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| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


USMCA Fully Implemented in North America The new U.S. trade deal with Mexico and Canada is officially in force. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement replaces the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and brings to a close President Donald Trump’s threat to break apart the three-nation, $1.4 trillion free trade zone. Politico says officials in all three countries are celebrating that the deal is taking effect as each nation looks for some certainty during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, there are some tensions brewing between the U.S. and Canada regarding aluminum. President Trump recently threatened to reimpose tariffs on imports of aluminum from Canada. The U.S. could impose a ten percent duty if Canada doesn’t agree to quotas to help slow the surge of its aluminum exports, which would likely bring a retaliation from Ottawa. Business leaders have been quick to ask the U.S. President not to reimpose the tariffs as they celebrate USMCA. South of the border, some of the biggest issues are between the U.S. and Mexico. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says he expects fights with Mexico regarding labor, biotechnology, intellectual property, and energy. The Trump administration, Democrats, and labor unions will all be paying close attention to see if Mexico lives up to its labor requirements. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Ag Groups Relieved USMCA is Officially in Effect Ag groups in the U.S. are breathing a sigh of relief as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement goes into full effect. “The agreement solidifies our country’s most important and strategic relationships with our best customers and promises further economic growth in tandem with our most valuable trading partners,” says Darren Armstrong, Chair of the U.S. Grains Council. American Soybean Association President Bill Gordon says Mexico and Canada are two of their biggest markets, noting that “USMCA is a win for U.S. soybean farmers and it restores certainty and stability to two important export markets for our farmers.” Doug Goyings, Chair of United Wheat Associates, says, “We see this as an opportunity to take a gold-standard agreement and use it to launch negotiations with other countries.” The American Feed Association says, “Our northern and southern neighbors have a huge impact on the animal food industry, as Mexico and Canada represent the country’s largest and second-largest export markets for feed, feed ingredients, and pet food, respectively.” The Fertilizer Institute says the USMCA is “an emphatic win for agriculture and the millions of hard-working men and women who grow our food, fuel, and fiber.” American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says, “The launch of USMCA brings optimism to the country’s farmers and ranchers at a time when they need it most.” ********************************************************************************************** Groups Request Hearing on Livestock Reporting Rule The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the National Farmers Union, along with 11 other groups sent a letter to the Senate Ag Committee requesting a hearing on livestock mandatory price reporting reauthorization. The Livestock Mandatory Reporting Rule, first established in 1999, mandates price reporting for cattle, boxed beef, swine, and lamb. It’s reauthorized every five years, with the current program expiring on September 30 of this year. The 13 groups say it represents an opportunity to make meaningful change to the program to increase transparency and true price discovery. According to a 2019 Congressional Research Service report, a common mistake among industry stakeholders is “the low volume of negotiated purchases and a parallel trend toward increased formula purchases or other marketing arrangements. Other concerns include confidentiality and a lack of clarity on how transactions are categorized in reports.” USCA and the other groups strongly urge the Senate Ag Committee to examine all available solutions to the current market factors depressing livestock prices and the increasing consolidation facing the U.S. cattle industry. They say the industry is running out of time to work towards a positive reauthorization of the program. USCA says the livestock industry requires “bold leadership to realign the marketplace with its fundamentals, and that starts with modernizing the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Program.” ********************************************************************************************** Democrat Plan for “Climate-Friendly” Farming Gets Mixed Reaction The House Democrats’ climate change committee released an ambitious framework for slashing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says those plans include agriculture playing a key role in the goal. The emission cutting would be achieved in part by ramping up conservation programs for ag producers that cover just a fraction of the country’s farmland. The plan will be pushing a lot more money into “climate-smart” agricultural practices, such as making climate adaptation and mitigation a specific goal of federal farm policy. Other steps include creating a “Climate-Based Producer” certification for farmers, as well as developing feed additives that can lower methane emissions from livestock farms. The Sustainable Ag Coalition applauds the committee for “acknowledging agriculture’s critical role in mitigating the climate crisis in their report.” Not all groups were as optimistic. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says the plan is “unfortunately the product of partisan discussions that failed to encompass important constituent communities across the country.” ********************************************************************************************** No House-Senate Negotiations on COVID-19 Aid till July 20 Discussions are taking place behind the scenes on the next coronavirus aid package to come out of Washington, D.C. That, however, is the good news. The Hagstrom Report says formal negotiations between House and Senate leaders will not take place until July 20th. That note comes from Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley. “We’re going to try to get things put into place for ethanol and biofuels, as well as more overall help for agriculture,” Grassley says. While there are some Republicans that have questioned the need to spend more money on aid, Grassley says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to pass another aid package and that it must contain limits on liability due to the coronavirus. Grassley says the reasons to wait-and-see until July 20th include figuring out what the state of the economy looks like by then. They also will see how much of the aid to state localities and hospitals has been spent, as well as to check out how much money remains in the Payroll Protection Program, run by the Small Business Administration. ********************************************************************************************** Soybean Growers Call Gap-Year SREs a “Devastating Blow” The American Soybean Association jumped into the debate over the 52 gap-year, small refinery exemption requests currently before the Environmental Protection Agency. They’re asking the agency to immediately reject the pending retroactive small refinery exemption petitions and to “stand with U.S. soybean growers in support of the Renewable Fuels Standard.” In a letter this week to EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler, the ASA is asking him to apply the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit’s ruling on exemptions to small refineries whose temporary exemptions has lapsed earlier, to all pending SRE petitions, including the 52 retroactive ones recently posted to the agency’s dashboard. Those requests date all the way back to 2011. “The approval of these gap filings would deal a devastating blow to soybean farmers and biodiesel producers by stifling demand for biodiesel,” says ASA President Bill Gordon, a soybean grower from Worthington, Minnesota. “Simply put, protecting the RFS is a priority of our organization. We strongly urge you to consider the perspective of the soybean farmer as EPA addresses this gap-filing issue.” Biodiesel is a critical market for soybean farmers, providing value for surplus soy oil that’s a co-product of soybean protein meal.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Mnuchin, Powell Differ Over Economic Recovery Path The Hill is reporting that, not surprisingly, Treasury's Steven Mnuchin and the Fed's Jerome Powell differ significantly over how soon economy will recover and what that will involve. In testimony before a House committee this week, Fed chair Powell and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin offered disparate forecasts for the recovery – despite broadly agreeing on the success of the federal response so far. Mnuchin told members of the House Financial Services Committee this week that he expected the economy to “improve significantly” in the second half of the year after adding 2.5 million jobs in May. “We are in a strong position to recover because the administration worked with Congress on a bipartisan basis,” Mnuchin said. He later agreed that further help for certain industries may be necessary. While Mnuchin asserted that the worst of the pandemic-driven recession is in the rearview mirror, Powell was less sanguine. He pointed to daunting obstacles still ahead after the country suffered “a level of pain that is hard to capture in words.” Powell pointed to particular challenges, saying that “the path forward will also depend on the policy actions taken at all levels of government to provide relief and support the recovery for as long as needed.” He argued in favor of another round of stimulus. The officials' comments come as Democrats push for another sweeping coronavirus relief bill and Republicans caution against moving forward before existing measures work their way through the system. The recent competing levels of optimism mark one of the few splits between the two most powerful U.S. economic officials amid months of close collaboration. Both have worked in lockstep to deploy trillions of dollars in economic aid that's widely credited with dampening the staggering blow of the pandemic. But Mnuchin's bullish outlook, which is shared widely among the top administration aides, has occasionally contrasted with Powell's cautious approach as the chief of the independent central bank. At least part of the Congressional discussion during the hearing focused on concerns about specific near-term developments including potential tenant evictions without more aid from Congress. Millions of tenants are at risk of receiving eviction notices in late July as protections from a major coronavirus stimulus program are set to expire, The Hill said. The coronavirus relief bill, signed as the CARES Act in late March, included a moratorium on evictions for tenants in units with federally backed mortgages or other assistance who were unable to pay rent. But agreement in Congress on an extension of the moratorium will be required to help families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic who may soon have to make new living arrangements. Because the federal moratorium applies only to housing being paid off through federally backed mortgages or insurance, it only applies to about a fifth of renters. But because many of the government programs are aimed at keeping costs down for low-earners, those renters also tend to be among the most vulnerable. A patchwork of other state and local level policies for keeping people in their homes are also due to expire, creating a slew of potential problems nationwide. Experts note that one of the best ways to keep the housing problem in check is to maintain an expanded level of unemployment benefits, which are also due to run dry come August. The income is one of the main things keeping millions of newly unemployed Americans afloat. House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., sponsored her own bill that would extend the eviction moratorium into March and also expand its scope, while providing billions in emergency rental assistance and low-cost loans for landlords. It passed in the House Monday night 232-180, largely along party lines. In addition, the administration's IRS chief, Charles Rettig, said Tuesday that his agency would work with Congress to examine ways that the tax code contributes to racial wealth disparities. "I'm [a] huge proponent of inclusiveness, diversity," Rettig said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, in response to a question from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. "I think you're possibly aware of the fact that I'm the first commissioner whose spouse came to this country as a refugee. And so I understand how people are treated in different arenas, and we're all in," he added. Rettig's wife came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam. So, we will see. There continues to be strong support for additional relief from the virus impacts, but there are also growing cases of administration reluctance or even pushback to follow-on legislation. While Fed chair Powell continues to highlight the importance of additional anti-virus support the growing fights about specific proposals should be watched closely as they continue to emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


Sen. Grassley Pushing On Cattle Legislation Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, criticized Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., for blocking his bill that would require a percentage of cattle sales to be for cash rather than pre-negotiated. Grassley told reporters Tuesday that Roberts said he was “considering” the Grassley-pushed measure, but when other members of the Committee wanted to have breakfast with Roberts to discuss it, he declined. “Here is the sad thing about the chairman of the committee,” Grassley said. “This is badly needed... I think of the money beef producers are losing.” Grassley detailed that 80% of the cattle sales are pre-negotiated contracts. “Four producers that have 80% of slaughter capacity, they are powerful forces in this town. You would think the chairman of the Ag committee would see the needs of the family farmer.” It is not clear yet that the Grassley provision will gain enough support to be put in place, particularly if the Senate Ag Committee does not act on the legislation first.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


Dairy Producers Already Warning On Canada Dairy Changes The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) took effect on Wednesday and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) penned a June 30 letter which contends already there are issues on dairy policy relative to Canada's implementation of dairy product tariff rate quotas (TRQs). “…we believe that Canada is limiting certain U.S. dairy exports by maintaining restrictive TRQs and not moving quickly enough to implement a tariff rate quota (TRQ) administration system that is consistent with USMCA's Agriculture Chapter (the Agreement) as well as the annex on TRQs in the Canadian Schedule,” IDFA said in the letter to Gregg Doud, the ag trade negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. They note that under USMCA, Canada is not to put in place any new conditions or eligibility requirements on TRQs “beyond those set forth in the Canadian schedule.” However, the group noted that the eligibility and allocation calculations on proposed TRQs for many dairy products “impose eligibility and allocation calculation conditions that clearly fall outside of those set forth in the Canada schedule.” They specifically pointed to limiting access on the TRQ for Cheese of All Types to 15% for distributors and 85% for processors. “There is no such restriction in the Canada schedule,” IDFA said. They further noted there are new restrictions in place that “eliminate the opportunities for distributors to import bulk and retail-ready butter across the entire quote year,” based on a recent announcement by Global Affairs Canada (GAC). “I formally am registering our organization's deep concerns regarding Canada's non-compliance with the clear terms of the Agriculture Chapter of the Agreement,” IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes said. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the House Ways & Means Committee the administration would be closely monitoring Canada and dairy and other provisions in USMCA, warning, “If there's any shading of the benefits to American farmers, we're going to bring a case against them.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Dry conditions with very warm to hot temperatures are in store for most primary central crop areas Thursday. Rain will be confined to portions of the Delta and Deep South. This combination favors wheat harvest and will allow for flood easing in the southern Midwest. Row crop stress is a concern in drier areas of the eastern Midwest and the central and Southern Plains. Weather Dry conditions with very warm to hot temperatures are in store for most primary central crop areas Thursday. Rain will be confined to portions of the Delta and Deep South. This combination favors wheat harvest and will allow for flood easing in the southern Midwest. Row crop stress is a concern in drier areas of the eastern Midwest and the central and Southern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


The U.K. Still Resisting Agriculture Inclusion in U.S. Trade Talks United Kingdom officials in London are launching an advisory group that will focus on protecting the interests of British farmers during the upcoming high-stakes trade negotiations with the United States. Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary for the United Kingdom, says, “Trade pacts with other nations must be fair and reciprocal to our farmers, and must not compromise on our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.” Politico says that those two issues are among the many controversial sticking points for the upcoming negotiations with the Trump Administration. The White House wants the U.K. to ease its restrictions on certain ag practices and products like the so-called “chlorine chicken.” The restrictions on those practices effectively keep American farmers from having more access to the British market. The trade discussions with the United Kingdom are just ramping up as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement goes into effect on Wednesday, July 1st. ********************************************************************************************** China Import Pace Still Lagging Far Behind on Phase One Purchases China recently began purchasing more agricultural goods from the United States as the Asian country continues to recover from COVID-19 shutdowns. However, a Regina Leader-Post article says China’s import pace is still far behind where it needs to be to meet the terms of the Phase One trade agreement with the U.S. By the end of May, China had bought just 19 percent of the total purchase target of more than $170 billion in goods during 2020. Those numbers from U.S. Customs Administration data mean that China will need to buy about $139 billion in goods over the remainder of this year. China agreed to buy an additional $200 billion in goods and services over the 2017 level of purchases by the end of next year. That agreement paused a brutal trade war between the two largest economies in the world. “China will have to increase its purchases significantly in the coming months to meet the buying targets,” says Michelle Lam, a greater China economist based in Hong Kong. “However, as long as China keeps buying, markets could stay calm.” Industry analysts saw a significant jump in Chinese imports of American commodities in May. In June, China imported more meat than it did in April or May. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Releases Planted Acreage/Grain Stocks Report U.S. farmers planted more corn and soybeans this year than in 2019, but they’re also planting less wheat and cotton than last year. Those are the numbers from the latest USDA Crop Production Report issued on Tuesday. The National Ag Statistics Service says farmers planted 92 million acres of corn, below the 94.8 million the trade expected, but still three percent higher than 2019. Growers expect to harvest 84 million acres of corn for grain, up 11 percent over last year. Soybean planted acres are estimated at 83.8 million acres, up ten percent from last year. Cotton acres are estimated at 12.2 million, down 11 percent from 2019. The all-wheat planted acre estimate is 44.3 million acres, down two percent from last year. That number is the lowest all-wheat planted area on record since recordkeeping began in 1919. In the Stocks Report, corn stocks totaled 5.2 billion bushels, up less than one percent from last year. On-farm stocks were up three percent, while off-farm stocks were down two percent. Soybeans in storage came in at 1.39 billion bushels, down 22 percent from June 1st of 2019. On-farm soybean stocks dropped 13 percent from last year, while the off-farm stocks were down 28 percent. The all-wheat storage numbers totaled 1.04 billion bushels, down three percent from last year. ********************************************************************************************** Coalition Warns Congress About Shortage of Ag Inspectors A coalition of more than 150 agricultural organizations is urging Congressional appropriators to close an estimated $630 million funding shortfall for Agricultural Inspectors at ports-of-entry. The coalition stated its case in a letter written to key members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Customs and Border Protection Specialists, Technicians, and Canine Teams inspect ag imports to prevent the entry of foreign plant and animal pests and diseases, such as Foot and Mouth Disease. Allison Rivera, Director of Government Affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says, “We must continue to fund our CBP Ag Inspectors and give them the resources they need so that they can continue to be vigilant at our ports of entry.” National Pork Producers Council President Howard “A.V.” Roth (Rowth) says, “We depend on those inspectors to ensure that American agriculture remains safe. They’re the first line of defense to ensure that African Swine Fever and other foreign animal diseases remain outside the United States borders.” The NPPC says lapsed vigilance of these inspections would have devastating consequences for all of U.S. agriculture. ********************************************************************************************** Peterson Wants Turkey Growers to Get CFAP Aid House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson said last week that turkey growers weren’t treated fairly in the first round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The Hagstrom Report says Peterson wants turkey producers to get in on the next round of coronavirus aid to come out of Congress. “The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payment is based on how much damage was done by COVID-19,” he said at the Minnesota Turkey Growers annual meeting. “In my opinion, there were many producers who weren’t treated correctly by this program, including turkey producers.” Sarah Anderson, Executive Director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers, says her group would absolutely like to be included in the next round of aid from CFAP. Anderson says the turkey industry doesn’t have the published data that the pork and beef industries have when it comes to the impact of COVID-19. “We’ve been working to provide data to the USDA so they know how much financial assistance growers will need,” Anderson says. “We’ve seen a loss in production for growers, so we want to make sure they’re covered.” ********************************************************************************************** Applications Open for the ASA Young Leader Program The American Soybean Association and Corteva (Kor-TEV-ah) Agriscience are seeking applicants for the 2021 ASA/Corteva Young Leader Program. The Young Leader Program is a two-phase educational program for actively-farming individuals and couples who are passionate about the future possibilities in agriculture. The women and men who get involved in the program are the leaders who will help shape the future of agriculture. Lucas and Becky Miller, Class Participants in 2020, say, “The ASA-Corteva Agriscience Young Leader Program is a phenomenal opportunity for any person or couple who is interested. It’s so much more than just a few days of leadership training in a classroom.” Phase 1 of the 2021 program takes place December 1-4 in Johnston, Iowa. The program continues March 2-6, 2021, at the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. “The Young Leader Program has had a tremendous impact on the soybean industry,” says ASA President Bill Gordon. “Many of the leaders at the state and the national level got their start in this program, including me.” Soybean grower couples and individuals are encouraged to apply for the program.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Looking Toward USMCA Certainly, there is a lot going on in the area of trade policy these days, including the implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement. Bloomberg notes that the deal goes into effect July 1 following “13 months of diplomatic negotiations, plus further political wrangling in Washington.” It calls the NAFTA replacement a vehicle for “modest changes in some areas, significant additions in others and a new name.” The report points out that NAFTA guided trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico for more than 26 years, starting in 1994. It succeeded in phasing out tariffs on most goods, creating what was for a time the world's largest free-trade zone and “gradually tripling trade among the three countries.” And, it integrated North American supply chains in auto manufacturing and other industries and removed barriers to foreign investment and cross-border trade in services, Bloomberg said. The report argues that while the administration sees the new agreement is “altogether different,” and claims credit for ending “the terrible NAFTA,” and believes that the USMCA will be “fantastic for all!” Still, even fellow Republican, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said 95% of the new deal “is the same as NAFTA.” Bloomberg's analysis is that in spite of the USMCA's similarities to the earlier NAFTA, “some industries will notice changes,” and it describes a few. For example, for automakers, new rules require more vehicle components to be made in North America – with a portion made by workers earning an average of at least $16 per hour.” In addition, Canada will allow more imports of U.S. dairy products while both Canada and Mexico will increase the value of goods that can be imported duty-free. And, Bloomberg notes that now, “internet platforms can't be held liable for third-party content, and companies can't be required to store their data locally – and Canada is also increasing its copyright protection term. In retrospect, Bloomberg notes that while the administration insists that NAFTA was “the “worst deal in U.S. history,” and blamed it for increasing the U.S. trade deficit and sending manufacturing jobs to Mexico, that argument will continue for some time in the future. It comments that “most objective analyses conclude that NAFTA didn't cause major aggregate American job losses but also didn't significantly boost U.S. gross domestic product." Now, the USMCA is expected to boost U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada by about 5% overall, the U.S. International Trade Commission says. It also expects the deal will result in a 0.35% GDP increase in its sixth year—and will increase U.S. workers' annual incomes by an average of $150 and employment by 0.12%, or roughly 176,000 jobs. The President, however, has said the pact could bring more than 1 million jobs to the U.S., far beyond other estimates. Not everyone agrees, Bloomberg notes and cites an International Monetary Fund assessment that criticized the deal on the grounds that it will reduce the country's “welfare” (a measurement of consumption) by $794 million, while boosting Canada's by $734 million and Mexico's by $597 million – “relatively small” effects at the aggregate level, but likely sufficient to provide grounds for continued debate. Just implementing the deal will benefit some businesses by providing increased certainty about the future, especially because it largely exempts Canada and Mexico from future auto tariffs. The deal won't, however, stop the U.S. from reviving tariffs on Canadian aluminum that American officials say are necessary to respond to an oversupply from the north. The deal was in limbo for months as U.S. opposition Democrats successfully negotiated several changes before ratifying it. The revised agreement removes a loophole in NAFTA that allowed any country to object to the formation of enforcement panels and it adds new labor provisions, including a labor-specific dispute panel system and an inter-agency committee to monitor labor rights in Mexico. Democrats also succeeded in removing a provision that would have guaranteed 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs. It is clear that the deal is massive, composed of 34 chapters and 12 side letters. It does retain most of NAFTA's chapters making notable changes to market access provisions for autos and agriculture products, to rules such as investment, government procurement, and intellectual property rights, and to labor and the environment. New issues, such as digital trade, state-owned enterprises, and currency misalignment are also addressed. So, we will see. There was a great deal of political concern that the administration would merely scrap NAFTA in spite of its benefits for many producers, including agriculture. That anxiety likely will abate – although the eventual implementation likely will include numerous fights and more than a little uncertainty. Still, the concept of a free-flowing North American market is preserved, and modernized. Certainly, the devil is in the details and these should be watched closely as they are increasingly defined and made operational, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


Farm Groups Ask For More Funding On Inspectors In a letter Monday to congressional appropriations committees, several U.S. farm groups warned the decline in cargo imports and international travel have significantly reduced collections of the user fees funding Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Quarantine Inspection at U.S. ports of entry. The shortfall is estimated to total $630 million through Fiscal Year 2021. “It is inconceivable that Congress would risk widespread damage to U.S. agriculture and the overall economy by not funding these inspections,” the organizations said in the letter. The House Appropriations Committee next week will start its appropriations process, with the ag spending plan up first with action on July 6 at the subcommittee level and July 9 at the full committee.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


Groups Urge Scale Back of EV Provisions in House Infrastructure Plan A late push was made by a coalition of ag and other groups on electronic vehicle (EV) provisions in the $1.5 trillion House infrastructure package. The groups warned that the package's increase on limits on electric vehicle (EV) credits and expansion of EV infrastructure like charging stations. They argue the provisions benefit “a small and affluent segment of the driving public, at additional cost to all other Americans.” They argue the expansion of the current EV tax credit, establishing of a new credit for used EVs, incentivizing states to “allow utilities to force all ratepayers to fund the buildout of electric charging infrastructure that only a few will utilize.” Plus, they point out that EV owners do not pay into the Highway Trust Fund. “Congress should maximize investment dollars in infrastructure that benefit all Americans, not a small subset of the automobile fleet,” the letter stated. The American Farm Bureau Federation, American Petroleum Institute, and Agricultural Retailers Association are among those signing the letter. Meanwhile, the White House threatened a veto of the legislation.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Grain traders' first priority will be examining updated weather forecasts. After that, ADP gives an estimate of private sector job changes for June at 7:15 a.m. CDT Wednesday, followed by ISM's index of U.S. manufacturing at 9 a.m. The U.S. Energy Department's weekly report of U.S. energy inventories, including ethanol is at 9:30 a.m. At 1 p.m. CDT, the Federal Reserve releases minutes from it's most recent meeting, offering clues about the economy. Weather Wednesday features shower and thunderstorm activity from the northeastern Plains to the southern Midwest. Areas to the east and west of the rain corridor will be dry with concern for crop moisture ahead of corn pollination. Stressful heat is also in store for the southern Plains. Hot and dry conditions will favor wheat harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


Governors Want EPA to Reject Retroactive Refinery Exemptions South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (gnome) and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to Andrew Wheeler, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator regarding small refinery exemptions. They’re asking the agency to reject all of the 52 applications for retroactive small refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuels Standard for past compliance years. Governor Noem and Governor Walz are the chair and vice-chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition. “We are concerned that EPA is considering exemptions for prior years that were specifically submitted to evade the court of appeal’s decision by allowing refineries with lapsed SREs to establish a continuous chain of exemptions,” the governors say. “Approving prior-year SREs in this manner ignores the court’s decision and congressional intent, and it will severely impact farmers and rural communities that support the biofuels industry. Since 2017, the EPA has granted 85 SREs, undermining farmers and biofuel producers throughout the nation.” In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Tenth Circuit ruled that the EPA could not legally award exemptions to refiners that didn’t receive any waivers in previous years and had failed to demonstrate hardship in any way related to the RFS. If all 52 applications get approved, the coalition says it will cost the market more than two billion gallons worth of demand. ********************************************************************************************** ASA Names Brian Vaught as Temporary CEO The American Soybean Association announced late last week that Chief Financial Officer Brian Vaught will replace Ryan Findlay as a temporary CEO of the organization. In a statement, the ASA says the group’s board of directors is “appreciative of Ryan Findlay’s hard work and dedication to the soybean industry.” With the organization now in transition mode, ASA says it remains confident in its staff members, both in St. Louis and in Washington, D.C., as well as in the value that they bring to the soybean industry. ASA’s governing body continues to support the organization’s growth, including in the independent policy office in D.C., and the internal management structure established throughout the organization by the now-former CEO. Findlay joined the organization in 2018. He was named to the top post after Steven Censky, who held the post for more than 20 years, headed to D.C. to become the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Findlay is a veteran of U.S. agriculture, holding jobs at Syngenta, Michigan Farm Bureau, and as a staff member in the Michigan legislature. ********************************************************************************************** Food Exporters Unhappy with China Clampdown on Imports China’s General Administration on Customs is asking some exporters to sign forms guaranteeing their products are free from COVID-19 contamination. Politico says that’s not sitting well with many U.S. food producers, who say they’re hesitant to sign off on the new safety protocols when they say it’s highly unlikely their food can even carry the virus. Western Growers CEO Dave Puglia (POO-glee-ah) says the new requirements from Beijing “are not based on any legitimate food safety concern,” citing international food safety guidelines that have found no evidence of the virus being transmitted through food or packaging. The pushback follows a rare joint statement from the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration that says, “Efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission.” Instead of signing the form issued from the Chinese government, some exporters are sending their own “commitment statements” with their cargo. The Ag Transportation Coalition sent its members three examples of statements they could use. “While China Customs hasn’t confirmed these statements are acceptable substitutes for the official form, we are hearing that exporters sending these statements have not encountered any issues so far with their customers clearing cargo in China,” the group says in an email. ********************************************************************************************** Not All “Meatless” Meats Good for Health/Environment A Forbes article says science-backed claims that plant-based meats are healthier for both humans and the environment have sparked a wave of veganism. However, all may not be as it appears. Sarah Galetti, the founder of vegan frozen food brand Tattooed Chef, says that many of the vegetarian meat products aren’t as clean as consumers think. Some of the brands that make an effort to mimic meat using scientifically engineered textures, smells, and flavors. Among those ingredients is soy hemoglobin, which is made from genetically modified yeast, which is used in the product to look like blood. The Burger King Whopper only has 30 more calories than the Impossible Whopper, the company’s “meatless” alternative. The Whopper also as one more gram of saturated fat and is 270 milligrams lower in salt than the Impossible Whopper. Research from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology indicates that “Among meat substitutes, veggie burgers are associated with the highest carbon dioxide emissions, coming in at 4.1 kilograms per kilogram of the product.” ********************************************************************************************** Court Says No to Reversal on Dicamba Late last week, a panel of judges in the Ninth Circuit Court said no to a BASF motion to stay and recall their June 3rd ruling that vacated three dicamba registrations. The move puts dicamba registrations and product users back where they started the month: with three or four over-the-top dicamba herbicides no longer federally approved for use. For now, farmers and applicators can still apply any existing stocks that were in their possession on June 3rd, according to the cancellation order issued by the Environmental Protection Agency on June 8th. They have to follow directions on the former labels, as well as any state rules that are already in effect, including state cutoff dates that may have already taken place. Looking past 2020, a DTN article says the future of three dicamba registrations is in limbo. BASF had asked the judges to recall their mandate based on several reasons. For example, BASF says it wasn’t made aware that its Engenia herbicide was at stake in the case before the June 3rd decision. That meant they didn’t get a proper opportunity to defend the product in court. ********************************************************************************************** No Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days in 2020 The Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days have been going strong for 65 years as a place that farmers can go to find out about new products and tools to boost productivity. But, for the first time ever the shows won’t happen. Farm Progress made the difficult decision to cancel both shows due to the rapidly changing conditions related to COVID-19. Show management had initially said the shows would go on with different health and safety requirements in place. State and local officials had come out in support for both shows taking place. But Farm Progress officials said it became apparent in a very short time that the situation across the U.S. is changing. While state and local officials had expressed support for the shows, Farm Progress said it became apparent in a very short time that the situation in the U.S. is changing. “We have been working with officials in Iowa and Nebraska for our shows, and we appreciate the support they expressed for us to hold the events,” says Senior Vice President Don Tourte. “They are critical partners to us, and we are all disappointed to not host the events this year but feel confident this is the right decision for our community.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Following the US, China Feud Bloomberg is reporting this week that the U.S.-China feud is “getting nasty with red tape as a stealth weapon.” The article says the countries are “moving beyond trade threats to exchanging regulatory punches that threaten a wide range of industries including technology, energy and air travel.” The two have blacklisted each other's companies, barred flights and expelled journalists -- to the point that the unfolding skirmish is starting to make companies nervous that the trading landscape could shift out from under them. “There are many industries where U.S. companies have made long-term bets on China's future,” said Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's head of international affairs. Now, they're “recognizing the risk.” China will look to avoid measures that could backfire, said Shi Yinhong, an adviser to the nation's cabinet and a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. Any sanctions on U.S. companies would be a “last resort” because China “is in desperate need of foreign investment from rich countries for both economic and political reasons.” Still, pressure is only expected to intensify ahead of the U.S. elections in November, as President Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden joust over who will take a tougher line on China, Bloomberg said. Trump has blamed China for covering up the coronavirus pandemic and accused Beijing of “illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets.” Biden, likewise, has described President Xi Jinping as a thug, labeled mass detention of Uighur Muslims as unconscionable and accused China of predatory trade practices. And, on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats have found rare unity in their opposition to China, with lawmakers eager to take action against Beijing for its handling of COVID-19, forced technology transfers, human rights abuses and its tightening grip on Hong Kong. China has repeatedly rejected U.S. accusations over its handling of the pandemic, Uighurs, Hong Kong and trade. China also has fired back at the Trump administration for undermining global cooperation and seeking to start a “new cold war.” Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month said China had no interest in replacing the U.S. as a hegemonic power, while adding that the U.S. should give up its “wishful thinking” of changing the country. Both sides have already taken a series of regulatory moves aimed at protecting market shares. For example, the U.S. is citing security concerns in blocking China Mobile Ltd., the world's largest mobile operator, from entering the U.S. market. It's culling Chinese-made drones from government fleets and discouraging the deployment of Chinese transformers on the power grid. The administration has also tried to constrain the global reach of China's Huawei Technologies Co., the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer. Meanwhile, China prevented U.S. airline flights into the country for more than two months and, after the U.S. imposed visa restrictions on Chinese journalists, it expelled American journalists. It has stepped up its scrutiny of U.S. companies, with China's state news agency casting one probe as a warning to the White House. China also has long made it difficult for U.S. telecommunications companies to enter its market, requiring overseas operators to co-invest with local firms and requiring authorization by the central government. One of the most combustible flash points has been the administration's campaign to contain Huawei by seeking to limit the company's business in the U.S. and push allies to shun its gear in their networks. After suppliers found work-arounds, Commerce in May tightened rules to bar any chipmaker using American equipment from selling to Huawei without U.S. approval, a step that could constrain virtually the entire contract chipmaking industry. Although Huawei can buy off-the-shelf or commodity mobile chips from a third party, such as Samsung Electronics Co. or MediaTek Inc., going that route could force it to make costly compromises on performance in basic products. Bloomberg thinks that both the U.S. and China have ample opportunities to ratchet up regulatory pressure. A bill passed by the Senate last month could prompt the delisting of Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges if American officials aren't allowed to review their financial audits. And last week, as the U.S. State Department imposed visa bans on Chinese Communist Party officials accused of infringing the freedom of Hong Kong citizens, a senior official made clear the move was just an opening salvo in a campaign to force Beijing to back off new restrictions on the city. Companies are still lured to China and its massive local market – and tensions with the U.S. don't overcome the Asian superpower's appeal. Just one-fifth of companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in China late last year said they had moved or were considering moving some operations outside of the country, part of a three-year downward trend. However, China is no longer the lowest-cost manufacturer and companies are increasingly reluctant to invest there, said James Lewis, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Everyone would like to be in the China market – everyone wants it to be like 2010-- but things are changing.” So, we will see. Certainly, the pre-election tensions amplify trade uncertainties, large and small. And, they boost the stakes involved – a making it essential for producers, as well as others, to watch this policy “dance” closely as changes and shifts emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


US Rice Industry Calls For End To Duty-Free Treatment Of Rice Under GSP The U.S. rice industry is calling on the Trump administration to eliminate duty-free treatment for all rice imports under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. The USA Rice Federation filed a petition in March asking for the action. But the U.S. Trade Representative's office, in a set of questions to the rice group and countries that would be affected by the action, noted the U.S. rice industry was still a “significant rice exporter,” with foreign shipments of $1.9 billion last year. USTR is asking, “Could you please advise whether increased rice imports have harmed U.S. rice production or exports, and if so, how specifically?” Further, they also sought an explanation of the U.S. parboiling industry, its employment levels and locations, and the “degree to which it might be injured by imports.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


Ernst Holding Up EPA Nominee Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she will block President Donald Trump's nomination of Doug Benevento to be EPA's Deputy Administrator from advancing until the agency reveals how it plans to handle the dozens of new requests from refineries for exemptions from their biofuel requirements. “Until EPA tells us exactly what they plan to do with the 'gap year' waivers, Mr. Benevento does not have my vote,” Ernst said in a statement. “Iowa's hardworking ethanol and biodiesel producers are sick of being yanked around by Andrew Wheeler and the EPA. Our producers need certainty; until we get that, no EPA nominee is getting my vote.” Benevento is currently EPA associate deputy administrator and was nominated in February to take the number two post at the agency. Holds are not new in the world of Congress, and EPA nominations have been a target previously, with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, previously holding up an EPA nomination over biofuel policy. EPA's proposed 2021 biofuel and 2022 biodiesel levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been under review at the at the Office of Management Budget (OMB) and is normally issued in the late-June/early July timeframe.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets After a report on consumer confidence at 9 a.m. CDT Tuesday, grain traders will brace themselves for USDA's Acreage and June 1 Grain Stocks reports at 11 a.m. CDT. Ongoing interests in weather and export news will round out the day's attention. Weather Thunderstorms with locally heavy rain and severe potential are in store for the Northern Plains and southern Midwest Tuesday. Flood potential is widespread in the southern Midwest due to the prospect of heavy rain. Some flooding is also possible in the far Northern Plains. Other crop areas will be dry. Hot and dry conditions in the Southern Plains will favor wheat harvest but will continue to stress row crops and livestock. Irrigation demand in drier areas is extensive.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


FFA National Convention and Expo Goes Digital in October The National FFA Organization announced last week that the 2020 National FFA Convention and Expo will be held virtually. “We wanted to ensure that our members and guests had the full convention experience,” says Mark Peoschl (PESH-uhl), National FFA CEO. “After a discussion with the Board of Directors, the decision was made to move forward with a virtual experience in 2020.” He says as they continued to plan for the national convention, it became clear that travel restrictions and public health concerns, among many other challenges, made hosting their in-person event impossible this year. This year’s event will still be hosted by the 2019-2020 National FFA Officer Team and continue the tradition of celebrating and inspiring hundreds of thousands of FFA members who will become the next generation of leaders. “While the convention will look, a little different this year than what we’re used to, FFA members around the country have proven their willingness to not only adapt but create meaningful experiences while celebrating FFA and agricultural education,” says Kolesen McCoy, National FFA President. The organization looks forward to returning to Indianapolis with an in-person convention in 2021 as part of its long-term partnership that now runs through 2033. The organization and its board of directors also decided last week to extend the city of Indianapolis’s contract for two more years. ********************************************************************************************** Senators Urge EPA to Reject Biofuel Blending Waivers Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, along with Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on blending waivers. They’re asking the EPA to reject petitions for Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuels Standard for past compliance years. In the letter, the senators warn that by granting any or all of the petitions, the agency would only worsen the economic challenges facing the biofuels industry. They also want the EPA to apply the Tenth Circuit Court decision nationally. “We urge you to reject these petitions outright and respond in writing to our questions about recent use of SREs under the RFS,” the senators say in the letter. “These petitions should not even be looked at because they are inconsistent with the Tenth Circuit Decision, Congressional intent, as well as the EPA’s own guidance.” Most importantly, they say it goes against the best interests of farmers and rural communities who rely on the biofuel industry. “The approval of the SREs for past compliance years will only worsen the already unprecedented challenges facing the biofuels industry and the rural communities that it supports,” the Senators added. ********************************************************************************************** Groups Appreciate Biofuel Support in Senate The National Biodiesel Board is grateful to a bipartisan group of senators who asked the Environmental Protection Agency to reject 52 RFS exemption requests. Those petitions are for past compliance years. The Senators expressed frustration and alarm in the letter that Administrator Andrew Wheeler is considering exemptions for refineries that either did not submit petitions or weren’t granted waivers in the past. NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs, Kurt Kovarik, says, “A brand new flood of unlawful small refinery exemptions is guaranteed to compound the damage done to rural America over the last several years.” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the sole purpose of the retroactive exemptions is to circumvent the law at the expense of rural families struggling to get back on their feet. “There is no justification for allowing these petitions to hang over the market, injecting uncertainty into America’s agricultural recovery,” Skor says. “EPA needs to dismiss the oil industry’s latest attempt to destroy demand for biofuels and restore the integrity to the RFS.” Growth Energy is grateful to the senators for standing up to this attempt to “rewrite history, skirt the courts, and torpedo efforts to rebuild America’s agricultural supply chain.” ********************************************************************************************** Mexican President to Meet This Week with Trump Mexican President Andres Manuel (Man-WELL) Lopez Obrador will be in Washington this week to celebrate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade going into full effect. The Washington Trade Daily says Obrador will meet with President Trump and may also meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As the agreement between the three North American countries enters into force, Obrador is making the trip to signal Mexico’s commitment to the USMCA and that it’s a reliable partner in the agreement. Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy spoke recently during a webinar sponsored by the Atlantic Council, noting that implementation of the USMCA is even more important as the countries try to recover from COVID-19. The trade pact was negotiated before the coronavirus outbreak took off, but it can also be a model for trade in the post-pandemic world. The Hagstrom Report says officials in Mexico also believe that in the wake of COVID-19, most countries will be looking to bring their supply chains closer to home. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Hog Industry is Up by Five Percent As of June first, U.S. farms contained 79.6 million hogs and pigs, up five percent from June of 2019. That’s also three percent higher than March first of this year. The Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report came out last week from USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service. Out of the total of 79.6 million hogs, 73.3 million are market hogs, while 6.3 million will be kept for breeding. Between March and May of this year, U.S. farms weaned 34.9 million pigs, up one percent from the same time a year ago. Also, from March to May 2020, U.S. hog and pig farmers weaned an average of 11 pigs per litter. U.S. hog producers intend to have 3.12 million sows farrow between June and August of 2020, and 3.09 million sows will farrow between September and November. The largest herd inventory is located in Iowa, where the total number is 25.2 million head. Minnesota was second at 9.6 million head and North Carolina was third with 9.4 million head of hogs and pigs. ********************************************************************************************** McDonald’s in Canada Says No to More Beyond Meat Burgers Shares of Beyond Meat fell seven percent last week after the CBC report that said McDonald’s stopped testing a burger made with its patties in Canada. McDonald’s’ in Canada says the test ended on April sixth, mentioning on Twitter that they “have no plans to bring it back to our menu at the current time.” A Beyond Meat spokesperson tells CNBC that, “We can only comment generally and share that we were pleased with the test.” The company’s CEO Ethan Brown said in early May that the test concluded for no negative reason at all. “We feel very good about our relationship with McDonald’s,” Brown says. “We feel good about what’s going to be happening, both there and potentially elsewhere.” Back in September of 2019, McDonald’s joined the push for more meat alternatives in North America when it began testing the meat-free PLT burger in southwestern Ontario. McDonald’s says there has been no change in its relationship with Beyond Meat, noting that they’re evaluating learnings from their recent test to inform future menu options.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Decoupling US Trade From China Will be Hard While President Donald Trump is urging American companies to “ditch China,” many of them can’t get more goods fast enough. There are several reasons, Bloomberg reports. As an example, Bloomberg follows the container ship Melina, which set sail Wednesday from a Chinese port near Shenzhen with products bound for U.S. households. The report calls the ship a hulking “symbol of how the flow of goods is adapting in a global economy crippled by a pandemic.” Capable of carrying almost 4,300 containers, she’s “downright petite” in an industry where the biggest ships can handle more than 20,000. However, the Melina is part of a budding fleet of smaller vessels that COVID-19 has thrust into service. These tend to compete on the basis of speed and it will dock in Los Angeles on July 6 after a 12-day journey, which is a week ahead of a larger ship doing the same route, Bloomberg says. However, speed is costly -- as much as double the cost of standard transpacific service -- which is already rising as the world’s biggest shipping companies scale back capacity perhaps by 25% this quarter and another 10% in the third quarter. The industry expects U.S. retail demand to recover only slowly amid “plenty of fog on the global economic horizon.” But for now, “shipping demand from some companies remains brisk,” justifying the added import cost of fast delivery from online shoppers for everything “from protective medical gear to baby pools for the backyard.” Melina is among lines offering express service between China and the U.S., the kind of links that show the difficulty President Trump faces in pushing for a “complete decoupling” of the world’s largest economies and bringing production back home. “We expect the need for this expedited service to be permanent and actually grow as the share of e-commerce in global trade will continue to grow,” Nissim Yochai, the company’s executive vice president in the Pacific, said from Hong Kong. “This abnormal period will continue as long as the world continues to search for tools to offset the COVID-19 pandemic and to assist people attempting to get out to work and socialize and, of course, consume.” Striking a balance between global supply and demand is what shipping companies are trying to do constantly, looking months and even years in advance. The pandemic has made that job much harder. One way to do it is to cancel sailings, which they’ve been doing a lot lately. At the adjoining ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the main gateway for Chinese imports, 45 trips have been scrapped this quarter, more than four times the number in the second quarter of 2019. For some U.S. companies on the receiving end of goods, shipping disruptions are starting to subside. For others, they’re just beginning, Bloomberg says. “We’re not at the point right now where we’ve rebalanced supply to the demand because the demand signals are jumping all over the board,” said Abe Eshkenazi, CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management. About 80% of the world’s trade crosses an ocean by ship, and the industry typically has two busy seasons tied to Chinese holidays, the New Year and Golden Week in October. With normal shipping rates double what they were three months ago and air cargo rates still elevated because of a dearth of commercial flights, importers are facing the strains of a peak season now. A general merchandiser in small-town America that offers free coffee and a bag of popcorn, Rural King is little different than other traditional retailers that experienced recent shortages of toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer, Bloomberg said. But thanks to a flexible supply chain and close relationships with vendors in China and elsewhere in Asia, the firm has managed to keep most items stocked and is having a good year. Who knew squirrel feeders would be big sellers in a global health crisis, or plastic pools, Rural King manager told Bloomberg. “And, we just got another shipment of trampolines,” he said, adding that Rural King stores sold 300 in one day recently. Good thing for him he has 100 to 200 suppliers in China, and in Vietnam whom he talks to daily and who are scrambling to help meet the rush. “They are unbelievable with these orders.” So, we will see. The online retail services system is huge and driven by powerful economic forces that make it extremely difficult to realign, as the Trump administration appears to be finding out. However the changes being proposed are important and should be watched closely by producers as the nation struggles to overcome the coronavirus, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


USDA to Allow Online Applications for CFAP Applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will now be accepted by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) via an online portal and the agency said it would now be “leveraging commercial document storage and e-signature solutions” to allow for the completion of applications from home. Through the online portal, producers can use eAuthentication -- secure USDA login credentials -- to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center. Currently, the digital application is only available to sole proprietors or single-member business entities, FSA noted. The agency also said that offices can “work with producers to complete and securely transmit digitally signed applications through two commercially available tools: Box and OneSpan.” As of June 22, USDA has paid out $4.006 billion in CFAP payments to 252,489 producers.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


Lawmakers Call on EPA to Reject Retroactive Small Refinery Exemptions EPA should deny 52 retroactive small refinery exemption (SRE) requests it has received going back to the 2011 compliance year, according to a bipartisan group of 16 senators led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. “These petitions should not even be entertained because they are inconsistent with the Tenth Circuit decision, Congressional intent, the EPA’s own guidance, and -- most importantly -- the interests of farmers and rural communities who rely on the biofuel industry,” the letter noted. Retroactive waivers “would only worsen the unprecedented economic challenges facing the biofuels industry and the rural communities that it supports,” the letter added. The lawmakers also want EPA to explain exemptions for refineries owned by Chevron and Exxon Mobil.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Back from another summer weekend, traders will be checking the latest weather forecasts with corn pollination approaching. A May index of pending home sales is due out at 9 a.mCDT, followed by USDA's weekly export inspections at 10 a.m. USDA's Crop Progress report is set for 3 p.m. CDT with plenty of interest in USDA's latest crop ratings. Weather Thunderstorms with locally heavy rain and the potential for high winds and hail are in store for portions of the Northern Plains and Midwest Monday. Areas bypassed by the storms will have very warm to hot conditions with heat stress likely. Haze due in part to the huge dust cloud from the Sahara Desert will produce air quality issues in addition to the heat stress. Hot and dry conditions in the Southern Plains will favor wheat harvest

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


Ag Equipment Manufacturers Still Struggling with COVID-19 The Association of Equipment Manufacturers continues to struggle with COVID-19. AEM represents 12 percent of the U.S. manufacturing sector, which is still adjusting to challenging and changing economic conditions. Roughly 75 percent of U.S. equipment manufacturers say the impact of COVID-19 on the overall economy is still very negative. As many as 60 percent of industry executives say that the federal government hasn’t done enough to support the industry as it continues to face a decline in demand and supply chain disruptions. “COVID-19 continues to negatively impact equipment manufacturers and the 2.8 million men and women in our industry,” says Dennis Slater, President of AEM. “We have seen some improvements to the operations and financial outlook for our member companies. However, the industry still faces a long road back to normal.” Slater says even as the industry continues to build, feed, and power the country, there are far too many of the member companies running out of time. Many equipment executives say they’re still struggling to keep workers on the job, with 80 percent of them admitting they won’t be able to rehire workers laid off earlier in the year. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Fires Back at China Linking COVID Concerns and Food Imports U.S. health and agricultural authorities issued thinly-veiled criticism of new Chinese demands placed on food-exporting companies. Beijing is asking those companies to sign documents stating that they comply with Chinese safety standards to prevent COVID transmission. “Efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission,” says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn in a joint statement. The two officials both say there is “no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or packaging.” Bloomberg says that’s in line with expert advice saying that food poses little risk of spreading the coronavirus. China recently warned global exporters dealing with outbreaks among employees by placing bans on a plant owned by Tyson Foods, which reported infections at a site in Arkansas. China’s customs authorities say companies in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Brazil, have voluntarily halted shipments due to a rise in the number of positive COVID cases within their borders. Tyson was the first major U.S. company to sign the Chinese certificate, while others have been more reluctant to sign an affidavit due to liability concerns. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Adds Digital Options for CFAP Applications USDA’s Farm Service Agency will take applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through an online portal. The agency’s goal is to expand the options available to producers to apply for the program, which helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic. FSA is also leveraging commercial document storage and e-signature solutions to enable producers to work with local service center staff to complete their applications from home. “We’re doing everything we can to serve our customers and make sure agricultural producers impacted by COVID-19 can quickly and securely apply for this relief program,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “In addition to working with FSA staff through the phone, email, and scheduled in-person appointments, we can now also take applications through the farmers.gov portal, which saves time for both our staff and producers.” Those producers who already have secure USDA login credentials can certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit them directly to the local USDA Service Center. Producers who don’t have a secure login can begin the signup process at www.farmers.gov/sign-in. ********************************************************************************************** NFU: EPA is a “Barrier” for Emission Reduction in Biofuels The head of the National Farmers Union blasted the Environmental Protection Agency, calling it a “barrier” for reducing greenhouse gasses in biofuels. “The EPA has been the primary barrier to a lot of additional success that we can have in reducing greenhouse gasses in ethanol technology,” says Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Union. “The story for grain-based ethanol, in general is the EPA continues to be a barrier, not only because of the waivers they’ve issued but also for barriers against higher blends.” Larew’s comments during a Senate hearing took place days after the EPA said it had received 52 new petitions from oil refiners asking for retroactive exemptions to requirements that they blend biofuels into their products. A court overturned three agency-issued waivers in January, which the EPA did not appeal. Biofuels are a complex issue as the Trump Administration struggles to balance the conflicting interests of farmers and the oil industry, two demographics that are key parts of President Trump’s base. The NFU President appeared during a Senate Ag Committee hearing on a new bipartisan bill designed to help farmers get carbon credits in exchange for sustainable farming practices. ********************************************************************************************** Senators Question Meatpackers About Chinese Exports, Meat Shortages Two Democrats in the U.S. Senate are questioning top American meatpackers about past shipments to China while America went through meat shortages in grocery stores across the country. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker want to know by the end of this month how much pork, beef, and chicken those companies shipped to China during the coronavirus outbreak while warning of possible domestic meat shortages. Reuters says the inquiry increases the scrutiny on companies like Tyson Foods, JBS USA, and Smithfield Foods, after thousands of meatpacking workers were infected with COVID-19. USDA data says those companies exported 112,327 tons of U.S. pork to China in April, more than any other month before and up 257 percent from a year earlier. Those export numbers raise questions about why U.S. meat prices soared, and President Trump had to order the nation’s slaughterhouses to stay open to protect the nation’s food supply. In a letter outlining their request for information, Booker and Warren said, “This pattern of behavior raises questions about whether you are living up to your commitments to the workers who produce your pork and beef, the communities in which you operate, and the nation’s consumers that rely on your products to feed their families.” ********************************************************************************************** Largest Meatpacking Union Confirms Growing COVID-19 Impact on Workers The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union held a press conference highlighting the impact and growing danger of COVID-19 on frontline workers. The union represents 1.3 million employees. The UFCW says that during the last 100 days, 238 UFCW frontline workers have died from COVID-19 and nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed. UFCW International President Marc Perrone (Per-RONE) announced three new initiatives the union wants in effect. The first is establishing hazard pay and a $15 per hour wage for all frontline workers. Second is establishing a public mask mandate in all 50 states. Third, they want a new national public registry to track COVID-19 infections in frontline workers. That would require companies with more than 1,000 employees to submit monthly reports on their worker deaths, infections, and exposures. Perrone says, “100 days into COVID-19 and American frontline workers still face many of the same dangers they faced on day one. Frontline workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and healthcare facilities, are still getting sick and dying.” He also says it’s high time for America’s CEOs and elected leaders to “pull their head out of the sand” and take strong action needed to protect America’s brave workers.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


Washington Insider: IMF Warning on Coronavirus Impacts The International Monetary Fund emphasized on Wednesday that the global economy faces an even deeper downturn than previously projected, and that the pandemic “continues to sow uncertainty” as businesses around the world struggle to recover. Even at this stage, it is increasingly evident that the recovery will be uneven and protracted “as cases continue to surge and consumers remain wary of resuming normal activity,” the New York Times reported. In an update to its World Economic Outlook, the IMF said it expects the global economy to shrink 4.9% this year -- a sharper contraction than the 3% predicted in April. The fund noted that, even as businesses began to reopen, voluntary social distancing and enhanced workplace safety standards were weighing on economic activity and that the “scarring” of the labor force from job cuts and business closures will slow global recovery. It now projects 5.4% global growth in 2021, far below its pre-pandemic projections. Overall, the IMF expects that the cumulative loss of total output for the global economy this year and next year will top $12 trillion. NYT says the IMF forecast is “more grim” than global projections outlined earlier this month by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And its U.S. forecast for 2020 is less optimistic than that the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve have projected. The IMF now projects that the U.S. economy will shrink 8% this year before expanding 4.5% next year. The Fed in June projected a particularly sharp U.S. economic hit in 2020 with output contracting 6.5% at the end of this year compared to the final quarter of 2019, before rebounding by 5% in 2021. A May report from the Congressional Budget Office forecast a 5.6% contraction in the United States this year. Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said on Wednesday that he expects a “broad recovery will take some time” in the United States, adding that “the future is more uncertain now than at any other time” in his professional career. “My forecast assumes growth is held back by responses to intermittent localized outbreaks -- which might be made worse by the faster-than-expected re-openings,” Evans said. “Usually, we are able to look to the past for guidance on what is in store for the future. But in this situation, there is simply no relevant benchmark.” The pandemic has not spared advanced or developing economies. Economies in the eurozone are projected to shrink 10.2% this year and expand 6% next year. In China, where the virus originated and which imposed draconian containment measures, the economy is expected to expand 1% this year and 8.2% in 2021. Nonetheless, the Trump administration continues to suggest a more bullish outlook, the Times said. Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, said Tuesday that he expected a V-shaped recovery, with a “sharp, steady economic uptick on the heels of recession.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he could foresee the recession being over in the United States by the end of the year. Prolonged economic pain means increased pressure on the administration and U.S. lawmakers to move forward with another round of stimulus measures. House Democrats want a $3 trillion economic support package but Republicans are increasingly wary of the long-term impacts of such spending. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said this week that future measures should be more targeted to help industries that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. President Trump has suggested he would be open to another round of stimulus checks, which could land in peoples’ bank accounts just ahead of the November election. The IMF notes that, even in countries where infection rates are declining, major obstacles to the resumption of normal activity persist and that the pandemic has curtailed the flow of global trade, which the fund estimated had contracted 3.5% in the first quarter from a year earlier. That is in line with an estimate by the WTO, the Times said, which reported on Tuesday that global trade had fallen sharply in the first half of the year. On the brighter side, that trajectory did not seem quite as bad as the group had previously projected. Trade in goods shrank 3% year on year in the first quarter while initial estimates indicate that it fell 18.5% in the second quarter, the steepest decline on record. But those declines could have been much worse, the organization said. Trade needs to grow only modestly for the rest of the year to meet the organization’s outlook for a 13% contraction in 2020, versus a more pessimistic potential decline of 32%. Roberto Azevedo, the director general of the WTO called the development a “silver lining” but said governments need to be on guard and continue to stimulate the economy. “This is genuinely positive news, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” he said. So, we will see. The virus certainly is continuing to be a threat on many fronts and economic recovery appears to be a greater challenge than once expected -- prospects producers should watch closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


USDA OIG Criticizes FSIS In Swine Inspection Rule USDA did not comply with data quality guidelines when writing a controversial rule to overhaul safety inspections at pork slaughterhouses, according to a report from the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG report detailed several shortfalls in how the department formulated the regulation that allows meatpackers to accelerate their pork processing lines to high speeds that labor advocates have warned are dangerous for plant workers. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) did not fully adhere to requirements for data quality and transparency, and specifically “did not take adequate steps” to determine whether the worker safety analysis in question was reliable. FSIS said that OIG put a “distorted emphasis” on minor errors and omissions in preliminary rulemaking documents.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


USDA, FDA Reiterate Stance That Food Not A Transmission Route For COVID-19 USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn issued a joint statement Wednesday on food export restrictions by some countries relative to COVID-19. “The United States understands the concerns of consumers here domestically and around the world who want to know that producers, processors and regulators are taking every necessary precaution to prioritize food safety especially during these challenging times. However, efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission,” the statement said. “There is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including product for export.” The statement does not specify a country, but appears to clearly be a reference to China blocking imports of poultry from a U.S. plant and from some plants in other countries.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets U.S. personal incomes and consumer spending are due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT Friday, followed by the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index at 9 a.m. Weather forecasts remain a top interest for traders as well as any export news that might emerge. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for portions of the western and northern Midwest along with the Gulf Coastal Bend and southern Delta Friday. Other crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal, with hot conditions noted in dry areas of the southwestern Plains. The general impact is favorable for row crop development and winter wheat harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


Senate Ag Committee Passes Grain Standards Reauthorization The Senate Agriculture Committee Wednesday passed the United States Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020 by a voice vote. The bill extends the authorization for the Federal Grain Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture to continue providing inspection services and to maintain an official marketing standard for certain grains and oilseeds. The bill now heads to the full Senate to consider the five-year reauthorization. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, says, "the entire federal grain inspection system needs the certainty, predictability, and transparency” the reauthorization bill provides. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Committee, says the bill “protects the interests of American farmers and ensures our credibility as a reliable producer of high-quality crops.” Roberts says the bill has wide industry support. The National Association of Wheat Growers voiced its support of the reauthorization, stating, “Our overseas customers value the independent system in place through the Grain Standards Act.” ************************************************************************************ Farm Groups Support Carbon Market Bill Farm groups offered their support for a climate bill that would give farmers access to carbon offset markets during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing Wednesday. The Growing Climate Solutions Act would create a certification program at the Department of Agriculture to help solve technical barriers to participation in carbon credit markets for farmers and forest landowners. The bill would also provide the Agriculture Secretary with an advisory council of agriculture experts, scientists, producers, and others, to ensure the certification program works for all participants. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says the bill “builds upon American agriculture’s strong foundation of environmental stewardship and innovation.” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew suggested several additions to strengthen the bill, including mechanisms to prevent farm-level consolidation, robust funding for public climate research, and protections for farmers from bad actors or faulty market efforts. The National Pork Producers Council says the bill rewards contributions by pork producers and other sectors of agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ************************************************************************************ Federal Agents Seize Almost 10 Tons of Illegal Meat at California Port Officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports it has intercepted 19,500 pounds of prohibited pork, chicken, beef and duck products arriving from China. The products were intercepted at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. According to an official statement, most of the animal products were mixed in boxes of headphones, door locks, kitchenware, LCD tablets, trash bags, swim fins, cell phone covers, plastic cases and household goods. Border protection agriculture specialists identified, examined and seized 12 shipments containing a total of 834 cartons that lacked the required USDA entry documentation. The National Pork Board says that in the first five months of fiscal year 2020, the interception of prohibited meats from China at the LA/Long Beach Seaport has increased 70 percent compared with the same period a year ago. The work by border patrol is critical to maintain secure borders from foreign animal diseases, including African swine fever. ************************************************************************************ Bayer Announces Roundup and Dicamba Litigation Settlements Bayer Wednesday announced a series of agreements that will substantially resolve major outstanding Monsanto litigation. The announcement includes a settlement on U.S. Roundup product liability litigation, dicamba drift litigation and PCB water litigation. According to Bayer, the main feature is the U.S. Roundup resolution that will bring closure to approximately 75 percent of the current Roundup litigation involving approximately 125,000 filed and unfiled claims overall. The company will make a payment of $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve the current Roundup litigation, including an allowance expected to cover unresolved claims, and $1.25 billion to support a separate class agreement to address potential future litigation. Bayer also resolved dicamba drift litigation for payment of up to $400 million and most PCB water litigation exposure for payment of approximately $820 million. Bayer CEO Werner Baumann adds, “As we work to put this major litigation behind us, Bayer can set a course for the future and tackle the global challenges we face in both health and nutrition.” ************************************************************************************ Apple Growers Seek Access to Pandemic Relief Apple producers in the United States seek access to federal aid included in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Washington State U.S. Representative, Republican Dan Newhouse, led an effort in asking the Department of Agriculture to include apple growers in the CFAP. The group of 25 lawmakers in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote, “Steep price declines clearly makes apple growers eligible for CFAP payments.” CFAP provides financial assistance to producers who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19. The losses must have occurred between mid-January and mid-April because of the COVID-19 pandemic to be eligible for CFAP funds. The lawmakers are demanding USDA reverse its decision based on data from the apple industry, showing that apple price losses ranged from 6.5 percent to as much as 24.9 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to USDA data there are approximately 5,000 commercial apple growers in 32 states. ************************************************************************************ Environmental Working Group Says Farm Nitrate Runoff Increasing The Environmental Working Group says nitrate pollution from crop fields is getting worse in farm country. Wednesday, the group released a new report and interactive map detailing nitrate levels in water supply systems. EWG obtained water testing data under public records laws between 2003 and 2017. The tests detected elevated levels of nitrate in the tap water supplies of more than 4,000 community water systems in the states with the most widespread contamination, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. The data, EWG says, includes tap water supply systems for more than 45 million Americans. Each of the systems was contaminated with nitrate at or above three milligrams per liter, at least once in those 15 years. The Environmental Protection Agency considers three milligrams per liter in groundwater used for drinking water an indication of contamination above naturally occurring levels. The interactive map is available on the Environmental Working Group website, ewg.org.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Business Groups to Fight Visa Limits The Hill is reporting this week that business groups are pushing back on the president’s new limits on work visas and are hinting at possible legal action against the recent executive order they see as an attack on legal immigration. The backlash follows President Trump’s Monday executive order that slapped new limits on foreign workers, a “hard line immigration move seen as an appeal to his base as the presidential election draws near,” The Hill says. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had lobbied the White House against imposing the order, said it “is likely to stifle job gains at a time when the economy needs fewer restrictions, not more.” The Chamber’s CEO, Thomas Donohue told the press that the president’s proclamation is a “severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration. Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back.” Donohue had called on the president to not impose the visa policies. The Chamber’s top lobbyist, Neil Bradley, also pressed National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on the issue in a letter last month. The order now could trigger a flurry of lawsuits, something the Chamber and others haven’t ruled out, The Hill said. It says it is “considering all available options” to ensure our immigration system allows employers to meet their workforce needs, Jon Baselice, executive director of immigration at the Chamber, told The Hill. In addition, a National Association of Manufacturers spokesperson told The Hill on Tuesday that litigation isn’t off the table for them either. The executive order suspends the issuance of temporary work visas, including H-1B visas, H-2B visas, H-4 visas, L-1 visas and certain J-1 visas, through the end of 2020. H-2A visas for agriculture are not affected by the order. H-1B visas are set aside for skilled workers, especially in the technology industry, and H-4 visas are given to their spouses. H-2B visas apply to seasonal workers; J-1 visas are for researchers, scholars and au pairs; and L-1 visas are for executives who transfer to the U.S. after working for the same employer abroad. Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter and Uber are among technology companies that have spoken out against the president’s proclamation. In addition to the legal ramifications, experts argue that the president’s order is bad for the economy, especially at a time when it’s trying to climb out of the coronavirus hole. “If you really care about the U.S. economy, U.S. competitiveness and opportunity for U.S. citizens, cutting back on skilled immigration has very much the unintended consequence of being harmful in those domains,” said Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University Fuqua School of Business. Alexander Arnon, a senior analyst at Penn Wharton Budget Model working on immigration issues, said business groups have study after study to back up their opposition to the administration’s action. “The arguments made in the proclamation are not sound and there is a lot of reason to believe this will hurt the economic recovery,” he said. The administration claims the order will help the unemployment rate, which more than tripled after the pandemic took hold. It argues that during “extraordinary circumstances” these visas “pose an unusual threat” to American workers seeking employment. “I understand the instinct to protect American workers, to give them opportunity in light of what is really a terrifying economic crisis,” Boulding said. “Having said that, the evidence is clear that this is not the way to do it. What we know in terms of the economic impact of skilled immigration, skilled immigration is actually job-creating for Americans.” Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a staunch Trump ally, said that suspending the temporary work visas will have a “chilling effect” on the economic recovery. And, the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, said in a blunt statement that the president’s action weakens the manufacturing industry, “a sector the president has long courted with his criticism of previous trade agreements.” Like Donohue, Timmons sent a letter to the President earlier this month about how immigrants’ contributions often create opportunities for American workers and strengthen the overall economy. The effect of the order will likely take months to show up in any measurable way in the economy but major companies are already warning of immediate, drastic effects for their workers. The Business Roundtable, which is made up of CEOs from leading U.S. companies with Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon serving as chairman, said its members are worried about the effect of the executive order and “fear that it will disrupt business operations, the lives of our employees and ultimately harm our ability to do our part to rebuild the economy,” the group said in a statement. So, we will see. Access to overseas sources of labor has long been valuable to U.S. firms, so the new order has come as something of a surprise to a number of large operations. However, whether they succeed in softening the administration’s stance is an issue producers should watch closely as the season advances, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


Lawmakers Focus On Major Meat Packers, Worker Protections and Exports Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., want information from four major U.S. meat companies on the actions they took to protect workers from COVID-19 and on the level of meat they produced during March-May, their level of exports to China and to other countries, the average increase in wholesale prices, average change in prices paid to producers and whether they increased their imports of livestock from outside the U.S. The letter was sent to Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill and Smithfield Foods. The lawmakers express alarm at exports of U.S. pork, beef and poultry to China and other destinations over the period, stating that exports of beef and pork totaling 1.3 billion pounds from March 20 through early June “actually exceeded the amount of lost production” from issues related to COVID-19. “Indeed, your companies manipulated this crisis to achieve substantial deregulatory measures that placed your workers at even greater risk,” the letter stated. The lawmakers requested the companies provide the information by June 30.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


USDA Sent Requests On Apples, Potatoes Relative To CFAP Program A group of House lawmakers and the National Potato Council (NPC) have sent USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue letters calling for apples to be made eligible for payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and for expanded payments to potato producers. The lawmakers argue that apples prices fell from 6.5% to 24.9% over the period covered by CFAP and shipping volumes of the product have declined 24%. “This steep price decline clearly makes apple growers eligible for CFAP payments, based on the USDA’s requirement of a 5 percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmakers said. NPC said data shows that potatoes have seen a price decline of 20.51% over the period covered by CFAP, well above the price threshold of a 5% decline in prices set by USDA. NPC calls on USDA to make potatoes eligible for category one payments, to expand the category two payment level from the current four cents per pound and the category three payment level of one cent per pound. Both requests were sent to USDA via letters dated June 22. NPC is also holding their virtual summer meeting today with a focus on the COVID-19 impacts on the industry. USDA has paid out over $4 billion in the program as of June 22.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday is a busy day for reports. At 7:30 a.m. CDT, USDA's weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims, May durable goods orders and an estimate of first-quarter U.S. GDP are released along with an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor. USDA's Hogs and Pigs report is due out at 2 p.m. CDT, the first inventory estimate since meat plants were closed due to coronavirus concerns. Weather Thursday will be dry with very warm to hot conditions across all primary crop areas. Rain will be confined to light showers on the Gulf Coast and in isolated areas of the Plains. This combination will favor crop growth and wheat harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


USDA: Food Box Program Reaches 20 Million Boxes Distributed The Department of Agriculture says the Farmers to Families Food Box program has distributed more than 20 million food boxes to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the announcement Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stated, “This milestone is a testament that the program is accomplishing what we intended, supporting U.S. farmers and distributors and getting food to those who need it most.” In April, Secretary Perdue announced the food box effort as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program developed to help farmers, ranchers and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. In under 30 days, the program contracted for $1.2 billion in food products including $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in a variety of dairy products, $258 million in meat products and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Distribution of the food boxes across the United States began on May 15, 2020. ************************************************************************************ Judge Rules Glyphosate Doesn’t Require Cancer Warning A federal judge this week sided with an agriculture coalition issuing a permanent injunction against the California warning requirement of Proposition 65 for glyphosate. The ruling removes the cancer warning on glyphosate. The judge in the case says providing misleading or false labels to consumers “undermines California’s interest in accurately informing its citizens of health risks.” Two years ago, the same judge ruled government agencies and health organizations that have reviewed studies on glyphosate have found there was no evidence that it caused cancer. The ruling says it would be "misleading at best” to force parties to state on glyphosate-containing products that the products were "known to the state to cause cancer." The judge says developments since then "do not change the court's conclusion.” Lead plaintiff in the case, the National Association of Wheat Growers, welcomed the injunction. The association stated, “this is a great win for wheat growers and farmers across the United States.” ************************************************************************************ Farm Households Report Off-Farm Jobs offer More Stable Income New data from the Department of Agriculture shows nearly half of all family farmers and their spouses reported having a job off the farm in 2018. USDA’s Economic Research Service reports the majority of households, regardless of farm size, say they work off the farm because it is more lucrative than farm work, provides more reliable income, and may offer health and retirement benefits. Among small family farms, those with annual gross cash farm income under $350,000, about 88 percent reported working off the farm because it was more reliable and 75 percent because it was more lucrative. Among large-scale farm households, those with annual gross cash farm income of $1 million or more, about 72 percent reported working off the farm because it was more reliable and 51 percent because it was more lucrative. About 40 percent of all principal operators or their spouses who work off the farm listed farm-related financial stress as a reason for having a job off the farm. ************************************************************************************ Senate Candidate Calls on EPA’s Wheeler to Resign An Iowa candidate for the U.S. Senate is calling on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to resign. Theresa Greenfield, a Democratic challenger to Republican Senator Joni Ernst, says, “Wheeler must step down immediately.” Greenfield says Iowa farmers “deserve answers for why Senator Ernst voted for a fossil fuel lobbyist to run the EPA in the first place.” Last year, Ernst did suggest she would call for Wheeler’s resignation if his biofuels promises are not fulfilled. Last week, Ernst co-sponsored a bill that would "approve certain advanced biofuel registrations that have languished before the EPA.” Recent polling by the Des Moines Register found 46 percent of likely Iowa voters say they would back Greenfield if the election were held today, and 43 percent say they would support Ernst. Iowa is the top state for biofuels production, with 43 ethanol plants capable of producing over 4.5 billion gallons annually, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. ************************************************************************************ Center for American Progress Pitches Conservation Easement Expansion The Center for American Progress calls on lawmakers to pass broad conservation efforts. The thinktank launched “The Race for Nature” Tuesday, its plan to stem nature loss through conservation easements. The organization says private landowners are going out of their way to protect wildlife habitat, but "the coronavirus-induced economic collapse will likely deal a catastrophic blow to families who make their living off their lands." By definition, conservation easements are voluntary, legal agreements that permanently limit uses of the land to protect its conservation values. The two-phased proposal calls on lawmakers to pass the first phase by September of this year. The first phase of the plan would increase funding for existing conservation easement programs, help landowners gain access to easements more quickly, and pilot new emergency conservation easement programs. The second phase targets the 2023 farm bill, saying lawmakers should codify reforms that further simplify and accelerate the implementation of conservation easement programs. ************************************************************************************ Farm Groups Launch Free Stress Management Course A group of farm organizations just launched free online training focusing on farm stress. The training course is funded by Farm Credit, with partnership from the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union. The groups say the course will help farmers, their families and neighbors identify and cope with stress. It provides participants the skills to understand the sources of stress, manage their own stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources. The challenges of ongoing low commodity prices, trade wars and extreme weather events have dramatically affected farmers and ranchers for years. Add the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic disruptions and that stress multiplies. The groups say stress among farmers and ranchers is felt throughout farm operations and seeps into cities and towns across the country. Anyone can register for the free online training course. Visit FarmCredit.com to learn more.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


Washington Insider: USTR Policy Cure-All, More Tariffs Bloomberg is reporting this week that with COVID-19 cases spiking in nearly a dozen U.S. states, this may seem like a strange time to constrain America’s ability to obtain critical medical supplies and drugs. However, “new tariffs are exactly the strategy that America’s top trade official says is the best way to combat the coronavirus pandemic.” The report cites Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, who says he is a “firm believer that the things we need to fight the pandemic should be made in America,” The U.S. official was addressing members of the House Ways and Means Committee last week. “I’m not in favor of reducing tariffs on the things we need. I would be far more in favor of increasing tariffs on the things we need.” Lighthizer’s comments come at a pivotal moment in the health crisis as fresh outbreaks spark fears that a second wave may cross the globe and force governments into a dilemma where they must consider whether it is better to hoard critical medical supplies while redoubling their ability to produce them domestically, or help expand global access to medical goods so all nations can collectively fight the pandemic. Bloomberg says Lighthizer is in the first camp while the European Union, Canada, Japan, Brazil and nearly a dozen others are in the second, “working to lower trade barriers that harm other nations’ ability to fight the virus.” The emerging alliance, which calls itself the “Ottawa Group,” is discussing an EU-led initiative to eliminate tariffs on pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in order to “help ensure that the world is better prepared to deal with similar future crises." The U.S. administration’s preference for protectionism remains clear, Bloomberg says. In his testimony, Lighthizer flatly rejected the idea of joining the EU’s medical goods deal and blamed the World Trade Organization for hindering America's access to essential medicines,"casting specific ire on a 1994 agreement that eliminated tariffs on pharmaceutical goods.” “Countries got together and said we will all agree to have zero tariffs on a certain list of pharmaceutical products and then we will just give that benefit to the rest of the world, which struck me as really, really crazy,” Lighthizer said. Also, in yet another trade policy action, the administration says it is considering re-imposing tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada. Bloomberg says it expects an announcement by the end of the week. Bloomberg says the U.S. is threatening Canada with new tariffs if it “refuses to impose export restrictions on aluminum.” It expects those to be 10% tariffs on Canadian aluminum, to be implemented by July 1 – just days before the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal enters into force. It follows Lighthizer’s expressions of concern about recent struggles by American aluminum producers as demand evaporated amid the global pandemic. Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee in a hearing last week that recent surges in metal imports from North American neighbors are “of genuine concern to us now,” and that his office was looking at the issue. “I would say there have been surges on steel and aluminum, substantially from Canada, some from Mexico, and it is something that we’re looking at and talking to both Mexico and Canada about,” he told the panel’s top Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Under the May 2019 agreement, which resulted in initial tariffs being lifted, Canada has to limit its retaliation to the U.S. metals sector and cannot hit American agriculture, Lighthizer told Grassley. Ironically, the only three U.S. aluminum producers -- Alcoa Corp., Century Aluminum Co. and Magnitude 7 Metals LLC -- disagree whether tariffs should be re-imposed, Bloomberg said. The American Primary Aluminum Association, which represents Century Aluminum Co. and Magnitude 7 Metals LLC., has asked Lighthizer to reimpose a 10% tariff on imports of Canadian aluminum, saying a rise in metal coming from the country has caused the price to collapse. However, the Aluminum Association of the U.S., which represents Alcoa Corp., Rio Tinto Group and dozens of other aluminum parts makers, argues that imports are virtually unchanged since 2017. Alcoa CFO William Oplinger said at a virtual bank conference in June that China’s overcapacity subsidized by the government is the real problem, and that he supports free trade with “those who trade freely, especially the Canadians.” So, we will see. Clearly, the administration is continuing to rely on “get tough tariff policies” which likely will continue to lead to retaliation from trading partners, as well as higher prices for domestic products. These strategies are continuing to be debated in the U.S. even amid anti-coronavirus strategies and should be watched closely by producers as they intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


US Meat Industry Mulls China’s Ban On Imports From One Tyson Foods Plant China’s action to bar imports of poultry from the Springdale, Arkansas, Tyson Foods plant continues as a discussion point in the U.S. meat industry, with most agreeing that it will not have a significant impact unless it is expanded. "Hopefully it's not going to mean anything," said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. "If it remains at just one plant, it will not have any meaningful impact, but we don't know what's going to happen." He also noted that the product is frozen and spends some 30 days in a container traveling to China. “So there is zero possibility of a live virus from the U.S. showing up in frozen poultry as it has been shipped by ocean carrier halfway around the world.” A spokesman for Tyson said their products are safe and hoped the issue can be resolved in talks between the two countries.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


Phase One Trade Deal Intact, Says Trump Financial and commodity markets swooned Monday evening after reports of White House trade adviser Peter Navarro saying the phase-one agreement with China was “over.” Navarro made the comments in a Fox News interview that focused heavily on the coming book by John Bolton, with the interviewer throwing a “last question” at Navarro asking him if the deal was over. He responded that “it is,” adding he thought a turning point on the matter came after the COVID-19 news came out almost immediately after the phase-one agreement was signed. As financial and commodity markets reacted, Navarro sought to pull his remarks back. And, President Donald Trump tweeted, “The China Trade Deal is fully intact. Hopefully they will continue to live up to the terms of the Agreement!” From China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said of Navarro, "He consistently lies and has no honesty and trustworthiness.” As for the phase one agreement, Zhao told reporters at a briefing, "China's stance on the issue has been consistent and clear."

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets The latest weather forecasts continue to earn the attention of traders as well as any export news that surfaces. The U.S. Energy Department will have its weekly report of energy inventories, including ethanol at 9:30 a.m. CDT. Weather Wednesday features shower and thunderstorm activity in the Delta and Deep South. Other primary crop areas will be dry with seasonally warm temperatures. This combination will favor row crop progress and Southern Plains wheat harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


China Suspends Exports from Tyson Foods Plant China Sunday suspended poultry exports from an Arkansas Tyson Food's processing plant where workers tested positive for COVID-19. China’s General Administration of Customs announced the suspension after Tyson Foods confirmed a cluster of COVID-19 cases at its facility in Springdale, Arkansas. A Tyson spokesperson told Reuters the company is investigating the matter, adding, “It is important to note that the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration agree that there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food." China also halted exports from a pork processing facility in Germany following an outbreak of COVID-19 at the plant. China has stepped up food inspections for the novel coronavirus in recent weeks. Reuters says Beijing began testing meat, seafood and fresh produce for the coronavirus last week, and some ports were opening all containers of meat to carry out coronavirus tests. ************************************************************************************ New WOTUS Rule Becomes Law The Trump Administration's new and scaled-back Waters of the U.S. rule became law Monday after last-minute attempts to block the rule. A federal judge late last week denied an effort to prevent implementation of the new regulation, called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The challengers claim the new rule removes protection from many U.S. waterways. WOTUS, now NWPR, has been the subject of multiple lawsuits, including some examined by the Supreme Court. In the order denying the motion for temporary relief, the Judge writes, “In the prior cases, the issue was always whether the agencies had gone too far in extending the scope of federal regulation. Now, the question is whether the agencies have not gone far enough.” That judge ultimately sided with the EPA. However, a federal judge in Colorado rejected the Section 404 permit process included in the new rule, which refers to the Corps of Engineers' authority to issue permits for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters. ************************************************************************************ Court Allows Dicamba use this Season A late Friday court decision confirms farmers may use existing stocks of dicamba herbicides this growing season. The Ninth Circuit appeals court, which vacated the registrations of three dicamba herbicides earlier this month, denied a petition to stop use of the products already purchased by farmers and applicators. The ruling applies to Bayer’s XtendiMax, BASF’s Engenia and Corteva’s FeXapan herbicides. Additionally, during its series of late evening orders on June 19, the Court granted both CropLife America's and a grower coalition's requests to file an amicus brief. The brief supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s order to allow use of the products. That brief highlighted the devastating consequences that would result if the NGO's request were granted and growers could not use existing stocks. The request counters EPA guidance that allows existing stocks use when registrations are vacated, in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The American Soybean Association says, “American growers and the public are fortunate that a proper administrative and judicial-review framework exists.” ************************************************************************************ Senate Ag Committee Urges USDA to Extend WIC Flexibilities The Senate Agriculture Committee Monday sent a request to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to extend existing flexibilities for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Senators seek the extension through September 30, 2020, as authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In a letter to Secretary Perdue, the Senators wrote the extension would “provide certainty and availability to WIC participants, providers and vendors navigating variable phased re-opening procedures across public, private, and health sectors.” WIC program flexibilities granted by the Department of Agriculture for the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, through state agencies, have helped eligible pregnant women, mothers, and their infants and young children to access and use food benefits while navigating social-distancing protocols. The Senators say month to month extensions, as followed currently, are challenging for states to plan effectively and increase administrative burden. The bipartisan letter was signed by several members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. ************************************************************************************ Missouri Farm Bureau Survey Finds Broad COVID-19 Impacts A Missouri Farm Bureau survey brings to life many of the hidden effects of COVID-19 on farmers and rural communities. While the on-farm impacts have been dramatic, the personal effects are even more painful to read, according to Missouri Farm Bureau. Farmers in the survey report: “I have not seen my first grandchild yet.” “My daughter didn’t get to get married like she planned.” “I’m lonely and miss my friends.” Many respondents expressed feelings of isolation, loneliness and even depression. Inability to attend church and fellowship with friends has had a big impact on rural life. Although there were many differing opinions, over 63 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they take COVID-19 seriously. The agricultural effects have been severe as well. Nearly one-quarter of livestock farmers surveyed have had a meat processor reduce the normal schedule of animals they deliver for processing. The same percentage have had to locate an alternate processing facility for animals. The survey was completed by 377 people in Missouri. ************************************************************************************ Virginia Attorneys Plead Guilty in RoundUp Extortion Scheme Two Virginia attorneys pled guilty last week for a scheme to extort Monsanto out of $200 million last year. Timothy Litzenburg and Daniel Kincheloe each pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort. The U.S. Department of Justice says the two admitted they approached Monsanto and threatened to make public statements alleging the company had significant civil liability for manufacturing a purportedly harmful chemical used in RoundUp. They proposed reaching a “consulting agreement" with the company for $200 million, which would bar the attorneys from representing their clients as plaintiffs in litigation against Monsanto, which is now Bayer Crop Science. The fees were proposed to help their clients. However, the pair planned to split the funds among themselves and their associates. The attorneys threatened that if Monsanto did not accept their consulting plan, “they and others would commence litigation that would become an ongoing exponentially growing problem” for the company, according to the Justice Department. The pair will be sentenced in September.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Pace of Virus Testing Criticized While there is modest agreement that more virus testing is essential to control the pandemic, the Washington Post says the administration has yet to “distribute nearly one-third of the funds provided by Congress for testing and contact tracing.” The report cites Senate Democratic leadership as the source of the information. The Department of Health and Human Services has neither spent nor detailed how it plans to spend $8 billion out of a $25 billion pot to be used for stemming the virus’s spread through diagnostic and antibody testing and contact tracing, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told the Post. The funds were provided as part of the fourth pandemic relief bill passed by Congress at the end of April. “While it has been months since these funds were appropriated, the administration has failed to disburse significant amounts of these funds, leaving communities without the resources they need to address the significant challenges presented by the virus,” according to a letter the pair wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar last week. HHS responded that it has distributed $14 billion of the $25 billion authorized, mostly to states and localities, as directed in the legislative text. An agency spokeswoman noted that Congress “largely didn’t provide specific directions for where the rest of the money should go,” Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs, said. Congress has failed to give the agency “clear direction in law” for how to spend the money. “Now members [of Congress] are contacting HHS with their individual priorities and complaining the dollars are not spent to their wishes,” Caputo said. “Regardless, HHS is committed to working with Congress to ensure the healthcare delivery system gets the support needed at this time.” The U.S. has now conducted more than 26 million coronavirus tests, equivalent to about 8% of the nation’s population. The administration has largely met testing goals Azar laid out in May, after an initial slow response that won it heavy criticism. Still, the ramped-up testing now reveals a troubling reality, the Post says: Coronavirus cases are on the rise in many states, as lockdowns ease and Americans start mingling more. While part of the rise may be due to increased testing capturing more cases, that doesn’t fully explain the spikes, experts say. President Trump appeared to mock the situation at his campaign rally in Tulsa Saturday night, calling widespread testing a “double-edged sword.” “Here’s the bad part,” Trump said. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please!’” A White House official quickly downplayed the remarks as “joking,” and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN Sunday the comment was intended as a “light moment,” and was “tongue-in-cheek.” But the U.S. did lag behind other countries in ramping up testing for COVID-19, the Post said. The tests are now more widely available, but are not necessarily being used by everyone who might need them. In addition, the U.S. was beset by “denial and dysfunction” as the coronavirus raged, the Post said. Of the $25 billion Congress designated for the testing and contact tracing effort, $11 billion was for states and localities to help develop, purchase and process COVID-19 tests and carrying out contact tracing -- a procedure in which people who may have had contact with an infected person are asked to self-isolate for a period of time. Smaller amounts are earmarked for sub-agencies and offices within HHS, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. However, the Democratic senators said that about one-third of the money provided by Congress has yet to be disbursed by HHS, or even designated for anything specific. Schumer and Murray, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles HHS spending, wrote they’re concerned about the agency’s lack of speed as the country grapples with the virus. They urged that the testing funds “should be disbursed immediately with emphasis on addressing two major unmet needs: contact tracing and collecting data on COVID-19 racial and ethnic disparities.” They’re also concerned about the pace at which HHS is awarding another $2 billion to help cover testing costs for uninsured Americans. “This administration will put our country at grave risk if it tries to declare an early victory, leave lifesaving work undone, and leave resources our communities desperately need sitting untouched,” the letter says. So, the basic disagreement over how the nation should respond to the pandemic continues, especially as the virus continues to spread. This is a debate producers should watch closely as it intensifies especially if the disagreement continues to deepen as now appears likely, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


Trump Administration WOTUS Rule Survives One Initial Court Test The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule put forth by the Trump administration to replace the Obama-era version will go into effect today after a federal judge in San Francisco denied a motion to block implementation of the plan. More than 12 states sought to suspend implementation of the rule. This decision has some expecting that other court challenges of the plan may not be successful. However, a federal court in Colorado granted the state’s request to freeze implementation of the rule., The court ruled the state was likely to succeed in challenging the administration’s version of the rule. To put the rule into effect in Colorado, only to have it struck down, “would likely create unnecessary confusion among the regulated community about what standard really applies,” the judge wrote.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


China Halts Imports From Tyson Plant As Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 China suspended poultry imports from a Tyson Foods plant in Arkansas where hundreds of employees tested positive for COVID-19. The suspension issued Sunday covered products that have arrived in China or are about to arrive there, according to China’s General Administration of Customs, but there was no indication given on the number of shipments or tonnage potentially involved. Tyson Foods said it was looking into the situation. U.S. officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have insisted there is no sign that food is a transmission method for COVID-19. Tyson on Friday said it had tested 3,748 of its employees at seven of its Arkansas facilities from June 4-13 and 481 tested positive for COVID-19. About 95% showed no signs of infection when they were tested. China has stepped up testing of imported products and has asked firms exporting products to the country to declare their products do not contain COVID-19 in the wake of an outbreak at a major wholesale market in China.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday morning grain markets are trying to shake off Monday evening confusion about the status of the trade deal with China. President Donald Trump tweeted the agreement is "fully intact." The latest weather forecasts continue to captivate trader attention with any export news a close second. Early Tuesday, trade will likely respond to Monday afternoon's Crop Progress report. The only official report of the day is new home sales in May, set for 9 a.m. CDT. Weather Tuesday features light to locally moderate showers in the eastern Midwest and the Southeast, offering some easing of recent drier conditions. Meanwhile, moderate to heavy rain will occur in portions of the far Southern Plains with some flood and severe weather threat. Other crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will be seasonally warm in most areas, favorable for crops and livestock.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


Farmers Still Battling Hog Backlogs The backlog of hogs in states hit hardest by the meatpacking industry crisis is just now easing up somewhat. Hundreds of thousands of hogs were killed by producers who had nowhere to send the animals for processing. While that number is short of the initial slaughter estimates of millions of hogs, the pork industry still needs financial assistance to cover the cost of euthanizing animals as well as for the price losses from COVID-19. They’re also asking for help getting mental health resources for farmers who were understandably disturbed by having to kill their animals for disposal. “The drain on equity and the financial and emotional crisis that farmers are facing is not resolved,” says Dave Preisler (PRICE-lehr), CEO of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association. Producers have gone to great lengths to reduce the backlog and avoid on-farm slaughter. Some have been shipping hogs to processors out of state or selling directly to individuals looking to stockpile meat. Others have started contracting with smaller processors, who’ve seen an unprecedented rise in their business. Still, Politico says those measures haven’t fully solved the large pileup of excess hogs. ********************************************************************************************** EPA: 52 “Gap Year” SRE Petitions Filed The Environmental Protection Agency released an updated list of small refinery exemptions that shows smaller refiners have filed 52 “gap year” SRE petitions. Those petitions cover Renewable Fuels Standard Compliance from 2011 through 2018. Biomass Magazine says the filing is to circumvent a recent ruling from the Tenth Circuit Court that struck down three SREs approved by the EPA. The ruling also determined that the agency cannot extend exemptions to any small refinery whose earlier temporary exemptions had lapsed. A challenge to the court’s decision was rejected in early April. If the ruling is eventually applied nationally, it will limit eligibility for future SRE petitions to a handful of the nation’s small refiners. However, reports recently began to surface that several small refiners were filing “gap-year” SRE petitions to maintain eligibility for future SREs. The gap-year petitions are designed to provide impacted refineries with a continuous chain of SRE approvals, allowing the affected refineries to continue to be eligible for SREs in the future. Several biofuel groups have strongly condemned the gap-year filings as an effort to get around the Tenth Circuit Court ruling. ********************************************************************************************** Renewable Fuel Groups React to 52 “Gap-Year” SRE Petitions Two of the nation’s key renewable fuel groups reacted to the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement that 52 new small refinery exemption petitions have been filed. The National Biodiesel Board is asking EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to immediately reject the petitions that cover compliance years from 2011-2018. Kurt Kovarik is the NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs. He says, “EPA’s consideration of small refinery exemption petitions going back to 2011 flies in the face of the recent 10th Circuit Court decision. By rolling the clock back, there appears to be no length the EPA won’t go to help refiners undermine the Renewable Fuels Standard.” Kovarik says the handouts would come at the expense of ethanol and biodiesel. Growth Energy says the “gap filings” are designed to reconstitute a continuous string of exemptions to circumvent court limits on new oil industry handouts. “This absurd maneuver is a blatant attempt to dodge the law at the expense of rural communities,” says Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “EPA’s dashboard confirms that the refiners hope to rewrite years of history just to bypass the 10th Circuit Court and push more biofuels out of the marketplace.” ********************************************************************************************** CoBank: Ethanol Industry Needs to Transform Itself A new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange says the ethanol industry may have to diversify itself in the future. The report says excess production capacity and reduced demand will force the U.S. ethanol industry to “transform its business model to create more value and improve its operational efficiency.” CoBank predicts that consolidation within the industry will lead to larger and more financially stable companies with diversified ethanol co-product offerings by 2025. “While ethanol remains an attractive business with long-term potential, the industry will need to evolve and diversify beyond fuel ethanol,” says Kenneth Zuckerberg, CoBank lead grain and farm supply economist. “That diversity will need to include higher-margin co-products like high protein distillers’ grains for animal feed, liquid carbon dioxide for refrigeration, beverage grade alcohol, and other industrial products. COVID-19 led to businesses shutting down and people staying at home, causing significant ethanol demand destruction. The industry had one billion gallons of excess capacity at the start of 2020, with that number projected to rise to 3.9 billion at the end of this year before it settles to 2.4 billion at the end of 2021. Strong export growth would help reduce the excess, but current projections don’t support such an outcome. ********************************************************************************************** Dairy Safety Net Signup Begins October 12 for 2021 Coverage The USDA’s Farm Service Agency says safety-net signup for 2021 Dairy Margin Coverage begins on October 12th and runs through December 11th of this year. DMC has already triggered payments for two months for those producers who signed up for 2020 coverage. “If we’ve learned anything in the past six months, it’s to expect the unexpected,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “Nobody would have imagined the significant impact that current, unforeseen circumstances have had on an already fragile dairy market.” Fordyce says it’s during unprecedented times like these that the importance of offering agricultural producers support through the delivery of farm bill safety-net programs like DMC becomes readily apparent. As of June 15th, FSA has issued more than $100 million in much-needed program benefits to dairy producers who purchased DMC coverage for 2020. The DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. More than 13,000 operations enrolled in the program for the 2020 calendar year. ********************************************************************************************** Americans Support COVID-19 Aid for Farmers Trust in America’s farmers and ranchers remains high amid the devastating blow delivered this year by COVID-19. A new poll conducted by the American Farm Bureau shows that 84 percent of Americans trust the nation’s farmers. That same number also supports financial assistance from the government for farmers struggling to keep from going under because of the pandemic. “The results of the survey indicate a growing understanding of how important a stable food supply is to the health and well-being of our nation,” says AFB President Zippy Duvall. “Shortages at grocery stores and other food supply chain shockwaves caused by the pandemic gave many people a new understanding of the crucial role America’s farmers and ranchers play in their survival through COVID-19.” Duvall says it’s “heartening” to know that through it all, the American people’s trust in farmers is unwavering. Even more broadly, 59 percent of Americans also think that the federal government should classify U.S. agriculture as a matter of national security to ensure a stable food supply. USDA estimates suggest the decline in commodity value alone for 2019, 2020, and 2021 production totals almost $50 billion.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Problems With US Trade Policy The Hill this week is carrying an article by Robert Scott, who is a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute. He notes that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer once again reported to Congress that “the era of U.S. offshoring is over.” This is essentially the same message President Trump’s new "American Comeback" campaign ads carry, the article said. Scott charges that the Trump administration often touts returning trends in industries and jobs. In actuality, its policies are “actually failing to curb most of this offshoring.” They simply haven’t addressed the root causes of America’s growing trade deficits,” he said. The article pointed to “the reality” in which COVID-19 has wiped out much of the job gains seen in recent years. And, he warns that unless steps are taken now to curb dollar overvaluation, which makes imports artificially cheap in the U.S. market, along with tax incentives for offshoring, there won’t be a comeback. Scott also says that the administration has ignored the linkage between its policies and the rising trade deficit as it continues its “rosy pronouncements.” In his testimony last week, Lighthizer praised several companies that have scrapped offshoring efforts or have “announced” plans to move production to the U.S. And he praised both the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which takes effect July 1, and the current "phase one” China trade deal. Scott argues that increased domestic purchasing spurred by tax cuts and an expanded federal budget pushed average employment per manufacturing plant up between 2016 and 2019 -- but that offshoring continued throughout. Overall, the U.S. has lost more than 91,000 manufacturing plants and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs since 1997 -- including nearly 1,800 factories that disappeared under the current administration between 2016 and 2018, Scott says. And, he thinks that any recent manufacturing gains were abruptly wiped out by the COVID-19 lockdown -- with a staggering 1.2 million manufacturing jobs lost this year. But U.S. manufacturing was struggling even before COVID-19, Scott says. Starting in 2014, the U.S. dollar has appreciated in fits and starts, climbing nearly 28 percent. “More than half of that rise has come since the administration’s tariffs were first imposed in March 2018.” Equally problematic, the 2017 Trump tax cuts on corporate profits incentivized offshoring for certain types of production while also raising after-tax profits, he says. This has attracted foreign capital to U.S. stock markets, spurring the dollar even higher. If the administration’s trade policy really encouraged “reshoring,” America’s trade balance would have improved. But the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods rose significantly between 2016 and 2019. “In fact, the real U.S. trade deficit has increased every year since 2016, reducing GDP growth by roughly one-quarter of one percent annually over the past three years,” Scott says. As for the USMCA, it is unlikely to resolve longstanding U.S.-Mexico trade issues, Scott charges. And, the “Phase One” China trade deal is a bust, too, Scott charges. China promised to increase purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over 2017 imports but is unlikely to meet these targets. Beijing has also strategically adjusted to the Trump tariffs. China is simply exporting more goods elsewhere, and the U.S. trade deficit with China’s trading partners rose rapidly in 2019. In fact, China’s overall trade surplus with the world climbed significantly in 2019. China also reduced the value of its currency by 11.4% against the U.S. dollar since March 2018, helping to offset the tariffs. The tariffs are a signature element of the administration trade agenda, and have helped sectors like steel and aluminum. But “increasing tariffs without taking steps to prevent the dollar’s appreciation, the overall benefits are simply neutralized,” Scott says. These problems have been compounded by mistakes on tax policy, Scott thinks. U.S. multinationals continually engage in massive, international tax avoidance, with some paying no income tax. The pharmaceuticals industry has reaped major rewards, and moved plants to countries with the lowest possible corporate tax rate. As a result, the U.S. now has a massive trade deficit in pharmaceuticals. The U.S. trade deficit is likely to shrink during COVID-19. But unless steps are taken to address dollar overvaluation and tax incentives for offshoring, these deficits will simply reemerge when recovery occurs. Washington must embark on major investments in infrastructure, R&D, training, renewable energy and other industrial policies. In 2016, President Donald Trump campaigned against globalization and failed trade deals that have hurt U.S. manufacturing. That strategy worked, Scott says, but the administration has since failed to deliver for working Americans. “Now the wheels are coming off,” Scott says and it is time for a meaningful rewrite of failed U.S. trade and economic policies. So, we will see. It is true that trade policy pressures abound, but also seems likely that since the administration and the Congress are tightly focused on alleviating impact of the virus concerns about trade deficits are unlikely to command new priorities. However, these are high stakes debates that should be watched closely as the election season advances, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


EPA Now Shows 52 New Petitions Pending For Small Refinery Exemptions From RFS EPA’s dashboard showing the number of small refinery exemption (SRE) requests increased by 52 as of June 18, with those new requests for compliance years 2011 through 2018. The updated data now provides a level of petitions filed for prior compliance years under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in what ethanol backers say is an attempt by refiners to become eligible for SREs ahead based on the 10th Circuit Court ruling that determined for the a refiner to be eligible for SREs they had to be extensions of prior requests. “Petition counts include submissions from small refineries that are seeking reconsideration of petitions that were previously denied,” EPA said. “Accordingly, the count for any compliance year may include petitions from the same small refinery being represented as both a denial and still pending.” There also are 27 requests pending for the 2019 compliance year and one for the 2020 compliance year.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


China’s Purchases of US Ag Products Expected to Rise Shortly China plans to accelerate purchases of U.S. farm goods to comply with the Phase One trade deal with the U.S. following talks this week between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart. “During my meeting with CCP Politburo Member Yang Jiechi, he recommitted to completing and honoring all of the obligations of Phase One of the trade deal between our two countries,” Pompeo said in a tweet Thursday. China intends to step up buying of everything from soybeans to corn and ethanol after purchases fell behind due to COVID-19 disruptions, said two people familiar with the matter cited by Bloomberg. This would confirm the expectation cited by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in congressional testimony that he expected China to live up to their commitments in the Phase One deal and that their purchases of U.S. ag products – and other goods – would be rising soon. Bloomberg reported that through the first four months of 2020, China purchases of U.S. ag goods were at $4.65 billion, well shy of the total of $36.5 billion in U.S. ag products China committed to purchase in 2020. Another source cited in the Bloomberg report indicated that Chinese state buyers were being urged to make all efforts possible to meet the Phase One agreement terms. U.S. officials and trade sources have continued to maintain they fully expect the purchase commitments by China to be met and they also have reminded that China has also taken many actions on other trade issues that were covered in the Phase One agreement.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Now summer has officially begun, traders will be checking the latest weather forecasts and any new export sale announcements. A report on U.S. existing home sales is due out at 9 a.m. CDT, followed by USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections at 10 a.m. USDA's monthly cold storage report is released at 2 p.m. CDT and the Crop Progress report is at 3 p.m. Updated crop ratings and winter wheat harvest progress will get most of the report's attention. Weather Showers and thunderstorms will cross the Midwest, portions of the Plains and Delta Monday, with mostly favorable moisture for developing crops. Temperatures will be seasonally mild in most areas; however, the far southwestern Plains will see some extreme heat.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


Lighthizer Testifies on China Trade Deal, Criticizes WTO U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had a lot to say about the president’s economic agreement with China during testimony in Washington on Wednesday. He says Beijing is buying more American products and that the Asian nation would live up to the terms of the Phase One agreement. Lighthizer says his office is closely tracking the number of goods China is purchasing from the U.S. and is in frequent contact with Chinese officials. The New York Times says even though China has committed to purchasing $200 billion in goods by the end of next year, many analysts say that’s not realistic given the impacts of COVID-19 around the world. “Every indication is that despite COVID-19, China is going to do what it says it will do,” Lighthizer said during testimony. He pointed out the administration’s new or revised trade deals with Japan, Canada, and Mexico have improved terms for American businesses and farmers. However, he was more guarded on a possible deal with the European Union happening soon, accusing the EU of thinly-veiled protectionism. Lighthizer also renewed the administration’s fight with the World Trade Organization, saying the WTO needs “radical reform.” ********************************************************************************************** Organic Farmers say USDA “Let Down” Organic Dairies The Organic Farmers Association is asking members of Congress to ensure that USDA’s National Organic Program complies with the law and finalizes the Origin of Livestock rule as quickly as possible. A recent deadline for the National Organic Program to finalize the long-awaited Origin of Livestock rule has passed by. The Association says the rule is necessary to close a loophole in organic dairy standards that has supported rapid growth in larger organic dairies and consequently put family organic dairy farmers out of business across the country. As many as 70 organic farm organizations from around the nation sent a letter to members of Congress, including the House and Senate Ag Committees, asking them to pressure the USDA to make sure the NOP complies with a congressional mandate and finalizes the origin of organic livestock rule as soon as possible. “The organic community is united in the immediate need for this rule,” says Kate Mendenhall, Director of the Organic Farmers Association. “We are disappointed this long-awaited deadline passed without any action from the NOP.” The groups that signed onto the letter agree that continued delays in implementing the rule will prolong the dire economic consequences facing organic dairy farmers, as well as jeopardize consumer trust in the organic label. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Dairy Calls for An End to EU Dairy Dumping into International Markets An economic analysis published this week shows the serious impact of the European Union’s Skim Milk Powder Intervention Program on U.S. dairy. The program hit U.S. farm-gate milk prices especially hard during 2016-2019. The report says the U.S. was economically harmed in three ways. First, the EU program depressed the global price of skim milk powder, lowering U.S. milk prices, and contributing to a $2.2 billion loss in 2018 and 2019. The program also inflated the EU market share, resulting in a drastically smaller export market share for U.S. dairy exporters, which led to export losses totaling $168 million in 2018-2019. Finally, the analysis says when the EU unleashed its stockpile of skim milk powder into the global marketplace, the disposal affected U.S. competitiveness in historically important export markets like Southeast Asia. The International Dairy Foods Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, pointing to the analysis as proof the EU’s SMP Intervention Program has wreaked havoc on the U.S. dairy industry. They’re asking the government to help prevent the EU from using future intervention practices to dispose of dairy products into the global market at discounted prices. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Progress Show is a Go The nation’s largest outdoor farm event is on in 2020. The Farm Progress Show is officially a go near Boone, Iowa, despite COVID-19. In making the announcement, organizers say the show is an essential business event that provides farmers with much-needed information and tools. “We know that the market is dealing with a lot of issues,” says Matt Jungmann, the event manager. “However, agriculture is a critical business for this country, and farmers are looking for ways to get better at what they do.” The Des Moines Register says the show attracts thousands of Iowa and U.S. farmers, as well as dozens of agricultural companies. The show is scheduled for September 1-3 and has drawn people from as many as 45 countries in previous years. Organizers say they will take safety precautions, including providing additional space to allow for social distancing, numerous hand sanitizing stations, and enhancing efforts to clean buildings. “Farmers are struggling with low corn, soybean, and other commodity prices, and they need more information and tools to boost profitability than ever before,” show officials said in their statement on Wednesday. The World Pork Expo and the Iowa State Fair were both canceled this year because of COVID-19. ********************************************************************************************** Growth Energy Applauds Streamlining Biofuels Approval Process Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor is pleased with legislation designed to reduce Environmental Protection Agency delays in approving applications to produce advanced biofuels under the Renewable Fuels Standard. “We applaud the bipartisan legislation designed to break the regulatory logjam holding back cellulosic biofuels,” she says. “Studies show that advanced biofuels can cut carbon emissions by 100 percent or more while providing a low-cost alternative to the petroleum-based aromatics that poison our air and threaten our health.” Growth Energy says major investments in low-carbon biofuels have been held hostage by regulatory delays, even as farmers and biofuel producers work together to harness clean energy from agricultural residue. “By keeping regulatory pathways blocked, EPA has put an artificial cap on advanced biofuels, limiting their growth under the RFS,” Skor says. “This important legislation will help clear the deck on long-overdue approvals and jumpstart growth at a time when revitalizing rural communities has never been more important.” The bill would set a 90-day deadline for EPA to act on petitions that have been pending for more than six months. It would also fast-track approval for advanced biofuels that have already been certified under state-based, low-carbon fuel programs. ********************************************************************************************** ASA Hires First-Ever Staff Economist The American Soybean Association hired Scott Gerlt (GER-ult), who is the first person to take on the role of staff economist with the organization. Gerlt lives in Missouri and will work out of the St. Louis office. He’s highly regarded within agricultural economic circles, thanks to his policy work with the Food and Agricultural Research Institute, where he has more than 10 years of experience. Some of that experience includes working with policymakers to develop the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. Gerlt grew up on a diversified farm with both row crops and livestock in Missouri. In the new role, he’ll provide insight on relevant agricultural economics and analysis of current and future ASA policy. ASA CEO Ryan Findlay says, “Having an economist on staff will enrich our internal discussions on issues and strengthen our public arguments for why policymakers need to take action on behalf of U.S. soybean farmers. It’s exciting for ASA to find someone with both his policy experience and enthusiasm for working directly with farmers.” The organization says Gerlt will provide a lot of clarity on what ASA is requesting from policymakers during lobbying and how it will affect U.S. soybean farmers and their communities.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Trade Fight Over Taxes on Digital Commerce Bloomberg says this week that the U.S. has decided to withdraw from international efforts to harmonize global tax rules for digital companies and that the decision “risks triggering a new trade war.” The move came after the U.S. and an international group failed to agree on the best way to increase tax revenue from digital companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. These companies have long been targets for cash-strapped governments who are interested in tapping their deep pockets. The U.S. says digital taxes unfairly discriminate against American firms and has threatened retaliatory tariffs if they try. Such a move “could exacerbate the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression,” Bloomberg says. In July 2019, France became the first country to impose a digital tax on U.S. firms after wider efforts by the European Union to develop a harmonized approach failed. The French 3% levy was applied to companies with at least 750 million euros in global revenue and digital sales of 25 million euros in France. Of about 30 businesses affected, most are American, but the list also includes Chinese, German, British and even French firms. The U.S. and France “came close to triggering a transatlantic trade war” in January as the EU said it could retaliate if the U.S. went ahead with planned tariffs on roughly $2.4 billion in signature French products, including wine, cheese, handbags and makeup. The two countries agreed on a truce whereby the U.S. would back off from tariffs and France would delay collection of its digital tax to the end of 2020 to allow for renewed efforts to reach a multilateral solution. Since then, the U.S. has launched investigations into the digital taxes proposed or enacted by 10 nations and the EU, citing Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, which allows it to retaliate for trade practices it deems unfair – the same tool used to justify U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods due to alleged theft of intellectual property. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says countries that have either adopted or are considering digital taxes include Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK. Now, governments are increasingly focusing on digital taxes as a way to raise funds to help pandemic-stricken economies. Stay-at-home policies have played to the strengths of companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc., along with other platforms that compose the nearly $26 trillion global e-commerce marketplace. France has said it would drop its tax if the U.S. and other countries agree to a global effort for a uniform approach under the stewardship of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). However, this month U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the EU that the U.S. will no longer participate in the OECD’s digital tax talks after they failed to reach agreement on the best way to tax revenues of U.S. technology companies. The U.S. move is opposed by its trading partners. For example, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the U.S. withdrawal from the international talks “a provocation” and indicated his country will impose a version of the levy this year. “Whatever happens, we will apply a tax on digital giants in 2020 because it is a question of justice,” Le Maire said. Lighthizer told lawmakers June 17 that the U.S. would respond to any “unilateral” digital services taxes with retaliatory tariffs” but left room for the possibility of a deal. He called for an “international regime” that not only focuses firm size one based on a general agreement about how we’re going to tax people internationally, he said. “So I think there is clearly room for a negotiated settlement.” Bloomberg notes 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. The U.S. Treasury Department tried and failed to sway the EU’s investigation which alleged that the company got an illegal subsidy. The Commission has also probed Google’s Irish tax arrangements and ordered Amazon to pay 250 million euros in back taxes to Luxembourg. Other U.S. companies, including non-technology firms such as Starbucks Corp. and Nike Inc., have also been targeted. 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 tax payments. Bloomberg also notes 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. In 2019, Google agreed to pay 965 million euros to settle two French tax probes. 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. Lawmakers are on the lookout for companies that might consider changing their tax structures or moving income outside of the EU to stay ahead of the curve. So, we will see. Business interests are worried that new international fights will weaken efforts to offset impacts of the coronavirus — and that is certainly a valid concern. The “international digital tax” effort is yet another threat that could trigger pushbacks of many kinds. It should be watched closely as new and more threatening policy fights are debated, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


Senate Ag Panel Sets Markup On Grain Standards Reauthorization, Hearing On Carbon Capture Bill The Senate Ag Committee has set a business meeting June 24 to markup the United States Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020, one of the few pieces of ag-related legislation that are expected to be acted on this year. The panel held a hearing on the issue last year and it will be interesting to see if changes suggested at that session have been incorporated into the legislation the panel will markup next week. The measure was last reauthorized in 2015. The panel will then shift to a hearing on the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020 (S 3894). American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, National Farmers Union President Rob Larew, Land O’Lakes official Jason Weller and Indiana farmer Brent Bible – also listed as an adviser to the Environmental Defense Fund – are scheduled to testify.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


USTR Lighthizer Fully Expects China to Meet Phase One Commitments U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spent hours on the Hill Wednesday, testifying on the trade agenda to panels in both the House and Senate. But his message on the China Phase One agreement was unchanged – China will live up to terms of the deal. He reiterated several times that he expects China will live up to terms of the deal. Lighthizer said that in “every contact I've had with the Chinese they have reaffirmed their commitment to living up to the agreement.” He also again related the view that China’s buys of soybeans will be backloaded this year. But he also expressed disappointment that some think the deal is “just soybean sales contract when it really has a lot of very, very serious parts to it.” As we have repeatedly emphasized, Lighthizer made sure to note the key changes that China has agreed to as part of the deal and the fact that it is an “an enforceable agreement.” China has bought around $1 billion in U.S. cotton which puts them ahead of where they were in 2017, the base year that was used as the starting point for China’s purchase commitments. Lighthizer said the China commitment on cotton is “substantially north” of that $1 billion mark, but he did not say what that level is. Recall the specific purchase commitments were part of a confidential part of the accord that neither side has made public. Current purchases stand at around $10 billion, Lighthizer noted. Lighthizer made clear that China purchases so far are still behind the levels needed to meet the commitments, particularly on energy. However, he predicted that China would “soon” be making sizable purchases of U.S. ethanol. After all of that testimony Wednesday, President Donald Trump seemed to undercut Lighthizer on Thursday with a tweet. "It was not Ambassador Lighthizer’s fault (yesterday in Committee) in that perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, but the U.S. certainly does maintain a policy option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China. Thank you!"

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets USDA's June 1 cattle on-feed report is the only official report on Friday's docket, but traders have plenty of other interests, including U.S. and international weather, trade news and the latest information on the battle against coronavirus. Weather Wet weather is expected through the central and Southern Plains Friday, causing delays in the ongoing winter wheat harvest. Showers will extend northeast through the western Midwest and scattered showers will continue from Ohio through the Mid-Atlantic. Other primary crop areas will be dry.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


Grower Coalition Seeks to Protect use of Dicamba Stocks Farm groups urge the Ninth Circuit appeals court to reject an NGO call to invalidate the Environmental Protection Agency’s dicamba existing stocks order. The EPA recently defended its decision to allow farmers to continue to use existing stocks of three dicamba herbicides. The court vacated the registrations for XtendiMax, FeXapan and Engenia earlier this month. The groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and commodity organizations, have filed an amicus brief supporting EPA’s position. The groups say, “Neither a midseason cancellation nor a vacatur unplants a seed, retroactively tills a field, or clears a storehouse of products purchased for lawful use under the prior registration.” The coalition says immediately banning use of existing stocks of would financially devastate America’s soybean and cotton growers, who have invested an estimated $4.28 billion in seed and hundreds of millions on herbicides. The coalition says an estimated 64 million acres of dicamba-tolerant seed is already in the ground. Without dicamba, the groups say expected yield loss for soy and cotton could reach 50 percent. ************************************************************************************ Senate Passes Great American Outdoors Act The U.S. Senate Wednesday passed the Great American Outdoor Act, sending the bill to the House of Representatives. The bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands. The bill provides $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $9.5 billion over the next five years in national park and other public land maintenance. However, livestock and public lands groups argue the bill is a “disappointment to those who value conservation and active management of our natural resources.” Public Lands Council Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover says by making funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund mandatory, “proponents of this bill sentenced existing and future lands and waters to the same fate facing current federal assets – billions of dollars in deferred maintenances.” The Public Lands Council actively represents cattle and sheep producers who hold public lands grazing permits. President Donald Trump indicated he would sign the bill, if passed by both the House and Senate. ************************************************************************************ Coalition Calls on Trump to Ensure China Meets Trade Obligations A broad coalition representing agriculture is asking President Donald Trump to preserve the Phase One trade agreement with China by holding China accountable for commodity purchases. The letter, sent this week, was signed by 192 groups representing all parts of the food value chain and rural economies. The groups seek continued implementation of the U.S. China Phase One Trade Agreement due to the significance of China’s market for U.S. food and agricultural exports. The letter says the world grain and oilseed market is experiencing the greatest oversupply of production since the 1980s, and the United States is facing increasing competition from foreign sources. The organizations say the trade agreement “will act as foundation for prosperity of the U.S. agriculture sector.” The letter concludes, “You have our full support and appreciation as you and your outstanding trade team work to ensure that China meets its commitments under Phase One now and into the future.” ************************************************************************************ USDA Extends Farmers to Families Food Box Program Contracts for Some Vendors The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced the extension of contract to venders in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. USDA is exercising the option to extend contracts for current distributors for the next performance period, July 1 through August 30, for up to $1.16 billion of food. The decision to extend current contractors was determined based on their performance since May 15. Some vendors were extended without any adjustment to their delivery amounts, while others’ amounts or locations were adjusted based on their demonstrated abilities to perform or at the vendor’s request. USDA says the extensions continue to require audits to ensure all requirements are met. The government chose not to extend some vendors’ contracts either in part because of concerns brought up during audits or for performance challenges. Since May 15, distributors have delivered over 17 million food boxes to approximately 3,200 non-profit organizations across the United States. ************************************************************************************ Bill Seeks USDA Ag Supply Chain Administrator Legislation introduced this week would create a new office at the Department of Agriculture to connect food banks with farmers. The American Farms, Food banks and Families Act proposes to create a Domestic Agriculture Supply Chain Administrator to act as a liaison between food banks, grocers and nonprofit food distributors to expand market access for farmers. Introduced be Republican Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, the legislation ensures “the federal government is collaborating with local farmers, food banks, and distributors.” Loeffler says the bill would help families in need, assist farmers and create jobs. Kyle Waide, CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, says the legislation “will help food insecure families across the country get the fresh food they desperately need.” The duties of the administrator include identifying legal and regulatory barriers that inhibit farmers from working directly with food distribution entities and convening members of the public and private sector to make recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture. ************************************************************************************ Senate Ag Announces Climate Bill Hearing, Grain Standards Reauthorization Markup The Senate Agriculture Committee announced a hearing next week on climate solutions and a business meeting on grain standards. Committee leaders, Senate Republican Pat Roberts, and Senate Democrat Debbie Stabenow made the announcement this week. The Committee will hold a legislative hearing on The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020, and hold a business meeting to consider the U.S. Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020. The hearing, planned for Wednesday, June 24, will feature testimony from Indiana farmer Brent Bible, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duval, National Farmers Union President Rob Larew, and Jason Weller of Land O’Lakes. The Growing Climate Solutions Act creates a certification program at the Department of Agriculture to help solve technical entry barriers that make it difficult for farmers to participate in carbon credit markets. The Grain Standards Act authorizes the Federal Grain Inspection Service of USDA to establish official marketing standards for certain grains and oilseeds.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fed’s Expanding Role The Fed is continuing to boost its visibility in the growing coronavirus fight. Bloomberg noted that Chairman Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the U.S. economy may be entering a period of significant improvements in employment but also could leave the labor market “well short” of the robust levels seen just before the coronavirus pandemic. Powell was repeatedly asked by about economic inequality and the unemployment rates for low-income and black Americans in light of protests sweeping the nation over police brutality and racial disparities. He responded that “the disproportionate impact of job losses on low-income Americans and minorities” is significant, and that “the economic pain was hitting hardest on those who can least afford it.” “If not contained and reversed, the downturn could further widen gaps in economic well-being that the long expansion had made some progress in closing,” he said. Powell also was pressed by Democrats on whether Congress should provide additional fiscal support, focusing in particular on whether budget cutbacks by state and local governments could further damage the economy if they don’t receive more aid. Powell tried to stay out of the most partisan battles but agreed that growing inequality is a risk, Bloomberg said. He also appeared to lend his support to continuing some level of extra aid to the unemployed. “I wouldn’t presume to tell you what the Fed thinks you should do, it’s really not our role,” Powell said. “We do think you’ll want to continue support for workers in some form. There are going to be an awful lot of unemployed people for some time.” Bloomberg also noted that the U.S. has spent more than half of the $3 trillion in economic rescue funds passed by Congress—but provided “little of the oversight intended to ensure the money goes to the right places.” In fact, the new oversight bodies that exist are “barely functional,” Bloomberg thinks. These include a special inspector general who was recently sworn in, a congressional panel that still lacks a chairman and staff and an official that the president “quickly removed” who was going to lead a separate accountability committee. The sheer size of the pandemic response means there’s a wide swath of issues to investigate. But mistrust in Washington is so deep that the oversight groups’ investigations are already mired in politics. Leaders of both parties have failed to agree on a chairman to lead the congressional oversight panel. And Democrats are already voicing concerns on whether Trump’s hand-picked special inspector general for the stimulus can be independent from his former boss. While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce frets that lawmakers’ oversight will be tainted by politics, Democrats such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., an advocate of the watchdogs’ role, say the cash is already flowing to undeserving recipients. “We’ve seen giant public companies scoop up relief meant for small businesses, an inspector general fired, promises made to muzzle independent oversight,” Warren said. One of the key figures in the oversight debate is Brian Miller, the former White House lawyer chosen by President Trump and sworn in June 5 as special inspector general for pandemic recovery. Democrats are deeply skeptical about how he’ll perform. Miller must convince Democrats and the Trump administration that he’s tough, fair, and someone they should pay attention to, said Neil Barofsky, the first special inspector general who oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, amid the 2008 financial crisis. He said Miller’s most important chance to prove his independence will be his first public report, due in August. So, we will see, as we enter an entirely new period of massive federal interventions and oversight amid an unusually contentious political campaign. Some experts continue to assure the public that strong but careful federal programs can alleviate the worst impacts of the virus and avoid a prolonged recession, or worse. In the meantime, there are desperate efforts to find and mobilize vaccines to control the infestation and death the disease carries. Most of the approaches proposed involve high stakes and are extremely controversial, and all should be watched closely as the political season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


EPA’s Wheeler Says Waiting On DOE Regarding SREs EPA's EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told Brownfield that retroactive requests for small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) must be treated like other requests for exemptions. Wheeler told the news service he was not sure how many had been filed. “The statute does allow people to file their applications for waivers at any time, and at any time is in the statute,” Wheeler stated. “So, we have received some. We’ve not process reviewed them yet,” he observed. “We’ve sent them over to the Department of Energy when we received them and Department of Energy is currently reviewing them.” As for requests for the 2019 compliance year, Wheeler said the agency still has those to consider. EPA data shows 27 requests are pending for the 2019 compliance year. “We also included in the RVO [Renewable Volume Obligations] for 2020 the almost, actually over 700-million gallons for small refiners. We’ve not processed the 2019 applications because of the court decision.” The court decision referenced is the 10th Circuit Court which invalidated three SREs granted for the 2016 compliance year.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


EPA Files Response To Court Challenge On Dicamba EPA has defended its decision to allow continued use of dicamba on soybeans and cotton, telling the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it is in compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in allowing the use of the three dicamba products through July 31. EPA issued an order rescinding registration of Bayer's Xtendimax, BASF's Engenia and Corteva's FeXapan, and said in its court filing that action “only makes it illegal to distribute or sell that pesticide. It does not outlaw use of products already legally purchased.” In the filing on Tuesday, lawyers for the EPA argued that spraying a pesticide that is not registered is not illegal; instead, it is only illegal to buy or sell an unregistered pesticide. EPA also said it anticipated illegal applications of dicamba could be a problem if the herbicide is immediately banned. “When a registration is vacated, misuse of that product is no longer a violation of FIFRA,” EPA said. “The Cancellation Order addresses this indirect and potentially disruptive environmental harm. The Order plugs a regulatory gap by ensuring that existing stocks of these newly-unregistered pesticides are used safely and appropriately, and only for a limited period of time.” Further, the agency said the court does not have jurisdiction over the decision because it is a separate administrative order than the registration that was vacated. The parties filing the action to halt EPA’s order to allow the products to be applied through July 31 have until today to file their reply.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday morning is busy with weekly grain export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor all due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT. Natural gas inventories follow at 9:30 a.m. Traders continue to watch the latest weather forecasts, any trade news and the ongoing quest for possible coronavirus vaccines and treatments. Weather A front slowly moving across the middle of the country will produce widespread moderate rainfall and a small risk for some severe weather from the western Midwest down through the Southern Plains Thursday. This will start a period of disruption to the wheat harvest, but benefit summer crops looking for more moisture.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


USDA: Commodity Purchases Reach $2.2 Billion Through Aid Program The Department of Agriculture announced the purchases of more than $2.2 billion of food items for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The purchases are part of the ongoing efforts to feed people in need and assist American farmers and ranchers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. USDA is on target to reach its fiscal year goal of about $1.4 billion of trade mitigation purchases in the next phase of fiscal year purchasing, which ends September 30. The purchases were made through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, one of USDA’s three programs in its Support Packages for Farmers. Most of the food purchased is provided to states for distribution to nutrition assistance programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs. The purchases include meat, fruits, vegetables, specialty crops and dairy products. The Food Purchase and Distribution Program was established in fiscal year 2019 to assist U.S. producers by purchasing commodities that have been unfairly targeted by trade partners. ************************************************************************************ USDA Updates CFAP Numbers The Department of Agriculture has processed more than 220,000 Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments to farmers and ranchers. In a weekly update, USDA data shows the department has issued $2.8 billion to farmers so far, with Iowa producers receiving the most, at $144 million for row crops, and $150 million for livestock. Iowa also accounts for the highest number of non-specialty crop applications, at more than 20,000. USDA says some 112,000 non-specialty crop producers nationally have received more than $758 million, while roughly 1,500 specialty crop growers have received $53 million. Payments to livestock producers total $1.4 billion, while payments to the dairy sector total $667 million. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program provides financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities with financial support that gives them the ability to absorb sales losses and increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA will continue to accept applications for the program through August 28, 2020. Resources for farmers regarding the payments are available at www.farmers.gov/cfap. ************************************************************************************ Exports to China Not Meeting Expectations Exports to China are lagging, according to Agricultural Economic Insights. Agricultural Economist David Widmar says before the trade war, soybean exports accounted for 51 percent of all U.S. ag exports to China. He writes, “Based on the first four months of 2020, trade with China has been disappointing.” After $778 million in sales in January, soybeans have mostly stalled as total 2020 sales reached $1.2 billion through April. Those figures come as the U.S. and China signed a Phase One trade agreement that included aggressive purchases of U.S. commodities by China. Through April, purchases of total U.S. ag products approached $4.6 billion, in line with 2019’s $4.3 billion figure. Yet, pre-trade war levels over the same time period in 2017 totaled $7.1 billion. China’s purchases are seasonal, with a flurry of activity early this year, and typically large purchases in the fall. Widmar says that before the trade war, China purchased 57 percent of total annual soybeans between October and December. ************************************************************************************ Survey Reveals Increased Snacking Habits in the 'New Normal' Staying home means snacking more for Americans. Amid orders to shelter-in-place, many Americans have turned to snacking for comfort. A new survey, conducted in May in partnership with California Walnuts and Kelton Global, explores the snacking behaviors of Americans and how they've changed since shelter-in-place mandates were implemented. About one in two Americans, 48 percent, confess they are snacking more than before the pandemic began. Two in five, 40 percent, of those expect to see this behavior continue after the shelter-in-place mandates are lifted. While Americans are mostly torn when it comes to the perfect flavor profile of their snacks, the preference for sweet snacks at 57 percent, currently edges out salty at 43 percent. Comfort is the first priority, with 75 percent of respondents noting that they are not trying to eat healthier snacks than they usually do, and only 20 percent remarking that they wish there were more nutritious snacking options available. ************************************************************************************ FBN opens Access to Chemical Prices Farmers Business Network this week announced prices for all products from the online FBN Direct store will be publicly available. The pricing information is open for all farmers to see, regardless of membership in FBN, with no FBN account required. FBN says the online store has helped many farms save tens of thousands of dollars annually, with some individual farms reporting savings as high as $120,000 per year. In addition, this move comes just in time for the launch of FBN's first-ever Cyber Summer Sale, offering up to 27 percent discounts on more than half of the ag chemical products available for sale in the FBN Direct online store now, through July 31, 2020. FBN has also announced that it will offer free shipping on chemical orders over $5,000 through August 31, 2020. FBN’s Tom Staples says, “Throughout this crisis, just as before it, FBN has been taking real action to fight for farmers' livelihoods." FBN is the largest independent farmer-to-farmer network. Learn more at FBN.com. ************************************************************************************ NCGA Launches Summer Virtual Fair Contest The National Corn Growers Association is kicking-off summer with a new contest, focusing on the benefits of using corn in the feed ration. The Farm to Virtual Fair contest started Monday and runs through Monday, November 2, 2020. To enter the contest, you must follow NCGA (@corngrowers) on Instagram, tag NCGA in the post and use the hashtag #MyCornFedBarn. Participants can enter a photo or video, explaining why they use corn in their feed ration. The first-place winner will win $300, second place will receive $200, and third place will get $100. Winners will be announced by Monday, November 16, 2020. Nebraska farmer and NCGA Market Development Action Team Chair Dan Wesely says, “With so many unknowns this year, we wanted to give students participating in their local, county or state 4-H and FFA livestock shows something to look forward to.” Find more information about the contest on NCGA’s website, www.NCGA.com.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Moving Deeper Into the Political Season The Trump administration is preparing a huge new infrastructure proposal as part of its push to spur the U.S. economy back to life. A preliminary version being prepared by the Department of Transportation would reserve most of the money for traditional infrastructure work, like roads and bridges but would also set aside funds for 5G wireless infrastructure and rural broadband, the people said. In addition, the president is scheduled to discuss rural broadband access at a White House event later this week. The report notes that an “existing U.S. infrastructure funding law is up for renewal by Sept. 30, and the administration sees that as a possible vehicle to push through a broader package,” The draft plan is emerging as lawmakers from both parties and the administration debate the timing and scope of additional stimulus for “a U.S. economy plunged into recession by nationwide lock-downs needed to halt the spread of coronavirus.” This is the latest sign of momentum in Washington for some kind of infrastructure spending blitz ahead of the election, Bloomberg said. House Democrats have offered their own $500 billion proposal to renew infrastructure funding over five years. It’s unclear how long the administration’s draft would provide spending or how it would pay for the programs. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to markup that measure today. Like most things in this election year, the infrastructure effort is controversial. For example, Democratic groups are telling their members to resist the administration’s efforts. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, -- the Banking Committee’s top Democrat -- told the new watchdog in charge of overseeing the pandemic corporate bailout fund they’re concerned the proposed effort “won’t be independent from his former employer: The White House.” Brian Miller, the newly confirmed special inspector general for pandemic recovery, most recently served as a White House lawyer and participated in the president’s impeachment defense. “You must resist influence or pressure, uphold the law, and protect taxpayers’ interests — even if it places your job at risk,” the senators said in a letter delivered this week. “Ultimately, your duty is to the American people, not the president.” In the meantime, the Fed inserted itself even more deeply into efforts to protect private companies from the fallout of the coronavirus. Bloomberg notes that this effort is “finally” underway but suggests that “the central bank is nervous about managing the long-term risk.” As the Fed chair Jerome Powell prepares to defend these efforts before Congress the back-story of how the central bank became lender of last resort to Main Street shows the extreme lengths to which officials were ready to rewrite their old crisis playbook to confront COVID-19. In addition, this week, dramatic evidence that everything is focused on politics now can clearly be seen as the president resumes his signature campaign rallies. Bloomberg says the rally planned for June 20 in Tulsa, Okla., is shaping up as a “possible nightmare scenario for public health officials,” as supporters gather in an arena that holds nearly 20,000 people, with no special capacity limits, “despite concerns that crowded, indoor events are ideal for transmitting the coronavirus.” The campaign plans to give a mask and hand sanitizer to everyone who attends — and require them to agree to a waiver absolving the campaign of liability if they get sick. So, we will see. Clearly, the coronavirus is affecting almost everything this year and events like the Tulsa rally can be expected to play a role — as will the dynamics of the rally itself and its eventually consequences. The infrastructure effort also could be important, at least partly since it has long been promised and proved deeply controversial in the past. This is an effort that should be watched closely by producers as it emerges, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


Lawmakers Urge USDA to Repeat 2019 Rules for Cover Crops on Prevent Plant Acres The prospect of an elevate level of prevented planting acres this season in some areas is prompting some farm-state lawmakers to ask USDA to take the same steps they did in 2019 relative to harvesting cover crops planted on prevent plant acres. The 2019 level of prevented planting acres was much higher than usual and took place in several states. “As you know, there were more than 19 million prevented plant acres across the United States in 2019 due to excessive rainfall and spring flooding,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and a slew of their colleagues wrote. “Due to an administrative rule, producers were not allowed to graze or harvest cover crops on these acres prior to November 1 without a reduction in their prevented plant indemnity.” Last year, USDA “made a one-time administrative change to move up the date on which producers could graze, hay, or chop cover crops on prevented plant acres from November 1 to September 1,” a move the lawmakers said allowed “producers to retain some agricultural value of their prevented plant acres.” The lawmakers said that at the very least, USDA needs to remove the penalties again this year provided the harvest/use activities happen outside the normal nesting season.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


US Ag Sector Urges Trump to Give China More Time To Meet Phase One Commitments Scores of U.S. ag interests have written President Donald Trump, urging him to give China time to fulfill Phase One farm purchase commitments. “As you know, the U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement is critical to both the near - and longer-term success and growth of American agriculture — and the millions of American jobs the agricultural sector sustains,” more than 180 organizations and companies said in a 13-page letter to the White House detailing benefits and status of the agreement for U.S. farm products. “While the current pace of U.S. agricultural exports to China is below the pace needed to meet the Phase One goals, American farmers, ranchers, and rural communities remain optimistic that the purchases under this agreement will accelerate and be fulfilled by China, and that as a result, the American agriculture sector will enjoy important market opportunities,” the letter added. China has not yet asked for an extension of their purchase commitment timeline, but trade sources have indicated that could become a reality.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets A report on U.S. housing starts is due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT Wednesday. For grain markets, the more interesting report is the U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory report as it includes ethanol data at 9:30 a.m. CDT. The latest weather forecasts remain highly watched along with any trade news that might develop. Weather Breezy winds will continue in the Plains and Western Corn Belt bringing well-above-normal temperatures to the region on Wednesday. Showers appear to be confined toward the Mid-Atlantic and the Northern and western Plains. Some of the storms in the Dakotas could be strong to severe later today.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


Dicamba Makers Seek to Intervene in Court Decision Makers of dicamba filed motions to intervene in a court case following a decision to vacate the registration for three dicamba herbicides. BASF and Corteva announced their motions to intervene late last week. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the registrations on June 3, 2020, for dicamba herbicides from BASF, Bayer and Corteva. Bayer intervened in the case last year. A dicamba herbicide from Syngenta was not included in the ruling. BASF's Paul Rea, says the decision, made during the middle of the growing season, “gives no regard to the significant investments farmers have made in their businesses and leaves them without viable options for the growing season." Corteva was not a party to the lawsuit and says that until June 3, the case appeared to involve only the Bayer XtendiMax registration. Corteva is seeking to intervene to “preserve our rights and to support the rights of customers to use the impacted dicamba weed control technology.” ************************************************************************************ Iowa Leaders Seek Support for Turkey Producers Iowa officials seek support for the state’s turkey producers. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Iowa Republicans, along with state leaders, made the request in a letter to the Department of Agriculture this week. The leaders request USDA provide turkey producers support through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The letter says plant closures and reduced flocks remain a growing threat to turkey growers, and the food supply chain. Independent turkey growers “stand to lose disproportionately compared to other corporate-owned growers.” according to the letter. The officials say there are numerous cooperative and independent growers left out of the CFAP aid package. In the letter, the officials ask that, “economists at USDA work to devise a methodology and formula that allows this niche sector of the nation’s poultry industry to have the same opportunities provided to others.” The United States is the world’s largest turkey producer and largest exporter of turkey products. ************************************************************************************ NCBA, Others, Oppose Great American Outdoors Act Livestock groups say the Great American Outdoors Act, “is an irresponsible way to fix a very real problem.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Sheep Industry, along with the Public Lands Council and others voiced their opposition to the legislation in a letter to Senate leadership. The letter urges Congress to retain its role in safeguarding public lands by opposing the bill. The groups say the Great American Outdoors Act, as written, creates more than $14 billion in new, mandatory spending and gives federal agencies free rein to spend $360 million per year solely to acquire new private land without any oversight from Congress. The letter, signed by 48 livestock groups, says the bill adds the mounting disrepair of current land under federal control to the rampant acquisitions without accounting for management of future land acquisitions. The bill has bipartisan support, and President Donald Trump has indicated he would sign the legislation if passed. ************************************************************************************ AEM Releases May 2020 Ag Equipment Sales Numbers Overall unit sales of agricultural tractors and combines in May 2020 rose in the United States. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers says smaller machine sales growth is overpowering declines in the bigger segments and combines. U.S. total farm tractor sales rose 15.1 percent in May compared to 2019, while U.S. May combine sales fell 2.9 percent. Heavy-duty tractor sales declined, but total year to date sales of all farm tractors now show positive at four percent growth for 2020, while combines remain down 9.5 percent in the same period. AEM’s Curt Blades says the growth, largely from sub-100 horsepower tractors, “appears to be an unusual side-effect of COVID-19-related quarantines.” Blades says large home property owners and hobby farmers are spending more time at home, and with their equipment, and desiring an upgrade. Blades says the declines in row-crop tractors and harvesters “is clearly a reflection of uncertainty in the overall ag economy at this time.” ************************************************************************************ U.S. Soy Shoes Donated to Frontline Workers U.S. Soy is helping bring comfort to health care professionals who are working tirelessly on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Okabashi (Ok-uh-bah-she), an American company that counts on U.S. soy for all its sandals, pledged to donate up to 10,000 pairs of soy-based sandals to health care workers for every order placed through its website or Zappos. Customers can purchase a pair of soy sandals for themselves and write a note of encouragement to a health care worker who will receive a pair with the personal message. United Soybean Board Director Belinda Burrier says, "It's neat to see the soybeans I grow not only being used in a unique way that supports demand for our product, but also to support frontline workers during this crisis." The United Soybean Board regularly collaborates with companies such as Goodyear on research to learn how to incorporate soy into new technology. Today, more than 1,000 different soy-based products are available, including everything from turf grass to machinery lubricants to asphalt. ************************************************************************************ Gas and Diesel Prices Up, Oil Down Gas prices were up again last week, representing the seventh straight week of increases. The national average price of gas increased 4.7 cents per gallon to $2.09, while the national average price of diesel rose 1.4 cents to $2.42 a gallon. Patrick De Haan of Gas Buddy expects “the upward trend to continue across most of the country ahead of July 4, with prices perhaps rising another 10-20 cents by then.” Prices are increasing on improved demand from drivers. However, he says, a possible second wave of coronavirus lockdowns could hamper demand if it was to occur. Over the last week, the price of oil has struggled under the weight of Saudi Arabia’s comments that it would not extend production cuts beyond July. De Haan says a delicate balancing act is underway by crude oil producers who don’t want oil prices to surge too quickly to avoid eager U.S. producers from getting back online too quickly.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Administration Probes Meat Industry Bloomberg says this week that the Trump administration launched “what could turn out to be the biggest attack in a century against the giants of America’s meat industry.” The probe follows the recent “uproar over employee treatment” during the pandemic, the report says. The Department of Justice (DOJ) threat is casting spotlight on the industry after coronavirus outbreaks saw thousands of workers get sick, forcing plants to shutter. President Donald Trump in early May called for a probe into beef prices, Bloomberg said. Farmers have long complained about the dominance of just a handful of companies in beef and poultry markets. The current heightened scrutiny comes less than five months ahead of November’s presidential election and could attract attention from U.S. farmers, a key Trump constituency. “The market’s been broken for a long time, and the pandemic has just made it worse. Meatpackers are making record profits, and the ranchers are going out of business,” said Ben Gotschall, the interim executive director for the Organization for Competitive Markets, an advocacy group that opposes consolidation in agriculture. At issue is whether meat behemoths are “thwarting competition” in violation of antitrust laws. DOJ prosecutors this month said executives at two chicken producers, including the second biggest in the U.S. – Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. – illegally conspired to fix prices. The department is also setting its sights on beef companies and has issued subpoenas to the four biggest producers – Tyson Foods Inc., JBS SA, Cargill Inc. and National Beef Inc., who together control more than two-thirds of all U.S. beef processing. The power of the meatpackers today echoes that of the early 20th century when the industry was dominated by the “beef trust.” At that time, FTC found that the five biggest companies controlled about 82% of cattle slaughter, monopolized the market and crushed competition. The findings were the basis for an antitrust settlement against the industry in 1920. If the Justice Department finds new evidence of meatpacker violations, it can sue them to stop or negotiate a settlement—as was done a century ago, when the companies agreed to restrictions such as not owning stockyards or retail meat businesses. Criminal investigations like the current one involving chicken processors carry higher stakes – executives can go to jail and companies can be criminally fined. Last month, 19 senators, many from agricultural states, asked DOJ to look into whether the companies are suppressing prices. Meat plant shutdowns in April and May sparked shortages at grocery stores and even Wendy’s Co. dropped burgers from some menus. Though it was just about a dozen plant closures, large producers left few remedies when even a handful of facilities are down. In total U.S. commercial cattle slaughter, the top four companies in 2018 had market share of 71%, up from 57% in 1987, according to the Cattle Buyers Weekly. “Given the high concentration of meat and poultry processors, closures of a relatively small number of large facilities could disrupt our food supply and detrimentally impact our hardworking farmers and ranchers,” the White House said. David Turetsky, who was a deputy in the antitrust division at the Department of Justice during the Clinton administration said an earlier probe “didn’t find enough to bring a case. In industries that as highly concentrated at this one, it’s not surprising at all to see concerns,” said Turetsky, now at the University at Albany. It’s not clear what conduct the Justice Department is focused on now. A class-action lawsuit brought by producers last year accused the companies of colluding to reduce the volume of cattle purchased for slaughter in order to drive down prices. Ranchers’ woes grew more acute in the pandemic as slaughter plants shuttered. They grappled with low prices for cattle, while meat prices paid by consumers at the supermarket spiked. Wholesale prices have quickly come back down from the peak, but are still about 10% higher since the start of the year even as shutdowns for restaurants meant a loss of demand. Cattle producers note that most cattle are now sold to meatpackers through longer-term contracts, rather than on the spot market but that this structure “reduces transparency and gives the packing companies a mechanism to pressure prices” according to legislation introduced last month by a bipartisan group of senators from rural states that would require meatpackers to buy a minimum of half their weekly volume on the spot market. Glynn Tonsor, a professor in the department of agricultural economics at Kansas State University pointed out that plant efficiencies also benefit ranchers and can allow meatpackers to pay more for cattle than they would otherwise. However, antitrust enforcement today is undergoing a “rethink” Bloomberg said. Economists and lawyers are questioning whether there’s been too much focus on how mergers affect prices paid by consumers and not enough on prices paid to sellers. “Agriculture in general is an area where there is lot of market power to the detriment of consumers on one side and small producers and farmers on the other,” the report said. So, we will see. Market structure and performance of major ag industries is typically highly controversial, and likely will continue to be. The DOJ and USDA probes are important and should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


Trade to be High on the Agenda This Week Those who are interested in trade will have a busy day on Wednesday. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifying twice that day regarding the Trump administration’s trade agenda. He will testify before the House Ways & Means Committee in the morning and then the Senate Finance Committee in the afternoon. Both sessions will be “virtual” hearings as has become the norm with many actions in Washington in the wake of the COVID-19 situation. His sessions before House and Senate trade panels will be watched for his assessments on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) with implementation coming July 1; the U.S.-China Phase One agreement will be an attention point; and the prospects for a U.S.-UK trade agreement will likely be broached given a UK official’s comments last week that the hope was for a deal by the U.S. November 3 elections.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


More Dicamba Action This Week The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ordered EPA to respond by Tuesday (June 16) to an emergency motion filed by environmentalists and farmworker advocates who contend the agency has ignored the court’s directive to vacate registrations that permit the spraying of three dicamba products. The petitioners then have to file their reply by June 18. The emergency motion focused on EPA’s decision to cancel the registration for three dicamba products, but allow the use of existing supplies of the products through July 31. The agency action was based on precedence in other cases where the registration of a chemical was cancelled. Their emergency motion urged the court to compel the agency to bar any spraying of the dicamba products and hold EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in contempt. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement that he supported the EPA decision. “At a time when the security of the food supply chain is paramount, the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies seek to cripple American farmers and further limit their ability to feed, fuel, and clothe this nation and the world,” Perdue said. “The Ninth Circuit should not allow plaintiffs’ hostility against the American farmer to cloud the fact that the EPA’s actions follow both legal precedent and common sense.” It is not yet clear what the court decision will be, but the accelerated timeline hopefully means the matter will be resolved soon.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets A report on U.S. retail sales for May is set for 7:30 a.m. CDT Tuesday, followed by industrial production at 8:15 a.m. Traders also remain interested in the latest weather forecasts and any trade news that develops. Weather Well-above-normal temperatures will surge northward due to breezy southerly winds through the Plains and Western Corn Belt on Tuesday. A strong system developing in the Northern Plains will bring about scattered showers in the region, which could be strong to severe in the Dakotas in the evening. Conditions remain favorable for the continued wheat harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


U.K. Wants a Quick Deal with the U.S. Anthony Phillipson, United Kingdom Trade Commissioner for North America, says the U.K. and the U.S. have a “shared ambition” to sign a free trade agreement before the November 3rd U.S. election. Politico says Phillipson spoke last week at a Washington International Trade Association event, acknowledging that many trade experts are skeptical the two sides can complete negotiations quickly. However, he says the U.S. and U.K. had extensive discussions over the outline of a future trade deal well before the first round of formal talks began last month. Additionally, work is continuing to be done in between the formal negotiations. “I think we’re running at this very, very fast in full partnership with our U.S. colleagues,” Phillipson says as another round of formal talks is underway this week. The British trade official borrowed a line from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who noted that “agriculture is the locomotive” that pulls along the rest of any U.S. trade agreement. American industries have lobbied the Trump Administration to pressure the U.K. to accept American chlorinated chicken, beef hormone standards, and other regulations. Completing the trade talks which began in May over the course of six months would be very fast. ********************************************************************************************** Emergency Motion Filed to Halt All Dicamba Use An emergency motion was filed late last week, asking a federal court to bring all dicamba use in the U.S. to an immediate halt. DTN says the motion also asks that the Environmental Protection Agency be held in contempt of court for its decision to permit farmers to use their existing stocks of three dicamba herbicides. If the judge agrees, that could once again leave farmers without the dicamba herbicide options they need to use on millions of acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton through the summer growing season. The emergency motion was filed by the same plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit against the EPA in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The suit demanding the court bring an end to the registrations of three dicamba herbicides succeeded on June 3rd when the judge ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor. Five days after that, the EPA issued a cancellation order, ending the registrations but allowing farmers and applicators to continue to use existing stocks until July 31st. The plaintiffs, including the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, estimated that up to 16 million pounds of dicamba could be applied in the coming weeks, which they say is a direct violation of the court’s ruling. ********************************************************************************************** China May Finally Be Turning to U.S. Soybeans Chinese importers signed off on contracts to buy more than 700,000 metric tons of U.S. soybeans. An Agweek report says most of the sales were for new-crop beans, and it may signal that China is expecting supplies will get tighter in Brazil as they lock in deliveries for after September. A USDA announcement last week says only 63,000 tons of the total amount is set for delivery in the 2019-2020 marketing year, with the remaining amount is set for delivery in the 2020-2021 marketing year, which starts on September 1st. Industry insiders note that the size of the new crop contracts likely means the purchases were made through state-owned buyers. Private purchasers are said to be jumpy over the fate of the Phase One trade pact between China and the U.S. as tensions grow between the two nations. Private buyers are also more likely to still look at South American soybeans to fill their needs because there is no risk of tariffs. The total purchase of 720,000 metric tons of U.S beans is enough to fill 11 ships, and it may signal that China will be counting on the U.S. to fill out its soybean needs over the final half of the calendar year. ********************************************************************************************** Ethanol Industry Getting Impatient with the Trump Administration Just a year ago, President Donald Trump paid a visit to an ethanol plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Hagstrom Report says the ethanol industry is now appealing to him directly to look into the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard. Ethanol industry leaders held a telephone news conference last week and sent a letter directly to the president. The industry’s impatience with Trump could hurt him in Iowa and other key ethanol-producing states, which could make this year’s election even more interesting. In the past several months, industry groups have gone after the EPA when it came to mismanaging the RFS. On the call last week, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, “Ultimately, the buck stops in the Oval Office. We are now appealing to the president to intervene here.” Cooper says the first EPA administrator under Trump, Scott Pruitt, “derailed things.” However, his successor, Andrew Wheeler, hasn’t gotten things going again in the right direction. In the letter, Cooper wrote that “Even after the federal court overturned some refinery waivers in January, your EPA continues to receive dozens of exemption requests from oil companies. EPA is now considering retroactive waivers for years that pre-date your administration. This has to stop.” ********************************************************************************************** Meatpacking Rebounds but Meat Prices Will Likely Remain High Meat production continues to rebound in the United States from its low point when dozens of plants were closed because of COVID-19. However, industry experts say consumer prices are likely going to stay higher than they’re used to, plus it will take months to work through a backlog of millions of pigs and cattle that had nowhere to go for processing. As of last week, beef, pork, and poultry plants were operating at over 95 percent of 2019 production levels. An Associated Press report says that’s up from 60 percent in April during the height of plant closures and slowdowns. The steps companies took to protect workers from COVID-19 infections were necessary to keep plants running as smoothly as possible. However, those steps will likely slow production somewhat and keep prices higher at the grocery stores. Even if plants become more efficient and get back to full capacity, there is typically a lag of several weeks between the time wholesale prices drop and when consumers start to notice the change. “Don’t expect prices to fall in half just because wholesale prices have declined dramatically,” says Lee Schulz, an Iowa State University livestock economist. Other steps plants are taking to work through the backlog include more processing on Saturdays, as well as saving time by processing meats in larger cuts. ********************************************************************************************** CommonGround Volunteers Continue to Bridge the Gap Between Rural/Urban Residents The National Corn Growers Association CommonGround volunteers spend a lot of time building bridges between women on the farm and those who live in predominantly urban areas, far removed from farm life. Like everyone else in the country, COVID-19 has changed the way CommonGround volunteers do their work. They may not be hosting large events this summer as the volunteers have in the past, but they’ve taken time through the past few months to find opportunities to connect with women in urban and suburban areas for conversations on social media. From building relationships based in common experiences like learning to home school on the fly to sharing the story of farming through COVID-19, the volunteers continue to share the story of American agriculture and bridge the distance from their fields to families’ tables, but they’re doing it digitally this summer. CommonGround is an initiative based on starting a conversation between the women who grow food and those who buy it. The goal of all CommonGround volunteers is to talk about their personal experiences on the farm, as well as offer relevant science and research to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding their food and how it’s raised.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Importance of Disease Tracking and Testing Bloomberg is reporting this week that although much of the virus-related public debate has focused on economic subsidies, state and local health departments are pushing Congress for billions of dollars to expand their disease-tracking programs. In addition, they are warning of the dangers of “reopening without systems in place to monitor the spread of the coronavirus.” Lawmakers have already provided $25 billion to ramp up COVID-19 testing, which includes $11 billion sent to state governments that could be used for tracing. Those efforts could allow contacting people who may have come into contact with the virus and trying to isolate those who could spread it. Such programs are key to loosening social distancing rules, health experts say. However, more money, projected at almost $8 billion, is needed to hire tracers and prepare for a possible resurgence of the virus in coming months, public health groups say. Concern is also rising that funds aren’t being evenly distributed. Few new hires have been available to agencies that are supposed to do this work. The risk, Bloomberg says, is that states are “hundreds of workers short of the staff they need to reopen.” “The single best tool we have for bringing this virus under control and for saving hundreds of thousands of lives and for getting our economy up and running is an effective testing, tracing, and supportive isolation program,” Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told lawmakers recently. “There is nothing else.” Lawmakers have yet to reach agreement over the specific amount of money is needed to bolster contact tracing and who should get the funds. House Democrats included $75 billion for testing and contact tracing in legislation they passed largely along party lines in May, but the Senate leadership rejected that bill. They are expected to wait until July to pass another economic stimulus package. The money should largely go to state and local health departments, the National Association of County and City Health Officials along with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Association of Public Health Laboratories and other groups say. Together they have asked Congress for $7.6 billion in new money. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is asking lawmakers for $1 trillion in state aid that includes hiring a permanent disease-tracking workforce across the U.S.. Public health departments are frequently “on the chopping block” as the recession caused by the spread of COVID-19 tightens state budget, a leader of the group says. Lawmakers have been debating options for funding and staffing contact tracing across the country, including one bill that would send $10 billion to states and Native American tribes to hire more than 100,000 tracers and support personnel and another bill that would provide $100 billion for a mobile testing and tracing system. Some of the proposals lawmakers have floated would temporarily hire the newly unemployed to do much of the contact tracing while others would establish grants. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) recommended states hire about 30 people to do contact tracing per 100,000 people. Much of the front-line work can be done by people who aren’t specialists but ultimately disease tracking requires supervision by epidemiologists and other trained professionals, said Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs of the NACCHO. Right now, most health departments are doing contact tracing with their existing staff but that work is stretching public health thin and distracting from tracking other diseases. State governments use different tactics on creating contact tracing programs, data the National Academy for State Health Policy collected show. Indiana has outsourced the job to a private contractor; Massachusetts hired more than 1,000 workers through a local nonprofit; and Texas is expected to spend about $300 million on contact tracing over the next two years. “Hiring is a challenge,” she said. “Every minute we’re kind of wasting with not really focusing on action is lost. It’s not like you can flip a switch get 1,000 contact tracers in your community.” So, we will see. The job of mapping the presence of the virus and tracing it to its origins is enormous in scope and clearly will present different challenges than nearly any past government activity. And, it will be expensive, experts agree. How this is organized and directed will be extremely important and should be watched closely by producers as the effort proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


UK Trade Official Hopes For Trade Deal Before US November Elections Reaching a trade deal between the U.S. and UK prior to the November 3 U.S. elections remains a goal, according to reports of remarks made by Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America Antony Phillipson at a Washington International Trade Association (WITA) even Thursday (June 11). The two sides have a “shared ambition” for that goal. “If possible, we want to get an agreement signed before the election,” he said. Negotiators were working well before the first round of talks, Phillipson pointed out, saying the two sides were looking to get the deal done in a “very different” and “much quicker” way than previously. Digital trade and taxation are key areas that Phillipson identified for the pact and the UK was disappointed there has not been more progress on that issue via the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Digital trade, intellectual property and data flows will be “key drivers in our view of the future of the global economy,” he observed. While the two sides already have lofty standards in those areas, Phillipson said he thinks the trade deal provides a forum to “take that to even greater heights and then roll that discussion into a plurilateral and global forum.” The two sides are “absolutely on the same page” relative to the Irish border issue, he added.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


Peterson Laments Ag Panel had Little Say in CFAP House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said his panel has had little say in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) developed by USDA. “I am concerned that the Ag Committee has basically been neutered in this whole process and we don’t have really anything to say about anything. We’re getting all the flak from people,” Peterson said earlier this week in a phone interview with CQ Roll Call. He said constituents have been calling to complain about flaws they see in the structure of the payments and do not believe his explanation that he has little input beyond voting for the March 27 legislation. However, he pledged the panel will do a “top-to-bottom” review of how the COVID-19 situation has impacted agriculture. But he said the House scheduled does not allow enough time for an in-person hearing and it would be difficult to find a hearing room large enough for the 47-member panel given social distancing provisions.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets With row crops growing, the latest weather forecasts continue to receive daily attention. USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections is at 10 a.m. CDT, followed by a monthly soybean crush report from the National Oilseed Processors Association later in the morning. At 3 p.m., USDA's Crop Progress report will give the latest crop ratings as well as winter wheat harvest progress. Weather Isolated to scattered showers will dot the Northern Plains, western Midwest, and Southeast on Monday. Above-normal temperatures and breezy conditions are expected again in the Plains and western Midwest, drying topsoil moisture. This means conditions are good for the wheat harvest, though.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


China says New ASF Vaccine is Safe, So Far A Chinese vaccine designed to combat the African Swine Fever virus is so far proving safe in clinical trials that are underway. The official Chinese news agency says that pushes hog farming a step closer to be able to prevent one of the world’s most devastating livestock diseases. A Reuters article says the development progress is being watched closely by pig farmers across the globe because there is currently no cure or vaccine to use against ASF. The disease kills virtually every animal it infects and has devastated China’s hog herds since it first showed up in 2018. The virus is still killing pigs in China and broke out in other spots across Asia since then. Chinese researchers at the Harvin Veterinary Research Institute, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, say they’ve developed a safe attenuated vaccine that has proven effective against the African Swine Fever virus during testing in laboratories. Clinical trials of the vaccine were given the go-ahead in March and have been underway on 3,000 pigs in three different locations in China, including the northeast, far west, and the central parts of the country. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Bureau says More Farmer Assistance is Necessary The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking lawmakers to provide more critical resources to farmers hurt by COVID-19’s impact on the food system. They’re also looking for more help for rural communities struggling with the pandemic’s impacts. Many of the country’s struggling farmers were left out of the initial round of assistance, while some who did receive help are still being hurt by the impact of COVID-19. As Congress is set to consider additional aid this summer, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall sent a letter to Congressional leadership listing the areas of need. “The economic losses across the U.S. ag sector are broad-based, directly impacting farmers and ranchers as well as their supply chain partners, from the input providers to end-users,” Duvall says in the letter. “Producers have witnessed their markets shrink overnight or even disappear, while supply chains have been stretched to the limit in response to COVID-19.” Some of the Farm Bureau’s priorities include extending relief funding for losses incurred after April 15, 2020. They’re asking Congress to replenish funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation to the tune of $68 billion. The Farm Bureau wants support for biofuel facilities, assistance for independent and contract poultry producers, as well as other requests. ********************************************************************************************** The U.S., U.K. Trade Talks Begin Next Week The second round of trade talks between the United States and the United Kingdom begin on Monday. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is emphasizing his goal of reaching a comprehensive trade deal with the United Kingdom. Politico says that may have been to quell some nervousness in Congress that the U.S. Trade Rep might settle for a mini-deal, similar to the one struck last year with Japan. “We want to have a full-blown agreement with the U.K.,” Lighthizer said last week during a members-only event at the Economic Club of New York. “Right now, they have a very unbalanced trade relationship with the European Union, as we do, and this is an opportunity for each of us to sell more products to each other and possibly increase trade.” While he was emphasizing his desire for a full trade agreement, he put the brakes on the possibility of a quick agreement. “These things will take time,” he says, “both because they’re complicated but also because each of us has to wrap ourselves around the fact that there is going to be a compromise in reaching a major trade deal.” ********************************************************************************************** Tyson Foods Cooperating in U.S. Probe of Chicken Price Fixing Tyson Foods, the top chicken producer in the U.S, is cooperating in a Justice Department price-fixing investigation. Tyson is doing so under a leniency program that will allow the company to avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for aiding in the continuing probe of other poultry producers. The Wall Street Journal says after receiving a grand-jury subpoena in April of last year, the company approached the Justice Department and disclosed its own actions while seeking leniency. Last week, the government indicted the CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride and three other poultry executives because of allegations of bid-rigging of broiler chickens sold to grocery chains and restaurants. “The behavior set out in the indictment does not reflect the values of Tyson Foods,” says CEO Noel White. “I am proud to lead a company that took appropriate and immediate actions in reporting the wrongdoing we discovered to the Department of Justice.” It was April of 2019 when the Department of Justice subpoenaed major chicken firms including Tyson, Pilgrim’s, Sanderson Farms, and Perdue Farms. The investigation followed a private antitrust suit brought in 2016 by chicken buyers seeking damages from major producers who allegedly conspired to raise prices. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Allows School to Serve Meals Free This Summer Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says schools that have been serving meals to kids during COVID-19 can continue serving free meals to all children, regardless of where they live, for the rest of the summer. “As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical that our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food,” Perdue says. “We are extending one of the significant flexibilities provided in March during the coronavirus national emergency to schools, summer sites, and other folks who operate our programs so they can best adapt to the situation on the ground and serve our children well.” The Hagstrom Report says the flexibility will make sure kids continue to get fed throughout the summer. The nationwide waiver that was extended is for area eligibility, which allows all children in all areas to receive free meals through the USDA’s summer meals programs. Typically, USDA-funded summer meal sites are limited to children in low-income areas. The School Nutrition Association says this is great news, noting that many districts were facing the prospect of significantly reducing their service and reach over the summer because many of their feeding sites were in non-area-eligible communities. ********************************************************************************************** June WASDE/Crop Production Reports Released The June World Ag Supply and Demand Estimate report says the 2020-2021 U.S. corn outlook hasn’t changed much from last month. Beginning stocks are higher, as a reduction in corn production for 2019-2020 is largely offset by a reduction in projected corn use for ethanol. Planted acres stayed at 97 million, projected corn yield is at 178.5 bushels per acre, and production is forecast at 15.9 billion bushels. Ending stocks are projected to be five million bushels higher at 3.3 billion bushels, with the season-average farm price at $3.20 per bushel. USDA says soybean production was left at 4.1 billion bushels, with a yield at 49.8 bushels per acre and planted acres at 83.5 million. New crop ending stocks were predicted at 395 million bushels, a lower-than-expected drop. The farm-gate new-crop soybean price was set at $8.20 per bushel. 2020-2021 wheat supplies are up on a larger crop and slight increase in beginning stocks. Total wheat production for 2020-21 is 1.877 million bushels, with total supplies up 16 million bushels to three billion. Ending stocks were raised 16 million bushels to 925 million, which is a six-year-low.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Economic Focus Returns to Job Losses After the U.S. labor market posted a surprise improvement for May, “the weekly jobless-claims data will again remind people that economic pain remains widespread, even if it’s gradually abating," Bloomberg reports this week. About 1.55 million Americans are expected to have filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the median estimate of economists. While that would mark the 10th straight decline from the record 6.87 million in late March, it’s still more than seven times the pre-pandemic average, Bloomberg said. The total number claiming benefits through the regular state programs – which is reported with a one-week lag – are projected to have declined to 20 million in the week ended May 30. That’s still more than 11 times the level prior to the pandemic. While the weekly report is beset by quirks and data-gathering issues, it sheds light on the still-elevated ranks of the unemployed. “That provides a counterpoint to the market exuberance following the government’s May jobs report, which also had its own data-collection errors that skewed the figures to look more positive,” Bloomberg noted. The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday it expects to hold interest rates near zero for at least 2 1/2 years to help employment fully recover. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that “despite the improvement seen in the May report, unemployment remains historically high,” with the pace of recovery highly uncertain and dependent on containing the virus. In addition to the depressed state of employment, there are several risks that could hold back a rebound or cause a fresh decline. They include a second wave of the coronavirus causing another round of shutdowns and the chance that businesses will decide to lay off workers who were rehired or retained to comply with loans under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. “We have to have a little bit of caution” after the May report, said Beata Caranci, chief economist at TD Bank. “Those businesses that reopened – even at reduced capacity – are naturally going to have demand for workers. The question is: do you get back to where you were before? And I think that’s pretty far-fetched.” “There’s a significant amount of people still displaced,” she added. Despite the May jobs gain, most economists still expect a record decline in gross domestic product in the second quarter, with Bloomberg’s survey showing an annualized contraction of 34.4%. The broader issue is how weak economic activity may remain as the unprecedented downturn shuttered businesses and reduced demand permanently in some areas, Bloomberg thinks. By the end of the year, 8 million to 12 million Americans are expected to remain laid-off, particularly in the hospitality and restaurant industries, according to Daniel Alpert, a founding managing partner at Westwood Capital and co-creator of the Job Quality Index, which measures the ratio of high-quality jobs – those with higher wages and longer hours – to low-quality jobs. Alpert bases his estimate on a step-down in business creation and increase in business shutdowns, or “deaths.” He said a large portion of the gain in May jobs consisted of workers rehired by businesses using the PPP. That coincided with a sharp drop in continuing jobless claims for the week ended May 16, also the reference period for the May jobs report that captured a jump in employment. “All it was from a macro standpoint was a transfer of one government benefit for another,” Alpert told Bloomberg. “It’s absolutely not a picture of business and labor markets” coming back and “more importantly it’s not a picture of aggregate demand” returning, he said. If the PPP program isn’t expanded, employment could weaken again if companies resume layoffs. The deadline for PPP applications is June 30, so companies facing issues after that can’t apply. Businesses who have already applied have until the end of the year to convert their loan to a grant if they rehire employees. The monthly labor report and weekly claims figures can appear to tell two different stories. Both are important to understanding the reality on the ground, according to Erica Groshen, former commissioner at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which publishes the monthly jobs report. “In the beginning, we saw just entirely job destruction – at least temporarily – and now we’re in a period of time where we have high volumes of both: job creation and job destruction,” she said. So, a number of caution flags have been deployed warning investors of future economic weakness. Clearly, these are serious concerns that producers should watch closely as they intensify in this season of political, economic and health uncertainties proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


USDA Tweaking CFAP USDA today is publishing a rule in the Federal Register that will make several small corrections to the final rule published May 21 for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The changes include clarifying the definition of “Slaughter Cattle – fed cattle” to be animals with a weight of 1,200 pounds or more that are intended for slaughter, that payment calculations for livestock specify that they are based on unpriced livestock sales and specifies they apply to livestock inventory owned between April 16, and May 14, 2020. The changes also “removes the definition of ‘unpriced inventory’ and adds a similar definition of ‘unpriced’ to be consistent with the use of the term throughout the regulation; the new definition also specifies that ‘unpriced’ is based on whether a forward contract, agreement, or similar binding document was in place as of January 15, 2020.” The changes would also make dairy operations that dissolved on or after March 31 to be eligible for payments, with USDA noting the dairy change would not increase CFAP costs. There were also changes made for specialty crops.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


Farm Bureau Outlines What It Sees Needed For Next Ag Aid Efforts The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is calling on congressional leaders to put together a major aid package for U.S. agriculture, going beyond additional payments to farmers. The group said in a nearly five-page letter to leaders that efforts need to include replenishing Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funding to a new cap of $68 billion; waiving any farmer payment caps; including provisions in the $3 trillion-plus, House-passed aid package, including direct payments for losses after April 15; providing support for biofuel production facilities; allowing aid to independent and contract poultry producers not eligible for the $16 billion in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments being distributed by USDA; allowing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage for emergency haying and grazing; easing rules in the Paycheck Protection Program’s (PPP) forgivable loans, including allowing farms to get funding for H-2A workers; making farmers eligible for PPP loans even if they show Schedule F losses in farm income; making Farm Credit institutions eligible for the PPP's set-aside for small financial lenders; funding to offset costs of accommodating social distancing needs in H-2A housing and to obtain personal protective equipment for employees; providing business targeted, limited liability protections that would shield farmers and ranchers; including several rural broadband provisions, including accelerated funding for the implementation of the Broadband DATA Act; and waiving overtime fees for federal meat inspectors in small and medium-sized packing plants. The package pulls together many efforts that various farm/commodity groups and lawmakers have called for in recent weeks. The next aid package is not seen being acted on by Congress until after the July 4 recess.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment is the only report on Friday's docket, but markets have plenty else going on to stay entertained. Crop weather forecasts continue to get high attention and traders have Thursday's new supply and demand estimates from USDA to think about. Any trade news, especially concerning China, also remains of interest. Weather Warm and dry conditions will cover most crop areas Friday. Precipitation will be limited to local morning showers in the Southern Plains. This combination favors row crop progress and winter wheat harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


House Ag Committee Letter Highlights CFAP Concerns House Ag Chair Collin Peterson and several subcommittee chairs sent a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighting concerns about the implementation of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The letter talks about the continued loss in both value and demand for agricultural products related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, they say CFAP doesn’t include commodities under contract, even though several of the most-impacted crops are typically grown under contracts, such as potatoes and malting barley. USDA chose to cover livestock sales between January 15th and April 15th when COVID-19-related livestock market declines didn’t start until February of this year. Some of the lowest market prices also persisted well beyond April 15th, effectively and arbitrarily picking winners and losers based solely on when livestock was sold without regard to actual market conditions. The House Ag Committee Chairs also say CFAP doesn’t recognize the cost premium of organic crops by differentiating organic prices for certified organic producers. USDA also used data not fully representative of the farmgate value of some specialty crops to determine their eligibility for CFAP and CFAP payment rates. In addition to several other concerns, the Chairs point to lingering concerns over staffing levels and the existing workload at Farm Service Agency county offices, as well as what delays those factors may cause in distributing CFAP assistant. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Retailers Want EPA Clarification on Dicamba Order The Agricultural Retailers Association and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives are asking the Environmental Protection Agency for clarification on dicamba. Earlier this week, the EPA issued a cancellation order on the use and distribution of dicamba products. The EPA says under the order that farmers or applicators with existing stocks of dicamba may apply the herbicide until July 31st. “While the agency’s cancellation order provided some guidance to end-users as well as applicators, it failed to address several scenarios where the product is still in the pipeline at various points in the supply chain,” the groups say in the letter. “These questions will need quick answers during this critical time of the growing season as weeds will not wait for a protracted legal analysis.” An example of one of the scenarios the groups are referring to is a producer has pre-paid or contracted for the product before June 3 but hasn’t had it delivered yet. The letter also notes that multiple states allowed the continued sale and distribution of these products after the court’s decision. Because the EPA order is retroactive to June 3, the industry needs guidance on whether or not farmers can use any product they bought between June 3rd and June 8th. ********************************************************************************************** U.S., EU Not Making Much Progress in Trade Talks European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan says the chances of making a free trade deal with the United States in the near future aren’t good. The announcement comes after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer blasted the EU for its trade policies and admitted the two sides are nowhere near a deal. That’s despite years that have been already spent trying to make a deal. “We must acknowledge that the U.S. is now in a pre-election phase,” Hogan said during an informal trade minister meeting in Brussels. “The focus of the political attention in Washington is now on much more immediate challenges in U.S. domestic policies.” Politico says that EU policy is that it will only sign agreements with countries that are members of the Paris Climate Accord, which is the U.S. is not. However, Lighthizer dismissed those concerns last week. “We’re not close to having any kind of agreement with them,” he says, “so, at this point at least, it’s not my problem. We’ll see what happens as we move along.” Lighthizer made those comments during an event hosted by the Economic Club of New York. While there, Lighthizer accused the EU of doing far more to undermine multilateralism than the Trump administration has ever done. ********************************************************************************************** Organic Food Sales Up Five Percent in 2019 Organic food sales rose five percent in 2019 over the previous year, coming in at $50 billion. The Organic Trade Association says the first quarter of 2020 saw organic food sales continue to rise dramatically. Food Business News says if that trend continues, the industry should see another year of record growth. “Our 2020 survey looks at organic sales in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak, and it shows that consumers were increasingly seeking out the organic label to feed their families the healthiest food possible,” says Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the OTA. “The pandemic only increased our desire for clean, healthy food.” She says the commitment of the organic seal has always been to the combination of health and safety, and they expect that commitment to strengthen as people get through these unsettled times. Produce remains the most popular organic food category, with fruit and vegetable sales up five percent in 2019 to $18 billion. Organic dairy products reached $6.6 billion in sales during 2019, two percent higher than the previous year. Even though it’s the second-smallest category in terms of sales, condiments are one of the fastest-growing segments of organic foods, reaching $77 million in sales during 2019, up 23 percent over the prior year. ********************************************************************************************** 2020 Export Exchange Postponed to 2021 U.S. Grains Council President Ryan LeGrand, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor, and Renewable Fuels President Geoff Cooper made an announcement this week postponing the 2020 Export Exchange to next year. The new dates will be October 6-8 of 2021 in Kansas City. “As a result of the coronavirus and our concern for the safety of our attendees who travel from around the globe to come to this event, we’ve decided to postpone Export Exchange until the same time next year,” the groups say in the joint announcement. “Doing so will ensure we will have an event that’s on par with the caliber of the meetings our guests have come to expect, and it will allow us to put on a high-quality event without the specter of COVID-19 hanging over the people there.” Export Exchange is a biennial event co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council, the RFA, and Growth Energy, and brings together about 200 international buyers and end-users of coarse grains and co-products, including dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS), with around 300 U.S. suppliers and agribusiness representatives. More information will be distributed in the months ahead to members of the grains industries and will be made available online at www.exportexchange.org. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Nominations for FSA County Committees Open June 15 The USDA’s Farm Service Agency will start accepting nominations for county committee members on Monday, June 15th. Elections will occur in certain Local Administrative Areas for these members who make important decisions about how federal farm programs are administered locally. All nomination forms for the 2020 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by August 1st of 2020. “I encourage farmers, ranchers, as well as forest stewards to nominate candidates to lead, serve, and represent their community on their county committees,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “There’s an increasing need for diverse representation, including underserved producers such as beginning, women, and minority farmers and ranchers.” Producers who participate or cooperate in an FSA program and reside in the local administrative area that’s up for election this year may be nominated. Individuals can nominate themselves or others. Organizations may also nominate individuals, including those organizations that represent beginning, women, and minority farmers. Committee members are vital to how FSA carries out disaster programs, as well as conservation, commodity, and price-support programs, county office employment, as well as other agricultural issues.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Trade Tensions with Europe Bloomberg is reporting this week that European Union efforts to soothe transatlantic trade tensions have stalled. Washington has “stepped back” in recent weeks from talks aimed at defusing a longstanding dispute over aircraft subsidies, chief EU trade negotiator Phil Hogan, told a conference of EU trade ministers on Tuesday. “Failure to reach an accord could pave the way for Europe to impose tariffs on billions of dollars of American goods as soon as July,” he said. “We must acknowledge that the U.S. is now in a pre-election phase,” Hogan said. “Political attention in Washington is therefore much more on the immediate challenges in U.S. domestic politics.” The EU wants to renew a July 2018 truce that began to fray late last year when the U.S. targeted Europe with new tariffs or warnings of them. Chief among Europe’s worries is a lingering U.S. threat to hit EU cars and auto parts with duties based on national-security grounds. President Donald Trump revived that possibility on June 5 during comments in Maine, where he demanded the EU “drop” its 8% tariff on imports of American lobster “immediately.” Trump was speaking to fishing-industry representatives who complained about European market barriers. “The European Union has ripped this country off so much, it’s unbelievable and it’s so easy to solve,” Trump said. “If they don’t change, we’re going to put a tariff on their cars until they change. And they’ll change right away.” Hogan warned the EU trade ministers on Tuesday to expect more such rhetoric as a European push for a deal with the U.S. to cut industrial tariffs across the board stalls. Meanwhile, the spotlight in transatlantic trade relations is likely to turn back to the nearly two-decade-old dispute over aircraft subsidies. Last year, the U.S. was given the green light by the World Trade Organization to impose tariffs on $7.5 billion of European goods in retaliation over illegal government aid to Airbus SE. Hogan said he expects the WTO to rule “around” early July on a parallel EU case against American aid to Boeing Co. “I regret that the U.S. has stepped back from the settlement talks in recent weeks,” Hogan said. “Positions are therefore still quite far apart. If this remains the case, the EU will have little choice but to exercise its retaliation rights and impose our own sanctions in the Boeing case, once we have the WTO award.” On a separate WTO matter, Bloomberg reported that Hogan commented that he was weighing the possibility of becoming an EU candidate in the race to lead the global trade arbiter. The EU trade ministers discussed the WTO process for selecting a successor to Director-General Roberto Azevedo, a Brazilian national who will step down a year early at the end of August. The WTO is accepting nominations between June 8 and July 8. “Certainly, I am exploring the option of being a candidate for the director-general of the WTO,” Hogan told reporters after the video conference. “There is an important amount of work to be done to reform the organization.” Europe is keen on strengthening the WTO amid growing U.S.-China tensions which threaten to undermine the global commercial order established after World War II. A European candidate for the WTO leadership would enter a field that already includes official or presumptive nominees from countries ranging from Mexico to Nigeria. The last European in the job was Azevedo’s predecessor, Pascal Lamy, a Frenchman who held the post between 2005 and 2013. So, we will see. The current political moment certainly would be especially sensitive for the Trump administration to open a new front on the lingering trade fights already underway. Still, the “get tough” trade policy has long been a central feature of the current administration’s trade arsenal as the President has already indicated?and it likely will continue to be in the future. Thus, trade policies toward Europe should be watched closely by producers as these battles intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


House Judiciary Members Ask USDA to Ease Restrictions On Small Meat Processors A revisit of “burdensome regulations” on small meat processors is being called for by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, with the lawmakers urging USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to make several changes as the “high cost of complying with meat processing laws has made it hard for smaller processors to compete and has led to significant consolidation in the industry.” Citing the reduced operating capacity at meat plants amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawmakers noted that it has left “ranchers and other livestock farmers with few alternatives for getting their meat processed.” The letter urges USDA to consider giving small meat processors flexibility on complying with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans, streamlining the approval process for labels, encourage more states to participate in the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program and increase flexibility and lessen expenses on smaller processors for inspectors needed beyond normal hours. Taking action in these and other areas will “lower barriers to entry and expansion that smaller meat processors face,” the letter said. Expectations are, however, that food safety advocates will fight any efforts by USDA to relax food safety protocols.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


US Meat Industry Capacity Rising: USDA USDA is touting improved capacity utilization at U.S. meat plants that have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Across the cattle, swine, and broiler sectors, processing facilities are operating more than 95% of their average capacity compared to this time last year,” USDA said in a release late Tuesday. “In fact, beef facilities are operating at 98%, pork facilities are operating at 95%, and poultry facilities are operating at 98% of their capacity compared to the same time last year.” USDA has been working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make sure the plants are following the guidelines issued by the agencies for operations to protect workers and ensure the food supply.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Weekly grain export sales, U.S. jobless claims, U.S. producer prices and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor are all due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT Thursday. Natural gas inventory will be issued at 9:30 a.m., followed by the June WASDE and Crop Production reports at 11 a.m. CDT. Weather forecasts will also be monitored as will any trade news. Weather Dry conditions will cover all major crop areas Thursday. Temperatures will be seasonally warm in northern through southeastern areas and very warm to hot in drier southwest areas. This combination will allow for flooding to ease and favor crop progress and winter wheat harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


Farmers Can Still Use Dicamba Under Certain Guidelines The Environmental Protection Agency says farmers and applicators who possessed one of three dicamba herbicides on June 3, 2020, can still use those products. Farmers may use those herbicides, following label instructions, and other state regulations, through July 31, 2020. That guidance follows a court decision last week vacating the registrations for Bayer's XtendiMax, BASF’s Engenia, and Corteva’s FeXapan. June 3, 2020, is the effective date of the court ruling. The ruling does not include Syngenta's Tavium. Distribution or sale of the three herbicides is prohibited except for ensuring proper disposal or return to the registrant. While the guidance from the EPA allows farmers to utilize dicamba on crops already planted this year, the future for dicamba is uncertain. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the action, "has threatened the livelihood of our nation's farmers and the global food supply." Companies, such as Bayer, are currently working with the EPA for the registration of products for 2021 and beyond. ************************************************************************************ Meatpacking Facilities Near Full Operation of 2019 Capacity The Department of Agriculture says U.S. meatpacking facilities are operating at more than 95 percent of average capacity when compared to 2019. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded the data, attributing the operations to the safe reopening of the facilities. USDA says beef facilities are operating at 98 percent, pork facilities are operating at 95 percent, and poultry facilities are operating at 98 percent of their capacity compared to the same time last year. Secretary Perdue thanked the industry and its workers, for "quickly getting their operations back up and running." USDA says the facilities are safely resuming operations following an executive order by President Donald Trump to implement safety guidelines to protect workers from COVID-19. The closures led to shortages at grocery stores and a backlog of animals ready to slaughter, creating depressed prices for farmers, yet higher prices for consumers. USDA says it will continue to work with safety officials to keep the facilities open while maintaining worker safety. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Livestock Risk Protection Program Improvements The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced changes to the Livestock Risk Protection insurance program for feeder cattle, fed cattle and swine starting this summer. USDA’s Risk Management Agency says changes include moving premium due dates to the end of the endorsement period and increasing premium subsidies to assist producers. RMA Administrator Martin Barbre says the changes will “make these policies more usable and affordable for livestock producers.” Specifically, the changes allow premiums to be paid at the end of the endorsement period, putting it in line with other policies. USDA will increase the premium subsidy for coverage levels above 80 percent. Those with an 80 percent or higher coverage level will get a five-percentage point subsidy increase. Producers may buy the insurance throughout the year from Approved Insurance Providers, with coverage prices ranging from 70 to 100 percent of the expected ending value of their animals. At the end of the insurance period, if the actual ending value is below the coverage price, producers will be paid an indemnity for the difference. ************************************************************************************ Farm and Biofuel Leaders Demand Answers on Retroactive EPA Exemptions The biofuels industry Tuesday called on the Environmental Protection Agency to offer answers on what they call a new effort to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard. During a Senate hearing last month, administration officials confirmed their consideration of retroactive small refinery exemptions covering previous years. The “gap-filings” are designed to reconstitute a continuous string of exemptions for select oil companies, “thus circumventing court limits on new oil industry handouts at the expense of farmers and biofuel producers.” However the ‘gap filings’ “appear to be little more than the latest in a string of oil industry tactics designed to subvert the law and sidestep a court order to uphold the RFS,” according to the letter from ten biofuels and farm groups. The groups say, “Backfilling SREs to circumvent a court decision would exacerbate market uncertainty at a time when rural communities already face unprecedented economic challenges.” The letter comes as more than 100 biofuels plants idled or cut production during the COVID-19 pandemic. ************************************************************************************ University of Missouri Updates Ag Baseline Projections The June update to baseline farm economic projections by the University of Missouri suggests a $3 billion decline in net farm income. The University’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute Released the June update Tuesday. The forecasted decline in net farm income comes as farmers will receive a record total of government payments at $33 billion and total farm support reaching $50 billion in the current fiscal year. Given projected market developments and the assumption of no new government payment programs, both net farm income and net cash income are forecasted to decline again in 2021, with net farm income falling below $80 billion. The report projects 2020 corn-planted area at 96 million acres, second only to 2012, but one million acres below the March intentions report. The forecast expects corn prices received by farmers at $3.06 a bushel. Projected soybean-planted area is 84.5 million acres in 2020, up eight million acres from 2019 and one million acres from the planting intentions report. The report projects soybean prices for farmers to fall to $8.21 a bushel. ************************************************************************************ USDA Releases 2018 Puerto Rico Census of Agriculture The Department of Agriculture just released the 2018 Census of Agriculture data for Puerto Rico. The data shows that the total value of the island’s agricultural production reached $485 million in 2018, a decrease of about $63 million from 2012 when the last Census of Agriculture was conducted. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island, largely accounting for the 37.5 percent decrease in the number of farms and the 16.6 percent decrease in land in farms. Due to the conditions caused by Hurricane Maria, NASS delayed the Puerto Rico Census of Agriculture from 2017 to 2018. The data show that popular crops like plantains and coffee experienced steep declines in value. In 2018, the value of plantain production dropped 47.5 percent and coffee dropped 83.7 percent from 2012. The new data shows that grains now represent a large portion of the total value of production in Puerto Rico, with an increase from $8.5 million in 2012 to $74.4 million in 2018.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Bringing Business Home This week, Bloomberg examined the prospects faced by U.S. efforts to reduce dependence on China and other overseas suppliers for strategic goods. The Trump administration has talked about “bringing supply chains home” since it began to implement its trade policies, Bloomberg says. It notes that President Trump recently said the U.S. would “save $500 billion” if it cut off ties with China. However, the report challenges that view, based on interviews with nearly a dozen government officials and analysts in the Asia-Pacific region. It calls administration effort to restructure supply chains “little more than wishful thinking so far,” and warns that “it won’t be simple to dismantle an entrenched system when many companies are struggling to survive.” The report says “the reality is that many firms have supply chains set up the way they do for very sensible reasons,” said Deborah Elms of the Asian Trade Centre, which has seen an increase of companies looking for advice on reorganizing to increase competitiveness. “Coming out of COVID, it’s going to be even harder to move supply chains because your cash flow is low, your staff are working from home or coming slowly back into the office, and the business climate has shifted.” While the world trade network mostly held up well amid rolling lockdowns as COVID-19 spread, the economic shock fueled calls among politicians for greater self-sufficiency and alternatives to China. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year named Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, and South Korea as countries that the U.S. has been talking to on supply chains. In fact, the State Department’s new Economic Security Strategy is expanding and diversifying supply chains that protect “people in the free world,” according to Keith Krach, the State Department official who leads efforts to develop international policies related to economic growth. However, analysts are skeptical of State’s efforts and argue that they argue appears to lack any firm foundation.” The Department doesn’t have jurisdiction over trade and officials in other Asian countries say no formal talks were taking place. At the same time, some governments are moving on their own to shift production away from China. This includes Taiwan and Japan, which were among the biggest investors in China’s manufacturing capacity in the early days. “Many companies have already begun adopting a ‘China plus one’ manufacturing hub strategy with Vietnam having been a clear beneficiary,” said Anwita Basu, head of Asia country risk research at Fitch Solutions. “Shifts away from China will be slow as that country still boasts an annual manufacturing output that is so large that even a group of countries would struggle to absorb a fraction of it.” In 2019, Taiwanese officials supported construction of a “non-red supply chain” outside of China and promised rent assistance, cheap finance, tax breaks and simplified administration for investments in Taiwan that helped the island’s economy weather the trade war last year. Japan recently started down the same path, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government budgeting about 220 billion yen for companies shifting production back home and 23.5 billion yen for those seeking to move production to other countries. South Korea has similar plans as part of its economic blueprint for the rest of the year, announced earlier this month. The government said it will provide tax incentives, ease investment-related regulations and expand financial support for companies that ‘u-turn.’ Yet, it hasn’t said how much money will be earmarked for the entire support program. For all that, China retains key advantages and “remains unmatched as a manufacturing site given its numbers of skilled workers, deep supplier networks and the government’s credible public support for manufacturers and provision of reliable infrastructure,” wrote Gavekal Dragonomics analyst Dan Wang in a report in April. Even if companies find economic alternatives to Chinese factories, or bow to political pressure to increase production in their home markets, the vast and growing Chinese domestic market is a powerful attraction. Tesla Inc. is now producing cars there for what is now the world’s largest auto market. Last month Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wrote to Honeywell International Inc. to welcome its new investment in Wuhan. He and other Chinese officials have touted continued economic cooperation with the U.S. and vowed to implement a “phase one” trade deal with the U.S. reached in January. Over the long term, however, there are questions of who will pay for new plants outside China, Bloomberg says. In the end, the strongest force diluting China’s position in global supply chains likely will be the long, slow evolution of global trade as opportunities arise from new markets, new technologies and changing patterns of wealth said Elms, whose organization helps governments formulate trade policy. “The numbers have to make sense,” she said. “The structure that you have is based on millions of individual company decisions. It’s not so easy to wave a wand and say: Make it so!” So, we will see. The administration has continued its “get tough” policies on Asian, European and even North American supply chains--and reinforced those policies with strong subsidies in some cases. At the same time, the longer-term benefits of these policies are being questioned for a range of economic and policy reasons. This is a debate producers should watch closely as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


Lawmakers Urge Trump to Deny Requests To Waive RFS Requirements Requests by governors of several states to waive requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) should be rejected as they would “only compound the challenges facing rural America and weaken one of the most successful clean air policies in the US,” a bipartisan coalition of House members said in a letter to President Donald Trump. The requests do not meet the criteria under law for waivers of the RFS as the “Recent oil market volatility is the result of COVID-19 impacts on travel and lower demand for fuel combined with high production levels in Russia and Saudi Arabia, not the RFS,” the letter said. “RFS regulations and requirements account for a drop in the demand for fuel with a proportional change in the volume of renewable fuel required.” They also point out that there “is an excess supply of RINs (Renewable identification Numbers) currently on the market and available to refiners, offering flexibility for RFS compliance.” House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D., Minn., is among the 44 House members signing the letter.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


EPA Says Farmers Can Use Dicamba on Hand As Of June 3, Through July 31 EPA has issued guidance for the use of three dicamba products that were on hand as of June 3, the date of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to vacate registrations of those products. The cancellation order issued by EPA addresses sale, distribution, and use of existing stocks of the three affected dicamba products – XtendiMax with vapor grip technology, Engenia, and FeXapan. Under the order, “Distribution or sale by any person is generally prohibited except for ensuring proper disposal or return to the registrant,” EPA said. “Growers and commercial applicators may use existing stocks that were in their possession on June 3, 2020, the effective date of the Court decision. Such use must be consistent with the product’s previously approved label, and may not continue after July 31, 2020.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the court decision “has threatened the livelihood of our nation’s farmers and the global food supply.” The cancellation order and existing stocks order is “consistent with EPA”s standard practice following registration invalidation, and is designed to advance compliance, ensure regulatory certainty, and to prevent the misuse of existing stocks.” Since the court ruling June 3, EPA said it has been “overwhelmed with letters and calls from farmers citing the devastation of this decision on the millions of acres of crops, millions of dollars already invested by farmers, and threat to America’s food supply.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets With U.S. crops in the ground, Wednesday likely starts with a check on the latest weather forecasts. The U.S. Labor Department reports on consumer prices at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by the Energy Department's weekly report of energy inventories at 9:30 a.m. The U.S. Treasury reports on the federal budget at 1 p.m. CDT, the same time the Federal Reserve concludes its two-day meeting with an announcement. Weather Wednesday will see additional shower and thunderstorm activity across the Midwest. Rainfall will be light to locally moderate. Flash flood risk is still high in portions of the western Midwest. Strong thunderstorm winds are also likely throughout the central U.S. The rain will also be accompanied by notably cooler conditions. We'll also see light rain in the Southeast while dry conditions remain in effect over the southern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


EPA Cancels Dicamba Registrations The Environmental Protection Agency late Monday canceled the registrations for three dicamba herbicides. The move follows a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling vacating the registrations of Bayer’s XtendiMax with vapor grip technology, BASF’s Engenia, and Corteva’s FeXapan. The EPA says growers and commercial applicators may use existing stocks that were in their possession on June 3, 2020, the effective date of the Court decision. Such use must be consistent with the product’s previously-approved label, and may not continue after July 31, 2020. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler calls the action “consistent with EPA’s standard practice following registration invalidation.” He adds the court decision “has threatened the livelihood of our nation’s farmers and the global food supply.” Distribution or sale by any person is generally prohibited except for ensuring proper disposal or return to the registrant. The court decision and EPA action does not include Syngenta’s dicamba herbicide, called Tavium. ************************************************************************************ Away From Home Eating Drops 51 Percent in March The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders have dramatically impacted Americans' food spending, according to the Department of Agriculture. USDA's Economic Research Service says, unlike previous economic shocks, the COVID-19 shock has led to a pronounced substitution from food away from home towards food at home. Inflation-adjusted expenditures at grocery stores and other retailers, described as food at home, were 6.5 percent higher in February 2020 compared with February 2019. The same spending was 18.8 percent higher in March 2020 compared with March 2019. Comparing spending for the same month accounts for seasonal food spending patterns. Inflation-adjusted February 2020 expenditures at eating-out establishments, restaurants, school cafeterias, sports venues and other places, were 39.3 percent lower than February 2019 expenditures. March 2020 food-away-from-home spending was 51 percent lower than March 2019 spending. During the Great Recession of 2007-09, expenditures on both food at home and food away from home decreased, with the largest decrease in February 2009. ************************************************************************************ Restaurant Coronavirus Recovery Underway The restaurant industry recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is underway. New data shows the industry brought back 1.37 million workers last month, and consumers are eating out again. More restaurants, and particularly large chain restaurants, have seen a resurgence in sales in recent weeks. However, Restaurant Business Online reports the industry remains far below employment levels from before the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting that it could be years before the number of workers lost over that six-week period are fully regained. The restaurant industry employed 7.6 million workers in May, up 22 percent from April’s decades-long low of 6.3 million. It is still 37 percent below February levels, or about 4.4 million employees. The Independent Restaurant Coalition told the publication, "Congress needs to pass a relief package specifically designed to protect our industry," noting that restaurant workers continue to make up the largest share of jobless Americans. Many restaurants were forced to close when the pandemic began. ************************************************************************************ April Red Meat Exports Weather Production Challenges, Economic Headwinds April proved to be a solid month for U.S. beef and pork exports despite COVID-19 related interruptions in production and trade. U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom says, “despite these significant headwinds, global demand for U.S. beef and pork remained strong." Beef exports were below last April's large totals but still topped $600 million in value. Pork exports remained well above year-ago levels but slowed from the record pace established in the first quarter. While May export results will likely reflect similar obstacles, Halstrom noted that red meat production continues to recover, setting the stage for a strong second half of 2020. April beef exports were down six percent from a year ago to 98,600 metric tons, with value falling 11 percent to $600.9 million. For pork, April volume reached 264,000 metric tons, up 22 percent from a year ago but the lowest since November 2019. Export value was $682.8 million, up 28 percent year-over-year but the lowest since October 2019. ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Seek Wheat Classes Included in CFAP Lawmakers from Washington state want the Department of Agriculture to include three classes of wheat for coverage under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP. Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers presented the request in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue late last week. The letter seeks the inclusion of soft white, hard red winter and soft red winter wheat classes for coverage in the CFAP. The lawmakers say, “These classes of wheat, like so many other commodities, have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and need assistance under this program.” From January to April, the market for soft white wheat dropped more than 8.5 percent. Soft red winter wheat futures contracts range from $5.77 a bushel to $4.98. And, hard red winter wheat ranged from $5.07 in a bushel in January to $4.23 a bushel in March. CFAP was created as a result of the CARES Act relief package to provide direct relief to farmers and ranchers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. ************************************************************************************ Gas Price Continue March Higher The national average gas price continues to march higher for the sixth conservative week, gaining 4.3 centers per gallon to $2.02, according to GasBuddy. The average price of diesel rose 0.1 cents to $2.41 per gallon over the same period. Patrick De Haan of GasBuddy attributes the trend to increased demand as Americans return to the roadways, and OPEC extending its large oil production cuts until at least July. De Haan says, “The anxiety pushing oil prices up is coming from the fact that the economy may be recovering quicker than most anticipated.” Crude oil prices continued to rally over the last week on positive economic data. Optimism has played a key role in boosting oil prices. OPEC has extended production cuts for now while demand continues to rally globally. However, Saudi Arabia reminded the market it may not hold its most severe production cuts beyond June to keep oil’s rally in check and likely in hopes of holding off a return of U.S. oil production.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


Washington Insider: More Aid Dollars for Farmers It has been clear for some time that farmers are on the front line of number of recent trade fights as well as the recent market disruptions from pandemic. And, with fewer people filling up their gas tanks, the demand for ethanol made from corn has cratered. This week, however, the New York Times ran a long front-page article that calls USDA’s farm relief programs excessive. The article notes that the Trump administration’s $28 billion efforts in 2018 and 2019 to compensate farmers for losses from its trade wars were devised hastily and heavily political. It worries that the administration’s new program to send farmers tens of billions more to offset losses from the coronavirus pandemic faces questions about how the money will be allocated and “whether there is sufficient oversight to guard against partisan abuse of the program.” Months before an election in which some farm states are major battlegrounds, Democrats and other critics of the administration’s agriculture policies are expressing concern that the new subsidies, provided by Congress with bipartisan backing, will be doled out to ensure continued backing of one of the president’s key voting blocs. Given the track record with the trade relief program, “I think Congress should be concerned in terms of letting USDA just write checks with no oversight,” said Joseph Glauber, a top economist with the department for 22 years who is now with the International Food Policy Research Institute. “Are these programs politically motivated? The short answer is yes,” he said. Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary who oversees the aid, denied that motivation, saying “nothing could be further from the truth.” The Agriculture Department has set aside $16 billion for relief from economic damage caused by the pandemic. But both administration officials and many members of Congress consider that only a down payment on farm losses that some estimate could climb to $40 billion. The Times calls the new program the latest example of the “outsize clout wielded in Washington by operators of the nation’s roughly two million farms -- and the eagerness of politicians to help them.” It concludes that despite decades of talk about weaning farmers off subsidies, USDA remains “a font of funds from administration to administration -- and “now could take that assistance to a new level.” When the president's tariffs on China and other countries set off trade reprisals in early 2018, the president also seized on the USDA's ability to borrow from the Treasury to pay $12 billion in trade relief. That more than doubled what the administration was already paying out through other programs meant to protect farmers from falling prices, the Times said. Not only has the Trump administration showered farmers with money, the article notes a study from Kansas State University that concludes that farmers were paid up to as much as eight times their estimated losses from trade friction in 2018. Payments were even more generous in 2019, ranging from one-and-a half to 33 times estimated losses, after the department loosened how it calculated the trade damage to farmers, the researchers found. The trade relief payments drove up net farm income by 12% in 2019, according to Glauber. Without them, it would have fallen by 5%, he said. Both the Kansas State economists and the Democratic staff of the Senate agriculture committee found regional disparities in the disbursement of the aid. “It’s stunning really. These are states that have positive political relationships with the president,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the Senate agriculture committee. She said she wanted to help farmers recover losses, but “the reality is that the administration up to this point has not distributed financial support in an equitable way.” Economists say the Agriculture Department, under intense pressure from both the White House and Congress to deliver coronavirus checks to farmers, seems again engaged in major guesswork in trying to calculate losses. “They are basically running in the dark,” one analyst told the Times. President Trump is likely to be firmly behind rising demands to bolster the program when the $16 billion runs out, possibly by drawing on another $14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation authorized in the stimulus bill, the Times said. The president routinely cites his administration’s generosity to farmers as a political selling point. “Under three years of my administration, net farm income has already gone up nearly 50 percent and will now be rising even faster,” he proclaimed in January. That was a slight exaggeration, NYT says. The combination of subsidies and higher commodity prices in 2017 drove up net farm income 42% in Trump’s first three years in office, according to Glauber. So, we will see. Clearly, many politically sensitive producers worry about the role of government in the farm sector — even though there are many groups that are receiving subsidies just now. These payments clearly can reduce market pain. In addition, they are important supports that should be watched closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


Trump Threatens New EU, China Tariffs President Donald Trump late last week threatened to impose tariffs on cars made in the European Union (EU) and on unspecified Chinese products unless the trading partners reduce their duties on U.S. lobster. The president has frequently threatened tariffs on autos imported from the EU, mainly to get the trading bloc to agree to negotiations and force German automakers to commit to new investments in the U.S. As for China, the Phase One agreement with the country was expected to result in changes in several trade areas, but Trump, speaking in Maine standing behind lobster traps, indicated China could be hit with tariffs as well.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


EPA’s Wheeler Says Agency ‘Disappointed’ In Court Ruling On Dicamba The recent decision by the Ninth Circuit of Appeals to vacate the approval of three dicamba products is being assessed by EPA, with a statement from Administrator Andrew Wheeler saying the agency is “disappointed” by the decision. “The 2020 growing season is well underway and this creates undue burden for our first conservationists – farmers,” Wheeler said. “EPA has been overwhelmed with letters and calls from farmers nationwide since the Court issued its opinion, and these testimonies cite the devastation of this decision on their crops and the threat to America’s food supply. In a decision late Monday, EPA issued a cancellation order for the three dicamba herbicides. The agency will permit growers and commercial applicators to use any existing stocks of three herbicides -- XtendiMax, Engenia and FeXapan -- that were in their possession as of June 3.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting Tuesday and will provide comments on the economy Wednesday. The interest rate is expected to remain near zero. Traders will also keep close watch on the latest weather forecasts and trade news. Weather Moderate to heavy rain with a high risk of flooding will cover much of the western Midwest Tuesday. We'll also see thunderstorms with locally heavy rain and some flood risk cross the Northern Plains. Meanwhile, high winds will stress crops and threaten property in the central and Southern Plains, eastern Midwest and Delta. Stressful heat in far southern crop areas is another Tuesday feature.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


World Dairy Expo Canceled for the First Time The World Dairy Expo will not take place in 2020, the first time it’s been canceled in 53 years. The World Dairy Expo Committee made a difficult decision based on public health orders and restrictions related to COVID-19 that are in place and issued by Public Health in Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin. World Dairy Expo was to take place in Madison from September 29 through October third. Last year, the event hosted more than 62,000 people from almost 100 countries. “Our collective hearts are heavy as we share with you that the World Dairy Expo 2020 has been canceled,” says WDE General Manager Scott Bentley. “We know how much this hurts because we feel it too. Please know that other options were explored and considered by the World Dairy Expo Executive Committee and staff.” Public health officials in Dane County, Wisconsin, anticipate that access to the Expo would be limited to 250 people at outdoor events come late September and early October. “We recognize our responsibility to maintain the health of our community and the safety of all of you as exhibitors, attendees, as well as volunteers,” Bentley adds. ********************************************************************************************** Justice Department Subpoenas Information from Meatpackers The Justice Department has made a formal demand for information from the country’s four biggest meatpackers as they investigate potential antitrust violations. A Bloomberg article says that deepens the scrutiny of an industry that’s already been hit hard by plant shutdowns due to the coronavirus. The department’s antitrust division sent civil investigative demands, which are similar to subpoenas, to the companies. The Justice Department is also talking with state attorneys general about the probe after a group of states called for an official investigation. The four meatpackers that control more than 80 percent of the U.S. beef processing market include Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill, and National Beef Incorporated. Their dominance in the industry has sparked concerns about their pricing power over livestock suppliers for years. Bloomberg says three of the companies didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. National Beef, based in Kansas City, Missouri, confirmed they did get the civil investigative demand from the Justice Department, but they noted that ”The request is very narrow in scope, which leads us to believe that the DOJ doesn’t necessarily believe there is an antitrust issue.” The Justice Department subpoenas to meatpackers follow criminal charges last week against four current and former executives of chicken processing companies. ********************************************************************************************** Less Than a Month Before USMCA Goes into Effect So, where do things stand on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement as it goes into effect in less than a month? Politico says North American leaders are selling USMCA as a big win that will remove uncertainty in the region. However, there are still some agricultural issues between the U.S. and Mexico that have to be worked out yet. Kenneth Smith Ramos, Mexico’s former chief USMCA negotiator, says Southern U.S. growers and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are still talking through seasonal produce concerns. Seasonal produce growers mainly located in Florida and Georgia have pushed for special provisions in USMCA that would allow them to more easily petition for anti-dumping or countervailing duties on Mexico, but that was left out of the final agreement. Still, they’re pushing for rules that would allow them to fight Mexican growers. In the meantime, Mexican officials are still concerned about talk of the U.S. doing more border inspections. Mexico agreed to increased border inspections as part of a tomato suspension agreement, but now there’s a push to extend that to other agricultural goods entering the United States. ********************************************************************************************** NCBA Applauds Emergency Grazing Legislation The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded the introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral PASTURE Act of 2020. PASTURE stands for Pandemic Authority Suitable To Utilize Easements. The Bill was introduced in the House by Kansas Republican Roger Marshall and Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig. Companion legislation in the Senate was introduced by South Dakota Republican John Thune and Minnesota Democrat Tina Smith. “Yesterday’s introduction of the PASTURE Act is a welcome step toward providing grazing flexibility to livestock producers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ethan Lane, the NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs. “As farmers and ranchers are keeping and feeding livestock for longer periods of time, Congress must ensure that producers do not face a forage shortage. Emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program Acreage is a relied-upon practice for livestock and forage management.” The PASTURE Act gives USDA the ability to open up CRP acreage for emergency haying and grazing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in mid-May, NCBA and 35 state affiliates sent a letter to Congress urging them to take action on this issue. ********************************************************************************************** The U.S. Reaches an Organic Equivalence Agreement with Taiwan The quickly-growing organic market in Taiwan is poised to grow even faster. Late last week, the U.S. and Taiwan reached an organic equivalence arrangement to enable increased trade between the two regions. Taiwan is already the fifth-largest export market for U.S. organic products. The new arrangement will remove previous barriers for exporters, providing an opportunity for U.S. organic products to gain a greater share in the Taiwanese marketplace. Taiwan’s imports of U.S. organic products have increased sharply in the past few years, with imports totaling over $90 million last year, and are forecast to grow by just about 50 percent over the next five years. “We are pleased to see the enthusiasm from both the U.S. and Taiwanese governments to reduce trade barriers for organic products and ensure more consumers have access to the wide variety of high-quality organic goods the U.S. can provide,” says Laura Batcha (BATCH-ah), Executive Director and CEO with the Organic Trade Association. Taiwan imports multiple organic products from the U.S., including apples, lettuce, grapes, cauliflower, celery, and processed products. The OTA says they’ll provide resources and activities for exporters who wish to explore potential business opportunities with Taiwan. ********************************************************************************************** Bill Would Help Farmers Sell Carbon Credits The agriculture industry would be able to take part in an expanding carbon credit market thanks to bipartisan legislation introduced last week. A report in The Hill Dot Com says the goal of the legislation would be to provide money to farmers for using sustainable farming practices. Farming is a source of carbon emissions, but it also presents vast opportunities to sequester carbon in both the soil and plants. The legislation would require the USDA to create a certification program to help farmers and landowners in implementing protocols and monetizing the climate value of their sustainable practices. “As Americans, we have the ability to come up with climate solutions that can benefit our economy and our way of life,” says South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who co-sponsored the bill. “This legislation is an opportunity to put our knowledge and can-do spirit to work to promote business opportunities for the agriculture industry while promoting the protection of our environment.” The bill has the support of environmental and farm groups, along with numerous corporations like McDonald’s and Microsoft, both of which have promised they will reduce their carbon footprints.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Complicated Jobs Report Brings Some Relief The monthly U.S. jobs report can often surprise relative to projections, but forecasts have never been so spectacularly wrong as they were for May’s data out Friday. The “miss” raised the question of why it was so wide, Bloomberg is reporting. A record 2.5 million workers were added by employers during the month, compared with a median projection for a loss of 7.5 million jobs. Of the 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, the most optimistic forecast called for an 800,000 decline. Their estimates also expected the unemployment rate to approach 20% -- the highest since the Great Depression in the 1930s -- when in fact it declined to 13.3%. Playing a huge role in economists’ forecasts were floods of applications for jobless insurance and tens of millions of Americans still on benefit rollsâ??larger that the U.S. has ever experienced in such a short timespan. Moreover, economists’ models “probably” failed to fully take into account the government’s relief response, specifically the Paycheck Protection Program that provides firms funding to keep workers on staff. Before this year, the biggest single-month miss on the payrolls report was 318,000 in February 2003, according to Bloomberg survey data going back to 1996. The sudden nature of the downturn is putting a premium on real-time data to help produce more in-the-ballpark estimates for economic data. "These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it," the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. "In May, employment rose sharply in leisure and hospitality, construction, education and health services, and retail trade. By contrast, employment in government continued to decline sharply." The Washington Post asked, is there a mistake in the data? The BLS, which is part of the Labor Department “admitted” there was a classification error. In a special note, it said the May unemployment rate would be about 16.3%, down from an April unemployment rate of more than 19%, if this error hadn’t happened. This meant that some people who should have been classified as unemployed were instead classified as employed but “absent” from work for “other reasons.” This “other reason” category is normally used for people on vacation, serving jury duty or taking leave to care for a child or relative. But in this unusual pandemic circumstance, the “other reason” category got applied to some people sitting at home and waiting to be called back. The same thing happened in April, and would have added nearly another five percentage points to the 14.7% unemployment rate for that month, the agency said. BLS does not like to change people’s answers, because they don’t want to tamper with the data. In conclusion, the Post said that whether you look at the official unemployment or this amended unemployment rate, “the bottom line remains: Unemployment is still high, but it went down slightly in May.” The Post also “vouched” for the BLS. “You can 100% discount the possibility that political interference occurred. Not 98% discount, not 99.9% discount, but 100% discount,” tweeted Jason Furman, the former top economist for President Barack Obama. “BLS has 2,400 career staff of enormous integrity and one political appointee with no scope to change this number.” The bureau used the same methodology that it uses every month: It looks at who was working and who wasn’t mid-month. Specifically, the agency looked at the week of May 10 to 16. Like always, the Census Bureau collected data for the BLS in two ways. In one survey, census workers literally go out and ask some people about their situation and in the other, BLS workers look at company and government payrolls from 140,000 establishments to see how many people are employed and how many hours they are working. The Post notes that “even the latest data shows 28 million people had their job cut or hours reduced during the pandemic. Plus, an alarming number â?? 2.3 million people â?? now say they have permanently lost their jobs.” In the end, perhaps the best figure to look at to gauge the health of the labor marketâ??and how the economic rebound is goingâ??is what share of the adult U.S. population is employed. Economists call this the “employment-to-population ratio.” It plunged in April and has come back only slightly. Any improvement is encouraging. It makes a difference for those who did get their jobs back. But it’s clear there’s still a long way to go to get back to anything close to pre-pandemic levels. So, we will see. Forecasting job numbers is always tricky and difficult, and during a pandemic, everything is different. Clearly, it will be a severe challenge to learn just how to read the numbers now in a period of dramatic change, a challenge that likely will be with us for some time, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


CFAP Payments At $545 Million USDA as of June 3 paid out $545 million in payments via the Coronavirus Food Distribution Program (CFAP). Of the payments, $140.3 million have been made for non-specialty crops (corn, soybeans, etc.), $8.4 million in specialty crops, $267.8 million for livestock and $128.6 million for dairy. There have been payments made to 35,000 producers so far, according to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, with more than 86,000 applications filed with USDA. The specialty crops are small possibly because many have had no prior participation in FSA programs, contacts advise. But the levels for non-specialty crops could also be the unpriced inventory issue that has caused program implementers some problems. And, the process with Farm Service Agency offices being impacted by COVID-19 issues could also be playing a role.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


US Ag Trade Data Shows Sector Echoed Broader Trade Data The value of U.S. ag exports in April dropped to $10.67 billion, down 10.3% from $11.89 billion in March, as COVID-19-related impacts slowed demand from U.S. buyers. While the value of ag imports dropped to $11.40 billion in April, down 8% from $12.39 billion in March, it left a deficit for the month of $733.8 million. This marked the second monthly batch of trade red ink for the sector in a row and the third in four months. The fall in exports being more dramatic than the fall in imports matched the overall trade picture in April where exports were at $151.3 billion, down 20.5%, while imports were at $200.7 billion, down 13.7%. So far in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, U.S. ag exports are valued at $81.9 billion against imports of $78.04 billion for a trade surplus of $3.86 billion. So far in FY 2020, the value of ag exports and imports are both above the same point in FY 2019. USDA has lowered its forecast for FY 2020 U.S. ag exports to $136.5 billion ($139.5 billion prior) and trimmed the import outlook to $130.2 billion ($132.5 billion), leaving a surplus of $6.3 billion. To meet USDA’s forecasts, exports would have to average $10.92 each month and imports $10.432 billion.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Heading into the second week of June, traders will be paying close attention to U.S. and international weather forecasts, noting row crop development and major wheat crop conditions. USDA's report of weekly grain export inspections is due out at 10 a.m. CDT and will mark the start a new season for wheat. Crop Progress is set for 3 p.m. with interest now shifted to crop condition updates. Weather Monday features a large contrast in crop weather conditions. The Midwest and Delta have heavy rain and flood threats in store from the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal. We’ll also see locally heavy showers in the far Northern Plains and Canadian Prairies. Meanwhile, hot and windy conditions in the central and southwest Plains will stress crops and bring on wildfire danger. Record early-June heat has been recorded in much of the western Midwest and Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


Dicamba Makers Assessing Next Steps Following Court Ruling Makers of dicamba herbicides are assessing what’s next following a court ruling vacating registration of the products. A U.S. appeals court ruling this week vacates current U.S. registrations of certain low volatility dicamba products, including Bayer’s XtendiMax Herbicide. The ruling comes after a group of environmental organizations filed a petition challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 registration decision. In a statement, Bayer says, "We strongly disagree with the ruling and are assessing our options." This week, the court stated, "the absence of substantial evidence to support the EPA’s decision compels us to vacate the registrations.” The ruling pertains specifically to the EPA’s 2018 registration decision, which expires in December 2020. CropLife America President and CEO Chris Novak expressed disappointment with the ruling, stating, “We continue to support the science-based decisions made by career scientists at the EPA,” adding “We hope that EPA’s next steps will reflect the needs of American farmers for regulatory certainty and science-based decision-making.” The ruling also includes dicamba herbicides from BASF and Corteva. It does not include a dicamba product from Syngenta. ************************************************************************************ USDA Issues First Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Payments The Department of Agriculture Thursday announced the approval of more than $545 million in payments to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, known as CFAP. The Farm Service Agency began taking applications on May 26, and the agency has received more than 86,000 applications. FSA has already made payments to more than 35,000 producers. Out of the gate, the top five states for CFAP payments are Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska and South Dakota. FSA will accept applications through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion in financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19, and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says FSA has the resources to “complete applications as smoothly and efficiently as possible.” Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms from farmers.gov. ************************************************************************************ Senators Announce Growing Climate Solutions Act New legislation would create an environmental credit marketplace for farmers. The Growing Climate Solutions Act, led by Michigan Democrat, Senator Debbie Stabenow, creates a certification program at the Department of Agriculture to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets. Issues, including access to reliable information about markets and access to qualified technical assistance providers and credit protocol verifiers, have limited both landowner participation and the adoption of practices that help reduce the costs of developing carbon credits. The bill is backed by top farm and environmental groups, as well as Fortune 500 companies. The bill establishes a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program. Through those programs, USDA will "provide transparency, legitimacy, and informal endorsement" of third-party verifiers and technical service providers. Those providers would help private landowners generate carbon credits through a variety of agriculture and forestry-related practices. ************************************************************************************ Sugar Association Wants Greater Sweetener Labeling Transparency A petition by the Sugar Association asks the Food and Drug Administration to "require complete and accurate labeling" of low- and no-calorie sweeteners on food packages. The association says the move would extend labeling transparency, end misleading practices and help consumers make more informed decisions. The petition asks the FDA to require the term "Sweetener" in parentheses after the name of all non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient list. For children's food and beverages, they ask the FDA to require indication of the type and quantity of non-nutritive sweeteners, in milligrams per serving, on the front of food packages. Research by the association found that, given a list of food additives, consumers correctly identified sweetening ingredients only 37 percent of the time. And, 66 percent of consumers say it's important for sugar substitutes to be clearly identified as sweeteners on food labels. Sugar Association President and CEO Courtney Gaine says, “These changes are necessary to close a gap in food labeling,” adding they are also necessary to “provide consumers with complete transparency and accurate information.” ************************************************************************************ NFU Comments on Price Fixing Indictments Price fixing indictments in the chicken processing sector highlights the need for greater oversight, according to the National Farmers Union. Four current and former executives at Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and Claxton Poultry Farms, both of which produce chicken, were indicted this week for colluding to inflate the prices of birds sold to grocery stores and restaurants. NFU says the indictments show there is a need for greater antitrust enforcement and farmer protections. NFU President Rob Larew says price fixing is “extremely harmful” to agriculture and consumers. However, he says price fixing is only a symptom of the much bigger problem of corporate consolidation, and companies are only able to employ anticompetitive business practices when they’ve gathered control over their respective industries. Larew says price fixing can be avoided by enforcement of antitrust policy, restoring competition in the agricultural marketplace reinstatement of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration and developing strong protections for farmers. ************************************************************************************ Warmer, Drier Summer Makes for Average Missouri River Forecast An expected warm and dry summer has the Missouri River forecast on an average path for 2020. Water releases from Gavins Point Dam will remain at 33,000 cubic feet per second in June, which is about average, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. May runoff in the upper basin was about 130 percent of average. However, the summer climate outlook indicates a return to warmer and drier conditions in the upper basin. Still, the 2020 calendar year upper basin runoff forecast is 32.3 million acre feet, 125 percent of average. The June 1 forecast is in the top 25 percent of the 122 years of runoff record. Soils are drying out in the upper Missouri River Basin, following much wetter-than-normal conditions in 2018 and 2019. The potential for flooding remains in the Missouri River Basin, particularly in the lower river, due to the potential for locally heavy rain and runoff. Further, levee repairs continue from flooding last spring, kicked off by the March 2019 bomb-cyclone weather event.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Chicken Probe Ensnares a CEO, Other Executives DTN and others are reporting this week that amid the long list of new economic threats to meat producers, plain old anti-competitive behavior can still attract official attention. Bloomberg reports that “toward the end of every year, chicken producers compete for massive contracts with grocery stores and fast-food chains across America. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.” But reality is sometimes messier, Bloomberg thinks. A string of text messages and emails disclosed in a federal indictment Wednesday featured a 2014 exchange with Jayson Penn, the now-chief executive officer of chicken giant Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., asking unnamed colleagues about negotiations with a restaurant franchise. The manager responded that, “They are listening to my direction.” “Who is they?” Penn asked. If “they” is illegal, he said, “don’t tell me.” Bloomberg says that now, after years of talk, the feds have finally pounced: Big Chicken, they say, has been fixing prices. Bloomberg calls the case, “one of the stranger examples of alleged market-rigging in a long history and an unusual one in that the chief of a company this big is actually facing criminal charges.” The U.S. Justice Department filed a case Wednesday that appears to document executives at competing companies colluding to share pricing and bidding information from 2012 through 2017 in “the cut-throat world of commodity chicken.” Penn was indicted by a grand jury in Colorado along with a former vice president of the company. There are also charges against executives from Claxton Poultry Farms Inc., a tiny player with about 1% market share. Pilgrim’s, which is majority owned by Brazilian food giant JBS SA, denied the charges. It will “continue to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice in their investigation,” it said. The Justice Department filing includes some colorful text-message exchanges that suggest that the poultry giant was in regular communication with rivals over prices. That indicates more changes could come after a decade of hearings on antitrust and consolidation in the industry and a slew of civil lawsuits. “It’s hard to get anything more solid than having text messages of people working together to rig prices,” said Christopher Leonard, author of “The Meat Racket,” which examines the protein industry. “This is the most significant action by the federal government on the meat industry in probably decades.” The case against Pilgrim’s is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of price fixing by chicken processors, which also includes Tyson Foods Inc. and Sanderson Farms Inc. Together, Pilgrim’s, Tyson and Sanderson control almost half of the U.S. chicken market, Bloomberg said. While Wednesday’s charges are unrelated to the current coronavirus crisis, they likely signal that enforcers will be increasingly vigilant about issues in the industry. The Justice Department also probing potential market manipulation at beef processors, and USDA is separately investigating processor margins. The four executives charged face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. In addition, the text exchanges give the public a glimpse into the market, Bloomberg says. And, the messages between executives reveal that a difference of just pennies in prices can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional profit because of the plant’s scale. The Justice Department is expected to bring additional charges in the investigation, said Lisa Phelan, a lawyer at Morrison Foerster LLP in Washington and a former prosecutor with the Justice Department. Pilgrim’s Pride is probably negotiating a plea agreement with the government, she said, and other companies in the industry could be targeted, which is typical in a price-fixing investigation. “The DOJ always looks to hold both the companies and executives responsible for any kind of collusion in cartel conduct,” Phelan said. “If these allegations are true, they offer more evidence of an industry that has no problem exploiting workers and now possibly customers, for their gain,” said Minor Sinclair, Director of U.S. Domestic Programs at Oxfam America, an advocacy group that also holds shares in Pilgrim’s. Food shortages during the coronavirus pandemic and market disruptions from outbreaks at meat plants have further focused political attention on the risks in food industry consolidation. Even with the administration’s anti-trust investigation into big meatpacking companies, convictions and compliance actions may be months or years away. The charges against chicken processors demonstrate a commitment to enforcement of price-fixing laws, industry observers say. So, we will see. While the meat processors tend to be concentrated, most analysts say that supply and demand “remain” the primary driver of prices. However, the industry’s questionable health record and worries about supply and price uncertainties are increasingly attracting attention in the urban press and elsewhere. One result is declining consumer confidence at a time when “competitive” manufactured products are gaining modest market shares. These are trends producers should watch closely as they evolve, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


Court Blocks Sale of Dicamba in US From Bayer, Others The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling that effectively blocks Bayer and BASF from selling the herbicide dicamba in the U.S., ruling that EPA “failed entirely” to acknowledge risks from the herbicide and that the agency violated federal regulations in October 2018 when it issued a two-year approval for the herbicide. “We strongly disagree with the ruling and are assessing our options,” Bayer spokesman Chris Loder told Bloomberg via email. “If the ruling stands, we will work quickly to minimize any impact on our customers this season.” The ruling also applies to dicamba-based herbicides from BASF and Corteva Agriscience. BASF said the ruling could have a “significant adverse impact” on its customers that have already purchased such products for this growing season.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


Conflicting Reports Continue on State of US Soybean, Ag Product Sales to China News reports continue to provide conflicting signals on the state of U.S. ag exports to China of soybeans and other ag products. The Wall Street Journal Wednesday reported Chinese state-controlled companies have canceled transports for some shipments from American exporters as new tensions flare between Washington and Beijing. Maritime executives told the paper at least 23 cargoes of soybeans were withdrawn and that a handful of shipments of other agriculture commodities were “pushed back.” However, the article noted a similar Bloomberg report that Chinese importers late last week had been seeking 20-30 cargoes of U.S. soybeans, but opted to hold off. Meanwhile, the China-run Global Times said that sales of U.S. soybeans to China announced this week are proof that there has been no halt in the purchases as has been reported. They quoted Zhang Xiaoping, country director for China at the U.S. Soybean Export Council, as saying Chinese firms are still buying U.S. soybeans in line with market rules, unaffected by diplomatic tensions between the two sides.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets At 7:30 a.m. CDT Friday, the U.S. Labor Department will announce what is expected to be a large loss of non-farm payrolls in May, along with May’s U.S. unemployment rate. Traders will continue to monitor the latest weather forecasts and any trade news, especially if it concerns China. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain will cover much of the western Midwest Friday. Severe storm damage and local flooding are possible. Light rain will move across the Delta. Plains areas will be dry with extreme heat stressing crops and livestock in the Southern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


Nutrition Coalition Urges Delay, Review of Dietary Guidelines The Nutrition Coalition alleges there is a serious threat to the integrity and trustworthiness of the nation's federal nutrition policy. The coalition Wednesday released allegations made by one or more members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, under the direction of the Department of Agriculture. The coalition expressed concerns about the committee's process and in particular, its review of the scientific studies underpinning what will be the next version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, due out at the end of this year. The guidelines are issued only once every five years. The allegations range from deleting scientific reviews without public notice to failing to adopt reforms mandated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The coalition claims USDA needs more time to develop the guidelines and consider more scientific evidence and reviews. Nutrition Coalition Executive Director Nina Teicholz (Ty-shulls) says, “The American people deserve trustworthy nutrition policy based on a comprehensive review of the most rigorous science.” ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Call on Secretary Perdue to Provide Answers for Wisconsin’s Dairyland Federal Lawmakers from Wisconsin seek answers from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for dairy farmers. In a letter this week, four legislators from Wisconsin asked how contracts are awarded through the Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. In May, USDA announced it was awarding $1.2 billion in contracts out of the $3 billion program, which is meant to support farmers struggling with food supply chain disruptions by purchasing agricultural products to distribute to those in need. However, the lawmakers say USDA has released few details regarding the awardees and the process used to determine which companies receive contracts. Wisconsin, one of the nation's top dairy-producing states and home to well-established dairy producers, processors, and distributors, has received less than one percent of the contracts made for dairy products through the program. Representative Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, says, “Our dairy farmers are the heart of our rural communities, and they deserve additional clarity and more support from USDA.” ************************************************************************************ Iowa Leaders Call On USDA to Provide CFAP Funds for Egg Producers Iowa leaders want the Department of Agriculture to include egg producers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, known as CFAP. Both Senators from Iowa, Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Along with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, sent the request in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. With nearly 70 percent of Iowa’s layer flocks producing for the liquid egg market, the COVID-19 market disruption has proved to be devastating to Iowa’s egg producers. Egg producers lost markets due to the closing of restaurants, schools and other egg buying businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the liquid egg market saw a 68 percent price decline. Senator Ernst says, “These hardworking folks need relief and assistance, and that's what we're fighting for and pushing USDA to provide.” Iowa is home to more than 58 million egg-laying hens and about one in six eggs consumed in the United States each year. ************************************************************************************ Solid Rebound Expected for Sugarbeet Industry Sugarbeet growers and cooperatives in the U.S. are expected to have a stronger financial year ahead, according to a new report by CoBank. The report says growers should see improved production and high prices for the 2020-2021 crop. Many growers and processors suffered through significant financial strains due to extreme weather, market uncertainty and severe crop production losses that plagued the 2019-2020 marketing year. The U.S. sugarbeet harvest last fall marked the fifth biggest year-over-year decline on record, dropping 14 percent to 28.6 million short tons. Total acreage planted this spring is expected to increase over last year and drive production higher. USDA is currently predicting the 2020-21 sugarbeet crop harvest to increase 18 percent, at 33.7 million short tons. With demand remaining strong and refined sugar supplies tightening, the price of Wholesale Refined Beet Sugar has surged to 44 cents per pound, up from 35 cents per pound last fall and the highest since 2012. Raw sugar prices, though, have held steady at around 25 to 27 cents per pound for over the past two years. ************************************************************************************ New Tool Helps Great lakes Area Farmers Prevent Runoff American Farmland Trust and its partners have developed a new model to reduce nutrient and soil sediment runoff on leased farmland in the Great Lakes region. By engaging landowners, their operators and farm retailers, the partnership is expanding the use of conservation practices to improve soil health and reduce runoff in the Great Lakes Basin. The “Landowners and Farmers Partnering for Clean Water in the Great Lakes” model is built around three strategies, engaging women landowners through “learning circles,” organizing workshops for farm operators who lease their land, and gathering knowledge from agricultural retailers and crop consultants. The group says farmers who lease the land they farm do not have as many incentives to use conservation practices as do farmers who own the land they farm. In the Great Lakes region, up to 49 percent of the farmland is leased. A significant share of leased farmland is owned by women, a traditionally underserved sector in agriculture, and a sector that is expected to increase. The toolkits are available on American Farmland Trust’s website. ************************************************************************************ Case IH Donates Tractors to Three Trade Schools Case IH recently donated tractors to three technical schools to give students hands-on learning with new equipment. The tractors were donated to Parkland Community College in Champaign, Illinois, North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota. Each received one donated tractor. The tractors will be used as training aids for diesel technology programs to benefit students' education. Each school that received a donated tractor is partnered with a local Case IH dealer and has a program to train students to repair agriculture equipment. The tractor models that were donated, a Puma 170, Optum 270 and Optum 300, have a retail value of more than $500,000 in total. Darrel Woolery, agriculture department supervisor at Lake Area Technical Institute, said the Optum 300 tractor they received will be used to teach across multiple programs, and it will serve as a learning tool both in the classroom and in the field.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Stock Market as Economic Indicator The New York Times recently has undertaken to explain the “disconnect” between the U.S. economy and the stock market. It observes that after a few weeks of “wild swings” the market is down a mere 9.3% this year and 13.5% from its peak, which most investors would consider a correction. Last Friday, after the release of “staggering” unemployment figures, the S&P 500 closed up 1.7%. Conventional wisdom is that markets tend to be forward-looking and investors have already accounted for the expected drop in second-quarter activity – and the expectations are for a relatively rapid economic recovery afterward. Also, the Fed’s actions have bolstered investors’ confidence that the bottom “won’t fall out of the market.” However, the Times focuses on “deeper reasons," including the market’s longer-term detachment from the mainstream of American life. “Wall Street has very little to do with Main Street,” said Joachim Klement, a market analyst at Liberum Capital in London,” said. “And that link is less and less important.” Still, the market retains its grip on the collective imagination. From politicians and corporate executives to mom-and-pop investors, Americans have long relied on the stock market as a proxy for the U.S. economy for reasons that are partly historical. Its crests suggested bright days ahead, while its troughs suggested a darkening outlook. However, the current “economic fallout” could snap the “illusions” that the logic of the market is derived, in any consistent way, from real-world events. Part of the reason is the makeup of the market itself the Times says – and the fact that the giant companies that make up the S&P 500, for example, reflect very different circumstances than the nation’s small businesses, workers and cities and states. They are highly profitable, hold significant sums of cash and have regular access to public bond markets. They’re far more global than the typical American family firm and earn about 40 percent of their revenues from sales abroad. In 2015, about 600,000 U.S. companies counted at least 20 employees, and only 3,600 of those – or less than 1% – were publicly listed, said Rene Stulz, a professor of finance at Ohio State University, who has studied the changing composition of publicly traded markets. Because the financial strength of big companies makes them more likely to survive the downturn, their share prices tend to underplay the impact of widespread economic trends. In fact, market indexes like the S&P 500 are weighted to reflect the performance of the largest and most profitable companies. In recent weeks, the stocks of such companies have not only veered in the opposite direction from the outlook for the U.S. economy, but from the rest of the stock market itself. The five largest listed companies – Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook – have continued to climb this year, as investors bet they will emerge in an even more dominant position after the crisis. Through the end of April, they were up roughly 10% this year, while the 495 other companies in the S&P were down 13%, according to Goldman Sachs analysts. Several of these highly valued firms, including Microsoft, Amazon and Apple are each worth more than $1 trillion and now account for one-fifth of the market value of the index, the highest level in 30 years. “It’s very easy to get confused by looking at the S&P doing well and that being driven by a relatively small subset of firms which aren’t really affected by this virus – or actually gain from it,” Stulz said. In addition, the mood of the market does not necessarily reflect the sentiment of a broad swath of Americans, the Times says. While more than half of American households own shares or investment funds, the overwhelming majority of those accounts are modest. Instead, stock ownership is heavily skewed to the richest segments of the population who are least likely to feel the pain of an economic downturn. “Stock ownership among the middle class is pretty minimal,” Ed Wolff, an economist at New York University who studies the net worth of American families, told the Times. In fact, a relatively small number of wealthy families own the vast majority of the shares controlled by U.S. households. The wealthiest 10% of households own 84% of all household stock value with 40% of the value held by the top 1%. In addition, there’s relatively little evidence that economic growth matters to the “outcome of the market at all,” according to Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida who has studied the long-run relationship between economic growth and market returns. “In the longer run, the relationship is, empirically, it’s not there.” None of this is a secret. So why do millions of Americans continue to think the market really is a barometer on the economy? The Times ducks the question, but it remains an important aspect of the economy and should be watched and evaluated carefully as the economy struggles to recover, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


OSHA, CDC Issue Updated Guidance For Ag Workers The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued updated interim guidance for actions to protect agriculture workers from coronavirus exposure. The guidance recommends that work site assessments be conducted, workers should be screened for symptoms, plastic barriers should be installed when distances of six feet between individuals are not possible and workers should be encouraged to use cloth face coverings in certain circumstances. The guidance also calls for work sites to coordinate directly with appropriate state and local public health officials in development of plans to continue operations where COVID-19 is spreading among workers or in the surrounding community.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


Iowa Officials Push For Liquid Eggs To Be Included In CFAP USDA is being asked to include liquid eggs as a commodity covered under the Coronavirus Food Assistance (CFAP) program by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst. “With nearly 70% of the Iowa’s layer flocks producing for the liquid egg market, the COVID-19 disruption has proved to be devastating,” the officials said in the letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “These market conditions warrant liquid egg producers for inclusion in the CFAP.” The officials pointed to USDA pricing data showing the prices for liquid eggs declined 68.7% over the period covered by CFAP, far more than the 5% threshold set by USDA for CFAP eligibility. They noted the liquid egg market is distinct from the shell egg market where prices rose over the period covered by CFAP.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday morning will be busy with USDA's weekly export sales report, U.S. jobless claims, the U.S. trade deficit and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor all arriving at 7:30 a.m. CDT. At 9:30 a.m., the U.S. Energy Department will release natural gas inventory and later Thursday morning, USDA will provide April export data for ag products. Weather and any trade news will also be watched. Weather Thursday features moderate to locally heavy rain for the southern Midwest and mostly light rain in the Delta. We’ll also see scattered thunderstorms in the Northern Plains. Other crop areas will be dry. Stressful heat will again cover the central and Southern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


Ag Economy Barometer Shows Slight Improvement in May After a sharp drop in March and April, farmer sentiment in May improved slightly. The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer rose to 103, seven points higher than April. However, the index remained almost 40 points below its all-time high of 168 that was set in February of this year. The people behind this month’s barometer say the survey was conducted the same week that USDA announced the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, so the program details could be one of the key reasons for this month’s improvement in the barometer. The Index of Current Conditions climbed 11 points higher from April to May, coming in at 83. The Index of Future Expectations rose four points to a reading of 112. Farmers seem to be thinking of making investments in their operations, with the Farm Capital Investment Index rising to 50 in May, 12 points higher than in April. More than 70 percent of respondents said they were “very worried” (34 percent) or “fairly worried” (37 percent) about the impact of coronavirus on their farm’s profitability. There’s even more evidence that farmers are concerned about finances as two-thirds of the respondents indicated they think it will be necessary for Congress to pass another bill to provide more economic assistance to U.S. farmers. ********************************************************************************************** Brazil Meatpackers Now Struggling with Coronavirus Brazil, the world’s biggest beef and chicken exporter and the fourth-largest pork exporter, is now struggling with coronavirus in its meatpacking industry. Over 25 percent of the confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil’s state of Rio Grande (GRAHN-day) do Sul are among workers in meat plants. Meatpackers in the state employ 50,000 people. A statement from Brazil’s labor prosecutor says an estimated 2,399 employees from 24 slaughterhouses in 18 municipalities of the state are now confirmed. That’s a total of 25.7 percent of the 9,332 cases of confirmed coronavirus. Reuters says the findings corroborate the evidence that meatpackers have become hotspots in Brazil for the coronavirus. Brazil has more than half-a-million cases and nearly 30,000 deaths. Two of Brazil’s largest meatpackers own plants in Rio Grande do Sul and both of them had to temporarily close their units due to outbreaks of coronavirus. Around Brazil, the average number of workers per plant is approximately 2,000. Brazil’s agriculture ministry says the country has 446 meat plants, including 194 beef, 148 poultry, 90 pork plants, and 14 that process other types of meats. ********************************************************************************************** China Companies Buying Ag Products Despite Government Order to Desist Tensions are rising once again between the U.S. and Hong Kong, which in turn led the Chinese government to order state-run agricultural firms to temporarily stop buying U.S. commodities, including corn, soybeans, and cotton. Several buyers specifically canceled pork orders. Despite the government mandate, state-owned companies still purchased 180,000 metric tons of U.S. soybeans on Monday, with shipments due in the fall. Politico says U.S. traders note that Chinese importers still haven’t covered a large share of their October and November soybean needs. China was supposed to buy at least $36.5 billion in U.S. ag products this year under the phase one trade agreement. “Phase One always was on weak legs and now we’re seeing that,” says Scott Kennedy, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If President Trump walks away from the deal, that will make it harder for American farmers and others in the Midwest to count on exports to fuel their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.” Kennedy also says the apparent ag import freeze could be linked to Trump’s threats to remove Hong Kong’s privileged trade status. ********************************************************************************************** Rebound Year Ahead for U.S. Sugarbeets Sugarbeet growers and U.S. cooperatives are expected to have a stronger financial year ahead, thanks to improved production and higher crop prices predicted for 2020-2021. A CoBank report says that should help usher in a potential recovery from a stressful growing season last year. The report from CoBank’s Knowledge and Exchange Division details the market forces and production dynamics that suggest the sugar industry is in for a rebound as consumer demand for sugar remains high. “Assuming we return to reasonably normal harvest weather this fall, expectations are for a much bigger crop to be harvested for the 2020-2021 season,” says Tanner Ehmke, manager of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange. “With processors contracting refined sugar at much-higher prices, fortunes are expected to turn favorable for growers and processors in the marketing year ahead.” Last fall, the U.S. sugarbeet harvest marked the fifth-biggest year-over-year decline on record, dropping 14 percent to 28.6 million short tons. Production in three of the biggest sugar-producing states of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Nebraska, fell by more than 20 percent in 2019. Abandonment rates were the highest in the U.S. since the Great Depression as 13.5 percent of planted acres weren’t harvested because of wet weather issues. ********************************************************************************************** Retail Dairy Sales Higher During COVID-19 Pandemic Monday was celebrated as National Milk day, with the National Milk Producers Federation sharing some good news with the beleaguered U.S. dairy industry. “From March 8 to March 22, as stay-at-home orders and business closures proliferated around the country, dairy products flew off store shelves,” the group said in an announcement. “Milk sales were 43 percent higher than during the same period a year ago, while yogurt rose 31 percent, ice cream sales gained 40 percent, and cheese sales also climbed 76 percent.” The NMPF says butter sales more than doubled during the same period. However, the federation also points out that, “Pre-coronavirus, about half of all dairy sales came from outside the home. Even as retail consumers increased dairy buying, sales to restaurants, schools, and cafeterias dropped sharply. That price turbulence led to sharp declines in the USDA’s milk price forecast for 2020.” The organization says that’s a big reason why federal assistance for dairy farms has been so important.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fight Over Next Economic Stimulus Proposals POLITICO is reporting this week that Congress is struggling now over what to do next to support the economy. It observes this is demonstrating that “evidence isn’t everything in Washington.” The report notes that “Congress is once again debating stimulus for a crushed economy as governors are once again confronted with gigantic budget shortfalls." POLITICO thinks that memories of 2009 have faded, and the politics have been “scrambled” under the President Donald Trump's administration, but that “state aid” was used successfully in an earlier recession. POLITICO points out that in January 2009 tax revenues were collapsing and state budgets were hemorrhaging. The new Obama administration was “terrified” that without a massive infusion of cash, governors would tip the recession into a full-blown depression by laying off employees and cutting needed services. A large infusion of direct aid to states was discussed. However, the politics of that 2009 approach were “dismal” POLITICO says. Some leaders were already opposing any stimulusâ??and even Democrats who supported the new president's approach weren’t excited to help Republican governors balance their budgets. The reason, POLITICO says, is that most “politicians enjoy spending money more than they enjoy giving it to other politicians to spend.” And since the direct state aid approach was “untried,” the proposal was seen as “more hunch-based than evidence-based.” Ultimately, the Congress approved $140 billion in state aidâ??only two-thirds of the administration’s original request but far more than any previous stimulus. Still, POLITICO sees evidence that the state bailouts worked. It points to “at least a dozen post-recession studies that found state fiscal aid gave a significant boost to the economy.” POLITICO adds that several studies concluded that “more state aid would have produced a stronger recovery.” Now, a similar fight is underway. Democratic leaders have made state aid a top priority and $150 billion has already been provided for state, local and tribal governments in the CARES Act that Congress passed in March. The next battle is over the additional $915 billion in the HEROES Act that the House passed in May. Republican leaders accepted the fiscal relief in the March bill but they kept it out of the last round of stimulus that Congress enacted in April. The also have declared the HEROES Act dead on arrival. Though they’re no longer denouncing stimulus as socialism, as they did in the past, they’ve begun attacking state aid as a “blue-state bailout.” POLITICO says that most voters tell pollsters that they want Congress to help states avoid layoffs of teachers, police officers and public health workers. Still, key leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other influential Republicans are trying to “reframe state aid as Big Government Democratic welfare spending.” “There wasn’t a lot of evidence that state aid would be a good stimulus in 2009, but now there’s a lot of data, and it all adds up to juice for the economy,” Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi says. “It’s baffling that this is getting caught up in politics. If states don’t get the support they need soon, they’ll eliminate millions of jobs and cut spending at the worst possible time.” The coronavirus is ravaging state budgets even faster than the Great Recession did, drying up revenue from sales taxes and income taxes while ratcheting up demand for health and unemployment benefits. And, as Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, pointed out earlier this month, “Blue states aren’t the only ones who are getting screwed.” The Republican governors of Texas, Georgia and Ohio have also directed state agencies to prepare draconian spending cuts to close massive budget gaps, he noted. POLITICO notes that “fiscal experts” say the assertions that irresponsible states brought these problems on themselves with unbalanced budgets and out-of-control spending has little basis in reality. Unlike the federal government, which was running a trillion-dollar deficit even before the pandemic, every state except Vermont is required by law to balance its budget every year. State finances were unusually healthy before the crisis hit; overall, they had reserved 7.6% of their budgets in rainy day funds, up from 5% before the Great Recession. But now, governors of both parties are pivoting to austerity and more public employees are applying for unemployment benefits, meaning fewer state and local services in a time of need and fewer dollars circulating in the economy as it begins to reopen. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who has approved a plan to buy up to $500 billion worth of state and local government bonds to help ease their money problems, recently suggested that direct federal aid to states also “deserves a careful look,” which in Fed-speak qualifies as a desperate plea for congressional action. So, we will see. The state aid fight is intense, increasingly bitter and likely to be prolonged. It involves high stakes and clearly should be watched closely by producers as the election season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


Additional Meetings on Tap Over EPA RFS Proposal There are six meetings scheduled so far at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on EPA’s proposed levels for 2021 biofuel and 2022 biodiesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The latest session scheduled is with is representatives from the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America and National Associations of Convenience Stores. Missing so far from the list are the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and several other groups that represent biofuel interests.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday's reports start with ADP private employment at 7:15 a.m. CDT, an early hint of Friday's unemployment report. The U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory report follows at 9:30 a.m. and will include ethanol production. Traders will be watching for any confirmation of trade rumors, especially from China, as well as the latest weather forecasts. Weather A summer pattern with very warm to hot conditions will cover most primary crop areas Wednesday. Some shower and thunderstorm formation will be noted in parts of the Midwest and Delta.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


Refinery Part of RFS Exemption Case To Shift To Biodiesel HollyFrontier announced they will convert their refinery in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to produce renewable biodiesel, one of the plants at the center of the 10th Circuit Court case in which the court ruled a small refinery exemptions (SRE) granted for the 2016 compliance year was invalid. The company said it would spend between $125 million and $175 million to convert the facility to produce around 90 million gallons of renewable diesel per year. Completion is targeted for the first quarter of 2022. The company said it would halt petroleum refining at the site and would reduce its workforce. “This decision was primarily based on the expectation that future free cash flow generation in Cheyenne would be challenged due to lower gross margins resulting from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and compressed crude differentials resulting from dislocations in the crude oil market, coupled with forecasted uncompetitive operating and maintenance costs and the anticipated loss of the Environmental Protection Agency’s small refinery exemption,” the company stated. This certainly indicates that the firm will not be pursuing a challenge to the court ruling, keeping attention on EPA and how they intend to address the ruling.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


China Halts Some Purchases of U.S. Ag Products China is halting imports of some U.S. agricultural products through state-run agricultural companies. The move comes as a response to tensions between the U.S. and China regarding Honk Kong. Bloomberg News reports state-owned traders Cofco and Sinograin were ordered to suspend purchases. The action is the latest by China, which puts a trade agreement full of wins for U.S. agriculture in jeopardy. Last week, President Donald Trump threatened to punish China for its relations with Hong Kong. China responded by pausing purchases of U.S. ag products, including recent inquiries to purchase U.S. soybeans. A China Foreign Affairs spokesperson says of Trump’s comments, “the measures announced gravely interfere with China's internal affairs and undermine bilateral relations and will be detrimental to both sides.” However, the retaliation is likely temporary, as China will need more soybeans and pork, among other products. China was increasing purchases of U.S. ag products as the nation reopens following the coronavirus pandemic, but at a slower than expected pace to fulfill the Phase One trade agreement. ************************************************************************************ USDA Lowers Ag Export Outlook The Department of Agriculture last week lowered its export forecast for fiscal year 2020. USDA’s Economic Research Service says the COVID-19 outbreak has created a shock to world economies that will cause an unusually high level of uncertainty for the foreseeable future. ERS projects 2020 agricultural exports at $136.5 billion, down $3.0 billion from the February forecast, primarily due to reductions in bulk commodities. Projections for soybean exports were reduced $1.9 billion to $16.5 billion due in part to increasingly competitive Brazilian exports. Cotton exports are forecast down $1.0 billion on lower volumes and value as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced foreign demand. Corn exports were projected at $8.0 billion, down $500 million, pressured by ample exportable supplies and weak domestic use for fuel ethanol. The forecast for wheat exports is down $300 million to $6.1 billion. And, livestock, poultry and dairy exports are unchanged from the February projection of $32.4 billion. The forecast doesn’t take into account the recent news of China halting some purchases of U.S. agricultural products. ************************************************************************************ USDA Launches 2020 Feds Feed Families Nationwide Food Drive The Department of Agriculture Monday kicked off the 11th annual government-wide Feds Feed Families campaign. The effort encourages employees from all federal departments and agencies to give in-kind contributions, food, services and time, to food banks and pantries. This year’s campaign highlights a summer of giving in June and July, along with seasonal reminders to donate throughout the year. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, “Our USDA family has the most dedicated employees in the federal government and this campaign is our chance to help feed those in need.” The 2020 campaign focuses on online donations and virtual food drives, while also providing guidance for in-person donations and events as appropriate. The 2020 Food Drive focuses on healthy, nutritious foods. Participants may collect nonperishable foods and fresh foods, as appropriate for each food bank. Since Feds Feed Families launched in 2009, this campaign has collected more than 92 million pounds of food for donation. In 2019 alone, federal employees donated more than 2.8 million pounds. ************************************************************************************ Representative Seeks Expanded Online SNAP Purchases One lawmaker wants more online access for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants to purchase groceries online. U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop, a Democrat from Georgia, says he is “concerned with the lack of approved retailers nationwide.” The Department of Agriculture recently announced that 37 states will be able to use SNAP benefits to buy groceries online. However, the number of approved retailers is limited. While the number of states participating is increasing, Bishop says the vendors remain primarily in the northeastern area of the United States. Currently, only seven retailers have been approved to provide online purchasing service, limiting access for SNAP participants to purchase groceries online. Bishop says, “It is imperative USDA expands the list of approved grocers, particularly in rural communities.” His comments were included in a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week. Bishop also urged Secretary Perdue to consider ways to help SNAP participants avoid any fees associated with online grocery shopping. ************************************************************************************ Corteva Agriscience Announces 2030 Sustainability Goals to Increase Agricultural Resiliency Corteva Agriscience announced Monday its ten-year commitments to advance sustainability throughout the global food system. The goals span a wide range of initiatives for farmers, farmland, communities, and in its own operations. Improvements in soil health, on-farm productivity, climate action, water stewardship, biodiversity, supply chain transparency and worker safety, among others, are included. Corteva CEO James Collins, Jr. says, “Our mission to lead the entire agriculture industry toward better, more sustainable outcomes across the world is more important now than ever.” Corteva’s commitments will provide tools and training to help increase yield stability, optimize inputs and improve climate resilience. Commitments to soil health, water stewardship and biodiversity are also included. Corteva’s goals will champion and protect employees and people throughout the food system and the broader agriculture community. Within their business operations, the company is pledging to innovate sustainably, establish a climate strategy, use sustainable packaging, and increase their work sites’ sustainability efforts. Corteva will report progress toward these goals through an annual sustainability report starting in 2021. ************************************************************************************ Fuel Demand Continues Recovery National gas prices rose again last week, gaining seven cents per gallon to reach $1.97. Demand continues to recover from the pandemic and stay at home orders this spring and provides some optimism to the recovery ethanol demand. However, GasBuddy reports the average price of diesel last week fell one cent to $2.49 a gallon. And, Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy says, “The pace of increases has begun to throttle back over the last week in most states as gasoline demand’s recovery has slowed.” While crude oil prices continued their upward move over the last week, it has been a much slower rise than recent weeks. As the global economy continues a slow recovery and more countries ease up on travel restrictions, demand for oil has rebounded as supply remains lower due to the coronavirus curbing demand. U.S. oil inventories saw a large 7.9 million barrel boost in last week’s data from the Energy Information Administration, while gasoline inventories fell again by some 700,000 barrels and distillate inventories jumped 5.5 million barrels.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


Washington Insider: China Steps Back on Trade Bloomberg is reporting this week that Chinese government officials recently told major state-run agricultural companies to pause purchases of some American farm goods, including soybeans, as Beijing evaluates the ongoing escalation of tensions with the U.S. over Hong Kong. For example, state-owned traders Cofco and Sinograin were ordered to suspend purchases, Bloomberg said, citing sources in China. Chinese buyers have also canceled an unspecified number of U.S. pork orders. However, Bloomberg also noted that private companies haven’t been told to halt imports. Reuters also reported a similar development. However, Reuters reported later in the day that China’s state-owned grain buyers had bought some U.S. soybeans out of the Pacific Northwest for October-November delivery, more than raising questions about the accuracy of the reports on the purchase pause. The possible halt is the latest sign that the hard won Phase One trade deal between the world’s two biggest economies is in jeopardy. While Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last week reiterated a pledge to implement the agreement that was signed in January, tensions have continued to escalate since then amid a standoff over Beijing’s move to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. Beijing’s policy shift eroded the “risk-on” sentiment that had been prevailing over markets, Bloomberg said. The S&P 500 Index was little changed in recent days, while soybean futures in Chicago gained 0.4% after falling as much as 0.8% earlier. Shares of Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. were down 1.7% at $38.64. “The market has already seen the deteriorating relationship between the China and the U.S. and many think that with the slow progress of Chinese commodity buying so far, the trade deal’s future was already in jeopardy,” said Michael McDougall, a managing director at Paragon Global Markets in New York. Chinese steps to halt imports come after President Donald Trump on Friday lobbed “a barrage of criticism at Beijing after it moved to impose controversial new national security legislation on Hong Kong.” Critics say it will crack down on dissent and undermine the “one country, two systems” principle that has kept Hong Kong autonomous of the mainland since the 1997 handover from the British. Cofco and Sinograin are China’s key importers of farm goods. They had been making pricing inquiries for 20 to 30 cargoes of U.S. soybeans on Friday but held off on going through with purchases after the U.S. administration indicated it would punish Chinese officials, Bloomberg said. Beijing is waiting to see what steps President Donald Trump takes before deciding its next move. Trump said the U.S. would begin the process of stripping some of Hong Kong’s privileged trade status, without detailing how many changes would take effect and how many exemptions would apply. Nor did he signal how long that process would take. He also promised sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials “directly or indirectly involved” in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy, though stopped short of giving specifics. Equity investors had reacted positively to the president’s remarks, as he didn’t provide any details or timeframe for what actions might come next. And the actions were far less onerous than many apparently had feared. It’s unclear how soon the U.S. would move on a range of options that could include sanctioning Chinese officials to imposing tariffs on Hong Kong to attacking the territory’s financial stability, Bloomberg said. While the administration has periodically threatened to call off the “Phase One” trade deal, the top U.S. economic advisers have suggested that deal “would continue in force.” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told the press on Thursday that the trade agreement “does continue to go on for the moment and we may be making progress there.” The two sides have traded blows over a range of issues from the coronavirus to Taiwan in recent weeks, and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned during high-profile legislative meetings in Beijing that some in America were pushing relations to a “new Cold War,” and urged the U.S. to give up its “wishful thinking” of changing China. China had agreed to buy U.S. farm goods worth about $36.5 billion for 2020 as part of the Phase One trade deal that went into effect in February. However, the coronavirus outbreak roiled those plans, with China only managing to import $3.35 billion in American agricultural products in the first three months of the year, the lowest for that period since 2007, according to USDA. Still, as China started to gradually reopen its economy from the virus-led lockdown, it had increased its pace of imports, including a more-than 1-million metric tons of American soybeans in just two weeks in May and rare purchases of U.S. soybean oil and ethanol. But then tensions between the U.S. and China began escalating, with Trump blaming the Asian nation for misleading the world about the scale and risk of the coronavirus outbreak. The fallout filtered through to the commodities markets, with China opting to buy Brazilian soy instead of American beans. So, we will see. Since this is an election year, it is possible that the U.S. will make some sort of overt move to revive the trade commitments. That same logic ups the ante on pushing back on issues with China, especially those centered on Hong Kong. Clearly, these are issues producers should watch closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


NPPC Calls on Senate to Adopt House Aid Provision The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is calling on the Senate to include the provisions on direct payments to producers forced to euthanize livestock that were part of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act). The House passed legislation includes provisions for additional direct payments to producers and compensation for euthanized livestock, which NPPC President Howard AV Roth called “a lifeline” for farmers. He also spoke favorably about animal health laboratory funding and mental health provisions included in the bill. As Congress works on the next COVID-19 relief package, NPPC is “encouraging the Senate to adopt these [House] provisions in companion legislation, with all due haste, and to work with the House to deliver much needed additional relief to American farmers,” Roth said. Without further aid “we will see thousands of hog farmers liquidate their family farms, resulting in a contracted and more consolidated industry,” he added, saying that result would be bad for both farmers and consumers.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


USDA Cuts FY 2020 Export, Import Forecasts on COVID-19 Impacts U.S. agricultural exports in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 are now expected to be valued at $136.5 billion, down from $139.5 billion in February, while the value of imports is now seen at $130.2 billion, down from $132.5 billion. The economic impacts from the COVID-19 situation were flagged for the downward revisions to the outlook. The outlook would leave a trade surplus of $6.3 billion. The COVID-19 situation is hitting with a one-two punch, the Economic Research Service (ERS) said, “damaging the ability of individuals and firms to produce goods and services while simultaneously changing the consumption behavior of consumers and businesses across the globe.” Global real per capita GDP growth is seen declining by 5.5% compared to 2019 with the U.S. result now expected at a decline of 7.1%. Their prior outlook was for expansion of 1.1%, which means the downgrade translates in reduction of $1.8 trillion in economic activity. USDA will update its trade data Thursday with April figures.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There are no official reports on Tuesday's docket, but traders will be watching for a possible soybean export sale announcement after rumors circulated Monday. The latest weather forecasts will be of interest and after Monday's confusing experience, it wouldn't be surprising to find other rumors develop, concerning China. Weather Dry with very warm to hot conditions will cover most crop areas Tuesday. Precipitation will be confined to light rain crossing the northern Midwest. Heat and sunlight will generally favor crop progress, with adequate to surplus soil moisture in many areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


NPPC Asks Senate to Pass Ag Provisions in HEROES Act The National Pork Producers Council is asking the Senate to adopt the agricultural provisions in the HEROES Act that was recently passed by the House. Howard “A.V.” Roth (Rowth), NPPC President, says they’re asking the Senate to make the move as quickly as possible. “All pork producers are hurting, and immediate action is necessary,” Roth says. “We need the Senate to act quickly to provide this critical lifeline to hog producers.” He says without immediate government assistance, family farmers, many of whom have been on their farm for generations, will be bankrupted by the impact of COVID-19. That won’t just hurt the farmers themselves, but instead will destroy the livelihoods of countless communities across rural America. That will directly lead to consolidation and contraction in a farm sector that generates more than 500,000 jobs and $23 billion in personal income. The Hagstrom Report says U.S. hog producers are looking at a potential $5 billion loss this year. That’s even though hog processors are working at a faster pace than they were even a couple of weeks ago. However, there is still a backlog of up to 150,000 hogs every week, and producers are losing about $50 to $60 per hog. ********************************************************************************************** Growth Energy Celebrates the First Anniversary of Year-Round E15 This weekend marked the first anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule that allowed American drivers to purchase ethanol year-round. The rule was issued on May 31 of 2019. It lifted summertime E15 restrictions and represented the culmination of a ten-year campaign that began with Growth Energy’s 2009 “Green Jobs Waiver” petition, which first opened E15 to all model year 2001 or newer light-duty vehicles. “COVID-19 slowed fuel demand in recent months, but the promise of E15 remains stronger than ever as we mark the first anniversary of year-round sales,” says Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “This was a landmark victory for our members, congressional champions, retail partners, and consumers across the country who fought by our side to lift outdated barriers to higher-octane, lower-carbon fuel options.” As drivers begin to return to the roads, Skor says E15 is likely poised for rapid growth. In fact, a recent survey shows that 65 percent of American drivers have big plans for extra summer travel once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. “We already know that customers who try E15 are coming back, again and again, to take advantage of this more affordable and cleaner fuel,” Skor adds. “Last summer alone, E15 sales jumped 46 percent on a per-store basis from the previous year thanks to year-round sales.” ********************************************************************************************** Dairy Management, Inc., Showcasing the Resilience of the U.S. Dairy Industry In celebration of June Dairy Month, Dairy Management, Inc., as well as state and regional checkoff teams across the country, are showcasing dairy’s resilience and community impact during COVID-19. The efforts kicked off on June 1, which is World Milk Day, with a video titled “Raising Gallons.” It features Olympians, NFL players, famous chefs, and others raising a gallon of milk to show their appreciation for dairy farmers while supporting the checkoff’s goal of getting nutritious dairy to food-insecure Americans through its Feeding America partnership. “This pandemic has shown just how essential Feeding America and dairy farmers are to helping feed those in need,” says Marilyn Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer and DMI Chair. “We’re working toward a common goal and our checkoff strategy of getting dairy into the hands of those who need it wouldn’t be possible without Feeding America and its nationwide network of 200 local food banks.” Additional checkoff-led efforts nationally and locally will promote “30 Days of Dairy” throughout June. Each day of the month will be filled with virtual farm tours and content that celebrates the role dairy plays in people’s lives while illustrating dairy farmers’ resilience and contributions to their communities. The checkoff will promote dairy-centric recipes for summer, with stay-at-home cooking expected to continue as a major activity for many families. The content will be published on DMI’s redesigned website at www.usdairy.com. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Soy Ready to Meet the Needs of the Global Aquaculture Industry The U.S. Soybean Export Council hosted a global digital conference called “COVID-19 and the Implications to Aquaculture.” It featured almost 900 global customers and soybean industry representatives from 60 countries. The event focused on COVID-19’s impact on global aquaculture production and marketing supply chains. USSEC says as global markets adapt to these times, U.S. soy is ready to meet the needs of the global aquaculture industry. “Our industry has always prioritized innovation and adaptability to better serve our customers and meet the needs within the global seafood industry, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different,” says USSEC CEO Jim Sutter. “At USSEC, we’ve had an active program in aquaculture for 35 years, with partners ranging from small fish farms in Asia to other large international operations across the globe.” He says no matter who USSEC works with, their top priority is to proudly optimize and demonstrate the value and nutritional benefits of U.S. soy in aquaculture diets. By 2030, USSEC says 62 percent of all seafood produced for human consumption will be a product of aquaculture. With the help of U.S. soy, expanding feed-based aquaculture can address the needs of both supply and demand. ********************************************************************************************** United Fresh says Produce Buying Climbed During COVID-19 United Fresh Produce released its first quarter of 2020 issue of Fresh Facts on Retail report that details the rising number of fresh produce purchases in 2020. The unprecedented rise in food and beverage consumption at home was brought about by shelter-in-place orders issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “Those closures have led to consumers drastically restructuring their eating habits, especially increasing their consumption of meals and snacks at home,” says Miriam Wolk, Vice President of Member Services with United Fresh. “Our current and future Fresh Facts reports will help the produce industry in leveraging current consumer behaviors and fresh produce purchasing trends. First-quarter data highlights show that with health as a top concern, consumers continued to buy fresh food with immune-boosting properties, while also supplementing with shelf-stable and frozen food options. Strawberries and raspberries benefited by extending their reach into more U.S. households. Among vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers were purchased in higher amounts by U.S. consumers. The report also shows a variety of fruits and vegetables continue to influence overall organic growth, presenting many opportunities to innovate and attract health-conscious consumers. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Ethanol Production Continues to Slowly Rebound Energy Information Administration data recently analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association shows a rise in ethanol production for the week ending May 22. Production increased by 61,000 barrels a day, a nine percent increase from the previous week. The total production came in at 724,000 barrels a day, equivalent to 30.4 million gallons daily, and was the largest volume since March. That was good news unless it’s compared to the same time in 2019. COVID disruptions have tempered the production rate, which came in just over 31 percent lower than the same week last year. Still, over the past month, the four-week average ethanol production rate rose almost eight percent to 651,000 barrels per day, equivalent to an annualized rate of 9.98 billion gallons. Ethanol stocks continue to drop, even though it’s a slow decline. Stocks thinned out by 1.9 percent, coming in at a 19-week low of 23.2 million barrels. Inventories continue to tighten up in all the major ethanol production areas, except for the Rocky Mountains. Total reserves are still 2.4 percent higher than where the volume was in 2019. The volume of gasoline supplied to the U.S. market, which is considered a measure of implied demand, rebounded by 6.8 percent from the previous week but was still 23 percent lower than the same week last year.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fed Goes All Out, Approaches Red Lines The New York Times reported this week that Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, told a University group last week that “central bankers had seen the need to use their tools to their fullest extent” as coronavirus lockdowns shuttered economies around the globe and caused United States unemployment to soar. “We felt called to do what we could,” Powell commented Friday during a Princeton University webinar. His comments emphasized that the Fed “crossed a lot of red lines that had not been crossed before,” and added that he was comfortable with what the Fed had done given “this is that situation in which you do that and you figure it out afterward.” Powell called attention to the variety of actions the Fed has taken to support the economy: cutting interest rates to near-zero, rolling out unlimited bond purchases to soothe markets and initiating emergency lending programs to keep credit flowing to businesses and state governments. He also noted that several of those efforts “tiptoe into untested territory” for the central bank, including programs that lend to medium-sized businesses, buy corporate bonds and purchase debt from states and large cities. “We work very hard to explain ourselves to the general public,” he said, explaining that the Fed is disclosing information on its lending efforts and discussing them regularly with lawmakers. And, he pointed out that “the programs come at a time of dire need.” Economists are bracing for a deep plunge in economic output in the second quarter -- from April through June -- and most predict only a gradual recovery over the remainder of the year. It could be months or years before output returns to its pre-crisis level, and the unemployment rate falls to the 50-year lows that prevailed before the coronavirus lockdowns precipitated a wave of layoffs, NYT said. More than 40 million people, about one of every four American workers, have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March, based on recent data. A report next Friday is expected to show that the unemployment rate jumped to 19.5% in May based on the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Powell also noted that the “burdens” of job losses are falling on those least able to bear them, in lower-paid service work, exacerbating economic inequalities. “Those are the people being laid off, who have the least financial resources,” he said. “It’s falling on women to an extraordinary degree,” and “there’s tremendous inequality” in how the pandemic is affecting the population. He also voiced concern that if a second round of virus infections hits America, it could lead to a more delayed economic rebound. “A second wave would really undermine public confidence and might make for a significantly longer and weaker recovery,” he said, after explaining that “a full recovery of the economy will really depend on people being confident that it’s safe to go out.” States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, “it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.” While Powell stressed the Fed’s willingness to act when it comes to emergency lending, he reiterated that the central bank is not looking to cut interest rates into negative territory, something central banks abroad have done in an effort to stimulate their economies. Powell has frequently warned that the United States is experiencing an economic hit “without modern precedent,” one that could permanently damage the economy if Congress and the White House do not provide sufficient financial support. For example, in mid-May he warned as discussions of additional rescue measures ran aground as Democrats proposed sweeping new programs and Republicans voiced concerns over the swelling federal budget deficit. “There is a sense, a growing sense I think, that the recovery will come more slowly than we would like. “While the economic response has been both timely and appropriately large, it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks.” So, we will see. Given all the uncertainties that now abound, the hoped-for recovery likely is at least as fragile as the Fed believes it to be and the national debate over emergency economic policies should be watched closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


Updated OSHA Guidance For Meat Plants The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week issued an updated guidance memo relative to reporting of COVID-19 cases. The agency said COVID-19 can be a “recordable illness” if the worker infection was “as a result of performing their work-related duties,” if the following apply: The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the case is work-related as defined by law; and the case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth by law. The agency also noted that it is exercising “enforcement discretion” relative to the situation, a reference made more than once in the updated guidance. “Recording a COVID-19 illness does not, of itself, mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard,” the agency stated. The updated guidance is sparking concern within the meat industry about the impact it could have, but it is not clear what specific impacts to things like insurance.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


USDA Clarifies What Determines Price Risk on Unsold Inventory The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has issued some information clarifying what are eligible contracts that leave price risk open for producers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and what tools constitute removing price risk. Those deemed contracts that leave open price risk include: basis contracts, basis fixed contracts, delayed price contracts, deferred price contracts, and contracts where no price is established. Those where price risk is removed (and are considered ineligible contracts) include: cash contracts, fixed price contract, forward price contract, cash forward contract, minimum price contract, hedge to arrive contract, window contract, option contract, futures fixed contract and a futures contract. The above list applies to contracts entered into on or before January 15. USDA’s CFAP handbook provides several examples of forward contracts that are eligible, but do not provide the breadth of examples the agency considers as eligible or ineligible contracts.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets The first day of June will have traders poring over the latest weather forecasts early Monday. ISM's index of U.S. manufacturing is due out at 9 a.m. CDT, an index that will be compared with other countries dealing with coronavirus. USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections is at 10 a.m., followed by Crop Progress at 3 p.m. CDT. USDA will reveal crop ratings for both, corn and soybeans in Monday's report. Traders remain leery of news related to China. Weather Monday features the beginning of warm to hot conditions over the central U.S. The heat is mostly favorable due to adequate soil moisture in most areas. Rain will be limited to the northern Midwest, southern Texas and portions of the Northwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


Hong Kong Trade Status, U.S. Relationship with China, in Limbo The Trump Administration sent a formal notice to Congress that it doesn’t see Hong Kong as an autonomous region from China. Politico says that puts Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory at risk and opens up Beijing to sanctions. The move would hurt Beijing but also lessen Hong Kong as an Asian center for business and finance. “I fully expect the U.S. to proceed with sanctions on individuals and entities deemed to be undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy,” says Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Politico says Beijing recently proposed a “national security law” that would bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and give China more authority to crack down on protests. What’s next for the U.S. is currently up to President Trump, who hinted at the possibility of sanctions on the Asian nation. China has already vowed to retaliate if the U.S. takes strong actions because of its moves against Hong Kong. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell says the possibilities include personnel sanctions, visa sanctions, economic sanctions, as well as numerous other options. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says any changes to Hong Kong’s status could have serious impacts on the more than 1,300 U.S. companies that operate in the island nation. ********************************************************************************************** Brazil’s Ag Exports to China are “Booming” The first four months of 2020 were profitable for Brazilian ag exporters. Brazil’s agricultural exports to China were worth $31.4 billion from January through April. MercoPress reports that it marked a 5.9 percent increase year-over-year. The growth in agricultural exports to China resulted in a more than 11 percent increase in export volume, while the index price actually suffered a drop of 4.7 percent. The Brazilian Department of Trade and International Relations says those sales numbers broke the record for the largest amount ever shipped between January and April. The agricultural exports accounted for almost half of the total number of Brazilian exports (46.6 percent) during the first four months of this year. Brazil took in $4.57 billion worth of imports, which resulted in an agribusiness trade surplus of $26.83 billion during that time. Soybean exports were big from January through April, setting records in terms of revenue worth $11.5 billion and quantity at 33.66 million tons shipped. That’s despite a 4.2 percent drop in the average price for soybeans. Brazil sent China a whopping 73.4 percent of its total grain exports and sold a record $2.13 billion worth of fresh beef to China. ********************************************************************************************** African Swine Fever Impact Even Greater in 2020 Experts are saying that the African Swine Fever outbreak that continued last year could have an even bigger impact in 2020. The Guardian says that the highly-contagious virus that is fatal to pigs is still spreading at a rapid rate. While human attention is on the COVID-19 outbreak, the concern is growing around the world that countries are not putting enough focus on halting the spread of ASF through better biosecurity practices, cooperating on vaccine development, or being transparent about the scope of outbreaks. Despite being present in the world for more than 100 years, there is still no vaccine for the disease that kills almost every animal it infects. “The ASF virus is much more potent than COVID-19 because it can survive in the environment or processed meats for weeks and months,” says Dirk Pfeiffer, a veterinary science professor at City University in Hong Kong and one of the world’s leading experts on ASF. The disease reached China in the fall of 2018 and unofficially led to culling more than 200 million pigs from the world’s largest hog herd. Global ASF infection numbers by the end of April showed this year is close to or above the infection numbers from 2019. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe are the current focal points for outbreaks, with new outbreaks showing up in India and New Guinea. ********************************************************************************************** House, Senate Ag Committees Get Low Grades on Oversight The House Agriculture Committee got a D grade and the Senate Ag Committee received a C- on oversight. Those grades came from the Lugar Center, which was founded by former Indiana Republican Senator and Ag Committee Chair Richard Lugar, in a report that measured congressional oversight. The Hagstrom Report says the Congressional Oversight Hearing Index categorizes and catalogs all congressional hearings held over the past 12 years, which totals up to about 20,000 hearings. After looking through all the data, the index assigns grades to the oversight performance of current congressional committees and past committees going back to 2009. “Most Americans agree that robust congressional oversight of the workings of our government and society is an important element of American Democracy,” says Dan Diller, policy director at the Lugar Center. “Until now, there’s been no objective criteria for gauging whether congressional committees are living up to their oversight responsibilities.” Of the 17 House Committees the center graded, nine received A’s, two got B’s, and three were given C’s. However, the Senate grades weren’t as high. Of the 17 Senate committees given grades, just two got A’s, none were given B’s, four received C’s, and eight Senate committees were given F’s. ********************************************************************************************** Second Annual “BeSure!” Campaign is Underway The second “BeSure!” campaign supported by the National Corn Growers Association is off and running through July. The effort is aimed at helping pollinators by promoting best management practices and habitat creation year-round. BeSure! centers on promoting proper use of neonicotinoid (neo-NIH-cuh-tih-noid) products to protect honeybees and other pollinators critical to the food supply and ecosystem. This year, the campaign is seeking to reach not only growers and applicators, but also golf course, turf, and ornamental landscape managers. In its debut year, BeSure! focused its messaging on major crops in the Midwest that utilize neonicotinoid-treated seeds, such as corn and soybeans. This year, the campaign is expanded to include neonicotinoid foliar sprays, soil drenches, and granule uses on fruits, nuts, vegetables, turf tress, and ornamental plants that bees visit regularly. “Neonicotinoids are widely used in agriculture and a variety of landscape and nursery settings,” says Tom Smith, executive director of the National Pesticide Safety Education Center. “Regardless of the application method, product label directions should always be followed, and responsible stewardship practices used to protect pollinators.” Other companies behind the BeSure! Campaign include the American Soybean Association, American Seed Trade Association, CropLife America, and the Agricultural Retailers Association. ********************************************************************************************** Governors Ask Congressional Leadership to Support Ethanol Relief South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to leadership in both chambers of Congress asking them to support relief for the biofuels industry. The Midwest governors are asking Congress to make sure that relief for the biofuels industry is included in Phase 4 COVID-19 emergency relief package currently making its way through Congress. Governor Noem and Governor Walz are the chair and vice-chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition. The governors pointed out that nearly three-fourths of the nation’s 204 ethanol plants are fully or partially idled, resulting in workers being laid off, lost markets for farm commodities, and constrained supplies of critical ethanol co-products. “We’re pleased to see that two bills were recently introduced in both the Senate and the House,” they wrote in their letter. “The Senate’s Renewable Fuel Feedstock Reimbursement Act of 2020, introduced by Senators Grassley and Klobuchar, and the Renewable Fuel Reimbursement Program Provision included in the HEROS Act, provide critical emergency relief to renewable fuel producers.” They say these initiatives provide responsible and much-needed economic relief to their states’ biofuel producers. “Our states’ ethanol industries have become an irreplaceable contributor to our nation’s economy, and they must be preserved,” the governors concluded.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Holding Back on Economic Data In an unusual move, White House officials have decided “not to release updated economic projections this summer,” the Washington Post reported this week. The White House normally publishes a federal budget proposal every February and then provides a “mid-session review” in July or August with updated projections on economic trends such as unemployment, inflation and economic growth. Budget experts told the Post “they were not aware of any previous White House decision against providing forecasts in the mid-session review” in any other year since at least the 1970s. The Post also cited two White House officials who confirmed the “data decision” reflects the fact that the novel coronavirus is causing extreme volatility in the U.S. economy “making it difficult to model economic trends.” The decision gets them off the hook for having to say what the economic outlook looks like, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who served as an economic adviser to the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Both liberal and conservative critics said the White House should publish its economic projections as prior administrations did, regardless of uncertainty caused by economic conditions, the paper said. The White House under President Barack Obama continued to release these numbers during the Great Recession, although they were unflattering. The Post quoted a “senior administration official” who argued that it would be “foolish” to publish forecasting data when it “may mislead the public.” “Given the unprecedented state of play in the economy at the moment, the data is also extremely fluid and would produce a less instructive forecast," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Furthermore, we remain in complete accordance with the law as there is no statutory requirement to release this information, just precedent, which, when compared to our current economic situation, is dismissible.” The magnitude of the economic impact of the coronavirus has grown by the week. The Treasury Department said earlier this month it plans to borrow $3 trillion from April through June to finance spending in response to the pandemic. The monthly deficit in April soared to $738 billion. In fact, the Post noted, there is a growing possibility of a “W-shaped economic recovery, and it’s scary.” Mainstream economists and Wall Street forecasters have predicted unemployment could remain north of 10% through 2020 and into 2021. Budget experts say there is no reason the White House would be unable to release its own economic projections. The Congressional Budget Office, for instance, updated its economic projections in both April and May as the coronavirus rippled through the U.S. economy. In its 2017 mid-session budget review, the White House said it would not be providing new economic projections, but for a much different reason. It said “economic developments over the past few months do not provide a basis for changing this forecast,” using the same assumptions it had in the previous budget. In other words, it was sticking with its previous projections. While this year’s mid-session budget will not include new projections, there is no logistical reason they couldn’t do it,” said Bill Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee. White House officials have claimed they are being transparent about the extent of the downturn. Kevin Hassett, a White House economist, said over the recent weekend that unemployment could remain north of 10% on Election Day in November. Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said last week that “the numbers coming in are not good. In fact, they are downright bad in most cases.” Critics charge that the White House is not confronting the extent of the economic damage facing the nation. The administration has largely broken off negotiations now with Congress on an additional stimulus package, although many economists say additional stimulus is necessary, the Post said. “They’re never going to address the problems if they put these kinds of blinders on,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. “Managing the economy means publishing credible forecasts.” White House officials have defended their response to the economic downturn, citing the trillions of dollars they approved with Congress to pump into the economy. The Post report suggests that the decision to withhold the midseason projections is a “big deal” and that agencies need good information on the economic outlook to plan. The economy today is not the economy six months ago,” said Claudia Sahm, who worked on the macroeconomic forecast underlying the budget as an economist in the White House Council on Economic Advisers during the Obama administration. “Without these forecasts, they cannot ask for the right amount in appropriations.” So, we will see. Economic experts tend to argue that intense economic volatility supports the need for fresh economic data, rather than reducing it. So, the Trump administration can expect strong criticism for its decision. Information policies are important for modern producer operations, and decisions in this sphere should be watched closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


Livestock Sector Challenges Noted In Fed Update The Fed’s Beige Book report was replete with notations of pandemic-related impacts in a host of sectors. Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City and Dallas Fed banks focused their ag recaps on the livestock sector impacts from meat plans being closed or running at reduced capacity. “With no place to deliver market-ready animals, farmers were forced to slow herd growth (including by euthanizing hogs),” the Chicago Fed noted. “On net, the supply disruptions led to higher prices and shortages of meat at grocery stores and restaurants, but lower prices for cattle and hogs.” The Kansas City Fed pointed out, “roughly a quarter of U.S. meatpacking and food processing plants with confirmed COVID-19 cases were located in the District.” In terms of overall ag conditions, the Chicago recap included an observation that “Farmers anticipated government programs would help during the downturn, but observers expected some distressed farms to be forced to liquidate.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


US Food Chain Issues Targeted In Legislation Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee released a bill on Wednesday which outline what they want in the next COVID-19 aid plan. The Food Supply Protection Act would provide $5.5 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees to help small- and medium-sized companies shift their operations to respond to COVID-19, including procuring more personal protective equipment and testing. The proposal includes $1 billion for grants to help food banks and other nonprofits boost their capacity to handle food and $1.5 billion for more surplus food purchases, including a new clearinghouse to help connect excess products with groups that need it. “The COVID-19 crisis has tested the strength of our nation’s food supply chain, creating a ripple effect that’s harming our families, farmers and workers,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D., Mich., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in a statement.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The final trading day of May starts with weekly grain export sales and U.S. personal incomes at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index at 9 a.m. The latest weather forecasts and any trade news, especially involving China remain topics of high interest. President Donald Trump is expected to have a news release concerning China sometime Friday. Weather Light rain is in store for the eastern Midwest Friday. Other primary crop areas will be dry. This is the start of a general drier trend through early June.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


ITC Investigating Economic Impact of Duty-Free Imports from Kenya The U.S. International trade Commission announced this week an investigation that will outline the economic impacts of removing import duties on products from Kenya. The move comes at the request of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who asked the USITC to provide the assessment in March. The USITC expects to submit its confidential report to Lighthizer by September 16, 2020. The assessment is part of ongoing trade talks between the U.S. and Kenya. Lighthizer last week released a summary of negotiating objectives including specific goals for goods and commodities, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. The objectives seek to “Secure comprehensive market access for U.S. agricultural goods in Kenya by reducing or eliminating tariffs.” Additionally, the U.S. seeks to provide reasonable adjustment periods for U.S. import-sensitive agricultural products. The trade talks also seek to establish specific commitments for trade in products developed through agricultural biotechnologies, including transparency, cooperation, and managing low level presence issues, and a mechanism for exchange of information and enhanced cooperation on agricultural biotechnologies. ************************************************************************************ Stabenow Introduces Food Supply Protection Act Senator Debbie Stabenow Wednesday introduced legislation to help protect the food supply after the COVID-19 crisis has put an unprecedented strain on farmers, workers, food banks and families. Stabenow, the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Ag Committee, says, “This bill will help strengthen our food supply.” The Food Supply Protection Act will support food banks and non-profits to help increase their capacity and address growing demand. The bill will provide infrastructure grants that can be used for additional cold storage and refrigeration, transportation, personal protective equipment, rental costs and additional use of commercial and community infrastructure. Further, Stabenow says the bill will strengthen food partnerships to prevent food waste and feed families through grants and reimbursements. Additionally, the bill will use grants, loans and reimbursements to protect workers and retool small and medium sized food processors. The bill is supported by more than 40 food and agriculture groups, including Feeding American, the National Farmers Union and the United Farm Workers Union. ************************************************************************************ Iowa Ag Department Launches Pork Disposal Assistance Program The Iowa Department of Agriculture is launching a disposal assistance program to help pork producers who are unable to harvest pigs due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. COVID-19-related worker shortages are causing meat processing facilities to drastically reduce production. Iowa State University estimates that, as of mid-May, approximately 600,000 pigs in Iowa were unable to be harvested. The Department is offering producers $40 per approved animal to help cover some of the disposal costs for market-ready hogs, weighing at least 225 pounds. Producers must provide documentation, including proof of proper disposal, and an affidavit from their herd veterinarian confirming impending welfare issues, to receive funding. The disposal assistance funding will be made available to Iowa producers in at least three rounds. Each approved applicant will receive funding for at least 1,000 animals and up to 30,000 animals per round, depending on the number of applicants. To qualify for the first round of funding, producers must submit their applications to the Iowa Department of Agriculture before May 29. ************************************************************************************ H-2A Positions Increase Fivefold Since 2005 The Department of Agriculture says the number of H-2A workers increased fivefold between 2005 and 2019. Calling the data an indicator of the scarcity of farm labor, USDA’s Economic Research Service says the number of H-2A positions requested and approved increased from just over 48,000 in 2005 to nearly 258,000 in 2019. The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program provides a legal means to bring foreign-born workers into the United States on a temporary basis. Workers employed on an H-2A visa are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to ten months at a time. Employers must demonstrate, and the U.S. Department of Labor must certify, that efforts to recruit U.S. workers were not successful. Employers must also pay a region-specific minimum wage, known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. The Economic Research Service says the average duration of an H-2A certification in 2019 was 5.3 months, implying that the 258,000 positions certified represented about 114,000 full-year workers. ************************************************************************************ USDA Funding Rural Water and Wastewater Improvements The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced a $281 million investment for 106 projects to improve rural water and wastewater infrastructure. Announced by deputy undersecretary for rural development Bette Brand, the funding will assist rural communities in 36 states and Puerto Rico. Brand says the investments will “bring modern, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure to rural communities.” USDA is funding the projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Eligible applicants include rural cities, towns and water districts. The funds can be used for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems in rural communities that meet population limits. The funds will help rural communities replace deteriorating, leaking water pipes with new ones, and upgrade water and wastewater handling systems that are decades old. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. For a list of funded projects, visit www.rd.usda.gov. ************************************************************************************ Propane Council Announces Game and Educational Website The Propane Education and Research Council this week announced www.PropaneKids.com. The website is an interactive online activity center for parents and caretakers of preschool and young school children looking for learning opportunities. The site includes games, activities, and even science experiments for children that are designed to reinforce the importance of propane safety and education with a focus on the farm. Tucker Perkins, President and CEO of PERC, says, “We wanted to do our part to help provide a fun, free learning center for young children.” At PropaneKids.com, parents, caregivers, and their children can explore a virtual farm or create their own, play games like farm bingo and spot-the-difference and color digital coloring pages. Americans living on acreages and farms away from the city center are already familiar with propane in use on their land. Nearly 40 percent of farms in America rely on propane in their farming and ranching operations to run pumps and engines, heat buildings, and dry and process crops.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Something Suspicious About Soaring Meat Prices Politico and others are pretty steamed up about meat prices these days. “Supermarket customers are paying more for beef than they have in decades,” Politico says, but hastens to add that the companies that process the meat for sale are paying farmers and ranchers “staggeringly low prices for cattle.” Now, the USDA and prosecutors are investigating whether the meatpacking industry is manipulating prices. The federal government did the same thing 100 years ago when antitrust prosecutors broke up meat “monopolies.” Can they repeat the process Politico asks? The Department of Justice is looking at the four largest U.S. meatpackers -- Tyson Foods, JBS, National Beef and Cargill -- which collectively control about 85% of the U.S. market for the slaughter and packaging of beef, Politico says. Meatpackers say beef prices have spiked during the pandemic because plants are running at lower capacity as workers fall ill, so less meat is moving through supply chains. However, there is “evidence that something isn’t right in the industry,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. In April, he requested federal investigations into “market manipulation and unfair practices” within the cattle industry. So have 19 other senators and 11 state attorneys general. Much of the criticism is aimed at the unusual price behavior. Ed Greiman, general manager of Upper Iowa Beef who formerly headed the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, attributed the consumer price increase to plants running at lower capacity. “I’m running at half speed,” Greiman said. “Cattle are backing up because we can’t run our plants fast enough. Nothing is functioning properly. We need to be careful not to put blame on any one thing or part of the industry because we can’t get these plants going." The industry has long been a focus for government antitrust enforcement. Exactly 100 years ago, after years of litigation, the five biggest U.S. meatpackersâ??which then accounted for 82% of the beef marketâ??agreed to an antitrust settlement with the Justice Department that helped break their control over the industry. “There’s greater concentration in meatpacking now” than in 1921, said Thomas Horton, an antitrust professor at the University of South Dakota, who previously worked at the Justice Department. The first antitrust laws were “passed to take care of the Big Five. Now we have the Big Four. We’re going backwards.” Not only are their fewer packing plants but about 70 percent of cattle are sold under contracts for delivery at an a certain weight with the price to be determined later. The is usually by a formula that takes into account how much cattle sell for in the cash market. The use of contracts has some advantages for ranchers, because they know they have buyers and don’t have to spend time in negotiations, said Ted Schroeder, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University. But the decline in data from cash sales has made it harder to figure out the “right” price for cattle, he said. Worker illnesses and temporary plant closures have held plants to about 50% of operating capacity, Schroeder said and calls the rising consumer prices and falling cattle prices “normal” responses to market trends. It’s economics 101 We are pretty close to the wholesale and farm prices he would expect “given the bottleneck,” he said. Not everyone agrees. Last year, ranchers filed an antitrust suit against the four meatpackers for colluding to depress cattle prices. The suit, pending in Minneapolis federal court, alleges that the large packers began coordinating in 2015 to reduce the number of cattle slaughtered while also limiting how many they bought in the cash market. Ranchers with excess animals on their hands were forced to sell for less or enter into long-term contracts beneficial to meatpackers. “The Big Four simultaneously withdrew from the cash market with intent to reduce prices across the board,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, one of the lead plaintiffs in the suit, in an interview. This “drove prices down at least 8 percent,” said Bullard. The Justice Department could once again try to make a case that the meatpackers have engaged in “an anticompetitive set of industry practices, which taken together, violate antitrust law and require a broader restructuring,” Bullard said. Bullard’s group is also pushing for broader changes to the industry, such as requiring packers to buy at least half of their cattle from the cash market or prohibiting contracts that don’t include prices. Senator Grassley, meanwhile, says he’s not ready to call for the breakup of major meatpackers, but he has “a great deal of questions about whether they’re operating within the law.” Kansas’ Schroeder, though, warned against moving the industry backwards. Breaking up the meatpackers would likely lead to higher consumer prices, he thinks and insisting on cash sales would eliminate some of the advantages, like stable supply, that contracts offer. “We should be cautious how we approach regulation, so we don’t turn the apple cart upside down, he said.” So, we will see. The U.S. meat supply chains are extremely complex and difficult to change and have developed high levels of efficiency and well tested safety practices that are also hard to change. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic is a threat unlike any seen in modern times and will bring unanticipated pressures and challenges that producers should watch closely as the industry accommodates, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


FCC Proposes Establishing 5G Fund for Rural America The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comments on a proposal to retarget universal service funding for mobile broadband and voice to deploy 5G services to rural areas of the country by setting up the 5G Fund for rural America. In a notice in the Federal Register, FCC said that while T-Mobile has committed to deploy 5G service to 99% of Americans within six years and cover 90% of those living in rural areas, FCC said it was “concerned” that some rural areas will still not be serviced due to “insufficient financial incentive” for mobile wireless carriers to invest in 5G-capable networks and potentially leave areas of the country excluded from 5G for years to come. FCC noted that given issues that have been revealed with the deployment of 4G LTE networks in rural areas, it proposes to distribute up to $9 billion in two phases to support 5G service in rural areas. The initial stage would target at least $8 billion for rural areas, targeting a 5G Fund Phase I auction in 2021. Phase II would target “harder to service and higher cost areas, such as farms and ranches,” with $1 billion in funds “specifically aimed at deployments that would facilitate precision agriculture.” Comments on the plan are due by June 25.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


DOE Official Comments Spark Fresh Concern From RFA Over RFS Waivers Comments by current Energy Undersecretary Mark Menezes during his confirmation hearing for the post of Deputy Energy Secretary have raised new concerns about small refinery exemptions (SREs). Menezes was asked if the DOE would consider past year applications for SREs. This appears to be an effort to address the 10th Circuit Court ruling which said that invalidated three SREs issued for the 2016 compliance year on the basis that they had to have requested SREs in years following 2010. “I can assure that as EPA sends over these … filings if you will to be consistent with the 10th Circuit decision,” Menezes said. “We will review them expeditiously and we will return them as promptly as we can to the EPA with our determinations as we have done in the past.” The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has decried the situation, telling EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a letter that the effort amounted to an “end run” that was not consistent with the court ruling. RFA President Geoff Cooper said the apparent effort is a “thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the 10th Circuit’s decision” by retroactively seeking exemptions to establish a continuous string of SREs and thus maintain the refiners’ eligibility for SREs in subsequent compliance years.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets The calendar is busy Thursday morning. U.S. jobless claims, first quarter GDP, U.S. April durable goods orders and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor are all out at 7:30 a.m. CDT. The U.S. pending home sales index for April is at 9 a.m., followed by natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. and the Energy Department's weekly inventory report at 10 a.m. CDT. Traders will also watch the latest weather forecasts, any export news and for any hints of President Donald Trump's response to China's move in Hong Kong. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for most central and eastern crop areas Thursday. The rain will continue to delay later-stage planting. Western crop areas will be dry with favorable conditions for crop development. Temperatures will be mainly seasonal to above normal.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


Online Grocery Shopping a New Reality The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways shoppers fill their grocery needs. Throughout the pandemic, the Food Marketing Institute has been tracking consumer trends and charting how shopping behaviors are changing. While it’s uncertain how the trends will continue, the pandemic will permanently change consumer habits. Pre-coronavirus, FMI projected that online food and beverage sales would equate to $143 billion by 2025, representing about 18 percent of an expected overall $800 billion in combined online and in-store spending for food and beverages at home. However, since the pandemic, about 21 percent of Americans have tried online shopping for the first time, eight percent have returned, and 19 percent are continuing to online shop. FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin says, “Online grocery shopping is a new reality for our retail and wholesale members.” Research by FMI suggests that not everyone will continue ordering online at the levels they were during the height of the pandemic, but they are likely to continue using it more. ************************************************************************************ House Lawmakers Press USDA Over Food Box Contracts House Agriculture Committee members want questions answered regarding the Department of Agriculture’s Families Food Box Program. Led by Democrat Marcia Fudge of Ohio, the group sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. They say the letter comes amid reports of contracts under the program awarded to companies with little to no experience in agriculture and food distribution, and may have little or no capacity to meet the obligations set by USDA. The lawmakers are seeking information on what criteria were used to determine which applicants would be awarded contracts. They also want to know how USDA considered applicants' financial standings, along with consideration of minority-owned businesses, and how USDA will ensure the contracts are fulfilled. How USDA evaluated applicants, and food safety concerns are also on the list. Representative Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Representative Jim Costa of California joined Fudge in the letter. The three lawmakers chair separate House Agriculture subcommittees. ************************************************************************************ Farmland Prices Continue Decline, Farm Borrowing Increasing The latest Rural Mainstreet Index from Creighton University shows farmland prices are declining while farmer borrowing is growing. Released last week, the overall index for May increased to 12.5 from April's record low 12.1, but down significantly from March's weak 35.5. The index ranges between 0 and 100, with a reading of 50.0 representing growth neutral. Farmland prices continue to slide as May’s reading fell to 39.7 from April’s 40.9. This is the 77th time in the past 78 months the index has been below growth neutral. The May farm equipment-sales index increased slightly to 21.9 from 20.0 in April. This marks the 80th straight month that the reading has remained below growth neutral 50.0. Borrowing by farmers expanded for May, but at a slower pace than in April. The borrowing index slipped to 72.2 from April’s 75.8. The checking-deposit index soared to 86.1 from April’s 65.6, while the index for certificates of deposit and other savings instruments increased to 48.6 from 48.4 in April. ************************************************************************************ AEM Developing Health and Safety Guidelines for Events The Association of Equipment Manufacturers will craft guidelines for industry exhibitions and events. The association recently formed a Health and Safety Task Force to guide its efforts in ensuring the well-being of exhibitors, attendees, industry peers, and AEM members and staff at association-run events. The task force will create a universal set of health and safety guidelines. The team will consider all touch points of every visitor group's experience, vendor roles, implication to contracts, communication of practices to stakeholders, cost and revenue impact, as well as execution. The initial set of guidelines created by the Health and Safety Task Force will focus on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and minimizing the potential risk of infection for AEM staff and visitors. However, once the pandemic passes, the team will craft a revised set of guidelines for implementation at the appropriate time. The initial set of guidelines will be in place prior to AEM's Product Safety & Compliance Seminar and Liability Seminar, scheduled this August in Illinois. ************************************************************************************ Deere Earnings Beat Expectations John Deere's quarterly sales and profit estimates beat expectations. Net income fell 41 percent to $665.8 million, or $2.11 per share in the quarter, but beat analysts’ average estimate of $1.62 per share, according to Reuters. Equipment sales declined 20 percent to $8.22 billion, topping expectation of $7.69 billion. Agriculture and turf sales decreased for the quarter due to lower shipment volumes and the unfavorable effects of currency translation. The new forecast from the company expects farm and turf equipment sales to fall between 10 percent and 15 percent this year. Net income attributable to Deere and Company is forecast to be in a range of $1.6 billion to $2 billion for the full year. However, many uncertainties remain regarding the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic that could negatively affect the company's results and financial position in the future. A news release states, “Uncertainties related to the magnitude and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic may significantly adversely affect the company’s business and outlook.” ************************************************************************************ Gas, Diesel Prices Continue Rising For the fourth consecutive week, the national average price of gasoline increased, up 5.5 cents to $1.96 per gallon. The average price of diesel rose 0.2 cents to $2.41 per gallon. Patrick DeHaan with GasBuddy says as long as COVID-19 cases continue to drop over time and states reopen, average prices could hit the $2 per gallon mark as early as this week. Crude oil prices continued to rally over the last week, though the increase was smaller than previous weeks. The rally in crude oil comes as production continues to drop to meet reduced global demand, and while demand has begun to recover, pushing the needle of prices higher. Last week’s data from the Energy Information Administration pointed to yet another drop in crude oil inventories, which fell five million barrels, but remain a healthy ten percent above year-ago levels. Gasoline inventories saw a rebound of 2.8 million barrels, while distillate inventories perked up 3.8 million barrels.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Shape of Next Coronavirus Bill Bloomberg is reporting this week that the contents of the next coronavirus relief package will hinge on a central question of "whether the goal should be to provide another tourniquet for the economy or a crutch to help return it to normal.” House Democrats focused their claim for the upcoming negotiations by passing a $3 trillion relief package. Republican leadership and the White House are taking a more cautious approach, calling for some time to measure the impact of previous relief bills and determine what else is needed to get the economy on track. The tension over whether the next package should aim to provide more aid or stimulate a reopening economy is evident in two of the key areas of disagreement: whether unemployment benefits and further federal aid to states should be extended in the next bill, which could rival or exceed the size of the third law, known as the CARES Act. “Republicans know CARES was not the end of the congressional response but they clearly don’t feel the same urgency as their blue state counterparts,” said Liam Donovan, a principal at Bracewell LLP in Washington. “You might think of this ongoing pause as walking away from the legislative bazaar â?? blithely dismissing what they deem a liberal wish list, winding down the clock, and lowering the price on the inevitable next phase.” Aides on both sides of the aisle expect talks to gain steam in June. By that time, the effectiveness of the Federal Reserve’s new emergency powers and the return to operations of some nonessential businesses could weigh heavily on the next steps. There appears to be bipartisan momentum behind certain provisions in the House-passed response bill, including tweaking the employee retention credit to make it more usable, providing further financial assistance through the tax code to help businesses cover fixed costs during shelter-in-place orders and loosening IRS rules on deductions related to loans issued under the Paycheck Protection Program. Less clear is whether Republicans would agree to another round of direct payments to Americans, something they viewed as an emergency bridge to increased unemployment benefits. Aides agree that the parties are in a ‘pre-negotiation’ phase, trying to build consensus within their own ranks. A $600 weekly increase in unemployment insurance, set to expire at the end of July, will be critical to those talks. It is popular among Democrats but Republicans see it as disruptive to the labor market in re-opening states. Two influential Senate Finance Committee members have launched opening bids in an effort to reach compromise. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is calling for a $450 weekly “back-to-work bonus” for people who can go back to work before the end of July. The proposal, which he intends to include in the next bill, would use funding from the increased unemployment benefit to pay for the bonus, but keep that beefed up insurance in place for those who don’t have a job to return to. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is drafting a proposal that would extend the benefit by tying it to the unemployment rate. The idea would be to sidestep the politics of extending the subsidy by automating it. “If you can tie things to economic indicators that can be helpful, it just has to be done right,” a Senate Republican staffer told Bloomberg when asked about Wyden’s idea, though the aide said there is concern that the increased benefit would fuel continued high unemployment. The aide said a setting a sunset date for the provision might help convince Republicans. There is a closer deadline when it comes to aid for states and localities. Most state and local fiscal years end June 30 and early data on lost tax revenue could drive action on more federal aid. But for now, Republicans are gambling that the authorization Congress gave the Fed to extend credit to state and local governments will lessen the need for more direct federal help, even though that credit has yet to be fully implemented. “Currently we still have additional funds to probably the tune of over a trillion dollars that’s yet to actually be put out into the market from the last CARES Act,” Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, told Bloomberg last week. “So, let’s make sure that those dollars are effective before we spend again.” The more gradual approach towards the next bill also applies in the other direction: Republicans don’t want to pare back existing relief measures like a CARES Act provision allowing businesses to carry back net operating losses as far back as five yearsâ??as some current proposals would do. Mark Warren, chief tax counsel for Senate Finance Republicans, indicated during a May 22 panel discussion with Grossman that Republicans wouldn’t be open to passing something that they would view as a retroactive tax increase. “Especially when economists all say that increasing taxes in a recessionâ??it hasn’t been declared yet, but it’s hard to imagine we’re notâ??that that’s just really the wrong policy for a recovery,” Warren said. So, we will see. Clearly, the stakes are high concerning the details in the next legislative package. As a result, the current negotiations should be watched closely by producers as details are hammered out over the coming weeks, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


House Democrats Raise Questions with USDA’s Perdue Three House Agriculture subcommittee chairmen sent USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue questions about how $1.2 billion in contracts for the new Farmer to Families Food Box program were awarded. The lawmakers also sought answers on how the department will determine if contracts are fulfilled and what actions it will take against an awardee not meeting contract requirements. The effort it part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) where USDA said it would use $3 billion for the effort. Asking the questions were Reps. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Stacey Plaskett, D-U.S.V.I.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


COVID-19 Prompts Upward Revision to USDA Food Price Forecasts The impact of the COVID-19 situation continues to show in various areas, now showing in food prices. USDA’s monthly update to the food price forecasts typically does not see a lot of adjustments. The April rate of inflation for food at home (grocery store) prices increased 2.7% from March and were up 4.1% from April 2019. “Food-at-home prices had a month-to-month rate of inflation higher than any month since 1990, while food-away-from-home prices were nearly flat,” USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) said. “For the past several years, inflation for food-at-home prices had been slower than for food-away-from-home prices; however, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have ended that trend.” The situation also prompted an upward revision to the grocery store (food at home) price forecast, upping that to a rise of 2% to 3% vs 0.5% to 1.5% the agency saw in their month-ago update. And overall food prices are now seen rising 2% to 3% as well, up from 1.5% to 2.5% previously. Within the grocery store prices, only three areas were not revised upward from the month-ago marks.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets With the trading calendar shortened by Memorial Day, the weekly report of energy inventories is pushed to Thursday and the only official report on Wednesday is the Federal Reserve's Beige Book at 1 p.m. CDT. The latest weather forecasts and any export news will maintain high interest, as usual. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for portions of the eastern Midwest Wednesday, while broad rain coverage is indicated for the Delta and Southeast. Other primary crop areas will be dry.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


White House: China Deal is “On Track” Officials in the Trump Administration are talking positively about China’s commitments in implementing the Phase One trade deal with the U.S. Politico says that’s even as the coronavirus outbreak that began in China is straining relations between the countries. The deal requires China to make their markets more open, as well as increase its purchases of U.S. farm goods, manufactured goods, as well as energy and services by $200 billion above 2017 levels in the next two years. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says China is working to expand access for U.S. producers. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is also upbeat about the recent steps China took to open its market to U.S. goods like avocados, blueberries, barley, meat, dairy, and forage products. However, officials didn’t release the exact numbers of goods China has bought since the start of 2020. U.S. trade data that came out earlier in May showed that U.S. goods exported to China were actually coming in below the benchmark levels set in 2017. That prompted President Trump to say there was always the option of ending the agreement if China didn’t meet its obligations. ********************************************************************************************** Potato Industry Feels Left Out of CFAP The National Potato Council and state grower organizations wrote Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue last week to talk about potatoes that have nowhere to go for processing. The Hagstrom Report says the council noted more than “1.5 billion pounds of fresh potatoes for processing and potato products are trapped in the supply chain with no likely customers.” Mountains of potatoes are being given away or left to cow feed as surplus crops are piling up despite government efforts to distribute the potatoes as part of food boxes being given to needy families. The potato sector feels like the USDA’s new Farmers to Families Food Box program, as well as other initiatives, aren’t enough to dent the losses in a sector that depends heavily on foodservice sales. Kam Quarles (Quarrels), CEO of the National Potato Council, says, “It was clear the people who were doing well in retail could probably take more advantage of this than the impaired side of the business, which is food service.” The NPC sent a letter to USDA saying, “This oversupply has impacted both the 2019 and 2020 crop for U.S. family farms that grow potatoes. Some of these farms will have no ability to sell their 2019 or 2020 crop.” The industry suggested several enhancements regarding eligibility and payment rate adjustments that will help USDA help the industry. ********************************************************************************************** Rural Infrastructure Advancement Act Introduced in the Senate Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced Senate Bill 3842, called the Rural Infrastructure Advancement Act. Wicker authored legislation that would establish a Rural Assistance Pilot Program to help rural communities and localities better utilize and leverage existing Department of Transportation funding and financing opportunities. “Rural states often face challenges when trying to find the financial resources necessary to fund critical infrastructure projects, such as improving our roads and bridges,” Wicker says. “This bill would provide professional technical assistance to rural communities interested in utilizing existing financial programs.” He says it’s important that they provide the resources necessary to support and advance rural infrastructure. The legislation would do several things, including establishing a pilot program that retains expert firms, all of whom will need DOT approval, to provide financial, technical, and legal assistance to rural project sponsors seeking to apply for a loan or grant. It would also authorize funding for the Transportation Department to carry out the program, develop an online portal for applications, and post information about the pilot program and the resources available online. ********************************************************************************************** Officials Say Cattle to Blame for E. coli Outbreak in California Outbreaks of E. coli that sickened almost 200 people in California late last year probably came from cattle grazing close to the farms that grew the tainted romaine lettuce. The Associated Press says those findings came from a report released late last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Cow feces, which can contain the bacteria, is considered by the FDA as “the most likely contributing factor” to three outbreaks of the food-borne illness that traced to fields in the Salinas (Suh-LEE-nuhs) Valley of California. The outbreaks happened last November and December and affected people in at least 16 states as well as Canada. No deaths were reported. Investigators concluded that the illness centered on ranches and fields owned by the same grower that was located downslope from the public land that cattle had grazed on. The FDA says it couldn’t definitively identify a route of contamination for the three 2019 outbreaks, but it did say the possibilities included water runoff from the grazing area, wind-blown material, or animals or vehicles tracking it out to fields in the area. The report’s executive summary says, “Agricultural water sources used to grow the romaine were also possible routes of contamination.” ********************************************************************************************** Dairy Farmers Partner with Pizza Hut, Giving Half-Million Pizzas to Graduates Dairy Management Incorporated and its checkoff partner Pizza Hut are joining together to give away half a million pizzas to the Class of 2020 high school graduates. “We are excited to partner with Pizza Hut to help high school seniors and their families celebrate this special milestone in their lives,” says Marilyn Hershey, Chair of DMI, which runs the national dairy checkoff. “This is a great example of what we accomplish when dairy farmers and importers build relationships with a company like Pizza Hut through our checkoff. The promotion was officially announced on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last week. “We have a long history of celebrating moments that matter, such as graduations, and Pizza Hut takes pride in being a part of our customers’ big days,” says George Felix, chief marketing officer for Pizza Hut. “It’s only natural that we’d be there for students and their families to help celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2020.” They’re also proud to partner with America’s hard-working dairy farmers. To claim a free one-topping medium pizza, go to www.pizzahut.com/gradparty for more information. Coupons will be valid through June 4. ********************************************************************************************** Beef Checkoff Recognizes Farmers and Ranchers for Keeping Beef on the Table As Americans fired up their grills for Memorial Day, the “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign is highlighting the hard-working beef farmers and ranchers who make grilling season possible. They’re doing so in a new video, released on Memorial Day, that takes consumers on a dawn-till-dusk workday of raising beef, doing so in just 30 seconds. As the video ends, it proudly proclaims that “the summer grilling season is brought to you by beef farmers and ranchers.” The Federation Division at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says, “Beef sizzling on grills during the summer months has brought families together for generations.” The video, which will be shared throughout social and digital media, is just a glimpse into what’s coming this summer from the “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign. This summer, the brand will focus on how grilling brings people together, be it physically or virtually, and will continue to recognize those who raise beef, starting with National Beef Burger Day on May 28.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Next Steps in US China Trade Spat A major item in the urban press this week is speculation about the next steps in the trade fight with China over Hong Kong. The Trump administration is promising “strong action” against China’s new national security law in Hong Kong, but faces limited options because any harsh penalties could likely also harm both Hong Kong and the U.S., Bloomberg says. While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated Friday that the U.S. could reconsider Hong Kong’s special trade status, such broad actions risk significant harm to U.S. interests. As a result, the administration may consider sanctioning individuals or businesses involved in curtailing Hong Kong’s democracy or by maintaining special treatment of the territory for sensitive technologies, Bloomberg says. Businesses and investors are anxiously watching developments, which could have far-reaching implications for the U.S.-China relationship. Earlier this week, China reiterated a pledge to implement the first phase of its trade deal with the U.S. despite setbacks from the coronavirus outbreak. “Beijing’s decision puts the U.S. government in a difficult position, because any policy response against Hong Kong will largely punish the wrong actors,” said Leland Miller, chief executive officer of China Beige Book, a firm that researches China’s economy. “Pulling back its special status will mostly hurt Hong Kongers who overwhelmingly oppose this move as well as U.S. and other foreign companies based there. Visa restrictions or tariff hikes would be similarly counterproductive.” Miller said he expects the Trump administration to apply targeted sanctions but in order to turn up the heat the U.S. would have to target Beijing’s interests, not Hong Kong’s. “And with the phase-one deal still technically a go, the administration doesn’t appear to have much appetite for that right now,” he added. However, one administration spokesman told reporters at the White House that “Hong Kong has been the financial center of Asia for a very, very long time. I don’t think it will continue to be and so the costs for China and are very, very large” if the government moves forward, he added. With China as the world's second-largest economy, Hong Kong isn’t as important to mainland China’s economy as it once was. Yet the territory has remained a “crucial asset” for China, “as a starting point for mainland firms investing overseas, a source of equity and bond finance, and a channel for capital account opening,” Bloomberg said in a report last year. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, signed into law last fall, requires the secretary of State to certify, no less than annually, whether Hong Kong continues to warrant special treatment, as defined in the Hong Kong Policy Act. Pompeo was to submit a report to Congress weeks ago but held off until after China’s National People’s Congress met. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sponsored the human-rights bill, said the administration had no choice but to certify that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous if the Chinese government implements the proposed national security law. He also said he expected the executive branch to meet its statutory deadlines. “Beijing’s exploitation of U.S. capital markets in furtherance of the Communist Party’s efforts to undermine U.S. national and economic security -- including facilitating egregious human rights abuses and a range of military activities -- demands a serious response, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to do just that,” Rubio said in a statement. But a negative determination with respect to the territory’s independence doesn’t mean the U.S. has to revoke the special status entirely. People familiar with the administration’s discussions on its options said officials actually have a lot of flexibility and a spectrum of options, rather than a binary choice to treat Hong Kong exactly like mainland China. The U.S. treats Hong Kong differently from mainland China on tariffs, technology curbs – or export control laws – and on visas. As one potential option, the administration could impose all tariffs it’s levied against Chinese imports on exports from Hong Kong but maintain special treatment of the territory when it comes to sensitive technologies. The U.S. has enacted license requirements for American companies that want to do business with Chinese technology firms, including Huawei Technologies Co. The White House could also sanction individuals involved in curtailing Hong Kong’s democracy, or businesses associated with such actions, before it partly revokes the region’s preferential trade status. The administration has regularly blamed China for failing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading beyond its borders after it was first discovered in the city of Wuhan. The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said Friday that China’s proposed legislation could lead to a tit-for-tat between Washington and Beijing that eventually curtails Hong Kong’s special treatment. “Hong Kong today stands as a model of free trade, strong governance, free flow of information and efficiency,” said Robert Grieves, the group’s chairman. “No one wins if the foundation for Hong Kong’s role as a prime international business and financial center is eroded.” So, we will see what happens. Both sides in this fight seem to be increasingly dug in, so it will be difficult to disengage, especially as election-year fever makes controversies increasingly difficult. The Hong Kong issue is certainly important and should be watched closely by producers as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


Lawmakers Continue to Push EPA On RFS Waiver Requests More than a dozen Republican senators, including Senate Environment Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., say the EPA has a clear case to waive or significantly reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) biofuels mandate. In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday, the senators say the cost of complying with the RFS has tripled since the beginning of this year. Republican attorneys general recently urged the EPA to grant petitions from six governors, including one Democrat, to waive the 2020 RFS requirements amid the pandemic. “A failure to grant, in part or in whole, the governors’ petitions would render this provision of the Clean Air Act utterly meaningless,” the senators wrote. “It would be a gross example of a federal agency nullifying an act of Congress.” But biofuel backers led by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Tina Smith, D-Minn., have written President Trump noting the conditions to waive the RFS have not been met. EPA must be able to demonstrate there is “severe economic harm” from the RFS itself to waive the requirements, a feat the corn state senators said it would not be able to do given the ongoing, widespread economic damage from the pandemic.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


US, China Both Talk Phase One Trade Agreement China is importing U.S. ag and other goods a bit slower than originally hoped for, but the phase-one trade pact is still being successfully implemented, National Economic Council (NEC) Director Larry Kudlow said Thursday. “I guess the Chinese purchases are a little behind, but I think that’s more because of poor economic and market conditions … and China has every intent of implementing (phase one),” Kudlow told the Washington Post. Kudlow said China is not currently looking to renegotiate the trade pact, saying that’s not happening. “At the present time … there’s no renegotiating at all,” he said. “We’re looking for steady implementation and we’ll be monitoring it very closely.” USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative said in an update that Beijing is making progress "despite difficult times for both our countries" with agricultural purchases, exemptions on retaliatory tariffs and approvals of more U.S. exports of farm products. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue was also upbeat about recent steps China has taken to open its market to U.S. avocados, blueberries, barley, meat, dairy and forage products. The White House released a document on Thursday on the administration’s “strategic approach” toward China, which called the Phase One agreement a sign of “critical progress toward a more balanced trade relationship.” Both sides continue to emphasize that the phase-one agreement continues even as some continue to counter that China is not expected to meet the terms of the agreement.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets After the three-day weekend, futures markets resumed trading Monday evening and traders will be checking the latest weather forecasts and any news on the coronavirus front. At 9 a.m. CDT, April new home sales and a U.S. index of consumer confidence will be released, followed by USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections at 10 a.m. USDA's Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. CDT will update row crop planting progress and winter wheat crop conditions. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain is in store from the U.S.-Canadian border in North Dakota south to the Texas coast Tuesday. This activity includes the western Midwest. Portions of the central U.S. have already seen very heavy rain and flash flooding over the holiday weekend, including the central and southeastern Plains and portions of the Midwest. A notably drier pattern is featured in the six-to-10-day forecast through early June.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


U.S. Ethanol Heading to China According to three ethanol-industry sources and shipping data, a rare U.S. ethanol shipment will arrive in China very soon. Reuters says that may be the first ethanol shipment to hit China since the two countries struck a trade deal earlier this year. China recently waived some additional tariffs on almost 700 American products, including ethanol, to support more purchases of U.S. farm goods to help meet its obligations in the Phase One trade deal. Since China made the move, the ethanol industry has been watching for signs of renewed trade in the biofuel. Tariffs on U.S. fuel ethanol were as high as 70 percent after Beijing upped some retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports in the back-and-forth trade dispute with Washington, D.C. A slump in fuel demand brought on by COVID-19 led to an oversupply of ethanol that caused prices to bottom out, forcing producers to slash their production amounts. One of the three sources to tell Reuters about the shipment says the vessel was carrying ethanol that originated in the United States and had been resold to China, likely from a seller in Saudi Arabia. A trader based in China tells Reuters that, “People are looking to import fuel ethanol from overseas as prices in northeastern China have risen in the past few days.” ********************************************************************************************** EPA Plan Would Raise Biofuel Blending Targets Slightly in 2021 The Environmental Protection Agency has drafted a plan that would include a small bump in their biofuel-blending targets in 2021. Three people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the proposed rule is undergoing a White House review. Under the rule, the EPA would require refiners to use 5.17 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2021, up from 5.09 billion gallons this year. The plan would include 670 million gallons of cellulosic renewable fuels, such as those made from crop residue, switchgrass, and biogas harvested at landfills, up from the 590 million gallons required in 2020. Refiners would be able to use as much as 15 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuels, including corn-based ethanol, to satisfy the mandate in 2021. In 2022, the EPA draft plan would require refiners to use 2.76 billion gallons of biodiesel, typically made from soybeans and waste cooking oil. That requirement would be up from the 2.43 billion gallons required in 2021. The EPA is expected to propose the quotas in the coming months while facing a deadline of November 30 to finalize the targets. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Providing $1 Billion in Loan Guarantees for Rural Business and Ag Producers Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says the agency will make up to $1 billion in loan guarantees available to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during COVID-19. Also, agricultural producers who aren’t eligible for Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under the USDA Business and Industry CARES Act Program provisions that are included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Other changes will allow USDA to provide 90 percent guarantees on B & I CARES Act Program loans, to set the application and guarantee fee at two percent of the loan, as well as to accept appraisals completed within two years of the loan application date, and extend the maximum term for working capital loans to 10 years. “USDA is committed to be a strong partner to rural businesses and agricultural producers and being a strong supporter of all aspects of the rural economy,” Perdue says. “Ensuring more rural agricultural producers can gain access to much-needed capital in these unprecedented times is a cornerstone of that commitment.” USDA intends to consider applications in the order they’re received, but they may also assign priority points to projects if the demand for funds exceeds availability. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Accepting Applications for 2021 Export Programs The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is accepting applications from eligible organizations for the fiscal year 2021 funding for five export market development programs. FAS recently published the Fiscal Year 2021 Notices of Funding Opportunity for the Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development Program, Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program, the Quality Samples Program, and the Emerging Markets Program. The application deadline for all five of the programs is June 26, 2020. Under the Market Access Program, USDA provides competitive, cost-share assistance to U.S. exporters and agriculture, fish, and forest product trade organizations for international marketing and promotion of U.S. commodities and products. Under the Foreign Market Development Program, USDA partners with nonprofit agricultural and forest product trade associations to build longer-term international demand for U.S. commodities. The Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program funds projects that address sanitary, phytosanitary, and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. The Quality Samples Program helps agricultural trade organizations provide small samples of their products to potential importers. As the name implies, the Emerging Markets Program supports technical assistance activities that promote U.S. agricultural, fish, and forest products in emerging markets. ********************************************************************************************** NCGA Working to Find New Uses for Corn The National Corn Growers Association is working hard to find new uses for corn and demonstrating it as the clear feedstock of choice. The availability of corn-based feedstocks and consumer demand represents an opportunity for stakeholders in the sustainable biomaterials industry and will help drive demand for corn higher. NCGA Director of Market Development Sarah McKay says, “The seeds have to be planted along the way to find the next big new uses of corn. It doesn’t just happen overnight.” She says that’s why NCGA works with university researchers, government entities, as well as untraditional partners to prime the pump for innovation and viable uses of corn. NCGA also works with individual companies, innovators, and research groups to engage in conversations and projects together to facilitate these technologies getting to commercialization, while also making sure their consumers understand the value of corn as an industrial feedstock. The NCGA has also held two Consider Corn Challenge contests. Many of the winners have gone on to secure additional funding to get their products to market. The contest winners have developed biosourced materials from corn that are starting materials for various biobased plastics, nylons, polyester resins, and more. ********************************************************************************************** Cotton Council Joins Sustainable Apparel Coalition Cotton Council International announced it had joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. It will use the group’s sustainability measurement suite of tools, known as the Higg Index, to drive environmental and social responsibility throughout its supply chain. With its membership in the SAC, the council joins more than 250 global brands, retailers, and manufacturers, as well as governmental, non-profit environmental organizations, and academic institutions. All of the various groups are committed to improving supply chain sustainability in the apparel, footwear, and textile industry. The U.S. cotton industry is committed to continual improvement in sustainability and continues to build upon the strong environmental gains already achieved over the past 35 years. In a release, the Cotton Council International says, “We are pleased to be joining the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and are confident that together we can scale positive impacts on product sustainability over time. We are collaborating with many other groups to enable greater supply chain transparency and informed decision making.” The Sustainable Apparel Coalition says, “Having CCI as part of the Coalition widens the scope of our impact within the industry and accelerates the changes we’re making toward responsible industry actions.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


Washington Insider: US, China Escalating War of Words Bloomberg and others are reporting this week that President Trump and President Xi Jinping have escalated their rhetoric sharply. President Trump has actively suggested that China is behind a “disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe. It all comes from the top,” the president said in a series of tweets this week. He added that China was “desperate” to have former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, win the presidential race. While the president has often blamed China for failing to prevent the pandemic now ravaging the global economy, he has previously been careful to maintain that his relationship with Xi remains strong. China’s foreign ministry has regularly fired back with similar charges, saying the Trump administration was looking to obscure the facts around the virus to deflect from its own shortcomings. Now, however, the U.S. president and other Republicans have been ratcheting up efforts to paint China as the villain as the U.S. economy drifts into recession and the president’s handling of the crisis is being increasingly criticized. China has denied Trump’s claims that it was trying to damage his chances at re-election in November. The feud has revived the worst-case scenarios concerning U.S.-China ties, Bloomberg said. It thinks the two sides are “edging” closer to confrontation “than at any point since the two sides established relations four decades ago.” From supply chains and visas to cyberspace and Taiwan, the world’s two largest economies are escalating disputes across several fronts that had quieted after they signed a “phase one” trade deal in January. Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian sidestepped a question on President Trump’s tweets while attacking Secretary of State Michael Pompeo for his comments about Taiwan and Hong Kong. “Who’s been doing everything possible to ensure people’s lives and health and to promote international anti-virus cooperation?” he said. “The answer is clear as day. The world is a fair judge.” A day earlier, the Chinese military condemned a rare message from Pompeo to Taiwan’s president as “wrong and very dangerous,” vowing to defend Beijing’s claim to the democratically ruled island. Hours later, the White House issued a broad critique of China’s economic and military policies in a report to Congress without detailing specific actions the U.S. will take in response. The U.S. Senate also overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that could lead to Chinese companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. being barred from listing on U.S. stock exchanges. The Republican-controlled upper chamber had already passed a bill this month that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses against Muslim minorities. The U.S. president, who had repeatedly praised Xi’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak early on, has passed up recent opportunities to criticize the Chinese president directly. During a TV appearance on May 3, the president described Xi as a “strong” leader with whom he had a good relationship. This week, however, President Trump accused “some wacko in China” on Twitter of deflecting responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus, without elaborating. He accused China of “mass worldwide killing.” Although it was unclear who the President’s reference included in either tweet, Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, denounced U.S. administration officials as “political hooligans” who don’t care about the lives of more than 100,000 Americans. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hewed closely to the usual talking points in his agency’s regular briefing Wednesday. Hu pushed back against Trump’s “wacko” remark in a subsequent tweet, saying “I have never heard of such a wacko in China making this statement” and speculating that the person is “fictional.” He later said Chinese internet users wished President Trump would be re-elected, saying he promotes “unity in China” and makes international news “as fun as comedy.” So, we will see. While this “back and forth” seems unlikely to lead directly to more serious confrontations just now, it certainly doesn’t offer any clear path to declining tensions and a better climate for trade and global market recovery. In the current political and economic climate, the issue of how the coronavirus outbreak was begun and managed in each country likely will continue to be extremely fraught. So the current spat holds at least some danger for both sides and should be watched closely to prevent accidentally crossing the line to a more costly confrontation, as such wars of words sometimes do, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


EPA’s Wheeler Says No Decisions Yet on RFS Waiver Requests EPA has not yet made any final decisions on the requests from several states for a waiver of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements this year, according to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He acknowledged the ethanol industry is facing difficult times, noting he has “talked personally with a number of small refiners all over the country, including I think every small refinery in Wyoming, and we are working with them to see what we can do to help them during this time.” He also noted the fewer miles driven was also an issue and pledged “we have extraordinary circumstances this year and we are looking to see what relieve we can provide everyone.” As for request by states for waivers of RFS requirements, Wheeler said he was “familiar” with the requests, but when asked if a decision on the requests had been made, he replied that “No, we have not yet.” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, asked if EPA would look at prior years when waiver requests had been made and were denied, noting that the decision calls on EPA to determine if the RFS is the cause of harm or if it is some other factor like the Saudi-Russia frictions or the COVID-19 situation. Wheeler said that “yes” the agency would look at precedent.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


Former VP Biden Lashes Out At Trump Administration COVID-19 Response Former Vice President Joe Biden took issue with the Trump administration’s responses to the COVID-19, saying it was a leadership issue. “We don't have a food shortage problem, we have a leadership problem,” Biden said during a webinar event with Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis. “From the start, [President Donald Trump] has failed to support food producers,” he argued, saying among other things that the administration was “slow to order the government to buy food from farmers and send that food to food banks” as the crisis took hold. He said a Biden administration would have stepped up purchases of milk and other commodities where surpluses have arisen due to the restaurant shutdowns cutting food service demand. He also criticized the Trump administration for its trade policy, saying it has made the U.S. a “bad partner.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


March Margin Triggers Dairy Margin Coverage Program Payment The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency announced this week that the March triggered the first payment to dairy farmers enrolled in the Dairy Margin Coverage program. The March income over feed cost margin was $9.15 per hundredweight. Current projections indicate that a DMC payment is likely to trigger every month for the remainder of 2020, a different expectation from last July when some market models had forecast no program payments for 18 months. FSA Director Richard Fordyce says the payment “comes at a critical time for many dairy producers,” noting it’s the first payment to dairy producers in seven months. Authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, DMC is a voluntary risk management program that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. Although DMC enrollment for 2020 coverage has closed, dairy producers should look for FSA to open sign up for 2021 coverage in July. ************************************************************************************ Growth Energy Lauds Introduction of Biofuels Relief Bill in Senate Growth Energy praised the introduction of legislation that would assist biofuel producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley along with Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced the legislation Tuesday. Specifically, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reimburse biofuel producers for their feedstock purchases in the first quarter of 2020 through the Commodity Credit Corporation. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the proposal would “deliver immediate relief for biofuel workers, farm partners, and thousands of rural communities.” The legislation follows numerous appeals from Growth Energy and other farm and biofuel leaders, lawmakers and local governments. As the coronavirus pandemic spread, gasoline use in the United States plummeted to 50-year lows around the country. From March 8 to April 4 of this year, total miles driven dropped by 58 percent. The rapid decrease in consumption has led more than 130 biofuel plants to partially or fully shut down in rural America. ************************************************************************************ Ag Retailers: New EPA Transparency Rule a Positive Step for Agriculture The Agricultural Retailers Association calls a proposed rule on transparency by the Environmental Protection Agency a positive step forward for agriculture. This week, the EPA announced the proposal to establish requirements and procedures for the issuance of guidance. ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock says the proposal "will not only provide the opportunity to be sure that our voices are heard but will also ensure that new rules are guided by sound science, practicality and economic feasibility.” Last Fall, President Trump issued an executive order to promote transparency by ensuring all active guidance documents are made available to the public. The EPA says the rule will significantly increase the transparency of EPA’s practices around guidance and the agency’s process for managing guidance documents. The rule will establish the first formal petition process for the public to request that EPA modify or withdraw a guidance document, and ensure that the agency’s guidance documents are developed with appropriate review and are accessible and transparent to the public. ************************************************************************************ American Farmland Trust Releases Farmland Report Millions of acres of America’s agricultural land were developed or converted to uses that threaten farming between 2001 and 2016, according to American Farmland Trust. The organization this week released a report on U.S. farmland. The report’s Agricultural Land Protection Scorecard is the first-ever state-by-state analysis of policies that respond to the development threats to farmland, showing that every state can, and must, do more to protect their agricultural resources. The report shows the extent, location, and quality of each state’s agricultural land and tracks how much of it has been converted. The research also reveals a new threat of land use of low-density residential development, the process of farmland being converted to large-lot residential development. American Farmland Trust says low-density residential development compromises opportunities for farming and ranching, making it difficult for farmers to get into their fields or travel between fields. Additionally, new residents not used to living next farms often complain about equipment on roads or odors related to farming. The full report is available at farmland.org. ************************************************************************************ AVMA Applauds Dog Import Inspections Bill The American Veterinary Medical Association recently announced its support of the Healthy Dog Importation Act. The legislation seeks to ensure that dogs entering the United States do not pose a health risk to humans or other animals. Sponsored by three veterinarians in Congress, provisions of the act would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture new tools and authority to monitor and safeguard the health of dogs being imported, ensuring that dogs are in good health and not a risk to spread dangerous diseases that could impact animal and public health. AVMA President Dr. John Howe says, “For far too long, dogs have been entering the United States without proper inspection, increasing the risk of disease introduction and transmission.” Up to 1.2 million dogs are estimated to be imported into the United States each year. The legislation would require every dog entering the U.S. to have a certificate of veterinary inspection, as well as certification that the dog has all the required vaccinations as well as negative test results for illness. ************************************************************************************ SNAP Online Purchasing to Cover 90% of Households Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week approved 13 states for online food purchases with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Once operational, online purchasing will be available in 36 states and the District of Columbia, home to more than 90 percent of SNAP participants. Perdue also announced an expansion of independently owned and operated retail stores beyond those included in the original pilot. Soon more SNAP authorized retailers, under multiple store banners, will be accepting SNAP benefits online. Perdue says online food purchases “will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social distancing guidelines.” On April 18, 2019, Perdue announced the launch of the two-year SNAP online purchasing pilot that began in New York before being rolled out to additional states. In less than six weeks, amidst an unprecedented situation, USDA has expanded SNAP online purchasing to 36 states and the District of Columbia. Currently, the SNAP online purchasing pilot is operational in 18 states and the District of Columbia, with additional states going live each week.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Slow Economic Rebound Keeps Focus on Fiscal Aid Bloomberg is reporting this week that high U.S. unemployment likely means “that the chance of an immediate economic bounce back from the coronavirus appear slim.” As a result, lawmakers are said to agree they’ll need to provide further fiscal aid, even as partisan rifts remain over how and when to act. Unemployment is expected to average 15.1% in the second quarter and 15.8% in the third quarter of 2020, before gradually dropping to 8.6% in the last quarter of 2021. It is projected to average 11.5% in 2020 and 9.3% in 2021. CBO reported this week that U.S. real GDP is projected to contract by 11.2% in the second quarter of 2020 and by 5.6% for the year. The longer-term unemployment projections are slightly more optimistic than those CBO released in April but they still portend high unemployment rate for more than a year and a half. The report “makes it clear that we are facing a severe and prolonged economic downturn and Congress must keep pushing forward to fight the pandemic, soften the blow to our economy, and stand with the American people to build a strong recovery,” House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said. Congressional Republicans continue to say they aren’t in a rush to pass another economic package, while House Democrats continue to call on the Senate to take up its $3 trillion measure. A proposal from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to extend increased unemployment benefits through January 2021 will likely face resistance from Republicans, who are concerned that the extra $600 per week will encourage workers to stay home and slow the reopening of the economy, Bloomberg said. However, the report also says that Republicans don’t plan to oppose additional legislation indefinitely, but believe they need to assess what already has been done and “discuss the way forward,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. told the press this week. There will need to be some sort of additional federal support “for several months,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said at a conference hosted by the American Enterprise Institute last week. Rubio, chairman of the Small Business Committee and a key proponent of aid to small businesses, said business closures, limited international travel and a lack of consumer confidence likely will be a damper on the economy “for a while.” There is a risk of long-term economic damage because of the virus, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers at a Senate Banking Committee virtual hearing at midweek. He said he’s concerned about “the risk of lasting damage to the productive capacity of the economy, as a result of longer-term unemployment, and from unnecessary, avoidable insolvencies by small- and medium-sized businesses. Those two things create a real risk.” Growth is expected to rebound in the third quarter of the coming year, when CBO projects 5% real GDP growth. But economic output is still projected to be lower throughout 2020 and 2021 than it was at the end of 2019. CBO estimated the leisure and hospitality sector shed 48.3% of its jobs, 8.6 million lost in total, in March and April. Bloomberg also commented that Congress may need to step in to help the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “to prevent the agency from furloughing workers,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told the Chamber of Commerce this week. USCIS pays for 97% of its budget with fees, but those monies have fallen off “significantly” during the coronavirus, Wolf said. “We’re going to need some help from Congress on making sure that USCIS does not have to furlough individuals and can keep them running.” Wolf said. He wants to be able to pay the cash back once receipts come back as the economy reopens, he said. In the meantime, Progressive House Democrats say they are looking to cut defense spending in the face of the pandemic, arguing they have the votes to defeat the fiscal 2021 defense authorization legislation if House Armed Services Committee leaders don’t reduce Pentagon’s funds from this year’s $738 billion. Nearly 30 Democrats, led by Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Mark Pocan, D-Wis., are demanding the reduced budget in a letter this week. So, we will see. Clearly, there is still strong support for shoring up coronavirus damaged economic sectors. At the same time, push-back appears to be growing with each new proposal, although the team of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and key administration officials appears to be able to continue to provide crucial support to a number of the main stressed sectors to aid coronavirus recovery Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


USDA Sets Details of CFAP Sign-up USDA unveiled the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) details, providing a list of eligible commodities, those commodities that are not eligible, payment limits and other information on the effort that will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers suffering at least a 5% price decline over a specified period. USDA has not provided a lot of specifics on how the payments will work, creating confusion in the ag industry. The fact that two pools of money are being used is causing confusion. Those pots of money include $9.5 billion under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and $6.5 billion in authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act. There are two payment rates involved in the calculations for what are labeled non-specialty crops such as corn, soybeans and more. There is also a list of commodities that were not deemed eligible as they had not suffered a 5% decline in prices over the period from mid-January to mid-April, but USDA will seek comments on crops excluded and may add them into the mix down the road.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


Trump Suggests Halting Cattle Imports In announcing farmer aid efforts, President Donald Trump Tuesday also singled out cattle imports as a recent topic of discussions in the administration. “Today where we take some cattle in from other countries, because we have trade deals, I think you should look at terminating those deals,” he said. “There are some countries that are sending us cattle for many years," he said. "We're very self-sufficient, and we're becoming more and more self-sufficient.” He also asked USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue as to why the U.S. was bringing in cattle. Perdue responded by emphasizing existing U.S. trade relationships and noting that countries exporting cattle to the U.S. have “been working with us for many years.” While agreeing with Perdue’s assessment, Trump said, “generally speaking, unless this is a country that really has been with us, we shouldn’t be taking their cattle … and that’s the way we’re going to handle it.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association indicated in a statement they said the situation underscores the complexity of the U.S. trade situation.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday is busy with reports, starting with weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor at 7:30 a.m. CDT. Reports on April existing home sales and leading indicators are at 9 a.m., followed by natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. CDT. USDA's monthly cold storage report is set for 2 p.m. CDT. Weather Moderate to heavy rain with flooding will continue in portions of the southeastern U.S. Thursday. Meanwhile, a rainy period will begin in the Plains with prospects for moderate to heavy amounts and flood threat, mainly in south-central and southeastern Plains areas. Northern Plains areas will also have showers with continued pressure on fieldwork and the likelihood of prevented planting.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


CFAP Payment Breakdown - USDA Spells Out Payment Details and Formula for Coronavirus Aid GLENWOOD, Iowa (DTN) -- USDA officials on Tuesday provided more extensive details on the payment plan for producers under the Coronavirus Food and Aid Program (CFAP). The payment details are complicated, depending on whether livestock or crops are involved and whether producers had sold their commodities within a timespan from Jan. 15 to April 15 of this year. Farmers and livestock producers will initially receive 80% of their calculated payment under CFAP. USDA right now has $9.5 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and $6.5 billion in funds from the Commodity Credit Corp. USDA officials on Tuesday acknowledged the aid available right now will not meet all of producers' expected losses. "To get the program out quickly, we're using all of those resources that we can," USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson said on a call with reporters Tuesday. "But it certainly will not rise to the level of the damages we're expecting to see for agriculture and producers as a result of the coronavirus." USDA is expected in July to have at least another $14 billion to tap from the Commodity Credit Corp., barring any further additional legislation passed by Congress. Local Farm Service Agency offices can start accepting applications on Tuesday, May 26. Farmers and livestock producers will have to set up phone-call appointments with FSA staff because they are not accepting in-person visits due to coronavirus restrictions. Producers can also communicate with staff through email or go online to fill out applications. LIVESTOCK Cattle producers will be the largest recipients of aid at roughly $5 billion. The payments break down several different ways depending on the type of cattle, if they were sold from Jan. 15 to April 15: -- Fed cattle for slaughter: $214 per head. -- Slaughter cows and bulls: $92 a head. -- Feeder cattle under 600 pounds: $102 a head -- Feeders over 600 pounds: $139 a head -- All other cattle: $102 a head For payments, USDA will require producers to document the number of head a producer sold from that Jan. 15-to-April 15 time frame. Unpriced cattle in inventory from April 16 to May 14 receive a flat rate from the Commodity Credit Corp. of $33 a head. Producers can basically pick a date of their choosing in that time frame and report their inventory to USDA. Pigs sold from Jan. 15 to April 15 have a payment rate of $28 a head while hogs sold during that time have a payment rate of $18 a head. Unsold hogs and pigs in inventory from April 16 to May 14 have a payment rate of $17 a head. USDA also right now does not have any payment indemnity in the CFAP for euthanized hogs. USDA officials repeatedly noted the only aid for those livestock would be support for disposal from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Lambs and yearlings also have a CARES payment of $33 a head and a CCC payment of $7 a head. Dairy farmers will be paid on a certification of their first-quarter production with $4.71 per cwt coming from the CARES Act. A second payment based on second-quarter production will also be multiplied by 1.014, then a payment will be made for $1.47 per cwt from the Commodity Credit Corp. Left out of the program were contract poultry growers. USDA officials said farmers would have to show ownership of the commodity to receive a payment. COMMODITY CROPS For commodity crop producers, payments are eligible for unpriced crops, or "inventory held subject to price risk" that a farmer held on Jan. 15, 2020. "If you already sold it ahead, you set a price on it, then that's not being impacted by the reduction of prices," said Bill Northey, USDA's undersecretary for farm production and conservation. The inventory will be self-certified, Northey said, though there will be some compliance audits conducted, he said. "We want it to be correct, but we want to avoid large amounts of paperwork at the county office," he said. Northey added, "We just need a final inventory." A producer will be paid on that commodity in storage, but the inventory cannot be higher than 50% of total 2019 production that the producer reported to the Farm Service Agency. Effectively, a farmer who grew 100,000 bushels or more in 2019 and has 50,000 bushels of 2019 corn in storage, unsold, on Jan. 15 would be paid on the 50,000 bushels Yet, it is more complicated the way the rule is spelled out. Half of that 50,000 bushels would be paid 32 cents from the CARES Act, and the other 25,000 bushels would be paid 35 cents from the Commodity Credit Corp. Essentially, USDA officials explained, when it is boiled down, the 50,000 bushels would be multiplied by 33.5 cents. That breaks down to 50,000 x 0.335, or $16,750. For soybeans, the payment rates are 45 cents a bushel from the CARES Act and 50 cents a bushel from CCC. A farmer with 50,000 bushels unsold in storage from the 2019 harvest on Jan. 15 would be paid on 25,000 bushels at 45 cents a bushel. The other 25,000 bushels would be paid at 50 cents a bushel. That equates to $23,750 (50,000 x 0.475). For hard red spring wheat, the payments are set at 18 cents a bushel from CARES and 20 cents from CCC. Durum wheat is 19 cents from CARES and 20 cents from CCC. Barley is 34 cents from CARES and 37 cents from CCC. Upland cotton is 9 cents a pound from CARES and 10 cents a pound from CCC. PAYMENT LIMIT CHANGES Payment limits have been adjusted under the CFAP as well. Payment limits are raised to $250,000 per individual, raising the limit for a married couple to $500,000. Another change affects corporations, which typically receive one payment limit. Under CFAP, corporations, limited liability corporations and partnerships with members and shareholders can receive up to three payments if they have members or shareholders who contribute at least 400 hours of active personal labor or management. So those corporate entities could receive a maximum of $750,000 in payments if three members can meet those actively engaged standards, Northey said. Once USDA determines a producer's payment, the department will make a payment of up to 80% of the total within a week. "We believe those payments can go out within a week of when we open up here," Northey said. Another 20% payment will be held back for later in the year, depending on when funds become available. Payment adjusted gross income is capped at $900,000 for producers, unless they can show at least 75% of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry. Greg Ibach, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs at USDA, said specialty crop producers -- fruit and vegetable growers -- would be paid based on multiple factors. Producers would receive a payment for crops sold from Jan. 15 to April 15. A different payment is established for specialty crop producers who harvested and shipped crops, but they spoiled because of lost markets over that time. Ibach also said USDA is looking for details from farmers on the impacts they received raising nursery products or aquaculture products, if those producers can show a 5% market decline for their products.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


USDA Announces Details of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program The Trump administration Tuesday announced the rollout of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers. Beginning May 26, the Department of Agriculture will be accepting applications from farmers who have suffered losses of five percent or more. The funds come from the $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the CARES dedicated to agriculture and $6.5 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation. Farmers will receive a combined total from CFAP and the CCC of 95 cents per bushel for soybeans, and 67 cents for corn. The payment rate for cattle is $247 per-head of slaughter cattle, $171 per-head of feeder cattle over 600 lbs, and $45 for hogs under 120lbs. There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity. Producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment will be paid later. Producers can apply through their local FSA office, and applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020. Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. ************************************************************************************ CFAP Welcomed, But More Relief Needed Agriculture groups welcomed the rollout of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program direct payments but say farmers will need more relief. National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross says, “This assistance is a first step to getting farmers, and our customers, back on solid footing.” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall calls the program critically important, adding, “long-term effects of this pandemic are still rippling through the farm economy.” AFBF points out that farm bankruptcies increased 23 percent in March 2020 compared to a year earlier, bankruptcies that occurred before the pandemic dropped commodity prices. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Marty Smith adds, “this is just one step and much more needs to be done.” Details behind the $16 billion in direct payments were announced at the White House Tuesday. The Department of Agriculture is expected to utilize an additional $14 billion for relief funds to farmers and ranchers later this summer. ************************************************************************************ NCBA Responds to Trump Comments on Beef Imports President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday suggested the United States should consider terminating trade deals that bring live cattle into the United States. Most cattle imported into the United States come from Mexico and Canada, thus falling under Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. However, a recent Trump administration decision to allow fresh beef imports from Brazil is something the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association urged the President to reconsider. The association says there continue to be concerns with foot-and-mouth disease and USDA’s decision to reopen the American market to Brazilian beef. Approximately 12 percent of beef consumed in the U.S. is imported product, but that product must meet the U.S. standards before allowed into the market. Woodall adds, “We encourage him to re-examine the decision to reopen the market to imports from Brazil, Namibia (Nuh-MIB-be-uh), and any other nation where there are food safety or animal health concerns that could impact American consumers or cattle producers.” ************************************************************************************ Survey Reveals COVID-19 School Meal Trends, Financial Impacts Fresh data from the School Nutrition Association reveals significant concerns about the financial sustainability of school meal programs. The second installment of a survey effort by the association found COVID-19 closures have had a dramatic impact on school meal program budgets. Financial losses to the school nutrition program ranked as respondents' top concern, cited by 90 percent as a serious or moderate concern. 861 school districts reported combined estimated financial losses of more than $626.4 million. School meal programs routinely operate on extremely tight budgets, funded by cafeteria sales and reimbursements for meals served. With schools closed and stay at home orders in place, fewer meals are served. The survey yielded responses from school nutrition professionals working on the frontlines to feed hungry students in 1,894 school districts nationwide. Conducted from April 30 – May 8, the survey shows 95 percent of respondents were engaged in emergency meal assistance, and combined, these districts reported serving more than 134 million meals in April alone. ************************************************************************************ Chesapeake Bay Foundation to Sue EPA The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its partners filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency this week. The Foundation plans to sue the EPA "for its failure to require Pennsylvania and New York to develop implementation plans that will achieve the 2025 Bay restoration goals." The Attorneys General in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia also filed a notice that they intend to sue EPA as well. CBF President William C. Baker says the EPA has “failed to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.” CBF has used litigation previously to advance Bay restoration efforts. In 2009, CBF sued EPA for its failure to enforce the Clean Water Act and ensure that Bay restoration succeeds. The settlement of that lawsuit included the science-based limits established by EPA for pollution fouling the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. The states developed individual plans to achieve those limits and committed to two-year milestones that outline the actions they will take to achieve those limits by 2025. ************************************************************************************ Farm Journal Announces New Farm Show Farm Journal this week announced the launch of a new "COVID-conscious" farm show experience called Farm Journal Field Days, set for August 25-27, 2020, on farms in eastern Iowa and northwest Ohio. The interactive Farm Journal Field Days includes a three-day Virtual Pavilion that runs concurrent with full-day on-farm demonstrations and programming. The on-farm sessions will be hosted August 25 at Blue Diamond Company farm in Jesup, Iowa, and August 27 at Newcomer Farm in Bryan, Ohio. Up to one hundred Top Producers will be voluntarily selected to participate in person on each farm with beyond-recommended social distancing rules, but in a highly personal, interactive experience. The first annual Farm Journal Field Days will encompass equipment, crops, livestock and technology with a focus on bringing buyers and sellers together in different and unique ways. The format will include one-on-one and group settings to observe innovations in practice, as well as interactive educational and sales methods. The on-farm programs and Virtual Pavilion will be promoted across Farm Journal's digital and broadcast footprint.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Cloudy Trade Outlook Washington in entering a kind of “deep tea leaf reading period” on trade these days and analysts are scanning scenarios that are unusually deep in shadows. For example, Bloomberg is reporting that the outlook for trade fights just now “should be read with some skepticism.” It says the prospect includes the “deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China," but that those tensions may not lead to the collapse of the small trade peace Beijing and Washington signed up for in January. The report asks whether we may be entering the do-nothing phase of the administration’s trade wars? It’s possible, Bloomberg says. It thinks that “there is little doubt that China is going to struggle to live up to its purchase commitments to the United States this year under the phase one deal that the two sides signed in January,” and cites a new tracker from Chad Brown at the Peterson Institute for International Economics as evidence. Brown thinks Chinese purchases “would have to accelerate significantly to hit the deal’s targets for 2020,” but thinks that isn’t surprising given that the Chinese economy is still slowly emerging from a coronavirus-induced shutdown earlier this year. That observation is leading “some to argue the deal is poised to collapse.” However, Bloomberg says, “what’s the alternative?” The report thinks that, “in reality,” there’s not much the administration can do right now even as the relationship with China deteriorates.” So, Brown thinks that the administration’s options for action are not good. Walking away would literally mean going back to Plan A, which is mainly “hitting China with yet more tariffs.” That would mean “whacking” the same consumer goods like smartphones that the administration had lined up as targets late last year. And, just the suggestion of that step caused angst in financial markets and among consumers last year. What would it do now in the middle of a global economic crisis?” It also would mean more Chinese retaliation and the loss of even any prospect of increased sales for already-hurting American farmers. In reality, Brown says, is that because of the northern hemisphere’s cultivation calendar the big Chinese agricultural purchases were always going to come later this year. Walking away from that deal now after farmers have planted “with the Chinese buying spree in mind” would lead to more pain a few months from now. The smart play for the time being looks to be for the administration to do nothing other than encourage China to buy more. Brown thinks that would allow those around the president to aim plenty of rhetorical venom at Beijing, of course.” Bloomberg also takes note that there likely will be a different set of “machinations” underway in the WTO, where Director-General Roberto Azevedo unexpectedly announced plans to step down Aug. 31, a year before his term expires. However, the “result may well be the same,” Bloomberg thinks. There is no obvious candidate for the U.S. to support to succeed Azevedo, it notes. Moreover, there is no obvious need for the U.S. to push for any action unless it can extract a price from the WTO’s other member nations. “That’s especially true when members of the administration’s own party are calling for the abolition of the WTO.” Robert Lighthizer, the administration’s trade czar, is a longtime skeptic of the WTO and someone who has demonstrated a penchant for using “time and the lack of action to get what he wants,” Bloomberg says. He has worked to hobble the WTO’s dispute-resolution function by simply blocking the appointment of new judges and allowing the clock to run out. Like it or not, leaving the WTO in the hands of an acting director-general and institutional limbo for some time could actually be a way for the U.S. to build leverage ahead of a negotiation of overall reforms, or in advance of a broader negotiation of new tariff levels, Bloomberg says. Especially when the rest of the world has greater fondness for the WTO than the U.S. has right now. The rest of the world, meanwhile, is also likely to be happy to wait until after November’s U.S. presidential election to deal with a Biden presidency. None of that is especially good for the WTO, or a world economy that has seen global trade savaged by a pandemic, Bloomberg says. But the WTO is a sideshow right now. And, for the time being, inaction is easier than action. Which is an overarching truth in the administration’s trade wars. So, we will see. Certainly, the longer-term prospect for global trade is not exactly rosy even though the immediate battles could be damped down for a while. It is still true that export markets have much greater growth potential than domestic ones do for U.S. producers, and that while trade issues are always thorny, they continue to be valuable to producers and should continue to be cultivated wisely where that is possible, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


SBA Publishes Changes Making Some Rural Electric Co-Ops Eligible For PPP The Small Business Administration (SBA) Tuesday published in the Federal Register updates made to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to clarify that some rural electric cooperatives will be eligible to utilize the program. The PPP is intended to provide economic relief to small businesses nationwide adversely impacted by COVID-19, and the SBA published an interim final rule that “supplements the previously posted interim final rules by providing guidance on additional eligibility requirements for certain electric cooperatives, and requests public comment.” The measure covers applications submitted under PPP through June 30, 2020, or until funds for the program are exhausted.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


Some State Attorneys General Express Support For Waiving RFS Requirements Requests by some states for EPA to waive the biofuel requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this year “is clearly justified by law and circumstance,” according to a letter signed by seven state attorneys general to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Noting the regulatory relief being offered by the Trump administration in several areas, the officials argued that the biofuel sector is another where such an action is warranted. “Chemical refiners are crucial to advanced economies and provide economic support for both states and workers’ families alike,” the officials said. “These hard-working Americans are named ‘critical infrastructure workers’ by the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency, meaning they fill an economic need vital to economic and national security.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets A steady return of gasoline demand has been one of the few hopeful indicators for the economy lately. Wednesday's weekly energy inventory report from the U.S. Energy Department will update gasoline demand, ethanol production and ethanol inventory. The usual topics of weather, exports and livestock slaughter levels will also be watched. Weather Moderate to heavy rain is in store for the southeastern U.S. Wednesday, with flooding threats and some crop washing out. Some of this rain will also reach the Ohio Valley and continue a very wet event in the southeastern Midwest. We'll also see periods of rain in the interior Northwest with some flood threat as well. Other crop areas will be dry.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


Trump: COVID-19 aid signups begin May 26 President Trump touts farmer COVID-19 aid program during White House event Tuesday morning. During a White House event Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump was joined by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, daughter Ivanka Trump and farmers to discuss the latest efforts to offer a lifeline to farmers as well as families in need of food during the current coronavirus pandemic. Beginning May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. Trump said checks will be issued within a week of receiving applications. Farmers and ranchers will receive direct support, drawn from two possible funding sources. The first source of funding is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Stability (CARES) Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January 2020 and mid-April 2020 and provides support for specialty crops for product that had been shipped from the farm between the same time period but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels. The second funding source uses the Commodity Credit Corp. Charter Act to compensate producers for $6.5 billion in losses due to ongoing market disruptions. Livestock eligible for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) include cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs. The total payment will be calculated using the sum of the producer’s number of livestock sold between Jan. 15 and April 15, 2020, multiplied by the payment rates per head, and the highest inventory number of livestock between April 16 and May 14, 2020, multiplied by the payment rate per head. For dairy, the total payment will be calculated based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020, multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter. Eliminating live beef imports While speaking at the White House, Trump also made several statements about the need to terminate trade deals that allow imported cattle to come into the U.S. In the most recent trade data released by USDA on May 6, only Canada and Mexico exported live cattle to the U.S., with a total of 213, 279 total animals imported for March 2020, down slightly from 245,875 imported in March 2019. “There are some countries sending us cattle,” Trump said during his remarks. “I think we should look at terminating those trade deals. We’re very self-sufficient, and we should be more self-sufficient.” He recognized that it is a “relatively small number” of cattle coming in, but with the tremendous supplies from U.S. producers, Trump questioned why cattle are being brought in from other countries. He said if the countries have been great allies, then maybe the trade shouldn’t stop, but he added, “Sometimes, we needed the cattle, and sometimes we don’t.” Producer support The White House event also featured a handful of Virginia agricultural producers representing different segments of the agricultural supply chain and leaders of commodity groups. “This pandemic made us realize one thing: We live in a land of plenty,” American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said. He said the food chain is plentiful but also acknowledged that, as a nation, we have to be able to feed our own people and can’t afford to be fed by other countries. Duvall said without the government support, farmers wouldn’t be able to produce food. Scott Sink, a beef and vegetable producer from Virginia, said his business caters to the farm-to-table restaurant segment. He was able to benefit from the Payroll Protection Program and said now the direct aid for farmers offers a “bridge” to help his operation get into the new growing season. Robert Mills Jr., a first-generation diversified farmer from Virginia who grows tobacco, beef, poultry and industrialized hemp, said his farm is diversified because he always expects the unexpected, yet this pandemic could never be expected. The aid offers him a way to stay in business and noted that it is not a “rescue program” but a way to help farmers make good, wise financial decisions. Marty Smith, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., said the executive order executed by the President at the end of April to keep meat plants open is starting to have an impact by allowing packers to get back on line and fill grocery shelves again. “We work around the clock to feed the public. What we’ve done with the current program enables us to stay in business,” Smith said. In later comments, Trump noted that meat packing plants are “very clean” and that fewer problems are being seen. “If we didn’t act, we would have had a big problem,” Trump noted, adding that the Administration’s decision to act early was crucial.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


Senators Seek Meat Worker Protections From USDA Senate Democrats want Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to provide more worker safety protection to meat processing employees. A group of 29 Senators, led by Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, penned a letter to Perdue outlining recommendations for ways the Department of Agriculture should improve worker safety. The Senators wrote, “While we recognize the importance of keeping these plants running, it is wrong and shortsighted to use the Defense Production Act to mandate plants to stay open without effectively addressing worker safety issues.” The group says that while the Trump administration has applauded the reopening of several plants, USDA officials in congressional briefings could not confirm that the plants were operating in accordance with CDC and OSHA guidance. The Senators urged USDA to ensure that meatpacking plants take sufficient actions to protect worker safety before opening, including reconfiguring the plants to allow for social distancing, providing appropriate personal protective equipment, instituting ongoing testing, ensuring that infected employees are not coming to work, and making other necessary changes to keep workers safe. ************************************************************************************ Farm Assets Resisting Coronavirus Impact COVID-19 may be hurting many areas of the U.S. economy, but strong demand has continued for tractors, combines and other farm assets, according to a spring report from Steffes Group. During the first four months of 2020, the company conducted 170 auctions, all of which were successful. The company is conducting online auctions exclusively during the "shelter in place" period and has conducted online-only auctions for 11 years. Demand was strong for tractors, combines and sprayers throughout the period, regardless of the auction method. The company says well-maintained equipment with low hours commanded a strong premium. Even older machines did well in many cases, with sharp rises in tractors 15 years and older, showing great care. Land values have been strong, but with some weak spots. Premium land still commands premium prices, and land values continue to benefit from historically low interest rates. Steffes Group provides services throughout the upper Midwest, including Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Illinois and Nebraska. ************************************************************************************ NPPC Gains DOJ Approval For Industry Collaboration To Address COVID-19 Crisis On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division provided guidance for collaboration among U.S. hog farmers. The guidance will help farmers effectively address unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The favorable decision for NPPC is in response to a "business review" letter submitted to the DOJ by the organization. The review seek permission to allow hog farmers greater flexibility in working to maximize the number of hogs entering the food supply, minimize the tragic need to euthanize hogs, and, facilitate the safe and orderly euthanization of those hogs which are not able to enter the food supply. NPPC President Howard AV Roth, a farmer from Wisconsin, says, "Our goal is to efficiently process as many hogs as possible into the food supply." Roth says appropriate collaboration across the industry and with state and federal government officials will minimize the number of pigs that must be euthanized and ensure that the situation is handled humanely, and that disposal is environmentally sound. ************************************************************************************ ISITC Investigation Competition in Raspberry Industry The U.S. International Trade Commission is seeking input for a new general factfinding investigation on the U.S. raspberry industry in Washington state. The investigation announced last week will look into the conditions of competition between U.S. and foreign suppliers of raspberries meant for processing. The investigation was requested by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in a letter received on April 9, 2020. The investigation will provide an overview of the U.S. raspberry industry in Washington State, including fresh raspberries for processing, frozen raspberries, and raspberry juice, as well as an overview of the industries producing fresh and processed raspberries in major producing and exporting countries, among other findings. The Commission is seeking input for the investigation from all interested parties and will hold a public hearing in connection with the investigation in September. The U.S. International Trade Commission expects to transmit its report to the Lighthizer no later than June 9, 2021. ************************************************************************************ Research Shows More Children May Face Hunger Next Year The number of people in the U.S. who are food insecure will likely skyrocket over the next year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the University of Illinois and Feeding America. Soaring unemployment and poverty rates may lead to record numbers of food-insecure households. Almost 55 million Americans could lack access to adequate food. Households with children are even more likely to be food insecure, and one in four children could face hunger. The projections for the worst-case scenario would lead to a five percent increase in the child poverty rate, potentially bringing the proportion of children in food-insecure households to 24.5 percent. That means 18 million children would be food insecure, which exceeds the previously measured highest total of 17.2 million during the Great Recession in 2009. The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity report provides detailed documentation for projected food insecurity levels at the national, state and county level, and is available at feedingamerica.org. ************************************************************************************ Some States See Double-Digit Gains in Gas Prices For the second consecutive week, the national average price of gasoline has increased, rising 6.4 cents to $1.83 per gallon. The average price of diesel, meanwhile, fell 1.6 cents to $2.41 per gallon. Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy says the increase is attributed to a near five percent increase in gasoline demand. DeHaan says, "as long as states continue to loosen restrictions, it'll mean more motorists on the roads and filling their tank." Crude oil prices continue to march higher as demand for gasoline weighs on the market, with a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil fetching $24.99 Monday morning, up from $19.19 a week ago, an increase of over $5 per barrel. Brent crude oil was last at $31.11 per barrel, up from $26.01 a week ago. Oil's rally has come as OPEC and other oil-producing countries limit production and as U.S. gasoline demand has rallied as motorists in reopened states and others alike take to the road.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Continuing China Trade Fight Bloomberg reported recently that while President Donald Trump has been musing about another trade confrontation with China. Trump says he “is not actually looking to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping right now, although he had mused about “eliminating” the largest trading relationship in the world, with tensions high over the coronavirus outbreak, Bloomberg said. Asked in a recent TV interview about whether he had spoken to Xi recently, President Trump said that they have “a very good relationship” but “right now, I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want to speak to him.” Unprompted, he offered that “we could cut off the whole relationship. If we did, what would happen? You’d save $500 billion,” he said – a reference what Bloomberg called “inaccurate” concerning the volume of trade between the countries. President Trump has sought for some time to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic as public confidence in his handling of the U.S. outbreak had sunk, Bloomberg said. The president and some of his allies have discussed somehow punishing Beijing for the outbreak, though any economic measures risk harm to the U.S., which is now in recession. “Cheap labor turned out to be very expensive,” the president said of China. Trump also commented that he’s examining Chinese companies that trade on the NYSE and Nasdaq stock exchanges but which “don’t follow U.S. accounting rules. We are looking at that very strongly,” he said, but cautioned that it could backfire. “Let’s say we do that, right,” Trump said. “So, what are they going to do? They’re going to move their listing to London or someplace else.” Trump also rejected renegotiating the “Phase One” trade deal he signed with Beijing in January. “We’re not going to renegotiate,” he noted and said the virus “was never even a subject” when the deal was signed. The president’s re-election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has sought to turn the trade deal -- one of Trump’s signature first-term accomplishments -- into a liability by alleging the president had been focused on the agreement to the exclusion of the growing coronavirus outbreak. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late last week that continuing to develop ties was a core interest for both China and the U.S. “The stable development of relations between China and the United States is in the fundamental interests of the people of two countries and is also conducive to world peace and stability,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing. “At present, China and the United States should continue to strengthen anti-epidemic cooperation, overcome the epidemic as soon as possible, cure patients and resume production and life.” While Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural goods have recently picked up, the Global Times, a Communist Party publication, reported earlier this month that Beijing was weighing voiding or renegotiating the deal. The publication said that officials in the Chinese government were angered by U.S. criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The president also said last week that while he still suspects the outbreak may be connected to a virology lab in Wuhan, China, it “was unlikely the Chinese deliberately unleashed the pathogen. I think more likely it got out of control,” he said. However, the president agreed with a TV host that China is trying to steal intellectual property and beat the U.S. to a coronavirus vaccine. “We can stop them, they’re going to try doing it,” he said. “I mean, you can stop doing business with them, that’s one thing.” Trump also threatened to replace board members of the Thrift Savings Plan, a retirement plan for federal workers, if they don’t follow through with a plan to defer shifting some of its investments into the stocks of Chinese companies. The savings plan was scheduled to transfer roughly $50 billion of its international fund to mirror an MSCI All Country World Index, which captures emerging markets including China. The Board was under pressure from the Trump administration and some lawmakers in Congress to delay the move. The board said Wednesday it would delay the move “due to a meaningfully different economic environment related in large part to the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic” and the nomination of three new board members. “You know it’s run by the Obama appointments, right?” Trump said of the savings plan. “We’re going to find out whether or not they’re going to do it very soon, and if they’re not, we’re going to replace them very quickly.” So, we will see. Clearly, some members of the administration would like to ramp up the “get tough” policies toward China for a number of reasons?although the evidence linking any single nation to the COVID-19 outbreak has not attracted strong support from other trading partners. National policies regarding trade are continuing to be an extremely sensitive U.S. issue, debates that should be watched closely as they intensify, Washington insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


CFAP Rule Coming This Week The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review May 15 of the final rule from USDA for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The rule arrived at OMB May 5. The expectation is that it will be released Tuesday as USDA has set training for Farm Service Agency workers in three installments May 21-22. Key details will be the application process, payments and updated levels on payment limits. Meanwhile, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and NIH Director Francis Collins are among five new members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Vice President Mike Pence’s office said in statement. Peter Marks, FDA director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Thomas Engels, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, were also named to the panel. The task force is entering a new phase focused on “getting Americans back to work and allowing businesses to re-open,” the statement said.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


DOJ Approves NPPC Plan on Euthanizing Hogs The Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved a pork industry plan for producers to coordinate with each other and agriculture officials to euthanize hogs because of the shutdown of meatpacking plants. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) wants to help farmers and state officials source equipment for culling hog herds and set up “centralized euthanasia and disposal stations.” The process includes sharing projections for the number of hogs that facilities can handle per day, the trade group said. Producers “may work at the direction of the USDA and state agriculture agencies to achieve humane and efficient euthanization of hogs that have grown too large to be processed and are thus unmarketable,” DOJ said in a statement. “The NPPC may also share general information with its members about best practices for depopulating unmarketable hogs.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets A report on April housing starts at 7:30 am CDT is the only official report on Tuesday's docket. Traders will pay attention to the usual interests of weather and export news and continue to monitor coronavirus news as the country starts to get more active again. Weather Moderate to heavy rain is in store for the southeastern Midwest Tuesday with planting disruption and flood threats. The Ohio Valley is the focal point of this rain area. We'll also see light rain in the Northwest and dry conditions elsewhere. A wet pattern is indicated over most of the central U.S. in the next two weeks.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


The U.S., China Relationship Deteriorating Soon After Phase One Trade Deal Analysts already expect China to be unable to meet its obligations under the Phase One trade deal it signed with the U.S. this year. Now, the relationship between the two largest economies in the world appears to be in trouble. President Donald Trump seemed to add fuel to the fire when he told the Fox Business Network that he has no interest in speaking to Chinese President Xi (Zhee) Jinping right now. He even went as far as admitting the possibility of cutting ties with the Asian nation. Reuters says the U.S. president is very disappointed with China’s failure to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, noting that the pandemic cast a pall over his Phase One deal with China, which was previously hailed as a major achievement. “They should never have let this happen,” Trump says. “So, I make a great trade deal and now I say this doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry, and the plague came over. And it doesn’t feel the same to me.” Trump’s irritation extended to the Chinese president, who Trump one said he had a good relationship with. “Right now, I don’t want to speak to him,” Trump told Fox. “There are many things we could do. We could even cut off the whole relationship.” ********************************************************************************************** China Now Open to U.S. Blueberries, Barley Imports China said late last week it would immediately allow imports of barley and fresh blueberries from the United States. That move came just days after announcing plans to impose tariffs on barley imports from Australia, as well as blocking Australian beef imports. The South China Morning Post says opening up to more U.S. agricultural imports is a step towards meeting the nation’s Phase One trade deal commitments. “The U.S. barley import decision is mainly due to the trade deal,” says Rosa Wang, an analyst with JCI China, an agricultural data provider. “To meet the targets, it is necessary for U.S. farm products to enter China.” Wang says it indicates China is making an effort, but also says the Australian side of things is a “separate matter.” Trade data shows that China is a long way from fulfilling its obligations. However, the Asian nation has been busy ramping up its purchases of U.S. pork. Early last week, China also exempted a total of 79 American products from tariffs. The new list of exemptions was made public just one day after China suspended imports from four Australian beef processing plants due to labeling and health concerns. ********************************************************************************************** Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program Applications Open The USDA launched an online portal to start accepting applications for the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program grants. The agency plans to make up to $100 million available in competitive grants for activities that will help expand the sale and availability of ethanol and biodiesel fuels. “As the coronavirus response continues, America’s energy independence has proven to be critical to our economic security now more than ever,” says USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky. “We know the positive impacts that affordable, abundant, and clean-burning fuel provide to our country’s farmers and consumers. The Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program will help rural communities build stronger economies and will give consumers more choices when they fill up at the pump.” USDA will make the funds directly available to help transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities convert to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs related to the installation of fuel pumps, related equipment, and infrastructure. Online grants must be submitted by August 13. ********************************************************************************************** R-CALF Asks Perdue to Open CRP Land to Emergency Grazing R-CALF USA is asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to consider opening up the 24 million acres of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency grazing. The group says it would help to alleviate the backlog in the live cattle supply chain caused by COVID-19, which has reduced overall slaughter capacity. “The fed cattle backup requires the entire upstream live cattle supply chain to hold lighter-weight cattle out of the feedlot sector of the supply chain until the current backlog of cattle can be processed,” says R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard in the Hagstrom Report. “To hold these lighter-weight cattle back, more grazing land than normal is needed to maintain their health and measured growth.” He points out that some areas in rural America are experiencing drought conditions, which means the industry is faced with a greater need for more grazing land than normal. “At the same time, some grazing lands are producing less forage than normal because of the drought,” Bullard adds. “An immediate solution to this challenge is to open CRP lands to emergency grazing and making accommodations so non-CRP landowners can rent CRP land from others for a reasonable fee.” ********************************************************************************************** More Ag Groups Respond Positively to SECURE Rule on Plant Breeding Last week, USDA announced a final rule that updated and modernized the agency’s biotechnology regulations under the Plant Protection Act. The final rule is called The Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient Rule, which USDA says will bring its plant biotechnology regulations into the 21st Century. The American Farm Bureau says the revision will encourage innovation of new plant breeding techniques while safeguarding our food supply. “We appreciate the USDA and Secretary Perdue for their common-sense approach to encouraging innovation,” says AFB President Zippy Duvall. “At a time when agriculture is facing many economic headwinds, the science-based rule provides the opportunity to solve current and future challenges for agricultural production and food security.” The American Soybean Association is another group pleased with the changes. “We’re happy that the new rule streamlines the regulatory process for low-risk crops to come to market,” says ASA Regulatory Committee Chair Caleb Ragland. “By establishing a common-sense regulatory process to ensure new biotech plant varieties are reviewed quickly with predictable timelines and allowed to go to market if they pose no threat, soybean growers will remain efficient and competitive through this continued access to innovation.” ********************************************************************************************** Growth Energy Asks COVID-19 Panel to Examine Benefits of Biofuels Growth Energy sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board asking a new COVID-19 review panel to look into the impacts of gasoline on air quality. They want the panel to examine the impact of toxic gasoline additives on respiratory health, as well as the potential benefits offered by bio-based alternatives like ethanol. “As you explore the human costs of air pollution, including the heightened risk from COVID-19 among vulnerable parts of the population, we are asking you to examine the wide body of related research pointing to readily available solutions,” says Chris Bliley, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Growth Energy. “Federal regulators have long acknowledged that biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent more, but ethanol also serves as the single most affordable and abundant alternative to toxic fuel additives.” The letter points out that the petroleum-based aromatics play a dominant role in the formation of toxic emissions linked to cancer, as well as neurological, cardiovascular, and reproductive damage in humans. “Now more than ever, it’s critical that the EPA explore the full impact of petroleum-based aromatics on air quality,” Bliley adds.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Coronavirus Stimulus Fight Politics has become increasingly difficult and opaque these days as the House completed work on a new $3 trillion economic stimulus bill that Republicans and President Donald Trump say has little chance of passage without major changes, Bloomberg says. The measure would give cash-strapped states and local governments more than $1 trillion while providing most Americans with a new round of $1,200 checks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says it should be the basis of talks with the GOP-controlled Senate and White House, in spite of GOP concerns. The measure was praised by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat whose state has been hammered by coronavirus-related expenses and plunging revenues. Cuomo also criticized what he called a rising tendency to look at the COVID-19 death toll by political affiliation, since the hardest-hit states are led by Democrats. “Shame on you,” he said. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also urged action in the Senate, citing a “bipartisan chorus” that wants to help struggling states. The funding contained in Pelosi’s bill is “absolutely necessary,” he said. Trump and Republican congressional leaders have acknowledged, however, that some sort of further economic stimulus will likely be necessary as the economy continues to shed jobs. The number of people filing for unemployment benefits since March now exceeds 36 million. “Phase four is going to happen but it’s going to happen in a much better way for the American people,” the president told reporters Friday. Amid the House effort to pass another stimulus bill, The Hill reported that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell shook markets and alarmed lawmakers this week with yet another dire warning: The U.S. could suffer through years of sluggish growth and meager job gains well after the pandemic passes without further economic stimulus, he said. In a speech Tuesday, Powell urged lawmakers to set aside concerns about the mounting national debt and provide the fiscal support necessary to keep the economy from spiraling deeper into the worst downturn since the Great Recession. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery. This trade-off is one for our elected representatives, who wield powers of taxation and spending,” Powell said. His comments were in spite of those by White House officials and other GOP leaders who declared a “formal pause” on negotiations even as the unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% and the U.S. lost 20.5 million jobs in April. Powell’s current call for aggressive fiscal action was not his first since the coronavirus pandemic “forced thousands of businesses to close and millions of Americans to lose their jobs.” He urged lawmakers in a speech on April 29 to unleash the “great fiscal power” of the U.S. to defeat COVID-19 and has warned throughout the crisis the Fed’s unprecedented response alone would not save the economy. Powell is also only one of the latest in a line of Fed chiefs -- including his past two predecessors, Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke -- to nudge Congress toward spending more than it might be comfortable spending. In the current outbreak, Powell was among the first federal officials to express concerns over its potential threats as President Trump and his top aides initially appeared to brush off the rising danger, The Hill said. The Fed’s swift response helped stabilize financial markets as the U.S. lockdown began and earned Powell near unanimous praise. Even the president, who once “floated” firing him, has more recently called him his “Most Improved Player” despite his fierce defense of the Fed’s political independence. "He has done a very good job over the last couple of months, I have to tell you that," Trump told reporters during a meeting this week. Powell’s most immediate challenge now is to convince fellow Republicans to overlook their ideological opposition to deficits and steer the country through the current worsening crisis, The Hill says. The Hill notes that Powell had caught the attention of the Obama White House in 2011 when he implored Republicans to raise the federal debt limit when he was a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. President Obama then nominated him to the Fed alongside a stalled Democratic nominee, former Fed Governor Jeremy Stein. The Senate confirmed both in May 2012. Once again, Powell is imploring Republicans to loosen the federal pursestrings for now and tackle the long-term challenge of the $24 trillion debt “amid a partisan showdown.” Democrats have seized on Powell’s recent comments to boost pressure on Republicans to approve more spending. He argued that this week that the costliest choice the Congress faces is inaction, The Hill said. So, we will see. There appears to be widespread belief now that governments who did not provide significant relief in the recent recession had much worse outcomes than those that did, although a number of politicians are arguing for a somewhat more cautious approach in the future, This is a debate that Powell appears to be well positioned to influence and which should be followed closely as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


WTO Chief Announces Early Exit WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo announced Thursday he will seek to exit his role leading the world trade body August 31 and called for action to replace him. His departure is a year ahead of the scheduled end of his term leading the WTO. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. would participate in the process of finding a successor. “Despite the many shortcomings of the WTO, Roberto has led the institution with grace and a steady hand,” Lighthizer said in a statement. “In the coming months, the United States looks forward to participating in the process of selecting a new Director General." The trade body and its predecessor the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) have not been led by someone from the U.S., Africa or the Middle East, while five of the nine leaders of the trade bodies have been European.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


USDA CFAP Webinar Reveals Few Details on Program USDA’s webinar to provide information about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), as expected, provided little detailed information on how the program will function, including the key issue of payment limits. Instead, the 15-minute session focused on the number of forms that will need to be completed by producers to participate. Officials took few questions during the session and did not provide details when asked about specific commodities and livestock eligible for CFAP payments. Ahead of the webinar, it was clear USDA was likely focusing the session on those producers who currently do not participate in U.S. farm programs, like specialty crop producers. USDA expects the final rule for the program to be out soon – it currently has training for FSA staff May 21 and 22.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Monday's schedule will look familiar: Weekly grain inspections at 10 a.m. and USDA's Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. CDT. There are no other official reports on the docket, but the latest weather forecasts will be watched along with any news about trade, meat processing plants or coronavirus. Weather Moderate to heavy rain will continue working across the eastern Midwest Monday. Flooding is likely, following on flooding weekend rains in the region. We'll also see light rain in the Southeast and in the Northwest. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal with a hot trend in dry areas of the southwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


Kansas City Fed says Ag Income Drops, Credit Conditions Deteriorate Agricultural credit conditions in the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s Tenth District deteriorated at a slightly faster pace as the COVID-19 outbreak ramped up in the first quarter of this year. The Fed’s survey of ag lenders during the first quarter of 2020 showed a larger decline in farm income and loan repayment rates than in recent quarters. Looking to the future, bankers say they are more pessimistic in terms of expectations. Further disruptions at meatpacking and food processing facilities, as well as a substantial slowdown in ethanol production, put heavy downward pressure on cattle and corn prices. As of early May, cash prices for both commodities had declined more than 20 percent since January. That’s done nothing but add pressure to already stressed farm finances in seven states of the Kansas City Fed’s district. While farm income in the district weakened alongside a steep drop in agricultural commodity prices, spending by farm borrowers also weakened slightly, but less abruptly than farm income. After showing some signs of stabilizing in previous surveys, credit conditions deteriorated quicker in the first quarter of this year. Similar to farm income, farm loan repayment rates also declined at a faster rate than in recent quarters. Almost 40 percent of banks in the district reported a decline in repayment rates compared to previous surveys. ********************************************************************************************** Transportation Department Published Final Hours of Service Rule The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published its final rule updating the “Hours of Service” rules designed to increase safety on America’s roads. The department updated multiple existing regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers. “America’s truckers are doing a heroic job of keeping our supply chains open during this unprecedented time,” says Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (Chow). “These rules will help give them greater flexibility to keep America moving.” The FMCSA says the changes were made based on thousands of comments they received from Americans across the country. There are four key changes to the existing hours of service rules, all of which do not increase driving time and will continue to prevent operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute break. The agency says the trucking industry is a “key component” of the national economy, employing more than seven million people and moving 70 percent of the nation’s domestic freight. The new hours of service rule will be implemented 120 days after publication in the federal register. ********************************************************************************************** NCBA Opposed Livestock Marketing Bill The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association came out in opposition to a bill that would require a minimum of 50 percent of a meat packer’s beef volume for slaughter be bought on the cash market. The Hagstrom Report says the bill was introduced in the Senate by Iowa’s Chuck Grassley and Jon Tester of Montana. NCBA’s Policy Division Chair Todd Wilkinson says, “Currently, cattle producers use a multitude of methods to market their livestock, including the cash market. Increased price discovery will benefit all segments of the cattle industry, which is why NCBA has been working closely with key stakeholders, industry experts, and other partners to develop measurable means to meet that end.” He says any solution shouldn’t restrict an individual producer’s freedom to pursue marketing avenues that they determine will best meet their operation’s unique needs. “The bill being proposed by Senator Grassley would arbitrarily force many cattle producers to change the way they do business,” Wilkinson adds. “We’ll be working toward a more equitable solution.” While NCBA is opposed to the bill, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and R-CALF USA have endorsed the legislation. ********************************************************************************************** Ethanol Production Shows Slight Rebound, Tighter Stocks The Renewable Fuels Association took a look at numbers from the Energy Information Administration and found ethanol production rose during the week ending May 8. Production grew 3.2 percent, or about 19,000 barrels per day, to 25.91 million gallons daily. That’s the highest production level the industry has reached in the last five weeks. Still, production does remain well below normal, down just over 41 percent from the same week last year. Ethanol stocks tightened by 5.6 percent to 24.2 million barrels, While the inventory level is high, that’s the lowest level of ethanol stocks since March 20. Every major ethanol-producing region saw its ethanol inventories decrease, except for the Rocky Mountains, where stocks went slightly higher. However, the number of total reserves is up just over eight percent higher than the same time in 2019. The volume of gasoline supplied to the U.S. market is an implied measure of ethanol demand, jumping 11 percent higher to just under 7.4 million gallons. While that is positive news, the demand number is still 19 percent lower than last year. Refiner/blender net inputs were up 11 percent higher, but still 30 percent below last year’s levels. ********************************************************************************************** Sorghum Producers Back USDA Interim Rule on Biotechnology The USDA announced its final rule on plant biotechnology regulations, which will revise decades-old regulations surrounding the development of certain genetically engineered organisms. National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust says they’re pleased USDA has “moved forward” with the rulemaking process and is following earlier guidelines to include new plant breeding technologies like gene editing and technologies like CRISPR (Crisper). “Plant breeding innovations are vital to sorghum producers and will play a fundamental role in our ability to produce more with fewer inputs and to compete in the global marketplace,” says Lust. “By utilizing new techniques, products can be developed more efficiently, saving valuable time and resources.” He says USDA’s approach is commensurate with the broadly-acknowledged low-risk and substantial benefits associated with these breeding innovations. The organization is hopeful that the Environmental Protection Agency will follow the lead of USDA so the improvements in pest and disease resistance can also be achieved through these techniques without any expansion of unnecessary regulatory burdens.” ********************************************************************************************** Trump Acknowledges Challenges with China Trade Deal U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to admit there were likely challenges ahead for his trade deal with China. He says the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic will far outweigh any positive effect the agreement may provide to the U.S. Politico says many analysts don’t expect China to meet the purchase target of $77 billion more in U.S. goods and services this year, compared to the 2017 baseline levels. “As I’ve said for a long time, dealing with China is a very expensive thing to do,” the president wrote on Twitter. “We had just made a great trade deal, the ink was barely dry, and the world was hit by a plague from China. 100 trade deals wouldn’t make up the difference – and all those innocent lives lost.” Still, there’s no early indicator that the president intends to pull out of the U.S.-China deal that was signed on January 15 or punish the Asian nation for falling short on implementation, such as imposing more tariffs on Chinese imports into the U.S.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Modest Anti-Hunger Steps The Trump administration has come in for some strong criticism recently for its “modest” feeding programs as hunger “spreads across a locked-down nation,” the New York Times is reporting, It says that the administration “has balked at the simplest ways to feed the hardest hit.” For example, it says USDA is focusing on giving states more flexibility to feed their citizens through regulatory waivers, many of which expire at the end of the month. And, it cites the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution that says that “since the beginning of the pandemic, rates of household food insecurity have doubled and the rates of childhood food insecurity have quadrupled.” USDA notes that it has given states more administrative power over the agency’s 15 nutrition assistance programs, which cover children, women and infants, and adults. It also says it plans to send more than 5 million food boxes a week to children living in rural areas. However, “the waivers, especially, are modest” the Times says. One allows school meals to be served outside of crowded settings; another allows meals to be distributed without some education activity. The department has allowed 24 states to receive additional assistance through an electronic transfer of benefits that accounts for the value of free and reduced-price meals that their children no longer receive because of school closures. And families in 23 states can use benefits from the supplemental nutrition assistance program to purchase groceries online. Other waivers have allowed states to issue emergency allotments that increase SNAP benefits to the monthly maximum for all beneficiaries. That has expanded food assistance for some working poor families but did not help the poorest, who already get the maximum benefit. The department also says it will send $16 billion to farmers and will purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat for food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofit organizations. At the same time, USDA attracted attention of critics by filing a notice that it would appeal a court ruling that blocked stricter work requirements for food stamps that were to take effect in April, stripping nearly 700,000 people from the food stamp rolls. Opponents of the rule were incredulous, the Times said. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has asked state officials in Louisiana and Alabama, where school meal sites have shut down, to look at whether those closures have a disproportionate impact on low-income and African-American students and schools that continue to operate their meals programs are struggling to feed adults, NYT says. Under current rules, the federal government does not reimburse meals served to adults unless they are disabled and receiving care from the school. In April, the California Department of Education asked USDA to waive that rule, but the administration said it lacked the authority to do so. As poverty rises, states are facing a crush of applicants for SNAP. Congress and a federal court have waived most SNAP work requirements during the emergency. Still, higher education students, sent home by their colleges and universities, still must find jobs to qualify for SNAP. In addition, many adults are turning to food banks, NYT says. Congress has provided additional funding for them through the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which many food banks rely on. However, this program has yet to receive the additional funds and officials worry that they will not be able to store perishable goods from the new program of prepackaged food boxes. USDA has obligated just $99 million of the $850 million that Congress appropriated for the Emergency Food Program, Senators Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, said. FEMA, the agency tasked with supplying emergency meal kits or funding food distribution programs after disasters, has also forecast food shortages. In April, the agency outlined how it would support meal distribution through its public assistance program, which covers 75% of the costs. Peter Gaynor, the administrator of FEMA, said this month that states were already asking the for assistance. “It’s not widespread but we see pockets of it,” he said. The federal funding for food distribution is “a tool that is made available to everyone, everyone that’s in a disaster.” Earlier this month, FEMA announced $200 million in supplemental funding from the coronavirus stabilization law for grants through its Emergency Food and Shelter Program. It said a total of $320 million will be distributed beginning in early June to help address hunger and homelessness. Democrats want FEMA to increase its share of the cost and Senators Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., pointed out that just $5.8 billion of the $79 billion available in the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund has been obligated. So, we will see. The administration is deeply stressed over its enormous anti-coronavirus efforts and the stresses on efforts to deal with increasing hunger certainly will continue to attract attention along with charges of inequitable support. These are debates producers should watch closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


Packers Get Room to Hire Workers in US On H-2B Visas The Trump administration is implementing temporary change to rules on H-2B guest workers to allow for those non-agricultural workers to be hired for positions in the U.S. food supply chain like meat packing plants as those businesses deal with absenteeism and workers quarantined because of COVID-19 exposure. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published a temporary final rule in the Federal Register that is good through May 15, 2023, to allow those in the U.S. food supply chain to hire current H-2B employees whose work contracts or three-year visas are expiring. The companies also would be able to hire other H-2B workers with expiring visas who otherwise would have to return to their home countries. Employers and workers have until September 11, 2020, to enter into new work contracts.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


China Shift on US Barley Imports Another Component Of Phase One Agreement China’s customs agency has posted a notice on its site that U.S. barley and blueberries will be allowed into China. The agency said on its website that effective today (May 14), imports that meet relevant requirements will be allowed into the country. The shift is confirmation that provisions of the Phase One agreement between the two sides continue to be implemented. The deal called on the U.S. and the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) to make several changes on phytosanitary protocols, including signing and implementing such a protocol to allow the importation of U.S. barley and blueberries into China within three months of the agreement entering into force.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Trader interest in the latest weather forecasts, trade news and coronavirus news has not wavered. A report on April retail sales will be released at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by April industrial production at 8:15 a.m. An index of consumer sentiment is out at 9 a.m., followed by NOPA's estimate of April's soybean crush later Friday morning. Weather Showers and thunderstorms are in store from the southeastern Plains through the eastern Midwest Friday. The storms will produce moderate to heavy rain. Severe intensity with hail, strong winds and possible tornado development is also possible. Meanwhile, light rain will cross the northwestern Plains, with light rain also noted for the Delta and Deep South. Other crop areas will be dry.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


House Democrats Heroes Act Includes Agriculture Provisions The next round of coronavirus relief introduced by House Democrats would increase direct payments to farmers by $16 billion. The funds are expected to supplement the already planned $16 billion in payments. While the legislation focuses on replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program and providing an additional round of direct payments to Americans, the bill includes multiple benefits for agriculture. The Democrats plan would increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits 15 percent, and provide additional donation and feeding programs of commodities, including dairy. The bill also includes a proposed 45 cents-per-gallon payment of biofuel produced this year through May first, as biofuel plants are shuttering amid a demand drop. Additional details in the legislation include $10 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, another $75 billion for coronavirus testing, a $200 billion fund for essential workers, and $1 trillion for state and local governments who need funds to pay vital workers. The House is expected to vote on the package Friday. ************************************************************************************ House Bill Would Offer Tax Relief to Food Supply Chain Workers This week, House lawmakers introduced the Assistance and Gratitude for Coronavirus Heroes in Agribusiness who are Invaluable to the Nation or the AG CHAIN Act. The bill would provide a federal tax holiday and a payroll tax exemption for all essential employees in the food and agriculture industry defined by recent Department of Homeland Security guidance. The legislation is an extension of the previously introduced GROCER Act that would establish a federal tax holiday for grocery and convenience store employees. The provisions would take place from February 15, 2020, through June 15, 2020, for individuals making less than $75,000 annually. The bill would also provide discretion to the Treasury to extend this benefit for an additional three months. Pennsylvania Representatives, Republican Glenn GT Thompson and Democrat Dwight Evans, introduced the bill Tuesday. The National Grocers Association applauded the legislation in a statement, adding the bill “honors supermarket superheroes and will help boost the income of workers that show up for work every day.” ************************************************************************************ Grassley, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Transparency in Cattle Pricing A group of Senators this week introduced a bipartisan bill to increase transparency in cattle pricing. Led by Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the legislation seeks to foster efficient markets while increasing competition and transparency among meatpackers who purchase livestock directly from independent producers. The bill will require that a minimum of 50 percent of a meat packer's weekly volume of beef slaughter be purchased on the open or spot market. Grassley first introduced the bill in 2002. After discovering a discrepancy between high grocery store shelf prices and simultaneous decreased cattle prices, Grassley re-introduced the legislation. The Senator says the bill will make systemic changes to the cattle industry to ensure longevity of independent producers, which will protect the U.S. beef supply. Joining Grassley on the bill are Senate Republican Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and Steve Daines of Montana, Along with Democrats Jon Tester of Montana, and Tina Smith of Minnesota. ************************************************************************************ Group Seeks Priority COVID-19 Testing for Food and Ag Workers The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance wants the White House to prioritize COVID-19 testing for food and agriculture workers. The group sent the request in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week. The organization urges that food and agriculture workers, as part of an essential industry, be heightened in priority for expedited testing, personal protective equipment, and any other forthcoming treatment related to COVID-19. Members of the Alliance include Danone North America, Mars, Incorporated, Nestlé USA, and Unilever. The letter states that maintaining a strong and stable food supply chain depends on keeping food and agriculture workers, from farmers and ranchers to truckers to grocery store employees to food company employees, safe and healthy. The companies also highlighted the need for the federal government to work with states and local officials to ensure increased testing capacity for COVID-19 for agriculture and food supply chain workers. ************************************************************************************ USDA Hosting Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Webinar A webinar Thursday offers farmers information on direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Planned for 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department of Agriculture says the webinar is an opportunity for producers to learn about the general application process and required documentation prior to the official beginning of signup. Producers must register for the webinar at zoomgov.com. USDA is hosting the webinar to share what information is needed to apply for direct payments through CFAP, once the application period begins. More details about the direct payments will be announced soon. As part of President Trump and Secretary Perdue’s April 17 announcement of a $19 billion Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, USDA will provide $16 billion in direct support based on losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted. Also, USDA will assist eligible producers facing additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19. A recording of the webinar will be posted at farmers.gov/CFAP. ************************************************************************************ AEM Releases April 2020 Ag Equipment Sales Numbers Unit sales of agricultural tractors and combines in April 2020 rose in the U.S., according to the latest data from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. The April increase puts total unit sales year-to-date roughly flat with 2019. Curt Blades, senior vice president of Ag Services for AEM, says, “The COVID-19 crisis is certainly causing some uncertainty in farm income and ag equipment purchases for the balance of the year.” U.S. total farm tractor sales rose 12.3 percent in April compared to 2019 while U.S. April combine sales inched up 4.1 percent. Year-to-date sales of all farm tractor units are down 0.6 percent for 2020, and combine sales are down 10.1 percent in the same period. For Canada, April tractor sales fell across all segments except mid-range units, leading to an overall decline of tractor sales of 5.7 percent, with combine sales following along losing 29.9 percent. That puts overall farm tractors down 13.1 percent for 2020 year-to-date and combines down 34.6 percent in Canada.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Farmers and Climate Change Roll Call is reporting this week that farmers may be warming up toward an issue they have long avoided: climate change. The report harks back to a recent press conference where a farm coalition now said it wants to join the fight against climate change rather than remain cast as villains “avoiding responsibility.” Roll Call said the new position was a “sharp departure for an industry that less than a year earlier looked more like a victim” with nearly 20 million acres “so saturated and flooded that many farmers couldn’t get into their fields.” However, Roll Call now says producers are increasingly acknowledging that they “need to change their practices” and note the impacts of their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to a warming planet. These conditions contribute to flooded fields, persistent droughts or ravaging wildfires “partly fueled by trees killed by insects that increasingly survive mild winters.” As a result, environmentally minded farmers are changing the way they operate, including greater use of cover crops. And they are shifting to no-till practices which also protect the soil. Healthier soil can serve as a “carbon sink,” that absorbs more carbon than it emits. These producers are largely self-motivated, Roll Call says, in part based on recognition that the sector could face yield declines in major crops as temperatures increase and water becomes scarcer. “If you ask any farmer if they’ve experienced a difference between when they first started farming and today, almost everybody can recognize some dramatic differences in weather patterns,” says Josh Yoder, an Ohio corn and soybean farmer. The EPA’s 2018 greenhouse gas inventory says the U.S. agriculture sector accounted for nearly 10% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, up from 9% in 2017. Overall greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. rose by 2.9% during the year. Zippy Duvall, the American Farm Bureau president who raises cattle and crops in Georgia, told the press conference that climate issues are a growing priority for the country and for Congress and “his industry should be at the table.” This pressure isn’t just coming from the environmental movement, Roll Call said. “Big customers are responding to investors and consumers by pressing suppliers to reduce emissions.” The agriculture groups’ turnaround can be traced in part to recent congressional resolutions that cast farmers as part of the problem. The group noted that some “conventional agriculture groups want to get ahead of this,” and cited Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who is an organic farmer. “They don’t want to be seen as the evil wrongdoers.” But Pingree also faults progressives for often ignoring the complexities of agriculture and climate. “Too much of the conversation around climate change in agriculture is just plant a tree and don’t eat meat and close the door. That’s such a simplistic understanding of what is going on.” The conservation group’s ag goals are difficult hurdles because “most of the harmful agricultural practices are still commonplace,” Roll Call says. Of the U.S. total of nearly 800 million acres used for crop production or grazing in 2017, only 15.3 million were planted to climate-friendly cover crops. No-till or reduced tillage were used on about 200 million acres. Still, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in February he wanted to cut agriculture’s carbon footprint in half by 2050 “without regulatory overreach.” Pingree says she sees reason for hope in Perdue’s announcement and wants to build on it with legislation she introduced. “I would say that I’ve seen a sea change in conventional agriculture and agriculture thinking,” Pingree says. “That doesn’t mean we’re at the point where everyone has signed up for every conservation program.” Jennifer Moore-Kucera, climate initiative director at American Farmland Trust, says there is growing awareness among farmers of the benefits of conservation practices that also serve as tools for sequestering carbon and reducing the production of nitrous oxide. Ultimately, Moore-Kucera told lawmakers, agricultural land is a resource that should also be shielded from urban sprawl. Agriculture still has a long way to go before it can become a climate hero, Roll Call thinks. While the majority of scientists agree on climate change and the forces driving it, researchers continue to evaluate the best tools to curb emissions. At the Environmental Defense Fund, special project director Callie Eideberg says the organization believes the best way to involve farmers is to talk about climate change in business terms. It sees large-scale agriculture as an effective platform to tackling greenhouse gas emissions. “We know as a society we need to get to net-zero carbon emission by 2050,” Eideberg says. “The way the climate is changing now, we’re not going to do that unless we find ways to be resilient, which is “a lot about adaptation as well as sustainability.” She thinks many thigs are pointing in the right direction. We just have to make sure the momentum increases,” she adds. So, we will see. The changes in tillage practices have been significant, and appear to be continuingâ??but achieving ag’s new conservation objectives likely will take support from government programs, which may be difficult to achieve, given the enormous competing needs for resources, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


Dairy Producers In US, Other Countries Warn Against EU Dairy Stockpiling Effort The coming start of government-financed intervention purchases of skim milk powder (SMP) and butter in the European Union (EU) is prompting concern among U.S. and other dairy producing countries. A coalition of dairy organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay and the United States issued a joint statement calling on the EU to not take action similar to what it previously when its 2016-17 intervention efforts resulted in it accumulating an equivalent of 16% of the global SMP market in government storage. The release of those stocks over the next two had “unfairly” undercut international prices. “The EU intervention program would artificially distort prices for an extended period and displace commercial competition just as the world begins to recover from the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the groups said, noting the export of government purchased SMP and butter had taken place at below-market rates. Instead, the groups called on the EU to take steps that spur consumption within the EU “and encourage its producers to implement appropriate production practices to survive at this difficult time.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


USDA Hosting Webinar on Applying For CFAP Direct Payments USDA has set a webinar today (May 14) for “farmers, ranchers and other producers interested in applying for direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).” The session is to address the general application process and required documents participants will need to complete. “Producers who are new to participating in FSA programs are especially encouraged to join the webinar,” the agency said. More details will be announced “soon,” USDA said. USDA has also launched a CFAP site, noting under the section on direct support to farmers and ranchers that they program is available to farmers “regardless of size and market outlet, if they suffered an eligible loss.” While USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has signaled that the payment limits will be lifted from those he initially said would be in the package of $125,000 per commodity and a total limit of $250,000 per producer or entity, the website notes “demand is significant and these payments will only cover a portion of the impacts on farmers and ranchers.” USDA also lists the various forms that program participants will need to have to participate, noting that existing customers with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will have this information “likely on file at your local service center.” Meanwhile, FSA is advising state and county offices that national training on CFAP is planned for May 21. That suggests that a late-May signup period appears most likely at this stage with funds flowing to producers in early June.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets As usual, 7:30 a.m. CDT is a busy time Thursday with weekly grain export sales, U.S. jobless claims and a new U.S. Drought Monitor all out at the same time. The U.S. Energy Department releases natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. CDT. The latest weather forecasts, trade news, and coronavirus updates continue to be topics of high interest. Weather Showers with light to moderate rain are in store for the western and central Midwest Thursday. Also see light rain in the Northwest. A notable warming trend will be noted going into the end of the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


Chinese Questions on Phase One Trade Deal Global Times, a Chinese state-owned media company, cites sources “close to the Chinese government” who say that China may want to redo the Phase One Trade Deal with the U.S. Politico says government advisers reportedly have said China should void the deal and renegotiate the four-month-old agreement with the U.S. so it’s more favorable for Beijing. “In fact, it’s in China’s interests to terminate the current phase one deal,” says an unnamed trade adviser quoted in the Times. “The U.S. now cannot afford to restart the trade war with China if everything goes back to square one.” However, U.S. President Donald Trump was asked about the report on Monday, saying that he wasn’t interested in renegotiating the trade deal, “not even a little.” The president said he’d heard those same reports that China would like to reopen trade talks with the U.S. and make it a better deal for them. “I’m not interested in that,” Trump says. “Let’s see if they live up to the deal they’ve signed.” Trade tensions have been climbing between the two nations as the Trump Administration accused Beijing of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and failing to contain the virus. ********************************************************************************************** European Union Wants to Restart Trade Talks with the U.S. The European Union is looking to revive trade negotiations with the U.S. to help bring the trade disputes between the two sides to an end. The EU is proposing a joint agenda that covers everything from aircraft subsidies and lobster tariffs to shared reserves of medical supplies. EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that there is scope to reach an agreement. Before COVID-19, Hogan was optimistic a mini-deal could be reached with Washington that would address President Trump’s complaints about EU trade barriers facing U.S. exports, especially agricultural exports to the EU. Some of the ideas Brussels has looked at include reducing tariffs on car imports as well as both sides expediting their sluggish regulatory approval processes for meats and fruits. One of the biggest barriers to potentially seeing more U.S. agricultural exports to the EU is a ten-year battle over aircraft subsidies between the U.S. and EU. Financial Times says Hogan wrote a letter to Lighthizer saying it was “becoming impossible to explain why the U.S. and EU continue to be locked in a self-defeating cycle of tariffs and mutual recriminations over aircraft subsidies.” ********************************************************************************************** Biofuel Groups Ask Pelosi, McConnell for Ethanol Relief Biofuel and farm groups sent a letter this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking for ethanol and biodiesel help. The Hagstrom Report says they’re asking that financial relief for biofuels be included in the next coronavirus relief package. The letter was signed by many prominent groups, including the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board, and many others. “The situation we face is dire,” the groups say in the letter. “More than 130 biofuel plants have already partially or fully shut down as motor fuel demand plunged to 50-year lows. America’s biofuel plants annually purchase more than one-third of U.S. corn and U.S. soybean oil. The loss of those markets has depressed farm income and will continue to push corn and soybean prices down dramatically.” The groups point out that the economic damage has “rippled across the entire agricultural supply chain.” The letter also says that USDA excluded the biofuel sector from initial aid under the CARES Act, despite ongoing letters of support to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue from broad, bipartisan coalitions in the House and Senate. “It’s vital that the next COVID-19 relief package includes immediate, temporary, and direct assistance for the biofuel industry,” they add. ********************************************************************************************** Colombia Implements Duties on U.S. Ethanol Imports The Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism announced it will impose duties on U.S. ethanol exports into Colombia. The U.S. ethanol industry and biofuels groups were not happy with the move. “While we have cooperated fully with investigating authorities in Colombia to demonstrate these final duties are unjustified, the Colombian government took the side of the Colombian ethanol industry,” says the U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy, and the Renewable Fuels Association in a statement. “The Ministry’s decision was not supported by evidence and raises questions regarding the Ministry’s compliance with standard CVD procedures.” The groups say the U.S. ethanol industry remains committed to their partners in Colombia and will continue to help the country meet its blending targets and provide benefits to Colombian consumers so they may access a clean, renewable, and affordable fuel. The U.S. Grains Council develops export markets for barley, corn, sorghum, and related products like distiller’s dried grains with solubles and ethanol. Growth Energy represents producers and supporters of the ethanol industry to bring consumers better choices at the fuel pump. ********************************************************************************************** WASDE Report Says Corn, Soybean Production Will Rise in 2020 The May World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates report predicts higher corn and soybean production compared to last year. The corn crop is projected to be a record 16 billion bushels, up from last year on the increased area and a return to trend yield. The yield projection is 178.5 bushels, with total corn supplies predicted at 18.1 billion bushels. The season-average farm price is projected at $3.20 a bushel, a 40-cent drop from last year and the lowest since 2006-07. The soybean crop is projected to be 4.125 billion bushels, up 568 million from last year. Yield is expected to be 49.8 bushels per acre. Soybean supplies are predicted to rise five percent from last year to 4.72 billion bushels. The season-average soybean price is projected at $8.20 a bushel, down 30 cents from the previous marketing year. USDA says total wheat production will be three percent lower than last year, coming in at 1.866 billion bushels, with the all-wheat yield at 49.5 bushels per acre, which is down 2.2 bushels from last year. The projected season-average farm price for wheat is $4.60 a bushel, unchanged from last year. ********************************************************************************************** NASS to Resurvey North Dakota Farmers with Unharvested Corn, Soybeans During May, the National Agricultural Statistics Service will be contacting survey respondents in North Dakota who reported unharvested corn or soybeans. If the newly-collected data makes any changes necessary, NASS will then update the January 10 estimates in the June 11 Crop Production report. Stocks estimates are also subject to review since unharvested production is included in the on-farm stocks estimates. When NASS surveyed producers back in December for the Crop Production 2019 Summary, there was still significant unharvested acreage of corn in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. There were unharvested soybean acres in Michigan, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The unharvested area and expected production were included in the totals that came out on January 10. NASS contacted producers in Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, back in April and published updates in the May 12 Crop Production Report. NASS waited until now to re-contact North Dakota farmers because the state still had significant unharvested acres back in April.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Keeping Regs Abreast With Technology Bloomberg is reporting this week that federal regulators are dragging their heels in creating guidelines for the use of agricultural biostimulants, despite high demand from farmers for products such as seaweed, manure, kelp and peat. These are natural substances that farmers apply to plants, seeds, or roots to stimulate growth, nutrient uptake, or resistance to environmental stress. They’re similar to biopesticides, which use naturally occurring chemicals to kill pests. Congress directed USDA and EPA to draft a report proposing a regulatory framework for biostimulants as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. But almost a year-a-half later, attorneys say clear rules for how to register new products remain mired in uncertainty. “Companies are still asking us really basic questions, like, ‘Which agency has jurisdiction?’ and, ‘What labeling requirements do I need to meet?’” said Sheryl Dolan, a senior regulatory consultant at the Washington-based law firm Bergeson and Campbell PC. At the heart of the issue, Dolan said, is a failure to develop legal definitions for what constitutes a pesticide, which would be registered through the EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. A fertilizer would be regulated at the state level. Determining exactly where to draw the line between pesticide and fertilizer isn’t always easy, companies say. The difference in costs can range from millions of dollars to register a conventional pesticide compared to hundreds of dollars for a fertilizer. Biostimulants aren’t defined under FIFRA or EPA regulations. But Dolan said that doesn’t mean regulators aren’t conducting enforcement actions, including stop-sale orders, for biostimulants they consider mislabeled as fertilizers. “If you’re investing millions of dollars into a product, you want to have sound compliance platform,” she said. “You don’t want to take risks, and there is significant gray area out there.” In response to pressure from the biostimulant industry EPA released a draft guidance document in March to help decide how to design labels for fertilizers, pesticides, and soil amendments. EPA said the draft wasn’t intended to change the regulatory framework but was merely to “clarify the agency’s longtime approach to determine whether a product and its label claims meet the definition of plant-growth regulator, subject to FIFRA registration.” However, the guidance generated more confusion. For example, it included a list of active ingredients that were already registered as fertilizers at the state level, but that EPA has now determined require registration under FIFRA,” said David Beaudreau, executive director of the U.S. Biostimulant Coalition. Now the EPA is revising the draft and responding to comments, including industry concerns and plans to reissue the draft later this year. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that biostimulant products can sometimes share properties of both pesticides and fertilizers depending on whether it’s applied to the soil or leaves. Seaweed extract can function both as a soil amendment (fertilizer) or plant-growth regulator (pesticide), he said. Seaweed extract was listed in the EPA guidance as an example of an active ingredient that would require FIFRA registration. “So, do all those products have to go back through EPA approval? It’s created a lot of ambiguity,” Beaudreau said. Requiring naturally-derived ingredients to be registered as a pesticide would financially burden farmers and consumers by increasing costs throughout the supply chain, Jake Wilson of Atlantic Laboratories Inc., the parent company of North American Kelp, wrote to the EPA. “It is our belief that the guidance should take into consideration product label claims, not merely the presence of naturally derived ingredients,” Wilson wrote. Defining biostimulants and proposing a regulatory framework should be a process led by Congress in consultation with USDA a bipartisan group of five House members told EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in February. “While we appreciate EPA’s effort to provide regulatory clarity to the plant biostimulant industry, we are concerned that moving forward with the draft guidance will disrupt both congress and USDA’s efforts,” Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, wrote for the group. The lawmakers urged the EPA to delay releasing any final draft guidance until Congress could review USDA’s recent biostimulants report, which outlines six potential options to address the regulatory review, approval, and labeling of biostimulant products. “We don’t have luxury of ignoring our state laws,” Rose Kachadoorian, the pesticide program manager at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said. State regulators aren’t opposed to biostimulant harmonization, Kachadoorian said, but the question of what constitutes a pesticide is best answered by EPA, not USDA. “If you don’t want something to be regulated as a pesticide, you have to go to the federal agency that regulates pesticides,” she said. “We just want to look at a label and be able to say, ‘Yes, this is a pesticide,’ or, ‘No, this is a soil amendment, or fertilizer,’” she said. So, this appears to be a fight producers should watch closely as it proceeds since it has at least some potential to increase the food system’s credibility with important consumer groups and increase returns to the sector, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


Trump Dismisses Talk of Renegotiating Trade Deal With China A report in the Global Times suggesting that China may want to terminate the Phase One agreement with the U.S. and renegotiate the deal to be more beneficial to China. Asked at a White House briefing about the possibility, President Donald Trump said he had “heard that too” relative to the Global Times report. “They would like to reopen a trade talk to make it a better deal for them,” he said at a White House press conference. “I am not interested in that. Let's see if they live up to the deal they signed.” From the Chinese side, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the Phase One deal is a positive. "China and America reaching the Phase One trade deal benefits China, benefits the U.S. and the whole world," Zhao said at a briefing.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


Grassley, Others Call on Congress To Provide Pork Producers With Indemnity Funds Congress needs to consider funding efforts at USDA to help hog producers forced to depopulate herds due to the COVID-19 impacts on pork processing facilities, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and 11 Senate colleagues said in a letter to House and Senate leaders. “The downstream impact of idled plants is full farms, creating an animal welfare crisis due to overcrowding and the challenge of providing enough feed and water available to each animal,” the letter said. Idling of processing plants means there is an “immediate need to establish processes whereby some portion of the herd is humanely euthanized to prevent animal suffering. Failure to have a sensible and orderly process for thinning the herd will lead to animal health issues, environmental issues, and pork producers going out of business.” This means pork producers “need assistance now,” the letter said, noting that if 20% of U.S. pork processing capacity is idled, that means some 400,000 hogs per week have to be disposed of in some manner. “Accordingly, government support is needed in the management of a sensible depopulation of the herd until plant operations stabilize,” the letter said. “We must prioritize funding to indemnify producers who are depopulating herds due to processing plant closures.” The lawmakers added that authority for such programs at USDA “should be authorized as quickly as possible.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Beyond weather and coronavirus news, traders will keep a close watch on Wednesday's weekly energy inventory report from the U.S. Energy Department. Ethanol production, inventory and gasoline demand will be the main attractions. The U.S. Labor Department will also have a report on producer prices out at 7:30 a.m. CDT. Weather Light to moderate rain will cross most of the Plains portions of the Northwest, and southern Midwest Wednesday. Impact will be variable, but northern planting will have further delays. Dry areas of the southwestern Plains will be bypassed by this moisture.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


Lawmakers Seek Help with Livestock Depopulation, Disposal A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants the Trump administration to provide guidance on how the Federal Emergency Management Agency can help farmers depopulate and dispose of livestock. Led by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota, the group sent a letter to the White House Friday. Specifically, the lawmakers request that the Administration allow for expenses related to livestock depopulation and disposal to be reimbursed under Category B of FEMA's Public Assistance program. A similar effort in the Senate led by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley says farmers are facing an animal welfare crisis due to overcrowding and the challenge of providing enough feed and water to each animal. The Senate letter states pork producers send to market over two million pigs each week. If twenty percent of processing is idle, that means somewhere around 400,000 animals per week must be disposed of in some manner other than processing. ************************************************************************************ Rural Mayors Urge EPA to Protect Biofuel and Farm Jobs Mayors from across the U.S. farm belt Monday condemned oil industry efforts to seize markets from farmers and biofuel producers under the Renewable Fuel Standard. In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, 70 mayors called on the agency to “reject unjustifiable RFS waiver requests and protect rural communities.” The letter says the closures of ethanol plants, “is having devastating ripple effects throughout our economy.” The mayors say waivers to the oil industry would further damage rural communities. The letter was offered in support for America's biofuel producers, who have seen demand evaporate during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 70 biofuel plants have completely shuttered their doors, and another 70 have significantly cut production amid demand losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor adds that when biofuel production shuts down, "everyone hurts – from farmers and truckers to meatpackers and ranchers that need animal feed and carbon dioxide for refrigeration." ************************************************************************************ USDA Approves $1.2 Billion in Food Purchases to Help America’s Needy The Department of Agriculture last week approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The program is designed to connect excess meat, dairy and produce on farms with families facing food insecurity. The funding far exceeds the $100 million per month the department initially planned for the program, due to high interest and need. The program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in dairy, $258 million in meat and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. The American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger relief organization, sent a letter to the USDA requesting a nimble approach to quickly and effectively get food from America’s farms to the nation’s food banks and others addressing food insecurity. USDA is authorized to spend up to $3 billion through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. These initial contracts will distribute food from May 15 through June 30, 2020. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Agreements for Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced the availability of $900,000 for local governments to reduce food waste in landfills. The grants allow local governments to host a Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction pilot project for fiscal year 2020. The cooperative agreements will support projects that develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost plans and food waste reduction plans. The agreements are offered through USDA’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. USDA undersecretary Bill Northey stated food waste “shouldn’t end up in landfills when options like food recovery and composting are available." Northey says composting options "not only benefit communities and the environment, they can also provide farmers and urban gardeners with exceptional, nutrient-dense planting material." USDA will accept applications on Grants.gov until midnight June 26, 2020. Projects should span two years with a start date of October 1, 2020 and completion date of September 29, 2022. ************************************************************************************ New Research Shows Farmer Perspective on Data Collection, Sharing Several challenges prevent farmers from collecting and sharing data on their production practices with downstream supply chain organizations such as food companies and retailers. New research from Farm Journal's Trust In Food initiative and The Sustainability Consortium found 62 percent of farmers report they are not using data collection and sharing software during the 2019 season. Of those who did, only about 30 percent say the software meets all their needs. Farm-level production data plays a critical role in conservation and sustainability efforts. Despite this importance, according to previous research, nearly 50 percent of food and beverage companies report having no visibility into the on-farm practices that produce the inputs they use. Farmers say a lack of access to capital, equipment, training and reliable data networks are the biggest barriers farmers face in scaling up their on-farm data efforts. And, 71 percent of farmers said their primary ag adviser or consultant has never suggested increasing on-farm data collection, data sharing, or both. ************************************************************************************ U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Selects Control Union Certifications The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Trust Protocol has selected Control Union Certifications North America to implement an independent, third-party verification program for the Trust Protocol system. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will set a standard for more sustainably grown cotton. Data about Trust Protocol cotton is proven via Field to Market, measured via the Field Calculator, and now will be verified by Control Union Certifications. The company has certified more than 150 programs worldwide, including working as a key partner in the early development and piloting phases of Field to Market's Impact Claim Verification Protocol. U.S. cotton growers will complete a self-assessment of farming practices and share their field data through Field to Market’s Fieldprint Platform. Control Union Certifications will verify the Trust Protocol annual data that will highlight key sustainability metrics – land use, soil carbon, water management, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will launch in June 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


Washington Insider: GOP and Red Ink Bloomberg is reporting this week that while Republicans seemed to accept programs that boosted recent deficits, the flood of pandemic-relief has rekindled deficit concerns among Republican lawmakers. It cites this as one of several hurdles facing the next round of stimulus many economists say is needed to pull the U.S. out of its downward spiral. After backing almost $3 trillion to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans now have begun raising alarms about the deficit and characterizing a new relief package as an if, not when, proposition. President Donald Trump is also “tapping the brakes” on the idea of swift action on any new aid package, even after Friday’s Labor Department report showing an unprecedented 20 million jobs were lost in April. Nevertheless, Democrats are still pressing for another package of relief that will likely carry a trillion-dollar price tag, Bloomberg says. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., even cited Fed Chairman Jerome Powell in a new push to spend more to rescue the economy. Still, Bloomberg thinks this shift “lags behind a change in thinking on the risks posed by deficits.” It notes that the ramped-up spending and lending following the last recession didn’t trigger the inflation critics had warned about. And, Europe endured a much slower recovery after pivoting to austerity budgets. Also, President Trump, who called himself “the king of debt,” has generally broken with Republican orthodoxy on deficits and spending, all while fully supporting the GOP on lowering taxes. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Sunday that the White House isn’t necessarily opposed to new relief legislation but “wants to pause and take a look at the economic impact of assistance programs already passed.” Nevertheless, Powell has urged lawmakers to deliver more fiscal stimulus and the U.S. Treasury says it may borrow a record $3 trillion this quarter alone. Powell says the debt is on an unsustainable course, but that, “this is not the time to act on those concerns.” For Democrats, there’s no question that there will be another relief package with few limits on how much it would cost. House Speaker Pelosi noted that state and local governments alone are clamoring for $1 trillion in federal aidâ??and that the House “may vote on an additional proposal as soon as this week.” She thinks the coming proposal will largely follow the contours of previous ones, with money for state and local governments, testing, expanded unemployment insurance, and “putting money into the pockets of Americans.” In a separate news conference Pelosi called the debt being racked up “an important challenge” that will have to be dealt with at some point, but that the focus right now needs to be on helping people and stimulating the economy. “The chairman of the Fed, Chairman Powell, has said again and again, publicly, and has said it to me, think big. Interest rates are very, very low. Think big, and that’s what we’re doing,” Pelosi told reporters. Others have expressed agreement and noted that the ballooning deficit -- projected to hit at least $3.7 trillion this year -- is bound to color tax and spending policy now and for years to come. For example, Ray Dalio, founder of the investment management firm Bridgewater Associates LP, told JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s private-banking clients to expect higher tax rates “no matter who wins November’s race for the White House.” Still, earlier tax cuts and the business bailouts have dimmed any hopes of a fundamental restructuring of the federal budget according to conservative economist Brian Riedl, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and former adviser to several senior Republicans, including Senators Rob Portman, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio. But, while the Republican Study Committee, for example, a group of House conservatives, is lobbying for the next package to offset any new borrowing with longer-term savings, Senate leadership hasn’t coalesced around any specific plan for future spending or cuts. And, pressure for relief is intensifying. Zach Moller, an economist at Democratic-aligned group Third Way think tank, which has proposed a sweeping proposal to save states’ budgets, said he fears a premature emergence of deficit concerns could hamper the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We saw what could happen the last time,” Moller said. “From 2009 to 2013, state governments cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending. Recovering from the Great Recession was made a lot longer because of the relatively limited state and local aid we were able to provide.” So, it seems that the pandemic and its impacts are continuing to drive fiscal policy and likely will continue to do so until significant recovery seems assured, amid growing controversies that producers should watch closely as these fights intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


USDA Approves Contracts For COVID-19 Food Aid USDA Friday announced it has approved $1.2 billion in contracts under the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, noting that the effort will start distributing food “within days.” USDA published a list of approved suppliers for the program. President Donald Trump took to social media Saturday to note the situation, tweeting, “Starting early next week, at my order, the USA will be purchasing, from our Farmers, Ranchers & Specialty Crop Growers, 3 Billion Dollars worth of Dairy, Meat & Produce for Food Lines & Kitchens. “FARMERS TO FAMILY FOOD BOX” Great news for all!” USDA’s Ag Marketing Service said the effort will spend $461 million on fresh fruit and vegetable boxes, $317 million for dairy boxes, $258 million for meat boxes and $175 million for boxes that combine fresh produce, dairy or meat products.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


FSA Starting To Issue Some Guidance on CFAP USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has started the process of preparing state and county offices for the coming Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), alerting offices that they may be dealing with producers that have never dealt with the agency previously. For those growers, FSA offices will need to collect several forms relative to verifying eligibility for CFAP payments, including farm income certifications. On the key topic of pay caps, FSA said details on that will be issued in the handbook which will cover operation of the program. The final rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) May 5 and it still was listed as being under review as of late Monday.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Grain traders will assess several new old-crop and new-crop estimates in Tuesday WASDE and Crop Production reports, due out at 11 a.m. CDT. NASS will also have a new survey of 2019 corn and soybean production for northern states. The U.S. Labor Department releases a report on consumer prices in April at 7:30 a.m., followed by the Treasury Department's federal budget at 1 p.m. CDT. Weather Tuesday will be cool across the central U.S., hindering crop progress. Freezing temperatures in the northern Midwest may cause some damage to emerged crops. Rain will focus on the southeastern Plains and portions of the Delta. We'll also see light mixed precipitation in the western and northwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


Farm Bankruptcies are Rising Recently released data from U.S. Courts show that farm bankruptcies increased 23 percent year-to-year. An American Farm Bureau Market Intel report shows a total of 627 filings took place during a 12-month period that ended in March of 2020. That makes five straight years of Chapter 12 bankruptcy increases, including a faster rate of filing since January of this year. Wisconsin was the hardest hit with 78 filings during those same 12 months. Nebraska was next with 41 filings and Iowa was third with 37. More than 50 percent of the Chapter 12 filings took place in the thirteen states of the Midwest, followed by 19 percent in the Southeast. “Each bankruptcy represents a farm in America struggling to survive or going under, which is both heartbreaking and alarming,” says Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “Even more concerning, the difficulty in staying afloat is made worse by the pandemic and related shutdowns as farmers are left with fewer markets for their products and lower prices for the products they do sell.” Currently, the bankruptcy filing increase isn’t related to the pandemic. That is certain to change as U.S. unemployment is projected to reach over 14 percent in the second and third quarters. A decline in off-farm income will hurt small and medium-sized farms that often rely on off-farm income to supplement their bottom lines. ********************************************************************************************** China Purchases U.S. Corn The USDA says Chinese buyers purchased 686,000 metric tons of U.S. corn last week. Over 370,000 tons will be delivered in the 2019-2020 marketing year, with the rest going overseas in 2020-2021. This seems to suggest that China is following through on its obligations in the Phase One trade deal. In a statement to Agri-Pulse last week, the U.S. Grains Council says, “China’s recent purchases of U.S. corn place the country back in the top five markets for U.S. corn, which is promising news for American farmers during this critical time. China has been a strong customer for U.S. corn, sorghum, DDGs, and ethanol in past years.” USGC is hopeful that Chinese customers will continue finding a lot of value in U.S. coarse grains and related products in the years to come. The purchase of 315,000 tons announced last Thursday was especially large, almost triple the export sales for 2020-2021 corn in the entire week of April 24-30. That was 97,500 tons to buyers mostly located in Japan and Panama. Bryan Lohmar is the China Director for the USGC. He says, “We’ve already seen exports greater than the past few years, and China typically buys the most corn during summer months when its own supplies get tighter and domestic prices firm up.” China’s corn-buying began back in March with a purchase of 756,000 tons, reported on the same day the Asian nation bought 340,000 tons of U.S. wheat. ********************************************************************************************** Multiple Meatpackers Will Reopen This Week Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says meatpacking facilities across the U.S. will be reopening this week. He says the companies are opening up again “safely” and are a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure. These facilities have resumed or plan to resume operations this week following an Executive Order from President Trump directing the facilities to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration guidelines specifically created for the meat and poultry sector response to COVID-19. The USDA has been working around the clock with the CDC and state and local health officials to ensure a safe and stable supply of protein is available for American consumers while keeping packing company employees safe. “America’s meatpacking facilities are reopening safely to ensure that America’s producers and ranchers will be able to bring their product to market,” Perdue says. “I want to thank the patriotic and heroic meatpacking facility workers who are returning to work this week so the millions of Americans who depend on them for food security can continue to do so.” Plant locations in Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Washington, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Illinois are slated to get back to work this week. ********************************************************************************************** Biofuel Groups Grateful for Support in Washington, D.C. Two-dozen senators recently sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency calling on the Trump Administration to reject calls to alter or get rid of the Renewable Fuels Standard. The letter says it is nothing but an oil industry-backed effort to get rid of biofuels. The senators wrote that waiving the RFS would exacerbate the effects experienced by the biofuel sector as a result of COVID-19, causing far-reaching detrimental impacts on employment, farmers, food security, fuel prices, and the environment. “We are grateful for our champions who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with rural communities confronting a wave of biofuel plant closures, farm bankruptcies, and demand destruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “The oil industry’s attempt to steal markets from farmers and biofuel producers threatens to dash hopes of an economic recovery in the farm belt.” Kurt Kovarik, Vice President of Federal Affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, says, “America’s biodiesel producers appreciate the strong leadership of the senators who oppose the efforts to undermine the RFS. Maintaining a strong RFS will be critical to the rural economy’s recovery.” ********************************************************************************************** McCarthy Setting up a “Chinese Task Force” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced he’s forming a Republican “China Task Force,” citing Chinese ownership of Smithfield Foods as part of the reason behind the move. The Hagstrom Report says McCarthy found it interesting that “China owns a processing plant in South Dakota” and wondered if that could be a challenge for the U.S. food supply. McCarthy says the task force will include representatives from 10 congressional committees and will look deeper into the U.S.-China relationship. There were Democrats included in the original formation, but they dropped out, which McCarthy criticized them for. The task force recommendations could influence the agricultural trade relationship between the two countries because trade is typically more robust when the relations with China are solid. The Hagstrom Report quotes a senior Democratic aide who says those on that side of the political fence are “very cognizant of the need to hold China accountable for its actions.” However, the aide says, “To that extent, this is going to be the Trump Administration’s scapegoat for its utter failure, we are not going to go along with any of that.” ********************************************************************************************** Washington Potato Growers Give Away Potatoes to Avoid Food Waste Washington is number two in the nation when it comes to growing potatoes, sitting behind only Idaho. The Washington State Potato Commission says a billion pounds of russet potatoes that would normally become French fries and hash browns are just sitting in warehouses that would need to empty out just ahead of the July harvest. The organization is instead handing out the surplus for free to Washington residents, 100,000 pounds at a time. Reuters quotes Brandy Tucker, the director of marketing for the commission, as saying, “Everyone in Washington would have to eat 500 pounds of potatoes from now until the Fourth of July to clear our pipeline.” About 90 percent of Washington’s potato crop is processed for food service industries, nearly half of which is international markets. The commission is planning over a dozen donation events before the end of this month. However, even giving them away comes at a cost because of washing, bagging, and shipping the spuds. The USDA says it will buy an additional $470 million in excess food, which includes $50 million worth of potatoes, to give to the nation’s food banks.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Meat Industry Under Attack Livestock and poultry production have long been key components of the U.S. ag industries. The combination of efficient grain feeds production and sophisticated high carbohydrate finishing operations have made U.S. meats the envy of much of the worldâ??as well as a valued source of revenue for U.S. producers. Still, pockets of vegetarianism long have persisted especially among elite, urban “foodies,” largely in developed countries. These have become increasingly active, of late. The cause is mainly threatened shortages of meat products that are prompting many Americans to give plant-based alternatives a “try”, The Hill says. It thinks this trend might allow “a previously marginalized industry to quickly expand.” The report focuses on virus outbreaks at meatpacking plants “where workers have tested positive and several have died” forcing facilities to close. It also notes concerns about meat shortages at grocery stores and fast food chains. That’s created an opening for companies like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Tofurky, the report says. “We knew that people were turning towards plant-based for a number of reasons including health reasons. And now, to avoid meat shortages,” said Michele Simon, executive director at Plant Based Foods Association. Simon said all of the association’s 175 members have been feeling the increase in demand right now, building on growth from before the outbreak. Beyond Meat this week reported first quarter net revenues up 141% from the same period in 2019, to more than $97 million compared with $40 million last year. The company’s stock surged 26%. CEO Ethan Brown said on TV, “I think we are reaching a tipping point for plant-based foods due to the COVID-19 impact on the U.S. meat supply.” These threats also have allowed other firms to accelerate their growth, The Hill thinks. For example, Impossible Foods, which makes the Impossible Burger, has increased its outlets from 150 grocery stores nationwide to 2,700 in April alone. It plans to have its products sold in more than 10,000 stores by the end of the year. But with restaurants either closed or slowly opening, companies are looking to grocery store sales to pick up the slack since almost all of them have stayed open during the pandemic. Plant-based competitor Tofurky claims 40% growth in grocery stores in the past 12 weeks compared to the same period in 2019, said Jaime Athos, CEO of Tofurky. Plant-based brands also are looking to big K Street firms to help with their growth. Impossible Foods has BGR Group on retainer, including lobbyists Remy Brim, former senior health policy adviser to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Robb Walton, who held the same position under Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. The company spent $170,000 on lobbying in 2019 and $60,000 so far this year. Meanwhile, major meatpacking companies JBS, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods are being questioned by lawmakers about working conditions following coronavirus outbreaks at their plants. However, it’s not clear whether the surge in sales will last beyond the pandemic or the current meat shortage, The Hill says. The administration ordered meat plants to stay open last month in an attempt to head off future disruptions and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday predicted that U.S. meatpacking plants will fully reopen in the next seven to 10 days. “That certainly has focused attention on the problems meat causes in the food system: factory farming, concentration in the meat industry, brutal working conditions for meatpacking employees, and meat industry control of USDA policy,” said Marion Nestle, professor of food studies at New York University. Still, the plant-based industry has also been caught up in legislative fights over whether their products can use the term meat. Mississippi restricted the use of the term for these companies, in 2018, but the Plant Based Foods Association thinks that the policy fight has “quieted down with governments otherwise occupied with more important matters” during the pandemic, The Hill says. But one thing meatpacking companies and their plant-based competitors have in common is the need to ensure workplaces are revamped to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Benjamin Chapman, food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, said food production plants overall, regardless of the product, create a difficult setting for social distancing. “What we’re seeing right now with these clusters isn’t about the meat operations but is much more about plants in general and essential food workers being close to each other because of the process and the challenges to implement social distancing. That can happen in many food settings, not just meat,” he said. Impossible Foods and Tofurky are among those who say they have implemented strict rules and practices regarding social distancing and disinfecting. “The long-term trend is unquestionably moving towards a plant-based food system,” an industry observer said. “This is happening no matter what. Does the current glimpse into the sausage factory accelerate that?” So, we will see. The current threat to conventional meat consumption seems more serious than most, and better funded. However, the conventional meat and poultry producers have enormous resources that can be used in this fight, even though the new virus is raising far reaching threats that should be taken seriously across the industry, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue signals Increase in CFAP Payment Limits As expected, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has responded to the high level of complaints that the initial payment caps under the coming Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) were not enough. Perdue now says they will be higher than initial suggestions. Perdue made the comments in interview with Brownfield Ag News. “We have adjusted those payment limits and we will see those when the rules come out,” he said. The agency sent the final rule for CFAP to the Office of Management Budget (OMB) for their review May 5.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


US, China Hold Discussions on Phase One Agreement Progress U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He held a conference call late Thursday, discussing economic and trade issues and the phase-one agreement between the two countries. “The parties shared updates on COVID-19 and their assessments of its effects on economic growth as well as the measures their countries are taking to provide support to their economies,” Lighthizer and Mnuchin said in a statement. On the phase-one deal, “Both sides agreed that good progress is being made on creating the governmental infrastructures necessary to make the agreement a success,” the statement said. “They also agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.” The statement also indicated that the “meetings required by the agreement have been conducted via conference call and will continue on a regular basis.” A similarly brief recap of the discussion was reported in China, with the Xinhua News Agency reporting, “The two sides agreed that they should enhance macroeconomic and public health cooperation, create a favorable atmosphere and conditions for the implementation of the China-U.S. Phase-One trade deal, and strive for positive outcomes. They also agreed to maintain communication and coordination.” The session and statements came as President Donald Trump earlier this week indicated the U.S. could end the agreement if China did not live up to its purchase comments. Wednesday, Trump indicated that in the next week or two he would be able to comment on the implementation of the trade deal.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Fresh off the weekend, traders will be checking reports of freezing temperatures around the Corn Belt and the new seven-day forecast. Coronavirus statistics, trade news and progress in raising livestock slaughter levels will also be watched. Monday's usual reports include weekly export inspections at 10 a.m. CDT and Crop Progress at 3 p.m. CDT. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for the Southern Plains Monday, offering some useful moisture for winter wheat. We’ll also see a mix of light rain and snow in the north-central Plains and light rain in the far eastern Midwest. Other primary crop areas will be dry. Freezing temperatures occurred in the Midwest and Northern Plains during the past weekend and are again noted early Monday. Fields will be scrutinized this week for damage assessment.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


Pork Exports Hit All-Time High in March Spurred on by record production, U.S. pork exports completed a tremendous first quarter with new March records for both volume and value. Data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation says beef exports also trended higher year-over-year in March, establishing a record first-quarter pace. “March export results were very solid, especially given the COVID-19 related challenges facing customers in many international markets right now,” says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Stay-at-home orders created enormous challenges for many countries’ foodservice sectors, several of the world’s key currencies slumped against the dollar, and logistical obstacles surfaced in some key markets. However, demand for U.S. red meat proved very resilient.” Recent events like temporary plant closures aren’t reflected in the first-quarter export data. Pork exports, driven by strong demand from China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan, and Canada, totaled well over 291,000 metric tons, a 38 percent increase from last year. The export value was up to more than $764 million. March beef exports were over 115,300 metric tons, seven percent more than last year, while the value was more than $702 million, four percent higher than 2019. ********************************************************************************************** Path Cleared for U.S. Sorghum Exports to Vietnam The door is open for U.S. sorghum exports to flow into Vietnam for high-value uses like pet food and liquor, as well as feed for the aquaculture, poultry, and swine industries. A new pest risk assessment has been approved by both the USDA and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture. The opening is a result of almost five years of work by the U.S. Grains Council, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, and the National Sorghum Producers, as well as the USDA’s Foreign Ag Service and APHIS. “We are excited to see our hard work and collaboration pay off in Vietnam,” says USGC President and CEO Ryan LeGrand. “It’s been a long time coming but it is a model of how by working together with industry and government, good things can happen for U.S. commodities.” The pest risk assessment outlines how U.S. sorghum must be handled to meet regulations in Vietnam. The assessment became even more critical after a shipment of sorghum destined for China in 2018 was diverted to Vietnam but couldn’t be delivered because there was no pest risk assessment protocol in place. ********************************************************************************************** Trump: Will Know Next Week if China Making Progress on Phase One Deal Top negotiators from China and the U.S. will talk next week about the progress on the Phase One Trade Deal between the two countries. Bloomberg says the move comes after President Donald Trump threatened to terminate the agreement if Beijing doesn’t meet its obligations. The planned phone call will be the first time the Chinese Vice Premier and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will talk about the agreement since it was signed in January. That was just before COVID-19 hit the world’s two largest economies and turned the world’s global supply chains upside down. Trade numbers this week showed a sharp drop in U.S. exports to China when compared to the 2017 benchmark levels, which in turn caused doubt that Beijing would meet its obligation to buy at least $262 billion in U.S. agriculture, manufacturing, and energy goods. Beijing hasn’t yet removed many of its dumping duties on U.S. imports. Trump recently told reporters that he’d be able to tell them within the next two weeks if he’s happy with how the trade deal is progressing. Relations have been strained since the coronavirus outbreak. Trump says China misled the world about the scope and risk of the disease. China says U.S. officials are trying to “shift their responsibility for the poor handling of the disease.” ********************************************************************************************** Farm Credit Council Supporting Rebuild Rural Letter to Congress Farm Credit Council President and CEO Todd Van Hoose says his organization supports the Rebuild Rural Coalition’s letter they sent to Congress. “Parents working and students studying from home has brought the urban/rural divide on broadband to the fore in a way we can no longer afford to ignore,” Van Hoose says. “That same broadband would help rural residents avoid medical appointments through tele-health initiatives, thereby decreasing their exposure to others at the hospitals and clinics.” The coalition is also concerned about several other aspects of rural infrastructure, noting that we’ve already seen the problems with our food supply chain. “Once these processing plants return to normal operations, they will rely on roads, bridges, locks, and dams, many of which are all crumbling, to transport protein to consumers,” Van Hoose adds. “As Congress considers future COVID-19 relief packages, they need to prioritize rural America’s infrastructure.” The Rebuild Rural coalition is made up of more than 250 local, state, and national organizations from across the country that collectively represent U.S. agricultural producers, cooperatives, rural businesses, as well as rural communities and the families that live in them. ********************************************************************************************** Duties to Stay on Biodiesel from Argentina The National Biodiesel Board is pleased that the Department of Commerce will keep countervailing duty orders on imports of Argentinian biodiesel. The Commerce Department made the determination after its “changed circumstances review” of the anti-dumping duty. The department determined that there are no “changed circumstances” that would warrant any changes in U.S. duty rates. That means the rates on imported biodiesel from Argentina will stay at their current levels. Kurt Kovarik is the NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs, who says the NBB’s Fair Trade Commission fought hard for this outcome. “We certainly appreciate Secretary Wilbur Ross and the administration for supporting U.S. biodiesel producers at a critical moment. We are also grateful that they took the time to listen to U.S. biodiesel producers.” The NBB says the Department of Commerce took the time necessary to fully evaluate the status of Argentina’s export tax regime and made the right decision. “Also critical to the outcome is the support and leadership of Senators Chuck Grassley and Maria Cantwell, along with Representative Darren LaHood,” Kovarik adds. “The U.S. biodiesel industry appreciates their help in amplifying the industry’s push for fair trade conditions.” ********************************************************************************************** Specialty Crop Industry Protocols Keep Workers Safe During COVID-19 A national coalition of 64 organizations representing specialty crop producers sent a letter to Congressional leadership this week on safety protocols within the industry during COVID-19. They want Congress to know the steps agricultural employers are taking to protect their workers. “Farmers and ranchers across the country moved quickly to implement new employee safety protocols early in the crisis,” says National Council of Agricultural Employers President Michael Marsh. “While America was being placed on lockdown, agricultural employers were already at work trying to figure out how to best protect their employees and the public.” The letter details the collaboration between the agriculture industry, public health experts, and regulatory officials to develop the best safety practices in the field and packing. As future rounds of COVID-19 pandemic legislation is debated, the coalition is asking congressional leaders to acknowledge the widespread employee protection protocols that are already in place, as well as provide additional support to help agricultural employers continue to meet the needs of their employees. The Western Growers Association, a member of the coalition, is asking Congress to “extend current relief efforts for agriculture, and to include additional funding for personal protective equipment and other measures to offset the costs of maintaining an essential workforce during COVID-19.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Food System Pressures Bloomberg is reporting this week that the Trump administration is considering action against the China trade deal, and that top Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators will speak as soon as next week on progress in implementing the first phase. The administration says it will “terminate” the agreement if Beijing doesn’t adhere to its terms. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will be on the call, Bloomberg said while the U.S. will be represented by USTR Robert Lighthizer. The planned phone call will be the first time Liu and Lighthizer have spoken officially about the agreement since it was signed in January, just before the global coronavirus pandemic erupted. The president also seemed to suggest a “development” was on the horizon when he told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he’d be able to report in the next week or two “if he’s happy” with how the trade deal is progressing. On Sunday, in response to a question at a town hall from a business owner who said he was losing money on the tariffs, the president noted that the duties “prompted” China to promise to buy $250 billion worth of U.S. goods. “Now they have to buy,” he said. “And if they don’t buy, we’ll terminate the deal, very simple.” Relations between the U.S. and China have deteriorated further since America became one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus. The president has blamed China for misleading the world about the scale and risk of the disease, and even threatened more tariffs as punishment. China’s foreign ministry has in turn accused some U.S. officials of trying “to shift their own responsibility for their poor handling of the epidemic to others.” In addition, the coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll is leading to fresh criticism for the World Trade Organization from Washington, this time from a Midwestern lawmaker who sees the pandemic as an opportunity “to rebuild America’s standing in the global economy.” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wrote on the New York Times op-ed page this week that the WTO “should be abolished on the grounds that it has failed American workers.” He called for the U.S. to stop Chinese imperialism and renegotiate trade deals with allies, he wrote, saying that “abandoning the WTO is a start.” While the U.S. government lacks authority to close down the WTO single-handedly, the missive from Hawley echoes many of the complaints the Trump administration brought to office in 2017. It also reflects the hardening of some Americans’ views about China and the growing list of “scapegoats” sought for the economic calamity the country now faces, Bloomberg said. In the meantime, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he expects that U.S. meatpacking plants will “fully resume operations within a week to 10 days.” The comment came during a meeting with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and President Trump, who said that the U.S. has “plenty of supply” of meat and argued that “within a week and a half, we’ll be in great shape. Maybe sooner,” he said. So, we will see. There are strong notes of skepticism emerging in the press now, especially following news reports that highlighted the destruction of significant amounts of food products including hogs and milk. There also are stories of states and others pushing back on price gouging for eggs and other products. Certainly, the U.S. food system is resilient as well as efficient as the President and Secretary noted, but the current tensions and threats are enormous and far reaching and should be watched closely by producers as the system accommodates, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Says Corner Turned on Meat Plants Resuming Operations U.S. meat plants are starting to reopen, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in remarks at the White House Wednesday. “The plants are reopening in Iowa and other places. We may have still a few closed, but we are working,” Perdue said during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “They are opening this week. And I think we have turned the corner, based on that commonality of uniform standards there.” He noted that “we have turned the corner. We see these plants coming back on line. Obviously, because of some infected employees, they will not be full force for a while, but we think the stores will be… you will see more variety and more meat cases fully supplied.” Asked for a timeline for that to happen, Perdue predicted “probably a week to 10 days where it is fully back up.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


Trump Says DOJ Has Been Asked To Examine Antitrust Issues In Meat Industry The Department of Justice has been asked to examine antitrust issues in the meat industry, according to President Donald Trump. "I have asked the Justice Department to look into it," Trump said in remarks during a meeting with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds Wednesday. "I have asked them to take a very serious look into it because it should not be happening that way." He specifically noted the exam will look at the divergence between cash cattle prices and prices consumers pay in stores for beef. "Why is there disparity? What's going on? Are they dealing with each other? What's going on? Okay? Because it shouldn't be that way. Supply and demand should not allow that to happen, by normal supply and demand," Trump stated. A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed that Trump has asked DOJ to probe antitrust issues in the meat industry. The statement from Trump comes as attorneys general from Iowa, North Dakota, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming made a similar plea to DOJ relative cattle producers.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The U.S. Labor Department has the unpleasant task of reporting a likely drop in nonfarm payrolls and higher unemployment rate in April at 7:30 a.m. CDT. The numbers may not shock the market, but will be stark reminders of how much the economy has contracted in the effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Friday morning's low temperatures, trade news and updates of meat processing plants will also be watched. Weather Friday will bring moderate to locally heavy rain to the southeastern Midwest and Delta. Other crop areas will be dry. A strong cold wave will steadily move into the Midwest Friday night and Saturday, with widespread subfreezing temperatures. The cold will slow down crop emergence and may kill some Midwest winter wheat. The brunt of the cold air is not indicated to affect Southern Plains wheat areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


Perdue Releases Letters on Meatpacking Investigation Agriculture Sonny Perdue this week sent two letters to Governors across the nation and leadership of major meat processing companies regarding the reopening of meat processing facilities. The letters establish the Department of Agriculture's expectations for the implementation of President Donald Trump's Executive Order signed last week. The President's Executive order directs plants to follow the Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance specific to the meat processing industry to keep facilities open while maintaining worker safety. USDA expects state and local officials to work with meat-processing facilities to maintain operational status while protecting their employees' health. USDA has also directed meat and poultry processing plants currently closed and without a clear timetable for near-term reopening to submit to USDA written documentation of their protocol, developed based on the CDC/OSHA guidance, and resume operations as soon as they are able after implementing the guidance. ************************************************************************************ Meat Plant Closures Tightening Supplies The reduction of meat processing capacity caused by U.S. plant closures and slowdowns has created a massive bottleneck in the nation's meat and livestock supply chain. Nearly two dozen plants that process beef and pork products closed in April due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while many others have had to slow their production as a result of the disease. According to a new report from CoBank, even if the reduction of processing capacity is temporary, it will likely have a lasting impact on meat processors, livestock producers, retail stores and consumers. Meat supplies for retail grocery stores could shrink nearly 30 percent by Memorial Day, leading to retail pork and beef price increases as high as 20 percent relative to prices last year. This week, Midwest-based grocery chain Hy-Vee announced limits on customer purchases of meat products. Customers are limited to four packages of a combination of fresh beef, ground beef, pork and chicken when they checkout at all store locations. Costco announced similar limits earlier this week, as did Sam’s Club. ************************************************************************************ Bill Would Increase CCC Borrowing Authority A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week would expand the Commodity Credit Corporations annual borrowing authority. The legislation from Republican Representative Austin Scott of Georgia would raise the CCC’s borrowing authority from $30 billion to $68 billion. Scott says the move would give the Department of Agriculture greater flexibility to maintain farm bill programs that support farmers and stabilize domestic agricultural markets. By raising the CCC’s borrowing limit, Scott says USDA would have greater ability to address the economic effects that COVID-19, volatile markets, and other factors have had on rural America. The CCC’s borrowing authority was last adjusted to $30 billion in 1987. Since then, agriculture has faced many challenges, one of the most difficult being the economic impacts of COVID-19. Last month, an analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation showed that if adjusted for inflation, the borrowing limit for the CCC would be nearly $68 billion, as proposed by Representative Scott’s legislation. ************************************************************************************ Gillibrand Introduces Bill to Connect Farms and Food Banks New legislation introduced in the Senate addresses disruptions in the food supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic and directly connect farms to food banks. The bill was introduced this week by Senator Kristen Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, who also sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee. As foodservice entities cease operations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, reports have emerged that millions of pounds of produce have been left to rot. Meanwhile, food banks across the country are facing unprecedented demand, as millions of newly unemployed Americans now face food insecurity. Senator Gillibrand's proposed Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act would provide $8 billion in block grants to food banks in the top vegetable and fruit producing states. Food banks will be able to use the funds to purchase fresh produce directly from farmers. They will also be able to use the funding to pay for distribution, processing, and additional staff needed to meet increased demand. ************************************************************************************ Report: Congress May Seek Oversight of NIFA, ERS Move A new report suggests Congress may consider additional oversight of the location change of two Department of Agriculture agencies. The Congressional Research Service report out this month says, “Congress may consider exercising oversight of USDA implementation of the relocations and any benefits as anticipated by the Congressional Budget Office.” Last year, USDA relocated most staff positions at two of its research agencies, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service to Kansas City, Missouri, from Washington, D.C. The move was expected to save $300 million over 15 years, according to the CBA analysis. The report states about 75 percent of affected employees declined to relocate and left the agencies. The report says that NIFA grantees have experienced delays in receiving awarded funds, which are typically released one to two months after the start of the next fiscal year. Further reports cite USDA internal memos suggest that ERS has delayed or discontinued numerous reports. ************************************************************************************ BASF Donates $170,000 to Feeding America BASF Corporation will join COVID-19 hunger relief efforts with a $170,000 donation to Feeding America. The company's North America Agricultural Solutions employees in the U.S. hosted a virtual food drive in March and April to support Feeding America food banks across the country. The contribution will help their food banks secure nutritious food and resources to serve neighbors in need during the pandemic. BASF employees throughout its Agricultural Solutions division participated in the virtual food drive by making financial contributions online. BASF matched donations dollar-for-dollar for the virtual food drive. All funds raised online, including the BASF match, will be donated to Feeding America member food banks based on donor zip codes. This gives employee donors the opportunity to help their own communities and make an impact where they live. BASF will donate an additional $195,000 to Feeding America. The gift includes a $150,000 corporate donation and $45,000 from BASF's largest facilities in Michigan, Texas, and Louisiana. In total, BASF will contribute more than $365,000 to Feeding America's COVID-19 hunger relief efforts.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Watching the Grocery Supply Chain Bloomberg wrote this week about stresses facing the U.S. meat supply as plants shut down and employee absences grew. Grocers from Kroger Co. to Costco Wholesale Corp. are rationing supplies, the report says, and notes that “even Wendy’s Co. dropped burgers from some menus.” Prices for wholesale beef and pork have jumped more than 20% since the imposition of the federal executive order to keep plants running during the pandemic. The shortages and price increases underscore the challenges of quickly fixing America’s “broken” meat supply chain, Bloomberg says. The virus impact has been heavy for meatsâ??for example, a Tyson Foods Inc. plant in Perry, Iowa, had 730 positive cases, about 58% of employees, Sarah Reisetter, deputy director for the state’s health department, said Tuesday and experts are warning not to expect a quick rebound for supplies. The reports of shortages are causing considerable anxiety, Bloomberg says and thinks that retail grocers could see meat supplies shrink almost 30% by Memorial Day, leading to retail pork and beef price inflation as high as 20% relative to prices last year, according to agricultural lender CoBank. Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc. on Tuesday became the latest grocer to limit meat purchases. Shake Shack Inc., executives warned investors a day earlier to expect much higher beef prices. In addition, the urban press is focusing on the industry’s concentration as a cause, along with its massive regional processing facilities. For current supply bottlenecks to ease, those plants “need to come back at full speed,” Bloomberg says, a challenge it calls “formidable” given the intense need to ramp up safety measures to reduce current rates of infection. Also, meat plants have become coronavirus “hot spots” in some cases as the disease spread quickly among “elbow-to-elbow conditions” on processing lines that move at “lightning speed,” Bloomberg said. Iowa’s Department of Public Health on Tuesday revealed large coronavirus outbreaks at several major meat-processing facilities in the state. For example, in addition to the infections at the Perry plant, a Tyson facility in Waterloo had 444 positive cases, or 17% of employees. Iowa Premium National beef in Tama had 258 cases, 39% of employees. How USDA’s “back to work” rule will affect the industry’s performance is not yet clear, experts say. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said that as plants reopen, shortfalls could still run as high as 15%. He cautioned that facilities may run below prior capacity for some time in order to comply with safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal order will prioritize protective gear and testing kits for meat workers – a key component to get plants back up and running. Tyson said Tuesday it was resuming limited production at its Pasco, Washington, beef facility. Smithfield Foods Inc. on Monday restarted a meat-processing plant in Wisconsin and the company announced late Wednesday that it will bring operations back at its South Dakota pork plant on Thursday. But many facilities still remain closed and those that are reopening could be forced to run lines at a slower pace because of social-distancing measures and absenteeism, Bloomberg said. Through Tuesday, processors slaughtered 35% fewer cattle than the same two days a year ago and 39% fewer hogs, according to USDA. Tyson Foods executives said Monday that there could be continued “short-term outages” in availability for some meat products at grocery stores. In addition, Wendy’s is reporting that beef menu items are in short supply at some locations. This led some press reports to conclude that the U.S. meat supply chain has been “broken quickly.” Among the press, there is frequent criticism regarding the sector’s heavy consolidation. For example, Tyson Foods and its top two rivals, JBS SA and Cargill Inc., now control about two-thirds of America’s beef. Pork and chicken are similarly dominated, Bloomberg says. This means that supply interruptions at major slaughter plants, although modest in number, have impacts all the way to the U.S. consumerâ??and have left some producers with little choice but to destroy thousands of animals. Politicians have been quick to take notice, and are proposing wide ranging new rules to investigate. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general has asked the Justice Department to open an antitrust probe into meat packers over concerns about rigged beef prices. While the federal back to work order could help stem the tide of additional closures, “attracting workers to fill the thousands of vacant positions at meat plants across the U.S. is still an issue,” Will Sawyer, an animal-protein economist at Colorado-based CoBank, said in a report. “As communities reopen with only about one week of meat supply in cold storage, shortages and stock outs in the meat case couldn’t come at a worse time,” he said. “Food inflation and a weak U.S. economy is a combination that will leave many consumers in greater financial strain.” So, we will see. Clearly the many, many supply chain interruptions facing most commodities will take years to repair and will mean severe problems for producers and consumers alike, that process is still only beginning. These “fixes” will often involve far-reaching changes and should be watched closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


US Ag Imports Rose in March, Producing Monthly Trade Deficit U.S. agriculture bucked the trend seen in the overall U.S. trade picture where both exports and imports fell in March. U.S. ag trade data shows that exports increased in March from February, but the rise in exports was eclipsed by a surge in imports, producing a monthly trade deficit of $502 million. U.S. ag exports in March were at $11.89 billion, up 5% from the $11.31 billion in February and the strongest U.S. shipment pace since November 2019. But the five-percent rise was swamped by imports surging to $12.39 billion, a rise of nearly 17% from the February import mark of $10.60 billion. USDA will be updating their forecast for U.S. ag trade in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 on May 29, and changes in the outlook are expected based on trade data at the halfway point of FY 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


USDA Sends CFAP Rule To OMB USDA has sent the final rule for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. The rule was sent to OMB Tuesday May 5, sources signaled and OMB confirmed. The rule is labeled as being “economically significant” and there is no deadline listed for the targeted completion. Now attention will shift quickly to what is in the rule and whether the push by farm-state lawmakers and farm and commodity groups to adjust the pay caps USDA said will be part of the program. Indications are that OMB staff have been working with USDA on the rule so the review by the agency may not take as long as can be the case. Some USDA rules have been pending at OMB since March or April, with one even showing as having been at the agency since November 2019.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday morning starts with the usual lineup of weekly grain export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor at 7:30 a.m. CDT, joined by a report of U.S. productivity for the first quarter. A report on U.S. natural gas inventory follows at 9:30 a.m. The latest slaughter reports, weather forecasts and any news on trade or coronavirus will also get traders' attention. Weather Light to locally moderate rain will cross the Midwest Thursday. The rain will interrupt field work while offering some useful moisture for winter wheat. A strong cooling trend is beginning; freeze warnings are noted in the northwestern Midwest for overnight Thursday into Friday.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


Ag Economy Barometer Reaches Three-year Low Commodity price declines, supply-chain disruptions, and coronavirus concerns pushed the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer down to a three-year low in April. The barometer recorded a reading of 96, marking the first time the barometer has fallen below 100 since October 2016, and was 72 points below its record high just two-months prior. The Ag Economy Barometer is based on responses from 400 U.S. agricultural producers and this month's survey was conducted from April 19-24, 2020. Producers' expectations for current and future agricultural economic conditions also declined sharply. The Index of Current Conditions suffered its largest one-month drop, down 39 points in April to a reading of 72, and the Index of Future Expectations fell 18 points to a reading of 108. In the April survey, two-thirds of respondents indicated they were "very worried" or "fairly worried about the impact of coronavirus on their farm's profitability. More than half said they anticipate applying for one of the federal government's COVID-19 related financial assistance programs. ************************************************************************************ Public-Private Partnership Serving 5 Million Meals a Week A feeding initiative in partnership with the Department of Agriculture will now serve nearly five million meals per week to rural children impacted by COVID-19-related school closures – five times its original goal. The partnership between USDA and Baylor University, along with McLane Global and PepsiCo, initially aimed to deliver nearly one million meals per week to students eligible for free and reduced-price meals in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19. However, the Meals To You initiative, “has been so successful and faced such high demand,” that USDA decided to expand the program, according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Meals to You boxes contain 20 nutritious meals, ten breakfasts and ten lunches, to cover the meals children would normally receive at school over two school weeks. Foods contained in the boxes meet USDA’s Summer Food Service Program meal standards and may include items like milk, fruit cups, cereal, whole-grain crackers, and chili. Boxes are delivered directly to children’s doorsteps. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Commodity Purchasing Plans The Department of Agriculture this week announced details of the $470 million in Section 32 food purchases to occur in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020 in addition to purchases previously announced. The purchases will provide additional support for producers and Americans in need, in response to changing market conditions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, "USDA is in the unique position to purchase these foods and deliver them to the hungry Americans who need it most." The Agricultural Marketing Service will purchase a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood products. The purchases include $30 million of chicken products, $120 million of dairy products and $30 million of pork. Additionally, USDA will purchase $50 million of potatoes, another $50 million of turkey products, and $30 million of catfish products, among others. Purchases are determined by industry requests, market analysis and food bank needs. AMS will begin issuing solicitations in June and intends to begin deliveries in July. ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Concerned with Farm Animal Depopulation Methods A group of federal lawmakers wants the Department of Agriculture to curb depopulation efforts of farm animals. Led by Texas Democrat, Representative Lloyd Doggett, the lawmakers raised concerns about mass suffocation of animals who are being quickly cleared from facilities and urges use of more humane practices. Congressman Doggett says, "every effort should be made to get food to those in need instead of wasting it," adding that if depopulation is necessary, "USDA should act promptly to prevent the use of these most inhumane methods." The members reference data from the National Pork Producers Council that shows the industry could be forced to cull upwards of 700,000 pigs a week, while millions of birds raised for poultry have already been killed because of this same issue. The lawmakers detail the concerns with ventilator shutdown and water-based foam methods. When equipment fails, they say the process is inhumane, distressing, and painful for the animals "who can take many hours to die." ************************************************************************************ Pesticide Control Group Seeks Post Emerge Dicamba Ban A pesticide control group wants the Environmental Protection Agency to ban post-emergence use of dicamba on soybeans. The Association of American Pesticide Control Officials last month sent a letter EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler detailing the request. Given the impending decision on the conditional registration of Xtendimax with VaporGrip Technology, the group says labels should prohibit over the top, post-emergent soybean use, and label registrations should be conditional on a year by year basis. Based on application dates of dicamba complaints investigated by the major soybean-producing states in 2017 through 2019, prohibiting over the top applications could greatly reduce dicamba complaint investigations, according to the group. The Association of American Pesticide Control Officials was formed in 1947, the same year that Congress enacted the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The organization is a professional association comprised of the officers charged by law with the execution of the state, territorial, provincial, and federal pesticide laws in the United States and Canada. ************************************************************************************ Farm Progress Show, Husker Harvest Days, Moving Forward Operations for the 2020 Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days are underway for the events to be held in September, according to Farm Progress. Preparations include the completion of planting the corn acres used for field demos at each show location. The 2020 Farm Progress Show is planned for September 1-3, in Boone, Iowa. Meanwhile, 2020 Husker Harvest Days is planned for September 15-17, in Grand Island, Nebraska. Don Tourte of Farm Progress says the usual plans are moving forward for both shows, adding, "it's important now, more than ever before, for us to come together at these industry-leading events." The events hold significant economic and social roles for farmers and the ag industry. In preparation for live events returning this fall, the Farm Progress parent company, Informa, is partnering with numerous organizations within and outside of the tradeshow industry to plan and execute the events in an environment that is safe and conducive to conducting business.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Revenue Sharing to Help State and Local Governments The Hill is carrying an opinion piece this week that argues that the next big battle on Capitol Hill likely will concern aid to states and localities. The comment was written by former Rep. John Faso, D-N.Y., who represented that state’s 19th congressional district from 2017-2019. Faso argues that the $1 trillion plan being proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will turn out to be a non-starter for the Republicans leadership and that linkage between “any new aid package” and liability protections from COVID-related lawsuits for employers who have acted responsibly” could be in the works. He notes that the administration has sent mixed messages on the topic but is likely to support some form of state and local aid. Faso also argues that states and localities perform critical public functions for education, law enforcement and infrastructure--and also partner with the federal government in the Medicaid program, providing health care to the poor and the elderly. And, he observes that the shutdown of the national economy has triggered mass unemployment, business stoppages and closure of schools. In addition, it has also meant significant declines in revenue for state and local governments. The National Association of State Budget Officers estimates that states have suffered revenue declines of at least 20%, he says. He cites an analysis by Moody's Analytics that found that only five states have enough reserves to absorb the revenue losses caused by the shutdown. In fact, state income and sales tax collections are dropping precipitously, he says, which is why many governors are pushing hard to reopen their state economies gradually. In that connection, he thinks that there is “no doubt that some form of federal assistance is in the offing. The question is, what is the most equitable form of aid and how should the program be designed?” He is suggesting that the General Revenue Sharing program should be considered for re-use. It was used between 1972 and 1986 to distribute funds to states and localities based on a formula that considered population, tax effort and per capita income, he says, Part of President Richard Nixon's "New Federalism," the program provided unrestricted aid with few strings attached, but that plan was complicated due to the need to also provide funds to thousands of local governments. A more efficient way to address state revenue loss would be to allocate aid based upon the proportion of total federal income taxes paid by residents of each state. This information is readily available from the IRS, Faso says. “Data anomalies” connected to the 2017 tax reform legislation and the timing of tax payments in 2017-18 suggest that data from 2016 provides a “better base” from which to determine state-level calculations. Faso concludes that basing allocations on federal income taxes paid is a simple, straightforward way to determine reasonable shares for each state. Unlike the earlier revenue sharing program, the Faso proposal would hold states responsible for directing a portion of their assistance to localities and school districts. Each state has existing mechanisms to assist local governments and school districts and Congress would be foolish to attempt to reinvent that wheel, he thinks. Such a task, and the political responsibility it implies, should be left to governors and state legislatures as part of their existing budgeting process. A $200 billion program of state-local assistance would provide significant aid to support critical state and local government programs, including education. Such assistance, while not covering all state revenue shortfalls, would cushion the financial shock caused by the economic shutdown. The state hardest hit by the crisis, New York, has experienced an estimated revenue loss of $15 billion, with billions more lost to localities. New York State taxpayers pay approximately 8.7% of federal income taxes and would receive $17.4 billion if $200 billion were allocated nationally. If the legislation provided that a minimum of 40% of such aid be allocated to local entities, New York localities and school districts would receive at least $6.9 billion from the state. Under this plan, for instance, Illinois would receive $8.8 billion, Kentucky $1.68 billion, Texas $15.4 billion and Florida $12 billion. Regardless of whether states rely upon income, sales and other levies, significant revenue declines are occurring. Just as Washington has acted to shore up hospitals and small businesses, it will become necessary to help remedy state and local finances. No allocation formula is perfect but using income taxes paid by residents of each state is a fair and efficient method of allocating emergency financial assistance. So, we will see. The problem is extremely complex, made more so by the increasingly toxic politics of this election season. And, certainly any broad revenue sharing can be expected to be bitterly contested in some quarters, in part because of the enormous amounts of spending involved. This is an important fight and one producers should watch closely as it emerges, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


SBA Reopened EIDL Portal For Ag Producers Only The Small Business Administration has reopened processing of new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications on a limited basis only to provide relief to U.S. agricultural businesses. Agricultural businesses include those businesses engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries. SBA is encouraging all eligible agricultural businesses with 500 or fewer employees wishing to apply to begin preparing their business financial information needed for their application. “At this time, only agricultural business applications will be accepted due to limitations in funding availability and the unprecedented submission of applications already received,” SBA said. For agricultural producers that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


USDA Announces Section 32 Food Purchase Effort USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will seek to purchase $470 million via Section 32 in food products in the third quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 beyond purchases efforts that have already been announced. The food purchased will be distributed to communities nationwide, USDA said. USDA based the expected purchase levels based on industry requests, market analysis and food bank needs. AMS will begin issuing solicitations in June and intends to begin deliveries in July. Among the products to be purchased, AMS said they would include dairy products ($120 million), potatoes ($50 million), turkey products ($50 million), pork ($30 million), chicken ($30 million), catfish products ($30 million), orange juice ($25 million), tart cherries ($20 million) and more. “Industry requests for future purchases using Section 32 funds, including potential plans for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020, will be assessed on an ongoing basis,” AMS said.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets ADP will have an estimate of private job losses for April at 7:15 a.m. CDT. The U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory report will get traders' attention and show an update of gasoline demand and ethanol production. The other usual suspects of weather, trade and news about coronavirus or meat plants will also be watched. Weather Dry conditions will be in place across the central U.S. Wednesday. We'll see some light rain in southern Texas and light to moderate rain in the interior Northwest. Colder conditions with frost potential remain in the five-day forecast for northern and central areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


SBA Opens EIDL to Agriculture The Small Business Administration Monday announced eligibility for agricultural business in the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans and EIDL Advance programs. SBA’s EIDL portal has been closed since April 15. However, the Agency reopened the portal in a limited capacity this week. SBA is reopening the Loan and Advance application portal to agricultural enterprises only. SBA will move forward and process the applications without the need for re-applying for producers that submitted a loan application through the portal before the legislative change in funding. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the move "will make a tremendous difference for America's agricultural community." Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising livestock, aquaculture, and other farming and agricultural-related industries. Applicants must have 500 or fewer employees. For more information, visit www.sba.gov/Disaster. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces $100 million for American Biofuels Infrastructure The Department of Agriculture Monday announced $100 million in competitive grants for activities designed to expand the availability and sale of renewable fuels. The Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program offers funding for competitive grants or sales incentives to eligible entities for activities designed to expand the sales and use of ethanol and biodiesel fuels. Funds will be made directly available to assist transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities with converting to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs related to and offering sales incentives for the installation of fuel pumps, related equipment, and infrastructure. Agriculture Secretary Perdue says the grants to expand biofuels availability “will help increase their use during our economic resurgence,” following the impacts of decreased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA plans to make available approximately $86 million for implementation activities related to higher blends of fuel ethanol, and approximately $14 million for implementation activities related to higher blends of biodiesel. ************************************************************************************ Baldwin: Order on Meat Processors Puts Food Chain at Risk U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is urging President Trump to take immediate action to amend his Executive Order on meat processing facilities. Baldwin says facilities should be permitted to reopen only after they have met all the health and safety guidelines issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Trump recently used the Defense Production Act to compel meat processing facilities to remain open despite poor safety and health standards at those facilities, which have led to documented COVID-19 infections and worker fatalities, according to Baldwin. In a letter with Senate colleges, Baldwin and others say, “Failure to take action to protect these workers is not only a threat to their lives, but also to the public health of their communities,” the Senators demanded the Trump administration do more to protect these workers, the public health of their communities, farmers and livestock producers, and the nation’s food supply chain. ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Seek Quick Investigation of Beef Industry A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives urges the Department of Agriculture to provide findings of its beef pricing investigation as soon as possible. Following the announcement of the USDA's Packers and Stockyard Division investigation in August of 2019. Secretary Sonny Perdue extended USDA's investigation last month to determine the causes of divergence between live beef and box prices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis, cattlemen saw prices drastically decline, with cattle futures falling 29 percent between January and April, while beef prices increased in stores. The lawmakers, including Oklahoma Republican Frank Lucas, say, “When market participants begin to believe that markets are not competitive or transparent, that suspicion has a dangerous industry-wide ripple effect." The lawmakers say producers want effective, market-based risk management tools. However, volatility during the pandemic has made market participation difficult to manage and capital intensive. Lucas added, "As a policymaker and a lifelong cattleman, restoring faith in our markets is my top priority.” ************************************************************************************ U.S.-U.K. Trade Talks This Week Trade talks get underway virtually this week between the United States and the United Kingdom. The talks come more than 18 months after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress of the intent to begin talks with the United Kingdom. A video conference Tuesday will start the talks. In March, the U.K. published its objectives for trade negotiations with the United States. The announcement included an uncompromising stand on agriculture and food standards, two big sticking points that have slowed momentum for talks getting underway. 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. However, 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. Politico reports It’s unclear how quickly the two sides can reach an agreement, since the U.K. first needs to decide many issues regarding its future relationship with the European Union. ************************************************************************************ National Average Gas Prices Increases Average gas prices rose for the first time in ten weeks, while diesel fell nationwide in the last week. GasBuddy reports the national average price of gasoline has moved higher, rising 1.5 cents over the last week to $1.75 per gallon. The average price of diesel, meanwhile, fell 2.5 cents to $2.43 per gallon. Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy says, “a disconnect between low oil prices and rising gasoline prices has emerged at the hands of refineries that have slowed production.” Crude oil prices have rallied significantly in the last week as OPEC's production cut took effect May 1, and as U.S. demand shows the first signs of a long road to recovery. Data from the Energy Information Administration last week printed a gain of nine million barrels in U.S. oil inventories, ten percent above the five-year average for this time of year. Gasoline inventories, however, posted a drop of nearly four million barrels, signaling that refinery run cuts have fulfilled their purpose of curbing a glut of gasoline.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fulfilling the US, China Trade Deal Bloomberg is reporting this week that the trade agreement President Trump signed with China less than four months ago “has gone from a cornerstone of his re-election bid to a potential political liability” as the pandemic increasingly sours U.S.-China relations. The pact, which took effect in mid-February, appears to be falling short on a number of fronts, including Beijing’s promises of large agriculture and energy purchases. The administration is seen as “hesitant to ramp up the pressure or back away from the deal altogether, even as the rhetoric on both sides heats up.” On Sunday night, the president raised concerns of a resumption of economic hostilities with China, calling tariffs “the ultimate punishment” for its response to the pandemic and threatening to withdraw from the trade deal if Beijing’s purchase pledges come up short. As the U.S. economy craters, the president could find himself boxed in on China,” Bloomberg thinks. If he responds too forcefully amid a growing public outcry to punish China he risks hurting consumers and businesses already facing the deepest recession since the 1930s. “The trade war was launched in good economic times,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Reimposing or expanding tariffs now with U.S. unemployment at over 20% would be far harder to justify economically or defend politically.” At the same time, campaign advisers to former Vice President Biden are trying to exploit what they see as a weakness in the administration’s approach. In a recent TV ad, the Biden campaign accused the president of “rolling over” for the Chinese by taking their word that the virus was contained. Biden advisers argue that the catastrophe could have been better contained if the administration had been tougher on China instead of praising the trade deal. The president argued on Sunday that he was tougher on China than past administrations and achieved an “incredible trade deal.” The political pressure to do something, however, is mounting within his own party as he denied reports last week that his administration is planning to cancel part of the U.S. debt obligations to China. He claimed that he “had many other ways to punish the country.” On Sunday, he called tariffs the “greatest negotiating tool” but didn’t directly answer a question on whether he’d use them now against China for the country’s failure to limit the spread of the virus. Over the past two years, the administration placed duties on roughly $360 billion in Chinese goods and China retaliated by hitting more than half of America’s exports. The agreement signed Jan. 15 imposed a cease fire in that trade war and was supposed to usher in a new era of commercial partnership. Now, that warmth has faded as the countries feud over who’s to blame for a U.S. public-health crisis and an economy in a steep decline. With the Republican caucus calling for China to pay a price, the president “could be convinced to take action before the election,” Bloomberg thinks. “American voters and in particular his political base, want accountability,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the 2016 campaign. Whichever route the president takes, continuing to praise what he lauded as “the biggest deal anybody has ever seen” could backfire. Two-thirds of Americans now have a negative opinion of the country where the virus originated, a recent Pew Research Center poll found. Seventy-two percent of Republicans see China unfavorably compared with 62% of Democrats. The president’s messaging on China’s handling of the virus has recently become more aggressive though he’s been careful to distinguish his displeasure with the country from harsh comments about President Xi. The current Bloomberg report focuses more on energy than on total trade. China committed to spend $52.4 billion buying U.S. energy over two years. The American Exploration and Production Council said last month that China had purchased “a de minimis amount of U.S. crude in the first months of 2020 while it has increased purchases of crude oil from Saudi Arabia and Russia.” A senior U.S. Trade Representative official acknowledged last week that there have been hiccups related to purchases and that the administration been discussing ways to make sure the country stays on track with its commitments. At the end of last month, Bloomberg reported that China is studying ways to accelerate purchases of U.S. farm goods to meet its Phase One trade deal commitments after the coronavirus delayed some imports. The expectation was that China might buy some ag commodities to build reserves. The Trump campaign has long accused former Vice President Biden of being too soft on China. The anti-China message resonates more with voters, especially in battleground states like Wisconsin. So, we will see. The phase-one trade deal is expected to be a prominent issue throughout the fall. “We think this will resonate across the country,” a Biden adviser told Bloomberg. Pressure to fulfill trade promises is likely to be a continuing issue as the administration works to ensure that the Chinese promises are fulfilled. Producers should to watch such efforts closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


Groups Argue Against Reconsideration of 2020 Biofuel Targets The American Petroleum Institute (API) petition for EPA to reconsider the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel standards in the wake of the COVID-19 situation is being opposed by several U.S. farm and commodity organizations. API based their petition on the 10th Circuit Court ruling that three small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for the 2016 compliance year were invalid, arguing that EPA should now reopen the 2020 biofuel standards given that those standards included an accounting for SREs aimed at effectively increasing the level of biofuel used. “There is no basis for revisiting or modifying EPA's current approach until EPA acknowledges that the central tenets of the Tenth Circuit's decision are appropriately applied throughout the country,” the groups said in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Applying the Tenth Circuit decision nationally while leaving the 2020 RFS Rule intact would begin to restore a small amount of the renewable fuel volume requirements lost to past small refinery exemptions.” The groups also questioned whether API qualifies to seek a reconsideration of the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel standards. Plus, the groups argued reconsidering the standards would be counter to the EPA stance of not going back to revisit the RFS levels once they have been finalized. “We agree with API that the Tenth Circuit decision warrants immediate national application, but since reconsideration of the 2020 RFS Rule is neither practical nor legally defensible, we encourage EPA to confirm the wisdom of that conclusion in its upcoming proposal to set annual standards for 2021,” the groups said. The Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union and American Coalition for Ethanol signed the letter.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


Still Waiting for CFAP Details As of late-Monday, USDA had still not sent the rule for implementing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. USDA has been under intense pressure to change what it initially said would be in the program, with much attention focused on the pay caps of $125,000 per crop and a total limit of $250,000 per person or entity. Scores of lawmakers have written USDA, pressing them on several details, but the most unified criticism of what USDA said would be in the plan is on the pay cap. USDA has been aiming to start signup soon so that funds can be sent to farmers yet this month.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Traders are expecting to see a big jump in row crop planting progress in Monday's Crop Progress report and will have to wait until 3 p.m. CDT. The latest weather forecasts, news on coronavirus and meat processing plants will also draw attention. Weekly grain export inspections are due out at 10 a.m. CDT. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain will cross the Northern Plains to the far western Midwest Monday. Other crop areas will be dry. Areas with rain will have useful moisture for recently planted corn and soybeans. Meanwhile, Midwest areas will have improved conditions for planting. Drier wheat areas of the southwestern Plains have no more than light rain indicated. We'll also see additional record heat and dryness in central and western Texas, unfavorable for planting cotton.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


Coalition Opposes API Petitions on RFS Obligations The American Petroleum Institute recently filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a reconsideration of the 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard final rule. A coalition of ethanol and farm groups sent a letter to the EPA last week in opposition to the petition. API claims the EPA needs to reconsider the rule because of the coalition’s recent Tenth Circuit Court victory that overturned the small refinery exemptions illegally granted by the EPA. API also argues in its petition that the 2020 RFS rule should be revised to eliminate measures that prospectively “reallocate” RFS blending obligations expected to be lost to refinery waivers. The Petroleum Institute says the reallocation of expected waivers is no longer needed because the Tenth Circuit Court decision should significantly curtail the number of waivers granted. However, EPA hasn’t confirmed that it will implement the tenets of the court decision nationwide, meaning reconsideration of the 2020 RFS rule would be very premature. “There is no basis for revisiting or modifying EPA’s current approach until EPA acknowledges that the central tenets of the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision are appropriately applied across the country,” the groups say in their letter. ********************************************************************************************** RMA Makes Changes to Forage Seeding, Forage Production Crop Insurance USDA’s Risk Management Agency made some changes to the Forage Seeding and Forage Production crop insurance programs that will start during the 2021 crop year. The changes will include expanding coverage to new regions and counties, expanding coverage to fall-planted forage, as well as changing the method for loss adjustment. “These changes will expand coverage to new places, better reflect current agricultural practices, and better protect forage producers from losses,” says RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “This will also enable forage producers to better secure loans and provide continuity to their forage production operations.” The specific changes include establishing coverage of forage seeding for producers in an additional 186 counties. Coverage is expanded to fall-planted forage and aligns forage seeding cancellation and termination dates with the dates of other fall-planted crops in each state. RMA will revise loss-adjustment procedures to rely upon the number of live alfalfa stems rather than the number of live plants for making loss determinations for forage containing more than 60 percent alfalfa. Changes are listed in a final rule on the Federal Register at regulations.gov. Interested people are invited to comment on the rule for 60 days. ********************************************************************************************** Small Farmer Debt Relief Act Introduced in House Democratic Representatives from New York, Maine, Vermont, and New Jersey introduced the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act. The legislation would provide one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000 for farmers who hold existing loan obligations with the USDA. The Hagstrom Report says the bill would apply that one-time debt forgiveness to three types of USDA loans, including direct-farm operating loans, direct farm ownership loans, as well as emergency loans. Farmers with an average adjusted gross income of $300,000 a year or less over the previous five years would be eligible for the debt relief. The legislation will offer a one-year window for farmers to apply for the relief. Farmers would have to commit to being actively engaged in farming for at least two years after receiving loan forgiveness. The bill has widespread support from a wide spectrum of organizations, including the National Family Farm Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition, Farm Aid, Family Farm Action, Rural Coalition, Rural Advancement Foundation International, as well as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment. ********************************************************************************************** Early Registration Open for NCGA National Corn Yield Contest The National Corn Yield Contest is officially underway, and the National Corn Growers Association is encouraging potential entrants to register early and save on entry fees. Fees are reduced to $75 until June 30. NCGA points out that a small-time investment now will save some money later in the summer. The contest has been one of the premier events of every corn-growing season since 1965, with the contest offering challenges and rewards to each of the entrants. In 2019, 7,454 growers accepted the challenge of testing their corn production skills and knowledge by competing with proven winners to reach the ultimate goal of being named champion. NCGA invites American farmers to take advantage of the opportunity to explore new ideas and production techniques while gaining knowledge to enhance future yield potential. Winners will get national recognition in various publications like the NCYC Corn Yield Guide, as well as other rewards from participating sponsors from seed, crop, and chemical companies. State winners will be honored during the NCYC Breakfast at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. Visit the National Corn Growers website for more information. ********************************************************************************************** American Farmland Trust Helping Farmers Who Sell Directly to Consumers American Farmland Trust’s Farmer Relief Fund started sending out $1,000 grant checks to 1,000 farmers across the country as America sees unprecedented disruptions to the food system. The funds are going to help small to mid-size producers that sell directly to consumers, foodservice businesses, or institutions. All of the funds from the AFT are being given to farmers directly and with no restrictions on how to use them, only that they use the money to support modifications to their business model that will get them through until normal markets return. Direct-to-consumer farmers have been severely impacted by “social distancing” policies and closures that have kept them from selling to their usual customers and necessitated they make dramatic shifts in the way they do business to stay afloat. “We’re helping in a small way where the need is huge,” says American Farm Trust President and CEO John Piotti (Pee-AHT-tee). “We believe the farmers who sell directly to consumers were the most immediately impacted when the pandemic set in.” He says farmers who sell directly to consumers were also hurt because there is no federal safety net in place to help them during tough times.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Coronavirus Restructuring One of the persistent concerns of economic observers focuses on shifts in the structure of the economy in response to large economic trends. For example, Bloomberg says that the biggest companies are getting even bigger these days and “midsize players are running on fumes.” The report focuses on efforts by the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, and state attorneys general that have been investigating Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. for possible antitrust infractions. And, the antitrust officials see those inquiries continuing “as they shifted to working remotely” while the economy reopens. The pandemic is playing to the strengths of the biggest digital players, Bloomberg says, as seen in their earnings results for the quarter ending in March. Amazon.com Inc. has gone on a hiring spree to keep up with a surge in demand from millions of homebound consumers. In what is normally a slow quarter, sales jumped 26% to a record $75.5 billion, though earnings fell 29% compared with the same period in 2019. In addition, Alphabet’s revenue exceeded expectations as Facebook’s shares soared on Thursday after its results eased some investor concerns about advertising weakness. Investors were braced for one of the biggest annual sales declines in Apple Inc.’s history but the company reported a surprising 1% revenue increase to $58.3 billion, while retailers, restaurants, airlines and hotels are struggling and more than 30 million Americans have suddenly become jobless. Dominant companies were already on the march across industries, from the internet to wireless carriers and from health care to food processing, long before the virus hit. Now, antitrust experts fear that as the largest companies increase market shares, weaker firms might disappear or sell out at fire-sale prices to stronger rivals – and that regulators and lawmakers will be under pressure not to stand in the way. During the 2008 financial crisis, a wave of bank mergers increased concentration and could offer a template for what’s to come. The report says policy makers encouraged the strong to gobble up the weak, at that time. By 2012, five banks -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. -- were about twice as large as they had been a decade earlier relative to the U.S. economy. This time, embattled retail, restaurant, entertainment and travel industries could follow suit, Bloomberg says and notes several structural discussions now underway. New York University economist Thomas Philippon, whose book, “The Great Reversal,” documented how U.S. markets have become less competitive said big companies gained access to Federal Reserve lending facilities in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. Meanwhile, millions of small firms were left with a poorly designed Small Business Administration loan program that’s been swamped by demand, including from larger companies with the ability to tap stock and bond markets. Some are already closing. For example, Service, a travel app, folded after an investment deal and a backup plan to sell to Enterprise Holdings Inc. fell through, said Michael Schneider, the chief executive officer. He had to inform his nine employees in Los Angeles that they were out of a job. “It feels like the end of the world,” he said. Supply-chain bottlenecks in the meat industry already have led President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to keep food supplies flowing. Tyson and its top rivals JBS SA and Cargill Inc. control about two-thirds of America’s beef production, the bulk of which is done in a few dozen giant plants. “This is 100% a symptom of consolidation,” said Christopher Leonard, author of “The Meat Racket,” which examines the protein industry. “The virus is exposing the profound fragility that comes with this kind of consolidation.” The pandemic could reshape the American economy in myriad ways, as companies begin to teeter and corporate defaults are projected to soar, Bloomberg says. Even as the pandemic grinds deal-making to a halt, famed investors in struggling companies like Howard Marks’s Oaktree Capital Group are getting ready to pounce. Mastercard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ajay Bangatold told investors on an April 29 conference call that the company is “keeping the powder dry” for acquisitions. Fear of a consolidation wave has led Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who chairs the House antitrust panel, to call for a moratorium on acquisitions. Two other Democrats, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, are proposing legislation to ban corporate mergers while the pandemic persists. As the pandemic accelerates, concerns are growing among “antitrust overseers” that Amazon’s grip on U.S. online retail sales could permanently shift consumer behavior toward online shopping. On Friday, Jerrold Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman called Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos to testify about his company’s treatment of third-party merchants on Amazon’s website. So, we will see. The primary concern likely will be to get the economy reopened, as it was in the earlier case. Still, worries about smaller competitors seems stronger now – and to extend at least modestly across the political aisle, although holding back consolidation will be very tough. Such efforts should be watched closely as the fight against the virus continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Sees Meat Plants Reopening in ‘Days, Not Weeks’ U.S. meat plants are expected to be resuming operations in “days, not weeks,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue told Bloomberg in an interview, noting that personal protection gear and access to COVID-19 testing should happen “virtually immediately.” USDA has already started working on orders to get them filled on a priority basis with suppliers. The downturn in meat production should ease to “10% to 15% within a week to 10 days,” he noted, putting the current shortfall at 20% to 30%. “There will be some less production, some inefficiency based on line speeds, some employees that will not be able to come back to work,” Perdue said, but emphasized that worker safety “is the first priority here.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Again Offers Help for Ethanol Industry Exports of U.S. ethanol are being eyed as a way to help the sector, but USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Thursday did not mention the potential for the industry to get any government aid. Perdue said ethanol was a product that China could purchase as it seeks to meet terms of the Phase One agreement with the U.S. He also offered no indication that USDA is altering its aid package for farmers that it has yet to release. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Senators are pushing USDA to target its relief to local farmers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). They expressed disappointment that there were “no specific details on how this assistance will be tailored to the unique challenges that local producers face, or how the Department will conduct outreach to beginning and underserved farmers.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Traders are expecting to see a big jump in row crop planting progress in Monday's Crop Progress report and will have to wait until 3 p.m. CDT. The latest weather forecasts, news on coronavirus and meat processing plants will also draw attention. Weekly grain export inspections are due out at 10 a.m. CDT. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain will cross the Northern Plains to the far western Midwest Monday. Other crop areas will be dry. Areas with rain will have useful moisture for recently planted corn and soybeans. Meanwhile, Midwest areas will have improved conditions for planting. Drier wheat areas of the southwestern Plains have no more than light rain indicated. We'll also see additional record heat and dryness in central and western Texas, unfavorable for planting cotton.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


Peterson Will Draft Emergency Plan for Agriculture The Minnesota Democrat who chairs the House Ag Committee says he will “personally see to it” that the ag industry doesn’t suffer from a national emergency like COVID-19 again. “I can tell you as chairman of the ag committee that this is not going to happen again on my watch,” Peterson said during a press conference in Worthington, Minnesota. The press conference dealt with how pork producers are being hurt by the pandemic. Peterson has formed a local task force to help pork producers deal with a massive backup of hogs caused by recent closures of meat processing plants. Before President Trump issued an executive order to keep the plants open, Peterson had struck a deal with a shuttered JBS plant in Minnesota to have its workers ease the burden by euthanizing up to 13,000 hogs daily. With fewer places to send animals ready for slaughter, farmers are having to euthanize the animals themselves, which Peterson says is a nearly impossible task. Peterson also said Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue floated the idea of having the federal government cover the costs of depopulating hogs if the backlog remains a problem. ********************************************************************************************** MN Dairy Group: Farmers Need Cash, Not Government-Inflated Prices The Minnesota Milk Producers Association introduced its Dairy CORE Program, which stands for Coronavirus Recovery. They say the program will get right to the heart of the industry’s biggest challenge, which is dairy farmers need cash to continue their operations. Some members of the dairy industry recently proposed to temporarily alter the Federal Milk Marketing Order System. The Minnesota farmers point out that everyone in the industry wants higher milk prices, but arbitrarily bumping prices to a made-up number could cause more harm than good. The people who buy milk at the processing plant, as well as at the store, may decide they no longer need to buy it. They also point out that while raising the Class 1 milk price would benefit dairies with Class 1 milk, the farms without milk in the Class 1 category would get left behind. Important parts of their CORE Program include distributing Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments as quickly as possible. They want the Federal Milk Marketing Orders to stay where they are. They’re also calling for raising or eliminating the cap on direct payments. They say the current payment caps are out of touch with the risk undertaken by even the smallest of dairy operations. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Pilot Program Offers Longer-Term Conservation Benefits The USDA will soon open signup for a new conservation program called CLEAR30. It’s a new pilot program that will allow farmers and landowners an opportunity to enroll in a 30-year Conservation Reserve Program contract. Signup will begin this summer, with farmers in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions eligible to participate. “This pilot will allow us to work with farmers and landowners to maintain conservation practices for 30 years, which will only underscore farmers’ commitments to sound long-term conservation stewardship on their agricultural land,” says Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce. “Through CLEAR30, we can decrease erosion, improve water quality, and increase wildlife habitat on a much longer-term basis.” The program will be available in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Traditional CRP contracts run from 10 to 15 years. The longer contracts will ensure that practices remain in place for 30 years, which will help reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, as well as help to prevent algae blooms. The official signup period begins on July 6 and runs through August 21. ********************************************************************************************** ASA, USB Offering #SoyHelp to Overcome Farm Stress The American Soybean Association’s COVID-19 Task Force conducted a survey to find out the effects of COVID-19 on soy growers, their operations, employees, and families. It’s probably no surprise that stress in soy-producing states is high. ASA, their state soybean affiliates, and the United Soybean Board want to help. This May is Mental Health Month and ASA is launching a proactive communications campaign to combat #FarmStress and offer #SoyHelp. They say help comes in many forms and from many sources. ASA has researched a range of options that will be shared both nationally and by state soybean affiliates. “Stress levels have crept up out there in farm communities for some time now,” says Kevin Scott, a South Dakota farmer and chair of the task force. “Knowing how to talk about the issues and work to reduce stress are two different things.” The #SoyHelp campaign will include different levels of outreach. Producers will see #SoyHelp posts throughout May on Facebook and Twitter. They’ll offer a social media toolkit for each soybean state and USB to participate and share resources. The organization will have related stories in national and state newsletters, as well as editorials from soy growers on #FarmStress. They’ll also share expert advice on the subject of farm stress and ways to seek out emotional support. ********************************************************************************************** Minnesota Farmers Helping Others During COVID-19 Corn farmers around the country are doing what they can to help their local communities during COVID-19. Corn farmers in Minnesota are a good example. Chippewa (CHIP-eh-wah) County Corn and Soybean Growers donated pallets of bottled water to its local hospital and its workers who serve many of their county residents on the frontlines. Freeborn County Corn and Soybean Growers made a $3,000 donation to three of their area Food Shelves. The producers recognized the financial hardship that many families are under and wanted to help out their local Food Shelves, which are experiencing a much higher demand for their services. Murray County Corn and Soybean Growers worked with their local restaurants to organize a free lunch for essential workers, as well as people who support the county growers. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association also got involved by sponsoring an hour of a radio telethon in the Twin Cities to raise funds for Second Harvest Heartland, matching the amount of money raised through the hour, up to a predetermined amount. ********************************************************************************************** House Ag Committee Celebrates 200 Years It’s been 200 years since the House Agriculture Committee was established. Back on April 29, 1820, Congressman Lewis Williams of North Carolina introduced a House resolution to create a committee to oversee the agricultural sector of the economy. The full House approved the resolution to formally establish the Committee on May 3, 1820. Committee Chair Collin Peterson and Ranking Member Michael Conaway issued statements this week celebrating the anniversary. “For 200 years, the House Ag Committee has brought the issues facing farmers and ranchers and the rural communities they call home together with the needs of consumers in the city, to make sure Americans have the food, fuel, and fiber they need,” Peterson says. “We’ve never shied away from tough tasks before us, and we won’t start now.” He adds that Americans need a sound policy that makes sure food is available for everyone. “American agriculture has kept this nation fed and clothed through many difficult times in our history,” Conaway says. “Now more than ever, we are reminded of the important role the hardworking individuals in agriculture play in our daily lives, and it’s our duty to stand with them as members of the House Agriculture Committee.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Federal Rules for Meat Plants The New York Times is reporting this week that “since slaughterhouses became coronavirus hot spots, the meat industry has been asking the administration for help. On Tuesday, the president gave them what they were looking for, a broad declaration that the slaughtering and processing of beef, chicken and pork are “critical.” This means that federal agencies would now set the criteria for ensuring workers’ safety amid the pandemic, the Times said. The move came as hundreds of employees have been getting sick or not showing up for work for fear of contracting the virus. Labor unions had started to hold regular news conferences to highlight the growing number of deaths among their workers. And in some states, health departments were shutting down meatpacking plants. “This order tells them they need to stay open and they get cover,” said Howard Roth, the president of the National Pork Producers Council said on a conference call with meat executives, the president and Vice President Mike Pence. The executive order, which allows USDA to invoke the Defense Production Act, does not explicitly mandate that plants stay open--but it signals that the decisions around whether to close or reopen a plant should be driven by the feds, not local authorities. The action followed weeks of lobbying behind the scenes and in public by meat companies led by Tyson Foods, a $40 billion company, the Times said. After decades of consolidation, only a small group of slaughterhouses concentrated in the Midwest accounts for the bulk of the nation’s meat supply, NYT said. The group exerts heavy-duty leverage on both Republican and Democratic administrations as a major food supplier. Even so, the meat industry was helped over the weekend when another powerful constituency weighed in. Farmers, who fear that they will need to euthanize as many as 150,000 hogs per day if slaughterhouses remained closed, also pushed for federal intervention. The executive order could also shield companies from lawsuits by employees who fall ill while cutting meat — a key provision for an industry in which several plants have reopened after shutdowns caused by coronavirus outbreaks. Also, serious questions remain about whether social distancing and the regular use of face masks can stem a new contagion. Even before Trump’s action, meat companies had pushed back against local health orders. When the major meatpacking company, JBS USA in Greeley, Colo., was shut down this month, local health officials originally wanted the workers tested before it could reopen. But the plant opened back up on Friday without widespread testing, state and union officials said. JBS, threatened legal action against the local union, although five workers at the plant there have died of the virus. “They somehow think we don’t have a constitutional right to advocate for our workers,” said Kim Cordova, president of Local 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. A local Weld County spokesman said health officials had been in the plant in the days after it reopened to perform on-the-spot testing of any employee who showed possible symptoms. Neither the administration’s executive order nor recently released federal guidelines specify whether all meat workers should be tested before a plant can reopen, NYT said. One measure that many health experts and plant workers say would help prevent the virus from spreading again is to slow the production line. Such a move reduces the number of people needed to cut and debone the products and which would allow for more space between employees, NYT says. However, the companies have spent years lobbying to increase line speeds and have not signaled that they will slow them now. A federal rule adopted in September allows pork-processing lines to move at any speed with fewer inspectors overseeing production. This month, even as the pandemic was raging, USDA issued waivers allowing 15 poultry plants to increase line speeds to as fast as 175 birds per minute. “They prioritize line speed production,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former high-ranking official at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “It’s shocking to me that the government gave this industry a pass over worker safety.” However, lines in many of the plants now operating are moving slower because fewer employees are showing up, the United Food and Commercial Workers said. But the union does not expect that the companies will agree to reduce their speeds permanently because that could threaten profits. Two major meat plants that closed in Pennsylvania have reopened with new measures that spread out workers. The UFCW said the changes were not enough and that there needed to be widespread testing of employees and more protective gear, including face shields. And, last week the union called on governors in several states to step in and enforce health guidelines in light of the administration’s executive order. At a Worthington, Minn., shuttered JBS plant, Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, said that getting the plants up and running hinges on protecting workers through testing and contact tracing, among other tools. He added, “No executive order is going to get those hogs processed if the people who know how to do it are sick.” So, we will see. The new policy likely will mean tough regulatory decisions for USDA but the criteria involved seem quite clear and the agency has long experience in safety enforcement. The new oversight will be challenging for the agency and should be watched closely by producers as the fight against the virus continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


US Says China Sticking To Commitments in Phase One Deal China is still “very, very committed” to meeting the terms of the Phase One trade deal with the U.S. despite the impacts of the COVID-19 situation, according to a senior U.S. trade official. The two sides hold regular discussions, often daily, on implementation of the trade deal. Despite the challenges from the pandemic, the official said that China is sticking to its commitments. "We will continually assess its implementation of the Phase One agreement," said the official. "We have had very good interactions with Chinese (officials) on that, and they are continuing to implement their obligations." The official made the comments during a briefing on the annual USTR Special 301 report, in which it noted it was still assessing intellectual property (IP) changes that China committed to in the Phase One deal.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


Rep. Peterson Wants Pandemic Plans For CCC Getting a plan in place to use the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) authority at USDA to address a pandemic in the future like the COVID-19 situation is a key issue that House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D., Minn., said he will pursue. “We are going to have to have a way to respond to emergencies that is off the shelf,” Peterson told reporters. He also said that CCC authorities need to be put in place to pay producers for animals they have to depopulate in emergency situations. “We have got to change the statute, we have got to put this in the CCC law,” Peterson said. He also noted that the executive order signed by President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to keep meat plants operating should help get plants back on line. While some have raised concerns about provisions on liability and that the order lacked protections for workers, Peterson said he believes workers will be protected. “I think the biggest issue is making sure these workers in the plant are safe,” he added, saying he would not support any move that does not also ensure worker safety. Meanwhile, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has asked Peterson to form a working group to address the closing of pork plants and resulting euthanasia of hogs in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. Peterson noted he spoke with Perdue for about 30 minutes Wednesday morning about the current state of the food system with a focus on packing plants.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday, the first of May, is relatively quiet for official reports. ISM's index of U.S. manufacturing is due out at 9 a.m. CDT, followed by the Fats and Oils report from NASS at 2 p.m., a report of March soybean crush and soybean oil stocks. Market attention remains focused on the weather and any news about coronavirus, meat plant updates and export sales. Weather Friday will be dry across almost all primary crop areas, allowing for continued fieldwork and planting progress. The only exception will be light rain in the far Northern Plains. Meanwhile, record or near-record heat and dryness will stress crops in the southwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


Agriculture Responds to Meatpacking Executive Order President Donald Trump’s executive order to open meatpacking plants helps ensure the food supply chain but poses risks to workers. A statement by the National Farmers Union says the organization shares the president's concerns around maintaining food system infrastructure. However, the organization is equally concerned with the health and wellbeing of meat plant employees. NFU President Rob Larew says, “These workers work in close quarters and often lack access to appropriate protective equipment or paid sick leave, making them among the most vulnerable to coronavirus.” However, ordering the facilities to stay open ensures that producers of meat have a market for their product. National Pork Producers Council President Howard AV Roth says, "We must safely stabilize the current plant capacity challenge." Pork and poultry producers face the tough decision to depopulate because there is no room for animals in the current supply chain. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, in a statement, says he is "hopeful" the executive order will protect workers while ensuring the supply chain for farmers and ranchers. ************************************************************************************ Senators Seek Open Antitrust Investigation into Meatpackers Amid Plant Closures Two U.S. Senators seek an antitrust investigation into the meatpacking industry. Senators Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, asked the Federal Trade Commission to open the antitrust investigation Wednesday. They say the industry is currently dominated by just a handful of large, multinational firms that have concentrated meat processing into fewer and fewer facilities, leaving America’s food supply chain vulnerable to disruptions. In the bipartisan letter, the Senators note that the closing of three pork plants because of COVID-19 has resulted in the shutdown of 15 percent of America’s pork production “at a time when stable supply chains have become more critical than ever.” The Senators say the FTC has the power to “shed light on these growing competition and security problems.” Baldwin and Hawley say the FTC should ask probing questions about major meatpacking firms’ conduct, pricing, and contracting, as well as how their commitments to overseas interests impact the U.S. market and national security. ************************************************************************************ Expanding Overseas Markets Key to Dairy Post-COVID-19 Expanding export markets oversees is key to helping the dairy industry recover after the COVID-19 pandemic. National Milk Producers Federation vice president for trade, Shawna Morris, says work continues on "what needs to happen over the next year or two" to help the industry recover. Despite the disruptions, Morris says trade officials need to keep long-range goals of open commerce essential to returning dairy to prosperity in mind. Morris says NMPF and others are working with the federal government and others to outline the dairy industry's priorities for upcoming trade agreements, notably with the UK and Kenya. Additionally, NMPF is focusing on issues and policy barriers that had existed before COVID-19 and are still in place and hindering dairy trade. With the drop in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dairy farmers are forced to dump milk, and some experts have warned the industry needs to retract production by ten percent. However, strong export demand following the COVID-19 pandemic could help the industry quickly recover. ************************************************************************************ COVID-19 Impacting Ag Equipment Demand, Supply Chains More than half of U.S. equipment manufacturers believe the COVID-19 pandemic has had a very negative impact on the industry, according to a survey released by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. In addition, eight out of ten executives say the federal government should prioritize a significant investment in the nation's infrastructure to help equipment manufacturers weather the crisis and help rebuild the economy. The survey was in the field from April 16 to 27, 2020. Seven out of ten surveyed experienced a moderately negative impact on their supply chain, while a quarter said the impact has been very negative. Four out of ten said they expect the outlook for the next 30 days to get worse and said they plan to lower their financial outlook for the same period by more than 30 percent. Finally, nine out of ten cited a decline in demand for equipment as the primary impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business. ************************************************************************************ Organic Outlook: Corn and Wheat Face Glut, Soy Demand Strong Larger-than-expected beginning stocks and more harvested acres have placed organic corn and wheat on a bearish trend over the 2019/20 market year, according to the new Mercaris (Meh-CAR-us) Organic Commodity Outlook. Meanwhile, strong demand and lower imports have provided support to organic soybeans markets. Mercaris, the nation's leading market data service and online trading platform for organic, non-GMO and certified agricultural commodities, this week released its spring outlook. Despite poor planting and harvest conditions in 2019, additional certified corn and wheat farms helped push harvests above previous estimates. In addition, corn imports rose sharply at the end of the 2018/19 market year, 12 percent above projections. For organic soybeans, a collapse in imports from China and a reduction from Canada and the Black Sea Region point to supply constraints and higher prices. Meanwhile, organic corn production is estimated at 39.7 million bushels for 2019/20, up nine percent from the previous outlook but still down four percent year-over-year. ************************************************************************************ Midwest Dairy Donated $500,000 to Food Banks Midwest Dairy this week announced a $500,000 donation to food banks in the Midwest to purchase dairy products for those in need. The contributions will be spread across the ten states Midwest Dairy represents to help meet the increased demand for dairy products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food banks across the region have been seeing an unprecedented need in recent weeks, setting records of daily and weekly food distribution and showcasing the urgency of finding resourceful ways to provide more food to those experiencing food insecurity. With unemployment numbers still climbing and schools - where many children receive most of their daily meals - continuing to be closed, the demand is expected to continue growing. Though dairy checkoff funds cannot typically be used to purchase dairy products, the USDA has granted a one-time exception at the request of Midwest Dairy. The program also offers processors an opportunity to keep their supply chains active while navigating changes in demand.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Tracer Army Mobilized In addition to financial support, the national anti-virus effort is mobilizing a large group, perhaps 300,000 workers, to trace past contacts of infected people, Bloomberg is reporting this week. The effort is seen as crucial for coast-to-coast reopening, though controversial. However, Bloomberg also notes that it is so far resulting in a “far smaller ragtag army that’s many weeks, if not months, from full deployment.” Bloomberg also comments that the tracing effort has uncertain purposes in many cases. For example, West Virginia wants tracers to go unpaid while Texas, which is advertising jobs at $17 to $22 an hour, calls the gig a “simple” matter of telling people to stay home. New York City is seeking 1,000 hires with public-health backgrounds. North Carolina, which is targeting unemployed people with high-school educations, received about 1,500 applications for 250 positions in just 24 hours. “That shows you that there are a lot of people out of work,” said Paul Mahoney, a spokesperson for the program’s coordinator, Community Care of North Carolina. Five weeks into the pandemic, a record 26 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits, more than 875,000 in North Carolina. That wave of “desperation explains why Texas, Georgia and other states are stirring to life this week,” Bloomberg notes. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said his state will reopen in a limited capacity Friday, including gyms, salons and dine-in restaurants so long as they “exercise extreme precautions.” Wyoming is doing likewise, while California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering opening schools as early as July to make up for lost class time. The main reason for the needed “army” is the belief by experts that long-term stability won’t come without a way to quickly spot COVID-19 outbreaks and stop them. As a result, the US with its “flagging public-health system,” is asking trainees to press total strangers about details: Where have you been, for how long and who else was there? And their phone numbers, please? So, the “army” may include 300,000 tracers and specialists, according to Tom Frieden, a former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director and New York City health commissioner. “Early in the outbreak, many health departments began systematic contact tracing but rapidly were overwhelmed,” Frieden said. “Now that cases are coming down in some areas, we have to trace contacts in a simple, more scalable way.” In the meantime, House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said that officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Health and Human Services told lawmakers recently that states face shortages of testing supplies as well as personal protective equipment such as masks and medical gowns. This acknowledgment came in spite of President Donald Trump's recent comment that governors have sufficient testing equipment. He commented on Wednesday that “the only reason the U.S. has reported one million cases of coronavirus is that our testing is “so much better” than any other country in the World.” Still, Bloomberg points out that the virus crisis is thrusting governments on both sides of the Atlantic into a fiscal emergency along with the medical one. It reports that the EU and the US both are grappling with questions regarding how to assist their hardest-hit members without being dragged down by them. In Europe, indebted Italy is “in need” while in the US “it’s big states like New York and Illinois. “The geography and political systems may differ, but the problem is the same,” the report argues. Both economies boast central powers that want to avoid getting on the hook for the debts of the under-performers. Republicans in Washington grumble about taking on Illinois’ problems while Berlin fears Rome’s. In addition, there other unusual approaches to virus-related problems being undertaken. For example, the president signed an executive order Wednesday that “compels slaughterhouses to remain open, setting up a showdown between the giant companies that produce meat and the unions and activists who want to protect workers in a pandemic.” Meat processing plants around the U.S. have shut down because of the coronavirus but the president said that “such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency.” Using the Defense Production Act, he is ordering plants to stay open as part of the critical infrastructure needed to keep people fed amid growing supply disruptions from the outbreak. The government is expected to provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance. So, we will see. Clearly, the federal and state governments are convinced of the need to take important, often extreme steps to offset the impacts of the outbreak. These are leading to widespread charges of unfairness and inequity across the nation even as they raise questions of overall effectiveness — charges and concerns that should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


Legislation to Boost Ethanol Use Offered Legislation to provide funding to build out additional ethanol infrastructure has been offered in the US House of Representatives. The Clean Fuels Deployment Act of 2020 was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa., and would authorize funding for installing and converting fuel pump infrastructure to deliver higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. The Department of Transportation (DOT) would set up a grant program for eligible entities that will be used cover costs related to the deployment of fueling infrastructure; converting existing pump infrastructure to deliver ethanol blends of greater than 10% and biodiesel blends of greater than 20%; and the installation of fuel pumps and related infrastructure dedicated to the distribution of higher ethanol blends and higher biodiesel blends at fueling locations. The measure would also authorize funding to help build and retrofit traditional and pipeline terminals, including rail lines, to blend biodiesel, and to build and retrofit pipelines to carry ethanol and biodiesel. The measure would require the Underwriters Laboratory certify the equipment involved as being able to distribute blends with an ethanol content of 25% or greater. The bill authorizes $100 million annually would be authorized under for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 through 2026 for the effort.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


House Ag Chairman Peterson Supports Boost In CCC Borrowing, But Wants Conditions Raising the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority to $68 billion from a current $30 billion each fiscal year is supported by House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., but he wants conditions on any such increase. The American Farm Bureau Federation has advocated boosting CCC authority to $68 billion, a level which reflects what the level should be if it were adjusted for inflation. Among conditions he wants, Peterson told reporters he wants any CCC spending to be signed off by the leaders of the House and Senate Ag panels. "Going forward, it would not be like it was in the past," he said. “The CCC and the appropriators have become the farm bill; they are doing farm policy and they are not the experts on farm policy,” he said. “It should not be that way. If the farm bill is going to be kind of an afterthought, which is what it is at this point, then we might as well abolish the Ag committee.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday is first notice day for U.S. grain futures and it will be interesting to see if corn deliveries are lighter than usual at these cheap prices or if supplies are being let go. Weekly grain export sales, U.S. jobless claims, U.S. personal incomes and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor are all set for 7:30 a.m. CDT. U.S. natural gas inventory is at 9:30 a.m. Traders also remain interested in the latest news about coronavirus, meat processing plants and weather forecasts. Weather Thursday will be dry and warm across the primary crop areas. This will favor field drying and planting progress. Winter wheat conditions are still less than desired in the Southern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


Trump Using Defense Production Act to Keep Meatpackers Open President Donald Trump Tuesday announced an executive order to keep meatpacking plants open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The President will use the Defense Production Act to order companies to stay open as critical infrastructure, as meatpacking plants over the past couple of weeks closed with spikes in coronavirus cases among employees. The plan allows the federal government to supply additional personal protective equipment to meat processing facilities, according to Bloomberg News. The supply chain slowdown presents dire factors for farmers, with poultry and pork producers left with no alternative other than euthanizing animals. The order will affect processing plants for beef, chicken, eggs and pork. Republican U.S. Senators from Iowa, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, this week, urged the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act. The Senators asked for assistance for processing plants, assistance for euthanizing animals, indemnity payments for depopulation costs and mental health assistance for all affected. ************************************************************************************ Growth Energy Praises House Bill to Boost Biofuel Infrastructure Growth Energy Tuesday announced the association's support of the Clean Fuels Deployment Act. The legislation authorizes $500 million over five years for the Department of Transportation to provide grants that incentivize the deployment of fueling infrastructure for ethanol and biodiesel. The bill specifically focuses on ethanol blends greater than ten percent, and biodiesel blends greater than 20 percent. The bill was introduced by U.S. House Democrats Abby Finkenaur of Iowa, Angie Craig of Illinois, and Republicans Roger Marshall of Kansas and Don Bacon of Nebraska. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the legislation “offers a roadmap for the next wave of growth that will revitalize rural communities.” The program could also be used to enhance pipelines and terminals to blend and carry ethanol and biodiesel. Funding from the clean fuels grant program could be used to incentivize the deployment of biofuels infrastructure and convert existing infrastructure to deliver the higher blends. ************************************************************************************ Think Tank Outlines Steps to Help Rural America A progressive Washington, D.C. think tank recently issued a policy brief on ways lawmakers can help rural communities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for American Progress is self-described as a progressive, independent, nonpartisan policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans. The brief released this week finds that many rural communities are less prepared than their urban counterparts to handle an influx of virus cases because they have fewer health care facilities, their populations tend to have more chronic health issues, and residents face transportation challenges. The organization suggests rural communities would benefit from Medicaid expansion, a national stay at home order, and dedicated funding for communities with a population under 50,000. An economist with the organization says, “Rural communities have been left behind by the government’s coronavirus response,” adding, policymakers should recognize “those communities are, in many ways, less equipped than big cities to manage the crisis.” ************************************************************************************ New Guidelines to Keep Poultry Processing Employees Safe and Protein Available New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control will help keep poultry processing workers safe and ensure the supply chain, according to the National Chicken Council. Responding to the new guidance this week, NCC President Mike Brown says, “We appreciate the administration’s new guidance in an effort to further keep our workers safe and keep food on the shelves.” CDC recommends facilities take measures to reduce COVID-19 risks. Specifically, the new guidance reiterates many already identified mitigation measures, including social distancing, engineering controls to minimize potential contact, protective gear and face coverings, shift staggering, health screenings, training and awareness, and financial incentives not to report to work sick. Brown says the biggest problem processors face is inconsistencies among state and local health departments and government officials who, in many circumstances, are developing their own criteria for maintaining operations. NCC says there must be a uniform approach across all states. NCC is urging states to adopt guidelines by the CDC and other federal agencies immediately. ************************************************************************************ House Members Request Swift and Fair Implementation of Relief for Farmers More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives want COVID-19 related relief for farmers as effective and as immediately as possible. A letter this week to the Trump administration led by Republican Representative Rick Crawford or Arkansas, Austin Scott of Georgia, Rodney Davis of Illinois and Tom Emmer of Minnesota outlined the request. Specifically, the letter highlights concern that there will be a severe gap between producers' losses and Department of Agriculture aid. The letter implores USDA to include all producers and to not limit payments simply based on income, risk management practices, or past USDA payments. Further, the letter notes Congress's $14 billion replenishment of the Credit Commodity Corporation and requests USDA to include the funds in the relief package. Representative Davis says, "Protecting our nation’s food supply is critical during this pandemic to ensure food is available now and in the future." Representative Crawford adds, "Our nation's agricultural producers are fighting new challenges every day due to the current pandemic, and obtaining assistance shouldn't be added to their plate." ************************************************************************************ NCBA Applauds Effort to Provide Flexibility to Livestock Haulers The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association this week applauded Senators seeking flexibility for livestock haulers. A bipartisan letter from 24 Senators outlined the need to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. NCBA Government Affairs Director Allison Rivera says, “Hauling livestock is inherently different than hauling typical consumer goods, and we continue to look for flexibilities within Hours of Service to safely haul livestock around this country.” The letter says that as the Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdictional oversight over Hours of Service regulations applicable to commercial motor vehicles, “we respectfully request that your committee work with us to provide greater flexibility for haulers of agricultural products.” The unique circumstances involved in the transport of perishable and live goods warrant flexible laws and regulations to ensure a safe environment, the lawmakers say, for animals and drivers. The letter states, “It is important that Hours of Service regulations provide for a commonsense framework for drivers, rather than a one-size-fits-all model.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Taking Aim at the Tariffs At this moment when broad efforts are underway to reduce the impacts of the coronavirus, lobbyists are pushing hard on many areas, and are especially scrambling to expand relief on more tariffs. Bloomberg says. It notes that tariff payments for U.S. companies are coming due soon on everything from imported Chinese fabrics to Italian cheeses and Scotch whisky. And, the administration gave some importers a three-month postponement on duties for select goods imported in March and April but excluded from the announced deferral billions of dollars in other tariffs, including those imposed on goods from China, imported steel and aluminum, and a number of products from Europe. The report said that the decision was seen as a “blow to industries pushing for more comprehensive duty relief.” “We are going to push very, very hard on Congress to say, ‘OK, thanks for the beautifully wrapped box, but can we put something in it now?’” said Nicole Bivens Collinson, the head of the international trade and government relations practice at Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg. The former official in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative is lobbying for an informal coalition of companies seeking to defer most other tariffs. Advocates say such a policy wouldn’t have a lasting impact on government revenues because they are simply seeking to make the payments at a later date. The new tariff deferral policy, announced on April 19, also doesn’t refund any duties already paid, even in the period covered by the deferral, thus limiting its impact to select products imported in April. Tariff invoices for May will begin to arrive soon. Collinson said the new rule’s limited scope and eligibility criteria are problematic during the economic collapse. One of her clients in the apparel industry, she said, is only seeing $56,000 of its $190,000 in duty payments deferred under the new rule. “My thing is, why is the government taking the money out of their hands, only to turn around and then give them a stimulus package to put it back in?” Collinson said. The policy shift came after weeks of denials by the administration that it would make such a move. Industry groups and lobbyists are now urging officials and lawmakers to go further. Steve Lamar, the leader of the American Apparel & Footwear Association said. “Still, there is more that can and should be done.” He is among those arguing to include in the deferral the so-called Section 301 tariffs on items imported from China which impact many retail and apparel companies. Brian Dodge, the president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), is pushing for a 180-day deferral on all tariff payments. “The limited duty deferral is a start and it is appreciated. We hope the administration will be open to doing more,” RILA spokeswoman Melissa Murdock said, and added that “a suspension or full repeal of the 301 tariffs remains the ultimate goal and would do the most to help retailers.” Prior to the change, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin twice phoned into CEO calls held by RILA, during which executives advocated to defer the duties on Chinese items, according to Jo-Ann Stores, Inc., CEO Wade Miquelon. He said total tariff payments were “far more” than the company’s operating profit and have left retailers caught up in a trade war with China and hurt by tariffs that were sparked by intellectual property theft allegations. “It’s not China or anybody else paying the tariffs. It’s U.S. companies that are paying,” said Americans for Free Trade coalition spokesman Jonathan Gold, who is vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation. U.S. steel companies and other domestic producers are pushing back against the effort to expand the deferral. For example, the Coalition for a Prosperous America represents a group of unions and domestic manufacturing and agricultural interests wrote to the president on Wednesday urging the administration not to expand the deferral. The letter stated it would “simply increase imports and make it harder for our members to avoid laying off employees.” The president was adamant he wouldn’t delay any tariffs before doing so this month. While limited that initial reversal gives Collinson hope the administration will go even further if companies can illustrate how the initial deferral was helpful and explain why it should be more inclusive. She’s hoping to leverage congressional support on the issue to have it included in future relief legislation. “We’ve written language that will accentuate the change,” Collinson said. “It’s three sentences, it’s very easy. It’s one of those things where if you have the right support it can become part of a piece of legislation pretty easily.” So, we will see. Certainly, the coronavirus and its impacts raise new questions about trade issues â?? and, especially about the administration’s “get tough” tariff policies. Amid efforts to provide new supports to industries, the basis for the earlier tariff fights should be reconsidered â?? a process producers should watch closely as it expands, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


Ethanol Industry Continues Push For Aid Help for the U.S. ethanol sector will benefit both farmers and the renewable fuels industry, according to American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings. “More than half of U.S. ethanol production capacity is already offline, high-skill jobs are being shed, livestock and food processing customers are facing supply disruptions, and our members’ working capital is vanishing. Ethanol use could fall by more than three billion gallons in 2020, eliminating the market for at least one billion bushels of U.S. corn,” Jennings wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump. “As you did on April 21, when you directed the Secretaries of Energy and Treasury to formulate a plan to provide funds to the oil and gas industry, we urge similar action for our sector.” Noting the group has sought out help from EPA relative to the 2020 biofuel requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), Jennings said the situation has “exposed a shortcoming in the agency’s rulemaking, and failure to increase the RFS this year will result in a waiver of promised gallons.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


Euthanizing Hogs Brings COVID-19 Actions Around 3,000 healthy hogs were euthanized in Minnesota last week, according to the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, and around 200,000 or more could soon follow. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Tuesday that the JBS hog plant in Worthington, Minnesota, is reopening today (Wednesday), but will be euthanizing hogs and not processing them into meat to reach consumers. The action will take a small crew that can practice social distancing, he noted. And, President Donald Trump Tuesday said he would sign an executive order that would invoke Meanwhile, Iowa Republican lawmakers, including the state’s governor and ag commissioner, are calling on USDA to compensate hog producers for animals they have to euthanize. “At current capacity levels, there are 700,000 pigs across the nation that cannot be processed each week and must be humanely euthanized. Iowa produces one-third of the nation’s pork supply and one-fourth of the nation’s pork processing capacity. Simply put, Iowa pork producers cannot operate if they cannot send their pigs to market,” the letter said. A group of Minnesota state lawmakers also penned a letter to President Donald Trump, asking for him to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to coordinate efforts to develop plans to reopen processing plants, to work with small processors to get license exemptions to ensure as many hogs as possible can be processed, work with regional governors and mobilize the National Guard to assist where needed and coordinate any hog destruction to take place at processing plants rather than on-farm.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Traders will be poring over the details of Tuesday's executive order to keep meat processing plants open. The Department of Energy's weekly report of energy inventories includes ethanol production and will be important for Wednesday's grain markets. A report of first quarter U.S. GDP is due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by U.S. pending home sales at 9 a.m. and an announcement from the Federal Reserve at 1 p.m. CDT. News updates on coronavirus, weather and trade all remain topics of interest. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for the eastern Midwest and Delta Wednesday, interrupting planting. Drier conditions elsewhere will favor progress. Strong winds through northern and central areas will cause additional topsoil drying and will stress winter wheat in the western and southwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


CDC Issues Updated Guidance for Meatpackers New guidance by the Centers for Disease Control seeks to protect meatpacking workers from COVID-19. The meat and poultry processing workers are not exposed to the virus through the meat products they handle. However, their work environments—processing lines and others where they have close contact with coworkers and supervisors—may contribute substantially to their potential exposures. Many meatpacking facilities across the nation have closed for short periods due to infection rates of workers at the facilities. The CDC says meatpackers should configure work environments so that workers are spaced at least six feet apart, if possible. Additionally, facilities should use physical barriers, such as strip curtains, plexiglass or similar materials, or other dividers or partitions, to separate meat and poultry processing workers from each other, if feasible. Further, facilities should consider consulting with a ventilation engineer to ensure adequate ventilation in work areas to minimize workers' potential exposures. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed the response, saying the guidance protects workers, and supports the operation of beef processing plants. ************************************************************************************ USDA Launches Coordination Center for Livestock Producers Impacted by Reduced Demand The Department of Agriculture announced a coordination center to assist producers impacted by meat processing plant closures late last week. USDA says livestock and poultry producers face an unprecedented emergency due to COVID-19, particularly with the closing of meat processing plants in several states. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is establishing a National Incident Coordination Center to provide direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19. Going forward, APHIS' Coordination Center, State Veterinarians, and other state officials will assist in identifying potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and, if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods. Additionally, APHIS will mobilize and deploy assets of the National Veterinary Stockpile as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services, much as it did during the large-scale Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza emergency in 2015. ************************************************************************************ AEM: Additional Relief Promising, But More Needed The Association of Equipment Manufacturers says additional aid authorized by Congress last week is encouraging, but lawmakers need to do more. Late last week, Congress passed new legislation to provide $484 billion in additional relief for Americans enduring hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes $310 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which AEM says many equipment manufacturers are relying on to keep their operations going. However, AEM President Dennis Slater says,” too many equipment manufacturers are still struggling to stay open and on the job.” The Paycheck Protection Program is helpful for many small equipment manufacturers. Still, Slater says Congress must now turn their attention to a large number of manufacturers who do not qualify for this program but still desperately need support. AEM is the North American-based international trade group representing off-road equipment manufacturers and suppliers, with more than 1,000 companies and more than 200 product lines in the agriculture and construction-related industry sectors worldwide. ************************************************************************************ USTR: USMCA Effective July 1 The U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement enters effect July 1, according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The July 1 date represents a one-month delay from the original timeline, following the signing of the agreement by the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In a statement last week, Lighthizer says the agreement supports more balanced, reciprocal trade, leading to freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America. The agreement contains significant improvements and modernized approaches to rules of origin, agricultural market access, intellectual property, digital trade, financial services, labor, and numerous other sectors. Lighthizer says, “The crisis and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that now, more than ever, the United States should strive to increase manufacturing capacity and investment in North America.” Lighthizer calls the start of USMCA a “landmark achievement in that effort.” The trade agreement ensures most agriculture tariffs will remain at zero, and expands dairy market access to Canada for the U.S., among other benefits. ************************************************************************************ Senators Seek Support for Rural Broadcasters A large group of U.S. Senators wants relief for local and rural broadcasters and newspapers. More than 70 Senators signed a letter to the Trump administration regarding local media, following a similar letter last week. The lawmakers say that in many rural areas, broadcast stations are the predominant or only form of local information. The letter says it is critical local and rural media can continue to operate to help Americans stay up to date with the latest news and information. The Senators requested the White House Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies to increase advertising with local media outlets. The request will help local media outlets, "ensure they are able to continue to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.” Many federal agencies maintain advertising accounts to provide notices and information to the public. The recent passage of the CARES Act, according to the lawmakers, provides opportunity for the federal government to relay essential information to the public through local advertisements. ************************************************************************************ Farm Foundation Accepting Nominations for Young Agri-Food Leaders Network Farm Foundation is seeking nominations for its Young Agri-Food Leaders Network, a new program created to actively engage emerging leaders in food and agribusiness. The young agri-food leaders will participate in a year-long series of interactive learning and networking experiences, focused on gaining a deeper understanding of the food and agriculture value chain. The program also hopes to help young professionals build a strong, enduring network of peers and mentors in business, farming and government. Up to ten participants will be sponsored to attend events, engage in virtual conversations and participate in exclusive learning and networking opportunities. To be eligible for this program, individuals must be a U.S. citizen, between the ages of 25 and 40, be employed in the agri-food industry, and show significant leadership potential. Nominators may be colleagues, business partners, or any other person familiar with the Young Agri-Food Leader nominee's career. The deadline to nominate a young agri-food leader is May 15, 2020. Visit farmfoundation.org for more information.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Protecting Food Plant Workers As businesses struggle to craft strategies to reopen following the anti-virus shutdown, The Hill is reporting that calls are growing for more protections for meat-plant workers, and that the challenge is daunting. Recently, Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, shut down a pork processing plant in South Dakota that accounts for up to 5 percent of production after more than 700 of its workers were infected and one died from COVID-19. Tysons Food, Cargill and JBS, have also been forced to close plants after workers were infected. A USDA spokesperson told The Hill that 137 of its food inspectors have tested positive for the virus. Federal inspectors were directed to find or make their own masks and face coverings on April 9. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., a member of the House Agriculture Committee, called the USDA directive “troubling" in a letter sent Friday to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Shortages of personal protective equipment are well known and given the Vice President’s April 16th public pledge to ensure every frontline food worker has a mask, I hope this directive is no longer needed,” Costa wrote. In a letter to Vice President Pence, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union told the administration to “prioritize the safety and protection of all grocery workers and workers in meatpacking and food processing plants.” The UFCW told the administration to deploy protective equipment to meat packing plants and mandate social distancing at their workplaces. The union is also asking Vice President Pence to deem its workers eligible for prioritized testing. “Given the contagious nature of this pandemic and the significant number of workers in these meatpacking plants and processing facilities, the above-mentioned recommendations are among the critical steps that we believe must be adopted as soon as humanly possible,” the letter read. According to UFCW, more than 5,000 workers have been diagnosed or exposed. The union also requested a halt to line speed waivers, which it says further endanger employees working on slaughter lines. USDA's Food and Safety Inspection Service approved 11 regulatory waivers in the first two weeks of April for poultry plants to increase their maximum line speed. The pressure to increase line speed has come as the pandemic threatens to create food shortages, The Hill said. Ben Lilliston, interim co-executive director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, told The Hill that most of the meat on the market right now was produced in March and most meat producers that experienced closures, are international. He said if these processing plants are closed for an extended period of time and if other meat processing plants in Mexico, Canada and elsewhere also experience shutdowns, consumers could see changes on supermarket shelves. “These highly-profitable global meat companies need to take a series of protective measures for their workers. That includes slowing down the lines to allow for more social distancing,” he said. “This will ultimately allow the plants to re-open and keep them open. In the longer-term we need to address the vulnerability of this very concentrated system with huge animal operations feeding into huge meat processing plants.” The UFCW claims 250,000 members who are meat and food-processing workers and represent about 80% of U.S. beef and pork production and 40% of poultry production. Plant workers on a recent conference call organized by the union said they are afraid of falling ill although meat processors have been bleaching hallways and doorways for safety and installing dividers to separate employees. "As far as social distancing, it's almost impossible," said Margarita Heredia, who works in a JBS pork plant in Marshalltown, Iowa. "There's no room." "We’re working hard to protect our team members during this ever-changing situation, while also ensuring we continue fulfilling our critical role of helping feed people," Tyson spokeswoman Liz Croston said. The reports from plants and workers across the industry indicate the difficulty of maintaining the distance and other protections necessary to protect workers â?? and the risks have grown both for plant workers and federal employees responsible for protection services, threats that seem to be intensifying. USDA should increase its attention to these problems as this especially the virulent virus attack intensifies. Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


SBA Issues Guidance On Ag Eligibility For PPP Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers are eligible for small business rescue loans provided they meet certain requirements, according to new Payroll Protection Program (PPP) guidance from the U.S. Treasury Dept. and Small Business Administration (SBA). Qualifications include having 500 or fewer workers or if the business fits within the revenue-based sized standard, which is average annual receipts of $1 million. Producers, farmers, and ranchers can also qualify if their business meets SBA’s “alternative size standard,” which is defined as having maximum net worth not more than $15 million, and average net income after federal income taxes, excluding any carry-over losses, for two full fiscal years before the application date of not more than $5 million. Guidance also says agricultural and other forms of cooperatives are eligible to get PPP funds if other requirements are met.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


Pressure Continues From Lawmakers On Ag Aid Effort Some 121 lawmakers penned a letter to President Donald Trump on the ag aid plan being drawn up by USDA, with the letter signed by key lawmakers like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and ranking member of the House Ag Committee Mike Conaway, R-Texas. The lawmakers pointed out the losses being faced by cattlemen and others in the ag sector and it raised a familiar theme: Relief should not be further reduced by payment limitations “that would harm real family farmers (of both specialty and row crops), ranchers, livestock and dairy producers.” Pay limits “may have a place in Farm Bill debates,” the letter said, “and may even be necessary in the context of trade aid, but if the goal of this emergency package is to support critical infrastructure and industry, it needs to flow in proportion to production, risk, and losses.” The lawmakers said USDA needs to come up with a payment effort that does “not discriminate against producers who marketed their crop or used risk management practices, including hedging and forward contracts. These are crucial to producers managing enormous risks.” Plus, the help should not exclude producers of any crop. As for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) $14 billion borrowing authority that comes available in July, the lawmakers said USDA should “include this amount in this relief package in order to address the concerns we have outlined and offer relief in phases as you did so successfully under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP).”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting Tuesday and expectations are low for a major change in policy, but comments will be watched on Wednesday. An index of consumer confidence is Tuesday's only official report, due out at 9 a.m. CDT. U.S. coronavirus statistics remain crucially important and have looked more optimistic lately. Weather forecasts, trade news and meat plant updates are all of interest. Weather Showers with light to moderate rain totals will cross the northern and western Midwest along with portions of the Delta Tuesday. Areas with rain will have some fieldwork and planting interruptions. Drier conditions elsewhere will offer progress, notably in the Plains. Heavy rains in some eastern Midwest areas during the past weekend mean extensive interruptions in fieldwork. Western and northern Plains wheat will be stressed by very dry, windy and hot conditions, which also bring high wildfire potential.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


Senators Want Farm Payment Caps Removed A bipartisan group of senators wants the Trump Administration to remove the caps on the amount of direct coronavirus relief farmers can get under USDA’s new aid package. Politico says the $19 billion plan for relief, put together by President Trump and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, includes $16 billion in direct payments, which are capped at $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per person. That’s in line with payment limits from the 2018 Farm Bill. In a letter to the president, 28 senators pointed out that the limits could disproportionately hurt some of the hardest-hit corners of agriculture. Perdue is hoping to launch the aid program in May, and the senators want the payment limits scrapped before USDA puts the finishing touches on the aid program. For example, fresh produce growers have higher production costs than other farmers. Strawberry growers can spend up to $30,000 an acre. The senators say that means the current payment limitations will be “too restrictive to meaningfully address the losses” they’re facing. Purdue has already said there won’t be enough money to help all sectors of agriculture, adding that getting rid of payment limitations will likely mean running out of money that much quicker. ********************************************************************************************** China Studying How to Expedite U.S. Purchases Despite Opposition Bloomberg says China is looking at possible ways to speed up its purchases of American farm goods to meet its Phase One Trade Agreement commitments. However, it appears not everyone is happy with the idea. The government is looking at speeding up the process because the coronavirus delayed some imports. Proposals include potentially buying 10 million tons of U.S. soybeans for Chinese state reserves if demand from private buyers isn’t enough. China could also fulfill its annual import quota of corn, which is currently at 7.2 million tons, with grain from America. The Asian nation could also consider buying more than its quota, potentially reaching as high as 20 million tons of U.S. corn imports. China is also looking at buying one million tons of U.S. cotton for government reserves. However, Bloomberg points out that there is some opposition to the planned buys. Some officials are questioning whether the government should be trying to expedite U.S. purchases given the downturn in the Chinese economy after the coronavirus outbreak. The current round of discussions on the purchases is reported to be at the lower levels of the Chinese government, with no final decision made yet. ********************************************************************************************** PPP Relief Act Passed by Congress Expected to Help Agriculture Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program Increase Act and President Trump signed in on Friday. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane says his organization is pleased with congress passing more money for PPP. “America’s cattle producers are working hard every day to keep feeding America, even as they face more than $13 billion in financial losses while also tending to the health of their families during the pandemic,” Lane says. “We hope the swift passage of the PPP Act means more aid will be available to cattle producers.” Lane added that the NCBA is also grateful that Congress explicitly authorized producer eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and emergency grants administered by the Small Business Administration. Todd Van Hoose, President and CEO of the Farm Credit Council, says, “We will do everything in our power to get farmers and ranchers access to funding through the Paycheck Protection Program.” Public Lands Council President Bob Skinner says, “Federal lands ranchers play a major role in American agriculture, raising 60 percent of our nation’s sheep herd and 40 percent of the nation’s cattle herd. The expanded relief will help to make sure that the cattle and sheep industries can keep producing food and fiber.” ********************************************************************************************** Growth Energy Calls for Relief for U.S. Ethanol Two more of the country’s ethanol plants are going offline amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says that underscores the industry’s need for help. “We just went through the third week in a row that ethanol production hit a record-breaking low, even as stockpiles hit a new record-breaking high,” Skor says. “The evaporation of fuel demand due to COVID-19 has been a knock-out blow to biofuel plants across the heartland, who were already fighting an uphill battle against trade barriers, regulatory threats, and a flood of foreign oil.” She says while half the industry is already offline, two more ADM plants, one in Iowa and the other in Nebraska, have been added to the growing list of plants impacted. “Ethanol producers represent the heart of the rural economy, and when they’re forced offline, the ripple effect can be felt across the agricultural supply chain, including farmers who are without a market for their crops, as well as meatpackers and ranchers who rely on local ethanol plants for animal feed and carbon dioxide,” she adds. “With plans to support the oil and gas industries already in place, it’s vital that policymakers give the same consideration to biofuel workers and farmers equally impacted by the disruptions to the motor fuel market.” ********************************************************************************************** Senate Democrats Release COVID-19 Impact Report Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan led a group of fellow Democrats in releasing a report on the impact of COVID-19 in rural America. The report was put together by the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which Stabenow chairs. The Hagstrom Report says senators from Minnesota, West Virginia, and Montana joined Stabenow on a conference call, and they pointed out that the coronavirus is later in coming to rural America but is now spreading rapidly. The senators repeatedly brought up the issue of broadband internet access during the conference call. “Tele-health is a wonderful thing if you have internet service,” says Joe Manchin of West Virginia, “but worthless for those people who don’t have access to the internet.” Some of the highlights from the Democratic plan for responding to COVID-19 include widespread, rapid testing to save lives, contain the spread, and reopen the economy. It also includes immediate high-speed internet funding to close the digital divide and deploy high-speed internet across the country. They also want protections for the food supply and food industry workers, as well as expedited support for farmers, ranchers, and small businesses to help them weather the crisis. ********************************************************************************************** Farmer Pessimism Hits Historic Level With everything going on right now, it’s probably not surprising that farmers aren’t optimistic. DTN found that farmer attitudes have hit historic lows because of poor commodity prices and falling economic conditions due to COVID-19. The DTN Agriculture Confidence Index dropped a staggering 97 points from December 2019, with the index currently at 67. It’s a 43-point drop from the spring of 2019. The previous record-low index level was 71.9 in August of 2016, as falling crop prices hit during a divisive presidential election. In the latest survey, record or near-record pessimism was found across the entire agricultural spectrum, and it didn’t matter what crops farmers were growing, what they’re income level was, or where they were located. Numbers above 100 indicate optimism, while numbers below 100 show pessimism. The current survey produced a current expectation score of 55, with a future expectation index at a still-pessimistic 73. DTN says it is significant that the record lows come during a spring survey as optimism tends to be at its highest as farmers get ready to plant. Midwest farmers showed the most pessimism for current conditions, yet they also showed the most optimism for the future.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The New Supply Chains Much of the press is in an introspective mode this week, attempting to assess what is happening to the global economy and what is likely to follow. For example, Bloomberg says that when the timeline of the pandemic of 2020 is complete, March 24 will stand out as a day to remember. On that day CEO of Coca-Cola Co. described the supply chain as “creaking around the world,” James Quincey said, clearly worried about the need to adjust. Now, a month later, many supply chain continue to face pressures and some shifts are worsening, particularly in the pipelines for fresh food and medical goods. But Quincey said his plant shutdowns were confined to “just a couple of places” and he even congratulated employees for keeping “everything” running. A “great strength” during the disruptions, he said on April 21, has been local production of Coke’s soft drinks and juices -- we’ve had some issues on timing of ingredients but even those are much better than they were a few weeks ago, he said.” Quincy noted that the same can’t be said of American meatpacking companies that have closed processing plants to contain outbreaks among their workers, or auto companies with supplier networks sprawling from southeast Asia to eastern Europe that are at least another week away from restarting assembly lines. Industrial giants like Alcoa Corp. have to reckon with weak global demand for several more months or perhaps longer. The article notes that Unilever, with more than 200 factories around the world, has been running at about 85% capacity, reflecting “heroic work by people on the front lines of our supply chain, adjusting to new patterns of demand and securing new supply routes for ingredients,” Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope told Bloomberg. Like many companies, the Anglo-Dutch maker of Lipton tea, Breyers ice cream and Dove soap has been trying to ensure it has enough workers who face both government restrictions on travel and time off needed when the virus strikes them. When Northern Italy shut down, the company got approval within hours to keep producing a line of food products in the region. In India, a similar request took four to five days. When an outbreak hit a facility in the Middle East where many workers live in dorms, Unilever booked hotel rooms so those who tested positive could stay isolated and the others could go to work, according to Jope. “Most of our supply chain is local, it’s very flexible, and generally speaking the vast majority of the products we sell in a country we supply in that country,” Unilever Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday. For Danone, the French food processing company, flexibility became one of its biggest challenges in adjusting to “significant changes in consumers’ buying behaviors, with unprecedented swings in weekly demand accentuated by stocking patterns in the first weeks, the shift from out-of-home to at-home food consumption, as well as shifting preferences to larger pack sizes." The tech industry continues to wrestle with uncertainty around the pandemic, Bloomberg says. This month, Broadcom Inc. warned customers they’ll need to place orders for parts at least six months ahead of time, a surprisingly long lead time that points to wider than anticipated disruptions to the global supply chain. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., supplier of advanced silicon to most every major name from Apple Inc. to Huawei Technologies Co. and Qualcomm Inc., acknowledged the potential for supply-chain disruption in its annual report released April 21. CFO Wendell Huang however stressed that deft adjustments could mitigate the fallout. Signaling confidence in a gradual recovery, TSMC is setting aside $16 billion for technology upgrades and capacity this year. “We did not see any disruption from the material supply or any supply-chain activity that has been in disruption mode. Although I did say that because of shelter-in-home that some of the tool delivery has been delayed from two weeks to about one month,” investor relations chief Jeff Su told reporters on a post-earnings conference call. “We continue to work with tool vendors and minimize the impact on the capacity building. So for the whole year, we don’t expect it to have a big impact.” For companies in the U.S. and Europe, ultimately what may happen is a broad reassessment about whether key supplies ought to be manufactured closer to home, even at higher cost for smaller markets. “For the first time we're seeing not just one or two countries closing down, we have three countries closing down,” said David Farr, CEO of Emerson Electric Co., which supplies automation equipment to the oil and gas industries and produces consumer goods, such as garbage disposals and shop vacuums. “So what we're going to have to do here is evaluate this from an economic standpoint and enterprise-risk standpoint.” So, we will see. It is clear that global supply chains will need to change and likely will increase production costs. How much the competitive position of many now competitive firms shifts and where the impacts turn out to be are changes that should be watched closely as the global landscape adjusts—changes likely to affect the overall patterns of trade, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


Push To Alter Or Remove Pay Caps On USDA Aid Lawmakers from both the House and Senate have fired off letters to USDA and the White House urging changes to the ag aid to be doled out by USDA. Much of the attention focuses on the payment limit USDA announced of $125,000 per commodity and a total of $250,000 per person or entity. Lawmakers argue some growers will quickly hit those limits – like cattle, dairy and specialty crop producers – and that will deny them much-needed assistance as those operations will quickly hit the limit. Action to help the U.S. hog industry is being pushed by House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and others, including steps to deal with any potential euthanizing of animals that cannot be shipped off to market. Pressure is mounting on USDA to make changes to its aid package as the details are being finalized, but some provisions are not seen changing. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said that it has learned USDA could shift funds between the various commodities, some self-certification of losses may take place by producers, govern program payments will not factor into the aid and there still will not be any ethanol aid in the initial effort.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


Union Warns US Food Supply At Risk From COVID-19 The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union said the U.S. food supply is at risk from the COVID-19 situation, reporting that over 5,000 of its members have been sick or have been exposed to the virus. The union represents about 40% of all food processing workers. About 10% of beef production and 25% of pork production has been affected by either plant closures or slowing of facilities. The union called for national safety standards for all food and meatpacking workers and said that those workers need adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Plus, they said that testing for these workers needs to be increased. The union also said that USDA should reverse the 11 regulatory waivers that have allowed some poultry plants to increase line speeds, arguing the increased speed makes social distancing difficult. While warning of potential food shortages due to the differing food supply chains with retail and food service channels, UFCW President Marc Perrone said, “How they are able to shift those lines is very important about whether or not we are going to see some of the shortages.” The union said it does not want plants shut down, but said workers need protective equipment and adequate testing.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Coronavirus new updates and the latest weather forecasts are apt to be at the top of list for Monday's market topics. USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections is set for 10 a.m. CDT, followed by the Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. In Monday's report, corn and spring wheat planting along with winter wheat conditions are apt to get the most attention. Weather Rain showers with mostly light amounts will cross the Midwest Monday, bringing some interruptions to fieldwork and planting. A few showers are also indicated in the interior Northwest. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal in the Midwest and above to much above normal in the Plains, a sharp contrast to last year's cold and wet pattern.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


China Expected to Rebuild Commodity Reserves with U.S. Buys Three sources have told Reuters that China is looking to purchase up to 30 million tons of crops from the U.S. to help rebuild state stockpiles. The Asian nation is looking to protect itself from further supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. It would also help China make good on its Phase One Trade Agreement promises to buy more U.S. crops. China is planning to buy approximately 10 million tons of soybeans, 20 million tons of corn, and one million tons of cotton and add them to its state reserves. Reuters says those numbers come from two of the sources who were briefed on the government’s plan. The bulk of the crops are expected to come from the United States. “The main message from Beijing is to help secure people’s livelihoods,” one of the sources tells Reuters. “It’s a good time to build up reserves, especially when the prices of the goods are at quite low levels.” Beijing is also planning to buy one million tons of sugar and two million tons of soybean oil to add to its reserves. The sources aren’t clear on where those supplies would be coming from. ********************************************************************************************** Another Meatpacking Plant Suspends Operations Tyson Foods announced it will be indefinitely suspending operations at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa, which is its largest U.S. pork plant. That plant shutting down operations means approximately 15 percent of pork processing capacity across the country has gone offline. More than 150 of the country’s largest meat plants are in counties where the rate of COVID-19 infections is already relatively high. That’s according to a new investigation by USA Today and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The investigation found a rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meatpacking plants across the nation that’s far more extensive than first thought. An extensive review of the cases shows that it could get worse. The rate of infection around those 150 plants is higher than the rates of infection in 75 percent of the other counties across the country. Experts say the industry has maintained a sufficient level of production despite infections in more than 2,200 workers at 48 plants. Gary Anthone, the chief medical officer in Nebraska, says long-term care facilities were among the biggest initial concerns. “If there’s one thing that’s keeping me up nights right now, it’s the meat processing and manufacturing plants,” he says. ********************************************************************************************** Major WTO Countries Pledge to Keep Food Exports Flowing Major countries involved in the World Trade Organization, including China and the U.S., pledged to keep from imposing restrictions on the free flow of food. Although a few countries have imposed such export restrictions, trade experts fear more food export bans could be on the horizon, which also happened during a global spike in the price of food in 2007. David Beasley is head of the World Food Program at the United Nations. He says famines of “biblical proportions” could take place because of the coronavirus pandemic if urgent steps aren’t taken. In a possible worst-case scenario, Beasley says famines could take hold in about “three dozen countries.” Ten of those countries already have more than one million people on the edge of starvation. A CNN report says Beasley appealed to UN member states to act now. “There are no famines yet,” he says. “But I must warn you, if we don’t act now to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls, and avoid disruptions to trade, we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within only a few months.” ********************************************************************************************** Groups Ask Treasury Secretary to Guard Against Further Ag Consolidation A coalition consisting of 68 farmer, environmental, and antitrust groups across the country sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) on consolidation. They’re asking him to ensure that pandemic relief funds do not lead to the further consolidation of the food and agriculture industry. The letter asks Mnuchin to invest the stimulus funds in farming systems that lift farmers and rural communities while providing opportunities for diverse, sustainable agriculture systems to thrive. The letter says the current food system that’s under the control of a few major corporate players isn’t sustainable, a reality brought forth by the COVID-19 outbreak. The letter says “While farmers and advocates of rural communities are closely watching how USDA will distribute the $9.5 billion allocated through the CARES Act, little discussion or oversight is being given to this other, much-larger pot of money with few strings attached.” The groups want Mnuchin to make sure that money doesn’t go straight from the Treasury Department into the pockets of larger corporations. “During this crisis, relief must be prioritized for the frontline workers and farmers who are the backbone of America’s food supply,” the letter adds. “Consolidation in food and agriculture has already taken a toll on the security of our food system.” ********************************************************************************************** ASF Could Cost the U.S. Up To $50 billion Iowa State University economists put together a study on the economic impact an outbreak of African Swine Fever would have on U.S. hog herds. The researchers calculated the grim figure by determining that 140,000 jobs would be lost as a result of a downsized domestic pork industry devastated by uncontrolled ASF. The lead study author, Dermot Hayes, professor of economics and finance, says researchers looked at two scenarios. One assumes the disease spreads to feral swine and that the U.S. is unable to eliminate the disease over the 10-year projection period, called the all-years scenario. The second assumes that the U.S. gets the disease under control and reenters the export markets within two years. The immediate impact of both scenarios is a 40-to-50 percent reduction in domestic live hog prices, which would be needed to clear the market of surplus pork that would otherwise be exported. The pork industry would lose a total of $15 billion in the two-year scenario and just over $50 billion in the all-years scenario. “This study underscores the need for ASF preparedness by everyone in the U.S. pork industry,” says David Newman, National Pork Board President. “It’s why we continue to encourage producers to participate in the voluntary Secure Pork Supply Plan.” ********************************************************************************************** A decision on Holding the World Dairy Expo Coming on July 1 Staff at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, are still in the process of planning for the event this year. However, a final decision hasn’t been made yet on whether it will take place. The staff members are keeping an eye on conditions surrounding COVID-19 and its potential impact on the show. While they are still moving forward with planning the event, future health declarations, and the well-being and safety of Expo exhibitors, attendees, and volunteers are of the utmost importance and will guide their future decision-making. Out of respect to the heightened economic hardships the industry faces, a final decision to hold or cancel the 2020 edition of the World Dairy Expo will be made by the executive committee on July 1. Whether they cancel the event or hold it as scheduled, the decision will be communicated extensively. World Dairy Expo says it’s proud to be the gathering place of a resilient, united, global dairy community, and looks forward to continuing this tradition in Madison, Wisconsin, for the 54th year, scheduled for September 29 – October 3 of this year.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


Washington Insider: USDA and Food Safety The Hill reported recently that USDA is facing growing pressure to ensure the safety of the nation's food supply during the coronavirus outbreak. The report cited a number of experts who believe that the food supply is safe now, but that this is a period of growing challenges for the USDA as food industry workers fall sick and inspectors scramble for limited resources. The report noted that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has recalled only one product over the last two months. On Feb. 8, a product from Family Traditions Meat Company was recalled due to misbranding, it said – but focused on the fact that “there has been a sharp reduction in recalls during the period before April 10, when it recalled chicken bowls from Conagra Brands over possible foreign matter contamination and pork products from Jowett Farms for missing some inspections.” The report noted that recalls were “flowing in regularly before February,” with five in January, four in December, four in November and three in October. And, while there were no specific signs food safety has been compromised during the pandemic, they urged vigilance and “found the gap in recalls puzzling.” “I do think that it is unusual that there were no recalls during that time frame,” said Donald Schaffner, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University. "COVID-19 has been a distraction," Schaffner added, but he cautioned that the pandemic "has probably not directly impacted food safety yet." Benjamin Chapman, food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, agreed that the outbreak could be a “distraction” with people off work or at home and more resources being devoted to the immediate pandemic response. "Since COVID-19 is such a huge focus for everyone, not just the food industry, I can see how we all might be a bit distracted from the normal day-to-day operations of the system," Chapman said. "But I would say that in the short term the distractions are likely not leading to changes in food safety." Still, the lack of recalls comes at a troubling time as concerns about food safety grow, The Hill said. Those worries have gained attention in recent days with the closing of meat processing plants where workers have contracted the coronavirus. Pork processor Smithfield Foods closed two more plants, one in Cudahy, Wis., and one in Martin City, Mo., this week and a worker from its closed Sioux Falls, S.D., facility died. Two employees of Tyson Foods’s Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork processing plant have also died. The coronavirus will make it harder for USDA inspectors to continue their work even at operating processing plants, the experts said. As the coronavirus outbreak intensified in the U.S. in March, the agency pledged that it would "ensure that grading and inspection personnel are available." USDA officials wrote to stakeholders recently that it "remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health." Another food safety agency, the Food and Drug Administration has also seen its resources stretched with the outbreak and scaled back some routine inspection work to protect inspectors. USDA told The Hill that its Food Safety Inspection workers are on the front line, day in and day out, to make sure our food is safe.” The spotlight on the agency and its work likely will intensify, particularly if more food service workers fall ill, The Hill said--and it argued that experts had not sounded any specific alarms on the nearly two-month gap in recalls, noting the many factors go into determining food recalls. However, they acknowledged the challenges facing the USDA. Food recalls in the U.S. have become more common in recent years. The total number of recalls increased by 10 percent between 2013 and 2018, and there were 905 recalls in 2016. “Consumers have to make sure that they’re practicing safe food handling at home, safety experts say. They recommend washing their hands and separating fresh product from raw product, minimizing their risk as much as possible.” So, we will see. The decline in recalls is a statistic that USDA should examine closely since it could indicate growing pressures on the inspection process. And, given threats from the virus and its impacts, the decline in recalls is a development USDA should make sure consumers understand in this period of tension and uncertainty, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


China Looking to Increase Stockpiles More reporting on China aiming to buy more crops for state reserves. China is looking to buy more than 30 million metric tons of crops for state stockpiles in a bid to avoid supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 and to meet its pledge buy more U.S. farm commodities, according to sources quoted by Reuters. This follows reports Wednesday from JC Intelligence on the planned purchases for state stockpiles which also made reference to current prices as a factor in the apparent decision. The country plans to add 20 million metric tons of corn, 10 mmt of soybeans and 1 mmt of cotton to state reserves, with the bulk of those purchases coming from the U.S. as China strives to meet the terms of the Phase One agreement with the U.S. The report also said the country would seek to add 1 mmt of sugar and 2 mmt of soyoil to reserves, but did not indicate the likely source for those products. No indication on timing of the buys was given, with the report saying that would “depend on how the market evolves.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


USDA, CFTC Comment On Livestock Market Investigations The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Ag Advisory Committee meeting by teleconference Wednesday focused on COVID-19 impacts, with the livestock market situation also discussed. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue addressed the meeting, reminding that USDA’s cattle market investigation now includes volatility linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. “As part of this ongoing investigation, [USDA’s] Packers and Stockyards division will determine if there's any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions on competition, or any unfair practices or unfair advantages,” Perdue commented. He said he would could not share any details of the ongoing investigation. But USDA Senior Advisor Dudley Hoskins later said that there was no deadline for the conclusion of the investigation. He noted Perdue has been “clear he does not anticipate putting any kind of fictional or manmade timelines on how far that investigation will go or how long it will last.” The CFTC’s Livestock Market Taskforce is also looking at the situation, and CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert said the regulator is “putting all of our efforts into making sure that we understand during this period of immense volatility, exactly what's going on in our markets.” As part of the effort, “we are talking to the exchanges, we're talking to market participants, we're talking to the clearing houses, just to make sure that we get a sense of basically any indication that prices are moving in an uneconomic manner relative to the underlying commodity cash price,” he explained. But he also cautioned little public information is offered on the taskforce’s efforts unless the regulator opts to “take a concrete action on the enforcement side.” As for the surveillance effort, Tarbert said, “you should know that we are doing it, but we cannot reveal the details prematurely.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday starts with a report of March U.S. durable goods orders at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by an index of consumer sentiment at 9 a.m. USDA's monthly cattle on-feed report is due out at 2 p.m. CDT and a large drop in March placements is expected. Coronavirus statistics remain the primary market focus as we all continue to watch for signs of improvement. Weather forecasts, trade news and updates on the status of meat processing plants also get attention. Weather Showers and thunderstorms will cross the central Plains and western Midwest Friday, interrupting fieldwork and planting. Precipitation will be light to moderate, with locally heavy in eastern Iowa. Drier conditions are in store elsewhere. Eastern Midwest activity is interrupted by light to moderate rain. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal in most areas, with hot conditions in southern Texas.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


NCGA Analysis Shows $50 Per Acre Revenue Declines for Corn Due to COVID-19 An analysis released by the National Corn Growers Association shows cash corn prices have declined by 16 percent on average. Several regions are experiencing declines of more than 20 percent, since March 1, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis projects a $50 per acre revenue decline for the 2019 corn crop. NCGA commissioned the economic analysis, conducted by Dr. Gary Schnitkey of the University of Illinois, to better understand the economic impact of the global pandemic on the corn industry. Schnitkey writes in the study, “Corn will be one of the most impacted crops as its two largest uses – livestock feed and ethanol – are under pressure.” NCGA will use the data to create solutions to help corn farmers and their customers recover. The analysis was based on cash corn prices as of mid-April and estimated losses would likely increase through the rest of the marketing year. Further analysis is already underway for the 2020 crop year, with losses anticipated to be higher than those in 2019. ************************************************************************************ USDA Reports Record Enrollment in Key Farm Safety-Net Programs Producers signed a record 1.77 million contracts for the Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs for the 2019 crop year. The signup total represents more than 107 percent of the total contracts signed compared with a five-year average. Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce says farmers are using the programs to mitigate risks, and “recognize that ARC and PLC provide the financial protections they need to weather substantial drops in crop prices or revenues.” Producers interested in enrolling for 2020 should contact their FSA county office. Producers must enroll by June 30 and make their one-time update to PLC payment yields by September 30. FSA attributes the significant participation in the 2019 crop year ARC and PLC programs to increased producer interest in the programs under the 2018 Farm Bill. FSA says the growth also comes from an increase in eligible farms because of the selling and buying of farms and new opportunities for beginning farmers and military veterans with farms having ten or fewer base acres. ************************************************************************************ USDA Increases Monthly SNAP Benefits by 40 Percent Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Wednesday announced emergency benefit increases have reached $2.0 billion per month for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The benefits represent a 40 percent increase in overall monthly SNAP benefits, significantly increasing food purchasing power for American families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, a household with two adults, three children, and no income can receive the maximum benefit of $768. However, due to reportable income and other factors, the average five-person household receives significantly less, $528. These emergency benefits would provide the average five-person household an additional $240 monthly in food purchasing power, bringing the average household up to the same benefit level as households already receiving the maximum. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provided for the issuance of emergency allotments in response to COVID-19. Across the United States, emergency allotments total nearly $2 billion per month, which is in addition to approximately $4.5 billion in benefits already provided to SNAP households each month. ************************************************************************************ Bunge Selling 35 U.S. Grain Elevators to Japan-based Buyer Bunge announced this week the company is selling 35 grain elevators to Japan-based Zen-Noh Grain Corporation. The elevators are located along the Mississippi River. ZGC's affiliate, CGB Enterprises, Inc., will operate the acquired facilities through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Consolidated Grain and Barge Company. CGB currently operates more than 100 grain origination facilities in the United States. The company says it serves a vital role as a direct connection to the U.S. farmer by providing an array of services from buying, storing, selling and shipping crops, to financing and risk management. The acquisition, according to the company, contributes to its ability to adequately source a stable supply of grains, oilseeds and feed ingredients for Japan and other destinations by strengthening its origination across a broader footprint in the United States. Meanwhile, Bunge’s storage network will decrease, but the company says, “certain supply agreements" with ZGC will result in a "larger and stronger origination and distribution network." ************************************************************************************ Pork Board Develops Educational Resources for Parents Parents nationwide now have access to new ways to keep children learning and engaged during the coronavirus crisis, thanks to free materials developed in conjunction with the Pork Checkoff. With many working and learning from home during the global pandemic, parents are looking for ways to keep their students occupied and informed. Angie Krieger of Pork Checkoff, says, "We have a wealth of fun and educational resources parents can use to teach their children about food, nutrition, farming and the environment." Working with curriculum specialists at Young Minds Inspired, the Pork Checkoff created a series of educational activities that support healthy eating and teaches children about pork and sustainability. The Pork Checkoff has worked with Young Minds Inspired since 2008 to develop and approve standards-based content for classroom use. Just as new materials were about to be shared with classroom teachers this spring, the coronavirus pandemic altered those plans. With minor adjustments, the content was modified to fit the needs of parents now looking for educational materials. The lesson plans and activity information can be found at http://ymiclassroom.com. ************************************************************************************ Dairy Farmers of American Donating to Needy Families The Dairy Farmers of America cooperative is providing dairy products to needy families. The organization announced this week the launch of its Farmers Feeding Families Fund, which hopes to raise $500,000 for community food banks across the country. Initial seed money of $200,000 has already been raised through the Cooperative's DFA Cares Foundation. DFA is already holding events such as drive-by milk giveaways at schools and donating fluid milk directly to food banks. Randy Mooney, DFA board chairman, says, “we are proud of the role we play in feeding families, and in times like these when so many are struggling, we feel passionately about doing all we can to help.” As demand for food assistance rises with the COVID-19 outbreak, Feeding America, with its more than 200 affiliates across the country, has projected a $1.4 billion shortfall in the next six months alone. DFA has identified 30 communities across the country whose local food banks will receive funds to purchase needed dairy products.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


Washington Insider: More Immigration Uncertainty President Donald Trump announced a new policy that halts the issuance of green cards for two months. The move stops short of a sweeping immigration ban but also includes hints regarding additional restrictions that could complicate planning for businesses and workers looking to rebound from the coronavirus. The new order will affect thousands of would-be immigrants seeking to move permanently to the U.S., Bloomberg says, and “further delays a green card process that is already notoriously cumbersome for those seeking to work in this country.” Temporary workers in agriculture and other fields are the country’s biggest source of immigration and will not be affected, the report says. Nevertheless, the president’s comments regarding an even more restrictive executive order now under consideration adds to the confusion over the outlook, Bloomberg thinks. Companies may prove less likely to seek and hire foreign workers or proceed with projects dependent on non-American labor, especially if they fear new restrictions from the White House. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced by new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,” the president said at a White House briefing on Tuesday evening. “We must first take care of the American worker.” The president also described the new policy as “prohibiting immigration into our Country,” without alluding to its exemptions. Bloomberg explained the uncertainty regarding the order on the grounds that it was “still being drafted.” It is expected to contain exemptions and would not apply to health care or medical research professionals, Bloomberg said. Technology industry workers living in the U.S. on H-1B visas, however, would have to provide updated certifications to the government that they are not displacing American workers. Refugees and asylum seekers would not be affected by the order, nor would spouses and children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Still, the president hinted that additional restrictions could be on the horizon, particularly if the economy struggles to bounce back from the prolonged coronavirus shutdown. “We have a secondary order that, if I want to do that, we’ll make that determination,” the president said. He also said he could extend the green card ban if the economy hadn’t sufficiently improved within two months—since he has “determined that we cannot jump start the domestic economy if Americans are forced to compete against an artificially enlarged labor pool caused by the introduction of foreign workers.” He noted in his remarks that he has determined that the entry of most aliens as “permanent or temporary workers in the immediate term would have adverse impacts on the national interest.” The immediate practical effect of the order remains unclear, Bloomberg said. Immigration agencies and embassies have largely stopped processing visas, meaning many of those seeking to immigrate to or visit the U.S. cannot do so. Refugee admissions have been suspended since March 19 after the United Nations and International Organizations for Migration temporarily halted refugee travel. The U.S. suspension has been extended to May 15. The president’s Monday tweet apparently caught immigration officials off guard, Bloomberg thinks, and noted that he “looks to contain the health, economic and political fallout from the pandemic that has killed more than 42,000 Americans in an election year, while shuttering the economy whose strength had been the base of his campaign only two months ago.” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, told reporters on Tuesday at the White House that the suspension is “a temporary issue” but said he didn’t know how long it would last. Lawmakers had yet to receive any details from the administration as late as midday Tuesday, one Republican official told Bloomberg. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he didn’t know if President Trump’s pause on for legal immigration makes sense. “We’ve been a welcoming nation and we need people,” he said. However, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas welcomed the decision. “I think this is a reasonable short-term measure, a reasonable emergency measure,” Cruz said. So, we will see. The new policy has attracted intense scrutiny and will generate more as additional details emerge. Clearly, immigration is a hot, hot topic and the uncertainty regarding the new rules will be debated, along with the opaque process that appears to be in use, a fight producers should watch closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


NCBA Says They Have Not Asked For Beef Buys While the head of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the group is thankful beef producers will be getting more than half of the COVID-19 relief funds from the USDA, NCBA head Colin Woodall told Brownfield Ag News the industry does not want anything for commodity purchases. “Given what we are seeing with the packing plants that have shut down or have scaled down we need to make sure all of that product is going directly to retail,” Woodhall said. “So, that is our preference right now. So, NCBA will not be asking for a beef buy by the U.S. government nor have we asked for a beef buy.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


Producers to Sen. Hoeven: USDA Calculations Key for COVID Aid North Dakota producers signaled that how USDA calculates the price losses relative to payments it will issue under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) program will be key. Farmer made those views known in a call with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., on Tuesday. USDA wants to get the aid out quickly, but Hoeven said he is pushing on the agency to make sure the assistance matches the impacts the sector has seen. Producers told Hoeven those calculations by USDA are key for livestock and crop farmers. Hoeven said his involvement will be to push USDA on the details as those will be a crucial part of the regulation that USDA will use to put the aid together and that may go to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) yet this week. The payment limit set by USDA -- $125,000 per crop and a total of $250,000 per person or entity -- have been raised as a key issue that could dramatically impact the level of help that dairy producers and others may be able to receive via CFAP.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets As usual, Thursday morning begins with weekly grain export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor at 7:30 a.m. CDT, joined by a report of U.S. new home sales in March. Coronavirus statistics are still of interest, as are the latest weather forecasts and updates of meat processing operations. Weather Moderate rain is in store for the Ohio Valley Thursday, interrupting fieldwork. Light rain elsewhere in the eastern Midwest will bring some interruptions in activity. Farther south, strong to severe thunderstorms in the Mid-South and Deep South will hinder fieldwork, with some flooding possible. Drier conditions elsewhere will allow for progress, notably in the northwestern Midwest and Northern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


Agreement Reached on Expanding Coronavirus Aid, Ag Eligibility ​in EIDL Lawmakers reached an agreement Tuesday to allow agriculture to participate in the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The agreement is part of a larger deal, a $484 billion coronavirus package to extend the Paycheck Protection Program. The agreement also includes funds for small lenders and community banks, funds for national coronavirus testing and funding for hospitals. The bill includes an additional $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, told the Hagstrom Report, “farmers and ranchers are working hard to continue providing our nation with food, fuel and fiber, and this is one way we can help support them during this pandemic.” The provision means ag businesses can now apply for low-interest loans through the program and may also qualify for the $10,000 emergency grants. To be eligible, ag businesses will have to show that they have been hurt by the economic downturn caused by coronavirus. ************************************************************************************ Farm Groups Defend Glyphosate Reregistration A coalition of commodity groups seeks to block a challenge that would toss out the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to reregister glyphosate. The group filed a joint motion to intervene on April 20 in the case to support EPA's decision. The Natural Resources Defense Council is challenging the reregistration approval. Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide. Growers and others depend on it for effective weed control and to minimize tillage farming practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and preserve more land for native habitats. EPA on January 22, published its interim decision for the 15-year registration review of glyphosate, as required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. It included a variety of determinations about glyphosate, including revision of requirements for drift management, off-target effects, herbicide resistance management practices, and a human health risk assessment in which EPA found glyphosate posed no significant cancer or non-cancer human health risks. The coalition of farm groups includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, and eight others. ************************************************************************************ Farmer Co-ops Urge Attention to Farmer Mental Health Issues The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives urges the Department of Agriculture to focus on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on farmers' mental health. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week, the organization says, "for some, mental health may become as or more important than financial health." Farmers have reached the point of decisions to destroy or abandon their produce, dump their milk, and even destroy livestock. The letter states, “The frustration of seeing the value of your hard work going for naught can compound feelings of depression.” The letter notes that USDA, together with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, has been active for several years to help producers struggling with farm stress. The organization says USDA could leverage this experience at this time to provide a lifeline to farmers and ranchers struggling with the impacts of this crisis. The letter suggests that USDA convey to producers that they are not alone, this is not their fault, and they will get through this pandemic and its impact on agriculture. ************************************************************************************ Senate Democrats Seek Production for Food Supply Chain Workers A group of 36 Democratic Senators led by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan urges the Trump administration to protect essential workers in the food supply chain. There have been numerous reports of essential workers in meatpacking plants, processing facilities, farms, grocery stores, and markets falling ill from COVID-19. Some workers have reportedly felt pressured to go to work even when feeling sick. There are also serious concerns about the health of farmworkers who often work, live, and travel in close proximity, making social distancing very difficult. A letter to the Trump administration from the Senators states, “It is vital that we do everything we can to protect food supply workers.” The Senators say breakdowns in the food supply chain could have significant economic impacts for both consumers and agricultural producers. The Senators urged the White House and federal agencies to coordinate with state and local governments and the private sector to take aggressive action to protect essential workers and the food supply from further damage. ************************************************************************************ USDA to Host Virtual Career Fair in Kansas City The Department of Agriculture will hold a virtual job fair for positions at the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Kansas City, Missouri. USDA is partnering with the University of Missouri to host a joint Virtual Career Expo on April 28, 2020, building on an event last year that attracted more than 400 attendees. Both agencies relocated most of their operations to the Kansas City region last fall and are continuing to grow their workforces. Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins says, “This is a unique time for our nation and USDA continues to build the ERS and NIFA workforce using innovative techniques.” The COVID-19 pandemic forced many event cancellations, or a pivot to virtual events, such as the virtual job fair. Representatives from ERS, NIFA, and the Office of Personnel and Management will conduct information sessions during the Virtual Expo about the agencies and available positions, how to apply for federal jobs and benefits of working for the federal government. ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Seek Support for Local Media More than 200 lawmakers seek federal assistance for local news and media outlets suffering from the lack of advertising funds during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawmakers say that in times of emergency and disaster, the public turns to their local media, and advertising plays an incredible role in funding those outlets. A letter to the Trump administration says the importance of advertising to the "sustainability of local broadcast stations and newspapers cannot be overstated." National Association of Farm Broadcasting President Rita Frazer says, "When local businesses hurt, local radio stations hurt," adding, "our members are feeling the pain, with local advertising dollars shifting and declining." The lawmakers urge the administration to review any resources provided by the CARES Act and other recent bills intended for advertising campaigns, and expedite those activities with local media outlets. The lawmakers also seek federal outreach through advertising of new programs, and incentives for recovering businesses to advertise with local media.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Administration to Defer Tariff Payments Bloomberg is reporting this week that, amid the intense debate over federal virus relief measures, the administration will allow “deferral of duty payments in hardship cases.” Larry Kudlow, White House economic adviser said that the U.S. will temporarily suspend certain tariff payments in an effort to help industries such as “retail” that are facing liquidity issues because of the coronavirus crisis. “In some cases the customs duties--the excise tax you pay on the import – will be lifted if there are hardship cases,” Kudlow said. “In particular, there’s a lot of concern about retailers and related supply chains getting into the United States.” The three-month deferral of payments, which was first debated inside the White House a month ago, only covers so-called most-favored nation tariffs and doesn’t apply to any of President Trump’s enforcement actions, including tariffs he’s imposed on roughly $360 billion in Chinese goods or steel and aluminum imports from around the globe, Bloomberg said. “It’s a significant action. We want to help folks, it’s a way of helping out certain industries,” Kudlow said, but added that it was “not an enormous action” and doesn’t change the president’s trade policies. Kudlow had noted earlier that a deferral for certain duty payments was ruled out because it was too complicated to administer. White House deliberations on whether to defer payments and for which tariffs would be reduced were influenced by “outside voices on both sides of the debate,” Bloomberg noted somewhat cryptically. Domestic manufacturers have argued for weeks that any relief for importers would create an unequal playing field at a time when industries in the U.S. are facing difficult times as well. “The administration should not have tried to hide this decision by announcing it on a Sunday evening,” said Thomas Conway, president of United Steelworkers International. “Instead, the president should have made the announcement himself, during the light of day, so he could explain why he would do something that runs so antithetical to his claimed priority to Buy American, Hire American.” Retail groups, on the other hand, said the action was helpful – but doesn’t go far enough to address the problem and ensure that jobs can be saved during this crisis. “While the deferral of select duty payments is helpful and warranted, the deferral of all duty payments for at least 180 days would do even more to assist retailers as they navigate this unprecedented pandemic,” said Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “Millions of jobs are on the line, and we urge the administration to consider further duty relief to help retailers put workers back on the payroll when this crisis abates.” Kudlow on Monday also conceded that the duties for imported goods are paid by American companies and not China, as President Trump often claims. “Yes, tariffs are paid by the companies importing, yes U.S. companies, with a minimum impact, frankly, on consumers.” He said the economic benefits of the phase-one trade deal between America and China “far outweigh” the economic cost of tariffs Trump has imposed. The recently announced shift in tariff payment policy has been under consideration for some time, the New York Times said recently. Also, tariff relief is supported by a number of groups, the NYT said. For example, in a statement last week, Myron Brilliant, the head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said tariff relief would provide some welcome breathing room for American businesses and consumers. “Liquidity has emerged as one of the top challenges for businesses of all sizes, and tariff relief would alleviate some of that strain.” However, groups that supported the administration’s levies from the beginning continue to insist that any removal would be ruinous for industries like steel that depend on the protection. So, we will see. The administration’s “get tough” trade policies continue to have both political supporters and opponents, but the large-scale economic interventions likely will lead to growing questions about policies that are accused of increasing consumer prices and dampening demand, debates producers should watch closely as they intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue to Address CFTC Meeting Wednesday The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) will hold a public meeting today (April 22) via teleconference of its Agricultural Advisory Committee. The panel will hear from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue during the session, which will focus primarily on the COVID-19 situation and the impact on ag markets. While noting the impact that the COVID-19 situation is having on agriculture, CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert also said, “The CFTC’s Livestock Market Task Force is monitoring activity around major, market-moving events, and will continue engaging experts, regulators, and market participants. Ensuring our markets are working for American agriculture is critical to fulfilling the CFTC’s mission during these challenging times.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


Final WOTUS Definition Published By EPA, US Army Corps The final definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) has now been published in the Federal Register and will become final June 20, 2020. However, lawsuits are expected to come with Earthjustice saying they will challenge the matter in court. “Trump’s EPA is taking advantage of a pandemic to covertly gut water safeguards. Under the cover of COVID-19, the Trump administration is giving extractive and polluting industries the power to dig up and destroy wetlands and to dump waste in streams, lakes, and wetlands all over the country,” said Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer. “We will see them in court.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday's main event will be the Energy Department's weekly inventories, include ethanol production and an estimate of last week's gasoline demand at 9:30 a.m. CDT. USDA's monthly cold storage report is at 2 p.m. CDT. The latest weather forecasts, updates of meat processing plants and coronavirus statistics will round out the rest of Wednesday's market interests. Weather Showers and thunderstorms will cross the Southern Plains and expand into the Mississippi Valley and Delta Wednesday. The rain will disrupt fieldwork and may cause flash flooding. We’ll also see light rain in the Northwest with dry conditions elsewhere. Meanwhile, cold conditions in the Ohio Valley May bring freeze damage.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


Lawmakers Seek Rural COVID-19 Task Force A group of lawmakers wants the Trump administration to create a Rural COVID-19 Task Force. Led by Representative Antonio Delgado, a New York Democrat, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, the group penned a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Klobuchar says the administration needs to take immediate action "to make sure we're getting our rural communities the resources they need to prepare and address the growing challenges" presented by COVID-19. The lawmakers say the gradual spread of COVID-19 to rural areas has led many to misjudge both its severity and rural America’s capacity to deal with it. Rural areas are “less equipped to handle the consequences” of the virus and need additional help. The lawmakers say the task force would help identify rural challenges, develop strategies and policy recommendations, assemble a guide of available Federal programs and resources, consult with the Department and Congressional Committees, and provide oversight on the distribution of funding. ************************************************************************************ Ethanol Industry Calls on USDA For Support Growth Energy offered thanks to four governors, who sent a letter urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to allocate additional resources under the COVID-19 relief package to the biofuels industry. An initial tranche of aid, announced Friday by USDA, included welcome funding for farmers and ranchers, but no direct relief for U.S. biofuel producers. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says, “We urge lawmakers and USDA to take immediate, additional steps that are still needed to keep our plants open.” Signed by Governors Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Growth Energy says the letter also offered a powerful rebuke against recent oil-backed efforts to waive blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard for petroleum refineries. They note, “Using this global pandemic as an excuse to undercut the RFS is not just illegal, it would also sever the economic lifeline that renewable fuels provide for farmers, workers and rural communities across the Midwest.” ************************************************************************************ Farmers Express Stress and Anxiety in Survey on COVID-19 Stress levels are high among America's soybean farmers, so much so that the terms "stress," "anxiety," and "concerns over mental health" were used dozens of times in an informal survey. The survey, released this week, was an initiative of the ASA COVID-19 Task Force, a 12-person group formed in March. ASA sent the survey to approximately 140 farmer leaders serving on the boards of soybean industry groups, with 60 percent of those persons participating. Ryan Findlay, CEO of ASA, responded, "We were struck immediately by how many respondents talked openly about the high levels of stress and anxiety on their farms.” An overwhelming majority, 82 percent, indicated they are practicing social distancing, washing hands, and other practices to minimize exposure, with very few, three percent, indicating they are not making any changes. 73 percent of respondents were moderately or extremely concerned about their farm being impacted by COVID-19. 44 percent said the pandemic has already affected their farms, and another 33 percent feel trouble is likely on its way. ************************************************************************************ Baldwin Seeks Block Grants to Help Food Supply Chain U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin wants the federal government to support farmers during the global COVID-19 pandemic through block grants. The Wisconsin Democrat is calling for the federal government to quickly direct resources to states and local communities so they can work with food and agriculture stakeholders to stabilize the food supply chain, address serious threats to worker safety, and avoid severe economic losses in rural Wisconsin. Baldwin is urging the administration to create Food and Agriculture Emergency Block Grants for States to help agriculture and food processing businesses solve coronavirus-related challenges. Specifically, Baldwin notes the emergency funding would help businesses reprocess food-service scale products to family-sized packages, connect businesses with new customers, prevent the waste of food, address shifting workforce needs, ensure workers have safety protections, and respond to changing consumer demand during this public health crisis. Baldwin writes, “The economic losses predicted from these impacts are staggering, and if we respond rapidly, we can help to reduce the worst losses.” ************************************************************************************ Farm lending Slows in First Quarter 2020 The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank reports a slowdown of farm lending in the first quarter of the year. Before the emergence of global economic developments related to COVID-19, growth in farm lending continued to show signs of slowing. According to data collected in early February, agricultural lending activity showed further signs of slowing in the first quarter, despite an increase in the volume of operating loans. The total volume of non-real estate loans remained above the historical average, but were about ten percent lower than a year ago. Despite a decline in most types of lending, loans for operating expenses increased nearly ten percent. The overall decline was driven by a drop of about 30 percent in both livestock loans and loans for miscellaneous purposes. The KC Fed says demand for farm loans may increase as economic disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic could put additional pressure on farm finances. ************************************************************************************ Fuel Price Plunge Continues The national average price of gasoline dropped another five cents over the last week. Fuel prices have declined for eight straight weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a flooded oil market. GasBuddy reports the national average price of gasoline at $1.78 per gallon, while the national average price of diesel fell 2.9 cents to $2.49 per gallon. GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan says, “unprecedented demand destruction has been dismantling expensive gas prices everywhere.” Data from the Energy Information Administration last Wednesday highlighted another blowout week for oil and refined products inventories. Crude oil inventories skyrocketed 19.2 million barrels- the single largest weekly rise, ever, while gasoline jumped nearly five million barrels, and distillate inventories jumped 6.3 million barrels. Demand for gasoline remained anemic at 5.08 million barrels per day, while GasBuddy demand figures put the loss around 55-70 percent by state as millions are staying at home and some now without work. Refineries also pulled back, utilizing just 69.1 percent of their capacity at a time of year they’re typically north of 90-95 percent.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Food Chain’s Weakest Link Livestock slaughterhouses are under scrutiny now, accused by some critics of being the food chain’s weakest link, despite being “sleek refrigerated assembly lines, staffed mostly by unionized workers under constant oversight of government inspectors,” The New York Times says this week. In large part, the reason is that they have become “hot spots” for the coronavirus pandemic and are “posing a serious challenge to meat production.” After decades of consolidation, there are about 800 federally inspected slaughterhouses in the U.S. and a relatively small number of them account for most production. For example, in the cattle industry, “a little more than 50 plants are responsible for as much as 98% of slaughtering and processing in the U.S.,” according to Cassandra Fish, a beef analyst. The Times notes that shutting down one plant, even for a few weeks backs up hog and beef production across the country, crushes prices paid to farmers and eventually can “lead to months of meat shortages.” Ripple effects of the virus are now being felt across the entire meat supply chain, all the way to grocery store freezers, NYT says. More than a dozen beef, pork and chicken processing plants have closed or are running at greatly reduced speeds because of the pandemic. By last week, the number of cattle slaughtered dropped nearly 22% from the same period a year ago, while hog slaughter was down 6%, USDA said. The declines have caused a “major disruption, leaving many ranchers with nowhere to send their animals,” the report says. Also, even as one prominent meat executive warned that the nation was “perilously close” to a meat shortage, state and federal regulators have been sending mixed signals about how to deal with the crisis. In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem requested publicly that Smithfield Foods close its pork facility in Sioux Falls after testing revealed that it accounted for nearly half the coronavirus cases in the city and the surrounding county. At the same time, federal officials had been repeatedly urging meat producers to find ways to keep their plants running because of their importance to the food supply, the Times said. By Thursday, tests had revealed that the Sioux Falls pork plant was the nation’s single largest “hot spot,” with about 19% of its 3,700 employees testing positive for the virus. The hospitalization rate among the workers has been relatively low because they tend to be younger, said Dr. David Basel, a vice president at the Avera Medical Group in Sioux Falls. Dr. Basel praised Smithfield for encouraging its employees to get tested. Doctors made instructional videos in Nepalese and Spanish and tracked down and tested workers who had been in close contact with infected employees. Still, the high infection rate raised questions about whether enough had been done to carry out social-distancing protocols and use protective gear. Last Thursday, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toured the Sioux Falls plant, a facility that produces 5% of the nation’s pork. The agency is expected to release recommendations in the next few days on how to prevent another outbreak when the plant reopens. Before the plant closed, the company had provided employees with face shields and masks and installed plexiglass barriers in some areas to separate employees. Still, the Times thinks it may be difficult for any meat plant to accommodate social distancing and remain profitable, “It is not going to be easy to get workers six feet apart,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University’s medical school. Officials in the meat industry also have argued that South Dakota’s decision to not issue a stay-at-home order may be contributing to the outbreak because it has left relatives and neighbors of plant employees free to mingle. South Dakota officials have said residents should exercise “personal responsibility” and practice social distancing. “Everybody wants to test meatpacking employees but nobody is testing the communities around them to show what’s the baseline,” said Steve Stouffer, the president of the fresh meats division at Tyson Foods. “And until we know the baselines, my question has always been: Are we the cause or are we just the victim of our surroundings?” In some places where the company operates, Stouffer said, it has faced pressure to “shut down at all costs.” “It’s very frustrating,” he said. “We’ve been tried and convicted already in certain spaces.” Large numbers of employees have become infected in other businesses where people work close together, like grocery stores and e-commerce warehouses. But the pandemic has caused more serious disruption in the meat industry, where decades of consolidation have given outsize importance to a relatively small number of plants, the Times said. “When you get to this kind of size, it increases risk,” said Ben Lilliston, who helps run the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a farm advocacy group. “When something goes wrong in a really big plant like this, you have a really big problem. These are vulnerable systems.” So, we will see. The meat industry is fundamental to the economy and to the ag sector, but the health concerns are real and formidable—and the ongoing debate should be watched closely by producers as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


US, Brazil Agree on Accelerating Work on Trade High-level representatives from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and from Brazil’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy, and Agriculture discussed the implementation of an ambitious economic and trade agenda between Brazil and the United States, according to a statement from USTR. “Both countries agreed to accelerate their ongoing trade dialogue under the Brazil-U.S. Commission on Economic and Trade Relations (ATEC) with a view to concluding in 2020 an agreement on trade rules and transparency, including trade facilitation and good regulatory practices,” USTR said. “They also agreed to engage in domestic consultations, consistent with each country’s domestic procedures, to solicit input on how best to expand trade and develop the bilateral economic relationship.” USTR said that the ATEC Commission will remain the route for further engagement, “through frequent contacts and meetings, in order to advance in the short-term agenda as well as in the preparatory work towards a deeper partnership.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


USDA Unveils Ag Aid Package But Some Sectors Not Pleased The $19 billion in ag aid announced by USDA late Friday includes $16 billion in payments to producers and $3 billion for the purchase of food products by USDA. Questions have already come relative to pay caps on the aid, $125,000 per commodity or $250,000 per person. Many believe that dairy producers will quickly run up against those limits. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) welcomed the aid, but warned it was not enough for the sector. There was no help announced for the ethanol sector. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) also complained they got no assistance in the effort. “While we appreciate that USDA’s new program provides needed assistance to the nation’s farmers and ranchers, it is unfortunate and disappointing that the 350,000 workers supported by America’s ethanol industry were left behind,” said RFA President Geoff Cooper. “USDA missed a crucial opportunity to lend a helping hand to an industry that is suffering the worst economic crisis in its history. Roughly half of the ethanol industry is shut down today, as fuel demand has collapsed in response to COVID-19. Corn demand and prices have plummeted as plants across the country are idling. Jobs are being lost, grain markets are being ravaged, rural communities are being destabilized, and the long-term future of homegrown renewable fuels hangs in the balance.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There are no official reports on Tuesday's docket. Traders recent interests are largely the same and include coronavirus statistics and any news of increased testing or promising treatments. The latest weather forecasts, export news and news on the status of meat processing plants are also topics of high interest. Weather Dry and mild conditions are in store for almost all major crop areas Tuesday. This combination is favorable for fieldwork and planting. Precipitation will be confined to scattered light rain showers in the southwestern Plains and extreme eastern Midwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


USDA Announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Friday evening. The $19 billion relief program will provide support to farmers and ranchers, and the food supply chain, to ensure “every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.” CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the CARES Act, among other funding streams. The program includes $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for farmers and ranchers. The program will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year. USDA will also partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of food service businesses, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat. USDA will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The relief package does not include biofuels, a sector facing plant shutdowns amid low fuel demand. Further details regarding eligibility, rates and other implementation will be released at a later date by USDA. Agriculture Groups Respond: The American Farm Bureau Federation applauds the economic aid package. AFBF Federation President Zippy Duvall says the program will “help keep food on Americans’ tables by providing a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather.” The National Farmers Union says the relief cannot come soon enough. NFU President Rob Larew recently urged Secretary Perdue in a letter to “swiftly and efficiently implement assistance and distribute resources.” Larew expressed appreciation for the agency’s efforts and reiterated the importance of dividing aid fairly and establishing longer-term solutions to market challenges. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Marty Smith welcomed the aid package, saying cattle producers “desperately need help during this national emergency.” A study commissioned by NCBA estimated that cow-calf producers stand to lose $8.1 billion as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, while the stocker/backgrounder sector losses will reach $2.5 billion and feedlot losses will total $3.0 billions a result of COVID-19. And, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, says, “Delivering this much needed relief expediently and efficiently will help producers manage their operations, as well as put food on the tables of folks who need it most.” However, for pork producers, the aid may not be enough. National Pork Producers Council President Howard "A.V." Roth says, “We fear the lifeline so desperately needed will fall short of what is truly needed.” While the direct payments to hog farmers will offset some losses for some farmers, Roth says “they are not sufficient to sustain the varied market participants.” ********************************************************************************************** FDA Changes Course on Hand Sanitizer Production at Ethanol Plants Just a few weeks after appearing to give the go-ahead, the Food and Drug Administration reversed course on ethanol plants manufacturing hand sanitizer. An Agri-Pulse report says many of the nation’s ethanol plants spent a lot of money to make changes to their machinery that would allow them to produce hand sanitizer, a valuable commodity to have during the COVID-19 outbreak. Just weeks later, the FDA reversed its initial guidance that relaxed alcohol regulations for hand sanitizer production. FDA said in its new policy guidelines that “because of the potential for the presence of potentially harmful impurities during the processing approach, fuel or technical grade ethanol should only be used if it meets the appropriate guidelines.” Geoff Cooper, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, tells Agri-Pulse that the new guidance contradicts language that was published in late March. “It’s just a few weeks later and FDA is changing the rules midstream and we don’t understand why,” Cooper says. “We haven’t heard of any issues or concerns from any of the customers or buyers of this alcohol.” ********************************************************************************************** Smithfield Closes two Additional Plants Smithfield Foods announced late last week it’s closing plants in Wisconsin and Missouri because of the coronavirus pandemic. The plant in Wisconsin will be closed for two weeks while the Missouri facility is closed indefinitely. An Associated Press report says the Missouri plant gets its raw materials from the plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is also closed. Smithfield recently reported more than 500 infections in plant workers, as well as another 126 infections in people connected to them. A small number of workers in both Wisconsin and Missouri have tested positive for coronavirus. Workers in the Missouri plant told the AP that between six and nine employees, including managers, contracted coronavirus. Union workers were told the Missouri plant will be back in operation by April 30. Missouri employees will still get their full 40-hour pay under their collective bargaining agreement. Union officials in Wisconsin had raised concerns that the company wasn’t doing enough to protect them from the COVID-19 outbreak, sending a letter to the company’s Human Resources Department. ********************************************************************************************** Wisconsin Rep Introduces the Family Farm Rescue Plan Wisconsin Democratic Representative Ron Kind introduced his Family Farm Rescue Plan, which focuses on five steps the administration can take to support family farmers during the pandemic. The Third District Congressman points out that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the livelihood of Wisconsin farmers, as well as producers across the country. In his home state, dairy farmers are being forced to dispose of thousands of gallons of fresh milk every day due to a significant drop in demand for dairy products. The actions include purchasing excess food and delivering it to food banks, ensuring all farmers are eligible for all small business relief programs, reopening the Dairy Margin Coverage Program, and ending the trade war while implementing USMCA. “Family farms are the backbone of our economy,” Kind says. “These are decisive actions the administration can take that don’t require the creation of new programs, legislation, or appropriation.” Kind points out that Wisconsin has led the nation in farm bankruptcies with an average of two farms closing per day. “The administration just has to decide whether or not to support our family farmers,” he adds. ********************************************************************************************** NBB Says No to Waiving 2020 RFS Volumes The National Biodiesel Board strongly opposes petitions from five state governors to waive 2020 Renewable Fuels Standard Volumes. The petitions were submitted by governors of Louisiana, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The NBB says a waiver of the RFS volumes set more than a year in advance would do severe damage to the biodiesel industry. Texas and Louisiana are two of the top states in producing biodiesel and renewable diesel. An RFS waiver would hurt tens of thousands of workers in those two states alone. Kurt Kovarik, Vice President of Federal Affairs, says, “NBB and its members condemn the oil industry’s attempt to use the current national emergency as an excuse to undermine the RFS. The waiver sought by the oil state governors would devastate renewable fuel producers, cost essential critical infrastructure jobs in multiple states, reduce incomes for soybean farmers, and lead to dirtier air and higher carbon emissions.” Kovarik says the Environmental Protection Agency long ago established that waiver petitions must demonstrate that the RFS is the direct cause of severe economic harm, and federal courts have upheld that interpretation. “The oil industry’s current challenges stem from COVID-19 impact, not the RFS,” Kovarik adds. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Cattlemen Release Economic Impact Estimate of COVID-19 on Beef The United States Cattlemen’s Association released its full economic impact report of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. cattle industry. The report was put together by Brett Crosby of Custom Ag Solutions and Beef Basis Dot Com. When compiling the numbers, they used existing market data and futures market data, coming up with the total actual and future impact forecast of $14.6 billion. The analysis focused on three primary sectors of the cattle production chain, which are feedlot, backgrounding, and cow/calf. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. cattle industry cannot be overstated,” says USCA President Brooke Miller. “This report highlights just how severe those losses will be. The report breaks out the steer and heifer price forecast, differentiates between spring and fall calves, and values stocker calves by marketing date rather than weight to account for the effect on operations that run grass calves and market in August.” USCA’s COVID-19 Producer Task Force has spent the past month working with Congress and the administration on developing temporary, short-term relief for cattle producers experiencing losses related to the current coronavirus outbreak. ********************************************************************************************** Tractor Sales Drop 16 Percent in March The Association of Equipment Manufacturer’s monthly Flash Report didn’t have good news when it came to March tractor sales. The overall sale of all tractors dropped 16 percent in March when compared to March of 2019. For the year, a total of 41,237 tractors were sold in 2020, compared to a total of more than 44,600 sold last year. During March, two-wheel drive smaller tractors with engines under 40 horsepower were down 16 percent from last year. Sales of 40 and under 100-horsepower tractors were 15 percent lower than a year ago. Sales of two-wheel drive 100-plus horsepower tractors dropped 18 percent, while four-wheel drive tractor sales were down 17 percent from a year ago in March. Looking at 2020 total sales, the drop isn’t quite as steep as the March numbers, but still lower than the first three months of 2019. Combine sales were also down 12 percent in March of 2020 compared to last year at the same time. Sales of combines for the year totaled 800 in 2020, compared to a total of 977 sold in 2019, which is an 18 percent drop.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Additional Farmer Aid Announced Press reports this week indicate that the administration will provide a $19 billion economic rescue package for farmers and ranchers. The program will include cash payments as well as purchases of products to be redistributed to food banks. The report noted that the president counts farmers and rural voters among his most reliable supporters and it indicated that he directed ag secretary Sonny Perdue to “speed assistance to the agriculture sector as producers increasingly bleed profits and start dumping goods like milk and fresh produce.” Support from the industry could be crucial to the president’s reelection hopes this November in key Midwestern swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan, the report said. However, it also noted that “influential” sectors, including producers of biofuels like ethanol, are frustrated that they were excluded from the program. The current plan is the latest in a long string of recent ad hoc relief efforts for the agricultural economy. POLITICO says that the administration is “pulling out the stops to bail out farmers and ranchers stung by his own trade war and biofuel policies, in addition to long-term economic headwinds.” “The program will include direct payments to farmers as well as mass purchases of dairy, meat and agricultural produce in an effort to get that food to the people in need, the President said during a White House press briefing. Secretary Perdue said at the briefing that the direct aid to farmers will total $16 billion while the department will buy $3 billion in surplus food to give to food banks and other organizations. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel that oversees USDA spending, released details about how the direct aid would be divided among commodity sectors, with the majority share going to cattle, hog and dairy producers. USDA is financing the payments through a combination of the new spending authority from Congress included in the stimulus package and existing funds. The President said an additional $14 billion in aid would be available in July. Some commodity groups have felt burned in the past by the department’s aid efforts, POLITICO said. It cited corn grower complaints in 2018 about a trade bailout that paid them only one penny per bushel, while other sectors were left out of the program entirely. On Friday, the National Pork Producers Council said hog producers’ slice of the package will “fall short of what is truly needed—and that while the direct payments to hog farmers will offset some losses for some farmers, they are not sufficient to sustain the various market participants, including those who own hogs as well as thousands of contract growers who care for pigs,” NPPC President Howard A.V. Roth said. The Renewable Fuels Association said USDA “missed a crucial opportunity” to help biofuel producers in crisis as drivers stay off the roads and gasoline consumption plummets. The group said it’s “unfortunate and disappointing that the 350,000 workers supported by America’s ethanol industry were left behind.” Perdue said USDA wasn’t given enough money by Congress to fully address all the farmers in need. “The demand from all the sectors was even more than we could accommodate at this time,” he said. As for the commodity purchases, the department said it will start by procuring about $100 million per month each of meat, dairy and fresh produce. Participating distributors and wholesalers will then send pre-approved boxes of the goods to food banks, faith-based organizations, community groups and other nonprofits, USDA said. Farmers also say they have struggled to access separate pieces of the $2 trillion stimulus package, including forgivable small business loans aimed at helping employers keep their workers on the payroll. Congress last month authorized USDA to spend more than $23 billion to boost hard-hit sectors including livestock and dairy producers, specialty crop growers and producers who sell to local food systems like farmers markets. Some of those sectors have been struggling for years from trade headwinds, labor shortages, low commodity prices and the rapid consolidation in agriculture. So, we will see. Managing broad subsidy programs across sectors as diverse as agriculture can be thankless, but USDA has considerable experience and a number of well-honed tools to use. Such efforts tend to be hard to balance, and to create issues that should be watched closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


USDA Continues To Insist US Food Supply Is Plentiful USDA officials from Secretary Sonny Perdue on down have continued to insist there is no shortage of food in the country despite shoppers seeing empty store shelves in grocery stores. “We have sufficient quantities to not only feed our country but maintain robust exports even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson in a blog post. Pointing to forecasts from USDA’s WASDE and data on supplies in cold storage, Johansson said the figures show an “adequate domestic supply of meat, eggs and dairy products to meet immediate demand.” Noting that meat packing plans are considered essential industry infrastructure, Johansson said, “according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the USDA agency responsible for regulating meat processors, closures of facilities regulated by the agency due to the disease outbreak have been limited, and temporary. Similarly, wheat and rice mills, which generally are not labor-intensive operations, have not had any significant disruptions.” He acknowledged there is less certainty on the import side which the U.S. relies on for about 15% of total food consumption. While shortages in supplies from countries hit by COVID-19 could cause shortages and higher prices here, Johansson said, “industry and news reports on trade flows suggest that even countries heavily affected by COVID-19 spread, continue to ship food products and that there are no immediate risks of massive disruptions in the global supply chain.” The rise in demand at the retail (grocery) level has led to some shortages, but he noted that “over the next few weeks, as retailers restock their shelves and demand from overstocked consumers decline, we will see fewer empty shelves and prices should stabilize or even decline.” But he concluded the situation is one for steady to lower prices ahead. “So overall, the supply and demand factors at play point to stable if not lower market prices in the next few weeks,” Johansson said. As for uncertainties, he noted that consumer demand trends and the response by farmers and companies to the changing market conditions remain a source of uncertainty.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


Some Tweaks To Bird Flu Responses By Some Countries USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has indicated some US trading partners have adjusted their response to USDA reporting a positive find of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial turkey flock in South Carolina. Ukraine shifted from their blanket ban on imports of all US poultry to now restrict poultry and poultry meat products originating from the rest of the U.S. (other than South Carolina) if they were slaughtered on or after April 14, 2020, unless they are heat-treated. South Korea said its trade ban applies to product shipped from South Carolina on or after April 10, 2020, regardless of the production data. As for the European Union, indications are the situation there is the subject to a final agreement on the exact regionalization of shipments from the U.S., according to contacts. US Chief Ag Negotiator Gregg Doud told Pro Farmer the situation remains under discussion

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Back from the weekend, traders will keep watching coronavirus statistics for signs of peaking -- numbers that have not been confirmed yet. The latest weather forecasts, export news and any news on how meat processing plants are functioning will be of interest. USDA's weekly report of grain inspections is at 10 a.m. CDT, followed by Crop Progress at 3 p.m. Weather Dry conditions will dominate the scene across major crop areas Monday, allowing for fieldwork and planting progress. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal. Portions of the Plains and Midwest will also see strong winds during the day.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


Coronavirus Impact will likely Limit China’s Phase One purchases Two experts on the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China say the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese economy doesn’t bode well for the Phase One Trade Deal. They tell the South China Morning Post that COVID-19 has likely rendered the pact between the world’s two largest economies “stillborn.” The economic impact will only add to pressure on Beijing to reform its domestic economy. The Post says China had high levels of debt before the virus outbreak, plus, the private sector struggles to regain momentum will likely put a damper on consumption. Rhodium (ROW-dee-uhm) Group founder Daniel Rosen and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd both say consumption will be limited to the point that it will be almost impossible for Beijing to fulfill its buying commitments. “The extraordinary stimulus that got China out of the financial crisis in 2008-2009, which they were applauded for, is simply not an option today,” Rosen says. “The easy credit given to support the country’s state-owned enterprises in recent years is too high.” Rudd says the Chinese government won’t do another stimulus strategy like the last one, even though the need is much greater.” The negative assessment runs counter to the expectations of President Trump, who says he’s confident China will follow through on its obligations. ********************************************************************************************** Refiners in Five States Ask EPA for RFS Waiver The governors of five oil-patch states are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to waive obligations under the Renewable Fuels Standard for refiners due to COVID-19. Governors from Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Louisiana sent a letter to the EPA earlier this week. They claim refiners in their states face financial hardship because of the oil-market disruptions caused by economic shutdowns around the world. They also point out that prices for Renewable Identification Numbers have tripled, further compounding a tough situation. However, Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, calls this an offensive attempt by refiners to steal markets from struggling biofuel producers and farmers. “Any move to unravel the RFS now would dim any hopes of economic recovery in rural America, where so many in the U.S. biofuel industry have been impacted by furloughs and plant closures, all while millions of farmers struggle to stay afloat,” she says. “We’ve seen the courts reject his kind of abuse before.” She also points out that even the oil companies themselves admit that biofuel credits don’t impose a real cost on refiners. “We see this as a non-starter,” Skor adds. ********************************************************************************************** DHS, USDA Take Action on Farm Labor Supply The Department of Homeland Security, with support from USDA, announced a temporary final rule that would make changes to some H-2A Program requirements. A USDA release says the changes are designed to help U.S. agricultural employers find and maintain a steady supply of labor, protect the nation’s food supply chain, and lower the impact of COVID-19. At the same time, USDA says the temporary changes won’t weaken or eliminate protections for U.S. workers. Under the temporary rule, an H-2A petitioner with a valid temporary certification, who is concerned that workers won’t be able to enter the country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, can start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in H-2A status in the U.S. immediately, as soon as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services receives the H-2A petition. To take advantage of the limited-time change in requirements, the worker seeking to change employers must already be in the U.S. and in valid H-2A status. Also, valid H-2A workers are being allowed to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period in the U.S. Employers who are worried about finding an adequate supply of legal labor who were previously authorized to work for the employer as H-2A workers, should take advantage of the limited opportunity. The Citizenship and Immigration Service also says it’s never okay to hire illegal aliens to work on your farm or in your ag-related businesses. ********************************************************************************************** Farmers, Ag Industry Groups Scrambling for Aid The Small Business Administration has been slow to approve many agricultural banks under the new Paycheck Protection Program. Politico says that the program has been overwhelmed with applications and is expected to run out of its initial $350 billion as soon as this week. “There’s a lot of farmers out there trying to line up for the funding,” says Todd Van Hoose, President of the Farm Credit Council. “By the time they get there, the money will likely be gone.” The Paycheck Protection loans weren’t originally designed for agriculture, but they could be valuable for the hard-hit segments that have larger workforces, such as dairy farmers and specialty crop growers. Van Hoose says farm creditors are in for a “heck of a task” because they have virtually no experience working with the Small Business Administration. While many businesses are focused on getting direct payments or loans, another avenue of aid will likely be commodity purchases. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue did confirm on Wednesday that USDA will buy commodities like dairy and meat to help combat food waste and stock the nation’s food banks. “We want to purchase as much of this milk, hams and pork products, as well as other proteins, and then move them into our nation’s food banks, as well as even into international humanitarian aid,” Perdue says. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Income Drop Could Top $20 Billion A new economic analysis says crop and livestock farmers are in for much lower incomes in 2020. A DTN report says crop farmers are projected to see an $11.85 billion in revenue during 2020, while livestock farmers are projected to drop a combined $20.24 billion in receipts this year. Early analysis from the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute is showing crop and livestock farmers combined income dropping by $32.09 billion. That means farm income for 2020 will drop by $20 billion once lower input costs and higher government payments are included in the analysis. Looking ahead to 2020-2021 crops, the institute is projecting a five-to-ten-percent drop in grain and oilseed prices. FAPRI also sees a 20 percent drop in livestock prices during 2020. Around the nation, FAPRI says the key unknown is whether the coronavirus creates a “V-Shaped” recession that creates a quick recovery, or an economic disruption that lasts into next year. “The speed and duration of the recovery are also a great source of uncertainty,” FAPRI says in its analysis. “The GDP levels for 2021 and possibly later could continue to be below the levels forecast before the emergence of COVID-19.” The institute also says it could take consumers much longer to recover, which would affect energy, manufacturing, and agriculture. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Lending Activity Slows in the First Quarter Growth in farm lending continued to show signs of slowing, even prior to the emergence of COVID-19 and the resulting economic conditions the outbreak caused. A report from the Federal Reserve in Kansas City says the volume of operating loans in the first quarter actually increased from 2019. However, the overall demand for non-real estate loans declined. Despite a decline in most types of lending, loans for operating expenses increased by nearly 10 percent from the previous year. The overall decline was driven by a drop of about 30 percent in both livestock loans and miscellaneous loans. At the end of 2019, delinquency rates on farm loans continued to increase slightly, but agricultural credit conditions and farmland values were holding steady. Capital cushions at agricultural banks, which increased steadily in recent years, remained at historically high levels through last year. As the effects of the current economic disruption continue to materialize in the months ahead, the current stability of farm real estate values and financial soundness of farm banks could be key sources of support for the entire agricultural sector.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fighting Virus Impacts The Trump administration is proposing to make purchases of milk and meat products as part of a $16 billion to $18 billion initial aid package for farmers rattled by the coronavirus, according to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We want to purchase as much of this milk, or other protein products, hams and pork products, and move them into where they can be utilized in our food banks, or possibly even into international humanitarian aid,” Perdue said on Fox Business News on Wednesday. He also said he wants to include direct financial assistance to farmers in the bailout. The combination of direct payments to farmers and bulk government purchases of commodities parallels the approach the administration followed in its $28 billion agriculture trade bailout over the past two years. That aid included $1.2 billion in bulk purchases in the first year including pork, beef, dairy and fruits and vegetables and an additional $1.4 billion for such purchases the second year. Many farm groups say they will need even more assistance to make it through the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg said. Hog farmers have asked USDA to purchase $1 billion in pork products, compared with $559 million in the first round of trade aid and $208 million in the second year. The National Pork Producers Council, which is also seeking direct payments to farmers, anticipates a $5 billion blow from the virus if hog prices stay at current depressed levels for the remainder of the year. In addition to milk purchases, dairy farmers have urged the administration to impose a temporary supply management program in which farmers would be paid for reducing milk production. Perdue didn’t address that request in his recent interview. The closure of restaurants, school cafeterias and other commercial food service operations has upended the market for agricultural products, particularly dairy, meat and produce. Food service is a disproportionate buyer of cheese, butter, meat and fresh fruits and vegetables. Dairy farmers are dumping as much as 8% of their milk, according to the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative. A shutdown of several slaughterhouses because of virus outbreaks among employees of the facilities has further disrupted hog and cattle farmers’ ability to sell their livestock. “When you have a slowdown in processing, which we’re working on to sustain as much as possible, then you have a backup in that,” Perdue said. However, the secretary said he didn’t expect the closures to cause any shortages of meat products on grocery shelves. The coronavirus relief bill Congress passed last month includes $23.5 billion in aid for farmers. Speaking at a news conference last week, Trump said his administration will develop a program with at least $16 billion initially for farmers, ranchers and producers. At about the same time it reported the anticipated request for ag producer assistance, Bloomberg reported that the effort to create a five-member oversight commission to police a major part of the massive coronavirus relief programs will be in place – but after two weeks, just one member has been appointed. The reasons for delays in choosing the chairman and three additional members aren’t clear, Bloomberg said. The deadline is less than a month away for the commission’s first report as it monitors about $500 billion of aid, including loans, loan guarantees, and investments to affected industries, including airlines. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is the only one of the four top House and Senate leaders to make his appointment, naming Bharat Ramamurti, on April 6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., also will name members to the commission, and Pelosi and McConnell will jointly choose a chair. Ramamurti a former aide to Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has forged ahead on his own, asking the U.S. Federal Reserve for information on the trillions in emergency loans that the central bank plans to extend to businesses. He wrote said to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday that “the public deserves to know which companies are receiving taxpayer-backed lending through the Fed and on what terms.” Aides to Pelosi, McCarthy and McConnell declined to disclose when their appointments might be announced, or why they haven’t been already. The commission, which is to designed operate for five years is modeled after a similar temporary oversight commission that reviewed the Troubled Asset Relief Program during the 2008 economic crisis. Pelosi, speaking on Tuesday, promised that the commission’s members would be installed, but gave no timeline. Asked whether Congress can ensure the coronavirus spending isn’t misspent or subject to corruption, she said, “Well, we have to,” adding that the commission “will be in place.” The commission doesn’t have staff even though it’s supposed to issue its first report within 30 days of Treasury’s first distribution of funds. The panel is required to make reports every 30 days after that. So, we will see. Day by day, the impacts of the virus continue front page news and questions of how to reopen the closed sectors of the economy and what government interventions will be required in the future continue to be bitterly contested. These are policy issues that should be watched closely by producers as these debates continue, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


USDA, DHS Announce Shift on H-2A Workers USDA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow more flexibility for employing H-2A workers already authorized to work other jobs in the U.S. and allowing those workers to stay beyond the period allowed under current rules via a temporary final rule the agencies released Wednesday. The decision means companies seeking H-2A workers can start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in H-2A status in the U.S. immediately after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the H-2A petition. But those workers cannot be employed “earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition” and must already be in the U.S. with a valid H-2A status, the departments added. Those already in the U.S. will be allowed to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period under the new rule. The rule will become effective when published in the Federal Register.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


Five US Governors Seek Waivers on Biofuel Requirements Governors of five U.S. states are asking the Trump administration to waive biofuel blending requirements on the basis that complying with the mandates post “severe economic harm” to the economy. The governors submitted a series of letters to EPA, including Greg Abbott of Texas, Gary Herbert of Utah, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Mark Gordon of Wyoming. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards made a similar request on April 7, according to Reuters. EPA now has 90 days to decide on the matter. The governors cite a spike in the cost of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) – credits refiners can buy to demonstrate compliance with the requirements. They also cited the COVID-19 pandemic as another factor, noting that it has already forced the closure of at least one oil refinery. RIN prices have nearly doubled this year, a situation driven in part by a decision by the 10th Circuit Court that three small refinery exemptions (SREs) for the 2016 compliance year were invalid. EPA opted to not appeal that ruling, sending RIN prices rising. An appeal by the refiners impacted directly by the decision was also rejected by the court. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., issued a statement backing the requests. “I fully endorse the governors' request to reduce costly biofuel mandates on America's refineries,” he said. “As the global coronavirus pandemic continues, fuel demand has dropped dramatically. At the same time, compliance costs under the Renewable Fuel Standard have quadrupled since the start of the year. American refineries are now fighting for their lives.” EPA can waive the RFS requirements, in consultation with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy, under certain criteria. The waiver can be issued if the Administrator determines – after a notice and comment period – that implementation of the RFS requirements would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, a region, or the United States. There have been requests for waivers previously, with the most recent ones taking place in late 2017 and early 2018. EPA has not approved any of the waiver requests previously sought based on information the agency has released on requests since 2008.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The Conference Board's U.S. index of leading economic indicators is due out at 9 a.m. CDT and is Friday's only scheduled report. U.S. coronavirus deaths are still on the rise and getting attention. Traders will also be interested in the latest weather forecasts, export news and updates on the status of meat processing plants. Weather Rain and snow are in store for the eastern Midwest Friday, adding to central U.S. precipitation which has sidelined spring fieldwork and delayed planting. Temperatures will continue below normal in northern and central areas, with some moderation in the central Plains and western Midwest. Southern areas have warmer and drier conditions for progress.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


White House Economic Revival Group Includes Ag Representatives The White House economic recovery group includes agriculture leaders. Announced this week, the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups will “chart the path forward toward a future of unparalleled American prosperity,” according to a White House press release. The panel on agriculture includes American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, along with processor and packer representatives from Tyson Foods, Cargill, Archer-Daniels-Midland, and others. The plan includes a separate food and beverage industry panel, as well. There are 16 panels in all, representing most of the U.S. economic sectors. Crop and livestock markets are plunging during the COVID-19 pandemic, with industry losses worth billions of dollars. The National Pork Producers Council called the pandemic a "financial disaster" for pork producers. The nation's hog farmers face a collective $5 billion loss for the remainder of the year, according to the organization. Nearly all agriculture sectors are requesting relief from the White House and the federal government to help farmers through the pandemic. ************************************************************************************ Ag Aid Package Coming Soon The Department of Agriculture may roll out a plan to provide relief to farmers this week. Reuters reports the plan may be unveiled soon, as part of the billions of dollars in funding made available to farmers and ranchers through the CARES Act. USDA sources say the initial plan will include direct payments to farmers, using CARES Act funding, and other resources. The CARES Act includes $9.5 billion in dedicated disaster funding, along with $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation. However, USDA previously indicated the CCC funding cannot be used until later this summer. The CCC has $6 billion in borrowing authority left out of $30 billion allowed annually, until June 30. The $9.5 billion is expected to be used to assist livestock producers, along with fruit and vegetable growers, and those who sell direct to consumers. USDA expects to announce additional aid phases as funding becomes available later this summer. ************************************************************************************ Coronavirus-Related Cattle Industry Losses Estimated at $13.6 Billion A study released this week estimates cattle industry losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will reach $13.6 billion. The study was commissioned by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and conducted by a team of agricultural economists. The study shows cow-calf producers will see the largest impact, with COVID-19-related losses totaling an estimated $3.7 billion, or $111.91 per head for each mature breeding animal in the United States. Without offsetting relief payments, those losses could increase by $135.24 per mature breeding animal, for an additional impact totaling $4.45 billion in the coming years. Researchers who contributed to the study say the current situation is very fluid and uncertain, and additional damages are likely. NCBA hopes the results will assist USDA in determining how best to allocate CARES Act relief funds to cattle producers. NCBA CEO Colin Woodall says the study shows relief funds provided by Congress were a good first step. However, "there remains a massive need for more funding to be allocated as soon as members of Congress reconvene." ************************************************************************************ Consumer Concerns Remain High Amid Pandemic Consumer concerns remain high amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Research by the Consumer Brands Association shows that for the sixth week, American attitudes have remained largely consistent, as 91 percent of Americans say they are generally concerned about the virus. Preparedness also held steady from last week, with 76 percent of Americans reporting they feel prepared for the coronavirus' impact on their life. As manufacturers ramp up production and grocery stores implement item limits to prevent overbuying, 55 percent of respondents reported seeing more availability and restocks of high-demand items. Access concerns over finding shelf-stable food and beverage items, as well as over-the-counter medicines, both dropped. The most notable decrease was in food and beverage items, where high-demand items are reportedly coming back in stock across the country. For many Americans, a return to normalcy can't come soon enough. A majority, 60 percent said they are concerned about their ability to pay bills and afford necessities. ************************************************************************************ Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Program Announced The Wisconsin Dairy Industry Wednesday announced the Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Program. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection have joined forces with the state’s leading anti-hunger organization, Hunger Task Force, by connecting milk to emergency food organizations throughout the state. With the substantial support of the local individual donor community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunger Task Force will commit up to $1 million to the newly created Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Program. Wisconsin dairy farmers will be paid to supply milk to farmer-owned dairy cooperative Kemps, who will process the milk. Hunger Task Force will distribute milk to free and local partner food banks and food pantries through the Hunger Relief Federation of Wisconsin. The $45.6 billion dairy industry in Wisconsin is dealing with a sudden loss of business in schools and restaurants that account for nearly half the market. Without action, the groups say the entire state will feel the consequences and additional losses from a dairy and supply chain perspective. ************************************************************************************ United Fresh Start Foundation Awards $25,000 Through COVID-19 Donation Program The United Fresh Start Foundation has infused the fresh produce industry with 25 $1,000 COVID-19 Rapid Response FRESH Grants. The funds will help increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for children and families in need, while also creating opportunities for foodservice distributors experiencing lost markets. The 25 grant recipients will provide fresh fruits and vegetables to children and families in need, reaching them in schools, community centers, and other emergency feeding sites. Chair of the United Fresh Start Foundation Board of Trustees, Lisa McNeece, says, "We praise all of the companies across the supply chain working within their communities to broaden access to fresh fruits and vegetables, despite their own economic hardships." The program is funded through the generosity of individuals who have agreed to donate their prepaid registration fees for the United Fresh 2020 Convention in San Diego to the United Fresh Start Foundation. Additional donations will allow the Foundation to build upon its efforts. More information is available on UnitedFresh.org.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Fed Monetary Efforts As the nation struggles with the impacts of the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve is continuing to pump enormous amounts of aid into the economy, The Hill is reporting this week. It is blowing through old taboos with trillions of dollars in rescue loans and bond purchases and facing little concern, The Hill says. Faced with a “once-in-a-century” economic crisis, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has pledged to flood the U.S. with as much rescue lending and bond purchases as its legal charter allows and the economy requires. It now has purchased more than $1 trillion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities that anchor U.S. financial markets, with no clear limit in sight. The central bank has also opened nearly a dozen special credit facilities to purchase a wide range of consumer, corporate and government debt in exchange for loans to financial firms, businesses and municipal governments. In addition, the Fed announced it would offer another $2.5 trillion in economic relief, including unprecedented direct aid to nonfinancial businesses and municipal governments. The Hill noted that the Fed used its emergency lending powers and balance sheet to stimulate the economy and stabilize financial markets during the earlier 2007-09 crisis and recession but was criticized for its efforts to prop up banks. However, few are now questioning the necessity of the recent sprint to stop an economic collapse. “Moral hazard is not part of the debate as it was during the financial crisis in 2008-09,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “That is because this time really is different. We have to abandon our biases and warehouse them to deal with a health crisis. It is not the time to discuss who is worthy of our efforts.” Even so, the scale and speed of the Fed’s latest intervention have raised some concerns about who may still get left behind. “If the Fed continues to go down this road and opens new windows and picks more sectors to support, particularly in this top-down way, the political consequences are going to be pretty interesting,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner at Washington, D.C., research and consulting firm Federal Financial Analytics. The Fed’s primary responsibilities are keeping prices stable and unemployment low through monetary policy and ensuring the safety of the U.S. banks through regulation and supervision. But a provision of the bill that created the modern Fed system allows the central bank to become the lender of last resort in extreme economic downturns, with the consent of the Treasury secretary. The catastrophic toll of the coronavirus pandemic and the recession it has created spurred few political challenges to the Fed’s actions. With the blessing of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin the Fed has rewritten the playbook for responding to an economic crisis. The report also is true that Powell’s hand is being forced in part by the president and Congress. The $2.2 trillion economic rescue bill orders the Fed to use some of the $454 billion appropriated to backstop its emergency lending programs in facilities for businesses and municipal governments, it said. The Fed faced criticism in the earlier recession for its unwillingness to extend the same discounted loans to businesses and local governments that it offered to banks, largely because of the political hazards of choosing which specific municipalities or businesses would receive help. But the scale of the coronavirus pandemic and steep costs it will impose on states have largely erased any hesitation by the Fed to aid municipal governments. The central bank announced last week it would purchase up to $500 billion in bonds from cities with more than 1 million residents and counties with more than 2 million. The Fed also announced it would offer four-year loans to companies with up to 10,000 employees or less than $2.5 billion in annual revenue that were financially solid before the coronavirus outbreak through a “Main Street Lending Facility.” The speed and extent of the subsequent rebound remains deeply uncertain, but it is clear that both Congress and the Fed appreciate the depth and extent of the problem, The Hill said. Few have questioned the necessity of the Fed’s ambitious rescue plan, although the long-term implications of the central bank’s scramble to save the economy worry some Fed watchers and analysts, especially because of the coronavirus’s unique threats to the most vulnerable. So, we will see. The far-reaching federal anti-virus efforts now have strong support, but can have important and disparate impacts across the economy, observers note. These are significant and should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


USDA Enters Into Agreement for Disaster Payments For Sugar Producers USDA has entered into an agreement with cooperative processors to provide 2018 and 2019 disaster assistance to sugar producers that are members of the cooperative, according to the Farm Service Agency (FSA). American Crystal Sugar Company, Michigan Sugar Company, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, Snake River/Amalgamated Sugar Company, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, Western Sugar Cooperative and Wyoming Sugar Company are the cooperatives with an approved USDA agreement. However, USDA said that producers who deliver sugar to Sidney Sugars Incorporated are not members of a cooperative processors, but those with qualifying losses for 2018 and/or 2019 sugarbeet losses can apply for Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) benefits. Members of an approved cooperative processor with sugarbeet losses must apply for 2018 and 2019 disaster benefits through their cooperative processors, FSA said.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


Cattle Industry Losses Pegged At $13.6 Billion The U.S. cattle industry is estimated to see losses of $13.6 billion due to the COVID-19 situation, according to an analysis released by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Cow-calf producers are expected to see the biggest impact, with losses forecast at $3.7 billion or $111.91 per head for each mature breeding animal. Stocker/backgrounder losses are put at $156.98 per head for a total impact of $2.5 billion for 2020, while feeding sector losses are figured at $205.96 per head or $3.0 billion. “This study confirms that cattle producers have suffered massive economic damage as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and those losses will continue to mount for years to come, driving many producers to the brink of collapse and beyond if relief funds aren't made available soon,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall. “This study also clearly illustrates the fact that while the relief funds provided by Congress were a good first step, there remains a massive need for more funding to be allocated as soon as members of Congress reconvene.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets We will be watching jobless claims and housing starts out at 7:30 a.m. CST. as well as progress on COVID--19 infections, and the rate of spread. We will also be watching export sales out at 7:30 for any signs of China demand. Weather Moderate to heavy snow is in store Thursday from the central Plains to the eastern Midwest. Freezing conditions also extend from the south-central Plains through the Mid-South. Snow and accompanying well-below-normal temperatures will keep fieldwork and planting sidelined into late April over northern and central crop areas. Southern areas will have a dry and mild pattern for fieldwork during the next few days.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


U.S. Agriculture Reducing Per-unit GHG Emissions A new analysis shows U.S. farmers and ranchers continue to reduce per-unit greenhouse gas emissions. Data from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture shows the agricultural sector accounts for less than ten percent of total U.S. emissions. The EPA's U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions provides a first look at 2018 U.S. emissions data, incorporated into a new Market Intel report from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The report finds that per-unit methane emissions from livestock have declined since 1990 as livestock producers have increased productivity. During the past 30 years, U.S. milk production has increased 71 percent, while per-unit emissions of milk have declined by almost 25 percent. Beef production has increased almost 50 percent, while per-unit emissions have fallen nearly eight percent. Meanwhile, American farmers are producing more crops on fewer acres. The analysis builds on data shared during the launch of Farmers for a Sustainable Future, a coalition of agriculture groups aimed at educating lawmakers and finding solutions to challenges posed by climate change. ************************************************************************************ Rebalancing Production Can Speed Dairy Market Recovery A dairy industry economist says rebalancing production can speed up market recovery. National Milk Producers Federation chief economist Peter Vitaliano says government support for dairy producers to reduce production in the coming months can speed dairy’s recovery from coronavirus-driven price declines. He says a unified, collective government action, “would probably be the best and most effective and speediest way of rebalancing supply and demand.” The comments were included in an NMPF podcast released Tuesday. Production balancing is part of the NMPF and International Dairy Foods Association plan for dairy assistance presented to the Department of Agriculture last week. Current dairy supply exceeds demand by at least ten percent, and could worsen as supply increases to seasonal" peaks and consumers remain under “shelter in place” orders. NMPF, along with IDFA, urge USDA to “use as many tools as possible, as quickly as possible,” to bridge the supply/demand gap, as part of their recommendations to USDA. ************************************************************************************ Peterson: USDA Should Increase Commodity Purchases to Help Farmers, Food Banks House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson urges the Trump administration to maximize the purchase of agricultural commodities for donation and distribution. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Tuesday morning, Peterson says that purchases by USDA can "help ensure the production that no longer has a foodservice market can be made available to help our nation's foodbanks." In the letter, Peterson urged the Administration to use the $9.5 billion in funding through the CARES Act, the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation, and Section 32. Peterson says the agriculture economy was already in a fragile state from several years of adverse weather conditions and a challenging trade situation. Peterson says farmers are frustrated with the inability to get their products to market, and to consumers who need food assistance. Despite being an essential service, ag producers and their supply chain partners “are facing the total loss of some market segments and the inability to quickly change their marketing and processing capabilities to meet the new realities.” ************************************************************************************ Senators Urge USDA To Support Local Food, Dairy, Specialty Crops A bipartisan group of Senators seeks federal relief for local farmers struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, the group sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture this week. The senators urged USDA to ensure a portion of the $9.5 billion secured in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, goes to local farmers who sell directly to consumers, schools, institutions, food hubs, regional distribution centers, retail markets, farmers markets and restaurants. In addition to urging USDA to ensure relief is getting to local farmers, the senators also pressed the department to administer direct payments through the Farm Service Agency in response to the local food industry's projected $1.1 billion loss in revenue. They asked that in order to be eligible to receive a direct payment, local food producers should derive at least 25 percent of total farm income from sales that are locally purchased, including food sold directly to consumers. ************************************************************************************ Livestock Marketing Association Encourages Investigation of Beef Packers The Livestock Marketing Association welcomes the expansion of an investigation into the beef markets. The association this week called for the investigation of beef packers to be comprehensive and expeditious. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the association says the investigation should “consider all potential anticompetitive” issues. The association has supported USDA’s investigation into beef pricing margins, which was opened in August 2019 following a beef processing plant fire. The cattle market in the wake of COVID-19 has responded similarly to how it did after the Holcomb plant fire. Once federal, state, and local authorities began instituting recommended and mandatory economic shutdowns in early March 2020, the cattle industry experienced a sharp decline in fed cattle and feeder cattle prices. At the same time, boxed beef prices skyrocketed, and consumers emptied meat cases. The combination of these factors resulted in significant packer profit margins. All the while, livestock producers continue to receive a shrinking portion of the retail beef dollar paid by the American consumer. ************************************************************************************ Corteva Names Alonzo to External Affairs, Sustainability Post Corteva Tuesday announced Anne L. Alonzo will join the company as Senior Vice President, External Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, effective April 20, 2020. A widely recognized global food and agriculture leader, Alonzo will have responsibility for setting strategy and leading the External Affairs function, which includes Corporate Communications, Global Corporate Responsibility, Government and Industry Affairs, and Product Advocacy. Most recently, Alonzo served as President and CEO of the American Egg Board, the U.S. egg industry's marketing arm. Before joining the American Egg Board in 2016, Alonzo was appointed by the White House to serve as Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service. She previously served as Vice President, Global Public Policy, Corporate Affairs at Kraft Foods, leading all global corporate affairs work in the areas of sustainability, tariffs, tax, trade and health and wellness, as well as global issues management. Alonzo says she is "excited to join a team that is already demonstrating its commitment to building an agricultural ecosystem that supports people, progress and the planet."

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Food Supply Chain Disruptions The administration has spent a lot of time lately assuring consumers that there is plenty of food. Some experts say the system has problems anyway. For example, The Hill is reporting this week that former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week that a "cascading series of events" is disrupting the U.S. food supply chain and could “impact millions of Americans.” Vilsack is pointing to interruptions like the shutdown of public schools, universities and even some restaurants that served as a source of food for many who now have been "redirected" amid the coronavirus outbreak. The result has been a “cascading series of events,” Vilsack said, that mean that a “tremendous amount of the overall supply of food” must be redirected. Vilsack previously served as secretary of agriculture for the duration of former President Obama's terms in the White House, and before that was governor of Iowa for eight years. Bloomberg also added detail in a report that said that grocers are struggling to keep shelves stocked because producers lack incentive to deliver some products like milk or some produce. The problem, Bloomberg says, is that the food marketplace “can’t be easily adjusted on the fly, even during a crisis.” It’s why farmers and others in food supply are counting on $9.5 billion in aid designated for them within the $2 trillion CARES Act that was signed March 27. With restaurants, school cafeterias and sporting arenas closed, the supply chain for food service “has seen demand evaporate overnight.” The industry normally would serve about 100 million restaurant meals and 30 million school lunches over a five-day period, said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of government relations for United Fresh, a trade association representing the fresh produce industry. With COVID-19, Guenther said that supply chain “literally froze up in a matter of days.” Even as produce planted back in December and January will be ready for harvest in the near future, the demand is so low now that the question people are facing is “whether it makes sense to incur the operational costs to go out and harvest,” said Chris Valadez, president of the Grower-Shipper Association, a California-based trade association representing fruit and vegetable growers. According to Guenther, the commercial food service industry accounts for roughly 40% of all fresh produce grown in the U.S. But that number is far greater for certain products. “Most of the iceberg lettuce we grow goes into the fast-food industry, retail takes almost no iceberg lettuce,” said Tim York, president of the Markon Cooperative. Based in Salinas, Calif., Markon is a purchasing co-op, which buys fresh fruits and vegetables for food-service distribution companies including Sysco Corp., U.S. Foods Inc. and Performance Food Group Co. “As the food service economy grinds to a halt, farmers have all this iceberg lettuce with no place to sell it,” he said. Pandemic-driven demand is driving purchases of certain staples such as bread, meat, eggs and dried beans. The same isn’t necessarily true for fresh fruits and vegetables. “For the time being everyone’s waiting, storing what they can in packing sheds, or leaving it unharvested in the field,” Guenther said. Moreover, as retailers respond to shoppers changing preferences, York said grocery stores are simplifying their inventory by reducing the number of produce stock keeping units from a normal range of 300-400, down to 60-70. Sysco and competitor Gordon Food Service said they’re assisting restaurant customers as they try to adapt their businesses for take-out and delivery, or even in some cases, acting as “mini mart” stores. But it doesn’t come close to compensating for normal volume. As a result, Mutschler said, the company has been forced to lay off staff while also trying to secure agreements with retail grocers to backfill any shortages. USDA said it is evaluating the authorities granted under the CARES Act and will leverage its programs to alleviate disruption as necessary, a spokesperson said last week. He added that the U.S. food supply chain remains safe and secure. But some worry the relief won’t be anywhere near enough to keep many producers from going out of business. “Whatever amount ultimately becomes available, I’m not banking that it will be enough to keep the operational side of our industry adequately lubricated,” Valadez said. “I just don’t see that.” Still others worry about the disruption created by a long-term shift in demand. “You can’t just not harvest until the market comes back,” said Dale Moore, American Farm Bureau Federation executive vice president. “We’ve got farmers whose market has disappeared.” The Farm Bureau said it’s working with USDA and food bank leaders to develop solutions to distribute perishable food to consumers in need. “Whether it’s buying the produce and distributing that food to different nutrition and feeding programs,” Moore said, “or just making a direct payment to them to help carry themselves over until we can start getting our feet back under us, that’s what we’re going to be doing.” So, we will see. The food system is enormously complex and highly sensitive — and disruptions can mean impacts that last for long periods. These will require careful management to avoid severe consumer shocks, threats producers should watch closely as the virus impacts emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


Lawmaker Push on USDA COVID-19 Aid Continues Farm-state Senators continue to fire off letters to USDA outlining their wants for specific commodities in any USDA COVID-19 aid plan. Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and other lawmakers Monday fired off a series of letters to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue calling for USDA COVID-19 aid plans to include specialty crop producers which the letter said have seen losses of $5 billion so far with more ahead. They want USDA to provide direct payments to cover lost revenue and increased production costs and want the agency to buy specialty crops to redistribute to food banks, schools and emergency feeding organizations. For dairy, the letter calls on USDA to “build off existing programs to deliver both direct assistance to dairy farmers and intervene in the market to reverse the decline in futures prices and signal a floor on farm prices.” They also want USDA to reopen the Dairy Market Coverage (DMC) signup that closed in December and make sizable buys of dairy products for food and feed efforts. A portion of the $9.5 billion tabbed for COVID-19 aid from USDA also needs to go to local farmers who sell directly to consumers, schools, institutions and others, according to a third letter. Lawmakers signing that letter noted the specific mention of those who supply local food systems as being eligible for a portion of the aid. They called on USDA to require that those receiving aid show they have at least 25% of their total farm income from local sales. USDA is expected to unveil its details of around $16 billion in aid plans either this week or next week.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


NPPC Calls for Billions in Aid to Hog Farmers U.S. hog producers are expected to lose $37 per head the rest of this year due to the COVID-19 situation, which would be losses of around $5 billion for the hog industry, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). As hog plants have suspended operations due to workers contracting COVID-19, NPPC President Howard Roth said that conditions have become “dramatically worse in recent days.” The situation has meant hogs are backing up on farms. He added, “Market-ready hogs have nowhere to go.” While pork supplies are currently adequate, the group warned that if the hog plant shutdowns grow, it could impact retail supplies to consumers. The group also wants USDA to buy up to $1 billion in pork for domestic food and feeding programs, urging that the products should also include those packaged for restaurants and other areas of the food service sector.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday's most watched report will be the U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventories at 9:30 a.m. CDT and will include last week's ethanol production, inventory and an update of gasoline demand. A report on U.S. industrial production is set for 8:15 a.m. CDT, followed by a monthly report on soybean crush later Wednesday morning and the Federal Reserve's Beige Book at 1 p.m. Weather Wednesday features much-below-normal temperatures in northern and central crop areas, along with periods of snow in the Midwest and locally heavy snow in the northwestern Plains. Freeze warnings cover a large portion of the Southern Plains, Delta and eastern Midwest. Winter storm warnings are in effect for heavy snow and strong winds later Wednesday in the northwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


Meatpacker Closings Hard on Food Supply Chain Smithfield Foods will close its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, until further notice because of employees who tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s just one of several major agricultural facilities temporarily closing operations due to the pandemic. Virginia-based Smithfield Foods says the closures are a trend that may eventually put a dent in the U.S. meat supply. “The closure of this facility, combined with the growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” says Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan. “It’s impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants aren’t up and running.” In addition to a negative impact on consumers, Sullivan also warns of “either severe or possibly disastrous repercussions” across the entire supply chain, including on livestock producers. The company says their Sioux Falls site employs about 3,700 people, processes roughly 130 million food servings a week, and it buys from 550 independent producers. “These farmers won’t have anywhere to send their animals,” Sullivan adds. Almost 300 employees at Smithfield in South Dakota tested positive for the coronavirus, accounting for 40 percent of all the cases in the state. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Addresses Milk Dumping The USDA’s Risk Management Agency is ensuring that milk producers are not inappropriately penalized if their milk must be dumped because of recent market disruptions caused by COVID-19. The RMA is also extending inspection deadlines, waiving inspection requirements, and authorizing more crop insurance transactions over the phone and electronically to help producers during the current crisis. Many state and local governments have issued “stay-at-home” orders and shut down non-essential businesses in response to COVID-19. It’s resulted in market disruptions and prevented in-person crop insurance transactions. RMA says it will allow dumped milk to be counted as milk marketings for the Dairy Revenue Protection or actual marketings for the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy programs. The agency will also allow phone and electronic transactions for 2021 crop year sales and reporting dates, including options and endorsements. The deadline for some perennial crop Pre-Acceptance Inspection Reports has been extended. “Dairy Revenue Protection is a vital risk-management tool for our dairy farmers, especially during times like these, and USDA wants to ensure producers continue to get the coverage they purchased,” says RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. ********************************************************************************************** Farmers and Ranchers Ready to Help Food Banks Food banks across the nation are having a hard time keeping up with increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Farm Bureau Federation, as well as the group Feeding America, says farmers and ranchers are ready and willing to work with USDA to help bridge the supply gap and get farm products to those in need. The organizations praised USDA leadership through the crisis and offered recommendations for additional steps to ensure food banks across America are well stocked, which would allow farmers and ranchers to expand on existing partnerships with food banks and respond to shifting demands and pressing needs. While demand has increased across the supply chain as store shelves have emptied due to panic buying, food banks are seeing as much as a 100 percent increase in demand. AFBF and Feeding America both say this demand can be met by redirecting supply from farmers and ranchers who’ve lost other markets like restaurants and tourism businesses due to closures and stay-at-home orders, by implementing a USDA-run voucher system. This would allow farmers and ranchers to work directly with food banks to get farm-fresh products quickly to families in need, while also preventing food waste and helping farmers recoup some of their production costs at a time when they’re fighting to hold on. ********************************************************************************************** Restaurants Turning to Grocery Sales to Stay Afloat A very important link in the American food-supply chain is restaurants, which are looking at new temporary ways of doing business to stay afloat. As traditional grocers struggle to keep up with increased demand brought on by COVID-19, restaurants are turning to grocery sales to make ends meet. ABC News says it’s a trend that’s catching on across the country as large chains and mom-and-pop establishments look for new income. Panera launched Panera Grocery, which not only sells traditional Panera restaurant items, but items like milk, eggs, and fresh produce that its 2,100 stores normally use to make meals. Sara Burnett, Vice President of Wellness and Food Policy at Panera, says the decision to sell groceries is a reaction to the “unprecedented crisis our country is going through right now.” Subway is selling groceries at 250 of its stores in five states, including California, Connecticut, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. The National Restaurant Association says the industry has lost three million jobs and $25 billion in sales since March 1. A spokeswoman says three percent of restaurants have permanently closed and another 11 percent will do so by the end of this month. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Retailers on Solid Ground During Pandemic A recent CoBank report says agricultural retailers look to be in good shape as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The report says ag retailers are on “relatively firm footing” as they prepare for spring after last year’s complicated agronomy season. CoBank’s proprietary borrower database says farmer prepayments, accounts receivables, and delinquency trends reported by CoBank farm supply cooperative customers remain in line with 2018, which could indicate a stable-to-improved outlook for agronomy sales and services. Ag retailers’ inventories of seeds, agrochemicals, and fertilizer should meet customer needs during the 2020 planting season, which is expected to see an increase in the number of planted acres for both corn and soybeans. Adverse weather, and more specifically flooding, remain elevated risk factors this season, with forecasts for above-average precipitation this spring over areas that contain already saturated soils. Agronomy sales and service could take a hit if the weather once again leads to high levels of prevented planting. The coronavirus spread may impact supply chains and the availability of certain imported crop inputs that retailers rely on in the short term. ********************************************************************************************** NASS Preparing for 2022 Census of Agriculture The National Agricultural Statistics Service recently mailed out the National Agricultural Classification Survey to 350,000 potential farmers and ranchers. The NACS will help identify all those engaged in agricultural activity in the country to ensure that they are included in the 2022 Census of Agriculture. NASS requests that each person who receives the survey respond by May 4. “NACS plays an integral role in getting a complete count in the Census of Agriculture,” says NASS Census and Survey Director Barbara Rater. “By participating in the census, producers show the breadth and value of agriculture, and inform decisions that can impact their operations and industry.” She says it’s for those reasons that they need everyone who receives a classification survey to respond. Even if the form doesn’t apply to them, Rater says they need those folks to respond online to at least the first four questions. To protect the health and safety of the public and its employees, NASS has suspended in-person data collection and limited other in-person mail processing. Completed forms may also be mailed back in the prepaid envelope they provide.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Next Anti-virus Subsidy Bill Pressure is mounting for the “next” virus subsidy bill but The Hill is reporting that some GOP lawmakers are seeking to hold back, at least for now. Others such as Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., are calling for a rapid infusion of new federal aid costing trillions of dollars. The report also notes that at the state level, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, the chairman of the National Governors Association, is spearheading a push for an additional $500 billion to states. At the same time, there is another fight underway. Some GOP voices such as Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., want to speed up the timeline for reopening the U.S. economy instead of having U.S. taxpayers supplant the role of private employers. The Trump administration and Senate Republicans agree that Congress needs to approve at least another $250 billion for the broadly popular Paycheck Protection Program, a small-business lending program that will forgive loans to employers who keep workers on payroll. The initiative was allotted $349 billion late last month. But actually defining that step is proving to be hard. Hawley made a splash this past week with a Washington Post OpEd calling on the federal government to immediately start covering 80% of wages for workers at any U.S. business, up to the median wage, for as long as the crisis lasts. He also proposed a bonus for businesses that rehire workers laid off over the past 30 days. However, such a bold government intervention quickly drew opposition from some of his fellow Republicans. “I think it’s way too broad. I think a much more focused approach is needed,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who once chaired the Senate Budget Committee and served as an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his leadership team. He thinks it’s better to wait and see how the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, which became law on March 27, plays out. “They should be ready to pass another initiative, but I don’t think they need to pass it immediately,” he said. “We got to get this economy back open,” Kennedy said. Government shut it down.” McConnell and his leadership team have endorsed the wait-and-see approach. He says Congress should focus first on patching up problems and oversights in last month’s $2.2 trillion measure, which was hastily negotiated in less than a week with McConnell, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “The country needs us to be nimble, to fix urgent problems as fast as we can, to be able to have focused discussions on urgent subjects without turning every conversation into a conversation about everything,” McConnell said. The GOP leader argued that Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are pushing for more money for state and local government budgets when “literally no money has gone out the door yet.” Democrats say a phase-four coronavirus relief package should be at least $500 billion, double the small-business infusion McConnell sought last week. But it’s not clear if the GOP leader’s preference for slowing legislative action is supported by Mnuchin. Schumer announced said on Friday that he thinks a deal with the Treasury secretary is possible early this week. He said he had a constructive call with Secretary Mnuchin last week during which he agreed to pursue bipartisan talks with the House and Senate Democrats and Republican leadership on interim Emergency Coronavirus Relief legislation. And, he thinks “There’s no reason why we can’t come to a bipartisan agreement. Schumer’s statement indicated he’s now interested in a four-person negotiation between the top Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House. McConnell rejected that format last month ahead of the negotiations on the phase-three bill. Republican senators, however, want direct involvement in the talks, and some are skeptical of Mnuchin’s commitment to conservative principles, especially after he negotiated the second coronavirus relief package almost entirely with Pelosi. GOP lawmakers such as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., were furious that Mnuchin agreed to mandating two weeks of sick leave for medium-sized businesses. And, GOP leaders in Congress also are coming under pressure from governors in both parties. The National Governors Association on Saturday asked Congress for $500 billion to help states facing budget deficits from their fight against the coronavirus. “Congress must appropriate an additional $500 billion specifically for all states and territories to meet the states’ budgetary shortfalls that have resulted from this unprecedented public health crisis," the group said That could be a big ask. Bailing out state budget shortfalls is not a popular idea in the Senate GOP conference. “We’re generally not interested in bailing out the states,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said when the previous coronavirus bill was being crafted. “They’re their own form of government. They have their own taxing authority.” So, we will see. Much depends on the virus and how the measures employed against it succeed in tamping it down, actual life or death measures that producers should watch closely as the country attempts to deal with this evolving disease threat, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


USDA Confirms HPAI in South Carolina Turkey Operation USDA Thursday confirmed that the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) since 2017 had been confirmed in a commercial turkey operation in South Carolina. The situation prompted several adjustments to U.S. export markets, with only the European Union (EU) and some other smaller customers for U.S. poultry deploying blanket bans on all U.S. poultry. The EU one is somewhat surprising in that during the 2015 HPAI outbreak in the U.S., the EU deployed more-targeted restrictions. Most U.S. poultry importing countries have blocked imports from the area immediately surrounding the detected case, from the county involved or all of South Carolina. China and South Korea have not deployed blanket bans on U.S. poultry in the wake of the find of the H7N3 HPAI find. The phase-one agreement with China called on the two sides to agree to a regionalization of poultry issues – that any trade bans in the event of something like bird flu could not be nationwide bans.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


USDA Seen Sending Ag Aid Plan Forward This Week President Donald Trump late last week said that USDA would be coming soon with an aid plan for U.S. ag producers, with the package to be around $16 billion. That figures to be the $9.5 billion in the third round of COVID-19 aid that is to “support agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers' markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers.” Plus, there is around $7 billion to $9 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) authority remaining. Indications are the plans for the aid will head to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) this week, with announcement of the effort either yet this week or next week, according to contacts. The broader aid effort involving the additional $14 billion in CCC authority will not come immediately as USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has indicated the additional CCC authority is not available until July.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There are no official reports on Tuesday's docket, but plenty of market topics to track. Weather and the results of Monday afternoon's Crop Progress report will be noted early Tuesday. Traders will also be watching for any grain trade news, explanations of OPEC's latest production agreement and coronavirus statistic updates. There may also be caution in energy-related markets ahead of Wednesday's inventory report from the U.S. Energy Department. Weather A band of rain and snow is in store for the Southern Plains Tuesday. Other crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will be well below normal in most areas. Freeze warnings cover the Southern Plains and southern Midwest Tuesday morning.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Farmers Vie for Coronavirus Aid POLITICO is reporting that while Congress authorized several billion dollars to help struggling producers weather the coronavirus market decline, it provided little direction about how or where the funds should be spent. This is putting significant pressure on USDA as it works to figure out how to disperse aid across the vast farm economy as quickly and evenly as possible. Lobbying for access to these funds has become intense, the report says. Numerous industry groups also are enlisting their allies on Capitol Hill to help make their case. “Threading that particular needle is a tall order,” POLITICO says, and the program, whatever it turns out to be, is “sure to face heavy scrutiny, especially since the payments for market losses over the last two years were criticized heavily as unfair and tilted toward Southern states and wealthy farmers. Many commodity groups complained that their sector was shortchanged by the direct payment rates or excluded altogether. Even before any relief checks have gone out, the American Farm Bureau Federation claimed that more money will soon be needed from Congress. “We’re going to find out very quickly that amount of money is not going to help sustain a lot of our farmers through this difficult time,” said the group’s president, Zippy Duvall. “The secretary was asking for a lot more.” In the meantime, lawmakers have flooded Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s mailbox every day with letters reminding him to make sure farmers in their states aren’t forgotten. Perdue’s challenge is to get money into the hands of farmers without skewing their business decisions like which crops to plant or drawing charges of political favoritism. The $2 trillion economic rescue package signed into law last month includes $9.5 billion for cattle ranchers, fresh produce growers and other agricultural sectors affected by the economic freeze, as well as another $14 billion injection for the Commodity Credit Corporation that can be used in a variety of ways. The $9.5 billion in direct agricultural aid allocated to Perdue’s office names specific sectors that should receive assistance, including dairy and livestock industries; growers of specialty crops like fruits, nuts and vegetables; and producers that “supply local food systems” including schools and farmers markets. The aid isn’t earmarked exclusively for those groups, and Congress didn’t provide any other directions in the legislation itself. Dale Moore, AFBF’s executive vice president, told reporters last week that Perdue interpreted the funding provision to apply to “a broader range of folks who are not covered by other aspects” of farm assistance, rather than just the groups that are listed. Even as the relief bill was being crafted, Western senators went to bat for livestock producers during the negotiations. Now, they’re heaping pressure on USDA to keep cattle ranchers’ concerns in mind. More than 100 lawmakers sent Perdue a letter last week arguing that “there is an immediate need for assistance for our cattle producers” while the impact on other farm commodities was still being measured. The dairy industry, which has struggled through years of low milk prices, rapid consolidation and rising bankruptcies has called for USDA to buy up their milk products and distribute them to those in need. Similar proposals have been floated for specialty crops, like fresh fruits and vegetables, which are now being left to rot in some regions. The potential price tag for supporting those specifically named groups is quickly adding up. Even local and regional agricultural markets like farmers’ markets and farm-to-school programs are facing more than $1 billion in losses, according to industry estimates. Midwestern senators this week asked Perdue to use some of the additional $14 billion in CCC spending power to offset biofuel market carnage which has, in turn, brought down corn futures prices by about 15% since January. Some analysts expect USDA will design a program similar to its trade relief payments since 2018. The department attempted to calculate the impact of retaliatory tariffs on specific commodity prices, and then reimbursed farmers based on the volume and variety of their production, or that of their county. As with the trade bailout funds, the stimulus money could be distributed in multiple batches. That would allow Perdue to bolster reeling sectors that need money now while leaving room to adjust course as needed. USDA could even use its additional spending power through the CCC to fund another round of trade aid itself, now that China has struggled to fulfill its promise to import eye-popping sums of U.S. farm goods as part of the “Phase One” trade deal signed in January. For example, soybean futures prices haven’t fallen as steeply since January as other major crops like corn or cotton. But growers of the oilseed arguably were hit hardest by President Donald Trump’s trade war with Beijing, and they made out well under USDA’s trade relief program, POLITICO said. So, we will see. USDA has not laid out a timeline for when it will announce details of the stimulus payments, but these decisions certainly should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


China Phase One Agreement Implementation Focus Continues Even as market attention is mostly on the COVID-19 situation, some are noting that trade data for the first two months of 2020 indicate China is behind on the pace needed to meet their commitments under the phase-one trade deal to boost their imports of U.S. agricultural goods. The Trump administration over the next few weeks will give an assessment of the current phase-one developments. But public information is forthcoming on the deal, as the agreement calls for the U.S. and China to make "public disclosures" on "quarterly exports and imports of goods and services, no longer than 90 days after the end of each quarter." Indications are a call between U.S. and Chinese officials was postponed two weeks ago after U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were scheduled to talk via telephone March 27. U.S. officials are said to be remaining cautiously content with China’s progress towards buying American products and opening the domestic market to U.S. firms. However, there are still actions on the intellectual property front that China has not yet put in place that were agreed to in the -phase-one deal, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, the China Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimates (CASDE) report released by their Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs increased their forecast for 2019/20 corn imports to 4 million metric tons, up 1 mmt from their prior mark, citing the U.S.-China phase-one agreement.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


USDA’s Perdue Says Cattle Market Investigation Will Include COVID-19 Market Moves USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said via Twitter that the agency would be expanding its investigation into cattle market activity to include the move-recent price movements that took place in the wake of the COVID-19 situation. “@USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division will be extending our oversight to determine the causes of divergence between box and live beef prices, beginning with the Holcomb Fire in KS last summer and now with COVID-19,” Perdue said on social media. Scores of lawmakers have been pressing USDA to take the action after record moves in beef prices as consumer panic buying pushed up beef demand. But despite the increased dressed beef prices, live cattle prices actually declined. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, welcomed the action with his own tweet, saying, “After asking USDA to investigate price fixing by beef packers they announced today they will Farmers need to see USDA report as soon as possible Beef producers need help! Thx Scty Perdue & Pres Trump for hearing their concerns.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Coronavirus statistics are likely to be the first thing traders check after the three-day weekend. Weather and any reported progress among the world's oil producers to cut production are likely close items to follow. USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections is due out at 10 a.m., followed by a Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. with updates on corn and spring wheat planting and winter wheat crop conditions. Weather Monday features freezing conditions and possible damage to jointing wheat in the Southern Plains. We'll also see possibly severe thunderstorms in the Southeast. Other crop areas will be drier after a stormy weekend which featured northern snow and severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the south. Fieldwork in northern crop areas is stranded after snow. Meanwhile, strong winds in the Midwest will hinder any fieldwork and transportation. Below normal temperatures are in store all week, further delaying planting.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 10, 2020 |


Cattle Market Investigation will now Expand Cattle groups and senators have been putting pressure on Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, who responded to the pressure via Twitter. His tweet says the USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division would expand its investigation into the cattle markets. The Hagstrom Report says the inquiry will now cover the cattle market conditions stretching from a summertime fire in Kansas last year up to the market conditions following the emergence of COVID-19. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association had called for an investigation last Wednesday, with Perdue responding on the same day. NCBA President Marty Smith says, “I would like to thank President Trump and Secretary Perdue for their quick response to NCBA’s request to expand the agency’s investigation into the cattle markets.” He says they believe the investigation will restore cattle producers’ confidence in the market. They’re also looking forward to the agency’s recommendations on how to improve things in the industry. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota pointed out that live cattle futures’ prices declined in March while prices for boxed beef sold to grocery stores rose. “The obvious price disparity is harmful not only to the consumer but also for our hardworking, honest cattlemen who just want a fair market,” Cramer says. ********************************************************************************************** Ethanol Production Numbers Highlight Steep Drop in Fuel Demand The U.S. ethanol industry is hurting due to the COVID-19 outbreak keeping most drivers off the road. Reuters says the industry has cut production more than it has in recent memory as fuel demand continues to plummet. The output of the corn-based biofuel fell off a cliff, dropping a record 20 percent to an average daily rate of 672,000 barrels. That’s the lowest production rate since the Energy Information Administration began publishing the weekly data in mid-2010. As expected, stockpiles jumped to a record 27 million barrels, underscoring the struggling demand. Federal regulations mandate that nearly every gallon of gas sold in the U.S. has about 10 percent ethanol. However, the worldwide virus outbreak drove oil prices lower amid a dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia regarding production levels. Those factors have combined to make it impossible for ethanol makers to profitably produce their fuel. Dozens of plants have idled production or slowed way down, including POET, one of the industry’s top producers. Last week, POET said it idled production at three facilities in Iowa and South Dakota. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Releases April WASDE Report The April World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates from USDA show both corn and soybeans with higher ending stocks. The 2019-2020 corn outlook calls for reduced imports, greater feed and residual use, lower food, seed, and industrial use, as well as larger ending stocks. Ending stocks were raised 200 million bushels to 2.092 billion. The season-average price for corn dropped 20 cents to $3.60 a bushel. U.S. soybean numbers show lower exports, seed use, residual use, higher crush, and higher ending stocks. Higher crush will only partly offset the other lower numbers, bringing projected ending stocks to 480 million bushels, 55 million bushels higher than last month. The season-average soybean price is forecast to drop five cents to $8.65 a bushel. The wheat outlook expects lower exports, reduced domestic use, and increased ending stocks. The forecast now expects ending stocks of 970 million bushels, up 55 million from the previous month. The season-average farm price for wheat is up by five cents a bushel to $4.60. ********************************************************************************************** Meatpackers Close a Few Plants due to Coronavirus Fears of meatpacker employees contracting coronavirus due to the close conditions they work in have led to several facilities idling production in recent weeks. For example, Tyson Foods has temporarily ceased operations at its pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, after two dozen employees were found positive with the coronavirus. Politico says at least three people who work in Tyson plants, as well as JBS USA, have died from the virus. However, there aren’t a large number of operations that have temporarily shuttered production or even scaled back. The CEO of JBS says he’s “100 percent confident” that his employees are safe at a beef plant in Greely (GREE-lee), Colorado. However, a longtime employee died after being hospitalized with the virus. The major meatpacking companies all say they’ve taken appropriate steps to abide by CDC recommended guidelines. The food industry has been deemed “essential” and continues to function amid the pandemic. “As employees have tested positive for COVID-19, the industry has been working with local health authorities and the Food Safety and Inspection Service to take immediate steps to quarantine, sanitize facilities, and prioritize the health and safety employees,” says Sarah Little, VP of Communications for the North American Meat Institute. ********************************************************************************************** Wisconsin Senator wants Farmers Eligible for SBA Grants, Forgivable Loans Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is calling on the administrator of the Small Business Administration to clarify that farms are eligible for both grants and loans. She wants to make sure farmers are eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, as well as guarantee they can get sufficient loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created by the CARES Act. “The collapse in demand from the coronavirus pandemic has caught our farmers at a particularly challenging time because many have suffered for years from depressed prices and the uncertainty brought on by trade wars,” she says in the letter SBA Administrator Jovita (Joe-VEE-tah) Carranza. “The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program and the $10,000 advances from the expanded Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program could provide much-needed relief for farmers, provided that the programs are implemented with the unique needs of agricultural businesses in mind.” The letter comes after the SBA issued guidance saying that farms could apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, regardless of income levels. Baldwin wants the SBA to go further and clarify that farmers are both eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and have the option to use alternative calculations other than revenue, such as net earnings, that might provide greater loan values for farmers who need the help. ********************************************************************************************** Lots of Chicken Wings Available Thanks to Coronavirus The poultry market missed a big sales opportunity when the NCAA basketball tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus. The Washington Post says March Madness is the second of the two biggest annual events for wing sales, with the other being the Super Bowl. As the U.S. is asking citizens to stay at home to prevent further spread of the outbreak, the canceled basketball tournament means there is a whole bunch of chicken wings out there on the market. “That is a fact,” says Will Sawyer, lead animal protein economist at CoBank. “That’s real.” Wings are normally the most expensive part of the bird but haven’t been this cheap since September of 2011. They sold for close to two dollars a pound during this year’s Super Bowl. They’re now selling for half that amount. Poultry producers sold 1.24 million pounds of wings during the week the tournament was supposed to be held. Last week, they sold 433,000 pounds.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


USDA Working on COVID-19 Aid Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the Department of Agriculture is working on a plan to allocate relief funds to farmers. In a call with reporters Wednesday, Perdue said the $14 billion allocated to the Commodity Credit Corporation, "would come later," however, noting the CCC has only $6 billion in borrowing authority currently. The CCC can borrow $30 billion per fiscal year, and with just $6 billion left, appears to have already allocated $24 billion. The additional $14 billion authorized by the CARES Act can't be used until July, according to USDA. Meanwhile, USDA is working to implement a plan to allocate the $9.5 billion emergency relief fund that was designated to the Office of the Agriculture Secretary. Perdue says USDA is holding daily meetings on the COVID-19 relief package for agriculture, including meeting with lawmakers. Perdue says he is hopeful a plan will be announced "sooner rather than later," while cautioning that the process of federal rulemaking takes time. ************************************************************************************ NCBA Requests President Trump Expand USDA Market Investigation The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is asking the Department of Agriculture to further investigate the cattle and beef markets. NCBA President Marty Smith sent a letter to President Donald Trump on the matter Wednesday. The letter requests the government to act quickly to investigate the striking disparity between boxed beef prices and cattle prices in the futures and cash markets during the current COVID-19 crisis, and following the packing plant fire in Holcomb, Kansas, last August. In his letter, Smith requests President Trump to direct USDA to expand the ongoing investigation into market activity after the Holcomb fire to include current market volatility, “in the hope of identifying whether inappropriate influence occurred in the markets.” Smith says, “we need continued vigilance and oversight of all cattle market participants.” The letter also requests the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to study the influence of speculators on live and feeder cattle futures contracts to determine whether these contracts remain a useful risk-management tool for cattle producers. ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Urge SBA to Provide Clear Guidance to Farmers Two U.S. Representatives from Wisconsin are asking the Trump administration to provide clear and direct guidance for dairy farmers accessing the new Paycheck Protection Program. Democrat Ron Kind and Republican Mike Gallagher sent a letter to the Small Business Administration and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seeking the guidance. Without additional guidance on PPP, many dairy operations could lose out on this vital lifeline and may not survive, according to the lawmakers. Representative Kind says, “The Administration needs to move quickly to ensure there aren’t any more delays for our small business owners and farmers,” calling the uncertainty “unacceptable.” The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to threaten Wisconsin’s already struggling dairy economy, with some farmers being forced to dispose of thousands of gallons of fresh milk daily due to a drop in demand for dairy products typically consumed in schools, restaurants, and food services. For the past two years, Wisconsin has led the nation in farm bankruptcies with an average of two dairy farms closing a day. ************************************************************************************ Produce Industry Proposes Market Stabilization Program to USDA The United Fresh Produce Association and industry partners have presented a comprehensive Produce Market Stabilization Program to the Department of Agriculture. The proposal would immediately support critical financial needs in the produce supply chain. In addition, 108 members of Congress have sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging USDA to support the proposal. United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel says the industry “has come together to support a consensus proposal to USDA, and Congress has come together to let our national decision-makers know how important this is across the country and every sector of our business." The proposal is a “roadmap” for how USDA can support the industry immediately. Next, United Fresh says, will come deep discussions and analysis within USDA in channeling resources to multiple interests. Stenzel says, "we believe there will have to be continuing additional financial relief from Congress if our economy is going to be able to pull out of this crisis and grow again." ************************************************************************************ Union Claims Poultry Industry Responded Slowly to Pandemic The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union says the poultry industry responded slowly to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Union says that over the past month, it has been imploring poultry industry employers like Tyson Foods, Equity Foods, JBS/Pilgrim's Pride, Koch Foods and Wayne Farms to implement critical standards to protect workers' safety and to secure the food supply chain. The industry's response, “for the most part has only been recent, sporadic and limited to a few locations, leaving most workers unprotected,” according to the union. The organization represents 10,000 workers across the southeastern United States, many in food processing and distribution. However, the National Chicken Council Wednesday said the industry is “doing everything they can” to keep workers safe and chicken on the shelves, in that order. National Chicken Council President Mike Brown says, “Our members are following all of the CDC and local health department guidelines, and many have consulted with infectious disease physicians to develop site plans.” ************************************************************************************ Forecast Runoff for Upper Missouri River Basin Lower After Warm Spring The water runoff forecast for the Missouri River basin is down slightly this month, though still projected near record highs. Gavins Point releases are forecast to remain near 35,000 cubic feet per second through the month of April. Runoff above Sioux City, Iowa, was 5.5 million acre feet in March, which is almost two times average. The above-average runoff was primarily due to plains snow melting over heavily saturated soils. Based on current soil moisture conditions, current plains and mountain snowpack, and long-term temperature and precipitation outlooks, the 2020 calendar year upper basin runoff forecast is now 35.5 million acre feet above Sioux City, Iowa. Although this forecast is a reduction of 1.4 million acre feet from the March 1 forecast, it is still in the top ten percent of the 122 years of runoff record. Soil moisture conditions continue to be very wet in much of the upper Missouri River Basin, increasing the potential for above-average runoff in the upper basin. The potential for flooding remains, particularly in the lower river stretches.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Next Anti-coronavirus Step The political intrigues across Washington are deepening, POLITICO says, as Republicans move quickly to attempt to jam Democrats into accepting an extension of small business programs without addressing other Democratic priorities. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Schumer, D-N.Y., said there’s been no negotiations thus far with Schumer and Small Business Committee ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., on next steps. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he's spoken to all four House and Senate party leaders about sending $250 billion to the program. And Senate Majority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., said he intends to pass new relief as soon as Thursday without a roll call vote. House Democratic leaders initially expressed private opposition to the idea. They have been resistant to piecemeal extensions and want additional money for state and local governments and an expansion of unemployment benefits for several more months. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seemed open to the idea of an extension on Tuesday as she told CNN that it was clear the small business program needs more funds immediately. But the speaker, said there would have to be "considerations" to ensure that women and minority-owned businesses had equal access to the funds. And, Democrats complained they were blindsided by tweets from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., about fast action and McConnell's statements. A spokesman for Schumer said the Democratic leader had not spoken to McConnell before the announcement, and that Rubio had not spoken to Cardin. "I was a little taken aback that Sen. McConnell made this announcement without talking to Sen. Schumer or anyone else on the Democratic side of the aisle," said Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., on Tuesday afternoon. "Just to announce that you’re going to do something is not the right approach. But I think everybody would support trying to do something for small business." With the Senate’s pro forma session scheduled for Thursday and the House scheduled for a Friday session, the Senate has an advantage simply on timing. Still, House Democrats said they felt jammed by McConnell’s Senate majority on the $2 trillion phase three bill proposed for passage this month and may look darkly on an attempt to one-up them again. It’s also possible that a single House member could object to passing the extension via voice vote and demand lawmakers fly back to Washington to vote in person, something congressional leaders desperately want to avoid. Similarly, a single senator could fight the plans. But one leading conservative, Sen. Mike Lee, R., Utah, would not fight a clean extension of the small business program, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Another conservative senator that sometimes objects to speedy passage of new spending, Rand Paul, R-Ky., did not have an immediate comment. And without quick action, Rubio warned that fear would hammer small businesses that are applying for the oversubscribed program. “We have days, NOT weeks to address this,” Rubio said. Pelosi made clear Tuesday that she considers Mnuchin's request an "interim package" and still plans to pursue another massive legislative package that would expand unemployment benefits, include another round of direct cash payments and increased funding for state and local governments. The small business program is popular and may actually be able to be extended without a roll call vote. That would defer debate on other ideas and allow the administration to hash out the unfolding crisis and the congressional response as the week unfolds. House Democrats will receive a coronavirus briefing from Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials on Wednesday, a rare moment of bipartisanship between the House majority and an administration it is often battling. Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller tweeted that the vice president would also do calls with House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans on Thursday. A major topic of the briefing is expected to be efforts by federal officials to deliver needed personal protective equipment to states whose hospitals need it. On Tuesday, senior administration officials said they are working with the private sector to ship “millions and millions” of masks. They also said they expected the United States would be able to deliver 100,000 new ventilators in the next 100 days and that testing has increased in the past four weeks from 2,500 tests a day to 125,000 tests a day. U.S. officials have been coordinating a fleet of cargo planes to bring face masks, gowns, gloves and ventilators from overseas to help replenish rapidly depleting U.S. supplies. But the overall effort has been beset by bureaucratic roadblocks, miscommunication and charges of political favoritism by state leaders, POLITICO said. Pelosi wants to begin working on a new more comprehensive bill immediately and is still talking as if the House could come back into session later this month to vote on it, although lawmakers are increasingly saying they think that’s untenable given the continued spread of the virus across the country. The California Democrat has also met resistance from some top Republicans, who want to wait, as multiple federal and state agencies are already struggling to implement the policies Congress just passed. So, we will see. It seems that election year fever is leading to “almost” bi-partisan efforts to counter the virus, although there almost certainly will be serious challenges from many directions as these policies unfold, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


Court Rejects Refiners’ Request for En Banc Hearing The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the request by Wynnewood Refining Company and HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining to rehear the case in which a three-judge panel ruled that three small refinery exemptions (SREs) granted for the 2016 compliance year were invalid. The court did not indicate why it rejected the request. The court said in its initial ruling that the law indicated the SREs were only available as extensions to companies that had received them in 2010. The matter could now be appealed to the Supreme Court but it is not known if the refineries will opt to pursue that. The Trump administration waffled on whether to appeal (request an en banc hearing by the full court) and did not opt to take that step. That lowered expectations that the refiners would be successful in their challenge of the decision. This shifts attention to EPA as they stated March 27, “EPA 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.” Expectations are that if EPA applies the decision nationwide, it would mean few refiners would qualify for SREs – reports indicate that only two or three would qualify. Currently, there are 25 SREs pending for the 2019 compliance year.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


USDA Makes Clear Farmers Are Eligible For COVID SBA Loans USDA has released information stating that farmers do indeed qualify for the efforts in the third COVID-19 aid package relative to small business loans operated by the Small Business Administration (SBA), potentially increasing further the audience able to access the program. The third COVID-19 stimulus plan contained $349 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is a guaranteed loan program administered by SBA, according to USDA, noting that the “purpose of the program is to support small businesses and help support their payroll during the coronavirus situation.” USDA said that farmers are indeed eligible for the PPP loans. “Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers with 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States are eligible,” USDA said. They noted that farmers are eligible if the farm has 500 or less employees, or it fits within the revenue-based sized standard, which is on average annual receipts of $1 million. USDA also noted a farm can qualify if “it meets SBA’s ‘alternative size standard.’” That standard currently states that “a maximum net worth of the business not more than $15 million, AND the average net income Federal income taxes of the business for the two full fiscal years before the date of the application be not more than $5 million.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


Dairy Groups Unite to Ask Federal Government for Help The National Milk Producers Federation, the largest dairy organization in the U.S., as well as the International Dairy Foods Association, came together to ask for help. They sent a request for assistance to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF, says, “As most of the country shelters in place and large swaths of the foodservice sector come to a standstill, dairy sales outside the retail channels have plummeted. Market prices have dropped rapidly, which has created a crushing economic outlook for producers of nutritious and necessary milk and dairy products.” The groups say no plan will fully remedy the losses; however, dairy is responding with a united plan that can help mitigate the damage caused by COVID-19. “Dairy industry discussions have led to a comprehensive action plan to address many of the key marketplace challenges created by the pandemic and we will present it to USDA,” Mulhern adds. “We understand the demands that USDA is under, but after five straight years of poor milk prices, they were just starting to rebound when the pandemic hit.” He says immediate actions by USDA are critical to helping people survive the market devastation that has occurred. ********************************************************************************************** Ethanol Industry in “Free-Fall” The ethanol industry is in an economic free-fall as fuel demand drops because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Governments around the world are urging or requiring their citizens to stay home as a means to help control the spread of the coronavirus. The Capital-Journal says as more and more individuals stay home, the demand for ethanol-blended gasoline continues to drop. The pandemic hit the ethanol industry at a time when it was already struggling because of poor market conditions. The industry had already endured a trade war with China, a glut of oil production that sent ethanol prices tumbling, as well as waivers from the Environmental Protection Agency that helped refineries use less ethanol. “The important context here is that a lot of the ethanol industry was hanging on by a string before the coronavirus hit,” says Brian Jennings, CEO of the American Coalition for Ethanol. “We’re seeing unprecedented demand destruction and 2020 is likely going to be a bloodbath for the industry.” The market upheaval has put thousands of ethanol jobs in jeopardy. It’s also hurt the pocketbooks of the tens of thousands of farmers who provide the corn that ethanol plants use to make the biofuel and its byproducts like dried distillers grains. The per-gallon price paid to ethanol producers dropped 37 percent from February to March. ********************************************************************************************** Farmer Sentiment Takes a Hit in March The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer took a dive in March, dropping 47 points from the previous month to a reading of 121. This was the biggest one-month drop in the history of the index, which dates back to late 2015. Declining agricultural commodity prices and the coronavirus impact on the U.S. economy and ag sector are what took down farmers’ previous optimism. This month’s decline in the index wipes out the improved sentiment that took place last fall and winter, leaving the index at the same reading it was in September of 2019. The Index of Current Conditions dropped 43 points, while the Index of Future Expectations went down 49 points during March. Both measures dropped by their largest amounts since the survey began collecting data back in 2015. The biggest reason for the drop is producers’ worry over what kind of impact the coronavirus outbreak will have on their farms in 2020. Coinciding with the coronavirus impact, a growing number of producers say they expect their farm’s financial performance in the upcoming year to be worse than last year. The weaker economic outlook also made farmers less optimistic about investing in their operations. ********************************************************************************************** Trump says China will Meet Its Obligations President Donald Trump gave what could be called a “qualified endorsement” of China’s attempts to meet its purchasing obligations under the Phase One Trade Deal. While commenting on the measures that the government is taking to protect the U.S. economy, agriculture came up in the conversation. The South China Morning Post quotes Trump as saying American farmers could expect some support from agricultural purchases that China will make as part of the agreement. “As of April 1, it seems like China is buying,” the president says. “We’ll let you know how that’s going, but they’re buying anywhere from $40 - $50 billion worth of our agricultural products, which will have a huge impact on our farmers.” Trump is confident that China will follow through because “I know and respect President Xi (ZHEE), and I think he’ll honor the deal that China made with us.” Without specifying who he talked to, Trump added, “In fact, I called up a while ago and asked how farmers are doing concerning China. Are they buying as anticipated?” Trump says the answer was “yeah, I think so.” He told reporters that the answer wasn’t the “most positive,” but it was at least starting. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Working on Aid for Livestock, Dairy, Specialty Crops Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is working on developing aid programs for livestock, dairy, and specialty crop producers ahead of any aid to traditional commodity producers in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The Hagstrom Report says House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson spoke with Perdue, who told the chairman that he’s trying to develop systems to provide aid specifically for livestock, dairy, and specialty crop growers. Perdue also told Peterson he’ll “hold off” on any aid to commodity growers because they received significant payments earlier this year. Peterson also says the secretary told him he’s going to wait and see if crop producers will eventually need more aid. Perdue is currently having the chief economist and staff look across the different segments of the agricultural economy and try to determine which of the commodities have been hit hardest by the coronavirus. “They’re also looking at which ones will likely have the most damage going forward from here,” Peterson says. “USDA may come up with an aid system like last time, but the formula will be different. Facilitation payments won’t be based on trade, rather on the damage done by COVID-19.” Peterson is also concerned about the dairy industry, saying he supports reopening signup for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program. *********************************************************************************************** NASS to Re-Survey Producers with Previously Unharvested Corn, Soybeans The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will once again have follow-up work to do on the 2019 harvest. NASS will be contacting survey respondents in Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, who had previously reported unharvested corn and/or soybean acres. If the newly collected data make any changes necessary, NASS will update the January 10th estimates in the May 12th Crop Production Report. Stocks estimates are also subject to review since unharvested production is included in the estimate of on-farm stocks. When NASS originally surveyed producers in December for the Crop Production 2019 summary, there were significant unharvested acres of corn in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin; and there were unharvested soybean acres in Michigan, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The unharvested acres were included in the January 10th report. NASS had originally said it would resurvey producers in January. However, because it wasn’t clear when producers would be able to get back into the field to finish harvest, the agency couldn’t set a re-survey date until now. Since there is still significant acreage left for harvest in North Dakota, producers there will be contacted at a later date.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Trade Policy and COVID-19 There has been considerable attention recently paid to the administration’s handling of the COVID-19 claims of shortages from hospitals on the front lines, Bloomberg says this week. This intensified last Friday when the administration imposed a ban on exports of N95 masks, surgical gloves and other protective equipment. Then, in response to global pushback, President Donald Trump said his administration was working to make sure that products made in the U.S. were used first to address the needs of Americans, but then later he reversed course on the protective gear. He said he had ordered the ban on exports after clashing with 3M over the company’s export of masks needed in the U.S. The company then warned that limits on its exports could lead to retaliation by other countries. The move to restrict exports came after dozens of other countries including China and the European Union have done the same in recent weeks. Bloomberg said that the U.S. standing as the world’s largest economy gave its actions greater weight. Allies also complained that America was simultaneously waging an aggressive campaign to out-bid other countries for supplies internationally. Together, the moves amount to new skirmishes in an economic war at the very time when international cooperation to combat the virus should be ruling the day. Also, Canadian officials scrambled over the weekend to try to convince the Trump administration to exempt their nation from any export ban. Those talks continued Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking with his counterpart. That move has drawn particular outrage in Canada because that country provides raw materials for masks made by American producers such as 3M and Honeywell. Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, complained Monday that most of an order of 4 million masks that the Canadian province had placed with 3M was blocked at the border between the two countries after leaving the company’s plant in South Dakota. Only 500,000 masks were allowed into Ontario, which would cover the province’s needs for another week. Ford said he spoke with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about the issue Sunday and was continuing to press U.S. officials. “We’re putting pressure on the U.S. government from all sides. It’s absolutely critical that they exempt Canada from this presidential order,” he said. The European Commission, which imposed its own restrictions on exports March 15, has its own limits on exports, which require special permits for any protective equipment or ventilators leaving the bloc which is due to expire soon. In an interview with Bloomberg, the head of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, said he was worried that the introduction of restrictions on trade could lead to others. “If one is in place, others copy,” he said. He also warned that such measures can cause “serious problems in the poorer and more vulnerable countries that typically rely heavily on imports for medical equipment.” WTO rules contain a key exception that permits its members to impose discriminatory trade restrictions as necessary to protect human health. But Azevedo said G20 nations needed to stick to a commitment made last month to keep any such measures “targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary.” Chad Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the administration’s move risked backfiring as the U.S. is still dependent on imports of protective equipment, which other countries could decide to hold back. In 2019, U.S. exports of N95 masks and other products covered by the ban amounted to about $1 billion, Bown said. Imports were worth about $6 billion. “This is just an incredibly short-sighted policy,” he said. “Of course, we need to acknowledge that there are shortages and other problems out there. But this policy is only going to exacerbate the shortages.” While the administration has blamed the shortages on the U.S. dependence on foreign manufacturing supply chains, critics of the administration’s initial slow response to the crisis say it has more to do with lack of planning and poor maintenance of strategic reserves meant to deal with a situation like a pandemic. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., on Monday said the Trump administration’s trade wars over the past two years had hurt the U.S. ability to access badly needed supplies and that those calling for additional trade measures risked damaging the American economy further. Murphy has called for the administration to lift tariffs on steel and other products, arguing that would help soften the blow of the recession now underway. The U.S. has repeatedly denied hijacking any cargoes destined for other countries. So, we will see. While the U.S. has moved recently to open up trade with China, the administration continues to feature a number of protectionist officials, including some very hard liners. Such policies are widely seen as threats by many ag producers who depend heavily on overseas markets and which should be watched closely as these debates emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


Ag Groups Highlight Transportation Issues Linked To COVID-19 Ships are getting hit with steep fees as the coronavirus slows trade and forces shipments to idle at docks, according to 80 groups representing ag and food shippers who want the White House to intervene. “These fundamentally unfair fees are frequently exorbitant in nature, even exceeding the negotiated freight rates in some cases, and render U.S. agriculture exports less competitive in the global markets,” the National Grain and Feed Association, National Chicken Council, U.S. Apple Association and other groups said in a letter to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


Perdue Defends USDA’s MFP, Says Aid Via COVID-19 Package To Be ‘Fair’ USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue continues to insist that USDA’s efforts to help farmers via the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) have been fair. In a letter to Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Perdue also noted that USDA will work “swiftly” to develop aid efforts via the third COVID-19 stimulus package. “We will again seek to implement a national program in a fair and equitable manner,” Perdue said. Stabenow has been openly critical of USDA’s MFP effort, arguing it has been regionally biased to southern growers. In the letter, Perdue points out that Stabenow’s reference to payment-rate inequities by county between regions is not on the mark as two thirds of the payments have gone to Midwest farmers.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets With social distancing restricting driving habits, the U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory reports have attracted a larger audience lately. Wednesday's inventory reports are set for release at 9:30 a.m. CDT. The minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting are due out at 1 p.m. CDT. Otherwise, traders will continue to monitor the latest coronavirus statistics and watch for any news ahead of Thursday's OPEC meeting and WASDE report. Weather Wednesday features scattered light rain in the northern and eastern Midwest. Delta and Southeast areas will see broader coverage of light rain. Temperatures will be notably cooler north while conditions remain very warm central and south. A colder pattern is set to move through the entire central and eastern U.S. over the next week.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


Senators Seek Flexibility in FSA Loans Lawmakers are urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make temporary flexibilities on Farm Service Agency loans permanent for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a bipartisan letter signed by farm-state Senators, they urge Perdue to “take action to ensure the continuity of our country’s food supply and support rural areas during the coronavirus." The senators seek "needed relief" to farmers by the Agriculture Department, ensuring that the temporary flexibilities on farm loans recently announced by the FSA are made permanent for the duration of the pandemic and subsequent economic recovery, and also by ensuring adequate and equitable access to credit. The Senators also urge USDA to consider making emergency measures such as deadline extensions, loan payment deferrals, payment forbearance, and a full suspension of all current and pending foreclosure actions effective for the duration of the pandemic. In all, 43 Senators signed the letter, led by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota. ************************************************************************************ Roberts, Stabenow Urge SBA to Provide Coronavirus Relief to Farmers and Ranchers Leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee urges the Small Business Administration to ensure farmers and ranchers can access new loan programs created in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act. Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, and the Committee’s ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan penned a letter to the SBA, stating, "We must take quick action to aid farmers at a time when we need a stable and reliable food supply." The CARES Act created new and expanded eligibility for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to help small businesses during the coronavirus crisis. The Senators asked the Small Business Administration to immediately clarify and allow agricultural businesses and farms to apply for loans under this program. The CARES Act also created the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses keep their workforce employed. An interpretation by the American Farm Bureau Federation suggests farmers are currently only eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program. ************************************************************************************ Pandemic Pushing Commodity Prices Lower From dairy farmers with nowhere to send their milk and cattle ranchers reeling from plummeting beef prices, the impact of the coronavirus is rippling through farm country. The American Farm Bureau Federation says corn, cotton and soybean futures have tumbled, ethanol plants have been idled, and some fruit and vegetable farmers are finding their best option is leaving produce in the field. In an economic analysis, AFBF says price forecasts for most agricultural products are bleak. In the past month, dairy prices have dropped 26-36 percent, corn futures have dropped by 14 percent, soybean futures are down eight percent and cotton futures have plummeted 31 percent. Meanwhile, Hog futures are down by 31 percent. A surge in demand for beef emptied grocery store meat aisles, but there is no lack of supply. Despite a rise in retail prices in some areas, the prices paid to cattle ranchers have fallen 25 percent. AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "After years of a down farm economy and damaging severe weather, the COVID-19 ripple effects are forcing farmers and ranchers to face heartbreaking financial realities.” ************************************************************************************ FDA Issues Temporary Policy Relaxing Egg Labelling Requirements The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing egg labeling and packaging requirements to meet consumer demands. Generally, egg cartons must include a statement of identity, the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, nutrition labeling, the net quality of contents and safe handling instructions. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer demand for shell eggs has increased. Additional eggs for consumers are available, but appropriately labeled retail packaging is not available for all such eggs. To meet the increased demand for shell eggs in light of the limited availability of retail packaging, the FDA is providing temporary flexibility regarding certain packaging and labeling requirements so the industry can meet the increased consumer demand. FDA will allow egg sales without labels, but rather a sign or tag affixed to the product containing certain label requirements. The policy is intended to remain in effect only for the duration of the public health emergency related to COVID-19 declared by the Department of Health and Human Services. ************************************************************************************ Wisconsin Asking USDA to Take Action for Dairy Wisconsin lawmakers are seeking help for dairy from the Department of Agriculture. Last week, a coalition of Wisconsin lawmakers, led by Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin, wrote Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, seeking immediate action for Wisconsin dairy farmers and dairy processing businesses. Wisconsin dairy farmers have been forced to dispose of thousands of gallons of fresh milk a day as the demand for dairy products used in foodservice has rapidly switched to almost entirely at-home consumption. Specifically, the lawmakers ask Secretary Perdue to move cheese and dairy products from Wisconsin plants to consumers using several tools that Congress has provided USDA to help respond to times of crisis. Additionally, they seek funding for states to help them resolve supply chain disruptions and keep agricultural products and food moving to reach consumers when and where they need it. A third measure requested, the Wisconsin lawmakers are asking Secretary Perdue to Reopen enrollment for the Dairy Margin Coverage program and make payments retroactive to the beginning of the year. ************************************************************************************ Syngenta Accepting Entries for Seventh Annual #RootedinAg Contest Applications for the seventh annual Thrive #RootedinAg Contest are now open online. The #RootedinAg Contest gives people in the agriculture industry the opportunity to tell their story, according to Syngenta. The company will award three contest finalists with mini touch-screen tablets and one grand prizewinner with a $500 gift card, plus the opportunity to tell his or her story in Thrive magazine, complete with a professional photo shoot with the winner's ag mentor. In addition, the company will make a $1,000 donation to the winner's favorite local charity or civic organization. To enter this year's contest, interested candidates can visit the contest website and fill out the brief online entry form, which asks them to describe their ag mentor in one of two ways. Contestants can write a couple paragraphs and submit a photograph to support their entry or create a short video. The deadline to enter is June 30, 2020. To apply, learn more or see previous contest winners, go to www.SyngentaThrive.com.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The Fight for the Next Bailout The near congressional unanimity on the recent $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill “has given way to partisan finger-pointing that has the potential to poison the debate,” Bloomberg reports. While the crisis has worsened since President Donald Trump signed the coronavirus aid law on March 27, there is little consensus on next steps as leaders extend the economic shutdown. Bloomberg notes that the president and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., exchanged biting letters last weekend accusing each other of fumbling the initial response and that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed Democrats for distracting the nation from an emerging threat. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the administration’s slow response has cost lives. The rancor continued to grow in spite of the fact that the number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has pushed past 368,000 and nearly 11,000 deaths with “government data began showing the pandemic’s rapid and widespread impact on the U.S. economy.” Meanwhile, the current rescue plan got off to a rocky start as small businesses struggled to submit documents and lenders ran into trouble with the government’s portal for loans. The increasingly alarming numbers prompted Speaker Pelosi to scale back her earlier ambitions for the next stimulus. She thinks Congress should “update” the current legislation to provide more money for small businesses and individuals and, over the weekend, said she wants the legislation to get a vote this month. At the same time, there is no consensus on what that package should look like. McConnell told the Associated Press that there will be a fourth virus-related bill but said he and Pelosi have “a little different point of view” about its timing and what should be included. Lawmakers in both parties are already proposing an assessment of the U.S. response to the outbreak, which exposed shortages of equipment and “faltering efforts of the federal government to get and distribute medical supplies where needed.” But the form that should take is the subject of continued partisan bickering. On Saturday, the president dismissed concerns over the rollout of a $349 billion program to assist small businesses rocked by the virus, saying loan distributions were “way ahead of schedule” even as banks struggled to respond to the flood of requests. “It’s been flawless so far,” he told reporters. “I don’t even hear of any glitch.” His rosy assessment came even as some small businesses worried that funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, a key element of the stimulus, might run out before loans are even approved. The president told the press on Sunday that he likes the concept of additional stimulus checks for individuals once the first round has been delivered. However, press reports began to circulate then that as the government confronts the worst economic disaster since the financial crisis in 2008, it could be hamstrung by vacancies among its political appointments. Of 20 Senate-confirmed positions reporting to the treasury secretary, seven aren’t filled, and four are occupied by acting officials. The domestic finance unit, which should be handling the brunt of the work tied to the pandemic, is notably empty, Bloomberg said. In addition, the president said over the weekend that he will nominate a White House lawyer to a newly created post of inspector general to oversee spending of the coronavirus stimulus and that he had chosen Brian Miller for the job, despite the president’s earlier questions about the authority of the position. Miller is now a special assistant to the president and a senior associate counsel in the White House Counsel’s office. Before that, he was an independent corporate monitor and an “expert witness.” He has worked at the Justice Department and was an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia, the statement added. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Schumer urged the Treasury Department to move more quickly to help airlines to save industry jobs and refrain from imposing “unreasonable conditions” that might spur carriers to decline payroll assistance, a concern that has been raised by regional airline trade groups and flight-attendant unions. In a letter yesterday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Pelosi, Schumer and other Democrats stressed that provisions of the $2.2 trillion stimulus passed by Congress were aimed specifically at bolstering aviation jobs. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence insisted that they see signs the U.S. outbreak is beginning to level off or stabilize, citing a day-to-day reduction in deaths in New York. “We are beginning to see the glimmers of progress,” Pence said at a White House news conference. “The experts will tell me not to jump to any conclusions, and I’m not, but like your president I’m an optimistic person and I’m hopeful.” Pence said the government is starting to see “cases, and most importantly losses and hospitalizations, begin to stabilize.” So, we will see. The impacts of the virus are continuing to spread along with economic uncertainty. Government interventions appear to be helping but the toxic politicization across Washington obscures the outlook for future efforts, trends that should be watched closely by producers as this battle against the pandemic proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


Ag and the SBA effort Much attention has been focused on whether agriculture operations can qualify as small businesses under the $349 billion in loans/guarantees in the third round of COVID-19 aid. The American Farm Bureau Federation on Friday revised its analysis of the Small Business Administration's (SBAs) Paycheck Protection Program Loans. “Based on our analysis of the IFR [interim final rule], we are pleased to confirm that the IFR removes the industry-specific revenue thresholds. Agriculture enterprises that employ 500 or less people whose principal place of residence is in the United States are eligible, regardless of revenue levels.” The group also sent a six-page letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue detailing recommendations for spending the $23.5 billion that was included in the Phase 3 economic stimulus package, including aid to the ethanol sector ($14 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority and $9.5 billion for USDA to provide help to producers of livestock (including dairy) and fresh fruit and vegetable growers and specialty-crop farmers).

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


Both Canada And Mexico Say They Have Met Requirements On USMCA Top trade officials from Canada and Mexico have now said their countries have made the necessary changes in their regulations and laws needed for implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). "This is an important step towards implementing this essential trade agreement," Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement released Friday. "The Canadian government will continue to work with the United States and Mexican governments to determine an 'entry into force' date that is mutually beneficial." From Mexico, chief negotiator Jesus Seade said on Twitter that with the changes completed by Mexico, “we will have a modern instrument that will strengthen the competitiveness of the region and energize the trilateral relationship." As for timing, Freeland’s statement only mentioned that it would come into effect “later this year.” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Friday at the White House that the U.S. is “on track with USMCA,” but did not provide any other comments relative to whether the U.S. has completed its work to pave the way to implement the deal. Provided the U.S. also completes its changes required for USMCA, the earliest the agreement could take effect is now July 1.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday's only official report on the docket is one for U.S. consumer credit at 2 p.m. CDT. The usual topics of interest continue to be coronavirus statistics, OPEC's upcoming meeting and attempt to cut oil production, any grain trade announcements and the latest weather forecasts. Weather Tuesday will be dry across most primary crop areas except for scattered areas of rain in the eastern Midwest and Delta. Temperatures will be above to much above normal. This combination will favor field drying and fieldwork.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


CoBank Issues Report on COVID-19 Impact on Ag, Economy CoBank says the COVID-19 outbreak has brought the U.S. economy to a “screeching halt.” A quarterly report from the CoBank Knowledge Division has underscored the critically important nature of agriculture, as well as other industries essential to rural America. The U.S grains sector is still stuck in a rut, with pressure on commodity prices, weakening basis for both corn and soybeans in some markets, and export volatility likely for the next few months. While crop farming fundamentals remain challenging, ag retailers enter this year’s growing season on a relatively stable footing. Retailers say they’re optimistic about a full agronomy season, given the pent-up demand for fertilizer and crop protection products, especially after a wet and complicated fall application period last year. The U.S. chicken industry was optimistic heading into 2020 thanks to expected renewed exports to China. However, the shift to at-home eating because of COVID-19 has boosted chicken demand domestically. U.S. cattle has seen a swift and sharp decline in the last month. Chinese demand for U.S. hogs has set records, but it hasn’t led to strong prices or profit margins. Milk prices have fallen off due to COVID-19. Cotton prices have sunk to new lows despite strong exports due to fears of slower economic growth. Specialty crop growers face an even tighter labor situation this spring. ********************************************************************************************** Demand for U.S. Beef and Pork Strong in Overseas Markets Despite various travel bans and other restrictions, foreign markets still have a large number of consumers who want American pork and beef. Clay Eastwood is Director of International Marketing for the National Pork Board. She says the most recent export numbers for American pork include almost record-setting amounts. “January was the second-highest export month in history as we exported 515 million pounds of pork,” Eastwood says. “Of that number, 150 million pounds of pork went to China.” The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier says those numbers were posted ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit China and other Asian countries before spreading to the rest of the globe. Eastwood says pork production was five percent higher in 2019, with early data showing that number may climb higher this year. Pork is continuing to find solid overseas demand in traditional trading partners like Mexico and Japan. Other nations like Australia and New Zealand are buying more pork than in recent years. Demand for U.S. pork is also higher in both Central and South America. As COVID-19 cases continue to drop in China, Eastwood expects that market to get even stronger through 2020. ********************************************************************************************** Coronavirus Disrupting Global Food Chain Reuters says the coronavirus outbreak is disrupting the global food supply chain and causing labor shortages in agriculture around the world. Panic buying by shoppers cleared supermarket shelves, creating a perception of food shortages. However, retailers and authorities say there are no underlying shortages and supplies of most products will be replenished. The logistics for getting food from the field to the plate are feeling the effects of COVID-19. In the short term, the lack of air freight and trucker shortages are slowing down fresh food deliveries. In the longer term, Reuters says a lack of available labor will affect planting and harvesting. If it goes on long enough, it could cause some shortages and rising prices for staple crops. As spring starts in Europe, farmers are trying to find enough workers to pick strawberries and asparagus, after border closures shut down the usual flow for migrant labor. Wide-scale crop losses are likely in India as a lockdown has sent large numbers of workers home, leaving farms and markets short as staple crops like wheat are almost ready for harvest. Food firms typically buy supplies in advance. However, long-term rising commodity prices will eventually be passed on to consumers. ********************************************************************************************** COVID-19 Shows Farm Labor System is Broken The coronavirus outbreak has exposed major flaws in the American farm labor system. Politico says that’s upping the pressure on the federal government to make migrant labor much more accessible to farmers. It also highlights a lack of health and safety protections for these “essential” workers. Farmworkers who are still planting and harvesting crops have a higher than normal risk of being infected because they typically live, work, and travel in crowded conditions. Most don’t have any form of healthcare. Meanwhile, farmers are worried that the closure of U.S. embassies, especially in Mexico, will slow the flow of migrant labor into the U.S. That will make an already chronic labor shortage on produce, livestock, and nursery operations across the country that much worse. Farm labor lobbyists see an opportunity to slide labor provisions into an expected fourth stimulus bill that would provide some relief. Also, because food production has been declared a critical industry under federal guidelines, agriculture employers are giving undocumented farmworkers letters stating that they’re “essential.” ********************************************************************************************** FDA Reassures Consumers That Food is Safe The Food and Drug Administration wants to once again reassure American consumers that food is available and safe to eat during the coronavirus outbreak. The FDA released a 30-second PSA last week designed to cut through confusion and misinformation about the food supply during the pandemic. It reiterates the message the FDA and the fresh produce industry has put out since the virus began to spread through the U.S.; there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging that’s transmitted the coronavirus. The Packer Dot Com says Frank Yiannas (YAH-nihs), Deputy FDA Commissioner, says the agency is working to ensure that the food supply chain is not disrupted. The agency is not anticipating there will be a need for food products to be recalled or withdrawn should someone who works in a store or processor test positive for COVID-19. The FDA has posted guidance on its website for consumers and food industry members. The agency is also talking with food industry leaders about any concerns they may have. Yiannas says the issues with keeping grocery shelves stocked are due to unprecedented demand, not a lack of capacity to produce, process, and deliver food. ********************************************************************************************** Beef Checkoff Offers Kid-Friendly Meals for Parents at Home As Americans are spending more time at home, parents may need some meal inspiration to keep the whole family happy. The Beef Checkoff is offering some help with recipes that everyone in the family can enjoy and even make together. Some of the family favorites the Beef Checkoff recommends include Personal Beef Pizzas. They only need four base ingredients and can be customized by each family member based on what’s on hand. Other recipes include a Chuckwagon Beef and Pasta Skillet, Cheeseburger Mac, as well as Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Hazelnut, and Chocolate Chip Beef Jerky Cookies. “BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com is a great resource for kid-friendly options that can be made with kitchen staples many families may already have on hand,” says Alisa Harrison, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “These family favorites can help simplify dinner, lunch, or even snack time with easy prep and flavors that satisfy the whole family.” The website also has recipes that call for five ingredients or less and affordable meals under $15, as well as a full collection of cooking lessons. It even offers virtual farm and ranch tours to help educate kids when they’re being homeschooled.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Trade Policy Criticism Intensifies The Trump administration’s tariff-based trade policy has often been criticized, especially by sectors of the economy that have been the primary battlefields in continuing tariff fights. This week The Hill is carrying an OpEd by Jeff Rathke, president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at John Hopkins University. Rathke served as a U.S. diplomat from 1991 to 2015. He says that American diplomacy has faced challenges from the start of the president’s administration: how to make his “America First” pledge an operational reality in a world that was “oriented for 70 years around U.S. alliances and American-made multilateral institutions.” Rathke thinks that clever minds on President Trump’s first national security team -- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster -- sought to “square the circle” by defining America First as a calling to prevail in a world characterized by great power competition. This mainly meant China and Russia, though President Trump has never hesitated to throw Europe and other traditional U.S. allies into the basket of foes. “Great power competition” now suffuses American strategic documents and has become the touchstone of statements by officials trying to explain U.S. actions to the American public and the world. It worked for a time, as officials like Mattis drew from their deep reservoirs of personal credibility and experience to assure friends and allies that international leadership would be central to Washington’s approach to great power competition. However, Rathke thinks that the coronavirus pandemic exposes this framework as a rhetorical fig leaf rather than a plan for U.S. global action. He says, “the absence of American initiative to lead the international response to a global crisis is striking, as veterans of past administrations will recognize,” he says and charges that “the United States government is failing to address the systemic political disruptions of the COVID-19 outbreak and shape the world that will emerge from this crisis.” Great power competition is by definition a 24/7 affair. If the security and prosperity of the United States is threatened by the efforts of rivals to shift the global balance of power and to undermine existing institutions, then Washington’s response to crucial international issues must account for whether they will increase or decrease America’s ability to influence the world of today and the future. Rathke characterizes the principal U.S. international responses to the pandemic as “a bare-knuckle rhetorical offensive” that consisted—for weeks, such as the State Department putting “China” or “Wuhan” next to the word “virus” in as many sentences as possible. The result was a breakdown of U.S. leadership showcased by the inability of the U.S. to agree with the leading industrialized democracies in the G-7, normally our closest partners on almost any issue, in a Foreign Ministers’ statement last week. Instead of a U.S.-orchestrated demonstration of resolve and concrete coordinated measures to protect public health and preserve the advanced economies, the message was one of policy disarray. The Federal Reserve has stood out for its bold actions in addressing the financial impact of the pandemic, but that owes to the central bank’s independence and comes despite, not because of, the administration, Rathke says. He adds that, in recent days, Washington has pivoted to casting doubt on the Chinese government’s transparency on the coronavirus pandemic and criticizing Beijing’s attempts to exploit international opinion through questionable assistance. Those charges have merit, as the reports of possible data suppression and faulty Chinese equipment and test kits delivered to Europe show. But when the U.S. has been unable to provide crucial material support to its friends and allies, such criticisms have little weight. The crisis will not generate affection for China but it will bolster China’s leverage in ways that will affect world developments for years to come. Those in the U.S. who purport to see great power competition as the principal national security challenge have been remarkably unable to impact the U.S. government’s response. The greatest source of U.S. influence for decades has been the belief in Washington’s competence, backed up by American resources and confidence that the U.S. government would seek mutually beneficial outcomes even as it pursued its own national interest. In the biggest crisis yet confronted by the Trump presidency, American credibility is suffering an enormous blow, even on the terms of great power competition that the administration has set for itself. It will flatten the United States’ influence curve for many years to come. So, we will see. Rathke’s comments appear to sting, especially among producers who have watched hard-nosed tariff assaults threaten well established and profitable markets that they worked for years to build and expand -- assaults that now appear to be having little beneficial impact on the trade environment. Rathke’s diplomatic and highly nuanced language seems unlikely to resonate in most ag circles, but his criticism of the recent trade policy objectives may attract attention and should lead to discussion as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


Biofuels Industry Asks USDA For Help The biofuel industry is asking USDA for funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to provide help for the industry as they weather negative margins amid slumping demand for motor fuels. In an April 1 letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and others in the industry are seeking the action by USDA to offset a portion of corn and soybean purchases, or to provide direct assistance to companies to keep staff, according to the letter seen by Reuters. Those signing the letter argue the industry is facing “collapsing demand” for the biofuels and that about 3.5 billion gallons of annual ethanol capacity has been idled at a quarter of U.S. production facilities. CCC is a fund that USDA has available that provides the department with authorities to use the funding to aid U.S. agriculture. USDA used the CCC authority in deploying aid to farmers for trade damages – the Market Facilitation Program (MFP).

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


US February Agricultural Exports Edged Lower While Imports Registered a Sharper Decline U.S. agricultural exports were at $11.31 billion in February, down from $11.44 billion in January, while U.S. ag imports were at $10.60 billion, down from $11.67 billion in January. That resulted in a trade surplus of $711 million after the sector had a deficit of $234 million in January. So far in fiscal year (FY) 2020, U.S. agricultural exports total $59.34 billion against imports of $54.25 billion for a surplus of $5.09 billion. In FY 2019, exports were at $57.72 billion against imports of $53.19 billion and a trade surplus of $4.53 billion. But for all of FY 2019, exports reached $135.54 billion against imports of a record $130.94 billion for a surplus of just $4.6 billion. We are entering into the period when U.S. ag imports typically are the strongest – they typically peak during the March-May period. In FY 2019, agriculture registered a record trade deficit of $871 million in April and a deficit of $255 million in May.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets As most Mondays have started lately, first attention will go to the latest coronavirus statistics as traders have learned to brace for bad news. Also of interest will be any updates on OPEC's plans, trade news that might pop up and the latest weather forecasts. USDA's weekly report of grain inspections is set for 10 a.m. CDT, followed by 2020's first Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. Weather Dry conditions will cover most primary crop areas Monday, except for light rain in portions of the western Midwest. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal. This combination will allow for drying and fieldwork, including planting. Eastern Midwest planting is underway; much earlier than a year ago.

| 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 sh