tariffs by China and Mexico will reduce U.S. dairy farmer revenue by $1.5 billion in 2018 and $3 billion in 2019 if they remain in place.While U.S. dairy producers appreciate USDA’s plan to purchase dairy products and increase funding to develop foreign markets in its tariff-mitigation strategy, they say the agency’s plan to distribute $127 million in direct payments to dairy producers falls far short of what’s needed.