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| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


Dairy Groups Ask USDA for Food Purchases, Dairy Farmer Relief A group of dairy organizations wrote a letter this week to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and asked the USDA to help the struggling dairy industry. They want the agency to use its extensive purchasing power given to it by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security Act, to alleviate at least some of the stress on the U.S. dairy industry. Approximately 80 percent of Americans are under orders to shelter in their homes. That means hundreds of thousands of restaurants, schools, and other foodservice outlets have either significantly reduced their offerings or shut down. That means cheese and butter manufacturers have lost their largest market segments. While retail sales have increased during recent weeks, those sales are now leveling off and orders are slowing down. Overseas markets have been decimated. The letter to Secretary Perdue asks USDA to focus on purchases of nonfat dry milk, as well as cheese, including cheddar, mozzarella, and other Italian-style cheese. They’re also asking USDA to look at different ways they have available to make farmers whole for the milk they’ve produced, but had to dispose of, or received drastically reduced payments. Some of the groups signing onto the letter include the Wisconsin Cheese Makers, Dairy Business Association, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and the Wisconsin Farmers Union. ********************************************************************************************** NCGA Wants Farmers to Prioritize Health Amid COVID-19 and Spring Planting The National Corn Growers Association is encouraging farmers to make a plan to stay healthy amid the COVID-19 outbreak and their upcoming spring planting. According to a recent farmer survey, 70 percent of them have no formal back-up plan if a key member of their family farming operation becomes ill with COVID-19. NCGA says even though most corn farms continue to be family-run operations with few employees or seasonal help, it’s still a good idea to get a basic plan in place. Some of their suggestions include scheduling a brainstorming meeting with all family and employees to discuss possible scenarios and solutions. Another key step is to minimize exposure to outsiders. Use the telephone, email, and text messages for communications with employees or contractors who don’t reside on the farm. Observe social distancing if someone has to come to the farm. Consider cross-training family members and employees on key farm functions and equipment operation. They also encourage farmers to increase sanitizing workspaces and make it a part of the daily routine on the farm. One of the most important things people can do is stay in the house if they get sick. If employees are sick, make sure to tell them to stay home. If a family member falls ill, they should isolate themselves as much as possible and not visit work areas. ********************************************************************************************** Grassley Asking for Investigation in Meatpackers Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is calling on the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture to investigate potential market manipulation and other illegal activity by meatpackers in the cattle industry. Grassley, a longtime advocate for agriculture in the Senate, says, “With the shelf prices of meat at record highs and the high rate of concentration in the meatpacking industry, there are concerns that the difference in these margins is the result of illegal practices.” Grassley sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. In the letter, he cites repeated and numerous concerns raised by farmers and ranchers about possible illegal practices due to consolidation in the meatpacking industry. The senator is asking for both departments to investigate the serious allegations. “I request that you examine the current structure of the beef meatpacking industry and investigate potential market and price manipulation, collusion, and restrictions on competition, as well as any other potential unfair and deceptive practices under U.S. antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act,” he says in the letter. ********************************************************************************************** Farmer Share of Food Dollar Rises Slightly For each dollar spent on domestically-produced food, U.S. farmers received 14.6 cents for farm commodity sales during 2018. The USDA’s Economic Research Service says while it’s a small increase, the number did rise from 14.4 cents in 2017. It’s also the first measurable rise in the farmer share of the food dollar since 2011. The slight increase comes after the average prices U.S. farmers received in 2017 and 2018 were flat. A preliminary estimate in the farmer share of the food dollar also came out at 14.6 cents last year, but that number has been revised downward to 14.4 cents. The Economic Research Service uses input-output analysis to calculate the farm and marketing shares from a typical food dollar spent by U.S. consumers. That includes both foods bought at grocery stores as well as at dining-out establishments. The marketing share of the food dollar covers the cost of getting the food from farm to point of purchase. It includes the cost related to packaging, transporting, processing, and selling to consumers at grocery stores and dining-out businesses. Farmers receive a smaller share of the eating-out dollars because it costs more to prepare and serve meals, so more consumers eating out also drives the farm share of the food dollar lower. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Raises Import Limits on Sugar The USDA is about to publish a notice in the Federal Register raising the fiscal 2020 tariff-rate quota for raw cane sugar to 1.43 million metric tons. The agency will also just about double the low-duty quota for refined sugar to more than 373,000 metric tons. Ted McKinney, USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Ag, says the actions come after the “determination that additional supplies of raw cane and refined sugar are required in the U.S. market.” McKinney tells Politico that further adjustments for fiscal 2020 are still possible. Poor weather dragged down sugar production in Louisiana, one of the country’s key sugar cane-growing states. It also led to one of the worst sugar beet harvests in decades in states like Minnesota and North Dakota. In the meantime, Mexico, one of the top U.S. suppliers of sugar, has faced production problems of its own. USDA lowered its sugar production forecast in March to just over eight million short tons this year. That’s a decrease of 127,000 from the February forecast, and just about one million tons less than last year’s crop. ********************************************************************************************** China Wants More Hog Production, Still Seeing New ASF Cases The Chinese government is looking closely at African Swine Fever prevention measures, even as it pushes farmers to restore hog production to achieve its intended targets. Reuters reports that despite improvement in China’s containment of ASF, it still will take some time to restore pork output from hog stocks. The agriculture ministry told local governments in a video conference that frequent transportation of piglets and breeding sows has raised the risk of more disease outbreaks. Because of that risk, the ministry asked local governments to conduct strict investigations into the transportation of animals and crack down on irregularities, which includes the sale of pigs that have died from ASF. China has reported several new cases of swine fever this month, mostly as a result of transporting animals across various provinces. The ag ministry has launched a 60-day investigation into illegal transporting of hogs. In the meantime, the ministry says, “Each region should speed up their under-construction projects and replenish stocks in their small-to-medium-sized farms.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Public Service Talk Sometimes the urban media try to push public spiritedness, and sometimes it helps. For example, Bloomberg reported this week that it thinks that “there’s no good reason for the COVID-19 pandemic to cause food shortages since the virus isn’t foodborne and supplies are generally adequate and the world’s appetite hasn’t abruptly increased.” This kind of hoarding happens and it can cause shortages, Bloomberg asserts, if only because some people needlessly buy too much food or sell too little out of concern about possible future threats. For example, look at what’s happened with toilet paper supplies in parts of the U.S., Bloomberg says. The report worries that shortage fears can be self-fulfilling, an idea it attributes to the sociologist Robert Merton in 1948. Hoarding is rational if you expect others to do it, the report says. Bloomberg goes so far as to worry that “bad talk” about shortages could trigger panic buying. The report notes and repeats that the world has plenty of food, but “a few trouble spots have appeared nonetheless.” For example, Kazakhstan, a supplier of wheat and flour to global markets banned exports of several products in mid-March including flour, carrots, sugar, and potatoes. Vietnam temporarily suspended new rice export contracts. Serbia has stopped the flow of its sunflower oil and other goods. Russia said it is “leaving the door open to shipment bans” and said it’s assessing the situation weekly. Other nations, from Cambodia to Ukraine, have also throttled food exports according to a senior researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Bloomberg opined that supply-restriction policies hurt local farmers far more than they do global buyers because they “damage shippers’ reputations for reliability.” The Kazakh Agriculture Ministry changed course on March 30, announcing that quotas would replace the ban for wheat and flour. In the meantime, the EU turned to jawboning to prevent suppliers from hoarding. “There is no global supply shortage at this time, and such measures are completely unjustified,” EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan told counterparts in the Group of 20 nations on March 30. The ministers promised to keep trading despite the pandemic and vowed to “guard against profiteering and unjustified price increases.” The International Food Policy Research Institute followed suit with a blog that said “COVID-19: Trade Restrictions Are Worst Possible Response to Safeguard Food Security.” The four authors warned of a repeat of 2008, when poor harvests, exacerbated by hoarding, caused shortages and contributed to a “serious price crisis.” Cargill, the U.S.-based food giant, said that “a standstill of any new protectionist measures and a rollback of existing barriers to trade would benefit farmers, ranchers, and consumers alike.” There’s no sign of panic buying so far in wheat, corn, soybeans, hogs, or cattle, Bloomberg said, but the price of rough rice rose on the Chicago Board of Trade, to 14.1 cents per pound, from 13 cents at the start of the year. It’s still way below the 24 cents a pound it reached in April 2008, the report said. Reliable information about the adequacy of supplies is another tool, in addition to peer pressure, to discourage hoarding, says Maximo Torero Cullen, chief economist at the United Nations-affiliated Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. He’s been getting out the word that stocks of staple commodities are high and harvests have been good. To be sure, COVID-19 could cause greater numbers of the world’s poorest to go hungry, usually for reasons having nothing to do with hoarding, Bloomberg thinks. It points out that the COVID-19 outbreak has made clear is how finely-tuned food supply chains are. The demand for most products, from oranges to toilet paper, is quite steady and predictable, so supermarkets order just enough to meet the demand. When there’s a demand spike, such as the recent one, the shelves go bare quickly, says Rachel Croson, a supply chain expert who’s the new chief academic officer for the University of Minnesota system. Food shortages can emerge, she says, when people “seek to guarantee availability in a world where that guarantee isn’t really available. They order and order and order.” We’ve all seen the result of that. In general, the article identifies key vulnerabilities at the same time it reassures most U.S. consumers of the adequacy of food supplies. It also focuses on the need for reliable information and clear interpretation of trends in production, stocks and distribution -- services producers know well and understand. These are key characteristics of a well-organized, modern food system that producers should watch closely and support strongly as this crisis intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


USDA Boosts Sugar Imports to Ease Tight Supplies USDA announced a series of actions relative to the U.S. sugar supply that will increase the tariff-rate quota (TRQ) for sugar imports in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 by 550,000 short tons, raw value (STRV), including 350,000 tons of far sugar and 200,000 tons of refined sugar. The actions on the domestic front would transfer allocations from beet sugar processors with surplus allocation to those with deficit allocation. USDA is also reassigning 750,000 STRV in raw cane sugar imports already anticipated and said that the domestic cane sugar supplies are “inadequate to fill the FY 2020 cane sugar marketing allocations.” However, USDA emphasized “These FY 2020 sugar program actions will not prevent any domestic sugarcane or beet sugar processor from marketing all of its FY 2020 sugar supply.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


Trump Addresses H-2 Farm Worker Situation President Donald has committed to continue admitting large numbers of H-2A foreign visa workers to take agricultural jobs in comments on the eve of the biggest rise in new jobless claims on record. During a press briefing on Wednesday, Trump suggested U.S. farms would not survive without a continuous flow of H-2A foreign visa workers who are brought to the country by farmers. “We want the farmers to be able to get people that have been working those farms for years, or we are not going to have farms,” Trump said. “So they are going to come in. And they are going to be given a certain pass and we are going to check them very, very closely — especially over the next month, because remember after a month or so once this passes, we are not going to have to be, hopefully, worried too much about the virus. But we want them to come in. We are not closing the border so that we cannot get any of those people to come in. They have been there for years and years, and I have given a commitment that they are going to continue to come or we are not going to have any farmers.” Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf said his agency is considering “a number of different options with the H-2A workers” at the direction of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. “Nothing to announce here today, but again, at the direction of the President and Vice President, we are looking at a variety of different options that I think we will have soon and be very beneficial,” Wolf said. The State Department recently announced they are waiving the in-person interview requirements for H-2A applicants that do not present a risk.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday morning's reports will focus on the economic slowdown with U.S. nonfarm payrolls and unemployment due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT. The rest of traders' attention will turn to the latest coronavirus statistics and any news pertaining to OPEC or grain trade. Given the excessively bearish market climate, weather forecasts haven't gotten much respect lately, but are still important factors to monitor. Weather Friday will be a wet day from north to south in the western Midwest along with the southeastern Plains. Rain and mixed precipitation are in store, keeping soils wet and leading to some flood potential. Other crop areas will be dry. Warm conditions in eastern and southern areas will offer field work chances.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


House Ag Launches COVID-19 Resources Webpage The House Agriculture Committee this week launched a COVID-19 resource webpage to provide information to the agriculture industry. The webpage includes resources and information for agriculture and nutrition, and will be updated as more information becomes available. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota says the page is a collection of updates, announcements and online resources detailing programs available to those affected by the pandemic, as well as adjustments made by USDA and other Federal agencies serving the food, agriculture and rural economic supply chain. Peterson also spoke with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week, about volatility in the commodity markets, particularly for livestock and poultry industries, the bleak conditions for dairy farmers, and the status of the food supply chain. Peterson thanked Perdue and the Department of Agriculture "for their efforts to continue to monitor America's food supply and provide needed assistance and flexibility in this emergency." The page is available at agriculture.house.gov/covid19. ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Ask Health Department to Send Aid to Rural Hospitals A coalition of lawmakers is asking the Health and Human Services Department to provide immediate assistance to rural hospitals and clinics. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, 122 lawmakers asked the Trump administration to provide financial aid included in the CARES Act to help rural hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak. The legislation includes new funding to provide financial relief for hospitals. The lawmakers point out that many rural hospitals have ceased performing elective procedures and seeing non-urgent patients. Lawmakers say the rural hospitals know the COVID-19 emergency confronting the U.S. must take precedence. However, these actions threaten rural hospitals’ financial viability. The letter states, “We are hearing from rural hospitals from across the country that have only days left of cash-on-hand – money needed for payroll and supplies.” The lawmakers say, “now it is up to the administration to respond with rapid action to sustain rural providers,” adding “any unnecessary delay will only worsen this situation.” ************************************************************************************ Grocery Industry Adapting to Temporary Norms Grocery stores and the food chain across the nation are adapting to the new normal, with shelter in place and work from home orders across the county. Doug Baker, industry relations vice president at The Food Industry Association, says in a blog post, "the industry is rewriting the playbook on crisis response in real-time.” To heighten personal safety and engender a deeper comfort level among associates and shoppers, retailers are using various tactics in their stores to implement the protocol of maintaining safe social distance. Every store looks different, so the measures retailers are taking vary depending on the unique needs of their setting. For example, some retailers are putting up stanchions and floor decals to indicate where shoppers should stand to help them measure the appropriate amount of space in queues and depending on the store. Additionally, stores are piloting “pick-up only” at some facilities. Baker adds, “Our industry is at its best when the public needs us the most.” ************************************************************************************ National Sorghum Producers Predicts More Acres than USDA Estimate The Prospective Planting report released this week by the Department of Agriculture indicates an 11 percent increase in sorghum acres for 2020. However, National Sorghum Producers says there is greater opportunity for increased sorghum acres in the United States for the 2020-2021 marketing year. When the analysis was conducted in February, sorghum prices did not reflect basis appreciation from export sales that occurred since that time. Significant purchase activity by China, approaching one million metric tons over the last seven weeks, has driven basis improvements, and these purchases account for roughly ten percent of the sorghum produced last year. Today, sorghum for export commands a 13 percent premium. These gains have been seen at interior country elevators, as well, with new crop basis gains of $0.20-$0.40 in the past two weeks. With these factors in mind, NSP says both domestic and international demand will continue to drive sorghum acres this spring. ************************************************************************************ Crop Year Rice Imports Projected at Record High Although rice is not considered a staple food in the United States, Americans are turning to the global rice market more than ever. The Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service says U.S. imports of rice now account for about one percent of the value of all U.S. agricultural imports. In 2019/20, U.S. rice imports are projected at 32.5 million hundredweight, up nine percent from a year earlier and the third consecutive record. Imports now account for more than 20 percent of the total domestic rice market, with two factors driving the recent records. First is a large increase in demand for Asian aromatic varieties, primarily jasmine rice from Thailand and basmati rice from India and Pakistan. These specific varieties are not grown in the United States and account for around 70 percent of U.S. rice imports. Second, Puerto Rico is importing cheaper rice from China, about eight percent of total U.S. rice imports, and largely replacing U.S. suppliers. Nearly all of China’s rice exports to Puerto Rico are from its Government-accumulated stocks of older rice that are sold at well below current trading prices. ************************************************************************************ STD Awareness Month Doesn’t Just Apply to Humans April is STD Awareness Month, and cows should not be left out of the conversation. Trichomoniasis, or trich, is a sexually transmitted disease that has the ability to cut a calf crop in half, according to Boehringer Ingelheim. Infected animals may show no outward signs, which is why trich often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. When bulls are infected with trich, it is considered a lifelong infection with no legal treatment. While cows can clear the disease, they will likely experience reproductive failures such as infertility and low pregnancy rates. Boehringer Ingelheim suggests producers take a moment during STD Awareness Month to learn about trich, and work with a veterinarian to put a prevention plan in place that includes testing, bull selection, record keeping, biosecurity measures and vaccination. Boehringer Ingelheim says it’s important to work with a veterinarian to develop management practices and a vaccination regimen to keep your herd STD free.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Coronavirus Economic Hits It is clear that nothing is “business as usual” these days, especially concerning the economic outlook for U.S. states and businesses. Bloomberg called the results of the altered outlook a picture of “billion dollar blows.” The bad news is everywhere, Bloomberg said. For example, New York anticipates a loss of $10 billion to $15 billion in revenue, reflecting the State’s position at the epicenter of the outbreak. Ohio state agencies are looking to cut 20% in spending, and Cincinnati is furloughing 1,700 city workers. Georgia may have to renege on a $1,000 pay raise for teachers that state House lawmakers had budgeted for in the coming year. California is already dipping into reserves and has warned state agencies not to expect full funding next year. At this time, States, cities and counties are continuing to rely on revenue from taxes on income, sales of goods and even on gains from the stock market, all sources of money that the virus threatens to wipe out. Moody’s Analytics is advising policy makers to expect no less than a 10% hit to their general fund budgets, with the actual losses likely much larger for most states, said Dan White, the firm’s head of public sector research. That’s calculated off a baseline expectation that second quarter gross domestic product will decline 15% to 20% from a year earlier, “which is almost unprecedented,” he said. While the federal government’s $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package will reimburse states for some of the costs of responding to the virus outbreak, it doesn’t address the revenue problem, according to Fitch Ratings. And the unprecedented shutdowns in economic activity have made it difficult for revenue forecasters to predict what happens next. The economic shocks are likely to lead to a “very deep decline” in GDP during the second and third quarters followed by an improvement — whereas the slump was spread out over about nine quarters during the Great Recession, Moody’s White said. He said some states may call special sessions to update the budget. “They are scrambling. Best case scenario, they are going to be very cautious,” he said. The drop in state revenue could easily exceed the 11% drop that states saw in a two-year period after the 2008 recession, said Brian Sigritz, director of state fiscal studies for the National Association of State Budget Officers. While rainy day funds and reserves are at a peak, that won’t be enough for some states to cover the deficits in revenue, he said. “All states are going to be feeling the effects of this downturn,” he said. Sigritz said he expects the pinch to be felt in usually-smaller revenue sources like gasoline taxes as people drive less and gaming taxes as casinos are shuttered. “The numbers are what the numbers are,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the state budget Tuesday. “The numbers don’t lie, the numbers leave you few alternatives.” Cuomo said he’s not counting on federal funds to balance the budget. New York already was facing a projected $6 billion budget gap when Cuomo released his $178 billion spending proposal in January that was expected to reflect significant health-care savings. At least 38 states and territories have issued some version of a stay-at-home order, shuttering parts of the economy as residents stay inside and restaurants and stores close. The result may be the steepest drop in sales taxes ever, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning think tank. States like Florida, Texas and Washington are especially susceptible to the declines because the states derive over half of their revenue from sales and excise taxes, while the average is 35%, according to the group’s 2018 report. And, while the budget outlook is raising anxiety levels for many U.S. officials, President Trump observed that timing is good now for a massive infrastructure bill, a measure to fund construction and repairs of roads, bridges, railroads or other public works projects—because interest rates very low. “With interest rates for the United States being at zero, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” the President said. Bloomberg noted that the president has long advocated for an infrastructure plan but has never settled on how to finance it. Speaking at a coronavirus briefing, the president said low rates would allow the country to borrow cheaply for a new program and asserted that infrastructure spending could help blunt the surge in unemployment and businesses failures expected to result from the coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdown. So, we will see. The president’s comments came as both parties increasingly raised proposals for “phase 4” follow-on legislation to support federal supports of many kinds. Now, the economic uncertainty continues to rise amid a combination of economic urgency and rising uncertainty which producers should watch closely as these challenges intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


CCC Loan Interest Rates Slashed The actions by the Fed have now translated into a rather direct impact for agriculture, reduced borrowing costs for those getting Marketing Assistance Loans (MALs) from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The interest rate on commodity loans disbursed in April will be 1.625%, down from 2.5% in March. Plus the stimulus package extends the maturity on the loans for an additional three months, taking it to 12 months. Rates on Farm Storage Facility Loans (FSFLs) also declined markedly for April, falling to 0.75% to 1.25%, depending on the length of the loan, after those were at 1.375% to 1.625% in March.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


USMCA Start Appears Now Pushed Back To At Least July 1 While there has been no official comment from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), it does not appear that the U.S., Canada and Mexico notified each other via letters that they have taken the needed shifts to laws and regulations to align those with provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The agreement cannot enter into force until the first day of the third month following the last notification from the three countries they have met their obligations. That suggests that the earliest the deal could now take effect is July 1. Several key lawmakers had called on USTR to push back their announced intention that USMCA will start on June 1.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday morning's reports will be familiar: weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor all come out at 7:30 a.m. CDT, also joined by a monthly report of the U.S. trade deficit. The Energy Department provides weekly natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. Coronavirus statistics, weather and any trade news also remain important topics of interest. Weather Thursday features a winter storm system with very cold conditions, ice, snow and strong winds in the Northern and central Plains and portions of the western Midwest. The storm and its effects will delay spring field work for possibly two weeks, along with causing safety issues and livestock stress. The remainder of the western Midwest through south-central Plains will have light to moderate rain, bringing delays to field work. Other crop areas will be dry.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


USDA Releases Perspective Plantings Report Producers surveyed across the United States intend to plant an estimated 97.0 million acres of corn in 2020, up eight percent from last year. The Agriculture Department's National Agricultural Statistics Survey released its Prospective Planting report Tuesday. The report says planted acreage intentions for corn are up or unchanged in 38 of the 48 estimating states. Soybean growers intend to plant 83.5 million acres in 2020, up ten percent from last year, the third-highest planted acreage on record. Compared with last year, planted acreage is expected to be up or unchanged in 22 of the 29 states estimated. NASS also released the quarterly Grain Stocks report as of March 1. The report says corn stocks totaled 7.95 billion bushels, down eight percent from the same time last year. On-farm corn stocks were down 13 percent from a year ago, but off-farm stocks were up less than one percent. And, Soybeans stored totaled 2.25 billion bushels, down 17 percent. On-farm soybean stocks were down 20 percent, while off-farm stocks were down 15 percent. ************************************************************************************ Farm Journal Releases Poll on COVID-19 Impact A poll by Farm Journal shows farmers and ranchers are concerned about uncertainty in commodity markets, the financial stability of their businesses, and the health of their families, and their workforce. The poll gaged farmer responses regarding top issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey results show 90 percent of farmers and ranchers say they expect COVID-19 to impact their business. While only 30 percent have a fear of becoming sick themselves, many expressed concerns about family and friends in higher risk categories. One-third of respondents said they've been directly impacted by the disease. Farm Journal's Charlene Finck says, “Planting crops, maintaining dairy operations and other agricultural work is critical to our national security and social well-being,” adding, “We will get through these uncertain times together." Agriculture is naturally designated as an essential or critical industry for the nation, as the farm workforce helps to feed the nation, during the COVID-19 pandemic. ************************************************************************************ DOT and EPA Issue Final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule The Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency released final emissions rules Tuesday. The agencies will change the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule setting corporate fuel economy and CO2 emissions standards, known as CAFÉ standards, for model years 2021-2026 passenger cars and light trucks. The final rule will increase stringency of CAFE and CO2 emissions standards by 1.5 percent each year through model year 2026, as compared with the standards issued in 2012, which would have required about five percent annual increases. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the final rule “puts in place a sensible national program that strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry.” Meeting the previous CAFÉ standards were seen as a way to increase biofuel demand. Under the SAFE Rule, the projected overall industry average required fuel economy is 40.4 miles per gallon, compared to 46.7 projected requirements for model year 2025 under the 2012 standards. ************************************************************************************ NASS to Host Virtual Annual USDA Data Users’ Meeting The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will host its annual USDA Data Users’ Meeting virtually later this month. The event is one of many that have opted to go virtual amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Planned for Tuesday, April 21, the event is regularly held to share recent and pending program changes, and to solicit comments and input on various data and information programs important to agriculture. Usually held in person, the online Data Users’ Meeting remains free of charge and open to the public and will take place from 1:00-3:30 p.m. (ET). The meeting is organized by NASS in cooperation with the World Agricultural Outlook Board, Farm Service Agency, Economic Research Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and the U.S. Census Bureau. Leaders from each agency will provide an overview of current issues and then take questions and comments. Registration and participation information is available at www.nass.usda.gov. ************************************************************************************ No World Pork Expo for Second Straight Year For the second-straight year, the National Pork Producers Council has canceled the World Pork Expo. Canceled last year to avoid the spread of African swine fever, this year's event is one of many interrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. NPPC announced the cancellation early this week due to COVID-19 human health concerns. NPPC President Howard "A.V." Roth says, while disappointing, canceling the event allows "producers and others across the industry to focus on the essential role we play in the nation's food supply system at this critical time." Roth says NPPC will “do our part to support the nation's transition back to normalcy and look forward to making next year's World Pork Expo better than ever.” World Pork Expo is the world's largest pork-specific trade show, where more than 20,000 industry professionals gather for three days to showcase innovations, introduce new products and participate in training and educational programs. World Pork Expo 2021 is scheduled for June 9-11 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. ************************************************************************************ DFA Named Winning Bidder for Dean Foods Assets Dean Foods announced Tuesday Dairy Farmers of America as the winning bidder to acquire a substantial portion of Dean Foods' business operations. In a statement, Dean Foods says. "We ran a competitive auction process and are pleased to have reached these agreements." The two previously reached an agreement in February before withdrawing the plan to favor a competitive bidding process. DFA will acquire the assets, rights, interests, and properties relating to 44 of the company’s fluid and frozen facilities for $433 million. In addition, as part of the court-supervised sale process, Dean Foods has designated Prairie Farms Dairy as the winner of the assets, rights, interests, and properties relating to eight additional facilities, two distribution branches and certain other assets for $75 million in cash. Dean Foods has designated Mana Saves McArthur, LLC, and Producers Dairy Foods as winning bidders for the sale of the facilities located in Miami, Florida and Reno, Nevada, respectively. Harmoni, Inc. has been designated as the winning bidder for the Uncle Matt’s business.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Federal Farm Rescue POLITICO is reporting this week that the administration will inject tens of billions of dollars into the farm economy to prop up struggling corners of the sector after “years of trade pain, weather disasters and now a global pandemic and looming recession.” However, the report notes that the aid comes with few strings attached and distributing it evenly “could prove challenging.” In addition, there are additional federal efforts underway that affect agriculture including EPA plans to extend the deadline for oil refiners to prove their compliance with biofuel blending rules and says it won’t investigate or act on blending exemptions. Instead, it will focus on higher priorities and wait for a major court case on refinery waivers to play out, the report said. POLITICO also notes that managing the $23 billion in extra aid for agriculture may be a “challenge,” for USDA. Already Democrats have worried publicly that USDA might set up another “slush fund” to disperse funds across the industry POLITICO said. That mistrust stemmed in part from how the administration designed its earlier trade bailout program, which critics claimed unfairly benefited Southern states, wealthy farmers and even foreign meatpackers. “We’ll be monitoring implementation to hold USDA accountable for distributing aid fairly and encourage USDA to follow the bipartisan payment limits set by the farm bill,” said a spokesperson for Senate Ag ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D., Mich. Joseph Glauber, former USDA chief economist, told POLITICO the stimulus funds, trade aid and traditional farm subsidies could total around $50 billion in fiscal 2020 alone, “an unprecedented amount, to say the least,” said Glauber, now a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. Implementing the farm stimulus plan could prove even trickier than the trade bailout, which was based on the tariff damage to specific commodities and counties. “I am not sure how you would separate out price impacts from COVID-19 versus other market factors,” Glauber said. “My guess is that the distribution and amounts will look a lot like 2019.” In addition, EPA on Friday announced a series of “steps to protect the availability of gasoline during the COVID-19 pandemic,” including several moves to delay enforcement of biofuel blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The agency said it intends to extend the March 31 compliance date to give small oil refiners more flexibility to meet their RFS requirements, with more details to come. The coronavirus and efforts to contain it have caused a steep drop in demand for gasoline as people stay home, POLITICO said. The ripple effect has reached biofuel makers, whose products are blended by oil refiners into the gasoline pool. The EPA also emphasized that it will develop an “appropriate” response to a January court ruling, which struck down a trio of refinery waivers and threatened to undermine many more, once the appeals process has played out. Biofuel groups have pressed the White House to apply that court decision nationwide, wiping out any waivers that hadn’t been continuously maintained since the program was created more than a decade ago. Brian Jennings, CEO of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said it’s “disappointing to learn the agency prefers to punt this decision” until after the legal appeal by two refiners is resolved. “The economic fallout of COVID-19 is doing substantial damage to the ethanol industry and we expect the administration to leave no stone unturned in responding instead of only benefiting oil at the expense of rural America,” he said. POLITICO also said that the president rejected a Wall Street Journal report that the federal government might stop collecting duties for three months to help hard-hit companies weather the economic storm. At a White House briefing on Friday, the president called the report “just more fake news.” In addition, the administration has left trade war duties in place on more than $350 billion in Chinese goods, in addition to steel and aluminum tariffs on China, the EU and many other nations. The US collected nearly $72 billion in tariffs in fiscal 2019, up from $41.6 billion the prior year. The ag stimulus includes $300 million earmarked for the seafood industry, including commercial and charter fishermen. But seafood sellers have another problem: Without federal action, thousands of seasonal workers in Alaska processing plants for pollock will soon need to go back to their home country before returning for salmon season this summer, the Wall Street Journal reported. So, we will see. The combined impacts of the fall elections and the COVID-19 virus mean the demand for new and old market interventions is almost unending and will affect most of the economy and, certainly much of agriculture. These are issues producers should watch closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Insists US Food Supply Is Solid USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Monday said that the US food supply is sound despite the COVID-19 situation. In remarks on Fox Business’ Mornings With Maria, Perdue said, “We have a very complex food supply chain, from those vendors that supply our farmers with the tools and inputs they need to grow the crops — and then after that, it has to be harvested and processed. ... It is a very complex supply chain. Fortunately, it is sound, it is stable. And I think the demand surge we saw a couple weeks ago — we are seeing shelves replenished. I think that gives people a sense of calm when they go in the grocery stores and see the replenishment there.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


Key Lawmakers Call For Administration to Reconsider June 1 USMCA Start Delaying the Trump administration’s planned June 1 implementation date for the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is being called for by a bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members. “A long experience of incomplete and inadequate implementation by trade agreement partners has taught us that the United States must do this work on the front end to ensure that the words on paper deliver genuine benefits to Americans, including our farmers, workers, and businesses,” the letter said. “We urge you to seriously reconsider the proposed June 1 entry into force of USMCA, particularly in light of the significant public health crisis and supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19.” But even without the COVID-19 situation, the lawmakers said the June 1 deadline would be “highly aggressive, and raises questions as to whether businesses have the information they need to adjust to the new rules and comply by that date.” They also cited both Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) provisions and the USMCA Implementation Act as preventing the agreement from coming into force before Canada and Mexico show their “full adherence” to their USMCA commitments. While Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., signed the letter, not all members of the panel from both parties signed onto the effort.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets With continuous attention on rising coronavirus statistics, the market may not be in the mood for much fun on April fool's day. Wednesday's energy inventory reports from the U.S. Energy Department at 9:30 a.m. CDT have an increased audience these days, providing clues of gasoline demand and ethanol production. Economic reports include ADP employment at 7:15 a.m. and ISM's index of U.S. manufacturing at 9 a.m. A Fats and Oils report from NASS concludes the day's scheduled reports at 2 p.m. CDT. Weather A rain-snow combination is in store for the Northern Plains Wednesday, hindering late-corn harvest efforts and causing livestock stress. Cold conditions are also on tap for the northwestern Plains into the western Canadian Prairies. Other crop areas will be dry except for light rain in portions of the western Midwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


Rep. Harder Seeks Ag Advisor on White House Coronavirus Task Force One lawmaker wants an ag expert on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. U.S. Representative Josh Harder, a Democrat from California, recently penned a letter to the Trump administration asking that the task force include someone who can represent agriculture. Specifically, Harder says appointing a member that can “knowledgeably advocate on behalf of our producers, consumers and distributors” will ensure families have access to the food they need during the pandemic. The letter states farmers are already seeing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including volatile markets, and losing the certainty of a healthy workforce, along with potential shortages of personal protective equipment. Representative Harder’s office has heard concerns from agriculture about the availability of masks and gloves for workers as well as the availability of migrant labor. Harder says he has also heard from consumers concerned about bare shelves at supermarkets. Having an agriculture representative on the task force, Harder says, “will help to ensure all these concerns are addressed.” ************************************************************************************ Consumers Increase Online Grocery Orders During Outbreak Consumers are ordering more goods and groceries online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grocery Dive, a web-based grocery industry publication, reports 31 percent of U.S. households have used online grocery services over the past month. Out of those surveyed, 26 percent of consumers report using grocery delivery and pick-up services for the first time, and 39 percent of 60 and older consumers say the same. The report is based on a survey of more than 1,600 U.S. adults. The pandemic may permanently alter consumer activity, as buyers are seeking to avoid crowds at grocery stores to follow social distancing guidelines. However, current pick-up and delivery infrastructure is not meeting the demands. Amazon’s Prime Pantry temporarily shut down, and many grocery stores offering the services are scheduling appointments days after the order, compared with same day or next day options. Meanwhile, last week, several online providers, including DoorDash, announced they would waive delivery fees for shoppers 60 and older. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces No Actions Under Feedstock Flexibility Program The Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation announced Monday it does not expect to purchase and sell sugar under the Feedstock Flexibility Program for crop year 2019, which runs from October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020. The CCC is required by law to quarterly announce estimates of sugar to be purchased and sold under the Feedstock Flexibility Program based on crop and consumption forecasts. Federal law allows sugar processors to obtain loans from USDA with maturities of up to nine months when the sugarcane or sugar beet harvest begins. On loan maturity, the sugar processor may repay the loan in full or forfeit the collateral sugar to USDA to satisfy the loan. Congress reauthorized the Feedstock Flexibility Program in the 2018 Farm Bill as an option to avoid sugar forfeitures. USDA's March 10, 2020, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report projects that fiscal year 2020 U.S. ending sugar stocks are unlikely to lead to forfeitures. ************************************************************************************ USDA Extends ReConnect Application Deadline to April 15 The Department of Agriculture has extended the deadline for ReConnect Pilot Program applications to April 15. Deputy undersecretary for Rural Development Bette Brand announced the extension Monday, saying the move is “in light of the COVID-19 National Emergency.” The extension allows rural businesses, cooperatives, and communities extra time to apply for assistance that will help bring high-speed broadband connectivity to rural communities. USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products, 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks. These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. ************************************************************************************ State Beef Councils Win Major Legal Victory The Beef Checkoff program and fifteen grassroots-led state beef councils won a major court victory last week. The United States District Court of Montana ruled in favor of USDA and the Montana Beef Council in the matter of R-CALF vs. Sonny Perdue and USDA. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association praised the court’s decision, which ends a legal battle that has spanned more than three years and interrupted beef promotion functions in Montana. NCBA says the case had threatened local input and promotion efforts at the state level across the country. NCBA CEO Colin Woodall says the victory “goes a long way toward ensuring” Beef Checkoff investments continue. He says the foundation of the Beef Checkoff has always been state beef councils that collect checkoff funds and determine how those investments are used for research, marketing and promotion efforts in individual states. Woodall emphasized that NCBA will continue to stand with state beef councils whose work is crucial to the beef industry. ************************************************************************************ National Average Gas Price Drops Below $1.99 GasBuddy reports the U.S. national average for gasoline has fallen to $1.99 per gallon, the first time since March 23, 2016. The national average could even dip to $1.49 by mid-April, the lowest since 2004, with potentially hundreds of stations pushing their price to 99 cents per gallon for the first time since the early 2000’s. Gasoline prices have continuously dropped nationwide since February 20, 2020 as the coronavirus crushes the demand for oil and lockdowns reduce driving and keep Americans home. More than half of U.S. states are currently seeing average prices less than $2 per gallon. In the last week, 99 cent prices have shown up at various times in Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Missouri and more could join in the days and weeks ahead. An additional drop of 25-65 cents is possible in most states, while West Coast states, including California, could see prices drop 50 cents to a dollar per gallon over the next few weeks.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Next Phase in Virus Relief The shock from the COVID-19 attack on the U.S. population and economy has been so large and threatening that politicians are actively searching for more relief beyond the current measures. The Hill is reporting this week that “Democrats are keen on including additional direct payments to Americans in the next coronavirus response bill to provide financial stability as the pandemic ravages the economy.” The report says that numerous Democratic lawmakers have offered proposals for more generous payments than those included in the $2 trillion measure signed into law Friday. That was the third coronavirus bill the President signed recently and lawmakers are already starting to discuss their priorities for a “phase four” measure. “Still, much of the discussion is uncertain because it’s driven by the trajectory of the disease,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. The newest bipartisan measure signed into law contained several provisions aimed at helping individuals and businesses cover their expenses during the pandemic. In addition to the one-time checks, unemployment insurance received a boost and small businesses can now access forgivable loans if they retain their workers. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects the relief will arrive within three weeks. By then, Democrats might already be giving shape to a fourth coronavirus relief bill, The Hill said. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made several comments backing enhanced direct payments. For example, a proposal released by House Democrats on Monday called for one-time cash payments of $1,500 for both adults and children, which is more generous than the payments in the current law. “We had bigger direct payments in our bill,” Pelosi said during a press conference Thursday. “I don't think we’ve seen the end of direct payments.” Numerous other Democratic lawmakers are proposing multiple rounds of payments to help Americans weather the pandemic. Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, offered a plan that would provide most Americans with monthly checks for six months which Congress could renew for an additional six months if the outbreak continues to weigh on the economy. “I think it’s important for mental health and economic health for people to know they have something to lean on,” Ryan said last week. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, earlier this month proposed immediate payments of $2,000 per person with additional payments of smaller amounts if the economic turmoil persists. Other Democrats who have floated multiple direct payments include House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters of California and prominent freshman progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. In addition to additional relief checks, Democrats have expressed an interest in expanding the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit — two refundable credits benefiting low- and middle-income families — as part of future coronavirus legislation. Many Democrats, including Brown and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., have long had an interest in expanding the credits and argue that doing so now would give families additional assistance. Democrats aren’t the only ones who have suggested there should be more than one round of cash assistance. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has introduced a bill that would provide monthly payments to families during times of economic distress or school closures as a result of the coronavirus. A spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that it’s too soon to know what will be included in the next relief package. Grassley played a key role in the checks that were included in phase three. Economic policy experts are cautioning that several factors will play into whether Congress creates additional direct payments, such as how long the outbreak persists and how effective and popular the checks and loans in the phase current package turn out to be. Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director and now president of the right-leaning American Action Forum, said that if the business loans are effective in keeping workers on payrolls, there won’t be a need for more checks — but that the odds of Congress passing additional checks go up if the current supports don’t succeed in preventing further layoffs and business closures. But Adam Ruben — director of Economic Security Project Action, which advocates for a “cost-of-living refund” — said he doesn’t think additional cash payments would be a tough sell if some parts of the country recover faster than others. He said many people were struggling financially even before the coronavirus outbreak. “A single check is a fundamental misunderstanding of this health crisis,” Ruben said. “Public health experts are predicting that this will be a marathon, and Americans need money in their wallets to sustain them.” So, we will see. The massive response by the government appears to be popular now, but may well be less than totally effective — especially if the virus’ impacts turn out to be even worse than expected. These are trends producers should watch closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


FSA Extending Loan Deadlines USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced it is relaxing its loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. “We recognize that farm loans are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, emergency needs and cash flow through times like this," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said in a statement. "FSA is working to find and use every option and flexibility to provide producers with credit options and other program benefits.” The difficulties linked to the coronavirus situation a prompting a host of actions across government that are aimed at streamlining activities for businesses and giving some leeway as they grapple with the virus’ impacts.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


RFA Hits EPA for Delaying Action on 10th Circuit Court Ruling. The EPA announcement March 27 that it would “develop an appropriate implementation and enforcement response to the 10th Circuit’s decision in RFA [Renewable Fuels Association] v. EPA once appeals have been resolved and the court’s mandate has been issued,” has been greeted with criticism by RFA. The EPA statement is an “attempt to kick the can on nationwide application of the 10th Circuit Court decision has nothing to do with COVID-19 and everything to do with politics,” RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said in a statement. “There is absolutely no reasonable justification for delaying implementation of the court’s decision. The court has already ‘issued a mandate’ and remanded three improperly granted exemptions back to the agency to resolve.” While labeling EPA’s decision to not appeal the court decision a correct one, Cooper said that equated to a decision that they will abide by the ruling. “What are they waiting for,” he asked. Rehearing of the case at the behest of the refiners affected by the ruling is unlikely to see the matter overturned, Cooper stressed. “There is no rationale for EPA to wait for the courts to respond to the refiners’ hollow request for a rehearing before moving forward with adoption of the decision. In any event, given the unanimous and thoughtful decision by the 10th Circuit panel that heard the case, we are confident that the ruling is going to be upheld,” he said.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday has a report on U.S. consumer confidence at 9 a.m. CDT. For grain markets, the main attention will be on USDA's survey of planting intentions and report of March 1 grain stocks, set for 11 a.m. CDT. Traders continue to be attentive to coronavirus statistics, weather and any trade news. Weather Rain and snow are in store for the interior Northwest Tuesday, while the Delta and Mid-South will see light to moderate rain. Other primary crop areas will be mainly dry. The Delta and Mid-South continue to have saturated soils and flood potential with repeated rain. The northwestern snow system crosses into the Northern Plains during the next couple days, bringing stress to livestock and hindering delayed corn harvest. Some field work is possible elsewhere, notably in the central and Southern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


House Approves Coronavirus Relief Bill The House of Representatives approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on Friday. The bill, which the Senate had already approved 96-0, now goes to President Donald Trump, who’s already promised to sign it. The Hagstrom Report says the measure passed the House by voice vote, with just a few voices in opposition. Democrats in the House praised Senate Democrats and House leadership for making changes in the bill, while House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady says, “Senate Democrats, aided by (House) Speaker Nancy Pelosi, recklessly delayed this bill for days and used this crisis to try and advance a frivolous political agenda. That failed, while the Senate found unanimous, if not perfect, ground.” Mike Rogers of Alabama told the House that the bill was particularly important to rural hospitals that need to buy supplies and build infrastructure to provide medical information and advice online. Washington state Republican Dan Newhouse told his colleagues before the vote that the bill would “support hardworking farmers and ranchers who provide food for the nation.” Pelosi herself called for a large vote so that Americans would realize the government is there to help. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Accepts Over 3.4 Million Acres in General CRP Signup USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says his agency accepted over 3.4 million acres into the general Conservation Reserve Program signup that recently wrapped up. It’s the first general signup for enrollments since 2016. County offices will begin to notify producers with accepted acres no later than April 3. “The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and is critical in helping producers better manage their operations while conserving valuable natural resources,” Perdue says. “The program celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and we’re quite pleased to see one of our largest signups in many years.” For the past 3.5 decades, the CRP has addressed multiple concerns while ensuring the most competitive offers are selected by protecting fragile and environmentally-sensitive lands, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife populations, providing pollinator forage habitat, sequestering carbon in soil and enhancing soil productivity. Seventy percent of the nation’s land is privately owned, and America’s farmers and ranchers have stepped up to protect the environment and natural resources through this program. Farmers and ranchers get an annual rental payment for establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to help control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. ********************************************************************************************** State Department to Accelerate H-2A Approvals The U.S. State Department will speed up approvals of H-2A farmworkers by waiving interviews for many applicants. An Agri-Pulse report says the move is applauded by many of the country’s major ag groups, who were worried that embassy cutbacks due to the coronavirus outbreak would leave farmers without the labor they need to run their operations. Late last week, the State Department said consular officers have the option to go ahead and “waive the visa interview for first-time and returning H-2A applicants who have no potential ineligibility.” The State Department’s expansion of the waiver process also quadruples the period in which returning workers may qualify to have their interview waived. That timeframe used to be a year, but applicants who’ve had visas expire anytime during the last four years now won’t need to be interviewed if they are applying for the same visa classification and didn’t need an interview the last time they applied. A State Department document says the new approval process will only be valid during the current calendar year. The Western Growers’ Association issued a statement saying that the move will ease the flow of guest workers into the country during a time when our farmers are doubling their effort to provide the country with safe, healthy, affordable, and abundant food. ********************************************************************************************** Valero Closing Down Two Ethanol Plants U.S. fuel ethanol producer and refiner Valero is shutting down two of its ethanol plants, one in Nebraska and the other in Iowa. They’re also declaring “force majeure” (mah-ZHURE) on shipments for dried distillers’ grains or corn purchases, which means they won’t be able to meet contracted demands because of unforeseeable conditions. The force majeure is because of a lack of storage availability for corn or ethanol as demand for fuel drops and storage remains limited due to the excess supply. The coronavirus outbreak is causing Americans to drive considerably less than usual, so the low demand and excess supply are forcing Valero to close plants in Albion, Nebraska, and Albert City, Iowa. An Independent Commodity Intelligence Services website article says the supply of fuel ethanol remains ample while some producers are switching to industrial ethanol production as demand from that sector continues to climb. The state of the summer driving season is also uncertain, which is limiting fuel demand. The peak demand for fuel ethanol is during the summer. Fuel ethanol demand is almost cut in half as the people who account for 45 percent of the overall demand are currently on stay-at-home-orders in the U.S., with those order numbers continuing to climb. ********************************************************************************************** Less than Half of U.S. Dairy Farms Signed up for DMC Fewer dairy farmers chose to opt into the Dairy Margin Coverage Program that was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. At the beginning of this year, the forecast was for an improving dairy economy and the USDA prediction tool that showed either low or no DMC payments this year. However, the rapidly-evolving situation brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak is a reminder about how important safety net programs can be in agriculture. DMC is a voluntary, insurance-style program that makes payments when the national average income-over-feed-cost margin falls below a coverage level selected by each farmer. Coverage is available from $4 a hundredweight to as much as $9.50 per hundredweight. At the time of the 2020 program year signup, the all-milk price was expected to remain well above the levels of the previous four years. Projections had the price as high as $19 a hundredweight during 2020. Like other industries, dairy has been hit by the pandemic. Class 3 and Class 4 milk futures have sharply declined. One bright spot is fluid milk sales. Those numbers have jumped higher as Americans shift food dollars away from restaurants and more into at-home spending on food. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Machinery Giants Feeling the Pinch of Coronavirus Fallout Tractors would likely be moving at a quicker rate this year as farmers across rural America need to replace some aging machines. However, Bloomberg says there is very little movement of farm machinery in the U.S., plus European production is being hampered by shortages across the industry supply chain. Trade war uncertainties and low crop prices kept farmers from shelling out cash to replace their implements. Now the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is only making matters worse as no one can say for certain how long it will last or how much it will damage the economy. Both Deere & Co and AGCO Corporation say they’ll be cutting back their operations. The move by Deere comes just a month after it announced an unexpected boost in earnings and maintained its early-year positive outlook for stabilization in the ag economy. Now that they can’t forecast the future with as much confidence, the company has changed direction. Large-tractor sales are already down 50 percent below their peak level, which Bloomberg says is normally a sign that farmers have a significant need to replace their equipment. As the U.S. shuts down to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Deere will be reducing some operations and closing others. In Europe, production has already been significantly reduced or suspended in several AGCO facilities as the virus spreads across the continent.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


Washington Insider: What’s Ahead for the Economy The national media certainly is uncertain about the economic future these days. For example, the New York Times emphasized the “might of the Federal Reserve” is on display, but noted that it is now dealing with a virus, which seems almost impossible to understand. The report began with a look at recent trends in the equities markets and said, “After weeks of dropping like a stone, the stock market began to catapult upward” last week. By the market close on Thursday, the Dow had risen more than 20% from its nadir on Monday — enough, in technical terms, to qualify as a bull market, NYT said. The article allows that it is largely “pointless” to try to explain moment-to-moment financial market moves since they “usually amount to little more than random noise.” Still, it thinks there are exceptions and “this may be one of those times.” Among the myriad, and often spurious, explanations for the market’s abrupt change of mood, the NYT found an explanation: the Fed. And it found a financial expert who agreed. He is Edward Yardeni, an independent Wall Street economist who has published a new and exquisitely timed book. Yardeni says that “The Fed decided it had to really shock and awe the markets and it did the job. You can see the results yourself. He notes that the Fed announced that it would, essentially, take whatever actions were needed to restore stability in the markets, as well as the economy. Referring to the unorthodox monetary policies that the Fed put into effect to combat the global financial crisis of 2007-08, he said the new policy amounted to “quantitative easing to infinity and beyond.” He said that the Fed’s new policies are so large, and operate on so many fronts, that they are difficult even to catalog. In addition to lowering short-term interest rates to nearly zero, it will buy Treasury securities, government agency securities and corporate bonds. Beyond that, the newly enacted fiscal stimulus package will enable it to increase its already immense firepower by as much as $4 trillion. An extremely confident Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, sent out a clear message on the “Today” show on Thursday, saying: “When it comes to this lending, we’re not going to run out of ammunition.” The Times interpreted that statement as a challenge—"fight the Fed and you will face a virtually limitless financial arsenal.” No wonder traders were stunned into submission, it said. In the face of the Fed’s intention to bolster the markets, they stopped dumping stocks and began to gobble them up. Yet any central bank’s ability to turn an entire economy around is severely limited under any circumstances, the Times cautioned. In the face of a pandemic and what increasingly looks like a severe global recession, even the Fed can provide only partial remedies. Still, money is flowing into credit markets, which had threatened to seize up as they did in the last financial crisis. The pricing of exchange-traded bond funds—mutual funds that trade all day like stocks—has returned to a semblance of normality, thanks to the Fed’s intervention in the bond market. And riskier assets like stocks have received a therapeutic jolt, now that the Fed has made it absolutely clear that it will do whatever it takes. In addition, Yardeni pointed out that double-digit gains in stock prices over just a few days may already be enough to have fundamentally shifted traders’ approach to stocks. The Fed acted, and the stock market “just took off,” he said. He added that it was quite possible that the “market has already reached a bottom.” However, that is a fundamental question for investors, the Times cautions, and says it finds that likelihood doubtful and that it is unwilling to assume that the worst is over in the markets, because there may well be “terrible events” just ahead.” On Thursday morning, for example, the Labor Department announced that 3.28 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits in a single week — up from the previous record by a factor of nearly five. And next week’s number could be worse. Also last week’s reports indicate that the pandemic is still in its early stages and its severity is only beginning to be measured. Economists at JPMorgan Chase now predict that the decline in gross domestic product in the United States will be more than 10% in the current quarter and more than 25% from April through June. How steep the drop in GDP will actually be is anybody’s guess, but it will be certainly be bad. Whether the stock market, which gave up ground on Friday, can rise in the face of such calamities seems highly questionable, while the performance of the federal government has so far been less than inspiring. “If we don’t get the pandemic under control,” Yardeni said, “I don’t know what the Fed is going to do about it.” I hope we don’t have to find out. The Fed’s intervention has been comforting, but awesome as it may be, the Fed can’t beat the coronavirus. So, we will see. The effectiveness of the new efforts to “level” the impacts of the pandemic are extremely important and the combined health and economic policies should be watched very closely by producers as their impacts emerge Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


State Department Shifts H-2 Visa Process After having suspended visa processing at embassies March 20, the State Department announced it is still continuing to process returning H-2 visas and will now allow consulates to waive in-person H-2 interviews on first-time and returning H-2 applicants “that have not apparent ineligibility or potential eligibility.” The interview waiver can also apply to those whose previous visas expired within the last 48 hours and did not require a waiver of ineligibility to the last time they applied if they are applying for the same classification as their prior visa. “We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise-qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview,” the State Department said. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue welcomed the move relative to H-2A visa applicants that work in throughout the ag sector.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


EPA Addresses Court Ruling On RFS Exemptions EPA has finally issued comments relative to the situation with small refinery exemptions (SREs) in the wake of the 10th Circuit Court ruling, which invalidated three SREs issued for the 2016 compliance year. “EPA does not intend to unilaterally revisit or rescind any previously granted small refinery exemptions issued for prior compliance years,” the agency said as it announced other fuel-related actions. “As noted in the temporary policy on COVID-19 Implications for EPA's Enforcement and Assurance Program, issued yesterday (March 26), EPA is focused on protecting our employees and ensuring continued protection of public health and the environment from acute or imminent threats during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Given that stance, EPA said that investigating and initiating enforcement actions against prior SRE recipients “is a low priority for the agency.” EPA further said it “intends to develop an appropriate implementation and enforcement response to the 10th Circuit’s decision in RFA v. EPA once appeals have been resolved and the court’s mandate has been issued.” On the 2019 compliance deadline of March 31 for obligated parties to demonstrate compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), EPA said, “In a forthcoming action, EPA intends to extend the RFS compliance date for small refineries to provide them with additional flexibility.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Fresh back from the weekend, traders will check the latest coronavirus statistics and the trends of late, have been discouraging. Weather, trade news and any new comments from Saudi Arabia on oil production will get attention. A report on pending home sales will be released at 9 a.m. CDT, followed by USDA's report of weekly export inspections at 10 a.m. CDT. Weather Most primary crop areas will be dry Monday, allowing for soil drying and continued draining of excessive moisture. Some light rain will form in the Southern Plains and in the Northwest. A more active pattern is in store for Tuesday and Wednesday with rain in the Delta and a rain-snow combination in the Northern Plains. There is no new major flood threat at this time.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


Administration Won’t Drop Tariffs to Boost Economy Previous reports have suggested administration officials were considering suspending tariffs to stimulate the U.S. economy. However, the top trade adviser for the White House, Peter Navarro, says the Trump administration isn’t considering that right now. A Marketplace Dot Org report says tariffs are taxes on imported goods that American companies and consumers always wind up paying. The head of the Coalition for a Prosperous America says a lot of the duties were first implemented because many imports were being subsidized or otherwise traded unfairly, injuring American companies and their ability to do business. Economists ranging from the Federal Reserve through the private sector have compared how much the tariffs have benefited the economy against how much difficulty they bring as well. “Tariffs cause more losers than winners,” says Dan North, senior economist for a group that provides trade credit insurance. “it’s a significant drag on the economy, especially in the current environment.” Mary Lovely, a professor of economics at Syracuse University, says a suspension would be aimed at U.S. manufacturers that import the items needed to assemble new goods. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Futures Survey says Farmers Planting More Corn in 2020 It looks like U.S. farmers are upping the number of corn acres going into the ground during spring planting. The newest Farm Futures survey shows farmers will plant 96.4 million acres of corn during the 2020 planting season. That’s the second-highest number of intended acres after farmers put a record 97.3 million acres of corn in the ground during 2012. The Farm Futures number is more than two million acres higher than the most recent USDA projection in February of 94 million acres. Farm Futures points out that a lot of things have changed between the two forecasts. The coronavirus pandemic hit, upending the global economy. The increased economic uncertainty, historically cheap input costs, as well as weaker soybean demand from China all appear to have made corn the optimal choice among somewhat limited options for Midwest farmers. Farm Futures estimates that soybean plantings will total 82.7 million acres, almost three million less than the USDA estimate of 85 million, which also came out in February. The survey estimates that farmers will plant 45.8 million acres of wheat, higher than USDA’s estimate of 45.0. Farm Futures also estimates that farmers will plant 11.7 million acres of cotton, less than the USDA estimate of 12.5 million. ********************************************************************************************** FSA Services Available by Phone Appointment Only USDA’s Farm Service Agency county offices are open only by a phone appointment until further notice because of the COVID-19 outbreak. FSA staff are available to continue helping agricultural producers with program signups, loan servicing, and other important actions. Also, the FSA is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. Program delivery staff will continue to come to the FSA office, but they’ll work with producers by phone and other online tools whenever possible. “FSA programs and loans are critical to America’s farmers and ranchers, and we want to continue our work with customers while taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “We recognize that farm loans are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, as well as emergency needs and cash flow through times like this. FSA is working to find and use every option and flexibility to provide producers with credit options and other program benefits.” ********************************************************************************************** Farmers, Rural Businesses, Brace for a Possible Recession Rural counties are in a fragile spot economically after years of weakness in farming and manufacturing, as well as a weaker recovery since the Great Recession. The COVID-19 pandemic has pressured the U.S. economy to the point that it’s facing another downturn. Politico says the pandemic has put a dent in global trade and U.S. commodity prices. It’s the latest economic challenge for farmers and ranchers after being hit by years of tariffs and weather challenges. “These are ‘black swan’ events, the kinds of things that you can’t plan for,” says John Newton, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau. “It’s a shock to the economy that we will recover from, it’s just a matter how long the drag will be on this.” Mark Scanlan is senior vice president of agriculture and rural policy with the Independent Community Bankers of America. Scanlan says, “It’s not just the farmers, it’s the Main Street businesses that they’re doing business with, the people that are employed by the processing and distribution chain.” Rural demographics could make it even more of a challenge to eventually bounce back, because the most isolated rural counties saw the biggest population loss and have the highest poverty rates. ********************************************************************************************** Hoarding is Pushing the Price of Eggs and Milk Higher Panic buying and hoarding supplies is pushing wholesale egg prices in the Midwest to their all-time high. The Des Moines Register says prices for other staples like milk, beef, and even ice cream have gone higher as well. Joe Kerns is president of an agricultural consulting company in Ames, Iowa, who says the Midwest isn’t short on supplies, it’s abnormally-high demand that’s causing the price jump. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, consumers in Iowa and across the U.S. are piling way more than the usual amount of groceries in their shopping carts. That unusually-high demand level is driving prices higher. Kerns says it’s not a surprise because as restaurant dining rooms are closed, more people are cooking in their homes. Some grocers are seeing as much as six times the normal demand for eggs, which is temporarily clearing out shelves. Processor are struggling to fill orders that are coming in at a rapid pace. Stores in Iowa and across the country say they’re seeing increased prices from their suppliers as they keep working to make sure their shelves stay filled with staple products. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Seed Companies Taking Steps to Meet Farmer Needs American Seed Trade Association President Andy LaVigne (Luh-VEEN) says the U.S. seed industry is committed to meeting farmer and consumer demand for food. The association says its top commitment is ultimately ensuring that America’s families have ongoing access to a healthy, safe, and affordable food supply as America continues to deal with the impacts of COVID-19. “The seed industry plays a foundational role in the production of the food, feed, forage, clothing, fuel, and other agricultural products to help sustain a sound and balanced economy,” LaVigne says. “As we head into spring planting season right in the middle of the global pandemic, America’s seed companies are working hard to make sure farmers, ranchers, and homeowners, will have access to the quality seed they need to ensure a successful year.” He also says U.S. seed companies have put into place the necessary practices to comply with COVID-19 recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they continue to deliver seed during this challenging time. “We appreciate the tireless efforts of American producers who are on the frontlines every day,” LaVigne adds. “We’re also grateful for the strong support and communication from Secretary Perdue and his team to ensure America’s families have ready access to nutritious food, both now and into the future.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Virus Relief Bill The Senate unanimously (96-0) passed the coronavirus relief bill this week and it was sent to the House where it is expected to pass today, the Washington Post says. At least some of its many details are emerging, Bloomberg reports. As almost everyone knows the plan would include about $2 trillion in aid, including $500 billion in loans and cash assistance for individuals, companies, states and cities. Also emerging are some of the strings that were attached to avoid problems with earlier bailout packages. For example, companies receiving government loans would be subject to a ban on stock buybacks “through the term of the loan plus one additional year.” They also would be required to limit executive bonuses and take steps to protect workers – and Treasury would be required to disclose the terms of loans or other aid. A new Treasury inspector general would oversee the program. The bill is largely a win for the retail, hotel and restaurant industries that had initially viewed lawmakers as favoring the airline industry, Bloomberg said. “We see it as an important win,” said Austen Jensen of the Retail Industry Leaders Association said. “Yes, airlines are in a tough spot, but the retail industry is equally in a difficult position.” Struggling U.S. airlines would be eligible to receive federal loans and direct cash assistance amounting to about $25 billion of each. The cash assistance for payrolls is expected to eliminate the risk of near-term bankruptcies, JPMorgan analyst Jamie Baker said in a report Wednesday. Other transportation winners include rail and transit operators. Amtrak would get $1.02 billion to cover virus-related revenue losses and support state-funded routes. State and local transit agencies would get $25 billion for operating and capital expenses. The bill also carves out more than $350 billion in aid for small businesses, mainly guaranteed loans through the Small Business Administration and banks. The loans could be forgiven provided the businesses meet certain requirements including limiting reductions in pay and layoffs, though with more flexibility for employers than the original Senate bill. The package also would provide direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult, as well as $500 for each child. Democrats were able to insert a change from a previous version to allow low-income taxpayers the full $1,200 payment. The initial plan would have given smaller checks, or in some cases, no money at all, to very-low income people, Bloomberg said. Unemployment insurance payments are to be bolstered and recipients would be eligible to receive those funds for an average of four months, up from three in the prior GOP plan. It also would extend eligibility to the self-employed and workers in the gig economy such as drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. The legislation calls for $117 billion for hospitals and veterans’ health care, as well as $16 billion for personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical supplies for federal and state response efforts. It also includes $11 billion for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and other medical needs, and at least $250 million to improve the capacity of health-care facilities to respond to medical events, according to a summary by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill also would require insurers to cover tests for Covid-19 and require labs to post cash prices on public websites. Vaccines or other preventive services would be covered without cost-sharing. Also, many U.S. homeowners and businesses hit hard by coronavirus could get relief from making their monthly mortgage payments. Borrowers with loans insured by government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs would be eligible for “forbearance.” Consumers whose mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would also be eligible to skip payments. U.S. regulators have already mandated relief for borrowers facing financial hardships due to coronavirus, in addition to suspending foreclosures and evictions through the end of April and in some cases longer. Under the Senate bill, borrowers would be eligible for 60 days of forbearance if they can demonstrate virus-related financial stress. The relief can be extended for 30 days up to four times. Commercial borrowers with federally backed loans could potentially skip payments for at least 30 days with a possible extension of up to 60 additional days. The stimulus package includes up to $23.5 billion in farm aid and would provide $9.5 billion in emergency funds for agriculture, including livestock producers and growers of specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables. And it would authorize $14 billion in new borrowing authority for the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. Agriculture groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the United Fresh Produce Association and livestock groups had sought aid in the stimulus package. A coronavirus relief fund with $150 billion would be created for states, cities and other local governments. Additional funds will be set aside for territories, tribal governments and other entities. Democrats sought to add funding for clean energy but in the end funds for both clean and conventional energy were scuttled. However, the issue could arise later as Congress takes up additional coronavirus-related legislation in coming weeks. So, we will see. The legislation being considered is criticized by many for being too large and by others for being too small—even as the need for assistance was dramatized by the increase in unemployment from 3.5% to 5.5% this week and numbers of virus cases continued to grow. Clearly, this is a crisis that producers should watch closely as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


More Actions Urged on Dairy USDA should use its Section 32 authority to purchase additional dairy products in a bid to support the struggling dairy industry and meet rising food assistance needs as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont’s congressional delegation urged in a March 24 letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The coronavirus crisis is hitting the U.S. dairy industry hard and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is looking to USDA to help stabilize prices and provide aid to struggling farmers along with Vermont’s congressional delegation. USDA should “immediately exercise its Section 32 authority to purchase additional dairy products for distribution through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP),” the lawmakers urged. The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to increase strain on the charitable food system, and the purchases will “will help ensure those in need receive critical nutrition during this challenging period,” they said. A key issue the dairy industry is concerned about relates the level of school closures that have taken place, reducing milk demand and that may well be demand that will be lost for the sector.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


State Department Taking Action to Speed H2 Visa Situation The U.S. Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security have decided to authorize temporary waivers for in-person interviews for eligible H-2 visa applicants. This applies to both H-2A and H-2B visas. “Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2 visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “H-2 labor is vital to the economy and food security of America – our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world.” It is not clear if the State Department action applies to only returning visa holders or if the process will help seed the new visa applicants.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Increasing coronavirus statistics remain a top concern for markets with everything else a distant second on Friday. Reports on U.S. personal incomes and consumer spending are due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by an index of consumer sentiment at 9 a.m. Other market interests include weather, trade news and any new comments from Saudi Arabia about oil production. Weather Showers and thunderstorms will extend from the central Plains to the eastern Midwest Friday. Rain will be locally heavy in the eastern Midwest with a threat of flash flooding. Other crop areas will be dry. The rain area expands through the remainder of the Midwest and into the Northern Plains Friday night and Saturday, with moderate to locally heavy totals. Flood threat will be high due to rain falling on saturated soils, notably in northern and eastern crop areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


Stimulus Package Includes Ag Provisions The $2 trillion stimulus package includes billions of dollars for U.S. agriculture. A quick analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows agriculture is set to receive $49 billion. Of that, $14 billion is provided to the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation, and $15.8 billion is provided to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program. Meanwhile, $9.5 billion is provided to the office of the Secretary for livestock and specialty crops, and $8.5 billion is provided for Child Nutrition Programs. Additionally, the funding includes $450 million for commodity assistance, $100 million for broadband grants, and $25 million for distance learning and telemedicine efforts. The agreement opens the door for a potential third round of Market Facilitation Payments through the Commodity Credit Corporation, originally created to help farmers as the Trump administration carries out its trade agenda. Funding an additional round of payments through the program is a request from many groups in agriculture. ************************************************************************************ NCGA Issues Steps to Manage COVID-19 on the Farm A guide by the National Corn Growers Association offers tips to manage COVID-19 on the farm. Farmers are preparing for spring planting, which means activity levels are increasing on the farm for things like field preparation and on-farm deliveries. NCGA says limiting interactions and exposure is a good idea to limit exposure and risk related to COVID-19, as it is critical to practice biosecurity for your family, your employees, the public, and animals. NCGA recommends farmers identify and coordinate a drop-off location for supplier deliveries to the farm. If possible, set this up away from high traffic areas and housing. Further instruction includes practicing distancing with delivery drivers, log all deliveries and utilize a visitor's log for everyone entering the farm. NCGA recommends farmers prepare on-farm workers and family members, and to sanitize contact surfaces around the farm, including door handles and knobs, floor mats, steering wheels and other commonly contacted surfaces. Additionally, it is recommended that all farms have Continuity of Business plans, to keep operations running smoothly in case of any disruption. ************************************************************************************ Coalition Welcomes Decision Not to Seek Re-Hearing of SRE Ruling Ethanol and farm groups welcomed the Trump administration’s decision not to seek a re-hearing of a recent ruling that struck down certain small refinery exemptions. The exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard “vastly exceeded” Environmental Protection Authority in granting exemptions from 2016 and 2017 RFS requirements for three refineries, according to the court. The challenge was brought against EPA in May 2018 by the Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, American Coalition for Ethanol and National Farmers Union in response to the massive demand destruction caused by the Agency’s use of SREs. In the wake of the decision not to seek a re-hearing, the four groups called upon the EPA to immediately apply the court decision nationwide. The group states, “With this key milestone now behind us, we look forward to EPA applying the Tenth Circuit decision nationwide to all SRE petitions, beginning with the 25 pending petitions for 2019 exemptions.” ************************************************************************************ Kind Asks Trump to Expedite Tariff Exclusion Process A letter to the Trump Administration from three lawmakers asks the President to temporarily suspend tariffs or at least greatly expedite the tariff exclusion process. Representative Ron, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and others, signed the letter, which states, “Immediate tariff relief will have numerous positive effects, including reducing disruptions to existing supply chains and easing the economic burden on our companies and their workers.” The letter says tariff duties continue to threaten the economic well-being of families across the country and the viability of the health care, manufacturing, retail, and food sectors. The lawmakers are seeking a temporary reprieve from President Donald Trump, not permanent action. The letter says, “it is important to note that we are not asking for permanent rollbacks at this time. Instead, we are asking for you to provide temporary relief for our constituents during this public health crisis.” Joining Kind in the letter was Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene of Washington and Terri Sewell of Alabama. ************************************************************************************ Canada Announces Support Programs for Agriculture Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week announced new measures to support farmers and agri-food businesses in Canada facing financial hardship due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Farm Credit Canada will receive support from the Government that will allow for an additional $5 billion in lending capacity to producers, agribusinesses, and food processors. This will offer increased flexibility to farmers who face cashflow issues and to processors who are impacted by lost sales, helping them remain financially strong. In addition, all eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advance Payments Program loan due on or before April 30 will receive a Stay of Default, allowing them an additional six months to repay the loan. This measure, which represents $173 million in deferred loans, will help keep more money in farmers' pockets during these critical months. The Advance Payments Program is a financial loan guarantee program that provides producers easy access to credit through cash advances. ************************************************************************************ Ethanol Industry Employs Significant Amount of Veterans A new study shows America's ethanol industry employs a significantly larger share of military veterans than any other segment of the energy industry. Nearly one in five ethanol industry employees is a veteran at 19 percent, compared to a national average of six percent across all sectors of the workforce, according to the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report published by the National Association of State Energy Offices and Energy Futures Initiative. Per 100 workers, the ethanol industry employs more than twice as many veterans as the petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, coal, and wind energy sectors. Across all energy segments, veterans comprise nine percent of the U.S. energy sector's workforce, slightly above the national average. RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper, an Army veteran who attained the rank of Captain, says, “The ethanol industry is a perfect fit for thousands of veterans across the country.” With ethanol jobs currently at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other factors, Cooper said the report serves as a timely reminder that the ethanol industry is a crucial employer of veterans.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Food Supply is Safe Amid widespread concerns about threats from the coronavirus, Food Safety News (FSN) is carrying a report by Frank Yiannas, deputy FDA commissioner for food policy and responses. Yiannas notes that a critical and specific part of FDA’s mission is safeguarding the human and animal food supply including “helping to ensure that our food is not contaminated at any point during its journey along the supply chain.” He notes that the COVID-19 threat is a “new frontier” but wants to assure consumers that it does not threaten the U.S. food supply. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that make people ill through contaminated food, COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person and causes respiratory, not gastrointestinal illnesses, he says. He emphasizes that “foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.” As a result, he says, the agency does not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or withdrawn from the market “for reasons related to the outbreak.” This is true, he says, even if a person who works in a human or animal food facility is confirmed to be positive for the COVID-19 virus. Food production and manufacturing are dispersed throughout the U.S., Yiannas says and notes that he is not aware of any widespread disruptions of the supply chains which “remain strong.” The FDA is working closely with food manufacturers and grocery stores to insure that they continue to insure normal flows of products, he says. He also says that the shortages that have been reported are “localized” and tend to reflect sharp increases in demand rather than a lack of production capacity — and that they have been “generally overcome quickly.” Yiannas notes that FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn announced last week that the agency has postponed most foreign inspections through April — mainly because of restrictions on travel and concerns about the safety of FDA’s investigators. In the meantime, FDA is using its other tools and authorities to help ensure the safety of imported foods, including inspections at the ports of entry and the use of PREDICT, its risk-based import screening tool. FDA also has issued guidance on its intentions to temporarily delay audits of requirements for supplier verification under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. These audits are designed to confirm compliance with safety standards but travel restrictions will likely prevent receiving facilities and importers from obtaining them for the immediate future. For verification that would include a domestic or foreign onsite audit, facilities are expected to temporarily select an alternative way to verify compliance with food safety standards, such as sampling and testing, or food safety records reviews. Yiannas further notes that FDA is helping protect workers in food facilities against infections and problems they may have getting to and from work with curfews and quarantines in certain places. He says that there are significant requirements for human food facilities to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces and that workers are required to practice frequent hand washing and glove changes before and after preparing food. Yiannas notes that FDA is working closely with the food industry and existing state, local, and international regulatory partners are required to monitor and mitigate any impact on food safety and food access for the American public. This includes working with local, state and federal officials, and industry, to help ensure that food workers can get to and from their jobs in communities where curfews and shelter-in-place directives are enforced. Yiannas focuses heavily on consumer safety and confidence in food supplies and assures FSN that the agency will continue efforts to make sure that consumers have access to the foods they need for themselves, their families and their livestock. In the flurry of media talk about all things related to the virus outbreak, there have been occasional but urgent questions about food safety among those “sheltering in place.” The FSN comments by Yiannas seem timely and likely to be useful to answer a number of these, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


US Grocery Store Price Increases Remain Subdued As COVID-19 Uncertainty Arrives Difficult economic times ahead for the U.S. are poised to unfold with the COVID-19 situation, but consumers are still not faced with sticker shock at the grocery store, according to the latest update from USDA. USDA looks for overall U.S. food prices are forecast to increase in 2020 by 1.5% to 2.5% compared with 2019, nearly in line with the increase of 1.9% registered for 2019. Grocery store prices are forecast to increase from 0.5% to 1.5%, in line with the increase of 0.9% in 2019. Food at home (grocery store) prices have a 20-year average increase of 2%. The increase of 0.9% in 2019 was the biggest rise at the grocery store since prices rose 1.2% in 2015. Food away from home (restaurant) prices for 2020 are now seen rising from 1.5% to 2.5%, down from the month-ago outlook for prices for eating out to rise by 2% to 3%. The increase now forecast by USDA would be considerably under the 20-year average of 2.8%.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


Senators Call for Actions on Trade Amid COVID-19 Pandemic With the COVID-19 situation expected to extract a heavy toll on the U.S. economy, a group of Senate Finance Committee Republicans are calling on President Donald Trump to take several actions on the trade front, including tariff waivers on medical products and broadening the tariff exemptions. “One area where you have immediate tools at your disposal to decrease the economic harm from COVID-19 is trade policy,” said the lawmakers in the letter spearheaded by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. They noted that one area where there are “immediate tools” to “decrease the economic harm from COVID-19 is trade policy.” The lawmakers called on Trump to work with other countries to limit or remove trade restrictions on medical products needed in the COVID-19 fight. Lawmakers want the president to consider tariff relief on medical devices, to provide a temporary deferral for companies on duty collections, extending expanding tariff relief on Section 301 tariffs and to not take any new measures that “would create uncertainty or undue difficulty for American workers, families, farmers, ranchers, and businesses, and asking our global trading partners to do the same.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List: Markets Thursday morning has the usual lineup of reports at 7:30 a.m. CDT: weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims, and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Fourth-quarter U.S. GDP will also be released, followed by U.S. natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. USDA's quarterly hogs and pigs report is set for 2 p.m. CDT and will also compete for attention with weather, trade news and the latest coronavirus statistics. Weather Very warm, dry and windy conditions Thursday will lead to notable wildfire threats and stress to winter wheat in the Southern Plains. Elsewhere, light rain and snow will occur in the north-central Plains, with light rain in the northern Midwest. Rain expands into more of the Midwest Friday, with severe storms possible. Temperatures will be well above normal in central and southern areas and near to below normal north.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


Implementation of China Agreement Continues Implementation of the Phase One Agreement continues, according to the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. In a news release Tuesday, the two announced continued progress in the implementation of the agriculture-related provisions. Among the recent actions, both countries signed a regionalization agreement that, in the event of a detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza or virulent Newcastle disease in a particular region of the United States, China will allow U.S. poultry exports from unaffected areas. China also notified the U.S. of proposed maximum residue levels for three hormones commonly used in U.S. beef production. U.S. beef producers, for the first time since 2003, will have access to nearly all beef products into China. U.S. pork producers will also be able to significantly expand the types of pork products shipped to China. China also updated its list of U.S. facilities eligible to export distillers dried grains with solubles, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a notice to facilitate the registration of animal feed manufacturing facilities for export to China. ************************************************************************************ Agriculture Groups Call on Lawmakers to Support Farmers A group of agriculture organizations is calling on Congress to expand the Department of Agriculture's borrowing authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation. The groups say Congress must act to ensure the CCC has the authority and funding to assist farmers and ranchers facing serious cash flow challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. The letter, addressed to both Senate and House leaders reads, "Farmers, ranchers and the supply chain that support them will not let Americans down during this unprecedented crisis, and they are asking the same of you." The organizations say, "Millions of producers will need help with cash flow given the rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closures of ethanol processing plants, the effective elimination of direct-to-consumer sales and decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand." Groups representing food, fuel and fiber signed on to the letter, including the American Farm Bureau Federation. The groups say Congress must ensure the CCC has ample authority and funding to help farmers and ranchers survive during this emergency. ************************************************************************************ NMPF Thanks USDA for Coronavirus Response, Outlines Dairy Needs Dairy farmers welcome the response by the Department of Agriculture to the coronavirus crisis, but say more relief is needed. The National Milk Producers Federation sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue detailing the needs of dairy farmers during the crisis. NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says in the letter, “The demand shock experienced by our entire economy is turning what initially looked to dairy farmers like the first decent year in the last five into one of potentially widespread economic devastation." Dairy farmers expect to face price declines and unstable demand over the next several months, as joblessness rises, schools remain closed, and farm and dairy processing operations face unprecedented logistical challenges. In its letter, NMPF said it looks forward to working with the USDA in program implementation, trade facilitation and other areas, but said additional remedies will be needed. Those include additional dairy product purchases, compensation for milk disposal, and reopening of signup in the Dairy Margin Coverage program. ************************************************************************************ United Fresh Urges Congress to Take Immediate Action Produce suppliers are looking for federal assistance, as many industry sectors seek relief from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The United Fresh Produce Association, representing the fresh produce supply chain, has requested urgent action by Congress to mitigate the challenges facing the sectors that have been impacted most severely. The immediate impact felt by the fresh produce supply chain is $5 billion for exposure for lost inventory and risk to growers, $1 billion a week in lost sales, and tens of thousands employee furloughed, according to the organization. Those recommendations include the establishment of a $1 billion fund, to address claims filed by foodservice distributors who have outstanding expenditures to grower-shippers. However, the group says the need may skyrocket to $5 billion. The group also requests USDA Immediately make an additional $1 billion available to help meet the needs of schools and all emergency feeding sites. Finally, they request the federal government provide $225 million funding for the Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children to accommodate a temporary increase to the cash-value voucher benefits. ************************************************************************************ TFI Urges Governors to List Industry as Critical The Fertilizer Institute is urging state governors to follow federal guidelines and list the fertilizer industry as essential service and critical infrastructure. TFI says in a letter to governors, the declaration will “ensure that American agriculture can remain operable and continue to provide food security.” TFI represents fertilizer manufacturers, transporters, wholesalers, importers, brokers and retailers. The fertilizer industry supports nearly 500,000 American jobs and has an economic impact of over $130 billion annually. The letter says the next six to eight weeks will be crucial to its members and their farmer customers, as they conduct spring planting activities. TFI says the timely delivery of plant nutrients to American farmers is critical to their ability to produce food, fuel, and fiber. In order to get plant nutrients to the farm, the fertilizer industry relies on a safe and efficient transportation network, including rail carriers, ports, barges, pipelines, and trucks. In addition, the ability to move products across the borders of Canada and Mexico is also an important part of the fertilizer supply chain. ************************************************************************************ Fund Launched to Help Farmers Affected by the COVID-19 Crisis American Farmland Trust Tuesday announced a fund to help farmers affected by the coronavirus crisis. Announced on National Ag Day, the fund will award eligible farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The initial focus will be on farms that sell at farmers markets or to restaurants, caterers, schools, stores, or makers who use farm products. That focus could change over time as the negative impacts of the crisis become more widespread within U.S. agriculture. A new report estimates that local and regional food systems could lose up to $1.3 billion between just March and May of this year. While all farmers and ranchers will likely be seriously impacted by the market disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the organization says, "some farmers are losing their primary markets because people can't eat in restaurants or shop at farmers markets." The Farmer Relief Fund program details can be found at www.farmland.org/relief.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Fed and Whatever It Takes As of mid-day Tuesday, there was no firm deal yet on the expected federal economic bailout. However, there was a modest amount of information regarding efforts by the central bank to keep money flowing in the economy. The Fed announcement on Monday had “lots of bureaucratic jargon and an alphabet soup of acronyms,” the Times said. However, at its core, “it was making a simple promise—to use the full range of tools to support households, businesses and the U.S. economy overall.” Most of the efforts the central bank described fall under the broad category of “buying debt,” the Times said — policies the Fed already has in motion through purchases of vast quantities of Treasury bonds — debt issued by the federal government — and mortgage debt backed by government agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Still, this week’s announcement went further, promising to keep buying “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning.” It also expanded programs that will support debt issued by companies, state and local governments, and other entities (though it won’t buy municipal debt directly). The basic problem the Fed is trying to solve is that financial markets—particularly the bond market—have nearly frozen up in recent days. By promising to buy debt, the Fed is trying to get markets working again. The report identifies two categories of American businesses--companies like airlines, hotel chains and cruise ship operators, that have seen their revenue more or less wiped out by the pandemic. Congress might step in to bail some of those companies out but there isn’t much that the Fed can do for them. Instead, the Fed will focus on businesses that are basically healthy but are threatened by the freeze-up in financial markets. Some have been insulated from the outbreak’s effects but rely on debt as part of their normal operations. Others have lost business because of the virus but could survive if they could borrow to cover their expenses. “If these corporations don’t have financing or they’re losing their access to credit, it means they’re going to have to close their doors and lay off workers,” said Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Those impacts make the recession spirals deeper and more prolonged.” The Times noted that “ordinarily, the Fed fights an economic slowdown by lowering interest rates.” But ultralow interest rates don’t do any good if no one will lend money, or if lenders demand a huge premium. That’s what was starting to happen in recent days. Julia Coronado, president of MacroPolicy Perspectives, an economic consultancy said. “If corporations can’t get cash and mortgage markets aren’t functioning, your low rates don’t translate to households and businesses.” By buying up government bonds and other safe assets, the Fed is trying to give investors sufficient confidence to put their money back into the bond market, which in turn should allow its interest-rate policies to work as intended. A lot of what the Fed is doing is taken from the 2008-9 playbook used by Chairman Ben Bernanke. The Fed bought Treasury notes and mortgage bonds then, though in the past it has always put a dollar figure on its bond-buying programs. It took the extreme uncertainty of the current moment to push the Fed to pledge open-ended stimulus, the Times said. The central bank is also reviving several other programs that made their debut during the last crisis. But policymakers are also taking novel steps. Most important, the Fed will effectively lend money directly to large corporations, something it has never done before. The central bank framed the program as “bridge financing” to help otherwise healthy companies keep their doors open and their workers employed during a period of disruption. The Times notes that sales have abruptly dried up for restaurants, bars, independent retailers and other small businesses, and few have the savings to survive more than a few weeks without revenue. Moreover, small businesses can’t sell stock or issue debt to raise the cash to keep going. So, the Fed said on Monday that it would establish the Main Street Business Lending Program to encourage lending to small and medium-size businesses. The Fed released few details, but said that it expects to soon. Economists said the move looked at least partly like an effort by the Fed to reassure the public that it wasn’t favoring big businesses over small ones. “I think the Fed is well aware of the optics and the messaging,” Coronado said. “It’s not always clear to people that buying billions in mortgage securities helps them, even though it does.” Earlier, the Fed, along with other financial regulators announced new steps intended to encourage banks and other lenders to cut borrowers some slack during the pandemic. The regulators basically said to go ahead and modify loans to help businesses survive. “They will not criticize institutions for doing so in a safe and sound manner.” In addition, there is a consensus among economists that until the outbreak is brought under control, both economic and monetary policy offer limited tools for government intervention — uncertainties that will continue to haunt policy makers and which should be watched closely by producers and others as the season advances, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


CCC Funding Key in COVID-19 Aid Plans Funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and potentially increasing the USDA’s borrowing authority for CCC remains an issue in the efforts to put together a third COVID-19 aid package. The proposal that has been in the initial Senate plan would refund the CCC back to $30 billion and add $20 billion in additional borrowing authority. That is being eyed as a way for USDA to address impacts that have been seen in the ag industry from the COVID-19 situation, particularly for cattle producers. The COVID aid plan generated by House Democrats lacks the CCC refunding and increase in the borrowing authority.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


FSIS Offers Temporary Labeling Instructions on COVID-19 Shifts The shift of products from food service to retail establishments as the COVID-19 situation is disrupting supply chains has prompted USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to issue some temporary guidelines that will allow the product shifts to take place. FSIS emphasized that the labeling flexibilities “apply to product that has already been produced” and any products currently being produced are still “expected to meet all requirements” for labeling. The action by FSIS addresses the potential lack of nutrition labeling for food intended for distribution to hotels, restaurants, or similar institutions (HRI) that may be repackaged and resold to retail consumers. Under the flexibilities announced by FSIS, “product produced at a federal establishment typically intended for distribution to [HRI] will have modified labels applied by the federal establishment so that the products can now be sold at retail. The label would be required to bear all required features. FSIS will not object to the use of labels without nutrition labeling,” the agency said, even if the establishment does not meet an exemption under law, “provided the labels do not bear any nutrition claims.” Products in protective coverings are eligible for the temporary flexibilities announced by FSIS for the next 60 days starting on March 23, 2020, the service said.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday starts with a February report of U.S. durable goods orders at 7:30 a.m. CDT. Given recent sharp drops in energy prices, the Energy Department's weekly inventory report will get plenty of attention at 9:30 a.m., including numbers for ethanol. U.S. and South American weather, any trade news and the latest coronavirus statistics will also be noticed. Weather Light rain and snow will cross the Northern Plains and northern Midwest Wednesday. Other primary crop areas will be dry, with a notable warmer trend in many central and southern areas. Wildfire danger will be high in the southwestern Plains due to warm, dry and windy conditions. The generally drier trend will also allow for some easing of very wet soils ahead of spring fieldwork.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


Perdue: USDA Actively Monitoring Commodity Markets Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the Department of Agriculture is "actively monitoring all commodity markets and the flow of food." The comments on Twitter come as a reply to industry requests last week that USDA protects commodity markets from manipulation. Perdue says, "We are paying special attention to the difference in prices from the farm gate to the grocery shelf." The National Cattlemen's Beef Association sent a letter to Perdue last week, along with lawmakers, urging relief for cattle producers stemming from COVID-19. The coronavirus sent cattle markets lower, at a time when consumer demand has increased. NCBA states, "This price disturbance has created tremendous uncertainty in the cattle industry, and has come at a time when cattle producers are singularly focused on maintaining adequate supply to meat and food processors.” The organization says, “it is critical that cattle producers are empowered to maintain operational certainty as they work to ensure our nation’s food security during this crisis.” ************************************************************************************ USDA NASS Reports Remain on Schedule The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service statistical reports remain on schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the March 26 Hogs and Pigs and March 31 Prospective Plantings reports. NASS reports the agency also continues to collect data for all upcoming reports, asking farmers and ranchers to complete their surveys online, if they don’t already respond that way. To protect the health and safety of producers, partners, and employees, NASS has suspended in-person data collection at least until April 3, 2020. NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer says, “We are making every effort to produce the U.S. crop, livestock, and economic statistics that the nation counts on, but to do that responsibly, we are following guidance to slow the spread of coronavirus.” Ensuring that responses are returned on time means little or no additional outreach is needed. USDA says online response is faster and more convenient for producers. To respond online at agcounts.usda.gov, producers will need their unique 17-digit survey code from the questionnaire or letter received in the mail. ************************************************************************************ USMEF Applauds Expanded Access to China A recent move to expand pork and beef access to China will benefit U.S. producers and exporters, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recently updated its Export Library for China to reflect expanded access for U.S. beef and pork. The changes were among the provisions negotiated in the U.S.-China Phase One trade agreement. U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom says with much broader access for U.S. beef, "the U.S. industry is well-positioned to expand its presence in the largest and fastest-growing beef market in the world." U.S. pork and beef still face retaliatory duties in China, but a tariff exclusion process implemented by the Chinese government earlier this month is providing some level of relief. USMEF states that while elimination of all retaliatory duties is still the best way for China to level the playing field for U.S. red meat, the exclusion process is expanding opportunities for importers and the U.S. industry. ************************************************************************************ Gas Prices Continue to Plummet For the fourth straight week, the national average price of gasoline has fallen, plummeting 12.8 cents over the last week to $2.08 per gallon, according to GasBuddy. The average price of diesel, meanwhile, fell 6.5 cents to $2.66 per gallon. Gas prices have spent virtually all of March marching lower, with the drop continuing as the coronavirus destroys oil demand globally, according to Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy. DeHaan says, “there’s plenty more room for prices to drop, putting 99 cents per gallon prices as a strong possibility for perhaps many more stations than we previously anticipated.” Crude oil prices have continued to be under heavy selling pressure due to the coronavirus’ effects on global demand for products including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Additionally, a meeting March 5 by OPEC and Russia on how to stem the previous decline in oil resulted not in a production cut, but a feud between the two, with Saudi Arabia and Russia both saying they were going to raise oil production. ************************************************************************************ DFA Dean Foods Deal Withdrawn Dairy Farmers of American and Dean Foods announced the withdrawal of a plan for DFA to purchase Dean assets. DFA remains in the running to purchase Dean assets, but the move allows for a competitive bidding process. In a statement, Dean Foods says, "by avoiding unnecessary litigation regarding procedure and bid protections for DFA, all parties involved, including DFA, will focus on developing competitive and value-maximizing bids." The Kansas City Business Journal Reports DFA, based in Kansas City, remains in the running to buy the nation's largest milk processor, but it no longer has an inside track. Dean Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November, and will have its assets sold in a court-administered auction process. In February, DFA made an offer to buy Dean Foods for $425 million-plus the assumption of various liabilities. Officials with Dean and DFA said Friday that they mutually agreed to withdraw the request that DFA's bid be considered the baseline. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces New World Agriculture Outlook Board Chair Chief Economist Robert Johansson Monday announced the appointment of Dr. Mark Jekanowski as the World Agricultural Outlook Board Chairman. Jekanowski is currently acting Board chairman and will assume his new duties on March 29. Johansson says Jekanowski brings “extensive experience in domestic and global agricultural commodity markets and deep understanding of the World Agricultural Board and its unique mission Jekanowski will be responsible for leading the development and release of the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report. He will also serve as program chairman for USDA’s largest annual meeting, the Agricultural Outlook Forum. Jekanowski joined the World Agricultural Outlook Board in 2019 as deputy chairman. Before that, he was with USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS), first serving as chief of the Crops Branch, and later as deputy director for the ERS commodity outlook program. Previously, Jekanowski was a senior vice president and head of the Washington office of Informa Economics.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Humanitarian Crisis in Iran Almost everything is about the virus these days, but some of the news is deeply nuanced. For example, the U.S. is being pressed to ease sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, but is pushing back, Bloomberg says. Iran has reported more than 1,800 deaths from the pandemic and its leaders and some aid groups say America’s crushing “maximum pressure” campaign against it is worsening a humanitarian disaster. The U.S. says it stands ready to help Iran — although it simultaneously blames the crisis on the regime’s mismanagement. “U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s point person on Iran issues, said. “The ayatollah has vast resources at his personal disposal. We have broad exemptions that allow for the sale of medicines and medical devices by U.S. persons or from the United States to Iran.” However, finding companies that are willing to navigate U.S. rules in an effort to sell to Iran but sidestep punishing American sanctions has been difficult since the U.S. administration began ratcheting up pressure in 2018. That makes it even harder to get purely humanitarian goods into the country, said Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “These exemptions have failed to offset the strong reluctance of U.S. and European companies and banks to risk incurring sanctions and legal action by exporting or financing exempted humanitarian goods,” said Sepehri Far. “We saw letters by banks and companies refusing to conduct humanitarian trade with Iran.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday dismissed U.S. overtures as dishonest and he called the Trump administration “terrorists in the true sense of the word” for subjecting his country to relentless sanctions while expressing an interest in helping. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo retorted that the “regime ignored repeated warnings from its own health officials, and denied its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days.” He asserted that the number of cases and deaths in Iran is “far higher than the regime admits.” Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation under President Barack Obama, said that previous U.S. administrations would typically send officials to Europe and Asia to help ease the path to humanitarian aid by clarifying how the exemptions work. President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested his offers for assistance to Iran — as well as North Korea — to combat the virus are genuine, saying “Iran is really going through a difficult period with respect to this.” Yet some members of the Trump administration have speculated in private that with all the challenges Iran faces — the sanctions, a teetering economy, disputed elections and animosity over the violent suppression of protests — the coronavirus epidemic might be the thing that pushes the regime from power at last. And, even as the outbreak has spread in Iran, the U.S. has continued to impose more restrictions, targeting a group of companies involved in the petrochemical trade and a handful of nuclear scientists in successive measures this month, Bloomberg says. The U.S. administration says its sanctions are aimed at pressuring Iran’s leadership into abandoning its nuclear program, ending support for groups in the region such as Hezbollah and halting the development of ballistic missiles. China and Russia — former partners in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that the U.S. administration abandoned — have stepped up calls for the U.S. to relax its sanctions. While that’s not surprising, there are signs that European countries are increasingly crossing the sanctions threshold and helping Iran where they can, according to one Western diplomat in Tehran. That’s because the U.S. stance amid the crisis is frustrating many European Union nations, the diplomat said. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also urged the U.S. to lift sanctions after his country’s coronavirus cases surged when Pakistani pilgrims returned from Iran last week. The two nations share a long land border. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. was at odds with other world powers, who disagreed with the president’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimpose sanctions. The UK has quietly prodded the Trump administration to ease sanctions because of the crisis, the Guardian reported, without saying where it obtained the information. On March 17, Iran granted temporary release to British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been in jail in Tehran since 2016. Humanitarian organizations, unwilling to pick a public fight with a top contributor, are quietly trying to get supplies into Iran despite U.S. restrictions. Iranians say that their economy is weak and unable to cope with the humanitarian toll because of the U.S. sanctions. Last week, Iran turned to the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s for aid, though Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran project director, said the U.S. may try to block the IMF loan in order to keep up the pressure on the regime. “Countries like Italy and South Korea, who were not hampered by sanctions, found it difficult to contain and fight the outbreak,” he said. “Iran is now fighting it, albeit belatedly, with one hand tied behind its back by sanctions. Its failures, partly due to sanctions, will affect everyone else in the region and beyond.” So, we will see. It will be politically difficult for the administration to ease its sanctions on Iran, but also difficult to ignore humanitarian claims — issues that have the potential to raise tensions in an already tense region, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


FSIS Makes Several Changes to US Export Policies For China USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) late last week unveiled a host of changes in the U.S. export library for meat products to China reflecting terms of the phase-one agreement. Most of the actions detailed by FSIS involve the moves made by China to remove the age limit on beef and the setting of maximum residue limits (MRLs) on beef hormones. The guidance also reminded exporters are urged to “to work closely with their importer regarding Chinese standards of meat and poultry products intended for export to China.” Meanwhile, China has indicated it will move away from a nationwide ban on imports of U.S. poultry should the U.S. experience a case of avian influenza, another component of the phase-one agreement between the two countries.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


USTR Defends Tariffs on China, But Seeks Input on Potential Exemptions The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is defending the imposition of tariffs on China under Section 301 of U.S. trade law, noting they have exempted several “critical products” like ventilators, oxygen masks, and nubilators and issued tariffs exemptions on large numbers of health-related products. U.S. imports of all critical medical and pharmaceutical products were up over 20 percent since 2017, before Section 301 tariffs were imposed, USTR said. However, they announced they have now opened a new docket for the public, businesses and government agencies to submit comments “if they believe further modifications to the 301 tariffs may be necessary. This comment process does not replace the current exclusion process and supplements that process. Submissions are limited to comments on products subject to the tariff actions and relevant to the medical response to the coronavirus.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday has a report on February new home sales set for 9 a.m. CDT. Traders will be keeping watch over the latest coronavirus news, a possible stimulus bill from Congress and the latest Fed moves. Weather remains important, as always and traders will also show interest in any news pertaining to South American ports. Weather Tuesday will feature shower and thunderstorm activity in the southern Midwest, northern Delta and Mid-South. Spring fieldwork will be delayed in these areas. Other crop areas will be dry, offering some chances for fieldwork along with delayed northern corn harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


State Department will Keep Processing Seasonal Ag Worker Visas The U.S. State Department said late last Thursday that it will keep processing visas for seasonal workers. That statement came shortly after an announcement that it would suspend routine visa services in most countries indefinitely. The Wall Street Journal says the reversal came as lawmakers asked the administration to do whatever it could to keep seasonal workers available for U.S. agriculture. Farmers warned that suspending access to immigrant labor, much of which comes from Mexico, could threaten their livelihoods and the productivity of U.S. agriculture. Seasonal labor makes up as much as ten percent of the workforce for farmers. And it isn’t just agriculture that needs foreign labor. Other industries that specifically rely on Mexican labor include fisheries and resorts. A State Department spokeswoman says they are well aware of the importance of the H-2 program to the economy and the food security of the United States. “We are reviewing all possible options,” she says. The state department initially decided to suspend routine visa processing in most countries worldwide in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Department officials have said the most likely approvals will come for returning workers who qualify to skip a visa interview. ********************************************************************************************** Agriculture Among Nation’s Most Critical Industries The Department of Homeland Security affirmed just how important agriculture is to the U.S., especially during a pandemic like the coronavirus outbreak. DHS says public health, law enforcement, food and agriculture, defense, and 12 other industries are “critical,” and should keep to their usual work schedules to help respond to the outbreak. The guidance from DHS is designed to help limit potential confusion as some state and local governments implement various curfews or bans on large gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Over 60 groups that represent the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods asked for uniform guidance on what businesses are exempt from those restrictions. The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives applauded the move, saying, “As we face an unprecedented crisis, Americans will continue to be able to find nutritious food on store shelves.” It also provides much-needed reassurance for our farmers as planting season gets underway. A release from the NCFC says, “America’s co-ops and their farmer-owners stand ready to play their part in the nation’s food supply chain. As we’ve seen so many times in American history, our farmers and ranchers will rise to meet the challenge.” ********************************************************************************************** Tyson says Meat Supply will be Restocked Soon Grocery store shelves will soon be restocked with meat products in “another week or so.” Politico says that announcement comes from Tyson Foods CEO Noel White after a recent surge in demand for meat products. The U.S. has ample food supplies for those staying home under “social distancing” policies. White says Tyson has made changes to its processing facilities to increase supplies for grocery stores instead of restaurants. “Once we are able to replenish supplies, which is probably going to take another week or so, then I think we’ll be back in better equilibrium between supply and demand,” White says. Grocery stores’ meat orders were significantly higher than usual through last week after demand began to shift away from restaurants. Slaughterhouses are running at maximum capacity, even on weekends. The North American Meat Institute, which represents major meatpackers, says the industry is taking steps to keep operations running at normal or increased capacity. Companies are also enhancing benefits like paid sick leave and access to health care to treat or detect the virus. Some of the enhancements include waiving copays or deductibles. ********************************************************************************************** NCBA Asks Capitol Hill about Help for Cattle Producers National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane says NCBA has been working hard to help cattle producers through the challenges of COVID-19. “As the country reels both economically and emotionally from the spread of COVID-19,” Lane says, “we have worked hard to ensure that cattle producers remain able to focus on the national infrastructure priority of keeping high-quality beef available to consumers.” Lane also says meeting the challenge requires federal officials at the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Interior, Treasury, and more to have a full understanding of how their product gets from the pasture to the plate, and his organization is happy to tell that story. He says COVID-19 has dealt a challenging hand to producers across the country. The resulting highly-volatile markets can’t be allowed to force America’s ranching families out of business just when consumers need them the most. “in order to combat this burden, NCBA has actively engaged leaders in the U.S. House and Senate to ensure that relief funds from any aid package reach these struggling cattle producers directly.” The NCBA says it’s important that any relief avoids the lasting market-altering effects of a price-support program, which some members of the Senate have advocated for. ********************************************************************************************** Ethanol Industry Feeling the Strain of COVID-19 Many ethanol plants have cut their production over the last week, or they’ve entirely shut down as the coronavirus outbreak cuts into fuel consumption. Reuters says the drop in consumption at the pump has hit margins to refine the corn-based fuel hard. Renewable Fuels Association Chief Executive Geoff Cooper says he expects ethanol production to fall even further. He’s asking the Environmental Protection Agency to ease the strain on the industry by not granting any more of the small refinery waivers from the nation’s biofuels mandate. The coronavirus spread has disrupted business, travel, and daily life. Governments around the world are urging people to stay indoors to help limit the potential spread of the outbreak, which has put a big damper on fuel demand. Margins to produce ethanol have dropped considerably, causing plants to begin looking at a combination of shutdowns and layoffs. An ethanol refiner from Claremont, Minnesota, says they’re doing everything they can to make sure they’ll weather and survive the economic storm, “but it’s definitely going to be ugly.” ********************************************************************************************** Thefts and Scams Targeting Cattle Producers are Rising The COVID-19 outbreak has already hit the cattle markets hard. However, that’s not the only threat to ranchers’ livelihoods out there. Scott Williamson is Executive Director for Law Enforcement with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He says thefts and scams targeting cattlemen are on the rise. “Economic and industry distress always increase the number of desperate people that will take fraudulent, dishonorable, and criminal actions,” he says. “You may feel like you need to be in a hurry to sell some cattle before it gets worse, or hurry to buy cattle while the prices are low. Slow down because con men and thieves are taking advantage of this situation.” It’s especially important to be careful when buying and selling over the internet. Williamson received a call from a cattleman that had purchased a truckload of cows represented as one thing, but when they arrived, the truckload was something else entirely. Unfortunately, the buyer had already wired the money. He says it’s important to verify the person you want to do business with is a trusted source. When selling, use something like an escrow service or online payment system. Never accept any check worth more than the sale’s value. Never issue payment until the items are received, unless you have complete trust in the seller.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Dealing with the Coronavirus Economic Threat There is broad agreement among U.S. economists now that the economic downturn will be severe with the main unknowns the length of contagion and the economic policy response. Still, Bloomberg notes that many analysts and investors are taking heart from signs of revival in the original epicenter of the coronavirus – China – and predicting a second-half upturn in the U.S. after the contagion hopefully subsides. There also are strong signs of agreement in Congress and the administration regarding a large stimulus package, although the Senate leadership announced on Sunday that there were still some main details to be worked out. As early as last weekend, President Trump and others had expressed confidence that they would be able to close on a coronavirus economic-relief plan that the top White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow said, would provide a $2 trillion boost to the U.S. economy. The economic measure is intended to “keep companies together, keep workers paid, so they can live and sustain,” President Trump said earlier in the week. On Saturday, Larry Kudlow told reporters as he arrived for White House talks that the spending bill itself is expected to total $1.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion, plus additional loans that would eventually be paid back, for a total economic impact of about $2 trillion. “The package is coming in at about 10% of GDP. It’s very large,” Kudlow said. Press reports indicate that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Senate Democrats have been working closely to expand the GOP’s basic economic building blocks to provide the Democratic votes needed to pass both chambers of Congress and gain the President’s signature. “The building blocks of this thing are pretty much in place,” said No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota. A $1.4 trillion third-stage package would be dramatically higher than the 2008 economic rescue plan that was designed to address the banking-based financial crisis. That package included $700 billion – and would be valued at $841 billion in today’s dollars. “This is going to be the largest, when it’s concluded, relief package in history,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said. “So yes, speed is necessary. But getting this done right so that it actually has the effect that we want is equally as important.” One detail that was being discussed on Sunday was a push by Democrats to fund an increase in weekly unemployment benefits by about $600 across the board. Though states administer unemployment compensation, the federal government has provided additional funds to temporarily expand it in the past, including the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. That portion is intertwined with the GOP Senate plan to provide $1,200 in tax rebates to most individuals. Mnuchin has proposed two $1,000 checks for individuals at a cost of about $500 billion – substantially more generous than the GOP bill. Lower income filers are expected to receive the highest rebate benefit, rather than a tiered one that gradually increased, as in the original Senate GOP proposal. A second tough issue involved Democrats’ agreement with the Treasury Department’s push to expand the Federal Reserve’s authority for an emergency credit facility to be managed by Treasury that Democrats want to be much broader than the administration’s proposal to backstop large companies and expand the Fed’s legal authority to support distressed state and local governments, something Republicans object to. “I don’t think we should be bailing out governments right now,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and former chair of the Senate Banking Committee. “We should be trying to get to mitigate the economic fallout and find a solution to the health situation.” In addition, a group of airlines said in a letter to congressional leaders Saturday that they won’t furlough workers through the end of August if Congress provides $29 billion in grants. The letter pushes back on the Senate Republican proposal to give them $58 billion in loans, with no grants. The industry initially requested $29 billion in grants and $29 billion in loans. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the $1.4 trillion figure cited by Kudlow on Saturday included a $45.8 billion supplemental spending proposal from the White House. It includes $8.3 billion for the Department of Defense to protect service members, about $11.5 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, and $3.4 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. House Democrats have pushed for the supplemental to be included in this “phase three” bill, but they also believe the request was not big enough, House Appropriations spokesman Evan Hollander said. “One of the goals in this package is to do everything we can to not have to do a phase four,” said GOP Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. “That’s why I think you’re going to see a really big bill.” So, we will see. It is true that some of the remaining details that need to be agreed before the deal is fully complete are quite sensitive – but there does appear to be strong political support for the overall massive relief package of the type being prepared. Certainly, this is an economic intervention that is far larger than those in the past and deserves close scrutiny as the Congress and administration prepares to try to deal with this new pandemic threat, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


US Custom Harvesters Raise Concern on H-2A Situation U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. is the latest group to highlight issues that could unfold with temporary workers that enter the U.S. on H-2A visas in the wake of the State Department scaling back approvals in the wake of the COVID-19 situation. Without those overseas workers, their businesses cannot complete their jobs, USCHI said. Closures of DMV offices in areas around the country and waiting periods mean companies “will not be able to license any drivers,” a factor as companies have workers traveling from February through December to chop and harvest crops. With some restaurants and grocery stores closed or limiting their operations, the group said that complicates their ability to provide resources for the crews that range from five to 100 people. “We are an essential part of the food supply chain and must be allowed to continue our work,” said Glen Jantzen, USCHI President, and owner of Jantzen Harvesting in Plymouth, Nebraska.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


Agriculture Considered a Critical Infrastructure Industry As various actions are being taken by states to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, including shelter-at-home orders or other restrictions, an arm of the Homeland Security Agency released a memo that outlines 16 areas that are considered to be critical infrastructure industries. Agriculture is considered to be one of those industries, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), as they say that those working in the sector are “essential, critical infrastructure workers.” “Agriculture comprises establishments primarily engaged in growing crops, raising animals, harvesting timber, and harvesting fish and other animals from a farm, ranch, or their natural habitats,” CISA said. “Food establishments transform livestock and agricultural products into products for intermediate or final consumption. The industry groups are distinguished by the raw materials (generally of animal or vegetable origin) processed into food and beverage products.” Further, the CISA memo indicated, “The food and beverage products manufactured in these establishments are typically sold to wholesalers or retailers for distribution to consumers.” “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,” CISA said.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Traders will be scoping the latest coronavirus numbers for any clues of how things are going after another weekend of social separation. With spring officially underway, weather forecasts take on new importance for early fieldwork ahead of planting in the U.S., while South America advances its growing season and soybean harvest. USDA's weekly report of export inspections is due out at 10 a.m. CDT, followed by a monthly cold storage report at 2 p.m. Weather Monday will be dry across most primary crop areas. Exceptions will be in portions of the Southeast and the extreme eastern Midwest, where rain and some snow will develop. This combination is favorable for soil moisture drainage ahead of spring fieldwork.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


USDA and DOL Announce Information Sharing to Assist H-2A Employers Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Thursday announced a partnership to help agriculture find labor. The partnership between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor seeks to help facilitate the identification of foreign and domestic workers, specifically those that may be available and eligible to transfer to other U.S. agricultural sector employers to fulfill needs under existing regulatory authority during the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary Perdue says of the partnership, “Ensuring minimal disruption for our agricultural workforce during these uncertain times is a top priority for this administration.” USDA and DOL have identified nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks. There will be workers leaving these positions who could be available to transfer to a different employer’s labor certification. The data, available on www.farmers.gov, includes the number of certified worker positions, the current employer name and contact, attorney/agent name and contact, and the worksite address. ************************************************************************************ FDA Scaling back Some Domestic Inspections The Food and Drug Administration announced a scale-back of domestic inspections to protect agency workers. Specifically, the FDA has temporarily postponed all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections. These are facility inspections the FDA traditionally conducts every few years based on a risk analysis. The FDA says all domestic for-cause inspection assignments will be evaluated and will proceed if mission-critical. In keeping with federal guidance, this week, the FDA also directed all eligible FDA employees to begin teleworking. While this does not apply to those carrying out non-portable activities, such as certain lab activities or the monitoring of imported products, the agency will continue to adjust its approach to several activities, including facility inspections for all FDA-regulated products such as food, animal feed, drugs, biological products, devices and tobacco. Earlier this month, the FDA announced the postponement of most foreign facility inspections through April and that inspections outside the U.S. deemed mission-critical will be considered on a case-by-case basis as this outbreak continues to unfold. ************************************************************************************* Coronavirus Bill Includes Nutrition Provisions The first approved coronavirus bill includes several nutrition provisions. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by President Donald Trump Wednesday. Among other things, the legislation provides more than $1 billion to provide food to pregnant women and mothers with young children, help food banks, and provide meals to families and seniors. The bill creates a Health Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to allow states to increase benefits for families who need additional food assistance during this crisis. The legislation also lifts certain restrictions that make it harder for families to continue to get food during this time. The legislation also Improves child nutrition programs to allow schools and nonprofits to serve children during closures and allows multiple meals to be taken home or delivered. The bill allows alternative meal distribution methods such as mobile delivery. Additionally, the bill expands eligibility to schools and nonprofits, establishes a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for families that rely on school meals, expands food distribution through food bank funding, and allows states to waive burdensome requirements. ************************************************************************************* NCGA Assembling Coronavirus Task Force The National Corn Growers Association Thursday announced the formation of a task force to assess coronavirus impacts. The NCGA task force will provide recommendations on recovery efforts and facilitate coordination along the value chain. The task force will compile more information, coordinate with the industry, and provide recommendations to mitigate the economic fallout. NCGA President Kevin Ross says, "We're in unchartered territory here, the economic impacts across all industries are likely to be massive, and we encourage you to be patient as we come together to get through this challenging time." NCGA’s Board of Directors has also commissioned an economic analysis of implications for corn farmers to evaluate how best to move forward. Further, as congressional leaders and the Trump Administration have indicated there will likely be many federal efforts to address the economic fallout of COVID-19, NCGA’s Public Policy team is making sure the Department of Agriculture and lawmakers in Congress know what farmers experiencing on the ground. ************************************************************************************* Ethanol Demand Declines as Americans Stay Home Gasoline demand in the United States is falling, along with demand for biofuels. As Americans stay home amid the national shut in to slow the spread of COVID-19, many are working from home and not needing as much fuel for their vehicles. Now, the U.S. ethanol industry is urging the Trump administration to adhere to a court decision that would limit small refinery waivers. The American Coalition for Ethanol says preliminary economic forecasts estimate the lack of gasoline consumption caused by the coronavirus will likely reduce ethanol demand by hundreds of millions of gallons and "cut corn grind by hundreds of millions of bushels." Additionally, the organization says the Environmental Protection Agency should restore 500 million gallons to the Renewable Fuel Standard in compliance with the 2017 D.C. Circuit Court case regarding the improper use of EPA's waiver authority. ACE is also asking President Donald Trump to reduce or remove Chinese tariffs on DDGs, as China earlier this week released a list of U.S. companies eligible to export DDGs. ************************************************************************************* Study Finds U.S. Soybean Industry Has $115 Billion Impact on the American Economy A new study shows the economic impact on the U.S. economy from the soybean sector averaged $115.8 billion, based on data from 2014-15 and to 2016-17. The National Oilseed Processors Association Thursday announced the study, The Economic Impact of the U.S. Soybeans and End Products on the U.S. Economy. The study examines the value of the American soybean industry. NOPA partnered with the United Soybean Board in commissioning an independent economic consulting firm to develop the study. The study found the soybean sector supported an average of 357,000 people, comprising 280,000 paid, full-time equivalent jobs as well as an additional 78,000 family members, beyond growers themselves, who support and are supported by soybean farming operations. The total wage impact of the sector averaged $11.6 billion. Economic impacts highlighted in the study are quantified in terms of revenue, wages, jobs, and number of people dependent on the sector — all focused on the production, distribution and use of soybeans, across the value chain. Find the report online at www.nopa.org.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Push Back on Calls for Tariff Relief Bloomberg and others are reporting this week that hardly a day goes by right now without business groups calling on the White House to suspend tariffs on Chinese goods in an effort to help them stem the growing challenges faced by the U.S. economy. For example, on Wednesday, Americans for Free Trade, a group of more than 160 business associations, urged the administration to consider relief from duties as one of the emergency measures the administration is rolling out. “These tariffs are taxes that Americans pay,” the group said. Hours later, the President publicly slashed those hopes. “There’s no reason to do that. China is paying us billions and billions of dollars in tariffs,” he said. “I can’t imagine Americans asking for that.” Over the course of his presidency, the administration has imposed tariffs on a total of more than $400 billion in goods, ranging from Chinese apparel imports and French cheeses to European aircraft. Economists say those duties are either absorbed by companies or added to the price tag for U.S. consumers, meaning “they’re not paid by China as the White House often claims.” Complicating the matter is that many of the same small- and medium-size enterprises such as retailers or manufacturers that were hurt by the administration’s tariff battles also are now suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, Bloomberg says. Business representatives admit it’s not clear that targeted tariff cuts would have a significant impact on the broader economic outlook “but eliminating their levies certainly wouldn’t hurt,” they said. Behind the scenes, the discussion about tariff relief has for weeks caused heated debates among administration officials as well as outside allies, including lawmakers. Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser, has been among the most vocal aides to make the case for relief, Bloomberg said – although a White House spokesman denied that Kudlow was making the case for tariff relief. The American Iron and Steel Institute on Tuesday also warned of the potential negative consequences from tariff cuts. “The coronavirus epidemic is exacerbating the global glut in steel production and threatens to unleash a new surge in imports into the United States, which would be devastating to the American steel industry and our national security,” the group argued in letters to lawmakers. Despite its reluctance to cut tariffs, the administration has moved quickly to exempt a range of products that are essential to the U.S. coronavirus response. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in recent weeks has granted exclusions for face masks, gloves and other medical supplies that are solely sourced in China. Still, rhetoric has become more hostile between the U.S. and China recently, Bloomberg notes. The president has shifted from praising Chinese President Xi Jinping for his prompt containment of the virus to blaming the world’s second-largest economy for spreading the disease, which he now calls the “Chinese virus.” In a recent report the New York Times said that the coronavirus outbreak “is prompting a heated debate among lawmakers and the White House over whether the Trump administration should remove the tariffs it has imposed on China and other nations to provide some economic relief.” Supporters of lifting the tariffs, even temporarily, say it would be a simple and immediate way to help U.S. businesses and consumers struggling with higher costs from the president’s tariffs on foreign steel, aluminum and more than $360 billion of Chinese goods. These are “chipping away” at profits for companies that depend on imported goods and parts, slowed business investment and weighed on households, particularly those on the lower end of the income scale. However, China hawks warn that the Chinese government and businesses will take advantage of any pause in tariffs to capture a larger share of global industries, putting Beijing on a dominant course for years to come. Some argue that the tariffs are impeding the ability of American hospitals and doctors to respond to the coronavirus, since China produces a large share of the medical goods and supplies used in the United States, the Times said. Leading business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S.-China Business Council have pressed the administration to roll back tariffs permanently as part of its emergency economic response. Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that some Chinese companies might try to take advantage of market dynamics by cutting out competitors, but that, on the whole, China’s recovery would be helpful, rather than harmful, for restarting economic growth worldwide. “In sum, the world should welcome a recovering Chinese economy but simultaneously be vigilant against a possible jump in uncompetitive behaviors,” he said. So, we will see. Clearly, the COVID-19 outbreak is sharply increasing economic pressure on the global economy and the increasing trade tensions appear likely to exacerbate economic headwinds for most exporters. These trade and economic policy debates should be watched closely by producers as they intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


Farm Bureau Keeps Pushing on H-2A Workers U.S. agriculture remains focused on labor shortages amid COVID-19 as the U.S. State Department shut down processing of new H-2A visa requests in Mexico. The agency said it would continue to process requests from those considered to be “returning” workers – those that have had H-2A visas previously. However, it is not clear how many H-2A applicants fall under that category. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) held a call Wednesday, highlighting the situation. In 2019, around 35,000 H-2A workers came into the U.S. during the first quarter of the year, AFBF officials said with the number of workers arriving in the second quarter rising – 34% of H-2A workers entered during the second quarter with another 30% in the third quarter.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


DOT Issues More Hours of Service (HOS) Regulatory Relief Including For Livestock The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a declaration waiving hours of service (HOS) requirements for commercial vehicle drivers transporting a host of goods. Much attention is on the items on the list including medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. But the order also applies to supplies and equipment needed for community safety and the mention of goods like food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores, the provision covering “immediate precursor raw materials — such as paper, plastic or alcohol — that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items is the most important for agriculture. The Livestock Marketing Association said they have received official interpretation from the office of the Transportation Secretary that livestock is considered to be one of the “immediate precursor raw materials” and thus is covered by the expanded March 18 declaration.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The first day of spring may not bring relief from coronavirus worries, but there will be a report of U.S. existing home sales for February out at 9 a.m. CDT, followed by a March 1 U.S. cattle on-feed report at 2 p.m. Traders will be watching for news of possible port closings, along with any other trade news and South American weather reports. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain will extend from southeastern Texas northeast through the Delta and eastern Midwest Friday. Flood threat is high in areas that have already had heavy precipitation in the past few weeks. We'll also see wintry mix precipitation and cold winds in the western Midwest and Northern Plains. Other crop areas will be dry going into the weekend.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


Farm Bureau Highlights Immediate Challenges Facing the Agriculture Sector The American Farm Bureau has released its first assessment of the impact on farmers and ranchers in the wake of the national mitigation efforts to combat COVID-19. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, AFBF President Zippy Duvall pledged, "America's farmers and ranchers will be with you every step of the way." The letter, which will be updated as new issues materialize, outlines concerns from Farm Bureau members across the country. Those concerns include H-2A labor issues, With the State Department's announcement to suspend all processing of new, non-emergency visa applications in Mexico, U.S. farms and ranches could face a serious labor shortage at a critical time for planting and harvesting crops essential to the domestic food supply. Additionally, AFBF noted supply chain concerns and market concerns. Duvall noted concerns from livestock producers regarding market manipulation and urged USDA to monitor the situation to protect ranchers and consumers alike from price manipulation. ************************************************************************************* NPPC Renews Call for Labor Solutions The National Pork Producers Council Wednesday renewed its call for government help to prevent a severe labor shortage from becoming a crisis. The decision by the U.S. State Department to suspend visa processing in Mexico threatens to worsen the labor shortage in the pork industry and across U.S. agriculture, according to the organization. Mexico is an important source of labor for U.S. hog farmers and packing plants. NPPC President Howard "A.V." Roth says, "we are very concerned" about the State Department's action and its implications on the U.S. pork industry. The pork industry, a farm sector that operates year-round, uses the H-2A visa program for specialized work, but cannot use the program for most labor needs because of its seasonal limitation. Hog farmers are major users of the TN visa program, which taps labor from Mexico. NPPC also seeks clarifications from the U.S. Department of Transportation that farms are part of the critical domestic infrastructure needed to produce the food that feeds America and the world. ************************************************************************************* Senators Seek COVID-19 Federal Help for Rural Areas A group of farm-state Senators seeks additional assistance from federal agencies for rural areas to cope with COVID-19. 24 Senators penned a letter to the Department of Interior and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with the Department of Homeland Security earlier this week. The letter requests “immediate assistance in mobilizing agencies to offer coordinated support for rural counties, municipalities, and tribal communities as they respond to the coronavirus.” The lawmakers say rural communities are working to set up local emergency operation centers to help manage their response, but face challenges with limited staff capacity. The letter states, “some communities are already overwhelmed with the challenge.” Throughout rural America, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture employ thousands of federal civil servants who have the relevant experience to assist with emergency response. With this expertise available, the lawmakers say, ”it is crucial that the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide the authorities necessary and work with both agencies to deliver effective, coordinated assistance to rural communities.” ************************************************************************************* Restaurant Industry Seeks Federal Help The National Restaurant Association Wednesday asked President Donald Trump and Congress to take steps to provide the restaurant industry relief. The letter outlined the projected economic impacts of at least $225 billion during the next three months, with job losses of 5-7 million jobs, stemming from COVID-19. The letter outlined a dozen steps, including three separate categories of protection for industry restaurants and employees, including directed/targeted financial relief, loans/insurance options for impacted small businesses, and tax measures. Sean Kennedy, National Restaurant Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, says, “We are revising our business model to provide meals in different ways, takeout, delivery, safety-enhanced dine-in, but we are facing economic headwinds that will lead many restaurants to shut down operations, lay off workers, and end service in our communities.” Kennedy adds, the proposals in the letter, “ensure that restaurants have increased liquidity and access to necessary financing to help the industry and its employees recover.” ************************************************************************************* Grassley, Tester Call on USDA to Address Rule Change Two farm-state Senators want the Department of Agriculture to change a rule in the Packers and Stockyards Act. Senate Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senate Democrat Jon Tester of Montana recently sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting USDA “clarify an ambiguous proposed rule regarding the undue and reasonable preferences provision of the Packers and Stockyards Act.” Grassley and Tester are urging USDA to ensure the new rule protects small livestock and poultry farmers from unreasonable practices of packers and poultry companies. In their letter, they outlined specific changes to address this proposed rule. The Senators say the current rule, “not only fails to address many of these abusive and unreasonable industry practices, but it actively establishes criteria insulating packers and poultry companies from scrutiny.” The rule also appears to provide legal protection for packers who are able to justify a practice based on the need to save costs and reduce prices, or if their practices are deemed “customary” in the industry because they align with those of their competitors. ************************************************************************************* NCBA Seeks BQA Awards Nominations The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association seeks nominations for National Beef Quality Assurance awards. The 2020 National BQA Awards recognize five winners in the areas of beef producer, dairy, marketing and education. The awards, “demonstrate the pride we all have in the work being done to enhance our industry and the products we provide to consumers,” according to Glen Dolezal of Cargill Protein. The National BQA Awards are selected by a committee of BQA-certified representatives from universities, state beef councils, sponsors and affiliated groups. Nominations may be submitted by organizations, groups or individuals on behalf of a U.S. beef producer, dairy producer, marketer or educator. Individuals and families may not nominate themselves, though the nominees are expected to be involved in the preparation of the application. Past nominees are encouraged to submit their application under the new nomination structure. Previous winners may not reapply. The Deadline for nominations is June 5, 2020. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association manages the BQA program as a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. For more information, visit BQA.org.resident of Public Affairs, says, “We are revising our business model to provide meals in different ways, takeout, delivery, safety-enhanced dine-in, but we are facing economic headwinds that will lead many restaurants to shut down operations, lay off workers, and end service in our communities.” Kennedy adds, the proposals in the letter, “ensure that restaurants have increased liquidity and access to necessary financing to help the industry and its employees recover.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


Washington Insider: US-China Ties Tanking Bloomberg is reporting this week what it calls an additional threat amid what “could’ve been a moment for the U.S. and China to tackle a shared challenge.” Instead, the trend is accelerating a long-anticipated separation, the report says. China struck the latest blow this week with the “unprecedented” expulsion of more than a dozen American journalists covering Beijing for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The provocation comes as part of a tit-for-tat exchange in which the governments of both President Trump and China’s Xi Jinping seek to deflect blame for how they’ve handled the outbreak. In Beijing, as in Washington, the virus crisis has boosted hardliners over those who favor preserving relations with a key trading partner and military rival. One Chinese official said this difficult period that could last a long time and could become “a new Cold War.” Before moving to oust the American correspondents, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman repeated a conspiracy theory that U.S. Army athletes introduced the disease and is blaming China for the outbreak ravaging the world economy. President Trump has characterized it repeatedly as a “Chinese virus” as he looks to rally his base against a foreign adversary ahead of the fall elections. While it’s unclear how far leaders will allow the dispute to escalate, demands for “reciprocity” on visas extend far beyond media access. At the height of trade tensions last year, Chinese students and visiting academics found their ability to work and study in the U.S. under threat. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that the country would be “compelled to take further countermeasures” if the U.S. continued down the “wrong path.” The feud is escalating just as the international community looks for leadership to contain a virus that has infected almost 200,000 people and may have already pushed the globe into recession. In the absence of a clear strategy, nations are going it alone and potentially undercutting each other’s efforts in the process. “The government of Xi Jinping has crossed a Rubicon that puts the U.S. and China on opposite banks in an increasingly antagonistic and irreconcilable state of play,” said Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations and a former dean of the Berkley Graduate School of Journalism. “This kind of self-destructive retaliatory action makes it increasingly unlikely the two nations will soon find ways to work together on other critical issues of common interest like the present pandemic, much less future trade and climate change.” As first, it looked like Trump and Xi might be able to build on good will from the “phase one” trade deal signed in January to work together against the outbreak, with the U.S. president praising his counterpart’s hard-line approach. But the two quickly began bickering over whether Xi’s government was being transparent enough and the U.S. resumed efforts to curb activities by China’s state media outlets in the U.S. In the meantime, China used the opportunity to weaken one of the few sources of critical coverage in its highly censored media landscape: foreign correspondents. Last month, it expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters. The administration hit back by ousting about 40% of staff at four Chinese media outlets. The disputes have reaffirmed concerns that the trade pact was merely a pause in hostilities rather than the foundation for a truce. The outbreak has bolstered nationalistic arguments on both sides of the Pacific for a more confrontational approach. President Trump and other U.S. officials upped the ante by adopting “Chinese virus,” which health experts warn risks stigmatizing an entire ethnic group. “China is only taking countermeasures,” said He Weiwen, a former official at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. “Since the Covid-19 outbreak in China in January, Washington has been very unfriendly, even hostile to China. The journalists’ expulsion was only one of the latest moves, which of course deteriorated the trade environment.” Still, China’s mass expulsion of American journalists will have far-reaching consequences for the world’s ability to understand what’s going on there. While the newspapers will retain non-American staff and U.S.-based news wires remain, some of the reporters ousted produced groundbreaking stories about China’s mass detention of ethnic Uighur minority and other sensitive topics. The country’s leadership also receives daily summaries of international news outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, according to two Chinese officials familiar with the arrangements. Richard McGregor, a former Financial Times bureau chief in Beijing who’s now a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute, said China’s leaders “must feel bulletproof” as their own outbreak appears to subside and the U.S. struggles with surging coronavirus cases. “China is now doing things that the hardliners have always wanted to do, but would either have been restrained by other parts of the system or wouldn’t have felt strong enough to get away with,” he said. “It is a moment to move on all fronts and we see them doing that.” So, we will see. Both sides seem to be pushing hardening positions just now based on beliefs in their potential political benefits. This appears to be a fight U.S. producers should watch closely as it has the potential to rebuild trade tensions that seemed to be declining, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


Administration Notifies Congress of Intent to Trade Negotiations With Kenya The Trump administration Tuesday provided formal notification to Congress that it would start trade talks with Kenya in 90 days. “Under President [Donald] Trump’s leadership, we look forward to negotiating and concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional trade agreements across Africa,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. He said the administration will work with Congress on negotiating principles for the deal. USTR said it would publish the negotiating objectives for the talks at least 30 days before they begin.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


Farm Bureau Expresses Concern About Halt In Processing H-2A Visas In Mexico A recent decision by the U.S. State Department to stop processing many H-2A visa applications in Mexico as U.S. embassies and consulates are being temporarily closed will make it much harder for American farmers to keep the country supplied with food if they do not have enough labor, according the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall. “American farmers will not have access to the skilled immigrant labor needed at this critical time of planting season and harvesting our spring crops,” Duvall said. “We are urging the administration to find a safe and practical way to admit farm laborers as emergency workers for visas, while still protecting the public health. Failing to do so will impact our ability to provide a healthy, affordable food supply.” The group is also monitoring the situation relative to U.S. food supplies, trying to ensure “U.S. agriculture and others in the food supply chain are able to continue feeding America, just like we do 365 days a year.” Even as some shortages are appearing in grocery stores, Duvall said the group wants to assure consumers “farmers and ranchers nationwide are continuing to produce the food we all rely on.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets With coronavirus concerns rampant, it is not a typical week, but Thursday's reports are familiar. Weekly export sales, jobless claims and an updated U.S. Drought Monitor are set for 7:30 a.m. CDT. U.S. leading economic indicators are released at 9 a.m., followed by U.S. natural gas inventories at 9:30 a.m. CDT. Weather, trade news and coronavirus updates round out the rest of Thursday's interests. Weather Heavy rain and flash flooding are in store from the southeastern Plains through southeastern Midwest Thursday. We'll also see heavy snow and blizzard conditions in the western Plains, with high winds and wildfire threats in the southwestern Plains. Rain and snow will also feature in the Northern Plains and western Midwest. This combination will be stressful to livestock and safety, along with keeping soils wet and further delaying spring fieldwork.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


FTC Commissioner Unhappy with Proposed Meatpacker Plan FTC Commissioner Rohit (Row-HEET) Chopra says the USDA should try again on its proposed rules that would amend federal protections for independent farmers and ranchers in dealings with large meatpackers. Chopra wrote a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue saying the proposed changes “would make a bad situation even worse.” Politico says the USDA rules excluded an Obama administration proposal that would have helped livestock producers win lawsuits against larger agricultural conglomerates. Critics of the proposed rule say it would allow meatpacker discrimination to continue against industry suppliers. “Rather than spelling out for farmers which specific abusive practices are illegal, USDA did the opposite and made it clearer for incumbent packers and processors when it’s legally justifiable to use abusive practices,” says Chopra, who is one of two Democrats sitting on the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission polices business competition, including certain agricultural mergers. Chopra says the rules fail to address consolidation in the meat industry, which leaves farmers with fewer choices on where to sell their animals. Cattle, pork, and chicken slaughter are controlled in the U.S. by just four companies. ********************************************************************************************** China Re-Opening to U.S. DDGs Exporters China is working on opening up its market once again to U.S. exporters of DDGs. An Agri-Pulse report says China announced a list of companies that once again are eligible to export the product. U.S. companies don’t export DDGs to China at this point. However, negotiators fought hard to get China to agree in the Phase One Trade Agreement to re-certify U.S. producers to sell to their Chinese clients as trade will pick up once again between the two countries. China’s General Administration of Customs released a list of almost 90 companies that are eligible to export DDGs to the Asian country. At one time, China was the largest overseas market for U.S. DDGs. However, trade came to a stop after the Chinese government put steep anti-dumping tariffs and countervailing duties in place three years ago. Before that, the U.S. exported as much as $1.6 billion worth of DDGs to China as recently as 2015. One industry source tells Agri-Pulse that the fact that China agreed to re-certify U.S. DDG suppliers is a “key part” of getting trade going again. After all, the source says, “If you can’t get the permit, it won’t matter if there are no tariffs or up to 100 percent tariffs, which makes getting the certification so vital.” ********************************************************************************************** RFA, Biofuels Industry is Nervous about Turmoil in Energy Markets The Renewable Fuels Association is calling on the government to help the liquid fuel industries, which includes ethanol producers, during this time of uncertainty. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley says biofuel industry leaders were “very nervous” when he met with them recently. The Hagstrom Report says Grassley doesn’t think there will be much agreement in Congress on helping “Big Oil,” but did note that if there was any government assistance given out, it should include ethanol. Renewable Fuels Association President Geoff Cooper says the biofuels industry employs 350,000 Americans throughout the Heartland and notes that they’re carefully watching the government’s response to turmoil in the energy markets. “Our industry is being adversely affected not only by the economic constraints caused by the coronavirus, but also by the oil price war, ongoing trade disputes, and EPA’s small refinery waivers,” Cooper says. “Ethanol futures prices hit a record low in recent days as the virus is expected to negatively impact domestic and international fuel demand in the near term.” The administration’s response to the turbulence has centered around crude oil producers, but Cooper says biofuels are suffering as well. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Pork Producers are Committed to their Responsibilities The National Pork Producers Council supports the Trump Administration guidelines for maintaining the continuity of critical U.S. infrastructure, which includes the food supply. U.S. pork producers supply the world’s safest, most nutritious, and lowest-cost pork in the world and remain committed to supplying Americans and other consumers around the world with the healthy protein they need to have. “We are committed to maintaining the core infrastructure of America’s food supply: farms,” says NPPC President Howard Roth, a Wisconsin pork farmer. “Pork producers and other farmers take seriously the special responsibility we hold for keeping people fed. Telecommuting is not an option for us; we are going to report to work as always while we take all the necessary precautions to protect our health and the health of those we work with.” The coronavirus guidelines NPPC will follow include listening to and following directions of local and state authorities; staying home if they feel sick; keeping the entire household at home if someone has tested positive for coronavirus; washing hands regularly and keeping a recommended distance from other people off the farm. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Partnership to Deliver Food to Closed Rural Schools Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced his agency has begun a collaboration to deliver food to a number of rural schools that are closed around the country. The USDA is partnering with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and several other partners to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals to students in rural schools shut down by COVID-19. “Feeding children who are affected by school closures is a top priority for USDA, which is working together with private sector partners to deliver boxes of food to children in rural America who are affected by school closures,” Perdue says. “The agency and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing while still receiving healthy and nutritious food.” He says that USDA has already taken action to ensure children are fed in the event of school closings and will continue to waive restrictions and expand flexibilities across its programs. Jon Banner is President of the PepsiCo Global Foundation, who says millions of schoolchildren don’t know where their next meal will come from if schools close down. “In the face of this unprecedented crisis, the private sector must help ensure these students have access to nutritious meals,” Banner says. ********************************************************************************************** Feeding Minds Press Announces New Children’s Book During a time when consumers are more curious than ever about where their food comes from, a new children’s book looks to answer some of those questions, particularly about dairy farming. “Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish,” is now available from Feeding Minds Press, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s publishing venture. “Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish” is a delightful and educational story that we hope will engage young readers and spark curiosity about where their food comes from,” says Daniel Meloy, executive director of the Foundation. “That’s our goal with every resource the Foundation provides, and we’re excited to add this story to the growing library of books that tell the story of modern agriculture.” In this “dairy-tale,” a boy named Chuck wishes for all the ice cream he can eat, prompting his “Dairy Godmother” to show up to grant his wish with a dairy farm, where he gets a firsthand look at all the hard work and care that goes into producing his favorite treat. Just like youngsters, adult readers can also learn more about the real work of a dairy farm. The book is available directly from Feeding Minds Press, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fed’s Broad Economic Arsenal The New York Times is reporting this week that the Federal Reserve’s surprise Sunday evening announcement of sweeping efforts included approaches used before. Still, looking back to 2008, the Times says the similarities between the Fed’s efforts then and now go deeper than the timing of news conferences. It thinks that the Fed has resurrected most of its aggressive, unconventional and extraordinary policies used to combat the earlier slowdown. But instead of doing so over about 16 months, from late 2007 through early 2009, it announced versions of them in a single weekend, before solid evidence of economic damage even materialized. Now, the Times thinks the Fed is taking a “whatever-it-takes” approach to the crisis, using multiple tools at once — and the ones that matter most may not turn out to be the ones that end up in the headlines. Cutting interest rates by 1.5 percentage points (including both Sunday’s action and an emergency rate cut 12 days earlier) isn’t going to be much help to millions of workers who may soon find themselves without a paycheck because of large-scale business shutdowns. Rate cuts are the Fed’s main tool for stabilizing the economy. Now that the central bank has brought rates to zero and pledged to keep them there until it is confident the economy has weathered the storm, it has mainly used up its main stabilization tool. To the degree more help for the economy is needed, it will have to fall to other actors in the government to provide it: public health authorities who might help contain the spread of the virus, and Congress, which can spend money to offset ill effects. But the Fed still has other ways to keep recent problems in financial markets from causing an even deeper downturn. The Fed on Sunday stepped into its role as the global lender of last resort — the entity that will do whatever it takes to keep dollars moving through the U.S. economy and around the world. One of the oldest roles for central banks and the reason the Fed was created more than a century ago in the first place, has been to ensure that credit can still flow freely even when panic sets in and lenders are fearful. In the last several days, financial markets have been freezing up in strange ways that suggest banks and other major players are hoarding dollars, NYT says. That is driving up the interest rates that major corporations, state and local governments and even individuals taking out a mortgage must pay for credit. That tightening of credit, if unchecked, can steer an economy into recession even if the effects of the virus are contained. And it is what Chair Jerome Powell has signaled his current determination to stop. To that end, on Sunday the Fed offered more generous terms at the “discount window,” where banks can borrow money at increasingly favorable rates by showing up and pledging collateral. It reopened so-called swap lines with leading global central banks, ensuring the flow of dollars can continue overseas despite a freeze-up in certain money markets. In recent years, the Fed’s quantitative easing programs of buying bonds have been discussed in the context of how they might help stabilize the economy. The new installment announced Sunday, $700 billion in planned purchases, actually has more in common with the first rounds of bond buying announced in late 2008 and early 2009, the Times thinks. In the 2008 slowdown, financial markets were going haywire and Fed officials hoped that by flooding the system with liquidity — the newly created dollars used to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds — they could speed a return to normal functioning. That was exactly the rationale for the new actions Sunday, the Times says. Referring to the $700 billion in quantitative easing, Powell said in his news conference that “the primary purpose of these purchases is to restore smooth market functioning so that credit can continue to flow,” with the economic boost from the usual channels of monetary policy more a secondary benefit. The Fed stopped short, for now, of deploying some of the most unconventional tools in its lender-of-last-resort toolbox. During the 2008 crisis, a series of complex programs was enacted using emergency authority to funnel dollars into various corners of the credit markets and the Fed may well need to use some of them again if the damage worsens. Referring to programs created under that authority, Powell said, “That’s part of our playbook in any situation like this — so as I said, we’re prepared to use our authorities as is appropriate to support borrowing and lending in the economy.” Powell has a big advantage over the former chair Ben Bernanke from a dozen years ago: He and his colleagues have had all these years to study, assess and build upon the tools that the Bernanke Fed invented and deployed to combat that crisis. “We think we have plenty of policy space left, plenty of power left in our tools,” Powell said on Sunday. Over the coming weeks, the world will find out if he’s right. So, we will see. Many of the economic observers around are focusing on the lack of room for more cuts in interest rates. The fact that Powell and the Fed have their eyes on a broader range of options and tools likely will be seen as good news for producers and others who are deeply worried about what next steps in monetary and fiscal policies may be. Clearly, these policies should be watched very closely as they are deployed over the coming weeks, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


US Expresses Disappointment In South African Hike In Poultry Import Duties The U.S. is “deeply disappointed” in South Africa’s decision to increase import tariffs on bone-in chicken to 62% from a prior mark of 37% and on frozen boneless chicken to 42% from a prior 12%, according to a report from Bloomberg. The domestic South African poultry industry called for the tariff hikes, indicating imports of the product from the U.S. and Brazil resulted in a loss of $393 million. The higher tariffs do not apply to shipments from the European Union and from members of the Southern African Development Community (Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


Grassley Calls for Tariff Relief The Trump administration should consider tariff relief as the country deals with trade and economic disruptions, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Monday. “I would just give you a short answer,” Grassley said, “consider tariff relief.” His comment came in response to a question on what trade actions the administration should take to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 situation. Grassley has previously suggested that tariff relief relative to the tariffs put in place against China should be considered.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


Farm Economy Outlook Depends on Trade, Evolution of Disease Outbreaks The outlook for the United States farm economy depends on the implementation of new trade agreements and the evolution of animal and human disease outbreaks. The University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute reports that while net farm income increases in 2020, under a baseline assumption of continued trade friction with China, other indicators of the health of the farm economy are not as positive. Projections show that with an assumed return to normal planting and growing weather in 2020, there will be an increase in projected area, yields and supplies and lower prices for corn and soybeans in the 2020/21 marketing year. With trend yields, 2020 corn production increases to 15 billion bushels, putting downward pressure on prices, which are projected to average $3.57 per bushel. With soybeans, an increase in production drops prices to $8.48 per bushel, before considering the possible impacts of the “Phase 1” trade agreement. Additionally, potential African swine fever impacts, along with the impact of COVID-19, could change the farm economy in 2020, as well. https://www.fapri.missouri.edu/carousel/changes-for-the-2020-baseline-outlook/ ************************************************************************************* COVID-19 Relief Bill Includes Additional Food Aid The House-passed bill to ease economic burdens caused by COVID-19 includes additional food benefits. The Senate will consider the bill early this week. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “crucial legislation for the American people.” McConnell says, “It is clear that confronting this virus will take boldness, bipartisanship, and a comprehensive approach.” Politico reports the legislation includes an additional $1 billion in food benefits for students and workers. The Department of Agriculture has already granted more than 25 waivers to states to serve meals to low-income students during school closures. Further, the legislation includes $500 million for pregnant women and mothers under the WIC program, as well as $400 million in emergency aid for the Agriculture Department to purchase and distribute items to food banks. The bill also would suspend SNAP work requirements during the crisis. The legislation includes other economic measures, as well, intended to help America deal with the financial burden of the crisis. ************************************************************************************* Food Industry Stands with Trump to Keep Grocery Stores Open and Stocked Food industry representatives spoke with the President over the weekend, as the U.S. grocery supply chain seeks to keep up with crisis demands. President Donald Trump urged consumers to "chill," saying, "You don’t have to buy so much. Take it easy. Just relax,” referring to panic purchases of food items across the nation. Trump added food retailers are “committed to remaining open.” The Food Industry Association says the organization and its members offered to “stand ready with the President” to ensure “the viability of the supply chain and the availability of safe, affordable food and consumer products.” FMI says the grocery industry is working 24-hours-a-day to replenish and restock while ensuring the cleanliness of stores and facilities. FMI CEO Leslie Sarasin adds, “We want to ensure that all Americans know the government is working closely with all stakeholders across the and consumer products supply chain to ensure that stores can stay open and stocked with the products consumers need through this emergency. ************************************************************************************* Cattle Groups Respond to COVID-19 Market Disruption The United States Cattlemen's Association Monday called on the Department of Agriculture to take immediate steps to address the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. cattle market. In a letter to USDA officials, the organization says producers' bottom lines are suffering because of the outbreak's impact on the cattle and beef industries. The Association says, “We must act expeditiously to return normalcy to the cattle marketplace.” USCA has created a special task force to address the market fallout as a result of the coronavirus. The announcement follows a statement from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association last week. NCBA CEO Collin Woodall says NCBA, “has been in daily communication with participants from every sector of the beef supply chain,” as the industry finds ways to “remove possible barriers to beef production.” Woodall says, “Although the full beef supply chain is being challenged by the outbreak, all segments of the industry are working closely together and must continue to do so.” ************************************************************************************* Lawmakers Introduce SALE Act A bipartisan bill introduced Monday would address livestock industry issues relating to dealer payment default. Republicans, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Monday, introduced the Securing All Livestock Equitably, or SALE Act. The lawmakers say the Act will make sure both livestock dealers and farmers are protected moving forward without negatively impacting their bottom line. Quick turnaround between the purchase and resale of cattle by a dealer often leaves the rancher who originally owned the cattle with little recourse if a dealer defaults on a purchase because the livestock has often already been resold. The legislation would establish dealer statutory trusts, mimicking existing packer statutory trusts, to ensure cattle sellers receive payment should a livestock dealer become insolvent. The 2018 Farm Bill contained a provision directing the Department of Agriculture to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a livestock dealer statutory trust. The results helped inform the senators’ ongoing effort to establish the creation of a Livestock Dealer Statutory Trust. ************************************************************************************* USDA Announces New Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Team The Department of Agriculture Monday announced a new team of USDA staff that will lead a department-wide effort focused on serving beginning farmers and ranchers. USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky says the move will help “support the next generation of agricultural producers who we will soon rely upon to grow our nation’s food and fiber.” Sarah Campbell was selected as the national coordinator to lead USDA’s efforts. A beginning farmer herself, Campbell held previous positions with USDA and has a wealth of experience working on issues impacting beginning farmers and ranchers. She recently served as acting director of customer experience for the Farm Production and Conservation Business Center, where she led the piloting of innovative, customer-centric initiatives. In her new role, she will work closely with the state coordinators to develop goals and create plans to increase beginning farmer participation and access to programs while coordinating nationwide efforts on beginning farmers and ranchers.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Crisis Civics Lesson The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the various levels of the U.S. government in new ways, the Washington Post reported this week, including what governments “can and can’t do.” And, it added that the reality is that the president’s legal authorities in a pandemic are limited and that some of the most important actions probably won’t come from the president — they will come from governors and mayors. It further said that the pandemic will be, to a large extent, “a drama in 51 acts.” The states and the District of Columbia — not the federal government — decide when to shut schools, shops and other gathering places—and when to reopen them. It’s our governors and mayors — not the president — who will command medical personnel and law enforcement officials on the front lines of emergency responses. This diffusion of responsibility across the federal government and the 50 states is often called a flaw in the nation’s disaster response infrastructure but Post argues that divided responsibility also leaves us less vulnerable to nationwide failures—and that what we often think is our Achilles’ heel may be our saving grace. The president can close the borders and impose various restrictions on interstate travel; measures that will be of limited utility now that COVID-19 is present in 49 states and the District. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health will have important roles to play in the development and distribution of testing, treatment and vaccines. But beyond that, the president’s power in a pandemic is largely the power of the bully pulpit. At the federal level, we now have three declared emergencies related to COVID-19, the Post says. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a “public health emergency” on Jan. 31, and the President declared a “national emergency” and a “Stafford Act emergency” on Friday. A public health emergency allows HHS to unleash the Strategic National Stockpile, which at last count had 12 million N95 respirators and 30 million surgical masks. That’s a tiny fraction of the 1.7 billion to 7.3 billion respirators and 100 million to 400 million surgical masks CDC experts think we will probably need. A national emergency gives the president broad authority to take action that would ordinarily require congressional approval. For example, it potentially allows the president to redirect the 37,000-member Army Corps of Engineers toward temporary hospital construction efforts, although the Army Corps’ ranks are modest relative to the hundreds of thousands of civil engineers and construction workers employed by state and local governments. A Stafford Act emergency declaration meanwhile allows the president to use federal and state resources to supplement state and local emergency response efforts, tapping into money set aside in the federal Disaster Relief Fund. At the end of February, that fund had a balance of $42.6 billion — nothing to sneeze at, but less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, the Post says. The combination of a public health emergency and at least one of these other two emergencies allows the HHS secretary to waive certain requirements for providers under Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It also allows the HHS secretary to make it easier for health-care professionals to work across state lines, for hospitals to transfer patients, for physicians to obtain Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine and for providers to comply with health privacy protections. Those aren’t inconsequential authorities, but they will have, at most, a marginal effect on the overall progress of covid-19. Contrast those authorities with the sweeping powers that governors and District Mayor Muriel Bowser wield upon declaring an emergency. Maryland law authorizes the governor to issue any “reasonable” order considered "necessary to protect life and property” during an emergency. For example, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, who first proclaimed a state of emergency on March 5, on Monday stepped up those efforts to ban gatherings of more than 50 people in close proximity and close bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters across the state, the Washington Post reported. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker — whose state emergency statutes give them similarly broad powers — have used their authority not only to close schools and limit large gatherings but also to clear out bars and restaurants as well. Governors in some other states have taken less aggressive actions. For example, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom have left school closure decisions to local officials, notwithstanding their clear authority under state law. Despite advice from public health experts to avoid high-contact settings, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who had been slow to implement statewide measures, the Post says — tweeted (and then deleted) a photograph of him and his family eating at a crowded restaurant Saturday night. He declared a state of emergency on Sunday evening. Closures of schools, theaters and houses of worship are expected to significantly reduce mortality but deciding how long to shutter these facilities, for example, will require difficult trade-offs between the public health consequences of the outbreak’s spread and the social and economic costs of widespread shutdowns. For now, social distancing and strict limits on activities are the prudent course, the Post thinks. But Americans won’t stay home forever and it will largely be up to governors and mayors to decide when to relax restrictions. The president was probably wrong when he claimed that COVID-19 “will not have a chance against us.” It could take a heavy toll. But with strong state and local leadership, we may have a fighting chance, the Post says. So, we will see. This outbreak is a new test of government and likely will be quite difficult to manage as it leaves a trail of economic and social damage. How well the civil organizations function will be extremely important and should be watched closely as the threat continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


Lighthizer Notifies Congress of June 1 Target for USMCA U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has notified the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways & Means Committee that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will go into effect June 1. That comes after Canada’s parliament finally approved the deal Friday. That sets a tight timeline for regulatory and/or law changes that each country has to make relative to USMCA and then notify each other via an exchange of letters. Indications are actions to start assessing the needed changes have been ongoing since the U.S. ratification of the deal took place and that likely means the timeline could be achievable. Still it will represent a relatively quick turnaround.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


Benevento Pressed on Small Refiner Waivers in Confirmation Hearing The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Douglas Benevento to be the EPA Deputy Administrator last week, not surprisingly a session, which saw a lot of focus on the issue of small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The attention of questions focused on the 10th Circuit Court ruling, which declared three SREs granted for the 2016 compliance year were invalid. Benevento initially sought to address the issue by noting when asked that the court decision had come up about the time his nomination was in the process. “I have not been involved in … a lot of the discussions that -- or any of the discussions that have been happening internal at the agency since then,” he noted on the court ruling. “Moving forward what I can tell you is that I am happy to work with you and other members of the committee and Congress along with the administrator to ensure that we… whatever direction is ultimately determined… we move forward and it is equitable to everybody.” However, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, focused intently on the SRE issue, labeling the court ruling as essentially saying the SREs were “illegal.” She asked Benevento whether he agreed if the court decision was the “law of the land.” When Benevento again tried to indicate the court case came about as nomination was starting to move forward, Ernst said, “can we agree that this is the law of the land right now?” Benevento replied that “it is, yes. It is a 10th Circuit decision and it is binding.” Asked about the pending 2019 compliance year exemptions by Ernst, Benevento explained that the decision before the administration is a “complex decision” and he said he would happily get back to Ernst in writing. She accepted Benevento’s answer, but cautioned him “guaranteed we will follow up on that.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Coronavirus concerns are apt to remain front and center and markets will have a chance to respond to the President's Friday afternoon press conference and announcement that tests will soon be widely available. USDA's weekly report of export inspections is set for 10 a.m. CDT, followed by a monthly soybean crush report from the National Oilseeds Processors Association later Monday morning. Weather Light to locally moderate rain and snow are in store for portions of all but the eastern Midwest Monday. Precipitation along with colder conditions will keep soils wet. Heavier precipitation, along with a threat of flooding in some areas, is indicated for later this week.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


U.S. Pork Export Levels to China Hit Lowest Mark Ever U.S. export sales of pork to China fell to their lowest level on record for the week ending March 5th. Reuters says that’s even as accessing Chinese ports improved in the world’s number one pork consumer. The USDA’s weekly report showed that Chinese buyer cancellations pushed down the total export sales to China to negative 45,222 tons of pork, the lowest since record-keeping began in 2013. It shot past the previous record of negative 17,600 tons for the week ending January 2nd of this year. Pork shipments to China totaled 139,719 tons, reflecting previous export sales. China’s top ports have begun to clear up the logjam of cargo on their docks as workers return to their jobs after coronavirus travel curbs kept them away. Global supply chains that have been jammed up by delays are starting to clear up. Net sales of soybeans to China, typically the top destination for the oilseed, were negative 90,281 tons, the smallest since the week ending on August 5th, 2019, when USDA reported that cancellations pushed soybean sales to China to negative 422,600 tons. Traders have been watching and waiting for exports to China to pick up since Beijing and Washington signed the Phase 1 trade deal. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Department Looking into Beef “Price-Fixing” Complaints As the USDA’s probe into price-fixing allegations in the beef industry continues, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue would like some extra tools to deal with potential price manipulation across the industry. Perdue spoke during a Senate Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee hearing last week. He told committee members that he’s concerned about the wide range in beef prices livestock producers get when compared to meatpackers. Responding to Senator John Tester, Perdue says, “The deltas we’re seeing between the prices you describe are historically high.” Tester had said beef producers are getting gouged by lower prices, while consumers aren’t seeing a lot of benefits. The Montana Democrat said at the hearing that the pie isn’t being cut fairly at all. “The feeders and the livestock producers are taking 15-20 percent cuts on their prices,” Tester said, “while the packers are seeing just a three percent drop.” Consolidation in agriculture is getting a lot more attention from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including many of the current and former Democratic candidates for president. USDA has also taken criticism in recent months for siding with large agribusinesses over smaller farmers. ********************************************************************************************** NFU says Proposed Rule Undermines Packers and Stockyards Act The National Farmers Union says a proposed rule from the USDA will undermine the Packers and Stockyards Act. Those were among the comments that new National Farmers Union President Rob Larew submitted to the USDA late last week. Larew points out that the Packers and Stockyards Act was put into place to “assure fair competition” in the livestock, meat, and poultry industries, as well as to “safeguard farmers and ranchers from unfair, deceptive, unjustly discriminatory and monopolistic practices.” The NFU says the rule in question, which outlines criteria for determining if a company has shown “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages” for one farmer over another, does little to achieve either goal. Instead, the rule will provide few, if any protections to farmers while shielding corporations from legal challenges to abusive and anti-competitive actions. Larew is urging the USDA to develop clear and specific criteria that would offer meaningful protections to family farmers and ranchers. “There has long been a large power imbalance between family farmers and the livestock and poultry industries,” Larew says. “That’s why Congress put the Packers and Stockyards Act into place, but it has lacked the teeth it needs to provide the most basic protections to farmers and ranchers.” He says it’s supposed to protect farmers from corporations, not the other way around. ********************************************************************************************** Bill Would Give Producers Flexibility on Cover Crop Use Senators John Thune of South Dakota and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan introduced the Cover Crop Flexibility Act of 2020 last week. The legislation would permanently remove the prohibition on harvesting or grazing cover crops on prevented plant acres before November 1. Producers would be allowed to graze or harvest cover crops for hay or silage and eliminate an arbitrary date that allowed farmers with longer growing seasons more opportunities than those in northern states. Farmers would still have to plant cover crops on approved lists to prevent manipulation of that flexibility. It would also allow USDA to include cover crop seed and grazing-related costs when it sets the factor that’s used to calculate the prevented planting indemnity, as well as direct USDA to conduct a study to examine the extent that cover crops reduce risks of prevented planting and other crop insurance losses. Thune says, “This common-sense legislation would permanently remove the date restriction, which would help level the playing field and give our producers the certainty they need as they prepare for another potentially difficult year.” Stabenow adds, “When bad weather causes farmers to miss planting season as we did in Michigan last spring, it makes sense to help them get the best use out of their land.” ********************************************************************************************** EPA Working to Streamline Pesticide Evaluation Process The Environmental Protection Agency released a report called “Revised Method for National Level Listed Species Biological Evaluations of Conventional Pesticides.” It’s an important step toward creating a more workable solution to evaluate pesticides under the Endangered Species Act. “Protecting threatened and endangered species while ensuring farmers have access to tools to control pests are two objectives that can co-exist using available science,” says Chris Novak, CEO of CropLife America. “While we are still reviewing the EPA proposal, we appreciate the agency’s commitment to a process that’s efficient, protects species, and is based on the best available science.” He says the best way to balance those objectives is to rely upon real-world data and analysis that reflect where and how pesticides are actually used. Pesticide usage data is an important part of this revised method and represents a major step forward by the EPA to use the best scientific and commercial data available. “CLA continues to encourage a collaborative process among all the involved governmental agencies to find a long-term, transparent, and timely approach for harmonizing the pesticide registration process and ESA consultations,” Novak adds. ********************************************************************************************** NMPF Ready to Help Dairy Farmers Meet Coronavirus Challenges National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern says his organization is ready to help dairy farmers meet the challenges brought on by the coronavirus. Those challenges can include impacts on both the domestic and international markets. “From possible damages to domestic and world markets, to supply chain labor disruptions on the farm, at the processing plant, or in transporting milk, the potential ramifications for dairy are wide-ranging,” he says. “We will devote our resources to the best of our ability toward helping dairy farmers and cooperatives respond to whatever challenges they may face.” He says the good news is the U.S. dairy supply is safe, with the production of high-quality products continuing unimpeded. The FDA has confirmed that heat treatment kills other coronaviruses, so pasteurization is expected to also inactivate this virus. Also, there’s no evidence that this strain of coronavirus is present in domestic livestock such as cattle. “All producers will remain vigilant as what has now been labeled a pandemic continues down its path,” Mulhern says. “We will continue to answer questions and offer information that will help our members. Policy solutions may also be needed to help producers whose operations have been affected by the virus.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fed Ambushed by Events Most of the media are focused on the virus outbreak and its implications — but Bloomberg is reporting that events have “ambushed” the Fed — that for more than a year, America’s central bankers have been brainstorming about how to tackle the next downturn while assuming they had time to travel around the country figuring it out. As it turns out, they had “no time at all.” Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues began 2020 betting they could keep interest rates steady in a strengthening economy. They’re now in a “race to save an 11-year expansion from the coronavirus, which has wreaked havoc across financial markets and threatens to tip the U.S. into recession too — if it hasn’t done so already.” In less than two weeks, the Fed has been forced into two emergency rate cuts, accelerated purchases of Treasury bonds, and pledged to pump trillions into funding markets — a far cry from the “Fed Listens” tour that policy makers announced in late 2018 to glean ideas from business leaders and the general public about how to set monetary policy. At that point, the central bank had just spent three years ratcheting its benchmark rate back up toward historically normal levels, after hitting zero during the last financial crisis in 2008. But it didn’t make it very far the Fed over the weekend has undertaken a host of actions to head off COVID-19 impacts of actions as the economy faces new challenges. This clearly invites the question: What next? As recently as October, according to minutes of their deliberations, Fed officials were sounding broadly content with the crisis toolkit that they deployed in 2008 and after, although open to tweaks. Now they may have to resort to all of those measures and more — and roll them out fast. Those include commitments to keeping short-term rates pinned at zero and the bond-buying programs known as quantitative easing. Bloomberg also thinks that this time, the Fed could go further and follow the lead of the Bank of Japan, whose policy of yield-curve control aims to hold longer-term rates down too. And even that may fall short. “The Fed doesn’t really have the scope to do what it needs to do,” said an ex official. “The takeaway from that, I guess, is monetary policy can’t really do much at this stage.” That’s one reason why proposals more radical than anything on the Fed’s own radar have been bandied about with growing urgency by monetary policy wonks. Negative rates, already attempted in Europe and Japan, have their advocates — including President Trump — though Fed officials dislike the idea. There’s also talk of authorizing fed purchases of a wider range of securities than the government-backed ones it acquired in past rounds of QE. The longer-term problem that all these proposals attempt to solve — limited central-bank traction on the economy during downturns — was reflected in the short-run gyrations of markets these past couple of weeks. The Fed was taking action, Bloomberg said, but it wasn’t able to halt a gathering rout. When it looked like no immediate help was on the way, stocks and Treasury yields plunged. When it looked like it might be — for example, during the president’s declaration of a national emergency on Friday afternoon — they surged. In Europe too, fiscal authorities were getting a rude wake-up call that spurred them into action. Even so, on Saturday the President continued to blame the Fed for dragging its feet, demanding more rate cuts and saying he could demote Powell if he wanted to. Nothing remotely like this was in the forecast 16 months ago when Fed officials launched their rethink. They expected rates to reach around 3% by 2020, and were mostly preoccupied with why they kept falling short of the 2% inflation target. In the coronavirus world, the economy is set to cool rapidly regardless of where interest rates are as spending in some areas falls and workers get laid off. This time around the damage probably won’t be as severe, according to David Wilcox, a former director of research and statistics at the Fed’s Board of Governors, who is now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He foresees a “sharp downdraft in economic activity,” but expects a moment when health authorities sound the all-clear. “That’s going to provide a big psychological lift, and I think there will be a big economic lift as well.” The latter idea fits with the reflections of some policy makers themselves including Fed Governor Lael Brainard who criticized the tightening that began in 2015 and argued that it would’ve been better to “delay liftoff.” The review was designed to answer that kind of strategic question. But with yields on even 30-year government bonds far below the 2% inflation target, investors are signaling that the Fed won’t have to worry about the timing of a rate-hiking cycle for a long time. Instead, firefighting tactics are again the order of the day. Looking back on the period since 2008, Nathan Sheets — a former Fed and Treasury official who’s now chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income in Newark, New Jersey — says, “The European Central Bank has been stuck at zero. The Bank of Japan has been stuck at zero for even longer,” he said. So, we will see. The coming months are expected to see a wide range of efforts to avoid economic downturns and global economic slowdowns — proposals that producers should watch closely as these efforts are debated and tried out, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


China Proposes Standards on Hormone Residues For US Beef China has drawn up food safety standards on residue limits of growth hormones in beef, a move seen as a further step towards opening up its market to American imports of U.S. beef. China has previously had zero tolerance for any residues of growth hormone. China in the phase one agreement with the U.S. signed January 15 agreed to set residue limits for three hormones used in beef, besides other changes to make more U.S. beef eligible for export to China. China last month conditionally lifted a ban on beef and beef products from U.S. animals more than 30 months old, another condition agreed to under the phase one trade deal. This is another indication that China is trying to live up to the deal.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Again Says Farmers Should Not Count On Trade Aid Payments USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue told Senate Appropriations Ag Subcommittee members that he does not think farmers should count on more Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments. But, he said, “if trade does not materialize, we are prepared to look at that again.” The likely need for a third round of trade aid was emphasized by Republican lawmakers. “Given the coronavirus, given the impact it has on the trade agreements, I am going to ask you what your thoughts are in terms of it another round of MFP, which I feel may be needed,” said panel Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D. He also asked if MFP 3 were to be offered, “Do you have the resources… to do that based on where you are in terms of the CCC (Commodity Credit Corporation) program?” Perdue responded, “We would have to really know the timing there and really look at our cash flow within CCC,” noting that Congress replenished CCC last year to ensure MFP 2 payments were able to be disbursed on time. “What we know right now is the MFP program was a trade-disruption program not a price support mechanism,” Perdue said, echoing comments he has made before. He emphasized President Donald Trump only suggested further aid will come if trade conditions warrant it.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Coronavirus concerns continue to dominate this week's trading and it seems appropriate to end the week on Friday the 13th. Friday's only official report is an index of consumer sentiment at 9 a.m. CDT. South American weather, trade news, and any virus-related topics will garner the bulk of traders' attention. Weather Friday features moderate to locally heavy snow and mixed precipitation in the southwestern Plains, with a swath of light rain eastward to the Delta. Other crop areas will be dry. Rain and snow coverage will spread throughout the central and southeastern U.S. through the weekend.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


ARC, PLC Deadline Monday Farmers who have not yet completed their 2019 crop year elections for enrollment in the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs must schedule an appointment to do so with their local USDA Farm Service Agency by Monday, March 16. FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce says." If you've not completed your elections or enrollment, the clock is ticking, and your program eligibility is at stake, so please call FSA today and request an appointment." To date, more than 1.4 million contracts have been signed for the 2019 crop year. This represents 89 percent of expected enrollment. Producers who do not contact FSA for an appointment by close of business local time on Monday, March 16 will not be enrolled in ARC or PLC for the 2019 crop year and will be ineligible to receive payment should one trigger for an eligible crop. ARC and PLC provide income support to farmers from substantial drops in crop prices or revenues and are vital economic safety nets for most American farms. ************************************************************************************* EU Trade Official Cancels Trip to U.S., Canada European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan canceled plans to travel to the U.S. and Canada next week due to the coronavirus. An EU spokesperson told Politico, "The trip has been canceled and will be rescheduled as soon as possible," adding, "If necessary, contacts will continue through other means." Hogan was scheduled to visit the United States while the U.S. and EU are working on a mini trade deal, one that U.S. agriculture interests hope will successfully include agriculture provisions. However, his visit next week was for a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event. Hogan also canceled his planned trip next week to Canada to discuss World Trade Organization reforms. Both events are postponed or canceled. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced U.S./EU travel restrictions for 30 days, requiring foreign nationals to test for COVID-19 before flying. Last week, Hogan reported the U.S. and the EU were "taking slow, small steps" toward a mini trade deal. ************************************************************************************* CME Closes Pit Trading Due to Coronavirus The CME Group physical trading floor will close due to the coronavirus. Much of today’s trade is done electronically. Trade on the floor will end at the close of Friday’s trading session, and all trading will take place on the GME Globex. CME Group says the action is “a precaution to reduce large gatherings that can contribute to the spread of coronavirus in line with the advice of medical professionals.” No coronavirus cases have been reported on the trading floor or in the Chicago Board of Trade building. The reopening of the trading floor will be evaluated as more medical guidance on the coronavirus becomes available. The company's headquarters will remain open. Meanwhile, following many other events, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission postponed this year’s Agricultural Commodity Futures Conference scheduled for April 1-2 in Overland Park, Kansas. And, the CFTC will relocate its open meeting scheduled for March 31 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City to CFTC headquarters in Washington, D.C. ************************************************************************************* Trump Administration Seeks Endangered Species Act Changes The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced a new method for conducting biological evaluations under the Endangered Species Act. The change seeks to assure that pesticide registration review actions under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act do not jeopardize endangered species. EPA says the updated method ensures that, when available, the agency will use high-quality historical data that reflects where and how certain pesticides are used. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the new methodology will, “better protect and promote the recovery of endangered species while ensuring pesticide registration review decisions are conducted in a timely, transparent manner and are based on the best available science.” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the Trump administration is “cutting the red tape to unleash the full potential of American agriculture.” The final Revised Method incorporates pesticide usage data into the agency’s biological evaluation process for the first time and was informed by input from a wide range of stakeholders, including states, tribes, environmental NGOs, and agricultural stakeholders. ************************************************************************************* Gains in Large Tractor Sales Highlight of AEM February Sales Data February 2020 saw mixed results in overall U.S. sales of tractors and self-propelled combines. The bright spot was four-wheel-drive and 100-plus horsepower tractors, which showed healthy gains year over year. However, overall tractor and combine sales fell for February, according to the latest data from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. U.S. total farm tractor sales decreased 7.5 percent in February compared to last year while U.S. February self-propelled combine sales fell 21.1 percent. However, within those numbers, dealers saw a 6.2 percent gain in tractors above 100 horsepower, and a 7.3 percent rise in four-wheel-drive units. Total U.S. sales of two-wheel-drive tractors fell in February a total of 7.5 percent year over year. For Canada, four-wheel-drive tractor sales gained 43.5 percent and self-propelled combine sales fell 46.3 percent. Curt Blades of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, says uncertainty in global markets is being reflected in agricultural markets, which is reflected in the capital expenditure decisions, like major equipment purchases by farmers. ************************************************************************************* Fake Chicken Imitator Receives Investment A $200 million investment allows the LIVEKINDLY co. to expand its plant-based foods operations. The company claims its “leading a movement to build a sustainable future” with the investment from founders, entrepreneurs and global leaders. Brands under its portfolio offer consumers non-GMO, plant-based chicken alternatives and include the Fry Family Food Co. and LikeMeat, as well as the plant-based digital media platform, LIVEKINDLY Media-from which the new company's name derives and means “embracing a sustainable and compassionate lifestyle.” With these investments and others, the company is the only company in the plant-based food sector to own and operate the entire value chain of production. The plant-based protein market could reach nine percent of the estimated $2.7 trillion global meat market by 2040. The founders' round of funding will be used for further acquisitions, scaling the current plant-based food portfolio of brands and investments to rapidly increase the plant-based food industry capacity.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Policies and Proposed Supports Well, most of the over-arching issues being reported late this week concern the coronavirus and the still-evolving U.S. and global policies to counter the outbreak. In what POLITICO called an unusually somber Oval Office address, President Trump announced a number of anti-virus policies including a 30-day ban on foreign visitors from most of Europe. The report said that the new policies “ratcheted up the his administration’s response after battling criticism for previously downplaying the crisis.” In a rare address from the Oval Office, President Trump said the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the U.S. had implemented, prompting his decision to temporarily suspend travel between the two continents. The restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom, where the number of confirmed cases topped 400 on Wednesday. “We made a life-saving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe,” the president said in an 11-minute televised address, referencing his February move to restrict travel from China, where the virus began. “Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.” The address marked a dramatic shift in messaging for the President who has spent weeks vowing that the coronavirus would die down quickly, pledging that a vaccine was coming soon and insisting that it was similar to the seasonal flu – all assertions his own health officials have contradicted repeatedly. But Wednesday night was the second time President Trump had made such a prime time address – his previous Oval Office speech came during the 2019 government shutdown when he used the occasion to attempt to sell the public on his controversial effort to build a southern border wall. This time, he blamed travelers from Europe for bringing coronavirus to the U.S. “A number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe," he said. The speech also generated some confusion, POLITICO said. After the President finished his remarks, the Department of Homeland Security clarified that the new order would not bar all travelers from Europe, just foreign nationals traveling from Europe to the U.S. The order also doesn't prohibit the travel of legal permanent residents and the immediate family members of U.S. citizens. The guidance does apply, however, to people transporting cargo from Europe the White House told POLITICO, although goods and cargo will be permitted to enter the U.S., another statement that needed clarification after Trump was finished. The President also addressed some expected economic measures during his speech, saying he would “soon be taking an emergency action” to provide a financial cushion to business owners and individuals hit by the coronavirus. He said the Small Business Administration would provide emergency capital to impacted companies and vowed to defer tax payments for certain entities that have been hit by the virus. The president then asked Congress to include a paid sick-leave mandate and payroll tax cut in a stimulus package that is currently being ironed out on Capitol Hill. While lawmakers have coalesced around the sick-leave proposal, the payroll tax cut has been a harder sell. As the week wound down on Thursday, the political spotlight turned to numerous economic proposals including one from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif., who has been pressing ahead with plans for an early vote on emergency legislation including expanded paid sick leave and unemployment benefits as well as free coronavirus testing. The White House doesn’t back much of that plan as currently drafted, though it supports many of the overall policies, an aide told Bloomberg on Thursday. Timing for any of these proposals, or a combination of them, is also an issue. Congress moves on a schedule that’s completely different from fast-paced markets and it’s about to go into a week-long recess. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R., Ky., announced the Senate would still be in town next week to work on the aid package. Still, Bloomberg noted that there may be more consensus on the need for budget action now than there was in the earlier downturn in 2008. The idea of helping out struggling households and businesses in a health crisis – unlike the support for Wall Street banks that was part of the earlier Bush proposal – commands broad support. The president is also trying to browbeat the Fed into cutting interest rates once again – and there may be other steps, like tax-deadline moves that the administration can take on its own, although the most powerful tools will require a congressional vote. However, “it’s obvious the Fed’s ammunition is low-powered,” one observer told Bloomberg. “Fiscal policy needs to carry the football.” So, we will see. Clearly, the virus outbreak and the market collapse have drawn almost everyone’s attention. How and when those threats will prove adequate to support strong economic measures remains to be seen and should be watched closely by producers as the debate continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


Conflicting Reports on Whether Tariff Cuts at Play for China Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said China may deserve some flexibility regarding pledges of U.S. commodity purchases under phase one of the trade agreement on difficulties dealing with the coronavirus. “I think we can say that they are taking the proper steps to carry out phase one, but the subtraction from that would be their economy is in trouble,” Grassley told reporters Wednesday. “And the extent to which their economy is in trouble, I think they would have some flexibility.” Interestingly, Grassley said there are talks in the White House on potentially lifting some remaining tariffs on China to ease the coronavirus pressure. “I think in order for it to do any good it would have to be reciprocal,” he said. However, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro Wednesday shot down any suggestion of tariffs being lifted. Calls for the U.S. to either provide tariff exemptions or to suspend tariffs imposed on Chinese goods entering the U.S. are “absurd,” Navarro told Politico. Such calls for tariff reductions are “simply a fake news gambit by the usual Wall Street suspects who never met an American job they did not want to offshore for the sake of a buck,” he said.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


USTR official No Request Yet From China on Phase One Buys Chief U.S. ag trade negotiator Gregg Doud said that currently there is no way to know if the coronavirus will impact China’s ability to fulfill its purchase commitments under phase one of the agreement between the U.S. and China, and he said China has not requested any consultations to delay those purchases. “That is the obvious question — and the obvious answer is there is no way to know what the impact of this is, at this time,” Doud told Brownfield Network on the sidelines of the Nebraska Governor’s Ag Conference relative to the coronavirus impact. But, as USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and others have noted, Doud said implementation of the Phase One agreement is on schedule. “At USDA and USTR, we are talking to our Chinese counterparts every day, by phone or by email — and so far, everything if going very well,” Doud told Brownfield. “Obviously, this is not the best of circumstances but, so far, everybody is doing everything they can to implement the agreement.” Reuters reported that China has met another one of their commitments under the phase-one agreement – setting maximum residue levels (MRLs) for three approved beef hormones used in U.S. cattle production. Doud said China has not asked for a reprieve from their purchase commitments. “No,” he stated. “That is the simple answer. They have not.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Coronavirus concerns continue to dominate this week's trading and it seems appropriate to end the week on Friday the 13th. Friday's only official report is an index of consumer sentiment at 9 a.m. CDT. South American weather, trade news, and any virus-related topics will garner the bulk of traders' attention. Weather Friday features moderate to locally heavy snow and mixed precipitation in the southwestern Plains, with a swath of light rain eastward to the Delta. Other crop areas will be dry. Rain and snow coverage will spread throughout the central and southeastern U.S. through the weekend.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


Coronavirus Closes Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo One of the largest agricultural-based events of the year closed Wednesday for public safety reasons, amid the spread of the new coronavirus. In a statement, organizers of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo said, “In the interest of public health, the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department have ordered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to close.” The statement continues, saying, “Having to close early is extremely difficult as guests, volunteers, exhibitors, rodeo athletes and entertainers look forward to the 20 days of the Rodeo each year. In 2019, there were more than 2.5 million visitors to the event from 75 countries. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic Wednesday, sparking a chain reaction of events getting postponed or canceled because of the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The American Farm Bureau Federation also announced the cancellation of its Young Farmer And Ranchers conference set for this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. ************************************************************************************* NPPC Seeks Labor Solutions for Potential COVID-19 Impact The fallout from an ongoing labor shortage facing the U.S. pork industry and other agriculture sectors could significantly worsen due to the impact of COVID-19, according to the National Pork Producers Council. A letter sent to government officials this week outlines NPPC's labor specific concerns regarding the outbreak. There is no evidence that pigs can contract the virus. However, NPPC called for expedited solutions addressing the need for more workers on hog farms and in pork plants. It also called on federal, state and local governments to work together to develop a response to COVID-19 that protects public health and, whenever possible, supports animal care and minimizes disruptions to the U.S. pork supply chain. NPPC also called on the administration to develop support plans for hog farmers if labor-related bottlenecks in the supply chain prevent hogs from being marketed. Even without the additional challenge presented by COVID-19, NPPC says the labor shortage threatens to increase production costs and food prices for consumers. ************************************************************************************* Dairy Farmers Descend on Capitol Hill Dairy farmers from the National Milk Producers Federation are in Washington, D.C., this week visiting with lawmakers. The visits are part of a fly-in calling for an agricultural labor bill that could be reconciled with a plan the House approved last year, providing the stable, secure labor force U.S. dairy producers need. U.S. dairy producers face labor shortages that are more intense than those felt in agriculture as a whole because they cannot use the H-2A farmworker program, which only provides for seasonal labor rather than the year-round workers dairy needs. With domestic workers in short supply and foreign labor difficult to employ under current policies, dairy farmers are urging lawmakers to find solutions. of NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “The situation is dire,” adding “uncertainty on the farm harms individuals and rural communities that rely on those farms to generate jobs.” The House of Representatives in December passed bipartisan legislation allowing for year-round visas in dairy as part of the first ag-labor bill to pass that chamber since 1986. ************************************************************************************* Farm Groups Disappointed Over Potential SRE Appeal A group of farm organizations expresses disappointment over the Trump Administration contemplating an appeal to a court ruling striking down three small refinery waivers. The petitioners in the case—the Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, and National Farmers Union, say, "the Administration has opted to kick the can on deciding whether to appeal the court decision." Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit approved requests by the Department of Justice for an extension of the deadline to file motions asking for a rehearing. The new deadline for requesting a rehearing is March 24. The Court found the Environmental Protection Agency vastly exceeded its authority in granting compliance exemptions to three refineries from 2016 and 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard obligations. The farm groups say the delay "just prolongs uncertainty in the marketplace and stokes more angst and frustration in farm country." They say rural America would view an appeal by the Administration as a “senseless poke in the eye.” ************************************************************************************* Farm Debt Just Short of Record Levels A new analysis shows total farm debt is near record levels and farm real estate debt is at an all-time high. Agricultural Economic Insights found that today, total debt stands at $425 billion, just short of the 1981 peak of $440 billion. However, the annual increase from 2000 to 2020 has been achieved through the relatively consistent small increases in debt, as opposed to a rapid run-up. Meanwhile, at $264 billion, real estate debt is well beyond any levels seen in history. Since 2000, real estate debt has grown at an average annual rate of four percent per year. This has caused real estate debt to more than double over that time period. The analysis says at present, it would seem that the current levels are sustainable, but with little room for further growth, adding, that while it is quite likely that the sector will navigate through this territory with few problems, it also removes some of the room for error. ************************************************************************************* Pet Food Manufacturers Feed America’s Pets and Agricultural Economy New research finds that U.S. pet food manufacturers provide balanced, safe meals for America’s dogs and cats, and also stimulate the overall agricultural economy. The Institute for Feed Education and Research, North American Renderers Association, and Pet Food Institute released a new the jointly funded report Wednesday. The research found that through the purchase of ingredients, labor and services from related industries, the $30 billion pet food industry gives back to the agricultural economy by using 8.65 million tons of animal- and plant-based ingredients for dog and cat food to provide the nutrition that pets need, at a value of $6.9 billion. The data shows that pet food manufacturers use an estimated 3.8 million tons of animal-based products, such as rendered products or meat and poultry. Pet food manufacturers also use 4 million tons of farm and farm-product processor ingredients, such as grains, soy products and fruits and vegetables, and approximately 200,000 tons of seafood products. Many of these ingredients are left over from making food for people.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Mixed Reaction to Administration Tax Proposals The Hill reported this week that there is still “much uncertainty” about the path forward after the administration pitched ideas to boost the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. Democrats have openly criticized the initial proposals to cut or eliminate payroll taxes, arguing “the president is looking for an excuse to make another tax cut.” Even some Republicans have been hesitant to embrace it the proposal, The Hill said. In a meeting with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, the President called for payroll taxes to be waived through the election. He also discussed relief for the travel and hospitality industries which have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak. Now, House Democrats say they are planning their own response, which they are expected to release “soon.” “I think people on the Hill are sort of thinking about what they have in their toolbox” in terms of temporary tax relief, said Jon Traub, a former Republican staff director on the House Ways and Means Committee, now a managing principal at Deloitte Tax LLP. In addition, critics argued that payroll tax cuts won’t stop the spread of the virus after the President’s meeting with lawmakers. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was also in the meeting with lawmakers, said he was optimistic there is a bipartisan path forward. “We’re having discussions about various different policies,” he said. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said Mnuchin told senators there is still a debate about whether the proposed payroll tax cut would be permanent or temporary. The administration is scoring the cost of both options, Mnuchin told the group. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., weren’t ready to commit yesterday to a payroll tax action. Still, the President said he thought Republican senators were “mostly all there” on the idea. A one-year cut of 2 percentage points in the payroll tax, as was done in 2011, could generate modest economic growth, according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model. In addition, Mnuchin said there are some steps Treasury could take on its own. For example, declaring the virus a federal disaster would allow the department to extend tax filing deadlines and payment due dates and waive late-filing penalties for affected individuals, The Hill said. Secretary Mnuchin and President Trump also discussed ways to help small businesses and provide paid sick leave for individuals, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said. Ways and Means Democrats asked for an evaluation of whether the April 15 filing deadline should be extended. The Hill reported that President Trump decided to abandon his cautious, business-as-usual approach to the coronavirus he had hoped would calm Wall Street jitters after watching stocks plummet while aboard Air Force One on Monday, The Hill said. The Hill also noted that some elements of the 2017 tax law could pose additional trouble for companies, on top of shaky markets and a drop in demand for services like airline travel. Those changes include a cap on debt interest write-offs and the elimination of companies’ ability to carry back losses to previous years. “All of those provisions are going to be harsh on companies when things turn down,” Bryan Collins, a former Treasury official, now a managing director at Andersen Tax said. There also were discussions of an infrastructure package this week, including possible means of financing. In that context, The Hill said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, “threw cold water on any across-the-board gas tax increase and pointed out that “a better option—and one preferred by Republicans” — could be a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, and Democrats should consider it, he said. “Well, if they want an infrastructure bill they’re going to have to get serious about it and that’s one reason why convincing them that a gas tax is not going to pass this Congress is important, because then it will force them to get serious about what might work,” he said. The Hill also noted that former Vice President Joe Biden’s current tax plan would raise taxes on the richest Americans by about $109 billion over a decade, The Hill said. In contrast, the plan Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proposed would raise taxes on the wealthy by nearly $3.2 trillion in that same period, according to a recent estimates from the Tax Foundation, The Hill said. Biden has called for repealing the tax law cuts benefiting top earners. Sanders would raise the top tax rate to 52% for those making $10 million or more. So, we will see. Certainly, the continued market volatility along with the spreading coronavirus outbreak will make pressure for federal relief increasingly urgent — proposals producers should watch closely as they are debated, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


House Ag Committee Cites Usual Laundry List of Reasons Why There Should Be No Budget Cuts For Ag The House Ag Committee approved its budget estimates and views letter to the House Budget Committee, not surprisingly calling for no cuts to U.S. farm and nutrition programs. Citing the financial stress in U.S. agriculture and the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, the panel said these immediate stresses argue for maintaining funding. “Given the strong support for the work mentioned above and the economic realities facing many Americans, the Committee believes that the farm, rural, and nutrition priorities should be maintained and that no budget reductions are warranted in any part of our jurisdiction,” the letter said. “The Committee on Agriculture is planning continued thorough oversight and monitoring of the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, as well as the continuing authorities of USDA and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,” the panel said. “Our goal is to ensure that the investments made in these programs and authorities yield results consistent with congressional intent. The Agriculture Committee will also continue to gather new insight into how to improve programs and authorities, including ways to continue to invest taxpayer money wisely.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


House Members Call On USTR to Address Antimicrobial Washes In US-UK Trade Deal The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU) represents an opportunity to address an “unscientific ban” on imports of U.S. poultry due to the use of antimicrobial washes, according to some 47 U.S. House lawmakers that are members of the Congressional Chicken Caucus. The situation means the U.S. is in a position “to negotiate an agreement with the UK that resolves this unscientific ban once and for all.” The lawmakers pointed out in the letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that “Antimicrobial spray washes are used in the production process to improve food safety. All rinses, including chlorine, must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and their use is limited to specific amounts.” Plus, they noted that only 10% of U.S. chicken processing plants use chlorine throughout their production. “Scientific research, including that of the European Food Safety Authority, confirms using chlorine-washed poultry does not pose any human health concerns, nor is it present in the final product,” the lawmakers said. Getting the UK to lift the ban “will set the stage for future agreements, such as with the EU, and reinforce the administration’s stance that U.S. farmers and ranchers are an integral part of the American economy that should not be left behind.” The letter focuses on an issue that Lighthizer has already tabbed as one that is important to the U.S., but also he has predicted it will not be “the” issue that sinks the trade talks.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Markets continue to react to public restrictions in response to the spread of coronavirus, while the more traditional market factors take a back seat. The usual Thursday morning reports will take place with weekly export sales, jobless claims and a new U.S. Drought Monitor due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT and joined by a report on U.S. producer prices. Natural gas inventory follows at 9:30 a.m. Weather Light rain and mixed precipitation will cross the western Midwest and portions of the western Plains Thursday. Other crop areas will be dry. Rain continues with moderate to locally heavy intensity into the eastern Midwest and Delta Friday.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


USDA Reports Progress on Implementation of China Phase One Agreement The Department of Agriculture Tuesday said there’s progress in the implementation of the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says China has taken several additional actions to reach its agriculture-related commitments. The actions include the signing of a protocol that allows the importation of fresh California nectarines, and the lifting of a ban on imports of U.S. beef and beef products from animals over 30 months of age. Additionally, China has updated its lists of facilities approved for exporting dairy, infant formula, seafood, and fish oil and fish meal. Also, China’s new tariff exclusion process went into effect on March 2 and importers can now apply for exclusions from retaliatory tariffs. Perdue says USDA will continue to closely monitor China’s implementation of the agreement that was signed February 14, 2020. Perdue adds, “These implementation measures are promising steps showing that China is taking steps to fulfill their purchase commitments.” ************************************************************************************* USDA WASDE Report Offers Little Change The monthly World Agriculture Supply and Demand Report Tuesday offered little change to Department of Agriculture forecasts. This month’s 2019/2020 U.S. corn supply and use outlook is unchanged relative to last month. The season-average corn price received by producers was lowered five cents to $3.80 per bushel based on observed prices to date. U.S. soybean supply and use projections for 2019/2020 are mostly unchanged this month, as well. With soybean crush and exports projected at 2.1 billion bushels and 1.8 billion bushels, respectively, ending stocks remain at 425 million bushels, down 484 million from last year’s record. The U.S. season-average soybean price is projected at $8.70 per bushel, down five cents. Finally, the 2019/2020 U.S. wheat supply and demand outlook is unchanged this month. The projected season-average farm price is also unchanged at $4.55 per bushel. The report followed Monday’s market plunge on coronavirus fears and large cuts to oil prices, which drug farm commodity prices lower, as well. However, farm prices and Wall Street mostly regained some ground Tuesday. ************************************************************************************* Rapid Start to 2020 for U.S. Pork Exports; Beef Exports also Trend Higher Following a record-breaking performance in 2019, U.S. pork exports maintained a torrid pace in January, while beef exports were also higher year-over-year. The U.S. Meat Export Federation says January pork exports cooled slightly from the volume and value records established in December 2019, but still far exceeded year-ago levels. Both the January export volume of 273,603 metric tons, up 36 percent year-over-year, and export value at $738.7 million, up 50 percent, were the second-highest on record. Meanwhile, beef exports posted more modest growth in January, increasing 2.5 percent from a year ago in volume at 107,374 metric tons and five percent in value at $672.7 million. Exports accounted for 13.1 percent of total beef production, down slightly from a year ago. Release of the January export data comes as coronavirus is dominating news headlines, including those related to global trade. USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said the virus has had an impact on red meat exports, which will likely be more evident in February and March data. ************************************************************************************* Farmers Seek Reassurance of Trade During House Ag Subcommittee Hearing Farmers Tuesday asked lawmakers to assure positive trade outcomes for agriculture. The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture heard from farmers regarding the current trade atmosphere. Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa of California stated, “The President’s trade agenda has adversely impacted farmers in California and nationwide.” The National Milk Producers Federation urged lawmakers to “work with the administration to use negotiating resources wisely to target important agricultural markets and create greater access for U.S. dairy products.” In 2019, America’s dairy industry exported more than $6 billion in dairy products ranging from cheese to ice cream to milk powders. Iowa soybean farmer Robb Ewoldt told the committee 2020 holds a "50/50 proposition as to whether I'll receive an operating loan this year," adding he's taken a second job as a truck driver. He urged lawmakers to encourage the administration to initiate free trade negotiations with other trading partners and "assure positive outcomes to bilateral trade negotiations with the EU and the UK." ************************************************************************************ Farmers National: Slight Increase in Number of Land Buyers Despite volatile and uncertain markets, interest appears to be growing in farmland purchases. Farmers National Company reports a small increase in land buying interest from individual investors. The company specializes in farm management, real estate sales and auctions. The recent Market Facilitation Program, low interest rates and the idea of farmland as a long-term asset appear to support farmland prices. Further, with the stock market volatile and low CD rates, investors are more willing to look for alternatives to invest in, including farmland. Investment funds, for the most part, are remaining active in the land market. Meanwhile, farmers continue to be interested in buying land as there is a bit of optimism among producers for a better year than the last. Farmers National agents have seen stronger than expected prices being paid for cropland. Despite the short-term uncertainties swirling around agriculture, land is seen as the solid long-term asset that both farmers and investors are interested in owning. ************************************************************************************* USDA Predicts Sugar Market Gap, Request Export Increase The Department of Agriculture Tuesday requested an increase in sugar imports. Consistent with the Commerce Department’s Agreement Suspending the Countervailing Duty Investigation on Sugar From Mexico, USDA notified the Department of Commerce of an additional need for sugar in the U.S. market. Consequently, Commerce has increased the quantity of Mexican refined sugar permitted to be exported by 200,000 short tons raw value for the October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020 period. Commerce previously increased Mexico’s refined sugar export limit by 100,000 short tons, also at the request of USDA, in November 2019. In the same way as the November request, Tuesday’s increase in Mexico’s refined sugar export limit will only change the mix between refined and other sugar. USDA says current market conditions point to a sugar shortage. This action is a further step in ensuring an adequate supply of sugar to the U.S. market, given the terms of the U.S. sugar program and the Agreement Suspending the Countervailing Duty Investigation on Sugar from Mexico.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fighting the Coronavirus Shocks The Washington Post is reporting this week that Wall Street continues to be skeptical that the Trump administration will design an effective coronavirus stimulus program. Questions are being raised about whether the package will be big enough – and whether the administration can secure congressional support for it. The economic stakes could hardly be higher, the Post thinks after Monday’s stock market meltdown that brought markets near “bear market territory” after falling almost 20% from highs just last month. The Post’s outlook also reflected a 24% decline in oil prices; and a sharp decline in the yield on the 10-year Treasury bonds which fell below 0.4%, a new low. Taken together, these results could be seen as a nearly “unmistakable verdict” from investors who “now expect a recession.” The Post added that a growing chorus of economists agree. This threatens a “downturn that could undermine the administration’s central argument for its reelection, the report said. Against that “darkening backdrop,” the administration announced Monday that it was assembling a relief package to sustain dislocated workers and keep businesses afloat. It was described as a payroll tax cut as well as help for hourly workers including a short-term expansion of paid sick leave. The administration’s comments made clear that the White House is now considering a “large and expensive government response,” the Post said and commented that this marks a sharp policy turnaround in just a matter of days. While the president had floated the idea of a payroll tax cut earlier, his economic advisers had placed the burden on the Federal Reserve for backstopping the economy. Larry Kudlow, the top economic hand, as recently as Friday pooh-poohed a big fiscal response, arguing such packages “have never really worked in the past.” In addition, the administration can’t take congressional support for whatever it proposes for granted, the Post said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., outlined their preferences last weekend calling for paid sick leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expanded food stamp benefits and “widespread and free” coronavirus testing and reimbursement for care not covered by insurance. House Democrats are set to hear today from Jason Furman, who served as President Obama’s top economist and Claudia Sahm, a former Fed economist who specializes in recessions. Both have called for major fiscal responses – Furman is ballparking the price tag at $350 billion. And both say the benefits must be tailored to make an impact quickly for the most vulnerable, a mark they say a payroll tax cut misses. “It would be too slow and dispersed to substantially stimulate the economy, as households would receive only a modest benefit every pay period,” Furman wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week. “The distributional effects are worrisome as well: A one-year payroll tax cut of 2% of income would provide up to a $5,508 tax cut to a high-income couple but only $500 to a single parent getting by on $25,000 a year – and nothing for a worker placed on leave without pay. This isn’t the fairest or most efficient way to increase aggregate demand.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is considering “targeted tax relief measures,” a spokesman said, though it is not clear what those include. And “some of his fellow Republicans are less interested,” the Post said. Indeed, the president and his top aides continue projecting optimism that the coronavirus will prove only a short-term and limited drag on the economy in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Post noted. The President “has spent much of the past four days tending to campaign benefactors and preoccupied with his own political future,” the report said. “He has used those settings to complain about what he considers to be coronavirus hysteria in the media and overreaction by financial markets.” Administration officials nevertheless say that we will provide whatever tools we need and that “the economy will be in very good shape a year from now,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the Monday evening press conference. “This is not like the financial crisis where we don't know the end in sight. This is about providing proper tools and liquidity to get through the next few months.” Mnuchin’s comments drew a rebuke from Larry Summers, a predecessor at the helm of Treasury. “For the Secretary to suggest it’s all in hand is to put his credibility at some risk and I don’t think people in positions of responsibility for economic policy should ever try to be definitive about what economic outcomes are going to be,” Summers said. Summers, who helped craft the 2009 stimulus package in the teeth of the financial crisis, said there is now “much more danger that we will do too little than we will do too much.” Considering how low the yield has fallen on longer-term U.S. debt, “the market is begging the government to borrow money,” Jay Shambaugh, director of the Hamilton Project at Brookings, says. “Take out some insurance against big downside risk. If it turns out we didn’t need it, it’s not the end of the world.” So, we will see. As pressure builds to “do something” about the increasingly bleak economic outlook, the fight over what that could turn out to be certainly is one producers should watch closely as the debate intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


USTR Announces Two Public Hearings on Imports of Seasonal, Perishable Products Public hearings will be held April 7 in Plant City, Florida, and April 9 in Valdosta, Georgia, by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, USDA and the Department of Commerce. The two sessions are planned to “hear firsthand from interested persons on trade distorting policies that may be causing harm to U.S. seasonal and perishable producers (namely, of fresh fruits and vegetables) and contributing to unfair pricing in the U.S. market, and to solicit feedback on how the Administration can better support these producers and redress any unfair harm.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


R-CALF Blasts Perdue For Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) Comments USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s suggestion last week that voluntary labels declaring that meat is “slaughtered and processed in the U.S.” might be acceptable in lieu of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) not surprisingly have drawn criticism from Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA). Perdue last week suggested it was an option that could pass scrutiny at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which found a previous U.S. mandatory COOL effort ran afoul of trade rules. "This is exactly what the meatpackers and meat importers want: a label that does not identify in which country the cattle used to produce the meat were born and raised," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. There continues to be some labeling of U.S. beef and pork in grocery stores that indicate the meat was from animals born, raised and harvested in the U.S., but those efforts are not mandatory but reflect some grocery stores opting to not go through the expense of changing what had been mandatory labels.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Coronavirus fears and OPEC continue to hold shock collars on the market, but in another sense, life keeps moving forward. The U.S. Labor Department reports on consumer prices at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by the Energy Department's weekly inventories at 9:30 a.m. The latest federal budget numbers are set for release at 1 p.m. CDT. Weather Wednesday will be dry in most crop areas. Precipitation will be confined to scattered thunderstorms in the south-central U.S. and some snow in the Great Lakes. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal. A wetter pattern is indicated by the end of the week, notably in the Delta-Ohio Valley

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


USDA Approves School Meals in Washington, California, During Coronavirus Closures The Department of Agriculture over the weekend approved requests from California and Washington to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the new coronavirus. The meals are available at no cost to low-income children, and are not required to be served in a group setting, to ensure kids receive nutritious meals while schools are temporarily closed. The waivers are effective immediately and will continue through June 30, 2020. Brandon Lipps, Deputy Undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, says the agency “stands ready” to provide additional assistance to California and Washington, along with any other areas impacted by COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Confirmed cases of the virus are expected to increase in the United States as the availability of test kits increases. USDA says all Food and Nutrition Service programs have flexibilities and contingencies built-in to allow them to respond to on-the-ground realities in the event of a disaster or emergency. For more information about the coronavirus response across USDA, visit www.usda.gov/coronavirus. ************************************************************************************* Global Denatured Ethanol Demand Up European demand for denatured ethanol recently doubled. Cargill told Reuters the spike comes as denatured ethanol is an ingredient in hand sanitizers, and demand for hand sanitizers has surged in recent weeks amid the global outbreak of the new coronavirus. The virus has spread to more than 105 countries across the globe, with more than 100,000 cases reported and 3,800 deaths, globally. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends people use hand sanitizers with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol to combat the virus. However, the best precaution, according to medical experts, is regular and thorough handwashing. A study released in September of last year reported the denatured ethanol market was projected to grow 6.8 percent in revenue by 2024, reported before the outbreak. At the time, MarketWatch said demand was low with excess supply. Since the outbreak, hand sanitizers have been quickly selling out on store shelves and online, as the global population seeks to protect itself from the virus. ************************************************************************************* Ag Events Postponed, Changed, Because of Coronavirus Agriculture events planned for this spring are being impacted by the coronavirus spread in the United States. Alltech will transition ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference to a virtual setting because of the outbreak. In a Monday press release, Alltech noted the company will present ONE session topics online, instead of a live event in 2020. The event, planned for May 17-19 in Lexington, Kentucky, annually hosts more than 3,500 attendees from 70 countries. Also, a Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department meeting on Dietary Guidelines scheduled this Thursday and Friday will be held online. Meanwhile, Dairy Farmers of America last week announced the postponements of its annual meeting this month. On the DFA annual meeting website, dfa20am.com, the organization states, “out of an abundance of caution, DFA’s Annual Meeting, currently scheduled for March 16-18, is being postponed.” DFA cites coronavirus concerns as the number of cases continues to increase in the United States. DFA had planned the event in Kansas City, Missouri, for roughly 1,500 attendees. ************************************************************************************* EPA Taking More Time to Respond to SRE Ruling The Environmental Protection Agency is taking more time to reply to a federal court ruling against Small Refinery Exemptions. The EPA Friday filed an extension to the Justice Department to grant the agency an additional 15 days to respond to the ruling. The request pushes the deadline to March 24, according to Politico. The Trump administration now plans to appeal the ruling that struck down three waivers granted back in January. The ruling could significantly narrow the scope of allowed waivers. An appeal would be upsetting to ethanol and corn groups. An effort to sway the White House to appeal the rule, led by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, is seen as a “misinformation campaign,” according to Growth Energy. In a joint statement by farm groups, including Growth Energy, they state, “The president needs to understand that Ted Cruz doesn’t care about this administration or families across the heartland who are counting on the White House to keep its promises.” ************************************************************************************* NMPF: Lactose-Free Milk is Growing Faster Than Plant-Based In 2019, lactose-free milk sales grew twice as fast as plant-based beverages, with lactose-free poised to surpass almond-beverage sales this year. The National Milk Producers Federation says lactose-free milk is a prime example of how dairy is addressing per-capita drops in fluid-milk consumption. Dairy categories increasing their sales, including whole milk, lactose-free milk and flavored varieties, are giving plenty of reason for optimism about the future of milk. The organization does note plant-based beverage growth, but “from a tiny base.” Almonds, with about three-quarters of sales, drive the plant-based beverage category. And almond-beverage sales are growing, although not as fast as lactose-free milk. Among plant-based beverages that aren't almonds, soy is number two. But soy is declining, in 2018, by more than 13 percent from $248 million to $215 million, a percentage drop much greater than any sales decline in dairy. Meanwhile, Americans bought $13.88 billion of milk in 2019, down from $13.93 billion. ************************************************************************************* U.S. Plant Based Food Retail Market Worth $5 Billion The Plant Based Foods Association says retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11.4 percent in the past year, bringing the total plant-based market value to $5 billion. The total U.S. retail food market has grown just 2.2 percent in dollar sales during this same period. The association, along with the Good Food Institute, says the leading drivers of plant-based sales continue to be plant-based milks, meat, dairy alternatives in general, and plant-based meals. The total plant-based meat category alone is worth more than $939 million, with sales up 18 percent in the past year. Refrigerated plant-based meat is driving growth, up 63 percent. Emerging plant-based dairy categories are growing even faster as more households are introduced to new plant-based dairy items. In the past year, plant-based yogurt has grown 31 percent, while plant-based cheese has grown 18 percent. Plant-based creamers alone account for almost $300 million, growing 34 percent with its share of total creamers growing from four percent a year ago to five percent in 2019.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Managing the Phase One Agreement Amid heavy-duty market uncertainty, Bloomberg weighed in on progress toward the phase one goals of the china trade deal this week. The U.S. is willing to show China “some flexibility” on its pledges to boost American imports — but is expected to insist that Beijing prevents an export surge when its production returns to full strength. The key metric will be whether the trade imbalance widens between the world’s two largest economies, the report said. Given Beijing’s challenges in containing its coronavirus outbreak and the country’s lagging demand for American imports, U.S. officials are thought to have told their Chinese counterparts that China’s purchasing boost, signed in January with specific target dates and commodities, could start off slowly, Bloomberg says. That understanding comes with “some conditions.” The administration has made clear that its “flexibility” is only an option as long as there isn’t a sharp rebound in shipments of Chinese products without a corresponding upswing in imports. Such a development could swell the already gaping U.S. trade deficit with China — the metric President Trump has frequently based his policies on. One other condition being noted is that the total of the purchase targets can’t change and that China’s purchases fulfill the commitments eventually. The White House declined to comment on Bloomberg’s report and directed questions to the U.S. Trade Representative who said that the “U.S. expects China to meet its commitments under the agreement.” The U.S.-China trade balance is a frequently used administration gauge to measure “who’s winning the global battle for economic supremacy — but a measure most economists find wanting.” Still, Bloomberg thinks there would likely be little patience in the U.S. administration — particularly leading up to Trump’s re-election bid in November — to let China delay purchases for long while exports accelerate. Bloomberg notes that trade observers express some uncertainty about how China would ensure that there is no surge in exports. For the first two months of this year, China had a trade surplus of $25.4 billion with the U.S. but that deficit with narrowed in January to $23.7 billion, the smallest since 2011, according to U.S. data released last week. The phase-one trade deal that led to a tariff cease-fire took effect in mid-February. Since then, China has been making progress in fulfilling some of its agreed requirements, lowering tariffs, reducing restrictions on U.S. agricultural products and approving Mastercard Inc. to set up a bank-card clearing business. However, with the economy shut for much of January and February due to Lunar New Year holiday and then the COVID-19 outbreak, there is little evidence that China has continued to fulfill its promise in the deal that’s most important to the administration — a sharp increase in its purchases from the U.S. China agreed to increase its imports of U.S. goods and services by $76.7 billion over the 2017 level in in the first year of the deal and then by $123.3 billion in the second year, increasing imports by a total $200 billion over two years. A more detailed annex of the agreement that lays out specific commodities and their target numbers was classified. The document also set up regular meetings to discuss the progress and implementation of the agreement. The two sides are currently preparing for talks, Bloomberg said. The president acknowledged last week that the buying spree might not fully be in effect before November. “They’re going to start kicking in fairly soon. Unfortunately, by the time we get to the election they’ll just be partially kicked in,” the president said about his China deal and other trade agreements in a TV interview last Wednesday. So, we will see. Clearly, the administration faces a serious challenge as it seeks to limit economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak. How it manages both its economic threats and its trade policies are issues that should be watched closely by producers as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


EIA Expects Slowing Growth for Biofuel U.S. biofuel production is expected to slowly grow through 2050, according to the Annual Energy Outlook 2020 from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), with economic and policy factors the key reasons for that expectation. U.S. biofuel consumption in 2019 totaled 1.09 million barrels per day (bpd) and accounted for about 7.3% of total motor gasoline, distillate and jet fuel consumption. Ethanol production “slowly decreases between 2019 and 2030, and then it increases toward the end of the projection period, largely mirroring the Reference case projection for motor gasoline consumption,” EIA said. “The projected decline in domestic ethanol-blended gasoline consumption is offset by increasing U.S. ethanol exports.” EIA expects that biodiesel production will rise by 30,000 bpd from 2019 to the end of the forecast period, with other biofuels will rose by 80,000 bpd. While the biodiesel tax credit is not included in the forecast, EIA said, the renewal of the credit “is expected to increase domestic production and net imports of biomass-based diesel.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


US Ag Trade Bucks Overall Trade Trend U.S. agricultural trade data for January showed exports at $11.44 billion against imports of $11.67 billion for a trade deficit of $234 million. U.S. ag exports nudged higher by just $65 million while imports rose by $306 million, producing the monthly red trade ink. Overall U.S. exports fell slightly while imports posted a larger decline, trimming the U.S. trade deficit. This marks the fourth month in the last year that U.S. agriculture has registered a monthly trade deficit. So far in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, ag exports total $48.03 billion ($46.85 billion year ago) while imports are at $43.65 billion ($43.25 billion year ago) with a trade surplus of $4.38 billion ($3.61 billion year ago). USDA in February forecast U.S. ag exports for FY 2020 to be at $139.5 billion against imports at a record $132.5 billion for a trade surplus of $7 billion. That suggests there will be more months ahead with either minimal trade surpluses for agriculture or monthly deficits.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets The way the coronavirus concerns and OPEC's decision to increase oil production hit markets Monday, more selling may show up Tuesday. Market fundamentals have not been carrying much weight lately, but USDA will issue its March WASDE report at 11 a.m. CDT. South American weather and any trade reports will also get attention. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for the eastern Midwest and Southeast Tuesday. Other crop areas will be dry except for light snow in the north-central Plains. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal with notable warmth in the Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


USDA Sets ASF Response Plan in Place At the National Pork Industry Forum, USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach (EYE-baw) announced an African Swine Fever Action Plan is in place should the disease be detected in the U.S. pork herds. So far, the U.S. is free of the ASF virus and prevention remains the number one priority for the National Pork Producers Council. According to the plan, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue would immediately declare an “extraordinary emergency” if ASF is detected in the U.S. By doing that, the USDA would be established as the leader of a national, coordinated response to control and eradicate the swine disease. It would also ensure the availability of funding and other resources to manage the response. Other plan elements include a national stop-movement of pig’s order of at least 72 hours, depopulation efforts aligned with guidance from the American Veterinary Medical Association, support for carcass disposal, and payments for virus elimination based on the size of affected premises. The NPPC remains committed to working with the USDA and Customs and Border Protection to keep ASF out of the United States. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Poultry Entering China without Retaliatory Tariffs Beijing recently made U.S. poultry shipments eligible for exemptions from extra tariffs and poultry shipments to China are on the rise. A Reuters article points out that the additional tariff relief may give China a greater ability to follow through on promises to buy significantly more American agricultural goods as part of the Phase One trade deal. U.S. chicken producer Tyson Foods says its chicken shipments are already rising as a result. China had said last month it would grant exemptions on retaliatory duties to 696 U.S. goods as part of its efforts to ease the trade war between the two largest economies in the world. Jim Sumner, President of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, says U.S. poultry wasn’t eligible for the exemptions until last week. “We’re now getting the product into the country without any retaliatory tariffs,” Sumner says. Global meat and poultry suppliers are competing for sales to China, where an African Swine Fever outbreak has trimmed the hog herd by more than 40 percent, raising the need for protein imports. Beijing removed an almost five-year ban on U.S. poultry imports in November, which U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says would mean an additional $1 billion in shipments to China every year. “We’re now on a level playing field with other poultry suppliers to China,” Sumner adds. ********************************************************************************************** Treasury Department to Fix the “Grain Glitch” The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives is optimistic that Internal Revenue Service officials will adjust the Section 199A tax break, thanks to testimony from the Treasury Secretary. For more than two years, farmer cooperatives have been working to re-implement a tax deduction comparable to what they received before the 2017 tax law was passed. Last summer, the Treasury Department proposed rules that would limit the Section 199A deduction to patronage income. However, the Treasury rule would then eliminate cooperatives’ ability to combine “non-patronage income” as part of the calculations for the tax deduction. The tax challenge came to light in early 2018 after it had first appeared the 2017 tax law would make it much more lucrative for farmers to sell grain to farmer cooperatives rather than to private grain companies. Congress fixed the provision, but the Treasury Department has been bogged down since then trying to complete a rule that would go along with the tax fix. Because of the complex agreement that Congress passed, cooperatives got a special break under Section 199A because they couldn’t take advantage of the new lower corporate rates. The final deal was supposed to then reinstate a tax break that cooperatives had been using before the 2017 tax law. ********************************************************************************************** Farmer Attendance Sets Commodity Classic Record The 2020 Commodity Classic set a record for the number of farmers attending the event. The total number of farmers who registered for the event was 4,678, the highest number in the show’s 24-year history. That was 83 more farmers than the previous record of 4,595 set in New Orleans during the 2016 Classic. The 9,350 total registrations were second only to the 2016 event in New Orleans. The 2020 Commodity Classic, set in San Antonio, Texas, was jam-packed with dozens of educational sessions, a huge trade show that featured almost 400 exhibitors, a keynote address by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, as well as policy meetings of the sponsoring commodity organizations. The Commodity Classic will celebrate its silver anniversary as it makes a return to San Antonio, March 4-6, 2021. The Classic was first established in 1996 and is America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused educational and agricultural experience. The Commodity Classic is presented every year by the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers, and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. ********************************************************************************************** NPPC Elects New Officers The National Pork Producers Council elected new officers and board members during the National Pork Industry Forum in Kansas City. Howard Roth, a pig farmer from Wisconsin, was elected as the new NPPC president. He’s a fifth-generation farmer who owns Roth Feeder Pigs. In addition to serving on the NPPC board for eight years, he previously was a member of the Wisconsin Pork Association board of directors and is currently the chair of the association’s Swine Health Committee. Roth takes over from David Herring, a North Carolina farmer who now becomes the NPPC immediate past president and chair of the council’s trade and nominating committees. Jen Sorenson is the new NPPC president-elect. For the past nine years, she’s been with Iowa Select Farms, a business that markets more than five million hogs per year. Sorenson was previously the communications director for the Iowa Pork Producers. Terry Wolters of Pipestone, Minnesota, is the new NPPC Vice President. He’s involved in the Minnesota and South Dakota Pork Producers groups, the Pipestone County Pork Producers, the National Pork Board, and chairs the Animal Health Food Security Policy Committee. ********************************************************************************************** CRP Grasslands Signup Begins on March 16 Farmers and ranchers can start applying to enroll grasslands in the Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands signup on March 16. “This CRP Grasslands signup allows farmers and ranchers to protect grasslands, rangelands, and pastures, while they maintain the land as working grazing lands,” says Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce. “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.” CRP Grasslands participants retain the right to conduct common grazing practices like haying, mowing, or harvesting seed from the enrolled land. The timing of some activities may be restricted by the primary nesting season of birds. Participants will receive an annual rental payment and may receive up to 50 percent cost-share for establishing approved conservation practices. The duration of a CRP contract is either 10 or 15 years. Signup will run through May 15. CRP marks its 35th anniversary in 2020 with 22 million acres currently enrolled in the program.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Probably Not A Recession There’s a lot of talk about the virus, the outbreak and the economic impacts expected these days. For example, Bloomberg reported this weekend that after days of playing down coronavirus risks, the administration shifted ground on Friday and “opened the door to some micro-measures” to shelter what they argue is a fundamentally strong U.S. economy. Investors, who recently have been stampeding toward the safest of assets seemed to be expressing a different view, with some pressing the administration to “go macro.” At the end of last week, top administration economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow said a package could include help for workers forced to stay home – and small businesses or industries such as airlines hard-hit by the virus. Still, he advised “let’s not assume the worst.” In particular, he dismissed the need for the kind of across-the-board fiscal stimulus that some economists have urged: “We don’t want to willy-nilly throw $300-$400 billion, with a thousand-dollar check to every American.” Financial markets appear to be clamoring for something very much along those lines, Bloomberg said. While U.S. stocks recouped some losses late Friday, they’re still down more than 10% from last month’s peak. And, investors are worried that not enough is being done to prevent a recession. Michael Feroli, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chief U.S. economist, said, “We could be facing a problem of a shortfall of aggregate demand, in which case, just targeted stimulus may not be enough.” In addition, even as Kudlow was hinting at the possibility of action “soon” the President questioned whether fiscal stimulus was needed and again pounded the Fed for more action. “The Fed should cut and the Fed should stimulate,” he said. Kudlow said the White House would be able to “move very rapidly” if conditions worsen, and that it could use executive orders, but would not hesitate to go to Congress for more assistance. Congress so far hasn’t shown much appetite for a big fiscal push to fight the virus, either. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., both said this week that it was too soon to talk about tax cuts. Congress did pass–and the President signed on Friday–an $8 billion emergency spending bill that includes funds to help state and local governments fight the virus and low-cost loans for small firms facing disruptions to their business. In addition, on Sunday Bloomberg published a slightly sunnier report that acknowledged that “when $7 trillion is erased from stocks in 2 1/2 weeks, it’s safe to say investors are pricing in a lot of economic pain.” However, it concluded that “one thing most of them are not yet bracing for is a recession.” The view, drawn from a survey published by a Wall Street research firm may sound fanciful, given the spread of the coronavirus and its rising threat to the global economy, the report said. “But it’s not grossly out of line with price action so far in the S&P 500,” which has fallen roughly as much as it did in its last six corrections. None of those episodes portended an economic contraction. Bloomberg called the sell-off “harrowing” but noted that by almost any measure except velocity it remains a pipsqueak compared with the battering investors took at the end of 2018 when the S&P 500 plunged almost 19% while price-earnings ratios compressed to 16 times annual earnings. They’re a lot higher than that now at 19.3. “The market’s saying ‘Ok, obviously equity valuations need to be significantly lower than they were before this started,”’ said Arthur Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities Corp. “But pricing in a recession in the equity markets is probably not what’s happening right now.” Bloomberg said that the recent investor survey conducted by Evercore ISI found less than half of the respondents are expecting the economy to experience two consecutive quarters of negative growth in 2020. While acknowledging the economic threat from the coronavirus has grown, about two-thirds anticipate the number of infected cases to peak in May. Of course, not knowing how the outbreak will play out makes predicting its effect on growth impossible. But it’s also worth noting that the U.S. stock market was priced at a historically high multiple when the sell-off began, a fact that complicates the calculus using reactions in equities as a litmus for how bad the virus’s impact will be. Michael Geraghty, equity strategist at Cornerstone Capital Group, said “The U.S. economy is undoubtedly strong. It would take a lot to swing it into a recession and I don’t think the virus is likely to do that anytime soon.” “With a lot of unknowns out there, the market will be more volatile and will pull back a bit but it doesn’t necessarily mean a recession,” Frank Ingarra, head trader at Greenwich, Connecticut-based NorthCoast Asset Management LLC, said. “Things could wrap up really quick and we could resume a bull market.” So, we will see. Clearly the market and the global economy face significant uncertainty and possibly new threats as the outbreak runs its course—developments producers should watch closely as the political season advances, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


DOE Chief Expects China To Live Up To Phase One Energy Purchase Commitments The coronavirus situation is not expected to keep China from fulfilling its pledge to buy more U.S. energy products under the phase-one trade deal between the two countries, according to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. Asked if the situation will impact those purchase commitments, Brouillette said, “It is hard to tell. I do not have any expectations at the moment that it will.” He added he thinks “the Chinese have every intention of honoring their agreements.” While the U.S. could see some impact on overall energy demand, he reiterated “there is no expectation that someone is not going to honor their agreements.” He made the comments at a briefing with International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol who noted the group has “revised” its global oil demand expectations “significantly.” Since China accounted for 80% of demand growth for crude oil last year, Birol noted their economic downturn will have an outsized impact on oil demand expectations. "Coronavirus is affecting oil markets disproportionately more seriously than the global economy,” he observed. As for U.S. shale oil production, Brouillette said it was too soon to tell if there will be a significant impact.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


Reuters: China Granting Tariff Exemptions for Some Ag Products Some Chinese crushers have applied for and been granted tariff exemptions to import soybeans, according to sources cited by Reuters, with the exemptions in place for a year in line with an announcement from the Chinese government last month. The report also said exemptions have bene granted for U.S. sorghum, wheat and distillers’ dried grains (DDGs). U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Tom Vilsack said this week that exemptions for dairy products were also being granted. The report indicated there were no issues for importers to get the exemptions with the government announcement of the exemption availability signaling a decision would be made within a matter of days after the request for the one-year exemption was made. The report indicated the expectation was that U.S. soybeans would likely be eyed for August-September forward.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets The only official report on Monday's docket is USDA's weekly report of export inspections, due out at 10 a.m. CST. South American weather, any trade news and the latest coronavirus numbers will also get the market's attention ahead of USDA's WASDE report on Tuesday. Weather Rain and mixed precipitation will cross the central and southeastern Plains and the western Midwest Monday. The moisture will keep soils saturated and may cause some local flooding. Dry conditions will be in place elsewhere.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


USDA Proposes SNAP Changes The Department of Agriculture Thursday announced a proposed rule that it says will strengthen the way states serve Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients through Employment and Training. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, currently, SNAP participants have exclusive access to training and support services to help them enter or move up in the workforce. The proposed rule, Employment and Training Opportunities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, makes changes to these services to “empower more SNAP participants to gain the skills, training, or work experience they need to move toward – and into – employment.” USDA says the proposed changes are evidence-based and hold states accountable for providing SNAP Employment and Training services that move participants towards work. The Hagstrom Report points out that the rule also states repeatedly that state agencies shall inform all able-bodied adults without dependents, a category of SNAP recipient, of the work requirement on them and the time limit to comply both in writing and orally. ************************************************************************************* NPPC Applauds Signing of Ag Inspectors Bill The National Pork Producers Council welcomed the signing of a bill to increase the number of agricultural inspectors at U.S. entry points. NPPC says the bill will help prevent the spread of African swine fever, and other foreign animal diseases from entering the United States. The legislation authorizes funding for 720 new agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports. The legislation also authorizes 600 new agricultural technicians and 60 new agricultural canine teams. NPPC President David Herring, a hog farmer from North Carolina, says, “This is a victory for farmers, consumers and the American economy.” NPPC says the most likely path for a foreign animal disease to enter the country would be through the illegal transport of contaminated products. An outbreak of certain foreign animal diseases would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, causing significant damage to farmers and consumers. NPPC continues to advocate for other preparedness measures, including quickly establishing a U.S. Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank as provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill. ************************************************************************************* R-CALF Calls Again for COOL Amid Brazil Imports In response to the late February announcement by the Department of Agriculture that it will open the U.S. market to fresh beef from Brazil, R-CALF is calling for the restoration of mandatory Country-of-Origin meat labeling. The organization points out that Brazil is a country with a history of engaging in corrupt food safety practices, and is distributing a research paper to congressional offices titled Restoring Mandatory COOL for Beef Without Running Afoul of the WTO’s Adverse Ruling. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard says the lack of Country-of-Origin meat labeling “means beef produced by America’s cattle farmers and ranchers cannot compete against the soon-to-arrive increased quantities of Brazilian beef.” Bullard claims the only way to end consumer deception is for Congress to pass legislation requiring Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling on all beef products sold at retail stores. Congress removed beef and pork from the current COOL law in late 2015 to avoid retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico, authorized by the World Trade Organization. ************************************************************************************* Midwest Lawmakers Introduce Missouri River Management Bill Midwest lawmakers Thursday introduced legislation to overhaul the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ process for managing water resource projects along the lower Missouri River system. Senators from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska introduced the bill to establish a new program that would require the Corps of Engineers to implement a system-wide approach to water development projects to reduce flood risk and improve flood protection along the lower Missouri River. Iowa Republican Joni Ernst says, that, “As evidenced by the recurring flooding in the lower basin, the current approach is not working.” Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt says the bill gives the Corps of Engineers the “ability to develop a comprehensive system plan to design and build critical flood control projects that will do a better job of protecting people and property.” The lawmakers say the proposal provides greater efficiencies and streamlining with regard to how the Corps plans for and manages Missouri River water resource development projects from inception to completion. ************************************************************************************* 2020 Missouri River Runoff Expected Above Average Forecasters expect another above-average runoff year along the Missouri River. Current conditions, including soil moisture, plains and mountain snowpack, as well as long-term temperature and precipitation outlooks forecast runoff to be 36.9 million acre-feet, 143 percent of average, for the upper Missouri River basin above Sioux City, Iowa for 2020. Average annual runoff for the upper basin is 25.8 million-acre feet. Gavins Point releases were decreased from 38,000 cubic feet per second to 35,000 this week as tributaries downstream of Gavins Point began to rise due to the melting of the plains snowpack in South Dakota. The potential for above-average runoff in the upper basin, coupled with continued high river stages on many of the uncontrolled tributaries downstream of the reservoir system, increases the potential for flooding, particularly in the lower river. Many farmers along the Missouri River are still recovering from flooding in 2019 that started in March of last year. ************************************************************************************* FDA Creates Feed Your Mind initiative to Increase GMO Understanding A new federal collaboration seeks to improve consumer understanding of genetically modified organisms. Created by the Food and Drug Administration, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture, the Feed Your Mind initiative aims to answer the most common questions that consumers have about GMOs. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn says that while GMO’s are a common part of the food supply, “there are a lot of misconceptions about them,” adding, the initiative is intended to help people better understand what these products are and how they are made. The Feed Your Mind initiative is launching in phases. The materials released this week include a new website, as well as a selection of fact sheets, infographics and videos. Additional materials—including a supplementary science curriculum for high schools, resources for health professionals and additional consumer materials—will be released later in 2020 and 2021. Find the information online at www.fda.gov/feedyourmind.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Chinese Farm Imports Questioned Bloomberg is reporting this week that crop traders obsessing over the deadly coronavirus in China “may be overlooking another key challenge to the administration’s phase one trade deal: the strength of the U.S. dollar.” The report says the virus outbreak is upending supply chains and cutting food demand in China, delaying billions of dollars in U.S. sales of everything from pork to soybeans. It also thinks that making up for the losses later in the year may be difficult if the dollar continues to strengthen against currencies in Brazil and Argentina, two of the top U.S. ag rivals. China has pledged to buy $36.5 billion in U.S. farm goods this year under the trade deal, $12.5 billion more than in 2017. But some tariffs remain in place and China has said its purchases need to make economic sense with both Washington and Beijing acknowledging that the timing of the sales depends on market conditions. “We are already dealing with retaliatory tariffs and now coronavirus presents challenges for China to fill its obligations,” said Dan Kowalski, vice president of research at CoBank, a $145 billion lender to the agriculture industry. “If the dollar remains strong, that has tangible impacts on market conditions. And that could or could not play a part in China filling its purchases.” Phase one of the trade deal specifies that “the parties acknowledge that purchases will be made at market prices based on commercial considerations and that market conditions, particularly in the case of agricultural goods, may dictate the timing of purchases within any given year.” Traders were already skeptical China would reach the phase one targets before the virus hit, as indicated by USDA’s internal export projections, Bloomberg notes. “Now, with the Brazilian real and the Argentine peso hitting record lows against the dollar, the trade-deal targets are even more in doubt,” the report said. “We always have to be mindful that the Chinese are price buyers,” said Stephen Nicholson, a senior analyst for grains and oilseeds at Rabobank. “I don’t think that’s going to change under phase one. They are going to do what they do. I think they will continue to buy what they need and they will buy at the best price. It’s an ingrained behavior.” For now, U.S. authorities are dismissing the currency threat. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said at a USDA forum last month that he expects China to live up to its pledges and Ted McKinney, the undersecretary of agriculture for trade, added that their $36.5 billion commitment stands despite the dollar strength. Gregg Doud, U.S. chief agricultural negotiator in U.S. Trade Representative’s office also dismissed the idea. But he also delivered a “scary prospect for American farmers already dealing with high debt, several years of low prices and piles of corn and soybeans from last year’s harvest still stashed in their bins,” Bloomberg said. “At least in my mind, as an old commodity analyst, I don’t think that’s an issue here,” Doud said at the USDA event. “It just means that as that gap gets further, the U.S. price has to come down to be competitive with what’s going on in South America.” Brazil is already harvesting a record soybean crop and with a weaker real boosting farmer profits, the incentive will be there to expand plantings in the years to come. The same goes for Argentina, though the hike in export taxes there has made shipments less appealing. “Maybe China doesn’t reach $36.5 billion,” said Dan Basse, president of consulting firm AgResource. “But I think if you were to ask the market today, and say it’s going to do the same as in 2017 – $24 billion, $28 billion – we’d probably be OK there.” There’s no reason to sound the alarm bells at this point, said CoBank’s Kowalski. The lender believes China will make a “good faith” effort to meet the targets and said the nation will have a bigger opportunity to buy American farm goods in the second half of the year. Concerns about the slowdown of the Chinese economy may also end up helping the nation meet its pledges. That’s because the agreement allows for nations to impose tariffs equivalent to the size of the damage without retaliation in the case of non-compliance. “They signed an agreement, they know it’s enforceable,” Steve Censky, USDA’s deputy secretary, said last month in Arlington, Virginia. “Given their economy and everything else, they don’t want to be back in the soup, battling the U.S. on tariffs.” So, we will see. Global crop competition looks likely to be intense this year, so USDA’s outlook may well face increasing pressure as the season advances. These are trends producers also should watch very closely as they are tested across the season given the political prominence of the export commitments involved, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Optimistic On China Phase One Trade Deal Commitments Much of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s testimony before the House Ag Committee on the rural economy focused, not surprisingly, on the U.S.-China phase-one agreement. Ag purchase commitments by China under the phase-one deal are a reason to be upbeat, Perdue told lawmakers, even given concerns about the impact coronavirus may have on China meeting them. “None of us obviously know what the impact is going to be,” he said of coronavirus, adding market fundamentals remain strong thanks to robust consumer demand and the new trade agreement. Perdue related that signals from China are that they “want to fulfill” their purchase commitments under the Phase One deal. On the purchase commitments themselves, he said, “We are going to trust but verify as we go along, and looking on a week-by-week, month-by-month basis of where they are in that regard.” Regarding soybeans, Perdue said, “We are hopeful, we are optimistic,” and he predicted China would begin to ramp up purchases from the U.S. “in late spring and summer,” as the market shifts from South American producers. USDA will be watching carefully to see whether that shift occurs, he added. Perdue also noted optimism on getting U.S. rice into China, pointing out that elimination of non-tariff barriers like the ones that have shut U.S. rice out of that market were an integral part of the phase-one deal.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


Perdue Downplays Odds For More Farmer Trade Aid USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Wednesday maintained his stance that a third round of trade aid payments to farmers should not be needed. His view did not shift even as lawmakers like House Ag Committee Ranking Member Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said a third round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments would be “vital” for agriculture. Perdue warned lawmakers that the MFP efforts were aid payments, not price support or safety net payments. Perdue told reporters after the hearing that he put odds at 10% – one in ten – for a third round of payments. But he acknowledged that if directed to make the payments, USDA would provide them even as he insisted repeatedly that President Donald Trump’s tweet on the possibility of another round of trade aid started with the word “if,” meaning the payments were not guaranteed to be coming. Some say the reason Perdue is pushing back on the aid effort is that a third round of payments would signal that China would not be living up to terms of the phase-one agreement between the two sides.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday's early attention will be on the U.S. unemployment report and February nonfarm payrolls, due out at 7:30 a.m. CST. The U.S. trade deficit will also be updated, allowing USDA to release January export data for specific ag products later Friday morning. South American weather remains of interest and coronavirus concerns are still drawing attention. Weather Dry conditions will dominate the crop area weather scene Friday. Precipitation will be confined to light snow the extreme eastern Midwest. Temperatures will be warm for the season in northern and central areas, allowing for snow melt.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


Vietnam to Buy $3 Billion in U.S. Farm Products Vietnam is committing to buy $3 billion in U.S. farm goods to shrink the soaring trade surplus it has with America. Bloomberg says the Asian nation is looking to appease the Trump administration, which isn’t happy about the deficit. Vietnam is also looking to satisfy the complaints of U.S. companies that face difficulties in accessing Vietnamese markets. A Vietnam Agriculture Ministry spokesman says they “see a lot of room to increase purchases from America, which will significantly help narrow our trade gap with the U.S.,” while also noting that the demand in Vietnam for American farm products is “very high.” Vietnamese companies signed a total of 18 agreements with American producers to buy about $3 billion in farm products over the next two or three years. The deal includes purchasing 100,000 cows, three million tons of wheat and barley worth about $800 million, fruit, and corn and soy animal feed. Vietnam’s exports to the U.S. totaled $61.3 billion in 2019, widening the trade gap to $47 billion, up from $34.8 billion the year before, according to Vietnamese customs data. The U.S. Census Bureau says last year’s trade deficit with Vietnam was $55.8 billion, up from $39.5 billion the year before. ********************************************************************************************** Texas A & M Analyzes Trade Aid Distribution Texas A & M University published its analysis of the Trump administration’s trade aid program. The study’s authors say, “There’s no denying that the trade aid package, especially the Market Facilitation Program, has had a significant impact on farm income in the U.S.” Across all of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center’s 63 representative crop farms, the two years of MFP payments in 2018 and 2019 protected $16.4 million in net worth from 2018-2020. Under baseline conditions without MFP, 35 of those 63 farms had a greater than 50 percent chance of ending 2020 with negative cash balances. With the MFP in place, the study says the number dropped to 34 percent. Some have argued that the second round of payments was biased toward Southern states. Most of the variability in county payment rates under MFP can be explained by the underlying damage assessments and the distribution of planted acres in the respective counties. The study authors say even though the highest county payment rates were mostly in counties with cotton production, almost 70 percent of the MFP payments went to producers in Midwestern states. “We find little validity to the argument of regional inequity,” the authors said in a statement. ********************************************************************************************** Perdue Talks Trade Aid Before House Ag Committee Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue testified before the House Ag Committee and trade aid was a big topic of discussion. Michael Conaway, Ranking Member from Texas, called for another round of Market Facilitation Program payments this year. “The first and second MFP Programs were as justified as they were critical to our farmers and ranchers,” Conaway says. “I strongly believe that unless something gives here soon, an announcement on MFP part three will be vital to the survival of our producers.” Conaway added that folks who are critical about the aid payments should talk to the secretary on how to go about improving the Market Facilitation Program. House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota fears that Donald Trump’s recent tweet signaling the possibility of more aid means the trade agreements aren’t going to pay off soon. Peterson says, “If it weren’t for the payments to farmers through the MFP, farm income would have been in the tank,” he says. “I hope the markets return to normal. However, the president’s comments don’t give me confidence that we’ll see tangible benefits from the new trade deals anytime soon.” Perdue has repeatedly said he believes exports will grow and another round of trade aid won’t be needed. ********************************************************************************************** Congressman says UK Trade Without Agriculture is a No-Go for Congress If the U.S. and U.K. were to strike a trade deal that doesn’t include opening up the U.K, market to more U.S. farm goods, that would be a no-go in Congress. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley’s comments are in direct opposition to London’s official negotiating objectives that were made public on Monday. Politico says those objectives included maintaining the U.K.’s strict food safety and animal welfare standards. If it sounds familiar, it should. Agriculture has long been the biggest sticking point in separate but stalled negotiations with the European Union. Trade officials are now aiming to establish a mini deal by March 18. The mini agreement could contain some agriculture concessions from Brussels, but Politico says it likely won’t kick the door open for U.S. meat products. The EU’s top trade official, Bernd (Burned) Lange, was recently in Washington, D.C., to talk to administration officials and lawmakers. Questioned by reporters about the possibility of the EU opening more of its market to U.S. farm goods and dropping their non-tariff barriers, Lange’s answer was, “On agriculture, everyone knows that this is not possible. ********************************************************************************************** Farmers Union Sets Policy Priorities The National Farmers Union says it’s looking for measures that will bring some certainty to the farm economy in 2020. The Hagstrom Report says the organization will emphasize bringing the question about agricultural certainty to presidential candidates. Newly elected NFU President Rob Larew spoke to reporters after their annual convention ended, saying, “The special orders the delegates passed to set priorities for 2020 reflected what an awful year 2019 was.” He says farmers were also hurt by “manmade challenges,” a veiled reference to President Donald Trump’s trade policies, as well as a “lack of action” on climate change. The National Farmers Union will also continue to focus on its long-term concerns about agribusiness concentration, as well as the dwindling competition among the businesses that supply farmers with their inputs and buy farmer products from them. Larew says it’s been difficult to get the attention of Washington, D.C. regarding these issues. However, rising concern about antitrust issues and anticompetitive behavior by tech companies could make easier to get D.C. to notice what’s going on with those same issues in agriculture. ********************************************************************************************** Oil State Senators Pushing Trump as Deadline Looms The oil industry and allies on Capitol Hill are pushing for the Trump Administration to defend its decision to exempt some oil refineries from blending requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard. The administration faces a Monday deadline to request the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a decision that threatens to curtail the use of the waivers. Republicans from oil-patch states, including Ted Cruz of Texas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, have warned the administration and the Environmental Protection Agency that the decision will have consequences if it’s implemented around the nation. They say potential negative impacts could include strain on refineries, cause a rise in gasoline prices, and put jobs in jeopardy. Although federal law authorizes the EPA to exempt small refineries facing “economic hardship,” a January ruling by a three-judge panel in the 10th Circuit Court places limits on the agency’s ability to hand out large numbers of the waivers. If the decision stands, officials believe only two small refineries would still be eligible for hardship relief. Oil industry allies are hoping that the president will intervene and order a shift in the course of the discussions.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Administration Virus Responses Following the Interest Rate Cut There is considerable uncertainty about the “next step” in coronavirus responses now, Bloomberg says. It attributes the market strength on Wednesday to Tuesday’s election results and the market’s extreme volatility. And, it calls the administration’s response to the virus outbreak and the damage it’s inflicting on global markets as “most notable for what hasn’t been done.” The report highlights the fact that the president has “so far balked at pursuing a major fiscal plan to counter the market turmoil stemming from the virus’s spread.” It says that the administration appears “content to wait out the crisis,” even though it could emerge as a potential threat to the president’s re-election – which has been “staked squarely to the performance of the American economy.” His clearest calls have been directed at the Federal Reserve. “More easing and cutting!” he tweeted Tuesday after the central bank announced an emergency 50 basis point rate cut. Yet Bloomberg says “concerns are growing in the business community” and industries may be looking for more than just monetary policy to cushion the blow. It cites David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, who said there’ll be calls on the government to act: “Even with this Fed action, there will likely be growing calls for fiscal action, particularly to provide direct support to businesses that may increasingly suffer from the public response to virus fears.” Airline chief executives are scheduled to meet with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Wednesday and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a news conference with leaders from travel and retail industry groups. “I think the government would be extremely smart if they were to stimulate travel,” Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Travel Association, said at the Chamber event in Washington. Chamber president Tom Donohue said it would be good to support regional airlines, but added, “we don’t need any bailouts here.” The Fed on Tuesday cut interest rates outside of its normal cycle of meetings for the first time since the financial crisis of 2008. “The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity,” the central bank said in a statement. The President and his advisers, though, “argue the economy isn’t under serious threat, that the government is capable of meeting challenges posed by the virus, and that an overreaction could make things worse.” “The country’s in great shape. The market’s in great shape. I’m focused on this,” the president said Tuesday after a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Vice President Pence on Tuesday reiterated that view: “The priority is the health and safety of the American people. We believe the strength of the American economy will take care of itself.” Larry Kudlow, a key White House adviser, asked if he saw an economic crisis developing ahead, said on Tuesday: “I don’t. I’ll be honest.” Views on the stock market outlook remain decidedly mixed after the Fed cut fell flat. “The market was expecting a more coordinated and decisive response and not just one from the Fed,” said Solita Marcelli, deputy chief investment officer for the Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management. Administration spokesmen have said they’ll propose a tax cut later this year as part of a re-election platform and on Tuesday the president called House Democrats to propose a “very simple one year payroll tax cut.” The tweet was part of the administration’s efforts to check how receptive Capitol Hill is to a new tax cut package, one administration official said. However, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin later said the administration isn’t considering a payroll tax cut as part of its virus response. He added that the virus sell-off isn’t comparable to the financial crisis a decade ago. “We will get through this,” he told reporters Tuesday. Market swings are happening because “the markets struggle to assess new risks.” The administration has loosely discussed targeted measures, like supporting companies to avoid furloughing workers and guaranteeing sick pay to encourage the ill to stay home, a person familiar with the matter said. In addition, the President has pointed to other culprits for the slide in stocks. He first tried to talk up stocks as a buying opportunity several days ago, before blaming the media and Democrats for exaggerating the risk of the outbreak. He then pivoted back to his long-running complaint that interest rates are too high, publicly badgering the Fed for days before Tuesday’s emergency cut. For now, the President should keep focusing on stopping the spread of the virus itself, said Joel Griffith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy institute. “In that respect I think the Trump administration is on the right course,” Griffith said. “We’ve got a fundamentally strong economy,” he said. “I’m very concerned that too many people are sensationalizing these events, and that might encourage counterproductive behaviors and needless economic consequences.” So, we will see. Much depends on the perception that the government actions are effective and the outbreak is being controlled—and officials may find themselves forced to consider more direct actions, health officials say. Clearly, these are controversial issues that producers should watch closely as the debates continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


Texas A&M Report Assesses MFP Efforts Economists at the Agricultural and Food Policy Center, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M Univesity, released a report on the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and its impact. “While there was significant variability in county payment rates for MFP 2.0, most of that variability is easily explained by the underlying damage assessments and the distribution of planted acres in the respective counties,” the report said. “And, despite the fact that the highest county payment rates were predominantly in counties with cotton production, almost 70% of the assistance under MFP 2.0 went to Midwestern states,” the report said. “While we find little validity to the argument of regional inequity, there certainly were disparities between neighboring counties.” Further, the report said that the two MFP efforts thus far had a “greater than $41 billion impact on the broader rural economy.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


Focus Continues on RFS Waiver With a March 9 deadline to respond to the 10th Circuit Court ruling that three small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for the 2016 compliance year were to be reviewed, pressure continues on EPA from both biofuel backers and refiner interests. Nine Republican senators sent a letter to EPA Tuesday calling on the agency follow through with their finalized the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel standards, which included EPA agreeing to adjust the Renewable Volume Obligations to account for 770 million gallons of SREs, even though they viewed that action is “imprudent and misguided.” Meanwhile, staunch biofuel backer Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that there were discussions going on within the administration on the matter. He said he has urged the administration to “follow the law” and the court ruling and to not appeal that decision. Further, he called on the administration to give it “nationwide application.” In addition, 16 House members – including Senate Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., – called on EPA to reconsider the court decision. Specifically, they called on EPA to “seek and extension and request an en banc hearing” so the full court can reconsider the matter. They also called on EPA to issue guidance that makes clear the ruling is not to be applied outside the 10th Circuit and that pending SREs for the 2019 compliance year within the 10th Circuit should be deferred and other SREs should be “rendered as soon as possible.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday that he hoped to issue EPA’s response “shortly” but did not say what that decision will be. “We are still working on that with our attorneys at EPA as well as the attorneys at the Department of Justice,” he said. “The decision has to be made by next week, so we will be announcing something shortly.” He also expressed a hope that the announcement would “quell” the RIN market.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Early Thursday morning financial reports include jobless claims, productivity and factory orders. We will also be watching for any more new Covid-19 virus updates, South American weather changes and export sales, along with any flash daily sales from the USDA, especially any news sales to China. Weather Snow and mixed precipitation will cross the northern Midwest Thursday, while the Southeast has continued moderate to heavy rain. Dry conditions will be in place elsewhere.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


Crop Insurance Guarantees Drop Ahead of Spring Planting Season Corn and soybean crop insurance guarantees have dropped, just in time for the spring planting season that’s right around the corner. A DTN report says that means farmers get less protection against low prices in their revenue policies this year. Guarantees are $3.88 a bushel for corn and $9.17 for soybeans. Those are down 12 and 37 cents respectively from last year. Officials come up with the spring guarantee by averaging the daily close of the December 2020 corn and the November 2020 soybean futures contracts through the month of February. It was poor timing as commodity prices dropped during the final week of February as global markets responded negatively to the spread of the coronavirus. “You’ve got a lower benchmark, a lower revenue guarantee, so you’ll have less coverage than you would have otherwise,” says Jim Mintert, director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture at Purdue University. “From a farmer’s perspective, it’s a huge downer that the market collapsed at the end of February rather than early March.” Depending on the volatility of some factors included in the price guarantee calculations, lower guarantees could lead to lower premiums. ********************************************************************************************** U.K. won’t Budge on Agriculture in Upcoming Negotiations with the U.S. The United Kingdom officially published its objectives for the upcoming trade negotiations with the U.S. The announcement included an uncompromising stand on agriculture and food standards, two big sticking points that have slowed momentum for talks getting underway. Politico says the U.K. won’t compromise on its “high environmental protection, animal welfare, and food standards,” along with the drug pricing provisions that are all central to the negotiations. U.S. agriculture and trade officials had hoped that the U.K. would loosen up some of their strictest requirements after officially leaving the European Union in January. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture says it’s all for high standards for food safety and animal welfare and says U.S. producers already do so. NASDA CEO Barb Glenn says, “American farmers and ranchers produce the safest and highest-quality food that’s enjoyed by consumers across the world. We’re also doing it with fewer resources than ever.” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says the two biggest sticking points, which are agriculture and health care, shouldn’t stand in the way of reaching a deal in 2020. ********************************************************************************************** Protein Exports Piling up in U.S. Due to Coronavirus The spread of coronavirus is causing a glut of protein in U.S. cold-storage facilities. The Wall Street Journal says the protein backup includes pork, chicken, and beef intended for export to overseas markets that have been hit by the outbreak. The quantity of breasts, thigh meat, and drumsticks has grown by 12 percent through the first month of 2020, climbing to 957.5 million pounds, which is the highest level ever during January. The amount of pork in storage climbed 11 percent higher in January 2020 than it was at a year ago at the same time. Joe Sanderson of Sanderson Farms, Incorporated, says, “The cold storage facilities we deal with are all busting at the seams.” U.S. meatpackers have been counting on big orders coming in from China as trade tensions between the two countries eased. However, the coronavirus outbreak has put an unexpected dent in that hope. Huge numbers of people across China aren’t eating out, but rather are staying home, which in turn is slowing down meat consumption in China. That hurts the amount of demand for U.S. protein products. Government-mandated quarantines have created logistical snarls in transportation across China. “The ports are basically backed up,” says Tyson CEO Noel White. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Economy Barometer Hits All-Time High Producers’ perceptions of improved current conditions in the agricultural economy pushed the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer to a record high. The index rose to 168 in February, an increase of one point from January, and was 18 points higher than in December of 2019. This month’s increase came about largely because of the improvement in the Index of Current Conditions, which jumped 12 points higher in February to 154. The Index of Future Expectations dropped four points from January to finish at 175 in February. Producers who responded to the survey say they are more optimistic about current conditions on their farms and in U.S. agriculture. They retained most of the improvement in their future expectations we saw during January. The optimism is because of events like signing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as well as the Phase One trade deal with China. More than three-fourths of the respondents said signing those two agreements either “somewhat” or “completely” relieved their concerns about the effects of tariffs on their income. Just 17 percent of the respondents said, “not at all.” ********************************************************************************************** Administration will Defend CCC if Needed Retiring National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said over the weekend that he’s worried about the future of the Commodity Credit Corporation. Because of the Trump Administration’s unprecedented use of the CCC to provide trade aid to farmers, Johnson worries that conservative and left-leaning critics of farm bills will work together during the next farm bill debate to end the CCC. The administration says it will defend the Commodity Credit Corporation if there are future attempts to abolish it because of the administration’s use of it to provide trade aid to farmers. The Hagstrom Report asked Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue about Johnson’s fears, to which Perdue replied, “I would hope that’s not the case.” He says the administration used the CCC for a valid reason. “We are hopeful it won’t lead to that,” Perdue said after speaking to NFU members. “We will be willing to defend that.” The Trump Administration provided $28 billion in trade aid for farmers over two years, with the president tweeting recently that they would provide another round of aid if it becomes necessary this year. While Perdue says farmers shouldn’t plan on another round of trade aid, he also said the president is committed to getting farmers through this period. ********************************************************************************************** Study Shows Meat Demand Will Remain Strong in 2020 The Food Industry Association and the Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research, along with the North American Meat Institute Foundation, combined to produce their 15th-annual in-depth study of meat and poultry from the consumer’s perspective. “The Power of Meat 2020” takes a deep dive into consumption trends, sales growth, and consumer demand. The study finds demand for meat is accelerating with $50.5 billion worth of sales in 2019. The survey looked into consumer interest in topics like production claims and sustainability. 49 percent of the respondents believe animal agriculture doesn’t have negative effects on the environment if done properly. However, the younger generation does believe it has negative impacts, which means consumer education is vital. Meat department sales are strong in both dollars and volume, driven by beef and chicken along with increased household spending. 83 percent of the shoppers who responded say they purchase specific cuts of meat and they are eating smaller portions. However, with total volume sales up slightly, they’re actually eating less meat on a more regular basis.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Anti-Virus Efforts and Impacts The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates by half a percentage point in an attempt to give the U.S. economy “a jolt” in the face of concerns about the outbreak. In response, the markets which had anticipated interventions as early as Monday, continued mixed and moved lower on Tuesday in spite of the rate cut – the first unscheduled, emergency cut since 2008, and the biggest one-time cut since then. The new benchmark interest rate is 1% to 1.25%. To nobody’s surprise, President Donald Trump, who has long advocated lower rates, cheered the cut but called it “too small” and said the Fed needed to cut further. The market is also expecting future cuts, as early as the April Fed meeting, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. Chances that rates will be lowered by another quarter-percentage point next month were at around 50% after the cut announced Tuesday morning. "With financial markets in turmoil and evidence growing that the virus is developing into a pandemic, the Fed's recent change of heart is entirely understandable," wrote Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics. But the emergency cut also signals that the outlook for the U.S. economy might have been in more jeopardy than previously thought, the report said. The U.S. stock market struggled for direction as it balanced the economic stimulus of the rate cut with the statement the rate cut makes about the economy. On Monday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that global growth could be cut in half if the outbreak continues to spread. Many of the world's biggest companies, including Apple and Microsoft, have recently issued profit and sales warnings reflecting travel restrictions, factory closures and supply chain issues. Economists are also wondering how consumer behavior will change because of the outbreak, especially since consumers play such an important role in the U.S. economy. On Tuesday, Bloomberg released a more detailed description of coronavirus impacts on important upcoming economic indicators. The report used historical events as a starting point, from the SARS and MERS epidemics to natural disasters in the U.S. and Japan. In all cases, business conditions took months to return to normal, so even if the coronavirus is contained soon, it is likely to reverberate through data for some time. The report listed several “top indicators” to watch. These include jobless claims and notes that filings for unemployment are typically the first broad distress signal when the economy gets bruised. Claims have been hovering near a half-century low for the past year, but could rise as soon as Thursday’s weekly report, according to Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. If businesses see sustained virus impacts, “they may start adjusting their payrolls now,” said Ryan Sweet, head of monetary policy research at Moody’s Analytics. At the same time, it’s unclear if any employment changes will be big enough to show up in claims already according to Bank of America Corp.’s Michelle Meyer. Several firms have canceled conferences in the U.S., Bloomberg said, and restrictions on travel into the country – particularly from China – are likely to affect the data. Chinese tourists are the fifth-largest group to visit the U.S., with about 3 million visiting in 2018, Bloomberg said. The report also focuses on international trade and notes that preliminary figures already show declines in shipments in January, though some recovery was expected after the phase one deal was signed early this year. But shortly after that signing, Chinese officials began to seek flexibility on their pledges as the virus threatened the Asian nation’s economy. On Monday, a gauge of U.S. manufacturers’ imports plummeted to the lowest level since 2009 while another index reflected supply-chain disruptions. Look for trade impacts to also show in capital-goods orders and shipments, as well as greater volatility of import and export prices. While American consumers aren't yet rattled by two months of coronavirus headlines, Bloomberg expects that coming surveys, including its Comfort Index due Thursday, will more fully reflect reactions to the stock market plunge. In addition, consumers now must confront more U.S. outbreaks and warnings from agencies such as the CDC. Bloomberg also warns that the March report on retail sales may be disappointing, especially since consumer spending accounts for the majority of the economy and has driven growth for several quarters amid weakness in business investment. In addition, the Federal Reserve data later this month will give a more detailed view of how the virus rippled through U.S. factories in February. With orders weakening and supply chains gummed up, companies may be pausing investment to gauge consumer demand and clarity on the coronavirus fallout for the broader economy. Will these downward expectations come true? We will see. Clearly, the economic impacts of the outbreak are expected to be negative and significant, but the major government financial institutions around the globe appear to be committed to take significant steps to provide economic supports. The key questions now include how severe the outbreak will turn out to be and how effective governments’ efforts to provide protections turn out to be, developments producers should watch closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


Perdue Mulling Change In Crop Insurance Guarantees USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue told National Farmers Union conference attendees to look at markets to determine 2020 plantings, but added he was mulling adjusting crop insurance rates. Perdue also indicated farmers should not count on another round of trade aid payments even as President Donald Trump tweeted one would be offered if recent trade agreements with China, Japan and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) are not fully implemented. Perdue said he is looking at crop insurance guarantees that dropped for 2020 compared with 2019. “I am not sure whether we legally have the flexibility to adjust those or not, but that is one of the things we are looking at right now,” Perdue told reporters Monday in Georgia. “As prices have gone down the safety net has gone down as well,” he said. “That’s a serious consideration that we need to look at.” The 2020 corn crop insurance price is $3.88, down three percent from last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The soybean price of $9.17 per bushel is down nearly four percent from last year and the cotton price is 68 cents per pound, down seven percent from 2019.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


Lighthizer Insists Poultry Issue Will Not Thwart US-UK Trade Deal The use of chemical washes on U.S. poultry and Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) will not be issues that will prevent the U.S. and UK from reaching a trade deal, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in the UK Monday, according to news reports. “I do not think either of those are going to be what sinks us,” Lighthizer said, adding he belief the two sides can work things out on those issues. Talks are expected to start in the next few weeks. Lighthizer, speaking at the Oxford Union, said he believes the poultry issue “Is kind of a false problem.” He believes "Science-based standards, and then consumer preference – that is what is going to sort out this problem, and the United States and the UK are not going to go separate ways based on chicken.” On the phase-one agreement with China, Lighthizer said there was no reason why China will not meet their commitments spelled out in the deal provided the coronavirus does not provided a long-term negative impact to economic growth.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday's first report shows U.S. private sector employment from ADP at 7:15 a.m. CST, followed by weekly energy inventories from the U.S. Energy Department at 9:30 a.m. The Federal Reserve's Beige Book is due out at 1 p.m. CST. Traders remain interested in South American weather, any trade news and increasing coronavirus numbers. Weather Moderate to heavy rain is in store from central Texas eastward to Georgia Wednesday. The rain will produce saturated soils and bring on a threat of flooding along with severe storm potential. Other crop areas will be dry, with strong winds leading to high fire risk in the central Plains and southern Texas.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


NFU President Johnson Retires, Larew Elected National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson this week delivered his final address to the organization before retirement and the election of a new leader. After 11 years, Johnson announced his plans to retire in 2020. Delegates Monday elected Rob Larew to succeed Johnson as the organization’s president. Patty Edelburg, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, was reelected to serve a second term as vice president. Larew and Edelburg’s two-year terms begin today and will conclude at NFU’s 120th Anniversary Convention in 2022, at which point both may seek reelection Larew says, “I am so honored that the farmers and ranchers, rural Americans, and advocates who make National Farmers Union all that it is have entrusted me with this great responsibility.” Larew, who was raised on a West Virginia dairy farm, served as NFU's Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications since fall 2016. Prior to his employment with NFU, Larew served more than 22 years in Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. *************************************************************************************​ USTR: Trump Trade Agenda Creating “Blue Collar Boom” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says the Trump administration’s trade agenda is resulting in a “blue-collar boom.” In the Trade Policy Agenda and Annual Report delivered to Congress Friday, Lighthizer highlighted the trade accomplishments over the past year, including the signing of trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, China and Japan, as well as enforcement actions and efforts to bring change to the World Trade Organization. Going forward, the report states that President Donald Trump will “continue to rebalance America’s trade relationships” to benefit American workers, aggressively enforce U.S. trade laws, and take prompt action in response to unfair trade practices by other nations. Lighthizer says President Trump seeks new trade agreements with the United Kingdom, the European Union and Kenya, which would be the United States’ first free trade agreement in sub-Saharan Africa. The 2020 trade agenda also includes the enforcement of commitments by trading partners in trade agreements, including the USMCA, the China Phase One Agreement and WTO agreements. ************************************************************************************* China Calling ASF Vaccine Effective in Lab Test A research institute in China says it’s African swine fever vaccine is proving to be safe and effective. China’s Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, overseen by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, says the live vaccine with reduced virulence was created from a series of gene-deleted viruses using the country’s first African swine fever strain, according to Bloomberg News. The institute says the vaccine is “currently the most promising one for commercial production,” potentially providing prevention and control of African swine fever. Researchers in the United States earlier this year announced a separate vaccine that was 100 percent effective. However, development and availability to farmers are still years away. African swine fever is thought to have impacted 40 percent, or more, of China's hog herd. China is the world's largest pork consumer and producer. However, China is set to have a record number of pork imports this year, due to the virus. In February, Rabobank expected U.S. pork exports to remain strong because of African swine fever, and recent trade agreements. ************************************************************************************* USDA Announces Additional Disaster Assistance Signup The Department of Agriculture will open signup for disaster assistance on March 23 for producers to apply for eligible losses of drought and excess moisture. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the additional disaster assistance late last week. Through WHIP+, USDA is helping producers recover from losses related to 2018 and 2019 natural disasters. USDA is also entering into agreements with six sugar beet processing cooperatives to distribute $285 million to grower members of those cooperatives who experienced loss. Secretary Perdue says, "disaster events the past two years have been atypically widespread, relentless and unforgiving," adding "President Trump has the backs of our farmers, and we aim to support them as they recover." In June 2019, more than $3 billion was made available through a disaster relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. In December 2019, Congress passed, and President Trump signed the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 that provides an additional $1.5 billion for the continuation of disaster assistance program delivery. ************************************************************************************* Perdue Orders USDA Fleet Vehicles to Increase Biofuels Use Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week directed Department of Agriculture employees to acquire alternative fueled vehicles when replacing conventionally fueled vehicles. USDA owns and operates one of the largest civilian fleets in the Federal Government. Through the directive, USDA is moving to acquire E85- or biodiesel-capable vehicles that meet USDA mission requirements instead of those that take conventional gasoline. This will occur over time during the normal fleet renewal process. USDA currently has 37,000 vehicles and replaces approximately 3,000 every year. Additionally, USDA will make $100 million in grants available this year for the newly created Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. Through the program, biodiesel distribution facilities will be able to apply for grants to help install, retrofit or upgrade fuel storage and related infrastructure to sell ethanol and biodiesel. USDA plans to publish application deadlines and other program information in the Federal Register this spring. Secretary Perdue says both actions “underscore that USDA is putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to increased biofuels usage.” ************************************************************************************* Mid-Mississippi Delta River Region Potentially a “Next California” A report from the World Wildlife Fund details how the Mid-Mississippi Delta River Region could become the “Next California” of fruit and vegetable production because of climate change. The report, The Next California, Phase 1: Investigating Potential in the Mid-Mississippi Delta River Region, explores the viability of shifting some fruit and vegetable production to an area of the U.S. currently dominated by row crops. Findings show that while California will continue to be a key agricultural state, the mid-Mississippi Delta River region is well-positioned to supplement fruit and vegetable production, contributing to a more distributed and climate-resilient food system. Jason Clay, senior vice president of markets at the World Wildlife Fund, says, “A hotter and drier California, with more extreme weather events, is bad news for farmers,” adding, “We need a plan to mitigate risk and take some pressure off the state and its environment.” The report identifies several advantages to selecting the Delta region as a pilot for more intensive fruit and vegetable production. These include a long history of farming, the low cost of land and labor, fertile soils, abundant rain and surface water and economic benefits.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fighting the Coronavirus The Hill is reporting this week that lawmakers are racing to clinch a deal on emergency funding to combat the coronavirus as more cases, and the first deaths within the United States were reported over the weekend. The Dow showed signs of life Monday although analysts said that reflected expectations regarding Fed moves to cut interest rates, rather than an end to the threat. Now, the House is expected to vote on billions in funding this week, though negotiators have not yet finalized a deal. An important step that Congress must take is to ensure the government has the resources needed to “combat this deadly virus and keep Americans safe,” The Hill said. To that end, House appropriators are working to advance a strong emergency funding supplemental package that “fully addresses the scale and seriousness of this public health crisis, which we hope to bring to the Floor next week,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a “Dear Colleague” letter over the weekend. The administration requested $2.5 billion in funding, half of which would have been new funding, while the balance would have come from existing health programs, including $535 million from fighting Ebola. They’re likely to get double or triple that request, The Hill said. Negotiators are looking at providing between $6 billion and $8 billion, the report said. That’s below the $8.5 billion requested by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., but significantly more than the White House’s request — which even some Republicans characterized as too low. Pelosi added in her statement that the funding package had to be comprised of new funding and that there must be guardrails to ensure President Trump "cannot use these new funds for anything other than fighting coronavirus and infectious diseases." Lawmakers are hoping to have the package ready to move this week and face a tight timeline if they are going to get the bill passed by the House, Senate and to Trump’s desk before leaving for a weeklong recess on March 13. "I hope they can work expeditiously so the full Senate would be able to take up the legislation within the next two weeks — and that as we move forward through this challenge, this body can put reflexive partisanship aside and uphold the spirit of cooperation and collaboration this will require," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week. The press also is emphasizing the value of public information in the fight against the virus. For example, the Washington Post notes that the disease has now been detected in 40 countries—and that as the outbreak expands, most countries, including the United States “will have to switch from containment to mitigation as a priority.” The point of mitigation, as opposed to containment, is to reduce the effect of the outbreak rather than eliminating the virus. Protective public health tactics could include reducing mass gatherings, dismissing students from schools or closing them altogether for a while, and implementing “social distancing” measures — public health interventions with consequences for the livelihood and the well-being of the population. Past epidemics prove fighting coronavirus with travel bans is a mistake, the Post thinks. And, while the so-called nonpharmaceutical interventions — protective public health measures that do not involve drugs or vaccines — can be helpful, effective and long-term control of this virus will probably also require mass vaccination. For the current outbreak, at least 39 vaccine development programs are already underway, the Post says. “This early progress is due to advances in technology since previous large outbreaks.” For example, the technology for identifying vaccine targets on the virus is more advanced than it was when SARS broke out. Because of genetic similarities between COVID-19 and SARS, as well as advances in technologies for decoding viral genetic information, scientists were able to quickly create a genetic sequence useful for developing vaccines. Similarly, technological innovations such as using “messenger” RNA as a vaccine has sped up initial development of vaccines—but production likely is still at least a year away. Still, the biggest barrier to vaccine availability is not biological. It is the steps after a biological product is developed and tested in animals. Conducting human trials is an essential step in determining the efficacy and safety of vaccines before deploying them in the general population. The COVID-19 outbreak already is a multi-country emergency, the Post says. CDC’s characterization that it is inevitable that the virus will spread widely in the United States may very well be true. But the impact depends on how the nation mobilizes its response. So, we will see. Clearly the problem is far-reaching and will affect many aspects of our economic and social lives. Each step of the response will be critical and should be watched closely as the process evolves, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Signals Big Downturn In RFS Exemptions While EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told lawmakers last week he had no announcement to make on whether the agency would dramatically scale back its use of small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said at the Commodity Classic gathering the use of SREs would be declining. “I think you see will those waivers significantly reduced,” Perdue said. Wheeler will appear on the Hill this week and will be pressed again on the topic and perhaps even on his guidance that something would be announced by the agency “soon.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


UK Signals No Give On Food Standards In Negotiating Objectives With US The UK said it will not temper its environmental regulations nor would it lower its food standards as part of its negotiations on a trade deal with the U.S., according to negotiating objectives it released today. “The UK's independent food regulators will continue to ensure that all food imports into the UK comply with those high standards,” the objectives said. “Without exception, imports into the UK will meet our stringent food safety standards - all food imports into the UK must be safe and this will not change in any future agreement." Most in the U.S. have insisted that ag issues have to be addressed in negotiations with the UK, but the negotiating objectives indicate that will be a tall ask on the part of the U.S.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There are no significant reports on Tuesday's docket, but plenty of other factors to keep traders' attention. South American forecasts have new interest with chances for drier weather this week in southern Brazil and Argentina. March deliveries will be noticed as corn, soybeans and Chicago wheat have not seen any yet. And traders will continue to keep an eye out for any trade news. Weather Moderate to heavy rain is in store for the southeastern U.S. Tuesday, along with potential flooding. Other crop areas will be dry except for light snow crossing the northern areas

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


Oil Industry Pushing Back against Biofuel Decision A recent federal appeals court ruling last month tightened eligibility for ethanol blending waivers. As a result, the Trump administration is on track to stop approving so many waivers it had been handing out to oil refineries. It’s a major win for corn growers and biofuel producers. However, refiners and oil-state lawmakers are asking the president to step into the situation. Thirteen Republican senators sent the president a letter warning that the 10th Circuit Court decision if it’s applied nationally, would “jeopardize nearly all small refineries” and raise gasoline prices for U.S. drivers. They are asking Trump to file a petition for a rehearing and potentially seek a Supreme Court review of the decision. Politico says the White House has long been struggling to strike a balance between oil and agriculture in their standoff over the Renewable Fuels Standard. The January court decision made it more difficult for the president to find a compromise on an issue that has angered farmers more than any other administration policy, including the trade war. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the agency will be issuing guidance on the blending waivers within “days, not weeks.” ********************************************************************************************** Chicken Sandwiches Helping Get Through Poultry Glut in the U.S. U.S. chicken companies are running production at a high rate right now, sparking a glut of product on the market and sending prices for products like breast meat to record lows. Yahoo Finance says despite that, the industry might see a bright 2020 ahead. That’s thanks in part to the chicken sandwich craze that seems to be sweeping America’s fast-food restaurants. Joe Sanderson Jr. is CEO of Sanderson Farms, Incorporated. He says the “sandwich wars” among fast-food chains could end up being an unofficial “bailout” that the oversupplied U.S. poultry industry needs. As an example, Popeyes quickly ran out of its new chicken sandwiches when they were first launched nationwide last August. Even though the overall poultry industry faces a glut, supplies of the smaller chickens, between four and five pounds, is running short. Poultry buyers are turning to processors like Sanderson Farms to take larger portions and cut them down to sandwich size. U.S. chicken farmers continue to produce more meat. Egg sets and chick placements are trending four percent higher than last year. The USDA the poultry industry set to produce a record 45.3 billion pounds of broiler meat this year. ********************************************************************************************** EU Continues to Say No to Ag in Trade Talks with the U.S. A top European Union trade official says Europe seriously wants a trade agreement with the United States. However, EU political leaders still won’t negotiate on significant agricultural policies. Bernd (Burned) Lange is chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade. He was in Washington, D.C. last week to talk to lawmakers and Trump administration officials. Reporters continued to question him about the U.S. demands that the EU reduce its ag tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. farm commodities. “On agriculture, everyone knows that this is not possible,” Lange says. Lange was in the nation’s capital to try and kickstart the stalled trade talks. While visiting with staff in Senator Chuck Grassley’s office, the staff members told Lange that “agriculture should be in any deal.” Lange’s response was a simple one; “it’s not possible.” An Agri-Pulse report says that is the opposite of what EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan had said in a recent visit to the U.S. Hogan had told reporters that Europe was considering taking a more flexible approach on its refusal to include agriculture in trade talks with the U.S. The EU will soon be busy as formal trade talks with the United Kingdom are set to begin on today (Monday). ********************************************************************************************** Farm Bureau Takes Lead on Mental Health Campaign Bayer and the American Farm Bureau announced that the “Farm State of Mind” campaign, initiated by Bayer, will be transferring over to the Farm Bureau. The campaign is designed to help take away some of the stigmas on the topic of mental health in rural communities, as well as provide relevant information to farm families on this important topic. Farm Bureau is planning to combine the Farm State of Mind assets with those of its ongoing Rural Resilience campaign, expanding the reach and effectiveness of its rural mental health initiatives. Lisa Safarian, President of Bayer Crop Science, says, “We quickly realized this issue is much bigger than any one single company and no group is better positioned than Farm Bureau to take the lead on this campaign to help realize its full potential.” Bayer says transitioning this program to an organization as trusted as Farm Bureau will greatly help to expand its reach and effectiveness among farmers. “As a third-generation farmer, I’m familiar with the stress of farm life,” says Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, “and have heard a lot of heartbreaking stories as I travel around the country.” Complicating the issue is the fact that many farmers are reluctant to talk about the effect of stress or seek help in dealing with it. “We’re excited to be able to expand our impact by growing this campaign to connect even more farmers and ranchers with the resources they need,” Duvall adds. ********************************************************************************************** New Stewardship Network Celebrates Conservation in Agriculture The National Corn Growers Association and the Environmental Defense Fund launched the Success in Stewardship Network at the Commodity Classic. The network will celebrate and accelerate the use of agricultural conservation practices on U.S. corn farms. The network will showcase success stories from the many farmers and state-level programs putting stewardship into practice to build an ever-growing network of corn farmers who are also conservation leaders. The NCGA and the EDG recognized the Minnesota Corn Innovation Grant Program, as well as the Illinois Corn Precision Conservation Management Program, for their farmer-supported efforts to deliver clean water, healthy soils, and farm profitability. Callie Eideberg, director of agricultural policy and special projects with EDF, says, “The Success in Stewardship Network will break down the notion that conservation is only for an elite group of farmers. Practices that protect the land and water and increase climate resilience are more prevalent than many people think.” Both organizations say the new network will bring farmers and agricultural organizations together to continue making conservation more commonplace.” ********************************************************************************************** USDA Offering New Hurricane Insurance Endorsement for Crop Year 2020 The USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced it will be offering a new crop insurance endorsement, called the Hurricane Insurance Protection – Wind Index, during 2020. The new endorsement covers a portion of the deductible of the underlying crop insurance policy when a county, or adjacent county, is within the area of sustained hurricane-force winds. The coverage provided by HIP-WI can be combined with the Supplemental Coverage Option and the Stacked Income Protection Plan when acreage is also insured by a companion policy. “Hurricane season will be upon us before we know it,” says RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “This new hurricane endorsement provides some added protection for producers along the Gulf and east coasts, as well as Hawaii. The past couple of hurricane seasons have taught us that more coverage is needed in these areas and that prompt payment for losses is important, not only for the impacted producers but also for these rural communities.” The new endorsement provides coverage for 70 different crops and is available in counties in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, as well as Hawaii. The deadline to purchase HIP-WI coverage for the 2020 crop year is April 30.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Central Bankers Struggle to Find Tools Most of the media are totally focused on the coronavirus and its implications early and late which includes the potential political impacts. Naturally, these are as polarized as everything else, or more. For example, the Washington Post said that as “markets continued their dizzying downward spiral and other countries took strong measures to fight the outbreak the administration appeared to downplay the increasingly visible impacts and their potential for the future,” part of which Vice President Mike Pence blamed on “politics.” He said that “Politics is fine, but when it comes time to talk about pandemics you’ve got to get away from politics.” Critics responded, “If only he could heed his own advice.” The Post said that while President Donald Trump is calling on the Fed to cut interest rates “Fed officials and their global counterparts are staring down an economic threat unlike any they have ever faced.” Markets are looking to them to contain the fallout from a rapidly spreading virus “with limited ammunition and tools ill-suited to deal with broken supply chains and quarantined consumers.” The New York Times reminded that “rates are historically low across advanced economies,” and it is unclear whether monetary policy is the ammunition needed to fight this particular type of economic threat, at least at the outset. Policymakers cut rates to ward off an economic downturn — or contain one that has already arrived—by making it cheaper to borrow money to prod the economy. “We would rather have a vaccine than a rate cut and fully recognize that monetary policy is not optimized for addressing this type of shock,” Krishna Guha and Ernie Tedeschi of Evercore wrote to clients. America’s economy is particularly susceptible to the threat posed by coronavirus, given that growth has largely been powered by consumer spending. Long-lasting quarantines could keep shoppers at home while fear of infection could prevent even those not quarantined from venturing out—shocks that might be particularly dire for small businesses that do not have big cash cushions: A few weeks of depressed sales can push them to the edge of ruin. And if companies close or downsize and jobs are lost, consumer spending would suffer even more. Despite those threats, economists say that pre-emptive interest rate cuts might still be of some help. Cuts — or even hints that they are coming — can help calm markets and keep credit flowing. If it seems that the coronavirus is going to have longer-lasting effects on consumer and business spending, lower borrowing costs can offer some reprieve by stoking demand. The U.S. central bank is in a better starting position than many of its peers, the Times says. It managed to lift rates amid a stronger recovery and borrowing costs are now set in a range of 1.5% to 1.75%. But it too has far less room to cut than before the Great Recession when it slashed rates to near zero from above 5%. Because no one knows how bad the epidemic will get, it is unclear how much stimulus will be needed — which is part of the reason this is such uncertain territory for the Fed and other central banks. If contained quickly, the coronavirus could deal a short-term blow to growth and economies could quickly snap back. But the chances of a painful slump are rising as the virus spreads. Forecasters have cut economic growth estimates in the United States and globally though the projections vary widely as economists struggle to predict the virus’s trajectory and the resulting damage. Bank of America researchers reduced their forecast for 2020 growth in the United States by 0.1% on Friday, to 1.6% overall. Other vulnerabilities also exist. Corporations owed $13.5 trillion to bond holders at the end of 2019, an all-time high. Half of the corporate bonds issued last year were rated just one notch above junk. If debt-laden companies fail to keep up with payments amid supply chain shutdowns and work closings, they could default, handing big losses to the investors backing the loans and rippling through the financial system in unexpected ways. Still, the Fed has other tools at its disposal should the financial system run into trouble: It can keep dollars flowing internationally and provide loans to banks through the so-called discount window, which can help to relieve any short-term shortage of funds among commercial banks. Whether fiscal policy can be more effective depends on how the economy reacts. For now, the best thing policymakers can do is stem the flow of infection with an effective public health response, economists say. But if that fails, fiscal policy could be more adept at targeting assistance to the places that need it—helping vulnerable businesses by issuing low-cost loans or other types of financing or directing funds to communities struggling in the wake of the virus. Trump said on Saturday that there were no plans for an immediate fiscal response. So, we will see. Clearly, there are several important steps government and bank officials need to take to deal with the current crisis — which continues to be a significant threat across the economy. Certainly, these difficult decisions and actions should be watched closely by producers as they evolve, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


USDA Announces Hurricane Crop Insurance Option A new crop insurance endorsement, Hurricane Insurance Protection – Wind Index (HIP-WI), has been announced by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). HIP-WI covers a portion of the deductible of the underlying crop insurance policy when a county, or county adjacent, is within the area of sustained hurricane-force winds. HIP-WI provides coverage for 70 different crops and is available in counties in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, as well as Hawaii. The coverage provided by HIP-WI can be combined with the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) when acreage is also insured by a companion policy.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


USDA Sets Signup for Additional WHIP+ Benefits USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will open signup on March 23 for producers to apply for eligible losses of drought (D3 or above) and excess moisture under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). USDA also said it was entering into agreements with six sugar beet processing cooperatives to distribute $285 million to grower members of those cooperatives who experienced loss. In June 2019, more than $3 billion was made available through a disaster relief package passed by Congress. The Appropriations bill expands WHIP+ to include assistance for crop quality loss. FSA is gathering data and input from producers and stakeholders regarding the extent and types of quality loss nationwide. To be eligible for WHIP+, producers must have suffered losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only) for the following named natural disaster events: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, wildfires, and now excessive moisture that occurred in 2018 or 2019. Also, losses located in a county not designated by the Secretary as a primary county may be eligible if the producer provides documentation showing that the loss was due to a qualifying natural disaster event.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets While Monday economic reports feature both manufacturing indices and construction spending, which could be key, we will be watching for any new developments regarding coronavirus, and any news regarding China's implementation of duty--free import licenses for U.S. ag products. South American weather will also be important to watch Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for the eastern Midwest and Delta Monday, keeping soils wet and delaying field work. We'll also see light snow in the central Plains, with dry conditions elsewhere. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal, offering snowpack melting in northern areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


EPA Set to Back Down on Ethanol Waivers The Environmental Protection Agency is backing down on its extensive use of blending exemptions for smaller oil refiners. A Reuters report says the decision comes after last month’s 10th ​Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that vacated three existing waivers and set stricter requirements for exempting refineries from their obligations under the Renewable Fuels Standard. It’s been well-documented that the EPA drastically ramped up its use of refinery waivers under President Donald Trump. That sparked a fierce backlash from farmers who have largely supported the president despite policies like trade tariffs that have hit the U.S. agricultural sector hard. The White House has been struggling to find a compromise between oil and agriculture, two of the bigger pieces of Trump’s political base as he looks toward possible re-election. The court decision from January found that only small oil refineries that had maintained blending exemptions continuously since 2011 were eligible to apply for extended waivers. Oil and biofuel industry estimates both say that could preclude all but three oil refineries from obtaining exemptions. The EPA is currently reviewing 23 petitions for blending waivers and most are expected to be rejected. ********************************************************************************************** Committee Hearing Highlights Differences over Trade Policies and Aid At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, the split between farmers and lawmakers over the trade policies of President Trump was a big topic of conversation. Another big topic of discussion included the impact of the Phase One trade deal with China. An Agri-Pulse report describes Republicans on the committee as playing down the overall impact of the trade war and saying the trade agreement with China was a “major success.” Democrats pointed out that tariffs are continuing to restrict trade. Both sides of the political aisle said Trump’s duties on imports and the resulting retaliatory tariffs hurt the U.S. agricultural sector. Some people at the hearing were optimistic that China would follow through on its promise to purchase $80 billion worth of farm products over the next two years. Others weren’t convinced and said billions more in government assistance may be needed to further blunt the damage from a continuing loss of overseas exports. Minnesota farmer Tim DuFault was one of the witnesses at the committee hearing and said, “As far as the Phase One deal goes, the purchases that haven’t yet materialized are a promise, while the tariffs are for real. Commodity prices, which plummeted when the trade war began, have actually fallen further after the U.S. and China signed the phase one deal.” ********************************************************************************************** Hemp Growers Get Good News The Drug Enforcement Agency says it won’t require all labs testing the THC levels of U.S. hemp to be certified by the agency during the 2020 crop year. Politico says that offers producers a little more flexibility because it will alleviate potential bottlenecks at the more limited number of labs that have the certification. Greg Ibach (EYE-baw), the Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, first announced the change during remarks given to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The department is also planning to give states more options for disposing of “hot hemp,” which are plants with THC levels above 0.3 percent, which is the legal threshold. When the department first released its initial regulatory framework for hemp production, farmers and state regulators pointed out that some states don’t have a single lab certified by the DEA, such as Alabama. That would greatly slow down testing, which is required to happen during a 15-day window before harvest. Delays would eventually threaten the market viability of the crop. ********************************************************************************************** Consumers will Stop Buying Pork if AFS Hits the U.S. Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board, says the results of consumer research have amplified the need to promote safety in the event of a large foreign animal disease outbreak. Swine Web Dot Com says at the onset of the African Swine Fever crisis in 2018, the checkoff polled consumers about their perceptions of the safety of pork. After giving consumers more information about how it’s a viral disease in pigs, not humans, and telling them it’s not a public health threat, more than half of the consumers who responded to the checkoff survey say they would stop eating pork if ASF was found in the U.S. Consumers wondered in the event of an outbreak if the public “should be eating pork.” Others asked if it should still be for sale in the store in the event of an ASF outbreak. Hispanic respondents, who tend to eat more pork than other consumer demographics, had even more concern about the ability to have pork on the shelves that’s safe for consumers to eat. Even says the checkoff, along with partners like USDA, has developed video resources for consumers that are available in case there is a disease outbreak. “Rest assured, there will be millions of dollars at the ready should we have an event occur around a foreign animal disease,” Even says. ********************************************************************************************** Fertilizer Price Volatility Began in 2002 Fertilizers are important for the nutrients they provide in the production of crops. However, their prices have been more volatile in the last six years than ever before. From 1960 through 2002, both fertilizer and crop prices received by farmers increased in tandem at a fairly modest rate. Between 2002 and 2008, annual fertilizer prices paid by farmers increased rapidly, generally at a much faster rate than the prices farmers were paid for their crops. Fertilizer prices also became more volatile over those six years. Fertilizer price increases through 2008 were largely driven by high energy prices and the record costs of natural gas, which is a basic input in producing nitrogen. In response to record fertilizer prices in 2008, farmers reduced their use of fertilizers, contributing to a decline of 18 percent in fertilizer prices through 2010. Fertilizer prices recovered through 2012, driven by strong domestic demand for plant nutrients due to high crop prices, before declining afterward. Since June of 2017, fertilizer prices and crop prices received have both trended upwards. ********************************************************************************************** Maine Representative Introduces the Ag Resilience Act Maine Representative Chellie Pingree introduced what she calls the “Ag Resilience Act,” which she says would promote “farmer-driven climate solutions.” The bill envisions reaching a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by the year 2040. “Farming has always been a risky business, but unpredictable, extreme weather patterns are creating immense challenges that threaten our nation’s food production and jeopardize the livelihood of American farmers,” Pingree says. The Maine Rep has been an organic farmer for more than 40 years. “Last year, farmers were unable to plant 19.6 million acres of crops due to record-breaking rainfall,” she says. “We must be proactive to keep farmers on the land and in business.” The bill contains provisions for increasing agricultural research, improving soil health, and protecting farmland by increasing funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program and the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program. The bill was endorsed by the National Farmers Union, the American Farmland Trust, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Digital Tax Problem While everybody seems to be aware of the viral threat these days, not all media are focused there exclusively. Bloomberg says a possible fight over the right to tax some of the world’s most profitable companies could become a multifront trade war – no matter who the next president is. In fact, either party might be tempted to continue to pursue “a policy of retaliation” against foreigners who impose new taxes on U.S. tech companies, the report says. A tit-for-tat trade fight already is building with France, which passed a 3% tax on large tech companies that went into effect at the start of 2019. The U.S. responded with the threat of tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of French cheese, sparkling wine and makeup, prompting the EU to consider tariffs on U.S. goods. All sides have now agreed to a tax cease-fire until the end of the year to see if a broader global agreement can be worked out. “Democrats have been as opposed to the digital services taxes as Republicans,” Brian Jenn, a former Treasury official said. “While very few Democrats are tariff fans, it looks like the tariff approach at least bought a temporary victory in the case of France.” The U.S., along with more than 130 countries, is currently negotiating at the OECD about a new international tax system that would redefine which countries can tax which corporate profits. A revamped global tax code could apply not just to tech companies but also to other multinational firms that have customers in countries where they don’t currently record profits. Bloomberg says that negotiators need to reach an agreement this year before several countries--including France, Canada and Italy--plan to move forward with their own taxes on tech giants. A retaliatory tariff fight with the UK could begin even sooner since its version of the tax is set to go into effect in April and U.S. officials are considering responding with tariffs on car exports. That could be a “worst case” scenario for companies such as Amazon.com Inc. that could end up paying taxes to several countries on the same income. And they have reason to worry--it’s far from certain that there will be a deal ahead of this year’s deadline, Bloomberg says. “I’m very skeptical that the U.S. will agree to this proposal by the end of this year – or ever,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Without a deal “interesting enough” to keep the parties at the negotiating table, U.S. companies could face taxes from perhaps a dozen countries that have proposed the idea, causing either a Republican or a Democratic administration to fend off levies on revenues that the U.S. views as within its right to tax, Bloomberg said. “There aren’t a lot of other tools in the toolbox to address unilateral taxes in a meaningful way,” Jenn said. He served as a U.S. delegate to the OECD and is now a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery. The negotiations are centered around two main points: establishing a global minimum tax so companies can’t avoid taxes entirely, as well as reallocating taxing rights, meaning some countries with many customers or users of a digital service could push for taxes on some of the profits even if the company doesn’t have business operations there. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said after a G-20 Finance Ministers meeting in Saudi Arabia that there’s “pretty much consensus” about the minimum tax. The point of contention is reallocating taxing rights, which the U.S. wants to be optional for companies. The OECD plan “is structured so that those companies would pay more tax abroad, regardless of U.S. tax policy,” Daniel Bunn, vice president of global projects at the Tax Foundation, said. And, it’s still not clear how the U.S. would fare under the global approach—since it could “lose the right to tax some profits from highly profitable technology and pharmaceutical companies, but gain some of that back from foreign companies that have lots of U.S. customers, including French luxury brand conglomerates or German carmaker Mercedes-Benz AG. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said this month he approves of the OECD efforts, even though it would increase his company’s overall tax bill, because it would create a “stable and reliable system going forward.” So, we will see. It now seems clear that world commerce will be changed after the coronavirus threat ends, but there is not yet any indication of what those shifts may be. The threat of additional taxes seems real, but so does the threat of damaging instability. These are trends that should be watched closely as they continue to emerge in today’s hyper-political world, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


USDA Official Says Growers Will Not Be Required To Test Hemp Crop at DEA Labs For 2020 Crop Year Growers will not be required to have their hemp crops for the 2020 crop year to be tested at Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) certified labs, according to USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Affairs Greg Ibach. "DEA will still expect states to work with their labs to try and achieve certification for the 2021 crop year. But for the 2020 crop year, we are not going to require all those labs to through DEA certification,” he told members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The issue of testing the crop and what producers would be required to do with a “hot” crop – one that is above the 0.3% maximum for THC – remain a key issue for the industry moving forward.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


EPA Chief Pledges Word ‘Soon’ on Small Refinery Waivers Decision EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler would not confirm to lawmakers that reports the agency would dramatically scale back its use of small refinery exemptions (SREs) were on the mark, only offering that they would announce the decision “soon.” Wheeler insisted to lawmakers EPA officials were still discussing the situation with the Department of Justice and the White House relative to the 10th Circuit Court decision, which ruled EPA overstepped its bounds on three SREs granted for the 2016 compliance year. “We are working with the Department of Justice and closely looking at that as well as other court decisions” relative to the RFS. “It is a very litigated area,” he added. Even though several lawmakers sought Wheeler’s comments on the SRE decision, Wheeler would only pledge that the agency will be issuing guidance relative to the court ruling and said that guidance would be coming “soon.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Among reports early on Friday are personal income, consumer spending and core inflation. DTN will be watching closely for any news regarding the coronavirus (Covid-19), Chinese buying interest and weather in South America. Weather Light snow today and Friday for northern areas of the western Midwest, mostly dry Saturday. A band of moderate snow Saturday night into Sunday likely over southern Minnesota. Moderate rain developing over southern Missouri into Monday. The eastern Midwest to see rain, snow and freezing rain changing to mostly snow tonight. Some moderate snow over Ohio on Friday. Some light snow on Saturday. Moderate snow Wisconsin into Michigan and light to moderate snow south on Sunday. Showers drying out on Monday. Central and Southern Plains to be mostly dry today, some light in Colorado/western Kansas Friday. Mostly dry Saturday. Some rain shower activity east Saturday night/Sunday, mostly south/east Texas Monday.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


Deadline for CRP Signup is Friday The deadline to get involved in the Conservation Reserve Program is this Friday, February 28. Agricultural producers and private landowners need to make an offer of acres or schedule an appointment to do so with their local USDA service center by Friday. The signup first opened in December and is available to producers and private landowners who are either offering acres for the first time or re-offering acres for another 10-15 year term in the Farm Service Agency’s conservation program. “Call your FSA county office today to make an appointment to sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “As long as you have an appointment scheduled, your CRP offer will be able to compete in this general signup, even if the appointment is in the first week of March. This is the first opportunity for general signup since 2016 and we want to make sure interested producers and landowners take advantage of the popular conservation program.” Farmers and ranchers who enroll land in CRP receive yearly rental payments for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, which are called “covers.” CRP currently has about 22 million acres enrolled, but the fiscal cap for 2020 is 24.5 million acres. ********************************************************************************************** Agriculture Still Slowing Pace of EU, U.S. Trade Talks U.S. President Donald Trump is turning up the heat on Brussels when it comes to trade discussions. He’s set on taking down some trade barriers to so-called “chlorine chicken,” GMO crops, and other U.S. products that don’t fit into the EU’s strict food safety standards. The two sides are still stuck on agriculture, which isn’t helping the talks that have struggled to get off the ground since 2018. Each side has been talking up the potential of a deal ahead in the coming weeks or months. EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has said recently he’s aiming for a mini agreement as soon as March 18. U.S. officials have long been unhappy with the EU policy that tightly controls agricultural tools like pesticides. Hogan notes that U.S. rules currently block sales of European apples and pears, so there is an opening for regulatory tradeoffs on both sides of the Atlantic. Politico says the U.S., is an agricultural powerhouse that has seen its share of the EU market shrink steadily for decades. The trade deficit with Europe topped $2 billion in 1989 and evolved into a $15 billion deficit in 2019. ********************************************************************************************** Trump Leaves India without a New Trade Deal President Trump is leaving India without the trade deal in place he was hoping for. The U.S. president was looking to expand access to the massive market for U.S. dairy goods and other products like motorcycles and medical devices. India currently has tariffs on American farm goods at an average rate of 32.8 percent. As if that’s not high enough, India has 100 percent tariffs on raisins and coffee, as well as 150 percent on alcoholic beverages. For the second time since last September, when India’s prime minister visited the U.S., the two sides failed to reach even a limited “mini-trade deal,” which would increase trade on focused groups of goods, which would include dairy products. The New York Times says negotiators have worked since 2018 on a deal that would lower India’s barriers to some American products, as well as restore India’s access to a program that allows goods to enter the U.S. tariff-free. The U.S. India Business Council released a statement that says,” Both sides are tuned into their own political imperatives and not where the other side might have an area of accommodation. That makes it harder to find where the common ground is and where a deal could be struck.” ********************************************************************************************** Wisconsin Representative Asks Perdue for More Certainty Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind fired off a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue demanding more information after the Secretary and the President brought up the possibility of more trade aid for farmers. Perdue had recently told farmers “not to anticipate” more aid in 2020, but Kind points out that the purchases promised in the trade deal with China have not materialized yet. The president says the trade aid would be paid for by tariffs the Administration has slapped on imported goods. However, Kind says that’s a tax actually paid for by working families. Because the purchases outlined in the Phase One trade deal haven’t happened yet, the Wisconsin Representative is pushing for a clear plan from the Ag Department on how they will enforce China’s commitments and ensure farmers “see the proof” of these purchases as promised. “Farmers in Wisconsin have been forced to bear the burden of this Administration’s trade war for nearly two years,” Kind says in the letter. “This deal was supposed to bring them some much-needed relief but instead, the secretary and the president continue to create more uncertainty.” Kind says he’s consistently expressed concerns that the agreement wasn’t fully binding like a more traditional trade agreement. ********************************************************************************************** Commodity Experts Worried About the Coronavirus Commodity experts at the International Sweetener Colloquium say announcements on the spread of the coronavirus and the falling stock market are making them nervous about the future. The director of dairy market intelligence for High Ground Dairy says fear is gripping the entire supply chain. While dairy prices have risen recently after multiple bad years, the coronavirus could pull dairy prices lower. That means price forecasting in any agricultural sector is extremely difficult. Stephen Nicholson is a senior analyst for Rabo AgriFinance, who says, “We have to be ready for more volatility as we see trade disrupted. We’re going to see economic activity contract and there may be a little more downside than we’d thought.” He’s not in the same camp as those who are sure that the Chinese will fulfill their promises to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in agricultural products. Nicholson says commodity prices are low, which means China will have to buy a lot of products to spend that much money. The Hagstrom Report quotes Nicholson as saying the Trump Administration will have to make a “tough decision on whether to punish China if they don’t live up to their promises.” ********************************************************************************************** Wisconsin Senator Working to Slow the Tide of Dairy Bankruptcies Wisconsin is currently leading the nation in farm bankruptcies, a position that no one wants to be in. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is working to give flexibility to local banks and credit unions to help fight the surging number of farm bankruptcies. Local financial institutions like banks and credit unions are restricted in their regulatory lending ability to farmers, even though they are uniquely positioned to help farmers get the loans they need to get by. In a letter to financial regulators, Baldwin and John Thune from South Dakota are urging the federal government to give those local banks and credit unions the flexibility they need to help farmers navigate through these tough economic conditions. Baldwin says, “We’re calling on the federal government to lift the regulatory restrictions on local financial institutions to ensure our farmers have the tools to be successful and move our state forward.” Baldwin and Thune sent their letter to financial regulators from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the National Credit Union Administration.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Coronavirus Pressure on the Fed The key issue in the media this week is the spread of the coronavirus and its impact. The question of what the central banks and other will do in response is also “a dire challenge,” The Hill says this week. Pressure is building on the Fed to cut interest rates as it struggles to both keep the economy stable and defend its independence from the President’s pressure. The Fed earlier indicated a desire to keep interest rates steady this election year after navigating both a trade war and a global downturn in 2019, The Hill says. But, even as bank officials say it is too soon to react to the outbreak, “that stance is being put to the test.” U.S. financial markets are now betting on an interest rate cut after this week’s Wall Street losses obliterated six weeks of stock gains as coronavirus fears intensified. Tuesday’s 3.2% plunge followed a Monday loss of 1,031 points, or 3.6%, its worst day since February 2018. The stretch of losses could extend further as worries about the coronavirus fester continue the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday. “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when — and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” said Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.” The warning from federal health officials spurred further alarm among investors as expectations of a Fed rate cut in March rose to 27.7% Tuesday from just 11.1% a week ago, according to investment firm CME Group. Fed officials have been reluctant to cut rates further after slashing borrowing costs three times last year, bringing the central bank’s baseline range to just 1.5% to 1.75%. With rates so close to an effective rate of zero percent, economists fear that a minor reduction would do little to handle a global supply shortfall and cost the Fed crucial room to cut rates in the event of a crisis. “They won’t want to cut rates too soon and then immediately see the pace of new infections quickly diminish and an inventory correction occur suddenly, wrote University of Oregon economic professor Tim Duy in a Tuesday analysis. Several members of the Federal Open Markets Committee, which sets Fed interest rates, have spoken out against cutting over the past four days. The Fed held rates steady at its January meeting and had expected to maintain that stance. Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said in a Tuesday speech that “it is still too soon” to gauge the potential economic impact the outbreak could have on the U.S., adding that the Fed will “respond accordingly” to “a material reassessment of our outlook.” Clarida’s comments echoed similar remarks from several Federal Reserve Bank presidents — including Loretta Mester of Cleveland, Raphael Bostic of Atlanta and James Bullard of St. Louis — who played down the need for a March rate cut over the past few days. But the economic toll of a prolonged outbreak also would likely raise the President’s ire as he seeks reelection on the strength of the economy. He and his top officials who regularly pressure the Fed to cut rates amid stock downturns have tried to soothe the fears of a pandemic driving Wall Street’s losses. “We have very few people with it,” the President told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, saying it was “well under control” in the U.S. “The people are getting better. They’re all getting better,” Other officials agreed despite warnings from CDC officials. Economists at Goldman Sachs warned last week that the coronavirus could cause a stock market correction, which is considered a 10% decline from the most recent peak, before the weekend’s sharp increase in infections. The President often ties the success of his economic agenda to the rise of the stock market while blaming the Fed for even minor downturns. The president has piled unprecedented pressure on the Fed and its chairman, Jerome Powell, to pump a steady economy with crisis-level stimulus. “When Jerome Powell started his testimony recently the Dow was up 125, & heading higher. As he spoke it drifted steadily downward, as usual. Germany & other countries get paid to borrow money. We are more prime, but the Fed Rate is too high, Dollar tough on exports,” the President tweeted earlier as Powell testified before a House committee. The Fed has largely ignored the President’s pressure and took great pains to distance its three 2019 rate cuts from any political considerations. But the President’s pressure is likely to intensify if the markets continue their weakness, The Hill said. “A Fed rate cut will bolster financial conditions but it will take months to filter through to the real economy,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at U.S. tax and audit firm RSM on Tuesday. Brusuelas warned that if the coronavirus outbreak slumps the U.S. economy, it could take a special lending facility from the Fed and fiscal action from Congress to counter the damage. “The agencies that could help like the [Small Business Administration] need to be mobilized now and additional trade finance will need to be considered,” he said. So, we will see. The situation appears to be highly complex and challenging, and there is the potential for destabilization if inappropriate policies are applied. It certainly is one producers should watch closely as it continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


USDA Sees Continued Tame Grocery Store Food Price Inflation Ahead Food at home (grocery store) prices are seen increasing from 0.5% to 1.5% in 2020, in line with the 2019 increase of 0.9% and a forecast that would continue the trend of grocery store prices rising less than one percent that has been in place since 2016, according to USDA. 2015 was the last time that grocery prices rose more than 1% with an increase of 1.2%. Still, the result remains well below the 20-year average of 2%. USDA also recalculated the 20-year averages for food items to include the 2019 data, with nine categories seeing a decrease in their averages (beef and veal, fish and seafood, eggs, dairy products, fats and oils, fruits and vegetables, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh fruits, and other foods) while four saw increases (food away from home, pork, fresh vegetables, and sugars and sweets). Food away from home (restaurant) prices have continued to see strong increases as they contain several other cost factors not included in grocery store prices such labor and rental prices with food making up only a small percentage of total restaurant costs.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


Report says EPA to Extend Court Ruling on RFS Waivers Nationwide The Trump administration has decided to limit the small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) based on a January court ruling that EPA overstepped its bounds in granting three SREs for the 2016 compliance year. EPA is now expected to apply the ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals nationwide, Bloomberg reported, citing sources familiar with the internal discussions. This would mean that only a few small refiners would be granted the exemptions as the court ruling indicated that EPA erred in granting the waivers as they were not extensions of waivers that had been granted in 2010. EPA data showed a sizable increase in the level of SRES granted starting with the 2016 compliance year. EPA data posted showed that the agency approved eight out of the 16 SREs sought for the 2013 compliance year, eight of 13 sought for the 2014 compliance year and seven of 14 sought for the 2015 compliance year.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday's schedule of events will look familiar to long-time market watchers: USDA export sales, weekly U.S. jobless claims and a new U.S. Drought Monitor at 7:30 a.m. CST. Also at 7:30 a.m., fourth quarter U.S. GDP and advanced durable goods in January will be posted. The U.S. Energy Department will provide natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. CST. South American weather and any trade news also remain of interest. Weather A little light snow in the Northern Plains and lighter lake-effect snow in the eastern Midwest, otherwise it will be rather quiet over the major crop areas on Thursday. Warming conditions over the next several days will help with snowmelt and soil drainage.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


Progress on Implementing the Phase One Trade Deal with China Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that China has taken numerous actions to begin implementing its agriculture-related commitments in the Phase One trade deal. The countries first entered into the landmark agreement back on February 14. China’s actions toward implementing the deal include signing a protocol that allows the importation of U.S. fresh chipping potatoes. They’ve lifted the ban on imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products, including pet food containing poultry products. China has lifted restrictions on imports of U.S. pet food that contains ruminant material. They’ve also updated lists of facilities approved for exporting animal protein, pet food, dairy infant formula, and tallow for industry use to China. The Chinese government has also updated the lists of products that can be exported to China as feed additives. Additionally, China has begun announcing tariff exclusions for imports of U.S. agricultural products subject to its retaliatory tariffs, and it announced a reduction in retaliatory tariff rates on certain U.S. agricultural goods. Lighthizer says, “We’re already seeing positive results just a month after signing the agreement with China. We will continue to ensure the agreement is strictly enforced for the benefit of our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.” ********************************************************************************************** Wheat Exports Set to Rise Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue had good news for U.S. wheat farmers. Effective immediately, U.S. wheat can now be shipped to Kenya regardless of the state of origin or which port of export it comes from. This important step means that Idaho, Oregon, and Washington can now join the list of states that can ship wheat to Kenya. “America’s farmers in the Pacific Northwest now have full access to the Kenyan wheat market,” says Greg Ibach (EYE-baw), USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “This action proves our commitment to securing fair treatment and greater access for U.S. products in the global marketplace.” The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has been working closely with Kenya for 12 years to address plant health concerns that kept U.S. wheat exports from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, out of Kenya. The export protocol signed off on by Kenya’s Plant Health Inspectorate Service and APHIS gives U.S. exporters full access to the wheat market in Kenya, valued at nearly $500 million annually. ********************************************************************************************** Doing a Deep Dive into U.S. Dairy Consumption It’s no secret that the dairy sector has been struggling with low milk prices for years. Agricultural Economic Insights took a deep dive into the U.S. dairy industry in the face of rising bankruptcies among small farmers and big milk processors like Dean Foods. Fluid milk consumption per capita in the U.S. has been falling for decades. However, consumers are actually buying more dairy goods overall, including more butter and cheese. Cheese consumption per capita has doubled since 1975, with mozzarella and cheddar each representing about 30 percent of consumption in 2018; butter consumption has grown by a third since 2001 and a Politico article says part of that surge comes because fat has lost some of its stigma among dietary health advocates. Per-capita yogurt consumption was steadily climbing up till 2014 before dropping over the past five years. Fluid milk consumption dropped more than 40 percent since 1975, or about 1.2 percent per year. In the meantime, alternatives like almond and soymilk have grown in popularity. Overall, the dairy industry is primarily driven by slow rates of changes unfolding over several decades,” says AEI farm economist David Widmar. Farm bankruptcies in the dairy industry jumped by nearly 20 percent in 2019. ********************************************************************************************** UK Farmers Union Wants High Food Standards in Trade Negotiations The United Kingdom shouldn’t allow imports of food that fall short of the country’s own standards when it draws up trade agreements. That thought comes directly from the head of the UK’s National Farmers Union. NFU President Minette Batters says domestic production standards should be used as a benchmark in trade talks. Business Times Dot Com says her comments signal that British farmers would face a setback if the government allows imports of products that are treated with certain chemicals or made using lesser animal-welfare rules. After leaving the European Union last month, the UK is working on getting trade talks going with multiple nations that cover everything from food trade to data protection. “It’s not just about chlorinated chicken,” Batters says in a statement. “This is about a wider principle. We must not tie the hands of British farmers to the highest rung of the standards ladder while waving through food imports which may not even reach the bottom rung.” As it has in America, trade uncertainty is weighing down UK farm sentiment, with one-year confidence falling to its third-lowest point since 2010. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Facing a Sugar Shortage and Higher Prices Last year was a rough one for American sugar farmers. The Hagstrom Report says America is facing a sugar shortage after last year’s bad weather in the Midwest, a freeze in Louisiana, and drought in Mexico. The shortage is driving the prices for the industrial sweetener higher, reaching several cents above average. A national refiner of raw sugar is offering refined cane sugar at 44 cents per pound now and 41 cents for the calendar year 2021. That’s compared with the more usual prices of 37 to 38 cents. The bad weather hit particularly hard in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. Those areas have some of the most sophisticated delivery systems to candy makers and other food companies in Chicago and other midwestern cities. The U.S. Ag Department can make changes if needed to its sugar management system to make it easier and cheaper to bring in raw cane sugar from other countries into the United States, but also has no control over the refining process once the sugar enters the country. The U.S. sugar industry used to have 104 production plants but now has 45. ********************************************************************************************** More Farmers Converting to Organic U.S. farmers harvested almost 3.3 million acres of certified organic field crops in 2019, with that number driven by 14 percent more organic operations. Those numbers come from Mercaris, the market data service and online trading platform for organic, non-GMO, and certified agricultural commodities. The company’s final 2019 report shows that the number of growers converting land to organic production escalated significantly throughout 2019, adding to the U.S. organic harvest and offsetting the impact of a wet growing season. Producers harvested 1.1 million acres of organic hay and alfalfa in 2019, up eight percent year-over-year with 11 percent more certified organic operations. Thirteen percent more certified organic operations harvested organic corn over 2019, offsetting a significant decline in the number of harvested acres per operation. The number of certified operations harvesting organic soybeans reached 2,835, up 11 percent. The amount of harvested organic wheat acres was driven by expansion in the High Plains region, growing 16 percent in 2019. A release from Mercaris says, “Despite what can fairly be described as the most difficult growing season in more than a decade, 2019 was a remarkable year for organic production.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Coronavirus Damage The U.S., like nearly all of the rest of the world, is quite unprepared to deal with a vicious new disease, Coronavirus (COVID-19), or even to know how it should be regarded. The New York Times said on Tuesday that while “Wall Street is (finally) waking up to the damage the virus could cause, no one really knows quite what should be done.” The Times focused on the uncertainties involved and reported “a strange divergence” among people in the trenches of global commerce—supply chain managers, travel industry experts, employers large and small who warned of substantial disruptions to businesses and the financial markets — and most economic forecasters who had been willing to downplay expectation of economic harm or loss of profits. “Something had to give and this week, it did,” NYT said, “giving way to a more pessimistic view across major world markets.” While “huge uncertainty” remains about how widely the virus will spread and how much damage it will do, at least the financial world “is realizing just how much is at stake” — and how different this may be from other recent hiccups in the global economy, notably last year’s trade war between the United States and China. “It’s one thing if Wuhan is on lockdown, another if China is on lockdown; or Asia--and yet another if the whole world is affected,” said Patrick Chovanec, an adviser for Silvercrest Asset Management and an expert on the Chinese economy. Since the end of the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, investors who have been the most alarmist about various risks have had a tendency to lose money. Global asset prices have been on a steady march upward despite the eurozone crisis, the end of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing, the trade war and every other problem that has occupied financial headlines. So it is somewhat understandable if investors were quick to assume that coronavirus would follow a similar pattern — a temporary blip that reduced China’s growth for a quarter or two but had little lasting impact. “The portfolio managers apparently figured this is a flash-in-the-pan virus, that will end as soon as the winter does, and that even if that assumption isn’t right, that central bankers will step in and fix this mess, the Times said. Markets accustomed to optimism may be all the more vulnerable if the virus becomes a global pandemic that causes meaningful pullback of commerce across major economies. The financial markets remain richly valued, even after Monday’s sell-off that included a 3.4% drop in the S&P, the steepest single-day retrenchment in two years. The U.S. stock market remained above its level of Feb. 7. The trade war, in which the United States and China placed tariffs on specific imported goods, caused a significant slump in manufacturing last year. But the coronavirus is hurting service industries as well. If the authorities in major world economies start shutting down any facility where large numbers of people congregate — a list that includes factories, shopping malls and airports — the damage could prove broad and lasting. When a hotel or airplane sits empty for weeks because people are afraid to travel, that is a loss that cannot be recovered once business returns. That’s particularly relevant for the United States, where service industries account for the majority of economic activity. This means that even companies that made it through the trade wars unscathed might be exposed to lost revenue or business shutdowns because of the virus outbreak. Moreover, while tariffs might put sand in the gears of global commerce, implications are different when gears stop entirely. Companies had many options for dealing with the trade war, whether sourcing goods from elsewhere or simply paying more for them. The longer the shutdowns of Chinese production and the more widely other countries are forced to take similar measures the more the spread of the virus could affect the ability of global companies to do business. Moreover, while the Fed and other central banks may well take action to try to insulate the world economy from the disease shocks, their tools are ill-suited to the task in many ways. The economic effects of coronavirus on the productive potential of affected nations from factors unrelated to those that more traditionally shape economic results like monetary policy or fiscal policy. In addition, lower interest rates won’t make a sick person well or give public health authorities confidence that businesses can reopen. All they can do is lower borrowing costs and help encourage businesses and consumers to spend and push financial market prices higher. “We would rather have a vaccine than a rate cut and fully recognize that monetary policy is not optimized for addressing this type of shock,” said Krishna Guha with Evercore ISI, in a research note. “But it does not follow from this that the appropriate path of policy under the shock is unchanged.” Neither economists nor portfolio managers make particularly good epidemiologists. But what has become clearer in the last few days is that it is the science of epidemics — and the policy choices that nations make to try to address them — that will shape the economy for the near future, and maybe quite some time to come. So, we will see. Amid growing concerns regarding economic impacts, there is new talk of additional technologies and perhaps potential to build a vaccine fairly quickly. However, the new disease threat is at least being taken seriously and its implications should continue to be watched closely as they develop, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


US-UK Trade Officials To Meet This Week U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will meet his British counterpart in London on Thursday as the two work toward reaching a trade deal yet this year. Lighthizer’s meeting with International Trade Secretary Liz Truss comes on the same day London releases its position on separate talks with the EU toward a post-Brexit trade arrangement. This comes as U.S. and UK meat industry groups have signed a memorandum of understanding to further their contacts as the two parties work on a trade deal. Meanwhile, reports indicate European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan will be in Washington next month just a few days before March 18, his target date for striking a separate trade agreement with the Trump administration.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


USDA Touts China Actions in Phase One Deal USDA released an update which outlines the changes that China has made as part of the phase-one trade deal, including shifts the country undertook on several fronts. China’s lifting of its ban on imports of U.S. poultry, noting it also includes pet food containing poultry products. China also listed its restriction on pet food containing ruminant material. USDA also noted China’s action on a new protocol to allow in fresh shipping potatoes as another action the country took under terms of the deal. China has also updated its list of U.S. facilities that can export animal proteins, pet food, dairy, infant formula and tallow for industrial use, and also broadened its list of U.S. seafood products. The announcement also touted China’s action to half retaliatory tariffs on a host of U.S. products and allow Chinese importers to apply for exemptions on tariffs for nearly 700 U.S. products.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets It looks likely that the spread of coronavirus will remain a concern for markets, at least into spring. South American weather also gets attention as Brazil advances through its soybean harvest. At 9 a.m. CST, U.S. new home sales will be released, followed by the Energy Department's weekly report of energy inventories, including ethanol. Weather Wednesday features rain and snow in the eastern Midwest and mid-South, keeping soils saturated ahead of spring. Other crop areas will be dry, allowing for some excess moisture drainage. Northern Midwest conditions will continue to have snowpack-induced cold.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


Trump says More Trade Aid an Option; Conflicting Messages on the Need for it. A Twitter announcement from President Donald Trump last week made it seem like more trade aid for farmers hurt by trade disputes is a legitimate possibility. Evidently, he hadn’t yet made it known to USDA that this was on the table. “The president’s tweet was a surprise to us,” says Ted McKinney, Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Ag Affairs. “That’s the decision we’ll go with.” Politico says the administration’s agricultural forecasts offer some conflicting messages about whether additional trade is actually needed this year. USDA’s Chief Economist, Robert Johansson, predicts a return to what he called “normal trade” in 2020, along with mentioning more hopeful signs for the farm economy ahead this year after a recent economic downturn. Farm income is projected to increase this year despite a large drop in federal farm payments as the 2019 trade aid program wraps up. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue has already predicted a “record year for agricultural exports with China.” But, market analysts say isn’t entirely possible because of Beijing’s insistence on following market demand and complying with World Trade Organization limitations. USDA has already paid out $23 billion directly to U.S. producers since 2018. ********************************************************************************************** Brazilian Beef is Back in the U.S. Late last week, the USDA reopened the door into the U.S. market for imports of raw beef from Brazil. The agency says the world’s largest beef exporter has taken the right steps to improve its food-safety inspection system, bringing it up to U.S. standards. Some farmers, ranchers, and food safety groups are already pushing back against the decision. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is one of those groups that has serious concerns about the decision. “NCBA strongly supports science-based trade and the administration’s efforts to enforce it,” says Kent Baucus, the Senior Director of International Trade and Market Access for NCBA. “But, NCBA has serious concerns about Brazil returning to the U.S. beef market.” He says the NCGA has frequently questioned the lack of scientific evidence that was used to justify Brazil’s initial entry into the U.S. market in 2016. “Unfortunately, we weren’t surprised that Brazil forfeited its beef access to the U.S. in 2017 due to a large number of food safety violations,” Baucus says. “Given Brazil’s history with foot-and-mouth disease and its track record of repeated food safety violations at ports-of-entry, you can rest assured that we will keep a sharp eye out on all future developments with Brazil.” ********************************************************************************************** Deere says Farms, Ag Economy Beginning to Stabilize Deere and Company had a surprisingly strong first quarter after an extended period in which the tractor and construction equipment maker was hit hard by the trade dispute between China and the U.S. “Farmer confidence, though still subdued, has improved due in part to hopes for a relaxation of trade tensions and higher agricultural exports,” says CEO John May. An Associated Press report says China has suspended more punitive tariffs on imports of U.S industrial goods in response to a truce in its trade war with Washington. It’s been well-documented how hard Chinese tariffs hit U.S. agricultural commodities like soybeans, which hurt farmers, and in turn, hurt farm equipment manufacturers as well. Illinois-based Deere and Company had posted three consecutive quarters of falling profits and slowing sales growth as trade tensions between China and the U.S. continued. It also stuck to a conservative outlook during 2020. Deere expects sales in its agriculture-and-turf business to fall between five and ten percent, and those in the construction and forestry segments to fall between 10 and 15 percent. ********************************************************************************************** NFU says Goodbye to Roger Johnson; Election Coming for New President The National Farmers Union officially saw Roger Johnson off into retirement late last week during a party that took place in the Farmers and Distillers Restaurant in northwest Washington, D.C. Johnson, the NFU President for 11 years, announced back in December that he would be retiring. “Farmers Union has been a fundamental part of who I am for all my life,” Johnson says. “It’s been the biggest honor of my life to serve this organization and the farmers and ranchers that make up the membership ranks. It’s a bittersweet feeling to step away from the role of a lifetime but I need to spend more time with my wife and four grandkids.” The Hagstrom Report says the election to replace Johnson at the top spot of the NFU is coming up March 1-3. There are three candidates to replace Johnson, including Rob Larew, NFU’s Senior VP of Public Policy; Donn Teske, president of the Kansas Farmers Union and a former NFU National Vice President; and Mike Eby, spokesperson and chair for the National Dairy Producers Organization. The Farmers and Distillers Restaurant where the retirement celebration took place is part of a restaurant group owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Launches Pilot Program for Prairie Pothole Region to Plant Cover Crops The USDA’s Farm Service Agency announced a new pilot program to enable farmers in the Prairie Pothole region to receive payments for planting cover crops on their land for three to five years. The new Conservation Reserve Program’s Soil Health and Income Protection Program, or SHIPP, is available for producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The signup for the pilot program starts on March 30 and ends August 21. “We’re excited to provide a short-term Conservation Reserve Program option tailored to the unique soil health needs of producers in the Prairie Pothole Region,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “The number of people that can be enrolled in the program is limited, and participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis.” Fordyce says interested landowners need to contact their FSA county office for an appointment to apply. Through the SHIPP program, producers have the option of taking a three, four, or five-year CRP contract to establish cover crops on less productive cropland in exchange for payments. Cover crops, used either in a single crop rotation or over multiple years, can improve the productivity and health of soils on a farm for generations and increase the bottom line for the farmer. ********************************************************************************************** Cargill Moving into the Fake-Meat Business Cargill is making a jump into the plant-based protein business. The global giant announced plans to sell its private-label plant-based patties and ground products to retailers and restaurants beginning in early April. Cargill says the offerings are part of its “new approach” to the future of the protein market, and they predict protein demand will jump by 70 percent over the next three decades. The plant-based products were developed and will be manufactured in Cargill facilities. The company’s managing director of the alternative protein team says they’ve created some of the “best-tasting products available in the plant-based category.” However, it doesn’t mean that Cargill is going to a 100 percent plant-based protein production plant. Brian Sikes, the leader of Cargill’s global protein and salt business says, “We need to keep all protein options on the table. Whether people are eating alternative or animal protein, Cargill intends to be right there at the center of the plate.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Limited Trade Negotiation Progress in India Politico says this week that President Donald Trump has been anticipating a warm welcome in India, but that the nation has been reluctant to give the administration “even a small trade victory.” Over the last few weeks, U.S. officials have “struggled to clinch a miniature agreement” that could result in some modest additional access for U.S. medical devices, motorcycles and milk products in a market of more than 1.3 billion people. As a result, the president moved quickly to tamp down expectations, including that a “big deal” may only be possible “after he wins a second term.” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer did not plan to travel to India with the president, further diminishing any chance for substantial results, nor did he go to India ahead of the president’s visit, also dampening expectations for a deal. “We may make a tremendous deal there -- or maybe we’ll slow it down. We’ll do it after the election. I think that could happen too,” the president said late last week. A senior administration official said a "wide scope" of issues is complicating progress toward a mini trade deal. "We want to address a lot of concerns and we’re not quite there yet.” He noted that discussions with the prime minister about these concerns are expected, Politico said. India is expected to announce some significant purchases of U.S. energy and defense products but the administration’s fixation with imbalanced trading relationships is likely impeding any willingness to offer New Delhi concessions, Politico said. India is the United States’ ninth-largest trading partner and bought about $34 billion worth of goods in 2019 -- just a fraction of the $256 billion exported to Mexico, the top destination for U.S. goods last year. The U.S.-Indian trade deficit was $24 billion last year while India's exports to the U.S. grew much faster than U.S. exports to India. Politico thinks these statistics could be driving the president’s reluctance to give India what it really wants -- access again to the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences, a tariff-cutting program for developing countries that discounts duties on roughly $6 billion worth of imports. Policies that have fiercely guarded India's markets have been the bane of multiple previous U.S. administrations. Even now, as India’s economy slumps further and pressure from neighboring China grows, New Delhi has continued to make protective moves including a multiyear "Make in India" initiative aimed at bolstering the country's manufacturing sector through local sourcing and production requirements, Politico said. India also released a national budget in late January that raised tariffs on a number of products that were under consideration to be cut or eliminated under a mini-agreement with the U.S. U.S.-India Business Council President Nisha Biswal said India’s tariff increases on walnuts, medical devices and other goods that were to be part of a trade deal further “complicated” the talks. The negotiations also got hung up on details related to increasing access for U.S. dairy products and credit card companies. Modi’s latest actions may reflect efforts to stem a tide of cheap, Chinese imports where a significant portion of the population still lives in poverty. India was also likely emboldened by the U.S. and other countries to stand firm or ramp up its tariffs. For months, administration officials have weighed the launch of a so-called Section 301 trade investigation, a law that gives the president broad leeway to impose trade restrictions to address unfair trade actions. Trump used the same authority on China, which resulted in tariffs on hundreds of billions worth of imports — but no final decision has been made on whether to apply it to India. At least this week, the President may be content to maintain the warm relationship with a leader he views as a kindred spirit who can mobilize the masses of supporters the president relishes. Modi’s visit to Houston in September where he held a joint rally with Trump brought the president one of his largest crowds. U.S. businesses were hoping a limited trade package would be a confidence-building move for a more comprehensive negotiation. "We are fundamentally looking at an Indian approach to trade that is still emerging and evolving from a more protectionist or closed trading system to a more open one," an administration official told Politico. So, we will see. India’s trade policies have long been difficult and highly political — and the growing global tensions and intensifying fears of a destructive coronavirus outbreak appear to be among several key economic and social threats lurking ahead, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


EPA Receives Additional Small Refiner Exemptions EPA data shows the agency now has 23 small refinery exemption (SREs) requests for the 2019 compliance year, an increase from two compared with month-ago data. Attention continues on the issue with reports indicating EPA will respond to a court decision sometime in early March on this topic. Indications are the court ruling has the potential to impact many previously granted SREs in that the court determined that for three of those granted for the 2016 compliance year, the agency did not act appropriately as the court said the SREs were to be extensions of ones granted prior to 2010.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


China Lifts Ag Restrictions on US Beef China has conditionally lifted its ban on imports of U.S. beef/products from animals more than 30 months of age, according to a notice from the Chinese General Administration of Customs Office. The notice said that inspection and quarantine requirements would be released separately. The action is one of the moves that China agreed to make as part of the phase-one agreement with the U.S. The other one on beef is that China is to set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for three growth hormones used in U.S. beef production. That is an action that China agreed to take within 30 days of the agreement taking force – March 14. The age limit action announced by China was also on the same timeline as the MRL issue, so China is ahead of their deadline on that front.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Traders are keeping an eye on the spread of coronavirus with questions as to whether it can be contained. Tuesday's lone report is for U.S. consumer confidence at 9 a.m. CST. South American weather and any trade news will also get attention. Weather Tuesday features snow, cold and strong winds in the Northern and central Plains, and rain in the eastern Midwest and Southeast. Areas with snow will have transportation and safety issues along with livestock stress. Rain in the Midwest continues to keep soils saturated ahead of spring. A drier trend is in store during the last half of the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 24, 2020 |


Pork Pessimistic on EU; Cattle Optimistic on China U.S. pork producers don’t seem optimistic about a potential trade deal with the European Union coming together anytime soon. Nick Giordano is the Vice President of Global Government Affairs for the National Pork Producers Council. Giordano tells Politico that he’s “very skeptical” that the two sides will even reach a mini agreement in the weeks ahead. He feels the real goal should be a comprehensive trade pact covering all sectors of agriculture. “It’s outrageous that a market of that size, with that level of income, is so closed to us,” Giordano says. “They’re stealing jobs from us because of their protectionism and that’s unacceptable.” The VP says there will be widespread support in the U.S. agriculture community for the Trump Administration to take tough action against the EU if there are no concessions regarding a more open EU market. Meantime, U.S. cattlemen might annually sell $4 billion worth of beef to China within the next five years. Kent Baucus, Senior Director of International Affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says the Phase One trade deal and the meat shortage in China cause by African Swine Fever should drive U.S. beef exports higher. “We haven’t even scratched the surface on the Chinese market,” he says. “There is a tremendous amount of unmet protein demand in China. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Ag Outlook Forum Calls for a Return to “Normal” Trade in 2020 The USDA’s top economist predicted agricultural trade will return to normal this year. USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson says farm exports to China will rise from $10 billion last year to $14 billion in 2020. That “slight” $4 billion jump doesn’t quite add up to the $40 billion in U.S. ag products that China committed to import from the U.S. under the Phase One trade deal. Johansson says the forecast “reflects public information that’s available right now on phase one.” Later, he added that the calendar year predictions don’t completely include the phase one commitments. However, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says that China’s import commitments were not included in Johansson’s estimates. “We expect to exceed that, certainly,” Perdue told reporters. An Agri-Pulse report says Johansson noted that improved exports this year should help farmers’ bottom lines in 2020, while lower interest rates would reduce borrowing costs and strengthen land values. USDA is projecting a corn price at $3.60 a bushel this year, down four percent from last year. The price of soybeans is expected to be $8.80 a bushel, one percent higher last year. Wheat prices are predicted to average $4.90 a bushel, up eight percent from 2019. ********************************************************************************************** Trump Promises Farmers More Trade Aid if Needed President Donald Trump took to Twitter again to talk trade. There have been questions on the possibility of more trade aid distribution this year, with the president seemingly saying it’s a possibility. “If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada, and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government, paid for out of the massive tariff money coming into the USA,” he said in a Friday Tweet. However, The Hagstrom Report says Trump isn’t technically accurate when he says the aid will come out of tariff income. The money comes from the Commodity Credit Corporation, which was set up back in the 1930s as a way to distribute aid to farmers. The CCC is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has a line of credit set up at the Treasury Department that Congress replenishes. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue has told farmers recently to not expect more trade aid in 2020. The Trump Administration has already paid out a total of $28 billion in trade aid by way of payments to farmers, trade promotion, and purchases from food items for distribution to food shelves across the country. ********************************************************************************************** ASF Virus Infections Last Longer Than Originally Thought A group of researchers and veterinarians put together a fact sheet dealing with the African Swine Fever that’s called “Holding Time Calculations for Feed Ingredients to Mitigate Virus Transmission.” However, they’ve revised the necessary holding time upward when it comes to determining if the African Swine Fever virus is sufficiently degraded in feedstuffs to potentially prevent transmission. The new recommendation is to hold conventional soybean meal an average of 125 days from when it’s placed in a package, which is up from only 52 days found in previous research. The new research was funded by the Swine Health Information Center with Pork Checkoff Funds. The study was conducted at Kansas State University using the ASF virus inside the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Experts recommend that producers talk with their feed suppliers and ask for the “born-on” date for all imported feed products. Vigilance is the best protection against a potential ASF outbreak in the U.S. To further ensure the U.S. swine herd remains free of African Swine Fever, the National Pork Producers Council is asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to take further measures to keep potentially infected animal feed out of the country. ********************************************************************************************** Hopes Fading for a U.S.-India Trade Deal Before Trump Visits It’s looking like the U.S. and India won’t be able to reach a trade deal before President Donald Trump visits the country. A Reuters report says India has proposed new tariffs that have complicated the negotiations. The U.S.-India Business Council tells reporters that hopes were fading for the two sides to be able to quickly bridge the gap in their efforts to restore some U.S. trade preferences for India, as well as improve market access for selected U.S. farm products. “We’re still hopeful that some kind of agreement could be reached,” the council says in a statement. “We do recognize and acknowledge that both governments have been indicating that an agreement is not likely to happen at the stage of the talks.” Trump himself is sending mixed messages on the possibility of a trade agreement with India. “We’re going to India and we may make a tremendous deal there,” he says. “Maybe we’ll slow it down and do it after the election. We’ll see what happens, but we will only make deals if they are good deals that put America first.” A spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry says they won’t rush into a trade deal with the U.S. unless there’s a balanced outcome that’s good for both countries. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Bureau Readying for Ag Safety Awareness Program Week The American Farm Bureau says its groups across the nation are getting ready for Agricultural Safety Awareness Week, which is coming up on May 1-7. U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers will join the Farm Bureau in promotion of the week with the theme as “20:20 Vision on Ag Safety.” Ag Safety Awareness Program Week has a different focus each day. Topics Monday through Friday include Mental Health on Monday, followed by Transportation Safety, Weather Disasters, Confined Spaces, and Farmer Wellness on Friday. Both organizations encourage farmers across the country to make safety a priority on the farm during the week and throughout the entire year. The Agricultural Safety Awareness Program is part of the Farm Bureau Health and Safety Network of professionals who share an interest in identifying and decreasing safety and health risks. They invite farmers to visit their YouTube channel for new content and fresh ideas on how to stay safe while working in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. There’s a lot more information on the Agricultural Safety Awareness Week webpage as well.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 24, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Considering a New Farm Bailout It appears that the administration is seriously considering another farm bailout, in spite of its own recent negative comments regarding such an effort. The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump “for the first time Friday” vowed to continue his multibillion-dollar bailout of the farm industry “if necessary.” The White House comments appeared to surprise a number of administration officials, the Post said. However, the report noted that the comments came amid growing signs that last month’s partial trade deal with China is “falling far short of the levels initially promised.” As recently as Thursday, a senior U.S. Department of Agriculture official said China might end up buying just $14 billion in U.S. farm products through the end of September and that total purchases for the year could be much less than the $40 billion the president had promised. The Post said the President’s political support among farmers appears to continue to be strong “but White House officials have long been worried about a backlash if prices remain low and bankruptcies continue.” USDA reported at its recent outlook conference that total farm debt was at an all-time high and that there had been no “bump” in commodity prices following either the new China trade deal or the separate pact with Canada and Mexico — in spite of the president’s promise of a farming renaissance and his exhortation to farmers “to buy a bigger tractor and more land.” “We are frustrated with the situation. We understand the broader trade implications but feel we have been targeted in a bigger political battle we did not sign up for,” said Jamie Beyer, a soybean farmer in Wheaton, Minn. and president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “We are all very excited about the USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement) and the trade deal with China. But we are all waiting for that to be reflected in commodity prices and orders… it’s disheartening." A third multibillion-dollar bailout could cast a shadow over administration claims about the “big, beautiful” trade deal reached with China last month, an agreement expected to form a key part of his 2020 reelection message on the economy. The outbreak of the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the Chinese economy, making it more difficult to forecast how large farm purchases by China will ultimately be this year, the Post said. The farm bailout program began in 2018 as a way to address fury from farmers who said Chinese tariffs on their exports had pushed many to the brink of collapse. The program continued in 2019, but White House officials had suggested it would not be renewed in 2020 — until the President reversed course Friday. “Farmers are no dummies. They’ve seen this get rolled out the past two years, programs invented out of whole cloth,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. “The president is going to do whatever he can to appease the farmers because it’s an election year." The need for what would amount to a third round of bailout funding highlights the immense challenges the administration has faced in its international trade war conflicts. It imposed tariffs on a range of Chinese imports, including steel, as a way to ramp up pressure on the Chinese government to boost U.S. imports. But China retaliated by targeting agricultural producers in politically critical Midwestern states. The administration “has said from the beginning that the trade war is nothing but rainbows and unicorns. The reality is that it’s not just us being tough on China; China and other countries are being tough on us,” said Rory Cooper, a former Republican aide who now works at Purple Strategies, a political consulting firm. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation said that he was optimistic that China would purchase more than $14 billion in agricultural products, based on conversations with China’s minister of agriculture but that the final outcome was uncertain. “The difficult times farmers are having today are not getting any better because of slow implementation,” Duvall said. The President’s talk of additional bailout money may be meant as a signal to China that the White House will not wait patiently for Beijing to comply with the new trade deal, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a farm-state ally of the President, said. GOP lawmakers worry that the President’s trade war “weakened the impact of their 2017 tax law, slowing U.S. economic growth.” The bailout’s price tag is now more than twice the cost of the Obama administration’s auto bailout, which was criticized by conservative lawmakers, the Post said. Unlike with many other government bailout programs, farmers are not required to pay any of the money back. Still, Democrats may be in a difficult position to exploit the intra-GOP rift on the issue, the Post said. Congressional Democrats passed up an opportunity last year to force the White House to scale back the program amid pressure from lawmakers in their own caucus representing farm states. And party leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have argued that the administration has “not been tough enough on China.” Senior administration officials previously expressed alarm about the administration’s legal justification for the bailout, which they have based on a New Deal-era program. It was modified from its initial form to include additional crops, among other changes. So, we will see. The administration’s heavy reliance on tariffs appears to be attracting growing criticism — at least in some quarters — especially as the coronavirus appears to continue to spread, a trend producers should watch closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 24, 2020 |


Boost in Guest Workers Coming From Trump Administration The Trump administration plans to allow 45,000 additional seasonal (H-2B visa program) guest workers to return to the U.S. this summer, the highest number since the president took office, according to administration officials. The Department of Homeland Security plans to announce the additional seasonal-worker visas next week. They will become available in two waves: the first 20,000 will be immediately available, while employers can apply for the remainder for jobs beginning June 1. The additional visas are being made available ahead of the summer, when demand for short-term work is typically highest.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 24, 2020 |


India Now Downplaying Expectations For US-India Trade Deal Soon Expectations for a U.S.-India trade deal to be inked when President Donald Trump visits the country next week continue to fade, with the U.S.-India Business Council the latest to lower those expectations. “As new issues have continued to emerge, including the introduction of new tariffs in the most recent budget,” the group’s president, Nisha Biswal, told reporters in a teleconference, “the conversations may have gotten a little bit more complicated.” However, Biswal said there is still a chance for an agreement, but “both governments have been indicating that is unlikely at this juncture.” Indications are that the situation is linked to India not making the kind of concessions on some issues that the U.S. sought as they were wanting to put some kind of trade deal together that Trump could announce while in the country.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 24, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Coronavirus remains a concern to markets with infections spreading beyond China. With the Ag Outlook Forum concluded on Friday, traders will be back to checking South American weather forecasts and watching for any trade news to emerge. USDA's weekly report of export inspections is due out at 10:00 a.m. CST, followed by a monthly cold storage report at 2 p.m. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain is in store for the southern Midwest and Delta Monday, keeping soils saturated and threatening flooding. Meanwhile, snow will develop in the northern and western Plains, adding to meltwater supply for spring flood potential.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 21, 2020 |


EU Sets a Target Date for U.S. Trade Deal Phil Hogan, European Union Trade Chief, says he’s looking to have a trade deal in place with the Trump Administration and the U.S. by March 18. Politico says he’s working on a package of agreements for EU leaders to present to Trump in the coming weeks. Among the potential concessions the EU may be willing to make are speeding up the approval process for certain Genetically Modified Organisms, as well as allowing U.S. imports of tallow, which is a form of beef or sheep fat. Why March 18th? That’s when higher U.S. retaliatory tariffs on Airbus planes are set to take effect. The Trump Administration last week raised duties from 10 percent to 15 percent but suspended implementing the increase. Hogan says the move by Washington, as well as the decision to not raise tariffs on EU farm goods, was seen as a positive sign that the U.S. is ready to make a deal. The U.S. also didn’t do anything to increase the 25 percent duties in place on European food and alcohol products. ********************************************************************************************** Hormel Eliminating Ractopamine from Hog Supplies Hormel Foods is getting rid of ractopamine (rack-TOH-pah-meen), a growth drug banned by China, from its hog supply. Hormel is joining rival companies like Tyson Foods and JBS in looking to make more meat sales to China, which is in the middle of wrestling with a large shortage of pork. Hormel isn’t going to accept hogs that have been fed or otherwise exposed to ractopamine after April first. Tyson Foods and JBS USA took that step last year. The companies’ moves ramped up the competition for the increased pork demand from China, where the outbreak of African Swine Fever has decimated their herds. In a statement announcing the move, Hormel says, “We have been actively monitoring the changing global market dynamics for several years and believe this decision will further position us to meet growing international demand.” Ractopamine is used in some countries to raise leaner pigs, but China doesn’t allow its use or tolerate residues in its imported meats. The European Union also bans ractopamine. ********************************************************************************************** Perdue Announces New Innovation Initiative for USDA Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, which is a department-wide initiative to help better position U.S. ag to meet future global demands. The initiative will align resources, programs, and research to help stimulate innovation so that American agriculture can achieve the goal of increasing production by 40 percent while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050. “We know we have a challenge facing us: to meet future food, fiber, fuel, and feed demands with finite resources,” Perdue says. “USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda is our opportunity to define American agriculture’s role to feed everyone and do right as a key player in the solution to this challenge.” He calls the new agenda a strategic, department-wide effort to better align USDA’s resources, programs, and research to provide farmers with the tools they need to be successful. “We’re also continually mindful of the need for America’s agriculture industry to be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable to maintain our position as a leader in the global effort to meet demand,” he adds. The first component of the Ag Innovation Agenda is to develop a U.S. ag innovation strategy that aligns and synchronizes public and private sector research. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Pork Industry Wants Additional ASF Prevention Measures in Place Continued vigilance by the USDA, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. pork industry, means that the U.S. has so far prevented an outbreak of the African Swine Fever Virus. The disease affects pigs and poses no threat to human safety. The National Pork Producers Council and 30 state associations are asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to take additional measures, including restricting imports of organic soy products for animal feed from all countries that have ASF outbreaks. The U.S. pork and feed industries have adopted holding times to allow for the natural degradation of any viruses, to ensure that most imported feed ingredients are safe to use. Research shows that organic soy products can maintain the virus for longer periods, making holding times impractical. Most soy imports into the U.S. are organic. NPPC says it’s confident in the safety of domestic soy products. NPPC and the associations are also asking USDA to further explore the merit of restricting all soy products from ASF-positive countries, to enhance its online system used to permit animal movements in the event of an outbreak, and to expand state animal health laboratory testing capacity. ********************************************************************************************** Groups to Study 100 Percent Biodiesel Engine Technology A wide range of groups announced a partnership to conduct a year-long validation project of revolutionary biodiesel technology. Five trucks owned by ADM will be outfitted with Optimus Technologies Vector Fuel System, which enables diesel engines to run almost entirely on sustainable biodiesel. In a real-world environment, the trucks will be used in everyday fleet operations for a year, with each vehicle likely to travel between 160,000 and 180,000 miles, while reducing up to 500,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. Five other trucks in the ADM fleet will be a control group in the study and operate on conventional biodiesel. While nearly all diesel engine manufacturers support at least 20 percent biodiesel, the Optimus Vector System is designed to allow conventional diesel engines to run on 100 percent biodiesel in a wide range of climates. The system is already in use in short mileage, local fleet applications. The new project will test the viability for longer-haul, over-the-road fleets, which could potentially open a pathway to significantly higher volumes of biodiesel in the U.S. truck fleet. Other organizations involved in the project include the National Biodiesel Board, the Illinois Soybean Association, and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. ********************************************************************************************** Farmers Union Recommends Improvements to EQIP The USDA continues to implement the 2018 Farm Bill and released the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Interim Rule. The National Farmers Union is urging the agency to strengthen the conservation program to better support farmers as they work to ensure the longevity of their land and natural resources. Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says his group values the program and wants to make improvements to ensure its efficiency. “We’d like to encourage the agency to include climate resilience and soil health in its list of EQIP priorities,” Johnson says. “These are two of the most critical issues facing agriculture today and farmers need all available tools and resources to address them.” They also recommend NRCS give each state the ability to set their high-priority practices for increased payment rates. Local and regional offices are the most knowledgeable about the resource concerns in their areas and should determine, when possible, how to address those concerns. “We also urge NRCS to prioritize farmers and ranchers when allocating EQIP funding,” Johnson adds. “We’d like funding to be available to water management entities that serve mostly farmers and ranchers.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 21, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Complex Economic Trends It seems likely that much of the coming political campaign debate will center on the economy, and that there may well be a series of political fights brewing there as the administration seeks to claim a “blue collar boom” across the U.S. At the same time, others tend to see the recent trends as more complicated. For example, Bloomberg is reporting this week that “in the 11th year of a record expansion the rising tide of the U.S. economy hasn’t been lifting all boats equally — at least when it comes to pay.” It is true that unemployment is the lowest for half a century and that wages have been picking up steam across the board, the report says — but it also notes that “the biggest rewards from a strong economy are still skewed toward white people, men and high earners.” The report relies on details from an annual study by the Economic Policy Institute. Administration officials frequently argue that previously left-behind groups are “benefiting from a blue-collar boom.” However, Bloomberg says that while there have been gradual improvements for many “some disparities have actually worsened over time.” It points to the wage gap between blacks and whites, which is wider now than in 2000. And, it points out that along with tight labor markets, minimum wage legislation at the local level has helped deliver some of the gains for low earners. In the past two decades — encompassing two expansions and a recession — wage growth has been fastest for the highest-paid workers, Bloomberg says. However, it notes that it wasn’t until last year that workers with only “some college education” got back to their pre-2008 wage level. It also notes that men with a standard college degree are still paid more than women with an advanced one--and black workers with some college education still get paid less than in 2000. Still, most black workers experienced stronger wage growth between 2018 and 2019 than any year since 2000, the report said. And it notes that Hispanic workers were the only ethnic group to see their wages rise across all education levels from 2018 to 2019--although at almost every level, Hispanic and black workers were paid less than white peers. Bloomberg also reports wage disparity “even near the top.” For example, men in the 95th percentile saw a 37% wage gain in the last 20 years, about twice that for those just next door in the 90th percentile. As for the median, that indicator ticked up only 3.4%. And among the top 0.1%, earnings grew at more than double the pace of the mere 1%. Wage rates paid to the lowest-paid men saw faster growth than those in the middle, with the 10th percentile rising 12% and the 20th up 10%. However, the gains among the lowest-paid workers have been concentrated during economic expansions with wages accelerating a few years into boom cycles and then tapering off. Minimum wage legislation also affected the trends, Bloomberg said. Pay rose 18% for the lowest-paid 10% of workers in states where minimum wage legislation was enacted in the last seven years. It rose just 9% in regions without those laws. The trend in wage growth is more important than usual just now, since it is one reason Federal Reserve policy makers are comfortable leaving interest rates at historically low levels at this time; Chairman Jerome Powell has cited growth beginning to reach those on the sidelines. So, we will see. The strong domestic economic trends have been widely welcomed even while there are reports of economic pitfalls ahead, including those facing trade policies as well as the coronavirus outbreak. USDA is emphasizing its belief that China will honor its phase one requirements in spite of the economic pressures it faces — although tensions appear to be growing between the U.S. and Europe. Clearly, the trends and issues producers face now are increasingly complex and difficult to evaluate. They should be watched closely as the season advances, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 21, 2020 |


EU Trade Chief Lays Out US-EU Trade Pact Expectations European Union (EU) trade chief Phil Hogan is working to get a deal with the U.S. by March 18, he told reporters Wednesday night. Hogan said he is preparing a package of several agreements for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to present to President Donald Trump in the next few weeks. The Trump administration’s decision last week not to increase retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products in the long-running Boeing-Airbus dispute was a positive sign that the U.S. is willing to negotiate a deal, Hogan said. The U.S. Trade Representative instead boosted retaliatory tariffs on Airbus aircraft to 15%, from 10%, and left unchanged a 25% tariff on EU food, alcohol and other products. As for the significance of March 18, Hogan noted USTR Robert Lighthizer suspended the tariff increase on Airbus planes until March 18. “Between now and then, we are trying our best to have a mini deal based on the terms of reference that was given to us ... by President von der Leyen and Trump in Davos,” Hogan said.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 21, 2020 |


USDA Announces Program to Reduce Environmental Impact of Farming USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced an initiative to reduce the environmental impact of American farming. He stressed voluntary conservation incentives and efficiency improvements rather than regulation as he joins major farm groups in seeking to shape the public debate on agriculture and climate change. Some 21 farm groups announced a coalition Wednesday on environmental sustainability. Perdue set a goal of increasing farm production by 40% while cutting the “environmental footprint” in half by 2050. The initiative includes goals such as a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030, a 30% cut in fertilizer run-off by 2050 and an overall “net reduction” in carbon emissions by 2050 “without regulatory overreach.” Perdue also set a goal for biofuels such as ethanol to reach “market-driven blend rates” of 15% of U.S. transportation fuels by 2030 and 30% of transportation fuels by 2050.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 20, 2020 |


Farm Groups Come Together for Sustainability Discussion Twenty-one farm and ranch groups that represent millions of U.S. farmers and ranchers are launching Farmers for a Sustainable Future. It’s a new coalition committed to environmental and economic sustainability. The coalition will serve as a primary resource for lawmakers and policymakers as they consider climate policies. One important task for the new coalition is to share with elected officials, media, and the public, U.S. agriculture’s commitment to sustainability and the incredible strides they’ve already made to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint. As policy proposals are developed and considered, the goal is for the coalition and its guiding principles to serve as a foundation to ensure the adoption of meaningful and constructive policies and programs affecting agriculture. Those guiding principles include calling for policies that support science-based research, voluntary incentive-based conservation programs, investment in infrastructure, and solutions that ensure vibrant rural communities and a healthy planet. The coalition says farmers and ranchers are committed stewards of the land, leading the way to climate-smart farming by promoting soil health, conserving water, enhancing wildlife, using nutrients efficiently, and caring for their animals. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Groups Excited about New Sustainable Farming Coalition Farm groups that represent millions of farmers and ranchers across the country have come together to form a new coalition called Farmers for a Sustainable Future. It’s a coalition committed to environmental and economic sustainability. One of the ag groups is the American Soybean Association. Their CEO, Ryan Findlay, says, “Soybean farmers have an awesome story to tell, including their sustainability initiatives, so it’s great to be able to collaborate with like-minded organizations to facilitate sound policy and program decisions and have a platform to share our efforts.” The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives also joined the coalition. Chuck Conner, President and CEO of the NCFC, says, “This effort is important as policymakers at both the state and federal levels, and our partners in the value chain develop programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane says, “Twenty-one agricultural groups are now standing side-by-side in unity to correct a false narrative that’s haunted us for as long as I can remember.” The National Pork Producers Council says farmers and ranchers are “committed stewards of the land” and leading the way in climate-smart farming. ********************************************************************************************** Meat Import Containers Piling Up in Chinese Ports There are thousands of containers of frozen pork, chicken, and beef, all sitting in major Chinese ports because of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Bloomberg says transportation disruptions and labor shortages are slowing operations down drastically. People familiar with the situation tell Bloomberg that there aren’t enough truck drivers to pick up and move the containers due to travel restrictions imposed on the country to control the coronavirus. Ports are running out of electricity to help freeze the containers, while some ships have been told to move on to other destinations in mainland China or Hong Kong. China imports massive amounts of meat products from South America, Europe, and the United States. It’s been boosting purchases to help ease some of the shortages caused by the African Swine Fever outbreak that decimated its hog herds. Customs data shows that China boosted its imports of meat and offal by almost 50 percent last year to a record 6.2 million tons. It’s not known if or when port operations will be able to return to normal as truck drivers returning from other cities are quarantined for 14 days. Other transport restrictions on trucks also remain in place. ********************************************************************************************** China Offers More Tariff-Relief on U.S. Imports The University of Illinois’ Farm Policy News website says reports are surfacing that China is looking at purchasing some U.S. farm products by early March. The gesture would be intended to show the U.S. that it will meet its commitments outlined in the Phase One trade deal. The Chinese government is in discussions over what commodities it could potentially buy at the end of February or in early March. The purchases would show the U.S. that China intends to stick to the trade deal despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Additional reports from Reuters show that China intends to “grant exemptions on retaliatory duties imposed on almost 700 U.S. products,” which would be the most substantial tariff relief to be offered so far. That would be the third round of tariff relief offered by China and comes after the Phase One trade deal officially went into effect on February 14. China has already been issuing tariff waivers on more of an ad hoc basis for U.S. farm products, including soybeans. The exemption announcement that came this week includes energy products like crude oil. ********************************************************************************************** Don’t Forget to Complete Census of Agriculture Special Studies The USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service continues to collect responses to the 2019 Organic Survey and the 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties, both of which are special studies that take place every five years. The response window runs through March of this year. NASS is asking producers who received the questionnaires to respond online, by mail, or by telephone. “We are extending the deadlines for responses since we still have a steady stream of completed questionnaires coming in,” says NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “NASS produces the most comprehensive data about U.S. agriculture. Our record of accuracy is why NASS data continues to be used throughout the industry.” Hamer says the better response they get from the questionnaires means the better data they have to offer. “Responding to NASS surveys and censuses means contributing to the future,” Hamer adds. The resulting data will be used by commodity associations, agribusinesses, policymakers, researchers, Extension, and more. Producers who didn’t respond to the original deadline will receive a second questionnaire this month. ********************************************************************************************** CRP Signup Deadline Rapidly Approaching The USDA is reminding producers interested in the Conservation Reserve Program that the signup deadline is on February 28. The signup is available to farmers and private landowners who are either enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling for another 10-to-15-year term. Farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program get yearly rental payments for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, which can control soil erosion, improve water quality, and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. The CRP has 22 million acres currently enrolled, but the 2018 Farm Bill lifted that cap to 27 million. The program is marking its 35th anniversary in 2020 with many milestones. It’s prevented more than nine billion tons of soil from eroding, which is enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks. The program has also sequestered an average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking nine million cars off the road.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 20, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Growing Obesity Threat The New York Times science section recently featured a report that argued that climate change “is not the only source of dire projections for the coming decade.” The article was responding to “a predicted continued rise in obesity among American adults.” It featured projections from a prestigious team of medical scientists who conclude that “by 2030, nearly one in two U.S. adults will be obese, and nearly one in four will be severely obese.” The estimates are thought to be particularly reliable, NYT says because the team corrected for current underestimates of weight given by individuals in national surveys. In as many as 29 states, the prevalence of obesity will exceed 50%, with no state having less than 35% of residents who are obese, the team said. Likewise, it expects that in 25 states the prevalence of severe obesity will be higher than one adult in four and could become the most common weight category among women, non-Hispanic black adults and low-income adults nationally. Given the role obesity plays in fostering of many chronic, disabling and often fatal diseases, these are dire predictions indeed, the Times said. Yet it notes that “the powers that be” in the U.S. are doing very little to head off these potentially disastrous results. Well-intentioned efforts like limiting access to huge portions of sugar-sweetened soda, the scientists note, have been “effectively thwarted” by well-heeled industries able to dwarf the impact of efforts by health departments that have minuscule budgets by comparison. Claims that such taxes are regressive “and unfairly target low-income people” are shortsighted, according to Zachary Ward, public health specialist at Harvard and the lead author of the new report published in The New England Journal of Medicine in December. “What people would save in health care costs would dwarf the extra money paid as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages,” he said told the press. Still, in “a city like Philadelphia,” where a soda tax of 1.5 cents an ounce took effect three years ago, total purchases declined by 38% even after accounting for beverages people bought outside the city, the report’s authors said. However, the report downplayed piecemeal policy changes like this as too small to make a significant difference in the obesity forecast for the country. Rather, nationwide changes are needed as the “food environment” has fostered a steady climb toward a weight-and-health “disaster”. NYT says that this health threat is relatively new and that since 1990, the prevalence of obesity in this country has doubled. This change is not from genetics, which have “not changed in the last decade,” Dr. Sara Bleich said. Rather, what has changed is the environment in which our genes now function. Food is super easy to access, said Bleich, a professor of public health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We eat out more, consuming more foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, and our portion sizes are bigger.” “It doesn’t take that many extra calories to result in weight gain,” Dr. Bleich said. “Through marketing, we’re constantly being sold on foods we didn’t even know we wanted.” Unless something is done to reverse current trends, Ward said, “Obesity will be the new normal.” In addition, the study authors think that there is “no one thing to throw at the problem.” However, they point out that policies that reduce added sugars have reduced weight gains and health problems and that “when people drink their calories, they don’t feel as full as when they consume solid food, so they end up eating more.” With a third of meals now being eaten out, Dr. Bleich suggested that prompting restaurants to gradually reduce the amount of fat, sugar and calories in the meals they serve could help dampen societal weight gain. “Menus could make healthier, lower-calorie meals the default option,” she said. Controlling portion sizes is another critically important step. “Big portions are especially motivating for low-income people who reasonably want to get more calories for their dollar,” she said. Low-income groups already have the highest rates of obesity and, the new projections show, they are the groups most likely to experience a rising prevalence of obesity and severe obesity. “From a policy perspective,” Ward said, “prevention is the way to go. Children aren’t born obese, but we can already see excessive weight gain as early as age 2. Changes in the food environment are needed at every level, local, state and federal. It’s hard for individuals to voluntarily change their behavior.” So, we will see. Taxes are unpopular and face an uphill fight for acceptance, so education likely is the most acceptable policy choice. Whether or not warnings and nutrition education can effectively derail this trend remains to be seen, but it is a growing industry wide threat with potential implications for the food industry that should be watched closely by producers, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 20, 2020 |


Hormel to Stop Using Hogs That Are Fed With Ractopamine Hormel Foods announced it will no longer accept hogs that have been fed or exposed to ractopamine after April 1 as the company seeks to expand its ability to sell products to China. "We have been actively monitoring the changing global market dynamics for several years and believe this decision will further position us to meet growing international demand," Hormel said. Hormel uses third-party suppliers for its pork and does not have slaughter operations. Tyson Foods and JBS USA announced last year they would eliminate ractopamine from their supply chains for the same reason – they sought to boost exports to China which prevents the use of ractopamine for livestock. The move comes even as the phase-one trade agreement between the U.S. and China calls for China to undergo a risk assessment of ractopamine in cattle and hogs “as soon as possible without undue delay.” The risk assessment is to be done in consultation with the U.S. and “verifiable data and the approved conditions of ractopamine use in the United States.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 20, 2020 |


Caution: USDA Forecasts Ahead USDA’s Annual Outlook Forum will take place the next two days near Washington, D.C., and a lot of attention will be placed on a series of USDA forecasts that will come out today. The updates include the 2020 acreage expectations and price forecasts that will be delivered this morning by USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson. Those will frame the supply picture for the 2020/21 marketing year, with those outlooks due Friday morning. The other important update will be the Outlook for U.S. Agriculture Exports which will provide USDA’s latest look for the dollar value of U.S. ag exports and imports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The attention point will be on the how much USDA chalks up to the Phase One trade deal between the U.S. and China. USDA will have to acknowledge the deal in their forecast, particularly now that the deal is in effect. Then, USDA analysts on Friday morning will release their first run at the 2020/21 marketing year U.S. balance sheets. But the key to keep in mind on these forecasts relative to the Phase One deal is that the agreement is on a calendar-year basis, while the forecasts due over the next two days will be a mix. The trade forecast is on a FY basis – an October-September year – while the U.S. commodity balance sheets are on a mix of marketing years. Still, the data will provide some additional perspective on what USDA analysts expect to be a result of the Phase One deal with China.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 19, 2020 |


India Offers Concession on U.S. Farm Goods to Help Reach a Deal India is attempting to reach a trade deal with the U.S. before President Donald Trump makes his first official visit to the country on February 24-25. People close to the negotiations say the Indian government is open to greater market access for American farm and dairy products. India is willing to allow market access for U.S. products like cranberries, blueberries, pecan nuts, and avocados at lower duty rates. They’re also open to allowing imports of DDGs, the by-product of ethanol production used in animal feed and alfalfa hay. Even as the two nations attempt to have a deal in place before Trump’s visit, there aren’t a lot of details available as to when a new agreement might be ready. Negotiators are still working on the final details in an attempt to resolve some long-standing issues between the two countries. Bloomberg says even a partial trade deal with India that allows greater market access for U.S. farm goods is likely to help the president as he runs for reelection this year. He’s fresh off success with the “Phase One” deal with China, as well as the USMCA agreement, and the trade deal with Japan. ********************************************************************************************** GAO will Investigate Trade Aid Funds Distribution The Government Accountability Office is looking into President Trump’s $28 billion aid program for farmers that were hurt by trade disputes with other countries. The office is investigating allegations that the money was mismanaged and distributed unfairly. The New York Times says the investigation came about because of a request by Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, who says she thinks the aid program was biased. She argues that the program provided more funds to southern states that voted for the president and that it favored large and foreign agriculture companies over small farmers. The administration says the aid program that began in 2018 will end this year. The program started as a $12 billion effort to help mitigate losses for farmers who faced lost sales because of retaliatory tariffs from China, the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, as a result of the trade war. The program grew to $28 billion last year as the trade war disruptions with China lingered. Critics have said the formula that was used to determine payments for certain crops were faulty, which meant funds went to multiple big corporations or large farms, instead of the smaller family operations. ********************************************************************************************** Hemp Farmers on Edge Because of Law Enforcement Requirements Hemp producers around the country feel they’re being treated like criminals. That’s because laboratories that test the crop must be certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration, something that has the country’s producers uneasy. USDA’s new hemp regulations say farmers have to ship some of their crops off to labs so that they can verify the crop doesn’t contain illegal amounts of THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana. If a hemp crop is found non-compliant, which would mean the THC levels are above .3 percent, it has to be completely destroyed under the supervision of a law enforcement officer. Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, tells Politico that law enforcement shouldn’t be involved unless there’s evidence of illegal activity, such as a farmer with a hemp license growing marijuana. Other critics worry that DEA lab certification will create a major bottleneck to testing, which must take place during a 15-day window before harvest. 44 labs in America can process hemp samples, but some states such as Alabama don’t have a single lab to take care of that kind of testing. ********************************************************************************************** Justice Department Looking Into Dairy Merger Dairy Farmers of America has reached an agreement with Dean Foods to purchase the bulk of Dean’s operations for $425 million. An Agri-Pulse report says that agreement will be contingent on approval from the Justice Department and a federal bankruptcy court. Dean filed for bankruptcy back in November. The company currently operates 57 facilities in 29 states, and under the agreement, Dairy Farmers of America would acquire 44 of those facilities. However, not everyone is happy with the agreement. “It would be awful,” says Peter Carstensen, a Law Professor at the University of Wisconsin. “This has the potential to hurt consumers because it would eliminate a lot of competition within the industry. At the same time, it will hurt dairy farmers.” Carstensen specializes in antitrust in agriculture, and he says Dean and DFA are some of the only milk processors in the Upper Midwest and New England. Bobbi Wilson, a government relations associate for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, says, “We don’t want to see a situation where DFA is the only buyer around.” The Justice Department will need to review the merger and has been in contact with Dean Foods about potential transactions, including a tie-up with DFA. Dean Foods says it believes the transaction would be “competitive and beneficial” for both farmers and consumers. ********************************************************************************************** Grain Glitch Could Cost Farmers, Cooperatives Money It’s been two years since the discovery of the “grain glitch” in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. A DTN report says farmer cooperatives are still asking Treasury Department officials to change provisions of Section 199A back to the way the tax deduction worked before the 2017 tax law was passed. The tax quirk that looked like a windfall for farmers who did business with cooperatives might now increase the taxes for at least some of those farmers who are patrons of more diverse cooperatives. Accountants and grain industry leaders discovered in early 2018 that the new tax law inadvertently gave farmers a potentially large tax break for selling their crops to farmer cooperatives instead of private elevators. Major private grain companies were faced with a possible large purchasing disadvantage. The grain glitch generated enough attention that Congress passed legislation to rework the tax deduction in a federal spending bill within a few months. Last summer, the Treasury Department began proposing that Section 199 deductions only apply to “patronage income.” That would eliminate cooperatives’ ability to combine “non-patronage income” as part of the deduction calculation. That exclusion of non-patronage income was never part of the original Section 199 regulations. ********************************************************************************************** Coronavirus a “Wildcard” in the Cotton Market too? The coronavirus in China represents a significant wildcard in the world’s cotton market. That comes from the 2020 economic outlook released at the National Cotton Council’s annual meeting in New Orleans. The coronavirus outbreak in China may mean delays in the Asian country’s ability to increase purchases in the near-term. The NCC says that it makes it hard to predict what 2020 buying may look like in the cotton market during the year ahead. The NCC is projecting planted acreage to be 13 million acres, 5.5 percent less than in 2019. The Hagstrom Report says the expected drop in cotton acres is a result of slightly weaker cotton prices relative to corn and soybeans. Export markets for cotton, like many other commodities, continues to be the primary outlet for the raw fiber shipments from the U.S. World trade is estimated to be higher in the 2019 marketing year. However, retaliatory tariffs and increased competition from other major exporting countries have led to a sharp drop in the U.S. share of the cotton market in China. However, despite the continued U.S. and China trade disruptions, the NCC says U.S. export sales to other markets have been very strong for the current crop year.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 19, 2020 |


Washington Insider: GAO to Investigate Farm Bailout Program The New York Times and others are reporting this week that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is opening a review of the administration’s $28 billion bailout for farmers. The Times said that the review would look into allegations that the money was “mismanaged and allocated unfairly.” The investigation was requested by Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who has frequently charged that the aid program was biased, providing more funds per-acre to farmers in southern states that voted for President Trump and favored “large and foreign agriculture companies over small farms.” The administration, which signed an initial trade deal with China last month, said the farm subsidies already were planned to end this year. The program began in 2018 as a $12 billion effort to mitigate losses for farmers who lost sales or faced retaliatory tariffs from China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico as a result of the trade war – and was expanded to $28 billion last year as the conflict with China festered. Critics have faulted the program for the formulas it used to determine payments for certain crops and for providing funds to big corporate farms, the Times said. The program used a “Depression-era fund that allowed farmers earning less than $900,000 a year to receive money if they produced one of the agricultural products that faced retaliation.” The government also purchased certain products to buoy key markets for products like apples, oranges and pork. “It’s clear that the administration’s trade assistance payments pick winners and losers rather than help the farmers who have been hit the hardest by this president’s trade policies,” Stabenow said in a statement late last week. She requested that the GAO study why payments disproportionately went to large farm operations, if the Agriculture Department was effectively preventing fraud, waste and abuse in the program and whether the model the USDA used to distribute payments accurately reflected trade damage that farmers experienced. Democrats have complained that the program paid subsidies to some farmers that did not need them while leaving those that were suffering from others damaged by the administration’s tariff policies without benefits. The GAO is a nonpartisan congressional watchdog that audits government programs. It notified Sen. Stabenow’s office in a letter transmitted on Thursday that it would take up the investigation. Democrats are not the only ones that have expressed concerns with the farm bailout program, the Times said. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined with Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., in asking Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, to investigate JBS, a Brazilian-owned meat-processor that received $67 million in bailout funds. Lawmakers also raised concerns about the payments given the company’s past legal problems, noting that in 2017 two of JBS’s former top executives, brothers Wesley Batista and Joesley Batista, pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Brazil. The brothers remain majority shareholders with control over the company. Rubio and Menendez also asked the Treasury Department to investigate possible ties that JBS has with the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, whom the United States does not recognize as the legitimate president. In a letter to DeLauro last month, Secretary Perdue said that he did not intend to ask his inspector general to open an investigation into JBS, noting that the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission were already looking into the company’s practices. So, we will see. Farmers who saw export markets weaken as a result of the administration’s trade policies have long argued that they much prefer their accustomed access to growing developing country markets over government subsidies—which they charged fell substantially short of making up for the lost sales, although many producers reported that the program’s benefits were very much appreciated. Producers have long invested in overseas market development and have punished administrations for interventions that weakened those markets – in spite of efforts to offset impacts of the interventions. So, producers can be expected to add their criticisms to those turned up by the GAO—especially if the coronavirus weakens Chinese demand and undercuts its promises to purchase US farm products. These trade policy efforts are important and producers should watch them closely the “trade fight” proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 19, 2020 |


EPA Discussing Court Case Impact on RFS with White House EPA is currently consulting with the White House and Department of Justice on the potential impact of the recent court ruling that three small refinery exemptions (SREs) granted by EPA in the 2016 compliance did not meet requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to a report from Reuters. The report said the decision would be made by March 9. The court ruled that the three in question did not meet the RFS law which they said requires that any SREs granted after 2010 have to be an extension. The agency aims to have an announcement by March 9, according to the report. "EPA and (the Department of Justice) are reviewing the decision and carefully considering its potential impact on the program," EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said in a statement. The number of SREs requested and granted by EPA has risen sharply in recent years and some of those SREs are potentially impacted by the court decision, with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler telling reporters recently that the action has the potential to impact the SRE process.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 19, 2020 |


China to Exempt 696 US Goods From Tariffs China will allow companies to apply for tariff exemptions on 696 US products as of March 2, with several ag products on the list, including pork, beef, soybeans, denatured ethanol, wheat, corn, sorghum some medical devices, cooper ore and concentrates, copper scrap, aluminum scrap and some pharmaceutical products and antibiotics. Crude oil, liquefied natural gas and several seafood products are also on the list of goods where importers can apply for the tariff exemptions. The announcement from the Ministry of Finance indicated the imports are still to be based on market conditions and companies can apply to have other products added to the list of goods that are eligible for tariff exemptions. The ministry will approve application within three working days. Buyers must get approval before their cargoes clear customs.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 19, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday's reports start early with U.S. producer prices and housing starts due out at 7:30 a.m. CST. Weekly energy inventories are pushed to Thursday, due to this week's holiday schedule, leaving traders to notice the South American weather forecast and any trade news. Minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting will be released at 1 p.m. CST. Weather Wednesday will feature light snow in the western Plains, light rain along the Gulf Coast, and dry conditions elsewhere in primary crop areas. A strong arctic cold wave will spread across north-central areas, hindering transportation and bringing stressful conditions to livestock.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 18, 2020 |


Washington Insider: China and Future Trade Policies There is a lot of concern among global policy makers just now regarding what will happen next on trade, Bloomberg is reporting this week. The “broad policy direction for many of the world’s central banks and governments now hinges on one question: how will the Chinese government respond to the economic shocks caused by the coronavirus?” The report notes that the Communist Party’s elite Politburo has urged the nation to meet its economic targets this year, an imperative that could change the government’s recent reluctance to “fire up large-scale stimulus.” If this attitude translates into an all-out loosening of monetary policy and a ramp up in government spending, key trading partners that have been slammed by the hit to exports, supply chains, commodities and tourism may see that short-term pain followed by a rapid snap back. Such a potential economic shock is expected to dominate discussions at this week’s meeting of finance ministers and central bankers at a Group of 20 summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Friday suggested there may be a need for “synchronized or, even better, coordinated measures to protect the world economy.” Much depends on which levers China pulls, Bloomberg says. Near-term options include further cuts to central bank funding rates and more tax relief to hard-hit sectors as well as flush liquidity for the financial system. The emphasis for now remains on not over doing it, though there are signs the resolve is softening. The People’s Bank of China could further cut the proportion of deposits banks must hold as reserves. Local governments are being allowed to speed up bond sales to fund infrastructure like highways and health facilities. Real gross domestic product is now forecast to grow 5.8% this year, according to the median result in a Bloomberg survey, down from 5.9% last month. That would be the weakest in three decades. The main unknown is whether officials will really relax their rigid clampdown on borrowing in an economy where total debt is heading toward 300% of national output, making financial stability a political priority. “The key for China’s trading partners is not so much the composition of China’s stimulus but, rather, that the stimulus is tailored to reflect the features of the shock.” said Nathan Sheets, a former Fed official who is now chief economist for PGIM Fixed Income. However, Bloomberg also notes that China’s factories are vital links in the supply chains for multinational companies and that Hubei province, an industrial powerhouse with an economy the size of Sweden’s, remains in lock-down while a mix of curbs on factory production and travel remain in place elsewhere too, complicating the task of getting the economy back up to speed. HSBC Bank Plc economists led by Janet Henry estimate the hit to tourism revenue will be the biggest drag on Asia. They also highlight China’s role at the center of the global supply chain for electronics will delay a nascent recovery after a prolonged slump. The Asia-focused lender has cut its 2020 global GDP forecast to 2.3% from 2.5% on the back of the China effect. President Xi Jinping has stressed the hit to growth will be short term and has used opportunities like a half hour phone call with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to assure the fallout will be contained. Still, there is concern that because China is experiencing a supply side shock that’s upended production and distribution, a conventional stimulus such as lower interest rates or higher public spending may not be enough to turn things around, according to former IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard. “The effects on the rest of the world are likely to be mostly through the disruption of supply chains and the effect on firms outside of China,” he said. “Much more so than the effect through lower exports to China, because of lower growth in China.” Governments across Asia are already gearing up to respond, observers say. For example, Koichi Hamada, an adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said more fiscal stimulus will be needed if the fall out worsens. Singapore is seen as poised to roll out extra spending and Malaysia will announce stimulus next month while Indonesia plans faster spending, Bloomberg said. Globally, policy makers including those at the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Federal Reserve say they are closely watching the virus fallout. Among emerging markets, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have already cut their benchmarks and others may follow. That is why there’s so much focus on how China responds, Bloomberg thinks. “I would guess the global policy response will be 3/4 on Beijing and 1/4 by the rest of the world,” said Gene Ma, head of China research at the Institute of International Finance said this week. So, we will see. There remains a basic current of trade tensions among major competitors concerning the U.S. reliance on tariffs and potential impacts on U.S. competitiveness in global markets including those for manufactured products – as well as the concern that the fundamental impacts of the coronavirus outbreaks may be harder to shake than some expect. As a result, trade policy proposals and decisions will continue to be vitally important to producers and should be watched closely over the coming months, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 18, 2020 |


Visit to India By USTR Lighthizer Now Not In The Cards Ahead Of Trump Trip President Donald Trump is to visit India this week, February 24-25, with some expectations that he could sign a trade deal during the trip. The expectation had been that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was to visit India ahead of Trump’s arrival to hold trade discussions. The two sides have held discussions over the last several weeks via teleconference. But it now appears Lighthizer’s visit may not take place. The Press Trust of India reported that an unnamed official said, "Lighthizer was supposed to hold discussions with [a] commerce ministry team but as of now, he is not coming." The official said there was no indication yet that a trade deal will be signed by Trump during his visit.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 18, 2020 |


White House Sends Nominations to Senate For EPA, Energy Posts The White House Thursday sent forward the nomination of Mark Menezes to Deputy Secretary of Energy. Menezes is currently Undersecretary of Energy and is the principal advisor on energy policy and emerging energy technologies. Prior to taking that role at DOE, Menezes was an executive with Berkshire Hathaway Energy in its Washington, D.C., office and while a staffer on the Hill was involved in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The nomination of Douglas Benevento as EPA Deputy Administrator was also sent forward. Benevento currently serves as EPA Associate Deputy Administrator. Previously, he served as Senior Counselor for Regional Management and State Affairs, and as Region 8 Administrator for EPA. In the private sector, he worked on energy and environmental issues at Xcel Energy and practiced law at Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Benevento also served as executive director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, where he managed the State’s environmental and public health programs. Both agencies play a role in US ethanol policy and Menezes has experience on the Hill in terms of the initial law that set up the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 18, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There is a scarcity of economic reports on Tuesday after the President's Day holiday. DTN will be watching for updated South American weather and harvest activity, along with any news on coronavirus (COVID-19), and especially news on China granting duty-free import licenses for U.S. soybeans and ag products. Weather Tuesday features additional rain in the Delta, Ohio Valley, and the Southeast, with continued flooding. The central U.S. will have several rounds of light mixed freezing precipitation and snow, causing some travel and safety issues. Conditions will be cold north and seasonal to above normal central and south. No polar vortex-related cold outbreak is indicated in the upper-level pattern.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 17, 2020 |


India Offers Dairy, Chicken Access in Trade Negotiations with the U.S. In a bid to land a limited trade pact with the U.S., Reuters says India has offered to partially open up its poultry and dairy markets. The offer comes as India readies for President Donald Trump’s first official visit to the country at the end of this month. No country produces more milk than India, which has traditionally restricted dairy imports to protect the livelihoods of the 80 million households involved in the industry. Last year, Trump suspended India’s special trade designation that dated back to the 1970s. That move came after India put price caps on medical devices, such as cardiac stents and knee implants, as well as introduced new data localization requirements and e-commerce restrictions. The U.S. is India’s second-largest trading partner, trailing only China. India has offered to allow imports of U.S. chicken legs, turkey, and produce like blueberries and cherries, while also cutting tariffs on chicken legs from 100 percent to 25. U.S. negotiators would like that cut to ten percent. The Indian government is also offering to allow some access to its dairy market, but with a five percent tariff and quotas. However, dairy imports would need a certificate saying they aren’t derived from animals that have consumed feeds containing internal organs, blood meal, or tissues of ruminants. ********************************************************************************************** Phase One Trade Deal Officially Takes Effect Not only was Friday Valentine’s Day, but it was also the first official day that the Phase One Trade Deal was in effect. Tariffs on both sides of the agreement officially began coming down. The coronavirus outbreak is causing concern about China meeting its obligations under the agreement. An Agri-Pulse report says U.S. experts are worried about whether ports, interior transportation, and soybean crushers are all operating at normal levels. However, industry sources and USDA data show that 1.6 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans were making their way across the Pacific Ocean and heading to China. The latest numbers show that 69,000 tons of soybeans left the U.S. and headed to China during the week of January 31st. During that same time frame, USDA reports showed net sales of 132,000 tons of soybeans to China for the 2019-2020 marketing year. The numbers show that soybeans are still going to China, even though information coming from out of China is almost non-existent. Officials point out that we still don’t know any specifics about how many purchases China will make under the Phase One agreement. Farm groups are looking for more specific information but don’t have any yet. ********************************************************************************************** Phase One Trade Deal Does Include Deadlines for China While much of the attention on the deal between the U.S. and China centers around concerns on China meeting its purchasing requirements under the agreement, there are some deadlines it has to meet. There are some deadlines for the U.S. to meet as well. Politico said on Friday that, within the next seven working days, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and China’s Customs Agency are required to sign a protocol to allow for the importation of U.S. potatoes. China is also required by February 24 to formally recognize the U.S. dairy safety system is as safe as its own, as well as allow imports of American pork that’s been inspected by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. China is also required by March 14 to lift its ban on U.S. pet foods containing ruminant ingredients and to eliminate cattle age requirements for imports of U.S. beef and beef products. The two sides are also required by that same date to begin technical discussions intended to pave the way for China to import U.S breeding cattle. ********************************************************************************************** Stronger Farmland Values are Supporting the Farm Economy Strength in farm real estate markets provided support to the agricultural sector amid ongoing financial challenges. The Tenth District Survey of Agricultural Credit Condition from the Federal Reserve of Kansas City says non-irrigated cropland values and cash rents increased slightly in the fourth quarter of last year. Cash rents had been dropping since 2017 but rose slightly at the end of last year. Credit conditions in the District remained weak but deteriorated at the slowest pace in more than four years. Despite some signs of stabilization, geographic disparities persisted across the region. Land values were stronger on the eastern side of the District, while farm income and credit conditions were weaker on the west side of the district. Lower interest rates and reduced borrowing costs may have contributed to recent strength in the District’s farmland values. Demand for farmland remained strong in the fourth quarter of 2019, which could also have supported farmland values. Bankers who responded to the survey said that trade relief payments provided notable support to farm finances in 2019, but many also indicated that underlying weaknesses in the sector continued to be driven by low agricultural commodity prices. ********************************************************************************************** Midwest Bracing for More Flooding This Spring States that border the Missouri River are forecast to experience an elevated flood risk this spring. The National Weather Service says those conditions will only be made worse by already saturated soils and a lot of snow to melt. The NWS issued its first Spring Flood Outlook last week, saying Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and eastern North and South Dakota all face an above-average flooding risk. It’s not good news as many of those areas are still trying to recover from devastating flooding last year that damaged levees and cost farmers millions in crop losses. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says they are “very concerned at this point.” An Associated Press report says even in places where the Corps was able to patch holes in some levees, the normal level of protection won’t be there because initial repairs haven’t been done yet to the full height of the levees. Officials say levee repairs will likely take up to two years to complete. Part of the challenge is the water remained so high in some areas that officials couldn’t even assess the full scope of damage until just recently. Many levees in Iowa and Nebraska have been patched but work hasn’t begun yet in Kansas and Missouri. ********************************************************************************************** Hemp Industry Executive Blames FDA for industry Challenges The Food and Drug Administration’s uncertainty over how to regulate the hemp industry is causing challenges that some companies can’t overcome. Warning letters to companies for selling products illegally has diminished big companies’ interest in hemp food products and made it difficult for processors to obtain working capital. Steven Bevan, president of GenCanna, says his Kentucky hemp processing company had to file for bankruptcy last week. “The FDA doesn’t have a pathway for accepting something that was an illegal product,” Bevan told attendees at the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau seminar on hemp. Crop insurers and companies that issue reinsurance are interested in hemp because the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to grow the non-psychotropic relative of marijuana. There are three main hemp products, including fiber, seed, and flowers used to make CBD oil, which is used without FDA approval to treat a range of medical problems. In November, FDA warned consumers that it could not conclude CBD is safe for use in human or animal food, and it sent warning letters to 15 companies. Bevan called the FDA’s safety concerns “hogwash.” He says the FDA hasn’t ever removed a single CBD product from any store shelves. The result of the warning letters is that big companies are following their lawyer’s advice to say away from hemp.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 14, 2020 |


Tougher Trade “Firewall” Needed for Smaller Ag Sectors Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Richard Burr of North Carolina are working on bipartisan legislation to give the U.S Commerce Department a greater ability to defend smaller segments of agriculture. Politico says the bill would give the department greater authority to “self-Initiate investigations” to help those less influential sectors combat potential trade manipulation. Peters says, “If you’re a big industry, such as the steel industry, you can hire an army of lawyers and economists to push back against unfairly subsidized trade by foreign governments. If you’re a smaller industry like cherries or blueberries or other agricultural products, it’s a lot more difficult.” Peters sent a letter to Customs and Border Protection this week, calling for an investigation into tart cherry exports from Turkey. He says shortly after the U.S. slapped duties on cherries from Turkey back in 2018, cherry exports from Brazil surged as much as 1,200 percent. He points out in the letter that “Brazil doesn’t appear to have a discernible tart cherry industry.” ********************************************************************************************** Past Mad Cow Scare Keeping EU Cautious During U.S. Negotiations A Reuters report says the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the 1990s will likely keep the European Union from easing its strict rules on food safety. That caution will likely continue even though U.S President Trump is threatening to slap tariffs on car imports from the EU if the countries don’t start importing more U.S. farm products. European food and farming exports to the United States are worth $12 billion more than the imports the bloc brings in from the U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue told EU officials last month they should adapt food regulations to reflect “sound science.” However, Reuters says there is very little optimism that the EU will agree. Europeans remember the BSE outbreak and will not accept any lowering of its food standards. A trade specialist with the European Policy Center says no politician will support a trade deal that’s perceived as dropping those stringent standards. Trump has long complained the EU position on trade is “worse than China.” Earlier this week, the president said he’s setting sights on Europe, which raises the prospect of another trade war. ********************************************************************************************** January Ag Equipment Sales Mixed The first month of 2020 saw mixed results in the total number of U.S. tractor and self-propelled combine sales. Total farm tractor sales grew compared to January of last year while combines fell by 25 percent. That’s according to data out this week from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Total U.S. farm tractor sales increased 4.7 percent in January compared to last year while January self-propelled combine sales dropped 24.4 percent. Total sales of two-wheel-drive tractors grew in all segments during January by a total of 4.9 percent more than January of 2019. Sales of tractors with more than 100 horsepower led the way in sales growth, up 19.6 percent to 1,361 units. The total number of four-wheel-drive tractor sales fell 6.6 percent to 169 units sold. “The sales numbers we’re seeing for January are in line with our expectations,” says Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of Ag Services at AEM. “With the approval of the USMCA and the Phase One trade agreement with China, we believe we’re seeing some positive trends on the horizon for ag equipment sales.” ********************************************************************************************** Study Highlights Urban-Rural Divide Over the Environment Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions issued a new study on the rural and urban divide over environmental issues. The study says rural voters have a deep distrust of the federal government, which explains their split with urban folks on environmental policy. The study says rural Americans matter a whole lot when it comes to the fate of U.S. environmental policy. After all, farmers, ranchers, and forest owners manage a huge part of America’s lands and watersheds. The study finds that 70 percent of rural folks express their support for conserving natural resources, while the same percentage of urban folks feel the same way. However, a stark contrast comes to light when each side is asked about the preferred level of government oversight on the environment. Forty percent of rural voters support less government oversight of the environment and conservation, while 47 percent of urban voters support more government oversight. “My hope is that this will help us understand how to engage with rural constituencies,” says Robert Bonnie, who led the study. “This data shows there is an approach to national climate legislation that empowers states and local government because folks seem more comfortable with that.” ********************************************************************************************** USDA Selects 30 Future Agricultural Leaders The USDA announced its selection of 30 college students who will attend the USDA’s 2020 Ag Outlook Forum as participants in the USDA Future Leaders of Agriculture Program. These undergrad and graduate-level students will take part in a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., capped off with their attendance at the Forum on February 20-21. The USDA has hosted students in this program since 2007. The trip to the Forum, which is USDA’s largest annual meeting, gives students real-world learning opportunities in contemporary agribusiness, scientific research, and agricultural policy. The program selects 20 undergrads and 10 graduate students based on their written essays on agricultural careers and challenges. During their visit to D.C., students will take part in a USDA briefing and discussion of career opportunities with agriculture leaders in academics, government, and industry. They will also tour the nation’s capital, attend the Forum, and will meet with Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. The Future Leaders in Agriculture Program is supported by academic institutions, corporations, and government institutions dedicated to promoting the education of the next generation of agriculture. ********************************************************************************************** NASS Making Changes to its Crop Reporting The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will be making changes to its county-level reporting. More specifically, there will no longer be county-level estimates for dry edible beans, flaxseed, hay (alfalfa and others), as well as potatoes, sugar beets, sugarcane, sunflowers (non-oil and oil varieties), and tobacco. Additionally, NASS will discontinue county estimates based on irrigated or non-irrigated practices for all crops. These changes are effective beginning with the 2019 crop year. The reason for the changes is the lack of funds. The data collection cost for the surveys that the agency uses to gather the data for county-level numbers had been partially funded through a cooperative agreement, which was not renewed. As a result, NASS says it has to adjust its county estimates program to reflect the lower level of funding available. NASS took public comments and reviewed the feedback before deciding to discontinue these estimates. Future NASS reports will still be available at www.nass.usda.gov/Publications.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 14, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Administration Proposes to Slash Chesapeake Bay Funding Again The president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget proposal went to Congress this week and, as expected, it would largely wipe out federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, the Washington Post said this week. The partnership effort includes six states and the District and aims to clean up and restore the Bay. It has been underway since 1983. The popular program, which received $85 million this year, would be reduced to $7.3 million next year—the fourth year in a row the administration has proposed to cut it sharply. While the proposed cuts shouldn’t have been a surprise since they have been an annual feature of recent administration proposals, but Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the number still came as a shock. “This is a program that for years has truly enjoyed broad bipartisan support,” he said. “So it makes you ask yourself, what statement is the President trying to make?” Such a dramatic decrease of support would threaten the ecosystem’s steady yet fragile recovery, Baker argues. However, he doubts that the final budget will look the way the administration has envisioned. Last year, the proposed cut also was 90%, as it was the year before – and the year before that, the proposal was to eliminate the federal contribution altogether. Members of Congress who support the bay recovery effort have regularly rejected the president’s proposals and restored funding. Environmentalists and lawmakers have said they expect a similar response this year. But, as always, “there are no guarantees,” the Post said. Scientists say the Chesapeake Bay is the healthiest it has been in generations. The ecosystem is showing signs of resilience and recovery unseen for decades, and even after record-setting 2018 rainfall resulted in a D-plus grade on last year’s annual report card, most metrics now indicate the estuary is continually improving. Fishermen and environmentalists have logged sightings of species, including bottlenose dolphins, that had vanished. Signs of natural resilience and recovery — like thriving underwater grass beds and growing oyster reefs — have returned. Many who work along the estuary use the same metaphors to demonstrate its growth: The Chesapeake Bay, they say, is like a sick patient in the early stages of remission. Why would you stop the patient’s supply of lifesaving medicine when it seems the treatments are working? The program’s six states and the District have committed to meeting environmental goals, such as improving fisheries, increasing public access and limiting pollution in the bay to target levels by 2025. The restoration plan is outlined in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a public call for the president to reverse course and support the restoration effort--for which he has committed more than $350 million in his budget proposal. “Maryland is leading the charge to safeguard the Bay — we are simply asking our federal partners to keep up their share,” Hogan said. “At his confirmation hearing, the EPA administrator said: ‘I am very much committed to the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Bay Program.’ Instead, the administration recklessly and repeatedly proposes gutting Chesapeake Bay funding.” Hogan, who chairs the Chesapeake Executive Council — a regional commission that consists of governors of the six states along the Chesapeake watershed, the District mayor, the EPA administrator and chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission — added that the effort to protect the bay has long been bipartisan. However, not every state has been so diligent. For example, Pennsylvania, which does not border the Chesapeake but contributes a significant amount of agricultural pollution via the Susquehanna River, recently released a bay cleanup plan that underfunds by $300 million a program to help farmers adopt anti-pollution practices. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation last month announced it intends to sue the EPA over its refusal to cooperate with mandatory Obama-era environmental programs – including those that decrease runoff and aid restoration efforts. Maryland and Virginia also are considering suing the EPA in an effort to compel it to change course. “With this continued lack of support from the White House, it is all the more important that state practices and programs and funding all come through to help this restoration effort,” Baker said. “It’s very disturbing to see such a broad-based attack on the very fundamental and environmental principles of our nation.” So, we will see. Clearly, support is strong for this program but so is the opposition in some cases. It is an effort that affects many producers directly and which should be watched closely as the funding fight continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 14, 2020 |


Farm Credit Administration Official: Too Early To Make Call On More Farmer Aid The CEO of the Farm Credit Administration is “cautiously optimistic” the financial picture for agriculture could improve this year as trade agreements enter into force and interest rates are expected to remain low. “It may take patience, but at least the groundwork has been laid for trade normalization and improved farm prices,” Glen Smith told the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. He said that means it is “too early” to know if there should be 2020 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) effort. Smith and Jeffery Hall, a Farm Credit Administration board member, appeared before the subcommittee regarding the independent agency’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget request of $81 million. In the third quarter of 2019, Smith said the share of adverse loan quality was 7.4% compared with data from the Farm Credit System putting that at 6.6% at the end of 2018. Nonperforming loans for the third quarter remained below one percent while delinquent loans were at 0.3%.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 14, 2020 |


US Officials Comment on China Phase One Status The U.S. has not yet received anything from China that the country expects to delay its purchases of U.S. ag goods under the phase-one trade agreement due to the coronavirus situation, according to USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Services Ted McKinney. “We have not received any formal notification of a delay, which pleases me,” McKinney said in Houston, Texas, at an ethanol event. “We hope it does not come.” The length of the coronavirus situation will be important, McKinney said, particularly if it impacts shipping and other economic activities. “I suspect it will be determined by how long the issue goes on,” he noted. He also expressed a hope China would deploy additional tariff reductions to help meet the purchase commitments. “They made the commitment and it will be difficult to meet that commitment with the current tariff schedule and conditions in place,” he said. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told lawmakers during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget that with the coronavirus situation in China, implementation of the phase one deal “to a certain extent slowed down.” Despite the statement by McKinney, there is the full expectation that China will request consultations, likely in March, on the issue of delaying their purchase commitments of U.S. ag goods.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 14, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Economic reports out early on Friday morning are retail sales, industrial production and consumer sentiment index, which could all give a glimpse into the health of the economy. We will also be watching for any news regarding coronavirus, Chinese soybean buying and any weather changes in South America. Weather Dry conditions will cover all primary U.S. crop areas Friday. Precipitation will be confined to light snow in the Canadian Prairies. Bitter cold will be noted in the northern and eastern Midwest. Snow and rain return to the northern crop areas Sunday and Monday.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 13, 2020 |


Beijing Asks World for Trade Calm Amid Coronavirus Outbreak The U.S. and several of the world’s major trading powers are dealing with uncertainty surrounding China. Politico says the spread of the coronavirus has killed hundreds of people and sickened tens of thousands in mainland China. However, at the World Trade Organization gathering in Geneva (Juh-NEE-vah), Chinese officials were quick to “flex their economic muscles” and remind other officials from countries around the world about China’s contributions to worldwide growth. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told a House panel this week that the coronavirus will “very likely” affect the U.S. economic growth, but it’s far too early to predict what kind of impact it will have. He also says the central bank doesn’t see any need to adjust interest rates right now as U.S. manufacturing has weakened over the past year. The outbreak is putting a damper on speculation that China will be able to meet the obligations it agreed to in the Phase One Trade Deal with the U.S. China’s Ministry of Agriculture says the country may have to delay its purchases of $40 billion due to the outbreak, but also says it will fulfill its commitments within a year. ********************************************************************************************** U.S./EU Bracing for Potentially Rough Trade Negotiations Fresh off a phase one trade deal with China, U.S. President Donald Trump has his sights on a new deal with the European Union. The president wants to restructure the over $1 trillion U.S. trade relationship with the European Union. Reuters says that’s already raising the specter of another major trade war as the global economy is slowing. Trump has long complained that the EU position on trade “is worse than China’s.” Trump says, “Europe has been treating us very badly. Over the last 10 to 12 years, there’s been a tremendous deficit with Europe. That have incredible trade barriers, so we’re going to be starting with that.” Meantime, EU officials say they are willing to work with the U.S. president to address some of the challenges in the relationship. A German conservative lawmaker tells Reuters that Trump needs to remember the EU and the U.S. are “evenly matched” in the economic realm, and that they will defend themselves if the need arises. EU officials say, “We will respond to U.S. tariffs, and we know how to structure them to be effective.” Reuters says there may be a “mini-deal” like the Phase One agreement signed with China. However, that likely won’t solve the main issues that would allow both sides to declare a truce. ********************************************************************************************** EU Strikes Trade Deal with Vietnam European Union lawmakers overwhelmingly approved free trade and investment deals with Vietnam that will eliminate almost all tariffs over the next decade. The website U.S. News Dot Com says the deal is expected to give the EU a competitive foothold in an important overseas market for the United States. European legislators voted 401 to 192 in favor of striking the deal. The EU hopes the deal will bring in 15 billion euros, or $16.5 billion, in additional exports from Vietnam to the continent by 2035. They also expect EU exports to Vietnam will jump by more than eight billion euros to an annual level of 22 billion euros. Vietnam sends a lot of telecommunications equipment, food, and clothing to Europe, while the EU sends machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, as well as agricultural products to the Asian nation. EU officials say the deal is all about strengthening economic ties to Vietnam amid fierce competition from the U.S. and China within that marketplace. Once adopted by lawmakers, the deal needs to be approved by the EU council and ratified by all 27 member nations to go into effect. ********************************************************************************************** Study says FCC Underestimates Number of Americans without Internet A report issued by BroadbandNow Research says the number of Americans that are without internet service is 43 million. The Hagstrom Report says that’s double the estimate of 21.3 million from the Federal Communications Commission. The report also says the problem is worse than the FCC says it is in rural America. They say the discrepancy occurs because the FCC relies on semi-annual self-reporting by Internet service providers using the FCC-mandated Form 477. If an ISP offers service to at least one household in a census block, then the FCC counts the entire census block as covered by that provider, even if the rest of the block doesn’t have service. BroadbandNow Research says it examined the magnitude of this flaw by manually checking internet availability using FCC data as the source of truth for randomly selected addresses. BroadbandNow Research says it believes that “provider reporting on address-level availability is the best and most transparent way to understand and quantify the digital divide.” They also believe that FCC reporting should be timelier. FCC Form 477 data typically comes out to the public about 12-18 months after the ISPs file their required reports. ********************************************************************************************** December U.S. Pork Exports Set a Record to End 2019 U.S. pork exports finished up 2019 on a good note, setting records for both the dollar value and total volume. The U.S. Meat Export Federation compiled USDA data and found that 5.89 billion pounds of U.S. pork and pork variety meats were exported to countries around the world. The volume was a 10 percent jump over the previous year, while the value came in at $6.95 billion, up nine percent over 2018. Pork exports accounted for almost 27 percent of total U.S. pork production in 2019. Export value per head averaged $53.51, up four percent of 2018. “China was the main driver for the record-breaking pace of U.S. pork exports during the last year,” says David Newman, president of the National Pork Board. “We are poised to help China fill its protein gap caused by the recent African Swine Fever outbreak.” He also says that the U.S. pork industry is focusing on recapturing lost market share with key customers and investing in research to develop emerging markets. While exports to China were higher last year, key customers like Japan and Mexico, the number one export markets in terms of value and volume, respectively, saw significant drops as the U.S. negotiated new trade deals with each country. ********************************************************************************************** NACD Elects Next President The National Association of Conservation Districts’ Board of Directors has elected Michael Crowder of Washington as the association’s president-elect. “Michael epitomizes conservation, both in his leadership at the national level and on the ground on his operations in Illinois, Indiana, and Washington state,” says current NACD President Tim Palmer. “Having worked with Michael closely for several years on the NACD officer team and board of directors, I’m confident he’s well-suited to champion locally-led conservation in the years ahead.” Crowder will serve a one-year term as president-elect alongside Palmer. Crowder was first elected to the NACD Officer Team in 2017 as the second vice president and previously served on the organization’s Board of Directors as the Washington state delegate. “Locally-led conservation is the backbone of conservation delivery,” Crowder says. “It’s an honor to be selected by my fellow district officials to represent and advance conservation work at the national level for farmers, ranchers, and fellow conservationists.” Crowder will be sworn in as the next president in February of 2021.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 13, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Coronavirus Impacts and the EU The media is focused heavily on the potential impacts of the coronavirus this week, especially on the European Union – in spite of the fact that only scattered cases of the virus have appeared in Europe, the New York Times says. One key reason for concern is the fact that the disease is proving very difficult to quarantine. As a result, the European impact “may be severe enough to push the vulnerable German economy, and perhaps the entire eurozone, into recession,” the Times says. The report notes “the concerns of a growing number of economists” as it becomes clear that it will take weeks, at best, before the Chinese economy resumes its role as a prolific exporter of essential factory goods. In Germany, the chief executive of Daimler, one of Germany’s most prominent companies with several plants in China, said the crisis is one of uncertainty. “I’m calling China every day,” Ola Kallenius said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It’s too early to say if and how other factories could be affected. We are talking about global networks.” The rest of the world also could suffer economically, Fed chair Jerome Powell, warned U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday. We are closely monitoring the disease “which could lead to disruptions in China that spill over to the rest of the global economy,” Powell told House Financial Services Committee members. A dismal profit report by Daimler on Tuesday underlined why it would not take much to shove the 19 European countries that use the euro into a downturn that could exacerbate a slump in global trade that was apparent long before the coronavirus claimed its first victims. Daimler said that it slipped into the red at the end of 2019, battered by the cost of adjusting to new technologies and by its penalties from diesel emissions cheating. Vehicles are Germany’s biggest export, and economists are predicting that official data to be published Friday will show that the German economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2019 because of a slump in manufacturing. The problems of German automakers “reverberate around the continent” because so many small and midsize parts suppliers depend on them for sales. Italy’s economy shrank in the fourth quarter in part because its industrial north is closely linked to Germany. “For most countries, Germany is the most important trading partner,” said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING Germany. “If it starts to slow down, other countries will feel it.” Daimler reported a quarterly loss of 11 million euros compared with a profit of 1.6 billion euro in the fourth quarter of 2018. The evaporating earnings put Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks in a weak position as it confronts the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Auto factories and others are being shuttered longer than planned after the Lunar New Year holiday and people also are being kept out of showrooms. On Monday, Daimler said it had begun gradually ramping up production at its Chinese factories, but that the situation remains tense and unpredictable. There is widespread concern that assembly lines around the world could be forced to shut down for lack of components made in China. China also has become a critical market for all German carmakers--it sold nearly 700,000 Mercedes-Benz cars in China last year, more than twice as many as it sold in the United States. For the full year, net profit at Daimler plummeted 64% to 2.7 billion euro. Sales in 2019 rose 3%, to 173 billion euro. “The coronavirus provides a substantial risk for the expected global recovery, as hopes were pinned on an improvement of the Chinese economy,” Stefan Schneider, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said in a note to clients on Tuesday. A recession in Germany early this year is “quite probable,” he added. Ziehl-Abegg, a German maker of industrial fans, has a factory in Shanghai with 450 workers. Even after the factory was allowed to reopen this week fewer than half of the employees reported to work. Many were ordered to stay home because they had visited affected areas of China during the Lunar New Year. German machinery makers like Ziehl-Abegg are coming off a “terrible” year. New orders for products like machine tools or construction machinery slumped 9% in 2019 because of the trade fight with the U.S., Brexit and auto industry woes, the Times said. “The political turmoil created uncertainty and uncertainty is poison for investment,” said Olaf Wortmann, economist for the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association in Frankfurt. Now, the coronavirus outbreak is another blow. In addition, Daimler, like Volkswagen, faces significant accusations that it programmed diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. It said this week that it had set aside 4 billion euro for the year to cover the cost of legal proceedings and penalties in Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Daimler’s legal problems are amplified by the industry’s biggest shift in technology in a century. Like other carmakers, Daimler must invest billions in electric cars and autonomous driving, or risk becoming irrelevant, the Times said. So, we will see. Clearly, the virus is shocking the industrial world in unexpected ways and creating trends that should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 13, 2020 |


Trump Administration Issues Report On Countries’ Trade Status The Trump administration issued a notice Tuesday that denies developing country status to nations the administration deems “wealthy” and says has “abused” special and differential trade treatment under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Among the countries excluded under the administration action are China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The criteria included gross national income per capita exceeding $12,375 or the country's share of world trade. WTO rules on subsidies permit developing or least developed countries a higher threshold before rules against subsidies would apply to their exports. The notice included a list of least-developed and developing countries that still enjoy special status under U.S. law, including Bangladesh, Kenya, Cambodia, Honduras, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Egypt and El Salvador.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 13, 2020 |


USDA IG to Assess MFP Process USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong told lawmakers Tuesday her office is reviewing USDA’s authority to provide more than $20 billion in direct payments to producers without an appropriation from Congress via the Market Facilitation Program (MFP). She also said they will look at questions on whether the aid is unfairly tilted to certain states and commodity groups. “We are going to start out with the basic issue of authority for the programs, and then we are going to get into the design and implementation, eligibility and look at the producer questions,” Fong said at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. “The first piece of our work should be coming out in the next several months.” Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has complained repeatedly the aid is tilted to southern states based on the per-acre payments via the 2019 MFP effort (MFP 2) while USDA continues to point to the totals received by states in the Midwest, with Iowa, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota and Kansas receiving the most. As of February 10, USDA said that $14.23 billion has been paid out under MFP 2.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 13, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets At 7:30 a.m. central, the weekly jobless claims, consumer price index and Core CPI readings will be out. We will also be watching export sales at the same time, and any new flash sales reported by USDA at 8 a.m. We will also look for any news on China and South American weather. Weather Snow will end in the Midwest during Thursday, and this week's heavy rain in the Delta and Southeast will let up ahead of the weekend. A new storm system forming in the Northwest for the weekend will begin spreading rain and snow into the northern U.S. by Tuesday. Conditions will continue very cold in northern areas ahead of moderation at the end of the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 12, 2020 |


Border Ag Inspector Bill Headed to President Trump The House of Representatives passed a bill that authorizes funding for more agriculture inspectors to work with U.S. Customs. The Hagstrom Report says the House passed the legislation, known as the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 after it had already passed the Senate. “I’ve long raised the issue of inadequate staffing levels at the border,” says House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson. “It’s critical that we have enough CBP agriculture inspectors, specialists, and canine teams to protect our rural communities and our economy from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases.” A joint press conference featuring several representatives from agricultural states expressed happiness that the bill made it through both chambers of Congress. The legislation authorizes the hiring of 240 new agriculture specialists and 200 agriculture technicians until staffing shortages are resolved. It also assigns 20 agriculture canine teams to prevent harmful pests and foreign animal diseases from getting into the United States. During the press conference, the lawmakers pointed out that the country faces a shortage of agricultural inspectors that could leave the U.S. ag industry vulnerable to diseases, pests, and other threats that could potentially devastate the American economy and affect the health and safety of millions of American people. ********************************************************************************************** Agriculture will be Involved in U.S.-UK Trade Negotiations Agricultural tariffs, as well as non-trade barriers, will be a part of pending trade discussions between the United States and the United Kingdom. An Agri-Pulse report says that comes from two government officials in the United Kingdom who didn’t want to be named because the negotiations haven’t started yet. Over the next year, topics of conversation between the two nations will include everything from tariffs on U.S. grains to how GMO’s will be handled going forward. The U.K. officially broke away from the European Union on January 31, but Britain is still technically in the European customs union until the last day of 2020. Between now and then, the British government plans to work on trade agreements with the U.S. and the EU at the same time. British officials spoke to reporters this week and say they know just how important U.S. agriculture is in Washington, D.C., these days and any free trade agreement that doesn’t include U.S. agriculture will likely not get through Congress. The U.S. is working on separate trade talks with the EU, which has held firm for over a year that agriculture will not be a part of the negotiations. ********************************************************************************************** Tariffs Take a Big Two Year Toll Consumers took a big financial hit from two years of trade wars with U.S. trading partners. The tariffs cost consumers $50 billion since February of 2018. That data comes from the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland campaign. For example, in December of last year, Americans paid an extra $6.3 billion in duties, compared to $2.6 billion in December of 2017, just weeks before the trade disputes began to ramp up. While President Trump has had recent success in partial trade deals with Japan and China, among others, Tariffs Hurt the Heartland says work still remains to get things where they should be on the trade front. “Make no mistake, this trade war is as active as it was in December,” says Brian Kuehl (Keel), co-executive director of Farmers for Free Trade. Tariffs Hurt the Heartland also released specific impact data for states like Florida, Michigan Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all of which are critical states that Trump will need to win in the November election to get a second term in the Oval Office. Those five states have paid an additional $7.6 billion in tariffs because of the trade disputes. Speaking of trade, the U.K. departure from the European Union is two weeks old, but there’s no start date for trade talks between Washington and London. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Releases February WASDE Report The February World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates call for minimal changes in corn projections and increased soybean exports. The 2019/2020 U.S. soybean outlook is for increased exports and lower ending stocks. Soybean exports are projected at 1.825 billion bushels, up 50 million from last month, partly reflecting more imports from China. Soybean crush is unchanged, which means ending stocks drop 50 million bushels. The season-average soybean price is forecast at $8.75 per bushel. This month’s corn outlook isn’t much different than last month, with offsetting changes to exports and corn used for ethanol. Exports are lowered by 50 million bushels this month, reflecting a slow shipment pace through January. The offset is a 50 million bushel increase in corn used for ethanol. The season-average corn price projection is unchanged at $3.85 per bushel. The wheat outlook for 2019/2020 is calling for stable supplies, increased exports, and decreased ending stocks. The only change in supply or use this month was a 25 million bushel increase in exports, reflecting growing competitiveness in the international marketplace. Ending stock were forecast at a five-year low of 940 million bushels. ********************************************************************************************** NPPC: FDA Stalling Hurts Agriculture The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is misrepresenting a gene-edited livestock research project and the National Pork Producers Council says that’s a stalling tactic. The pork producers say the stalling is designed to rationalize a regulatory grasp on an emerging technology that must be regulated by the USDA if the United States is to maintain its global leadership spot in agriculture. “While countries like China, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina, are moving quickly on this advancement to gain competitive advantage, the United States is falling far behind because of the FDA’s precautionary regulatory approach,” says David Herring, NPPC President. “Under FDA regulation, gene editing faces an impractical, lengthy, and expensive approval process. If we don’t move oversight to the USDA, we’re ceding a technology that promises significant benefits to animals, including immunity to disease and a reduction in antibiotic use.” They also say the process jeopardizes thousands of American jobs. To date, NPPC says the FDA hasn’t responded in a meaningful way to the comments they received concerning the ramifications of their proposed regulatory process. ********************************************************************************************** World Pork Expo Returning in 2020 The 2020 World Pork Expo is set for June 3-5, its 32nd year at the Iowa State Fair Grounds. The expo provides pork professionals with three full days of education, innovation, and networking. “We’re excited to welcome all members of the pork industry back to Des Moines after a brief hiatus last year,” says NPPC President David Herring. “The 2020 Expo allows us to reconnect across the industry and share knowledge, as well as discuss the state of the industry together.” As a precaution, the 2019 World Pork Expo was canceled due to the outbreak of African Swine Fever in China and other countries. Pork industry professionals worked together across the globe to get a handle on the situation and evaluate risks associated with ASF. Since the outbreak began last year, the U.S. has stepped up biosecurity measures to prevent an outbreak in the United States. The 2020 Expo will have increased biosecurity on-site during the show. Additional changes to the 2020 show include relocating the live swine show to reduce an already negligible risk. “Continuing to host the show for our more than 20,000 producers and pork professionals visiting from across the country is extremely important to us,” Herring adds. Registration to attend the World Pork Expo will soon be available online.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 12, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Federal Reserve Fight The Hill is reporting this week that the President’s latest effort to reshape the Federal Reserve faces a new test as senators grill a controversial pick for the bank’s board of governors. The nominee this time is Judy Shelton, a former Trump campaign adviser. The Hill calls her views “unconventional” and wonders whether they will disqualify her for Board membership. The nomination is considered the President’s most viable chance to place an ally within the Fed after Senate Republicans rejected his past two picks, economist Stephen Moore and Herman Cain--who were both seen as sharp critics of the bank. Now, The Hill says that Shelton “can expect similarly tough scrutiny.” Like the President, she blasted the Fed during the Obama administration for keeping low interest rates but reversed course soon after the 2016 election. Recently, she has echoed Trump’s calls for near-zero interest rates and questioned the bank’s independence as the president continues to push for lower interest rates. Shelton has defended her changed stance since the administration first floated her nomination in July. She argues that she has always been critical of the Fed. However, her reversal on monetary policy has raised questions about her ideological integrity and whether she’ll prioritize the Fed’s legal mandate over the President’s political prospects. “What her actual ideological beliefs are does matter,” said Brandon Barford, a former Republican Senate Banking Committee aide from 2006 to 2009. “Is she being an opportunist, or has she truly changed her policy beliefs?” And a position on the Fed board would make her the front-runner to take over the Fed if Trump attempts to oust its current chairman, Jerome Powell, The Hill says. “That’s why it’s a lot more serious to vote for her than most Republican senators are giving credit to,” Barford said. Shelton will appear before the Banking panel with Christopher Waller, executive vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who was nominated in tandem with her. While Waller is expected to easily pass muster with the Committee, Thursday’s hearing will give the first indication of whether Shelton’s candidacy could be derailed by her controversial record. Democrats are expected to unanimously oppose her nomination, which means the opposition of just four Republicans could quash her nomination. Shelton has already been confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development—a fact that suggests that strong opposition to her nomination likely would have surfaced already if that was in the cards. Republicans have also expressed concern over Shelton’s decades of support for tying the U.S. dollar to gold, creating a global currency union and rejecting deposit insurance at American banks. For example, “There are a lot of questions about her,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a former Banking Committee chairman, told the press. “I have a few, but I’m not the only one.” Her views about a gold-linked currency and fixed exchange rates are well beyond the current economic mainstream in either party, Barford a former Shelby aide, said. He recalled receiving letters from Shelton’s Sound Money Project that fell flat among the GOP staff. No one was sending us anything like that and the idea of even calling her as a witness for something was beyond the pale,” he said. Trump’s previous efforts to put Fed critics on the bank board faltered but some Republicans now appear reluctant to reject yet another pick. For example, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who sank Cain’s potential Fed nomination, announced his support for Shelton and Waller after meeting with both last week, calling the two “well qualified.” And even some of Trump’s biggest critics from the right have voiced support for Shelton’s confirmation despite differences of opinion on core aspects of monetary policy. “She would be a good addition to the group that’s there,” said J.W. Verret, a George Mason University banking law professor and former Trump transition aide who backed the president’s impeachment. “I disagree with her views on interest rate policy and Fed independence but she’ll be one vote of 12, and I think a variety of views should be presented.” “Confirming her as a governor would open the door to that possibility, and to her efforts to fundamentally transform how we do monetary policy in a way that I think is anathema to most Republican senators, let alone most Americans,” said Sam Bell, policy director at Employ America, which advocates for Fed policy intended to maximize employment Bell warned of the high stakes involved in Shelton’s nomination. “Once you’ve confirmed someone as a governor, it’s hard to then go back and say, ‘I don’t want you as chair,’” he added. So, we will see. The President’s fights with the Fed have been both bitter and prolonged. This effort to impose even more basic changes could have important implications and should be watched closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 12, 2020 |


House Clears Senate-Passed Bill to Add Ag Inspectors At Border The House unanimously passed a bill that would increase the number of pest and disease inspectors at the border, the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019, which passed the Senate in October. The package would authorize the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire and train 240 new agricultural specialists each year until a work shortage is filled. CBP estimates a shortage of nearly 700 inspectors across the country. The legislation now moves to President Donald Trump who is expected to sign it.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 12, 2020 |


Lighthizer Spells Out Why He Thinks China Will Meet Purchase Commitments U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer fully expects that China will live up to the terms of the phase-one trade deal negotiated between the two sides. In comments to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in the ag chief’s Sonny Side of the Farm podcast, Lighthizer said the enforcement provisions in the deal are very strong and solid. But he also offered an interesting observation when it comes to the texts of the agreements. In most cases with agreements, there are differences in meanings when it comes to texts in different languages, he noted. “So I said, ‘bring me these other agreements, all these agreements with China – they agreed they would do this or that.’” He pointed to several agreements negotiated with China over the past 10 years, stating, “I found out none of them were in writing. They were just a press release from the United States. Well I thought, ‘Well no wonder China did not think they have to…’ it is breath taking to hear about these agreements, you read the press release and then you say, ‘Let me see the actual agreement,’ and there is no actual agreement … literally nothing there – not in Chinese not in English.” The phase-one agreement is “in both languages. It has been authenticated, it has dispute settlement, and enforceability. And it is signed at the highest levels of government,” Lighthizer said. “I think the Chinese want to do this. I think the ag purchases, in particular, are in their interests for sure. I think they are going to do it, but if they do not, we have an enforcement mechanism to insist on it.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 12, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Following Tuesday's WASDE report, Wednesday's grain markets may be on the quiet side. The U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory report is due out at 9:30 a.m. CST and includes ethanol. The U.S. Treasury updates the federal budget at 1 p.m. Traders will check South American weather forecasts and keep watch for trade news. Weather Wednesday features a wide variety of weather across the primary crop areas. Arctic cold, light snow and strong winds will bring blizzard conditions and cold-air stress to livestock and transportation in the Northern Plains and the northern and western Midwest. The far Southern Plains, Delta, southeastern Midwest and Southeast will have moderate to heavy rain with a high risk of flooding. In the middle, a swath of mixed precipitation and snow from the southwestern Plains to the northeastern Midwest will produce safety and transportation issues, while providing moisture for winter wheat. A brief round of drier conditions is indicated during late week.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 11, 2020 |


China says it Will Meet Purchase Agreement Goals A Bloomberg article last week reported that Chinese President Xi (Zhee) Jinping made a phone call to U.S. President Trump to reassure him China will meet its goals in the Phase One trade agreement. White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudrow told Bloomberg that the Chinese government intends to live up to the agreement in spite of the impact of the Coronavirus on the country’s economy and people. “XI apparently said it may be a little slower to purchase American exports, but it will get done by the end of this year and next year,” Kudlow told Bloomberg Television last Friday. “Xi admitted there may be some delays in purchases of American imports but reiterated that they would hit the goal of $200 billion over the next couple of years.” The virus outbreak has claimed hundreds of lives and impacted the Chinese economy, where reports of rapidly rising food prices continue to make headlines. Meanwhile, the reaction to the U.S.-China trade deal has been hard to gauge, mostly because of the lack of specific numbers in the deal regarding how many soybeans China intends to source from the U.S. Plus, China will struggle with its demand for soybeans because of the impact of the African Swine Fever outbreak that killed a large number of hogs. ********************************************************************************************** Trump Budget Proposal Cuts Ag Spending The president rolled out the final budget request for his first term in office. Like all of the previous budget ideas, Politico says the bulk of Trump’s fiscal 2021 spending plans are heading straight for the congressional paper shredder. Among the many ideas lawmakers are likely to say no to are the White House calls for SNAP cuts, as well as cuts to Medicaid and other safety-net programs. That’s a big piece of the Trump effort to lower federal spending by $4.4 trillion over the next ten years. And yes, the cuts do include the Ag Department. Trump would trim the USDA discretionary budget by more than eight percent from its current levels. That would take it from $23.8 billion this year down to $21.8 billion next year. The Trump budget would propose $57.7 billion in mandatory cuts to agricultural spending by 2030, including lowering crop insurance subsidies, tightening eligibility for farm payments, and by slashing spending on conservation programs. Politico points out that like virtually all other budget proposals from previous presidents, this one has no chance of ever going into effect. ********************************************************************************************** Army Corps Proposes a Flooding Study on the Missouri River The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to conduct a long-term study of flood risk in the lower Missouri River basin. The idea comes after the Corps received many formal letters of intent from officials in states along the river who intend to help partially fund what would be about a $400,000 project. A DTN story says landowners across the basin watched helplessly as their livelihoods were washed away in last spring’s intense weather. People living in the lower Missouri River basin continued to see high water levels long after the floodwaters had receded. The lower basin consists of a 735-mile expanse, where flooding has been a significant problem for years. The Corps says it has submitted a budget request for the flood risk management study for the fiscal year 2020 and is now awaiting funding approval. The study would be a place to start in developing plans along the lower Missouri River corridor to improve flood protection and include recommendations for actions at specific problem areas. The governors of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas all signed a memorandum of agreement to pool state resources to help address continuing flood concerns. In total, the flooding disaster in 2019 caused billions of dollars in damages across the lower Missouri River basin. ********************************************************************************************** Vision 2020 Focuses on Growting Ethanol Demand at Home and Overseas The Growth Energy Executive Leadership Conference set forth its Vision 2020 goals last week. Vision 2020 includes growing demand for the ethanol industry domestically with E15 or higher ethanol blends, as well as expanding markets internationally. National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross took part in a stage discussion at the event. Ross told the crowd, “The farmers’ voice is so important in Washington, D.C. We are a grassroots organization and our partnerships with industry groups that have similar goals, such as Growth Energy, will help us continue to grow the E15 market and add higher blends of ethanol.” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says E15 ethanol will pave the way forward for even higher blends. But she also points out that the industry will only get to higher ethanol blends by “showing that E15 isn’t a niche fuel, but instead is the preferred, regular fuel that consumers use every time they go to the pumps.” The ethanol industry currently has more than 2,000 locations up and running in 30 states. During the first summer without RVP limits, ethanol sales jumped 46 percent compared to the previous year on a per-store basis. Skor adds, “With year-round E15 secured, we’re moving into an exciting new phase of expansion.” ********************************************************************************************** Illegal Pesticide Trade Growing Overseas A Washington Post report says the trafficking of illegal pesticides has grown significantly in overseas countries like Brazil. While the product doesn’t sound extravagant, it’s quickly growing into one of the more lucrative criminal enterprises in the world. The World Health Organization says these illegal pesticides will hurt countries in the developing world. Excessive use of these products can and will poison soils, contaminate water supplies, and devastate ecosystems. World population growth may be one of the factors behind the trade. Javier Fernandez, a senior official with CropLife, says, “it’s unknown, and it’s very common. The increasing demand for food is accelerating the need for pesticides, so the illegal trade is getting bigger and more violent.” Multinational corporations that sell Brazilian food into the United States say their products are safe, despite the presence of illegal pesticides in the country. For example, Bunge (BUN-gee) is a U.S. producer that sources crop from Brazil and says its contract with farmers includes clauses that “require the responsible use of pesticides.” It also conducts chemical analysis on its products to ensure their safety. Similar companies provide training for their Brazilian producers and monitor the products entering the U.S. market. ********************************************************************************************** NCBA Elects New President at the Cattle Industry Convention Marty Smith is a fifth-generation cattle rancher who was elected as the new president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association over the weekend at the annual Cattle Industry Convention. Smith runs a cow-calf operation in Central Florida that’s been in continuous operation since 1852. Smith graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Agricultural Economics and Animal Science. Smith also graduated from the University of Florida College of Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1984. “It’s a tremendous honor to lead the oldest and largest national organization representing American cattle producers,” Smith says. “We have a great product and a great story, and I’m looking forward to helping tell that story without apology during the year ahead as President of the NCBA.” Smith was formally elected at a meeting of the NCBA’s Board of Directors. Jerry Bohn of Kansas was named President-Elect and Don Schiefelbein (SHEH-fel-byne) of Minnesota was elected Vice President. More than 8,000 people attended the annual Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show over the weekend in San Antonio, Texas.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 11, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Infrastructure Investment Discussed Again The Trump administration budget proposalreceived a cool reception, as usual, although Bloomberg says there is talk now that the House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., is “cautiously optimistic about a possible compromise with the administration.” Neal said he is looking for a broader infrastructure deal--in spite of the far-reaching, major political differences involved. Neal spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday to discuss the possibility of moving an infrastructure package that would be broader than the highway bill reauthorization President Donald Trump endorsed during his State of the Union address. “I think we can go well beyond that,” Neal said, adding that he liked the option of reintroducing Build America Bonds to help pay for new projects. Still, he cautioned that the President would need to address Democrats’ concerns over climate change and noted that “any bill that includes infrastructure is going to have to include climate consideration.” He also said that specific agreements had not been reached yet. “The good news is everybody wants to do infrastructure,” Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., told Bloomberg. “Communications are occurring. But it’s been very difficult to get it to crystallize.” Reed suggested that a more likely outcome was something along the lines of Trump’s campaign pledge to leverage private investment onto $1 trillion in new total infrastructure spending and cited an appetite among investors for government-issued bonds. However, Democrats have already dismissed that figure as unrealistic and insist that new direct federal spending “should drive infrastructure building.” Mnuchin and the administration are claiming “new interest” in 50- or 100-year Treasury bonds, an idea floated on the 2016 campaign trail. The “Build America Bonds” were taxable municipal bonds created as part of the Obama administration’s 2009 economic-stimulus package, which included infrastructure repairs, Bloomberg said. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told a group of governors over the weekend that Neal is scheduled to meet again with Mnuchin this morning. The overall budget proposal the administration is expected to release this week is expected to include an enormous $4.8 trillion package for the upcoming fiscal year including $1 trillion for infrastructure spending, modeled on combining legislation proposed by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., with a $200 billion fund for “nationally significant projects.” The remainder of the funding would be made up of public-private partnerships and state and local spending, the administration has said. The White House would replenish the depleted Highway Trust Fund through cost savings in other areas of the budget. One element of the expected proposal is a somewhat pared-back request for Mexican border wall construction. The request would be for $2 billion, down from $8.6 billion requested a year ago. Senior administration officials are telling the press that that with funding for 1,000 miles of wall already secured, less spending will be needed. Bloomberg also noted that fiscal 2021 appropriations bills will not include earmarks, despite earlier support in the House Democratic caucus. House Democrats had discussed the possibility despite Senate Republican support for an indefinite ban on earmarks last year. “In the end you have to have bicameral, bipartisan support for this,” Rep. David Price, D-N.C., said last week ahead of the decision to abandon an earmark revival for the rest of the 116th Congress. “You don’t want one side exploiting it politically.” Bloomberg also reported that the United States has abandoned its antitrust probe of four automakers that sided with California over the administration’s fight over the future of fuel economy and emissions requirements. The inquiry had targeted Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen over their agreement last year with California regulators to voluntarily meet the state’s targets for fuel economy and tailpipe emissions. The decision was seen as undercutting the administration’s plan to relax the national requirements and was decried by the administration at the time as a “PR stunt.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom cheered the decision, calling it “a loss for the weaponization of federal agencies.” He argued that the effort was a “blatant attempt by the administration to prevent more automakers from joining California and agreeing to stronger emissions standards,” Newsom said. So, we will see. Clearly, the coming budget fight will be highly contentious and possibly prolonged—although there seems to be no appetite now for shutting down the government. Still, many high-stakes proposals are on the table, to one degree or another, and should be watched closely by producers as they appear, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 11, 2020 |


EPA Chief Comments on Court Case Impact on RFS EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Saturday said the recent federal court decision to vacate three biofuel small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “has the potential of completely changing the small refinery program.” The court struck down waivers for three refineries in Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming, ruling that the EPA could only extend exemptions for plants that had continuously received waivers from their RFS obligations. The three plants in question had not been previously granted exemptions. The agency is now “taking a close look at the 10th Circuit decision and the ramifications to the program,” Wheeler told AgWired in an interview, saying the agency would have something on that “shortly.” This is the first acknowledgement from EPA that the decision could have a significant impact on the SREs ahead..

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 11, 2020 |


Trump Budget Plan Again Proposes Pay Cap, Crop Insurance Changes The Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget plan had a familiar feel to it Monday, including provisions that have been floated before by this and other administrations. The administration included legislative proposals that would lower the adjusted gross income (AGI) limit to be eligible to obtain farm program payments to a maximum of $500,000. And the limit would apply to more benefits than just those under the farm program. Plus, the administration said the separate pay cap for peanuts of $125,000 needs to go and there needs to be a limit of $125,000 per person on Marketing Assistance Loan (MAL) benefits. On crop insurance, the administration proposes cutting the crop insurance subsidy on harvest price option (HPO) policies by 15 percentage points and by 10 percentage points on policies without the HPO. That item would save $21 billion over 10 years. But the legislative proposals floated by the administration will not be picked up and ran with by lawmakers. However, the proposals indicate that the administration will keep this as a focus should Trump win another term in November. So even though these proposed cuts are not expected to materialize, ag interests are on notice that this will be a recurring theme ahead. The budget documents also make no mention that a 2020 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) is in the cards, with their projections showing that more than $9 billion under the MFP 2 effort for 2019 will still go out to producers in FY 2020. As of late Monday, USDA had not updated their figures for funds paid out to farmers via the final installment of the MFP 2 payments.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 11, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets USDA's WASDE report is set to be released at 11 a.m. CST Tuesday and the focus will likely be on U.S. export estimates and South American crop estimates. This will be USDA's first WASDE since the phase-one agreement was signed and that adds a little more drama to what is usually a quiet February ritual. Weather and any trade news that develops will round out trader interests. Weather Continued wet weather for the Southern Plains through the Delta and into the Mid-Atlantic Tuesday. Another round of heavy rainfall with a developing system through the same areas Wednesday and Thursday. Some moderate snow will accompany this round for the southwestern Plains Tuesday, spreading into the Midwest on Wednesday and Thursday. Colder air returns, albeit briefly, Wednesday through Friday across the Northern Plains and upper Midwest with some of the coldest air of the season and potential for a ground blizzard in the Red River Valley of the North.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 10, 2020 |


Corteva Dropping Chlorpyrifos Chlorpyrifos (Klor-PEER-uh-fos) is a pesticide that’s been sprayed on crops like strawberries, corn, and citrus, for many years to kill pests. Corteva (Kor-TEV-ah), the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, says it will stop manufacturing the product by the end of the year. The insecticide has been linked in certain studies to neurological problems in children and has been called a threat to wildlife. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has resisted banning the product from the market, while saying that additional safety tests are needed. Some states haven’t waited for the EPA to make a decision and acted on their own. California is a state that says farmers can’t use the insecticide after December 31st of this year. Hawaii was the first state to ban chlorpyrifos, with that ban to take effect in 2022. The European Union has also banned using the insecticide. Corteva spokesperson Gregg Schmidt says demand for the product has “declined significantly” over the last twenty years. That’s what drove the decision to stop manufacturing the product, not safety concerns. Corteva tells Reuters that the company will continue to back chlorpyrifos during the EPA’s review. Environmental groups are happy with the move, but they caution that other companies are still manufacturing the product, which is allowed on imported food. ********************************************************************************************** Commerce Department Continues Argentina Biodiesel Anti-Dumping Duties The U.S. Commerce Department responded to a U.S. Court of International Trade ruling requiring it to explain how it found cause for anti-dumping duties on biodiesel from Argentina. In a recent filing with the court, the Commerce Department made “certain changes” to its calculations. However, the anti-dumping duty rates would remain the same for the two Argentine producers and exporters involved in the case. However, things could eventually be changed when it comes to imported biodiesel from Argentina. The Commerce Department is conducting a “changed circumstances review” that was requested by the Argentine government. Depending on what the review determines, it could potentially lead to lower countervailing duties on biodiesel imports from Argentina. The U.S. imported about $1.2 billion worth of biodiesel from Argentina in 2016, before duties were imposed in a case brought by the National Biodiesel Board and 15 domestic biodiesel producers. ********************************************************************************************** China to Cut Tariffs on U.S. Imports The Chinese Finance Ministry says it will cut tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. products. The cuts begin on February 14th and will include ag commodities like soybeans, asparagus, pork, and more. However, a Wall Street Journal article says there likely won’t be a big impact. An Agri-Pulse report says the move will cut tariff rate increases in half, somewhere between five and 10 percent, that China put into effect late last year in response to U.S. tariffs. The 30 percent punitive tariff on soybeans will drop to 27.5 percent on February 14, which will be seen largely as a goodwill gesture by China that won’t have a big effect on trade between the two countries. The “Phase One” trade deal between China and the U.S. calls for increased Chinese purchases of American agricultural commodities but neither side did away with the tariffs that have been a staple of the trade war since it began. China points out that the next step in tariff reduction depends on how much progress the two countries make in their relationship. U.S. and government officials say they expect China to boost purchases by granting targeted exemptions to the tariffs currently in place. All recent Chinese soybean buys took place in spite of the punitive tariffs in place and were due to the Chinese government giving targeted exemptions to importers. ********************************************************************************************** Pork Board Committs Half-Million Dollars to Fellowships The National Pork Board has opened up applications for a new series of swine research fellowships to help provide a pipeline of highly-skilled employees for the pork industry. The checkoff is investing a hefty sum of $500,000 for the fellowships. The money will fund education and training in critical areas of impact, such as animal science, feed science and management, engineering and human resources, along with many others. “Labor supply is critical to the entire pork industry,” says David Newman, President of the National Pork Board. “This fellowship program will develop highly-trained professionals who possess the skills and abilities with direct application to pork production both now and in the future.” Fellowships will be awarded for a maximum of two years and can be used for multiple advanced-degree programs. Fellowship funding will be capped at $30,000 over two years. Second-year funding will be contingent on the submission and approval of a progress report at the end of the first year. Go to www.pork.org/rfp for more information. Application materials must be submitted by February 25th. ********************************************************************************************** NCBA Researches Confusion about Plant-Based Fake Meat The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association released survey results that show widespread consumer confusion about plant-based fake meat products and the ingredients they contain. Less than half of the 1,800 respondents understood the labeling term “plant-based beef” was intended to describe an entirely vegetarian or vegan food product. One major source of confusion for one-third of consumers is the mistaken belief that plant-based meat products contained at least some real beef. “The fact that so many consumers look at these labels and think that the products include meat or any other animal by-product is a clear sign that the misleading labeling and deceptive marketing practices surrounding plant-based fake meat has caused real consumer confusion,” says NCBA President Jennifer Houston. Among other mistaken beliefs is 44 percent of consumers thought plant-based products were lower in sodium. In reality, leading plant-based fake beef is between 220 to 620 percent higher in sodium than the same-sized serving of real beef. “We need to do a better job of educating consumers on the differences,” Houston says. ********************************************************************************************** Broin Named American Biofuels Visionary by Growth Energy Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor recently named POET Founder and CEO Jeff Broin as the American Biofuels Visionary award winner. Tom Buis (BUY-us), previously the CEO of Growth Energy, joined Skor onstage during the 11th Annual Executive Leadership Conference. Growth Energy presents the award in tribute for a lifetime of leadership that has fueled the growth of America’s entire biofuels sector. “Jeff Broin’s unwavering leadership and transformative vision for U.S. biofuels have touched the lives of every American, from farm families in South Dakota to drivers in New York,” Skor says. “As founding chair of Growth Energy, he followed in the footsteps of other great American founding fathers, building an enduring legacy that will shape the future of homegrown energy for generations to come.” Broin says he’s honored and humbled to be recognized by Growth Energy. “Helping to found and grow this organization has been a true labor of love for me, going back to my roots on the family farm. While we have won many battles, the war over biofuels is far from over.” Broin says he will continue to work with the biofuels industry and agriculture to drive biofuels to new heights in the years to come. POET Biofuels is the world’s largest ethanol producer.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 10, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Impacts of the Coronavirus Scrutinized The urban press is laser-focused on the rapidly spreading impacts of the coronavirus just now. Fed chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to appear before a couple of congressional committees this week and certainly will face strong scrutiny regarding developments and plans for key economic policies. As might be expected, Powell is confessing that he finds it “very hard” to understand China’s economy--and that the disease outbreak “has made that exponentially more difficult.” Certainly, these issues are seen as “too important to ignore,” Bloomberg thinks because of the sheer size of the economy—so that “any hit to its growth from the epidemic will have a knock-on impact for the rest of the world and the US,” and much of the world is worried. The effects of the coronavirus in China are generating a “prominent new risk to the outlook,” the U.S. central bank wrote in its semi-annual report to Congress released on Friday. Just how big that risk is--and the expected Fed response—certainly will key topics as Chairman Powell kicks off two days of Congressional testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, and then to the Senate Banking panel. Lawmakers also will likely press Powell for the rationale behind the big run-up in the Fed’s balance sheet that’s occurred since September’s turmoil in the money markets. Bloomberg also notes that the testimony comes on the heels of the impeachment fight and ahead of November elections so the hearings—like almost everything else—almost certainly will be “politically contentious” as lawmakers from both parties pepper Powell with questions. “He is going to have his Kevlar on,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC. “All of the questions will have some political connotations.” Ahead of the hearings, traders in the federal funds futures market are betting that Powell and his colleagues will respond to the virus with a cut in interest rates later this year. Still, given all the unknowns involved, Fed watchers say Powell is unlikely to be that clear about the Fed’s intentions. But he’s just as unlikely to dismiss the threat and rule out any response. “There’s little upside to trying to sound too confident,” said former Fed researcher Michael Feroli, who is now chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “At least when I was there, there weren’t any virologists on the board.” Bloomberg also notes that its own economists think that “the underlying hiring trend is robust, providing a sturdy foundation for domestic growth,” although this is due to be challenged in the relatively near term by weak global growth in general and coronavirus supply-chain disruptions in particular. In the meantime, private sector economists have started to shave their estimates of U.S. growth due to the coronavirus. Feroli cut his first-quarter forecast to 1%, though he expects activity to bounce back in the second quarter. Oxford Economics is more pessimistic. It reduced its first-quarter growth prediction to 0.6% from 1% with some spillover into the second quarter. At the same time, the virus outbreak occurs against a backdrop of what is mostly a healthy U.S. economy. U.S. employers boosted payrolls by a higher-than-expected 225,000 in January as wage gains also rebounded. The global outlook also appears a bit brighter now thanks in part to the US-China phase one trade deal and fading of fears of a disruptive, no-deal Brexit. What’s more, the turbulence in the money markets has also subsided, thanks to hundreds of billions of dollars the Fed pumped into the financial system. So, Powell will have a lot to discuss. In a Feb. 6 letter Democrat senators pressed him for an explanation of what lay behind last year’s agitation in the money markets and the Fed’s response. The lawmakers, including presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, raised questions about whether the banks had gamed the market in hopes of winning some regulatory relief. Powell, for his part, has depicted the money market interventions as a success. He also sounded satisfied with the stance of monetary policy, after three interest rate cuts last year. And he’s suggested that he’s likely to stay that way unless there’s a material change to the outlook for the U.S. economy. So, we will see. Whether the coronavirus will eventually force such a reassessment is unclear at this point even as it broadened “the set of possible outcomes,” said Nathan Sheets, a former Fed official who is now chief economist for PGIM Fixed Income. And, it means that producers should watch the upcoming monetary debates especially closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 10, 2020 |


Stabenow Again Hits USDA Over MFP ‘Inequities’ Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., released an updated report alleging inequities in payments from USDA's Market Facilitation Program (MFP). She said the data show a bias in payments towards large and Southern farms on a per-acre basis. “As farmers continue to face tough times, the Trump administration has failed to correct the serious inequities within their flawed trade assistance program,” Stabenow said in a statement. Stabenow argued MFP’s “relaxed payment and eligibility limits” have benefitted large farms and foreign companies at the expense of small and beginning farmers. A USDA spokesperson disputed the findings, telling Politico “farms with less than 100 acres received an average of $55.90 per acre, while farms with more than 2,500 acres received an average $47.51 per acre.” The spokesperson also emphasized that MFP payments are made based on trade damage, not other factors.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 10, 2020 |


USDA Report Details China Trade Deal Impact on US Trade Forecasts The Office of the Chief Economist released a report, “Agricultural Provisions of The U.S.-China Economic and Trade Agreement and USDA Trade Forecasts,” outlining how the Phase One trade agreement will – and will not – affect USDA trade forecasts for the monthly WASDE and other monthly, quarterly and annual reports. While some have focused on the statement referenced more than once in the document that “commodity-specific commitments are not publicly available and are therefore not considered in the published forecasts,” it is important to note that the report also states, “Beginning in February 2020, USDA trade projections for 2019/20 (and Fiscal Year 2020) will fully consider all publicly available information on the Agreement, as well as any new market or policy developments that would affect those forecasts.” As for the forecasts released at USDA’s Outlook Forum near Washington, DC, Feb. 20-21, and the first official 2020/21 forecasts in the May WASDE, the report states, “Both the initial forecasts released in February and the official May WASDE 2020/21 forecasts will incorporate the Agreement into the underlying analysis, along with all other relevant market and policy variables.” Importantly, the report also notes, “As more information and data become available regarding the timing, volume and content of China’s commodity purchases, USDA commodity forecasts will be updated to reflect that new information.” This indicates that USDA analysts are being given no additional information beyond what has already been made public. But it also means they will be incorporating the information is available in their forecasts starting with the February WASDE report due on February 11.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 10, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Unless something unexpected happens over the weekend, Monday's trading in grains is apt to be restrained ahead of Tuesday's WASDE report. Traders will check South American weather forecasts and any trade news. USDA will release weekly export inspections at 10:00 a.m. CST. Weather Heavy rain and flood threat is in store for the Delta and southeastern Midwest Monday. Another round of heavy rain is indicated for these areas during midweek. We'll also see snow begin in the far southwestern Plains, where heavy snow is likely over the next couple days. Other crop areas will be drier, allowing for flood recovery in the Northwest and improved transportation in the northern Midwest after heavy weekend snow.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 7, 2020 |


2020 Farm Income Forecast Looks “Average” U.S. net cash farm income, the total income after expenses, is forecast to decrease $13.1 billion to $109.6 billion in 2020. When adjusted for inflation, the drop is almost 11 percent compared to the previous year. U.S. net farm income is a broader measure of profitability. It incorporates noncash items like economic depreciation and gross imputed rental income, and it forecast to increase by $1.4 billion to $96.7 billion in 2020. That’s a 1.4 percent jump over 2019. The USDA says if the forecast changes are accurate, net cash farm income in 2020 would be 0.6 percent below the inflation-adjusted average calculated throughout 2000-2018. Net farm income would be 5.4 percent above the average during 2000-2018. The two income measures will diverge this year because of how net sales from inventories are treated. Net cash farm income records the income in the year a sale took place, while net farm income counts it in the year production occurred. For example, high net sales at $14.9 billion from crop inventories forecast in 2019 are expected to boost net cash farm income significantly that year. Very low net sales from inventories ($0.5 billion) in 2020 are expected to contribute to a decrease in net cash farm income between the two years. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Pork Exports Set Record in 2019 2019 was a banner year for U.S. pork exports in terms of volume and value, reaching almost $7 billion. That comes from USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Exports of U.S. beef were below 2019’s record levels, while lamb export volume was the second-largest on record. Pork exports rose to just over 282,000 metric tons in December, up 34 percent year-over-year and surpassing the previous high set in November of 2019 by nine percent. Export value was $760 million, up 44 percent from the previous year, breaking the previous record also set in November of 2019. These results pushed 2019 pork exports 10 percent above the previous year in volume and nine percent higher in value. December beef exports were a little over 111,000 metric tons, down one percent from last year, and valued at $682 million, a three percent drop. Exports in 2019 were down 2.5 percent from the previous year’s record volume, finishing at 1.32 million metric tons. The surge in pork demand was due in part to Chinese and Hong Kong demand for U.S. pork, which climbed to almost 110,900 metric tons in December. That’s more than quadruple the previous year’s volume. The value was six times higher than last year at the same time, totaling almost $275 million. ********************************************************************************************** Perdue: U.S. Must be Understanding if Coronavirus Affects Chinese Purchases Ag Secretary Sony Perdue says the U.S. will have to be “tolerant” if the fast-spreading Coronavirus inhibits China’s ability to increase purchases of American farm goods. China pledged in the “Phase One” agreement to buy at least an additional $12.5 billion worth of farm goods in 2020 and at least $19.5 billion in 2021 over the 2017 level of $24 billion. Commodity traders and economists have questioned China’s ability to follow through on those commitments since the deal was signed. Now that the Coronavirus is continuing to spread, it poses a threat to China’s economic growth. “If they’re trying and the disease blows the economy out of the water, then we’ll need to be understanding,” Perdue told reporters during a cattle industry convention in Texas. Reuters says Perdue isn’t part of the government team that’s responsible for enforcing the terms of the agreement. He also didn’t say how the U.S. would need to adjust its expectations of China. The text of the agreement does contain a disaster clause, which Beijing has yet to formally invoke, which would allow for delays. China has reported that over 500 people have died in the Coronavirus outbreak. ********************************************************************************************** Trump Wants Trade Deal with Kenya President Donald Trump and the president of Kenya are going to kick off bilateral trade negotiations this week as they meet at the White House. V.O.A. News Dot Com says this is an unusual effort for the president, who’s largely focused his trade efforts on major economic powers like China, Japan, and the European Union. Kenya ranks 98th among the U.S. trading partners with about $1 billion in two-way trade of goods in 2018. However, a trade deal with Kenya could create a template for future negotiations with other African nations. It would also help to thwart some of China’s rising influence in the continent. China took the top spot from the U.S. as Africa’s number one trading partner several years ago. Scott Eisner is president of the U.S.-Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He says the agreement is likely to take several years to complete, especially if Trump follows the trade promotion authority law. That requires congressional input for comprehensive trade deals. If the two sides eventually agree, it would be the first trade deal between the U.S. and an African nation. The U.S. currently has 20 free-trade deals in place with other countries, but none are on the African continent. ********************************************************************************************** Cattle Outlook Positive in 2020 With a plateau in U.S. cattle numbers and strong beef demand ahead, CattleFax says prices are likely to be stronger in the year ahead as consumers at home and abroad support industry profitability. That’s one of the big takeaways from the CattleFax outlook session in San Antonio, Texas. Kevin Good, CattleFax Vice President of Industry Relations and Analysis, says trade will play a significant role in beef and cattle markets. He expects higher total animal protein production will be offset by strong demand and increasing exports. “With strong demand for U.S. beef at home and rising demand overseas, the modest increases in supply will be more than offset by growing consumer appetite for our product,” Good says. CattleFax is projecting composite cutout prices will rise $3 during the upcoming year to reach $222 per hundredweight. Good also says CattleFax is projecting fed steer prices to average $120 per hundredweight during 2020, an increase of $3 from the previous year. Calf prices are also expected to move higher in the year ahead. CattleFax CEO Randy Blach (Block) predicts a lot less volatility in the market during 2020 than compared to last year. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Announces Details of RMA Hemp Protection Programs The USDA announced the details of two programs that protect hemp producers’ crops from natural disasters. A pilot hemp insurance program through Multi-Peril Crop Insurance provides coverage against yield loss because of insurable causes of loss for hemp grown for fiber, grain, or CBD Oil. The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program coverage protects against losses associated with lower yields, destroyed crops, or prevented planting where no permanent federal crop insurance program is available. Producers can apply now, with the deadline to sign up for both programs set for March 16, 2020. “We are pleased to offer these coverages to hemp producers,” says USDA Undersecretary for Crop Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “Hemp offers a new economic opportunity for our farmers, who are anxious for a way to protect their product in the event of a natural disaster.” The pilot insurance program option for hemp producers is available in select counties in 21 states during the 2020 crop year. The Noninsured option provides protection against loss for hemp grown for fiber, grain, seed, or CBD for the 2020 crop year where no permanent federal crop insurance program is available.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 7, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Consumer Economy Continues to Shrug Off Industry Woes Well, the economic outlook continues to show signs of both strength and weakness and to defy easy interpretation, Bloomberg is reporting this week. It highlights the warning from Caterpillar Inc. that “sales of its heavy machinery are expected to slump for a second straight year in 2020 amid continued global economic uncertainty.” Still, Bloomberg emphasizes that Amazon.com Inc., added $72 billion in market value — about the size of Caterpillar — after reporting robust holiday season sales. The report says that shows “how much the U.S. industrial and consumer economies have diverged.” The report explains that the manufacturing sector went through a mild recession last year as the administration’s trade war with China “added costs to supply chains and curtailed business investment.” And it says that “new data from the Institute for Supply Management show U.S. factory activity barely expanded in January after contracting in the last five months of 2019. However, it notes that “this industrial downturn was at most a blip for the still-roaring consumer spending spree.” CSX, 3M, and other industrials joined Caterpillar in reporting sluggish sales predictions but McDonald’s and Starbucks reported healthy gains for the final three months of the year. Even Target Corp., which warned last month of weaker-than-expected demand for toys and electronics, over the holiday season, managed to project sales at stores open at least a year to be up more than 3% in 2019. U.S. consumer sentiment reached an eight-month high in January, according to University of Michigan data. One reason there hasn’t been a broader recession is that manufacturing’s share of the economy continues to shrink, Bloomberg thinks. Factory output accounted for 11% of U.S. gross domestic product in the third quarter, which is tied with the second quarter for the lowest level since 1947, the report says. Another is that this wasn’t a typical slump. What happened in 2019 was a “policy-driven slowdown,” says Gina Martin Adams, chief equity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence—that is, the trade war. While U.S. whiskey, motorcycles, and myriad other products are subject to European Union tariffs, the consumer sector emerged largely unscathed from the spat with China. The administration’s threat on Aug. 1 to apply a 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese products, including toys and iPhones, was watered down and then partially rescinded, the report notes. The industrial sector, by contrast, bore the brunt of the back-and-forth in 2018 and 2019 as it dealt with broad U.S. taxes on aluminum and steel imports and tariffs on $250 billion of mostly manufacturing-related products. Those Chinese imports remain subject to 25% tariffs. The tariffs appear to have stalled an industrial recovery that was gaining traction following a mini-recession in 2015-16 amid plunging oil prices, the report concludes. Already, companies were dealing with rising labor, raw material, and logistics expenses. But the will-he-or-won’t-he debate around the U.S. tariff push created an “impossible environment in which to make major purchases of expensive machinery.” Industrial companies’ sales suffered. A belief that things would recover quickly if the U.S. and China reached a trade deal changed how companies responded to the slowdown, Bloomberg suggests. Executives didn’t want to be caught flat-footed by a swift recovery or left without workers in a tight labor market. Thus far, people have largely stayed employed and been active consumers. Even with all the volatility in 2019 – which also included a six-week General Motors Co. strike and the global grounding of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max jet – the manufacturing industry ended 2019 with a net gain of 46,000 jobs, the Commerce Department is reporting. Asked on a Jan. 28 earnings call if aerospace supplier United Technologies Corp. would lay off employees to help it cope with the Boeing production halt, Chief Executive Officer Greg Hayes said “that would be the easiest thing to do, but quite frankly, given the scarcity of talented aerospace workers out there, we’re not going to.” Most industrial CEOs say they expect a challenging economic environment to linger at least through the first half of the year. Emerson Electric Co. and 3M Co. announced fresh restructuring plans in their earnings releases that will almost certainly include job cuts. But a continued slow bleed in manufacturing combined with moderate cost-cutting probably won’t be enough to tip the overall employment picture negative, Adams says. With the Federal Reserve signaling that it’s unlikely to raise interest rates soon, things would have to change materially for that manufacturing weakness to leak into the consumer sector, she adds. One wild card is the coronavirus and the impact it could have on consumer sentiment, particularly in China. Unlike the trade war, the outbreak threatens to hit consumer-facing companies equally as hard if not harder than industrial ones, with Apple, McDonald’s, and Starbucks shuttering locations in China and U.S. airlines halting travel to the country. So, we will see. This will be a campaign year and there likely will be political interventions at the slightest sign of economic weakness – developments that should be watched closely as the elections approach, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 7, 2020 |


USDA Sees 2020 Net Farm Income Rising Despite Government Payment Downturn USDA forecasts U.S. net farm income to increase $3.1 billion (3.3%) from 2019 to reach $96.7 billion in 2020. Net cash farm income, however, is forecast to decrease $10.9 billion (9%) from 2019 to $109.6 billion in 2020, according to USDA. The difference between net farm income and net cash farm income is based on what is included in each forecast. Net cash farm income encompasses cash receipts from farming as well as farm-related income, including government payments, minus cash expenses, according to USDA, but it does not include noncash items—such as changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income of operator dwellings — reflected in the net farm income. Some are playing up that USDA is “forecasting” a downturn in government payments. But that was well known or should have been ahead of the USDA update as no 2020 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) effort has been announced. Total direct government farm program payments are seen at $14.98 billion in 2020, down $8.7 billion from $23.65 billion in 2019. But farmers will still receive some MFP money in 2020 as USDA projects eligible producers will still get nearly $3.7 billion in MFP dollars.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 7, 2020 |


US December Ag Exports Hold Near $12 billion The value of U.S. ag exports in December moved down to $11.85 billion, down from $12.66 billion in November, putting total exports for the first three months of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 at $36.59 billion. Ag imports rose to $10.75 billion in December, up from $10.31 billion in November, putting the FY 2020 total at $31.98 billion. The monthly trade surplus was $1.1 billion pushing the quarterly surplus to $4.62 billion. So far in FY 2020, exports have totaled more than $1 billion above the year-ago period, while imports have risen nearly $100 million. The rise in exports compared with year ago is an encouraging sign but even more surprising is that imports have not risen more. The overall U.S. December trade results showed that imports rose significantly in December, a trend not matched in the agricultural data. Now the focus will shift to how USDA alters their outlook for U.S. ag exports later this month, in particular how they account for the Phase One agreement with China and the ag purchase commitments in that pact.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 7, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets At 7:30 a.m. CST Friday, the U.S. Labor Department will release nonfarm payrolls and unemployment rate for January. Markets will largely be on their own the rest of the day, noticing the South American weather forecast and any further trade news that might emerge. Weather Friday will feature this week's heavy rain ending in the southeastern U.S. We'll also see periods of light snow in the Midwest, heavy snow in the Northeast, snow in the Rockies, and rain and snow in the Northwest. Dry conditions will be in place elsewhere.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 6, 2020 |


China Says Trade Deal Good for both China and the U.S. China calls the Phase One agreement a "win" for both sides, following comments made during the State of the Union address this week by President Donald Trump. During the Tuesday evening speech, President Trump called the trade deal with China a "Win" for the United States, worth billions in new U.S. ag exports. Wednesday, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry responded to the comment, stating, “Sound and steady development of bilateral relations serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and meets the aspiration of the international community.” Trump signed the Phase One agreement in January. However, the benefits of the deal may now be delayed. The Coronavirus outbreak is thought to limit demand and could cause delays at Chinese ports. China offered a different tune, though, Wednesday, saying, “China and the U.S. are in close communication on the situation through diplomatic and health channels.” Earlier in the week, China claimed the U.S. “hasn't provided any substantive assistance.” China is also seeking flexibility on trade deal rules due to the coronavirus outbreak. *************************************************************************************​ NCBA Unveils Top Policy Priorities For 2020 Kicking off the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual convention, leaders of the organization approved top 2020 policy priorities. At the annual Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, Texas, NCBA leadership included issues related to international trade, proper regulation of fake meat, and regulatory reform. Although after a series of significant policy victories in 2019, this year’s priority list is focused on implementing and protecting those gains. NCBA President Jennifer Houston says, “Now it’s time to implement and defend those gains and to keep pushing for policies that will help improve conditions for cattle producers.” This year’s priorities include an issue that was a late addition to last year’s list after Congressional introduction of the so-called Green New Deal: climate policy. NCBA plans to “Continue to push back against misguided climate policies while advancing the U.S. cattle industry’s tremendous environmental record.” NCBA also plans to prioritize the importance of cattle markets, and aggressively pursue final regulatory rules, including the Waters of the U.S. Rule, among others. ************************************************************************************* Beef Quality Assurance Online Modules Updated Building on its updated National Manual launched in Summer 2019, the Beef Quality Assurance program, or BQA, has updated its online training modules to make them more realistic and useful. The new modules are now available to those who are first becoming BQA certified online and those who are getting recertified as required after three years. First launched in 2017, the online training modules have been embraced by more than 100,000 in the cattle industry. BQA certifications are also available at in-person training events offered through state beef councils, and other local efforts throughout the country. Funded by the Beef Checkoff, the BQA program touches more than 85 percent of beef produced in the United States today. Bob Smith, chair of the BQA Advisory Board, says, "The new online modules maintain the program's integrity and make its lessons more real-life and user-friendly." After registering, participants are taken through an interactive training module that can be completed online, anytime. Learn more at www.bqa.org ************************************************************************************* E15 Sales Reach Record in 2019 A new Renewable Fuels Association analysis found approximately 500 million gallons of E15 were sold nationwide in 2019, setting a new record. RFA says the record proves that the Trump administration’s elimination last summer of an obsolete regulatory barrier is working. However, sales would have been even stronger if not for the RFS compliance exemptions granted by EPA to dozens of refineries. E15 sales in Minnesota—the only state that tracks monthly purchases of higher ethanol blends—increased by nearly a third in 2019, compared to 2018. The review by RFA Chief Economist Scott Richman extrapolated the Minnesota data nationally, finding that 499 million gallons of E15—containing 75 million gallons of ethanol—were sold across the country in 2019. Before 2019, sales of E15 had been prohibited each year during the summer months in areas where conventional gasoline is sold. In May 2019, the EPA allowed E15 to be sold year-round by extending to it the vapor-pressure waiver that was already available for E10 blends. ************************************************************************************* CoBank Examines Impact of Wal Mart entering Beef Business Walmart officially entered the beef business in January when it opened a case-ready beef plant in Georgia after establishing its own Angus supply chain. The facility is the latest step by Walmart in its vertical integration strategy for food, according to a new report from CoBank's Knowledge Exchange division. If Walmart's new beef plant and Angus supply chain succeed, it could lead the retail giant to take another step up the supply chain towards the producer. That could be in the form of harvesting fed cattle or through a joint venture with a current packer. Will Sawyer, animal protein economist with CoBank, says, “We believe their current beef strategy is something of a test, not only for Walmart and its suppliers, but also its customers." The new plant will cut and prepare steaks and roasts produced by Walmart's Angus beef supply chain for 500 stores. CoBank doesn’t see the move shifting the price and leverage dynamics of U.S. beef production, adding the move will account for less than .5 percent of U.S. beef production. ************************************************************************************ AFBF, INTL FCStone Partner on Risk Management Tools for Farm Bureau Members The American Farm Bureau Federation is partnering with INTL FCStone to offer Farm Bureau members exclusive discounts on FCStone’s catalog of agricultural risk management tools. Announced Wednesday, the partnership includes access to a range of customized commodity marketing plans to data management solutions and educational seminars and covers an extensive range of agricultural commodities, from grains and oilseeds to dairy and livestock. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says the partnership "will give Farm Bureau members access to invaluable education and resources to help them succeed." Through the partnership Farm Bureau members are eligible for ten free trades each year when opening a new account, discounts on subscriptions and fees to attend conferences, along with access to INTL FCStone’s Market Intelligence expertise at reduced rates. AFBF President Duvall says, "It’s important to take control where we can, and this new member benefit can help us do that.” Farm Bureau members can learn more online, at FB.org/FCStone, or by contacting the state Far. Bureau office.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 6, 2020 |


Washington Insider: US Annual Trade Gap Shrinks Bloomberg is reporting this week that the U.S. trade gap narrowed last year. Lower shipments from China and declining oil imports are driving the trend, the report said. However, it also noted that the “overall gap” remains wider than it was before President Trump took office, although the trend is seen as giving the president evidence he has delivered on his pledges to reduce the gap. The annual deficit in goods and services decreased for the first time in six years, narrowing 1.7% to $616.8 billion according to Commerce Department data reported on Wednesday. However, the December gap rose from the prior month to $48.9 billion, wider than the median estimate of economists as oil imports from Canada jumped. President Donald Trump frequently cites the trade deficit as evidence of the failure of earlier trade policies — even though most economists don’t dwell on the indicator since it reflects numerous broader economic trends beyond overseas purchases and sales. However, Bloomberg notes that the gap remains more than 20% wider than before the president took office. That reflects steady gains in American consumer spending, which drives imports, Bloomberg said. The annual merchandise-trade deficit with China — the principal target of the administration’s trade war — narrowed 17.6% to $345.6 billion after hitting a record in 2018. Imports from the country slumped 16.2%, exceeding the drop in 2009 during the global financial crisis, while shipments to China declined 11.3%, the biggest drop since at least 2003. That pushed China down to third place among America’s top trading partners for goods in 2019, as Mexico claimed the top spot, slightly ahead of Canada. The merchandise deficits with Mexico and the European Union hit records, while the U.S. surplus in services declined by 4% to $249.2 billion as imports gained. Bloomberg also said it expected that the phase-one trade deal with China is likely to have an impact on the composition of trade flows, “but not the overall net position.” The boost to exports growth, however, appears likely to be delayed by the coronavirus outbreak. Overall, Bloomberg estimates exports will add only slightly to GDP in 2020 and for net trade to continue to subtract from full-year growth. Even with the trade tensions in recent months, oil was a chief force behind the full-year deficit narrowing. Petroleum imports dropped $31.4 billion to $193.9 billion while exports increased, narrowing the full-year gap in such products to a record-low $13.7 billion. On a monthly basis, the U.S. has been a net exporter since September. However, the non-petroleum goods deficit was $839.2 billion, a record high. In addition, the U.S. and China last month signed the first phase of a trade agreement that is expected to boost Chinese purchases by $200 billion over the next 24 months, the culmination of almost three years of acrimonious talks that have roiled markets. However, the coronavirus “threatens to affect that target that many observers thought was lofty before the outbreak.” Officials in Beijing are said to be hoping Washington will agree to some flexibility on pledges in their deal. At the end of January, President Trump signed a new trade pact with Canada and Mexico into law extending the life and updating the trading bloc created by NAFTA in the 1990s. The White House is now turning its attention to scrutinizing trade links with other nations and regions including the UK, Africa and the European Union, with whom relations started to sour in 2018 when the administration invoked national-security considerations to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe. President Trump argued on Tuesday in his State of the Union address that the administration’s tariff strategy with China has worked and will protect U.S. workers and intellectual property, open markets and “bring billions and billions of dollars into our Treasury.” Bloomberg also noted that while the remaining Chinese tariffs mean significant payment flows to the U.S. Treasury, they raise costs for importing firms who must decide whether to take this “hit” to profits, shift supply chains or pass along price increases to customers. As a share of the economy, the overall trade gap narrowed to 2.9% of gross domestic product from 3% in 2018 — still significantly smaller than in the decade before the last recession, when it approached 6%. For the full year, U.S. exports fell 0.1% to $2.5 trillion as shipments of civilian aircraft declined amid the grounding of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max plane, while sales of autos, consumer goods and petroleum gained. Imports fell 0.4% to $3.12 trillion on lower purchases of crude oil, computer accessories and telecommunications equipment. So, we will see. There continues to be significant global trade tensions that likely will continue to dampen global growth, although the phase one deal with China is being welcomed as providing significant relief in the months ahead. At the same time, there are growing uncertainties regarding the impacts of Brexit and the continuing possibility of U.S. tariffs on European autos — as well as continued fights over European tax policies on U.S. firms — debates that should be watched closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 6, 2020 |


WTO’s Azevedo Calls For Real Action On WTO Reforms A realization is building that real reforms to the WTO are needed, according to Director General Roberto Azevedo. “The reality is we need very significant changes,” Azevedo said. “A few coats of paint will not be enough.” In remarks to the Washington International Trade Association (WITA), Azevedo touched on the dispute settlement process at the WTO and the appellate body, the source of U.S. complaints about the WTO process. “In my mind, I can see a much better functioning dispute settlement system, but my mind is not enough,” Azevedo said. While he did not meet with either U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer nor President Donald Trump in his visit this week, Azevedo noted he has been engaging with U.S. officials on a consistent basis. But he emphasized, “What we need to do is transform those ideas into concrete action.” As for not meeting with Lighthizer or Trump, the WTO chief said, “It does not mean that I cannot come back. I need somebody to tell me – ‘This is the time.’”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 6, 2020 |


NEC’s Kudlow Expects Delay in US Exports to China National Economic Council (NEC) chief Larry Kudlow told CNBC that the China coronavirus situation is expected to have an impact on U.S. exports to China, likely delaying the increase outlined in the phase-one trade deal. “The export boom from that trade deal will take longer because of the Chinese virus,” Kudlow said of the pledge by China to boost its purchases of U.S. ag, energy, services and manufactured goods. Meanwhile, former White House aide Clete Willems said the U.S. would need to show some understanding with China on the trade front as the country confronts the coronavirus situation. "We simply do not know the scope of this and what the economic impact is going to be. It does mean that in the short term it is going to make it difficult to make progress on phase two, and there will be a conversation with respect to implementation,” Willems told Reuters in Washington. As for the impact to the U.S. economy, Kudlow said it would be “minimal,” and the U.S. was ready to help China. “We would like to make them as healthy as we can,” he said. Expectations are the situation could trim U.S. GDP by 0.2 percentage points in the first quarter and another 0.2 percentage points later in the year. “It is not a catastrophe. It is not a disaster. I think people should be very calm about this,” Kudlow said. “This is not going to be that big a deal for us.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 6, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday morning's schedule should sound familiar with weekly export sales and U.S. jobless claims due out at 7:30 a.m. CST. U.S. natural gas inventories follow at 9:30 a.m. South American weather and any ag trade news will also get traders' attention. Weather Thursday features moderate to heavy rain with a threat of flooding in the Southeast, mixed precipitation and snow in the eastern Midwest, light snow in the Northern Plains, and a rain-snow mix in the Northwest. Dry conditions will be in place elsewhere. Temperatures will be colder in all areas except for the Southeast.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 5, 2020 |


Rural Mainstreet Index Starts 2020 on Solid Ground January’s Rural Mainstreet Index from Creighton University climbed to its highest level since June of 2018. It’s the fifth-straight month the reading has been above growth neutral in the survey of bank CEOs in a ten-state region that relies primarily on agriculture and/or energy. The overall index in January came in at 55.9, up from 50.2 in December. It’s the 11th time in the past 12 months that number has been above 50, which is growth neutral. “Only 17 percent of bank CEOs reported their local economy was in an economic downturn,” says Index chief Dr. Ernie Goss. “This is better than a year ago, when almost 23 percent of bank CEOs said their local economy was in a recession, or economic downturn.” Don Reynolds is chair of the Regional Missouri Bank, who says, “Farm incomes for 2019 and projections for 2020 aren’t as bleak as we expected.” The farmland and ranchland price index came in below growth- neutral for the 73rd time in the past 74 months. While December’s index was 52.8, January’s number fell to 45.6. “Two out of three Nebraska bankers say property taxes on farmland are a significant factor in reducing farm profitability,” Goss says. ********************************************************************************************** Farmland Sales Pace Picking Up in 2020 The pace of farmland sales is picking up as the calendar heads further into 2020. Sam Kain, area sales manager for Farmers National Company, says the first six months of last year were as slow as he’s seen the land market in recent memory. “The fall months and winter season saw an increase in the pace of land auctions,” Kain says. “The on-going lower supply of land for sale has helped to support land prices. Good quality cropland remains steady to strong.” Farmers National recently sold a tract of land in Iowa for $13,000 an acre, which was way above expectations. “Lower quality land takes more time and effort to get it sold,” Kain says. “That’s more typical of Wisconsin farms, due to the financial stress of the past few years in dairy. Good quality cropland still sells well in the state, while lower quality land or properties with dairy facilities struggle to sell.” Looking ahead to this year, Farmers National says attention turns to what’s going to have the biggest impact on the farm economy and land market. Producers are optimistic about improvements with China but are now concerned about how soon grain prices might improve given disease outbreaks and world grain trade fluctuations. ********************************************************************************************** New Study says Red/Processed Meat Consumption Carries Risks A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says red meat lovers may want to put down that slice of bacon. A CNN report says a new analysis of long-term data on nearly 30,000 people shows a small but significant risk of death from any cause tied to eating two servings of processed meat or unprocessed red meat each week. People eating two servings a week of processed meat, unprocessed red meat or poultry were all found to have similar risks of cardiovascular disease. Researchers say including poultry in that category may have more to do with frying or consuming the skin. The study says there were no associated risks for eating fish. One serving of processed meat equaled two slices of bacon, two small sausages, or one hot dog. One serving of unprocessed red meat equaled about four ounces of red meat or poultry or three ounces of fish. The new findings come out just months after a separate study that says there is no need for people to reduce their red meat and processed meat consumption for good health. Senior Study Author Norrina Allen says, “Everyone interpreted that it was OK to eat red meat, but I don’t think that’s what the science supports.” ********************************************************************************************** Crop Insurance Flooding Bill Totals $6.4 Billion Politico says flooding added a lot of money to federal crop insurance payouts last year during the growing season. The bill is $6.4 billion so far, the costliest payout on record. Most of the money is tied directly to spring and summer flooding in states like North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Illinois. Meteorologist Steve Bowen, who works for a national insurance company, analyzed USDA data. “Given the record rainfall that occurred and the multiple waves of flooding that affected areas across the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas River basins, the heightened impacts are not terribly surprising,” Bowen says. “Last year was a very tough season for farmers, and there are concerns that already saturated soils across the Plains and Midwest may set the stage for more possible flooding in 2020.” Last year wasn’t the worst in terms of overall economic costs. Taking in the amount of damage to agriculture, infrastructure, and other property, the 1993 floods along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers remain the costliest disaster in modern history, coming in at $38 billion in today’s dollars. Last year’s disaster cost about $20 billion. Last year, USDA economists found that more frequent and intense storms will ratchet up the price of crop insurance between four and 22 percent, depending on the future rates of greenhouse gas emissions. ********************************************************************************************** United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program Signup Period Open The signup period for the 26th edition of the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program is now open. The program first began in 1995 and more than 250 produce industry professionals have graduated from the program. “As we celebrate the program’s 25th anniversary, I invite our alumni and all those who have supported their journey to pay it forward,” says Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association. “Please encourage the next generation of industry leaders to apply to take part in the class and become the first fellows of the next 25 years.” The United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program is the only ongoing, fully paid leadership program for the produce industry. Each year, people are selected to participate in the program which is developed around four fundamental goals: leadership development; business relationships; government and public affairs; and media and public communications. Participants take part in a series of four trips during the year-long program. The trips focus on face-to-face meetings, hands-on training with top industry experts and educators, interactive experiences with leaders in Washington, D.C., and more. The participants will be named at the United Fresh 2020 Convention and Ag Expo, June 16-19, in San Diego. ********************************************************************************************** Peterson, Conaway Skeptical about Conservation Program Implementation House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson and Ranking Member Michael Conaway were skeptical about the Trump Administration’s implementation of conservation programs during a subcommittee hearing last week. The Ag Committee’s Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee hearing on the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill conservation provisions got a little testy. Natural Resources Conservation Chief Matthew Lohr says his agency launched the Conservation Assistance Ranking Tool (CART) to help farmers figure out which conservation programs work best for them. “Overall, the improvements through the CART program will enhance customer experience and save 200,000 hours of staff time every year,” Lohr said during testimony. Peterson wasn’t happy, saying that Lohr hadn’t told him about it in a meeting they had, and he believes CART amounts to “more damn crazy regulations as a ‘top-down’ deal.” Conaway told Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce that his farmers were “back home scratching their heads” over differences in rental rates for the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program in neighboring counties. “There shouldn’t be marked differences in neighboring counties,” Conaway said to Fordyce.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 5, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Punitive Tariffs for Monetary Policy Lest you think that the phase-one deal with China might mean more tranquil international markets this year, Bloomberg is reporting that the administration is going ahead with controversial new rules that would clear the way for the U.S. to apply punitive tariffs on goods from countries accused of having undervalued currencies. The move would give new muscle to U.S. complaints about currency manipulation that have in the past targeted economies like China and Japan. In the process, it could “turn the more than $6 trillion-a-day global currency market into a new battlefield in the administration’s trade wars,” Bloomberg says. The rule would allow the U.S. to impose countervailing duties on goods from countries accused of manipulating their currencies--even in cases where they were not officially found to be guilty of that by the U.S. Treasury. Past administrations have resisted calls to take such action from Congress and some industries for fear it would lead to more tit-for-tat currency wars. In the wake of the global financial crisis a decade ago, policy makers in countries such as Brazil accused the U.S. and the Federal Reserve of using monetary policy to weaken the dollar to help spur a quicker recovery in the U.S. President Donald Trump has long accused China and other countries of doing the same. Commerce Department officials on Monday presented the recent decision as simply follow-through on a 2016 campaign promise to tackle currency manipulation around the world. “This currency rule is an important step in ensuring that unfair trade practices are properly remedied,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said. “While successive administrations have balked at countervailing foreign currency subsidies, this administration is taking action to level the playing field for American businesses and workers.” The new rule, which the Treasury Department opposed when it was first proposed in 2019, would allow U.S. companies to file complaints with the Commerce Department over specific imported products by treating undervalued currencies as a form of unfair subsidy. It would also give the administration the power to self-initiate cases should it so choose, however, potentially making the U.S. government plaintiff, judge, jury and executioner in currency fights. The Commerce Department put some caveats on its powers, saying it would “not normally include monetary and related credit policy of an independent central bank or monetary authority” in determining whether foreign governments had acted inappropriately to weaken currencies. “Commerce will seek and generally defer to Treasury’s expertise in currency matters,” it said. Still, its statement left room for unilateral action by Commerce--even if Treasury, which issues a twice-yearly report identifying currencies that are artificially weak or the subject of government manipulation, determines that a currency is not undervalued. “This appears intended as a broad signal to U.S. trading partner countries that any significant weakening of their currencies relative to the dollar could invite retaliatory actions,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist and the author of books on the rise of the dollar and Chinese renminbi. The new rule appeared to go against guidance from a Treasury official, who said last June that the framework of any currency assessments by Commerce would be consistent with its semi-annual foreign-exchange report to Congress. The Commerce Department also indicated that said it would preserve the final power to make any determination about whether a currency’s value presented an unfair subsidy for that country’s exporters — and that the new rule would allow it to “specifically impose currency-related tariffs against China even if Treasury did not label it a currency manipulator.” The Treasury last month lifted a designation of China as a manipulator just days before President Trump signed a “Phase One” trade deal with China that includes language on currencies, though the new rule appears to give the U.S. powers to act that go beyond that included in last month’s deal. Bloomberg noted that the final rule announced Monday drew “concern from some former U.S. officials.” “This is a unilateral policy which will alienate countries around the world,” said Mark Sobel, a former Treasury official. It may also violate U.S. World Trade Organization commitments, Sobel said, although the Commerce Department insisted in its statement that “there is no WTO rule that bars the imposition of countervailing duties on subsidies conferred through currency practices.” It also prompted warnings that the rule marked another administration effort to weaponize the dollar after the president previously set out to talk down its value while blaming the Federal Reserve for causing it to strengthen to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers and other exporters. So, we will see. In general, currencies tend to be volatile and “mechanical” regulatory efforts are frequently accused of amplifying that volatility and uncertainty — a reason sometimes given by Treasury for not intervening more often. In general, it appears that the administration has ideas of additional market interventions that could threaten Fed independence, and which should be watched closely by producers as these fights continue, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 5, 2020 |


Commerce Announces Tomato Inspection Program The Department of Commerce has announced a new inspection program for imports of certain fresh tomatoes from Mexico, according to a notice in the Federal Register, an inspection program called for under the provisions of a new tomato suspension agreement the U.S. and Mexico agreed to last year. All fresh tomato imports from Mexico will be subject to inspection except tomatoes on the vine, specialty tomatoes and grape tomatoes in retail packages of two pounds or less. USDA will conduct the inspections and the effort will start 60 days from now. As part of the agreement, the U.S. will not put antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico as long as the suspension agreement remains in effect.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 5, 2020 |


USTR Says No Request from China For Negotiations On Ag Purchases Bloomberg reported early Monday that China was requesting flexibility from the U.S. on its purchases of ag products under the Phase One trade deal between the two countries. However, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said it has received no request from China on the matter. "USTR has not received any requests from China’s government to discuss changes in China’s purchase commitments due to the coronavirus outbreak," a USTR spokesperson said in a statement. The Global Times said that purchases of goods by Chinese firms was likely to be delayed in the first quarter but that purchases could increase later this year given that the purchase comments are on an annual basis, citing Gao Lingyun, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Meanwhile, some suggest that USDA may release some additional information on the USDA forecasts regarding Chinese purchases of U.S. ag goods under the phase-one agreement ahead of the February 11 WASDE report.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 5, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday's reports start at 7:15 a.m. CST with the release of ADP's estimate of private U.S. job gains, a possible hint to Friday's unemployment report. The December trade deficit is due out at 7:30 a.m. and will provide USDA with important ag trade data that will be revealed later Wednesday morning. The U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory reports follow at 9:30 a.m. CST. Weather Freezing precipitation and snow will extend from the Texas Big Bend to the southern and eastern Midwest Wednesday. We'll also see mixed precipitation and snow in the Northwest and rain in the Southeast. Wintry precipitation areas will have transportation and safety issues, while rain in the Southeast brings extensive flood threats. Temperatures will be seasonally cold in most northern and central areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 4, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The US, London and the Huawei Fight Global trade issues are increasingly complicated these days, especially when it comes to tech policies. For example, the New York Times report on technology policy this week concludes that “one of the biggest recent stories began with an announcement in London.” The background is that for weeks, observers in Washington had been waiting to see whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson would ban Huawei equipment as the U.S. has done or allow it to be used in the nation’s 5G wireless network. The United States has said for years that the company’s networking gear could give the Chinese government access to key infrastructure. Last week Prime Minister Johnson revealed his decision, that Huawei is in. The company’s equipment can be used in a portion of the 5G, or fifth-generation, network. NYT thinks this is a big setback for the administration’s global anti-Huawei push. The White House had sent top officials to London to try to sway Johnson, who is seen as a close ally to President Trump. Also, after the British announcement, the European Union told members to limit but not totally eliminate Huawei’s role in their networks. The Times raised the question of why Prime Minister Johnson decided to allow Huawei to stay involved in building Britain’s 5G network, despite all the pressure he was under from the U.S. administration? NYT believes there are a few key reasons. The practical one is that Huawei has been part of the British telecom network for years, and that 5G will be built on top of that existing system. To implement a ban now would be “extraordinarily costly” and delay the rollout of the faster network because a lot of that old kit would have to be ripped out. The second reason, NYT says, is that British intelligence and cybersecurity officials believe the risks of Huawei can be mitigated. As part of allowing Huawei to be part of its network, British officials years ago required the company to subject its products and code to tests and a lab near Cambridge does that work. For British officials, this gives them a level of confidence that the problem can be managed. Of course, American officials argue that “this is wishful thinking.” With 5G, software plays a much bigger role, meaning it will be harder to keep harmful code from slipping through. Finally, as Britain exits the European Union, many of its officials believe that it can’t afford to alienate China, which is a big investor in the country and a growing buyer of British exports. From an economic standpoint, it would be a big risk. Britain also sees 5G as a key to the country’s economic future and that any delays could put it at a disadvantage to other countries. In Washington, the Johnson decision set off a paroxysm of concerned statements from the administration and hawkish members of Congress—but perhaps not as strong as some expected. That included the statement from the White House, as well as the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Britain during the week—where U.S. criticisms were seen as muted and delivered behind “closed doors.” In addition, NYT thinks the Huawei decision is just one example of a split between how tech is regulated in the United States and in Britain but also raises the question of what the future of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain will be in the future with regard to tech? The Times thinks the answer to that question, like many others these days, is complicated. For example, the report says that Britain, like many countries in Europe, is very frustrated with Big Tech and doesn’t think the companies pay their fair share in taxes. Also with Facebook and Google/YouTube, “not enough is done to limit the spread of harmful content.” Attempts to address taxes and harmful content will gain momentum this year, potentially setting up more tension with the United States. Finally, the Times notes that tech issues “cover all of Europe, not just Britain,” and the U.S. must decide where it will campaign to keep Huawei out of 5G networks. It sees Germany as another country where the United States has been applying a lot of pressure but where the politics are intense and complicated. For example, China has threatened Germany with retaliation if Huawei is banned and that threat is resonating there. Chancellor Angela Merkel has signaled she doesn’t want a ban but she is facing pressure from others in government who want to take a more aggressive approach. So, we will see. The tech issues are particularly fascinating, touching on tech, trade, politics, foreign policy and national security. They pose an increasingly severe challenge to the administration to develop a unified approach that it previously has found difficult to sustain, and which producers should watch closely as these efforts continue, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 4, 2020 |


USDA Finally Announces Third Round of 2019 Trade Aid Payments USDA has announced that farmers will be soon receiving the third installment of 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) payments. The payouts have been expected since early January, but officials had signaled there were still details being worked out. Through January 28, USDA issued $10.89 billion in payments under MFP 2, meaning the payment announced by USDA Monday should total around $3.6 billion. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has cautioned that a 2020 MFP effort is not expected to be in the cards given the phase-one trade deal signed between the U.S. and China. But the situation could change depending on how the market response plays out to the phase-one deal and amid already rising political pressure for the administration to issue another round of the aid for 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 4, 2020 |


Expectations for US-China Consultations on Phase One Purchase Commitments The China coronavirus situation is expected to result in the U.S. and China undergoing consultations under the phase-one trade deal relative to purchase commitments of U.S. ag and other products under the deal. Recall consultations are called for if either party faces a delay in their purchase commitments for reasons outside of their control. Most observers expect consultations will be held between the two countries, if they have not yet been via phone/video conference. Some expect delays in purchases/shipments of one to two quarters, with the seasonality of China’s buys of U.S. ag goods potentially impacted if the purchase timeline goes beyond that in terms of any delay. It is possible that with enough supply chain disruption China will not be able to meet the schedule for phase-one purchasing commitments.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 4, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets As far as official reports go, Tuesday should be quiet with just U.S. factory orders due out at 9 a.m. CST. Traders will also continue to have an interest in South American weather forecasts and the latest reports on coronavirus. Weather Tuesday features mixed precipitation and snow in the Southern Plains and moderate to heavy rain in the southern Midwest, Delta and mid-South. Precipitation areas will have transportation and safety issues. In addition, flood threats are noted in rain locales due to already-saturated soils. Dry and seasonally cold conditions are indicated for northern areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 3, 2020 |


EPA Once Again Affirms Safety of Glyphosate Late last week, the Environmental Protection Agency once again found that the weed killer glyphosate does not cause cancer. Glyphosate is the most widely used weed killer in the U.S. The Daily Mail reports that the agency’s regulatory review again reaffirms its stance on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup. The EPA findings come in spite of recent decisions by U.S. juries that found using the weed killer was to blame for causing plaintiffs’ cancer in some trials. In a statement, the EPA says, “There are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is not a carcinogen.” Bayer, which bought Monsanto, the original maker of Roundup, was pleased with the agency’s findings. The company has long said that glyphosate and Roundup are safe and do not cause cancer. Liam Condon, Bayer’s global president for crop science, says, “Glyphosate-based herbicides are one of the most thoroughly studied products of their kind, which is a major reason why farmers around the world continue to rely on these products.” Back in 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” ********************************************************************************************** China Asks Food Producers to Step Up Production Despite Coronavirus The Chinese Agriculture Ministry is asking the country’s feed producers and slaughterhouses to resume their production as quickly as possible. Reuters says the goal is to add to supplies during the outbreak of the Coronavirus. China’s factories typically shut down during the Lunar New Year holidays. Those holidays have been extended to at least February 2nd to curb the spread of the virus that’s killed 170 people in China and infected close to 8,000 more people. The virus outbreak has led to a quick jump in food prices, as well as low food supplies in some cities due to panic buying and transportation disruptions. In spite of the Coronavirus outbreak, China’s transportation authority is also asking their local authorities not to cut off highways and main roads to try and limit the spread of the disease. Coronaviruses manifest differently in different hosts. The virus often causes severe respiratory disease in humans, such as pneumonia. It likely jumped from animals to humans and is transmissible between human beings. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a large city with connections both inside and outside of China. ********************************************************************************************** NBB Supports Biodiesel in USDA Infrastructure Program The National Biodiesel Board released comments in response to the USDA’s request for information on the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. The NBB says it’s grateful that biodiesel is included in the program. The infrastructure needs for biodiesel, renewable diesel, Bioheat, and sustainable aviation fuel are different from those of other biofuels. In its comments, the group asked USDA to focus the program on investments in strategic terminals, pipeline storage, and rail expansion to create a broader downstream capacity to sell more gallons. “Investments would be best served on opportunities that would afford the greatest additional volumes of biodiesel to enter the marketplace,” the group says in its comments. “The greatest barriers to biodiesel distribution are at the terminal and pipeline terminal level, as well as railways to reach distribution centers.” Kurt Kovarik, NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs, says they’re grateful to the USDA for following through on a pledge to support infrastructure projects that facilitate higher biofuel blends. “American consumers are increasingly demanding access to clean, low-carbon, advanced biofuels, like biodiesel,” Kovarik says. “We look forward to working with the USDA to strengthen the market for higher blends of biodiesel.” ********************************************************************************************** Farm Bankruptcies Rose in 2019 Farm bankruptcies jumped by almost 20 percent last year. That is the big takeaway from court data put together by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Overall, there were almost 600 Chapter 12 family farm bankruptcies in 2019, up from almost 100 filings the previous year. Wisconsin was hit the hardest, with 57 family farms filing for bankruptcy in 2019, while Georgia was second with 41. Almost half of the nation’s filings took place in the Midwest, which totaled 46 percent of the bankruptcies. 22 percent of the filings took place in the Southeast U.S. In spite of the numbers, last year’s filings didn’t come close to the all-time high of a 33-percent increase back in 2010, the year after the Great Recession. Over the past ten years, there have been more than 5,000 farm bankruptcies. That number represents a quarter of one percent of all farm operations. Given that there are just over two million farms in the U.S., the 2019 bankruptcy rate is about 2.95 bankruptcies per 10,000 farms. On a year-over-year basis, Chapter 12 filings have increased for five consecutive quarters. ********************************************************************************************** Seasonal Farm Trade Tensions Brewing Between the U.S. and Mexico In spite of the goodwill generated after the U.S. and Mexico approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, there could be more tensions between the two countries surrounding produce. The Financial Post says Mexico responded to a letter from the top U.S. trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, pledging protectionist measures on seasonal farm trade for producers in the politically important states of Florida and Georgia. Mexico says if the U.S. takes action in any way against Mexican agricultural imports, it will respond in kind. The Deputy Trade Minister of Mexico says, “If the U.S. government takes any steps of this kind against Mexican agricultural exports, the Mexican government will apply similar measures to U.S. products.” The head of the Mexican National Farm Council says he thinks the U.S. measures would likely target the more “successful” Mexican exports like tomatoes, berries, and mangos. Those exports are worth $12 billion every year and support about 1.4 million jobs in Mexico. The council president says this potential move is about U.S. politics and Mexico’s private sector is extremely concerned. In the January 9th letter, Lighthizer pledged to explore new protections for farmers in Florida and Georgia. ********************************************************************************************** RFA, NCGA Co-Sponsor the 2020 Crappie Masters Fishing Tournament Events The 2020 season of the Crappie Masters Tournament Trail begins later this week, with the Renewable Fuels Association and the National Corn Growers Association signed on as co-title sponsors. It’s the fourth consecutive year that the two major farm groups are sponsoring the events. “We’re thrilled to be representing the Renewable Fuels Association and American Ethanol by sharing the truth about ethanol and educating our anglers, listeners, viewers, and followers,” says Crappie Masters President Mike Valentine. “For five straight seasons, all winning teams with Crappie Masters have been running E10 fuel in their boats with no problems.” This year’s competition will include stops in states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and several more. NCGA Ethanol Action Team Chair Mark Recker says, “Nearly one-third of America’s corn crop goes into the production of ethanol, an environmentally friendly fuel additive that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, keeping the waterways clean for fishing.” RFA President of Industry Relations Robert White says, “We’re looking forward to another great year on the water with an expanded schedule of tournaments.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 3, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Climate Change and Central Banks Bloomberg is reporting this week that the world’s largest central banks are getting louder about climate change risks and “some of them are even starting to do something about it.” This new focus has raised questions over whether the banks are muddying their mission--and whether their tools will even work in this field. Critics say they can and should go a lot further. Bloomberg says that a growing body of research suggests that climate change poses the greatest long-run threat to the global economy – including inflation and financial stability, which central banks oversee. Even if the ambitious goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement of limiting global temperature gains to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is met, the world’s economies are likely to be affected in important ways, from lower productivity on farms and construction sites to increased mortality and migration. That’s in addition to damage from more extreme weather events and coastal flooding. Then there are risks to the financial system. In 2015, outgoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney raised an alarm about the “tragedy” of climate change and warned specifically about “re-pricing” events. That includes physical damage that destroys the value of assets (such as waterfront hotels), imposes new liabilities on companies such as California’s now bankrupt PG&E – or sharply raises insurance prices. Another risk could be a sudden slump in the value of certain assets because of drastic government action to combat change, like the introduction of a steep carbon tax or regulations that keeps fossil fuels in the ground. Two years later, Carney and several peers created the Network for Greening the Financial System, a group that’s grown to about 50 central banks and related groups that swap research and potential policy solutions. In 2019, the group created a set of guidelines that urge peers to price in climate change risk when regulating financial companies and to invest with sustainability goals in mind for their own portfolios. To many, the mere fact that central banks are talking about the challenge is of huge significance. Each of the major banks has its own approach, depending on their legal mandate and their government’s priorities, Bloomberg notes. It describes a few examples, including the People’s Bank of China that provides direct investment in sustainable projects, encourages issuance of green bonds – and even curbs loans to polluters. Also, the Bank of Canada announced a research program on climate change at the end of 2019 and the Bank of England is in the midst of stress testing insurers and banks for how well they’d handle climate events and potential new regulation. The U.S. Federal Reserve hosted a climate change conference in November and is conducting research on the subject and the European Central Bank is set to consider climate change in its monetary policy review and Christine Lagarde, president of the EU bank, has pledged to make climate change a “mission critical” issue. Her remarks spurred discussion in financial circles of the potential for “Green QE,” or the purchase of bonds to nudge down long-term interest rates in an effort to funnel some of a central bank’s bond-buying toward green projects and companies, lowering borrowing costs for that industry. Central banks also can play a role through regulation and research, and can use their regulatory powers to do things like force banks to calculate and disclose their climate-related risks and can include climate-repricing scenarios in the stress tests they require to make sure banks are prepared for losses. That could have the effect of damping banks’ appetite for fossil-fuel investments or lending, and spur alternative energies. Still, Bloomberg notes that central banks also have very limited lawmaking capability and are generally “supposed to be independent,” and so typically avoid throwing their weight behind political agendas – especially when they contradict the priorities of the elected government. It also says that two of the world’s 10 largest economies are missing from the Network for Greening the Financial System: Brazil and the U.S., although Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that it’s been sending representatives to meetings and will “probably” join at some point. However, Bloomberg says that critics argue that the issue “isn’t one for central banks,” which can only impact economies indirectly and should be left to politicians who can spend and invest directly. There’s also a risk that, because some see climate change as controversial, a central bank’s entry into the area will open the door for more political influence. Finally, there’s an argument that because the time horizon for monetary policy is about 2-3 years, and climate change timelines are much longer, it makes central banks ill-equipped to have a meaningful impact. So, we will see. Central banks with their large economic presence likely will be forced to take at least some steps to help their clients deal with climate uncertainty, and these likely will be highly controversial since most of their efforts are already in the cross hairs of skeptics. These issues are highly important for producers and should be watched closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 3, 2020 |


EPA Issues Interim Decision On Glyphosate That It Is Safe To Use EPA Thursday released its interim decision on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, saying it safe use and there “are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is not a carcinogen.” The proposed interim decision issued by EPA in April 2019 also reached that conclusion. There were some 280,000 comments filed on that proposed interim decision. EPA included some updates to mitigation measures, including spray drift management requirements relating to droplet size on glyphosate labels. EPA said there will be a nontarget organism advisory to alert users to the fact that the weedkiller is toxic to plants and “may adversely impact the forage and habitat of non-target organisms, including pollinators.” EPA said it would also require those wanting approval to sell glyphosate to provide information and recommendations to slow the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds to users of the product. EPA said it would likely have a draft biological evaluation of the herbicide out for public comment this fall. The interim decision would open the way for a final registration on glyphosate that could be in effect for 15 years.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 3, 2020 |


Pompeo Says Food Portion Will Be Most Contentious In UK Trade Talks Trade talks with the UK are likely to be contentious, especially on food and agriculture, according to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He expressed a hope during remarks in London that food safety will not be used as a cover for protectionist actions. "There will be real contentious issues around agriculture," Pompeo told LBC Radio during his visit to London. “Our ask will be as it has been in the other negotiations. We need to be open and honest about competitiveness. We need to make sure we do not use food safety as a ruse to try and protect a particular industry." Pompeo outlined a timeline of hoping that by late this summer, the two sides will have made substantial progress in trade talks before moving on to address the most difficult matters.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 3, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets It is highly likely Monday will start with attention on higher counts of coronavirus infections and a surprise is possible. ISM's index of U.S. manufacturing comes out at 9 a.m. CST, followed by USDA's weekly report of export inspections at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m. CST, NASS's Fats and Oils report will show soybean crush totals for December. Weather A strong storm system in the Colorado Rockies will bring heavy snow to the western Plains and a freezing precipitation and snow mix to the central Plains Monday. Other crop areas will be dry. The Rockies storm is on track to produce areas of heavy snow in the Southern Plains and heavy rain in the southern Midwest and Delta Tuesday.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 31, 2020 |


FCC Launches $20 Billion Rural Broadband Fund The Federal Communications Commission Thursday approved a rural broadband funding initiative. The new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will help finance the deployment of high-speed broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas. The FCC says the effort will connect millions more American homes and businesses to broadband. The first phase of the effort will begin later this year and target census blocks that are wholly unserved with fixed broadband at speeds of at least 25/3 megabits per second. This phase would make available up to $16 billion to census blocks where existing data shows there is no such service available. Phase two of the program will make available at least $4.4 billion to target partially served areas, census blocks where some locations lack access to 25/3 megabits per second broadband. ************************************************************************************* Magistrate Favors USDA, Beef Councils, in R-CALF Lawsuit A decision in lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture and multiple state beef checkoff’s favor the federal programs. The lawsuit, filed by R-CALF, claims there is a lack of oversight in state beef councils. However, a magistrate decision sided with USDA and the state organizations earlier this week. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association CEO Collin Woodall says the decision “was a crucial step toward ensuring state beef councils retain the important ability to direct their investments at the grassroots level.” The decision of the magistrate judge will now be forwarded to the federal district court for a final ruling. It could continue to be appealed by either party after the district court judge issues an opinion, a process that will continue over the next several months or longer, and appeals are expected. NCBA credits a recent memorandum of understanding between the state groups and USDA that reaffirms a commitment to transparent oversight for the court decision. ************************************************************************************* World Ag Expo Guarding Against Coronavirus World Ag Expo is set to host attendees and exhibitors from across the country and around the world in just two weeks. Now they will also prepare to guard against the newest coronavirus emerging in China. Show officials are working with local, state and federal officials to monitor the situation and develop a plan on the show grounds. A spokesperson for the show says, "The health and safety of everyone at our show is our top priority.” World Ag Expo is advising precautions for attendees that closely match recommendations for flu season. Those recommendations include hand washing, covering coughs, staying home if ill, and contacting a physician if symptoms arise. Travelers attending World Ag Expo who become ill should contact the local health department where they are staying, and report their illness, as well. World Ag Expo boasts an international farm show atmosphere, with more than 100,000 attendees each year in California. ************************************************************************************* AEM: USMCA A Victory for Equipment Makers This week’s signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement offers certainty beyond the farm for agriculture. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers says the agreement will help equipment makers grow in the United States, compete globally, and support millions of jobs across the country. Case IH North American Vice President Scott Harris serves on the AEM board of directors. Harris says that, "With commodity price stagnation and global market uncertainty, solidifying and expanding the North American market is absolutely critical for the broader agricultural community,” including AEM member dealers and customers. AEM is the North American-based international trade group representing off-road equipment manufacturers and suppliers, with more than 1,000 companies in the agriculture and construction-related industry sectors worldwide. Since the creation of NAFTA two decades ago, AEM says equipment manufacturers have benefited greatly from duty-free market access to Canada and Mexico, adding USMCA builds upon that success, supporting 1.3 million jobs in the U.S., and 149,000 more in Canada. ************************************************************************************* Report: Sustainability Improving Ag Retailers Profitability, Reputation New research shows how sustainability and conservation-focused products and services are changing the ag retail business. Research by Farm Journal's Trust In Food initiative, in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, suggests the focus on sustainability is leading to improvements in ag retailers' profitability and reputation. The report documents key insights gathered through in-depth interviews with nine sustainability leaders in the ag retail sector, as well as through broader feedback from a national survey of more than 70 ag retail professionals. Collectively, these professionals service each of the nine Department of Agriculture Farm Resource Regions and represent more than $1.7 billion in annual revenue. The study reveals how ag retail companies are successfully integrating products and services related to conservation agriculture and the sustainability of agriculture into their business portfolios. Organizers say the report presents a clear business case for ag retailers to dramatically transform their businesses to meet the needs of farmers, the food value chain, local communities and the world's natural resources. Find the report at trustinfood.com. ************************************************************************************ Organic Chicken Feed Subscription Launches An eCommerce store is launching organic chicken feed subscriptions. The online store, called Mile Four, offers subscription and one-time sales, targeting the backyard chicken market. Customers who subscribe to their chosen feed receive ten percent off every order and can set their delivery schedule exactly how they want, depending on the size of their flock. Founder Luke Huebner says the subscription “makes things so much easier for the buyer and the flock when feed, supplements and treats are delivered directly to their door." He says the goal of the eCommerce store is to “make raising backyard chickens as simple as possible.” Huebner grew up on a fifth-generation family farm four miles outside of a small town in western Minnesota and is self-described as an eCommerce veteran with 15 plus years of experience. The online store offers Starter, Grower and Layer Feed as well as several different supplements and treats.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 31, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fed Rate Unchanged The media reported on Thursday that the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged at this week's first meeting of 2020. For example, the New York Times reported that the Fed upheld its "patient stance" after an active and often tumultuous 2019. Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, walked a careful line in his post-meeting news conference, painting a picture of a solid economy that is fueled by strong job gains and a confident consumer willing to spend. But he noted global risks that remain, including the outbreak of a deadly new coronavirus. He also said that price gains remain "surprisingly soft." Fed officials, whose job is to maintain both full employment and stable inflation, think the current economic situation merits a wait-and-see approach. The federal funds rate is currently set in a 1.5% to 1.75% range and the decision to keep it steady was unanimous. Powell is seen as signaling that the central bank does not plan to move policy in either direction unless something shifts "fundamentally" -- and that it does not expect to cut interest rates as long as the economy shapes up as expected, the Times said. The Fed's decision is unlikely to sit well with President Donald Trump who has been pushing it to slash rates further. In a tweet on Tuesday, the president said "the Fed should get smart & lower the Rate," arguing that comparatively high rates in the United States are putting the country at a disadvantage. The report noted that the central bank has been emphasizing recently that it does not answer to the White House and that its policy goals come from the Congress. Still, it faces a "complicated backdrop" when it comes to achieving those targets, NYT said. Expectations of a global growth turnaround have been climbing, helped along by an initial trade deal between the United States and China that forestalls additional tariffs between the two large economies. But those positive signs could be dampened by the new coronavirus, which is forcing quarantines in China where it is shuttering multinational operations and causing nervousness around the world. Powell pointed to that potential economic threat at his news conference, though he said it was too early to know what its macroeconomic effect would be. "There is likely to be some disruption to activity in China and perhaps globally," he said, adding that the Fed was "very carefully monitoring the situation." The chair also noted other persistent weak spots, including soft business investment and exports, which he attributed to "sluggish growth abroad and trade developments." Manufacturing is also continuing to see a fall off, though Powell suggested that weakness might be bottoming out. "We need to be a little bit patient about the effect on the economy." Still, Powell struck an optimistic tone about the U.S. economy overall, pointing out that employers are still hiring and unemployment continues to hover near a half-century low. He also cautioned about inflation, which continues to fall short of the Fed's 2% target. It has not hit that rate of change sustainably since the central bank formally adopted the goal in 2012. The annual price increase, as measured by the Fed, came in at just 1.5% in November. While sluggish price gains might sound positive, the Fed sees steady, gradual increases as better for the economy. Weak inflation leaves officials with less room to cut rates in a downturn. And if consumers begin to expect slower increases, that outlook could become self-fulfilling, dragging inflation down further. Fed policymakers do not expect it to eclipse 2% this year, based on their most recent set of economic projections. "In theory, inflation should be moving up," Powell added, given that the United States economy is in its 11th year of an expansion and unemployment is very low, at 3.5%. Some analysts interpreted Powell's wary tone as a sign that the Fed was still oriented more toward cutting rates than raising them. In a purely technical tweak, the central bank did nudge up the interest rates it pays on excess reserves -- bank deposits stashed at the Fed. The move was meant to keep the Fed funds rate trading within its target range. It also affirmed that it will continue purchasing Treasury bills "at least into" the second quarter of 2020, and said it would continue to conduct operations in the repo market "through April 2020 to ensure that the supply of reserves remains ample" even in stressful periods. The Fed has repeatedly said these interventions are not the type of mass bond-buying programs the central bank used to prop up the economy during and after the Great Recession. While those programs, known as quantitative easing, were meant to bolster the economy, the new interventions have been structured differently and are simply meant to fix a market-plumbing problem. Investors have turned a skeptical eye on that claim, and equity analysts regularly argue that the purchases are pushing up stock prices, as markets take a cue from the Fed to buy. So, we will see. It appears that the Fed will continue to tout its independence and that the president likely will continue his criticism. The Fed also seems prepared to take stronger action if "fundamentals" change, policies that producers should watch closely if they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 31, 2020 |


USMCA Signed By Trump With Attention Shifting to Canada President Donald Trump signed the implementing legislation for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Wednesday at a White House ceremony. The remaining step in the ratification process is now with Canada's parliament, which is expected to approve the deal though timing remains uncertain. Once ratification is complete, then the three countries have to embark on the process of making sure that regulations/laws reflect provisions of the updated agreement. After that process is completed, the countries are to notify each other via letters, which will start the implementation process.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 31, 2020 |


Concern Rising Within USDA on Slow Farmer Safety Net Signup for 2019 Crops USDA's Farm Service Agency is about to deploy a mailing campaign to remind farmers they need to enroll for 2019-crop safety net programs -- Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). There are 2.3 million farms with base acres, according to FSA, and typically around 1.7 million farms enroll the programs on an annual basis. As of Jan. 27, only 327,408 farms have enrolled, FSA detailed in a notice to state and county offices outlining steps to be taken to make sure that producers meet the March 16 deadline to enroll for 2019. While county FSA offices have used a "register" when it is not possible for a producer to meet a deadline for enrollment in a program, FSA said the register must not be used "unless a producer is scheduled for an appointment or requests an appointment and the County Office does not have capability to service the producer by March 16, 2020." FSA said that appointments placed on a register "must be completed as soon as possible after the March 16, 2020, deadline." Use of the register is not considered an extension of the enrollment deadline. If a valid 2019 election and enrollment on a farm is not filed by March 16, (including enrollment registers), FSA stated, "the farm will remain with default program elections and no payments will be issued for the 2019 crop year." It is clear that farmers are waiting to gather as much information price-wise or market-wise before they make their choice on whether to go with ARC or PLC for the 2019 crop year.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 31, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday marks the final day of a week dominated by concerns over the spread of coronavirus and infection counts will continue to be watched. Minor economic reports of U.S. personal income and the employment cost index are due out at 7:30 a.m. CST, followed by an index of consumer sentiment at 9 a.m. USDA releases its semi-annual cattle inventory report for January 1, set for 2 p.m. CST. Weather January ends with snow crossing the Midwest, rain in the Delta and Southeast, and mixed precipitation in the Northwest Friday. Dry conditions will be in place elsewhere. Temperatures will again be well above normal in northern and central areas. This is much different than a year ago, when the polar vortex outbreak gripped the U.S. east of the Rockies.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 30, 2020 |


President Trump Signs USMCA During White House Ceremony President Donald Trump Wednesday signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. During a White House ceremony, Trump stated USCMA is, “the largest, most significant, modern and balanced trade agreement in history.” USMCA replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal Trump considered “outdated” and “terrible.” Mexico approved and signed the agreement last year. Legislation to approve the agreement in Canada was announced this week. Canada seems likely to approve the agreement within the next month, following its legislative process. Canada and Mexico are top trading partners for United States agriculture. President Trump says USMCA is “a monumental win for American farmers and ranchers, improving access to Canadian and Mexican markets.” The agreement protects current market conditions between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and includes an estimated $2.2 billion increase in U.S. agricultural exports. The agreement is expected to grow annual dairy exports by nearly $315 million. Trump promised dairy farmers improved trade with Canada when announcing his intention to upgrade NAFTA. ************************************************************************************* Secretary Perdue: USMCA Critical for U.S. Agriculture Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Wednesday proclaimed, “Today is a good day for American agriculture,” referring to President Donald Trump’s signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Perdue says USMCA"shows the rest of the world the United States is open for business," adding the agreement is critical for U.S. farmers and ranchers. Canada and Mexico are the first and second-largest export markets for United States food and agricultural products, totaling more than $39.7 billion in farm exports in 2018. Those exports, according to the Department of Agriculture, support more than 325,000 American jobs. All food and agricultural products that have zero tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement will remain at zero tariffs. Key provisions, Perdue says, include increasing dairy market access, along with updates to biotechnology rules, geographical indications, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and increased market access for poultry, eggs and wheat, along with agreements to avoid technical trade barriers for wine and spirits. ************************************************************************************* Agriculture Groups Respond to USMCA Signing Agriculture groups applaud President Donald Trump for signing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says, “There is definitely increased optimism on farms and ranches across America and we’re grateful for the advances, but we’re also realists eager to see results.” American Soybean Association President Bill Gordon attended the signing ceremony Wednesday. Gordon states, “We reiterate our hearty thanks to both houses of Congress, the President, and their staff who worked together to make this important deal happen.” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston also attended, and points out USMCA follows the new WOTUS rule, a Phase One trade agreement with China, and changes to the National Environmental Policy Act. Houston says, “it’s easy to see that 2020 is off to a truly historic start for U.S. beef producers.” Finally, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson stated that while USMCA is a big step forward, “it should be a floor for future trade deals, not a ceiling.” ************************************************************************************* Trump Administration Trade Agenda Turning to EU, India The Trump administration's focus on trade continues, as officials work towards more trade agreements. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue traveled to the European Union to discuss a potential trade deal this week, and talks are ongoing to reach a tentative agreement with India. Perdue maintains that "Agriculture needs to be included in a trade deal" with the European Union. Specifically, Perdue told reporters Wednesday from Rome he wants the EU to recognize the U.S. method of sanitizing chicken products, along with addressing geographic indicators and EU objections to biotechnology. Meanwhile, Politico reports U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to travel to New Delhi, India, early next month, for potential trade talks with India's Commerce Minister. President Donald Trump revoked trade benefits for India last year that cuts duties on products from developing nations. India is seeking to regain those benefits, while the U.S. wants equivalent access for U.S. agricultural products in any tentative trade deal. ************************************************************************************* NASDA Submits Hemp Program Comments to USDA This week, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture submitted final comments on federal hemp production guidelines. The comments submitted to the Department of Agriculture highlight potential changes to the Domestic Hemp Production Program interim final rule. NASDA CEO Barb Glenn says, “We know at least 30 states will have to revise their own laws in order to comply with the requirements of the rule,” adding that without some flexibility, the rule could create competitive differences between states. NASDA recommends USDA extends the number of days in the testing window to within 15 to 30 days of harvest, along with dropping the requirement for states to use a Drug Enforcement Administration registered laboratory. Additionally, the organization suggests USDA create a tier-based approach for sampling and testing that would allow for greater flexibility for state regulators, set the negligence threshold for THC at one percent, and allow for states to develop mitigation plans, among other recommendations. The comment period closed Wednesday. ************************************************************************************ NMPF: Congress Needs to Pass DAIRY PRIDE Act for Consumers The National Milk Producers Federation says Congress needs to pass the DAIRY PRIDE Act soon to ensure the Food and Drug Administration does its job. The DAIRY PRIDE Act would designate foods that make an inaccurate claim about milk contents as "misbranded" and subject to enforcement of labeling rules. It would require FDA to issue guidance for federal enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days of its passage, and require FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment. NMPF Executive Vice President Tom Balmer told the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee Wednesday, "By calling these products "milk," they are clearly seeking to trade on the health halo of real milk.” Balmer says the imitators aren't nutritionally the same as milk, or the same simply by definition. The legislation would force FDA to act against plant-based imitators of milk, cheese, butter and other products that defy current FDA rules.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 30, 2020 |


Washington Insider: CBO says Deficit to Top $1 Trillion U.S. officials now see the budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion annually for much of the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said this week. The estimates were reported by the New York Times and other media outlets. The red ink is expected to ultimately top $1.7 trillion in 2030, CBO says. The ballooning deficit is being fueled by increased borrowing by the federal government, which continues to spend more money than it takes in. By 2030, the CBO projected, federal debt held by the public will surpass $31 trillion — about 98 percent of the forecast size of the nation’s economy. The federal budget deficit already hit $1 trillion last year — the first calendar year since 2012 that the gap between revenue and spending topped the $1 trillion mark. CBO sees that as a “permanent pattern” over the next 10 years. The somber news was tempered somewhat by the budget office’s expectation that interest rates for the next decade would be substantially lower than what its August forecast indicated, saving the United States hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments on the federal debt. The decline in interest rate projections reflects a shift in strategy by the Federal Reserve which cut rates last year amid slowing growth and little sign of sustained price increases that could spiral into rapid inflation. The budget office now expects the interest paid by 10-year Treasury bills to remain below 3 percent through 2027. President Donald Trump has pushed Fed officials to reduce rates even further, toward zero or even into negative territory. On Tuesday, hours before the new forecast was issued, he suggested lower rates would allow the United States to “refinance” its debt and begin to pay it off. The administration had promised to pay off the national debt during the 2016 campaign but in three years in office it has added to it with big tax cuts and increased federal spending. The president and Republican lawmakers have claimed the tax cuts will pay for themselves through increased economic growth, which would ostensibly produce higher tax revenues. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated that assertion last week in Davos, Switzerland. But while the 2017 tax cuts produced an uptick in growth in 2018, federal revenues declined. The latest CBO forecast shows no indication that officials there expect rapid growth will return any time soon, as the administration has projected. The budget office estimates the economy grew more slowly last year than it predicted in August, and sees annual growth declining from 2.2% in 2020 to 1.5% by the middle of the decade. The new forecast anticipates a sharper decline in overall tax receipts through 2029 than did the August projections. Democrats, Republicans and independent fiscal hawks all found cause for concern after the recent report. The forecast “confirms that the president’s economic policies did not create a sustained boost for the economy like he has claimed,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., chairman of the House Budget Committee. The committee’s top Republican, Steve Womack of Arkansas, said the forecast “once again confirms what we already know: our nation’s debt and deficits continue to grow, and we are on an unsustainable trajectory.” Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the latest numbers should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers. “We’re running trillion-dollar deficits while the economy is expanding — when are lawmakers going to wake up?” she said. “Every year we set a new postwar record for debt as a share of the economy, every year the Congressional Budget Office warns that debt is rising unsustainably, and every year our largest trust funds get closer to depleting their reserves. Ignoring what is staring us right in the face is fiscal malfeasance.” Clearly, the trillion dollar estimates are attention-catchers—and can be expected to add emphasis to questions regarding how remaining urgent needs, such as the need for renewing the nation’s infrastructure, can be met without de-stabilizing the economy. These continue to be critical issues and should be

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 30, 2020 |


Washington Insider: CBO says Deficit to Top $1 Trillion U.S. officials now see the budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion annually for much of the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said this week. The estimates were reported by the New York Times and other media outlets. The red ink is expected to ultimately top $1.7 trillion in 2030, CBO says. The ballooning deficit is being fueled by increased borrowing by the federal government, which continues to spend more money than it takes in. By 2030, the CBO projected, federal debt held by the public will surpass $31 trillion — about 98 percent of the forecast size of the nation’s economy. The federal budget deficit already hit $1 trillion last year — the first calendar year since 2012 that the gap between revenue and spending topped the $1 trillion mark. CBO sees that as a “permanent pattern” over the next 10 years. The somber news was tempered somewhat by the budget office’s expectation that interest rates for the next decade would be substantially lower than what its August forecast indicated, saving the United States hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments on the federal debt. The decline in interest rate projections reflects a shift in strategy by the Federal Reserve which cut rates last year amid slowing growth and little sign of sustained price increases that could spiral into rapid inflation. The budget office now expects the interest paid by 10-year Treasury bills to remain below 3 percent through 2027. President Donald Trump has pushed Fed officials to reduce rates even further, toward zero or even into negative territory. On Tuesday, hours before the new forecast was issued, he suggested lower rates would allow the United States to “refinance” its debt and begin to pay it off. The administration had promised to pay off the national debt during the 2016 campaign but in three years in office it has added to it with big tax cuts and increased federal spending. The president and Republican lawmakers have claimed the tax cuts will pay for themselves through increased economic growth, which would ostensibly produce higher tax revenues. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated that assertion last week in Davos, Switzerland. But while the 2017 tax cuts produced an uptick in growth in 2018, federal revenues declined. The latest CBO forecast shows no indication that officials there expect rapid growth will return any time soon, as the administration has projected. The budget office estimates the economy grew more slowly last year than it predicted in August, and sees annual growth declining from 2.2% in 2020 to 1.5% by the middle of the decade. The new forecast anticipates a sharper decline in overall tax receipts through 2029 than did the August projections. Democrats, Republicans and independent fiscal hawks all found cause for concern after the recent report. The forecast “confirms that the president’s economic policies did not create a sustained boost for the economy like he has claimed,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., chairman of the House Budget Committee. The committee’s top Republican, Steve Womack of Arkansas, said the forecast “once again confirms what we already know: our nation’s debt and deficits continue to grow, and we are on an unsustainable trajectory.” Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the latest numbers should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers. “We’re running trillion-dollar deficits while the economy is expanding — when are lawmakers going to wake up?” she said. “Every year we set a new postwar record for debt as a share of the economy, every year the Congressional Budget Office warns that debt is rising unsustainably, and every year our largest trust funds get closer to depleting their reserves. Ignoring what is staring us right in the face is fiscal malfeasance.” Clearly, the trillion dollar estimates are attention-catchers—and can be expected to add emphasis to questions regarding how remaining urgent needs, such as the need for renewing the nation’s infrastructure, can be met without de-stabilizing the economy. These continue to be critical issues and should be watched closely as they proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 30, 2020 |


CBO Ag Baseline Updates Signal PLC To Be Safety Net Program Of Choice Ahead U.S. government outlays for farmer safety net programs are expected to be heavily weighed on the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 and beyond, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). CBO expects PLC outlays at $2.03 billion in FY 2019 and $2.23 billion in FY 2020. For FY 2021, those outlays are expected to move up to $5.24 billion and top $7 billion in FY 2022 and 2023, moving below that mark for through FY 2030, but not being any smaller than $5.08 billion in FY 2030. The FY 2020-2030 total is pegged at $62.98 billion. Outlays under the Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) program are put at $1.06 billion in FY 2019, falling to $750 million in FY 2020 and remaining in a range of $351 million (FY 2024) and $494 million (FY 2030) for a total of $5.2 billion over FY 2020-2030. As expected, the CBO update does not forecast another Market Facilitation Program (MFP) effort ahead. They estimate the 2018 MFP payments were $8.57 billion in FY 2019 with another $5.11 billion for the 2019 MFP effort. For FY 2020, CBO forecasts $10 million in outlays from the 2018 MFP with $10 billion under the 2019 MFP program.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 30, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Says Not Clear if Coronavirus Will Impact China Buys of US Ag Goods The outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus in China has spawned talk of whether China can meet its purchases of U.S. ag goods under the Phase One agreement signed January 15. As for how high the focus is, the issue came up while USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue held a telephone briefing with reporters from Italy to provide an update on his discussions this week with European Union (EU) officials. Asked of the China coronavirus situation could impact the commodity purchase commitments, Perdue said, “We don’t really know that yet. We would love and pray for a very quick resolution and conclusion to the coronavirus outbreak.” Coronavirus is “obviously going to have some ramifications economy wide, which we hope will not inhibit the purchase goal that we have for this year,” he concluded. The focus on this issue is coming via the following provision in the language of the Phase One trade agreement signed Jan. 15: “In the event that a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the Parties delays a Party from timely complying with its obligations under this Agreement, the Parties shall consult with each other.” Perdue did not say whether any such consultations have been requested on the part of China.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 30, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday morning is busy with weekly U.S. export sales, U.S. jobless claims and fourth-quarter GDP all due out at 7:30 a.m. CST. Weekly natural gas inventories follow at 9:30 a.m. and we can't overlook the latest news updates regarding coronavirus and South American weather. Weather Light snow will cross the Northern Plains Thursday. Other crop areas will be dry. However, fog and areas of freezing on roadways will cause transportation and safety hazards.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 29, 2020 |


Canada’s Freeland Urges Quick USMCA Approval The U.S. signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Wednesday clears another hurdle towards implementation of the agreement. Following the signing ceremony, the U.S. and Mexico await approval by Canada, whose government is beginning the process this week. Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced a motion in the nation’s House of Commons to consider the agreement. USMCA replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement. Freeland and Canada call the trade pact either the CUSMA, putting Canada first, or “the new NAFTA.” Freeland asked Canadian lawmakers to “work together to put Canada and Canadians first, and get this important work done without undue delay.” Freeland noted during a press conference the trade agreement received bipartisan support in the U.S. in a "highly polarized" political climate. USMCA, welcomed by U.S. agriculture, protects critical markets for U.S. farmers, and provides an additional $2 billion in agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico, the top trading partners of the United States. ************************************************************************************* House Dems Support Lawsuit Against SNAP Cuts House Democrats are seeking to block the Trump administration’s cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Changes to the SNAP Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents are set to take effect in April. The Department of Agriculture says the rule revises the conditions under which USDA would waive, when requested by states, the able-bodied adult without dependents time limit in areas that have an unemployment rate of over ten percent or a lack of sufficient jobs. Representative Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat and chair of the House Ag Subcommittee on Nutrition, announced House support of the lawsuit, filed by 15 states, including the District of Columbia. The lawsuit says the rule strips SNAP benefits from 700,000 recipients in a move rejected by the 2018 farm bill. Representative Fudge says the rule "does real harm to SNAP’s ability to accomplish its mission,” adding the House will “fight this hypocritical and political cruelty.” ************************************************************************************* Justice Department Investigating Possible Dean Foods Deal The U.S. Justice Department is investigating a potential deal for Dairy Farmers of America to acquire the bankrupted Dean Foods. A Justice Department representative confirmed to the Wall Street Journal this week the investigation is probing the potential loss of competition in U.S. milk sales, as Dean Foods and DFA are among the largest milk processors in the country. Dairy Farmers of America represents roughly 22 percent of all U.S. milk processing, while Dean Foods is self-described as “the largest processor and direct-to-store distributor of fresh fluid milk and other dairy and dairy case products in the United States.” Dean Foods announced its bankruptcy in November of last year, while pledging to use the process to “protect and support its ongoing business operations.” Dean Foods also announced at the time that it was engaged in advanced discussions with Dairy Farmers of America regarding a potential sale of all assets of the company. ************************************************************************************* USDA: One Month Left for CRP General Signup The Department of Agriculture reminds farmers interested in the Conservation Reserve Program 2020 general signup to enroll by February 28, 2020. The signup is available to farmers and private landowners who are either enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling for another ten to 15-year term. FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce notes, "This is the first opportunity for general sign up since 2016, and we want producers and private landowners to know that we have just one month remaining." CRP has 22 million acres enrolled, but the 2018 farm bill lifted the cap to 27 million acres. Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. Farmers and ranchers who enroll in CRP receive yearly rental payments for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species which can control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. ************************************************************************************* Chesapeake Bay Foundation Preparing to Sue EPA The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. The planned lawsuit alleges the EPA is failing to enforce the Clean Water Act. Following a 2009 lawsuit, a plan was implemented to establish a watershed-wide Total Maximum Daily Load, a limit on the pollution the Bay can withstand and remain healthy. CBF has been concerned about the lack of progress in reducing nitrogen pollution in Pennsylvania. That concern was heightened when Pennsylvania released its plan for reducing pollution between now and the 2025 deadline. The plan has a funding shortfall of more than $300 million annually, and falls 25 percent short of the nitrogen goal. CBF President William C. Baker claims, “agriculture is the largest source of pollution from Pennsylvania,” adding that while stakeholders have pledged to comply, the lawmakers have failed by not fulling funding the efforts. Without EPA holding Pennsylvania accountable, Baker says the state’s local waters and the Bay downstream “will never be saved.” ************************************************************************************ Michelob Launches Campaign to Convert Farmland to Organic An initiative by Anheuser-Busch InBev seeks to help farmers convert farmland to organic production. Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, and AB InBev product, is launching their 60 second Super Bowl commercial featuring 6 For 6-Pack, a new program that allows consumers to join the brand in helping farmers transition six square feet of farmland into organic production. Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold is the first national beer brand to be USDA-certified organic. A portion of sales from each Pure Gold 6-pack will go directly to farmers looking to transition to organic, “allowing consumers to help drive change.” The commercial advertises that consumers can help farmers by “simply having a beer.” By the math, for every acre assisted in the program, consumers will need to drink 43,560 beers. Last year, AB InBev caught opposition from the corn industry, and sparked an advertising war with MillerCoors, by depicting corn syrup negatively, sparking lawsuits. The 2020 Michelob commercial is now available on YouTube.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 29, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Extended Steel and Aluminum Tariffs In spite of signs of some pull backs in trade policy battles, the Trump administration announced plans to broaden tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum late last week. It argued that “existing tariffs had not proved as effective as hoped in reviving American production the New York Times said Tuesday. The administration accused foreign companies of trying to “circumvent” the 25% tariff placed on foreign steel and the 10% tariff on foreign aluminum in 2018. Imports of steel and aluminum into the United States have declined since the tariffs went into place but imports of products made with those metals had “significantly increased,” the administration said. The net effect “has been to erode the customer base for U.S. producers of aluminum and steel and undermine” the effect of original tariffs, the announcement said. That led the United States to expand its tariffs to cover products made of steel and aluminum—like nails, tacks, staples, cables, certain types of wire, and bumpers and other parts for cars and tractors — as of Feb. 8. For American companies making such products, the move provided some relief. For example, Southwire, a Georgia company that makes power cable and one of the largest manufacturers calling for the new tariffs, said the measures were necessary to ensure fair competition in the market for aluminum wire. “We continue to believe that when there is a level playing field, the strength of our manufacturing comes forth,” Burt Fealing, Southwire’s general counsel, said. However, the Times said that for economists and trade experts the development was an “I told you so” moment. Economists have long argued that by raising the price of steel and aluminum, the administration’s tariffs would make it more expensive to produce things like nails or cars in the United States—and would encourage companies to import more of those items. Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, called this an example of “cascading protectionism” that he said was “entirely predictable.” “Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs have raised the cost of key inputs, making American companies that rely on those metals less competitive worldwide,” Bown said. “Now President Trump is expanding his tariffs to shield their products from competition as well. Where will it end?” Richard E. Baldwin, a professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva said that the administration is “learning this particular lesson in economics one failure at a time.” In his order expanding the tariffs, President Trump pointed to large increases in imports of certain products made of steel and aluminum. For example, from June 2018 to May, imports of items including steel nails and staples rose 33% from a year earlier. Imports of aluminum wire and cable were up 152% over the same period, the administration said. President Trump continues to argue that his trade policies are delivering on his promises to revive the manufacturing sector by sheltering American businesses from unfair competition and encouraging companies to move factories back to the United States. But a study released by two economists at the Federal Reserve in December showed that the costs of the administration’s trade approach to China had outweighed its benefits for manufacturers. Tariffs offered American companies some protection from Chinese imports, the study showed. But those positive effects were more than offset by the negative effects of the trade war, including the higher prices companies must pay to import components from China and the retaliatory tariffs China had placed on the United States. Still, American producers of steel and aluminum have supported the tariffs and U.S. steel producers operated their plants at a modestly higher share of capacity this year compared to last. But in its order, the administration said capacity utilization had not stabilized above 80%, its goal. Large steel companies have ramped up their investment since the tariffs came into effect, however. However they also have faced steel prices well below recent highs, leading to decisions to idle some facilities. For example, a plant near Detroit is sending layoff notices to roughly 1,500 employees. Some analysts continue to point at China for market pressure, since it produced steel at a record level in 2019. At the same time, trade experts have questioned the legal basis for Trump’s continuing to make revisions to his metal tariffs. The administration has said Section 232 of a 1962 trade law gives the president broad powers to impose tariffs to protect American industry for matters of national security — and that domestic capacity to make iron and steel is essential for national defense. It issued broad tariffs globally, before later carving out some exemptions for Argentina, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. But in a preliminary decision last year, the United States Court of International Trade gave a narrower interpretation of that statute, arguing that the president must act within certain periods that have already expired. So, we will see. Certainly tariffs on basic production inputs like steel and aluminum do have impacts across a broad range of products and may well become a continuing source of skepticism for the administration’s tariff-oriented trade policies. This also is likely to lead to a continuing debate that producers should watch closely in the coming months, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 29, 2020 |


China Says It Is Bringing Its Domestic Ag Supports Into Compliance With WTO While much attention in a meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) Monday focused on the stalled appeals process as the U.S. continues to block appointment of new judges to hear appeals to WTO rulings, China offered a status report on their efforts to comply with a WTO ruling against their use of subsidies for domestic wheat, corn and rice producers. “Chinese government agencies [have] conducted intensive consultations aiming to implement the recommendations and rulings of the DSB in this dispute,” China said. Internal processes “with respect to amending relevant measures” are ongoing, officials told the WTO, noting the “complexity of measures at issue.” China said it would “accelerate the internal process and fulfil our implementation obligation in due course.” China is facing a March 31 deadline to bring its domestic ag supports for wheat, corn and rice into compliance with the ruling in the case brought by the U.S. The U.S. said it would “engage bilaterally with China on specific amendments it will make to bring its measures into compliance.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 29, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Pushes EU To Follow ‘Science’ On Food, Ag Products USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue continues to press the European Union (EU) on trade issues relative to agriculture, pushing the bloc to follow “sound science” when it comes to matters on food safety, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other matters. Perdue is currently in Europe and met with ag ministers from EU countries. The issue of poultry trade figures to be a key as Europe said it will not accept so-called “chlorine-washed” poultry, referring to the U.S. practice of using a chemical wash to remove pathogens from chicken. Perdue said the U.S. does not use chlorine but peracetic acid. “Peracetic acid … is a great pathogen reduction treatment,” he told reporters in Brussels. “You know what it is? It is vinegar, essentially. To say that is unsafe or not to be used… we do not think there is a basis for that in sound science.” On biotechnology, Perdue also chided Europe for its views on GMO crops. “I use the example of table salt that can be hazardous if you consume it in too much quantity, but we use it regularly,” Perdue explained. “And that is why we have the MRL (maximum residue level) for pesticides.” Perdue said the stance by Europe is going to put European farmers behind since they are not able to adopt technology used by growers in other areas of the world. Perdue also heard complaints from EU farm ministers on U.S. trade policies, including the use of tariffs on a host of goods. His stance on including agriculture in any U.S.-EU trade deal was also emphasized, with him criticizing offers to remove barriers to U.S. apples, pears and shellfish as not enough. "We are not going to get there with apples and pears and shellfish. There are other things have to happen," he said.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 29, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday's reports start with U.S. pending home sales at 9 a.m. CST. The Energy Department's weekly inventory reports follow at 9:30 a.m. and include ethanol. At 1 p.m. CST, the Federal Reserve will make a post-meeting announcement and is expected to keep interest rates steady. Weather Wednesday features light snow in the western and southern Midwest and light rain in the Delta and Deep South. Other primary crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will again be well above normal for north and central areas for this time of year.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 28, 2020 |


Court Rules Against EPA Small Refinery Waivers The Environmental Protection Agency must reconsider its small refinery exemptions, following a recent court decision. A document dated January 24 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit says the EPA overstepped its authority to grant three specific waivers in question. The decision is expected to broadly impact the EPA approach to granting waivers, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, which claims the waivers are unlawful. The court ruling stems from a May 2018 challenge brought against EPA by the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol and National Farmers Union. NFU President Roger Johnson says, “We believe this ruling will help restore the ability of the RFS to drive demand.” Among other findings, the court says EPA cannot “extend” exemptions to any small refineries whose earlier, temporary exemptions had lapsed. The court also found EPA abused its discretion in failing to explain how the agency could conclude that a small refinery might suffer a disproportionate economic hardship. ************************************************************************************* USDA to Accept Applications for the Second Round of ReConnect Funding Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA will again accept rural broadband funding request this week. USDA will accept applications for the second round of $550 million in ReConnect Program loan and grant funding starting January 31. The funds will expand public-private partnerships in rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than ten megabits per second download and one megabit per second upload. Secretary Perdue says, “we at USDA are very excited to begin accepting applications for the second round of funds.” Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Through the program, USDA is making available approximately $200 million for grants, as well as up to $200 million for loan and grant combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. More information is available online at www.usda.gov/reconnect. ************************************************************************************* Corps of Engineers Monitoring High Water on Upper Mississippi River The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is monitoring high water conditions affecting parts of the Upper Mississippi River in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa as a result of historic flows this winter. Cities from Winona, Minnesota, to Guttenberg, Iowa, have an increased chance of localized flooding due to ice dams. The high water conditions were created by a combination of ice dams and historic high flows. The current river flows are at levels normally observed in late spring. Irregular temperatures have also prevented ice from forming in a stable way, which compounds the ice dam problem. The ice has blocked the river’s normal flow and forced water out of its banks. It has also reduced the ability to actively manage the river water elevations. Depending on temperatures and the rate of ice melt, there could be more high water in the weeks and months ahead. the Corps is working with the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor the river and provide communication with the public. ************************************************************************************ Wisconsin Special Legislative Session Focusing on Dairy Crisis A special session of the Wisconsin legislature opening this week seeks to help the state’s struggling dairy industry. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order last week to authorize the special session to consider eight agriculture-focused bills. They include farmer assistance, stress and mental health support, promoting value-added agriculture, farm grants and a focus on exports. Evers announced the plan during his State of the State Address last week, and says, “It's about investing in and supporting our rural families and communities.” The governor hopes to increase Wisconsin dairy exports to 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply by 2024. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported earlier this month that last year, Wisconsin lost nearly 700 dairy farms. The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association says the industry is challenged by trade instability, poor weather conditions, a severe labor shortage, and a decline in milk consumption. Association executive director John Umhoefer (um-hay-fer) says, “Urgent action is needed to stabilize and strengthen Wisconsin’s backbone industry.“ ************************************************************************************ United Nations Declares 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health The United Nations has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health to bring worldwide attention to invasive pests. The pests destroy up to 40 percent of the world's food crops and cause $220 billion in trade losses each year, according to the United Nations. They are calling on stakeholders to work together to protect plants against the introduction and spread of invasive pests. The U.S. National Plant Protection Organization—the Department of Agriculture's Plant Protection and Quarantine—is leading the effort in the United States. Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach (eye-bah), says “we’re urging everyone to take this issue seriously and to do their part.” According to USDA, everyone can help avoid the devastating impact of pests and diseases on agriculture, livelihoods, and food security. Tips to do so include reporting unusual signs of pests, refrain from moving firewood, and declaring food or ag items at U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints when returning from international travel. ************************************************************************************ Public Lands Council Names Executive Director The Public Lands Council Monday announced that Kaitlynn Glover joined the organization as its executive director. The Public Lands Council, known as PLC, is a national trade association representing 22,000 ranchers who raise cattle and sheep on federal land. Glover will serve as the chief lobbyist for the organization, representing cattle and sheep producers in western states on resource issues affecting their operations. The legislative and regulatory portfolio focuses on protecting grazing on federal land, and includes the Clean Water Act, tax policy, the Endangered Species Act, property rights, and other matters. Glover says her top priority will focus on policies that “ensure a strong future for agriculture and healthy public lands.” Glover comes to PLC from Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso’s office. Originally from Wyoming, Glover has strong ties to grazers, recreationalists, and many other users of public land resources. Glover will also lead the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's natural resources policy portfolio in the organization's Washington, D.C. office.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 28, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Focus on Infrastructure, Again There is considerable media attention this week on the nation’s infrastructure needs and Bloomberg is reporting that as House lawmakers return to Washington after a recess week there are new plans “to roll out a draft infrastructure package.” The House Ways and Means Committee will be tasked with the responsibility of finding ways to fund new legislation. It plans to meet Wednesday to discuss funding and financing proposed projects. Any effort to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package in an election year would face some roadblocks, Bloomberg thinks, including the need for the president to find common ground with House Democratic lawmakers. The administration itself has called for a big infrastructure package, but it may have problems persuading congressional Republicans to support that type of legislation. The 2017 tax law, which received no Democratic votes in either chamber, imposed new limits on advanced refund bonds, which cities and counties use as a way to finance infrastructure projects. “To do something really big on infrastructure is going to take a significant hand-holding exercise, obviously, it’s going to have to be a bipartisan effort,” said Andrew Grossman, chief tax counsel for Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass. “Whether or not we can get there in an election year remains to be seen but we’re still optimistic.” The New York Times also focused on infrastructure last week, noting that state voters approved $7.7 billion in transportation spending last year, but the federal government needs to do much more to fix the nation’s ragged roadways. Drivers in America topped 3.2 trillion miles in 2018, much of that on the countless roads and bridges in dire need of repair and improvement. The Times cited the American Society of Civil Engineers’ bleak picture of the country’s byways in its Infrastructure Report Card in the spring of 2017, the most recent of its every-four-years editions. The organization’s assessment resulted in an overall D-plus grade. Road conditions earned an underwhelming D, while bridges slid by with a C-plus. In all, 45% of the nation’s roads were deemed in poor condition. Since then, the group estimates that vehicle travel has increased 17% alongside an unequal 5% increase in new roadways. The result has been 6.9 billion hours a year of traffic delays, which cost motorists roughly $616 each in 2017 — the last year tracked. Federal spending on road infrastructure is struggling to keep up, the Times says. It notes that federal lawmakers staved off a cut to the national Highway Trust Fund last year that would have pulled $7.6 billion away from state highway budgets. This has left the states to fill in some of the gaps and voters around the country last year approved major transportation investments via ballot measures. “The ballot results are a great reminder infrastructure investment remains one of the few areas where red states, blue states, Republicans and Democrats can all come together,” Dave Bauer, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said. “It should also demonstrate to lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the public will be on board for the passage of a long-term bill that significantly boosts highway and transit investment at the federal level.” Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said that “States and localities are doing their part and this is a great opportunity for the federal government to do its part.” The American Society of Civil Engineers says there is a huge backlog of federal highway projects that need funding, to the tune of $836 billion. The Transportation Investment Advocacy Center at the road builders group said that most of the ballot measures involved property tax increases to pay for road repairs. The road builders group reported that 57 ballot initiatives across 12 states had the potential to raise $20 million in revenue each. All told, voters approved $7.7 billion worth of investment into transportation projects and $1.9 billion in continued funding over the next quarter-century. Washington State and Colorado were among the few to vote for tax cuts that are likely to squeeze highway budgets. The issue is important at the local level, too. The United States Conference of Mayors published a campaign agenda wish list in December that called on 2020 presidential candidates to say what they would do to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund, regulate new transportation technology and strengthen public transportation. President Trump’s initial infrastructure plan — coming in widely mocked “infrastructure week” presentations stalled several times before resurfacing again last spring. A $2 trillion infrastructure package seemed politically plausible but appears sidelined by the impeachment issue. So, we will see. State and local governments are working hard to get things done, but we need the federal government to step up with a bill, the Times said. Whether a bi-partisan effort, even for a widely supported investment, can be defined in the current toxic political environment remains to be seen and should be watched closely by producers as options are considered, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 28, 2020 |


Extension Of Comment Period On NEPA Reforms Urged A 180-day extension of the 60-day comment period on the Trump administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reforms has been requested by the Council on Environmental Quality. Given that the proposed rule would impact how “every single agency in the federal government considers the health and environmental impacts federal decisions,” the group said the 60-day comment period and two public meetings scheduled by EPA are “woefully inadequate” for the plan the group says would impact more than 50,000 decisions made each year by the federal government. They called for additional public meetings to be held in both rural and urban areas versus the two proposed by EPA to be held in Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 28, 2020 |


Court Sends Some Small Refinery Exemptions Back To EPA EPA has to reconsider small refinery exemptions (SREs) issued for the 2016 compliance under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. The court ruled that exemptions granted to Holly Frontier’s Woods Cross and Cheyenne refineries and CVR Energy’s Wynewood refinery were improper, stating the agency overstepped its authority as the refiners had not previously been granted SREs. The court said the statute states that any SRE granted to a refinery has to be in the form of an “extension” after 2010, yet the three refineries were given exemptions for the first time in the 2016 compliance year. "Because an 'extension' requires a small refinery exemption in prior years to prolong, enlarge or add to, the three refinery petitions in this case were improvidently granted," the court said. "We remand these matters to the EPA for further proceedings consistent with this opinion." EPA approved 19 of the 20 SRE requests received for the 2016 compliance year and it rejected only one of the requests. There are currently 21 SRE requests pending at EPA for the 2019 compliance year, already at half the level that were requested for the 2018 compliance year.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 28, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Early Tuesday, traders will note a report of U.S. durable goods orders at 7:30 a.m. CST, followed by an index of U.S. consumer confidence at 9 a.m. South American weather forecasts and coronavirus infection counts will also get attention. The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting on Tuesday and is expected to keep interest rates unchanged on Wednesday afternoon. Weather Rain, freezing precipitation and snow will cross the central and southern Plains Tuesday, and the western and northern Midwest will have freezing precipitation and snow. Transportation and travel delays are in store along with safety hazards. We'll also see rain and snow in the Northwest. Temperatures will be well above normal in much of the northern and central areas for this time of year.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 27, 2020 |


President Trump Expected to Sign USMCA on Wednesday White House and administration officials confirmed to CNN that the president will sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement on Wednesday. The new agreement was one of the president’s biggest priorities during his term and was passed out of Congress just days before the impeachment trial began. Trump is expected to tout this agreement as an important highlight during the 2020 presidential campaign, especially in the swing states that will see a lot of benefits from the pact. For example, the agreement opens the Canadian dairy market to U.S. farmers, something Trump is likely to point out in dairy-heavy states like Wisconsin. During a speech at the American Farm Bureau’s National Convention, Trump told attendees that the agreement will “massively boost exports for farmers, ranchers, growers, and agricultural producers.” The deal was originally signed by leaders of all three countries back in November of 2018. However, the text was later changed after months of closed-door negotiations between House Democrats and the Trump Administration. The updates added additional labor protections and got rid of controversial patent protections for certain drugs. ********************************************************************************************** New WOTUS Rule Appears Headed to the Courts Environmental groups and Democratic states are already promising to sue over the new Waters of the U.S. Rule, which the Trump administration calls the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule.” The conservative-leaning Pacific Legal Foundation made a similar promise, calling the new rule not narrow enough. If the challenges happen to make it to the Supreme Court, the administration is banking on being able to win the backing of five of the justices who have a novel interpretation of the limits of federal power laid out under the Clean Water Act. Legal experts tell Politico that it’s a gamble that could result in a lasting win for the administration and its allies or a “spectacular loss.” Janette Brimmer, an attorney for the northwest office of Earthjustice, joined other environmentalists in calling the new rule “the dirty water rule.” She says, “President Trump’s administration wants our waters to burn again.” The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says, “The administration’s new definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ unravels safeguards in place since the landmark Clean Water Act first went into effect in 1972.” ********************************************************************************************** USDA Recruiting for a Trade Mission to the Philippines The U.S. Department of Agriculture will lead a trade mission to the Philippines, designed to explore new business opportunities with the island nation. The trade mission will travel to Manila on April 20-23. They’re looking for agribusiness people who want to take part in the trip. Anyone interested should apply to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service by February 6. Morgan Haas is the FAS counselor for agricultural affairs in Manila. She says, “U.S. agricultural exports to the Philippines have more than doubled over the last decade, reaching a record $3 billion in 2018. Positive consumer attitudes and a healthy business climate point to continued growth potential going forward.” Haas also says local consumers in the country have an affinity for American brands, while the country’s rapidly expanding retail, food service, and food processing sectors offer robust opportunities for U.S. exporters looking to sell agricultural raw materials, high-value ingredients, and consumer-oriented food and beverage products. FAS office staff in the Philippines will arrange business meetings between trade mission delegates and local companies seeking to import American farm and food products. The trip to the Philippines is one of seven trade missions USDA has scheduled in 2020. ********************************************************************************************** Queen Approves Brexit, Potential New Ag Markets for U.S. Britain’s effort to leave the European Union was finally approved by Queen Elizabeth last week, clearing the way for the United Kingdom to make the move to independence. Royal approval was the last obstacle toward Brexit. Now it’s up to the European Union leaders to formally ratify the law in a vote scheduled for Wednesday. The EU Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee voted by a large margin last week to approve the Brexit withdrawal deal, paving the way for the final vote this week. The UK is expected to then begin trade negotiations with the EU as well as the United States soon after the move is official. The Brexit move could be very good news for American farmers, but that’s only if the UK doesn’t keep the restrictive EU-based ag policy in place that limits trade. Gregg Doud, the chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, says a new trade pact with Britain is of utmost importance to him. “In my mind, that’s a legitimate top ten market for U.S. agriculture,” Doudd says. “When that move is official, we’ll be right there ready to begin negotiations with the U.K.” Last week at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sounded optimistic that a deal would get done once Brexit is completed. ********************************************************************************************** Legislators Send Letter to FDA on Dairy Labeling Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, have led a bipartisan coalition that sent a letter to Stephen Hahn, the new Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. They’re asking Hahn to stop the use of dairy terms on the labels of non-dairy products. The Hagstrom Report says under the former commissioner, the FDA began to review how to enforce regulations on what may or may not be labeled a dairy product, and the public comment period on the topic has concluded. “Dairy farmers are now waiting for action from the FDA,” the senators say in the letter. “We encourage you to move swiftly to address this unfairness and ensure that dairy terms may only be used to describe products that include dairy.” The senators say imposter products should no longer be able to get away with violating the law and taking advantage of dairy’s “good name.” Baldwin and Risch are also the cosponsors of the Dairy Pride Act of 2019. The act requires non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae to no longer be labeled with dairy terms like milk, cheese, and yogurt.” ********************************************************************************************** Beef, Pork Production Hit Record Highs in December Pork and red meat production hit a monthly record in December. The USDA says pork production totaled 2.44 billion pounds, a nine percent jump over December of the previous year. Slaughter was also higher, up nine percent to 11.4 million head. The average live weight gaining was up two pounds to 288 pounds. Beef production totaled 4.72 billion pounds, a jump of eight percent over 2018. Slaughter increased to 2.75 million head, up seven percent from December of 2018. The five-pound gain for the average live weight was 1,373 pounds. December red meat production totaled 4.72 billion pounds; eight percent higher than the previous year. Unofficially, red meat production for 2019 was 54.5 billion pounds, three percent higher than in 2018. The USDA’s official red meat production numbers for 2019 come out in April. December’s dairy cow slaughter totaled 265,400 head, a jump of 9.3 million head from November and 4.2 million more than the previous December. The unofficial total for 2019 was 3.22 million head, a 71,000 head increase above the 2018 total.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 27, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Future Trade With China There has been something of a surge in skepticism regarding parts of the recent phase one deal with Beijing, especially China’s pledge to buy billions of dollars of U.S. foodstuffs. “The farmers are really happy with the new China Trade Deal,” the president tweeted the day after a signing ceremony in the White House. However, that “euphoria” may be fading fast, Bloomberg reported this week. The dispute exposed Beijing’s vulnerability when it comes to food imports and the Communist Party leadership is expected to do all it can to wean itself off the U.S. David MacLennan, chief executive of Cargill Inc., the world’s largest agricultural commodity trader said, “I think they don’t want to be in the same position again of being overly dependent on one supplier.” Food security has long been a Chinese policy priority and officials there remember the political impact of price rises in the late 1980s that stoked dissent in the run-up to the Tiananmen Square protests. A generation later, China is many times richer but still depends on food and other imports. For U.S. farmers, the trade deal means a potentially short-lived benefit — but possible long-term challenges as “America’s biggest customer looks elsewhere.” The extent of this response will affect the fortunes of global ag companies from traders like Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Co. to farming equipment manufactures and beyond, Bloomberg said. China has long been striving for self-sufficiency, paying huge subsidies to farmers to grow corn and rice and more than 95% of its cereal needs can now be satisfied locally. But declining arable land, water shortages and an aging farm labor force mean that domestic production alone isn’t enough in the rapidly urbanizing country, Bloomberg says. President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road initiative in 2013 to expand its trading routes, after also embarking on a multi-billion-dollar spree in global agriculture firms and infrastructure over the last decade. Before trade hostilities escalated in 2017, the U.S. was China’s top agricultural supplier for 18 years running, providing almost 20% of its farm goods imports amounting to $24 billion a year. In the China-U.S. trade war, imports from the U.S. tumbled 45% in 2018. Beijing slapped retaliatory levies ranging from 5% to 60% on almost all American farm goods including soybeans, pork and corn. As a result, the administration announced a $28 billion bailout for farmers. The fight also forced China to search for supplies elsewhere — and to double down on efforts to diversify, with rivals Brazil and Argentina the most obvious beneficiaries. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and China’s Xi promised to continue increasing bilateral trade that surged to record levels during the trade war. China also bolstered its alliance with Argentina, opening the door to the South American nation’s soybean meal shipments for the first time. “Food security is always critical to China’s leadership, and this trade war just affirms the importance of having strong domestic production and diversified import sources,” said Li Qiang, chief analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligence Co., an influential Chinese agricultural consultant. But China is seen as unlikely to attempt to rely on South America alone. Brazil typically exports soybeans during March to September, before new-crop U.S. supplies are available. Despite record imports from Brazil, China briefly experienced a recent soybean deficit due to lack of American supply. So, it also has been looking for other sources, for example by investing in Russia and the Black Sea regions. The reality is that it will be hard for China to wean itself entirely from the U.S. China’s annual soy demand is about 110 million tons, of which domestic output satisfies just 15%, according to China’s ministry of agriculture. Thus, many Chinese officials regard the U.S. as “just too influential.” America will remain an important trading partner for soybeans, China’s minister of agriculture and rural affairs said last year. It may also prove politically expedient for Beijing to maintain some trade with Washington to keep its truce in place. There’s historical precedent for how trade disputes can permanently reshape global trade, and the lessons from a battle more than 40 years ago suggest American farmers may suffer over the longer term, Bloomberg asserts. In 1973, Washington imposed an embargo on soybean exports to Japan. The conflict lasted only five days, and Japan returned to purchase U.S. soybeans — but “has never again seen America again as a reliable supplier,” Bloomberg said. Instead it diversified purchases and invested heavily in the then-nascent Brazilian soybean industry. In addition, the Nixon administration embargoed trade with China over two decades through 1971, policies that may also have stained the U.S.’s reputation as a reliable partner in the minds of Chinese leadership. “Given those experiences, it’s not surprising they put a lot of emphasis on food security,” Friedrichs said. “They don’t want to be overly dependent on a single supplier.” So, we will see. Questions have frequently been raised across the ag industry regarding the future impacts of the recent trade fight, and these likely will resurface as the two-year duration of the current truce approaches its end—and the phase two considerations take shape. These are debates that will be crucial to ag producers and which should be watched closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 27, 2020 |


US Eyes Trade Deal With UK Before Year End The Trump administration is looking to complete a trade deal with the United Kingdom before the end of 2020, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. Talks could start as soon as February. “The president is very focused ... on Europe,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC. “The good news is we have seen a lot of investments in the U.S. from the European car companies. But the president wants to make sure that we have free and fair and reciprocal trade in Europe. And by the way, we are very focused on a UK Free Trade Agreement, which we hope to get done this year as well.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected in Washington next month to begin talks with President Donald Trump though the exact dates have not yet been set. Key in the U.S.-UK trade deal will be in large part dictated by the way the UK aligns itself with the EU upon Brexit. The closer it hones its rules to those of the EU, it could make it much more difficult for negotiations in areas like agriculture.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 27, 2020 |


EPA Finally Unveils WOTUS Replacement The final rule to replace the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule was released by EPA Thursday, with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule representing “step two” of the plan from EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repeal and replace the Obama-era regulation. The rule scales back the categories of waters that fall under Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. Under the new rule, four categories would be federally regulated: The territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries to those waters; certain lakes, ponds and impoundments; and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters. The rule also spells out 12 categories that would be excluded, including those that only contain water in direct response to rainfall, groundwater, ditches that are not traditional navigable waters and tributaries that are not next to wetlands. EPA also noted that states may still choose to regulate waters that do not fall under the scope of the federal CWA. The rule would become effective 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. Ag interests welcomed the rule while many environmental groups criticized the plan as expected. The rule is expected to end up being challenged in the courts.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 27, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets There are few economic reports on Monday morning other than new home sales. DTN will be watching for South American weather updates, any news about the coronavirus, and will be watching for new sales announcements, especially regarding China. We will also be looking at grain inspections. Weather Light freezing precipitation is in store for much of the western and northern Midwest Monday, causing transportation and safety hazards and delays. Hazardous fog is also indicated in the Midwest and southeastern Plains. Other crop areas will be drier. However, moderate to heavy snow is slated to form in the southwestern Plains Monday night through Tuesday.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 24, 2020 |


EPA Announces WOTUS Change The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, announced a new “clear definition for Waters of the United States.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule provides “much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers.” The rule recognizes the difference between federally protected wetlands and state protected wetlands, and adheres to the statutory limits of the agencies’ authority. The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters, perennial and intermittent tributaries, certain lakes, ponds and impoundments, and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters. The final action also details what waters are not subject to federal control, including features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall, groundwater, many ditches, including most farm and roadside ditches, prior converted cropland, farm and stock watering ponds, and waste treatment systems. ************************************************************************************* Ag, Environmental Groups, React to EPA WOTUS Announcement The Waters Advocacy Coalition applauds the new Clean Water rule that brings clarity and certainty to enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The coalition is a broad cross-section of small businesses, farmers, ranchers and builders, including the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the WOTUS replacement Thursday. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says AFBF supports the new rule, as it allows “farmers to understand water regulations without having to hire teams of consultants and lawyers.” National Pork Producers Council President David Herring says the previous WOTUS rule was “a dramatic government overreach and an unprecedented expansion of federal authority over private lands.” Now, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the new rule removes “undue burdens and strangling regulations” from farmers. The response from agriculture was expected, as was the response from Environmental groups. The Natural Resources Defense Council says the Trump administration is “stripping protections” from streams and wetlands, adding “It's a blatant disregard for science, and for public health.” ************************************************************************************* Farmers Optimistic Despite Challenging 2019 A new poll finds farmers are optimistic for 2020, despite a challenging 2019. The DTN/Progressive Farmer Agriculture Confidence Index rose to 164.1 in December 2019, significantly higher than the Index of 110.2 in March and the December 2018 level of 109.2. The long, drawn-out, challenging crop year, along with trade battles, didn’t dampen their mood for the future, or their feelings about the Trump administration. About 75 percent of farmers said that if the 2020 presidential election was held at that time, they would vote to reelect the current administration. About a quarter said they would likely not vote for the current administration. Farmers were surveyed in mid-to-late December, when President Donald Trump announced a phase one trade agreement with China, and the House of Representatives approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, sending the trade deal to the Senate. The DTN/Progressive Farmer Agriculture Confidence Index is conducted three times a year, before planting, before harvest, and before the end of the year. ************************************************************************************* Export Exchange 2020 Scheduled For October The U.S. Grains Council announced Export Exchange 2020 this week, scheduled for October 7-9. The event, sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association, uniquely focuses on connecting international grain buyers with U.S. suppliers. Export Exchange 2020 will take place at the Loews Kansas City hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. More than 200 international purchasers and end-users of U.S. coarse grains and related products are expected to join an estimated 300 U.S. producers, agribusinesses and representatives at the event. In addition to business-to-business meetings and an exhibit hall, the conference will address critical issues facing U.S. exports to build awareness of the benefits of U.S. corn, sorghum, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and other products. The grain buyers from 35 countries who attended Export Exchange 2018 in Minneapolis reported purchasing approximately 2.1 million metric tons of coarse grains and co-products traded either at the conference or immediately before or after, valued at an estimated $403 million. ************************************************************************************ Climate Change and Other Issues Move Doomsday Clock: 100 Seconds to Midnight The metaphorical Doomsday Clock set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was set at 100 seconds until midnight this week, as the organization says, “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change.” Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, says, “We now face a true emergency – an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.” Regarding climate change, the organization says governmental action still falls far short of meeting the challenge at hand. The Doomsday Clock has now moved closer to midnight in three of the last four years. While the Doomsday Clock did not move in 2019, its minute hand was set forward in 2018 by 30 seconds, to two minutes to midnight. The clock was adjusted in 2017 to two and a half minutes to midnight from its previous setting of three minutes to midnight. ************************************************************************************ Americans to Eat Record 1.4 Billion Chicken Wings for Super Bowl The National Chicken Council Thursday released its annual Chicken Wing Report, projecting Americans to consume a record-breaking 1.4 billion wings during the upcoming Super Bowl weekend. Americans’ love for wings continues to grow. This year’s wing consumption estimate is a two percent increase over 2019, meaning Americans will eat 27 million more wings during this year’s big game weekend versus last year’s. To put that in perspective, if Kansas City Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid ate three wings per minute, it would take him about 900 years to eat 1.4 billion wings. Council spokesperson Tom Super says when it comes to Super Bowl menus, wings rule the roost.” The Council asked wing-eaters about their habits, and roughly two thirds of Americans, 65 percent, who eat chicken wings, claim they like to do so while watching a major sporting event like the Super Bowl. Half, 51 percent, claim that they believe chicken wings should be the official food of the Super Bowl.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 24, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Did the Fed Hold the Economy Back? The fight over U.S. monetary policy continues on display. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump renewed that criticism from the sidelines of an elite gathering in Davos, Switzerland. When asked why his economic growth goal was not reached, he said, “No. 1, the Fed was not good,” Data for the full year aren’t isn’t in yet, but probably was 2.2% or 2.3% relative to the fourth quarter of 2018, economists estimate. The president also pointed to the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max plane and severe storms as factors that held back the economy, but added that “with all of that, had we not done the big raise on interest, I think we would have been close to 4%.” Economists said that claim was not realistic. The central bank’s nine interest rate increases between 2015 and late 2018 — three of which it reversed last year — probably reined in business investment and the housing market, economists say. But that impact did not shave nearly 2 percentage points from growth. It discussed “a few ways to think through how the economy might have shaped up had the Fed acted differently.” In the “real world,” the Fed lifted rates between December 2015 and the end of 2018 in an effort to achieve a soft landing in which growth continued at a moderate pace and inflation settled around its 2% target. When growth showed signs of wavering in 2019 and inflation remained soft, Fed officials reversed course, cutting rates three times. In what it called the “most extreme counterfactual,” one in which the Fed never raised its policy interest rate at all, growth might have been 1 percentage point higher in 2019, said Ernie Tedeschi, policy economist at Evercore ISI. That estimate, based on the central bank’s main economic model, would have gotten America to around 3.2% growth in 2019 — but at a hefty cost. For example, “Inflation would’ve been well above their mandate, 2.5% and rising, at this point,” Tedeschi said, and “would have necessitated a sharp increase in rates.” Such an abrupt change could have weakened the economy and certainly “would have been painful,” he said. But even in that version of the world, one in which the Fed was willing to leave its policy totally untouched at near-zero for more than a decade, the economy could have achieved that 4% growth figure only absent a trade war — and even that is a stretch, the Times said. While it’s hard to gauge precisely how much the administration’s tariffs reduced growth, estimates suggest they could have shaved between 0.5% and 1 percentage point away in 2019, Mr. Tedeschi said. All of these projections are highly uncertain and even if the basic figures are right, “this scenario is unrealistic,” the Times said. In another version of the world, the Fed could have raised interest rates between 2015 and 2018, but then lowered them much more quickly in 2019. Had the federal funds rate dropped to zero at the very start of the year, Tedeschi said, it might have added about 0.35 percentage point to growth, getting the economy up to the 2.5% range. However, that is seen as far-fetched since the Fed has never slashed rates to zero outside of a recession. Doing so at a time when the economy was growing and the president pushing for more stimulus would have looked overtly political and could have raised the risk of higher inflation. Relative to the economy’s structural growth path — the one driven by labor force expansion and productivity — the Fed’s rate-setting may have shaved about 0.1 percentage point from growth in 2019, according to an estimate from Julia Coronado, a founder of MacroPolicy Perspectives. Slower capital expenditures and trade probably shaved another 0.1 percentage point from growth. But those effects were offset by the aftereffect of ramped-up government spending and tax cuts, which she estimates probably lifted growth by about 0.4 percentage point. But even here, there are uncertainties. While it is clear that business investment fell sharply last year and manufacturing sagged, weighing down growth, it is hard to tell how much of that was a lagged response to higher interest rates and how much was a response to the trade war. “The slowdown in capital expenditures came along when the trade war escalated,” Torsten Slok, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said in an interview. “One cautious estimate is that the trade war played a bigger role,” he said. Tax cuts and higher government spending have helped to nudge growth temporarily above its potential — it came in at 2.8 percent in 2017 and 2.5 percent in 2018, decently above the roughly 2 percent sustainable growth rate. Yet those gains probably will not hold. The working-age population is growing more slowly, and productivity, which popped temporarily, has since fallen back to earth. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next decade, growth will average 1.9% a year, up slightly from the preceding decade but down substantially from the 3 percent and higher growth that prevailed before 2000. So, we will see. “We haven’t seen 4% growth for many, many years,” Slok said. Certainly, this continuing fight over monetary policy should be watched closely by producers as it intensifies during the coming campaign, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 24, 2020 |


Farm Bureau policy plans call for more farmer aid The American Farm Bureau Federation has set their policy goals for 2020, including another round of trade aid for farmers. “Our members are basically saying, ‘Show us results,’” said Scott VanderWal, the group’s national vice president. He noted that “no products have moved, implementation has not happened yet, and it is kind of a ‘prove it to me’ thing.” They also are calling for a review of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and its crop reporting program, including its methodology and track record. “The June 2019 Acreage report was a debacle, and it seems like each NASS report this year has contained surprises and unexpected market impacts, etc.,” Farm Bureau said. The group also wants USDA to amend its hemp production framework to allow for plants with up to one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the chemical in cannabis), compared with the current limit of 0.3%. USDA's interim hemp rule requires “hot” crops to be destroyed at 0.5% THC levels.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 24, 2020 |


Grassley signs USMCA legislation Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, took to social media Wednesday to announce he has signed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in his role in the Senate. “As President pro tem I had the honor of signing United States Mexico Canada Agreement Implementation Act w my colleagues. This trade agreement will greatly benefit Iowa. Now to Pres Trump for signature,” Grassley tweeted. Canada has yet to clear the trade deal but is expected to once their parliament returns January 27. The exact date President Donald Trump will sign the pact remains unclear, with some indications he wants to do it in farm country and with Canadian and Mexican officials present.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 24, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Early on Friday we will see reports on personal income, consumer spending, and the core price index. Also, we will see export sales released. We will also watch for any daily export sales that might be announced, South American weather, and any hint that China may be buying ahead of their Lunar New Year. We will also be keeping an eye on coronavirus, and any new information regarding that. Weather Light to moderate snow and moderate to locally heavy rain are in store for the central and eastern Midwest, Mid South, and Southeast Friday. We'll also see rain and snow throughout the Northwest. The precipitation keeps soils saturated and will delay transportation. Other crop areas will be dry. A new storm system is slated for the central U.S. early next week.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 23, 2020 |


Senate Sends USCMA to President Trump The U.S. Senate Wednesday put its finishing touches on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Finance Committee and Senate President Pro Tempore, signed the agreement, the final step before the agreement heads to the White House. President Donald Trump was previously expected to sign the agreement sometime this week. The ceremony Wednesday signals the end is close after the nearly three-year process of renegotiating the agreement, then further negotiations to gain U.S. congressional approval. President Trump, in January 2017, announced his intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The trade talks started in May of that year. A deal was reached in September of 2018 between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Senator Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska who attended the ceremony Wednesday, says she is "proud that this critical trade agreement has finally come across the finish line.” President Donald Trump told the American Farm Bureau Federation on Sunday, that USMCA, and the agreement with China, “are just the beginning,” as his administration seeks more trade agreements. ************************************************************************************* Canada to Consider USMCA Next Week Canada will consider the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement next week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (true-doh) told reporters this week, ”On Monday, we will introduce a Ways and Means motion, and on Wednesday we will table legislation to ratify the deal.” The comments were part of a press conference detailing plans for Canada’s Parliament, which returns to work next week. Trudeau says, “We are going to make sure that we are going to move forward in the right way, and that means ratifying this new NAFTA as quickly as possible, but responsibly in the House of Commons.” Canada is the last of three nations to take action on the agreement. Mexico has already ratified the agreement, and the U.S. has one final step to ratify the agreement, being President Donald Trump's signature. The USMCA, or CUSMA, as it’s known in Canada, is estimated to be worth an extra $2 billion annually in exports for U.S. farmers. ************************************************************************************* Farm Bureau Establishes 2020 Priorities Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 101st Annual Convention this week adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2020. After a year-long process to review ways to modernize Federal Milk Marketing Orders, AFBF’s delegates voted to support creation of a flexible, farmer- and industry-led milk management system. This includes giving individual dairy farmers a voice by allowing them to vote independently and confidentially on rules governing milk prices. The new dairy policies, when combined, “will form a strong foundation” to guide the organization during future reform efforts to better coordinate milk supply and demand. Delegates also updated labor and immigration policies, emphasizing the need to see significant changes to the H-2A program. And delegates also voted to support allowing a higher THC level in hemp. Delegates also re-elected American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and Vice President Scott VanderWal for their third terms. VanderWal served as chair of the meeting on behalf of Duvall, who is grieving the loss of his wife, Bonnie. ************************************************************************************* Cattle Disease Traceability Continues Advancing Multiple state cattlemen’s organizations from major beef producing regions have partnered together to form U.S. CattleTrace, a disease traceability initiative. The goal is to develop a national infrastructure for disease traceability and encourage private industry’s use of the infrastructure for individualized management practices. The new U.S. CattleTrace initiative combines the efforts of CattleTrace, which includes the Kansas Livestock Association and others in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington, as well as traceability pilot projects underway in Florida and Texas. Brandon Depenbusch, CattleTrace board of directors chairman, says the partnership “will be a catalyst to build upon the CattleTrace foundation we established the past few years.” In late August 2018, CattleTrace Inc. was formally established as a private, not-for-profit corporation to securely maintain and manage the data collected as part of the disease traceability pilot project. Volunteer leaders from each of the partner organizations have agreed to a set of guiding principles for U.S. CattleTrace. *************************************************************************************​ NBB Welcomes New Biodiesel Quality Reports The National Biodiesel Board Wednesday welcomed new reports on Biodiesel fuel quality published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Through funding and support from the National Biodiesel Board, NREL's statistical analysis is based on thousands of data points that were previously unavailable. The reports are comprised of data gathered from U.S. and Canadian BQ-9000 producer members. The analysis from both the 2017 and 2018 reports show that the vast majority of biodiesel readily exceeded the specification limits in ASTM D6751, the standard for biodiesel. As part of the data gathering process, biodiesel producers test their own B100 fuel at the point of production monthly, then provide NBB's National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission with the resulting data. NBAC randomizes and anonymizes the results and provide the final version to NREL for statistical analysis. NBB Technical Director Scott Fenwick says, “We now have a simpler, more efficient way to collect, analyze, and determine the quality of biodiesel.” The data was presented during a breakout session at the 2020 National Biodiesel Conference and Expo. ************************************************************************************* ASA Celebrates Its ‘First Soy Century’ The American Soybean Association is celebrating its “First Soy Century” as it recognizes its 100th anniversary throughout 2020. The roots of ASA were formed during the first Corn Belt Soybean Field Day in Camden, Indiana, in September 1920. The event drew nearly 1,000 farmers from six states, who were interested in discovering more about this emerging new commodity called soybeans. The National Soybean Growers’ Association—later renamed the American Soybean Association—was formed that year. In the century since those beginnings, ASA has continually focused on sustaining and improving the prospects and opportunities for profitability for U.S. soybean farmers. ASA plans a robust year of activities to celebrate the association’s centennial including, high profile activities at Commodity Classic, and a policy event in July at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. ASA will also host a forward-looking symposium entitled “The Next Soy Century” to be held on the campus of Purdue University in August. Learn more at ASA100Years.com.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 23, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Emerging GOP Climate Plans Although President Trump is widely seen as a climate-change skeptic, he announced on Tuesday that the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative launched at the World Economic Forum in a global effort to combat climate change, The Hill reported this week. The president made the announcement during an address to global business leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland. "We're committed to conserving the majesty of God's creation and the natural beauty of our world," he said, adding that the U.S. "will continue to show strong leadership in restoring, growing and better managing our trees and our forests. The Hill reported that the announcement drew “some of the most sustained applause of any portion of the president’s 30-minute speech which focused mostly on his administration's accomplishments and the strength of the U.S. economy. That economic message contrasted with other world leaders who used the forum to highlight issues like climate change and global collaboration. President Trump has been asked repeatedly at gatherings with foreign leaders about his views on climate change and the environment. He declared Tuesday that he's "a very big believer in the environment" and earlier this month told reporters he does not believe climate change is a hoax, as he once claimed. But environmentalists have been alarmed by his administration's policies, including rolling back regulations meant to curb air and water pollution and withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. Also speaking at Davos on Tuesday was 17-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Trump, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said he didn't "really know anything" about Thunberg and dismissed her as "very angry." The Hill also noted that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., “teased” new details about Republicans' forthcoming climate plan Tuesday, highlighting the legislation's focus on trees as a method for capturing carbon pollution. The Republican effort focuses on traditional areas of interest for the party, including spurring green technology innovation and carbon capture. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., who is developing the legislation that would commit the U.S. to the goal, said the plan would "go back to something old for something new and trees are the ultimate carbon sequestration." Republicans had previously hinted the plan would rely heavily on trees but it's still unclear just how many Westerman's legislation would require planting. The plan would not, however, set any targets for reducing carbon pollution, The Hill said. An ambitious plan from the Democrats outlined earlier this month would require the U.S. to rely on 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Even though Democrats have likewise expressed interest in boosting tree planting as well as green technology, the Republican plan would face an uphill battle in the House as Democrats push forward their own plan with hard targets for carbon reductions. In addition, environmental groups have already criticized the Republican bill, arguing they were pushing policies they've already thwarted. "Congressional Republicans and Donald Trump just blocked a package of clean energy tax credits from being included in the year-end tax and budget deal," Sierra Club global climate policy director John Coequyt said in a statement. "That was a serious and limited solution they failed to support, but they are suddenly serious a few weeks later after decades of climate denial." The Hill also reported that presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are leaning into climate change as a campaign issue to stand out in a crowded Democratic field. The former New York City mayor and owner of the Bloomberg financial empire has donated millions of dollars to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, which has worked to shutter numerous coal plants, and he has pledged to donate $500 million to close the country's remaining coal plants by 2030 Meanwhile, Steyer founded the organization NextGen America, which aims to support candidates who advocate for climate action. Both have highlighted their commitment to the issue on the campaign trail. Steyer has said that he would declare climate change a national emergency on his first day in office and Bloomberg has also said that fighting climate change would be a focus for him. "They have been super active and insistent at not only raising the profile of the issue in front of voters, making it a litmus test with elected officials, but also, especially if you look at Mike Bloomberg, using his resources ... to give big cities and major carbon users real incentives to plan for the future and a lower-carbon or carbon free future," Democratic strategist Jon Reinish said of the two candidates. The Hill also points out that both candidates have faced a certain degree of skepticism on climate issues and are contending with candidates who are polling higher than they are and who have also put heavy emphasis on climate policy. So, we will see. Clearly the public is worried about the climate and there seems to be growing pressure on candidates to weigh in on those issues which continue to be extremely contentious—and which should be watched closely by producers as these debates continue to intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 23, 2020 |


Still Waiting On WOTUS The Trump administration’s new definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) is still awaited, but is now expected to be announced as early as today. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday he expects EPA to release the new WOTUS rule before the end of the week. “The Trump administration will set common sense limits on state versus federal jurisdiction over the waterways and make it easier for state local governments and farmers to comply,” Grassley said.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 23, 2020 |


China Tries to Temper Trade Concerns Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng told the World Economic Forum the country’s trade deal with the U.S. will not hurt rival exporting nations as complaints mount from governments that were left out of the agreement. In the most high-profile remarks on Beijing’s economic policies since the accord was signed last week, Han said that a commitment to purchase more from the U.S. is in line with its World Trade Organization obligations and will not squeeze out other imports. Han also pledged to lower barriers for foreign investors as he set out the case for China’s engagement with the global market. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in Davos that a phase-two accord with China will not necessarily be a "big bang" that removed all tariffs. "We dealt with a lot of important issues in Phase One," said Mnuchin. "If we get [Phase Two] done before the election, good. If not, fine. There is no deadline."

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 23, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Early Thursday morning weekly jobless claims will be out along with leading economic indicators. DTN will also be watching for any 8 a.m. flash sales announced by USDA, any sign of Chinese buying, updated weather for South America, and ethanol production and stocks. Weather Thursday features snow in the central Plains through the western, northern and central Midwest, and rain in the Delta and Deep South. This precipitation will cause transportation and safety concerns along with livestock stress. The moisture also keeps soils saturated and adds to prospects of flooding and fieldwork delays in spring. We'll also see mixed precipitation in the interior Northwest. Conditions will be chilly but not bitter-cold.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


Perdue Confirms Third Round of Trade Assistance for Farmers Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue confirmed that U.S. farmers will receive a third round of trade assistance this year to help producers with their 2019 losses. President Trump had hinted at additional aid during his address on Sunday at the American Farm Bureau national convention. However, Perdue says, “No maybe about it.” Looking ahead to 2020, the secretary doesn’t see a similar program new year because of the Phase One Trade Agreement with China, as well as other trade deals in place. “Now, let’s grow stuff, let’s produce things, and let’s sell stuff,” he told the farmers in attendance. While speaking, Perdue did acknowledge the various challenges 2019 had on U.S. agriculture but thinks there are brighter days ahead this year. “We’re talking about doubling the number of ag imports to China, way more than they’ve ever purchased from us before,” Perdue says. “And, those purchases are going to come throughout the whole United States’ ag sector.” The president said farmers told him they don’t want anything but a level playing field. Because of the trade deals he’s signed, Trump says farmers “now have what they want,” and better days are ahead. ********************************************************************************************** Perdue Open to Changing Crop Data Collection Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue talked over the weekend about his willingness to make changes in National Ag Statistics Service methods of crop data collection. A Farm Journal article says during 2019 and it’s many challenges, many farmers were openly questioning the crop projections that were coming from NASS throughout the year. Perdue admits that he had some concerns about their crop reports and the survey methods NASS uses. “In fact, it was kind of paranoia in light of all the prevented planting and other kinds of things that were falling on us,” he recalled. “We got a little conspiratorial too, thinking NASS was also out to get us.” He thinks the NASS numbers that took the market by surprise last June might have been more correct than the market ultimately was in its reaction. However, that doesn’t mean Perdue thinks the methodology for estimating crop size couldn’t be improved. “We’re going to get better,” Perdue says. “If you’ve got an idea about how we can better use electronics, or maybe an app for better surveys, we’d love to hear about it. We’re open to the kind of ideas of using modern technology to get you the best data that you can use to make plans for your farm.” ********************************************************************************************** Poll Shows Farmers still in Trump’s Corner A new poll shows farmers are still supporting President Trump. A Market Watch Dot Com article shows survey results that say 83 percent of people in the agriculture business approve of his job performance. That’s the highest level of support Trump has received from the respondents in that poll from Farm Journal. The survey of almost 1,300 people took place before President Trump spoke over the weekend at the American Farm Bureau convention. 64 percent of the respondents strongly approve of his job performance. Another 19 percent said they somewhat approve of the job the president has done. Just 13 percent of the survey respondents strongly disapprove of his job performance. The affirmation came after the U.S. and China signed a phase one trade deal and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement made it through both chambers of Congress and to the president’s desk. The agreement with China calls for the Asian nation to purchase $36 billion in U.S. agricultural products in 2020 and more than $43 billion in 2021. The Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and the S &P 500 all jumped to record highs on the news, but the grain markets were a little slower to react last week. ********************************************************************************************** Minnesota Loses Over 800 Dairy Farms in Three Years The number of licensed dairy farms in Minnesota continues to drop at a steady pace. New data out from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture says 315 dairy farms left the business between January first of 2019 and New Year’s Day of 2020. That’s the second year in a row the state has lost more than 300 dairies. Further back on January first of 2017, Minnesota had 3,258 licensed dairy farms. As of January first of 2020, that number is down to 2,448 licensed dairy farms. That’s a three-year total of 810 dairy operations that are out of business. Margaret Hart, communications director for the MDA, says, “The number of farms going out of business over the last five years has been higher than normal, due in large part to a drop in prices.” It’s worth mentioning that at least some of those businesses have ceased their operations temporarily, which is referred to as “dried off.” For example, 47 dairies that stopped operation between December first, 2019, and January of 2020, are dried off. That means they intend to resume milking within 60 days. ********************************************************************************************** National Biodiesel Board CEO Shares Future Vision Statement for the Industry The National Biodiesel Conference and Expo started off Tuesday with a state-of-the-industry address from National Biodiesel Board CEO Donnell (Duh-NELL) Rehagen (REE-hagen). The CEO outlined a new public vision statement during his address to industry stakeholders. The new industry statement says, “Biodiesel, renewable diesel, and renewable jet fuel will be recognized as mainstream low-carbon fuel options with superior performance and emission characteristics. In on-road, off-road, air transportation, electricity generation, and home heating applications, use will exceed six billion gallons by 2030, eliminating over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually. With advancements in our feedstock, use will reach 15 billion gallons by 2050.” Rehagen says without a clear vision for the future of the industry, including where they want to be and how they’ll get there, the industry won’t have a chance to be more than it is today. “As carbon policies around the country really begin to take hold, we see low-carbon fuels like biodiesel, renewable diesel, and renewable jet fuel with tremendous opportunities for growth,” Rehagen says. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Continues to Invest in Rural Broadband Expansion Counties in Arkansas and West Virginia are the latest to benefit from USDA funds invested to improve their access to rural broadband. USDA West Virginia State Director Kris Werner announced the agency invested $18.7 million in a high-speed broadband infrastructure project that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for more than 6,300 rural households and almost 400 farms in several West Virginia counties. Werner says, “This will have a positive economic impact for the farms, small businesses, and families that live in these communities.” In Arkansas, USDA Rural Development State Director David Branscum announced that USDA invested another $7.1 million in two high-speed broadband infrastructure projects that will help create or improve connectivity for 1,250 rural households in north-central Arkansas. “Through the USDA’s ReConnect Program, more than 1,250 people will get access to the latest broadband technology, which will help connect them to opportunities in education, health care, and economic development,” says Branscum. “USDA has made deploying critical infrastructure across rural America a top priority because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


Washington Insider: US and France May Have Tariff Truce Bloomberg is reporting this week that Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump agreed to a truce in their dispute over digital taxes and that “neither France nor the U.S. will impose punitive tariffs this year.” The group reported that Macron told the press on Monday he had a “great discussion” with Trump on the issue, without giving details. President Trump appeared to agree--“Excellent!” he said in a reply to Macron’s post, without providing additional information. At the time, the President was en route to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. A White House readout of the call was notably more muted, saying only that the “two leaders agreed it is important to complete successful negotiations on the digital services tax” and “discussed other bilateral issues.” Bloomberg noted that “neither a White House spokesman nor officials with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office would confirm that the U.S. president had called off his announced tariffs.” Still, the possible respite may defuse transatlantic tensions that had been building between Washington and Brussels along another potential trade war front. The European Union is an even bigger U.S. trading partner than China and supply chains between the two economies, particularly in automotive and financial services industries, are intertwined in ways that would make a tit-for-tat tariff dispute even more harmful to the world economy, Bloomberg said. Macron’s government still hopes to find a solution that fits within discussions at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s work on the issue, according to a French official. While the organization is still working on its proposal for taxing tech companies around the world, France pushed ahead with its own levy last year that hit U.S. internet giants like Google, Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. “We now have an agreement between the two presidents to avoid any tariff escalation and avoid any trade war,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters in Brussels. Paris and Washington have discussed the possibility of France suspending the collection of the digital tax payments due in April as long as the U.S. refrains from imposing new tariffs, French officials said. But that wouldn’t constitute a withdrawal of the levy, they added. For its part, the French government denies its national tax is discriminatory and warned that the EU would retaliate if the U.S. imposed additional levies. The U.S. has charged that the French tax discriminates against American technology companies. It has threatened to hit $2.4 billion of French goods with tariffs in retaliation. The dispute was another headache for European trade officials scrambling to expand their policy arsenal as the U.S. takes aim at a rules-based system for global trade that Trump argues is outdated and tilted against America. It also coincided with a change in leadership at the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. The truce follows weeks of discussions between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Le Maire, who were scheduled to meet Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland. The dispute has ramifications outside France as other countries try to come up with ways to generate revenue from the digital economy. Mnuchin told the Wall Street Journal that the UK and Italy will face American tariffs if they proceed with similar levies on foreign tech firms. U.S. and EU trade relations started to sour in 2018 when the U.S. administration invoked national-security considerations to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe. As a U.S. military ally, the EU was infuriated and promptly retaliated with levies on iconic American brands such as Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles and Levi Strauss & Co. jeans. A subsequent U.S. threat to wreak significantly more economic damage by targeting the European auto industry with duties on the same security grounds led to a hastily agreed truce and a pledge by both sides to work toward reducing industrial tariffs across the board. Since then, the administration has refused to start the tariff-cutting negotiations unless Europe includes agriculture in them. Also, it imposed levies on EU products in retaliation over government aid to Airbus SE that was deemed illegal by the WTO and disabled the WTO’s appellate body. The EU, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with a plan for tariffs against the U.S. in a parallel WTO case over unlawful subsidies to Boeing Co. “Europe has had tremendous barriers to us doing business with them. All those barriers are coming down. They have to come down,” President Trump told a conference of farmers in Austin, Texas. “If they don’t come down, we’re going to have to do things that are very bad for them.” He added, “Europe was, in many ways, more difficult – and is more difficult – than China.” So, we will see. The phase-one deal with China has been well received by many in industry, even though there is substantial skepticism regarding the achievement of the main objectives like subsidies for Chinese companies. In the case of frictions with Europe, the stakes are extremely high, once again, and producers should watch closely as these talks proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


USTR Official Explains More on China Phase On Deal U.S. Trade Representative chief ag negotiator Gregg Doud told members of the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates that the phrase of market terms links to seasonality. “We do not expect China to buy U.S. soybeans in the middle of the Brazilian harvest. That is what that term means,” Doud observed. “The expectation is they have a commitment to make. We expect them to make that, when it is our time.” He also noted the enforcement mechanism in the deal. “Either country has the right to put tariffs on, commensurate with the value of whatever the problem is,” he remarked. Doud added that when and if that were to take place, an important part is that “the other side cannot retaliate. The goal is not to have that happen — and I will tell you, that’s very sincere on both sides.” Regarding timing, Doud indicated that 60 days appears to be a key figure in the timelines relative to when U.S. ag exports could start materializing. “China enters into force in 30 days. And the beef component of that we supposed to have in another 30 days, so that is 60 days,” Doud said. “Then you think about it in terms of what we just did in poultry. We reopened the poultry market in the middle of November.” The poultry landed in China January 14, he noted, “so that is roughly 60 days.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Predicts Record Exports For US USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue told Farm Bureau members that the signing of the phase-one agreement should mean that a third round of trade aid in 2020 should not be expected by farmers. He did say that the third installment of the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) payments should be dispatched shortly. He pointed to the purchase by China in the deal that he believes will alter China’s usual pattern of buying U.S. ag goods in the fall and winter. "If China is going to achieve that, and we believe they are, we think they have to buy earlier than the traditional export season from the United States," Perdue observed. He also predicted that the U.S. will post a record year for U.S. ag exports, especially with the additional Chinese purchases. This will put more attention on the U.S. ag export forecast which is not scheduled to be updated until February 20.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets On this holiday-shortened week of trading, Wednesday's reports include U.S. existing home sales at 9 a.m. CST and a monthly cold storage report at 2 p.m. Traders are also paying attention to the latest weather forecasts for South America and any hints of export activity, especially from China. Weather Rain, mixed precipitation and snow will cross the eastern and southeastern Plains, western Midwest, and Delta Wednesday. Transportation delays along with safety hazards and livestock stress will occur. The precipitation also threatens flooding along with keeping soils saturated ahead of spring field work.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


Ag Secretary Expecting the Third Round of Trade Aid Payments Even though the first trade deal with China has been signed, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says he still expects U.S. farmers to get a third-round of 2019 trade aid payments. USDA hasn’t officially announced if and when the farmers would get those payments. Perdue tells Bloomberg that the move is still waiting for approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Perdue says the agreement won’t interfere with the final round of trade assistance payments made under the Market Facilitation Program. “My expectation is the third round will be issued immediately,” Perdue says. “I’m counting on it, but we’ve got to get that allocated through OMB. But I see no reason why we can’t get that done.” The U.S. government instituted the aid program as the trade war with China escalated and the Asian country implemented retaliatory tariffs on American farm goods. The first round of payments was issued last fall, with the second payments coming in the winter. Perdue did say that farmers shouldn’t expect new assistance this year beyond the $28 billion that was previously approved. The administration wants to begin phase two trade talks with China as soon as possible, with President Trump willing to travel to China to help them get going. ********************************************************************************************** Europe Next in the Trade Negotiation Bullseye Phil Hogan, the new Trade Commissioner for the European Union, was in Washington, D.C., last week and spoke about the tense relationship between the EU and the U.S. The New York Times says Hogan promises to “robustly defend” European interests as he justified the European position on trade disagreements with the U.S. over airplane subsidies, digital taxes, and the World Trade Organization. He criticized American officials for being inaccurate in claiming that trade between the U.S. and EU was unbalanced, while also saying America’s aggressive use of tariffs against trading partners was “hardly sensible.” His comments came as the U.S. is considering the use of new tariffs against the European Union trading bloc. However, Hogan ruled out the possibility of a three-way trade relationship between the EU, the U.S., and the United Kingdom in a post-Brexit world. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tells Fox Business News that sealing the phase one trade deal with China and congressional passage of USMCA boosts the U.S. negotiating stance with Europe. “Our position is infinitely better already just because of these two deals,” Ross says. ********************************************************************************************** Foreign Ag Service Chases New Trade Opportunities in 2019 The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service was busy looking for new trade opportunities in 2019. Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney says the agency fought throughout the year to unlock new export opportunities for U.S. agriculture around the globe. Last year, the FAS hosted six trade missions and supported exporter participation in 22 international trade shows. Together, those activities resulted in nearly $3 billion in projected 12-month sales of U.S. farm and food products across the globe. The agency also facilitated another $2 billion in exports of American commodities to Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. McKinney says, “While the U.S. was in the process of finalizing the phase one trade agreement with China, we successfully defended U.S. wheat, corn, and rice interests against China at the World Trade Organization.” FAS staff around the globe also helped U.S. exporters in releasing hundreds of shipments that were detained at ports of entry in overseas markets, ensuring that over $95 million in perishable products arrived safely at their final destinations. “USDA efforts to break down barriers and pursue export opportunities resulted in new or expanded market access for numerous U.S. farm products in 2019,” McKinney adds. ********************************************************************************************** National Biodiesel Conference Looks to the Future The National Biodiesel Conference and Expo get underway this week at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida on Tuesday. The biggest gathering of the biodiesel industry will unveil “Vision 2020.” The industry will look to the future after ending 2019 with recent policy victories in Washington, D.C. Donnell (duh-NELL) Rehagen (REE-hagen), CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, says, “Last year at this time, U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel producers faced an uncertain future. Thanks to our members and the support of industry champions, we’re going into the new year ready to deliver even more biodiesel to both our transportation and home heating fuel customers.” He says the conference is an opportunity to lay out the road map for the next ten years for a fuel that’s better than ever, cleaner, and now available coast-to-coast. Industry stakeholders at the conference will get new information on the latest vehicle technology, take a deep dive into the future of renewable fuels, and they’ll hear from expert speakers on environmental policy. The vehicle showcases and ride-and-drive events provide a chance to check out the latest biodiesel cars and trucks coming out from the world’s biggest manufacturers. The NBB says biodiesel is a clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Lending Declines at the End of 2019 Farm lending activity dropped for a second consecutive quarter at commercial banks at the end of last year. A reduction in non-real estate farm lending, particularly for operating loans, was the primary contributor to a reduced volume of loans at banks with portfolios that concentrate heavily on agriculture. The declines came along with additional reductions in production expenses, but reduced loan demand likely also was due to an increase in revenue from government payments connected to the trade disputes that lingered through the year. Following average annual growth of more than 10 percent in 2017 and 2018, and several quarters of sharp increases, lending activity contracted in the second half of last year and, on average, was five percent lower in 2019. Despite decreasing from a year ago, farm lending volumes remained higher than the 20-year average. The total volume of non-real estate loans averaged about $90 billion in 2019 and was about eight percent above the average number stretching back to 1999. ********************************************************************************************** Bureau of Land Management Taking Steps to Improve Grazing The Bureau of Land Management recently announced it’s preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on new grazing regulations. The bureau’s Notice of Intent will appear this week in the Federal Register on January 21st. A public comment period is now open and in-person meetings will be held across the western U.S. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Federal Lands Committee and the PLC’s Grazing Regulations Working Group both call this a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for BLM permittees to set the record straight.” The groups say they’ve endured Bruce Babbitt’s “Range Reform” for more than 25 years, with the land, native grasses, and local ranching families suffering as a result. The groups both say this is a great first step to righting that wrong and can’t emphasize enough how important it is for ranchers to submit comments and participate in the meetings. More information can be found on the BLM website.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


WASHINGTON INSIDER: FDA'S RECENT TUNA RECALL DECISION Food Safety News is running a guest editorial this week on the need to recall tainted tuna. The writer is Sandra Eskin who directs the Pew Charitable Trusts' work on food safety, a non-partisan, global research and public policy effort dedicated to serving the public interest. The editorial focuses on a recently announced FDA interpretation of authority on mandatory recalls that it claims "weakens food safety." The writer says that the Food and Drug Administration decided late last year not to order a mandatory recall of yellowfin tuna that sickened at least 50 people in 11 states—and thereby "threatens to undermine a crucial tool of last resort to protect consumers from hazardous food." "She urges FDA leaders to reverse course and require that the companies responsible for these products remove them from the market." In a Nov. 15 announcement, the agency said the illnesses were caused by imported tuna with high levels of scombrotoxin, a substance produced when certain fish species spoil. The company supplying most of the implicated tuna has not initiated a recall, despite an FDA request. In fact, she asserts that "these products could still be on the market," according to the agency and neither cooking nor freezing them will make them safe to eat. A Dec. 26 FDA update on the investigation said that additional illnesses had been reported and voluntary recalls by business customers of the fish supplier "have not effectively removed" the dangerous tuna from the market. Still, the agency stopped short of mandating a recall, Eskin noted. Congress armed the agency for exactly this kind of situation in 2011's FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The law authorized mandatory recalls when companies do not conduct them voluntarily for products that may cause "serious adverse health consequences or death" to people or animals. The agency's initial announcement, however, argued that "because scombrotoxin fish poisoning causes temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences this incident did not meet the threshold for the use of FDA's mandatory recall authority." Eskin argues that this interpretation of the law "fails to protect Americans from preventable illnesses." Scombrotoxin poisoning can cause serious adverse health consequences including nausea, headache, faintness, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. According to the FDA, "severe cases may blur vision, and cause respiratory stress and swelling of the tongue." Patients may require medical treatment such as intravenous fluids, oxygen, and antihistamines, and people with particularly serious reactions to the toxin have experienced cardiac complications and low blood pressure. In addition, Eskin charges that this decision by FDA could set a dangerous precedent, one that may encourage companies to disregard requests for voluntary recalls or to challenge agency-mandated recalls on the grounds that the harm likely done by their products is not serious enough. The agency's response also runs counter to pledges by its leaders to "make more robust use of mandatory recall authority"—a power used just three times since FSMA's enactment nine years ago, Eskin says. In November 2018 FDA released final guidance to clarify for businesses when and how it will exercise this authority for potentially contaminated food. Then-Commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained the goal: "Our aim is to expand the appropriate use of our mandatory recall authority in cases where we have to intervene quickly to help protect consumers from unsafe products." The ongoing outbreak of scombrotoxin poisoning presents a crucial test of this commitment, Eskin says. "The agency's overly restrictive interpretation of serious adverse health consequences" undermines both the letter and the spirit of FSMA. She calls on FDA leaders to reconsider their response in this case and, going forward, should make greater use of mandatory recall authority to protect the public from preventable foodborne infections. Recalls of contaminated food products are an important regulatory tool of food inspection agencies, but are wielded reluctantly because of the inconvenience and cost to manufacturers. As a result, FDA has long been reluctant to impose recalls—and in cases where products have been recalled, have taken significant steps to make sure these have been as sensitive as possible to producer interests. The new FSMA was designed to provide rules that to make clear specific actions to be taken to protect consumers from exposure to contaminated food products—and to strengthen what was seen by many as the agencies reluctance to impose tough safeguards. These rules are crucially important to the credibility of the national food safety effort and debates about how those safeguards are defined and implemented should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


CHINA KEEPS INSISTING PURCHASES OF US AG GOODS WILL BE BASED ON MARKET CONDITIONS Chinese officials continue to reiterated what Vice Premier Liu He said at the signing ceremony for the Phase One deal with the U.S. -- the purchases China has committed to making will be made based on market conditions. The purchases will also follow WTO rules, said Li Xingqian, head of foreign trade department at Ministry of Commerce. In remarks in Beijing, he said that the increased imports from the U.S. will not affect imports from other countries. China's Liu made the same point in this remarks at the signing ceremony. Further, Li said that the Chinese has large potential and it welcomes high quality and competitive U.S. goods.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


TRUMP TOUTS US-CHINA DEAL, WOTUS ACTIONS IN FARM BUREAU REMARKS President Donald Trump addressed the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting for the third year in a row, and predictably Trump spent a good portion of his time before the gathering talking about Phase One of the agreement signed with China on Jan. 15. He dubbed the accord "a bonanza for American farmers, adding he thinks the pact is "going to work out well. I think China is going to go all out. … I think they're looking to prove that it's going to be great for the farmer." Trump also pointed to regulatory relief measures his administration had taken, including the repeal of "waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule that expanded federal jurisdiction over some wetlands and streams. "As long as I'm president, government will never micromanage America's farmers. You're going to micromanage your own farm and that's the way it should be," Trump said. Trump also highlighted actions by the administration on issues like broadband access and farm labor. "We want them *immigrants) to come in, legally, and we want them to come in so they can help the farmer, just so you understand because I want them to be able to come in to help our farmers, and we're going to give you plenty of help," Trump said.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday starts with a report on U.S. housing starts at 7:30 a.m. CST, followed by U.S. industrial production at 8:15 a.m. and an index of U.S. consumer sentiment at 9:00 a.m. South American weather forecasts remain of interest as do any clues of export activity after Wednesday's phase one agreement. Weather Snow and freezing rain are in store for the central and south-central Plains and western Midwest Friday, causing safety and transportation hazards and stressing livestock. Southern Plains areas will have moderate to locally heavy rain, favoring wheat moisture. Bitter cold will be confined to the Canadian Prairies.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


Senate Passes USMCA The Senate Thursday morning passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk. The Senate vote, 89-10, moves the agreement ahead of the impeachment trial in the Senate. President Trump is expected to sign the agreement sometime next week during a formal ceremony, perhaps while the impeachment trial is underway. House Democrats took more than a year to make changes to the original agreement negotiated by the Trump administration. For agriculture, USMCA is expected to increase U.S. exports by $2 billion. The vote comes just one day after the United States signed a new trade agreement with China, which promises to increase agricultural exports overseas by tens of billions of dollars. On Twitter, President Trump proclaimed, “The farmers are really happy with the new China trade deal and the soon to be signed deal with Mexico and Canada.” The President said he hopes farmers remember he used tariff funds to “help them get through the tough times.” ************************************************************************************* Agriculture Reacts to USMCA Senate Passage Agriculture organizations offered applause to lawmakers in the Senate who overwhelming supported approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Thursday. National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross says the vote ensures “corn farmers will continue to have access to our largest and most reliable markets.” Mexico is a top destination for U.S. corn. Meanwhile, Bill Gordon of the American Soybean Association says the vote “means we can start 2020 on a more positive note.” Mexico is the number two market for whole beans, meal and oil, and Canada is a top ten buyer of meal and oil. U.S. Meat Export Federation CEO Dan Halstrom says the vote “bolsters our position as a reliable supplier to two leading markets that account for about one-third of all U.S. red meat exports.” Meat shipments to Mexico and Canada in 2019 totaled about 1.25 million metric tons valued at $3.8 billion. Finally, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says USMCA “comes at a critical time for farmers and ranchers, increasing optimism that we’ll turn the corner in 2020.” ************************************************************************************* Secretary Perdue Statement on Senate Passage of USMCA Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, farmers "are eager to see the President sign this legislation and begin reaping the benefits." Canada and Mexico are the first and second-largest export markets for United States agricultural products, totaling more than $39.7 billion in food and agricultural exports in 2018. Under the agreement, all food and agricultural products that have zero tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement will remain at zero tariffs. Since the original NAFTA did not eliminate all tariffs on agricultural trade between the United States and Canada, the USMCA will create new market access opportunities for United States exports to Canada of dairy, poultry, and eggs, and in exchange, the United States will provide new access to Canada for some dairy, peanut, and a limited amount of sugar and sugar-containing products. The agreement specifically addresses agricultural biotechnology, including new technologies such as gene editing, to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies, and the agreement institutes a more rigorous process for establishing geographical indicators. ************************************************************************************* USDA Reminds Producers to Pay Their Crop Insurance Premiums by January 31 The Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency is reminding producers that their crop insurance premiums for the 2019 crop year are due January 31. Policies that do not have the premium paid by January 31, 2020, will have interest attach on February 1, calculated from the date of the premium billing notice. USDA had deferred to January 31, 2020, the accrual of interest on 2019 crop year insurance premiums for most policies with a premium billing date of August 15, 2019, to help the large number of farmers and ranchers affected by extreme weather and other challenges in 2019. RMA Administrator Martin Barbre says, “We urge producers to make their premium payment on time to ensure they don’t get charged interest back to their premium billing notice date.” Producers are encouraged to contact their crop insurance agents for more information or assistance. ************************************************************************************* USDA Seeks Input on New Ethanol Sales Infrastructure Incentive Program The Department of Agriculture announced Thursday it is seeking public input to help with the creation of the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. The new program, according to USDA, will expand the availability of domestic ethanol and biodiesel by incentivizing the expansion of sales of renewable fuels. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, "USDA remains committed to fulfilling a key promise to American farmers to enhance the promotion of biofuels." The request for information solicits ideas on options for fuel ethanol and biodiesel infrastructure, innovation, products, technology, and data derived from all program processes, or science, that drives economic growth, promotes health, and increases public benefit. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor welcomed the request, saying, “Smart infrastructure investments will support rural jobs and allow more drivers across the nation to take advantage of the administration’s move to unleash sales of E15 year-round.” Working with Prime the Pump, Growth Energy has doubled the number of E15 stations five years in a row to include more than 2,000 stations across 30 states. ************************************************************************************ Mexico Strikes Down Nationwide E10 Mexico's Supreme Court this week ruled against a federal policy that would allow for higher ethanol blends nationwide. Mexico's Energy Commission sought a rule that would allow up to ten percent ethanol in gasoline nationwide, excluding the country's three biggest cities. The pre-existing fuel rule allows a maximum 5.8 percent ethanol content, according to Reuters. The court called for more science-based evaluation of higher-ethanol fuels. Kenneth Smith, a former Mexican trade negotiator, told Reuters Mexico should try again to craft a nationwide ten percent ethanol rule, calling it a “win-win” for Mexico. In a statement, the Mexican Association for Sustainable Mobility, an ethanol backing group, says, “Ethanol is part of the solution to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, use renewable energy, lower gasoline prices, create domestic jobs, boost the agricultural economy and improve the environment, it said.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


Washington Insider: China's Growing Economic Influence The complex phase-one trade deal with China was signed this week and the urban press, among others, is hard pressed to evaluate what it may mean. For example, while everybody thinks this "trade truce" is much better than the alternative, there also has been a rush to point out what it may not accomplish. For example, the Times emphasized the deal is a "truce" not a "peace treaty" and argued that while administration officials are bullish, "many economists are not." In addition, the general reaction to the agreement includes the deepening realization that China has, indeed, become an economically strong world competitor. In that regard, the Times reported extensively on one of China's major programs, its big-money push to build ports, rail lines and telecommunications networks -- and increase Beijing's political sway in the process. While the program seemed to be running out of gas just a year ago, it now "has come roaring back." In response, the Times notes Western officials and companies are renewing their warnings that China's gains in business and political clout could come at their expense. Chinese companies signed Belt and Road contracts worth nearly $128 billion in the first 11 months of last year, a 41% increase over the same period in 2018, the Times said. The contracts are mostly for construction and equipment by big Chinese companies using Chinese skilled labor and loans from Chinese banks, although the projects often create jobs for local laborers as well. The return of Belt and Road is likely to raise additional tensions with the United States, which worries China is building a globe-spanning bloc of nations that will mostly buy Chinese goods and tilt toward China's authoritarian political model. The rush of new Belt and Road contracts follows a public pullback by Chinese officials in 2018 after several projects were criticized by local officials and others as bloated and costly. China argues that, since then, it has fine-tuned practices to trim waste. Officials in the United States and Western Europe have long criticized Belt and Road as predatory and recently some officials in developing countries began to agree. Vice Premier Liu He of China publicly raised concerns in early 2018 about heavy lending by Chinese banks, not just for the Belt and Road Initiative. In the months that followed, Chinese financial regulators clamped down hard on domestic and overseas lending alike. New Belt and Road contracts plummeted, Chinese data showed. China's financial regulators told the country's banks to look twice at further lending to poor countries. But the credit crunch produced a much broader slowing in the Chinese economy than expected, so financial regulators reversed course. Contracts started to be signed in earnest again in the final weeks of 2018, and momentum built through last year. More recently, two western groups have raised questions about the resurgence of the Belt and Road Initiative. A report released Thursday by the European Chamber of Commerce in China concluded that Chinese-built telecommunications networks and ports are set up in ways that make it hard for European companies to compete. A survey by the chamber of its members also found they had been almost completely excluded from bidding on Belt and Road Initiative contracts, which went mostly to Chinese state-owned enterprises. The Institute of International Finance, a research group in Washington backed mainly by big Western banks, issued a different warning on Monday as part of a broader report on global debt. The institute's report said many poor countries in the Belt and Road Initiative now find themselves with sharply increased debt burdens. Many of these countries could barely qualify to borrow money even before they took on the new debt, the report said. The institute's report also said 85% of Belt and Road projects involved high emissions of greenhouse gases linked to climate change. These projects have included at least 63 coal-fired power plants, as well as loans that tend to carry considerably higher interest rates than those from lending institutions like the World Bank. The construction industry group and also the European chamber said the costs of Belt and Road Initiative projects are often greatly underestimated. They focus both on national telecom networks, new ports and other infrastructure that now mean a competitive disadvantage for both U.S. and European investors in several growing areas. China has contended that economic growth has long suffered in many emerging markets from high transportation costs, and that the construction of new ports can reduce these costs. So, we will see. Clearly, the hoped-for phase two of the China deal will be focused on a number of the remaining areas of anti-competitive behavior and will rely less on direct trade interventions like tariffs. The next steps will be crucial to ag producers and should be watched closely as they begin to take shape, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


USDA Requests Info on Infrastructure Needed For Higher Renewable Fuels Blends USDA has published a request for information (RFI) for the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). The RFI seeks to gain input "to expand domestic ethanol and biodiesel availability." USDA wants information "opportunities to consider infrastructure projects to facilitate increased sales of higher biofuel blends (E15/B20 or higher.)" This effort seeks to build on the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) program USDA operated from 2016 to 2019 through state and private partners to expand the availability of E15 and E85 infrastructure to make available higher ethanol blends at retail gas stations around the country. The request from USDA aims at informing where there may be "notable gaps, vulnerabilities, and areas to promote and protect in the HBIIP that may benefit from Federal government attention." Comments are due on or before Jan. 30.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


USDA'S Perdue Insists Final MFP 2 Payment Coming While there has been some uncertainty on whether the administration would make the final installment of the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) payment to farmers, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Wednesday appeared to put that issue to rest. In separate interviews with Ag Day and Bloomberg, Perdue sought to assure farmers he expects the payments will be made. Asked by Ag Day if the third MFP 2 installment would come, Perdue said, "I absolutely do expect that and I do not know, I do not know where the fake news came from over the anxiety of that maybe not being there. But it did not come from us. There has been questions from the Hill and from other industries there. But my expectation is that the president will direct us to fulfill that third tranche of the commitment of the 2019 MFP payments." In his remarks to Bloomberg, Perdue said, "I'm counting on it, but we've got to get that allocated through the Office of Management and Budget. But I see no reason why we can't get that done." Through Jan. 6, USDA has paid out $10.769 billion under MFP 2, with Iowa, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota and Kansas being the top five states receiving the payments.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday starts with a report on U.S. housing starts at 7:30 a.m. CST, followed by U.S. industrial production at 8:15 a.m. and an index of U.S. consumer sentiment at 9:00 a.m. South American weather forecasts remain of interest as do any clues of export activity after Wednesday's phase one agreement. Weather Snow and freezing rain are in store for the central and south-central Plains and western Midwest Friday, causing safety and transportation hazards and stressing livestock. Southern Plains areas will have moderate to locally heavy rain, favoring wheat moisture. Bitter cold will be confined to the Canadian Prairies.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


Trump Signs Phase One Agreement with China President Donald Trump signed a trade agreement with China Wednesday. The phase one deal, according to the Trump administration, is worth an extra $40-50 billion annually over the next two years in U.S. agricultural sales to China. However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this week called the deal weak, suggesting Trump reached a watered-down agreement to claim a “win” during his reelection campaign. Further information suggests the figure may be $32 billion in increased ag purchases, not $40-50 billion. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, attended the ceremony. Grassley welcomes the agreement but says, “Not only must China follow through with its commitments in this phase one deal, but also work toward a comprehensive agreement.” President Trump says the agreement removes trade barriers for U.S. agricultural products, particularly for beef. Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the agreement will benefit many different U.S. farm commodities. The agreement should be implemented within 30 days, according to the Trump Administration. ************************************************************************************* USTR offers China Agreement Details Documents released by the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office offer details into the agriculture provisions in the U.S.-China phase one trade agreement. USTR Robert Lighthizer says China will purchase and import, on average, at least $40 billion of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products annually for a total of at least $80 billion over the next two years. Products will cover the full range of U.S. agriculture. U.S. exports of pork products were $700 million in 2017 and are expected to reach $1.7 billion annually in the next two to three years. China will expand the scope of beef products allowed to be imported, eliminate age restrictions on cattle slaughtered for export to China, and recognize the U.S. beef and beef products' traceability system. The Department of Agriculture estimates U.S. beef and beef product exports to China could reach $1 billion annually. Further, China has agreed to implement a transparent, predictable, efficient, science- and risk-based regulatory process for the evaluation and authorization of products of agricultural biotechnology. ************************************************************************************* Peterson, Costa, Cautiously Optimistic about Phase One China Deal House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa of California say they are optimistic but cautious, regarding the phase one trade agreement with China. Peterson notes the agreement includes potential increased market access for U.S. farmers, adding, “The question now is whether China will play by the rules it has agreed to here.” Peterson says he is concerned that long-term, certain crops may not regain the foothold they lost in the trade war. Meanwhile, Costa says, “The key is getting the Chinese to stick to their commitments and prove that they will honor international agreements.” Costa adds it’s not immediately clear that the new purchases, at least $40 billion worth annually according the Trump Administration, “will make up for what we’ve lost along the way.” Both Peterson and Costa say they are pleased to see progress on negotiations with China. However, most tariffs on China will remain in place, while Trump seeks a phase two agreement. ************************************************************************************* Farm Groups Welcome Phase One Agreement Agriculture groups welcome the new trade agreement with China. The U.S. Grains Council says the agreement should reduce continued market uncertainty and incentivize China to purchase significant amounts of the full range of U.S. agricultural products. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the signing is ”another positive step towards restoring market confidence for U.S. biofuel producers.” In 2016, China was the third-largest export market for U.S. biofuels, but exports were nearly eliminated due to retaliatory tariffs and trade negotiations. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association calls the agreement a "game-changer." NCBA President Jennifer Houston says the removal of trade barriers included in the agreement “gives Chinese consumers access to the U.S. beef they desire.” The National Pork Producers Council applauded the agreement, as well, saying pork producers are "ideally positioned to address this unprecedented sales opportunity for pork in China." However, NPPC urged the removal of the 60 percent punitive tariffs on U.S. pork to "fully capture the benefits" of the agreement. ************************************************************************************* USMCA Senate Vote Thursday The Senate is hopeful to vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Thursday (this) morning. After quickly advancing the agreement through required committee approvals, the Senate will consider the agreement ahead of the impeachment trial next week. However, the Senate is not in session Friday, leaving little time to debate and pass the implementing legislation. Thought to be delayed until after the impeachment trial, the Senate moved up committee hearings to include USMCA passage during a busy week in Washington. The same day President Donald Trump signed the China agreement, the House of Representatives sent articles of impeachment to the Senate. Now, the Senate must make the impeachment trial a priority, which is expected to begin Tuesday. Action by the Senate would move USMCA to President Trump's desk for his signature. The signing of the agreement would signal Canada to approve the agreement, whose government is waiting for U.S. approval. Mexico already approved the agreement last year. ************************************************************************************* FSA Encourages Farmers to Enroll in ARC, PLC, Now USDA’s Farm Service Agency encourages producers to enroll now in the Agriculture Risk Loss (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. March 15, 2020 is the enrollment deadline for the 2019 crop year. Although more than 200,000 producers have enrolled to date, FSA anticipates 1.5 million producers will enroll for ARC and PLC. By enrolling soon, producers can beat the rush as the deadline nears. FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce says, “please do not wait to start the enrollment process,” adding producers “need to begin the program election and enrollment process now.” ARC and PLC provide financial protections to farmers from substantial drops in crop prices or revenues and are vital economic safety nets for most American farms. Until March 15, producers who have not yet enrolled in ARC or PLC for 2019 can enroll for both 2019 and 2020 during the same visit to an FSA county office unless yield updates are requested. Additionally, farm owners have a one-time opportunity to update PLC payment yields that take effect beginning with crop year 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


Washington Insider: EU Trade Commissioner Visits US Most of the press is focused on the first phase of the China trade deal this week but there is another effort underway as Europe’s new trade commissioner has come to Washington. His mission is “to prevent the Trump administration from ruining the European economy,” the New York Times said. The Times is not optimistic. It thinks that trans-Atlantic relations are so low that Commissioner Phil Hogan, a blunt-talking, physically imposing Irishman, “will probably do well if he can simply prevent things from going any further downhill.” The Times reviews its list: the U.S. is threatening tariffs that would double the price of imported French wine. The EU accuses the administration of paralyzing the system for resolving trade disputes and likely is “ushering in an era of conflict and disorder.” Punishing tariffs on European steel and aluminum remain in place. And, the administration continues to threaten duties on European cars, a potentially heavy hit. Finally, the Times says Europeans are deeply alarmed by “what they regard as the president’s recklessness in the Middle East.” “The current state of EU-U.S. relations isn’t good, and I don’t think it’s likely to get better anytime soon,” said Peter Chase, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels. Still, Commissioner Hogan brings a different set of skills than Cecilia Malmstrom, whom he succeeded at the beginning of December. Some in Brussels think his rawer style will make him a better match for the current occupant of the White House. “He is more direct,” said Luisa Santos, the director for international relations at BusinessEurope, an industry group. Gender may also play a role, Santos said. There is a widespread perception in Washington and Brussels that Trump officials were not comfortable with Ms. Malmstrom, an assertive Swede. But it’s unclear whether Hogan will have any more success than Malmstrom at repairing the largest trade partnership in the world, worth $1 trillion a year. His agenda includes meetings with Robert Lighthizer, the United States Trade Representative; Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary; and Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce. To varying degrees, all support the president’s hard line on trade relations, the Times said. On Tuesday, there was a sign that the United States and Europe were still capable of cooperating. Hogan, Lighthizer and Kajiyama Hiroshi, the Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, said in a joint statement that they would work together to tighten international rules on government subsidies and forced transfer of technology. The statement was clearly aimed at China, which is often accused of propping up its companies to give them an unfair advantage over foreign competitors and of forcing foreign companies to share sensitive technology in return for permission to operate in China. The three countries also agreed to work together to reform the WTO, a key objective of the Europeans. A 6-foot-5 former farmer from Kilkenny in southern Ireland, Hogan spent much of his political career in the trenches of Irish domestic politics, helping to build the centrist Fine Gael party into Ireland’s strongest bloc. He was Fine Gael’s director of organization in the early 2000s and later head of the party’s national election campaign. A former agriculture commissioner, Hogan was often involved in trade talks and gained a reputation for being canny and well prepared. Farm products are typically the most politically sensitive component of trade deals. A plan to reach a more comprehensive transatlantic trade deal early on in Trump’s tenure fell apart over disagreements about how to address agriculture. But little remains of the optimism that followed a meeting in July 2018 between President Donald Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, then the president of the European Commission. The two men said they would work to reduce tariffs to zero and eliminate regulations that hindered trans-Atlantic trade. Still, progress has been modest at best. In July, they agreed to recognize each other’s inspections of factories that produce pharmaceuticals. But in most other ways, the relationship has only soured. The Europeans accuse the United States of crippling the WTO by blocking appointments of new members to a crucial panel that hears appeals in trade disputes. Without a system to enforce trade rules, Hogan told members of the European Parliament last year, “Well, then, there isn’t any point in having agreements.” “When sides take unilateral actions that harm the other side, that are inconsistent with international norms, the other side has a right to be angry,” said Clete Willems, a partner at the law firm Akin Gump who was an economic adviser in the White House until last year. “That’s where we are with the EU now.” Hogan is expected to try to convince his American counterparts that Europe and the United States should work together to rein in China, in part by fixing the WTO. He also plans meetings on Capitol Hill, where his Irish-ness is likely to play well. So, we will see. Clearly, avoiding negative trade sanctions is no small task, especially at this point in time. Thus, Hogan’s work in the U.S. is important and should be watched closely by U.S. producers throughout the week, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


DOE to Provide Funding For Research On Bioenergy Crops Up to $75 million over five years will be provided for research on development of sustainable bioenergy crops that can withstand environmental stress and changing environmental conditions, according to an announcement from the Department of Energy. The funding will be directed at universities, industry and nonprofit research institutions as the lead researchers and they may collaborate with DOE national labs and other federal agencies. The funding will be awarded on a competitive basis in the form of five-year grants ranging from $1 million to $3 million per year starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Planned funding is $75 million over five years, with outyear funding dependent on appropriations.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


US-China Trade Deal Signed Addressing Several Key Issues President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed the Phase One trade agreement at the White House Wednesday, flanked by more than 200 in attendance that represented several sectors of the U.S. economy that should see benefits from the trade deal. The purchase commitments of U.S. ag products in the agreement are for a two-year total of $80 billion. That comes from purchases of $12.5 billion beyond a $24 billion base period for $36.5 billion in 2020 and $19.5 billion beyond the $24 billion base period for $43.5 billion in 2021. The package also addresses issues in China such as their operation of their tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for wheat, corn and rice. The U.S. successfully challenged China’s operation of the TRQs at the WTO as the country has not filled those for the commodities in question. The TRQs were part of China’s commitments when the joined the WTO. The agreement also calls on China to set maximum limits on residues for three growth hormones used in beef production and removes the age limit on animals that U.S. beef can come from to ship to China. The agreement also has China committing to a specific timeline for approving new GMO products and has other biotechnology-related provisions aimed at preventing future trade issues.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Reports of weekly export sales, weekly U.S. jobless claims and monthly U.S. retail sales will be released at 7:30 a.m. CST Thursday, followed by weekly natural gas inventories at 9:30 a.m. South American weather remains of interest as well as any further information regarding the new phase one trade agreement with China. Weather Very cold and dry conditions will cover the entire central U.S. Thursday. The severe cold will be stressful to livestock and transportation. Precipitation will be noted in the southern tier with rain; snow in the Northeast; and moderate to heavy snow in the Far West and Northwest. The western U.S. storm system will bring snow, ice and rain to central U.S. areas during the end of the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


McConnell: Senate to Process USMCA This Week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests the Senate will vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement this week. Bloomberg News expects a vote Thursday, as the Senate committees required to sign off on the implementing legislation are doing so quickly. However, a final vote has not been confirmed. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the agreement on a vote of 16-4 Tuesday morning. The Senate Budget Committee also approved the trade agreement Tuesday. Up next, the bill must be approved by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, along with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee today (Wednesday). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee changed its hearing from Thursday to today (Wednesday), and the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to do the same, sending the agreement to the full Senate for approval. The House of Representatives is expected to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate this week, but the trials won’t likely start until next week, offering a small window of opportunity for the Senate to pass the agreement. *************************************************************************************​ China Imports of U.S. Soy, Pork, Rebound China’s purchases of U.S. pork and soybeans rebounded in November and December, ahead of today’s (Wednesday’s) signing of the phase one trade agreement between the two nations. Reuters reports that Chinese agricultural imports from the United States were at 14.1 billion yuan, or $2 billion, in December. A Chinese customs spokesperson says the increase in imports of soybeans and pork comes as "positive U.S.-China trade sentiment has boosted companies' confidence in December." African swine fever has severely reduced China's hog herd, the world's largest producer and consumer of pork. China has since increased exports of U.S. pork to record levels. Pork exports to China and Hong Kong were up 49 percent in value at $1.18 billion from January to November 2019. Consumer prices for pork in China nearly doubled since the initial outbreak of African swine fever, and efforts to rebuild the hog herd in China are slow going. China has also released frozen pork from state-owned reserves to help ease the situation for consumers. ************************************************************************************* Trade Group Seeks Accountability and Transparency A trade lobby group seeks accountability and transparency from the phase one agreement between the U.S. and China. Farmers for Free Trade seeks further details regarding both the China agreement, and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The China agreement includes $40 billion of increased purchases of U.S. agriculture products, according to the Trump administration. Farmers for Free Trade Co-Executive Director Brian Kuehl says, “There is a healthy skepticism about whether American farmers will actually see these purchases, adding “that skepticism is only compounded when we’re told we won’t see the full text of the deal.” Specifically, the organization is asking whether the $40 billion in ag purchases commitment is contingent on any actions by the U.S. and for details on how China will meet the commitment if it’s been made. Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Premier Liu (Lou) He was reported to be in last-minute talks with the U.S. ahead of today’s (Wednesday’s) signing ceremony. A potential phase two agreement is expected to tackle more sensitive issues between the U.S. and China. ************************************************************************************* GMA Rebrands as Consumer Brands Association The Grocery Manufacturers Association is now the Consumer Brands Association, as part of a rebranding effort. Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the association, says the Consumer Brands Association is “an entirely new organization with a focused, compelling agenda.” The association represents the grocery product industry. Research by the organization suggests the association should focus on concerns regarding transportation costs, growing investment and prioritization around sustainability. Board Chairman and CEO of General Mills, Jeff Harmening, says the association "will be a vital reflection of our united interests and alignment with today's consumer." From household and personal care to food and beverage products, the consumer-packaged goods sector contributes $2 trillion to U.S. GDP and supports more than 20 million American jobs. As the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the organization saw a handful of companies discontinue membership in 2017 over a GMO labeling disagreement. Several companies that left the organization went on to form the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance. ************************************************************************************* USDA Reminds Historically Underserved Producers of Advance Payment Option The Department of Agriculture reminds historically underserved producers, who are participating in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), of the advance payment option. The advanced payment option allows them to get conservation practice payments in advance of practice implementation. EQIP is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The program provides financial and technical assistance to address natural resource concerns and to deliver environmental benefits. In fiscal 2019, NRCS invested $1.3 billion through EQIP to implement conservation practices on more than 13 million acres. A historically underserved producer includes beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, veteran farmers and limited resource farmers. Under the advance payment option, producers may request payments when they have final designs and job sheets and are ready to begin their EQIP practices. Advance payments provide at least 50 percent of the payment rate for each practice. The funds must be spent within 90 days of receipt and practices must be completed as agreed to in an EQIP plan of operations. ************************************************************************************* Illinois Leads Nation in Soybean Production Again Illinois continues to top the annual crop production report estimate for soybean production, according to 2019 Department of Agriculture estimates. Despite a tough growing season for most of the Midwest, Illinois farmers consistently produced strong soybean yields. Illinois soybean farmers raised 532.4 million bushels of soybeans in 2019 on 9.86 million harvested acres with an average yield of 54 bushels per acre. Illinois Soybean Association chairman Doug Schroeder says 2019 will be remembered as the most challenging growing season on record, but adds “I think this report reflects the Illinois soybean industry’s resiliency and ability to produce a consistent, high quality product year after year.” Iowa ranked second in production with 501.6 million bushels raised on 9.12 million acres. Nationwide, soybean production in 2019 totaled 3.56 billion bushels, down 20 percent from 2018. The average yield per acre was estimated at 47.4 bushels, down 3.2 bushels from 2018. Harvested area was down 14 percent from 2018 to 75.0 million acres.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


Washington Insider: China No Longer Currency Manipulator The New York Times reported this week that the Trump administration “formally removed China’s designation as a currency manipulator on Monday, offering a major concession to the Chinese government as senior officials arrived in Washington to sign a trade agreement.” The Treasury Department released its long-delayed currency report Monday afternoon, providing its first public analysis of China’s currency practices since it was designated a manipulator in August. The report noted that China had made important commitments regarding the renminbi as part of the new trade agreement and that its value had appreciated since September. President Donald Trump had accused of weakening its currency, the renminbi, to make its goods cheaper to sell overseas. “China has made enforceable commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation, while promoting transparency and accountability,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. Observers note that President Trump has long been critical of China’s currency practices, arguing that Beijing weakens the renminbi to make Chinese exports cheaper in the United States. He accused China of doing just that in August, when Beijing allowed its currency to weaken, saying it was an attempt to blunt the effect of tariffs he had imposed on Chinese imports. It was a rare point of bipartisan agreement that China deserved to be labeled a currency manipulator, bringing together Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, and Republicans like Senator Rick Scott of Florida. The Times noted that the decision to remove the label was not unanimously supported. “Just because we’re negotiating a trade deal doesn’t mean we should ignore Communist China’s bad acts,” Scott said on Twitter. “They are a currency manipulator. Period.” Sen. Schumer, who has criticized China’s currency practices for years, accused Trump of caving to China in an attempt to score a political win. The currency report released on Monday said China had agreed to “publish relevant information related to exchange rates and external balances.” China will remain on the Treasury Department’s list of countries whose currency practices warrant close attention. The United States had last labeled China a currency manipulator in 1994. The designation, while seen as a type of public shaming, is largely symbolic and is supposed to prompt discussions between the United States, the IMF and the Chinese government on how China can make its currency more fairly valued. The International Monetary Fund said in a report last year that China’s currency was fairly valued. While most economists agreed that China had been distorting the value of its currency more than a decade ago, more recently it has been allowing market forces to play a role in letting the renminbi fluctuate within a set range. For much of last year, Chinese officials had actually been propping up the renminbi amid a weakening economy to prevent its value from falling too quickly. “China’s foreign exchange reserves, a key indicator of the degree of foreign exchange market intervention, has been quite stable over the last year,” said Eswar Prasad, former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division. “While China still has a sizable trade surplus with the U.S., its overall current position is near balance, further undercutting the characterization of China as a currency manipulator.” Treasury’s currency report noted that the renminbi was trading as high as 7.18 per dollar in early September and was recently trading at 6.93 per dollar. Trump had promised as a presidential candidate to slap the manipulator label on China. Yet Mnuchin opted not to do so in the first five reports that his department issued. The department said China did not meet the department’s criteria for currency manipulation. As trade negotiations with China dragged on last summer, the President grew increasingly frustrated and seized upon China’s weakening currency as another source of leverage. Despite his own resistance, Mr. Mnuchin used his discretion as Treasury secretary to impose the label at the president’s urging. “They did it for political reasons,” Chad P. Bown, an international trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “Clearly there was no legal basis or really an economic basis to do so.” Senior Chinese officials arrived in Washington on Monday to put the finishing touches on the trade agreement. In addition to the currency provision, the deal is expected to include a commitment by China to purchase more farm products and to open more of its markets, like financial services, to foreign firms and it is expected to agree to protect American intellectual property. In exchange, the Trump administration has reduced some tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods. Although the administration offered China an olive branch on its currency, it pressed ahead on Monday with new plans to scrutinize foreign investment that were devised with China in mind. The Treasury Department issued regulations to implement the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018, including exemptions for Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom from some of the more onerous requirements of the new law. So, we will see. Currency policies are fundamentally important and extremely complex to manage — trends producers should watch closely as they evolve, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


USTR Assures Produce Growers On Imports From Mexico Southeast U.S. produce growers have gotten reassurances from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that the U.S. will be monitoring imports of fresh produce from Mexico as the implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) takes place. The U.S. will increase scrutiny of Mexican produce pricing and hold field hearings after Congress approves the trade agreement's implementing legislation. Lighthizer said the U.S. will increase scrutiny of Mexican produce pricing and hold field hearings. Produce growers failed to get provisions in USMCA that would have made it easier to challenge imports of the products from Mexico.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


US-China Phase One Trade Deal Signing Today The signing ceremony for the U.S. and China to sign the phase-one trade deal will start at 10:30 a.m. (CT) at the White House Wednesday. In conjunction with the signing, the text of the agreement is to be made publicly available. However, there will not be certain components that are made public, including on the purchase commitment side. “The only non-public component of the agreement is a confidential annex with detailed purchase amounts, which has been previously described,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a joint emailed response to questions, according to Bloomberg. “There are no other oral or written agreements between the U.S. and China on these matters, and there is no agreement for future reduction in tariffs.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets The U.S. and China are expected to sign a phase one trade agreement sometime Wednesday and traders will be watching closely for details. The U.S. Labor Department releases a report on U.S. producer prices at 7:30 a.m. CST, followed by the Energy Department's weekly report of energy inventories at 9:30 a.m. At 1 p.m. CST, the Federal Reserve puts out its Beige Book, a monthly summary of how the economy is doing. Weather Snow, mixed precipitation, and very cold winds are in store for the Northern Plains and the northern and western Midwest Wednesday. These conditions will be stressful to livestock and will hinder transportation. We'll also see periods of rain in the eastern and southern Midwest through the Delta, keeping souls wet and threatening some local flooding.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


USMCA Likely on Hold for Impeachment Hearings Impeachment hearings are expected to now delay Senate consideration of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The House of Representatives will vote this week to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Senate leaders say the impeachment trial would last roughly two weeks, with members in session six days a week. That pushes any timeline for USMCA approval into February. Meanwhile, following approval of the implementing legislation in the Senate Finance Committee last week, other committees needing to approve the agreement are doing so quickly this week. The Environment and Public Works Committee, along with with the Senate Budget Committee, both scheduled hearings Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will consider the agreement Wednesday morning, along with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Finally, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider the agreement Thursday morning. However, impeachment must take priority in the Senate, therefor holding up final approval of the agreement until after the impeachment process. ************************************************************************************* U.S.-China Agreement Concerns Remain President Donald Trump and Vice Premier Liu (Lou) He will sign the phase one trade agreement tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at the White House, with roughly 200 people invited to attend. However, some question China’s ability to increase expected purchases, and if the agreement will stick. The American Farm Bureau Federation says the agreement will open the market, but not exclusively to the United States. That means the U.S. will have to compete with other exporters for the expected $40-50 billion increase in annual purchases by China. Meanwhile, A U.S. Chamber of Commerce official told media members Monday the phase one agreement “stops the bleeding,” but doesn’t end the trade war. Reuters points out that the United States has left in place tariffs on $370 billion worth of Chinese imports. Further, negotiations for a phase two deal will probably touch on more difficult issues, including Chinese subsidies for state-owned firms and industrial policies perceived to be creating an uneven playing field. ************************************************************************************* GAO to Audit SRE’s Following Request The Government Accountability Office will review the Trump Administration’s biofuel small refinery exemptions, following a request from lawmakers. Representative Abby Finkenauer (Fink-en-now-er), a Democrat from Northeast Iowa, says, “Granting more than 80 small refinery exemption waivers isn’t just something this administration can sweep under the rug.” Finkenauer, along with a group of lawmakers from ethanol-producing states, sent a letter last August to the GAO, requesting a review of the small refinery exemptions granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. The letter sought review of EPA's approval process for the exemptions, the role the Department of Energy has in reviewing the exemption applications, and what is considered in the assessment of applications. The GOA responded late last week in a letter, stating, “GAO accepts your request as work that is within the scope of its authority.” Last year, the EPA announced it granted 31 new small refinery exemption waivers. Under the Trump administration, small refinery exemption waivers have more than quadrupled from the previous administration. ************************************************************************************* AEM Reports 2019 Full-year Tractor, Combine Sales Farmers bought more tractors last year compared to 2018, but combine sales remained flat. A new report for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers says for 2019, a total of 244,600 tractors were sold, which compares to 236,180 sold through December 2018, representing a four percent increase during the year. In 2019, two-wheel drive smaller tractors, rated under 40 horsepower, were up five percent, while 40 to under 100 horsepower tractor sales were even. Sales of two-wheel drive 100-plus horsepower tractors were up four percent, while four-wheel drive tractors sales were up six percent in 2019. Meanwhile, combine sales for the year totaled 4,807 compared to 4,839 in 2018. All sectors fell in Canada, with combine sales down 19.4 percent for the year. AEM senior vice president of Ag Services, Curt Blades, concludes, “While growth hit a bump toward the end of the year, ag tractor and combine sales overall for 2019 ended relatively flat.” ************************************************************************************ Trump to Attend AFBF Convention President Donald Trump will again join the American Farm Bureau Federation for its annual convention. The 101st AFBF Annual Convention and Trade Show runs January 17-22 in Austin, Texas. President Trump is scheduled to attend Sunday, January 19. This marks the third straight year Trump has attended the AFBF convention. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says in a statement, “We are grateful that he has made agricultural issues a priority." Duvall says AFBF welcomes Trump "at a time when there is much to talk about, from trade progress to important regulatory reforms." The Senate is close to finalizing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and the so-called phase one agreement will be signed this week. Other officials currently scheduled to attend include Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, and Senator Jerry Moran, also a Republican from Kansas, are on the schedule, as well. ************************************************************************************ Beef Quality Assurance Program Continues Growth The Beef Quality Assurance program continues to grow significantly, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. NCBA reports there are now more than 100,000 cattle producers certified through the BQA online learning system. The online option was introduced by NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, in early 2017. Since the BQA program was initiated in the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of producers and transporters have become BQA-certified through in-person and online training, with an estimated 85 percent of the U.S. fed beef supply now touched by BQA-certified operations. The program is a nationally coordinated and state implemented plan. The BQA program provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how commonsense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. Veterinarian Bob Smith, chair of the BQA Advisory Board, says the growth demonstrates that producers and transporters “continue to embrace this tool for optimizing quality in their operations.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Trade Policy Objective Questioned Bloomberg reported recently that while current data are suggesting that President Donald Trump may be poised to deliver on one of his biggest economic promises: Reducing the annual U.S. trade deficit with China and the world, that accomplishment could come with plenty of caveats attached and even what some economists see as worrying signs for the U.S. economy. November trade data showed that the U.S. goods and services deficit decreased by 0.7%, or $3.9 billion, in the first 11 months of 2019 from the same period a year earlier. That puts the annual deficit on track to fall for the first time since the president took office, promising to rebalance America’s economic relationship with the world. The administration also claims that despite the continuing doubts of many mainstream economists, “clearly the Trump tariffs are working,” said White House adviser Peter Navarro. However, most of the tariffs now in place on some $360 billion in imports from China are due to remain despite the phase one deal. “We should see continued improvement in the China numbers as tariffs remain largely in place while purchases should increase significantly across our agricultural, energy, manufacturing, and services sectors,” Navarro said. The U.S. tariffs so far have clearly had an effect on trade with the world’s second-biggest economy but the trend has been down in November, declining for the sixth straight month and reaching the lowest since March 2013. The biggest contributor to the drop in the deficit from January through November was the continuing boom in shale oil, Bloomberg reported. In nominal terms, the U.S. petroleum-trade shortfall with the world fell to $13.1 billion in the first 11 months of 2019, more than $35 billion less than it was in the same period of 2018. When it comes to the rest of the U.S. economy – including a manufacturing sector the administration has promised to revive – the trade picture looks very different. The non-petroleum deficit grew almost $20 billion to $766.2 billion in the first 11 months of 2019, putting it on track to beat 2018’s full-year record deficit of $824.8 billion. The other major factor driving the narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit was a decrease in imports rather than an increase in exports. That is often a sign of weaker demand for the U.S. rather than an economy poised to record another burst of growth, Bloomberg notes. It also creates a statistical quirk that has long been the source of a bitter debate between advocates of tariffs like Navarro and other economists. Because of the way gross domestic product is calculated, a reduction in imports contributes to faster headline growth. Yet most economists argue that is an accounting anomaly rather than a reason to cheer, especially if it is a sign of a weakening demand rather than stronger domestic production. The slowdown in imports has been accompanied by one in exports. It also has been exacerbated by companies drawing down on inventories built up earlier this year to try to get ahead of tariffs, according to Eliza Winger, who covers the U.S. economy for Bloomberg Economics. The import contraction in the fourth quarter of last year appeared to be the largest seen since the 2007-2009 recession, said Greg Daco, chief U.S. economist for Oxford Economics. By his calculations, net exports would add 1.2 percentage points to GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2019 – also the biggest such contribution seen since the crisis a decade ago. That it was likely to make up half the 2.4% growth Daco is forecasting for the quarter is not necessarily encouraging. Navarro insists that the tariffs have contributed to a re-shoring of manufacturing and broader investment in the U.S. economy. It’s not clear from the data that has in fact happened, however. Last year saw a slump in business investment, with many companies blaming uncertainty related to Trump’s trade policies for holding off on big capital investments. Other data have pointed to a slowdown in U.S. manufacturing last year. It’s also unclear how beneficial a small reduction in the trade deficit in 2019 would be in an election year, Bloomberg says. At more than $562 billion, the U.S. goods and services deficit in the first 11 months of the year is already more than $60 billion higher than it was in all of 2016, the year President Trump was elected. Over the course of the Trump administration’s term, the deficit is clearly up, so in that sense he has not succeeded, said Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “What he has shown is if you put big enough tariffs on, that can change both the bilateral balance of trade,” Setser said. “What he hasn’t shown is that his tariff-based strategy can generate a revival in U.S. manufacturing.” Clearly, the administration is continuing to aim for lower trade deficits – and there is considerable industry and academic skepticism of that objective. Now as the phase one deal is signed with China and attention shifts to next steps, producers should watch that debate closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


GAO To Study Small Refiner Waivers Under RFS The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate the EPA's issuance of hardship exemptions to small refineries, which allow them to avoid complying with the (Renewable Fuel Standard). The probe was requested by a bipartisan group of Midwestern lawmakers who say the waivers hurt the revenues of farmers and biofuel producers. Meanwhile, the matter will be the subject of a meeting in Washington to close out the week. The National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics holds a discussion on "State of the Renewable Fuels Standard," focusing on "Renewable Volume Obligations, Renewable Identification Numbers, and the small refinery exemption."

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


US-China Phase One Trade Deal Signing Still on For Wednesday A Chinese delegation, led by Vice Premier Liu He, arrived in China Monday in preparation for signing of the phase-one deal with the U.S. There have been more than 200 invited to the signing ceremony. Despite some conjecture to the contrary, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the agreement was not changed as it was translated and still calls for China to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. ag goods annually and a total of $200 billion in U.S. goods over two years. The U.S. and China will undertake semiannual talks to push for economic reform and resolve disputes, similar to a format from previous administrations that Trump trade officials had once criticized. The effort (separate from trade talks) will be headed by and Liu, among other senior officials, according to a statement by Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. As for enforcement, Mnuchin also said that if China does not comply with terms of the deal, “the president retains the authority to put on tariffs, both existing tariffs and additional tariffs.” A special office will be set up in each country to monitor implementation. If conflicts are not resolved within 90 days, the U.S. could take unspecified “proportionate” action against China and vice versa..

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday is expected to be a quiet day with just one report on U.S. consumer prices due out at 7:30 a.m. CST. Traders are watching weather forecasts and for any news about the signing of a phase one trade agreement with China. January futures contracts in the soy complex are set to expire by noon CST. Weather ­Tuesday features a variety of winter weather-related transportation and safety issues in the primary crop areas. Cold conditions and snow are in store in the northern Midwest; fog in the central U.S.; and rain in the southeastern U.S. Meanwhile, moderate to heavy snow in the northwestern U.S. signals the onset of a new round of winter storm potential in the central U.S. during late week

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


China Confirms January 15th Signing Day for “Phase One” Wednesday is an important day for the trade dispute that’s dragged on between China and the United States. The South China Morning Post confirms that the Chinese Vice Premier will be heading to Washington to participate in the signing ceremony for a partial trade agreement between the two nations. The deal will boost U.S. agricultural commodity shipments to China in exchange for the White House cutting back on some of the existing tariffs on Chinese goods. U.S. President Donald Trump has said China will buy as much as $50 billion worth of agricultural goods every year within the next two years. However, Beijing still hasn’t confirmed any of those numbers yet. A deputy ag minister quoted by a Chinese magazine last week says his country has no plans to change its grain import quota system. Politico says trade analysts point out that could make it extremely difficult for Beijing to meet U.S. demands. The other fact that makes many economists skeptical is the most U.S. agricultural products China has ever purchased was $26 billion back in 2012. President Trump recently said on Twitter that he’ll be heading to Beijing to begin talks on Phase Two of an agreement, but a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Commerce didn’t provide any additional details on potential talks. ********************************************************************************************* Hopes for Jump in U.S. Farm Exports Dim Ahead of Signing Days ahead of the Phase One trade deal signing between the U.S. and China, hopes appear to have dimmed somewhat for a spike this year in U.S. farm shipments overseas. China recently made large buys of Brazilian soybeans and made a pair of unexpected policy moves, two things that Reuters says have put a damper on that optimism. China confirmed late last week that their Vice Premier will be in Washington to sign the Phase One partial trade deal with the U.S. Chinese forward purchases of Brazilian soybeans that totaled about 800,000 tons are causing doubts about whether Chinese buyers will have any need to tap into the vast soybean supplies available from the U.S. American traders who spoke anonymously with Reuters say China’s soybean needs have been covered through the first quarter of 2020. Adding to U.S. concerns, Beijing announced plans to suspend its implementation this year of a nationwide gasoline blend that contains 10 percent ethanol. The plan originally brought about the hope that U.S. exports of the biofuel to China would leap upward, as well as hopes of more corn shipments to the country to help it produce the biofuel domestically. ********************************************************************************************** Bad News for U.S. Beef/Chicken in Potential U.S.-U.K. Trade Deal The U.S. beef and poultry industries got some bad news through a recent article on BBC Dot Com. Chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef will be kept out of the United Kingdom under any potential trade deal with the U.S. That comes straight from the UK environmental secretary. Theresa Villiers (VILL-ee-ehrs) tells the BBC that the current European Union ban on the products will carry over into UK legislation after the United Kingdom leaves the EU. Villiers says, “There are legal barriers to the imports and those are going to stay in place. We will defend our national interests and our values, including our high standards of animal welfare.” The EU says using chlorine to wash the chickens and kill salmonella infections allows American farmers to be careless with the welfare of chickens. There is no known human health threat from using the solution to keep chickens free of infection. The EU also says feeding cows with growth-enhancing chemicals could potentially have negative health effects on the humans that consumer the beef products. The United States says these rules are nothing more than an attempt by Europe to protect its producers. America has stated publicly that both of these meat products will be central to any possible U.K.-U.S. deal after Brexit. ********************************************************************************************** ADM Appears Close to Leaving Biofuels Business for Good The Archer-Daniels-Midland Company is a giant agribusiness in the U.S. biofuels industry. However, that could be changing. Bloomberg says the company is in advanced stages of discussions on a deal that could mean a sale or joint venture for its ethanol dry mills. The agricultural company that dates back for 118 years is in discussions with multiple companies about its future. CEO Juan Luciano (Loo-see-AH-no) spoke last week about the discussions but wouldn’t name the fewer than five companies said to be involved. “We are advancing things along with several different parties, and I can say that we are advanced in those discussions,” he says. “We want to find either the right buyer or the right partner for these things.” He says while they haven’t made a final decision yet, “we are close.” ADM started producing ethanol back in 1978. This isn’t the first time they’ve taken steps to divest themselves of the dry mills. The company put the assets up for sale back in 2016, looked at the bids, and then decided to go ahead and keep the business. Luciano adds,” I wanted to make sure at the start of my tenure that we focused on nutrition and food, not fuels. I like ethanol and I believe there’s a lot of potential for the product. I just don’t feel it’s for us.” ********************************************************************************************** House Bill Introduced to Oversee USDA Checkoffs Nevada Democrat Dina (Deena) Titus introduced legislation titled “The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act” (OFF) into the House of Representatives. The Hagstrom Report says it’s designed to create financial controls and transparency for the USDA agricultural checkoff programs. Titus says, “The USDA’s checkoff programs have operated without sufficient oversight for far too long. This legislation brings much-needed accountability and transparency.” She feels family farmers shouldn’t be forced to pay into organizations that may sometimes lobby against their interests and threaten animal welfare. Congress authorized the commodity checkoff programs that allow farmers to bill themselves to pay into research and promotion programs for their particular commodities. However, groups backing the legislation say that organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other groups get access to these funds and don’t use them for their intended purposes. Marty Irlby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, says, “USDA’s runaway checkoff programs must be held accountable. Family farmers have a right to know where their hard-earned dollars are being spent.” Earlier this year, four senators introduced companion legislation into the Senate for consideration. ********************************************************************************************** Corn and Soybean Harvest Results Higher Than Expected in January WASDE Report The January Word Ag Supply and Demand Estimate numbers show that the final 2019 corn yield came in at an average of 168 bushels per acre, nearly two full bushels above industry estimates. Total corn production was 13.7 billion bushels, up 31 million as higher yield more than offset a reduction in harvested acres, which totaled 81.5 million. The season-average corn price for producers is unchanged at $3.85 per bushel. Soybean production came in at 3.56 billion bushels, eight million larger on higher yield results. Yield estimates were 47.4 bushels per acre, with harvested acres at 75 million, down slightly from the previous report. The season-average price for beans is $9.00 a bushel, up 15 cents in part because of stronger soybean oil prices. The outlook for wheat is stable supplies, increased feed and residual use, as well as lower stocks. Feed and residual use rose 10 million bushels on lower second-quarter stocks, while seed use dropped by one million bushels on lower planted area forecast for the upcoming season. The season-average farm price for wheat is unchanged at $4.55 per bushel.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Reaction to Monthly Jobs Report The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report released last week suggests that the economy ended 2019 on a steady footing, the New York Times reported last week. The American labor market “still shows few signs that it is running out of breath.” Payroll gains in December capped a year of steady but slowing gains in employment, the government said, nudging the year’s total past 2.1 million jobs. That was fewer than 2018’s additions but more than enough to outpace population growth. “We had relatively strong and steady job growth over the year despite a number of headwinds including a trade war with China, weaker global activity and heightened policy uncertainty,” Gregory Daco, the chief United States economist at Oxford Economics, said. Employers added 145,000 workers in December. Looking ahead, Daco said the nation’s job machine was likely to crank down further. “I know it’s hard to get accustomed to,” he said, adding that he expects average monthly job growth to fall to 125,000 from 175,000 last year. “But that’s still enough to provide for a stable unemployment rate and provide for people coming back into the labor force.” One discouraging piece of the Labor Department’s monthly report was anemic wage growth. “It’s easier to get a job than a raise in this economy,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. Consumer spending is a pillar of the economy, and it depends on income growth. Over the past 12 months, wages grew just 2.9%. That was substantially below the 3.3% average in 2018. “Something that the Fed has been humbled by is how little wage acceleration there’s been,” Swonk said, referring to the Federal Reserve. Even so, the report is unlikely to push policymakers at the central bank from their wait-and-see approach on further cuts to its benchmark interest rate. The labor squeeze has helped workers at the lowest end of the pay scale, giving their wages a push that exceeds the average increase. By contrast, wage growth for managers slowed in December. Limp wage growth is puzzling when the jobless rate has settled at 3.5%, a half-century low. Finding qualified workers was the top challenge cited by small-business owners in December, according to a monthly survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. What the tightening labor market has done, though, is draw in people who were not previously job hunting. Nearly three-quarters of new hires have come off the sidelines. The unemployment rates for groups that have tended to receive a smaller share of the expansion’s rewards, including high school dropouts, African-Americans and Latinos have also dipped since December 2018. The share of the population in the work force remains at the top of the post-recession range, even though it’s lower than before the financial crash of 2008. Many of the new entrants have been women, who now make up a majority of the nonfarm payroll for the first time in nearly a decade and dominate sectors that are expanding fastest, like health care. Job totals, of course, can mask wide differences based on location, skills and industry. And finding stable jobs that pay middle-income wages, offer benefits and a regular schedule can be difficult. Health care and hospitality, leisure, professional and business services flourished last year. Mining and manufacturing both struggled. Industrial goods and automobile manufacturers were the hardest hit, in part because of the trade war, said Andy Challenger, a vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm that tracks layoff announcements. Because the company’s survey tracks layoff announcements, Challenger said, it’s “a bit more forward looking” than the Labor Department’s figures. Plans can change, he noted, but the results “point to sentiments, if they think they’re going to cut.” Boeing, as well as the aerospace industry on the whole, is still reeling from the aftermath of two accidents. Boeing said on Friday that it would lay off 2,800 people in response to Boeing’s decision to suspend production of that jet. The manufacturing sector is particularly sensitive in this political context and “especially in an election year, the trajectory is going to be important,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief United States economist for High Frequency Economics. There has been some progress on the trade front: The United States and China are expected to sign an agreement on the first phase of talks this week. But persistent uncertainty, which nudges businesses to be more cautious in hiring and investment, is far from clearing. Two-thirds of Chinese imports, worth $360 billion, are still subject to tariffs. And more tariffs on imports from Europe could be imposed this month. Julia Pollak, a labor economist for the employment site ZipRecruiter, said the combination of strong wage and job growth had been concentrated in nine states. In the top four, which are Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado, the expansion has been driven by the technology industry. Those states have benefited in part because they have lower housing costs than Silicon Valley, Ms. Pollak said. So, we will see. Certainly the trends in job creation are fundamental to economic growth and these trends should be watched especially closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


Army Corps Officials Address Climate Questions in WRDA Review The House Transportation & Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee held a hearing on proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020. The session featured testimony from RD James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works and Lieutenant General Todd Semonite of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While lawmakers focused most of their attention on specific projects important to their congressional districts, the issue of climate change also emerged frequently. That was likely generated by the Trump administration’s release of a proposal to reform the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which many Democrats blasted as indicating that climate change was no longer going to be a factor in decision-making on projects. But the administration officials offered the same response to the repeated question of whether climate change was still going to be factored into the decisions made on projects undertaken via WRDA by the Corps. “We will continue use science” or some similar refrain was the answer from James, prompting most lawmakers to express some relief.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


Trump Says Phase One Deal With China To Be Signed January 15 Or Shortly Thereafter President Donald Trump has injected a little uncertainty into the situation relative to the phase-one agreement with China, telling a television station in Ohio that the deal will be signed on January 15 or perhaps shortly thereafter. "We are going to be signing on January 15th - I think it will be January 15th, but shortly thereafter, but I think January 15th - a big deal with China,” Trump told the ABC affiliate. There was no clarification of the comment issued by the White House and it comes after China confirmed that Vice Premier Liu He would be leading a delegation to Washington January 13-16 to sign the deal in Washington. As for phase two, Trump reiterated Thursday that he could wait until after the 2020 election to reach a phase-two accord with China. Trump said he thinks he could get a better deal if he waits until after his November reelection bid. The president said his administration will start “right away” negotiating the next piece of an agreement after striking the phase-one deal. But he said “it will take a little time” to finish an phase-two accord and suggested he could have more leverage after his reelection bid in November. “I think I might want to wait to finish ’til after the election, because by doing that, I think we can actually make a little bit better deal, maybe a lot better deal,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Monday's only official report, USDA's weekly grain inspections is due out at 10:00 a.m. CST. In addition to the latest weather reports, traders will be watching for news of a phase one trade agreement with China, expected to be signed this week. Weather Rain or showers and thundershowers during Monday from the southern Delta through the southeast U.S. Rain and high elevation snow through the Pacific Northwest southward into northern California Monday. Snow or snow showers across the northern Rockies. Light snow or snow showers may develop over the Northern Plains and the northwestern Midwest later in the day or during the evening. In Brazil, beneficial rains finally returned to Rio Grande Do Sul during the weekend. It will be drier and cooler today. Argentina will see will see a few light showers and somewhat warmer temperatures Monday.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


Senate Committee’s Plan USMCA Approvals The Senate committees tasked with markup and approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement are planning to do so quickly. The agreement must be approved through the committees before reaching the full Senate. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who's panel has already approved the agreement, Thursday said, "it takes just a short period of time" for other committees to review the implementing legislation. However, the impeachment impasse could end as early as Friday, further casting a cloud on just when the full Senate will consider USMCA. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’ll send the articles of impeachment “when I’m ready,” indicating that could be soon. Meanwhile, Senate Leader Mitch McConnel says the Senate will move on with other work until Pelosi sends the articles of impeachment. And, Grassley says the Senate is "not going to dilly-dally around while we're waiting to see what Speaker Pelosi wants to do on impeachment," adding, the Senate committees will act very quickly next week. ************************************************************************************* Trump Announced National Environmental Policy Act Changes President Donald Trump Thursday announced new proposed regulations to implement the National Environmental Policy Act. Trump says the announcement is part of his effort of “fixing this regulatory nightmare,” in which projects are delayed by “an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process.” Trump says the policy will cut the timeline for obtaining permits and force federal agencies to work more closely together to speed the process. Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and enacted in 1970, NEPA assures all branches of government properly consider the environment before undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment. The policy has not undergone substantive regulatory revision since 1986. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hailed the announcement. NCBA President Jennifer Houston called the action a “commonsense regulatory relief.” Ranchers must undergo NEPA reviews for many reasons, but common examples include renewal of a term grazing permit, construction of range improvements, or to become eligible for participation in USDA programs. ************************************************************************************* FCC Proposing $20.4 billion for Rural Broadband Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai (Uh-JEET Pie) this week presented his colleagues with final rules to launch the new $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. Chairman Pai says the fund would “target rural areas across the country where residents currently lack access to adequate broadband.” The rules will be voted on by the FCC at its Open Meeting on January 30. The proposal would establish a two-phased process to provide funding for the deployment of high-speed broadband in areas of the United States where there is currently not fixed broadband service that meets the Commission’s minimum speed standard of 25/3 Megabits per second. For Phase I, the FCC would target $16 billion to areas that are wholly unserved by such broadband. For Phase II, the FCC would use its new granular broadband mapping approach, called the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, to target unserved households in areas that are partially served by such broadband. ************************************************************************************* China Announced Ethanol Mandate Rollback China this week announced a suspension of its ethanol mandate, signally a further reduction of imports from the United States. The E10 target was suspended because China says, "any promotion of ethanol-gasoline must be based on the precondition that food security is guaranteed." The mandate was implemented in 2017 to draw down massive corn stocks in China. The U.S. exported about 20 percent of its ethanol supplies to China in 2016, worth about $300 million. However, shipments have since sharply declined. Renewable Fuels Association Geoff Cooper told Reuters, “This is definitely a step in the wrong direction, but it was not completely unexpected.” Beijing announced a 30 percent import tariff in 2017, and added additional tariffs through the U.S.-China trade war of another 40 percent. China was expected to sharply increase imports of U.S. ethanol under the recently announced phase one trade deal, but is now unlikely to require large ethanol supplies without the mandate. ************************************************************************************* USDA, FDA, EPA Launch Website for Biotechnology Regulation A joint-agency venture launched the Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation Thursday. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency announced the website, which streamlines information about the three regulatory agencies charged with overseeing agriculture biotechnology products. The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation describes the federal review process for certain biotechnology products and allows users to submit questions to the three agencies. The goals of the website are to provide enhanced customer service to innovators and developers, while ensuring Americans continue to enjoy the safest and most affordable food supply in the world and can learn more about the safe use of biotechnology innovations. The website is part of President Donald Trump's Executive Order on Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the website is “proof of President Trump’s commitment to provide the American people with sensible regulations in a clear and transparent manner.” Website: https://usbiotechnologyregulation.mrp.usda.gov/biotechnologygov/home/ ************************************************************************************ New Holland Partnering with National Hemp Association New Holland is partnering with the National Hemp Association to accelerate the return of hemp commodity crops on farms across North America, under the banner "Pushing Progress Together." Announced at the Pennsylvania Farm Show this week, through the partnership, the National Hemp Association will participate alongside New Holland at 16 national farm shows throughout North America. The association will deliver educational sessions and panel discussions, as well as exhibiting the variety of products produced from hemp. The alliance will also work toward solving the industry's biggest challenge: the absence of commercial-scale harvesting and equipment needed to meet demand. New Holland officials say the partnership will help the hemp industry to respond to concerns as it grows, and hear from its dealer network and customers “who are looking to New Holland to bring forward supply chain solutions." The alliance will call on other industry partners to join a "Hemp Pledge" and commit to purchasing hemp grown and processed in the U.S. by U.S. farmers.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Looking Ahead on Spending Concerns Everyone seems to expect political volatility to worsen next year, but many say they are working to tamp down potential fights to the extent possible. For example, the Senate’s top appropriators said this week that they are hoping the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget that the President will send to Capitol Hill next month will closely follow the parameters of the recent two-year spending caps deal and “make it easier for them to start writing a new set of bills this spring.” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said he will meet later this week with ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to discuss plans for handling the budget request, set to be released on Feb. 10. Shelby said a White House blueprint that honors the caps agreement will make it easier to avoid delays and crises as next fall’s election nears. Shelby told reporters the deal that raised the discretionary spending caps still can guide appropriators’ work, even if the administration proposes increasing defense spending at the expense of domestic spending. “We have a two-year deal, we have the outlines to work on,” Shelby told reporters earlier this week. “In any president’s budget, and I’ve been here a few years, I’ve never known one to be adopted — Democrat or Republican. A lot of them are unrealistic, lots of them are wish lists and some of them have good stuff,” Shelby said. Leahy said President Trump’s FY 2020 budget that proposed deep cuts in domestic programs only added to appropriators’ difficulties in writing and moving bills out of committee last summer. He said that he and Shelby don’t want a replay of last year, where no bills moved until September, just weeks before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. “Our bills were done separate from it and I don’t think anyone expects the president’s budget this year to be anything more than a suggestion,” Leahy said. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, said appropriators still will have to set top-line spending figures for each of the 12 bills – called 302(b) numbers – even with the budget caps deal, so a fiscal 2021 budget from the White House that’s politically realistic could increase the odds the process goes more smoothly. “My advice would be to send a budget that’s more realistic to the final outcome than the budgets we’ve gotten in the last few years,” Blunt said. He added that lawmakers in both parties are likely to once again ignore the deep cuts Trump’s budgets have proposed. He said both parties want to keep domestic funds steady. “When I called the secretaries of Education and Labor and HHS this year, my first comment was ‘you didn’t get what you asked for,’” Blunt said. Shelby didn’t rule out a budget that seeks more money for Defense than agreed to in the budget caps deal. But he said the most likely vehicle for additional funds will be an “emergency” request to fund heightened military activities in the Middle East. He said he doesn’t know when such a request may come. “We’re always aware they could come but we haven’t seen anything yet,” Shelby said. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who leads the Interior-Environment Subcommittee, said she would like to see funding for a road into Denali National Park. She said the road is slipping a lot but has never been a part of the deferred maintenance list, and she’s hoping the administration has “gotten the word on that one.” Senate Military Construction-VA Subcommittee Chairman John Boozman, R-Ark., said he sees veterans’ programs getting a boost in the president’s request. “I think we’re going to see another significant increase,” Boozman said, pointing to needs for IT improvement and health care programs at the Veterans Affairs Department, and implementation of a law signed last year to expand a presumption of benefits to veterans who served in waters off the coast of Vietnam. “All those things are going to cost money,” he said. Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee member Susan Collins R-Maine, and Senate Armed Services Committee member Angus King. I-Maine, wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper pressing the administration to support a larger Navy fleet. “We write to express our strong support for a 355-ship Navy and to urge continued support from the Department for a robust shipbuilding budget,” they said. Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is watching for funds to address nuclear cleanup. “We’ve got nuclear waste spread all over the country, in more than 80 different places and we need to get it confined in safe and secure underground placement, and so, that’s been a major priority for me,” she said. So, we will see. Certainly the appropriations bills are not the only hot potatoes expected in the coming months, but a “modest calming” of the normal tensions over the size of the government and spending proposals are typically strong points of contention and should be watched closely by producers as the spending proposals and talks proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


Senate Committees Mostly Set USMCA Consideration Plans At least five of the six Senate committees that are to vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) have set their plans in place for the action next week. The Budget Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee will vote Tuesday, with Wednesday votes scheduled in the Commerce Committee and Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee with the Foreign Relations Committee to vote Thursday. The Senate Appropriations Committee had not yet set a date for its consideration of the update to NAFTA as of late-Wednesday. Despite the extra committee action, USMCA is expected to be approved handily by the chamber.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


China Confirms Trade Deal Signing In Washington Next Week China has finally confirmed that the Phase One trade deal between the U.S. and China will be signed next week in Washington, with Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng saying Vice Premier Liu He would travel to Washington January 13-15 to sign the pact. Teams from the two sides remain in close communication on the signing, he noted. "The two teams have been engaging with each other closely about the text and the terms of that agreement," Gao said. Bloomberg reported that Liu will be joined by People’s Bank of China governor Yi Gang, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, vice minister of finance Liao Min, deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission Ning Jizhe, deputy international trade representative Wang Shouwen, and others. China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, will also attend. As for ag imports, Gao said that China will continue to improve the administration of its tariff rate quotas under its WTO commitments and will make full use of the quotas based on market conditions, a situation which Gao said is not inconsistent with increasing imports of ag products from the U.S. Gao made the comments in response to a question on whether China would have to lower its grain imports from other countries to meet purchase commitments under the deal.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Early Friday morning features non-farm payrolls and the unemployment rate. There is a slew of ag-related information. First is export sales at 7:30 central. At 11 a.m. the USDA and WASDE January report is out including final production, December 1 stocks and winter wheat seeding. After the close, we'll see the CFTC Commitment of Traders report. We'll be watching South American weather and the U.S.-Iran conflict as well. Weather Heavy rain and thunderstorms with a flooding risk from the southeast Plains through the south and east Midwest and the Delta Friday and Saturday. Snow, ice and some mixed precipitation from the southwest and central Plains through portions of the west-central and north-central Midwest during this time. Increased stress to livestock in the feedlots of southwest Kansas and the Texas Panhandle, travel and transport concerns elsewhere in these locations. Rain, ice and snow also over the Pacific Northwest across to the northern Rockies. Little elsewhere in the U.S. areas. Southern Brazil corn and soybean areas continue hot today but may see scattered thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight. Central Argentina crop areas again saw thunderstorms during the night and are not very hot.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


USMCA to face Additional Approvals in Senate The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement timeline remains uncertain. However, lawmakers in the certain seem certain they will pass the agreement, at the latest, following impeachment hearings. The House is still holding the articles of impeachment, alleging the Senate won't agree to a fair trial. At issue is the Senate must make impeachment a priority. Depending on how long a further review of USMCA takes in the Senate, and how long House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds the articles of impeachment, will change the trajectory of USMCA. The Senate Finance Committee approved the agreement this week. However, a Senate parliamentarian has determined that eight other Senate committees must offer approval of the agreement. However, U.S. law states the agreement will be discharged from those committees in 15 days, regardless of approval. If Nancy Pelosi sends articles of impeachment to the Senate between now and whenever the committees approve the agreement, perhaps next week, the USMCA implementing legislation would have to wait until the impeachment trial is over, likely at the end of this month. ************************************************************************************* China to Release Pork Reserves Ahead of the Chinese New Year, China will release 20,000 metric tons of frozen pork in state-held reserves. China has previously released more than 100,000 metric tons of pork from state reserves since last month, seeking to stabilize supplies following impacts of African swine fever. A Chinese Agriculture Ministry official told the South China Morning Post this week that the African swine fever situation “is still severe and complex,” adding the risk of outbreaks rise with the increase of live hogs in the nation. China’s sow herd declined roughly 40 percent, perhaps more since the initial outbreak of ASF in the nation. However, Chinese officials say the herd has increased two percent in December. Restocking the herd poses the risk of recontamination, if efforts to eliminate the presence of the disease in pork producing facilities failed. However, for U.S. producers, China's ASF troubles and the expected signing of a phase one trade agreement provide export opportunity. China is the largest producer and consumer of pork on the globe. ************************************************************************************* NMPF Encouraged by Recent Labeling-related Actions Heading into 2020, two major actions provide cause for optimism regarding a change in labeling enforcement at the Food and Drug Administration, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. First, the Senate confirmed Dr. Stephen Hahn to lead the FDA December 12. In an exchange with Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, during his confirmation hearing, Dr. Hahn stated his support for “clear, transparent, and understandable labeling.” More recently, the House and Senate included language in the report accompanying the final Fiscal Year 2020 government funding measure to urge FDA to complete its job and enforce dairy-product standards. Both the House and Senate versions of the Agriculture-FDA bill report included language reaffirming bipartisan congressional concern with mislabeled imitation dairy products, and directs FDA to enforce its own rules on labeling. NMPF says this week that the report reaffirms Congress’s concern regarding products “that include the names of dairy products that do not contain milk or ingredients derived from milk,” as stated in Senate language. ************************************************************************************* Toomey, Blumenthal, Announce Food Bank Bill The new Food Donation Improvement Act of 2019 seeks to help food banks collect and distribute more food to needy families. The legislation was announced by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut Wednesday. The Senators say new and innovative food assistance models repurpose items from donating entities and sell prepared dishes like microwavable dinners for a nominal cost. But federal law does not currently extend liability protections to food donors when food is either given directly to a person in need or when a recipient pays a deeply reduced cost. Specifically, the legislation would extend liability protections to food-donating entities and food banks for food sold at a reduced price. The bill also would extend liability protections to qualified donors who give food directly to needy individuals and families without going through a non-profit intermediary. Finally, the legislation requires the Department of Agriculture to issue regulations clarifying the quality and labeling standards donated food must meet. ************************************************************************************ Farmland Market Continued Plateau in 2019 The land market in 2019 continued the plateau trend of the past several years, where the supply of agricultural land for sale on the market remained lower than average, and prices for good quality cropland held mostly steady. Farmers National Company says farmland sale activity in the first part of 2019 was slower than it had been for some time with late spring and early summer, especially void of farms for sale. Planting delays and prevent plantings contributed to the sluggish activity. However, despite the slower land market, Farmers National Company and its agents saw a 25 percent increase in acres sold in 2019 from the prior year and the most since 2014. Several factors will impact the 2020 land market, according to Randy Dickhut of Farmers National. He says Interest rates are low and are poised to remain so during the foreseeable future. Overall, he says, "agriculture is in adequate financial shape, but there are individual and regional concerns." ************************************************************************************ RFA: Ethanol Keeps Gas Prices Lower Amid High Oil Prices Tensions in the Middle East are creating volatile oil markets, as the U.S. ethanol industry reminds drivers how biofuels keep gas prices lower. Oil prices fell on a potential de-escalation between the U.S. and Iran, after reaching a nine-month high this week. Still, analysts expect gas price increases to reach the pump in the days ahead. The Renewable Fuels Association says that at fuel terminals where gasoline is blended, ethanol is currently selling for 40-50 cents per gallon less than gasoline. As U.S. consumers brace for higher prices, a recent study shows the nation’s growing supply of ethanol significantly helps dampen gasoline price shocks that result from sudden oil market disruptions. The study says that if renewable fuels were removed from the fuel supply, gas prices would be more than $1 per gallon higher. RFA President and CEO Geoff Coopers says the recent tensions in the Middle East, and the recent study “highlights the critical need for greater domestic energy security and diversity.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Americans Paying Trump Administration Tariffs American businesses and consumers, and not China, are bearing the financial brunt of President Trump’s trade war, the New York Times said this week, and new data is undermining the president’s assertion that the United States is “taxing the hell out of China.” The Times cites a number of studies. For example, “U.S. tariffs continue to be almost entirely borne by U.S. firms and consumers,” Mary Amiti, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, wrote in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. The other authors of the paper were David Weinstein of Columbia University and Stephen Redding of Princeton. Examining the fallout of tariffs in data through October, the authors found that Americans had continued paying for the levies — which increased substantially over the course of the year. Their paper, which is an update on previous research, found that “approximately 100 percent” of import taxes fell on American buyers. The findings are the latest evidence that voters and American businesses are paying the cost of the administration’s penchant for using tariffs to try to rewrite the terms of trade in favor of the United States. For one thing, manufacturing is slumping, a fact economists attribute at least partly to uncertainty stemming from the trade spats and business investment has suffered as corporate executives wait to see how — or if — the tensions will end. The United States and China have reached a trade truce and are expected to sign an initial deal this month, but tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods will remain in place. The levies, which are as high as 25%, have forced some multinational businesses to move their operations out of China, sending operations to countries like Vietnam and Mexico. Tariffs may have worked as a negotiating chip to get China to the table, the Times says, but recent academic research shows that leverage has come at a steep price for some American businesses and consumers. The authors of the latest study used customs data to trace the fallout, examining import values before and after the tariffs. The research showed that the tariffs had little impact on China. “We’re just not seeing foreigners bearing the cost, which to me is very surprising,” Weinstein said in an interview. The authors also found a delayed impact from the tariffs, with the decline in some imports roughly doubling on average in the second year of the levies. That is because “it takes some time for firms to reorganize their supply chains so that they can avoid the tariffs,” the authors write. Reaction to the tariffs has varied across business sectors, however. In the steel industry, for example, companies that export to the United States have dropped their prices—suggesting that other countries are in fact paying “close to half” of the cost of tariffs, according to the paper. “The steel industry isn’t getting that much protection, as a result,” Weinstein said. In previous research, the authors found that by December 2018, import tariffs were costing United States consumers and importing businesses $3.2 billion per month in added taxes and another $1.4 billion per month in efficiency losses. They did not update those numbers in the latest study. Their analysis joins a growing body of research examining the effects of the escalating tariffs Trump has imposed since the beginning of 2018. A study released in late December by two economists at the Fed, Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce, found that any positive effects that tariffs offered American companies in terms of protection from Chinese imports were outweighed by their costs. Those costs include the higher prices companies must pay to import components from China and the retaliatory tariffs China placed on the United States in response, the economists said. Another study, published in October by researchers at Harvard University, the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, also found that almost all of the cost of the tariffs was being passed on from businesses in China to American importers. The October study found that the situation was not the same for the tariffs that China has placed on American goods in retaliation. The researchers found that American businesses had less success passing on the costs of those tariffs to Chinese importers, most likely because of the types of goods being sold. Many of the products that the United States sells to China are undifferentiated commodities like agricultural goods but China sends many specialized consumer goods to the United States. Amiti’s colleagues at the New York Fed have traced the costs of tariffs in other research and similarly found that import prices on goods coming from China had remained largely unchanged as tariffs rolled out and argued that already-narrow profit margins that leave no room for cutting and a dearth of competitors could be among the factors insulating Chinese exporters. So, we will see. In general, it appears that U.S. industries are increasingly opposing the imposition of higher tariffs as evidence of their impact on domestic consumers and markets has grown, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


API Uses Annual Energy Report to Continue Its Attack On Biofuels The American Petroleum Institute (API) utilized a portion of its State of American Energy 2020 report to reiterate its complaints about U.S. biofuel policy. “Biofuel mandates distort the marketplace to use products that can damage vehicles,” API sated. API maintained that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) of reducing U.S. crude oil imports is now “obsolete given growing domestic oil production, and its goal of producing commercially viable cellulosic biofuel has never materialized.” They commented that around 70% of vehicles on the road weren’t designed to run on E15 fuel and that no boats, small engines or motorcycles can use the product. While API makes that claim, EPA approved E15 for any vehicle make from 2001 or newer. Since IHS Markit tracks the average age of vehicles, it shows there are roughly 278 million autos on the road. Of those, nearly 221 million are from model year 2003 or newer. The arguments laid out by API are nothing new and signal that the refining industry will continue their challenges to U.S. biofuel policies ahead.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


Other Senate Panels to Consider USMCA Legislation Passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, via a 25-to-three vote, is the first consideration of the deal by Senate Committees. The Senate parliamentarian determined Monday that the USMCA legislation will also have to be considered by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; the Senate Appropriations Committee; the Foreign Relations Committee; the Budget Committee; and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Several of those committees have indicated they will hold their votes next week. Their action on the bill does not have to take place in any particular order and the measure cannot be amended – it is an up-or-down vote in each panel. Under U.S. trade law, the USMCA legislation will be discharged from the panels within 15 days whether they act on it or not. But the process of getting their markups scheduled and completed will add additional time to the USMCA approval process. Indications are the initial consideration by the full Senate may not come until late next week at the earliest. USMCA is still fully expected to easily clear the Senate, but the combination of additional committees considering the implementing legislation and the still-pending impeachment trial in the Senate clouds the exact timing at this point.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Early tomorrow morning all eyes will be on weekly jobless claims. Also, DTN will be watching for any new developments in the U.S.--Iran conflict, and weather changes in both Brazil and Argentina. Export sales, originally scheduled for Thursday will now be Friday morning. Weather Light, mixed precipitation is expected through the north-central Midwest region Thursday afternoon and evening. Showers and thundershowers develop from the southeast Plains through the southwest and central Midwest mainly late Thursday or during Thursday night. Scattered snow showers and squalls through the Rockies and into the high elevations of northeast California. Rain showers may occur through central and south California. Mainly dry elsewhere in the key U.S. crop and livestock areas. Southern Brazil will see a few thundershowers this afternoon with continued high temperatures. Central Argentina had thunderstorms during the night which will linger today.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


Senate Finance Committee Advances USMCA The Senate Finance Committee Tuesday approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on a 25-3 vote, setting the agreement up for a potential quick passage. Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, says the full Senate could consider the agreement within a week. However, if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends articles of impeachment to the Senate, that must immediately take priority and would stall USMCA until after the impeachment hearings in the Senate. Grassley told the Finance Committee the USMCA implementing legislation “has something in it for everyone, and it’s not often that we can say that about an implementing bill." Mexico's Senate has already approved the agreement, and Canada plans to approve USMCA following U.S. action. Ranking member of the committee, Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, says USMCA provides “long-overdue upgrades to labor standards, the environment and digital trade” compared with the North American Free Trade Agreement, adding the agreement also provides certainty to farmers and manufacturers. ************************************************************************************* Farm Groups Applaud USMCA Action Agriculture groups welcome action in the Senate to advance the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Passed by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says the agreement is "one step away" from completion. Duvall says passage of the agreement "will protect our valuable trade relationships with our nearest neighbors and return certainty to our markets." The agreement is expected to increase U.S. ag exports by $2 billion and result in a $65 billion increase in gross domestic product. National Pork Producers Council President David Herring in a statement said, "We now urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on the floor as soon as possible." For the U.S. pork industry, USMCA will maintain long-term, zero-duty market access to Mexico and Canada. In 2018, Canada and Mexico took over 40 percent of the pork that was exported from the United States, and a similar percentage is expected in 2019. U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico support 16,000 U.S. jobs ************************************************************************************* Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer December The December Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer suggests farmers are optimistic about the future, despite a weakened perception of current conditions. The survey dropped three points in December to a reading of 150, down from 153 in November. The Index of Current Conditions dropped 12 points to 141, down from 153 in November. Meanwhile, the Index of Future Expectations remained strong, up two points to a reading of 155. In the December survey, producers were asked whether their farm's 2019 financial performance was better, as expected, or worse than their initial budget projections. Just over-half, 52 percent, stated that their initial projections matched their farm's financial performance. Meanwhile, 30 percent stated it was worse, and 19 percent stated it was better than expected. The barometer is based on a mid-month survey of 400 U.S. crop and livestock producers. A reading over 100 suggests optimism, while a reading under 100 indicates pessimism amongst farmers regarding the ag economy. ************************************************************************************* Loeffler Joins Senate Ag Committee Newly appointed Senator Kelly Loeffler (Leff-ler), a Republican from Georgia, is replacing Georgia Republican David Perdue on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Loeffler was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Johnny Isakson (eye-zeck-son). The Illinois native grew up on a family farm and says she “will stand with our farmers.” Loeffler is co-owner of the Atlanta Dream professional women’s basketball team, and has spent her career as a finance executive. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas says of Loeffler, “Her farming roots make her a welcome addition to the Committee.” The 49-year-old Loeffler is recognized as the 26th woman currently serving in the Senate. The Senate seat formally occupied by Isakson will face a special election for the seat this year, which could be highly competitive. The winner of the special election will serve out the last of Isakson's term and face reelection in two years. ************************************************************************************* NPPC: Impossible Pork is Impossible The National Pork Producers Council Tuesday called Impossible Foods' naming convention for its plant-based products designed to mimic real pork a brazen violation of labeling law. Citing law that prohibits the use of words that redefine pork as consumers have known it for centuries, Dr. Dan Kovich, director of science and technology for the National Pork Producers Council, says, "What's impossible is to make pork from plants." NPPC supports consumer choice and competitive markets on a level playing field. Accordingly, plant-based and cell-cultured products designed to mimic real meat must face the same stringent regulatory requirements as livestock agriculture, including truthful labeling standards, according to NPPC. Kovich calls the efforts by Impossible Foods, "a brazen attempt to circumvent decades of food labeling law and centuries of precedence." NPPC maintains "plant-based alternative protein products cannot be called pork, and cultured products cannot be called pork without qualification making it clear how they were made." ************************************************************************************ 36th ASA Young Leader Class Kicks Off in Indianapolis The 36th class of American Soybean Association Corteva Agriscience Young Leaders recently began its journey at the Corteva Agriscience Global Business Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The training session was the first phase of the program designed to identify future leaders within the agriculture community and provide them with opportunities to enhance their skills and network with other farmers. A Corteva spokesperson says the program “provides participants developmental training to hone their leadership skills and strengthen the voice of agriculture.” Representatives from 19 states and the Grain Farmers of Ontario participated in the program. The attendees learned about the soy checkoff and leadership in the future. The Young Leaders also participated in leadership styles and communications training, discussed consumer trends and acceptance. Additional discussion provided updates on other soybean industry advancements. The second phase of the Young Leader program will take place February 25 – 29, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas, with training held in conjunction with the annual Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Possible Digital Tax War Big internet companies have long been the target of complaints that they don’t pay enough taxes. In response, France imposed a 3% levy last year on the digital revenue of companies that make their sales primarily in cyberspace, such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Bloomberg is reporting this week. Other countries also are targeting big tech companies, many of which are American, that have multinational earnings that often escape the taxman’s grip. The French law imposes the 3% levy on companies with at least 750 million euros ($834.5 million) in global revenue and digital sales of 25 million euros ($27.8 million) in France, a move that affects “about 30 businesses” Bloomberg says. While most of these are American, the list also includes Chinese, German, British and even French firms. The idea is to focus taxation where users of online services are located, rather than on where companies base their European headquarters or book their earnings. Targeting revenue rather than profit gets around techniques many companies use to shift their earnings to lower-tax jurisdictions. The taxation effort is not entirely French — Italy enacted a similar tax that took effect on Jan. 1. Turkey has proposed a digital tax of 7.5%. Legislation proposed in the UK last year would impose a 2% levy on the revenues of search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces that “derive value from UK users.” Austria, Spain and Belgium say they are also considering digital levies, typically following the French model, by taxing sales of electronic data, online advertising and the services of intermediaries such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc. that connect users to products. The U.S. government is charging that the French tax discriminates against American companies. In response, it proposed tariffs on roughly $2.4 billion in French products and says it’s exploring whether to open investigations into the digital taxes proposed in Austria, Italy and Turkey. The authority for the U.S. move is Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 — the same tool used to impose tariffs on Chinese goods due to alleged theft of intellectual property. France says the European Union will retaliate against any U.S. sanctions. France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said on Jan. 7 that he and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had resolved to try to find a compromise, and that France had said it would drop its tax if the U.S. and others agree to a global effort for a uniform approach under the stewardship of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Before it adopted its digital tax, France pushed for a European Union-wide digital levy that was scrapped when four countries — Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland — declined to sign off on it. Resolving the dispute without escalating trade tensions is a goal of Phil Hogan, the EU’s new trade commissioner. Tax advocates argue that major tech companies are often domiciled overseas in low-tax jurisdictions such as Ireland or Bermuda shift money seamlessly across borders, and can easily avoid paying taxes in countries where they nevertheless make significant sales. More fundamentally, France argues that the structure of the global economy has shifted to one based on data, rendering 20th century tax systems archaic. European Commission data indicate that global tech companies pay a 9.5% average tax rate compared with 23.2% for traditional firms. Bloomberg points out that transatlantic tax wars aren’t new and that Apple Inc. was slapped with a 13 billion-euro bill for back taxes by the European Commission three years ago which the company called political. The U.S. Treasury tried and failed to sway the EU’s Apple investigation, which alleged that the company got an illegal subsidy in Ireland due to rules there governing the transfer of sales booked elsewhere in Europe. The Commission has also probed Google’s Irish tax arrangements and ordered it to pay 250 million euros ($278.17 million) in back taxes to Luxembourg. Other U.S. companies, including non-technology firms such as Starbucks Corp. and Nike Inc., have also been targeted in tax probes. The EU insists that the common thread isn’t that they’re American but that they’ve used complex legal structures and intellectual property licensing to limit their tax payments. Bloomberg says that taxes are only part of a bigger EU backlash against big tech. Internet firms have been put on notice over issues ranging from privacy to market dominance — and they’re fighting back with lobbying and court cases. Google won a legal fight against a $1.2 billion French tax bill in April. Apple and Amazon are contesting their respective European tax decisions in EU courts, and a legal victory could halt that part of the bloc’s crusade. Some companies may be changing their tax structures or moving income outside of the EU to stay ahead of the curve, as some European lawmakers alleged about Apple. So, we will see. Bloomberg editors have criticized both sides, arguing that the French tax is wrong, and so is the U.S. response. They may be right, since such fights often expand to include other vulnerable sectors well beyond the initial contestants — as the NAFTA fight did. Thus the digital tax issue is one producers should watch closely as it emerges and intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


FSA Suspends Payments On 2018, 2019 Sugarbeet Losses Under WHIP+ USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is instructing state and county offices to not approve any sugarbeet pay groups on any application under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) application, advising them that “additional guidance for processing sugarbeet losses will be forthcoming.” The agency cited the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 government funding package which provided new legislation for paying sugarbeet losses under WHIP+ that require USDA to pay 2019 and 2019 losses through cooperative processors. “Due to the new legislation, 2018 and 2019 sugarbeet loss payments may be paid outside of WHIP+,” FSA said. It is not clear what the new guidance referenced by FSA will be. However, contacts advise the payments will be made.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


Report: China Will Not Boost Grain Import Quotas Under Phase One Trade Deal China will not increase the tariff-rate quotas on corn, wheat and rice under the phase-one trade deal, according to Han Jun, a vice minister of agriculture, as quoted by Caixin media. The TRQ is available to global markets and "we won't adjust it for one country,” Han said. Reuters reported there was no comment from the Chinese Ag Ministry on the matter. China has previously set the TRQs at 9.64 million metric tons of wheat, 7.2 million metric tons of corn and 5.32 mmt of rice. U.S. trade officials have been pressing China to fulfill the TRQs, but contacts indicate no increase was expected. The U.S. challenged China’s operation of the TRQs at the WTO and won the case, and China said they would comply with the WTO ruling.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Early on Wednesday the ADP Employment report will be out as well as consumer credit. DTN will be watching closely the updated South American weather forecasts along with any news from the U.S.-Iran conflict ongoing. Weather Snow showers in the northeast U.S. during Wednesday. Rain through coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and southward into northern California. Snow or snow showers and squalls from the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, across the northern Rockies and the northern portion of the Plains through the southeast portion of the Canadian Prairies. Some within these areas may see up to several inches of snow bringing impacts to travel and transport. Some impact to livestock. Mainly dry elsewhere in the key U.S. crop and livestock areas Wednesday. Mostly dry in key corn and soybean areas of southern Brazil and central Argentina. Temperatures near to slightly above normal.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


USMCA Senate Passage Possible This Week The Senate could pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement by the end of this week. A Trump administration official told reporters over the weekend the agreement could clear the Senate by Thursday or Friday. The Senate Finance Committee scheduled a markup the agreement Tuesday (today), and the Senate could schedule a floor vote following the hearing. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro says fast track trade legislation requires a minimum wait of 20 hours after a committee markup before a vote. The timeline differs from what was offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell following House passage of the agreement. At the time, McConnell said USMCA would follow impeachment hearings in the Senate towards the end of this month. However, the impeachment trial won’t begin this week in the Senate. The House passed the trade deal following a year-long negotiation between the Trump Administration and House Democrats seeking changes to the agreement. ************************************************************************************* Chinese Officials to Travel to Washington to Sign Phase One Deal A Chinese delegation will travel to Washington, D.C. next week to join President Donald Trump in signing the phase one trade agreement between the two nations. The South China Morning Post reports China’s trade delegation plans to travel to the U.S. on January 13, two days before President Trump plans to sign the accord. China and the White House both have yet to officially announce the visit and the officials included in the delegation. However, Chinese Vice Premier Liu (Lou) He will lead the group to Washington. The signing of the deal will mean increased agricultural purchases by China, as well as a partial end to the trade war that’s dominated headlines for the past 18 months. China’s soybean imports from the U.S. recently hit a 20-month high at 2.6 million tons, the highest number since March of 2018, when the trade war between the world’s largest economies began to pick up steam. ************************************************************************************* USDA Seeks Input on Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Rule The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, known as ACEP. The rule is considered USDA’s premier conservation easement program, helping landowners protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. The rule – now available on the Federal Register – takes effect on publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill. NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr says the changes to the program “make it stronger and more effective and will result in even better protection of our nation’s farmlands, grasslands and wetlands.” Changes to ACEP for agricultural land easements include USDA authorizing assistance to partners who pursue “Buy-Protect-Sell” transactions. Additionally, the new rule requires a conservation plan for highly erodible land that will be protected by an agricultural land easement. Changes to wetland reserve easements will identify water quality as a program purpose for enrollment of wetland reserve easements and expand wetland types eligible for restoration and management under wetland reserve easements. ************************************************************************************* NASDA: Policy Dominates 2020 Priorities Policy issues top the priority list for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in 2020. The NASDA board of directors identified several policy issues to tackle this year, focusing most efforts on international trade, workforce development, food safety and hemp production. NASDA is urging lawmakers in the Senate to quickly pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which could happen this week. The organization also seeks full funding to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act and pledges to work with the Food and Drug Administration and states to effectively implement the Act. However, hemp may be the top priority for NASDA in 2020. Before harvest comes and the Department of Agriculture interim rule goes final, many questions and details remain to be navigated. NASDA is working with USDA to “provide a clear pathway for U. S. hemp growers.” NASDA CEO Barb Glenn says, “it’s imperative that FDA establishes consistent CBD regulations to ensure the crop has a stable market and consumers are safe.” ************************************************************************************ 2020 Fuel Outlook: Lower National Average Prices National average fuel prices for both gasoline and diesel in 2020 are expected slightly lower than 2019, but with several uncertainties. Gas Buddy’s 2020 Fuel Outlook predicts 2020 will feature a yearly national average of $2.60 per gallon, representing a two-cent drop versus 2019. The report predicts the 2020 national average diesel price at $3.03 a gallon. However, the report notes prices are largely season and location-driven, noting that refinery maintenance, seasonable blend switches, and environmental regulations all impact price. Further, the report suggests that with the U.S. entering an election year in 2020, the most likely scenario will be for President Donald Trump to shore up the U.S. economy ahead of the election to increase his chances of being re-elected. Researchers say such a move may contribute to a more reliable period of growth and rise in oil demand, met by increasing global oil production, even against OPEC’s production curb through March. ************************************************************************************* Coca-Cola Company Purchases all Shares of fairlife Milk Brand The Coca-Cola Company announced the acquisition of all shares of fairlife LLC. Coca-Cola Company takes 100 percent control of fairlife after previously owning a minority stake of 42.5 percent of the company. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Launched in 2012, fairlife LLC started with a high-protein milkshake called Core Power and has grown to offer a broad portfolio of products in the fast-growing value-added dairy category in North America. Coca-Cola says fairlife will continue to operate as a stand-alone business based in Chicago. Value-added dairy products have been growing steadily in the United States, in contrast to the traditional fluid milk category, with fairlife milk products playing a significant role in that growth. The brand also has been supported by the reach of Coca-Cola’s U.S. system with products distributed both through the Minute Maid distribution system, as well as by Coca-Cola bottlers across the country. 2018, fairlife also launched in Canada and will begin local production and sourcing in Ontario in spring 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Economists and Economic Advice The American Economic Association has been meeting this week, and has not done much to clear up the outlook for the U.S. and global economies, it seems. For example, the U.S. and the euro area face “daunting economic challenges” in a world of low inflation and interest rates and central banks alone don’t have the tools to cope, according to former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and ex-Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. “I believe that for the euro area there is some risk of Japanification but it is by no means a foregone conclusion” if it acts comprehensively to avoid a deflationary malaise, Draghi said via a video link to the conference in San Diego. “The euro area still has space to do this, but time is not infinite,” he added. Yellen, now at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said she agreed with former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers that the U.S. was enmeshed in “secular stagnation” — a state where desired savings are bigger than investment and interest rates are depressed as a result, Bloomberg said. Yellen ticked off a number of structural forces holding down interest rates--including an aging population and sluggish productivity--and suggested they might be around for a while. “These factors are apt to prove chronic by nature,” she said. Draghi took euro area governments to task for working at cross purposes with the ECB’s efforts to aid the economy in recent years by pursuing restrictive fiscal policies. “This is why the ECB has been consistently calling for fiscal policy to play a stronger role and capitalize” on the low rates, he said. He counseled policy makers in Europe against becoming resigned to slipping into deflation. “It is certainly not too late for the euro area to avoid this,” he said, adding, “The euro area is not in a deflationary trap.” Yellen said that monetary policy in the U.S. should not be written off as a policy tool to combat recessions just because interest rates are so low. She agreed with her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, that quantitative easing and forward interest-rate guidance can be effective in providing stimulus to the economy. But while “monetary policy has a meaningful role to play, it’s unlikely to be sufficient in the years ahead,” Yellen said. It “should not be the only game in town.” “We can afford to increase federal spending and cut taxes” to support the economy in a recession even though government debt has risen sharply in recent years, the former policy maker said. Yellen did, though, express concern about financial stability risks arising out of an extended period of low interest rates. She also bemoaned the paucity of macro-prudential tools the U.S. has to deal with that. In the meantime, Bloomberg also highlighted the results of an evaluation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that said that the ongoing trade wars threaten negative impacts for numerous U.S. states. The Chamber warned that American businesses and consumers are “bearing the brunt of the trade war” and called on the administration to change course. Crunching Commerce Department data, it concludes that more than half of U.S. states are facing retaliatory tariffs on at least 25% of their exports to the European Union and China. The report lumps together impacts for consumers and exporters, and is likely aimed at administration assertions that exporting countries bear the brunt of tariffs, many of which actually are paid by U.S. consumers. In the meantime, the sudden shift in focus in Washington from the economy and global trade prospects to tensions with Iran, together with the impeachment process, has the potential to change the tone and perhaps the process itself. So, we will see. The administration is pushing ahead on several fronts, including current and hoped for trade talks — but prospects of war may change a great deal and should be watched closely as the national debates continue, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


Fed Acknowledges Ag Struggles U.S. agriculture was on the mind of central bankers when the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meet December 10-11, according to the minutes of that session released Friday. Agriculture is not typically something that gets much focus by Fed officials. But Agriculture and energy sectors were a concern point for Fed members. “A number of participants commented on challenges facing the energy and agriculture sectors,” the minutes said. “A few participants remarked that activity in the energy sector was especially weak, reflecting low petroleum prices, low profitability, and tight financing conditions for energy-producing firms.” As for agriculture, the minutes indicated “several participants noted that the agricultural sector also faced a number of difficulties, including those associated with trade developments, weak export demand, and challenging financial positions for many farmers.” But “a couple” of FOMC participants pointed out that “farm subsidies from the federal government were offsetting a portion of the financial strain on farmers.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


USMCA Action on Tap in Senate The Senate Finance Committee is setting the stage for action on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the chamber. The panel will hold its mock markup today. “This markup will move us closer to ratifying USMCA in early 2020,” Grassley said when the markup was announced in December. “Farmers, manufacturers and all American workers will soon be able to benefit from a stronger and modernized trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.” Timing of a vote in the full Senate, however, may now come sooner than previously expected. The House has so far delayed sending its articles of impeachment to the Senate, delaying when the trial in the Senate can begin. In December, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that the USMCA action in the upper chamber would await completion of the impeachment process. But as the delay continues relative to impeachment continues, it ups the odds that the full Senate could act on USMCA before the impeachment trial.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Early on Tuesday we'll have the trade deficit numbers out, along with factory orders and the manufacturing index. We'll also watch for any new reaction to the U.S.-Iran conflict. Weather in South American crop areas will be closely watched as well. Weather A small area of snow, ice and rain through the east-central U.S. during Tuesday. Rain through coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and ice or snow across the northern Rockies to the northwestern Plains. Mainly dry elsewhere in the key U.S. crop and livestock areas during Tuesday. In South America we can expect scattered showers from the Parana area of southern Brazil northward and mostly dry conditions in the central and south Argentina crop belt. No significant hot weather in either Brazil or Argentina today.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


Senate to Continue Ordinary Business During Impeachment Hearings Delay Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled an opportunity to quickly consider the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. In a speech on the Senate floor Friday, McConnell says the Senate will "go about ordinary business," because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding the articles of impeachment, thought to delay USMCA consideration in the Senate this month. A hearing is on the calendar Tuesday morning for the Senate Finance Committee to markup the implementing legislation for USMCA. McConnell charged Democrats in the House were “searching desperately for some new talking point” on impeachment, and alleged they were developing cold feet. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded, however, that "instead of trying to find the truth,” comments by McConnell indicate there will not be a fair impeachment trial. Senate consideration of USMCA was expected after the impeachment trial in the Senate. However, with a delay and fighting amongst lawmakers regarding the trial, USCMA could sneak through before a trial begins. ************************************************************************************* R-CALF: Cattle Importers Control U.S. Policy The Department of Agriculture last week issued a proposed rule to reapportion the Beef Checkoff Program’s Cattlemen’s Beef Board. R-CALF says the proposed rule reveals importers control more cattle inventories than any state in the United States except Texas. To make its calculations regarding who controls domestic cattle inventories, R-CALF says USDA counts imported live cattle and converts imported beef into a live cattle equivalent. Importers now control about 6.9 million cattle in the U.S. market. Only the state of Texas, which controls about 12.6 million cattle, exceeds the importers' control. The organization says the combination of cattle and beef imports represent the largest agricultural commodities imported from Canada and Mexico. USDA data shows U.S. imported $4.1 billion in cattle and beef from Canada and Mexico in 2018. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard claims the importers dominant control over cattle inventories “affords them extraordinary influence” on U.S. lawmakers, adding cattle and beef importers are opposed to mandatory country-of-origin labeling because “they do not want consumers to know the origins of their cheaper-sourced products.” *************************************************************************************​ Bunge Sells Share of U.S. Ethanol Plant Bunge last week announced the sale of its share of an ethanol production facility. Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, or SIRE, repurchased Bunge’s membership units effective December 31, 2019. The purchase was made under the terms of the Bunge Membership Interest Purchase Agreement and ends Bunge’s 13-year ownership interest in SIRE. Andrés Martín, North America country manager for Bunge, stated, “As Bunge focuses our resources on our core businesses, selling our shares in SIRE, while maintaining a relationship, is an attractive opportunity.” SIRE is located on 275 acres in Council Bluffs, Iowa, operating an ethanol plant that is permitted to produce 140 million gallons per year. In addition to the stock repurchase, SIRE will assume responsibility for originating corn and selling dried distillers grains produced by the plant. Under a revised agreement, Bunge will continue to purchase all of the ethanol produced by SIRE. SIRE will also continue to lease rail cars from Bunge under existing lease agreements. ************************************************************************************* Corn Growers Call EPA Atrazine Decision a Reasonable Approach Corn farmers say the Atrazine Preliminary Interim Decision is a positive for farmers who rely on atrazine for weed control. The Triazine Network, a coalition including the National Corn Growers Association and advocates for science-based regulatory decisions regarding atrazine, welcomed the document published in the Federal Register last week. The coalition says the decision supports the Environmental Protection Agency's commitment to using credible scientific research in setting a reasonable aquatic ecosystem Level of Concern for atrazine. The decision corrects a recommendation made in the 2016 Ecological Risk Assessment to set the Level of Concern at 3.6 parts per billion, an ultra-low level that would have banned the use of atrazine in much of farm country. The lower level was based on questionable research, according to the coalition, including studies that had been turned down by EPA's 2012 Science Advisory Panel. The publication of the atrazine decision in the Federal Register opens a 60-day comment period that ends on March 2, 2020. ************************************************************************************ AFIA: December Spending Bills Improve Feed Ingredient Approval Process The American Feed Industry Association says spending bills passed last month will improve the approval process for animal feed ingredients. The 2020 fiscal year appropriations package allocates new dollars to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to hire additional staff specifically for reviewing new animal food ingredient submissions. The $5 million allocation from appropriators will allow the FDA to nearly double ingredient approval staff, which will reduce the length of review time by the agency in the approval timeline. Constance Cullman, AFIA’s president and CEO, says, "the lengthy ingredient review processes have hindered the approval process for animal feed ingredients” that can improve the safety, quality and nutrition of feed. A study funded by the Institute for Feed Education and Research found that for every year of delay in the approval process, submitting companies across the animal food manufacturing industry were losing an average $1.75 million annually in revenue per ingredient. ************************************************************************************ Syngenta Announces Crop Challenge Prize Committee Syngenta and the Analytics Society of INFORMS have selected the prize committee for the 2020 Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics, a competition in which entrants develop data-driven models to address various challenges inherent in agriculture. Now in its fifth consecutive year, the Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics is a collaborative effort between Syngenta and the Analytics Society of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, or INFORMS. In the 2020 challenge, entrants are tasked with developing data-driven methodologies that can help predict the performance of potential corn seed products. Judges include experts from U.S. universities, Syngenta, American Airlines and Land O’Lakes. The prize committee will evaluate entries following the January 21, 2020, submission deadline, and finalists will be announced in March 2020. Winners will be announced during the 2020 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics in April. The first-place winner will receive $5,000, the runner-up will be awarded $2,500, and the third-place winner will receive $1,000.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Monetary Policy Seen as Appropriate Late last week, Federal Reserve officials reported on their review minutes of recent meetings and called their monetary policy “likely to remain appropriate for a time” even amid what they saw as persistent downside risks, Bloomberg reported over the weekend. The minutes of the Dec. 10-11 Federal Open Market Committee released Friday noted that global developments, related to both persistent uncertainty regarding international trade and weakness in economic growth, continued to pose some risks to the outlook. However, Fed officials left interest rates unchanged at their final 2019 meeting following three straight cuts. They also signaled expectations that monetary policy would be on hold through 2020, which would keep the central bank on the sidelines during a U.S. presidential election year. Participants saw sustained economic expansion, labor market strength, and inflation near their 2% goal as the most likely outcomes, in part because of their monetary policy support. A number said the economy was showing resilience amid global headwinds. Fed officials worried that inflation continued to fall short of their 2% target, the minutes said. “Various participants were concerned that indicators were suggesting that the level of longer-term inflation expectations was too low.” Policy makers were also optimistic about the labor market, with participants remarking on indications that the unemployment rate could fall further without putting pressure on inflation. In addition, a “number of participants noted that the labor force participation rate could rise further still,” the minutes said. Thirteen of 17 officials forecast leaving rates on hold in 2020, according to projections released at the last meeting, with four penciling in a quarter-point hike. A majority forecast at least one increase in 2021 and 2022. Not a single official forecast a rate cut in the next three years. Officials also focused on their recent steps to calm money markets following strains in September that sent overnight rates surging. Among topics mentioned were “the potential role of a standing repo facility in an ample-reserves regime,” the minutes said. The Fed provided $256 billion of temporary liquidity via open market repurchase operations over the end of the year to avoid a cash crunch. The final operation of 2019 saw just $25.6 billion pumped into the system, compared with a maximum available offering of $150 billion. It plans repo operations through January. The minutes also discussed highlights from the system’s open market account manager’s report to the committee with the expectation that the Fed could consider expanding security purchases for reserve management to include coupon-bearing Treasury securities with a short time to maturity if necessary to ease liquidity constraints in the Treasury bill market. The minutes noted that expectations for the future include a gradual transition away from active repo operations next year as bill purchases supply a larger base of reserves, although it noted that “some repos might be needed through April, when tax payments reduce reserves,” and that it may be appropriate at some point to adjust rates on excess reserves and on overnight reverse repurchase agreements. It noted that the Fed is currently buying $60 billion of Treasury bills a month to boost bank reserves and meet longer-run liquidity demand. So, we will see. Considerable uncertainty continues to threaten the outlook as the mid-January date for signing Phase One of the expected China deal approaches and as tensions with Iran continue to grow. At the same time, it is clear that the sharp signs of economic slowdown that were evident in recent months have abated significantly, in spite of the new threats from the Middle East, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


EU Trade Chief to Visit US The European Union’s new trade chief Phil Hogan plans to visit Washington on Jan. 14-16 in a bid to mend transatlantic relations impacted by U.S. measures against imports from the bloc and its attacks on the international commercial order. Hogan will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss disputes including an American threat to hit $2.4 billion of French goods with tariffs in retaliation over a digital-services tax in France. Plus, Hogan figures to be potentially a key player relative to any agricultural negotiations as he previously served as the EU Ag Commissioner.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets There are very few government reports to talk about on Monday. DTN will be watching for any news over the weekend of reactions to the airstrike that took out the known terrorist and Iranian commander Soleimani. We will also be focusing on South American weekend weather and forecasts ahead. Monday's export inspections will be closely watched. Weather Mainly dry conditions or with only small areas with light precipitation through the key crop and livestock areas of the central and southeast U.S. Monday. No significant transportation concerns today. Rain through the Pacific Northwest and snow across the northern Rockies. In South America, southern Brazil continues on the hotter and drier side today while central Argentina has lingering rain after thunderstorms developed last night. The recent spell of hotter, drier weather over Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil remains a concern.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


Coalition Seeks Ag Labor Wage Reforms The Agriculture Workforce Coalition Thursday urged the U.S. Senate to take up legislation to solve the agricultural labor crisis. A letter penned by the coalition to the Senate urges lawmakers to address the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, which increased nationally by six percent for 2020. The rate is the required wage for farmers who use the H-2A program. In its letter, the coalition asks the Senate to consider the impacts of the rate on U.S. farmers. The group seeks an alternative that will ensure a level playing field for farmers and ranchers making them more competitive with foreign producers. Additionally, the coalition says farmers who use the H-2A program to procure legal workers from other countries must comply with “a complicated and expensive application” process. Over the last five years, the Adverse Effect Wage Rate has increased nationwide by 17 percent on average while revenues for fruits and nuts have increased only three percent and vegetables and melons have seen no revenue increases. *************************************************************************************​ USMCA Senate Markup Scheduled for Tuesday The U.S. Senate will take its first look at the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Tuesday if the House sends the implementing legislation to the Senate. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley announced the hearing after the House passed the agreement, along with articles of impeachment, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose to hold the articles of impeachment, rather than sending them on to the Senate. However, the hearing is still not on the official calendar for the committee. The hearing, if held, would be the first step in getting the trade deal passed by the Senate. Progress will depend on the impeachment hearings. Previously, Senate leadership expected the impeachment hearings to take up to a month, leaving little room at the end of January or early February for USMCA passage. If the impeachment hearings are delayed by a few weeks, the Senate could consider and pass the USMCA implementing legislation before the hearings. The House approved the agreement by a 385-41 vote on December 19. ************************************************************************************* Grains Council Announces Annual Corn Harvest Quality Report After one of the United States’ most challenging growing seasons in history, The U.S. Grains Council annual Corn Harvest Quality Report shows resiliency in agriculture. The report is based on 623 samples collected from inbound farm-originating trucks at harvest. Kurt Shultz, USGC senior director of global strategies, says the report provides “transparency about crop conditions and consistently reinforce that the United States is the world’s most reliable supplier of good quality corn.” The Grains Council’s global staff and grower-leaders will share the results of the first report in a series of crop quality seminars around the world, beginning in Taiwan this month. A forthcoming companion report – the 2019/2020 Corn Export Cargo Quality Report – will focus on export cargo samples collected from corn shipments undergoing federal inspection and grading processes at export terminals. The reports offer reliable information on U.S. corn quality from the farm to the customer based on transparent and consistent methodology. ************************************************************************************* USDA Accepting Applications for North Africa Trade Mission The Department of Agriculture is recruiting interested U.S. exporters for its first 2020 trade mission, which will take place in Casablanca, Morocco, March 16-19. The mission will focus on boosting U.S. agricultural exports to North Africa and will include interested buyers from several countries in the region. This will be the second USDA trade mission to Africa within six months, supporting the Donald Trump administration’s Prosper Africa initiative to foster two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa. With North Africa’s growing demand for food and feed products, the region is fertile ground for U.S. agricultural export sales, according to USDA. Officials say Morocco is a promising market thanks to the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement and the country’s high-quality infrastructure and stable economy. In 2018, the country imported $595 million of U.S. agricultural and related products. The deadline to apply for the North Africa trade mission is January 16, 2020. Learn more at www.fas.usda.gov. ************************************************************************************* First 2020 Drought Monitor Released The first weekly Drought Monitor of 2020 shows dry conditions in Texas, the Four Corners states, and the Pacific Northwest. Released Thursday, the report shows moderate to severe drought continues across southwest Oklahoma and areas of the Texas Panhandle and northwest Texas, which received lighter rainfall amounts. Changes to the drought picture across the remainder of Texas included a slight drought reduction in central and southwest parts of the state, based on recent rainfall and lack of short-term dryness. Meanwhile, drier weather returned to the Pacific Northwest during the final week of December. Following the period of heavy precipitation during mid to late December, no changes were made to the ongoing abnormal dryness and short-term moderate drought areas. Water year to date, since October 1, shows precipitation deficits of more than 12 inches. And, pockets of moderate to severe drought cover parts of the Four Corners states, with the majority of Utah experiencing drought conditions. ************************************************************************************ 2020 Offers Fewer Tax Burdens for Farmers, Ranchers The new year brings less of a tax burden for farmers and ranchers when it comes to health insurance, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. In spending bills passed by Congress before the holiday break, lawmakers included a permanent repeal of the Health Insurance Tax, which was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act. AFBF says the tax has increased health insurance costs for farmers, ranchers and other small businesses by imposing a levy on the net premiums of health insurance companies, which is then passed on to consumers. The spending bill also retroactively reinstates and extends tax incentives for biodiesel and renewable biodiesel through December 31, 2022, and tax credits for second-generation biofuels through 2020. In addition, the measure retroactively restores and extends through December 31, 2022, the 50 percent tax credit for short line railroad maintenance. Short line railroads are first- and last-mile carriers that connect small towns, farms and factories to the national rail network, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth in thousands of local communities.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Outlook for China Tech The media is full of prognostications these days, mainly focused on the U.S. outlook. However, Bloomberg is focusing heavily on China, as well, and says this week that the tech industry there enters a new year after weathering unprecedented turbulence in 2019. In the past, when giants emerged in social media and artificial intelligence they faced “the brunt of Washington’s campaign to contain the world’s No. 2 economy,” Bloomberg says and believes that there is little reason to think 2020 will be much different, given U.S. efforts to hobble Chinese champions from Huawei Technologies Co. to SenseTime Group Ltd. American lawmakers went after some of the country’s biggest names last year. The heightened scrutiny came just as pressure back home intensified. Beijing worked to scrub sensitive content from ByteDance apps and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, while the economy grew at its slowest pace in decades. Investors cooled on the sector with venture capital activity halving, triggering fears the industry’s heyday is over. That in turn demoralized the country’s already-overworked tech professionals, who rebelled for the first time against the 70-plus hour workweeks that Alibaba founder Jack Ma labeled the norm. Now Bloomberg thinks that, given Washington’s increasing hostility, China is even more intent on devising alternatives to foreign technology from AI chips to blockchain solutions while propping up local champions and that this is “bad news for the likes of Qualcomm Inc. and Apple Inc. that depend on China for much of their revenue.” It has started to upend a decades-old supply chain centered around China, threatening to split the old world order in two. It’s not just in hardware – from Russia to Southeast Asia, many governments have begun to co-opt characteristics of the Chinese internet arena, from harsh fake-news laws to censorship and data sovereignty. This was the first year we understood China tech at its most global ever – but that glimpse revealed “the specter of it becoming more and more insular,” said Michael Norris, research and strategy manager at Shanghai-based consultancy AgencyChina. “This is bigger than just the U.S., in terms of assuaging the fears of countries like India that (Chinese) platforms aren’t going to disseminate nude photographs or hate speech.” The industry’s woes may be best quantified by a plunge in capital flow. The amount of venture money invested plummeted by more than 50% to about $50 billion from a record $112 billion in 2018, when it topped the U.S., according to the market research firm Preqin. Funding dropped in the U.S., too, but only slightly. China birthed only 15 unicorns, or startups worth at least $1 billion, down from 35 the year before, according to CB Insights. The decline coincided with a loss of confidence in some of the industry’s marquee names, exemplified by the rocky debuts of WeWork and Uber Technologies Inc. While Alibaba raised $13 billion in a milestone Hong Kong offering, smaller names like SenseTime and Full Truck Alliance struggled to raise capital. “The power of the mobile revolution is coming to an end. Globally, we are seeking what comes next,” said Kai-Fu Lee, founder of Sinovation Ventures. The startup and venture capital industry is likely headed for a shakeout. Many investments from the past bubbly years aren’t panning out, with startups struggling to live up to their valuations. Fundraising by China-focused venture firms fell by about 50% to about $13 billion, according to Preqin. “China tech is going global, going mainstream and shaking things up more than ever,” said Rebecca Fannin, founder of technology consultancy Silicon Dragon. “More U.S. startups will follow China business models.” However, China’s position as factory for the world of technology is in jeopardy. The (mainly Taiwanese) assemblers of the world’s electronics are exploring options beyond China to varying degrees. From Inventec Corp. to Foxconn Technology Group and Quanta Computer Inc., the makers of everything from iPhones to Dell laptops have either moved production back to Taiwan or to further-flung regions around Asia, seeking to escape U.S. tariffs. The idea is that, even if Washington and Beijing strike a trade deal, diversification is essential in the longer term given tensions are unlikely to subside and labor costs will rise. Even leading Chinese hardware suppliers recognize the risks. In addition, last year’s experience forced Chinese tech workers to come to terms with the new reality. Many had taken jobs with startups in the hope of cashing in when they debut or get bought. But as that deal-making streak cooled, the prospect of working long hours – 996, or 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week – lost much of its appeal. In March, Chinese programmers on GitHub put together a list of companies known for short-changing their employees on overtime which led to a greater awareness of the human cost of China’s tech boom. “What’s changed is the trade war, the talk of decoupling,” said Paul Triolo, head of global technology policy at Eurasia Group. “This has really galvanized the authorities. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be more successful. But they’re determined.” So, we will see. Chinese competition in high tech areas has shocked many in the U.S., at the same time it has strengthened that nation’s demand for many U.S. products – so the implications of trade concessions have the potential to be highly complex, observers say. Clearly, the evolution of any trade deal with China should be watched closely by U.S. producers as the trade policy debates intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


CCC Commodity Loan Interest Rate Down For January Marketing Assistance Loans of less than one year disbursed in January will carry an interest rate of 2.5%, according to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The rate for January is down from 2.625% in December. While not a significant decline, this still gives those opting to use the marketing assistance loan program a slightly lower cost to the nine-month loans. And, loan activity at times can pick up in January as producers seek cash flow

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


US-China Trade Still in Headlines as 2020 Opens China remains the focal point for many in U.S. agriculture as 2020 arrives, with the signing of the phase-one trade deal now expected to happen January 15. China has taken actions on imports, implementing provisional import tax rates that are lower than the most-favored-nation rates for more than 850 commodities on Jan. 1, 2020. The list includes frozen pork, frozen avocados and non-frozen orange juice, in addition to some pharmaceutical products/materials. China signaled the action was coming just ahead of 2020 and appears to have made good on the action. This also puts attention on the level of tariff reductions that will be seen under the Phase One agreement which would greatly enhance U.S. competitiveness in several areas. Chief U.S. ag trade negotiator Gregg Doud said the purchase commitments by China equate to $16 billion in additional ag buys beyond the $24 billion baseline level of Chinese purchases in 2017 – before the trade war with the U.S.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday's early reports will feature a manufacturing index report and construction spending. We will be watching South American weather updates for any changes, and any news regarding the U.S.-China phase one trade signing, expected to take place January 15 in Washington. Weather Rain, showers and thundershowers during Friday from the north and east Delta and the southeast to east-central Midwest through the east-central and southeast U.S. areas. The heaviest activity will occur in the southeast US to the Carolinas as thunderstorms develop. A band of mostly light snow or snow showers is expected to develop over the northwest Midwest and move into central areas of the Midwest during today. The northeast Midwest may also see snow or mixed precipitation tonight. Drier elsewhere in the key US crop and livestock areas Friday. In South America key growing areas of southern Brazil and central Argentina will be dry today but with cooler than normal temperatures.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


Trump Will Sign Phase One Deal January 15 President Donald Trump put a date on signing the Phase One trade deal with China, thanks to Twitter. He’ll sign the deal with China on January 15, making the agreement between the two largest economies official. The highlight of the deal that’s most interesting to agriculture is China will increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products in exchange for the U.S. lowering tariffs on some of its imports. “The ceremony will take place at the White House,” Trump says on Twitter. “High-level representatives of China will be present.” In addition to the ag purchases, China agreed to new commitments on intellectual property protections, forced technology transfers from U.S. companies, as well as new currency practices. Bloomberg says the deal will calm some of the fears that the trade war between the nations would continue long term. The president also says he’ll be traveling to Beijing at a later date to begin Phase Two negotiations. The precise details of the agreement haven’t been released to the public yet. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says the details will come out when it’s officially signed by both countries. ********************************************************************************************* China Bans Pork Imports from Indonesia Due to ASF China is doing everything it can to rebound from the African Swine Fever epidemic that decimated its hog herds. Chinese customs officials say they’ve banned imports of pigs, wild boars, and related products from Indonesia due to the ASF virus outbreak in the northern part of the country. A Reuters article says the deadly disease roared across China itself after first being detected in August of 2018. Some estimates say the disease reduced the world’s biggest pig herd by up to 40 percent. Beijing has recently issued a series of new measures to boost pig production, while also maintaining strict prevention and control measures designed to prevent new outbreaks of the disease. China’s General Administration of Customs says on its website that as of December 17, Indonesia had reported almost 400 cases of African Swine Fever outbreaks. As of mid-December, official reports say the virus has killed almost 30,000 pigs across a province in north Indonesia. Authorities are still trying to quarantine the area, which has suffered millions of dollars in economic losses. ********************************************************************************************** China Loosens Restrictions on Importing GMO Crops A government body in China has given its approved safety certificates to 203 new genetically modified crops for planting and import purposes. Official documents that came out Monday should pave the way for wider GMO adoption in the country. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs shared three lists of newly approved GMO crops, including soybeans, corn, cotton, papaya, and many others. One market source told Agri Census Dot Com that, “It might be possible that China will open up domestic planting of GMO soybeans sometime soon.” China has maintained tight restrictions on using GMO crops in domestic planting in the past. However, it’s been more willing to import GMO crops in recent years, including soybeans, corn, and rapeseed. Soybeans, corn, and rapeseed that were domestically produced within China are said to be non-GMO. Two of the newly approved crops were developed in the U.S. and were licensed for import; One for soybeans and the other is papaya. The newly approved certificates will be valid between three and five years, depending on the crop. ********************************************************************************************** 2019 Squeezing Grain Elevators in Rural America CoBank says it isn’t just farmers that saw lower cash returns in 2019. Grain elevators will also see their profit margins drop compared to the previous year. The lower returns are blamed on a higher basis for corn, soybeans, and wheat. A release from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division says, “In addition to having to buy a more expensive basis, grain elevators are offering farmers incentives to sell bushels, such as lower rates on storage, free delayed pricing, and free grain drying.” Lower quality and high-moisture grain coming in from wet fields around rural America also boost elevator costs. Propane shortages in 2019 also continued to put a damper on elevator revenue. As if that’s not enough, drying wet grain can lead to commodity shrinkage, which adds to lost bushels and higher costs for elevators. CoBank says those challenges from 2019 will likely carry into the new year. “Grain elevators’ margins will get squeezed in 2020 by the tightness in basis, diminishing carries in the futures markets, and many other challenges from low test-weight and high-moisture grain,” CoBank says. ********************************************************************************************** Organic Sales Doubled Over Five Years; Percentage Still Small U.S. organic sales doubled between 2012 and 2017, even though the total value of U.S. agricultural sales remained flat. The USDA says growth in the organic sector has taken off since the early 2010s as food manufacturers, retailers, and livestock producers have increased their demand for organic foods and inputs. Organic operations’ average sales were just over $400,600 in 2017, more than doubling the average sales for all farms, which came in at just over $190,000. The organic share of all agricultural sales in the U.S doubled to two percent between 2012 and 2017, but the share was over six percent in some states. California took the top spot in the nation in terms of organic and overall ag sales. Most of the other top organic producing states were in the Pacific Northwest, which is a major grower of organic produce. Other states were in the Upper Midwest, a major producer of organic milk, and the Northeast U.S., which has many smaller-scale organic farms. Pennsylvania and North Carolina had the fastest organic growth between 2012 and 2017. ********************************************************************************************** Study Shows Farmers are Paying Higher Wages Than Ever Before Farm Journal recently conducted a study that encompassed all sectors of agriculture. What they found was farmers are paying more in wages than at any point in history. They’re more efficient in using their available labor. However, they’re still frustrated. The survey of more than 2,100 farmers included almost 200 dairy farmers. Of the total producers, 87 percent say they pay more in wages than they did five years ago. While 58 percent of the employers have offered higher wages to attract labor, few can and do offer benefits. Just 20 percent of the farmers offer health insurance. Almost 45 percent offer their employees paid time off. A handful of the dairy farmers in the survey says they milk their cows with robotics. But, the majority of the dairy farmers say milking help is the hardest position to both fill and retain employees. Employers’ biggest frustrations are those who show up late, don’t show up at all, or don’t follow protocols in place. They say the best employees have a sense of ownership, which is easier to say than to find.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Economic Prospects Improved In something of a shift from recent trends, Bloomberg is reporting this week that “as a new decade dawns, some, but not all, of the dark clouds hanging over the U.S. economy have cleared.” Looking back, it calls 2019 “a year on the edge” that began with a government shutdown, was dominated early by fears of recession as the trade war with China intensified into a battle “that hurt business investment and threatened the economic expansion.” Nevertheless, last year continued the country’s longest expansion on record --thanks to “nonplussed” Americans who kept on spending. The strength was fueled by job gains that unexpectedly picked up steam late in the year, bucking forecasts for a slowdown and now “downside risks have eased somewhat as the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates three times, U.S.-China tensions cooled and the UK election removed some of the Brexit uncertainty that’s haunted the global economy.” Still, Bloomberg thinks, “this outlook doesn’t necessarily mean growth will enjoy a resurgence.” Economists still expect a slowdown to about 1.8% for gross domestic product growth in 2020, which is around what most analysts see as the long-run potential rate but well short of the 3% that President Donald Trump pledged to achieve. In addition, the trade war with China is far from over, corporate debt is piling up, global growth remains sluggish and Boeing Co.’s production halt on the troubled 737 Max jet will ripple through factories, Bloomberg emphasizes and focuses on “five key trends in the U.S. economy to watch” in 2020. It notes that the job market outperformed projections at the tail end of the year, with unemployment matching a half-century low and wages picking up – particularly among the average, non-supervisory worker where gains are approaching 4%. A strong payroll gain of 266,000 in November was enough to undermine projections that things were shifting into lower gear. It also warns “that narrative” could weaken a bit with payroll revisions due in February that will make the past look less shiny. Analysts still reckon that a downshift will arrive in 2020, with average monthly job gains slipping in the third quarter as the pool of available workers shrinks further – a trend that “suggests” that this year will be the time that wage gains accelerate and finally push inflation higher. However, Bloomberg allows that even if it cools a bit, “the labor market alone is likely to continue sustaining spending on goods and services, the economy’s lifeblood, as well as in housing. It sees the real estate sector as primed for a stronger 2020 – thanks to lower interest rates – after “a dismal 2018 and yawn-inducing 2019.” Builders and consumers are optimistic, permits are rising and there’s plenty of pent-up demand. Yet supplies may continue to be thin amid constraints like restrictive zoning regulations and baby boomers staying in their homes. The report identifies the manufacturing sector as “appearing” to be emerging from its contraction that lasted two quarters in 2019 but thinks that trend is “not about to go gangbusters.” For one thing, demand may take some time to recover following the China trade truce and companies could remain wary until a more comprehensive agreement is reached. In addition, the “strong dollar will continue to weigh on exports.” With manufacturers eyeing a pullback in spending next year for the first time since 2009, their health will potentially hold back growth from being more robust. Bloomberg also argues that while the “national-level data may remain solid, states could run hot or cold.” What happens in local economies is seen as key for the 2020 presidential election, given how narrow 2016 victories were in a few swing states. That means factory-job numbers in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are likely to get outsize attention following conflicting data in 2019 — and shifting demographics along with an influx of transplants in once-reliable Republican strongholds like Texas “could make making things less predictable in other places as well.” In addition, Bloomberg says “risks lurk in the shadows of a 2020 outlook for steady growth.” Debt is one of them, it says, as former Fed officials are among those warning of dangers of a prolonged period of easy policy, which can increase investors’ appetite for riskier and higher-yielding assets. It also notes the possibility of a re-escalation in the trade war with China along with continued sluggishness in the global economy and weakness in business investment. Finally, the group thinks that wage gains could accelerate more forcefully and finally feed through to inflation, putting pressure on the Fed to raise rates. So, we will see. The economy still is seen as clearly improved in recent weeks, but key areas of uncertainty remain and should be watched closely by producers as the year with its many election-linked fights proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


Some Direct Shipments Avoid US Tariffs on China Direct shipments of goods from China to the U.S. worth $800 or less, which are exempt from current tariffs, appear to be growing, the Wall Street Journal said. The $800 threshold is known as the de minimis exemption. WSJ cited data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing an 11% increase in the value of shipments of goods worth less than $2,000 since the trade war began in July 2018, despite the value of all shipments dropping around 15% over the same period. Many consumers are purchasing the goods, which often include electronics, auto parts and clothing, directly from Chinese suppliers using marketplaces like Amazon.com. US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer has voiced opposition to the current threshold and attempted to have it lowered for goods from Mexico and Canada during negotiations over the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). He noted other countries often set much lower de minimis thresholds than the US imposes on them and argued the situation “adds to the trade defi