A Minnesota farm group says that the federal crop insurance, the nation’s largest “safety net” program for farmers, is a profit bonanza for private insurance companies. Farmers, taxpayers and rural environmental quality are paying the price. “I appreciate crop insurance. It does make a risky business less risky,” said Randy Krzmarzick, a crop farmer from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. “But crop insurance is not subject to any limits. The largest recipients have received over a million dollars in subsidies. This comes at a time when a lot of good programs are being slashed in Washington.” Their research, based on public data from the Government Accounting Office, documents that crop insurance company profits have risen to a 35 percent return-on-investment in the past few years. “Comparing those profits with the returns for farmers, which has been negative for a number of years now, that’s a big concern,” said Tom Nussmeier, a farmer from La Sueur, Minnesota.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been forced to reduce international epidemic detection and prevention programs. For many decades, the CDC has maintained a presence in as many as 49 nations to work with local health officials and to monitor outbreaks of disease. According to Dr. Rebecca Martin, Director of the CDC Center for Global Health, the agency will have to scale back the Global Health Security portfolio to focus efforts based on existing resources. Addressing her colleagues in an internal CDC E-mail, Dr. Martin noted “Faced with this anticipated fiscal reality, we have to make some very difficult decisions.” The wind-down will commence in October 2019 unless additional funding is provided. The CDC was a recipient of a five-year supplemental grant following the Ebola outbreak in 2014.Short changing the CDC is unjustified. It is far better to recognize and address a serious epidemic in the nation of origin and interdict spread before it extends to the Homeland. Stationing and rotating CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers and research workers in countries with the likelihood of emerging serious diseases with epidemic or even pandemic potential provides experience which may be required to control naturally-occurring diseases or bioterrorism in the U.S.
New rural broadband funding is included in the $1.3 trillion congressional omnibus bill to fund the government this year. The bill calls for an additional $600 million to be distributed through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The funding authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to create a pilot program within RUS that distributes the new funding in the form of grants and loans. There are details to be worked out, but the authorization calls for “expedited” delivery of the program.A few conditions were mandated by the funding bill. They include:Ninety percent of the households served by any project funded through this program must be unserved or underserved and can’t currently have 10/1 Mbps broadband access. Any entity receiving funds from the program is prohibited from overbuilding an existing RUS borrower. No more than 4% of funds received through the program can be used towards administrative costs
Agricultural steel users are already seeing higher prices due to President Donald Trump’s proposed 25 percent tariff on imports. Mark De Kleine, an agricultural engineering consultant in Prosser, Wash., said he found big price jumps in just a few days when sourcing trellis wire for orchards.“A 25 percent increase in steel — that’s going to be passed down to the consumer and be difficult for the ag industry. There’s a lot of steel in one acre of trellis,” De Kleine said.
The $1.3 trillion government-wide spending bill released late Wednesday rejects President Trump’s proposal to slash the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget by 31 percent. Senior lawmakers negotiating the omnibus appropriations bill instead chose to give the agency $8.1 billion for fiscal 2018, keeping it at the same funding level as 2017.
The new tariffs are in direct response to China’s overproduction of steel and aluminum, keeping costs artificially low so that other countries can’t compete — a practice widely known as “dumping.” While the administration has called this act out as cheating, it fails to acknowledge that U.S. agricultural policy has done the same for decades, with an even more critical resource: food. Agricultural dumping — the practice of exporting commodities at prices below the cost of production — can be devastating for farmers in importing countries, while creating unfair competition for producers in exporting countries. The irony in the administration imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum is that one of the U.S.’s main complaints about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) involves Canada’s protection of its dairy industry. Canada’s production quotas prevent farmers from under- or over-producing milk and limit the amount of dairy that can be imported without tariffs. The policy takes farmers’ cost of production into consideration and pays them a fair price, stabilizing prices and supply. This guarantees a fair price to consumers while ensuring a fresh, local milk supply from family farms and does not involve any taxpayer-funded subsidies.Meanwhile, U.S. farmers are now in their fourth year of receiving milk prices below their cost of production. Farmers have had to pour out millions of gallons of milk, literally watching their incomes run down the drain.Farm and trade policies encourage U.S. dairy farmers to produce as much as possible, leading to boom-and-bust cycles that drive small farms out of business and compel mid- and large-sized farms to keep getting bigger.
Politicians, economists and executives agree China isn't playing fair on trade. But there's a lot of disagreement about whether President Trump's hefty tariffs are the right weapon for fighting back. American farmers and Walmart shoppers are likely to feel pain in this fight, and a lot of them voted for Trump. There are two ways Americans are highly likely to get hurt in a U.S.-China trade spat. First, prices on a lot of items will almost certainly rise, and second, China is going to hit back with tariffs on American products. The other knock is expected to come when China fights back. Senior Chinese officials have made it clear they'll take “necessary measures” to retaliate for Trump's tariffs. All indications from Beijing are that China's countertariffs will target goods and jobs in parts of the United States that voted for Trump. At the top of China's list are agricultural products such as soybeans and hogs.Soybeans and grains are the second-largest U.S. export to China. Trump carried eight of the top 10 soy-exporting states, and the critical swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin are in the top 15 soybean exporters, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Airplanes, the top U.S. export to China, could also end up on the hit list.
House Republicans will pursue a law reauthorizing food assistance and farm subsidies without Democratic support after negotiations over changes to the so-called food-stamp program broke down, the chairman of the chamber’s Agriculture Committee said. The Republican plan will boost job training for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, while taking people off the rolls who use state eligibility guidelines to qualify even though they exceed federal asset limits, Representative Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, said Thursday in Washington.Thresholds for assets and incomes also will be updated, while raising the top age at which work requirements for recipients kick in -- a provision at which Democrats balked -- remains up for debate, he said. The panel’s top Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, did not immediately respond to Conaway’s announcement. "The Democratic members have made clear that they unanimously oppose the farm bill’s SNAP language as it has been described to them and reported in the press," Peterson said in a statement last week. "I will not be continuing negotiations with the chairman per the unanimous request of all Democratic members of the committee."
Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith will be going to the U.S. Senate next month. Gov. Phil Bryant formally tapped the Republican agriculture and commerce commissioner to fill the unexpired term of Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, who is poised to go out with a win on an omnibus spending bill. Currently in his seventh term, Cochran is resigning effective April 1 for health reasons. The senator-designee highlighted her work as agriculture commissioner, while praising President Donald Trump’s work on rolling back regulations, making specific reference to the Waters of the United States rule. Hyde-Smith, a former state senator, also noted her involvement in what was also one of Cochran’s many priorities: the establishment and maintenance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s catfish inspection program. The regulation of catfish and a similar species from Asia has been key to the domestic catfish industry.
Agricultural production has shifted to larger farms over the last three decades. Technology has been the primary driver of this shift, which has been large and widespread across crop and livestock commodities. Despite the shift to larger operations, family businesses still dominate U.S. agriculture: consolidation has shifted acreage and production to larger family farms.