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Agriculture News

In the Battle for the American West, the Cowboys Are Losing

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 4, 2018

Ranchers who rely on public land to raise their cattle say they have shrinking access to wide open spaces, grass and water because of an array of regulations. Over the last four decades, the number of cows grazing on public lands has dropped by nearly half.In some cases, government officials curb grazing to protect natural resources from damage caused by cattle, and create preserves for threatened species. In others, officials close land to ranchers to give more access to the public for hiking and other activities that fuel the fast-growing recreation industry.As frustrations peaked, in extreme instances, some cowboys have taken up arms against the government for what they say are overly restrictive policies. Ranchers took over a National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016; before that, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy mounted a standoff with federal officials.

How food stamps are keeping small farms in business

Talk Poverty | Posted on April 4, 2018

The local food movement has been criticized for catering to middle- and upper-class Americans, and for leaving behind the low-income in all of the hype for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and “know your farmer” initiatives touted in glossy food magazines. But in the last decade, food justice activists have sought to correct this, connecting low-income consumers with cooking classes, gardening workshops, children’s programming, and locally grown and culturally appropriate foods. Enter Double Up Food Bucks, a program that doubles Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) benefits for recipients shopping at participating farmers markets or grocery stores, up to $20 per visit. Launched by the nonprofit Fair Food Network, Double Up Food Bucks began at five Detroit farmers markets in 2009. Today, 20 states have launched programs modeled after the original, including my home state of Arizona.“Double Up is a win-win-win,” says Adrienne Udarbe, executive director of Pinnacle Prevention, the nonprofit that manages Arizona’s statewide Double Up initiative. “SNAP recipients have access to more fruits and vegetables, local farmers make more money, and more dollars stay in the local economy.“ As a former vegetable farmer and SNAP recipient, I’ve been on both sides of the table—I actually qualified for SNAP when I was growing food for my community, a cruel irony replicated among the millions of food insecure food workers in America. Farmers are often low-income (in fact, median farm income is projected to be negative $1,316 in 2018), a fact that highlights the role of programs like Double Up in providing economic benefits for direct-market farmers.

Will Trump crash the farm economy?

The New York Times | Posted on April 4, 2018

Donald Trump won over 60 percent of the 2016 vote in rural Iowa, where I live, and I haven’t heard much concern from Republicans over the president’s alleged infidelities with a porn actress, his ties to Russia or Jared Kushner’s real estate shenanigans. Or, for that matter, much concern about the administration scandals about wife beaters, Saudi princes, Ben Carson’s table or Scott Pruitt’s soundproof room. Many people don’t even know these scandals exist — they generally don’t lead in Sean Hannity’s or Tucker Carlson’s world.Sure, there is a little rumbling about the increased deficit, but not much. Besides, it’s the fault of Congress, in particular the Democrats.But people here — Republicans and Democrats alike — are paying great attention to what President Trump is doing economically, especially since he started in on tariffs. We have a strong manufacturing base in our county; when tariffs on aluminum and steel were announced, local manufacturing leaders tried to be diplomatic, praising the Trump tax cuts but saying the steel and aluminum tariffs would hurt their businesses by driving costs up.One smaller manufacturer — a Trump voter — told me that his costs to produce his product nearly doubled overnight, and that his business has already been hurt by the tariffs. Prices didn’t rise only after the tariffs were announced; they started rising when Mr. Trump floated the idea.But it’s the farm economy that rural Iowans are paying particular attention to. When the president first proposed a 20 percent import tax on Mexico to pay for his wall, Iowans objected: Mexico is our second-largest export partner after Canada.Mr. Trump has waffled on the renewable fuel standard before — ethanol is big around here — and Iowa’s entire congressional delegation and the governor’s office pressured him to renew it. We know he will waffle again, and potentially end it. Most recently, when Mr. Trump imposed $60 billion in tariffs and sanctions against China, the Iowa Soybean Association said his action “poses an immediate and grave threat to their industry and Iowa agriculture.”

China tariffs on U.S. ethanol to cut off imports in short-term

Reuters | Posted on April 4, 2018

Chinese buyers of U.S. ethanol will have to cut imports because of higher tariffs, but eventually will have to return to the overseas market to meet government targets for using the fuel, industry participants and analysts said on Monday. China said late on Sunday it will slap an extra 15 percent tariff on ethanol imports from the United States, part of its response to U.S. duties on aluminium and steel imports. The previous duty was 30 percent. The tariffs, effective Monday, will neutralize cost savings from importing cheaper U.S. ethanol versus domestic supply, said three sources that participate in the market. Ethanol, an alcohol typically produced from corn or sugar, is often mixed with gasoline to reduce air pollution from vehicle emissions. “The price difference is gone. We will suspend imports for now,” said a manager at a private oil refinery, adding that he was considering turning to domestic suppliers for ethanol to blend into gasoline.

China fires back at Trump with the threat of tariffs on 106 U.S. products, including soybeans

The Washington Post | Posted on April 4, 2018

China responded to President Trump’s new tariffs by threatening tariffs of its own on 106 U.S. products, including on soybeans, cars and some airplanes, in the latest escalation of what risks becoming a tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two largest economies.    The plan, which was announced Wednesday, would see Beijing slap 25 percent levies on a range of U.S. goods worth about $50 billion. Chinese officials did not set a date for implementation, saying what happens next will depend on whether the U.S. president pushes ahead with his tariff plans.Though the tariffs are not in place yet, the news had an immediate impact on markets, including the soybean market.

Lawsuit blames pork giant for noxious farm smells

Miami Herald | Posted on April 4, 2018

A low-cost, high-volume livestock-rearing method pioneered in North Carolina came under fire Tuesday as jurors began hearing a lawsuit from neighbors who say the world's largest pork corporation is endangering their health and making their lives miserable. The legal action is the first in a string of federal lawsuits against the hog-production division of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods. Its outcome could alter production methods and profits for the company, which controls everything from the feed the animals eat to when they are trucked to slaughter and how the meat lands on consumers' plates. Smithfield was bought in 2013 by a division of China-based WH Group, the world's largest pork producer.

Arkansas judge rules six farmers can spray controversial weed killer made by Monsanto and BASF

St Louis Post Dispatch | Posted on April 4, 2018

An Arkansas judge has ruled that six farmers in the state this summer can spray a weed killer made by Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co. and BASF SE that was blamed for hurting millions of acres of U.S. crops last year.The decision is the latest twist in the saga surrounding herbicides based on the chemical known as dicamba and immediately sparked concerns about the potential for more damage. Other states are also limiting sprayings of the herbicide, and farmers are suing its manufacturers over crop damage linked to its use last summer.Dicamba is meant to be used during the summer on soybeans and cotton that Monsanto genetically engineered to resist the chemical. Growers across the U.S. farm belt said last summer that dicamba drifted away from where it was sprayed, damaging crops that could not tolerate the chemical.

Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg Importing Apple Trees Instead of Apples, Russia Secures Food

Bloomberg | Posted on April 4, 2018

To understand how President Vladimir Putin is weaning Russians off foreign food, look no further than the apple trees growing in the Krasnodar region near the Black Sea, where a Soviet-era orchard once flourished. They’re mostly from Italy. Russia is the world’s largest apple importer because local varieties spoil faster than those grown in Europe or China and shoppers often prefer the taste of imported fruit. When farm operator AFG National Group sought to upgrade supplies in 2015, rather than use domestic crops, the company shipped in 143,000 trees from fields 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) away. It’s new orchard near the Caucasus Mountains will produce about 8,000 metric tons of Gala, Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples this year. Deciding to use the latest technology in planting orchards, we realized that, unfortunately, national research in this area lags behind the leading European and global trends,” said Oleg Ryanov, who runs the orchard unit at AFG, which until the apple investment in Krasnodar was growing mostly rice on 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) in southern Russia. “From the very start, we took a cue from European countries.”

Webinar April 9th on Dairy Margin Protection Program Changes

Dairy Herd Management | Posted on April 4, 2018

Significant changes to the Margin Protection Program for dairy producers were made in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The Farm Service Agency has recently announced new implementation rules to accommodate the changes. Mark Stephenson and Andrew Novakovic, dairy economists with the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University, respectively, will conduct a webinar Monday, April 9th, at 1 p.m. Eastern, to walk you through these changes and to assess impacts on producers who participate. 

Wall Street hit by trade war fears

BBC | Posted on April 4, 2018

China said it would place 25% trade tariffs on 106 US goods, including soybeans, aircraft and orange juice.The tit-for-tat action comes hours after Washington detailed about 1,300 Chinese products it intended to hit with tariffs - also set at 25%.Wall Street opened sharply lower, but regained ground by mid-day.After starting down more than 400 points or 1.75%, the Dow was only down by about 0.6% by late morning.