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USDA and SBA Join Forces to Help Businesses in Rural America

USDA | Posted on April 5, 2018

Under the newly-signed MOU, USDA and SBA will enhance collaboration and coordination in areas of mutual interest. Specifically, such collaboration is intended to improve investment opportunities in rural areas, identify ways to increase the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017, improve innovation for rural technical assistance providers, and aid rural businesses in providing tools to export products around the world, among other goals.

USDA secretary accused of siding with industry over science in new report

The Guardian | Posted on April 5, 2018

Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, has been criticized for rolling back school nutrition standards, attempting to upend the food stamps program, rejecting World Health Organization guidelines on antibiotics in agriculture and ending a pesticide ban, in a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) advocacy group. Perdue spent his first year in office “sidelining science and favoring industry”, the report claims, calling for greater congressional scrutiny of the agency. “Those kinds of things are the end result of a secretary of agriculture who is more interested in rewarding industry and agriculture than in protecting the public health,” said Karen Perry Stillerman, a senior analyst at UCS and the report’s author.


USDA: Tariffs proposed by China would hit $16.5B in U.S. ag exports

The Progressive Farmer | Posted on April 5, 2018

Chinese officials responded quickly Wednesday to the Trump administration's proposed 25% tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports by announcing higher tariffs on 106 more U.S. commodities, including soybeans. The new reciprocal tariffs will be on products including soybeans, automobiles and chemical products, worth a total of $50 billion. Soybeans are at the top of the list. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce did not indicate when the tariffs would take effect. If the tariffs do go into effect, the tariffs on soybeans would go from 3% to 28%, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. The new battles over trade seem to dial back decades of work by commodity groups to build demand.

Farm Bill must not cut SNAP

Batesville Herald Tribune | Posted on April 5, 2018

SNAP has a major impact on families, seniors and communities in our state and across the country. Here in Indiana, SNAP helped 672,000 people last year. That’s one in 10 Hoosiers who has been laid off, has experienced a serious illness or who otherwise might need a little extra help to get by in hard times. Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of the people who SNAP helps are children, seniors or people with disabilities. New developments in Washington could put these Hoosiers at risk.President Trump and Congress just enacted a deeply partisan, unpopular and harmful tax bill that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations while ultimately raising taxes on millions of lower- and middle-income families and increasing the federal deficit. Now, to pay for it, some Republican leaders are saying they plan to make cuts and harmful changes to SNAP and other vital programs in the budget and Farm Bill.

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.

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.

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.

EPA's Back-Door RFS Waiver?

DTN | Posted on April 4, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency has opened its own "back-door waiver" to the Renewable Fuel Standard by granting retroactive exemptions to RFS obligations to more than a dozen small refiners, including some that are part of highly-profitable refining conglomerates. I smell a rat. I smell a rat," said Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois who studies the Renewable Fuel Standard. In examining how EPA is granting exemptions to RFS obligations, Irwin said, "This is real and there are large uncertainty on the market impacts."Reuters reported Tuesday that Andeavor, one of the country's largest refiners, got an RFS obligation exemption for three of its smaller refineries. The RFS exemption was meant to apply to small refineries producing under 75,000 barrels a day that demonstrate economic hardship. Andeavor as a company posted $1.5 billion in profits last year, Reuters reported.

USDA Pressed on Livestock Rules

DTN | Posted on April 4, 2018

he Organization for Competitive Markets has filed a legal challenge against USDA for withdrawing a set livestock marketing rules designed to level the playing field for producers while negotiating supply contracts with larger agribusinesses. On Friday, attorneys for OCM filed a 170-page brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, Missouri, to vacate USDA's actions against the rules last October. The OCM filed an appeal in February.The rules originally were drafted by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, or GIPSA. In November 2017, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that as part of a USDA reorganization, the GIPSA would no longer be a standalone agency. The Packers and Stockyards Division was renamed the "Fair Trade Practices" program as part of the Agricultural Marketing Service.

Census Report Found 'Unprecedented' Fears About Privacy Last Year

City Lab | Posted on April 4, 2018

A research scientist at the Census Bureau produced a report based on unusual findings in the field. Across a number of projects and “pretests” (or training exercises) conducted between February and September 2017, bureau researchers discovered that survey respondents who were asked questions during focus groups or sample tests were behaving in unexpected ways: They were giving false names or incorrect birthdates, leaving family members out of questionnaires, or abandoning interviews before they were finished. Respondents were “spontaneously expressing concerns to researchers and field staff about confidentiality and data access relating to immigration.” The report was produced by the bureau’s Center for Survey Management for a meeting of the National Advisory Committee. Of particular concern: The report documented a rise in fear among respondents months before the prospect of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was officially requested by the Department of Justice.