The market recently was packed with tourists taking advantage of the British pound’s slide against other currencies in the wake of the country’s vote to leave the European Union. But the vendors were not celebrating. “Brexit” has sown deep uncertainty in Britain’s food system, which for the last 43 years has been entwined with the rest of Europe’s, relying heavily on the EU for everything from pork to peaches to farm subsidies to the labor that picks its tomatoes. Now, the country is going to have to rethink how it feeds itself, from farm to fork. But what Britain can’t do is feed itself. The country imports more than $50 billion a year in food, or nearly half of what it eats. That’s more than double what it exports. Most wine and beef come from mainland Europe, as do about 40% of fruit and vegetables.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reached agreement with Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply to allow access for U.S. beef and beef products to the Brazilian market for the first time since 2003. Brazil's action reflects the United States' negligible risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and aligns Brazil's regulations to the OIE's scientific international animal health guidelines.
All signs point to the largest-ever corn crop in history this fall and the third year in a row of plunging farm incomes. But with prices potentially tumbling to $3 by harvest, corn growers with high levels of revenue-based crop insurance could buffer some of the price damage. In fact, many corn growers could trigger 2016 crop insurance payouts with no yield loss. Producers sometimes forget revenue-based crop insurance protects against a growing-season price collapse as well as sub-par yields, pointed out Jason Alexander, vice president of crop insurance for Louisville-based Farm Credit Mid-America. Since the Risk Management Agency set the spring guaranteed price for corn at $3.86 per bushel on March 1, prices have fallen to about $3.40 and could bottom near $3 by harvest.
Scientists at NASA say two key climate change indicators — global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent have bnroken numerous records through the first half of 2016. Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3°C (2.4°F) warmer than the late nineteenth century.
No matter who wins this November’s presidential election, one of the first items facing a new Secretary of Agriculture will be developing a 2018 Farm Bill, a process sure to begin early in 2017. As we start that effort, its worth noting that for all its rich diversity, American agriculture seems to be united behind a few large overarching issues: coordinated and scientific regulatory policy by EPA, FDA and USDA; healthy trade promotion; biotechnology; and, farm labor issues, including immigration. But at the individual farmer level, no issue is more important than defending and improving Federal crop insurance. All farm groups agree that crop insurance is critical to the future of agriculture, leveling out the booms and busts.
President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a bill that requires a mandatory labeling system of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for all 50 states. The law pre-empts Vermont bill and requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine which food products and ingredients should be labeled as GMO. Those products will be labeled by text, symbols or a bar code that can be scanned with smartphones. The USDA will have two years to develop the rules and regulations for the nationwide labeling program.
EPA's Environmental Appeals Board ha s upheld the cancellation of flubendiamide, a Bayer CropScience insecticide sold under the trade name Belt, but will allow existing stocks to be sold by retailers.
Antoine Meriot, a French economist released a study that pinpoints the estimated $1.7 billion in annual benefits flowing to India's sugar producers. At the heart of India's subsidy system are government-mandated prices for sugarcane. These prices, which are paid to farmers by the sugar mills that process the cane, are much higher than elsewhere. For example, India's farmers received $42 per metric ton of cane in 2014, compared to the $31 seen by U.S. farmers. This equated to a $1.598 billion subsidy in 2014 and $1.125 billion in 2015, compared with the market-oriented approach favored by Indian sugar policy reformers. To help offset inflated prices, the government gives sugar mills soft loans, which "have provided interest forgiveness for a total amount of about $440 million over the last nine years," he wrote. Additional supports identified by Meriot include: $62 million in export subsidies in the past two years; $134 million from 2007 to 2015 to build and maintain buffer stocks; $173 million budgeted this year to help reduce surpluses; import duties at 40 percent; and $831 million in interest-free loans since 2008 to modernize mills, fund research, and support energy production from sugar. India's massive handouts, Meriot explained, have kept inefficient producers in business, encouraged overproduction, and helped distort global prices. "The Indian sugar policy generates a vicious cycle of expenditures but the [government] will not hesitate to intervene and support its industry if necessary, even if it involves costly subsidies and controversial export support," he concluded. That sentiment was echoed loudly by India's government officials in the May Wall Street Journal article, which noted: "'The question of cutting back on the handouts does not arise,' said an official at the Ministry of Agriculture. ‘We will not deviate from our duty of farm welfare.'" Such is the world in which America's efficient farmers and ranchers must compete.
Animal agriculture groups are voicing many concerns over USDA’s proposed rule to expand the National Organic Program to include animal-handling practices. Not only is the rule outside the statutory scope of the NOP, they say, but it is not based on science, has doubtful benefit and comes with a high cost to producers. One key concern to poultry and pork producers is the risk to animal and public health. The proposed standards focus on increased outdoor access, which the National Chicken Council and Pork Producers Council contend conflict with best management practices and will increase the likelihood and magnitude of disease outbreaks.
Russia has banned the cultivation and breeding of genetically engineered crops, which may have long-term consequences for biotechnology in global agriculture.