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USDA provides basic goods and services for rural residents

Ag Policy | Posted on October 25, 2018

In many ways the programs of the USDA serve as a validation of the list of basic goods and services set forth by Reinert. In his discussion of the merits of providing unrestricted cash transfers directly to people for the purchase of food compared to providing conditional cash transfers that set restrictions on the items that can be purchased we found Reinert speaking directly to most of us.He writes, “[A] way of enjoying oneself is to purchase things other than food even when your diet is far less than ideal. These could include televisions, festivals, videogame parlors, and much more. It is not that the poor are stupid in this regard. It is just that the poor are very much like the nonpoor in their behaviors. Indeed, the pursuit of something tasty is a part of what drives the obesity rates in both rich and poor countries.” How many of us have to say, “guilty as charged”?He then discusses policy interventions that have been shown to be useful including “pregnant mothers and their infants…. Evidence suggests that programs that improve the nutrition for these individuals have positive repercussions for for both health and education throughout the children’s lives.”While there are many who believe that American farmers will play a significant role in reducing the number of people around the world who suffer from significant undernutrition, the picture is more nuanced than that. It is clear that exports are important to the financial health of the US farm sector, but the solution to world hunger goes beyond the corn, wheat, and soybeans produced on US farms.

Federal Reserve: Observations on the Ag Economy- October 2018

Farm Policy News | Posted on October 25, 2018

The Federal Reserve Board released its October 2018 Beige Book update, a summary of commentary on current economic conditions by Federal Reserve District. The report included several observations pertaining to the U.S. agricultural economy.Sixth District- Atlanta– “Agriculture conditions across the District remained mixed. By late September, most of the District was drought-free. District corn, soybean, cotton, and peanut harvests were close to their five-year averages although by late September, significant rain in Tennessee resulted in some crop damage and delays in harvesting. Year-over-year prices paid to farmers in August were up for corn, cotton, rice, and eggs, while soybean, beef, and broiler prices were down.Seventh District- Chicago– “Greater-than-usual precipitation slowed the harvest and reduced the quantity and quality of crops, and expectations for net crop income fell accordingly. While expectations for yields were lower than in the prior reporting period, it was still likely that they would reach record levels.

Feds caught off guard by ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy: GAO

Washington Examiner | Posted on October 25, 2018

Federal officials were caught off guard when the Trump administration announced its “zero tolerance” immigration policy on migrants crossing the southwest border. The policy to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, was reversed months later by President Trump, but only after it caused a public outcry due to the separation of parents and children.The policy was fully instated in May, but because they did not know in advance about the policy, officials at the two agencies tasked with processing the migrant families were not prepared to enforce it.

FDA drops new produce guidance and wants to talk about it

Food Safety News | Posted on October 25, 2018

Call it a little lite winter reading for America’s produce growers and processors. It’s the 152 pages of non-binding draft guidance titled “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption: Guidance for Industry,” which is paired with the 71-page “Guide to Minimize Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Produce. “We understand that produce safety begins on the farm, but it doesn’t stop there,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “Everyone in the supply chain, from farm to table and in between, has an important role to play in food safety. Compliance by the produce industry with FSMA’s preventive controls is critical to achieving the public health benefits envisioned by the new law. And the FDA is committed to providing training and other support to farmers and produce processors to help achieve that goal.”

FDA Releases Five-Year Plan for Supporting Antimicrobial Stewardship in Veterinary Settings

FDA | Posted on October 25, 2018

the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) unveiled its five-year action plan for supporting antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. This plan builds upon the important steps CVM has taken to eliminate production uses of medically important antimicrobials (i.e., antimicrobials important for treating human disease) and to bring all remaining therapeutic uses of these drugs under the oversight of licensed veterinarians. It also supports the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals and is driven by the concept that medically important antimicrobial drugs should only be used in animals when necessary for the treatment, control or prevention of specific diseases.CVM plans to initiate the actions outlined in this document in phases over the next five fiscal years. This phased approach will allow for adjustments based on critical, science-based analysis, public health impact, and feedback from stakeholders. In the coming years, CVM will further engage stakeholders and the public as it develops and implements the strategies for addressing individual actions identified in this plan.

Fed says the new NAFTA isn't going to help US dairy farmers

CNBC | Posted on October 25, 2018

The renegotiated trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada is of little use to the dairy farmers President Donald Trump insisted on helping, Federal Reserve banks in the Midwest are reporting Gains from the new agreement are seen as "too small and too far in the future to help dairy farmers," the Chicago Fed reported in the central bank's periodic report on economic conditions across its 12 districts.The Minneapolis Fed reported that "a substantial number of dairy operations have exited the business since the beginning of the year." The report, called the "Beige Book," was released Wednesday. The Chicago Fed reports "dairy farmers continued to struggle," and Canada and Mexico kept their tariffs on pork, dairy and other agricultural products that they imposed in retaliation for Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum products imported to the U.S.


Chinese and Brazilian companies qualify for anti-China tariff bailout from USDA

Washington Post | Posted on October 25, 2018

A Chinese-owned pork producer is eligible for federal payments under President Trump’s $12 billion farm bailout, a program that was established to help U.S. farmers hurt by Trump’s trade war with China. Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based pork producer acquired in 2013 by a Chinese conglomerate now named WH Group, can apply for federal money under the bailout program created this summer, said Agriculture Department spokesman Carl E. Purvis. JBS, a subsidiary of a Brazilian company by the same name, is also eligible to apply for the federal money. The two companies are the biggest pork producers in the United States. But the possibility of money flowing to foreign-owned businesses underscores the difficulty of trying to craft government programs that benefit only domestic firms. The international reach of companies makes it hard to ensure that federal dollars stay in U.S. hands, regardless of their intended target.The bailout program has also angered smaller hog producers, who expressed frustration that it appears likely to help large, international farms that already dominate the U.S. pork market.

Farmers helped propel Trump to the White House. Their loyalty is being tested by his trade war.

CNN | Posted on October 25, 2018

In good years, cargo trains moving west along the flat, sweeping grasslands of North Dakota’s plains are a sign of money rolling in. Today, as tariffs from America’s largest foreign soybean market -- China -- threaten to upend the industry, many trains sit idle.“There are no shuttle trains leaving. There is no nothing,” said Joe Ericson, the 38-year-old president of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association. “They can’t get rid of the beans.”In conversations with more than 50 farmers, producers and agriculture experts in five states representing each of the five food groups, one trend was clear: The once-deep ties to President Donald Trump have frayed over the past year. But they remain intact for a small majority of farmers CNN spoke with ahead of the critical 2018 midterm elections. Democrats, who see an opening with Trump’s trade war, will likely struggle to make inroads with these voters.The President gives all of them plenty to complain about. They grumble about his tweeting -- that’s not their style -- and what his trade war has done to their bottom lines. But if the President’s re-election were held tomorrow, most of them would back him. They trust Trump, and many believe Democrats don’t understand or largely ignore their way of life.

The number of migrant children in Texas shelters spiked again, reaching a new high under Trump

Texas Tribune | Posted on October 25, 2018

The number of unaccompanied minor children held in Texas shelters reached a new high in October, months after the administration of President Donald Trump ended its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.There were 5,385 children living at privately run shelters for unaccompanied youth as of Oct. 18, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which regulates the federally funded shelters. That’s a record high under the Trump administration, up from 5,099 children last month.The 5.5 percent increase marks the largest month-over-month growth since the end of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy in June, even as four new shelters opened in the last month.The soaring arrest numbers — coupled with the growing number of kids held in shelters — suggest that while the official policy of family separation at the border may be over, more and more immigrant family units are being disjointed as people cross the border in greater numbers.

A change to farm bill conservation efforts could spell disaster for the corn belt

Civil Eats | Posted on October 24, 2018

The Conservation Stewardship Program began as the Conservation Security Program in the 2002 Farm Bill, and its current iteration was first authorized in the 2008 bill. The nation’s leading conservation program by acreage, CSP pays farmers to improve their practices in ways that benefit the air, water, and soil without taking land out of rotation like the Conservation Reserve Program requires them to do. It focuses on continual conservation and bases compensation on several factors, including time and resources invested and the expected degree of conservation benefits.As of 2017, CSP covered an estimated 72 million acres; the vast majority of those acres are on large, conventional farms such as the thousands of Iowa corn and soy operations that surround Echollective—operations where farmers are generally less likely to have conservation practices on their to-do lists without funding.The future of the program and Echollective’s contract are uncertain, however. The 2014 Farm Bill expired on September 30 after Congress proved unable to agree on a new bill, in part because of disputes over CSP and debate over cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).The House of Representatives has proposed cutting CSP and rolling its “best features” into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a similar conservation program for working lands without a long-term commitment. If this happened, EQIP would absorb $3 billion previously allocated for CSP. The Senate’s more moderate farm bill, on the other hand, would maintain the status quo and maintain the separate programs. Either way, the direction Congress goes will have major implications for farmers and natural resources around the U.S.