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USDA Opens More Land for Emergency Haying and Grazing

USDA | Posted on July 20, 2017

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is authorizing the use of additional Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands for emergency grazing and haying in and around portions of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota affected by severe drought. USDA is adding the ability for farmers and ranchers in these areas to hay and graze CRP wetland and buffer practices. “We are working to immediately address the dire straits facing drought-stricken farmers and ranchers,” said Perdue. “USDA is fully considering and authorizing any federal programs or related provisions we have available to meet the immediate needs of impacted producers.”For CRP practices previously announced, including those authorized today, Secretary Perdue is allowing this emergency action during and after the primary nesting season, where local drought conditions warrant in parts of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota that have reached D2, or “severe”, drought level or greater according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This includes counties with any part of their border located within 150 miles of authorized counties within the three states, and may extend into Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wyoming. All emergency grazing must end Sept. 30, 2017 and emergency haying must end Aug. 31, 2017.

Perdue Applauds President Trump for Selections of McKinney & Clovis for USDA Posts

USDA | Posted on July 20, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today applauded President Donald J. Trump’s declaration of intent to nominate Ted McKinney for Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Dr. Sam Clovis for Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.

Deal reached to help dairy and cotton farmers in ag spending bill

Politico | Posted on July 20, 2017

Senate Appropriations ranking member Patrick Leahy secured provisions in the fiscal 2018 agriculture spending bill aimed at encouraging more dairy farmers to sign up for an insurance program and to select greater levels of coverage under it. The provisions are part of an agreement brokered with Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran that helps both dairy and cotton farmers, who are struggling financially amid a sustained period of depressed prices. The total cost of the changes would be $1 billion over 10 years, split between the two commodities.Leahy said the bill would make five changes, including directing the Margin Protection Program to send out indemnities to dairy farmers on a monthly, rather than bi-monthly, basis. The program makes payments to dairy farmers when the difference between the cost of milk and feed drops below certain thresholds. Other changes include reducing premium costs and waiving a $100 administrative fee for "underserved producers," something USDA allows for in other programs, Leahy said.National Milk Producers Federation president and CEO Jim Mulhern said the provision would strengthen MPP and help pave the way for additional improvements to the program in the 2018 farm bill.Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, who has pushed for a deal that would provide assistance to both dairy and cotton farmers, said in a statement that she will support the spending bill."As I’ve said throughout the appropriations process, all farmers must be considered if we are going to make significant changes to farm bill programs," Stabenow said. "Not only does this bill make important interim improvements to help dairy farmers recover from tough economic times, it also sets the stage to continue repairing the dairy safety net in the farm bill." Congressional appropriators in May almost succeeded in including the provision in the fiscal 2017 omnibus spending package, but that effort fell apart when Senate agriculture lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on how to help dairy farmers.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on the Funding Awards to States for FDA FSMA Implementation

FDA | Posted on July 20, 2017

Our partnerships with states are especially critical when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, which are covered under FSMA’s produce safety rule. States have a long history of successfully working with their farming communities. That’s why we leverage relationships with state-based partners to achieve many of our goals. Today we’re announcing an additional step in these efforts. The FDA is awarding $30.9 million in funding to support 43 states in their continued efforts to help implement the produce safety rule. This is the largest allocation of funds to date, made available by the FDA to help state agencies support FSMA produce safety rule implementation and develop state-based produce safety programs. The availability of funding to states to support the produce safety rule was first announced in March 2016. Bids were open to all states and U.S. territories. In September 2016, we announced the awarding of $21.8 million to support 42 states with implementation of the produce safety rule. The $30.9 million we’re announcing today represents the second year of funding from the FDA to the states. Additional information on state awardees can be found here.

Does the World’s Top Weed Killer Cause Cancer? Trump’s EPA Will Decide

Bloomberg | Posted on July 19, 2017

Every year, farmers spray, on average, almost a pound of the herbicide glyphosate on every acre of cropland in the U.S., and nearly half a pound on every acre of cropland worldwide. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, a huge source of income for its manufacturer, Monsanto Co., and the foundation for its epochal foray into genetically modified organisms. If you know nothing else about GMOs and Monsanto, know this: The St. Louis-based company reengineered the DNA of corn, soybeans, and other crops for the primary purpose of making them resistant to Roundup. Farmers spray the chemical on crops grown from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds. The weeds die, harvests expand, and expensive, laborious tillage is no longer necessary. Large-scale agriculture is built on this model, and not only in the U.S., which is why Bayer AG, the German drug and chemical company, agreed in September to buy Monsanto for $66 billion, pending regulatory approvals. Other than government antitrust objections, about the only thing that could mess up the purchase would be for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reverse its position on the active ingredient of Roundup, glyphosate.

Agriculture Spending Bill Headed to House Floor

Bloomberg | Posted on July 14, 2017

The 2018 agriculture spending bill approved in committee would provide $20 billion in discretionary spending for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2018 bill by a voice vote July 12. Now it is ready for floor action by the full House. The legislation would provide $1.1 billion less than FY 2017 enacted levels after adjusting for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.The combined total of both discretionary funds and required mandatory spending for programs like nutrition assistance and crop insurance is $144.9 billion, down $8.5 billion from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions By Federal Reserve District

Federal Reserve Bank | Posted on July 13, 2017

Economic activity expanded across all twelve Federal Reserve Districts in June, with the pace of growth ranging from slight to moderate. In addition, the majority of Districts expected modest to moderate gains in the months ahead. Consumer spending appears to be rising across a majority of Districts, led by increases in nonauto retail sales and tourism. However, many Districts noted some softening in consumer spending, particularly in auto sales which declined in half of the Districts. Manufacturing and nonfinancial services activity continued to grow, with most Districts reporting modest to moderate gains since the last report. Loan demand was steady to increasing in most Districts. Residential and nonresidential construction activity was flat to expanding in most Districts. Most Districts cited low home inventory levels in certain market segments which were constraining home sales in many areas. Agricultural conditions were mixed across the nation as moisture conditions varied considerably; several Districts continued to report weakness in dairy and some crop sectors due to low prices. Energy activity generally improved since the last survey, particularly for oil and natural gas. Coal production remained sluggish although higher than year-ago levels.

Ag Groups Fear Steel Tariffs

DTN | Posted on July 13, 2017

Farm groups are cautioning the Trump administration not to open a "Pandora's Box" by claiming restrictions on steel and aluminum are needed to protect "national security." Eighteen agricultural groups wrote to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Tuesday, stressing that such a move would be a disaster for global trade, "and for U.S. agriculture in particular."The Trump administration is expected to decide any day whether to place tariffs on steel imports, stemming from an April investigation announced by the Commerce Department over whether those imports are harming U.S. national security. It's a rare argument for a major global power to make in a trade case.The farm groups wrote to Ross that it would be "a short-sighted mistake" to restrict imports based on national security claims. The farm groups called on Ross to consider the broader implications for the economy "and avoid igniting a trade war through new restrictions on steel or aluminum trade ..."

Energy Department to industry: Here’s $8M, now (puleez!) innovate down the cost of algae

Biofuels Digest | Posted on July 13, 2017

In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy, through the Bioenergy Technologies Office, announced the selection of three projects to receive up to $8 million, aimed at reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. These projects will deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures. They will also deliver biology-focused breakthroughs while enabling accelerated future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community. This funding supports the development of a bioeconomy that can help create jobs, spur innovation, improve quality of life, and achieve national energy security.Algal biomass can be converted to advanced biofuels that offer promising alternatives to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels.  Additionally, algae can be used to make a range of other valuable bioproducts, such as industrial chemicals, bio-based polymers, and proteins. However, barriers related to algae cultivation, harvesting, and conversion to fuels and products need to be overcome to achieve the Department’s target of $3 per gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030.

Pa. farmer sues government for $8.1 million

Farm and Dairy | Posted on July 13, 2017

A Pennsylvania grain and produce farmer is suing the federal government for $8.1 million in damages and lost crop revenue that he says is the result of flooding caused by the government’s drainage management decisions. Robert Brace, 78, of Erie County, is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He argues that decisions made by those entities cost him more than $8 million that he would have realized from growing the most profitable combination of either cabbages, potatoes or onions. Brace has been in an ongoing battle with the federal government since 1990, when the U.S. EPA sued him for constructing drainage ditches on one of his farms without a permit. He believed he was justified in doing so, because of a “prior converted cropland” exclusion granted to wetlands converted to croplands prior to Dec. 23, 1985.