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| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday January 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday January 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday January 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday January 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


US-China Phase One Deal to Be Signed Jan. 15: Trump The phase-one U.S.-China trade deal will be signed Jan. 15 at the White House, President Donald Trump said in a tweet Tuesday (Dec. 31). Trump also confirmed that “high level representatives of China will be present” at the ceremony. Earlier reports had suggested Chinese trade officials led by Vice Premier Liu He would be in Washington through the middle of next week to sign the trade deal. Additional U.S.-China trade talks are set to begin “at a later date,” Trump said, adding he would travel to Beijing to kick off “phase two” trade deal negotiations. Provisions of the phase-one agreement include purchases of U.S. ag products by China, a promise by China to bolster intellectual property protections and new enforcement provisions, among others. The final text of the deal is still undergoing a legal scrub and is expected to be released following the signing.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday January 2, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Weekly jobless claims will be out early on Thursday. DTN will be closely watching updates on South American weather forecasts, where Brazil has turned a bit dry in some areas. We will also be looking for any news regarding the U.S.-China trade deal. Weather Moderate to heavy rain and flooding are in store for the Delta, Mid South and Deep South Thursday. Meanwhile, light snow will cross the northern Plains and northern Midwest. Temperatures will be seasonal to above normal north and central and near normal south.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 31, 2019 |


Report says Phase One Trade Deal Signing May Happen This Weekend Reports surfaced early on Monday that the Chinese Vice Premier will lead a delegation to Washington, D.C., to sign the Phase One trade deal. A source close to the situation tells the South China Morning Post that Liu (Lou) He will fly to Washington on Saturday to sign the agreement. The source said the U.S. extended the invitation and Liu has accepted. Farm Futures reports that Beijing and Washington haven’t confirmed the trip yet. China is already buying larger amounts of U.S. agricultural products, including soybeans, which was a big part of the agreement for U.S President Donald Trump. The possibility of making the deal official this weekend will mean increased purchases by China, as well as a partial end to the trade war that’s dominated headlines for the past 18 months. China’s soybean imports from the U.S. recently hit a 20-month high at 2.6 million tons, the highest number since March of 2018, when the trade war between the world’s largest economies began to pick up steam. Reports of higher food prices in China will likely mean a need for increased imports of U.S. agricultural goods in the months ahead to bring down those prices. ********************************************************************************************** White House Adviser says Agreement with China is a Done Deal White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said on Monday afternoon that the Phase One trade deal with China is wrapped up. “That’s a done deal,” Navarro says. “You can put that one in the bag.” The one thing he didn’t do was confirm a report by the South China Morning Post that China’s Vice Premier will be in Washington to sign the deal this weekend. Navarro giving his affirmation to the deal with China shows that President Trump doesn’t face pressure from conservatives to negotiate more favorable terms for the U.S. Navarro’s hostility toward China and its global trade and economic practices is well known in Washington, as he published a book during his career titled “Death by China.” Under the agreement announced on December 13, the U.S. put off implementing new tariffs on Chinese imports while reducing some existing duties. China agreed to bigger purchases of American agricultural products and made new commitments on intellectual property projections and forced technology transfers. As of now, the exact terms of the agreement haven’t been announced. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Negotiator; $80 Billion in Purchases “Doable” for China The Phase One trade agreement between China and the U.S. has the two nations in “close contact” as they work toward getting the deal finally signed. U.S. Chief Ag Negotiator Gregg Doud says the agreement between the world’s two largest economies will mean big numbers of Chinese agricultural purchases of U.S. ag commodities. He tells Farm Journal that, “China’s purchase commitment is built upon a base year of $24 billion in ag purchases, which occurred in 2017. What China has agreed to do is buy an additional $32 billion over the next two years on top of that $24 billion mark.” Doud did acknowledge there are those people who say China’s potential purchase levels will be hard to reach. However, he says that it doesn’t take into account some of the new structural changes in the agreement. “China imported $124 billion in ag products last year from around the world,” he says. “What we’re asking China to do is to commit to $40 billion out of that $124 billion total.” He thinks because of the structural changes in the deal, China will be more than able to accomplish that. ********************************************************************************************* U.S. Farm Exports to Philippines Hit Record The United States has seen a lot of benefits from the Philippines’ growing demand for imported agricultural products. The USDA’s Foreign Ag Service says agricultural exports to the Philippines will reach a record of $3 billion by the end of this year as shipments continue to arrive. The U.S. currently commands 28 percent of market share in the nation, making it the largest supplier of agricultural products. Last year, the Philippines was the 11th-largest market for U.S. ag exports. The top five products included soybean meal, wheat, dairy products, pork and pork products, as well as poultry. Last year, ag exports to the Southeast Asian nation reached a record of $2.9 billion. U.S. soybean meal was the highest-value export, worth $884 million in 2018. USDA data shows that “While sales were down four percent from January to October year-on-year, Manilla officials still expect a record $3 billion as shipments picked up ahead of the holiday season.” U.S. food and beverage products alone will reach a record $1.2 billion by the end of 2019, which amounts to more than 29,000 container trucks. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Sets Requirements for Meat and Poultry Labels The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a clarification on its requirements for accuracy in labeling of meat and poultry products. An Agri-Pulse report says the Food Safety and Inspection Service says the only way beef can be labeled “grass-fed” is if they fed on grass or forage 100 percent of the time after they were weaned. Because cattle would then have to have access to pasture until slaughter, they can’t ever be put into a feedlot. Products that come from animals with less than 100 percent access to grass or forage before slaughter can’t use the term grass-fed. The only way that can happen is if the label makes it clear that at least some of the animal’s dietary needs came from grain. As an example, the report says an acceptable label could be “Made from cows that are fed 85 percent grass and 15 percent corn.” The guidance that came out late last week also says certified organic products can be labeled legally as “raised without antibiotics” or “no added hormones” with no documentation required. The farm that produced the organic livestock or poultry, as well as the processor, have to be certified organic under USDA standards. ********************************************************************************************** USB Sets Goals for 2020 United Soybean Board CEO Polly Ruhland recently announced her group’s priorities for the year ahead. 2020 goals will include improving farmer profitability by focusing in on meal, oil, and sustainability. One of the things they’re researching this year is to prove the amino acid profile, as well as how valuable it can be to livestock producers that feed soy to their animals. That’s why they’re looking further into both their meal and protein quality improvements in the soybean. Another area of focus for USB is enhancing and communicating the sustainability of soy. Improvements in technology over the years have allowed soybean farmers to grow more soybeans and use fewer acres of land to do it. They want the public to know that the sustainability of soy can help the planet and put profit into a farmer’s operation at the same time. Another 2020 objective is to focus their research on the benefits of soybean oil, more specifically in high oleic soybean oil. The objectives were highlighted this month during the United Soybean Board meeting in December.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 31, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Challenges to Trade Policy Authorities Bloomberg is reporting this week that a number of international trade cases are expected to be decided next year and could change the president's "unlimited authority" to force U.S. importers to pay steep tariffs on steel and other goods that the administration says threaten national security. While courts are largely deferential to the executive on national security, a recent case involving steel tariffs on Turkey is sending a message that the president doesn't have "carte blanche" when he uses a Cold War era law to impose tariffs, according to Clark Packard, trade policy counsel at the R Street Institute, a research organization promoting free markets. The case, brought by Transpacific Steel LLC, could have wide-ranging impacts, including undermining the administration's threats to impose auto tariffs, R. Will Planert, a partner in Morris Manning and Martin LLP's international trade practice, told Bloomberg. In addition, Ford Motor Co. is expected to make a bid for a U.S. Supreme Court review of steep tariffs on imports of Transit Connect vans in 2020, while a solar firm will fight to preserve a tariff exclusion the administration is trying to nix. Transpacific Steel's challenge focuses on so-called "double tariffs" and could shed light on how courts may limit the president's use of a basic law, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, Devin Sikes, an international trade attorney at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said. The U.S. Court of International Trade, in denying the government's bid to toss the case last November, rejected its argument that the president can modify tariffs without following the statute's procedures. Transpacific would get a hefty tariff refund if it wins this challenge, which is expected to proceed with the steel importer's brief due Jan. 21, 2020. The company, which bought steel from Turkey for rebuilding after major hurricanes, alleges the administration flouted the law by singling out Turkey for 50% tariffs five months after the original 25% tariff was imposed. A constitutional challenge to the tariff law is set for a Jan. 10 oral argument at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Bloomberg notes and a decision in American Institute for International Steel v. United States could follow between 90 and 120 days later. If the appeals court strikes the law down, current steel and aluminum tariffs would be eliminated -- however, a ruling upholding the law could embolden the administration to seek more tariffs. The American Institute for International Steel argues the current law violates the non-delegation doctrine by ceding lawmaking authority to the president. In Gundy v. United States, which involved a non-delegation challenge to a sex offender law, four justices in June signaled an interest in revisiting the doctrine. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who didn't participate in Gundy, said Nov. 25 in a matter unrelated to the steel case that the court may want to reconsider the doctrine. Trade law firms are telling industry clients there could be an "avalanche" of claims if the Court of International Trade backs JSW Steel in a separate challenge to a Commerce Department tariff exclusion decision according to Adams Lee a trade lawyer with Harris Bricken. The court in JSW Steel (USA) Inc. v. United States could order Commerce to revisit its decisions and give importers who want to escape steel tariffs "new clarity," Lee said. In addition, industry challenges are appearing from several other directions, Bloomberg said. For example, the newest steel tariff challenge in Universal Steel Products Inc. v. United States questions whether the Commerce report forming the basis for the levies met the law's standards. Universal Steel and other importers joining the challenge say Commerce didn't explain the likely impact of the recommended remedies on downstream industries that manufacture products critical to national defense readiness. If the Court of International Trade agrees, it could force Commerce to re-evaluate. So, we will see. While many observers indicate hopes for a diminution in trade tensions following the expected phase one deal with China, there are indications the administration intends to continue to push forward with its "managed trade" initiatives in China and in numerous other countries. Growing industry pushbacks on this policy indicate a "political pause" during the coming election could be undertaken, but it is clear that not all administration policy advisers agree on such a policy decision -- so a significant policy fight can be expected to continue, possibly even after the approaching 2020 elections shift the government into "all politics, all the time." As always, the trade debate should be watched closely by producers as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 31, 2019 |


USDA Approves First State, Tribal Hemp Plans Hemp production plans submitted by three states and four Indian tribes have been approved by USDA, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced Dec. 27. Louisiana, New Jersey, and Ohio are the first set of state hemp production plans approved under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, AMS said, while those submitted by the Flandreau Santee Sioux, Santa Rosa Cahuilla, and La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indian tribes were also given the green light. Under the 2018 farm bill USDA was directed to develop a regulatory oversight program for hemp, including approval of hemp production plans submitted by states and Indian tribes. Currently, 17 states have submitted plans to USDA that are under review, while another eight are working on plans to submit for review.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 31, 2019 |


Report Indicates China's Liu to Arrive in US Saturday for Signing of Phase One Deal Chinese Vice Premier Lui He will lead a delegation to Washington to sign the phase one trade agreement between the U.S. and China, with the South China Morning Post reporting the delegation will arrive in Washington Saturday and be in the U.S. a "few days." President Donald Trump on Dec. 24 said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping would meet to sign the phase one deal, "but China has yet to confirm this." U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer said earlier this month that representatives from both the countries would sign the phase one trade deal agreement in the first week of January. Meanwhile, China's Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai told China state television CGTN that there is no problem for the country to live up to the commitments it has made in the phase one trade deal. "We will always implement what we promised. There is no problem with that," Cui said. "The U.S. has made commitments to the one-China policy. I just hope they will honor their commitment."

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 31, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Consumer confidence index and home price index will be out early on Tuesday. We will also be watching for CFTC's Commitment of Traders report findings on fund activity last week. Also, any confirmation of Chinese trade delegates coming to Washington for the trade deal signing will be important. Weather Snow squalls and blustery winds are in store for the northern and eastern Midwest Tuesday. Dry conditions will be in effect elsewhere for New Year's eve. Temperatures will be milder after last weekend's storm. However, heavy snow cover in the Northern Plains will have a notable chilling effect.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 30, 2019 |


Skepticism Remains Over China’s Ag Purchases An Associated Press report says there are still people on both sides of the Pacific Ocean who remain skeptical about the actual amount of farm goods that China committed to buy in the “Phase One” trade agreement with the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the amount will total $40 billion a year. However, President Trump says the total is actually “much more than $50 billion.” Is it realistic? Even in the best of times, exports to China has never been higher than $26 billion in any year. Beijing may be locked into contracts with other suppliers like Brazil and Argentina it lined up after the trade war broke out with the U.S. Chad Hart, an Ag Economist with Iowa State University, says, “History says we’ve never been close to that level. There’s no clear path to getting us there in one year.” However, the skepticism actually works both ways. A trade specialist at the University of International Business in Beijing says the figure is $40 billion and he wonders if the U.S. can ensure the full supply of products to equal that value. At this point, farmers that talked to the AP say they’re hopeful but guarded in their expectations. Iowa farmer Jeff Jorgeson says, “At this point, we have to see more details.” ********************************************************************************************* Don’t Forget about Wheat in the Phase One Trade Deal When news broke about the Phase One trade deal between the U.S. and China, it made the soybean industry especially happy. A Bloomberg report says don’t forget about wheat, which could also be a big winner in the agreement. Speculation is rising that China will work to fill its wheat-buying quota as part of the agreement. That will likely create new demand for wheat because China has failed to live up to its wheat-purchasing promises in the past. Soybean purchases are likely to be somewhat more limited because of the African Swine Fever outbreak across the country, which will lower typical demand levels. If Chinese wheat purchases were to reach the quota mark of 9.6 million tons, that would represent a huge demand jump. In the six years prior to and up through 2017, buying has averaged less than 50 percent of that allotment. The timing could be good for U.S. farmers. Tighter corn supplies in Brazil and wheat supplies in Russia, the world’s top wheat exporter, have made American grain more competitively priced in the world market. That’s already causing Chinese importers to begin to boost their purchase levels from the U.S. ********************************************************************************************** China Changing Hog Production After AFS Outbreak The Chinese Ag Ministry says large hog farms are lining up with the smaller family-owned farms as part of a state-initiated investment worth about $7.1 billion dollars. The goal of the new initiative is to boost hog operations across the country that were hit hard by the African Swine Fever outbreak. A Reuters report says fifteen of the country’s leading pig farms signed 19 agreements with local governments in 16 Chinese cities to raise pigs together. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs says these projects should produce over 22 million hogs for slaughter every year and will involve 33,000 poor rural families. While announcing the plan, the ministry didn’t give a specific timeline on when this would take place. Bigger farms are being encouraged to purchase a stake in or lease medium and smaller farms. They’re also being asked to make these arrangements as quickly as possible by building a number of standardized household-based farms, slaughterhouses, and refrigerating centers. China’s hog herds, once the biggest in the world, has dropped almost 40 percent since the ASF outbreak began in mid-2018. China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of pork. ********************************************************************************************** USDA; Climate Change May Increase the Cost of Federal Crop Insurance The USDA’s Economic Research Service looked into the ways that climate change could affect the cost of the Federal Crop Insurance Program. Researchers worked with statistical models to predict crop yields from historical weather data. They used weather simulations from climate models to build scenarios showing how yields might respond to climate change. Economic models then simulated how farmers and markets might respond to changes in weather and yield. The study explored the potential impacts in the year 2080. It compared climate scenarios arising from different projections of greenhouse gas emissions levels to a hypothetical future with a climate similar to that of the past several decades. Under that scenario with moderate emissions reductions, in which farmers adapt to changes in climate with adjustments to what they plant, where they plant it, and how they manage it, the cost of today’s Federal Crop Insurance Program would average about 3.5 percent higher than under a future with a climate similar to that of the recent past. Under the scenario in which emissions trends continue, the cost of the FCIP would increase by an average of 22 percent. ********************************************************************************************** Brazil Soybeans Taking Much of U.S. Market Share in China While China has been the world’s largest importer of soybeans for some time, Brazil and the U.S. have been competing for the top spot as the world’s largest exporter to China. Back in the 1990s, the U.S. was the top soybean exporter. During the end of that decade, both the U.S. and Brazil increased their exports to answer a growing demand for soybeans in China. Brazil’s exports grew more quickly than the U.S. During the ‘90s, the U.S. supplied as much as 50 percent of China’s soybean imports, but that number gradually declined further into the 2000s. Brazil’s share first matched the U.S. total in 2002 when each country supplied about 35 percent of China’s imports. Between 2002 and 2011, each country’s share of soybean exports to China totaled between 35 and 50 percent. Brazil’s share jumped to 50 percent of all exports to China between 2012 and 2016 as the U.S. share dropped to about 40 percent. That number would drop to 30 percent in 2017 as China’s tariff on U.S. soybeans took effect later in the marketing year. During the first nine months of China’s 2018/19 marketing year, Brazil’s share of the soybean import levels rose to 77 percent, while the U.S. share was just 10 percent. ********************************************************************************************** Ten Signs of Farm Financial Stress to Watch Out For Things have been hard in agriculture and more specifically, it’s been hard to be a farmer. Wet weather, low crop prices, as well as trade disputes have put some farmers on the edge. Financial stress is taking a toll and Successful Farming has put together a list of signs that may indicate a farmer is suffering from significant financial stress. Signs include isolation or withdrawal, as well as talking in a monotone voice or lacking facial expressions, and outbursts of anger or abrasive behavior toward others, including children. After that, they list confusion, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. Also on the list is blaming others such as banks or spouses, binge eating, gambling, or drinking. Sleeping too much or not enough is also on the list, as is a lack of pride in the appearance of the operation, including the buildings and grounds. Not caring for livestock is another sign to watch for, as are more farm accidents.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 30, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Growing Trade Policy Angst The media are increasing their focus on trade policy now and pointing out that for years America’s trade agreements have tried to break down economic barriers and remove tariffs and other impediments to cross-border commerce. However, the newly emerging deals “have turned that approach on its head” the New York Times reported last week. For example, while the phase one China deal promises to lower some of the walls Beijing has erected for foreign companies -- including opening its financial markets, streamlining imports of American agriculture and offering greater protection for intellectual property -- it leaves in place tariffs on the bulk of Chinese imports, more than $360 billion worth of goods. And it requires some $200 billion of additional purchases of U.S. products over the next two years, according to the Trump administration, but also “moves trade policy away from promoting free markets and back toward an earlier era of managed trade.” The Times notes the new NAFTA similarly contains provisions that open up markets for dairy, digital services and other industries. But its most “transformative changes” tighten the rules for North American automotive manufacturing to try to spur more production within the continent, a move some Republican lawmakers say will weigh on trade. The New York Times sees these modifications as “the product of the administration’s 'transactional trade approach,' one that aims to wield America’s economic power to force other nations to buy more American products. President Trump's 'America First' philosophy looks with suspicion upon global supply chains and free trade deals and seeks to force sprawling multinational companies to move operations to the United States in an effort to lower the trade deficit.” The Times also charges the administration has little use for the type of multilateral organizations that have tried to lift economic growth around the world by promoting free trade. Last week, the administration effectively crippled the World Trade Organization’s ability to resolve trade disputes after a sustained campaign against a critical part of the body. Doug Irwin, a trade historian at Dartmouth College, said the pacts were a substantial departure from those enacted under previous U.S. presidents -- both Republicans and Democrats. “Most trade agreements that we’ve seen in recent history are agreements to liberalize markets,” he said. In a TV interview last week, Robert Lighthizer, the administration’s top trade negotiator, acknowledged the agreements were not likely to please those who prioritized free markets. “I understand the people that believe in just protecting investors and pure market efficiency,” Lighthizer said. “They’re not going to be happy because we are making it more expensive to operate in some other areas and less expensive in the United States.” President Trump’s aggressive approach to reworking the global trading system has been praised by some parts of industry as an attempt to fix a situation they say has been disastrous for American workers. “Trump and team have what appears to be a strong deal,” Daniel DiMicco, a former steel industry executive, who leads the Coalition for a Prosperous America, said of the China trade pact. Still, many economists and trade experts fear the approach could backfire on the United States, by degrading the international trading system and raising the cost of manufacturing -- resulting in lower productivity and economic growth. In a recent analysis, Mary E. Lovely and Jeffrey J. Schott, two economists at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, projected that the provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement would hurt American industry by driving up the cost of making cars and dampening growth. Analysts at Fitch Ratings said Tuesday the China deal had raised their estimates for global growth but does less to lower trade barriers than anticipated. The trade truce leaves the effective American tariff rate on Chinese products at 16%, below the 25% level that the president had threatened, but up from roughly 3% before the trade war, they said. The North American and China pacts, which together cover countries responsible for more than half of America’s trade, are the first translation of the administration’s trade ideals into policy. But they also bear U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer’s imprint and his long history of favoring a “managed trade approach” as a Reagan administration official, the Times said. The WTO later banned agreements that seek to restrain a country’s exports. That history has direct parallels to China, where American officials have been urging the government for decades to reduce its role in the economy. Administration officials, including Lighthizer, have also criticized Beijing for using preferential policies, subsidies and central planning to give its businesses an advantage over American ones. But the trade deal announced this month appears to make little progress on those issues. Instead, its largest feature appears to be purchases that are likely to be beneficial for American businesses but may wind up further strengthening the hand of the Chinese state. So, we will see. Competitive prices for U.S. goods and increasing access to developing-country markets are fundamentally important to U.S. producers and the newer administration approaches should be watched closely by U.S. producers to determine their likely longer-term impacts on ag industries -- along with potential implication for government interventions in both the U.S. and its trading partners, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 30, 2019 |


Trying To Gauge Products In US Exports To China Under Phase One Deal Not Just a US Exercise The effort of trying to determine what products are expected to be involved in the phase one deal with China is also going on within China. The China Daily reported Zhang Xinyuan, a researcher at Huatai Securities, said “increased imports from the U.S. will mainly include crude oil, semiconductors, gas, soybeans, consumer goods, automobiles, ethanol and tourism services.” From a macro perspective, the paper said that the phase-one deal will reduce downside risks to the global economy, with Ding Shuang, chief economist of Greater China and North Asia at Standard Chartered predicting 2020 “should be a year of soft but stabilizing growth for the global economy.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 30, 2019 |


Xinhua: US Pecan Growers Eye Regaining Chinese Market Via Phase One Trade Deal The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported U.S. pecan growers are eager to get back into the Chinese market. In 2017, U.S. pecan in-shell exports reached more than $300 million with more than 76% going to China. The report noted U.S. growers indicate the trade battle with China has prompted a 40% decline in prices via oversupply from the loss of exports to China. Meanwhile, early this week Bloomberg reported U.S. chicken firm Sanderson Farms has kick-started exports to China after a ban on American poultry supplies was lifted last month. The company earlier this month sent its first container of chicken feet to China since the 2015 ban and is loading more this week, said Chief Executive Officer Joe Sanderson. The third-largest U.S. chicken producer expects the 35% tariffs will be removed next year, helping accelerate exports. Green Plains Ethanol expects the corn-based fuel will also be in the mix, predicting there could be one billion gallons of the product moved to China.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 30, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets As far as reports go, Monday is fairly quiet with USDA's weekly grain inspections due out at 10:00 a.m. CST. Traders will be checking the latest forecasts, including those for South America, and any comments about the pending trade agreement with China. CFTC releases its Commitments of Traders report at 2:30 p.m. CST. Weather Moderate to heavy snow and rain are in store for the Northern Plains and northern through eastern Midwest Monday, causing safety and transportation hazards and livestock stress. These conditions also will end corn harvest efforts until spring. Other areas will be drier. Temperatures will be seasonally cold north and central and warm south and southeast.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 27, 2019 |


Chinese Soybean Purchases Rise in November Soon after China announced a partial trade agreement with the U.S., their purchases of American soybeans in November jumped higher. November imports jumped to 5.4 million tons, which was almost 54 percent higher than last year. An Associated Press report says U.S. soybean imports into China more than doubled from the previous month’s 2.6 million tons. That number comes from AWeb.com, a news website that serves the Chinese farming industry. China cut off purchases of U.S. soybeans as the trade war with Washington, D.C., kicked into high gear. While the two countries announced the “Phase One” deal back in October, they haven’t released any specific details regarding the agreement. The AP report says U.S. officials now think the agreement could be signed as early as January. As a part of the agreement, U.S. officials say Beijing will be buying a lot more U.S. farm products. However, Chinese officials have yet to confirm how big the purchases will be. Chinese government spokespeople did confirm that importers were already placing orders in September but didn’t give out any details of those purchases. Chinese buyers use a lot of soybeans as animal feed and to crush for their cooking oil. ********************************************************************************************* First U.S. Shipment of Chicken to China Arrives in January USA Poultry and Egg Export President Jim Sumner tells Agri-Pulse that the first U.S. chicken shipment to China in a long time will enter the Asian country next month. It marks a resumption of those shipments after China lifted a ban on U.S. chicken just over a month ago. The Chinese ban was initially implemented after an avian influenza outbreak in the U.S. While that outbreak was stamped out a long time ago, China finally lifted its ban after the U.S. approved the importing of Chinese chicken, something Beijing had demanded for a long time. “The first shipment heading to China is chicken paws from Georgia that will head out from the Port of Savannah,” says Sumner. “We’re thrilled that the first shipment in years is coming from Georgia, the number one chicken producer in the nation.” The first shipment is expected to contain about 50,000 pounds of chicken paws and is the start of what should be a quick ramp-up in chicken shipments to China. The U.S. industry got Chinese approval for shipments from 172 facilities, but most of those cold storage units weren’t included. That should be rectified soon as 177 applications came in from cold storage facilities that should be approved any day now. ********************************************************************************************* USMEF Looks to Expand Pork Opportunities in Hong Kong The U.S Meat Export Federation is planning to fill the fresh pork supply shortfall in Hong Kong with U.S. chilled pork. The African Swine Fever Virus caused the number of live hogs coming into Hong Kong from China to drop by fifty percent, with the numbers running below 2,000 head per day. “This has caused a shortage of local, fresh pork, and the fresh pork product that is available is being sold at much higher prices,” says Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific. He says the opportunity could benefit the U.S. industry in both the short and long term, as more Asian consumers get used to chilled pork. “The opportunity for more pork supplies has never been better,” Haggard adds. It does take a bit more time shipping to Hong Kong than it does to Japan and Korea. Also, the wet market vendors in the country will need to be taught the proper way to handle the vacuum-packaged chilled product. “The product will initially be sold in supermarket chains,” Haggard says. “More than 100 supermarkets in Hong Kong are selling U.S. chilled pork, along with some of the city’s traditional wet markets.” Haggard says this is the largest chilled pork distribution that USMEF has ever seen, calling it, “satisfying to see it finally come to fruition.” ********************************************************************************************** Farmers Union Wants Improvements to USMCA Back on December 10, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the White House and her chamber of Congress had reached an agreement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal. While the National Farmers Union was happy to see an effort to update the old North American Free Trade Agreement, the group says that effort didn’t go far enough. They’re calling on the Senate for improvements to the deal before the final passage. “The free trade framework established by NAFTA has dominated international trade deals for 2.5 decades, to the detriment of American workers,” says NFU President Roger Johnson. “It’s contributed to the movement of rural manufacturing jobs overseas, caused our national deficit to skyrocket, lowered wages, and eroded national sovereignty.” Johnson says the deal doesn’t go far enough to specifically protect family farmers and the rural communities they live in. U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico are the largest export markets for U.S. food and agricultural products, totaling more than $39.7 billion in 2018. A USDA report says those exports support over 325,000 jobs. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says the agreement is a big win for American workers, the economy, and farmers and ranchers. ********************************************************************************************** High Stakes, High Rewards Ahead for Hemp Production Many farmers across the country are spending time thinking about the potential pitfalls and the possible opportunities that hemp production can offer them. Farm Journal’s Ag Web Dot Com says many are taking the leap into hemp production. Colorado farmer Dion Oakes says, “Hemp has a very promising outlook for farmers as a rotational cash crop that can be very viable for them.” Looking ahead to the new year, only four states, including Idaho, South Dakota, Mississippi, and New Hampshire, haven’t made it legal to grow industrial hemp within their borders. U.S. Hemp Growers Association Executive Director Caren Wilcox says she expects those four states to move toward legalizing it sometime next year. Wilcox says farmers will need time to relearn how to grow the crop. She says it will be important to get advice and counsel from those farmers who have hemp growing experience. Make sure to source where your seed comes from. She says farmers have to know their state’s regulations. The other big piece of advice is to have a customer lined up before planting their first crop. ********************************************************************************************** Have Action Plan in Place in Case of ASF The National Pork Board put out an end of the year reminder about safeguarding the country’s pork farms against African Swine Fever and other Foreign Animal Diseases. U.S. pork farmers know full well that the virus is wreaking havoc on the international pork industry. While ASF isn’t in the United States at this time, the NPB says the possibility of it or another foreign animal disease means American pig farmers should be taking steps to protect the domestic pork industry. Last year, U.S. pork exports totaled 5.37 billion pounds and were valued at more than $6.3 billion. If a disease like ASF entered the country, the U.S. would lose valuable export markets for some time. NPB says anyone who works with pigs should know the signs of ASF in their animals. Those signs are high fever, decreased appetite and weakness, red and blotchy skin or skin lesions, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as coughing or difficulty breathing. To help farmers make sure they don’t miss those signs, the National Pork Board has free hard copies of Foreign Animal Disease barn posters and fact sheets available in English or Spanish. Get them free by going to the Pork Store at www.pork.org.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 27, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Booming Meat Market Expectations Well, the urban media are paying more than usual attention to ag matters these days, especially to the outlook for meat sales. Bloomberg notes this week that for most of the important meats – poultry, beef and pork, U.S. supplies are surging. The hog herd is the biggest it’s been since the series began in 1943, while egg and chicken production also rose in November, USDA says. Also this week reports also showed the most cattle in U.S. feedlots since 2011. The reason for this optimism is anticipation of increased export demand in China where African swine fever has devastated the hog herd, as it has elsewhere. With Beijing and Washington reaching a first-phase trade deal that includes increased purchases of ag products, U.S. livestock producers are hoping to start shipping big cargoes soon. While prices for some meat cuts have started to rise, the ample supplies have helped keep gains in check for consumers, Bloomberg says, noting that USDA expects “continued expansion next year.” Also this week, the New York Times focused on China’s food production policies and charged that it “bungled the effort to contain African swine fever, a mistake that could result in higher Chinese food costs for years and shows the limits of Beijing’s top-down approach to problems.” The magnitude of the losses is breathtaking, NYT said—claiming that it has cost the world roughly one quarter of its pigs as the “disease has spread from China, “reshaping farming and hitting the diets and pocketbooks of consumers around the globe.” Even worse, China’s “unsuccessful efforts to stop the disease may have hastened its spread—and extended its impacts, the Times said. To halt African swine fever, authorities must persuade farmers to kill infected pigs and dispose of the carcasses properly. But its “frugal incentives” and requirements that farmers jump through hoops to seek compensation from often cash-poor local governments are causing farmer reactions that “make things worse.” The Times concludes that the epidemic also “shows the limits of China’s emphasis on government-driven, top-down solutions to major problems, sometimes at the expense of the practical. It has also laid bare the struggle of a country of 1.4 billion people to feed itself,” the Times said. China has long viewed food security as tantamount to national security, and had become essentially self-reliant in pork, rice and wheat thanks to subsidies and aggressive farmland management—but this epidemic will “test that commitment to its increasingly affluent people, who more often expect meat at the dinner table,” the Times says. The disease—a highly contagious and untreatable outbreak that is not fatal to humans but can be spread by them – has now extended swiftly out of China and across nine other Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, the world’s fifth-largest pork producer which lost much of its herd this year. Before reaching China, the disease had been slowly infecting occasional farms in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Powered by pork, China’s overall food prices last month were one-fifth higher than they were a year ago, after seven years of little change. Large purchases of pork by China are driving up live hog prices in the United States, Europe and around the globe, pushing up costs for everything from German sausages to Vietnamese pork meatballs. Beef and lamb prices have risen as families worldwide seek alternatives, so much so that overall meat prices in international commodity markets have increased nearly 20 percent in the past year. Brazil is now ramping up beef and chicken production to meet demand, partly by burning forests in the Amazon to clear land for agriculture, the Times said. The epidemic is leading to “broad and deep economic impacts at the global level,” said Boubaker Ben Belhassen, the director of trade and markets at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. “We don’t think there’s enough pork in the world to offset China’s shortfall.” NYT also said that the “hog problem” was an important factor in Beijing’s acceptance of a partial trade deal with the U.S. last month--in part to resume imports of American food. Pork prices have climbed so high that one livestock company, Guangxi Yangxiang, printed red banners to recruit potential farmers that read, “Raise 10 sows and drive a BMW next year.” China’s leadership has focused on remaking farming to stop the spread. Using subsidies and generous credit, Beijing has pushed industrial-scale farms with safeguards like quarantine areas for new arrivals and incinerators for diseased pigs, but the Times criticized that effort as inadequate. Chinese officials have tried to be reassuring and frequently claimed the disease was under control – only to see signs of further spread. Most recently, the agriculture ministry said that it only hoped production at the end of next year would be four-fifths of normal levels – a shortfall equal to the entire pork production of the United States, the world’s second-largest pork-producing nation, the Times said. So, we will see. U.S. producers tend to recognize the threat from over responding to the outlook, but still willing to invest to expand production, observers say. This means that objective outlook data will be increasingly important in the coming months, trends producers should watch closely as new trends develop Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 27, 2019 |


MFP Payments Continue to Rise As of December 23, USDA’s Farm Service Agency has paid out $10.707 billion in 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) payments to farmers under the first two installments of MFP 2 payments. The top five states for the payouts were Iowa, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota and Kansas. Signup for MFP 2 ended December 20. The watch now is on whether USDA will announce the third installment of the MFP 2 payments will be issued in early January. Sources indicate they expect the payments will be made and that the decision has already likely been made but not yet announced.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 27, 2019 |


Trump, Chinese Again Commenting on US-China Trade Deal The U.S. and China are in close contact relative to signing the phase-one trade agreement, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokes Gao Feng said at the regular Thursday briefing. Gao said the two sides are still going through needed procedures relative to the Phase One agreement. This comes as President Donald Trump on December 24 said the deal was "done" but was being translated. Asked if there would be a signing ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump told reporters, "I will be, probably, doing that. Yeah. At the right time, we will be doing a smaller ceremony. Ultimately, we will be having one. The China deal — we will be having a signing ceremony. Yes." Asked further if it would be signed by himself and Xi, Trump said, "We will probably, yes. We will sign it. When we will get together." However, Trump did not say when it would be signed, noting it will be a "quicker signing, because we want to get it done."

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 27, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets USDA's weekly export sales report will be released at 7:30 a.m. CST Friday, followed by weekly energy inventories from the Energy Department at 10:00 a.m. The Friday after Christmas will likely be a day of quiet trading, but any trade news concerning China will be examined and a surprise is always possible. This week's holiday also pushes CFTC's Commitments of Traders report to Monday afternoon. Weather An intense storm system in New Mexico Friday will move to the Great Lakes during the weekend. This system will bring rain to the Southern Plains Friday, with western through north-central Plains moderate to heavy snow and south-central Plains through western Midwest rain and mixed precipitation Saturday and Sunday. Blizzard and whiteout conditions are possible along with river basin flooding. Moisture favors winter wheat, but snow and cold will stress livestock along with causing transportation and safety hazards.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 26, 2019 |


Rural Mainstreet Index Rises Again The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index remained above growth-neutral in December. It’s the fourth-straight month that’s happened and the tenth time in the past 12 months. The index is a monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region that depends on agriculture and/or energy. While it’s still above growth-neutral, the index did drop from 54.2 in November to 50.2 in December. A Creighton University news release says, “Federal agriculture crop support payments and somewhat higher grain prices gave a boost to the Rural Mainstreet Index.” The index shows bank CEOs, on average, expect about 12 percent of grain farmers to experience financial losses in 2020. “However, this is down from last year at this time, when bankers expected about 15 percent of their grain farmers to have a negative cash flow during 2019,” says Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University. For example, Jeff Bonnett is president of the Havana National Bank in Illinois, who says, “If grain prices remain where they are today, we will have a small percentage of borrowers who will struggle with their cashflow.” There was some good news as the farmland and ranchland price index soared to 52.8 from a weak 40.4 in November. ********************************************************************************************* Ag Lenders Talk Economic Conditions During DC Testimony Agricultural lenders were on Capitol Hill this week to talk to legislators about the current credit conditions in farm country. An Agri-Pulse report says the lenders appeared before the House Agricultural Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit. Steve Handke of the First Option Bank in Kansas, says agricultural portfolios are remaining stable but showing signs of deterioration. “Many bankers are concerned about low commodity prices and their negative impact,” he said during testimony. “While credit is plentiful, competition for loans is intense as interest rates remain near historic lows. All that is beneficial to farmers.” However, what’s not beneficial is the fact that $22.4 billion of the total farm income in 2019 came from government payments, which is not sustainable income. Shan Hanes of Heartland Tri-State Bank in Kansas told legislators that net farm income dropped an average of 85 percent in just six years. “I dare say, many of us wouldn’t survive if our paychecks were cut 85 percent,” he said during testimony. Other bankers testified that working capital levels, the difference between current assets and current liabilities, have declined sharply since 2013. A North Dakota banker says it’s the cushion against tough times that just isn’t there anymore. ********************************************************************************************** Israel is Latest Country to Chase a Trade Deal with China A close ally of President Donald Trump and his biggest economic rival are looking at a possible trade relationship in 2020. Israel is another U.S. ally that’s now looking to conclude a free-trade agreement with China as early as next year. A senior Israeli official anonymously tipped off Bloomberg because the discussions aren’t public. The two countries first began talking back in 2016. The latest round of discussions is causing other countries to closely scrutinize the potential cooperation between a U.S. ally and adversary. The U.S. is pressuring Israel to be cautious when talking about China playing a role in its economy. From a trade perspective, it’s a balancing act for Israel, who faces a “more assertive China” as the United States takes a different military posture in the Middle East. Israeli and Chinese officials met about a month ago for their seventh round of talks. The official who spoke with Bloomberg says it’s still not yet a sure thing that Israel will be able to wrap up a deal next year. A political deadlock is preventing the establishment of a new government in Jerusalem. ********************************************************************************************* U.S. Won’t Implement Steel, Aluminum Tariffs on Brazil Imports The president of Brazil, Jair (Jayr) Bolsonaro (Bowl-soh-NAH-roh) said late last week that U.S. President Trump won’t implement a new tariff on Brazilian steel and aluminum imports as threatened earlier in December. “I had a phone conversation with President Trump,” Bolsonaro said during a Facebook Live session. “He was convinced by my arguments and I decided to tell all Brazilians that our steel and aluminum won’t be hit by additional tariffs.“ A U.S. source confirmed to Reuters that the administration won’t be implementing the tariffs talked about by Trump earlier this month. Trump announced the possibility of tariffs on Brazil and Argentina during a Tweet on December 2, accusing the two countries of devaluing their currencies, a move that hurts U.S. farmers by making their agricultural commodities more expensive on the world market when compared to those from Brazil and Argentina. The U.S. had originally exempted steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina from the sweeping metal tariffs implemented in March of 2018. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Sends Livestock Dealer Trust Study to Congress The USDA sent Congress details on a study to determine whether a Dealer Statutory Trust would improve the recovery of livestock sellers in cases of dealer payment defaults. The Hagstrom Report says the study, which was required under the 2018 Farm Bill, was undertaken by the Ag Marketing Service’s Packers and Stockyards Division. “Based on its analysis of industry data, public input, and experience with the livestock industry, USDA finds it would be feasible to implement a Livestock Dealer Statutory Trust,” says the Livestock Marketing Association in a news release. “Under current law, farmers, ranchers, and livestock auctions have been devastated when livestock dealers default on payments.” They say the sellers don’t often get the livestock back that they weren’t paid for. The producers also recover little from the dealer’s bond. The USDA report analyzes 83 dealer defaults that occurred between October of 2013 and June of 2019. The LMA says, “A Dealer Statutory Trust would give unpaid livestock sellers the legal right to reclaim the animals, or if they’ve been resold, proceeds from the livestock in the unfortunate event of a livestock dealer payment default.” The report found that existing statutory trusts in other segments of agriculture have been effective in improving financial recoveries and LMA says similar results could be expected in the livestock industry. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Hog Inventory Climbs Higher As of December first, U.S. farms contained 77.3 million hogs and pigs. That’s a three percent jump from December of last year, but down slightly from September first of this year. Those were some of the numbers released in the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report this week, published by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Other key findings in the report said of those 77.3 million hogs and pigs, 70.9 were market hogs while 6.46 million were kept for breeding purposes. Between September and November of this year, 35.1 million pigs were weaned across U.S. farms, which is up two percent from the same time in 2018. From September through November, U.S. hog and pig farmers weaned an average of 11 pigs per littler. U.S. producers intend to have 3.13 million sows farrow between December of this year and February of 2020. They’ll also have another 3.15 million sows farrow between March and May of next year. Iowa has the largest inventory among the states, coming in at 24.8 million head. North Carolina and Minnesota tied for second, with each having 9.2 million head of hogs in inventory.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 26, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Bloomberg’s Expectations for Central Banks Well, there’s lots going on in Washington these days, but at least some of the earlier hot spots seemed to have cooled a little. For example, there are growing rumors of trade overtures from China. In the meantime, Bloomberg has published its review of what it expects the world’s central banks to do next year — it labels this year as the time central banks jumped back into the fray, cutting interest to deal with a trade slowdown and subsequent declines in manufacturing. Some, central banks, like the Federal Reserve, had made rate hikes before 2019, creating “room” to loosen policies amid weaker growth. At the same time, others, like the European Central Bank, “found themselves in a more difficult position and had to cut benchmarks further below zero, stoking resentment about subzero rates.” Looking ahead, Bloomberg says it thinks that 2020 “might be a quieter year for monetary policy—and that fiscal [policy] “may take up some of the lifting work as growth prospects are looking a little brighter.” Still, it sees the economic numbers as “mostly mixed” rather than positive. On balance, while the big guns are set to hold fire, others, especially in the emerging markets, are projected to cut interest rates again. There is a danger, Bloomberg thinks, that the current “moment of calm in the global economy is obscuring a serious challenge for the world's central banks.” Low rates for most and negative for some means “policy space is severely depleted.” At the same time, the report concludes that “we don't think the next downturn is coming in 2020—but that when it does come, central banks won't have all the answers.” With regard to the United States, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell “has left no doubt that interest rates are on prolonged hold — based on his earlier comment that the current stance “likely will remain appropriate” unless the Fed's favorable outlook for the economy sees a “material reassessment.” He spoke after policy makers kept interest rates steady in a 1.5% to 1.75% target range “following three consecutive cuts” and published forecasts showing 13 of 17 officials are projecting no change in rates through 2020. That would keep them on the sidelines during a presidential election year, Bloomberg thinks. However, the report cautions that the U.S. central bank “isn't entirely fading into the background.” Strains in money markets has pushed it to buy Treasury bills to restore ample reserves in the banking system and some investors argue it will need to broaden the scope of those purchases to short-dated coupon-bearing securities. Powell said they are not yet ready to take such a step, but “would do so if necessary.” In conclusion, Bloomberg reports that its experts see the Fed “comfortably on hold for the foreseeable future,” as policy makers are less concerned by the risks which justified their ‘insurance cuts’ in the latter half of 2019 including trade tensions, below target inflation and sluggish global growth. Bloomberg says this outlook makes the threshold high for policy adjustments in the near term, particularly for rate hikes. It also thinks that “the impetus to stand pat will increase as the U.S. election draws nearer.” The report is extensive and emphasizes the uncertainty it sees, especially in areas like the UK where major policy changes are under consideration following Boris Johnson’s decisive win in December's election that “cleared the way for his government to take the nation out of the European Union at the end of January.” For now, concern about the outlook means two of the Bank of England’s nine policy makers want to cut interest rates, the report says, and notes that all eyes will be on whether Johnson’s win, as well as Brexit developments which could change the picture. Still, Bloomberg expects the combination of looser fiscal policy and reduced Brexit uncertainty could “lift growth next year,” and that in response, “the central bank’s tone could change leading to a rate increase in fourth quarter 2020.” Bloomberg also sees the People’s Bank of China is disappointed in the results of the beginning of its “large-scale monetary easing.” And suggests that “if weakness in the economy worsens, the central bank likely will continue to release cash into the system via cuts to the reserve ratio, which has been a preferred method to shore up output this year. China is battling a form of “stagflation” now which includes consumer price gains driven beyond the target of 3% by food, amid factory price declines and could well encounter economic growth below 6%, depending significantly on whether trade conflicts continue to cool. The report runs through its quarterly review of 23 of the world’s top central banks, which together set policy for almost 90% of the global economy, and finds several of those are worth noting, along with Bloomberg’s overall assessment. It concludes that while 2020 looks like a quieter time, there are still a considerable number of potential trouble spots in a mostly mixed picture. These signals reflect significant global economic trends should be watched very closely in the weeks and months ahead, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 26, 2019 |


Doud Comments On US-China Phase One Trade Deal The phase-one U.S.-China trade deal “is done” and is currently going through a legal scrub, chief U.S. ag trade negotiator Gregg Doud said in an interview with Pro Farmer. Doud elaborated on expected U.S. ag buys by China, saying the average $40 billion in purchases over two years represents the $24 billion baseline of purchases seen in 2017 plus an additional $16 billion in purchases above that. “Now in the first year, it'll be a little less, and the second year will be a little more,” he noted. On the U.S. ag products China might purchase, Doud said “I think you're going to see a lot in demand for meat. And China's just extraordinary right now because of the African swine fever thing.” Though the phase-one U.S.-China deal does not specify China ag purchase levels beyond 2021, Doud said U.S. ag exporters will still see benefits from “structural changes that were negotiated in this deal,” including reduced sanitary and phytosanitary non-tariff trade barriers. Doud also touted the initial U.S.-Japan trade deal, saying it puts “over 90% of the ag products that we send to Japan” at tariff parity with those from competitors covered under other trade agreements. Though many rice producers were disappointed in the U.S.-Japan accord, Doud suggested a welcome development could be around the corner. “I've got a huge deal for them that I can't talk about yet here just for another few days,” he said.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 26, 2019 |


USDA Announces Crop Insurance Pilot for Hemp USDA announced a pilot Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) product for hemp producers in select counties in 21 states will be available for the 2020 crop year. USDA created the new program in partnership with the U.S. Hemp Farming Alliance and AgriLogic. Eligible producers may participate in certain counties in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. “We are excited to offer coverage to certain hemp producers in this pilot program,” said USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) Administrator Martin Barbre. “Since this is a pilot program, we look forward to feedback from producers on the program in the coming crop year.” MPCI coverage under the pilot program is available for hemp grown for fiber, grain or CBD, according to USDA. To be eligible for coverage, producers must meet various requirements including compliance with applicable state, tribal or federal regulations for hemp production, having at least one year of history producing the crop and having a contract for the sale of the insured hemp. Meanwhile, beginning with the 2021 crop year, hemp will be insurable under the Nursery crop insurance program and the Nursery Value Select pilot crop insurance program, USDA said.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 26, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets U.S. grain and livestock futures resume trading Thursday at 8:30 a.m. CST. U.S. weekly jobless claims will be out at 7:30 a.m. CST with a new U.S Drought Monitor. The U.S. Energy Department will issue weekly inventories, starting at 9:30 a.m. Note USDA's weekly export sales report will be released Friday morning, due to this week's holiday schedule. Weather Snow squalls will move across the far Northern Plains and northern Midwest Thursday, hindering late-harvest efforts. Other primary crop areas will be dry. A large storm system with rain and snow is indicated for the Southern Plains during the end of the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 24, 2019 |


China Can Fulfill Pledge to Purchase $40 Billion in U.S. Farm Goods China’s top agriculture consultancy said last week that it believes China can and will make good on a promise to purchase more than $40 billion in U.S. agricultural products per year. That pledge is part of a Phase One trade deal the two countries recently signed. Reuters says China will increase its agricultural purchases to anywhere between $40 and $50 billion over the next two years. The deal isn’t signed yet and that’s led to skepticism over whether China can handle purchases that large. Shanghai-based consultant group JCI released a document saying that most foreign media don’t believe China can fulfill that level of commitment. “As a Chinese consultant company on the agricultural market, JCI strongly believes that China has the ability and will fulfill its promise,” the company says. JCI estimates that China can buy approximately $41.3 billion worth of U.S. farm products every year, including around $18.7 billion worth of soybeans, which would amount to 45 million tons. The projections from JCI were based on what they say was a “careful study” of China’s import volume of U.S. farm products in the past and does assume favorable weather and pricing throughout the term of the agreement. ********************************************************************************************* China Lowering Tariffs on Goods from Around the World China announced a change in tariff rates on imported goods from around the world that will start on January first. The country will lower tariffs on global imports in a move that’s designed to give domestic consumers some support, even as a trade truce with the U.S. takes some pressure off the Chinese economy. The New York Times says the move comes less than two weeks after China and the U.S. reached a Phase One trade deal. It also helps China by showing that the country is continuing to open up its market in spite of the more than yearlong conflict with the U.S. However, China’s economy still has some question marks to deal with as it tries to recover from a slowdown brought on by the tariff conflict. The deal with the U.S. hasn’t been signed yet and that means a lot of tariffs on American imports are still in place. China is opening its market to other countries to help satisfy consumer demand. A list of 859 products will face lower tariffs in 2020. Among the goods are frozen pork, which China has to have after its pig herds were decimated by African Swine Fever. Tariffs will also fall on grocery items like avocados, orange juice, and seafood. ********************************************************************************************* Pilot Insurance Coverage Available for Hemp Growers The Risk Management Agency announced its offering a new crop insurance option for hemp growers in select counties across 21 states next year. The pilot insurance program will provide Actual Production History coverage (APH) under 508(h) Multi-Peril Crop Insurance. The offer is for eligible producers who raise the crop in certain counties throughout states like Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The MPCI coverage applies to hemp grown for fiber, grain, or CBD oil for the 2020 crop year. This is in addition to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection coverage available to hemp growers that was announced earlier this year. “We are excited to offer coverage to certain hemp producers in the pilot program,” says RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “Since it’s a pilot program, we look forward to feedback from producers in the program during the upcoming crop year.” To be eligible for the program, producers must meet several requirements, including complying with applicable state, tribal, or federal regulations for hemp production, they must have at least one year’s history of producing the crop, and they must have a contract for the sale of the insured hemp. ********************************************************************************************** NASS Looking for Survey Responses The 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties and the 2019 Organic Survey are both underway now, with the National Ag Statistics Service looking for as many responses as possible. They’d also like producers to respond online if they can. Online responses are more user-friendly, accessible on most electronic devices, and can save time by calculating totals and automatically skipping questions that don’t apply to an individual operation. “Horticulture and organic agriculture are important segments of U.S. agriculture and our economy,” says NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “When producers respond to the surveys, they’re helping associations, businesses, and policymakers advocate for their industry, influence program decisions, and educate others about the importance of these agriculture segments.” The Census of Horticultural Specialties is conducted once every five years to give a comprehensive picture of U.S. horticulture. The deadline for responding is February fifth of 2020. The Organic Survey asks more than 22,000 U.S. producers involved in certified or transitioning to organic farming questions about 2019 production, marketing practices, income, and expenses. The deadline to return the questionnaire or answer online questions is January tenth, 2020. ********************************************************************************************** “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” Campaign Reaches Over One Billion Consumers The “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign relaunched two years ago. Over that time, the campaign has reached more than one billion consumers with informative digital marketing and social media content. The campaign was developed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and funded by the Beef Checkoff. The campaign is designed to encourage families to make more meals with nutritious and delicious beef, as well as to connect consumers with stories of the farmers and ranchers who raise real beef. The “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” brand is reaching consumers more frequently and effectively than it ever has. Market research shows people who are aware of “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner,” are more likely to eat beef, do so more often, and they feel good about buying and preparing beef for their families. Laurie Munns is a cattle rancher from Utah and NCBA Federation Division Chair. She says, “For a brand to have a reach of more than one billion people in today’s crowded marketing environment is a major milestone. It’s clear that consumers want more information about beef, it’s nutrition profile, and the hardworking farmers and ranchers who raise the beef they eat.” The NCBA first introduced the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign 25 years ago. ********************************************************************************************** EPA, Justice Department Want Glyphosate Ruling Reversed The U.S. government jumped into a California court case that found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency filed a friend of the court brief last week that said it reviewed and approved the label on the weed-killing product and that a jury finding based on California law should be reversed. Even the Department of Justice joined the EPA in weighing in on the ruling in the long-running court battle over Roundup. Over the summer, the judge in the case cut the jury award to $25 million in the case of a man who claimed his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by years of Roundup use. However, the judge didn’t reverse the jury finding in the case, saying in his opinion that Roundup was defective because the label didn’t include a cancer warning. Back in May, the EPA issued a statement saying it “continues to find no risks associated with glyphosate if it’s used following the current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.” Bayer, which acquired Monsanto, the company that originally produced Roundup, was optimistic after the latest legal turn in the case, saying the company is encouraged after the U.S. government and other parties opted to support the company’s appeal.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 24, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There are no official reports scheduled for Tuesday, Christmas Eve and federal employees have been given the day off. Most U.S. grain futures close at 12:05 p.m. CST and livestock futures finish 10 minutes later. Traders will also remain interested in any trade details with China that may emerge over the holiday. U.S. grain and livestock futures resume trading Thursday at 8:30 a.m. CST. Weather Rain and high-elevation snow during Tuesday from northern California through the western portion of the Pacific Northwest. Snow and rain through the central and southern Rockies mountain region. Mainly dry elsewhere in the key U.S. crop and livestock areas. Favorable conditions for any late fieldwork and for travel during Christmas Eve, outside of the western U.S. In South America the key growing areas of southern Brazil, central and southern Argentina will be dry and hot Tuesday. Somewhat stressful for developing corn and soybeans, especially in Argentina.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 23, 2019 |


USMCA Senate Prospects, Markup January 7, 2020 Following a landslide vote to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in the House last week, the trade deal heads to the Senate. A vote, expected in January, could come early in the month, pending how the impeachment articles are handled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week elected to hang on the impeachment documents, rather than send them off immediately to the Senate. Pending on how long she chooses to hold them, the action could clear a window for the Senate to consider USMCA. Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley Friday announced his committee intends to hold a markup hearing on January 7, 2020, based on the expectation that the Senate will have received the legislation beforehand from the House of Representatives. Grassley says, “This markup will move us closer to ratifying USMCA in early 2020. Senate leadership expects they could quickly consider and pass the agreement within a couple of days. However, if the Senate must start the year with impeachment trials, then a vote will come near the end of January, following the hearings. ************************************************************************************* USCA Disappointed in Lack of COOL in USMCA The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association expressed disappointment last week because country of origin labeling was not included in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The group penned a letter to President Donald Trump following House passage of the USMCA implementing legislation. Leo McDonnell, USCA Director Emeritus, writes, “This administration promised to "Make America Great Again," but it is becoming evident this does not include U.S. ranchers." He calls the lack of COOL in USMCA "disheartening at best." The letter presented years of data, dating back to 1988, as evidence of unfair trade in the beef sector by Canada and Mexico, in making a case for the necessity of COOL. However, COOL, which is illegal by World Trade Organization standards, was in place, but repealed by the U.S. Congress after Canada and Mexico planned trade retaliations. McDonnell concludes, "I appreciate that USMCA may be too far along to address some of these measures, but I feel it is important that, at the minimum, the record needs to be set straight.” *************************************************************************************​ Ernst Will Call for Wheeler Resignation if RFS Doesn’t Reach 15 Billion Gallons Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa says she will call for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s resignation, if the Renewable Fuel Standard doesn’t meet the statute requirement of 15 billion gallons. Her comments follow Wheeler’s final supplement rule released by his agency last week. In a joint statement with Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Ernst says, “We will keep holding EPA’s feet to the fire to ensure they truly uphold the RFS as intended.” Ernst alleges that the industry was “guaranteed a deal” earlier in the year that would appease biofuels producers. The agreement would account for all lost gallons to small refinery exemptions. However, the industry says EPA’s plan to reallocate exempted gallons based on a three-year rolling average won’t make up for the four billion lost gallons. The agreement that the Iowa Senators say made earlier in the year would have based the three year average on actual gallons waived. ************************************************************************************ Iowa Ag Secretary: RVO Ruling Hurts Rural America Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig (Nayg) says the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule regarding Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for 2020 “creates unnecessary uncertainty in our markets,” and is “detrimental to so many across rural America.” The EPA proposal did not follow a request from the biofuels industry. Naig calls the rule flawed, adding, "We must continue to work together to hold the EPA accountable for ensuring the 15 billion gallons mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard are met." He made additional calls to invest in biofuels infrastructure. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship administers the Iowa Renewable Fuel Infrastructure program, which offers cost-share grants to help fuel retailers install infrastructure to increase the availability of ethanol and biodiesel. Secretary Naig has requested $3 million in the fiscal year 2021 to continue supporting the program. To date, the program has distributed or obligated over $33 million, with $200 million added in private economic activity. ************************************************************************************* Seven Sue USDA Over Pork Processing Revisions Seven organizations last week jointly filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture over its decision to reduce oversight at pig slaughterhouses and eliminate limits on slaughter speeds. The groups claim the changes ”expose pigs to greater suffering,” and defy federal slaughter, meat inspection, and environmental protection laws. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on behalf of Farm Sanctuary, Animal Equality, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, Compassion Over Killing, Mercy For Animals, and North Carolina Farmed Animal Save. In a statement, a spokesperson from the law firm filing the suit says the revised regulation “reads like a joint venture between big business and the federal government.” The lawsuit challenges USDA's revocation of limits on the number of pigs that can be slaughtered per hour. The lawsuit also challenges USDA's decision to remove and relocate federal inspectors in slaughterhouses. ************************************************************************************* Broadband Map Fix Will Reveal Needs The House of Representatives passed legislation last week that will improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps to better identify needs. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act requires broadband providers to report more specific data to create a significantly more accurate and granular National Broadband Map. With more precise data, federal agencies can target funding to areas that need it most. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says, “it’s critical” to do so, adding “broadband is a necessity.” Current broadband coverage maps are inadequate, according to AFBF, because they rely on census block data to determine which areas are covered. Census blocks "are too large in rural and remote locations to accurately determine need." In addition to creating more accurate maps, the bill requires the FCC to establish an audit process that ensures internet service providers are providing accurate data used to create the maps. It also would create a user-friendly process to challenge the data.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 23, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Brazilian Metal Tariffs Lifted Amid all the chaos and anger in Washington these days, the New York Times reported on Sunday that President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil said “Mr. Trump decided not to pursue tariffs on Brazilian steel after a phone call on Friday.” The Times said the development represented a decision to “back off a threat made this month to impose tariffs on Brazilian metal,” a move that would have broken a previous agreement with the country and risked reigniting trade tensions. The news came in a somewhat unusual way — NYT said that President Bolsonaro “wrote in a post on Facebook Friday that he had spoken with Mr. Trump who decided not to make good on his plan to impose tariffs on our steel/aluminum. Our commercial relations and friendship are getting stronger every day,” he added. President Trump appeared to confirm Friday night that he would not be pursuing tariffs, writing on Twitter that he had just had a “great call” with Bolsonaro. “We discussed many subjects including Trade. The relationship between the United States and Brazil has never been Stronger!” he said. President Trump has routinely threatened—and imposed— tariffs to punish trading partners over practices he has deemed unfair to the United States, NYT said. On Dec. 2, President Trump tweeted that he would impose metal tariffs on Brazil and Argentina, accusing the countries of weakening their currencies and hurting American farmers. “Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the tariffs on all steel & aluminum that is shipped into the US from those countries,” President Trump said. The tariffs have not gone into effect. Last week Larry Kudlow, the president’s economic adviser, told The Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting that the Trump administration might not proceed with the tariffs. “No decisions have been made,” Kudlow said. The Dec. 2 announcement appeared to surprise Bolsonaro, a populist president who had gone to great lengths to strengthen personal ties with Trump. “Aluminum?” Bolsonaro asked when reporters presented him with President Trump’s tweet. “If that’s the case, I’ll call Trump. I have an open channel with him.” That same day, Brazilian authorities started calling the White House, the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department, as well as some lawmakers, to argue that Brazil does not manipulate its exchange rate. The Brazil Steel Institute said in a statement at the time that it was shocked by the announcement and warned that the decision would hurt the American steel industry which needs semi-finished products exported by Brazil to operate its mills. It is unclear if Trump has also backed off his threat to impose metal tariffs on Argentina, the Times said. The United States had initially exempted Brazil and Argentina from the tariffs placed on global steel and aluminum in March 2018, as the countries continued to negotiate over trade terms. In May 2018, the United States announced that it had reached an agreement with both countries that would cap their metal shipments at a specific volume each year. Trump and his advisers have lamented the negative effects of a strong dollar which makes American goods more expensive to purchase overseas. Administration officials have accused a wide range of governments of manipulating their currencies, including China and the European Union. The Treasury Department, which issues an official determination on which countries are currency manipulators, has not placed that label on Brazil or Argentina and neither country is on its list of nations that warrant monitoring. The most recent report, which was due in October, has yet to be released. Administration officials have not clarified when it will be published or the reason for the delay. Economists say that the value of the Brazilian and Argentine currencies have recently fallen, but that the countries are not intentionally devaluing them, despite what President Trump said. Instead, the two governments have actually been selling foreign currency and buying their own money to try to prop up its value. Still, the falling value of both currencies has made Brazilian and Argentine products cheaper to purchase abroad — especially in China, where the president had been waging a protracted trade war. As China imposed tariffs on American farm goods like soybeans and halted purchases in retaliation for President Trump’s tariffs, Beijing switched to buying Brazilian and Argentine products instead. That hurt American farmers and rankled Trump. Those tensions have now eased after the announcement last week that China and the United States had reached a Phase 1 trade deal, in which China has committed to buying large amounts of American farm goods. Brazilian officials have already made some trade concessions to the United States, including improving the terms of trade for wheat and ethanol. Brazil has also agreed to forgo a special status for developing countries at the World Trade Organization, dropped visa requirements for visitors from the United States and granted permission for United States companies to launch satellites from a Brazilian base. Carlos E. Abijaodi, director of industrial development at Brazil’s National Confederation of Industry, said he believed tariffs would not be imposed and that the threat mainly served as a signal to administration supporters in the upcoming election. So, we will see. This trade decision, if it holds, likely will be welcomed by U.S. farm equipment manufacturers and others. Clearly, decisions that support free-market relationships are important to producers and should be watched closely as political fights multiply, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 23, 2019 |


EPA Releases More SRE Data The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released refreshed data on Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs), showing 16 waiver petitions had been filed for the 2019 compliance year as of Nov. 21. The 2019 SRE total is up six from the agency’s previous report. So far, all 16 petitions remain pending and there are no petitions pending for any earlier compliance years. For 2018, EPA granted 31 of 42 SRE petitions it received, while in 2017 it granted the largest number ever at 35 of the 37 total petitions it received. Biofuel proponents remain focused on EPA’s granting of SREs and whether it follows through on a promise to accurately account for exempted volumes when setting renewable volume obligations (RVOs) in coming compliance years. Many biofuel groups voiced concern last week after EPA released its final rule for 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel RVOs. EPA’s rule retained language relying on Department of Energy (DOE) SRE recommendations when accounting for the waivers. In the past the agency has not always followed DOE’s suggestions, particularly in situations calling for only partial exemptions. While the agency said it is “committed to following the DOE recommendations” going forward, many biofuel proponents remain skeptical.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 23, 2019 |


Trump, Xi Speak by Phone on U.S.-China Trade Deal President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by telephone Friday about the phase-one U.S.-China trade deal, with Trump describing the exchange as “a very good talk,” in a tweet following the call. Trump said China “has already started large scale purchases of agricultural product & more,” and added a formal signing of the phase-one trade deal is “being arranged.” Late last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated the signing will take place in early January. For his part, Xi also spoke positively after speaking with Trump, saying the trade deal would benefit both countries and help advance the world economy, Chinese state-run media outlet Xinhua reported. At the same time, Xi warned that China has “serious concerns” about what it views as U.S. interference in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 23, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets Monday before Christmas will have more reports than usual, starting with U.S. new home sales at 9 a.m. CST and grain export inspections at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m. CST, USDA will release a monthly cold storage report and quarterly Hogs and Pigs report. Any news on trade with China will also get attention. Weather Dry and mild conditions will cover all major crop areas Monday. Precipitation will be confined to the northwestern and southeastern U.S. Southern Plains areas have moisture indicated at the end of the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 20, 2019 |


House Passes U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementing Legislation Agriculture groups are calling on the Senate to “finish the job” and pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement following approval in the House of Representatives Thursday. The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed implementing legislation for USMCA, sending the trade agreement to the Senate. The vote came following a delay of more than a year to make changes and reach an agreement between House Democrats and the Trump administration. Representative Richard Neal, who led the House efforts to modify the agreement, says the transformed trade deal approved Thursday “closes important loopholes and enables the United States to ensure our trading partners live up to their commitments.” Senate leader Mitch McConnell last week stated the Senate would not consider approving the agreement until after the Senate completes an impeachment trial in January. Members of the National Corn Growers Association were in Washington this week, urging the Senate to quickly consider and pass the trade agreement in the new year. ************************************************************************************* House, Senate, Pass Ag Spending Package The House and Senate this week came together in passage of spending bills for fiscal year 2020. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, says, "bipartisan cooperation has made this possible.” The spending package for agriculture includes $23.5 billion in discretionary funding, $451 million above fiscal year 2019 enacted levels. It also includes $1.5 billion in disaster funding for farmers and ranchers that was set to expire at the end of this year. Additionally, the bill includes $550 million for the rural broadband ReConnect Pilot program, along with fulling funding the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network, and reinstating the expired biodiesel tax credit retroactively through 2022. As farm groups welcomed the spending package, the National Milk Producers Federation applauded the legislation for including direction on dairy imitating products using labels containing dairy terms. The Food and Drug Administration provisions include language reaffirming bipartisan congressional concern with mislabeled imitation dairy products, directing FDA to enforce its own rules on labeling. ************************************************************************************* EPA Maintains SRE Supplemental Rule as Proposed The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday finalized renewable volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2020. Through the action, EPA says it has “fulfilled yet another key promise" to farmers, however, corn and biofuel producers disagree. The EPA did not make changes to the proposal, as requested by the biofuels industry. The final rule will use a three-year rolling average of recommended small refinery exemptions by the Department of Energy to account for waived gallons. Farm groups told the EPA during the comment period to account for the actual number of waived gallons, rather than the DOE recommendations. The EPA says conventional biofuel volumes, primarily met by corn ethanol, will be maintained at the 15 billion gallon target set by Congress for 2020. Cellulosic biofuel volumes for 2020, and thus advanced biofuel volumes, will increase by almost 170 million gallons over the 2019 standard. Biomass-based diesel volumes for 2021 will be equivalent to the standard for 2020, and total RVO gallons for 2020 is 20.09 billion gallons. ************************************************************************************* Corn, Biofuels Groups, Disappointed in EPA Decision Corn and biofuels groups expressed disappointment in the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to finalize a rule relating to small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The final rule uses a three-year average of the Department of Energy recommended waivers as an estimate for 2020 waivers rather than an average of actual gallons waived by the EPA, as requested by biofuel supporters. The National Farmers Union says President Donald Trump broke a promise to farmers. The Trump administration in October promised to fully account for waived volumes due to small refinery waivers. NFU’s Rob Larew says, “farmers are sick and tired of this biofuels bait and switch.” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says more action is needed on the proposal to restore growth under the RFS, adding “this rule leaves important work unfinished.” National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross says the final rule “falls short of adequately addressing the demand destruction caused by EPA’s abuse of RFS refinery waivers.” ************************************************************************************* EPA Approves Hemp Pesticides, Proposes Atrazine Reregistration The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday approved ten pesticides for use on hemp crops for use during the 2020 growing season. The much-needed action allows hemp growers to protect their crops with approved products. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says the action “is a step in the right direction” for hemp growers, adding “it is important our growers have new technologies and tools to better help protect their crops and increase their yields.” While EPA oversees pesticide registrations for hemp, other federal agencies are working to streamline their separate regulatory implementation processes for the newly legalized crop. The agency also advanced the reregistration of atrazine, a widely used product for weed control. Missouri Corn Growers Association CEO and Triazine Network Chair Gary Marshall says, "We appreciate" the proposal, adding atrazine is "tremendously important to farmers across the country.” The agency is proposing a reduction to the maximum application rate for atrazine used on residential turf, and other updates to the label requirements, including mandatory spray drift control measures. ************************************************************************************* USDA, USTR, Seek Trade Advisory Committee Applications The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the United States Trade Representative are accepting applications for new members to serve on seven agricultural trade advisory committees. Members of the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee advise USDA and USTR on operating existing U.S. trade agreements, on negotiating new agreements, and on other trade policy matters. Members of six Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees provide technical advice and guidance on international trade issues that affect both domestic and foreign production in specific commodity sectors. The committees focus on trade for Animals and animal products, Fruits and vegetables, grains, processed foods and sweeteners, along with a committee on tobacco, cotton and peanuts. To be considered for candidacy, applicants must have significant expertise in both agriculture and international trade matters. The committees hold frequent conference calls and generally meet in Washington, D.C., twice a year. Committee members serve four-year terms. Application instructions are available at fas.usda.gov. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. ET on January 31, 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 20, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Trade War Costs While nearly everybody is happy to see reduced tensions between the U.S. and China over trade, new questions are being raised by many in the media regarding what the current deal means and what are the longer-term costs of the recent battle. The administration claims that the current deal “promises” to double U.S. exports to China and sees a “two-year spending spree on everything from airplanes to pork chops and chicken feet.” Still, Bloomberg argues that the “inescapable reality” is that even this extraordinary splurge – if it happens – may not make up the economic cost of the trade war it seeks to defuse. Not surprisingly, the report says what everybody knows – that “the precise toll of an economic conflict that is far from over is difficult to isolate.” Currently, however, economists are busily calculating the impact of the fight and notes that most U.S. tariffs will remain in place. These, along with China’s retaliatory measures, along with the impact of the resulting uncertainty – range from 0.3% to 0.7% of real gross domestic product this year alone. But even with the phase-one trade deal, many economists expect the “tariff drag” to extend for years and to continue to “stymie business investment” and to take a toll on future growth. While a few tenths of a percentage point may not seem like much, it’s consequential in the world’s biggest economy. In 2019 dollars, Bloomberg estimates the cost in lost U.S. GDP has reached $134 billion to date and will rise to a total of $316 billion by the end of 2020. Bloomberg also cites a study by researchers at the New York Fed and Princeton and Columbia universities who estimated the cost to consumers of the tariffs that will remain in place at $831 per household per year – with “an annual cost of more than $106 billion for the U.S. economy as a whole.” That alone could more than wipe out the gains from the Chinese buying surge the administration says has been negotiated, Bloomberg says. The report says that the costs are also “not one-time” and are likely to build up for years “even as businesses get used to the tariffs, or to adjusted supply chains.” For example, the International Monetary Fund’s estimates are that the U.S. tariffs will subtract from real GDP in every year to 2023, when real GDP will be 0.5% lower than it would have been had the duties not been imposed. The administration and its supporters argue they are “in a bigger fight to address longstanding American complaints regarding Chinese investment policies” and that the current agreements “will be to the long-term benefit of U.S. businesses and workers,” but that has been a difficult argument to make on the basis of the Phase One deal, critics say. The administration also points to a U.S. economy growing faster than its peers and continuing to generate jobs as vindication of its trade policies, and expect today’s report to confirm the U.S. economy grew at a 2.1% annualized rate – or perhaps better – in the third quarter. Larry Kudlow, the head of the administration’s National Economic Council, this week said he expected the combination of the deal with China and the imminent Congressional passage of an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement will mean an addition of 0.5% to U.S. growth – but didn’t release any details regarding the White House analysis. A challenge facing critics of Trump’s trade policies is the fact that the economic effects of recent trade fights have been largely countered by strong national-level data and a robust economy, driven by domestic consumption that largely offsets negative trade impacts on the manufacturing and farm sectors, Bloomberg says. Still, the negative effects are real, argues economist Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and others. From the third quarter of 2018 to the same quarter this year – the period in which the trade war really started to bite – Zandi calculates the U.S. lost 0.4% of real GDP to various trade measure impacts, or $88 billion. It also lost 340,000 jobs to the trade wars, he contends, via a mix of stalled investment and higher costs due to new import duties. The uncertainty affecting business decisions isn’t evaporating, Zandi thinks, and “that will continue to weigh on business investment, hiring and wage growth and will have continued negative consequences for the economy.” So, we will see. Skeptics of the administration trade objectives have been increasingly vocal recently, across most economic sectors. These intense debates likely will continue and should be watched closely by producers as they evolve, Washington Insider believes

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 20, 2019 |


China, US Details on Phase-One Deal Not Coming Just Yet China is signaling the details of the phase-one trade agreement with the U.S. will not be made public until the deal is signed, according to Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng. The two sides are in close communication, but said there was no specific information he could provide on the deal. "After the official signing of the deal, the content of the agreement will be made public," Gao said. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, echoed the situation, saying he has only had “very general conversations” with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the specifics of the phase-one deal with China. “The reason why he would not want to be very specific to us is these texts are still being translated and we have got to know that they say what was agreed to before we talk,” Grassley told reporters on Wednesday. He said the only detail on the benefit for agriculture is the U.S. claim that China has agreed to purchase between $40 billion and $50 billion worth of U.S. farm goods next year.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 20, 2019 |


EPA Releases Final 2020 Biofuel, 2021 Biodiesel Plan EPA has released their final rule for the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), but biofuel backers remain unhappy with the result. In a release accompanying the final rule which is yet to be published in the Federal Register, EPA said they were “committed to ensuring a net of 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel is blended in 2020.” EPA stated that by “By proposing effectively 15.8 billion gallons for 2020 we will ensure meeting our target of 15 billion gallons.” However, the 172-page final rule from EPA does not mention the 15.8 billion gallon figured referenced in the release, a figure apparently generated by the percentage standards the agency will set for the various biofuels for 2020. EPA’s final rule will adopt the plan to account for small refinery waivers (SREs) that they proposed in October, “based on a three-year average of the relief recommended by the Department of Energy (DOE) for 2016–2018. In this action, we are finalizing these proposed changes.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed disappointment on Twitter, saying he will keep EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s “feet to the fire” to make sure the 15 billion gallons for conventional (primarily corn-based) ethanol is blended.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 20, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department releases its latest estimate of U.S. GDP in the third quarter at 7:30 a.m. CST. USDA's cattle on-feed report for December 1 is due out at 2 p.m. CST with on-feed inventory expected up 1.9% from a year ago. Traders will be watching for news on any last minute Congressional bills or trade agreement developments with China. Weather Another dry day is in store across the primary crop areas Friday. Temperatures will continue to show a warming trend going into the weekend. This combination favors livestock and transportation along with offering some late harvest progress.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 19, 2019 |


Republicans, Democrats Battle to Claim Credit for Final Version of USMCA While the U.S-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement is set for a vote in the House on Thursday, Republicans and Democrats both claimed credit for the final version of the pact on Wednesday. Agri-Pulse says Republican lawmakers piled their praise upon President Trump for demanding that the North American Free Trade Agreement be renegotiated. However, Democrats say the changes they demanded were what made the agreement work. During the early days of negotiations, Democrats said they wouldn’t support the agreement unless it discouraged U.S. companies from relocating to Mexico. “The Trump Administration’s initial agreement fell short, but House Democrats fought hard for greater accountability in the final draft,” says California Representative Linda Sanchez. Republican Kevin Brady of Texas says, “President Trump and Ambassador Lighthizer delivered on their promise for a pro-growth and modern trade pact. We now have a trade deal that will deliver historic wins for our economy.” Democrats say the new measures in the USMCA will allow for unions nationwide in Mexico and will eventually push wages higher within that country. Republicans point out that it’s been over a year since the new agreement was signed, saying Democrats’ obsession with impeachment has kept a vital agreement from getting approved. ********************************************************************************************* China Appears Set to Buy U.S. Ethanol Some details are starting to emerge on how China would increase imports from the U.S. by as much as $200 billion over the next two years. That would meet its commitments under the phase one trade deal announced last week. Bloomberg says the still-unsigned deal includes Chinese purchase levels of $40 to $50 billion in U.S. ag commodities, a level which many experts think isn’t reachable. To help get closer to that figure, sources close to the matter tell Bloomberg that Beijing plans to restart purchases of ethanol by lifting or waiving trade war tariffs on the fuel. China is also considering taking U.S. trade from Hong Kong into its mainland ports, which would enable about $10 billion a year in U.S. goods to go directly to the mainland, which would boost the tally. The U.S. doesn’t count the shipments that go through Hong Kong as a part of its trade with China. China will also grant more regular waivers on retaliatory tariffs to local buyers of U.S. farm products like soybeans and pork. Back in November, China had lifted its ban on U.S. poultry shipments as a part of trade negotiations. U.S. officials estimate poultry exports will top $1 billion a year. ********************************************************************************************* ASF Makes First Appearance in Indonesia; Growing Outbreak in Poland The African Swine Fever virus continues its relentless march across Asia. Indonesia’s Minister of Agriculture confirms the country’s first outbreak of the virus in the far northwest part of the multi-island nation. The confirmation came on December 12 and wasn’t unexpected as increasing reports of pig deaths have come from that area, as well as several others, since late September. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization is working with Indonesia’s director-general of Livestock and Animal Health Services. The nation’s animal health director asked the FAO to provide guidance on containment and control measures for the virus. Indonesia joins an unfortunate list of Asian countries with ASF outbreaks. In a different part of the world, a pocket of the African Swine Fever virus in Poland is continuing to grow near the border with Germany throughout the past month. Even though the outbreak is 30 miles from Germany, which is the European Union’s top pork producer, the European Commission has extended Poland’s ASF control zone to the German border. For German hog producers, the increasing number of positive ASF reports is very bad news. Some German producers and officials are asking Poland to construct a border-type wall to keep infected wild pigs from entering into Germany. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Groups Want Crop Insurance Protected in Fiscal 2021 Budget The Crop Insurance Coalition is asking Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and the Office of Management and Budget to oppose crop insurance cuts as the Trump Administration develops its fiscal year 2021 budget. The Hagstrom Report says the coalition sent a letter to President Trump and OMB Acting Director Russel Vought (Vote), saying, “For good reason, the state of the agricultural economy has been the subject of numerous hearings, reports, and media coverage. Cash crop receipts have dropped more than $34 billion since 2012.” They point out that despite a recent bump in net farm income this year, net farm income is still down $44 billion from 2013 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Multiple hardships have taken a big toll on farm families all over the country, with farm bankruptcies up 24 percent from last year. “Given the state of the ag economy,” the coalition writes, “now is not the time to make cuts to crop insurance, a program that farmers have described over and over as a linchpin of the farm safety net.” It provides predictable, on-budget assistance to farmers in a way that helps lenders continue to support American farmers and ranchers. The Crop Insurance Coalition Is made up of 57 national farm, lending, ag input, conservation, and insurance organizations. ********************************************************************************************** NPPC Applauds Funding for Ag Inspectors The House of Representatives approved $19.6 million in funds for more agricultural inspectors at U.S. land, air, and seaports. The main goal is to keep African Swine Fever and other foreign animal diseases from getting into the United States. The funding is a part of the fiscal year 2020 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill and a top priority for the National Pork Producers Council. “For more than a year, the NPPC has advocated for an increase in the number of agricultural inspectors at our borders,” says NPPC President David Herring. “We applaud the approval of an essential provision to reduce the risk of ASF and other diseases, as well as to protect the rural economy from a devastating outbreak.” The NPPC also says they would also like to thank USDA and Customs and Border Protection for all they have done to strengthen U.S. biosecurity. The most likely path for a foreign animal disease to enter the country would be through the importation of infected animals or contaminated products. An outbreak would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, causing significant economic harm to U.S. farmers, consumers, and the overall economy. Herring adds, “NPPC continues to advocate for other disease preparedness measures, including establishing a U.S. Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank as provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill.” ********************************************************************************************** Farmers Launch U.S. Hemp Growers Association The formation of the new U.S. Hemp Growers Association was announced in Indianapolis. The brand-new association will focus on things like educational efforts and market development resources, research, and networking opportunities. A USHGA release says the organization will provide a unified voice for farmers to actively engage in critically important advocacy efforts. More than 300 members of the U.S. Hemp Farming Alliance will fold into the new USHGA. Caryn Wilcox will serve as the initial executive director of the organization. A majority of the organization’s board of directors is expected to be active hemp farmers. “The forward-thinking industry leaders who’ve come together in this association see the potential for hemp as an agricultural commodity,” Wilcox says. “They also understand how much this industry can contribute to the environment and the sustainable products that benefit farmers and consumers at the grassroots level.” Wilcox also says she’s honored to be part of this historical moment.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 19, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Tax Break Controversies As the Congress works to authorize federal spending for the current fiscal year amid the bitter, ongoing political fights, it is also working to authorize the array of tax credits that negotiators typically work out annually. This year’s package was unveiled Tuesday, and, “as usual, is intended to transcend partisan bickering and allow lawmakers to dole out special-interest tax breaks credits “that were set to expire or had already ended.” The temporary nature of those benefits tends to set off a year-end scramble, NYT says, with lawmakers trying to aid businesses and entities that have come to depend on them. Among the biggest changes tucked into this year’s agreement is the elimination of taxes intended to fund the Affordable Care Act, including a tax on medical devices, health insurers and generous health plans. That tax had never gone into effect and the House voted overwhelmingly to repeal it this year. The health insurance tax, which applied to health insurers and the medical device tax, has been sporadically carried out, NYT said. This year’s deal, which passed the House as part of an overall spending plan for eight agencies 297 to 120 on Tuesday, also extends tax benefits for railroad track maintenance, racehorse and racetrack ownership, hiring and investment on Native American reservations and some victims of natural disasters. A one-year extension was given to winemakers, beer brewers and liquor distillers allowing them to avoid tax increases of as much as 400 percent. It also extends a handful of credits for renewable energy, like wind production, but does not include an extended credit for the buyers of electric cars, the Times emphasized. Congressional staff and lobbyists were referring to Tuesday’s agreement as a “skinny” deal, which fell short of both Democratic and Republican ambitions and could have included additional aid to low-income families and fixes for errors written into the sweeping package of tax cuts signed in 2017. This year’s deal also highlights the inability of the administration’s tax cuts to reduce businesses reliance on targeted credits and other breaks. The 2017 tax package that cut the corporate rate to 21% was intended to reduce the need for specialized tax breaks that had been good for lobbyists but costly and inefficient for taxpayers. Those provisions were usually made temporary for budgetary reasons and allowing lawmakers to provide breaks without adding to the 10-year federal budget deficit. But many have routinely been renewed “continuing to add to America’s fiscal woes,” the Times said. The provisions in the current deal could add more than $427 billion to the federal debt over the next decade, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said “there isn’t a single credible justification to defend it.” Negotiators reached the deal hours before they were set to vote on spending legislation to keep the government fully funded through the end of the fiscal year. The extenders, through a procedural maneuver on the House floor were to be attached to one of the spending packages up for a House vote that then will go to the Senate which expects to take up the legislation before government funding expires on Friday, the Times said. Congressional staff said that a broader agreement including more tax credits had been “at hand” earlier but that White House officials and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin ultimately rejected it. Secretary Mnuchin pushed for any larger deal to include the relief for restaurant owners, they said, but Democrats were unwilling to support it without more in return on their priorities. The deal as agreed to includes a few reversals from the 2017 law. It eliminates a tax increase that hit the children and spouses of deceased members of the military, along with a new tax that was set to hit churches and other nonprofit organizations that offer parking to their employees. Other tax break winners include movie, television and theater producers and “energy efficient” homes—as well as owners who install electric charging station or other types of renewable refueling in their principal residence. However, supporters of renewable energy generally panned the package, saying it does little to incentivize a shift to cleaner power. So, we will see. Politico emphasized that the House bill included a $15 billion tax break for biodiesel through 2022 that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and other Midwestern members were pushing to benefit “states where biodiesel plants shut down throughout the year.” The bill would also renew through 2020 a 46-cent-per-gallon credit for production of cellulosic and algae-based fuels and it would extend a special allowance for biofuel plant property. So, we will see. Clearly, the current package includes significant benefits for producers and should be watched closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 19, 2019 |


More Time to Comment on USDA’s Hemp Rule The comment period on USDA’s interim final rule for hemp production has been extended until January 29, 2020. USDA took the move after requests from several stakeholders who felt that more time was needed to offer their views on the regulation. The comment period had been set to end December 30. USDA’s Ag Marketing Service (AMS) has already received nearly 1,200 comments on the rule, many of them raising concerns that the sampling and testing protocols are unworkable and could undermine the growth of the hemp industry.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 19, 2019 |


USTR Formally Publishes Suspension of December 15 Tariffs On China The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on Wednesday in the Federal Register published the formal notice that suspends indefinitely the tariffs that were to go into effect on a host of Chinese goods December 15. “On December 13, 2019, following months of negotiations, the United States and China reached a historic and enforceable agreement on a Phase One trade deal that requires structural reforms and other changes to China's economic and trade regime, including with respect to certain issues covered in this Section 301 investigation,” USTR said. “In light of progress in the negotiations with China, and at the direction of the President, the U.S. Trade Representative has determined that the action announced on August 20, as modified by the August 30 notice, is no longer appropriate. Specifically, and in accordance with the President's direction, the U.S. Trade Representative has determined to suspend indefinitely the imposition of additional duties of 15% on products of China covered by Annex C of the August 20 notice, which otherwise would have been effective on December 15, 2019.” Further, USTR said they expect to issue another notice in the near future “reducing the rate of additional duty” on good from China that were covered under Annex A of the notice published August 20 “in light of progress in the negotiations.” USTR also said that if further modifications are needed, they will take into account comments and testimony that have previously been provided by stakeholders.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 19, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday is a busy day of reports, starting with weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims and a new U.S. Drought Monitor at 7:30 a.m. CST. Reports on U.S. existing home sales and the Conference Board's leading indicators are due out at 9 a.m., followed by natural gas inventory from the U.S. Energy Department at 9:30 a.m. The National Weather Service will also have a new 30-day forecast early Thursday. Weather Thursday will be dry and warmer over the central, eastern and southern U.S. Conditions will favor transportation and livestock, and may offer some late-harvest opportunity. Precipitation will be confined to rain and snow in the Pacific Northwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 18, 2019 |


USMCA Nearing House Vote Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are on track to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement this week. The House Ways and Means Committee began the process Tuesday, considering the implementing bill in a markup hearing. During the hearing, Committee Chairman Richard Neal said during his opening statement, which included no mention of agriculture, that the changes “set a new standard for U.S. trade agreements.” Ranking Republican on the Committee, Kevin Brady, stated the agreement “pries open Canada’s market” for several U.S. farm commodities. The committee moved the bill on to the full House for consideration. The House is expected to vote on the implementing bill Thursday. The Senate, however, will not consider the legislation until after any impeachment hearings, likely around late January. The bill repeals the current North American Free Trade Agreement and replaces it with USMCA. President Donald Trump sent the implementing legislation to Congress last week, following an agreement on changes to the deal with House Democrats. ************************************************************************************* House Approves Spending Package for Agriculture Through September 30, 2020 The House of Representatives Tuesday advanced a spending package that will extend the biodiesel tax credit and offer additional disaster aid to farmers. The American Soybean Association says the biodiesel tax credit will "expand markets for soybean growers." The tax credit expansion is part of a tax package amendment included in a funding bill for the Department of Agriculture and others. If passed, the credit would be extended at $1 per-gallon for five years covering 2018-22, retroactive to December 31, 2017, through December 31, 2022. The biodiesel tax incentive lapsed in December 2017. The National Biodiesel Board says the credit will support expansion of biodiesel and renewable diesel production. NBB’s Kurk Kovarik says the deal provides policy certainty that needed to “support investments and continued growth of production.” Lawmakers are also including an additional $1.5 billion in disaster aid in the spending bill, aimed at helping farmers recover from damages in 2019. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation later this week. ************************************************************************************* National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Authorization Clears Senate Ag Committee The Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday announced committee passage of legislation to support agro-biodefense. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, says the legislation means “we are one step closer to securing a more robust defense of our nation’s agriculture and food supply.” The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Act of 2019 would authorize the Agriculture Secretary to use the facility as a national security laboratory protecting agriculture and food. The bill directs NBAF to carry out the relevant objectives of a Homeland Security Presidential Directive and the National Biodefense Strategy, both aimed at securing the nation's food and agriculture. The $1.25 billion facility in Manhattan, Kansas, is expected to be operational by 2022-2023. Ranking member of the Committee, Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, says the legislation is "important in the critical effort to help safeguard our food supply from animal diseases and intentional threats." The bill also outlines the national security mission of the facility and the duties of the agencies responsible for implementing the mission. *************************************************************************************​ CoBank: Challenges Ahead for 2020 A new report from CoBank suggests more challenges are ahead for Rural America and agriculture. CoBank recently released its report titled The Year Ahead: Forces That Will Shape the U.S. Rural Economy in 2020. The trade environment for 2020 remains hazy, according to CoBank, which says beyond a possible U.S.-China phase one deal, “more progress with China will be a challenge.” Trade is one of the many challenges producers face in the coming year. A phase one agreement could be completed in January. However, without a meaningful full trade deal with China, CoBank says, "the U.S. agricultural economy will continue to struggle with trade uncertainty." Further uncertainty focuses on potential payments to farmers, which helped prop up farm income in 2019. Meanwhile, the report says the last few years demonstrate the resiliency of U.S. agriculture, and there is room for optimism in 2020. Rising animal protein and dairy exports will be a bright spot for producers, with African Swine Fever outbreaks abroad creating export opportunity for U.S. producers. ************************************************************************************* NMPF REAL Seal Redesign Seeks to Clear Consumer Confusion The National Milk Producers Federation Tuesday unveiled a redesigned website for the REAL® Seal, www.realseal.com. The website seeks to help consumers avoid marketplace confusion regarding real dairy products and imitators. This is the first significant change in the online presence for the REAL Seal since NMPF first assumed management of the seal in 2012. The new website will contain more content to educate consumers about why they should look for the seal on foods they buy, while also continuing to help those companies using the seal to enhance their product marketing. Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, says the website redesign comes as NMPF “continues to battle the misuse of dairy terms by plant-based products.” The new website both educates consumers about how real dairy foods compare to imitators, and explains how the REAL Seal program delineates which brands can use the seal. The REAL Guide component of the website helps shoppers find certified brands and products displaying the seal. ************************************************************************************ USDA Funds Conservation Innovation across the Country The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Tuesday announced $12.5 million in Conservation Innovation Grants. The effort supports development of innovative systems and technologies for private lands conservation. The funding is provided through the Conservation Innovation Grants program, which “funds the future of agriculture and conservation” through grants to organizations and universities that are developing the next generation of tools and technologies to boost conservation on agricultural lands. NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr says the projects will “result in new science-based tools for our toolbox.” The 2019 funding pool focused on four priority areas: water quantity, urban agriculture, pollinator habitat and accelerating the pace and scale of conservation adoption. NRCS selected 19 projects for the grant awards. One of the projects, at the University of Minnesota, will evaluate cover crop rotations for vegetable systems, and their impact on pollinators. A complete list of funded projects is available online, at nrcs.usda.gov.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 18, 2019 |


Washington Insider: New Fed Criticism Criticism of the Fed is coming from a relatively new direction just now, Bloomberg is reporting this week. The administration has been a persistent critic for not reducing interest rates further and quicker — but now the bank is being accused for “running the risk of fomenting an eventual financial crisis by easing banking regulations at the same time that it’s cut interest rates.” The criticism is coming from “some former Fed officials, including ex-Vice Chairman Alan Blinder and financial stability experts Daniel Tarullo and Nellie Liang, Bloomberg says. They worry that the combination of looser credit and laxer rules will prompt financial institutions and investors to pile on leverage and take excessive risks. After lowering rates three times, Fed policy makers left them unchanged on Dec. 11 and forecast they would stay that way through the 2020 presidential election year. The central bank has also made or proposed various changes in financial oversight, including alterations to the stress tests that banks undergo and an overhaul of the Volcker Rule’s trading restrictions. Some observers including presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren have warned the central bank against loosening its regulatory grip. Liang, who was nominated by President Trump to the Fed board but later withdrew, voiced concern about mushrooming corporate credit. “I worry that defaults and investor losses will be higher than expected in the next downturn and will make the next recession more severe,” she said. Fed leadership has pushed back hard against any suggestion it has made the financial system more vulnerable by loosening regulations, arguing that the capital requirements of the biggest banks “remain as tough as ever.” The U.S. has “a stable, healthy and resilient banking sector,” Randal Quarles, Fed vice chairman for supervision, told lawmakers on Dec. 4. He said that the Fed’s focus has been on tailoring the regulation of regional and smaller lenders. “One of our principles has been to ensure that we do not reduce in any material way the loss absorbing cushion of the institutions,” he said “I think we have succeeded in doing that.” Former Fed Governor Tarullo is not so sure. He zeroed in on the stress tests, including the disclosure of more information about the models behind them. “I suspect quite strongly that the effective amount of capital the banks have to have for a given portfolio is lower because they have so much more information about the stress tests,” said Tarullo, who was the Fed’s point man on regulation after the 2008 crisis and is now at the Harvard Law School. Ex-central bank Vice Chairman Donald Kohn welcomed efforts to tailor rules to fit the size of the institution but cautioned regulators against taking their eye off of “very sizable” regional banks. “You get a bunch of regional banks all doing the same thing at the same time then that could be systemic,” said Kohn, a member of the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee. There’s also “reason to be cautious about what’s going on outside the banking system when you lower rates because you have fewer macro-prudential tools to deal with that sector,” he said. For example, under the Dodd-Frank Act, the sweeping post-crisis regulatory reforms introduced to strengthen the banks, the Financial Stability Oversight Council monitors the overall financial system. Headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, it has the power to designate nonbank financial institutions such as insurance companies as systemically important and so subject them to increased regulation. The council, which includes the heads of the Fed, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies, has recently shifted its focus toward monitoring potentially risky financial activities and raised its hurdle for singling out individual firms for more supervision. “They come very close to saying that they’re never going to designate a nonbank no matter what,” Tarullo said. Former Fed Vice Chair Alan Blinder said Trump appointees at other regulatory agencies were more to blame for what he called “backsliding,” but thought the Fed is “not immune and shouldn’t be easing credit and bank rules simultaneously.” “You can try to push up aggregate demand and expand the economy but don’t drop your regulatory safeguards as well,” the Princeton University professor said. Some current Fed policy makers share the concerns of their former colleagues. For example, Fed Governor Lael Brainard has voted against some of the board’s rule changes while Boston Fed President Eric Rosenberg has called for higher bank capital in today’s low interest rate environment. Liang, who is friend of Powell’s, said she agrees with him that financial stability risks aren’t elevated currently. “If you took a snapshot of the situation now, it looks OK,” the Brookings Institution fellow said. “But I worry about what the situation would look like in a year or two given the incentives from recent policy changes.” So, we will see. These are important concerns, but likely will be unpopular just now given the improved prospects for the economy since the phase one China deal seems to be agreed. Still, they are extremely important and should be watched closely by producers amid the current political horse trading, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 18, 2019 |


USMCA Measure Advances The House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday advanced to the floor implementing legislation for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on a nearly unanimous vote. The panel agreed to favorably report the bill (HR 5430) without changes after a mock markup where members reviewed the 239-page legislation. By law, implementing legislation for a trade agreement cannot be amended. One of the panel members registering his disappointment was Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., who said the bill was getting “a bum’s rush in an effort to schedule a White House East Room victory celebration. I want to register that I am at best deeply uneasy about how this process has concluded.” He appeared to cast the only audible “no” vote on the plan. House is scheduled to vote Thursday on the bill. Senate action, however, will take place in 2020, said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after the chamber finishes the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 18, 2019 |


House Approves Spending Bills Totaling Nearly $1.4 Trillion The House on Tuesday approved $1.4 trillion in spending for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 that began Oct. 1. There were two large “minibus” packages, largely to avoid the even bigger omnibus bill that both sides say represents the worst of the "swamp." The page tally totaled 2,313 pages; more than 3,800 pages if explanatory statements are included. Ag interests are noting the tax package included in the bill which has a retroactive extension of the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax incentive program, from 2018 through 2022. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, helped establish the credit 15 years ago. The Senate is expected to vote on the spending packages this week and key White House aides have indicated Trump plans to sign the bills before a temporary spending bill expires at midnight Friday.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 18, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets The only official report on Wednesday comes from the U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory report, due out at 9:30 a.m. CST and includes ethanol inventory. Weather forecasts for North and South America remain of interest as does any news pertaining to the new trade agreement with China or the proposed biodiesel tax credit in Congress. Weather Dry conditions will be in place over almost all primary crop areas Wednesday. Precipitation will be confined to snow in the immediate Great Lakes. Temperatures will be seasonal to below normal, coldest in the northern and eastern Midwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 17, 2019 |


USMCA: Mexico Objection Won’t Stop House Vote An objection by Mexico won’t stop the U.S. House from approving the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Mexico had promised reciprocal measures regarding labor enforcement inspections. However, Agri-Pulse reported late Monday that Mexico was going to withdraw the objection. Mexico previously approved the agreement this summer, and even approved the modified agreement last week, before announcing the concerns. An official from Mexico is in Washington, D.C., this week to talk with lawmakers. President Donald Trump sent implementing legislation for USMCA to the House late last week, and the chamber still plans to vote and approve the agreement this week. Spending bills are expected Tuesday, followed by a vote on the articles of impeachment Wednesday, setting up a vote on USMCA Thursday, in the House. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate will not consider USMCA until January, or later, following impeachment hearings. Also, last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was “no chance” the chamber would remove the president from office. ************************************************************************************* Skepticism Remains over China Deal Commodity markets have done relatively little in reaction to the phase one trade agreement between the U.S. and China. Trade expert Jim Bower in his daily newsletter, states there "remains a lot of skepticism" regarding the agreement, suggesting it's "unclear" how China can manage to increase purchases of U.S. agricultural products. The agreement reportedly includes $40-$50 billion in annual purchases of U.S. ag products by China for two years. And, a fact sheet on the agreement states that the agriculture provisions address “structural barriers to trade,” and will support a “dramatic expansion” of agricultural exports. The agreement, expected to be signed in early January, received cautious praise from U.S. agriculture. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told CBS over the weekend regarding the phase one agreement, “This is totally done. Absolutely.” The U.S.-China Business Council called the agreement “an encouraging first phase,” while adding, “but, this is just the beginning.” The council says both sides “must commit to developing a new paradigm and economic relationship.” ************************************************************************************* Farm Credit Administration: Expect Low Crop Prices in 2020 A quarterly report to the Farm Credit Administration last week suggests commodity prices will mostly remain low next year. The report cites large global supplies of crops in storage, saying that will limit attractive price opportunities for U.S. farmers. For the next three years, soybean prices are projected at roughly $8.50 a bushel, with corn at $3.70 a bushel. The report says livestock and dairy returns are likely to be positive in early 2020, but trade risks remain elevated. Meanwhile, the report says that while it’s been a difficult year in 2019 for farmers and ranchers, facing trade disruptions, weather extremes and low prices. Crop insurance indemnities, farm programs, and Market Facilitation Program payments continue to provide financial support to the farm economy. The report says farm financial conditions may become more challenging next year without stronger markets, or more aid payments. Further, the Farm Credit System remains financially sound, according to FCA, and lenders continue to have the risk-bearing capacity to respond to the credit needs of agriculture. ************************************************************************************* USDA Seeks Input on Environmental Quality Incentives Program Rule The Department of Agriculture wants input on proposed changes to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program known as EQIP. The rule takes effect upon publication and includes changes to the program in the 2019 farm bill. Natural Resources Conservation Service chief Matt Lohr says the new rule will "enable NRCS to better support locally-led conservation efforts while also expanding producers' ability to address significant resource concerns." NRCS will make available $1.2 billion for producers in fiscal 2020, and NRCS state offices will announce signup periods for EQIP in the coming weeks. Changes to EQIP include creating incentive contracts and payments for incentive practices. The new rule requires NRCS to offer an advance payment option for historically underserved producers. USDA also proposes changing the payment cap for producers participating in the Organic Initiative to $140,000 for contracts entered between fiscal 2019 through 2023. Finally, the new rule expands the Conservation Innovation Grant program. The comment period closes February 18, 2020. ************************************************************************************* U.S. ACOE: Missouri River Flood Event Over The Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District Monday declared the Missouri River flood event over. The district’s emergency operations center returned to normal operations for the first time since March 13, 2019 - 279 days. However, emergency work continues to repair a levee in Northwest Missouri damaged by flooding this year. As of last Wednesday, all Missouri River stages within the Kansas City District area of operations were below flood stage for the first time since March 13 of this year. Forecasts call for the water levels to continue to decrease. Flooding began during the March so-called bomb-cyclone winter storm, and continued all year in the lower reaches of the Missouri River, downstream of the Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, South Dakota. The Corps is continuing to draw down excess water, as releases from the dam will be reduced to 25,000 cubic feet per second in January and remain near that rate for the remainder of the winter. Normal winter releases range between 12,000 and 17,000. ************************************************************************************ Booker Announced CAFO Moratorium Legislation Senator Cory Booker Monday announced legislation to phase out concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs. The New Jersey Democrat says the Farm System Reform Act of 2019 would place an immediate moratorium on new and expanding large CAFOs, and phase out by 2040 the largest CAFOs as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency. The legislation would also restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef and pork and expand to dairy products. Additionally, it would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from labeling foreign imported meat products as “Product of USA.” Booker labels CAFOs as “large factory farms,” claiming the operations “are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment, adding “we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.” As noted by Politico, Booker, a vegan, has said he’s not interested in telling Americans what to eat. However, proposing sweeping reforms to the U.S. food system is routine for the Senator.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 17, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Administration Considers More Tariffs on Europe The urban media, and others, are reporting this week that even as administration officials are taking public victory laps over the phase-one deal with China — and in spite of continuing criticism of that agreement — they are considering heavy tariffs on a broad range of European goods that could reach "100 Percent in some cases." The import taxes are retaliation for excessive subsidies by the European Union to the aerospace giant Airbus. The World Trade Organization ruled in favor of the United States this year in a dispute centering on European support for the aerospace giant Airbus that has lasted 15 years. In May, the WTO ruled that Europe's financial assistance to Airbus violated global trade rules and then in September, it effectively authorized the Trump administration to impose tariffs of up to $7.5 billion a year on European imports, pending negotiations over the removal of the subsidies. The administration unveiled an initial list of tariffs in October. Then, this month, after Europeans suffered another setback in the dispute, administration officials said they would expand the list and increase tariffs already in place. Last week, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) published the updated list, including a variety of items Americans buy from Europe, including dairy products such as yogurt, butter and several types of cheese; olives and olive oil; other food products; hand tools; clothing; wine and grape brandy; and Scotch and Irish whisky. The trade representative also warned that it was considering raising tariff rates on imported items that are already subject to 25 percent tariffs as part of the Airbus dispute. The Times report said that the administration has increasingly seized on tariffs to punish Europe. In addition to considering tariffs on German cars, the United States is mulling separate tariffs on French wine and other products as retaliation for a new tax that the administration says unfairly targets American technology companies. This year, France passed a so-called digital service tax, which hits large companies that sell and advertise to French consumers but have not faced large tax liabilities in France. Then, the USTR recently recommended tariffs up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion of French products after declaring the tax a threat to America's national security. Some of those products, most notably French wines and cheeses, are also on the new list released on Friday. President Trump told reporters this month that the USTR finding was justified. "They're starting to tax other people's products," he said. "So therefore we go and tax them." The extension of tariffs on the European Union is a rare example of the administration's agreeing with the WTO. Administration officials have frequently criticized the body, which they call unfair to the United States, and they have worked to undermine its effectiveness. The administration has blocked new appointments to a crucial panel at the organization that hears appeals in trade disputes. This week, the terms of two appointees to the panel expired, leaving the panel without sufficient membership to hear new cases. That means there will be no official resolutions of many global trade disputes for the foreseeable future. So, we will see. The Europeans are tough negotiators and have numerous "high protection" tariffs of their own that are well supported politically. While this particular fight may have less potential influence on U.S. producers than the tariff retaliation fight with China does, it can play an enormous role in the global economy—especially as economic uncertainty is increasingly identified as a potential threat to future U.S. growth. Thus, these fights are important and should be watched closely by U.S. producers as the details and trends emerge, Washington Insider believers.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 17, 2019 |


US Commodity Groups Eyeing China Market Several U.S. commodity organizations are looking at the U.S.-China Phase One deal as an opportunity to sell more of their products to China. Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, said Friday's deal opened an opportunity for $2 billion in annual poultry exports to China. "We hope to have a good share of that $40 billion," he said. Meanwhile, U.S. pork exports to China were $1 billion in 2017, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. An Iowa State University analysis in 2018, published before the swine fever outbreak, concluded that China could import $8.9 billion more U.S. pork once tariffs were gone. Chinese officials at a Friday press event signaled they would buy some U.S. wheat and rice, among other commodities. Before that China confirmation, many U.S. commodity analysts said there were low odds China would purchase U.S. rice or wheat.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 17, 2019 |


Mexico Accepts US Assurance on Labor Attachés The road toward approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) hit a bit of a bump to open the week, but a quick exchange between U.S. and Mexican trade officials smoothed things over. Mexican Undersecretary for North America and Chief Trade Negotiator Jesús Seade feared language in the implementing legislation for USMCA Mexico meant the U.S. was going to send labor inspectors to Mexican plants. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Monday quickly fired off a letter to assure Seade that Department of Labor attachés that would be in Mexico were not labor inspectors and pledged that the attaches would "abide by all relevant Mexican laws." Lighthizer said the use of the attaches was "routine" and that the Labor Department attachés would "work with their Mexican counterparts, workers, and civil society groups on implementation of the Mexican labor reform." At an event in Washington, Seade declared Lighthizer's response eased his fears. "We are satisfied, very satisfied," Seade said, noting other authorities in Mexico were also pleased. Further, Seade indicated that Mexico has not found any other issues in the implementing legislation that would be questionable. The Mexican Senate December 12 approved the modifications to the USMCA pact in a 107-1 vote. The House is expected to vote yet this week, but the Senate will not take up the USMCA legislation until later in January, after the impeachment trial.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 17, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau will release November housing starts at 7:30 a.m. CST, followed by a monthly Federal Reserve report on U.S. industrial production at 8:15 a.m. Until the new trade deal with China is in writing, traders will continue to look for any helpful details of the agreement. Weather Snow, ice and rain will occur Tuesday from the northern middle Atlantic region through the northeast U.S. with the potential for travel delays. Rain or showers from the southern middle Atlantic area through the southeast U.S. with thundershowers also possible in southeast areas. Mainly dry elsewhere in the key U.S. crop and livestock areas Tuesday. Snow showers or squalls may develop through the Michigan area towards evening. Rain continues in Brazil corn and soybean areas while Argentina is drier today.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 16, 2019 |


Details Emerging on the U.S. and China Phase One Agreement Both China and the U.S. officials confirmed on Friday that they’ve reached a “Phase One” agreement. Emerging details show the agreement includes some tariff relief, increased agricultural purchases, as well as structural changes to intellectual property and technology issues. However, a CNBC report says some details of the partial accord between the world’s two largest economies remain cloudy. As Chinese officials briefed reporters of some details on Friday morning, President Trump also announced some of the terms of what he called an “amazing deal.” The U.S. does plan to eliminate tariffs on multiple Chinese goods in stages, which was a priority for Chinese negotiators. Details on when that would take place weren’t announced. Trump announced that the U.S. would cancel its next round of tariffs on Chinese goods that were scheduled to go into effect over the weekend. Via Twitter, Trump announced the White House will leave 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in imports in place, while also cutting existing duties on another $120 billion in goods. Beijing will increase its agricultural purchases from the U.S. by a significant amount, though Chinese officials didn’t say by how much. Politico says some of the details include China giving up its restrictions on growth hormones for beef and easing an approval process for genetically modified crops. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Reacts to Phase One U.S., China Trade Deal Reaction from U.S. agriculture and its stakeholders across the country is positive regarding the “Phase One” trade deal between the U.S. and China. Colin Woodall, CEO of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says the agreement is welcome news for the U.S. beef industry. “We’re optimistic that this positive news will bring long-lasting relief to farmers and ranchers who’ve been targeted by China’s retaliatory tariffs for many months,” Woodall says. “China’s unjustifiable non-tariff barriers and restrictions on science-based production technologies must be addressed as part of this agreement.” Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau, says farmers are looking forward to getting back to business around the globe. “China went from the second-largest to the fifth-largest market for U.S. agricultural products since the trade war began,” Duvall says. “Reopening the door for trade with China and other countries is key to helping farmers and ranchers get back on their feet.” Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley of Iowa says easing tensions and lowering tariffs are welcome news. “This paves the way for a broader agreement that must address non-tariff barriers and intellectual property issues,” Grassley says. U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers say they’re looking forward to learning more about the agreement. ********************************************************************************************** Senate Republicans Appear Unhappy About USMCA Changes Some Senate Republicans appeared to be unhappy with the final agreement on changes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement worked out between the White House and House Democrats. Politico says the Republicans appeared to be “grumbling” as they came out of a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week. Conservatives say they were left out of the negotiations and think the new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement is too liberal. Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey is especially unhappy with the Trump Administration, describing the deal as a “terrible new standard” for future trade agreements. One of his biggest concerns is a key provision regarding prescription drugs. Senator John Cornyn of Texas says he’ll likely support the agreement but thought the Finance Committee had been “frozen out.” Reports say it’s unlikely that Republicans won’t support the deal. Republican supporters are confident the deal will win approval, especially because it just needs a simple majority to pass. Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley says he’ll skip the optional mock markup process, setting up a quick consideration of the agreement. ********************************************************************************************* House Votes Expected on Appropriations, USMCA, and Impeachment This Week Congress took a long weekend out of town as soon as a White House Congressional Ball wrapped up last Thursday. The House is expected to cast some key votes this week, starting on Tuesday, and the chamber will likely be in session through Friday. The House will meet at nine a.m. for legislative business, with votes expected sometime between nine and ten o’clock that morning. The Hagstrom Report says House and Senate appropriators and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) reached an agreement on all 12 major appropriations bills last week. A vote on the bills is expected on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland says the agreement reached on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement “could be brought to the floor sometime this week, provided the president has submitted the implementing legislation to Congress.” Hoyer also says if the House Judiciary Committee marks up the articles of impeachment, “a path forward will be announced” on that as well. ********************************************************************************************** Roberts says Arkansas Senator will be the Next Ag Committee Chair Current Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts will be retiring soon, so the logical question is who will replace him. Roberts, the longtime Senator from Kansas, says he expects John Boozman of Arkansas to take his spot as Chair. He told the National Journal last week that he thinks Boozman will be an excellent committee Chair. The report quoted Roberts as saying, “the soft-spoken senior appropriator from Arkansas will replace him as chairman, and that he’ll be excellent.” The National Journal notes that Boozman isn’t the most senior member of the Ag Committee. However, more long-standing members have other responsibilities. For example, Mitch McConnell can’t serve as the Senate Majority Leader and the head of a committee at the same time. In an interview, Boozman says as chair, he would focus on the farm bill and promoting bipartisan cooperation. He’s also planning to take up child-nutrition legislation if the push by Roberts to get it passed falls short of a December deadline. ********************************************************************************************* USDA to Make $550 Million Available for Rural Broadband Internet Infrastructure Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says his agency will make $550 million available through its ReConnect Pilot Program. The application window for the funding will open on January 31st of next year. “The second round of ReConnect funding will help USDA be an even stronger partner in closing the digital divide in America’s rural communities,” Perdue says. “Our core mission at USDA is to increase rural prosperity by boosting economic opportunity in rural America.” USDA knows that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-Connectivity. Perdue made the funding announcement during a stop in Iowa, alongside Governor Kim Reynolds. Perdue was in the state to congratulate the Farmers Mutual Telephone Company of Stanton, Iowa, which received $6.4 million in first-round ReConnect program funding. The funds help the company connect 477 households, 35 farms, and 21 businesses to the internet. In the second round, USDA will make up to $200 million in grants available, up to $200 million in 50-50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million available for low-interest loans. To learn more about the program, go to www.usda.gov/reconnect.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 16, 2019 |


Washington Insider: US, China Trade Deal Analysts are working hard this week to study the “phase one” deal that the U.S. and China agreed to last week — a deal the Washington Post said meant that the 21-month trade war is “on pause — for now.” Now, the Post notes that both sides are claiming the win. The White House characterized it as “amazing” and “historic.” Top Chinese officials held a rare news conference to claim the win for them and “the Chinese people.” Many business groups were cautiously optimistic. While the full text had not been made public, both sides confirmed that the U.S. committed to scaling back some tariffs in exchange for China’s purchases of about $200 billion more U.S. goods in the next two years and opening up to U.S. financial firms. The Post also published a rundown of winners and losers, beginning with the President who “can say he made a deal, even it’s limited.” It said that the administration was “trumpeting the deal particularly to farmers and manufacturing workers hit hard by the war,” the Post said. The Post also said that this deal, together with the recent Congressional approval announced by the House for the “New NAFTA” make it likely the U.S. economy will grow at 2% or more next year avoiding a recession and helping the president politically, especially with farmers. U.S. officials are saying that China agreed to buy $40 billion of agricultural products and could “hit $50 billion” in purchases. The Chinese “refuse to utter that exact figure” but they have agreed to bump up purchases, even if it’s not quite $50 billion, the Post said. The Post also lists as winners Apple and other tech companies; Walmart and other retailers; Wall Street investors; JPMorgan Chase and other U.S. financial companies and business leaders and the Chinese government—which “didn’t have to give too much,” the Post said. It charged that Chinese leaders played the U.S. president “skillfully at the end, refusing to confirm there was a deal for hours after the White House leaked there was one.” The Post also carped that the newly agreed level of purchases had already been offered “as long ago as mid-2018.” It said the biggest concession China made is to agree to penalties if it doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain — although there is a long process the U.S. agreed to go through before imposing punitive tariffs. Also, the Post identified “losers” including Peter Navarro, Stephen Bannon and China “hawks.” It said that the deal does little to fundamentally change China’s “Made in China 2025” plans and noted that the President “had many trade advisers like Navarro” urging him to keep the tariffs on and push China for a bigger deal that would commit to pulling back industrial subsidies and ending the theft of U.S. trade secrets. Instead, he scaled back tariffs and settled for a much less ambitious agreement, the report said. The President promises there will be a “phase two” after the election but many fear this will end up being a one-and-done deal. As a result, the Post says that while the deal may be a political win, the goal of forcing China to overhaul its economic policies “did not happen here.” It remains a power player and its “Made in China 2025″ plan is still moving ahead, the report says. While the latest trade data shows a small reduction in the trade deficit with China, the U.S. trade deficit with other nations is growing, the Post says. Also, the Post placed in the loss column some farmers who “didn’t make it to see the gains from this deal after two brutal years,” and noted that some U.S. companies still face tariffs on Chinese imports. The report adds China’s economy to the “list of losers” noting that it was already facing a slowing economy before the trade war began. While there is now relief that the U.S. will not go forward with tariffs on all Chinese products, the administration kept in place tariffs on nearly $370 billion worth of sales. Even more important, there is evidence that some companies shifted their supply chains out of China to other countries — lost business, that while modest as a share of China’s total economy, is unlikely to return. Finally, the Post thinks there will be debates for years about whether the administration’s China trade war was worth it and whether enough was achieved from the deal. But there is agreement that it changed the conversation about China and expanded “bipartisan support” for confronting unfair Chinese business practices. So, we will see. A key concern is what the new U.S.-China policies turn out to be and what impacts linger on important markets — developments producers should watch closely as the deal’s “devilish details” emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 16, 2019 |


Tax Extenders May Wait Until 2020 It looks like key House Democrats are back to a big package of tax extenders and that will present approval hurdles for items like the lapsed biodiesel tax incentive, congressional sources advise. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., reportedly altered his prior view this week for a “skinny” package of tax provisions that did not include more than $100 billion worth of refundable tax credits for low-income workers and families that Neal has been pushing since June. But on Thursday, Neal changed. Asked if the skinny package was still on the table, Neal said, “Nah. We are trying to negotiate a big ending... Everything is in the mix now.” In the Senate, Republicans appeared downbeat on the prospects for a tax deal before the year is out. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he thought January was more likely. If so, that means the lapsed biodiesel tax credit will not likely be dealt with yet this year.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 16, 2019 |


US-China Trade Deal Completed The U.S. and China reached a phase one trade agreement Thursday, with U.S. and Chinese officials talking about some of the details on Friday. The Chinese have committed to purchase an additional $16 billion in U.S. ag goods beyond a $24 billion base – the level of U.S. ag exports to China in 2017. The total of $40 billion in purchases includes China indicating they will work to try to make additional purchases. While the U.S. has indicated the list of commodities will not be made public, commodities mentioned thus far are corn, wheat, cotton and rice by the Chinese. But perhaps more important are issues covering broader agricultural trade matters. The Agriculture Chapter addresses structural barriers to trade and will support a dramatic expansion of U.S. food, agriculture and seafood product exports, increasing American farm and fishery income, generating more rural economic activity, and promoting job growth, according to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). “A multitude of non-tariff barriers to U.S. agriculture and seafood products are addressed, including for meat, poultry, seafood, rice, dairy, infant formula, horticultural products, animal feed and feed additives, pet food, and products of agriculture biotechnology,” USTR said. China is expected to purchase a total of $200 billion in U.S. goods, including agriculture items.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 16, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets Traders will likely be talking about and watching for more information on the phase one trade deal that was reached on Friday. Documents have not been signed yet so it will be a while before details are nailed down. Weather forecasts remain important and USDA will have its weekly report of export inspections at 10 a.m. CST. The National Oilseeds Processors Association will publish a monthly soybean crush estimate later in the morning. USDA has tabled Crop Progress reports until April 6, 2020. Weather Moderate to heavy snow and rain are in store for the southern Plains and southern Midwest Monday. Snow offers benefit for winter wheat, but will cause transportation and safety hazards along with possibly ending field work for the year. We'll also see rain in the Delta and Mid South. Temperatures will be cold north and central and very warm south.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 13, 2019 |


China, U.S. Reach Tentative “Phase One” Trade Agreement President Trump signed off on the “Phase One” trade deal on Thursday afternoon. The agreement between the worlds’ two largest economies averts the December 15th introduction of a new wave of U.S. tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods. Bloomberg News reports the agreement was reached on Thursday afternoon and presented to the president shortly afterward. The deal does include a promise from China to buy more agricultural products. Officials also talked about possible reductions in existing duties on a number of Chinese products. The terms have been agreed on, but the legal text hasn’t been finalized yet. A White House spokesman declined a request for comment. In addition to a significant increase in Chinese agricultural purchases, officials also say the phase-one pact would include commitments from China to do more to stop intellectual property theft, something the administration has been pushing for. The phase one deal also includes commitments from both countries to no longer manipulate their currencies. Negotiators had been working on the phase one deal for months after the president announced the countries had reached an agreement. ********************************************************************************************* House Passes Farm Workforce Modernization Act The House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by a vote of 260 to 165. The bill would ease immigration for agricultural workers. It won the support of over 300 farm groups, as well as the United Farm Workers. The Hagstrom Report points out that the California Farm Bureau supported the bill but the American Farm Bureau Federation did not. AFB fears the bill will lead to higher wages for farmworkers and increase the legal vulnerability of farm employers. President Zippy Duvall says several amendments that would have addressed Farm Bureau concerns were blocked from consideration, so they “do not support the final bill passed by the House.” Heritage Action for America says it grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants without doing anything to “reform our broken immigration system.” Zoe Lofgren of California, the lead sponsor of the bill, says, “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for our farmworkers.” Republicans weren’t happy about the bill's formula for calculating farm wages and complained that the year-round visa pilot program doesn't include the meat and poultry sectors. They also objected to providing "amnesty" to undocumented immigrants working on U.S. farms. The bill’s prospects in the Senate and with President Trump are described as problematic. ********************************************************************************************* Ag Groups, Organizations React to House Passing Labor Bill Several agricultural groups and organizations reacted positively to the news that the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The National Farmers Union says the bill is the product of negotiations between a diverse array of agricultural stakeholders and farmworker advocates. “Our current farm labor system is badly broken,” says NFU President Roger Johnson. “This bill secures a legal and adequate supply of workers for family farmers and ranchers, as well as stability for farmworkers who help put food on our tables.” United Fresh Produce Association says the produce industry has suffered for far too long under a system that doesn’t meet its need for labor. The organization says, “This represents an important step in ending decades of uncertainty for growers of fresh fruits and vegetables.” Dairy groups, one of the hardest-hit ag sectors when it comes to labor shortages, are also pleased with the bill’s passage. The National Milk Producers Federation says the legislation helps to address the dairy industry’s unique workforce challenges, which is the need for year-round labor. The current labor program is seasonally-based. NMPF CEO Jim Mulhern says, “Agricultural reform is long overdue.” Mike McCloskey, Chair of the NMPF’s Immigration Task Force, says, “The urgency to reform the agricultural labor system cannot be overstated for dairy farmers.” ********************************************************************************************** United Soybean Board Elects New Chair The United Soybean Board farmer-directors have elected Jim Carroll III as Chair at the annual board meeting this week. Additionally, 19 new directors appointed by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue were sworn in by the USDA. Carroll is a farmer from Brinkley, Arkansas. He says, “We’ve made great strides to innovate beyond the bushel and infuse every opportunity we can into growing markets and creating new uses for soybeans. We have a lot to be proud of but also have tremendous potential to further demand as we continue our progress through wise and strategic investments.” Carroll says one of his priorities as Chair will be to recognize the performance and sustainability of U.S. soy and to show their customers its many capabilities as a renewable alternative. The recent USB board meeting included remarks from Gregg Doud, Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Doud highlighted recent trade negotiations and opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers in the international marketplace. Other session topics included the Global Landscape for U.S. Soy, What’s Next for High Oleic Soybean Oil, and Agriculture’s Advantage in Capturing Carbon. ********************************************************************************************** Rise in Iowa Land Prices Not Seen as a Market Rebound The difficulties of 2019 for agriculture have been numerous. One positive note at the end of the year is a two percent rise in the price for farmland in Iowa. Favorable interest rates, strong yields, and limited land supply combined to push Iowa’s farmland values up for just the second time in the past six years. An Iowa State University news release says the statewide value of an acre of farmland is estimated at $7,432. That’s a 2.3 percent increase, totaling about $168, since last year. That number represents the average of low, medium, and high-quality farmland prices. An Iowa State University expert says that the reprieve in the land market isn’t driven by a stronger ag economy. “The recent modest increases in land values reflect a lower interest rate environment and slowly improving U.S. farm incomes,” says Dr. Wendong Zhang, leader of the Iowa Land Value Survey effort. While the growth in land values is positive, Zhang says it shouldn’t be thought of as a “sound rebound” in the land market. “Market Facilitation Payments helped to stabilize farm income and the land market,” he adds. “However, escalation of the U.S. and China trade war will put more downward pressure on farm income and land prices.” ********************************************************************************************** Arkansas Temporarily Stopped from Enforcing Meat-Labeling Law A federal judge restricted Arkansas from enforcing a law that bans the use of terms like “burger” or “sausage” when selling plant-based or vegan products. An Associated Press report says U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a preliminary injunction keeping the state from enforcing the law against the Oregon-based Tofurky Company, while the constitutionality is being challenged. Tofurky produces products like tofu, as well as plant-based sausage, deli slices, and burgers. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Good Food Institute, and the Animal Defense Fund got behind Tofurkey and filed suit in July. They say the law amounts to an “unconstitutional effort” to boost the state’s meat industry. Under the law, which hasn’t been enforced yet, companies can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation of the labeling law. While putting the injunction in place, Baker did note that Tofurkey does face a credible threat of retroactive penalties under the law. The labeling law is similar to ones passed in other states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Dakota.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 13, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Fed and the US Economic Outlook While there is more angst and anxiety around Washington these days than most of us can comprehend involving trade policy, national politics and who knows what else, one sort of constant remains: the Fed’s tiff with the president. Chairman Jerome Powell “still isn’t heeding President Trump’s demands to slash interest rates,” the Washington Post is reporting this week. However, the report has a twist of its own — the Post thinks “the central bank chief still delivered unequivocal good news for President Trump’s reelection hopes.” Powell, addressing reporters after the Fed’s final meeting of a turbulent decade, predicted smoother sailing next year. He said monetary policymakers “expect moderate growth to continue,” at a slowed but still healthy 2% pace. And he took some credit for helping navigate head winds from the administration’s trade war and choppiness abroad, saying the Fed’s three interest rate cuts over the summer and into the fall, “kept the economy on track.” Indeed, the Fed’s official statement—accompanying the announcement it is holding the benchmark interest rate steady between 1.5% and 1.75% — dropped its mention of “uncertainties” facing the economic outlook, the Post noted. Actually, Powell left the door open to changing interest rates in 2020, but stressed “there is a high bar for moving rates up or down.” He emphasized that the Fed was going to do what we think is the right thing for the economy and if there is a material reassessment of our outlook, “we would respond accordingly,” he said. Powell’s presentation marked a “heel turn” from earlier this year, the Post said. Stocks tanked in July after Powell described the Fed’s first interest rate cut in a decade as a “mid-cycle adjustment,” because investors interpreted the remark as a signal the relief monetary policymakers were providing was only temporary. Now, however, “the cuts look much more permanent,” Grant Thornton chief economist Diane Swonk wrote. The vote to hold rates unchanged was unanimous, the first time that all agreed on what the Fed should be doing since May. Also 13 of the 17 members of the Fed policy setting officials indicated they expect the borrowing rate to remain untouched next year, while four projected one hike. As recently as September, nine of the policymakers projected at least one rate hike next year. Investors had largely priced in the Fed’s decision to hold rates steady and stocks rallied modestly on the chairman’s comments. Major indexes snapped a two-day losing streak, with the S&P 500 closing up 0.29% and the Dow Jones industrial average climbing 0.11% on the day. “Markets liked Mr. Powell's assertion that he would want to see a ‘significant’ and ‘persistent’ increase in inflation before he would want to raise rates and he again drew attention to the undershoot to the target in recent years,” Pantheon Macroeconomics chief economist Ian Sheperdson said, “Mr. Powell's view is not shared by all his colleagues, given that most of them expect rates to rise slightly over the next three years while core inflation is expected to be little changed. But markets put much more weight on the views of the Chair; that's probably the right approach.” Still the Post observed that “if Powell is landing on a position that benefits Trump, it’s no indication the president and his handpicked Fed chair are simpatico.” The President has treated Powell like a punching bag, attacking him relentlessly for leading the Fed to raise rates last year and not cutting them as far or as fast as the president would have liked in 2019. Now, “the pressure is largely off.” While the administration’s trade war continues to inflict harm “the Fed’s actions are widely credited with offsetting most of it, at least for the United States,” the Post said. Still, the president hasn’t extended an olive branch, although his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said at a recent conference that the Fed’s role in the economy has been overstated. He thinks that the chairman may be less of a central figure in 2020, able to deliver “needed rate cuts without undermining investor confidence in an independent central bank.” And Powell has garnered improved marks from Fed watchers, including former central bank officials, who criticized his communications strategy and execution as uneven. At his most-recent news conference, Powell “projected more confidence than at any presser before,” former Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told the Wall Street Journal. “He is visibly in command of the ship.” So, we will see. There seems to be broad agreement with Post view of a stronger Fed just now, but potential turbulence could lie ahead. It will be important for producers to watch closely the coming decisions about new tariffs on Chinese goods and on the FY2020 spending bills other issues over the coming weeks, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 13, 2019 |


House Passes Ag Labor Bill The House voted 260-165 Wednesday to send to the Senate legislation that would allow undocumented farmworkers to earn legal status and streamline the H-2A guest worker program. The measure faces an uphill battle in the Senate because of the provisions for undocumented agricultural workers and their families. Thirty-four Republicans — nine more than the 25 who cosponsored the bill (HR 5038) — joined 226 Democrats in passing the measure. Of note, the passage count was not enough to override any presidential veto should the legislation, however unlikely, get to President Trump's desk. Plus the American Farm Bureau Federation came out against the legislation, expressing disappointment that efforts to improve the legislation via amendments were blocked.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 13, 2019 |


Government Shutdown Appears Averted on Deal Over FY 2020 Spending Lawmakers from the House and Senate reached a bipartisan deal to fund the government beyond December 20 when the current stopgap spending plan runs out. The agreement was announced by House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. Lowey and her Republican appropriations counterparts and Senate appropriators made the announcement that they have agreed on all 12 spending bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Details of the deal, however, are not yet available even though lawmakers want to release it as soon as possible, Lowey said. Keys will be what lawmakers were able to work out on the border wall and on the Trump administration’s Title X policy blocking federal funds to groups that refer patients for abortions. Bloomberg reported the deal includes $1.375 billion for the border wall. As for the White House, Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said, “They’ve been involved. But we have to make the decisions.” Expectations are the House will vote on the plans Tuesday, December 17.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 13, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets A report on U.S. retail sales at 7:30 a.m. CST is the only item on Friday's official docket. The main interest for traders is apt to be any news of a trade deal with China. Multiple sources have reported a deal is close, but official confirmation remains elusive early Friday. The weather forecast for North and South America will also attract interest heading into the weekend. Late Thursday, the Washington Post reported a deal has been reached to avoid a shutdown of the U.S. government. Weather Friday will bring snow and cold to northern areas, rain to the Southeast, and dry conditions with seasonal to above normal temperatures elsewhere. The pattern turns colder over most of the contiguous U.S. during next week.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 12, 2019 |


USDA Extends MFP, DMC Deadlines The Department of Agriculture Wednesday extended sign-up deadlines for the Dairy Margin Coverage program to December 20. USDA officials cited the prolonged and extensive impacts of weather events this year for moving the deadline beyond its original date of Friday, December 13. USDA announced it is also continuing to accept applications for the Market Facilitation Program through December 20, 2019. Bill Northey, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation, says some farmers are still in the field, adding, "we hope this deadline extension will allow producers the opportunity to participate in these important programs.” The DMC program offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost, the margin, falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. The Market Facilitation Program is part of a relief strategy to support farmers while the administration continues to work on trade agreements. Another round of payments could come next month. ************************************************************************************* Senate Won’t Vote on USCMA Until After Christmas U.S. farmers won’t see a North America trade deal under the Christmas tree this year, despite this week’s deal to move the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement forward. The House of Representatives, which must act first, plans to vote by the end of next week, sending the trade deal to the Senate. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Wednesday the Senate won’t be able to consider the agreement until after Christmas, pushing Senate action on USMCA into 2020. McConnell cited a full slate of issues to consider, including spending bills, judicial appointments and the pending impeachment trial. The January Senate calendar is blank, leaving room for a month of impeachment proceedings in the Senate. While Democrats were blamed for stalling the agreement, they’ve flipped the coin to blaming Senate Republicans for causing further delays. McConnell claims House Democrats waited too long before advancing the agreement to allow for the trade to become law this year. But, McConnell’s intentions could push a Senate vote to February. ************************************************************************************* Real Meat Act Introduced in Senate Lawmakers in the Senate Wednesday introduced the Real MEAT Act, a bill seeking to end deceptive labeling practices for alternative protein products. Senator Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican, introduced the bill Wednesday. Fischer says the bill would clarify the definition of beef for labeling purposes, eliminate consumer confusion resulting from misbranding, and ensure that the federal government can enforce the law. Fischer says, “Beef is derived from cattle—period.” She adds the legislations will stop so-called fake-meat companies from misleading consumers about “the nutritional merits and ingredient composition of their products.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded the introduction of the legislation. NCBA President Jennifer Houston says the bill will “allow cattle producers to compete on a level playing field.” NCBA found in a study that 55 percent of consumers did not understand that “plant-based beef” wasn’t beef at all, but instead an entirely vegan or vegetarian product. The Senate bill is a companion to similar legislation in the House. ************************************************************************************ Farm Groups Partner to Help Farmers Manage Stress Top farm organizations Wednesday announced a partnership to address high levels of stress affecting farmers and ranchers. Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union, announced the partnership that will provide training to individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says the partnership will "help our members recognize the warning signs and empower them to get help for their friends." In a national Morning Consult poll commissioned by AFBF in April 2019, a strong majority of farmers and farmworkers said financial issues, farm or business problems, and fear of losing the farm, impact the mental health of farmers and ranchers, and nearly half of rural adults said they are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than they were a year ago. Research also shows that while farmers experience higher levels of psychological distress and depression than the general population, they are less likely to seek help for mental health issues. ************************************************************************************ Johnson to Retire from Role as Farmers Union President National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson announced earlier this week he will retire from his role in Washington, D.C. next year. Johnson will not seek reelection during the 2020 NFU annual convention in March, when his current term will end. NFU will elect his successor during the meeting in Savannah, Georgia. Johnson told reporters that Rob Larew, NFU’s senior vice president of public policy, is currently the lone candidate for the role. Before leading the family farm organization, he served as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner and as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Johnson, a third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, North Dakota, grew up in Farmers Union, participating in the organization's youth programs and serving as a county president and chairman of the board of a local Farmers Union cooperative. He says, "it has been my greatest honor to serve this organization and the admirable farmers and ranchers who comprise its membership." ************************************************************************************* American Royal Acquires Land for “Epicenter of Agriculture” The American Royal Association is one step closer to its goal of being the “Epicenter of Agriculture.” The organization recently acquired 115 acres in Kansas City, Kansas, following a purchase of 47 acres earlier this year. The association recently submitted its preliminary development plan country officials, which was approved this month. The one million-plus square foot complex with an outdoor plaza and arena will allow for an expansion of programming to 365 days a year. The facility features more than 800,000 square feet of indoor event space, including barn and exposition areas, three performance arenas, a large educational area, and more than 50,000 square feet of exhibit space. The American Royal has been a nationally recognized brand for more than a century. Beginning in 1899 as the National Hereford Show, the American Royal has evolved into a comprehensive season of food and agriculture activity. A ceremonial groundbreaking is expected Spring 2020, with construction beginning Summer 2020. The core complex is to be complete by winter of 2021.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 12, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Hints at Delays for Scheduled Tariff Boosts Well, there’s lots going on in U.S. trade policy these days but the implications are still tough to interpret. For example, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would support the new NAFTA deal in in the House – less than an hour after she announced the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Though a dense fog of uncertainty remains, the Times says it sees signs that the U.S. may delay scheduled increases in duties on Chinese imports – but that the decision “rests with the president who could go either way,” the report said. So, new tariffs on over $100 billion of Chinese goods are due to take effect on Sunday. While many American officials are eager to avoid the tariffs, key observers insist that no decision has been made and the President is continuing to meet with advisers this week. The United States and China announced in mid-October that they had reached a so-called Phase 1 trade agreement that would allow Chinese purchases of American agricultural goods to resume while the United States would cancel additional tariffs scheduled for Oct. 15. American officials said that future tariff increases could also be avoided if the pact were signed. Since then, negotiators have continued to grapple over the deal’s terms. The two sides remain divided over how many of the tariffs will be canceled in return for China’s trade concessions, and over the terms that will govern Chinese purchases of tens of billions of dollars worth of American agricultural products. The administration’s next scheduled tariff increase is set for 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 15 and would place a 10% tariff on $156 billion of products, including toys, smartphones and other electronics, weighing on consumers and potentially turning into a political liability for a president headed into a re-election campaign. Business groups are worried about the new levies. “We’re still in a high-stakes poker game,” Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said. “Having another round of tariffs would be a poison pill in the context of the current U.S.-China negotiations and in the context of the global economy,” Brilliant added. “We hope both sides understand the urgency of getting an agreement finalized as soon as possible.” If President Trump delays those tariffs to allow more time for negotiations, it would be the fifth time this year that he has delayed or canceled tariffs—and could prompt criticism that China is taking advantage of the negotiating process. In addition, the significant progress this week on moving the revised North American trade deal toward a vote in Congress appears to have slowed progress toward a resolution by diverting the administration’s attention away from China, the Times said. The Times report concludes that “as the deadline nears, the December tariffs’ fate has grown particularly cloudy.” And, China apparently tried to appeal to the administration’s desire to see more farm purchases by offering a waiver on tariffs it had placed on U.S. soybeans as Chinese companies made large bulk purchases of American goods. In addition, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said this week during a trip to Indiana that he did not expect the new tariffs would be imposed. Also, critics continue to argue that the Phase 1 deal would do little to address America’s longer-term concerns about China’s economic practices. Reports from China this week indicate that the Chinese government had discernibly hardened its negotiating positions since President Trump and Vice Premier Liu He reached their agreement in October. That deal has attracted criticism from the more nationalistic wing of the Chinese government, especially since it lacks any U.S. pledge to roll back some of the tariffs already imposed. Since early November, Chinese negotiators have demanded that a Phase 1 deal include some tariff relief in order to make the deal “equal” – otherwise it will be one-sided, said Professor Tu Xinquan, the executive dean of the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. The trade ministry founded the university and retains close links to it. But China clearly has been wary of offering further concessions to offset a tariff rollback. That has stymied negotiators at least temporarily. Now, U.S. officials are telling the press that they are still waiting for China to signal its willingness to make “necessary concessions” to seal a deal. Clete Willems, a partner at Akin Gump who left the White House this year, said China appeared to be taking actions, like the soybean purchases, to persuade the administration to delay the tariffs as both sides work toward a deal. The president has a decision to make,” Mr. Willems said, “and realistically he could still go both ways.” So, we will see. Political tensions are so high just now that it is increasingly difficult to anticipate any economic decision, especially in the area of trade. As a result, the trade talks should be watched very closely by producers, especially as the scheduled deadlines approach, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 12, 2019 |


Full US Approval Of USMCA Seen In Early 2020 Signing of the updates to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Tuesday by officials from the three countries was hailed by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington. The House vote on the pact is expected to come next week, with some suggesting December 19 after the House finishes its action on the articles of impeachment. Senate approval, however, is not expected until early 2020. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that a Senate vote “will have to come up in all likelihood right after the (impeachment) trial is finished in the Senate.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 12, 2019 |


More Time To Sign Up For Trade Aid, Dairy Program USDA says the brutal weather conditions this year that have continued recently are enough to have the agency extend signup for the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) and the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program. MPF 2 signup was to have ended December 6 and DMC enrollment for 2020 was to end December 13. USDA says enrollment will now be open through December 20. Just over one quarter of licensed dairy operations, 7,204 farms, have enrolled in DMC for the 2020 calendar year as of Dec. 9. By comparison, 82% of licensed operations, 23,164 in all, signed up for the program for 2019. Under the first two of three possible tranches of MFP 2 payments, FSA has paid $10.470 billion in MFP payments to farmers. The top five states were Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and Kansas.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 12, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets In addition to weekly export sales at 7:30 a.m. CST, there will be weekly jobless claims, and producer price index reports. We will also be watching for any updates regarding ongoing trade negotiations, and of course any changes in South American weather. Weather Snow squalls will move across the northern Midwest Thursday, causing transport delays and stressing livestock. We'll also see rain and snow in the Northwest. Snow and cold will focus on northern areas through the end of the week. The Southeast will see rain on Friday.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 11, 2019 |


Pelosi Announces USMCA Deal with White House House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday morning announced a “win” for workers and Democrats, saying they reached an agreement with the Trump Administration to move the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement forward. Pelosi says the agreement is “infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.” Representative Richard Neal, a Democrat who helped lead the effort, says Democrats support the new agreement because they crafted the details of the improved trade pact. President Donald Trump says the agreement is “Good for everybody - Farmers, Manufacturers, Energy, Unions,” adding USMCA has “tremendous support.” The Trump administration now must send implementing legislation to the House. Neal told reporters a vote in the House isn’t likely this week, but adds “we’re close,” saying he’s hopeful for a vote possibly next week. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the agreement “improves virtually every component” of its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Perdue adds, “the House and Senate need to work diligently to pass USMCA by Christmas.” ************************************************************************************* Farm Groups Welcome USMCA Announcement Agriculture groups applauded the announcement by House Democrats regarding a deal with the Trump Administration on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. In a statement, National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross says, “NCGA appreciates the bipartisan efforts between Speaker Pelosi, Ambassador Lighthizer and the House working group to reach an agreement.” While the announcement is a step forward, agriculture groups are calling for quick passage of the agreement. The National Chicken Council in a statement says that after a year of negotiations,” the time to act is now,” adding “We encourage swift Congressional consideration and passage of USMCA before Christmas.” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says, “This is an opportunity for Congress not only to help U.S. farmers and ranchers turn the corner on trade, but also show that Washington can still get things done on a bipartisan basis.” Once the agreement is sent to Congress for a vote, Congress has 90 congressional days, 45 in the House and 45 in the Senate, to consider USMCA. ************************************************************************************* December WASDE Report Mostly Unchanged The monthly World Agriculture Supply and Demand report offered little to excite or scare markets Tuesday. As the market and trade experts expected, there was little change in the monthly figures by the Department of Agriculture, with no change to corn and soybean production expectations or yields. Trade experts say it’s likely significant updates will wait until the January 2020 WASDE report. The projected season-average farm price for corn was unchanged at $3.85 per bushel. Meanwhile, Total U.S. oilseed production for 2019/2020 is forecast at 107.6 million tons, down slightly due to a decrease for cottonseed. Soybean supply and use projections for 2019/2020 are unchanged from last month. The U.S. season-average soybean price for 2019/2020 is forecast at $8.85 per bushel, down 15 cents. The outlook for 2019/20 U.S. wheat is for decreased supplies, higher exports, and lower ending stocks. Wheat imports are lowered 15 million bushels to 105 million on a slower than expected pace to date. And, the season-average farm price for wheat was lowered $0.05 per bushel to $4.55. ************************************************************************************* GOA to Review USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program The Government Accountability Office will review the Department of Agriculture Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The announcement follows a request by Senators Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican. Bennet and Romney requested that the GAO focus on several specific items, including approval processes under the program, project timelines, opportunities to expand eligible projects, and agency and stakeholder views of the program. Administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Senators call the program an important tool designed to reduce financial strain and help communities across the West address imminent threats following a wildfire. However, communities often face challenges when attempting to use the program to support recovery efforts, including after fires in Colorado and Utah in 2018. The GAO review, which will commence in the coming months, will lead to recommendations to improve EWP and more effectively assist communities recovering from wildfires across the West. ************************************************************************************ Farmers Union Urges White House to Replace Aromatics with Biofuels The National Farmers Union Tuesday sent a letter to President Donald Trump endorsing the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition recommendation to lower air toxic emissions caused by the use of gasoline aromatics. Following the coalition's position, the organization suggested that aromatics be replaced with biofuels, which NFU says are higher octane, burn more cleanly, and are “far better” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and public health. NFU is a longtime proponent of replacing toxic aromatics with ethanol, filing comments to that effect on several different rulemakings, including the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Rule. In a statement, NFU President Roger Johnson emphasized the benefits of doing so and advised the administration to adopt the recommendations. Johnson says biofuels are "substantially cleaner than petroleum-based octane additives," and cost-effective and readily available. Johnson urged the administration to make the change, that would "reduce health care costs, ease compliance burdens, and provide lower-cost fuel for consumers." ************************************************************************************ Extreme Weather Leads to Silage Mycotoxin Concerns Given the extreme weather in 2019, producers and users of silage should carefully watch for molds and mycotoxins. In a company news release, Alltech says extreme weather conditions and moisture levels can reduce yields and induce plant stress, and they can also lead to future issues for the crop, including mycotoxins and molds. Mycotoxins are a concern for livestock producers, as they influence feed quality and animal safety. Samples of the 2019 corn silage from across the U.S. submitted to the Alltech mycotoxin analytical services laboratory include high levels of mycotoxins. The samples have included an average of 7.13 mycotoxins, with a range of two to 14 mycotoxins per sample. Dr. Max Hawkins, nutritionist with the Alltech Mycotoxin Management team, says, “These levels of mycotoxins found in the 2019 crop are significantly higher than the average values.” He recommends livestock producers across the U.S. should test their own corn silage to identify the levels of individual mycotoxins and the subsequent risk present to livestock health and performance.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 11, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Trade Rule Confusion Washington has hardly ever been as divided as it is today, and the debate is unusually toxic including new and old trade fights, Bloomberg says this week. In addition, this fight appears to focus on how trade disputes may be settled in the future. The background is that the United States has been systematically undercutting the WTO’s trade dispute settlement mechanism, Bloomberg reports. It has blocked new appointments to the WTO appellate body, a policy that will “effectively paralyze it on Dec. 11,” Bloomberg says. That panel is responsible for “final trade rulings” that can affect billions of dollars in commerce. Now, Bloomberg thinks, the U.S. policy has forced governments to select among four options if a dispute is to be settled: Option 1: Trade wars with tit-for-tat tariffs and other anti-trade policies; Option 2: File a WTO claim “with the knowledge that the losing party may appeal it into legal limbo;” Option 3: Launch a dispute with an understanding that neither party will appeal a WTO’s dispute ruling; Option 4: Engage in an appeal-arbitration system that replicates the work of the WTO appellate body. The U.S. administration has shown a preference for option one – unilateral tariffs instead of waiting for a WTO dispute settlement award, Bloomberg says Now, however. China is in preliminary talks to support the European Union’s backup plan for settling international trade disputes as the U.S. administration gets closer to “scuttling” the current WTO role in refereeing cross-border commerce. On Tuesday, China’s Ambassador to the WTO Zhang Xiangchen told Bloomberg that Beijing is actively working to support the EU’s vision of an appeal-arbitration model, which essentially replicates the work of the WTO’s soon-to-be defunct appellate body. Until now, only Canada and Norway have endorsed the EU’s plan. “This is not the best option” but “this is an interim solution that can help countries to deal with their disputes,” Zhang said in the interview. While the conversations are still preliminary, the plan has drawn serious interest from various other WTO members such as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Japan and Turkey, Bloomberg said. “There has been a gradual support for this as a very unfortunate Plan B,” former appellate body member James Bacchus told Bloomberg. “Now it seems to be the best option, given all the lousy options we have left.” Trade officials concede that the second option is basically a waste of time and money and the third option isn’t much better because there’s little incentive for a defending nation to participate if they know they’re going to lose. This is why a growing number of WTO members -- except for the U.S. – are beginning to take a hard look at the appeal-arbitration approach, Bloomberg says. The model is rooted on an existing WTO rule – Article 25 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding – that permits nations to agree to a voluntary form of arbitration to settle their disputes. Under this approach, the WTO Director-General can select a panel of previously vetted former appellate body members who apply the same procedures of the appellate body to reach a final judgment. As a practical matter, WTO members who sign on to such an approach will basically undergo the same process as the current appellate body. “If enough other countries sign up to the EU proposal, it could work as a stop-gap measure that would temporarily allow the WTO to arbitrate disputes between the other 163 members,” said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics. “But there are downsides,” he said. “The biggest is obviously that the U.S. is unlikely to sign up, so it will not work to solve any disputes that countries have with America.” But the EU has a plan for that, too, Bloomberg says. The EU is due as soon as this week to move toward strengthening its trade-policy arsenal by allowing for penalties against nations that undermine WTO rulings by appealing them into a legal void. The plan has backing from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who instructed European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan to bolster the EU’s toolkit in international commerce. In September, EU leadership moved to upgrade its enforcement regulation “to allow us to use sanctions when others adopt illegal measures and simultaneously block the WTO dispute settlement process.” “It proposed an interim appeal arrangement for those partners who are willing to continue to resolve disputes in a binding way in respect of the WTO rules,” Hogan said in a statement. “The European Commission will soon unveil further proposals to make sure that the EU can continue to enforce its rights in international trade matters should others block the system.” So, we will see. At the current moment, the U.S. administration is claiming progress toward a trade deal with Mexico and Canada--but is facing high hurdles in talks with China and others, including the EU. In addition, it no longer has its familiar leadership role in expanding access to growing markets in several key areas, including agriculture. Still, the economic impacts of current trade policies seem less threatening to economic growth than they did only a few weeks ago. However, a number of important, well established overseas markets are involved in critical discussion that should be watched closely by producers as they continue, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 11, 2019 |


Sen. Grassley Still Says He Has Again Been Assured On The RFS Plan EPA will finalize its plan for 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in line with the September agreement between President Donald Trump and biofuel backers and corn producers, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday. Grassley indicated he had been assured about the mandates when he spoke with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acting director Russell Vought, and he also had conversations recently with White House adviser Larry Kudlow. Contacts have indicated Kudlow has been formulating the plan. “I believe Kudlow understands why the market reacted negatively to the proposed rule,” Grassley said. “I also called OMB acting director Vought on Friday and he assured me that he would work to make sure the rule is finalized according to the agreement that was made on September 12.” The final EPA plan is currently at OMB for review with the agency planning to issue the final rule yet this month.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 11, 2019 |


USMCA Deal Reached, Shifting Focus To Ratification Months of negotiations between several parties involved finally reached the conclusion that some did not expect would happen – an agreement on altering provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Signed by leaders from the U.S., Canada and Mexico in November 2018, the USMCA pact already won approval in Mexico. But Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives complained the pact did not do enough to address labor issues that they said had to be adjusted before winning their support. And perhaps more importantly, the deal has come together despite the global tensions on trade and areas like the WTO that have seen parties remain at odds. U.S. House Democrats on Tuesday claimed victory in negotiating changes to a U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement to ensure better protection for workers, the environment and remove key provisions that they said would have benefited big pharmaceutical companies. But the year-long negotiations between a Democratic working group and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer produced an agreement all parties could accept. Expectations are the pact can still come up for approval in the House yet this year, with Senate approval also expected. However, the latter could spill into the early part of 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 11, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Early in the morning there will be the Consumer Price Index and Core CPI, two indicators of inflation, and comments from the Fed regarding interest rates. We will also be looking for any additional news about the USMCA and U.S.--China trade deals. Weather Snow and rain in the northeast to middle Atlantic region will end early Wednesday. Showers in Florida during the day. Light snow or snow showers in the Dakotas late in the day. Drier elsewhere in the key U.S. crop and livestock areas Wednesday. The central Argentina corn and soybean areas will be hot for one more day before the heat wave breaks. Highs yesterday were middle 90s to low 100s F. Increased stress to these crops

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 10, 2019 |


USCMA Tentative Deal Reached A deal to allow the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to move forward seemed imminent Monday, with anonymous sources telling the Associated Press a deal was reached. President Donald Trump told reporters Monday afternoon there were "a lot of strides over the last 24 hours" with unions, adding "if they put it up for a vote, it'll pass." Fox Business News first reported an agreement between Trump and Mexico, along with House Democrats, and that it could be finalized and ready for action before the House of Representatives adjourns for the year. However, details reportedly still need to be finalized, and implementing legislation must be submitted to Congress. Additionally, the House of Representatives will need to schedule a vote on the agreement. The news broke as 158 lawmakers penned a letter the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to "seize this opportunity" to create a win for America. The lawmakers say expanding agriculture exports through USMCA “will help put American agriculture back on its feet.” ************************************************************************************* Trade War Impact $42 Billion A trade organization says the U.S. trade war with China has cost the U.S. $42 billion since February of 2018. Tariffs Hurt the Heartland Monday released data showing that in October alone, Americans paid a total of $7.2 billion in tariffs, more than any other amount in U.S. history, with $4 billion of that total stemming from the trade war. Americans for Free Trade spokesperson Jonathan Gold says, "It's time the administration finalizes a deal with China to end the trade war and remove all tariffs.” Talks of a phase one agreement continue, which would include agriculture provisions, but new tariffs are planned on China starting December 15. President Donald Trump last week indicated a final overall agreement could wait until after the 2020 U.S. elections. Brian Kuehl, co-executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, says the 2020 campaign will turn to farm states, adding, “The president needs to show he can close not just a phase one deal, but a comprehensive deal,” for farmers and rural America. ************************************************************************************* China Fuels October Pork Exports, Beef Exports Down from Last Year Strong demand from China bolstered U.S. pork exports in October, while October beef exports were below the high totals posted a year ago. Department of Agriculture data, compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, shows October pork exports increased 8.5 percent year-over-year to 225,300 metric tons, while export value climbed ten percent to $592 million. January-October export volume was five percent ahead of last year's pace at 2.13 million metric tons, while value increased three percent to $5.48 billion. Although still burdened by China's retaliatory duties, October pork exports to the China region reached 61,000 metric tons, up 150 percent year-over-year, while export value climbed 127 percent to $141.3 million. USMEF CEO Dan Halstrom says China’s efforts to rebuild its domestic swine inventory continue, but added, "there are still excellent opportunities for pork-supplying countries." Meanwhile, October beef exports totaled 108,000 metric tons, an eight percent decline from last year's large volume, while export value of $649.1 million was down 11 percent. ************************************************************************************ Farm Groups Plead for Biodiesel Tax Extenders A group of farm organizations is asking House and Senate leadership to extend the biodiesel tax credit. A letter sent last week to leaders of both chambers says, "we believe that Congress can, and must, pass an immediate extension before returning home at the end of the year.” The group includes 11 farm and biofuels groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union. Since 2005, there has been a $1.00 per gallon biodiesel and renewable diesel blenders' tax credit, which was created to stimulate production and consumption of biodiesel and renewable diesel. The tax credit expired on December 31, 2017. Separately, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America says Congress must “act now to retroactively extend the credit for calendar year 2018 and through at least 2019.” The farm groups charge that since the start of the year, producers have cut back production, investments in new technologies and facility upgrades, and purchases of raw materials, because of the uncertain future of the tax credit. ************************************************************************************* Petersen Sends Letter to EPA Criticizing RFS Proposal A letter by House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency suggests EPA's proposal to "fix" the Renewable Fuel Standard undermines the program. Peterson sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler last week raising concerns about the October supplemental rule proposed by the EPA. In October, the agency submitted a supplemental proposed rule and suggested changes to the formula EPA uses to restore gallons waived through the small refinery exemptions process. Biofuels and farm groups are disappointed that the proposal doesn't fully address lost demand stemming from small refinery exemptions. Peterson says, "any action from EPA that does not uphold the integrity of the RFS is unacceptable." He claims, "The bottom line is the EPA continues to undermine the RFS at the expense of our farmers and biofuel producers. A public comment period on the proposal closed late last month. The EPA is expected to release the final rule soon, possibly on December 20. ************************************************************************************* NCBA Accepting Intern Applications for Fall 2020 The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, along with the Public Lands Council, is seeking fall 2020 policy internship applications. Positions for next fall, early-September - mid-December 2020, include public policy interns and a law clerk. The public policy internship will give students an opportunity to learn about career options and provide practical experience. From tax and trade to environmental and food safety regulations, interns will work on a variety of issues and have the opportunity to work specifically in the area of their interest. The law clerk will provide support to NCBA’s Environmental Counsel on issues relating to environmental legislation and regulations that impact beef producers. The deadline to apply for either position is March 6, 2020College juniors, seniors and graduate students are encouraged to apply. PLC Associate Director, Policy & Administration, Allie Nelson, a former NCBA intern herself, says the internships “let students get an up-close look” at how policy impacts cattle producers.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 10, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Insider Jobs and Lessons to Learn Well, the media was quite surprised by last week’s very positive jobs report and now is scrambling to interpret what it means. For example, the New York Times concedes that “conventional wisdom” was too pessimistic about how much the economy could grow before setting off inflation. In hindsight, this was a “costly mistake,” the Times said. It concludes that there are a lot of good things to say but also a few not so good things regarding the November employment numbers. The 266,000 job-growth number is a “blockbuster” even after accounting for the one-time boost of about 41,000 striking GM workers who returned to the job,” the report said. Revisions to previous months’ job counts were positive. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, matching its lowest level since 1969. The report also noted that the share of the adult population in the labor force ticked down and average hourly earnings “continued growing at only a moderate pace, up 3.1% over the last year. Still it said it “feels churlish” to focus on a weaker area “when the big-picture numbers are so good.” However, the Times thinks it sees a “bigger lesson” contained in the data, one that is important beyond any one month’s tally of the job numbers — and that is that the US economy is “capable of cranking at a higher level” than conventional wisdom held as recently as a few years ago. It now sees the economy as “continuing to grow well above what once seemed like its potential without inflation or other clear signs of overheating” and concludes that it’s “clearer” that the old view of its potential was an extremely costly mistake. The mainstream view held by the economics profession—including leaders of the Federal Reserve, the Congressional Budget Office, private forecasters and many in academia—was that the United States economy was at, or close to, full employment.” Looking back, the NYT said that in January 2017, for example, nearly three years ago, the Congressional Budget Office forecast a 4.7% unemployment rate as far as the eye could see, and it projected that the United States labor force would consist of 163.3 million in 2019. The jobless rate has averaged less than 3.7% through the first 11 months of the year, and the labor force now stands at 164.4 million people. The Federal Reserve likewise was too pessimistic about the potential of American workers; in projections three years ago, the consensus view of its leaders was that the unemployment rate would average 4.5% in the final months of 2019. “If that forecast had materialized, 1.6 million more Americans would currently be unemployed than actually are,” the Times said. That view also expected that the target interest rate to be around 2.9%, reflecting rate increases they believed would be needed to head off inflation. Instead, that interest rate is around 1.6% —"and you have to squint to see signs of inflation,” the Times said. If you go back even further, to the late Obama years, there was an even more pessimistic tone about the outlook for American workers embedded in the fine print of both public and private-sector forecasts. If we knew then what we know now, it would have had big implications for what seemed like sensible policy, the Times concluded. Thus, the US probably didn’t need to reduce budget deficits the way it did between 2013 and 2016 — now that we know how much untapped growth potential there was. The Fed probably didn’t need to raise rates as quickly or as much as it did. The Times also thinks that markets “seem to be getting that message.” For years, whenever there has been a strong jobs report like the one issued Friday, markets viewed it as hawkish for monetary policy — as tilting the balance toward more interest rate increases. But this time, analysts and financial markets seemed to take the big-time job growth numbers in stride, given that they weren’t accompanied by any signs of ill effects from the low unemployment rate and strong growth. Still, the Times urges caution. It notes that people still worry that this expansion, now in its 11th year, is growing long in the tooth or that we are late in the cycle. And maybe that’s right. But the biggest lesson when you contrast where the labor market stands at the end of 2019, versus where smart people thought it would stand just a few years ago, is that “there’s a lot we don’t know about just what is possible and how strong the United States economy can get.” Well, that’s a mouthful for the Times — or anybody — and it likely means that the economy certainly will bear watching in today’s turbulent times. Inflation likely is a threat in the minds of many observers even if it has been slow to show itself. Global weakness and uncertainty in trade still must be factored in — very carefully. But, good news is still good news even if it is complicated. Global market access still needs to be expanded even if that continues to be heavy, heavy lifting. These are trends producers should watch closely and carefully, as usual, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 10, 2019 |


Groups Fighting California Rules On Animal Housing The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) have filed a legal challenge to California’s Proposition 12, which imposes animal housing standards. The state’s law would force hog farmers who want to sell pork to the state that makes up around 15% of the US pork market to switch to alternative housing systems. The new rules slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2022 would prohibit the sale of pork not produced via California’s “highly prescriptive standards” under which only 1% of US pork production would qualify, according to a press release from NPPC and AFBF.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 10, 2019 |


Final EPA RFS Plan At OMB EPA’s final rule for the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel levels and how they intend to account for small refinery exemptions (SREs) has arrived at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. Biofuel supporters continue to express disappointment at EPA’s supplemental plan to account for SREs, but Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has continued to express hope that EPA will live up to the White House commitment on conventional ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA is still targeting to issue the final rule on the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel levels yet this month. Some reports indicate EPA will use “partial” waivers to address the SRE and others indicate there has been little change in the EPA compared with the proposed effort. If there are few changes, that will continue to keep this issue as a factor even once it is finalized.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 10, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There will be an NFIB small business index. DTN will also be watching for any news regarding both the USMCA and U.S.-China trade pacts. We will also be watching the USDA WASDE report for any changes in demand in the U.S. and any production changes in export competitor countries. Weather Mixed precipitation is expected during Tuesday through the northern Delta region and just south of the Ohio river. Rain through the southern Delta and from the middle Atlantic region into the northeast U.S. Dry but much colder through the Northern Plains and Midwest regions as an Arctic air mass continues to move south and east. The East Coast states will continue to see well-above-normal temperatures during Tuesday. In South America, Argentina will see a second day with readings reaching the 90s and low 100s F increasing stress to early planted crops. Showers in Brazil mainly in and around the Mato Grosso area. No significant concerns in Brazil crop areas at this time.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 9, 2019 |


Last Minute Demands Further Complicate USMCA Passage Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has an unlikely ally in Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas when it comes to a last-minute push for changes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. They’re pushing to strip the trade pact of language shielding internet companies from liability over user-generated content. The protection has come under scrutiny in Washington, D.C., as companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, come under fire for harmful content and political misinformation on their pages. Critics are arguing that putting those protections in trade deals limits Congressional ability to reconsider them domestically. However, Republican lawmakers see the effort to eliminate the language as a last chance move to delay the trade deal. Adding in a new and potentially controversial request could significantly delay the process that everyone involved repeatedly says is close to finishing up. Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar (KWAY-ar) said the U.S. put an additional demand on the table that Mexico “doesn’t want to touch.” He didn’t say what the new demand was but did say that it came about as Mexico was “pretty much almost ready to go.” ********************************************************************************************* China will Lift Some Tariffs on Some U.S. Pork, Soybean China announced plans on Friday to lift some tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork. A CNN report says the move could be designed to take some of the heat out of the talks aimed at bringing a truce to the trade war. The Chinese finance ministry said last week it would waive taxes on some imports once companies had applied for exemptions. It didn’t specifically say which goods or how many of the goods would be exempted. Back in September, China said it would exclude some soybeans and pork products from its newest tariffs. China’s Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council says it will “dedicate a range of goods to be excluded from tariff countermeasures against the U.S. Section 301 measure.” President Donald Trump had told reporters late last week that talks with China were going well and hinted that he may not place new tariffs on Chinese goods on December 15th as planned. When asked about the new tariffs going into effect on December 15th, Trump said “We’ll have to see. Something could happen but we aren’t discussing that yet. However, we’re having very good discussions with China.” ********************************************************************************************** China, U.S. still at Odds Over Ag Purchases The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. and China still can’t agree on the size of future Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural commodities. President Donald Trump wants China to commit to buying $40 to $50 billion worth of American farm goods per year, which is significantly higher than the $8.6 billion the country bought a year ago. The administration is also asking China to announce its purchase plans, which the White House says shouldn’t depend on market conditions or other Chinese trade obligations. The two countries are working to get a Phase One trade deal signed ahead of a potential 15 percent tariff increase on Chinese imports that is scheduled to begin on December 15. Trump said last week that something could very well happen with those tariffs but did say the two countries aren’t discussing that yet. The Chinese Commerce Department’s Ministry spokesman also said last week that the two sides remain in “close communication” on trade. He says that China believes relevant tariffs must be lowered if both sides can reach an agreement on the phase one deal. ********************************************************************************************* NPPC, Farm Bureau Team up to Challenge Prop 12 in California The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau have filed a legal challenge to California’s Proposition 12. The proposition imposes animal housing standards that reach outside of California’s borders to farms across the U.S. “Proposition 12 revolves around a set of arbitrary standards that lack any scientific, technical, or agricultural basis, and will only serve to inflict further harm on U.S. hog farmers,” says Jen Sorenson, NPPC vice president. “U.S. farmers are already fighting to expand overseas market opportunities. We shouldn’t have to fight to keep our domestic markets too.” Prop 12 will force hog farmers who want to sell pork in California to switch to alternative housing systems, at a significant cost to their business. “The law was sold to California voters as a solution to improve animal welfare and food safety,” says AFB General Counsel Ellen Steen. “However, it has nothing to do with food safety and many animals will suffer more injury and illness under its arbitrary rules.” Farm Bureau says farmers are best qualified to make farm-specific and animal-specific decisions on animal care. Prop 12 will drive up costs and force smaller farmers out of business, leading to greater consolidation in the pork industry. ********************************************************************************************** White House Adviser Working on Biofuel Mandate Plan White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow is working on improving the Trump administration’s plan for bolstering biofuel requirements. Bloomberg says the move comes after ethanol boosters in politically important farm states said the current proposal doesn’t compensate for waivers that exempt some small refineries from the mandates under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Biofuel producers, corn farmers, and Midwest political leaders blasted the Environmental Protection Agency’s current approach to biofuels as inadequate. They say the EPA mandates completely ignored the terms of an agreement reached on October 1st to raise biofuel blending requirements enough to fully offset refinery exemptions. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa says the EPA could have the best of intentions but “farmers don’t believe it” because of the agency’s track record. Oil industry leaders say the EPA’s current proposal is illegal, arguing that it would unfairly force the larger refineries to bear a higher burden of biofuel-blending requirements. EPA is currently reviewing public comments as it prepares a final rule that will set the 2020 biofuel quotas. Kudlow’s work could lead to changes in the final rule that would ensure the final measure is more in line with what Trump gave approved in negotiations that led to the October 1st agreement. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Reminds Producers to Contact Insurance Agents about Harvest Delays The USDA is reminding producers with crop insurance are facing harvest delays to make contact with their crop insurance agents by December 10th. Farmers need to file a Notice of Loss by that date or the applicable end of their insurance period to request an extension of time to finish harvest. Once the extension gets approved, an insured producer needs to harvest the crop at the first feasible opportunity. “Farmers are certainly struggling this year because of wet weather conditions,” says Martin Barbre, Administrator of the Risk Management Agency. “Producers covered by Federal Crop Insurance that are unable to harvest on time need to contact their crop insurance agents to file a notice of loss.” The goal of filing the notice is so that crop insurance claims are settled based on the amount of harvested production. For crops like corn and soybeans, the end of the insurance period is December 10th. For other crop deadlines, farmers must make contact with their agents to find out the specific dates.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 9, 2019 |


Washington Insider: NAFTA and Why It Isn’t Dead Yet Bloomberg is reporting this week that uncertainty remains about the proposed new North American Trade deal and why the “original NAFTA” isn’t dead and gone in spite of numerous administration pledges to wipe it out. In the 2016 campaign, candidate Donald Trump frequently pledged to renegotiate and terminate the deal “if we don’t get the deal we want.” The 1994 agreement included the U.S., Canada and Mexico and was intended to phase out tariffs on most goods to create “the world’s largest free-trade zone,” and to “triple trade among the signatories.” Negotiations over a replacement deal were underway for more than 13 months in 2017 and 2018, and the three countries have agreed to modest changes to NAFTA and a new name, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. However, the changes have still not been implemented, Bloomberg says. In fact, the original deal is still in effect, covering most of the $1.25 trillion in annual trade among the three countries while leaders work on the USMCA. The administration “never actually pulled the U.S. out of NAFTA,” Bloomberg says. A year ago, the three countries signed a new pact and Mexico’s Senate ratified it in June. President Trump has been pressing the U.S. Congress to approve it but House majority Democrats are seeking changes, including stronger enforcement of the stepped-up labor and environmental provisions. Canada’s Parliament has held off on ratifying the deal as talks continue. Bloomberg says that the reason why the administration disliked the agreement so much was that it integrated North American supply chains in auto manufacturing and other industries and removed barriers to foreign investment and cross-border trade in services—and so was blamed for “increasing the U.S. trade deficit and sending manufacturing jobs to Mexico.” Though economists argue over NAFTA’s actual impacts, most objective studies have found it didn’t cause major aggregate job losses in the U.S., but also “didn’t significantly boost U.S. GDP. Bloomberg and others note that NAFTA did need updating although the deal which had been in place since 1994 “couldn’t have anticipated e-commerce and digital trade.” Now, while the administration says the proposed new agreement is “altogether different”—many agree that it is quite similar. Even fellow Republicans such as Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, believe that “95% of the new deal is the same as NAFTA,” Bloomberg says. Some industries would notice changes, however. For example, automakers would 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 agreed to allow more imports of U.S. dairy products and both Canada and Mexico would increase the value of goods that can be imported duty-free. Bloomberg cites the U.S. International Trade Commission finding that the new deal would boost U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada by about 5% overall, resulting in a 0.35% GDP increase in its sixth year. It would also boost U.S. workers’ annual incomes by an average of $150 and increase employment by 0.12%, or roughly 176,000 jobs. Bloomberg adds that the deal also would “benefit businesses by providing increased certainty about the future, especially because it would largely exempt Canada and Mexico from future auto tariffs.” So, it appears that the deal “has momentum” but still faces hurdles. U.S. Democrats have pushed for changes on pharmaceuticals, environmental protections, labor and enforcement of the accord and have especially focused higher wages for Mexico to reduce pressure on U.S. companies to move across the border. However, there is growing concern that Mexico will come up short on the reforms expected of it, which include independent labor courts and the right to elect union representatives. Mexican officials say they’re near a deal but have balked at proposals such as unannounced labor inspections that they say would infringe on their sovereignty. As negotiations drag on, other sticking points have emerged, including the agreement’s liability shield for tech companies and the required use of North American steel and aluminum in vehicles. The administration is pushing Congress to ratify the deal by year’s end. So, we will see. These talks involve high stakes for U.S. producers who have long invested in building access to growing markets across the region. Certainly, they should be watched closely by producers as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 9, 2019 |


FERC Approves Two More Tariff Amendments In Another Bid To Boost Midwest Propane Supplies Two oil pipeline tariff amendments aimed at boosting propane supplies to the Midwest were approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). ONEOK North System and Enterprise EU Products Pipeline Company said they received requests from shippers for the changes after the start of the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process initiated by FERC in November, the regulator said. The action was to “alleviate propane pipeline constraints in Midwest states,” FERC said. Relative to ONEOK, FERC cleared a revised pipeline transportation capacity allocation policy allowing shippers to transfer allocated capacity to other shippers through the end of this month, and to receive credit to their allocation history for barrels moved by replacement shippers. In the Enterprise TE case, the company is extending emergency transportation service of propane to the Midwest region. The Enterprise TE action will continue until canceled or modified by Enterprise TE, FERC said. “FERC continues to monitor the Midwest propane situation, and the ADR process is continuing,” the regulator noted.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 9, 2019 |


Agriculture Opens FY 2020 With Solid Rise In Exports U.S. agricultural exports improved to $12.08 billion in October, up from $10.3 billion in September, and the highest since they were $12.08 billion in November 2018, according to USDA’s Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data update. However, they were below the October 2018 mark of $12.16 billion. Imports, meanwhile, were at $10.92 billion, up from $10.08 billion in September, marking an eight straight month at $10 billion or more. They were just slightly ahead of the year-ago mark. The result is a trade surplus of $1.17 billion, down from the year-ago mark of $1.26 billion, but up from just $219.8 million in September. October and November tend to be the strongest two months for U.S. agricultural exports each FY, while imports have tended to peak in the March-May period. Imports have been at $10 billion or more in all but two months since October 2017. During FY 2019, which ended with a trade surplus of $4.6 billion, the smallest since FY 2006, only October and November saw the trade surplus above $1 billion and there were three monthly deficits registered, including a record monthly deficit of $865 million in April. USDA forecasts FY 2020 ag exports will rise to $139 billion versus the FY 2019 result of $135.5 billion, while imports are seen at a record $132 billion, taking out the prior record registered in FY 2019 of $130.9 billion. That is forecast to leave a trade surplus of $7 billion. But with imports maintaining a solid pace, the USDA forecast is far from certain at this point.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 6, 2019 |


Trump; China Agreement has to Work for the U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue made a recent appearance on CNBC to talk about U.S. trade negotiations with China. The secretary says President Trump wants a “phase one” deal with China that works for the United States. “The president wants to come to a deal that’s enforceable, that’s reliable, and will be consistent with what the deal says.” His appearance on CNBC happened shortly after a Bloomberg report said that the U.S. and China were edging closer to wrapping up an agreement before new U.S. tariffs go into effect December 15th on more Chinese imports. During the NATO summit this week, Trump told reporters that trade talks with China are “going well.” He made those comments just one day after saying he might want to delay a deal with China until after the 2020 presidential election. Beijing and Washington have hit each other’s goods with billions of dollars in tariffs. The moves have hit U.S. farmers especially hard. Nearly $20 billion in U.S. agricultural exports went to China last year alone. “We in agriculture are optimistically hopeful that we can conclude this,” Perdue tells CNBC. However, he reiterated administration concerns that China won’t follow through on what it promises in the agreement. ********************************************************************************************* Wisconsin Rep Asks Perdue for More Support Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind sent a letter of Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue demanding that he have a plan to provide certainty and support for family farms amidst the trade talks with China. Kind points out in the letter that the secretary refers to farmers as “casualties” of the trade war. Kind sent the letter as a deadline for new tariffs on Chinese goods is set to take effect on December 15th and after Trump suggested that waiting to settle the dispute until after the 2020 elections is an option. Kind’s home state of Wisconsin loses an average of two farms a day and is on top of the nation in terms of the number of family farmers who’ve declared bankruptcy. It’s the second-straight year that Wisconsin has led the U.S. in that dubious category. As U.S. farmers face sometimes overwhelming challenges, they’re finding export markets increasingly closed off. In the first four months of this year, Wisconsin agriculture exports dropped nearly five percent compared to the previous year. Ag exports to China dropped by 31 percent. Kind says Wisconsin taxpayers have forked over $743 million in additional tariffs since the trade war began in March of 2018. ********************************************************************************************* Settlement on Cooperatives Working Together Lifts Cloud over Dairy The National Milk Producers Federation announced a settlement agreement that would end a class-action lawsuit concerning the Herd Retirement Program that ended back in 2010. The program was administered through the federation’s Cooperatives Working Together initiative. The settlement will safeguard ongoing efforts to aid U.S. dairy producers, lift a cloud over the industry that’s lasted years, and it allows NMPF member cooperatives and the current CWT program to move forward with more certainty. The plaintiffs consisted of larger retailers and companies who directly buy butter and cheese from CWT member cooperatives. The settlement amount is $220 million in exchange for a release of all claims. Neither the NMPF nor any of its member cooperatives admit any wrongdoing as a result of the settlement. “There is no way to sugarcoat a settlement of this size, especially given that the Herd Retirement Program was a well-publicized effort designed to serve dairy producers in difficult times,” says Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the NMPF. “It was praised by two Secretaries of Agriculture and a number of the leading members of Congress.” The plaintiffs sought damages relating to the Herd Retirement Program, which offered dairy farmers financial incentives to market their milking herds for beef. It operated between 2003 and 2010. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Opening CRP Signup on December 9th The USDA’s Farm Service Agency announced that signup for the Conservation Reserve Program will begin on December ninth. The signup period ends on February 28th for general CRP, while the signup for continuous CRP is ongoing. Farmers and ranchers who enroll in CRP get a yearly payment for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species like approved grasses or trees that help control erosion. The practices also improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. “The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation efforts and a critical tool to help producers better manage their operations while they conserve natural resources,” says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. CRP currently has 22 million acres enrolled in the program. However, the 2018 Farm Bill lifts the cap on acres up to 27 million. That means many farmers and ranchers have the chance to enroll for the first time or continue their participation for another term. CRP was first signed into law in 1985 and is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. The program has evolved over the years and provides a variety of conservation and economic benefits across the country. ********************************************************************************************** USDA will Take Seven Trade Mission Trips in 2020 The U.S. Ag Department announced it will sponsor seven agribusiness trade missions in 2020. The goal will be to diversify and grow export opportunities around the world for American farmers and ranchers. “I cannot overstate the immense value trade missions provide to the U.S. agriculture industry and our customers,” says USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney. He says trade missions help agribusinesses big and small to get their foot in the door to new markets, build strong relationships with existing and potential customers, and expand their global footprint and sales of U.S. farm and food products. “I’ve had the pleasure of leading numerous trade missions at USDA and the results overwhelmingly speak for themselves,” he adds. “In 2019 alone, six USDA trade missions enabled more than 170 U.S. companies and organizations to engage in more than 3,000 face-to-face meetings with foreign buyers.” Those engagements generated more than $78 million in projected 12-month sales. Destinations in 2020 include North Africa, the Philippines, Spain and Portugal, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, Peru, and the United Arab Emirates. ********************************************************************************************** Sheep Industry gets Predator Control Approval from EPA Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the final interim decision on the registered use of sodium cyanide for predator control. The EPA worked in conjunction with the USDA’s Wildlife Services to put out a label for the predator control tool. The label will include three additional use restrictions to promote public awareness and decrease non-target impacts. Benny Cox, President of the American Sheep Industry Association, says the nation’s sheep producers welcome the decision. “We sincerely appreciate the USDA and EPA working together to ensure livestock producers will have access to effective predator control, while also increasing public awareness and transparency,” he says. “Livestock producers face heavy losses from predators, with those losses totaling more than $232 million every year.” He says producers are especially vulnerable to losses during lambing and calving. Sodium cyanide is only used under the oversight of federal or state wildlife officials.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 6, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Banks Can Loan to Support Hemp Production The press is fascinated by the fact that last year, Congress chose to authorize farmers to produce and market hemp — sort of. However, the process of moving that industry into the mainstream has been fraught with difficulty but that may be changing. For example, the Wall Street Journal this week wrote that banks are no longer required to report hemp growers as suspicious and cited a group of financial regulators who said “lenders are no longer required to file reports on customers who produce hemp for commercial purposes.” The Journal noted, as have many others, that “until recently, hemp production largely was banned under federal law.” Then, last year’s farm bill removed hemp from a list of federally controlled substances and directed USDA to regulate domestic production. However, there are still some controls on hemp production and banks are still required to file reports on customers in the hemp business if they suspect “suspicious” activity, regulators said. The Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network says it will issue additional guidance after further evaluation of the USDA’s rules governing hemp production. This week, the American Bankers Association, a trade association, praised the release of the industry guidance. Even after last year’s farm bill, access to banking services has been “an ongoing problem,” according to Erica McBride Stark, the executive director of the National Hemp Association, a trade group for growers. “So, this actually should be quite helpful.” Even after hemp production became legal, it took USDA most of a year to devise rules for the industry and bank regulators were even slower to change. The restrictions on the industry had held back even Stark’s organization, a nonprofit that does not actually produce hemp. The trade group had problems getting basic services because banks were worried that they it could be receiving proceeds from a crime when it collected its members’ dues, the New York Times said. The report charged that Stark said that USDA’s rule change “had not helped. They understood that hemp was removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act but because of the paperwork that was involved, a lot of producers were just like, ‘yeah, it’s just not worth it,’” she said. Rob Nichols, the president of the American Bankers Association, a trade group, said his members had been pushing for the change for some time, and was also interested in changing rules for marijuana production. Last month, the association surveyed 1,800 agriculture-focused banks in the country and found that almost half had gotten questions from their farmer-customers about whether they would still do business with them if they started growing hemp. “We appreciate the steps regulators have taken to clarify regulatory expectations for banks, and we look forward to working with them as they develop additional guidance,” Nichols said. While the change will help businesses making clothes and other hemp products, it does not affect even the legal marijuana businesses dealing with the same problems. The federal government still considers marijuana to be illegal and even local banks have been too worried about getting in trouble to deal with them. But banks large and small have come together to support a bill in Congress, the SAFE Banking Act, that would legalize marijuana banking by stipulating that the proceeds of a state-sanctioned marijuana business would not be considered illegal under federal anti-money-laundering laws. The House of Representatives passed a version of the bill, and the banking industry is pushing the Senate to take it up. If it were to become law, it would let banks dive into a lucrative new industry that has been plagued by security concerns and is desperate for even the most basic services, like checking accounts and credit card processing. Still, it wasn’t clear on Tuesday that the change to hemp regulations would immediately influence bankers’ attitudes. Bankers say they are still reviewing the complicated licensing requirements that states and USDA have devised for hemp growers. In the meantime, growers’ hopes might still be threatened. Stark said she had heard Wells Fargo was considering offering banking services to hemp businesses, but a Wells Fargo spokesman said the bank was taking no such steps. So, we will see. It clearly has been difficult for a staid old business like agriculture to shift to support what many believed, and believe, is an illegal activity. However, if hemp production proves to be profitable, even that reluctance likely will fade into the sunset, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 6, 2019 |


USDA Opens General CRP Signup And Enrollments Could Be Sizable USDA will open a general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup December 9 through February 28, 2020. At the end of October, there were 21.967 million acres in the CRP, including contracts that were to expire September 30 but were given a one-year extension. Contracts on around 970,000 acres were extended, about 81 percent of acres that were eligible to be in the program for another year. Continuous CRP signup in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 enrolled about 245,000 acres. USDA also pledged that the general signups will be held annually. That has not been the case for several years as acres enrolled in the program were very close to the maximum level allowed via the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the CRP acreage cap is increased from the current cap of 24 million acres in FY 2019, to 24.5 million in FY 2020, 25 million in FY 2021, 25.5 million in FY 2022 and 27 million in FY 2023. The decision to hold annual general signups reflects the level of CRP contracts that will expire ahead. There are contracts on 5.36 million acres set to mature September 30, 2020. That could allow for a very robust general signup given the current level of CRP acres and the contracts maturing in September 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 6, 2019 |


China Continues to Insist on Tariff Rollbacks in Phase One Deal As close communications between the U.S. and China continue, China is making clear it wants tariffs lowered as part of any Phase 1 trade deal. "The Chinese side believes that if the two sides reach a Phase 1 deal, tariffs should be lowered accordingly," Commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters. In Washington, China’s Ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, said the two sides are trying to resolve their differences over trade, but warned some are trying to undermine those efforts. "At the same time, we must be alert that some destructive forces are taking advantage of the ongoing trade friction (through) extreme rhetoric such as 'decoupling,' the 'new Cold War,' and ‘clash of civilizations,'" Cui said in remarks at a U.S.-China Business dinner. He said some are trying to “rebuild the Berlin Wall between China and the United States in the economic, technological and ideological fields.” He called on U.S. and Chinese companies to withstand efforts he said were aimed at spreading “hostility and even create conflict between us," as well as "fake news" about the situations in both Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Cui did not specifically talk about the status of the trade talks, but said China remains committed to expanding bilateral trade and investment between the two nations.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday December 6, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets Weekly jobless claims will be out in the morning, along with the Trade Deficit and Factory orders. We will also be watching for any news regarding the U.S. and China trade negotiations. DTN will also be looking at U.S. export sales to see if corn sales pick up and whether soybeans can maintain the positive sales pace. Weather Showers may occur through west-central and southeast Plains areas later Thursday and in the Delta at night. Snow may develop through the upper peninsula of Michigan during this time. Mainly dry elsewhere in the key U.S. crop areas. In areas without a snow cover this should allow for some harvesting of corn and soybeans. In South America rainfall moves north through Brazil's corn and soybean belt maintaining favorable conditions. Drier weather returns to the central Argentina corn and soybean belt. Dryness remains a significant concern in key growing areas of Argentina.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 5, 2019 |


USDA Announces Final SNAP Rule A final rule making changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program restores intent of the program, according to the Department of Agriculture. However, critics say the rule could cut benefits to hundreds of thousands of recipients, and charge that the rule ignores a bipartisan agreement in the 2018 farm bill. The change tightens work requirements for able-bodied SNAP participants without dependents. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says amid the strongest economy in a generation, the rule "lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them." Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, counters, "this rule could cause one million people to lose their food assistance, while doing nothing to help them find jobs.” The National Farmers Union says the rule “will erode food security in rural and urban communities alike.” In the announcement, Secretary Perdue says, “Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream.” ************************************************************************************* Japan Approves Partial Trade Agreement with U.S. Japan’s Upper House of Parliament Wednesday ratified a partial trade agreement with the United States, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Ryan LeGrand, President and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, notes that the agreement “solidifies trade with our second-largest corn market." The agreement immediately reduces U.S. corn and sorghum imports for all purposes to a zero-tariff level, reduces the U.S. barley mark up and includes a staged tariff reduction for U.S. ethanol and U.S. corn, barley and sorghum flour. Also, U.S. feed and food corn, corn gluten feed, and DDGS will continue to receive duty-free market access. Meanwhile, the U.S. Meat Export Federation called the agreement “one of the biggest developments in the history of red meat trade.” With tariff rates mirroring those imposed on major competitors, USMEF's forecast for 2020 is for U.S. beef and pork exports to Japan to reach $2.3 billion and $1.7 billion, respectively. Export volumes are projected to be roughly 360,000 metric tons for beef and 410,000 metric tons for pork. ************************************************************************************* Trump: USMCA Action up to Pelosi President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump says Pelosi, “doesn’t have to talk to anybody,” adding she “has to put it out for a vote.” The President made the comments to the White House press pool on the sidelines of the NATO summit in London. Talk of getting USMCA on the House floor this week brought optimism the agreement could be completed yet this year. However, it seems more likely to be finalized in early 2020, as the trade pact faces several procedural hurdles. Although, some fear the agreement could get lost in the shuffle of election-year politics next year. Mexico must first approve changes to the agreement before the House of Representatives can hold a vote on the agreement. A trade official from Mexico met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Wednesday, as both sides are working towards a speedy compromise. Agriculture groups continue to urge the agreement be finalized as quickly as possible. ************************************************************************************* AFBF: Trade Progress Can’t Wait The American Farm Bureau Federation says farmers can’t wait for progress on trade deals, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement and a deal with China. President Donald Trump earlier this week suggested there was no deadline to reach a final agreement with China, and that an agreement could wait until after the 2020 elections. However, a phase one agreement including agriculture provisions could still come this month. In his comments, Trump said trade aid to help farmers cope with tariffs “got them whole.” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement that while the payments to farmers provide critical support, "trade aid payments are not making farmers whole." Duvall says a trade agreement with China's must be a priority, adding further delay in reaching an agreement "would make it hard for struggling farmers to hold on in the face of rising bankruptcy rates." Duvall also says passing USMCA would “send a message to the rest of the world that we are back in the game” of global trade. ************************************************************************************ Bankers Association Welcomes Hemp Banking Regulations The federal government this week released banking guidance for the finance industry related to hemp producers. The American Bankers Association says the guidance makes clear that banks are not required to file Suspicious Activity Reports on hemp producers operating under an approved federal, state or tribal license or plan. The guidance also states bank customers are responsible for complying with regulatory requirements, not the banks. The guidance came following an interim final rule in October from the Department of Agriculture, which provided a framework for how USDA will approve regulatory plans from states and tribes that wish to oversee hemp production, as well as a federal plan to license producers in areas without approved local plans. Federal regulators said they would issue further guidance after reviewing the USDA rule. While the 2018 farm bill reclassified hemp as a legal agricultural commodity, significant questions remained, and ABA encouraged regulators to provide additional clarity on banks' ability to serve hemp producers and hemp-related businesses. ************************************************************************************ Grain Elevators Facing Tighter Margins, Revenue Pressures in 2020 Grain elevators face significant challenges in the year ahead as they buy basis on corn, soybeans and wheat at the highest levels seen in years, according to a new report. CoBank reports basis for the three major grains is significantly tighter across the country from strong end-user bids, limited pipeline supplies, and lack of farmer selling amid an uncertain fall harvest. A CoBank researcher says, “grain elevators are being compelled to offer farmers a range of incentives to sell bushels,” including lower rates on storage, free delayed pricing and free grain drying, all cutting into elevator margins. Grain quality issues resulting from high moisture at harvest and frost damage on immature crops will also raise management costs for elevators, potentially resulting in greater losses to shrinkage and spoilage. A propane supply shortage in some regions is also driving up the cost of drying grain. However, grain elevators also have an opportunity to improve margins in an otherwise stressful year, as basis will likely soften as more bushels come to market as harvest operations conclude.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 5, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Technical Basis for Ag Trade Aid Criticized The fact that efforts to compensate producers for the impacts of the trade wars with China and others are controversial likely is no surprise to most observers — the 1980 efforts to compensate producers for the Carter administration’s embargo on shipments of commodities to Russia were a political disaster. So it likely was expected to be a challenge to find a “just right” level for such payments this time. That appears to be the case, Bloomberg is reporting. It says that the President’s $28 billion farm bailout “may be paying many growers more than the trade war with China has cost them.” Bloomberg says it has found “six academic studies that conclude that the USDA’s calculations “overshot the impact of the trade conflict on American soybean prices.” The result likely will add to criticism that the bailout has generated distortions and inequalities in the farm economy. The dispute is involving big names in ag economics. For example, “it’s clear that the payment rates overstate the damage suffered by soybean growers,” Joseph Glauber said. He is USDA’s former chief economist and published a review of the research in late November. “Based on what the studies show, the damages were about half that.” The academic research has focused on soybeans in part because the crop has been the most visible target of Chinese retaliation and overall received the most trade aid. But USDA’s calculation method likely overstates the conflict’s financial impact on most other farm products, as well Glauber, now a senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, told Bloomberg. The divergence doesn’t necessarily mean a bonanza for American farmers, who are being financially squeezed on other fronts, including a global commodity glut that is depressing prices and a year of wild weather that is damaging crop yields. Also, the trade conflict risks long-term loss of market share for U.S. producers as overseas customers build relationships with replacement suppliers. Neither the academic nor the USDA estimates take potential future market losses into account. “You’re ruining a huge export market,” said Yuqing Zheng, an agricultural economist at the University of Kentucky. “Longer term, we don’t know for sure what the impact will be.” Still, a team Zheng led estimated the trade conflict depressed U.S. soybean prices by only 36 cents per bushel in its first year, a period in which the bailout program paid soybean growers more than four times that: $1.65 per bushel, Bloomberg said. The program is encountering other flak, as well. For example, Senate Democrats reported in November that the trade aid program favors large producers over smaller ones. And an advocacy group, the Environmental Working Group, released a study that asserted big farms so far have been the main beneficiaries of the billions of dollars in aid payments. Still, USDA appears willing to emphasize the current program’s positive impacts. It said last week that it expects net farm income to rise more than 10% this year to $92.5 billion “with government aid accounting for all of the increase in profits.” The trade aid, particularly for soybeans, largely goes to the president’s political supporters, Bloomberg said and notes that he has maintained overwhelming backing from them. Glauber estimates more than half of the direct payments under the USDA’s market facilitation program cover soybeans. The apparent over-payment stems from the method the USDA uses to compute trade damages. The department forecast the overall price impact of punitive tariffs China and other nations imposed on U.S. farm products without considering potential sales in alternative markets. For example, as China bought more soybeans from Brazil, other buyers stepped in to purchase more soybeans from the U.S. in some cases, replacing product they had previously bought from Brazil. “A broader analysis like some of these show the beans go elsewhere,” Glauber said. “They don’t just go into storage. Some of them go to Europe. Some of them go to other uses. We ended up crushing a lot more soybeans in 2018 than expected. We exported more vegetable oil, more protein meal. All of that mitigates the price impact.” Robert Johannson, the USDA’s chief economist, said the department decided to base trade aid on a projection of “gross” trade losses rather “net” losses primarily for consistent treatment of producers of diverse farm products affected. It’s harder to isolate net trade impact for specialty crops such as pecans or almonds than for major commodities such as soybeans, he said. “We need to be pretty sure whatever method we use is consistent across all commodities,” Johannson said. USDA officials also concluded after consulting with U.S. trade negotiators that there was an advantage to using the gross damages method because it is the basis the country uses for its negotiations. The USDA has boosted its trade damage estimate for soybeans in this year’s aid program, at $2.05 per bushel, a figure a number of analysts say still exceeds their estimates of impact in the period. This year’s payment is higher because the USDA decided to calculate the damage based on export sales over the past 10 years; last year’s payment was based on a comparison with the prior year. So, we will see. Glauber and several of the other critics of the program’s management are high-profile professionals and their criticism certainly will attract attention, although the current “fog” of the policy wars makes it very hard to focus on criticisms, let alone for advocates to react to them. Whether or not the economists’ views now emerging have much impact on the program’s technical design is difficult to anticipate, especially amid so many tough economic and political controversies. However, the amounts involved are significant and will be watched closely by budget hawks — and should be followed closely by producers as program decisions are debated, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 5, 2019 |


Government Bank Regulators Give Approval For Banks To Serve Hemp Companies Federal regulators gave banks the go-ahead to serve industrial hemp customers without any enhanced anti-money laundering reporting requirements. The Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said in guidance that banks would no longer have to file suspicious activity reports just because they conduct transactions or other services for hemp-related businesses. Banks had been slow to serve industrial hemp-related businesses despite the cousin to marijuana being removed from federal controlled substance scheduling in the 2018 Farm Bill. There was uncertainty over whether hemp would be subject to the same types of robust reporting requirements as marijuana.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday December 5, 2019 |


Approval by Japanese Diet Clears Way for January Implementation of Trade Deal with US Japan’s Diet, their upper house of parliament, has approved the limited trade deal reached with the U.S. that will cut tariff levels on farm and industrial goods. The lower house of parliament cleared the plan last month. No U.S. congressional approval of the deal is required. This now paves the way for the deal to be implemented starting in January. Agricultural provisions in the pact are the highlight for the U.S. side, while Japan insists that the U.S. has committed to remove tariffs it has in place on Japanese autos and auto parts, with the two sides to embark on negotiations on the time frame for such an action. As for the economic impacts of the deal, Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat indicated it would boost real GDP by 0.8%, with that expectation based on the assumption that existing tariffs on Japanese car exports to the U.S. would be removed. Japan’s agricultural production was forecast to fall between 60 billion-110 billion yen ($552 million-$1 billion), according to the estimate. For the U.S., the deal will result in tariffs being either lowered or removed on $7.2 billion in U.S. agricultural products like beef, pork, wine and cheese. The accord largely sets the tariff levels for U.S. market access in Japan at those that would have been put in place had the U.S. remained in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that has since been finalized between the 11 countries that were part of the TPP. That pact is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 4, 2019 |


Trump: No Deadline for Final China Trade Deal In a flurry of meeting with reporters Tuesday in London, President Donald Trump says he has no deadline for finalizing a complete trade deal with China. China and the U.S. are still working to reach a phase one agreement, with an unofficial deadline of December 15, but an overall agreement may extend beyond the 2020 elections. Trump told reporters, "In some ways, I think it's better to wait until after the election.” Trump says China wants to reach an agreement, adding, “the China trade deal is dependent on one thing: Do I want to make it?” Trump claims he is doing “very well” in the talks with China. The President also pointed out the $28 billion in trade aid given to U.S. farmers, with "many billions" leftover, adding about the funds, “that got them whole.” China wants Trump to remove tariffs in reaching a phase one agreement that also includes $40-$50 billion in purchases of U.S. agricultural products over two years. ************************************************************************************* November Ag Economy Barometer Released The Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer rose in November for the second month in a row, climbing to 153, 17 points higher than in October when the index stood at 136. This month’s rise in the ag economy sentiment index left the barometer tied with July for the highest reading of 2019. Once again, the rise was driven by improvements in farmers’ perceptions of both current economic conditions, and their belief that conditions will improve in the future, with the biggest boost coming from improved views of current conditions. Producers in November became much more confident that the trade dispute with China will be settled soon. On the November survey, 57 percent of respondents said they expect a resolution soon, up from 42 percent in October. Additionally, 80 percent of respondents now say they believe the trade dispute will end in a beneficial outcome for U.S. farmers. The index is based on a survey of 400 agricultural producers on economic sentiment each month. ************************************************************************************* NCBA Staff Directed to Work With USDA to Verify Beef Origin Labeling Claims The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive committee unanimously approved efforts to work with the Department of Agriculture to address geographic origin statements. NCBA is firmly opposed to mandatory Country-of-Origin labeling and is seeking solutions which “will resolve the concerns of beef producers,” while protecting commerce and meet trade obligations. Specifically, NCBA is Looking at Food Safety and Inspection Service labeling requirements and verification procedures in place for beef products labeled as “Product of the U.S.A.,” “Made in the U.S.A.,” or similar origin claims. NCBA CEO Colin Woodall says that while many beef products currently advertised, marketed, or labeled as ‘Product of the U.S.A.' are “likely compliant with current FSIS regulations, the potential for consumer confusion exists.” NCBA believes that beef labels with voluntary country-of-origin labeling marketing claims should be verified through existing USDA framework that is market-based and respects international trade commitments. The organization says it is critically important that any changes not trigger retaliatory tariffs from Mexico or Canada that have already been approved by the WTO. ************************************************************************************* FDA Nomination Heads to Senate Floor With NMPF Hopeful for Progress on Fake Milk The Senate Health Committee Tuesday advanced President Donald Trump’s nomination to lead the Food and Drug Administration to the full Senate. The committee sent the nomination of Stephen Hahn as FDA commissioner to the full Senate for final confirmation, which the dairy industry says represents another step towards greater transparency in the use of dairy terms in the marketplace. The National Milk Producers Federation is eager to see Hahn take the FDA role, as Hahn voiced his support in his confirmation hearing last month for "clear, transparent, and understandable labeling for the American people," when asked about dairy imitating products using dairy terms. Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF, says, "It is long past time for the FDA to begin enforcing its own standards." Current FDA standards make "clear that dairy terms are reserved for real dairy products, not plant-based imitators,” according to Mulhern. The organization, which has been speaking out on plant-based imitators for four decades, noted encouragement by recent FDA attention to the issue. ************************************************************************************ USCA Urges Review of Marfrig Global Foods' Acquisition of National Beef The United States Cattlemen's Association Tuesday submitted a request seeking an investigation of Marfrig Global Foods' “near-acquisition” of the U.S.-based National Beef Packing Company. The organization sent the request to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-noo’-chin). The Brazilian-owned Marfrig Global Foods announced last week that it raised its stake in the U.S.-based National Beef Packing Company from 51 percent to 81.7 percent. In 2018, Marfrig acquired a majority stake in National Beef Packing Company, but USCA says this recent announcement means that Brazilian interests will almost wholly own the U.S.-based company. The association is "firmly opposed to the increasing consolidation of the meat-packing sector and foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural interests." USCA wants the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to investigate the matter, and demands a full review of Marfrig Global Foods’ acquisition of U.S. companies, and calls for those outcomes to be explicitly written out and publicly published. ************************************************************************************ USDA to Conduct the 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will conduct the 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties this winter. USDA says the report will provide a comprehensive picture of the U.S. horticulture industry. Survey codes will be mailed this month to more than 40,000 horticulture producers to respond online. Collected just once every five years, the Census of Horticultural Specialties is the only source of detailed production and sales data for U.S. floriculture, nursery, and specialty crop industries, including greenhouse food crops. NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer (hay-mer) says, “Responding to this census is the best way for growers to help associations, businesses, and policymakers advocate for their industry.” The 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties results will expand the 2017 Census of Agriculture data with information on horticultural crop production, value of products, square footage used for growing crops, production expenses, and more. The deadline for response is February 5, 2020. Results will be available December 2020. For more information about the 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties, visit www.nass.usda.gov.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 4, 2019 |


Washington Insider: More Spending Fights While there are more and more trade policy issues emerging almost every day and the president appears to be actively downplaying expectations for a deal with China in the near future, concerns about next year’s spending bills are re-emerging and attracting more attention. To no one’s surprise, progress on funding the government for the year just beginning seems to be once again bogged down on the issue of funding for the border wall. For example, Bloomberg is reporting this week that lawmakers and the president may need a deal on border wall funding before any of the 12 fiscal 2020 spending bills can become law. This is widely seen as a “tall task” as the Dec. 20 deadline to fund the government approaches. President Donald Trump’s request for $8.6 billion in border wall funding remains the key sticking point in negotiations, lawmakers told Bloomberg — although appropriators have made progress recently, as the House and Senate Appropriations chairs agreed to top-line spending figures for the 12 bills. And appropriators have started work on bicameral versions of the bills, but it is seen as unlikely that the President will sign anything into law before there’s an agreement on the border wall, Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee Chairman John Boozman, R-Ark., said Monday. “The wall funding has to be resolved before I think anything much gets moved,” Boozman said. A pairing of the two largest spending measures, covering Defense and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations, is possible “but I think they get held hostage” until border wall funding is settled, Boozman said. The President requested $5 billion for border fencing in the Homeland Security spending bill and $3.6 billion in the Military Construction-VA bill. Lawmakers will also need to come to an agreement on limitations to the president’s ability to reprogram additional funds. Because of the difficulty of those debates, those bills will likely be among the last completed, Boozman said. It’s one of the relatively few hot-button issues that subcommittee leaders won’t negotiate, instead kicking it up to either full committee leaders or members of congressional leadership to sort out with the administration, he added. He expressed hopes those discussions start this week. Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby, R-Ala., also raised the prospect of a Defense and Labor-HHS-Education package, but said there needs to be “some understanding” on the border wall. “I think we’d have to have some kind of agreement or Trump wouldn’t sign it,” Shelby said. Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Jon Tester, D-Mont., said the border wall talks probably should be completed before lawmakers send a spending package to the president’s desk, but he’s not sure if it’s an absolute necessity. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, ranking member of the Military Construction-VA Subcommittee, said that depends on the president. Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said he’d like to finish all the bills by December 20 but criticized the White House for being inconsistent about what they want, a complaint he’s repeated for months as spending talks have dragged on at a slow pace. White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland was in the Capitol Monday to meet with lawmakers on topics that included appropriations, he said. While Democrats oppose any funding for the border wall, they are pursuing their top priorities in the appropriations bills. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said his caucus’s top priorities include “significant resources to combat the opioid and gun violence epidemics, significant investment in infrastructure, significant investment in child care,” Violence Against Women Act funding, and “funding to secure next year’s presidential elections.” Senate Democrats also “strongly oppose the president stealing money from our military families to pay for this border wall,” Schumer said on the Senate floor yesterday. While there are other pressures, many of these seem to be resolved within committees. For example, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Commerce, Justice, Science bill that included $70.8 billion in discretionary spending, the same amount as proposed by the Senate Democrats for those programs. However, the House Democrats proposed $73.9 billion. In response, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said that while program funds “are low and while the bicameral allocations agreement provides less for them than many Democrats wanted, “she’s happy we have an agreement. Obviously I would like to have more money in it. I think it gives us a place to continue to go forward. We are in discussions now over what is going to have to come off, given the change in the number.” So, we will see. There have been whispers for some time about negative impacts of the ongoing and threatened trade fights on economic activity, and at least some of these appear to be resurfacing once again this week—and they are increasing pressure on the Fed to “do something” to bolster growth,” and to make sure that government operations can continue without interruption. These increasingly appear to be broadening, high stakes fights that producers should watch closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 4, 2019 |


House Extends Schedule By A Week House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced Monday that the House will be in session the week of December 16. Previously the chamber was to be in session only portions of the first two weeks of December. First votes of the week are expected to occur early in the day on Tuesday, December 17, with last votes of the week expected on Friday, December 20, Hoyer said in a message to House members. "Exact timing of last votes for the week will be announced at a later date.” The move is not a surprise given that there is now a December 20 deadline for lawmakers to take action to keep the government funded and this also opens the door for action on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to see action in the House. Hoyer mentioned several weeks ago the chamber could be in session longer than the original departure date of Dec. 12.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 4, 2019 |


Grassley: USMCA Deal Needed This Week For Year-End Ratification If a deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is not reached by the end of this week, “I do not see how the USMCA can be ratified in the year we are in,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on AgriTalk radio and on the Senate floor. “By all accounts, the deal is close,” Grassley said. “I urge House Democrats to act quickly and be reasonable so that we can finally deliver certainty on this issue to the American people.” Grassley said he has recently been in touch with both House lawmakers and members of the Trump administration. He said once the agreement is in place between House Democrats and the administration, the process of getting the legislative language to Congress and consideration of the pact in both the House and Senate could happen in a relatively short timeframe.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday December 4, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets A private estimate of U.S. job growth is due out at 7:15 a.m. CST Wednesday, a warmup for Friday's unemployment report. The U.S. Department of Energy releases weekly energy inventories at 9:30 a.m., including ethanol. Weather remains of interest with unharvested corn still in fields and trade comments provide daily entertainment with no agreement yet. Weather Dry conditions will again be in place over all primary crop areas Wednesday. Temperatures will be seasonal north and seasonal to above normal south. This combination favors transportation and livestock and late harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 3, 2019 |


Hints of El Nino in Early Winter Just a couple weeks ago, it was noted how the Pacific Ocean was officially absent of either El Nino (warm) or La Nina (cool) sea surface temperature and barometric pressure conditions. And, the prospects for the winter 2019-20 season would more likely be dependent on more intermediate-term features. That scenario may indeed play out. However, recent measurements of both temperature and barometric pressure in the Pacific basin are at least worth noting for strong resemblances to a weak El Nino event. Sea surface temperatures at the equator in the Pacific Ocean show several pools of water with between 1 degree Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius above normal, going across the ocean from the coast of Ecuador and Peru in South America to the East Indies. When the water temperature is a sustained 0.8 degree C above normal, an El Nino event is indicated. At the same time, the atmospheric fingerprint of either El Nino or La Nina, the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), is around a minus 10.0 reading on the 30-day moving average, and has a 90-day moving average of around minus 9.0. A value of the SOI at minus 8.0 is the threshold for El Nino on this measurement -- and research done on the influence of El Nino on weather patterns in the U.S. Midwest by Iowa State University shows that the 90-day SOI reading of minus 8.0 or lower indicates that a given El Nino event is robust enough to affect the U.S. Midwest weather pattern. This set of conditions will be interesting to keep track of through the winter season. When El Nino is in effect during the winter, the weather pattern over the northern U.S., Western Canada, and Alaska, tends to be warm and dry. In contrast, the southern tier of the U.S. has a cooler and wetter pattern. If the northern warmer and drier trend indeed develops, even for at least part of the season, there may be an opportunity for the final leg of the much-delayed 2019 corn harvest to get done. It would also, perhaps, dial back the prospect of winter moisture loading up to the point of enhancing spring flood threat quite as much as feared during the late-fall time frame. At the same time, higher chances for precipitation in the southern U.S. could improve drought conditions in the Southwest, along with offering better moisture for crop areas of the southwestern Plains ahead of spring 2020. So far, the winter forecast setup of a warm first segment of the season is verifying. There, of course, are still 11 weeks to go through the rest of the season.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 3, 2019 |


USMCA Deal Could Emerge This Week A final agreement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is within days, according to some in Washington. A Mexican trade official last week told reporters Mexico was expected to approve changes to the agreement this week, which could then set up a vote in Congress. The official said, “maybe days, so maybe sometime next week,” regarding timing, according to Politico. The comments followed a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau (true-doh), and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. A vote doesn’t mean the deal can be completed still in 2019, but would mark significant progress to finalizing the trade pact within the next few months. USMCA is one of many legislative items on the agenda this month, as Congress must also yet again work towards funding the federal government. Lawmakers may also consider two farm labor bills, and provisions regarding biodiesel tax credits, as part of a broader energy bill. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives continues its impeachment investigation this week in the House Judiciary Committee. ************************************************************************************* Ross: Ball in China’s Court on Trade Trade negotiations with China continue as the U.S. and China seek to wrap up a phase one agreement, promised two weeks ago. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business News, "the ball is in China's court," in an interview Monday. He says the talks are making progress, but described the negotiations as "one step forward, one step backward." If nothing happens before December 15, President Donald Trump plans to move forward with a round of tariffs on China, as Ross called the date a "logical deadline." China wants the U.S. to roll back tariffs in making the agreement. Meanwhile, Ross again confirmed China promised $40-$50 billion of purchases of U.S. ag products as part of the agreement. China was a near $20 billion market for U.S. agriculture before the trade war began. However, that market has dropped roughly 50 percent since the trade war began, as retaliatory tariffs by China focused on U.S. agricultural products. ************************************************************************************* Trump Imposing Tariffs on Brazil, Argentina President Donald Trump Monday announced new tariffs on Brazil and Argentina, citing harm to U.S. farmers. Trump says the tariffs on steel from Brazil and Argentina are in response to the “devaluation of their currencies.” Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn before departing for the NATO gathering in London, President Trump stated, “Our steel companies will be very happy, and our farmers will be very happy.” Trump says the currency devaluation is "very unfair" to U.S. farmers and manufacturers. Brazil and Argentina are serving as alternative markets of soybeans for China, allowing China to avoid tariffs on U.S. agricultural products stemming from the tit-for-tat trade war between China and the United States. The United States is the top soybean-producing country in the world, followed by Brazil, Argentina and China. President Trump also called on the Federal Reserve to "likewise act " against all countries that are takin advantage of a strong U.S. dollar. ************************************************************************************* BP, Bunge, Merge Brazil Sugar and Ethanol Operations British oil company BP and U.S. commodities group Bunge Monday announced the completion of a deal to combine sugar and ethanol operations in Brazil. The partners call BP Bunge Bioenergia a leading company in the sugar, ethanol and low carbon bioelectricity market in Brazil. The deal creates the world's second-largest cane processor, according to Reuters. The 50-50 joint venture will manage 11 plants in five Brazilian states, and include capacity to crush 32 million metric tons of sugar cane annually. First announced in July, the Monday announcement indicates the partnership obtained all needed regulatory approvals. The sugar processing season in Brazil is coming to an end, with many mills stopping processing efforts. The new joint venture between BP and Bunge will target joint operations to begin during the next sugarcane season, which starts in April. The joint venture also focuses on ethanol, as demand in brazil is growing ahead of a new federal program next year to boost the use of biofuels in Brazil. ************************************************************************************* Canada Ag, Propane, Seeks Priority in Resuming Normal Rail Operations Amid the fallout of an eight-day CN Rail strike, Canada is facing similar propane woes as seen in the Midwest United States. Agriculture groups, along with the Canadian Propane Association, are asking for their products to take priority above other shipments as the railway works to get trains moving. However, the rail operator has stated no product would take priority. The Canadian Propane Association in a recent statement said, “the propane industry is now facing significant logistical challenges of getting the supply chain back to normal.” The strike occurred as harvest season ended and farmers, along with grain companies, seek to ship products. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture last week said the delays in rail service have resulted in significant costs for farmers. The group says the strike came at “the worst possible time” for farmers. However, the organization says, “we can express relief that a resolution was found, and these delays and losses are not continuing to mount.” ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Fellowships to Develop the Next Generation of Agriculture The Department of Agriculture Monday announced fellowship opportunities connecting agency resources with faculty and staff at land grant and other universities. The USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement made the announcement, which seeks to connect participants to USDA and other federal resources while focusing on student development. The fellowship is available for faculty and staff at Hispanic Serving Institutions, 1994 Tribal Colleges and Universities, and 1890 Land-Grant Universities. Participants in the program will receive access to long-term collaboration opportunities, and then share what they learned with students and colleagues at their home institutions. Each program offers opportunities for Education Fellows and Science Fellows. Education Fellows participate in a week-long program in Washington, D.C. scheduled to start June 15 and end on June 19, 2020. Science Fellows participate in a two-week program, consisting of one week in Washington, D.C. and a second week at a USDA research location, ending on June 26, 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday December 3, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There are no official reports on Tuesday's docket. With snow in the northern Corn Belt and dry weather expected across the central U.S. this week, attention will be given to the remaining row crop harvest. Any trade news concerning China will also be noticed, but prices may not show much response until an actual agreement is at hand. Weather Dry conditions will cover all primary crop areas Tuesday. Temperatures will be near to below normal north, central and southeast, and above normal southwest. This combination is favorable for livestock and transportation, along with offering some prospects for late harvest progress.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 2, 2019 |


EU Parliament Approves Increased U.S. Beef Access It was a happy Thanksgiving for U.S. beef producers. The European Parliament voted last Thursday to approve a plan that grants the U.S. a country-specific share of the European Union’s duty-free, high-quality beef quota. The agreement was originally signed back in August. The U.S. Meat Export Federation was pleased to hear of the approval. “Approval by the European Parliament keeps this agreement on track to be implemented early next year,” says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “That’s outstanding news for the U.S. beef industry and our customers in Europe. Lack of capacity in the duty-free quota has been a source of frustration on both sides of the Atlantic.” He says a U.S.-specific share of the quota will help to make sure that U.S. beef can enter the European Market 52 weeks a year, without any delays or interruptions. The EU is one of the highest-value destinations in the world for American beef. Consistent access will not only benefit U.S. beef producers and exporters but also European importers and their clients. USMEF says in a release that it “thanks the U.S. Trade Representative and the USDA for negotiating the agreement and securing its approval.” ********************************************************************************************* USMCA, U.S.-China Deal Pushing Forward Both the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and a phase one agreement of a deal between the U.S. and China appear to be slowly edging forward. The Hagstrom Report quotes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as saying, “We are within range of a substantially improved agreement for America’s workers. Now, we need to see our progress in writing from the trade representative for a final review.” The Trump Administration says that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will provide a written agreement to Congress this week. Trump is continuing to push House Democrats to bring the agreement up for a vote. “House Democrats have insisted that hard-working Americans need more from the USMCA than just the same broken NAFTA with better language but no real enforcement,” Pelosi says. “It still left American workers exposed to losing their jobs to Mexico.” Meanwhile, President Trump says the phase one deal with China is “close.” At the same time, he also says the U.S. is monitoring the situation in Hong Kong. “We’re in the final throes of a very important deal,” Trump says. “It’s going very well, but at the same time we want to see things go well in Hong Kong.” Trump’s comments last week came just hours after a phone call between the Chinese Vice-Premier, USTR Robert Lighthizer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin). ********************************************************************************************* Farmers for Free Trade Launches New USMCA Ad Campaign Farmers for Free Trade, a bipartisan coalition supported by America’s top ag and business groups, announced a new ad campaign promoting quick passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The ad campaign launched with a $300,000 advertising blitz in more than 20 Congressional Districts. The ads focus specifically on why the USMCA is a badly needed victory for American agriculture. The 30-second radio spots feature American farmers who personally advocate for passing the agreement. The campaign also includes digital ads as well. The initial ad campaign will focus specifically on the home districts of many Democratic members of the House of Representatives. Those Democrats represent districts that have a high concentration of farmers and ranchers that would benefit from the USMCA. Farmers for Free Trade says those legislators are a very important part of making the case for the agreement and getting it to the finish line. Former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln is a spokesperson for Farmers for Free Trade. She says, “With so many new Democratic members of Congress from districts with agricultural roots, they’ll have to be the ones to make the case that the agreement is vital for their farmers.” Farmers for Free Trade Co-Executive Director Angela Hoffmann says farmers are growing more and more frustrated by the delay in approving USMCA. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Income Rising in Part Because of Aid In spite of a challenging 2019, farm earnings are expected to rise this year by 10 percent. However, nearly one-third of producers’ net farm income is a result of crop insurance and direct government payments, which does include President Trump’s trade aid. An Agri-Pulse report says net farm income this year is projected to jump by $8.5 billion compared to last year, coming in at $92.5 billion. The USDA’s Economic Research Service says approximately 31 percent of that income is due to crop insurance benefits and government payments. Net cash farm income, which is another way to measure a farm’s profitability, is projected to reach $119 billion in 2019. That’s a jump of 15 percent compared to 2018. Commercial farms at which corn is the primary crop are projected to have net cash farm income around $206,000 this year, a 20 percent increase from 2018. Poultry is the only agricultural sector that’s projected to have a net decrease in cash income during 2019. The average income is projected at around $97,200, which is down from just over $105,000 last year. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Improves Crop Insurance for Sugar Beet Producers The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it’s made changes to crop insurance for sugar beets in 2020. The Risk Management Agency made changes that will start in 2020 for some policies and 2021 for others. The agency says the changes will better protect sugar beet producers who may get a bumper crop in future years, as well as provide other flexibilities. “We continually listen to producers and stakeholders in developing our crop insurance policies,” says RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “We also make adjustments to the policies when necessary to better support sugar beet producers and ensure the early harvest adjustment more accurately matches their current year production.” Key changes include revising the maximum early harvest adjustment to better reflect a unit’s production capabilities, especially in the case of a bumper crop. They’re also adding procedures to allow third-party testing of sugar beets for raw sugar content. Changes are further outlined in a final rule, now available at regulations.gov. Interested parties can comment on the final rule for 60 days. ********************************************************************************************** Hemp Innovation Challenge Coming to World Ag Expo in 2020 Something new is coming to the World Ag Expo. The Hemp Innovation Challenge is designed to kickstart the future of the hemp industry by supporting entrepreneurs, researchers, and students, who are launching some of the world’s biggest hemp industry innovations. Submissions are invited from hemp innovators in universities, companies, research institutes, barns, and government agencies. Finalists will be invited to the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, in February of 2020 to take part in the Fast Pitch competition. Prizes will be awarded for ideas that include technology, software, and services driving growth and innovation in food, fuel, medicine, health, fiber, and sustainable development. The winners will receive strategic feedback about their innovation, business model, and go-to-market strategy. Event level highlights will include networking with executives, investors, and mentorship support for launching their innovations. Entering its 53rd year of existence, the World Ag Expo is the largest annual outdoor ag trade show in the world. The show had 102,800 people from 48 states and 65 countries enter the event in 2019 alone.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 2, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Hong Kong and the Trade Fight with China Trade observers are watching carefully following last week’s decision by President Donald Trump to sign legislation expressing support for Hong Kong protesters. In response, China threatened retaliation just as the two nations seemed close to signing a “phase one” agreement, Bloomberg reported. China summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad for a formal meeting in which Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told the U.S. to “stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs.” He warned that such actions would strain ties and risk affecting “cooperation in important areas.” Earlier, the foreign ministry reiterated threats of retaliation with no specifics, Bloomberg said. Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of state-run Global Times, said Thursday in a tweet that China was considering putting the U.S. drafters of the law on a no-entry list. The new law requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status as well as sanctions against any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. A second Hong Kong measure also bans the export of crowd-control items such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the city’s police. While signing the bills, President Trump signaled that he “didn’t want the broader relationship with China to veer off track.” He expressed concerns with unspecified portions of the new law, saying they risked interfering with his constitutional authority to carry out American foreign policy. “I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said. “They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.” Investors are watching closely for signs that the new measures might derail the proposed deal being counted on to de-escalate a trade war that’s dragged on for 20 months. President Trump would like the agreement finished in order to ease economic uncertainty for his campaign in 2020. China also is looking to avoid further damage to an economy growing at the slowest pace in decades. China is irked that the bill will bolster Hong Kong protesters who have become increasingly violent in their bid to secure demands including an independent inquiry into police abuses and meaningful elections, but it probably won’t affect trade talks much, said David Zweig, an emeritus professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China Consulting Ltd. Hong Kong’s protesters cheered the bill’s passage and lauded President Trump for signing it into law. President Trump actually had little choice but to sign the bill, since the House cleared it 417-1 on Nov. 20 after the Senate passed it without opposition – majorities that would allow an override of any veto by the president, Bloomberg said. While many members of Congress in both parties had voiced strong support for the protesters who are demanding greater autonomy for the city, President Trump stayed largely silent, even as the demonstrations have been met by rising police violence. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, called on the president to speak out, saying that “the world should hear from him directly that the United States stands with” the protesters. China’s foreign ministry had repeatedly urged Trump to prevent the legislation from becoming law, warning the Americans not to underestimate China’s determination to defend its “sovereignty, security and development interests.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang dodged questions on whether trade talks would be affected as he briefed reporters in Beijing late last week. “We strongly urge the U.S. to refrain from implementing this law or it will undermine our bilateral relations and cooperation in important areas,” he said in response to a question on how the bill’s signing would impact the negotiations. Before a speech at the recent Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, China’s Vice Premier Liu He – the country’s chief trade negotiator – said that he was “cautiously optimistic” about reaching the phase one accord. Relations with China appear to be particularly fragile just now, although both sides are quick to say they are still working toward the “beginning” of a major deal – in spite of continued questions of what, exactly, might be included. Certainly, these continuing talks are enormously important and should be watched closely by producers as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 2, 2019 |


EU Approves US Beef Import Increase The European Parliament voted by 457-140, with 71 abstentions, in favor of a plan to permit U.S. farmers a larger share of an existing 45,000-ton quota from 2020. It came with a resolution that urges the removal of U.S. tariffs on EU steel and aluminum, and the withdrawal of a threat to raise tariffs on EU cars. "The message of this agreement is clear: we would like to de-escalate trade tensions with the U.S., but we want to see the same efforts of de-escalation on the other side of the Atlantic," said Bernd Lange, head of parliament's trade committee.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 2, 2019 |


Government Payments Key Contributor to Rise in 2019 Farm Income Forecast U.S. net farm income is now forecast at $92.5 billion for 2019, up $8.5 billion (10.2%) from the 2018 level, according to USDA’s November 2019 Farm Income Forecast. In inflation-adjusted terms, net farm income is seen up $7 billion, down 32.3% from $136.6 billion in 2013. In August, USDA forecast net farm income at $88 billion. Net cash farm income is seen at $119 billion, a rise of $15.5 billion (15%) from 2018, and up from the August forecast of $112.6 billion. Feeding the increase is a rise in cash receipts for all commodities of $2.2 billion, reaching $374.2 billion for 2019. With total animal/animal product receipts basically unchanged, there is a $1.9 billion rise forecast for total crop receipts compared with 2018. Key in the improved farm income outlook? Direct government farm payments are forecast to increase $8.8 billion (64%) to $22.4 billion in 2019, USDA said, “with the increase due to higher anticipated payments from the Market Facilitation Program” (MFP 2). USDA in August said those direct government payments were to be $19.5 billion, an increase of $5.8 billion from 2018. The 2019 forecast includes payments from the program first implemented in 2018 but received by producers in calendar year 2019, plus the expected payments from the first and second tranches of the program announced in 2019. “We assume producers will receive 75% of the announced 2019 payment total of $14.5 billion,” USDA stated.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday December 2, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets Updated weather forecasts are probably the first things traders will check the first Monday of December, along with any trade news that might have come out over the weekend. USDA's weekly export inspections are due out at 10:00 a.m. CST. In the afternoon, the monthly Fats and Oils report is at 2 p.m., CFTC's Commitments of Traders report is at 2:30 p.m. and a USDA update on harvest progress follows at 3 p.m. CST. Weather Most primary crop areas will be dry Monday. Moderate to heavy snow cover in the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and Michigan -- where corn harvest is the most delayed -- will impede additional harvest progress. Dry conditions in the 10-day forecast offer some improvement for late harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 29, 2019 |


No Final RFS Rule Friday Today (Friday) is when historically the Environmental Protection Agency would release it’s final Renewable Fuel Standard proposal. However, thanks to other changes pending in the rule, the EPA said earlier this week that the agency would review comments, and will seek to finish the rule this winter. The comment period for the proposed changes regarding small refinery exemptions closes today (Friday), which effectively puts the final rule on hold until the proposal is finalized. Corn and ethanol groups were busy earlier this week submitting comments to the EPA. Many say the proposal breaks a promise by President Donald Trump to make up for all lost demand created by the exemptions. The industry says more than four billion gallons of demand for biofuels has been lost due to retroactive small refinery exemptions for compliance years 2015 through 2018. National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross of Iowa states, “The proposed rule fails to provide the assurance needed that EPA’s practices for granting waivers will change going forward.” ************************************************************************************* Hoeven, Peterson, Meet with Sugar Growers Regarding Assistance Lawmakers recently met with sugar producers to discuss needed relief efforts after a challenging growing season. North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, along with House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, met with sugar producers earlier this week. They are working with Department of Agriculture undersecretary Bill Northey to secure disaster assistance funding for sugarbeet growers, while urging USDA to avoid any premature actions, including increasing sugar imports. Sugarbeet growers, who were impacted by severe weather, are facing unique circumstances as they work to recover, including the inability to complete harvest and budgeting constraints faced by the cooperative. The current disaster programs do not account for these constraints, which is why Hoeven and Peterson are working with USDA to secure disaster assistance. Hoeven says producers “have faced real challenges this harvest,” while Peterson says, “we’ll continue having conversations to see what can be done to address the concerns.” ************************************************************************************* Committee to Vote on FDA Nominee Next Week The Senate Health Committee will vote on Stephen Hahn’s nomination to serve as Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration next week. Tuesday, the committee will consider the nomination, among three others. If approved, the nominations would head for the full Senate for a final confirmation vote. During a hearing by the committee examining the nomination, Hahn briefly voiced his support for “clear, transparent, and understandable labeling” for dairy and dairy imitation products. The comments were welcomed by the National Milk Producers Federation, as NMPF CEO Jim Mulhern stated, “It’s heartening to hear” Hahn would “immediately examine this crucial unfinished business.” NMPF and others are seeking a labeling system that prohibits plant-based dairy imitators from using dairy marketing terms. Rules already do so, but FDA has not enforced them. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, called Hahn an “impressive choice” to lead the FDA. Ranking member Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, demanded Hahn commit to putting science, data and families first. ************************************************************************************* Deere Reports 2019 Sales Increase Deere & Company reports worldwide net sales and revenues increased five percent in both the fourth quarter and full year of 2019 to $9.8 billion and $39.2 billion. Deere reported fourth-quarter net income of $722 million, compared with net income of $785 million, in 2018. Agriculture and Turf sales increased for the quarter and full year of 2019 due to price realization and higher shipment volumes, partially offset by the unfavorable effects of currency translation. However, operating profit decreased for the quarter and year. Deere CEO John May says the performance “reflected continued uncertainties in the agricultural sector,” adding “trade tensions coupled with a year of difficult growing and harvesting conditions have caused many farmers to become cautious about making major investments in new equipment.” Deere's worldwide sales of agriculture and turf equipment are forecast to decline between five and ten percent for fiscal-year 2020. Industry sales of agricultural equipment in the U.S. and Canada are forecast to be down about five percent, driven by lower demand for large equipment. ************************************************************************************* Online Cheese Sales Set to Surpass Half a Billion Dollars in 2020 Online cheese sales are experiencing major growth. By the end of 2019, data shows that e-commerce sales will surge past $440 million. The 54 percent annual growth in online sales over the past four years signals that shoppers are embracing the convenience and variety available when ordering cheese online. Suzanne Fanning, Senior Vice President at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, says, "Consumer research shows that cheese aligns with on-trend food preferences because it is packed with protein and good fat." With the holidays being the peak shopping season for cheese, it is poised to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season. The organization is encouraging consumers to buy Wisconsin cheese. A list of holiday gift baskets is available on the organization’s website. The collection includes twelve unique gift baskets that offer a variety of cheeses from top specialty retailers. Get free shipping nationwide on the entire collection from Black Friday to Cyber Monday at WisconsinCheese.com/gift-basket. ************************************************************************************ USDA ERS: Potatoes Top U.S. Vegetable Consumption Potatoes rank number one among vegetables in terms of consumption, according to Department of Agriculture data. USDA’s Economic Research Service says that in 2017, 49.2 pounds of fresh and processed potatoes per person were available for Americans to eat after adjusting for losses. The loss-adjusted food availability data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and more closely approximates actual consumption by adjusting for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in restaurants and grocery stores, as well as at home. Loss-adjusted availability of fresh potatoes was 22.9 pounds per person in 2017, followed by frozen potatoes at 20.5 pounds per person, while canned and dehydrated potatoes, along with potato chips and shoestrings, totaled 5.9 pounds per person in 2017. Tomatoes came in second. While loss-adjusted canned tomato availability, at 16.1 pounds, leads fresh tomatoes, total tomato loss-adjusted availability, fresh and canned, came in second, at 28.7 pounds per person. Onions, lettuce, carrots and sweet corn finish the list of America’s top seven vegetable choices.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 29, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Potential Digital Sales Tax Fight You could be excused if you thought that the U.S., China trade fight was the main trade policy uncertainty these days, especially after Bloomberg reported this week that President Donald Trump told the press that “he’s holding up” the phase one deal. “We can’t make a deal that’s like, even,” Trump said, adding that he said as much to China’s President Xi Jinping. “We have to make a deal where we do much better, because we have to catch up,” he said. Still, the report said that the president thinks a China deal is in the “final throes.” However uncertain the China deal may be, it is not the only trade concern now bubbling up. The New York Times said on Wednesday that the “90-day pause in the taxation of technology companies and other corners of the digital economy had ended.” The report raised questions of whether the president would revive threats against French wine and other products. The Times focused on the potential for an escalating battle between the U.S. and France over taxing digital services. It noted that President Trump “gave no indication this week” whether he planned to return to his threats to impose new tariffs on imported wine and other French products as a result. French leaders voted earlier this year to impose a new tax on economic activity that takes place online and “crafted it in such a way that it would largely hit large American tech companies like Amazon and Facebook.” In response, the administration opened an investigation into whether “the tax posed a threat to national security and should be met with American tariffs on French products.” The President made that threat in July. Soon after, the countries reached a 90-day agreement that paused the American retaliation, while leaders from wealthy countries including France and the United States pursued negotiations toward an international agreement on digital taxation. The French tax was an effort to capture revenue from activities of companies that sell or advertise online to its citizens — an effort being considered by a growing number of countries outside America, including Britain, Italy and Canada, the Times said. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is spearheading negotiations between the countries as it tries to avoid “an arms race of sorts” over digital sales revenue that crosses borders. Participants have set an ambitious goal to reach an agreement in principle sometime next year and key negotiators will meet next month in Paris to continue the process. A final global agreement has the potential to expand to cover large automakers and other multinational companies — not just tech firms — the Times said. Some tax experts predict that the administration will extend the truce period, perhaps unofficially, until at least January when the OECD is expected to update the status of the negotiations. Others say the administration is likely to hold off as long as negotiations remain fruitful. “Absent some sort of intervention from the president, it seems very unlikely that the U.S. will act on its investigation before seeing whether there is a satisfactory agreement at the OECD this coming January, and if such an agreement is reached, whether the French keep their promise and repeal their digital services tax,” said Itai Grinberg, an international tax policy professor at Georgetown University Law Center. The President has made it known that he is unhappy with the French tax even though he has separate concerns about the tech companies that are threatened by it. “I’m not a fan of those companies, but if anybody is going to tax those companies, it should be the USA,” the President said. “It shouldn’t be France and the European Union, who have really taken advantage of the United States.” David Kautter, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for tax policy, said last week that any countermeasures against France would be determined by the U.S. Trade Representative. He said that discussions between the United States and France had been “substantive” and “meaningful,” but it was not clear when the two countries would resolve their differences over the matter. “The administration adamantly opposes unilateral digital services taxes that are focused primarily on U.S. companies,” Kautter said. “We think the best way to resolve this issue is through multilateral discussions in the OECD. We are actively engaged in those discussions.” Still, Kautter cautioned that the target date for reaching a broader agreement was not until the end of next year and that there were many complicated matters to address in that time. So, we will see. This potential fight appears likely to be one more hot button trade issue to add to the several that concern other products in other areas, and which have the potential to become increasingly important, and which producers should watch closely as they evolve, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 29, 2019 |


Comment Period on EPA Supplemental RFS Plan Ends Today As 2019 SREs Are On File The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) signaled last week via the unified agenda released November 20 that they would not be finalizing the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by the November 30 deadline. Rather, the agency said they intended to file a final rule in December. An EPA spokesman is now telling media outlets that the agency would finalize the plan “this winter.” The Winter Solstice arrives December 21, so EPA’s guidance in the regulatory agenda of issuing a final rule in December would certainly match what the EPA is telling media outlets. Meanwhile, EPA has updated their data on small refinery exemptions (SREs). For the 2018 compliance year, EPA data shows 42 were submitted, 31 were approved and six were rejected. EPA data had previously shown three to have been withdrawn or declared ineligible. In late August, EPA data showed two were still labeled as pending. As of November 21, EPA now shows 42 were requested, 31 were approved, six were denied, and now it has separated the declared ineligible or withdrawn categories. Those figures now show that two have been declared ineligible and three have been withdrawn and no petitions are shown as pending for the 2018 compliance year. For the 2019 compliance year, EPA now lists 10 petitions for SREs having been received as of November 21, and all 10 are still shown as pending.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 29, 2019 |


Fed Says US Agriculture Conditions Remain Strained Conditions facing U.S. agriculture were “little changed overall” compared with late October, according to the Fed’s Beige Book, but conditions remain “strained by weather and low crop prices.” The report, issued two weeks prior to the next rate-setting meeting for the Federal Reserve, also offers comments from individual Fed Districts. The Chicago Fed indicated that “early frost and snow further delayed this year’s harvest and diminished yields.” Plus, there were concerns about crop quality. “Contacts noted that demand for pork from China had grown despite U.S. tariffs because African swine fever had decimated China's hog herd,” the Chicago Fed noted. “More generally, contacts reported a pickup in overall agricultural exports, with some noting that news on trade negotiations sounded promising for future exports. Farm incomes generally are expected to be down from last year, although government payments from the Market Facilitation Program will provide some support.” The St. Louis Fed reported conditions were basically unchanged from the October report. “Production levels for corn, rice, and soybeans are expected to be significantly lower than in 2018, while that for cotton is expected to increase modestly,” the bank said. “District contacts continued to express concerns over depressed agriculture commodity prices.” The Minneapolis Fed noted difficult conditions for the ag sector. “District agricultural conditions declined from an already weak position,” the report noted. “Roughly three in five lenders responding to the Minneapolis Fed's third-quarter (October) survey of agricultural credit conditions reported that farm incomes decreased in the third quarter relative to a year earlier, with a similar proportion reporting decreased capital spending.” Similarly, the Kansas City fed noted conditions in ag remained “weak” and “agricultural credit conditions deteriorated slightly.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 29, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets Back from the Thanksgiving holiday, USDA will release its weekly report of grain export sales at 7:30 a.m. CST. Friday's grain and livestock futures open at 8:30 a.m. CST. Most U.S. grain futures close at 12:05 p.m. CST and livestock futures close at 12:15 p.m. CST. There are no other official reports, but traders will be interested in weather and any trade news. Weather Snow, ice and rain develops through the north-central U.S. region early Friday. This will become mostly snow later Friday or during Friday night into Saturday. Strong winds, heavy snow and ice tonight and Saturday will likely affect travel, transport, field activities and livestock in this area. Blizzard conditions may develop during this time. Some ice may also occur through the northwest Midwest later Friday or during Friday night. Mostly rain or showers through the eastern Plains, the southwest and central Midwest during this time frame. Strong winds but little rainfall through the west-central Plains winter wheat areas Friday, possible a risk to winter wheat. Drier through the eastern U.S. areas Friday.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 27, 2019 |


2019 Trade Aid May Violate WTO Commitments A recent independent report suggests U.S. trade aid in 2019 for farmers may surpass limits set in World Trade Organization commitments. The report for the American Enterprise Institute by Joe Glauber, a former Department of Agriculture Chief Economist, suggests the size of payments made to producers in 2019 may encourage other WTO members to challenge the payments. Glauber writes, a long-term concern is "how trade compensation comports with U.S. obligations in the WTO and, more generally, how it will affect future U.S. efforts to seek further reforms in the WTO.” President Donald Trump and his administration have approved the payments, roughly $28 billion, to offset any harm by other countries retaliating against the Trump trade agenda. Glauber says current WTO rules require that annual U.S. domestic supports that distort trade flows not exceed a maximum of $19.1 billion. Since the WTO disciplines went into effect in 1995, United States levels of support have remained in that annual limit. ************************************************************************************* NPPC: Improved Pork Trade with China can Lower Trade Deficit Securing zero-tariff access to China for U.S. pork would be an economic boon for American agriculture, according to the National Pork Producers Council. Based on an analysis by Iowa State University Economist Dermot (Der-Muht) Hayes, NPPC says unrestricted access to the Chinese chilled and frozen market would reduce the overall trade deficit with China by nearly six percent, and generate 184,000 new U.S. jobs in the next decade. NPPC Tuesday launched a digital campaign to spotlight the importance of opening the Chinese market to U.S. pork as trade negotiations continue. According to Dr. Hayes’ analysis, U.S. pork would generate $24.5 billion in sales if U.S. pork gained unrestricted access to the world’s largest pork-producing nation over ten years. NPPC President David Herring says the analysis shows, "The U.S. pork industry is missing out on an unprecedented sales opportunity in China when it most needs an affordable, safe and reliable supply of its favored protein." ************************************************************************************* Canada Rail Strike Prompts Potash Mine Shutdown Nutrien Ag Solutions says it will be forced to curtail production at its largest potash mine in Canada due to the CN Rail strike. Employees were sent notices this week, indicating the mine will be shut down for two weeks starting on December 2. The company says, "It is extremely disappointing that in a year when the agricultural sector has been severely impacted by poor weather and trade disputes, the CN strike will add further hardship to the Canadian agriculture industry.” The shutdown will continue despite the fact workers and CN Rail reached an agreement Tuesday. Nutrien is the world's largest provider of crop inputs and services, producing and distributing 27 million metric tons of potash, nitrogen and phosphate products worldwide. More than 3,000 CN rail employees are on strike, impacting agricultural shipments of grains, fertilizers and even propane for grain drying. A Fertilizer Canada official says an estimated $200 million to $300 million worth of fertilizer shipments will be impacted by the strike. ************************************************************************************* Organic Valley Unaffected by Dean Foods Bankruptcy When Dean Foods filed for bankruptcy this month, questions surfaced regarding the status of partnerships with the company and the health of the dairy industry. However, Organic Valley, a Wisconsin-based organic cooperative, says it’s Organic Valley Fresh LLC joint venture, which represents a small fraction of its milk processing and distribution, falls outside of the Dean Foods filing. The cooperative says its members are "disheartened by Dean Foods' bankruptcy as it represents the many challenges dairy farmers face in getting their products to market." Organic Valley officials say the cooperative remains strong and innovations have bolstered the business overall. Dean Foods this month announced the chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, adding the company was in advanced talks with Dairy Farmers of America regarding a potential sale. The National Milk Producers Federation says Dean's bankruptcy is creating uncertainty for some producers, but "seen from another angle, it's just another disruption this sector will be able to withstand,” due to the strength of cooperatives and their dairy farmer-owners. ************************************************************************************* Ag Innovation Necessary to Address Climate Change The American Seed Trade Association says agriculture innovation will help combat and mitigate the impacts of climate change. In comments submitted to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, ASTA says, "The development and commercialization of innovative plant products is already playing a significant role in helping U.S. agriculture reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For U.S. agriculture to maximize its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, several things are needed, according to ASTA, including additional private and public sector investment in agriculture research. The organization says agriculture also needs rational government policies regarding evolving innovation in the agriculture space, and programs that incentivize farmers to adopt conservation practices. The comments note plant breeders are helping through developing better and higher-yielding crop varieties. ASTA says, "It's critical we continue moving forward, through robust investment in agriculture research and development, to drive forward the next generation of innovative solutions to meet the new and emerging challenges of tomorrow." ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Broadband Investments in Wyoming, Kansas The Department of Agriculture this week announced two more investments as part of its new rural broadband effort. Natural Resources Conservation Service chief Matthew Lohr announced the $5.2 million investment for broadband infrastructure in Kansas as part of the Reconnect Pilot Program, while USDA also announced a $4.79 million investment in Wyoming. In Kansas, Wave Wireless, LLC will use the funding to deploy a fiber broadband network servicing more than 1,300 households. In Wyoming, the funds will improve and create broadband connections in the county of Sweetwater, benefiting roughly 320 homes. USDA received 146 applications this year requesting $1.4 billion in funding through the ReConnect Program. The funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient Internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than ten Megabit download and one Megabit per second upload speeds. Additional investments will be made in the coming weeks.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 27, 2019 |


Washington Insider: More Trouble With Romaine Lettuce Amid all the alarms about the trade war, another threat is being highlighted this week by federal health and regulatory officials who are cautioning about romaine lettuce “of any kind harvested from the Salinas Valley.” The danger is that the lettuce “may be contaminated with a particularly dangerous type of E. coli bacteria that has sickened 40 people in 16 states.” The warnings were highlighted by an unusual range of urban media, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, among others. The warnings were stark — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration told consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they may already have purchased. To be clear, they said “restaurants should not serve it, stores should not sell it, and people should not buy it, if it came from Salinas, a growing area in Northern California.” The warning covered products marketed in many forms, including “chopped, whole head, precut or part of a mix.” Most romaine lettuce products are now labeled with a harvest location showing where they were grown, the Washington Post said and reported that “officials said to throw out lettuce if it doesn’t have a label specifying where it’s from.” No deaths have been reported in this E. coli outbreak, but the strain is the same one that caused outbreaks linked to leafy greens and romaine lettuce in the last two years. Just two days before Thanksgiving last year, CDC issued an unusually broad alert, warning consumers to avoid eating romaine lettuce of any kind in response to an outbreak. Of those who have been sickened in this outbreak by E. coli O157: H7, 28 people have been hospitalized, including five who have developed a type of kidney failure. This E. coli strain produces a Shiga toxin that can enter a person’s bloodstream and wreak havoc on kidney function. Symptoms of infection include vomiting, painful cramps and diarrhea that is often bloody. The largest number of cases reported so far has been in Wisconsin, with 10 cases, the Post said. Other cases have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. The report said that FDA and states are tracing the source of the romaine lettuce eaten by the ill consumers, but that “no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified.” The Post also said that “whole genome sequencing shows the strain in romaine lettuce tested by the Maryland Health Department is closely related genetically to the E. coli found in sick people from several locations. And it noted that USDA has a list of 35 recalled products sold under different brand names and “use by” dates from Oct. 29, 2019 to Nov. 1, 2019. At this time, there is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using or selling romaine harvested from places other than Salinas, or labeled as indoor, or hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown, FDA officials said. Convenience salads, from tubs of prewashed baby spinach to bags of chopped romaine, are regularly implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks, the Post said. Last year, an outbreak that began in March from chopped, bagged, as well as whole heads of romaine was the largest E. coli outbreak in more than a decade, killing five people and sickening more than 200 others in three dozen states. Food safety experts have said those convenience greens carry an extra risk because they come in contact with more people and machinery before they arrive on your plate. Contamination can occur on the farm from birds flying overhead or when low-lying fields flood with contaminated water. E. coli can also be spread by farmworkers who don’t wash their hands or via farm equipment that has manure on it. Once the greens are picked, they move to packaging plants where they may be exposed to more workers and more equipment. Products from multiple farms is often bagged in the same facility, which further increases the odds of cross-contamination. The problem with lettuce is that it is usually consumed fresh without being cooked or otherwise prepared in ways that can kill bacteria. In addition special testing ahead of distribution is both difficult and costly since the amounts of produce involved can be very large. At the same time, food borne illness outbreaks are extremely damaging to the fresh food industry as well as to the credibility of the entire food supply system. Regulators have recently been given new authorities to take steps to insure the safety of the food supply and need to take extraordinary steps as necessary to carry out those directions, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 27, 2019 |


Big Impact If China Cuts Its Tariff On US Pork A trade agreement that eliminates China’s 72% tariff on U.S. pork could reduce the bilateral trade deficit by nearly 6% and generate 184,000 new American jobs over the next decade, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes for the National Pork Producers Council. U.S. pork producers see a potential $24.5 billion market in China within 10 years if the Trump administration can gain unrestricted trade access after the Asian country’s hog herd has been devastated by African swine fever. The projection was based on a “best-case scenario” in which China drops all tariffs and barriers to pork imports, including speeding up customs processing to allow for imports of chilled pork. Hayes projected that without tariffs, China would import 35% of its pork — a level similar to Mexico and Australia after they concluded free-trade agreements — and U.S. producers would capture half that market.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 27, 2019 |


US Ag Exports Seen Rebounding While Another Import Record Forecast By USDA Increased values for U.S. pork, soybean and dairy exports helped fuel an increase in the forecast for U.S. agricultural exports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 with another record seen for U.S. ag imports, according to USDA. China remains a prominent factor in the U.S. agricultural export outlook. U.S. soybean exports are forecast to total $18 billion in FY 2020, up from USDA’s prior forecast they would be valued at $16.8 billion. The updated FY 2020 outlook is above the FY 2019 level of $16.9 billion, but shy of the FY 2018 mark of $21.7 billion. However, soybean export volumes for FY 2020 are seen holding at 48.3 million metric tons, down from 56.9 million metric tons in FY 2019. The value of U.S. pork exports is seen at $6.7 billion, up $400 million from the prior outlook at sharply higher than the FY 2019 result of $5.5 billion. China is also a factor in that outlook, with USDA noting the rise is “largely due to demand from China.” U.S. ag imports are now put at $132 billion, up from $129 billion and above the record of $131 billion in FY 2019. Imports also set new records in FY 2017 ($119.1 billion) and FY 2018 ($127.5 billion). Much of the increase is seen for fresh fruits and vegetables and grain products, USDA said. “Fresh fruit imports are raised $1.7 billion to $15 billion, largely due to increased deliveries of avocados, berries, and melons from Mexico,” USDA detailed. The aforementioned export and import forecasts would result in a trade balance of $7 billion, one billion less than USDA expected in August, but up from the $4.5 billion mark in FY 2019, the smallest U.S. ag trade black ink since FY 2006.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 27, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Wednesday before Thanksgiving is loaded with reports, starting with U.S. GDP, weekly jobless claims and durable goods orders at 7:30 a.m. CST. U.S. personal incomes and pending home sales are out at 9 a.m. The U.S. Energy Department releases weekly energy inventories at 9:30 a.m., including ethanol. Natural gas inventory is set for later in the morning, followed by the Fed's Beige Book at 1 p.m. CST. U.S. grain and livestock futures close at normal times on Wednesday and open again Friday at 8:30 a.m. CST. Weather Snow, ice and rain along with strong winds lingers over the northern Midwest early Wednesday while later in the day it should be drier. A new storm is taking shape over the western U.S. with widespread rain and snow expected mainly west of the Rockies. A minor disturbance will bring rain and mixed precipitation to New Mexico and west Texas mainly this afternoon. Drier elsewhere in the key U.S. growing areas. Impacts to travel, transport and harvesting today the Midwest due to recent and current snow, rain and wind. Impacts to travel and harvesting due to yesterday's snow through the northern portion of the central Plains region. Impacts to travel in many areas west of the Rockies.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 26, 2019 |


Trump Twitter Tirade on USMCA Inaction The president once again took to Twitter to lash out at House Democrats over their inaction on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. President Trump placed the blame for leaving USMCA squarely on Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for leaving USMCA “dead in the water.” USMCA isn’t the only legislation that’s awaiting action as the House and Senate are both out of session for the Thanksgiving break. There aren’t many days left on the congressional schedule in 2019. Politico says Democrats are expected to conduct negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer by phone this week. However, the House’s impeachment process and yet another government shutdown deadline looming will likely take up a lot of that remaining time on Capitol Hill through December. The good news for USMCA proponents is Mexico passed a budget for 2020 that includes more money for overhauling its labor laws. That could give some reassurance to House Democrats and U.S. labor groups, who’ve been worried that Mexico wouldn’t follow through on its labor commitments under the three-nation trade agreement. It’s been one of the biggest sticking points that’s held up Congressional ratification. ********************************************************************************************* Commission says Mexican Tomato Imports Threaten Domestic Production The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Friday that Mexican tomato imports threaten local production. That decision comes after the U.S. Commerce Department had already determined that Mexican tomatoes were likely to be sold at an unfairly low price as they were dumped into the U.S. market. The Florida Tomato Exchange asked for a dumping investigation shortly after the U.S. and Mexico signed a new trade deal. The Florida group says the ITC’s decision gives credibility to its long-standing concerns about Mexican imports. The Mexican-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas says it is disappointed in the decision, saying that rising Mexican imports simply reflects growing demand by U.S. consumers for Mexico’s produce. Mexican officials say, “Consumers prefer vine-ripened tomatoes, and this is why (U.S.) domestic gassed-green tomatoes continue to lose market share in the U.S.” The ITC ruling means that the recently negotiated tomato suspension agreement is still in effect. The deal will bring much-heavier inspection requirements for tomatoes entering the U.S. If the deal is ended for any reason, the U.S. will then impose a 21-percent duty on Mexican tomatoes, which account for nearly half the tomatoes sold in the U.S. ******************************************************************************************** “Phase Two” U.S. and China Agreement not Imminent U.S. and Beijing officials, lawyers, and other trade experts all tell Reuters that a “phase two” trade deal between the U.S. and China is nowhere near imminent. The two largest economies in the world are still having trouble getting the phase one deal signed. Back in October, U.S. President Trump said he expects to quickly start on phase two negotiations after the phase one deal is completed. The phase two trade deal would focus on the U.S. accusations that China steals U.S. intellectual property by forcing U.S. companies to transfer technology to Chinese rivals. Reuters says things like the 2020 presidential election, phase one deal difficulties, combined with the president’s reluctance to work with other countries to pressure China into playing by World Trade Organization rules are starting to dampen hopes for a more ambitious agreement in the future. Officials in Beijing have already commented publicly that they won’t start discussions on a phase two agreement until after the 2020 election because they want to see if Trump wins a second term. Reuters reported last week that signing the phase one agreement has the potential to slide into 2020. ********************************************************************************************** Rural Mainstreet Index Rises Again The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index for October climbed above growth-neutral. The index is a monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region that depends on agriculture and/or energy. The index rose to 51.4 in October, up from 50.1 in September. While the reading is still weak, it’s the highest reading since last June. It’s the third time in the last four months that the index came in above growth neutral. Doctor Ernie Goss of Creighton says, “Federal agriculture crop support payments and somewhat higher grain prices have boosted the Rural Mainstreet Index slightly above growth neutral for the month. Even with that said, almost three of four bank CEOs reported continuing negative impacts from the trade war.” By way of comparison, the farmland and ranchland price index for October slumped to a weak 40.3 from September’s 43.1. It’s the lowest reading since last March and the 71st-straight month that the index has been below growth neutral. The October farm equipment-sales index improved to 39.7 in October, up from 35.9 in September. ********************************************************************************************** Bill will Help Preserve Family Farms A bill introduced in the House of Representatives last week will help more farm families continue operating their farms after the death of a loved one. The Preserving Family Farms Act of 2019 is sponsored by Jimmy Panetta of California and Jackie Warlorski of Indiana and has the full support of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Farm and ranch families often face a significant financial burden when they have to pay estate taxes,” says AFB President Zippy Duvall. “Farm families should be able to pay based on how their land is used, rather than its potential value as commercial property, such as a shopping center.” The legislation will give more families hope they can hold onto their farm when a loved one passes away. The bill modernizes the special use valuation provision of the estate tax. This valuation allows the property to be appraised as farmland rather than its development value when determining estate taxes. Increasing the amount of farmland or ranchland that can be valued at agriculture value rather than development value would help protect family-owned farm and ranch businesses by assessing estate taxes on the actual value of the businesses they’ve spent decades building. “We strongly urge members of the House to co-sponsor this important bill,” Duvall says. ********************************************************************************************** Brazil says the U.S. will Open to Beef Imports Soon Brazilian officials tell Bloomberg it’s a matter of “if, not when,” the U.S. will reopen its market to Brazil’s meat exports. The trade and foreign relations secretary for Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry says, “We are 100 percent confident that it will happen. Our meat has the necessary quality to be exported to the U.S. Our meat’s quality is not an issue.” No date has been set in stone yet as to when the U.S. will begin accepting imports from Brazil. The U.S. has several questions about the current state of Brazil’s beef industry. Brazil provided additional answers and is now waiting for the U.S. to finish its analysis of those answers. As recently as October, the U.S. informed Brazil it would keep the ban on fresh-beef imports in place. The U.S. suspended imports from the largest economy in Latin America back in 2017. American inspectors found Brazilian beef to contain blood clots and lymph nodes. Brazil said the findings were abscesses that came about from a reaction to components of a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine. Because of that incident, Brazil reduced the vaccine dosage and made changes to the product’s compound.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 26, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Phase Two China Trade Prospects Fading Tea leaf reading has always been both difficult and dangerous during times of political turmoil and the current moment is no exception, Reuters said earlier this week. At a time when most pundits are focused on the likelihood of a “phase one” deal that avoids more and bigger tariffs along with continued pressure on the economy from trade uncertainty, Reuters is suggesting that an ambitious “phase two” trade deal between the United States and China is looking less likely as the two countries struggle to complete a phase one agreement. Although in October, President Donald Trump told the press in a joint conference with Chinese vice premier Liu He that he “expected to quickly dive into a second phase” once phase one had been completed. But hold-ups in getting the first-stage done along with “the White House’s reluctance to work with other countries to pressure Beijing” are dimming hopes for anything more ambitious in the near future, Reuters said. The 16-month trade war with China has thrown U.S. businesses and farmers into turmoil, disrupted global supply chains and been a drag on economies worldwide. Failure to address a key reason it was started is already raising questions about whether the sacrifice has been worth it — especially as many of Beijing’s trade practices widely seen as unfair remain unaddressed, Reuters said. In addition, last week Reuters reported that the signing of a phase one deal could slide into next year as the two countries tussle over Beijing’s demand for more extensive tariff rollbacks. Representative Jim Costa, D-Calif., who sits on two key agricultural committees, also reported to the Congress last week that “pragmatic” Chinese sources had described significant hurdles to the agreements and a lack of focus by the administration. White House spokesmen say the administration’s main priority is to secure a “big phase one announcement,” locking in big-ticket Chinese purchases of U.S. ag goods that can be touted as an important win during the coming re-election campaign. After that, China could recede somewhat on the president’s policy agenda as he turns to domestic issues, the official said. “As soon as we finish phase one we’re going to start negotiating phase two,” a second administration official said. “As far as timing around when a phase two deal could be completed, that’s not something I can speculate on.” Reuters said that the White House initially laid out ambitious plans to restructure the United States’ relationship with China. But many of these critical concerns will not be addressed in the phase one agreement, which focuses on China agricultural product buys, tariff roll backs, and includes some intellectual property pledges. “That’s the easy stuff,” said Costa. The harder issues are “industrial espionage, copyrights, privacy and security issues.” Further complicating the issue, the administration’s economic advisers are split: some are pushing for a quick phase one deal to appease markets and business executives, others want the focus to be “a more comprehensive agreement,” Reuters said. Beijing officials, meanwhile, are balking at pursuing larger structural changes to managing China’s economy and are anxious not to appear to be kowtowing to U.S. interests. Both China and the United States have a clear interest in getting a phase one deal completed relatively soon to soothe markets and assuage domestic policy concerns, said Matthew Goodman, a former U.S. government official and trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I think phase one probably will happen because both presidents want it,” Goodman said at a Congressional briefing last week. But he said China was less willing now to make structural changes that might have been possible in the spring. “They’re not going to do those things,” he said. The United States needs better coordination with its allies to pressure China to make urgently needed structural changes, including ending the forced transfer of technology and better intellectual property protections, trade experts and former officials say. Europe and other U.S. allies have been reluctant to join Washington’s pressure campaign on Beijing, partly due to frustration with the administration’s focus on unilateral action and in part due to their reliance on Chinese investment. “We need an international coalition to successfully attack phase two,” said Kellie Meiman Hock, managing partner at McLarty Associates, a trade consulting group in Washington. So, we will see. Clearly the trade talks with China are a major priority for the administration and for many industry groups including agriculture. However, the administration has set high goals for containing trade practices that are seen as unfair—and can expect substantial criticism if it does not focus systematically in those areas — efforts producers should watch closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 26, 2019 |


China Clears Large Number of US Poultry Facilities For Import USDA has released a list of 172 facilities that are now approved to export poultry to China, continuing the process of reopening the Chinese market to U.S. poultry. U.S. facilities approved by FSIS for export to China must be listed on the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) website, FSIS noted, “before slaughtering and processing poultry and poultry products for export to China. U.S. facilities can only export to China poultry that are slaughtered and further processed after the facility has been added to the GACC website.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 26, 2019 |


USDA Releases Clarification On Definitions For Export Sales Rules On Pork, Beef USDA Monday published its final rule on clarifications to the Export Sales reporting system in the Federal Register, after the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) “received informal inquiries whether exports of different types of beef and pork carcasses must be reported under the regulations.” The final rule notes now there is a footnote to the appendix of items covered under the systems relative to “fresh, chilled or frozen muscle cuts/whether or not boxed” for beef and pork. “For greater clarity, ‘muscle cuts’ includes carcasses, whether whole, divided in half or further sub-divided into individual primals, sub-primals, or fabricated cuts, with or without bone,” the footnote explains. “Carcasses which are broken down, boxed, and sold as a complete unit are muscle cuts. Total weight of carcasses reported may include minor non-reportable items attached to carcasses (e.g., hooves attached to carcasses). Meats removed during the conversion of an animal to a carcass (e.g., variety meats such as beef/pork hearts, beef tongues, etc.) are not muscle cuts nor are items sold as bones practically free of meat (e.g., beef femur bones) or fat practically free of meat (e.g., pork clear plate) removed from a carcass.” The rule was effective when published as it is “a final rule without prior notice and opportunity for comment.” USDA had signaled the update was coming in the regulatory agenda released last week and FAS had previously indicated it was going to update guidance to the trade on pork and beef reporting requirements under the export sales reporting system.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 26, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Financial traders will pay attention to a report on U.S. new home sales and an index of U.S. consumer confidence, both due out at 9 a.m. CST Tuesday. Any news about a possible limited trade agreement with China gets traders' attention as do the latest weather forecasts with U.S. corn still in the fields. Weather Moderate to heavy snow and wind spread from northeast Colorado and northwest Kansas across much of Nebraska, through the northwest portion of the Midwest region Tuesday into Wednesday. This is likely to greatly affect travel, transport and any late-season field work. Winter storm warnings have been issued for much of this area. A high wind warning is also in effect for the southwest Plains region today. Rain or showers will occur through the balance of the Midwest and in the Delta associated with this storm. Drier weather through East Coast states and also in the Northern Plains region. Snow, ice and rain in the western U.S. and the central Rockies region. In South America, rain yesterday in Argentina and today in Brazil will maintain favorable growing conditions for corn and soybeans. Temporary planting delays.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 25, 2019 |


Phase One Trade Agreement may be Heading to 2020 U.S. legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters didn’t stop China’s trade chief from making a phone call recently to invite U.S. negotiators to a new round of trade talks. The Wall Street Journal says U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Muh-NOO-chin) were invited to Beijing for more face-to-face trade negotiations. While it wasn’t immediately clear if U.S. officials said yes to the invitation, the Wall Street Journal says U.S. trade officials were willing to meet with their Chinese counterparts. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has yet to respond to requests for comment. The report on the Chinese invitation comes shortly after U.S. legislation on Hong Kong had threatened to push trade talks between the world’s biggest economies off track. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills intended to show support for protesters in Hong Kong. Beijing then accused the U.S. of interfering in its domestic affairs. Trade experts and people close to the Trump Administration say the limited trade agreement could be pushed into next year, news which is not good for U.S. agriculture. The U.S. and China have both imposed tariffs totaling billions of dollars on each other’s goods. ********************************************************************************************* Doubt Growing on USMCA Passing in 2019 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appears doubtful that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement will be passed this year. After she met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal last week, there was no deal and not much time left on the legislative clock. “We’ve made progress,” she said after leaving the 90-minute meeting. “I think we’re narrowing our differences.” She said earlier in the day that they’ll still have several steps to take even after they finally reach an agreement. The clock is ticking. Last Thursday was the last day before the House takes its Thanksgiving break. The Trump Administration and some Democrats hoped to strike a deal before the week-long recess to give lawmakers time in December to take up the pact. The House only has eight days of official session left in the 2019 calendar year. Lawmakers will stay on for an extra week in December to resolve budget issues and avoid a government shutdown. ********************************************************************************************* Michigan Joins Four Other States as Cage-Free A new law says the 15 million egg-laying hens in Michigan’s poultry flocks will have to lay their eggs in cage-free housing systems before 2025. An Associated Press report says Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist (GILL-krist) signed the legislation last week as Governor Gretchen Whitmer is on a trade trip to Israel. The law also prohibits non-cage-free eggs from being sold in Michigan starting in 2025. Gilchrist says the measure ensures Michigan standards for animal welfare are among the strongest in the U.S. At the same time, he says the law ensures egg producers can thrive. Under an older law, each hen was going to have to be confined in a one-square-foot space by April. The new law says each hen has to be housed in a cage-free system by the end of 2024. Michigan is the fifth state and the largest egg-producing state to adopt a cage-free law. The bill is part of a broader update of the state’s animal industry laws. Large restaurant and grocery chains like McDonald’s, Walmart, and Kroger have said they’ll only buy eggs from cage-free farms by 2025. ********************************************************************************************** Farmers Employing More Farm Workers, Paying Higher Wages than in 2018 U.S. farmers are hiring more laborers than they were a year ago and they’re paying higher wages too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a new report saying that farm operators directly employed 809,000 workers during the week of October sixth. That’s three percent higher than the same time last year. The USDA says farmers paid an average gross wage of $15.02 per hour during the same week in October, four percent more than last year. Field laborers averaged $14.38 per hour, which is five percent higher than last year. Livestock workers earned an average of $13.77 per hour, which is three percent higher than last year. The combined livestock and field worker wages average $14.21 per hour, four percent higher than last year. The report says the 2019 all-hired worker annual average gross wage rate comes in at $14.91 per hour, five percent higher than in 2018. The 2019 field worker’s annual average gross wage rate was at $14.11 per hour, six percent higher than the annual average in 2018. Field workers in Oregon and Washington were among the highest-paid this year, averaging $16.56 per hour, up from $15.62 last year. ********************************************************************************************** Feed Industry says China still has Partial U.S. Poultry Ban in Place The American Feed Industry Association says China’s lifting of its ban on U.S poultry imports is only a “partial” lifting. The association has received official confirmation from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that the announcement only includes poultry imports for human consumption. It doesn’t include other poultry products, such as those used in pet foods. At this time, the import restriction for pet foods with poultry products is still in effect. The association says there’s no difference in the risk of introducing poultry diseases between importing poultry for human or animal consumption. AFIA says it is “extremely disappointed to learn that China is implementing only a partial lifting of the ban and we look forward to working with APHIS and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to rectify the situation.” AFIA’s President and CEO, Constance Cullman, says, “China is a valuable market for the entire U.S. animal food industry, for exports of feed, feed ingredients, and value-added products such as meat and poultry.” ********************************************************************************************** Hoeven, Peterson Ask USDA to Help Sugar Growers Senate Ag Appropriations Chair John Hoeven (HOH-vehn) of North Dakota and House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota asked the USDA to assist to sugar growers in the Red River Valley. Producers in both states were unable to harvest their crops because of severe weather. The Hagstrom Report says USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey recently made a trip to those areas to see how producers were hit by a wet fall and early snowstorm. Hoeven says, “This has been an unprecedented year of challenges in farm country and we’re working to do all we can to support our producers.” He says sugar growers in the Red River Valley left 118,000 acres of sugar beets unharvested, which is one-third of their entire planted crop. Peterson says, “A tough harvest season has challenged sugar beet growers more than anyone would have anticipated. We’re committed to working with USDA to see if they have a way to access help.” USDA recently announced that the domestic sugar crop was smaller than anticipated due to weather problems. That means the agency expects it will allow an increase in imports.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 25, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Edging Closer to Spending Bills The Hill is reporting this week that top negotiators from the House and Senate have reached a long-stalled deal on top-line spending levels for the fiscal 2020 bills. The report cited House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who say they have settled on “302(b)s,” which set the top-line number for each of the 12 government funding bills. The Friday night agreement marks a “breakthrough” for the government funding negotiations and comes after days of behind-the-scenes horse trading, including back-and-forth funding offers, between Senate Republicans and House Democrats as they hunted for a path to a deal. In the meantime, Congress passed another very short-term spending bill last week, giving lawmakers until Dec. 20 to prevent a shutdown. To do that, they'll either need to pass the fiscal 2020 bills or another continuing resolution. Although the House has passed 10 of the 12 Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 bills and the Senate has passed four, lawmakers hadn't been able to reach a final deal on any of them “as they awaited the deal on the top-line numbers.” Shelby and Lowey said they want to pass each of the 12 funding bills by Dec. 20. That gives them less than a month — roughly 15 session days — to iron out the details of the bills and get them through both chambers. "The subcommittees are getting to work immediately in an effort to pass all 12 bills before the CR expires on Dec. 20," The Hill reported. The deal on subcommittee allocations adheres to the defense and nondefense caps agreed to as part of a two-year budget deal announced in July. Under that agreement, overall defense spending was $738 billion for fiscal 2020, while nondefense spending was $632 billion. The agreement between Shelby and Lowey does not resolve all of the remaining issues, including the “looming fight over the border wall, The Hill said. The House included no money for new border barriers in its Department of Homeland Security bill, while the Senate included $5 billion for the border in DHS as well as an additional $3.6 billion that could be reprogrammed from military projects to the border,” The Hill said. Democrats are also eager to block President Trump from reprogramming funds for the wall under emergency powers, a major sticking point with Republicans. Now it is up to the subcommittees to try to work out several tough policy differences, including the wall. "Individual funding items are being left to the subcommittees in keeping with long-standing committee practice," The Hill reported. In addition, other policy fights — including policies related to abortion and the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement beds—are significant potential roadblocks for negotiators as they draft the FY 2020 bills. While many members have been skeptical that it would be possible to pass 12 appropriations bills by the new December deadline, The Hill says its sources expressed optimism that the timeline was achievable. Lowey and Shelby’s ability to strike a deal on the allocations had been a major stumbling block for weeks. Appropriators had noted that without a deal before Thanksgiving, the new deadline was “ambitious.” “If they can get those numbers done, I still think we have time to get those bills done before the end of the year when we get back,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., an appropriator, said ahead of the announcement of the deal last week. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., warned the President to stay out of the funding negotiations as lawmakers head toward the Dec. 20 deadline. "On the first path, President Trump stays out of our way and gives Congress the space to work together and find an agreement," he said. "On the second path, President Trump stomps his feet, makes impossible demands and prevents his party, the Republicans, from coming to a fair arrangement." So, we will see. It appears now that numerous members prefer the newly proposed budget levels to those that would be used if another CR is required. At the same time, the remaining time is very short and several of the potential remaining issues are highly contentious. These talks include very high stakes and should be watched closely by producers as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 25, 2019 |


Grassley Waiting On EPA’s Next Move On Ethanol Targets Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, again met with President Donald Trump on the issue of biofuel policy, but said he wants to see EPA’s final plan before he is willing to say that the agency will live up the pledge on making sure that 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol get used. “I left the meeting satisfied that the president was saying the same thing — and [EPA Administrator Andrew] Wheeler heard him say it — said we got to produce 15 billion gallons,” Grassley said. Grassley said he told Trump that EPA’s actions since a September meeting on the topic “leaves a lot of questions whether or not we are going to get the 15 billion gallons that we said we were going to get.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 25, 2019 |


China’s Xi Insists Country Wants Phase One Deal With US Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country wants to reach an initial trade deal with the U.S. but also was not afraid to retaliate if need be. "We want to work for a 'phase one' agreement on the basis of mutual respect and equality," Xi said at an international forum in Beijing organized by Bloomberg. "When necessary we will fight back, but we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war. We did not initiate this trade war and this is not something we want." He also commented that China has a “positive attitude” on the trade talks. Xi met with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Friday, with Xinhua reporting Xi stated that the two sides need to boost communications when it comes to strategic issues so as to avoid misunderstandings. Chinese diplomat Wang Yi Wang Yi said on Friday the U.S. needs to meet China halfway and should promote healthy and stable development of bilateral relations. Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post quoted Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group political consulting firm as saying the Hong Kong issue will not impact the trade deal provided things do not escalate. “I was with Liu He two nights ago, it was very clear to me in his level of, not confidence but certainly hopefulness, and cautious optimism that we will move to a phase one deal and that Hong Kong was not going to play into that,” Bremmer stated. "President Trump has made it clear that he is not going to talk about Hong Kong, and not allow it to interfere as long as they are discussing trade." President Donald Trump today told Fox Business News that “We have a deal potentially, very close, he [Chinese President Xi Jinping] wants to make it much more than I want to make it, I am not anxious to make it,” As for Hong Kong, Trump said the U.S. has to “stand with Hong Kong, but I am also standing with President Xi.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 25, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections will be released at 10 a.m. CST Monday, as usual, but don't be surprised if trade is quiet ahead of Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday. With corn still in the fields, USDA announced Monday's 3 p.m. Crop Progress report will not be the final one in 2019, as originally scheduled. More Monday reports will follow until harvest gets closer to finishing. Weather Snow and some mixed precipitation from eastern North Dakota through northern Minnesota during Monday. Snow and rain through the Pacific Northwest with snow through the north and central Rockies region into western Nebraska. Little of note elsewhere in the key U.S. crop and livestock areas Monday . Favorable for the delayed harvests of corn and soybeans and mostly favorable for winter wheat. In South America, rain and thunderstorms have developed in the central Argentina corn and soybean belt while in Brazil it will be drier and warmer Monday. Mostly favorable conditions for planting and developing crops at this time.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 22, 2019 |


Ag Exports Projected to fall $5.2 Billion in 2019 The Department of Agriculture projects the fiscal year 2019 U.S. agricultural trade balance to fall to $5.2 billion. USDA’s Economic Research Service projects exports at $134.5 billion, and imports at $129.3 billion, leaving a $5.2 billion surplus, the lowest since fiscal year 2006. Unlike overall U.S. trade in goods and services, U.S. trade in the agricultural sector consistently runs at a surplus. Although agricultural exports have increased in value since 2016, the value of imports has risen at a slightly faster rate, leading to a declining trade balance. Compared to the previous outlook in May 2019, exports were revised down by $2.5 billion, while imports were raised by $0.3 billion. The decline in expected export value was primarily due to lowered expectations for corn and soybean exports. For imports, the increase in the forecast was due in part to an increase in the expected value of horticultural imports, such as fruits and vegetables. Initial projections for fiscal year 2020 suggest a small recovery in the agricultural trade balance to $8.0 billion. ************************************************************************************* China Phase One Delays Continue, China Claims Talks on Track Promised for mid-November, reports this week suggest an agreement and signing of the so-called phase one trade deal with China faces delays until mid-December. However, China maintains that the talks are on track. A Chinese government spokesperson told reporters this week “China is willing to work with the United States to resolve each other’s core concerns," adding the "external rumors" regarding the unraveling of the agreement are not true. China has invited the United States to Beijing for talks, possibly next week before the Thanksgiving holiday. Chinese officials suggested the deal could be signed in early December. Despite the claims by China, markets appear to sluggish on any trade news, seemingly growing tired of delayed promises of agreements and little progress. President Donald Trump says the phase-one agreement would include $40-50 billion worth of U.S. ag trade to China over a two-year period. U.S. farm exports to China reached nearly $20 billion before the trade war began, but since fell roughly 50 percent. ************************************************************************************* Farm Bureau Calls for Improvements to Ag Labor Bill While many farm groups seem pleased with the House labor bill, the American Farm Bureau Federation says it falls short of a long-term solution. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says that "While welcome, these changes unfortunately fall short of assuring that American producers will be able to keep their farms going." Changes made to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act before introduction improve the ability of farmers to retain H-2A workers, take a small step toward protecting farmers from frivolous litigation, and add a study to examine whether the H-2A program affects U.S. farmers’ ability to compete with foreign ag imports. However, AFBF says the key amendments not included in the bill would ensure a fair and competitive wage rate and limitations on the use of federal courts to solve workplace grievances. Duvall says that “once Congress passes legislation, no one will have an appetite to revisit the issue and simply put, this bill’s approach is not yet good enough.” ************************************************************************************* Hahn Pledges Transparent Dairy Labeling in Confirmation Hearing The National Milk Producers Federation welcomed comments made during a confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration. The hearing briefly touched on dairy labeling transparency. NMPF and others are seeking a labeling system that prohibits plant-based dairy imitators from using dairy marketing terms. Rules already do so, but FDA has not enforced them. Hahn voiced his support for “clear, transparent, and understandable labeling for the American people.” Hahn says, “people need this so that they can make the appropriate decisions for their health and for their nutrition.” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “It’s heartening to hear the nominee pledge that an FDA under his leadership will immediately examine this crucial unfinished business.” The comments by Hahn came before the Senate Health Committee. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, called Hahn an “impressive choice” to lead the FDA. Ranking member Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, demanded Hahn commit to putting science, data and families first. ************************************************************************************* New Motor Oil Made with High Oleic Soybean Oil Now Available on Amazon America’s drivers have a new choice that unites performance and sustainability at a competitive cost, according to the United Soybean Board. Biosynthetic® Technologies’ biobased synthetic motor oil, using high oleic soybean oil from U.S. soybeans, is now on commercial shelves. USB Director Mike Korth, a Nebraska Farmer, says, “Soy-based motor oil is another great opportunity to drive demand for U.S. soybeans" and meet consumer sustainability demands. Biosynthetic Technologies’ motor oil is also recognized as a USDA Certified Biobased Product in the United States Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program. The company will market both 5W-20 and 5W-30 through Amazon.com and direct from their website. The product is available for purchase and use immediately. Biosynthetic is also offering farmers a limited-time 20 percent discount to purchase the synthetic oil. They can use code BioTrialFarm available only at motoroil.biosynthetic.com through January 31. USB and USDA have supported the soy-based, drop-in synthetic alternative to petroleum-based motor oil, calling the oils well-suited for high-temperature automotive and industrial applications. ************************************************************************************* Farm Bureau Survey: Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Rises Only a Penny An annual survey finds the Thanksgiving Day dinner average cost this year for ten is $48.91, less than $5.00 per person. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 34th annual survey on Thanksgiving Day meal items increased just once cent from last year. The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables, the turkey, costs slightly less than last year, at $20.80 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.30 per pound, down four percent from last year. Survey results show retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2010. Although the overall average cost of the meal was about the same this year, there were some price changes for individual items. In addition to turkey, foods that showed slight price declines include cubed bread stuffing and canned pumpkin pie mix. Foods showing modest increases this year included dinner rolls, sweet potatoes and milk. Meanwhile, despite the growing popularity of prepared foods, 92 percent of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving at home or at a family member’s home and most cook their entire meal at home, according to the survey.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 22, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Cautious Optimism on China Deal Bloomberg is reporting this week that China’s chief trade negotiator indicated he was “cautiously optimistic” about reaching a phase one deal with the U.S. in spite of “warnings of the dangers of escalating the tariff war” by experts. Vice Premier Liu He commented in a speech in Beijing on Wednesday ahead of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum. He also said he had invited his U.S. counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, to travel to China for talks this month but noted that “the invitation hasn’t yet been accepted.” On Thursday, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said America and China were in the “foothills of a Cold War,” and warned that the conflict could be worse than World War I if left to run unconstrained. Later in the day, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson also warned of the perils of decoupling the world’s two largest economies. President Donald Trump announced a “phase one” deal a month ago, but since that time, markets have been whipsawed by comments from both sides, first indicating progress, and then the opposite. The latest potential hurdle came after Liu made his dinner-time comments, when the U.S. House voted 417-1 for legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters that has already been unanimously approved by the Senate. The President said earlier that he plans to sign the bill, Bloomberg said. Liu also explained China’s plans for reforming state enterprises, opening up the financial sector, and enforcing intellectual property rights, issues at the core of U.S. demands for change in China’s economic system. However, in a separate comment, he told one of the attendees that he was “confused” about the U.S. demands but was confident the first phase of an agreement could be completed nevertheless. Liu’s remarks cushioned declines in stocks in Asia, Europe and the U.S. as investors weighed the impact of the House bill on relations between the world’s two largest economies. U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators will continue communicating closely and work toward a phase one deal, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said at a briefing in Beijing on Thursday. Responding to questions including whether the two sides agreed on agricultural purchases and tariff removal, as well as a media report on the timetable for a deal, Gao said related rumors were not accurate. It was unclear exactly what he was referring to. If efforts to reach a phase one deal fail before Dec. 15, the White House has threatened to impose 15% tariffs on some $160 billion in imports from China. While the Hong Kong bill is a negative factor for the phase one deal, China still may be able to reach an agreement with the U.S. this year, said Zhang Yansheng, who previously worked at the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning body. “The optimistic view is that the phase-one deal can be reached within this year – but a more pessimistic one is that the first phase will be dragged to some point next year,” said Zhang, who is now chief researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. Kissinger, 96, said he hoped trade negotiations would provide an opening to political discussions between the two countries. “Everybody knows that trade negotiations, which I hope will succeed and whose success I support, can only be a small beginning to a political discussion that I hope will take place,” he said. Kissinger spoke hours after Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan addressed the NEF, saying his country was committed to peace and would follow through on policy changes despite facing challenges at home and abroad. “Between war and peace, the Chinese people firmly choose peace,” he said. “We should abandon the zero-sum thinking and Cold War mentality.” The Forum is being organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. Meantime, Paulson called on China to open more and said the U.S. should resist the temptation to delist Chinese firms from U.S. exchanges, calling it a “terrible idea.” Both countries should determine the rules of the road for high-end technology such as 5G, he said. “There will be some natural decoupling,” Paulson said. “But the delusions of a wholesale, comprehensive decoupling and an economic iron curtain will leave our countries, and the world, worse off. We need to avoid that outcome.” After almost two years of negotiations and escalations – and plenty of false dawns – trade negotiators from the U.S. and China are making progress in key areas, Bloomberg said. The negotiating teams are using their failed May proposal as a benchmark for how much a phase-one deal covers of the once-near agreement and how much tariffs will be removed as part of the initial deal. There’s been signs of a thawing on other fronts. The U.S. Commerce Department has started approving some suppliers’ applications for licenses to do business with China’s Huawei Technologies Co., partially reopening access to one of the biggest buyers of U.S. technology. However, Charlene Barshefsky, who negotiated China’s entry into the WTO, said that “No outcome is inevitable but two decades of careful management of the relations between China and the West have run its course.” So, we will see. The positive signals from China are certainly welcome in spite of the remaining large areas of uncertainty to be addressed. These are very important fights that producers should watch closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 22, 2019 |


USDA To Issue Final Rule On Export Sales Reporting Of Pork, Beef The fall 2019 regulatory agenda released by the Trump administration Wednesday included a notice that USDA intends to issue a final rule in December, which will clarify export sales reporting requirements. “The final rule would amend the Export Sales Reporting Requirements Regulation to clarify certain definitions as they relate to beef and pork, which are subject to this regulation to ensure accuracy of the weekly U.S. Export Sales report,” the notice said. This appears to be aimed at addressing details on things like the specific cuts that are to be reported to USDA and the timeline for making those reports to USDA. The most-recent sales data did show that nearly one half of the total for U.S. pork sales to foreign buyers were “late reported” sales.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 22, 2019 |


McConnell Chides House Democrats For Giving AFL-CIO Big Role In USMCA Process Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday argued that Democrats are giving AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka too much sway in talks on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). “How ironic. We are talking about a trade deal that would create more American jobs, and Democrats are considering outsourcing their judgment to Big Labor special interests — who, to my recollection, have not supported a single major trade deal in living memory,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. This comes after Trumka met with House Democrats on USMCA, noting that changes are still needed in the trade deal to get his union to back the deal. Meanwhile, Mexico’s Congress delayed the government’s 2020 spending bill, which includes proposed funds to implement the labor reforms required under the USMC

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 22, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets On the Friday before Thanksgiving, it is reasonable to expect quiet trade in ag futures, but there are a few items to note. An index of U.S. consumer sentiment is due out at 9 a.m. CST, followed by USDA's monthly cattle on-feed and cold storage reports at 2 p.m. A possible trade meeting is brewing with China and any comments or related news will get attention. Weather Rain and snow are in the Southern Plains, and rain from the far Southern Plains to the eastern Great Lakes, will be the areas of precipitation Friday. Drier conditions will be in place elsewhere.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 21, 2019 |


GREEN Act Would Extend Renewable Energy Tax Incentives A renewable energy bill includes biodiesel tax extenders, although the legislation’s future is uncertain. This week, California Democrat Mike Thompson introduced the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now, or GREEN Act, in the House of Representatives. Thompson says the bill will “build on existing tax incentives that promote renewable energy and increase efficiency.” The bill would extend the currently expired biodiesel tax credits through a multiyear extension. The legislation would keep the credit at its current rate of $1.00 per gallon for 2018 through 2021 but gradually reduce it to $0.33 per gallon by 2024. The National Biodiesel Board supports the legislation, as the industry seeks certainty. Since the start of the year, ten biodiesel plants have been forced to cut production or close and lay off workers due to policy uncertainty. However, the fate of the bill is unclear, as Democrats and Republicans clash over so-called “green” legislation and climate issues. Among other things, the bill would promote green energy technologies, increase energy efficiency, and support use of zero-emission transportation and infrastructure. ************************************************************************************* Growth Energy Celebrates New York’s Move to E15 Growth Energy calls New York's move to E15 a "major regulatory victory" that will open the nation's fourth-largest fuel market to E15 Under a rule finalized Wednesday by the New York Department of Agriculture. New York will become the newest state to allow the sale of E15, which is approved for all vehicles model year 2001 and newer. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the organization “looks forward to working with retailers across the state to quickly get E15 into the market.” Over the last five years, Growth Energy has worked together with community leaders, retailers, farm advocates, and biofuel supporters across New York to push for an update to the state’s fuel regulations. Western New York Energy President and CEO Timothy Winters says the update “will allow more New York motorists to make their own decisions about purchasing renewable fuel blends.” Last month, American drivers topped 11 billion miles on E15, and adoption rates continue to rise following recent regulatory changes by the EPA to permit year-round sales of the fuel. ************************************************************************************* Farmers Receive 12 Cents of the Thanksgiving Food Dollar Farmers and ranchers take home just 12.1 cents from every dollar that consumers spend on their Thanksgiving dinner meals, according to the National Farmers Union. NFU’s annual Farmer’s Share publication compares the retail food price of traditional holiday dinner items to the amount the farmer receives for each item they grow or raise. On average, farmers receive 14.6 cents of every food dollar consumers spend throughout the year, more than the recent study finds. NFU President Roger Johnson says, “We’re in the midst of the worst farm economic downturn in generations, and we’re hopeful the Farmer’s Share can help illustrate that fact to the general public.” Wheat farmers averaged a meager $0.03 on 12 dinner rolls that retail for $2.69. Dairy producers received only $1.66 from a $4.59 gallon of milk. And turkey growers, who raise the staple Thanksgiving dish, received just $0.06 per pound retailing at $1.49. Johnson says that $0.06 figure—while striking on its own—is particularly shocking when considering the fact that poultry integrators received $0.62 per pound. ************************************************************************************* Plant Response Biotech, Koch Biological Solutions Merge Plant Response Biotech and Koch Biological Solutions, LLC. have combined operations to form Plant Response Biotech, Inc. The new venture will leverage both companies' complementary capabilities, assets and product offerings. Plant Response Biotech is a plant biotechnology company specializing in plant innate immunity, plant physiology and nutrient use efficiency. It has developed several product candidates which are approaching commercial launch status in the areas of drought tolerance and plant health. Koch Biological Solutions focuses on developing science-based, live microbial and biologically derived chemistries that improve plant performance at every stage of growth. Through various modes of action, their biological solutions perform directly on the plant or its environment to improve crop efficiency and nutrient uptake, maximizing yield potential. Tom Warner, chairman of the board for the new Plant Response Biotech, says of the move, "These companies are naturally complementary, and it made tremendous sense to bring the two together.” The new company will be headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, with operations in California and Spain. ************************************************************************************* USDA Invests in the Expansion of Rural Education and Health Care Access The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced a $42.5 million investment for education and telemedicine projects in parts of rural America. The effort will fund 133 projects in 37 states and two U.S. territories through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program, benefiting 5.4 million rural residents. DJ LaVoy, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, says the program helps “rural residents to take advantage of economic, health care and educational opportunities without having to travel long distances.” The funded projects include $488,000 for Mississippi State University to update video conferencing equipment in 93 counties. USDA’s investment will enable participants in extension offices and experiment stations to deliver educational programming to interactive audiences. In Ohio, the Lisbon Exempted Village School District is receiving a $323,000 grant to create a distance learning network at eight sites within one county. The district will offer classes and behavioral health services to 850 students. Information on additional projects funded by the effort is online at www.rd.usda.gov.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 21, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Pressure to Complete the New NAFTA Pressures are building on Democrats from rural areas, many of whom face tough re-elections in 2020, Bloomberg is reporting this week. This group is “pushing their party leaders to complete the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade pact before the end of the year to give them a solid legislative achievement—but also to “undercut GOP criticism that they are doing nothing but impeachment.” “It’s only going to get harder to make a good deal as we get closer and closer to the presidential election,” said Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah. “There’s a window right now to get it done.” An agreement between House leaders and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is close to being done with enforcement provisions on labor and environment still being ironed out, Bloomberg said. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka met with freshman Democrats on Tuesday morning to convey the message that it’s important to strengthen labor enforcement in the final deal. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said she told Trumka that while she supported the enforcement of labor regulations, farmers and manufacturers in her district were hurting due to the trade war and tariffs, which a new trade agreement would alleviate. “The longer we wait, [the more] it increases the pain the folks in Iowa like our farmers are getting right now,” she said. Several lawmakers alluded to criticism that they were doing little besides impeachment. President Trump has branded them “Do-Nothing Democrats” despite the 100-plus bills the House passed this year, Bloomberg said. “I was sent here by the people of my district to get things done and one of those big-ticket items is a solid trade deal with Mexico and Canada,” Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., said, leaving the meeting with Trumka. “That’s what my district wants and that’s what I’m trying to get towards.” McAdams said an agreement might be “even more important now, in light of the impeachment inquiry, that we show our constituents that we are still moving forward legislation that is good for the public.” Other lawmakers are working to calm the anxieties of the freshmen by emphasizing the need for not merely a good deal but one they can stand behind for decades. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said veteran House members warned her they were still facing negative reaction from their 1993 vote on NAFTA. “The senior members are making it very clear that we all understand the stakes,” she said. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., a member of the group of Democrats meeting with Lighthizer, said the freshmen haven’t been shy about making their needs known. “They’re feeling a lot of pressure,” he said. “But in the end, they still need a good agreement to vote for and something they don’t have to run away from.” The trade deal still could get done before the end of the year, although it’s competing for attention and floor time with the impeachment inquiry and with work on an agreement on how to fund the government for the rest of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The House passed another continuing resolution Tuesday to fund the government until Dec. 20. Draft language for the trade agreement is being exchanged, Gomez said, and added that the final language could be complete a few days after a final agreement is reached. “Anything is possible, to be honest with you,” he said. So, we will see. Observers argue that work is progressing steadily on the new NAFTA, even though they say they recognize that pressure for speed is often the “enemy of a thoroughly vetted and refined final product.” Nevertheless, there seems to be growing optimism regarding the evolving deal, so the process is one producers should continue to watch closely as it progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 21, 2019 |


Farm Credit System Weathering Farm Income Situation Officials from the Farm Credit System testified before a House Ag subcommittee Tuesday, telling the panel the ag lender is so far weathering the farm income difficulties. Large payouts to farmers under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) are providing help, officials said, but they noted that farm debt has grown some $41 billion in the last three years. The farm bill safety net programs are working as they should, officials said. USDA next week will update its farm income forecast for 2019 and issue its outlook for 2020 and that is expected to continue to show that government payments are making up a greater share of U.S. farm income. But, conditions remain better than those seen in the 1980s.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 21, 2019 |


FERC Approves Temporary Emergency Shipment of Propane to Midwest Temporary emergency shipment of propane from Texas to the Midwest has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The pipeline company asking for the action said “record demand for propane is due to an unusual coincident increase in heating demand, resulting from unseasonably cold weather in the region, and crop drying demand.” There were no comments or protests filed on the request and FERC determined the matter is accepted effective November 13. In addition, FERC announced it will “initiate an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process with pipeline companies, shippers and their representatives to explore actions FERC and industry can take to alleviate propane pipeline constraints in the Midwest.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 21, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets As usual, 7:30 a.m. CST is a busy time Thursday with weekly grain export sales, weekly jobless claims and the U.S. Drought Monitor set for release. Early Thursday, the National Weather Service will have new forecast for December, in addition to its usual forecasts. U.S. existing home sales and leading index of U.S. indicators are out at 9 a.m., followed by natural gas storage at 9:30 a.m. and an update of U.S. propane supplies Thursday afternoon. Weather Thursday features rain and snow in the Midwest, disrupting harvest and transportation. Rain is also in store for portions of the Southern Plains, offering some moisture for winter wheat. In South America, rain is indicated over northeastern crop areas of Brazil.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 20, 2019 |


USMCA 2019 Deadline Nears Fewer and fewer days remain for Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in 2019. Washington is sending mixed signals on whether the deal can be completed this year. Some lawmakers have suggested the House stay in session an extra week, adding time to the calendar to wrap up business before Christmas. Meanwhile, last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a labor deal in USMCA was "imminent." However, President Donald Trump claimed this week Pelosi was holding up the trade deal to gather more votes in favor of impeaching Trump. Representative Richard Neal, who chairs the Democrats USMCA working group, last week suggested union support was within reach, adding “we need it.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka met with Pelosi and other Democrats Tuesday, while also vowing during an unrelated speech to not allow Democrats to fold on core issues. Trumka stated that until USMCA includes stronger labor standards, “there is still more work to be done,” according to Reuters. Democrats leaving the meeting were skeptical that an agreement could be reached this year. ************************************************************************************* U.S., South Korea Reach Agreement on Guaranteed Market Access for American Rice The Trump administration Tuesday announced an agreement to allow U.S. rice more market access in South Korea. Under the agreement, Korea will provide access for 132,304 tons of U.S. rice annually, with an annual value of approximately $110 million. Korea also agreed to important disciplines to ensure transparency and predictability around the tendering and auctioning for U.S. rice. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says the announcement “will prove enormously beneficial for American producers.” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the exports “are critical for the economic health of the U.S. rice industry,” as half of the U.S. rice crop is exported annually. Perdue called the announcement “another great testament of President Trump’s determination to expand export opportunities” for farmers and ranchers. The agreement gives the U.S. the greatest volume of guaranteed rice market access in Korea ever secured by the United States. Additionally, the agreement provides U.S. suppliers with enhanced disciplines related to the administration of the U.S. country-specific quota. The agreement will enter into force on January 1, 2020. ************************************************************************************* Midwest lawmakers Introduce Fair Trade Legislation A group of Senators from the Upper-Midwest Tuesday introduced a bill to crack down on trade cheating. Legislators say the Play by the Rules Act will hold China accountable for ignoring trade rules and harming American workers. U.S. anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws are designed to stop trade partners from tipping the scales in their favor and forcing American workers to compete at a disadvantage. The rules are widely used and mostly followed by World Trade Organization members. However, nonmarket economies—like China—are engaged in a sophisticated and government-backed effort to avoid paying the duties required by the rules, according to the lawmakers. The bill provides the Commerce Department additional flexibility when reviewing anti-circumvention petitions filed against nonmarket economies like China. The flexibility will allow the Commerce Department to better combat China’s attempts to cheat U.S. workers and businesses. Senate Democrats Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, along with Senate Republicans Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, introduced the bipartisan legislation. ************************************************************************************* Tyson to Reopen Kansas Beef Plant Next Month Tyson will reopen a Kansas beef processing facility next month, following repairs prompted by an August fire that disrupted operations at the facility. This week, Tyson announced repairs at the Holcomb, Kansas facility are nearly complete, and efforts to resume beef processing are planned for the first week of December. The company expects the plant to be fully operational by the first week of January. The fire severely damaged a critical part of the plant containing the hydraulic and electrical systems that support the harvest floor and cooler areas. Reconstruction included completely replacing support beams and the roof, hydraulic piping and pumps, installing over 50,000 feet of new wiring and the reconstruction of all new electrical panel rooms and equipment. The fire disrupted cattle markets and processing as the facility reduced industry slaughter capacity by six percent. A Department of Agriculture Investigation into beef pricing practices following the fire should wrap up by the end of this year. ************************************************************************************* USDA Begins 2019 Organic Survey The Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service will mail letters with survey codes this December to more than 22,000 organic producers. Specifically, the surveys target producers involved in certified or transitioning to certified organic farming for the 2019 Organic Survey. Each producer who self-reported organic farming in the 2017 Census of Agriculture will receive a unique survey code to respond conveniently online and to be represented in this once-every-five-year data. The 2019 Organic Survey results will expand on the 2017 Census of Agriculture data by looking at several aspects of organic agriculture during the 2019 calendar year, including production, marketing practices, income, expenses and more. Producers who receive the 2019 Organic Survey are required to respond by federal law, as this survey is part of the Census of Agriculture Program. The same federal law that requires response also requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential. The deadline for response is January 10, 2020. Results will be available in October 2020. For more information about the Organic Survey, visit www.nass.usda.gov. ************************************************************************************* E15 Summer Sales up 46 Percent Growth Energy recently announced that summer sales of E15 increased 46 percent in 2019, compared to 2019, on a per-store basis. E15 contains 15 percent ethanol or another renewable biofuel and is now often sold as Unleaded 88 at the pump. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the “explosive growth in summer sales” demonstrates consumers “will come back again and again,” to E15, once available and they know the benefits of the fuel. She says the industry expects to see interest from retailers and consumers alike continue to grow. 2019 also saw an increase in retailers offering E15. Led by Casey's, the retail industry added 149 stores over the summer months. The 2019 summer driving season was the first summer Unleaded 88 was sold without restriction, and the increase “underscored the fuel's popularity with drivers” who have logged more than 11 billion miles using E15. Earlier this month, Growth Energy announced NASCAR drivers surpassed 15 million miles using E15, since launching a partnership with the ethanol industry in 2011.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 20, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Working to Avoid Another Congressional Shutdown News from the Congress this week includes a Bloomberg article that focused on efforts to avoid another Congressional shutdown. The report said that House Democrats on Monday released a four-week spending bill negotiated with Republicans to avert at least temporarily a federal government shutdown on Friday. The measure, which would extend funding through Dec. 20, would also keep the Export-Import Bank open through that date and would allow the Census Bureau to spend money at a higher rate to prepare for the 2020 head count, prevent an automatic cut to highway funding next year and provide the military with a 3.1% pay increase. The House announced plans to vote on the bill early this week, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Republican-controlled chamber will also vote on the measure this week. Current funding runs out at the end of the day Thursday. However, in spite of the high level of political tension just now, it appears that almost nobody wants another shutdown. For example, the White House has indicated that President Donald Trump is ready to sign the measure, McConnell said. Elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act set to expire on Dec. 15 would be extended through March 15, 2020 under the proposal. The provisions allow expanded authority to wiretap terrorism suspects and to examine business records related to terrorism investigations. In addition, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., who opposes the FISA extension and single-handedly triggered a brief shutdown in the past, said Monday he doesn’t expect to block passage of the measure this week--although he hasn’t made a final decision. The bill would extend funding for community health centers through Dec. 20 and increase funding to combat Ebola in Africa. It would also provide a payment to the widow of the late Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, a standard practice. The short-term spending measure is needed because Congress has failed to agree on any of the 12 annual spending bills needed to fund government agencies for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed in July on a $1.3 trillion budget cap for fiscal 2020, raising hopes that the 12 spending bills could be enacted quickly. Instead, disputes over President Trump’s border wall have hampered the appropriations committees’ ability to set top spending levels for each of the 12 bills under the overall cap. The administration budget asked for $9 billion in new wall funding and Senate Republicans have proposed providing $5 billion, while House Democrats have vowed to provide no new money. The two parties are also arguing over whether to replenish military accounts that the president raided earlier this year to fund the wall, a move that has been challenged in court and which Democrats argue was unconstitutional. Pelosi and Mnuchin met last week with Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., to try to break the impasse. Afterward, Lowey said the group is aiming for a deal on top spending levels by the end of this week, but talks have made little headway. The White House has said the president would be willing to sign a stopgap spending bill as long as it doesn’t hinder the president’s executive authorities, including the ability to spend the transferred wall money. So, we will see. Most of the Washington tea-leaf readers are being extremely cautious just now even though it appears that few, if any, are actively pushing for another shutdown fight. Still, these are certainly tense times and even the development of the annual budget should be watched closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 20, 2019 |


Global Trade Is Set To Stay Weak As 2019 Draws To A Close The World Trade Organization's trade barometer shows some stabilization for the global flow of goods, albeit at low levels. The WTO's Goods Trade Barometer recorded signs of a pickup in export orders, container shipping and automobile shipments, offset by weakness in airfreight, and shipments of raw materials and electronic components. This signals international trade is likely to end the year having risen at the slowest pace since 2009. Trade flows have been weakened by several developments, including the U.S.-China trade war and a slowdown in the global automobile industry.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 20, 2019 |


Farmer Payments Continue to Add Up Via MFP As USDA starts issuing the second round of payments under the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) this week, county FSA offices have been directed to prioritize processing the payments and wrap up that exercise by November 22. USDA said in a release the payments would go out from November 18-28. As the second round of payments starts rolling, the payouts thus far under MFP 2 total $6.899 billion. That includes $6.58 billion for non-specialty crops, $69.7 million for specialty crops, and $252 million for livestock. Midwest states and Texas lead the top states in terms of dollars received under the MFP 2 effort so far. The second round of payments is expected to total around $3.6 billion.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 20, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets In addition to weather and any news updates on trade with China, the U.S. Energy Department will release its weekly report of energy inventories, including ethanol, at 9:30 a.m. CST. At 1 p.m. CST, the Federal Reserve will release minutes from its most recent FOMC meeting, offering clues to future interest rate changes. Weather Wednesday will be dry across primary crop areas, offering one more day of favorable harvest conditions. The pattern turns wetter and colder with rain and snow Thursday. There is still almost one quarter of the U.S. corn crop still unharvested.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 19, 2019 |


Washington Insider: The President and the Fed It seems like a strange world when a presidential meeting with his Fed chair attracts significant media attention but the press is focusing pretty heavily on the recent session President Donald Trump held with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss the economy. For example, Bloomberg noted that it was the second face-to-face sit-down this year “amid relentless White House criticism of the U.S. central bank.” Powell’s comments “were consistent with his remarks at congressional hearings last week,” the Fed told the press after the meeting adding that the gathering was at the president’s invitation. Bloomberg emphasized that the meeting came amid a steady stream of criticism of the Fed as the president “makes his economic record the center of his bid for re-election next year.” His attacks included an August tweet asking “Who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?" The report said the comments “shattered a decades-long White House tradition of avoiding public comment on monetary policy out of respect for the Fed’s independence.” In the recent meeting, Powell “did not discuss his expectations for monetary policy, except to stress that the path of policy will depend entirely on incoming information that bears on the outlook for the economy,” the Fed said. The President subsequently tweeted that they’d had a “very good & cordial meeting” and had discussed a range of issues including “interest rates, negative interest, low inflation, easing, dollar strength & its effect on manufacturing, trade with China, EU & others, etc.” The dollar dropped to a session low amid gains in the euro after press reports that that negative interest rates had been among their topics of conversation. Powell last week called the U.S. economy a “star” performer and voiced solid confidence that its record expansion will stay on track. He and other Fed officials have consistently said that European or Japan-style negative interest rates would not be appropriate in the U.S. Still, the chairman’s remarks on the economy reinforced a sense that officials judge they have done enough to keep the economy on track after three rate cuts this year and that monetary policy is now on a prolonged hold as long as the outlook remains favorable. Trump has publicly raged against Powell and the Fed for many months, complaining about the rate increases during 2018 and continuing to pound the central bank this year even as it has cut rates to keep a record U.S. expansion on track — as the president “seeks to deflect blame for slowing growth that many have pinned on his trade war with China,” Bloomberg said. With less than a year until the 2020 vote, the U.S. economy has been generally holding up this year on resilient consumption. GDP increased at a 1.9% annualized rate in the third quarter, though that was down from 2% in the second quarter and 3.1% in the opening three months of the year. Powell had dinner with Trump in February and the two have spoken since by telephone. Meetings between a president and Fed chief are rare but not unprecedented. Meetings this year, however, have come amid repeated public criticism by Trump that culminated late last year with press reports in December that the president had discussed firing the man he picked to lead the central bank. That direct threat to Fed independence — an article of faith among investors in U.S. assets, contributed to already steep stock-market losses that turned the month into the worst December for U.S. equities since the Great Depression. While the President has been critical of the Fed, he was responsible for choosing candidates for its policy-setting committee including four of the five current members. However, two vacancies remain open and he announced his intention to nominate at least somewhat controversial people for those jobs — most recently in July when he named Trump supporter Judy Shelton and St. Louis Fed research chief Christopher Waller. However, he has yet to actually nominate either. So, we will see. While the Fed appears to believe that several sectors of the economy are slowing, it also appears determined to avoid any significant exposure to inflationary policies or to weaken its political independence — policies investors widely applaud. This is a high stakes debate especially in these extremely politicized times and involves numerous battles producers should watch closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 19, 2019 |


US-China Trade Talks Labeled ‘Constructive’ U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators held “constructive discussions” in a phone call on Saturday to address each side’s core concerns of Phase One of the trade deal. China’s Vice Premier Liu He spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, according to the Chinese Commerce Ministry. The call was held at the request of the U.S. negotiators, and the two sides agreed to remain in close communication, it said in a statement. President Donald Trump had not yet agreed to remove any tariffs as part of a deal, and the size of China's commitment to purchase U.S. farm products was not yet clear, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday in an interview on Fox Business Network. China's reluctance to commit to a specific amount of farm purchases remains a sticking point in the talks, as is U.S. reluctance to roll back tariffs.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 19, 2019 |


Midwest Lawmakers Press Energy Regulator for Action on Propane Midwest lawmakers are pressing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to address issues with propane supply problems in the region, which are impacting producers as they seek to harvest this year’s corn crop. “Farmers are calling our offices looking for answers about what can be done,” said a group of House lawmakers led by House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn. “Those who are lucky enough to have crops to harvest this year are now struggling with drying a wet corn crop.” Wet corn put into storage can start to spoil in as little as three days, the lawmakers pointed out. The lawmakers noted that trucks have been running to Kansas and Texas to bring additional supplies back to the Midwest, “and we appreciate efforts taken by several state governors and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to assist companies in this effort.” Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst also penned a letter to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee, asking the regulator to address the situation. “We understand that the nationwide supply of propane is adequate, but it is not in Iowa,” the letter said. Those with crops still standing in fields face issues, the letter said, along with livestock and poultry producers who are “concerned about supply with the winter months ahead,” with their offices receiving “numerous” calls. “As farmers continue to face obstacles with the trade disputes and late harvest this year, the cold weather and propane issue compounds frustration and financial struggles,” the Iowa lawmakers said.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 19, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets The only report on Tuesday's docket is U.S. housing starts, due out at 7:30 a.m. CST. North and South American weather forecasts remain of interest as well as any trade news concerning China. Weather Dry conditions will be in place over almost all primary crop areas Tuesday. Precipitation will be confined to light rain in the immediate Great Lakes. Conditions will generally favor late harvest for one more day before snow develops in the Northern Plains during midweek.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 18, 2019 |


USDA Announces Second Round of MFP Payments Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the second round of Market Facilitation Program payments will be heading out to farmers suffering from trade retaliation by foreign nations. The payments will begin the week before Thanksgiving. Producers of eligible commodities will now be eligible to get 25 percent of the total payment expected, in addition to the 50 percent they already received. “The second round of payments, along with the already provided disaster assistance, will give farmers, who’ve had a tough year due to unfair trade retaliation and natural disasters, much-needed funds in time for Thanksgiving,” Perdue says. “While we continue to have confidence in the President’s negotiations with China, this money will show that President Trump is following through on his promise to help and support farmers as he continues to fight for fair market access. Earlier this year, President Trump authorized USDA to provide up to $16 billion in aid through various programs, which is in line with the estimated impact of the retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions. ********************************************************************************************* Monopoly Concerns Surround DFA Acquisition of Dean Foods Dean Foods, one of America’s largest dairy companies, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. A New Food Economy report says that leaves a lot of dairy producers up in the air about where they’ll be selling their milk in the future. The timing of the bankruptcy couldn’t be worse as milk prices are still low, even though they’ve bounced back somewhat in recent months. In the announcement last week, Dean Foods said it was “engaged in advance talks with Dairy Farmers of America about a possible acquisition.” DFA is the country’s biggest dairy cooperative. However, one antitrust expert says the potential deal causes serious concerns about anti-competitive activity. Cooperatives negotiate with processors like Dean Foods on behalf of producers to get the best price they can for their farmers. “The problem with DFA is the conflict of interest that will result from trying to lower prices to farmers to increase their revenue as a milk producer,” says Peter Carstensen, a University of Wisconsin Law School Professor. Some farmers have accused the co-op in the past of trying to suppress milk prices to maximize its profits. Dairy Farmers of America represents over 13,000 dairy producers and controls 30 percent of the milk production in the U.S. ********************************************************************************************* Moderate Democrats Now Pushing for USMCA More than a dozen House Democrats from key battleground states are now trying to rally support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Politico says they held a special caucus meeting to talk through the issue. The push marks the newest sign that moderate House Democrats are getting impatient over a lack of movement toward getting the deal finally done. Some of the moderate Democrats worried about potential pushback from progressives, which they did get from Representatives Jan Schakowsky (Sha-KOW-skee) and Bill Pascrell. Schakowsky did say after the meeting that she’s confident they can reach an agreement before the end of this year. However, she cautioned those who are “anxious just to move the deal,” saying they need to make sure it gets done the right way. Late last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a positive indication of USCMA’s fate in Congress. The California Democrat said a deal between House Democrats and the Trump Administration was “imminent.” Politico says that means an announcement could be coming within days. “I do believe if we can get this to a place it needs to be, which is imminent, this can be a template for future trade agreements,” she said. “A good template.” ********************************************************************************************** Biodiesel Coalition Sends Joint Letter to Congress on Tax Incentives The National Biodiesel Board teamed up with 140 member companies, allied trade associations, and industry partners to send a letter to House and Senate leadership on expired tax incentives. They’re asking Congress to extend those incentives before the end of 2019. The Hagstrom Report says the letter attempts to convince Congressional leadership that an “immediate extension of the biodiesel tax incentive is vital to prevent a severe economic disruption of the U.S. biodiesel industry.” The groups say 10 biodiesel plants have closed or cut back on production since the start of 2019. Several hundred workers have been furloughed and as the economic impact spreads across the U.S. economy, it will impact more than 7,500 jobs. Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Texas have all seen work slowdowns or stoppages at their biodiesel plants. NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik says an immediate extension of the tax credit is vital to prevent more plants from closing, more production cutbacks, as well as potentially many more jobs being lost. “Continued uncertainty about the tax incentive impacts businesses, workers, and industry partners across the economy and in every state,” Kovarik adds. “The number of companies and trade groups that joined us on the letter demonstrates the broad impact of the expired incentives.” ********************************************************************************************** Farm Finances Weaken Further Amid Uncertainty Farm credit conditions within the Federal Reserve’s Tenth District steadily deteriorated in the third quarter of 2019. The Kansas City Fed Report says in spite of a slight increase in the price of some agricultural goods, as well as additional support from government payments, farm income declined at a modest pace. Loan repayment rates also declined at a modest pace in the third quarter. District bankers say agricultural economic conditions were influenced by uncertainty about crop production, agricultural trade uncertainty, as well as a variety of other factors, all contributed to commodity price fluctuations. Continuing weakness in the ag sector put even more pressure on farm finances. Signs of modest increases in credit stress continued in the third quarter of 2019. Farm borrowers made additional cuts in spending in response to the continued lower-revenue environment. 75 percent of bankers reported farmer working capital deteriorated at least modestly in 2019, compared with 90 percent as recently as 2016. However, farmland values continue to be a positive note in the sector. Those values remained stable and continue to provide ongoing support to an otherwise struggling economic sector. ********************************************************************************************** House Ag Chair Leads Letter on Midwest Propane Shortages House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota and a group of bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The letter sent on behalf of farmers and rural residents in the Midwest is intended to bring awareness of the need for a continued supply of propane to the Midwest states. The letter details how farmers and grain elevator operators are dealing with propane shortages while trying to finish harvest and prepare their grain for storage. The propane shortage is hitting because of early cold temperatures in the region, which has picked up residential use of propane to heat homes. Back in 2014, the commission took extraordinary measures to address catastrophic conditions and shortages of propane. The letter is intended to remind commissioners that they do have the tools needed to help address the conditions facing rural communities. The letter says, “We hope to avoid a disastrous situation with cold temperatures and snow in the forecast spiking demand for residential deliveries just as farms are needing to heat poultry and livestock barns. Crop farmers also need to dry down their commodities after one of the most frustrating harvest seasons in years.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 18, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Trade Policy Frictions and Evolution A major effort is underway now to build some form of agreement with China over trade policy, Bloomberg reported last week, but there also is a new cottage industry in Washington trying to predict what the next steps in these talks actually will be. Amid all that speculation, Bloomberg notes that although the administration began the fight with a carefully “calibrated trade weapon,” intended to rebalance the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies and to achieve a goal of forcing wholesale changes in China’s economic architecture while limiting the pain to businesses and consumers at home.” The original list of Chinese-made products was valued at $34 billion, matched an estimate of the annual cost to U.S. businesses of Chinese intellectual-property theft and forced technology transfers. “The items on the list were selected for their potential to inflict pain on industries Beijing has designated as strategically important while taking into account the potential disruption to U.S. supply chains. The task also was intended to throttle back China’s imports without endangering the president’s promised economic boom. However, that list was equal to 7% of the $505 billion in goods the U.S. imported from China in 2017 — and was seen as “almost as an affront” by the President who decreed it was “too low and demanded it be rounded up to at least $50 billion.” The result is what began as methodical, calculated penalties quickly became “a tit-for-tat tariff war” that includes more than 70% of bilateral trade in goods and threatens to decouple two economies that once seemed destined to become progressively more intertwined. In addition, if the two countries can’t resolve at least some of their differences quickly the White House will on Dec. 15 add 15% punitive tariffs on a further $160 billion—a move Bloomberg thinks “could jeopardize America’s record-long expansion.” These disruptions may yet be averted. President Trump and China’s president, Xi Jinping, appear intent on reaching at least a partial truce by mid-December and in mid-Nov President Trump again signaled he would refrain from a new tariff assault if Beijing agrees to a “phase one” deal that hinges largely on it stepping up U.S. agricultural purchases to as much as $50 billion within two years and curtailing intellectual-property theft. President Donald Trump sees this first step as the start of a more comprehensive agreement but Chinese officials quietly say they see any future successful phases as unlikely and that commodity purchases will at first simply be at the level they were before the Trump tariffs. Skeptics in the Trump administration also question whether Beijing is willing to close a larger transformative deal with a president running for reelection amid a slowing economy. Politicians and businesses across the board agree that the administration was right to take on China but many disagree with the approach used. At the same time, the issues being tackled in a first phase of the trade deal are much narrower than the ambitious goals the White House once claimed for itself. Douglas Irwin, an economic historian at Dartmouth, cautions that while Trump created an opportunity, he risks squandering it as well. “Are we going to look back and say, ‘This was all a failure’? I don’t think so,” says Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade negotiator who leads the Asia Society Policy Institute. “But if we end up comparing what they’re able to accomplish vs. their initial objectives, their accomplishments are going to fall way short. But wow, they certainly raised the stakes and certainly allowed U.S. interests to suffer through the tariffs in this effort.” Bloomberg argues that the picture that emerges from the administration’s policy moves focuses on its “impetuousness that confounded attempts at strategy.” Fears of an economic slowdown in the U.S. that coalesced in August appear to have changed the equation. Despite the diminished expectations, Trump and his allies are quick to defend his handling of the trade war. Critics, on the other hand, point to a U.S. trade deficit that’s on track to end 2019 some $150 billion larger than at the end of 2016 when the administration took office. A U.S. business community that wants both a short-term end to the uncertainty and longer-term fundamental changes in China’s economic governance is also wondering if it was all worth it. “What we all need now is a trade truce,” says Myron Brilliant, who heads the international division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Whether the fight will prove worth it “will depend on what comes next.” Irwin, the Dartmouth professor, says that during the War of 1812, one slogan was “on to Canada!” — a promise to annex new territories. When the war ended it was, ‘Not one inch of territory ceded!’ ” The president “launched the trade war against China and promised to remake the economy.” Irwin says. “We are ending it by saying, ‘They are buying just as much stuff as they did before.’” So, we will see. This is certainly a political tense moment in Washington and both sides have extremely complicated perspectives. Certainly, the trade dialogue should be watched very closely as it unfolds over the coming weeks, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 18, 2019 |


USDA’s McKinney Says Deputy-Level Talks Ongoing With China USDA Undersecretary Ted McKinney told Todd Gleason of the University of Illinois that there have been deputy level talks via video conference that have been ongoing. McKinney puts odds at “better than 50%” that there will be a signed agreement. “The warming trend continues,” he noted. However, in his remarks at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, he said, “Maybe we can get to an eventual signing of a phase one agreement. There were a lot of negotiations going on and then they withdrew, backslid on a number of things.” But things are in “a warming trend,” he observed. “We’ve got a number of things lined to sell if they agree to it,” McKinney said. “But we also have to have some structural changes. We have been led down this path before only to see promises fizzle.” As for the deal, McKinney said, “So unless there is some enforcement opportunity, and unless there are some changes, even modest changes, in structural… how they apply things like please approve biotech traits at a time sooner than eight years, those kinds of things are very, very important and must haves. So we will see, but I am very optimistic.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 18, 2019 |


Commerce’s Ross Sees High Probability of Phase One Deal With China Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was interviewed on Fox Business News this morning and stated he felt there were high odds of a Phase One trade deal between the U.S. and China. “You do not really have a deal on anything until you have a deal on everything, so it is not surprising that at the very last minutes pieces of bouncing around occur,” Ross stated. “But I think the main thing is what the President said at the rally last night: China wants to make a deal. We think we would like to make a deal if it is the right deal. This will get done in all likelihood.” He also observed that the Phase One deal is “relatively limited in scope” and the debate now is on the level of that limitation. “What is really being debated is how much limitation will there be on the scope of Phase One relative to Phase Two or maybe Phase Three. So, let's see what comes out. The devil is always in the details. And we are down to the last details now.” Ross was asked if China will stop stealing intellectual property and will President Trump remove the tariffs. Ross replied, “The president has not agreed to move the time so I think he made that pretty clear the other day, but let's just see what comes. I think the important thing is, it looks as though there will be this first giant step toward peace and quiet today with the Chinese, that is the important thing to focus on. We will see the details as they come through, and they are going to be good details or else the President will not go along with this.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 18, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets A typical Monday schedule is in store with traders catching up on the latest weather forecasts for North and South America and any comments about trade that might have happened over the weekend. USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections is set for 10 a.m. CST, followed by the Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. Weather Monday features light rain in the northern Plains, causing some harvest delays. Other primary crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will have a wide range from below normal in the Midwest to much above normal in the southwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 15, 2019 |


China Drops Ban on U.S. Poultry Imports Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are both pleased that China lifted it’s “unwarranted ban” on U.S. poultry imports. “This is great news for both America’s farmers and China’s consumers,” Lighthizer said. “China is an important export market for America’s poultry farmers, and we estimate they will now be able to export more than $1 billion worth of poultry each year to China.” He says reopening China to U.S. poultry will also support thousands of workers employed by the U.S. poultry industry. Perdue says, “America’s producers are the most productive in the world and it’s critical they can sell to consumers in other parts of the world.” China had banned all U.S. poultry imports since January of 2015 because of an avian influenza outbreak, even though the U.S. has been free of the disease since August of 2017. The U.S. had exported more than $500 million worth of poultry products to China in 2013. The United States is the world’s second-largest poultry exporter, with global exports of poultry meat and products totaling $4.3 billion last year. ********************************************************************************************** Poultry Organizations say China Access Worth Billions The National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation, and USA Poultry and Egg Export Council all applaud China’s decision to lift its ban on U.S. poultry products. The ban had been in place since 2015 when the U.S. was hit by an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in America’s poultry flocks. In a statement, the groups say, “Lifting the ban has been a top priority of the U.S. poultry industry for the past four years. “We thank administration officials, congressional leaders and their staffs, all of whom worked tirelessly to reach an agreement with China and ensure the poultry industry has access to this vital market.” This represents a potentially significant opportunity for U.S. chicken and turkey producers. Renewed access to China could results in $1 billion every year for chicken paws alone. Because China has been hit hard by African Swine Fever, it could mean up to another $1 billion worth of potential exports of other chicken products like leg and breast meat. Turkey exports could be worth another $100 million in sales and poultry breeding stock worth at least another $60 million dollars. The groups say, “America’s poultry producers are pleased to once again have a chance to share their high-quality, nutritious products with Chinese consumers in the weeks to come.” ********************************************************************************************** Japan Likely to Vote on U.S. Trade Pact Next Week Media reports in Japan are saying that the parliament is likely to start voting on a trade pact with the U.S. sometime next week. The lower house of the Japanese Diet will take up the pact next Wednesday, while the upper house, called the House of Councilors, will begin considering the deal the next day. A Japan Times report says Japan’s parliament had wanted to hold their votes this week, but complications came about from opposition lawmakers, who demanded that minutes of the meetings between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (AH-bay) be released. Trump wants the deal implemented by January 1, which will likely happen as both houses of parliament are expected to pass the agreement. Trump and Abe announced in September that the countries had reached a deal on the first phase of a trade pace that will have a positive impact on U.S. commodities, including beef, wheat, and pork. An Agri-Pulse report says Japan agreed to cut or eliminate tariffs on $7.2 billion worth of American ag products. The Asian country will also install new quotas that will help to boost import levels of U.S. farm goods even further. ********************************************************************************************** U.S., China Negotiations still Working through Sticky Subjects The U.S. and China are still trying to put the final touches on a limited trade agreement that will involve Chinese purchases of U.S. ag commodities. The question appears to be just how much those purchases will amount to. A CNBC report says the two sides appear to be stuck in a stalemate, even though they announced a tentative agreement a month ago. A Wall Street Journal report says China is hesitant about writing down a specific amount of agricultural purchases in the actual text of the trade agreement. President Donald Trump said last month that China had agreed to purchase up to $50 billion in U.S. farm products. The two sides are still expecting to sign the limited trade agreement later this month. China is still insisting that the two sides roll back their tariffs as part of the agreement, something the U.S. opposes. White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow tells CNBC that no agreement will be made on rolling back tariffs until the trade deal is signed. He did say the U.S. and China have progressed in talks on subjects like IP theft, financial services, currency stability, commodities, and agriculture. The administration has slapped tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese imports, while China has retaliated with duties on $10 billion worth of American imports. ********************************************************************************************** Emergency Funds Secured to Dredge Mississippi River Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind, along with Minnesota Representatives Angie Craig and Betty McCollum, announced they have secured emergency funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The funds will help the Corps to address the impacts of this spring’s devastating floods on the Mississippi River. As a direct result of the flooding, the Mississippi River and many others in the Inland Waterway System have higher sedimentation levels in their riverbeds. The system is responsible for one-sixth of the nation’s intercity cargo and 25 percent of foreign exports. The Army Corps of Engineers needs to increase dredging to overcome those rising sediment levels, allowing barges to navigate successfully. “I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues across the Mississippi River to obtain the funding,” Kind says. “How, the Corps will have the resources they need to make sure the Mississippi remains open for business. Craig points out that farmers, families, and communities depend on the Mississippi River to export goods and to drive economic growth. McCollum says, “This disaster aid will help agricultural businesses fully recover so they can look to the future.” ********************************************************************************************** USDA Offering Flexibility on Crop Insurance Premiums The USDA’s Risk Management Agency says it will continue to defer accrual of interest for 2019 crop year insurance premiums to help farmers hit hard by extreme weather. More specifically, USDA will defer the accrual of interest on 2019 crop year insurance programs to the earlier of the applicable termination date or January 31 of 2020, for all policies with a premium billing date of August 15, 2019. The extension is necessary because harvest has been very delayed, and crop insurance claims typically aren’t settled until after the harvest. That puts an even bigger squeeze on farmers and their cash flow. USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey made the announcement during the NAFB convention in Kansas City. “USDA is committed to helping farmers and ranchers impacted by the weather challenges this year, and we hope this deferral will help ease cash flow challenges for producers, many of whom are dealing with serious harvest delays.” The extended deferral builds on other steps USDA has taken to support farmers and ranchers impacted by flooding and other disasters. More than $3 billion in assistance is available through the disaster-relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 15, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Powell on Interest Rates and Economic Stability Bloomberg is reporting this week that Fed Chair Jerome Powell told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on Wednesday that interest rates are “probably on hold after three straight reductions,” while signaling that the U.S. central bank could resume cutting if the growth outlook falters. “We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate as long as incoming information about the economy remains broadly consistent with our outlook,” Powell said. However, he emphasized, “noteworthy risks to this outlook remain.” Bloomberg noted that Powell’s comments on Wednesday largely echoed his message on Oct. 30 after the Fed’s third rate cut this year. He cited slowing global growth and trade developments as “ongoing risks.” And, he added that persistently low inflation could lead to an “unwelcome” slide in the public’s longer-run expectations of inflation. Powell said the Federal Open Market Committee cut the policy rate, which is now in a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, to support growth and move inflation back to the 2% target. He said the committee was prepared to respond to a “material reassessment” of its outlook, and the tone of his remarks suggest that downside risks for now outweigh the possibility of economic overheating. Explaining why wages haven’t moved up with the unemployment rate at 3.6%, Powell said it could be a sign that there is still slack in the labor market. “It also may be that the neutral rate of interest is lower than we have been thinking and that therefore our policy is less accommodative than we have been thinking. We are letting the data speak to us.” The comments suggest that the rate cuts this year weren’t entirely about insuring against a global slowdown but also about recalibrating interest costs to an economy where inflation has remained stubbornly low. “We continue to hear from him that they can run the economy with lower rates of unemployment than they thought they could,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Plc. “That underscores that they expect there to be a high bar to raising rates.” Asked if he meant to signal that policy was on hold through next year, Powell responded “I wouldn’t say that at all” before repeating the line from his opening remarks on policy likely to remain appropriate as long as the economy stays on track. “We do think monetary policy is in a good place, but we’re going to be watching very carefully incoming data,” he said. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes were steady around 1.87% following the testimony while U.S. stocks were higher in New York trading, Bloomberg said. Powell and the Fed have been relentlessly criticized by President Trump, who has blamed the central bank’s policies, rather than the U.S.-China trade war, for a slowdown in the U.S. economy as he increasingly focuses on the 2020 re-election campaign. “We’re paying actually high interest. We should be paying by far the lowest interest,” Trump said Tuesday in New York, complaining that by shunning the negative interest rates deployed by other central banks, the Fed “puts us at a competitive disadvantage.” Powell argued that “politics played no role whatsoever in the Fed’s policy decisions,” which were based on the analysis of the data. He also said that negative rates “would certainly not be appropriate in the current environment.” U.S. economic data have continued to show strength among households and financial conditions have eased with stocks touching record highs on Wall Street this month. Consumer sentiment improved for a third month in November, according to the University of Michigan’s preliminary sentiment index, while employers added 128,000 new jobs in October. Powell said the Fed expected some easing in the pace of job gains after last year’s strong pace. Manufacturing and business investment continue to lag, however. A gauge of U.S. manufacturing signaled the sector contracted for a third straight month with the weakest production level since the last recession. “The outlook is still a positive one. There is no reason this expansion can’t continue,” Powell said. “There is a lot to like about this rare place of the 11th year of an expansion and we’re certainly committed to [support].” So, we will see. Chairman Powell has been eager to deny that any political pressure is reflected in ongoing Fed policy in spite of the president’s criticism — a posture that may become more difficult to defend as the 2020 election approaches. That tension also could involve high stakes for producers and should be watched closely if it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 15, 2019 |


China Lifts Bird-Flu Linked Import Restrictions On US Poultry China announced it will lift its ban on imports of poultry meat from the U.S., making official the plan that was announced by China’s Commerce Ministry in late October. The measure has now been published by the country’s Customs Administration. The move comes after USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a rule in the Federal Register that would allow cooked/processed poultry products from birds slaughtered in China to come into the U.S. U.S. poultry has not had access to the Chinese market since the U.S. bird flu outbreak. The market could result in around $1 billion or more in sales of U.S. poultry to China, particularly with demand for protein sources other than pork rising in the wake of African swine fever.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 15, 2019 |


China says in-depth talks going on with US The U.S. and China are holding in-depth discussions on Phase One of a trade deal, with the cancellation of tariffs a key issue, according to Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng. "China has emphasized many times that the trade war began with additional tariffs and should end with the cancellation of additional tariffs," said Gao. “If both sides reach a 'Phase One' deal, the degree of tariff cancellation should fully reflect the importance of the 'phase one' deal; and its importance should be appraised by both sides together. Both sides are conducting in-depth discussions on this now.” However, Gao did not appear to have addressed the issue of increased buys of U.S. commodities, a U.S. demand in the negotiations in the Phase One deal and a component of the deal that the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday was the latest sticking point. China sources indicated the country was reluctant to put specific dollar amounts into the agreement. But it is clear that getting tariffs removed is a key for the Chinese. "Cancelling tariffs is in the interests of producers, consumers, China, the U.S., and the world," Gao stated. President Donald Trump Wednesday indicated the talks between the two sides were going “rapidly” and he did not reprise his threat to raise tariffs on China in the event an agreement is not reached.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 15, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets USDA's weekly report of grain export sales will get early attention Friday at 7:30 a.m. CST, along with a report on U.S. retail sales. Industrial production is released at 8:15 a.m., followed by a monthly soybean crush estimate from the National Oilseed Processors Association later Friday morning. Weather Friday will be dry in all crop areas, favorable for harvest. Conditions will be notably warmer, especially in the Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 14, 2019 |


Court Tosses Out Lawsuit on Biofuel Waivers A federal court dismissed one of the multiple lawsuits challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of small refinery exemptions. The Washington, D.C., District Court of Appeals said in its ruling that the Advanced Biofuels Association didn’t “identify a final agency action” in the lawsuit it filed back in May of 2018. The biofuels group said the EPA was exceeding its authority when it granted a larger number of waivers under the Renewable Fuels Standard to small oil refineries. A DTN report says even though the court threw out the case, it did note that the industry concerns raised by the group seem valid. “To be sure, the EPA’s briefing and oral argument paint a troubling picture of intentionally shrouded and hidden agency law that could have left those troubled by the agency’s actions without a viable avenue for judicial review.” The EPA has granted a total of 85 waivers since 2016. Those waivers accounted for 4.04 billion gallons of biofuels that weren’t blended into the nation’s fuel supply. The EPA is currently seeking public comment on its proposal to account for gallons waived in the 2020 RFS volumes proposal, which biofuel and agricultural groups are not in favor of. ********************************************************************************************** Trump: Trade War is “Good for Business” President Donald Trump defended his tariff policies during a speech on Tuesday at the Economic Club of New York. Politico says he denied that his erratic trade policies are causing uncertainty for U.S. businesses. Trump doubled down, saying the U.S. would “actually be in much worse shape” over the long term if he wasn’t aggressively challenging China right now. Despite the negative impact on farming, manufacturing, and other economic sectors, Trump has plenty of positive ammunition. Some of the positive economic data include unemployment down to 3.6 percent in October, while consumer confidence surveys remain high. However, Politico points out that economic growth is on a course to slow to about 2.3 percent this year. Growth may even be on track to slow further in 2020. The Port of Los Angeles says Trump’s tariffs are threatening nearly 1.5 million American jobs and over $186 billion in economic activity across the nation. Trump is also claiming that the U.S. and China are closing in on a partial ‘Phase One’ trade agreement, even though the sides are still negotiating over tariff rollbacks after the deal is signed. ********************************************************************************************** Trump Pressuring Pelosi for USMCA Vote While the House impeachment hearings got started on Wednesday, Republicans are trying to make the case that the issue is making it difficult to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. Speaking Tuesday in New York, President Trump said the existing North American Free Trade Agreement is “disastrous,” even though the agreement made ag trade virtually tariff-free between the three countries. Trump says “nervous Nancy (Pelosi)” and other House Democrats are concentrating on “outrageous hoaxes and delusional witch hunts which are going nowhere.” Trump says there is already enough Democrat support in the House of Representatives to pass USMCA, a sentiment shared by Chuck Grassley, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal said Tuesday that his negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the USMCA are “progressing.” Neal told Agri-Pulse that the two of them will continue to talk this week. Neal says a recent trip to Canada to speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, couldn’t have gone any better. Trudeau says “they’ll do what they have to do to get this to the finish line.” ********************************************************************************************** First CottonU will Show Off New Cotton Trust Protocol Cotton farmers who want to capitalize on sustainability for their operations should plan to attend the first-ever CottonU on December fifth at the Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show in Texas. It’s a chance to learn about a new pilot program initiated by the National Cotton Council. The NCC is intending to quantify sustainability data through its U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol. Craig Brown is vice president of producer affairs for the National Cotton Council and will keynote the Cotton U lunch. The National Cotton Council says the protocol was developed to help the U.S. cotton production sector to reduce its environmental footprint via specific sustainability goals targeted for 2025. The goals include a 13 percent increase in productivity or land used per pound of fiber, as well as an 18 percent increase in irrigation efficiency. Other targets include a 39 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 15 percent reduction in energy expenditures, as well as a 50 percent reduction in soil loss. Before these goals can be met, farmers must enroll and complete self-assessments to provide a baseline of data for the industry. ********************************************************************************************** Farmers Using Less Water to Irrigate The 2018 Irrigation and Water Management Survey results are out this week, showing that over 231,400 farms irrigated 55.9 million acres. That included 83.4 million acre-feet of water in the United States. By way of comparison, the 2013 survey showed there were just over 229,230 farms that irrigated 55.3 million acres, which included 88.5 million acre-feet of water. The results show that even though the number of farms irrigating, and the amount of land increased slightly over those five years, the total amount of water used to irrigate land actually declined. The 83.4 million acre-feet of water used to irrigate land in 2018 represent a 5.8 percent drop from 2013. The average acre-feet applied to land was 1.5, which is lower than the 1.6 in 2013. An acre-foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre to a depth of one foot. The largest portion of irrigated farmland acres in the U.S. was dedicated to cropland, including grains and oilseeds, vegetables, nurseries, greenhouses, as well as hay crops. The survey also shows that more acres are irrigated with sprinkler systems than with gravity irrigation. ********************************************************************************************** NASCAR Drivers Surpass 15 Million Miles on E15 At the Bluegrass Vacations 500 race, NASCAR reached a significant milestone, announcing that their drivers surpassed 15 million miles on the E15 ethanol blend. NASCAR adopted E15 in 2011 across its three national racing series to reduce emissions in their sport, all while maintaining the high-performance standard needed by drivers during every race. Growth Energy, the nation’s largest association representing ethanol producers and supporters, launched its American Ethanol Program in 2011, in conjunction with NASCAR’s decision to adopt E15. “American Ethanol’s partnership with NASCAR has been a fantastic platform to promote the benefits of cleaner-burning ethanol ever since the sport adopted it,” says Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “NASCAR fans have now seen the fuel perform flawlessly for 15 million miles under the most demanding circumstances imaginable.” She says consumers have put E15 to the test for more than 11 billion miles of commutes, road trips, and picking kids up from school. “Whether on or off the track, day after day, mile after mile, E15 continues to be the smart choice for divers who care about their engines, reducing emissions, and saving money at the pump,” Skor adds.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 14, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Challenging the WTO Bloomberg is reporting this week that the Trump administration is “ratcheting up its pressure on the World Trade Organization (WTO) by raising the possibility of blocking the approval of the institution’s biennial budget.” Such a move could effectively halt the WTO’s work starting next year, the report said. During a regular meeting of the WTO budget committee in Geneva on Tuesday, a U.S. delegate expressed concern about the organization’s payments to the appellate body, which the U.S. administration argues has overstepped its mandate. The U.S. also expressed concerns about funding being diverted to a proxy dispute settlement system recently championed by the European Union, Canada and Norway, Bloomberg said. Because WTO decisions must be made by consensus among all 164 members, the U.S. blocking maneuver would threaten the effective functioning of the organization responsible for overseeing the rules of global commerce. The members have until Dec. 31 to adopt a budget for 2020 and 2021 and they will take up the issue again next Tuesday. If the U.S. unilaterally kills off funding, it could imperil the future of the WTO’s work and force countries to fundamentally rethink their reliance on it to negotiate trade deals and settle the surging number of disputes. The move marks an escalation in the administration’s approach toward the body, which it is threatening to abandon entirely. The administration also blames the WTO partly for allowing China to grow into a rival economic power over the past two decades by flaunting the rules. The U.S. contributes more money than any other single country to the WTO’s annual budget – 22.7 million Swiss francs in 2019, Bloomberg says. The total budget for 2019 was 197.2 million francs, the same as a year earlier. Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other U.S. critics argue that the WTO dispute settlement system threatens America’s sovereign rights and has strayed from its mandate. The U.S. Trade Representative plans to deliver a statement about the “systemic concerns regarding the compensation of appellate body members” at the Nov. 22 meeting, according to a document published Tuesday by the WTO. Over the past two years the U.S. administration has blocked all new appointments to the appellate body, which has the final say in upholding, modifying, or reversing WTO rulings that often affect some of the world’s biggest companies and billions of dollars in international commerce. The seven-member appellate body is now operating with just three active members, the minimum required to sign off on WTO appellate rulings. The terms for two of those members are set to expire on Dec. 10. Thomas Graham, a U.S. lawyer who is one of the appellate body’s last remaining members, recently said he may leave at the end of his term on Dec. 10, rather than stay on to adjudicate the cases he has already been assigned – as has been done in the past. One of the Trump administration’s key complaints is that former appellate body members have continued to deliberate appeal cases they were assigned prior to the expiration of their terms. Graham’s departure would throw all pending and future appeals into legal limbo because there wouldn’t be enough appellate members to resolve disputes. About a dozen appeal cases are pending, including a dispute over EU restrictions on Russian natural-gas imports and a pair of U.S., Canadian disputes over paper and softwood lumber. Canada, the EU and Norway have already agreed to set up an alternate channel for settling trade disputes in order to sidestep the looming deadlock. The EU plan would create an alternate arbitration process that would continue the “essential principles and features” of the appellate body with a panel of former appellate body members. It is envisaged as a stopgap measure to be used until the U.S. resolves the impasse. Outgoing EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom argues that the step is necessary to prevent the international trade system from devolving into the “rule of the jungle.” “If you have no rules, everyone can do what they want and that would be really, really bad, not least for the smaller and developing countries,” she said in July. Observers note that it is not clear what the administration’s plan is for settling future trade disputes if the WTO body is abandoned. The well-known U.S. hostility toward the dispute settlement body has not become much of a political cause the way its “get tough” tariffs have – in part because the issue is far more complex than its use of “get tough” tariffs have been. Still, the administration’s strategies in the current U.S., China negotiations as well as those concerning many other current and potential markets are being examined much more widely these days, and criticism can be expected to grow if the anticipated “first phase” deal with China stumbles. This debate with all its complexities is one producers should watch closely as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 14, 2019 |


Grassley Calls on Biofuel Backers, Farmers To File Comments On EPA’s Supplemental RFS Plan Farmers and those in the biofuel industry need to let EPA know their support for the Renewable Fuel Standard via filing comments on EPA’s supplemental plan for the RFS, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, urged Tuesday. EPA is accepting public comments on their plan through November 29. Grassley said he and other Midwest senators will soon send a letter to President Donald Trump outlining the importance of the RFS to the region. “He has long been a supporter of biofuels and made a commitment to Iowa and the surrounding biofuel-producing states,” Grassley said, according to Radio Iowa. “The EPA should not undercut President Trump’s support of the RFS.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 14, 2019 |


Trump Continues His Mixed Message On US-China Trade President Donald Trump’s wide-ranging speech to the Economic Club of New York included what is Trump’s consistent theme on U.S.-China trade deal prospects – mixed messages. Trump declared that the U.S. is “deciding whether or not we want to make a deal. We are close.” He also stated that a “significant phase one trade deal with China could happen. It could happen soon. But we will only accept a deal if it is good for the United States and our workers and our great companies, because we have been hit very hard.” But then Trump proceeded to remark, “I tell it to everybody: If we do not make a deal, we are going to substantially raise those tariffs. They are going to be raised very substantially.” Those mixed messages were cited as pressure points in overnight equity market action Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry said that the two sides have agreed to remove tariffs in stages once an interim deal is signed, and both sides are working on finalizing the details of the agreement, according to the South China Morning Post. The report said once the deal is finalized, then the two sides would decide how many of the tariffs would be removed.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 14, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Weekly jobless claims and Producer price index will both be out at 7:30 a.m. CST on Thursday. We will also be watching for any news regarding the U.S.-China trade deal progress on phase one, updated weather forecasts for both U.S. and South America, and for confirmation of any new China soybean purchases that have been rumored. Weather All central U.S. crop areas will be dry Thursday, with improved harvest conditions. Precipitation will be confined to light rain in southeast Texas.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 13, 2019 |


Farmers Turning to Riskier Loans to Stay in Business Weather challenges, trade tensions, and long-term financial struggles continue to make life difficult in the U.S. agricultural sector. The Wall Street Journal says those headwinds are forcing an increasing number of farmers and ranchers to take on high-interest loans from lenders outside of the ag sector, just to stay in business. The more traditional farm banks are offering less money and placing tighter restrictions on their loans. That’s forcing cash-strapped farmers to go to other lending sources for the capital they need to stay afloat. Financial services providers that are less regulated can offer significant help to producers. However, those loans can be treacherous to farmers that fall behind, with interest rates twice those charged by the more typical ag lenders. Heath Jobe is a farmer from Arkansas who recently lost a crop to dry weather. His loan payments carried a nine percent interest rate and piled up quickly, while his request for a new loan was rejected. Producers are increasingly falling behind on their loans and it’s putting a squeeze on ag lenders too. Farmers face almost $416 billion in debt this year, which is the highest number since the 1980s farm crisis. ********************************************************************************************** Opportunity Ahead for More U.S. Wheat Exports to Brazil Brazil is set to open a tariff-rate quota on wheat imports, a potential opportunity for U.S. wheat producers. The quota will allow 750,000 metric tons of wheat to enter Brazil duty-free from outside of South America. The agreement comes 24 years after Brazil joined the World Trade Organization in 1995. The Fence Post Dot Com says both U.S. Wheat Associates and officials in the U.S. Government have worked for years to open the tariff rate quota and establish a more accessible market in Brazil for U.S. hard red winter wheat and soft red winter wheat. USW President Steve Peterson says, “Brazil is a quality-focused wheat market and its flour millers recognize that U.S. wheat can help them to better meet their customers’ needs. “ Opening the TRQ gives their millers more consistent access to our wheat classes while still having an option to source from other countries if they choose to.” He says that’s how markets are supposed to work. The Brazilian government is moving ahead on a formal process and date for implementing the TRQ. U.S. Wheat Associates Chair Doug Goyings says, “This is a perfect example of how fulfilling commitments can work for all trading partners.” ********************************************************************************************** Ag Lender Survey Shows Lower Profitability and Higher Concerns The American Bankers Association teamed up with Farmer Mac for their Fall 2019 Ag Lender Survey. The biggest takeaway from the report is that the agricultural economy and farm income remain under stress, with little if any signs of improvement ahead in 2020. Over 82 percent of lenders in the survey said farm profits were being squeezed this year, with every region in the survey reporting profitability declines in their respective areas. The top concerns for producers in the survey included income, liquidity, and leverage, but trade, tariffs, and weather moved up on the list. The top concerns for lenders included credit quality, competition for loans, as well as weaker loan demand. Lender sentiment remained cautious between August of 2018 and August of 2019. A similar percentage of lenders reported farm profitability declines, increasing farm leverage, and increasing loan default rates. Dairy, grains, and cattle were the sectors that gave lenders the most concern, while they were less concerned about the swine, poultry, and vegetable sectors. Survey respondents generally expect higher loan delinquency rates going into 2020 for both production and real estate. In spite of quality concerns over credit, lenders remain positive about approvals. ********************************************************************************************** America’s Largest Milk Producer Files for Bankruptcy Dean Foods, a 94-year-old milk producer, is filing for bankruptcy. The largest milk producer in the country is struggling as Americans are no longer drinking as much milk from cows. This year has been especially difficult as company sales dropped seven percent in the first half of this year, with profits falling 14 percent. A CNN Dot Com article says Dean Foods stock has lost 80 percent of its value. The company manufactures some of the more recognizable milk and dairy products in the country, including Land O’ Lakes and Organic Valley. The company blames its struggles on declining consumption in white milk. Company debt has made it difficult for Dean Foods to fund all of its workers pensions. In a statement, the company says it’s working with the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative on a potential deal in which the cooperative would buy almost all of the company. Sales of cow’s milk has declined for the past four years. Over the past 52 weeks, white milk sales totaled around $12 billion dollars. Another problem Dean Foods faced is Walmart. Once one of Dean Food’s biggest customers, Walmart dropped them last year after building its own dairy plant. ********************************************************************************************** Senate Democrats Report Says Trump Trade Policies Pick Winners and Losers Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer led a group of fellow Democrats in releasing a report on the Trump Administration’s trade policies. The report says the administration’s agricultural trade aid program “is picking winners and losers in their attempt to aid farmers affected by President Trump’s turbulent trade agenda.” The Democrats say the data shows that in the wake of trade uncertainty created by the president’s actions, the $25 billion in mitigation payments to help farmers has been distributed “unevenly” across the country, benefiting some regions of the country more than others. The senators wrote a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, saying “instead of taking a careful approach as Congress did in the recent bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA has replaced markets with short-term inequitable payouts that lack transparency.” The report goes on to say that “the administration’s Market Facilitation Program has treated farmers “unfairly” by sending 95 percent of the top payment rates to farmers in the south, who they say have been hurt less by the trade disputes than farmers in other regions of the country. They also say the administration’s policies have helped farms owned by billionaires and foreign-owned companies. As an example, the Democrats point out that $90 million in purchase contracts went to a Brazilian company. ********************************************************************************************** Justice Department Asks for Stay in Sugar Decision Late last week, the U.S. Justice Department filed a motion requesting a 90-day stay in the Court of International Trade’s ruling that an amended Mexico-U.S. trade agreement wasn’t valid. The Hagstrom Report says an agreement on Mexican sugar imports to the U.S. was amended in 2017. However, the court said that the amended agreement wasn’t valid because the Commerce Department didn’t release all the notes of meetings held during the negotiations. The American Sugar Alliance says U.S. sugar producers, as well as Mexico’s sugar industry and government officials, support the U.S. request for a stay. Phillip Hayes, an ASA spokesman, says, “This 90-day stay is necessary to ensure that everyone has enough time to file comments with the Department of Commerce on the suspension agreements, as well as gives the Commerce Department time to follow proper procedure during the process.” Hayes points out that it’s important to remember the court didn’t comment on the merits of the amendments and was instead based purely on record-keeping procedures by the Department of Commerce. “Mexico’s government and sugar industry have both asked the U.S. government to reinstate the suspension agreements without change, something U.S. producers support,” Hayes adds. The Commerce Department has now published the suspension agreements without change and is looking for comments from interested parties.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 13, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Unhappiness Over Trade Bailout Program US agriculture is so large and diverse that it is difficult if not impossible to meet industry-wide needs with a single program, even if it is basically a cash payment. For example, Senate Democrats are “attacking President Trump’s $28 billion farm trade aid program on the grounds that it favors southern farmers at the expense of their counterparts in the Midwest and Northern Plains.” Also there are charges that it favors growers of cotton over soybeans and large producers over smaller ones. “The administration is using a flawed formula that helps big, wealthy farms and billion-dollar foreign-owned companies, while small farms get left behind,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. He wants USDA to stop “picking winners and losers, and ensure all of America’s farmers get the help they need--not just a lucky few.” Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee, led by Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., issued a report Tuesday accusing the administration of “extreme disparities” in the way it calculated the trade aid payments. The report said five heavily Republican southern states – Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas – received the highest payment rates per acre under this year’s market facilitation payments. Ninety-five percent of counties that have a payment rate of at least $100 an acre are in the South. This is in spite of the fact that farmers in the Midwest and Northern Plains have been hurt most by the trade war, the Democrats said. The payments also “overcompensate” cotton growers, the Democrats claim, citing US Department of Agriculture data showing a 3.9% increase in the price of upland cotton for the 2018 crop compared with the prior year. Democrats also criticized the program for making commodity purchases from large, foreign-owned agricultural conglomerates, including $90 million paid to a subsidiary of Brazilian-owned JBS SA. More than half of the administration’s first-year market facilitation payments went to just 10% of the recipients in the program, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Democrats complained the Trump administration nonetheless doubled payment caps for this year’s trade assistance program. Last year’s trade aid made payments based on crop type, but this year the assistance rates are on a “per-county rate based on the blend of crops grown in the area,” with payments ranging from $15 to $150 an acre. The administration hasn’t released details on how it calculated financial damage from the trade war for the aid program. Rural voters are a key constituency for President Trump as he heads into the 2020 election and government aid has become an increasingly important source of income for America’s farmers amid the financial stresses of the trade war with China, a commodity glut and wild weather, Bloomberg said. A recent American Farm Bureau Federation study found that almost 40% of projected farm net returns this year will come from trade aid, disaster assistance, federal subsidies and insurance payments, Bloomberg said. The AFBF said the supports totaled some $33billion of a projected $88 billion in net income. Farm bankruptcies are rising nonetheless, this year hitting the highest levels since 2011, Bloomberg said. As criticism of the payments and the formulas used to define them grows, the administration likely faces a daunting task in its efforts to convince producers not only that the “trade aid” program is effective and fair, but also that benefits from the “get tough, tariff-based policies” will be worth their cost. This debate should be watched closely by producers as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 13, 2019 |


USDA Publishes Interim Rule On CSP USDA has published an interim rule in the Federal Register putting changes in place for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) that were part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Funding for the program is set at $725 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, rising to $1 billion in FY 2023. The interim rule reflects public feedback gathered via a listening session in February 2019 with the agency also receiving 183 written comments from various interests. The rule is effective today, with USDA taking comments by January 13, 2020. The notice also contains an Environmental Analysis and Finding of No Significant Impact, with comments on that portion of the rule due on or before December 12, 2019.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 13, 2019 |


Ag Bankers Concerned About Credit Quality In Midst Of Farm Downturn Even as 57 percent of farmer borrowers were profitable in 2019, up six percentage points from 2018, some 82.5% of ag lenders reported declines in farm profitability from all reporting regions in results of an ag lenders survey conducted by the American Bankers Association (ABA) and Farmer Mac. Lenders listed credit quality, competition for loans and weaker loan demand as their chief concern, the report said, while producers listed liquidity, income and leverage as their top concerns. However, the report noted that “trade, tariffs and weather edged up on the list.” Only 9.1% of respondents said that they expected increased profitability for farmers the next 12 months while 55.1% expected profitability to decline. As for specific ag sectors, the report said that dairy, grains and cattle were sectors of the most concern. However, interest in financing for hemp and alternative energy were big of note, with 49.9% of lenders say farmers were asking about financing for hemp production and 36.8% inquired about alternative energy financing. Some 49.6% of lenders expect land values to decline in 2020, with lenders reporting an average of 37.8% of land in their markets was above market value. “Lenders also expect compression in cash rents, but few lenders reported above-market value rents compared to 2018,” the report said. Nearly half of lenders said there was an increase in farmer retirements in 2019 and nearly two-thirds said they look for that pace to quicken in the next 12 months.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 13, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Weather forecasts for North and South America remain important for Wednesday's grain markets and any trade news with China will be noticed. For financial traders, the U.S. Labor Department releases the consumer price index at 7:30 a.m. CST. A report on the U.S. federal budget follows at 1 p.m. CST. Weather Snow and mixed precipitation will cover the Northern Plains and northern Midwest Wednesday, further disrupting harvest. Other crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will be warmer, notably in the southwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 12, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Mobilizing to Meet New, Dangerous Food Safety Threats The Hill is highlighting continuing focus on what it sees as new and dangerous food safety threats, citing a paper by Thomas Grumbly, president of Supporters of The Agricultural Research Foundation, who has held several senior policy roles in USDA, OMB and FDA. Grumbly argues there are severe dangers from neglecting agricultural research and thinks "the one bright spot in the U.S. ag sector" is now increasingly at risk -- and "that the entire sector is poised to fall off a cliff deeper than anyone can imagine." He is warning about what he calls a lethal trifecta of "adverse weather, weak commodity prices and trade disruptions." His outlook was initially prepared for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Grumbly notes farm bankruptcies are up 24% over last year and pork production has been doing OK, for now. USDA is expecting a 10.8% increase in hog prices in 2019 compared to 2018. In the first nine months of 2018, U.S. pork exports to China exceeded 142,200 metric tons (mt) despite the trade war. At the same time, hog farmers across the U.S. "are holding their breath" because this outlook depends on African swine fever (ASF) not arriving on U.S. soil. Despite the name, ASF is an international threat, appearing in more than 50 countries. In China, which normally produces more pork than every other country combined, an estimated 300 million pigs have been killed by either the incurable viral infection or by mass culling on an inconceivable scale. In the U.S., which produced approximately 130 million hogs for meat last year, USDA says it is working with state officials and industry representatives to prepare for a potential outbreak, running drills to isolate farms with infections and identify how the virus could enter production systems. But developing effective contact tracing responses doesn't even close the barn door after all the animals leave, Grumbly thinks. It just helps us figure out which way they went. The real imperative, since a decade ago when an ASF viral outbreak in Eastern Europe spiraled out of control, has been to find a way to prevent transmission or cure the infection before it spreads. Right now, we have no answers except to slaughter hundreds of millions of animals. And finding the funding for such critical research needs has gotten harder and harder every year. With world-class laboratories, the U.S. once led the world in agricultural innovation. But now we are practically standing in place, despite all the threats from viral diseases like ASF to extreme weather conditions to food poisoning outbreaks. The last time an outbreak of this magnitude hit U.S. farms was the avian influenza outbreak of 2015, in which more than 50 million chickens and turkeys were culled to stop the spread of the disease. This year Chinese farmers have had to kill five times that number of livestock, Grumbly says. In the earlier outbreak, the tens of millions of bird corpses became a public health threat when they could not be buried fast enough so U.S. farmers shudder to think of how to dispose of much larger hog corpses in that scale of slaughter if it were necessary in the U.S. Despite the paltry funding, researchers still have made strides in determining how viruses like ASF are propagated. For example, a team of scientists at Kansas State University determined threshold levels of contamination for the virus to be transmitted through animal feed. Previous research at the university, which determined how to remove another contagious virus from pig feed, tapped grants from two other sources. Eleven years ago, in an effort to revamp how USDA provides research grants, Congress established the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The program provides funding through a competitive process in which proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed. AFRI research was "authorized" with a $700 million budget in the 2008, 2014 and 2018 farm bills. But this level has never been reached amid the horse trading that takes place during the annual federal budget negotiations. Too many other priorities pushed this important effort aside. As a result, the program typically provides funding to less than a quarter of the science that the program's expert panels deem necessary. And researchers tackling critically important problems first have to tackle the question of how to get funded. Science can solve many of our problems but often falls short without steady funding. Producing food has become increasingly difficult as farmers struggle to solve increasingly difficult challenges before new crises arise to challenge their operations. Agriculture cannot evolve without new breakthroughs -- an increasing challenge, Grumbly said. Industry experts are increasingly mobilizing to meet this new threat, which will be intensified if the U.S. and China rebuild closer trade relationships. Clearly, dealing with this threat will increasingly challenge the U.S. scientific community, and should be watched closely by producers as the mobilization process proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 12, 2019 |


Alabama, Florida, Georgia Get Disaster Aid Block Grants Alabama, Florida and Georgia will receive a combined $800 million in block grants from USDA to help their agriculture industries recover from 2018 hurricanes, USDA announced Friday. Florida will get $380.7 million, Georgia $347 million and Alabama $24.9 million. Florida officials said the funds will compensate timber producers for lost value of their crop damaged by Hurricane Michael, helping them clear downed trees and replant. Block grant funding will also help producers repair and replace irrigation infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Michael. Officials say an estimated 550 million trees, weighing 72 million tons, were damaged or destroyed by the massive Category 5 hurricane. The funding in Georgia is expected to reach pecan growers, timberland owners and poultry and cattle farmers who suffered heavy damage but had some operations that weren't covered by an earlier federal disaster aid program. USDA is aiming to wrap everything up and disburse the funds by Thanksgiving. But that is not likely the timeframe for when the money will reach farmers.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 12, 2019 |


Trump Injects Uncertainty Into US-China Trade With Tariff Comments President Donald Trump Friday said he has not agreed to the rollbacks of U.S. tariffs sought by China, sparking fresh doubts about when the world's two largest economies may end a 16-month trade war that has slowed global growth. Trump also remarked he has not yet approved the phase one deal negotiators are working on. "I have not agreed to anything," Trump said. "China would like to get somewhat of a rollback, [but] not a complete rollback because they know I will not do it." The Financial Times reported last week the White House was considering rolling back levies on $112 billion of Chinese goods. Meanwhile, there continue to be different views expressed by White House officials on the topic. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told Bloomberg that any phase one deal would include "tariff agreements and concessions." However, Peter Navarro, a White House trade adviser, slammed the media for reporting that the tariff removal was in the cards. Navarro said the media was relying on sources "without direct knowledge of the negotiations" -- even though Kudlow publicly mentioned the possibility of concessions. Navarro also reprised his view that some reporters were being duped by "propagandists within the Chinese government." He also said China was trying to "negotiate in public" and said if the U.S. gave up any existing tariffs, Washington would not have leverage ahead of further phases of the talks.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 12, 2019 |


Trump says No Agreement with China on Easing Tariffs Yet Late last week, the Chinese government stated that the U.S and China had reached an agreement to begin rolling back tariffs after a phase one trade deal is signed. That statement led to some optimism and a jump upward in financial markets. Politico says it was just 24 hours after that when President Donald Trump poured “cold water all over the positive vibes.” The president said during a press conference on Friday that there’s no such understanding between the two countries to scale back duties on each other’s goods. “I haven’t agreed to anything,” Trump said on the White House lawn. “China wants to get somewhat of a rollback in tariffs, not a complete rollback, because they know I won’t do it.” White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro sent an email on Friday complaining about the media coverage of the apparent deal on tariffs, saying too many journalists are “getting the trade stories on China wrong.” Politico points out that they asked the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office to confirm the Chinese claims on an agreement to cut back on tariffs. Both refused to comment on the record and didn’t make any attempt to contradict the Chinese statement. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Set to Allow Chinese Poultry Imports as a Sign of Progress The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking steps to allow poultry imports from China. Farm Progress Dot Com says it’s a sign of ongoing progress in the talks between Washington and Beijing that will hopefully lead to a resolution in their trade dispute. The new regulation covers birds as well as poultry parts and products slaughtered in certified Chinese facilities. A compromise on poultry came out of advanced discussions between the two nations as they gradually work toward a “Phase One” partial trade deal. China said last month that it was prepared to lift a ban on U.S poultry imports that had been in place since 2015. A report last Thursday said that China’s General Administration of Customs and Ministry of Agriculture were looking into the removal of curbs on American supplies. China is currently allowed to send poultry products into the U.S. that are slaughtered in America or certain other countries. However, the new regulation would allow China to send processed poultry products made from birds slaughtered in the Asian country. If Beijing ultimately lifts its ban on U.S. poultry imports, that would be a major win for U.S. producers and processors. China banned U.S. poultry imports in 2015 after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the U.S. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Announces Aid Package for Southern Farmers Hurt by Hurricanes Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says his agency is making $800 million available to agricultural producers in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, who were affected by Hurricanes Michael and Florence. These state block grants are part of a larger $3 billion package to aid producers in recovering from natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. The broader package includes the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program, as well as programs for loss of milk and stored commodities. “Natural disasters hit producers with some hefty blows in the past couple of years,” Perdue says. “This relief complements USDA’s tool chest of disaster assistance programs and crop insurance.” He says the additional aid helps producers who’ve suffered losses beyond what the regular USDA programs can cover. USDA is working out the final details of the grants with the Florida governor’s office and the state departments of agriculture in Alabama and Georgia. The grants are designed to cover all of the qualifying losses not covered by other USDA disaster assistance programs. Grant funding covers losses of timber, cattle, poultry, as well as necessary expenses related to the loss of horticulture crops and present-value losses associated with pecan production. ********************************************************************************************** Brazil Taking Cotton Exports Away from U.S. Producers While soybeans have gotten a lot of attention during the U.S. trade war with China, U.S. cotton is one of the lesser-known victims of the trade dispute. Just 14 million acres of the crop were planted this year across states like Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi. That’s compared with 76.5 million acres of soybeans and almost 90 million corn acres. The U.S. is the world’s top exporter of cotton and over 75 percent of the crop is sent overseas. The U.S. cotton industry depends heavily on Chinese purchases. Bloomberg says even if the U.S. and China were to strike a trade deal, the global demand outlook isn’t solid and industry experts say harvest doesn’t look encouraging, due in large part to a hot and dry summer in many key cotton regions. The global customers that are out there are currently looking to Brazil for cotton. The lagging Brazil economy is making its supply of cotton more affordable for other countries when compared to U.S. cotton. The forecast supply from this season’s crop will likely boost domestic supplies to their highest point since 2009. This will bring down cotton futures, which dropped over eight percent last year and are down another 10 percent this year. ********************************************************************************************** Rabobank: China’s Hog Herd Won’t Bounce Back for Five Years Rabobank says China’s pig herd, once the largest in the world, will take more than five years to recover from the African Swine Fever outbreak. Even then, Rabobank International says their meat consumption won’t be the same as it was before the disease outbreak. The world’s biggest pork market won’t stabilize until 2025 and meat imports won’t make up for the shortfall. China’s once giant hog herd is more than half of what it was, down to less than 200 million since the first case of ASF was made public in August of 2018. A Rabobank analyst notes that China is rapidly trying to increase its domestic production, while importing more pork and other proteins like beef and chicken, in hopes of satisfying consumer demand. The crisis will change the way China consumes protein. Rabobank says pork will remain the meat of choice in China, but its overall share of meat consumption will fall from 63 percent to 53 percent. Poultry’s share of Chinese meat consumption will increase by 30 percent by 2025. Restocking and importing will take place through 2021 before hog output increases through 2025. However, Rabobank says even then, the total herd is unlikely to return to its peak size in 2018. ********************************************************************************************** New Tractors Presented to Farmer Veteran Coalition Members In partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Kubota presented five farmer veterans with new tractors as a part of its “Geared to Give” program. In observance of Veterans’ Day, each farmer received the keys to their new tractor during a ceremony in their respective hometowns. Hundreds of applications came in for the giveaway program, with Kubota selecting five winners in each of their operating divisions. Winners included three Army veterans, an Air Force Veteran, and a U.S. Marine. Alex Woods, Kubota’s Vice President of Sales, says, “The program empowers farmer veterans to achieve their dreams. We’re very happy to have selected the five veterans to receive their awards.” Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, says, “One of the great joys of doing this work is being able to make a positive impact on our farmer veterans by providing them with the tools to succeed on their operations. Having horsepower on the farm is the ultimate gift for a farmer.” Farmer veterans can apply every year to the FVC Fellowship Fund to be considered for donated Kubota equipment through the “Geared to Give” program.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 12, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday's reports start with weekly export inspections at 10 a.m. CST and end with USDA's Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. Harvest progress remains slower than usual in 2019, but drier weather has helped lately. The weather forecast continues to be watched as does any hints of trade progress with China. Weather Most primary crop areas will be dry and unseasonably cold Tuesday. Conditions favor harvest.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 11, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets USDA's usual Monday reports will be released Tuesday, due to Veterans Day. That leaves an open docket with U.S. government offices and Federal Reserve banks closed. U.S. futures markets will be open as usual and traders will still be interested in weather forecasts and any trade news pertaining to China. Weather Snow and mixed precipitation are in store for the central Plains and most of the Midwest Monday, causing harvest disruption. The Delta and southeastern Plains will have rain for winter wheat, along with row crop and cotton harvest delays. Conditions will be very cold for the season in northern and central areas, adding to slow progress.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 11, 2019 |


Perdue Hoping Trade Aid Payments Unnecessary in 2020 Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is hoping that a third round of trade aid payments to farmers will be unnecessary in 2020 because of a new trade deal with China. The Hagstrom Report says Perdue spoke with reporters last week shortly after returning from a “successful” trade mission to Mexico. Farmers “would rather have trade than aid,” Perdue says. At the same time, he did say the second round of 2019 trade aid is approved and will be heading to farmers soon. “We have just gotten authorization on the second tranche,” he said. “I expect payments to be out to farmers by late November or early December.” The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement was one of the big topics of conversation on the trip to Mexico. Perdue says Mexican officials are hoping Congress will sign off on the agreement as soon as possible. “They’ve done their work, as you know, and they’re anxious for us to complete our task as well,” Perdue says. Immigration was another topic of conversation with Mexican officials. Perdue is hopeful that the Mexican government will begin a program to “pre-certify” workers southeast Mexico for the H-2A Program. Southeast Mexico is one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the country. ********************************************************************************************** House Ag Chair Undecided About Another Congressional Run Speculation seems to be swirling about whether or not House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson will be running for office again. Politico says the Democrat from Minnesota is thinking “long and hard” about whether or not he wants to help put together another farm bill. Peterson is confident he would win another term if he decides to run. However, he’s trying to decide whether he wants to stick it out for another cycle of putting together another farm bill. The current farm bill expires in 2023, but discussions begin several years ahead of that. “It’s getting harder every time to do a farm bill,” Peterson says. “It’s a big commitment. So that’s what my main thing is, do I want to do that? If I do, then I’d feel like I have a responsibility to see it through.” The ag chair wouldn’t give a yes or no answer to the question of whether he’ll run again. Peterson says he’ll make a public announcement in either January or February of next year, as he’s done in the past. Republicans point out that Peterson recently sold his condo in D.C., saying that’s a sign he’s not running again. Peterson said he did that to gain additional capital for his Minnesota farm. ********************************************************************************************** Peterson: USMCA Vote Possible this Week or Next The House of Representatives could vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement as early as this week or the next. Farm Journal’s Ag Web Dot Com says Peterson appeared on the “D.C. Signal to Noise Podcast” recently and said Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to get USMCA approval “on the fast track.” Peterson says USMCA Working Group Chair Richard Neal of Massachusetts told him that Neal will try to move the legislation forward either this week or the next. “He’s pushing hard,” Peterson says. “It’s going to get done. The question is whether it will be done during the next two weeks or sometime in December?” While on a caucus conference call last week, Peterson says Pelosi talked about the push to pass USMCA. “She wouldn’t be doing that if she didn’t want this to get done,” Peterson explained. “So, this is going to get done.” The USMCA Working Group has been meeting regularly with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate the changes needed to get votes from both sides of the political fence. The House Ag Chair says he anticipates that work will clear the way for rapid approval from all three countries. ********************************************************************************************** China’s Demand for U.S. Pork Continuing to Grow Despite Tariffs The USDA recently raised its pork export forecast for both 2019 and 2020. The predicted rise is due in large part to the significant growth in Chinese demand for more U.S. pork. China’s growing demand for pork imports is a direct result of the African Swine Fever outbreak that spread throughout the country in 2018 and continued into this year. As of September, China’s pork inventory was down 41 percent from the previous year. Many farmers slaughtered their animals to prevent herds from becoming infected. By October, Chinese hog and pork prices had doubled compared to a year earlier, as pork supplies quickly grew tighter. To help fill the gap between supply and demand, China turned to more imports from the U.S. and 10 other countries. Despite retaliatory tariffs of up to 78 percent implemented on U.S. pork products, 2019 U.S. exports of pork to China have increased 91 percent through August. Total U.S. pork exports in 2019 are now forecast at 6.85 billion pounds, 12 percent higher than last year. In 2020, USDA is forecasting total U.S. pork exports of 7.3 billion pounds, an 11 percent jump over this year. ********************************************************************************************** September Beef Exports Steady; Pork Higher but Pace Slowing September exports of U.S. beef were steady with last year’s volume, but the export value was trending lower. That’s according to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Pork exports were above last year’s levels in September but had pulled back from the larger totals in June, July, and August. September beef exports were just shy of 109,800 metric tons, basically even with 2018, and down four percent in value to $661 million. Through the first three quarters of this year, beef exports were two percent below last year’s record pace in both volume and value. September pork exports increased 13 percent from a year ago in volume, totaling 202,248 metric tons, and valued at $532 million. Those numbers pushed the January through September export volume five percent ahead of last year’s pace at 1.9 million metric tons. The retail value of exports to date two percent higher at $4.89 billion. Beef exports to Japan are still struggling with the tariff rate gap between U.S. beef and the competition. However, beef exports to South Korea continue to build on a strong performance last year. Pork exports to Mexico have rebounded significantly since Mexico removed its 20 percent retaliatory duty on U.S. pork in late May. ********************************************************************************************** Hemp Federation of America Flying into Washington, D.C. The brand-new Hemp Federation of America is planning its first-ever fly-in to Washington, D.C., this week. The fly-in is happening at the same time that Reuters is reporting farmers are having a difficult time finding markets for this year’s hemp crop. Oklahoma farmer Will Wheeler is the board chair for the federation. He says an industry with a domestic market estimated at $800 million to $2 billion every year needs to have its trade association in Washington. “There’s no question that a viable crop like this has hundreds and even thousands of uses,” Wheeler says. “But, we have to get this right. That’s why we formed the Hemp Federation of America, so farmers can be a part of shaping the legislation that regulates industrial hemp, thanks to our presence in Washington.” Scott Graves is the HFA’s executive director, who says, “There is a tremendous amount of work ahead with Congress and the administration to put together a regulatory framework that makes sense. That’s how we’re going to help grow the market for American farmers and businesses.” Federation priorities include educating lawmakers and others on how to tell the difference between hemp and cannabis.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 11, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Fed Focus on Potential Impacts of Climate Change While differences of opinion between the Trump administration and the Fed are well known, one more seems to be in the process of being added, Bloomberg says – changes in the climate. The Fed held a conference in San Francisco last week and potential impacts of changes in the climate were featured for the first time. Bloomberg says the presentations noted that climate change makes investments riskier, blunts workers’ productivity, and shakes up monetary stability. President Donald Trump and some of his key advisors have been famously skeptical of scientific data about shifting climates. So the central bank’s decision to host a daylong series of climate talks this week – the first ever for the Federal Reserve system – appears to mark another step in its growing public recognition that climate change is creating financial uncertainty and an increasing difference of opinion on the importance of the topic. “The Federal Reserve’s job is to promote a healthy, stable economy,” San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said at the Nov. 8 event. “This requires us to consider current and future risks, whether we have a direct influence on them or not. Climate change is one of those risks.” Bloomberg also weighed in with the observation that the conference “heightens tensions between the Fed and the President,” who has called climate science a hoax, and repeatedly blasted the bank on Twitter – mostly for not cutting interest rates. Bloomberg very briefly noted a few conference highlights. It said “one conference paper,” presented by Dana Kiku, an associate professor of finance at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business, detailed how rising temperatures create long-term economic risks. Another by Sandra Batten, a senior economist at the Bank of England, concluded that the risks of climate change can trigger inflation and cause businesses and individuals to struggle to anticipate how the economy will perform. Rising temperatures also reduce the labor supply for outdoor workers in industries such as construction, mining, and manufacturing, said Solomon Hsiang, a public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. That leads to reduced work time and damaged firm profits, Hsiang said. Other economists spoke about the link between pollution and economic output, the possibility of anti-oil policies generating a run on oil and how differences in nations’ trade policies create implicit subsidies to carbon emissions. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell wrote earlier to Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, that severe weather events “have the potential to inflict serious damage on the lives of individuals and families, devastate local economies (including financial institutions), and even temporarily affect national economic output and employment.” As a result, “these events may affect the economic conditions, which we take into account in our assessment of the outlook for the economy,” Powell said. Damage from severe weather in the U.S. cost insurers more than $50 billion in 2018, Daly said. That figure nearly doubles if uninsured damage is taken into account, she said. “This impacts banks’ customers, making it harder for them to satisfy their loan obligations,” Daly said. “And this can ultimately stress banks’ balance sheets. So ensuring that financial institutions are regularly evaluating their exposure to climate-related risks is an increasingly important part of our work.” The talks also raised concerns about future efforts by Congress to deal with climate change problems. Schatz, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, told Bloomberg that he is readying legislation that would direct large banks and other financial institutions to conduct stress tests to gauge whether they are well-positioned to absorb climate change risks. So, we will see. It would seem to be an uphill climb to expect that the impact of the Fed’s new focus on the climate will rapidly change the policies of the numerous agencies including USDA and others who have been struggling with internal efforts to downplay the issue. At the same time, political concerns about the climate are growing widely and likely will continue to do so in spite of the skeptics’ efforts. This is a debate producers should watch closely as it intensifies, and especially if it results in new practices and rules applied by the banking community, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 11, 2019 |


Rep. Peterson: House Could Vote On USMCA As Soon As This Week House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to get the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) vote on the fast track. “[USMCA Working Group chair] Richard [Neal] told me he is going to try to move it when we get back…, or the week after, so he is pushing hard,” Peterson told Pro Farmer in an interview. “It is going to get done. The question is, is it going to get done in those two weeks or is it going to get done in December?” Peterson noted that Pelosi talked about the push to pass USMCA on a caucus conference call last week. “She was pushing and explaining the USMCA on that call, and she would not be doing that if she did not want to get this done,” Peterson explained. “So, this is going to get done.” The USMCA working group has been meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate changes to the trade agreement required to get votes from both sides of the aisle. Peterson said he anticipates that work will clear the way for rapid approval in all three countries.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 11, 2019 |


USDA’s Perdue Confirms Second MFP 2 Payment Coming The second installment of the Market Facilitation Program 2 (MFP 2) payments to farmers has been approved, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue confirmed in a press call with reporters. “We have just gotten authorization on the second tranche” of aid payments and USDA is working to get them ready “hopefully by the end of this month, early December,” he remarked. Asked if another MFP effort in 2020 is in the cards, Perdue said he hoped that a U.S.-China deal could temper the need for such an effort. USDA has paid out $6.7 billion under the MFP 2 program so far. The amount of Chinese purchasing under discussion “would be very beneficial to agricultural producers and we’re hopeful that trade would supplant any type of farm aid needed in 2020 in that regard,” Perdue told reporters. However, given that the commodity purchases by China will be ramping up over at least a two-year period, that could temper the market response. An MFP 3 program is potentially more difficult, but not impossible, to get approved. Meanwhile, USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey said in Minnesota Thursday that USDA has paid out $500 million in the top-up payments on prevent plant under the disaster aid effort.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 8, 2019 |


China, U.S., Strike Tariff Rollback Agreement The U.S. and China will roll back tariffs if they strike a preliminary deal, a move requested by China before signing a phase one trade agreement. The signing of the agreement may be now delayed until next month, but the two sides continue to wrap up the talks, according to the South China Morning Post. A spokesperson for China’s Commerce Ministry says, "top negotiators have had serious and constructive discussions on resolving issues of core concerns” over the last two weeks. China’s Agriculture Ministry announced it will consider removing restrictions on the import of U.S. poultry. China says the U.S. and China should remove tariffs simultaneously, as part of reaching the agreement. If reached, the agreement would be welcome news to U.S. agriculture, as it’s thought to include $40-50 billion of U.S. ag exports to China over the next two years. U.S. agricultural exports to China dropped roughly $10 billion annually, half the usual amount since the trade war began. ************************************************************************************* U.S. Democrats Tell Trudeau USMCA Negotiations Near Completion A delegation of U.S. House Democrats this week told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement negotiations are nearly complete. Led by Representative Richard Neal, the group met with Trudeau and other top officials from Canada. Neal says of the talks, “Significant progress is being achieved” on the agreement. Trudeau says the group talked about jobs and opportunities USCMA will create and how they will "work together to keep strengthening the long-standing relationship between Canada and the United States.” Few U.S. legislative days remain to pass the agreement in 2019, with Congress mired by the House impeachment inquiry and the need to quickly pass spending bills. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week appeared optimistic the White House and her chamber could reach an agreement to pass USMCA. However, she suggested the process may linger into 2020. Neal says House Democrats continue to engage in productive discussions with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to “achieve their priorities” in the agreement. ************************************************************************************* NPPC Launches USMCA Campaign The National Pork Producers council Thursday launched a campaign to highlight the importance and benefits of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. The "It's Pork O' Clock Somewhere," campaign focuses on pork and the many ways it's enjoyed across North America. NPPC president David Herring says, “Ratification of USMCA is the top priority for U.S. pork producers, and there is no better way to highlight its importance." Last year, more than 40 percent of U.S. pork exported went to Canada and Mexico. The campaign thanks lawmakers for making USMCA ratification this year a priority and highlights the history behind pork-related dishes in the United States, Mexico and Canada. For example, tacos al pastor from Mexico have origins in the Lebanese method of cooking meat on a spit, referred to as shawarma. The tacos are a staple in Mexico City, where taco shops and stands line the streets. Last year, the United States sent more than 770,000 tons, worth $1.3 billion, of pork to Mexico. To learn more about NPPC's campaign, visit www.porkoclock.org. ************************************************************************************* EPA Seeks Nominations for Farm/Rural Federal Advisory Committee Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler Thursday asked for nominees to serve on the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee. EPA is seeking 20-30 nominees to serve on the committee that provides independent policy advice, information and recommendations to EPA’s Administrator on environmental issues and policies important to agriculture and rural communities. Members will be selected from a variety of sectors and may represent allied industries and stakeholders, including farm groups, rural suppliers, marketers, processors, academia/researchers, state, local, and tribal government, and nongovernmental organizations. The previous charter for the committee was scheduled to expire and was renewed in 2018. However, the committee currently has no members. EPA is specifically seeking 20-30 members for two-three-year terms, and the committee expects to meet approximately twice a year. Applications must be received by EPA by December 31, 2019. Full details about qualifications and how to apply will be published in the Federal Register Notice, and on the EPA’s website. ************************************************************************************* USDA Finds Genetic Path to Double Sorghum Yield Scientists with the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service have discovered genes in sorghum that can double the amount of grain the plant produces. Their findings, spelled out in a series of papers, are based on years of research that initially focused on a search for the genetic underpinnings of high yielding strains of sorghum. They also lay out a potential strategy for increasing the yields not only of sorghum but of other grain crops, such as corn, wheat and rice. Sorghum is drought tolerant and is an important crop for farmers worldwide. Increasing production is considered a key to addressing the threat of food shortages in the years ahead with changing climates, growing populations overseas and the loss of arable land in many parts of the world. Their results show that the gene, known as MSD1, is a major regulator of a cascading series of events along a genetic pathway. They found two other genes in the genetic pathway, and say mutating any of the three genes causes a similar increase in grain yield. ************************************************************************************* Hemp Farmer Says New York Police Mistook Hemp Shipment as Marijuana Police in New York last week intercepted and seized a shipment of organic hemp, allegedly mistaking it for marijuana. Vermont’s NBC-5 reports Fox Holler Farms of New Haven, Vermont, took a 106 lbs. shipment of organic hemp to FedEx, and “made clear what it was,” adding the shipment was legal. However, police acted on an apparent tip and seized the shipment, and arrested a CBD shop owner who arrived to pick up the boxes. The farm owners allege detectives seemed unaware of the difference between hemp and marijuana. While hemp and marijuana look similar, the farm owners say paperwork and testing information was included in the shipment. The 2018 farm bill legalized hemp production, but it must be tested to be sure it meets federal guidelines of low THC levels. Vermont agriculture leaders say they have contacted New York Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball, to make him aware of the situation, hoping he might help sort out the confusion. Meanwhile, New York police continue their investigation.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 8, 2019 |


Washington Insider: High Tariff Costs Well, a few hints of easing pressure on the U.S.-China trade standoff are being reported this week and markets have been responding accordingly. However, not all the press was favorable. The Hill reported that U.S. consumers and businesses paid a record $7.1 billion in tariffs in September “due largely to President Trump’s trade war with China.” It said the calculation was based on new data and a new analysis. Roughly $4.1 billion of the $7.1 billion in import taxes paid by Americans in September were levied through tariffs the administration imposed on Chinese goods since 2018. The total amount of tariffs paid by Americans has increased 59% since September 2018 and has risen $600 million since August 2019, The Hill said. The work behind the report was commissioned and released by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a coalition of trade groups opposed to import taxes, The Hill reported. Since March 2018, the administration has imposed tariffs on more than $350 billion in imports from China and another round of tariffs on close to $200 billion in Chinese goods is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15. That would subject almost all U.S. Chinese imports to additional tariffs. However, U.S. and Chinese officials claim to be nearing a preliminary trade deal that would grant China relief from some tariffs in exchange for drastically increasing purchases of American farm exports, among other concessions, the report said. President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to sign the so-called phase one trade deal at a now-canceled summit of Pacific nations in Chile later this month. Reuters reported Wednesday that the signing may be delayed until December as Trump and Xi mull new locations. “Negotiations are continuing and progress is being made on the text of the phase-one agreement," White House spokesman Judd Deere told The Hill. "We will let you know when we have an announcement on a signing location.” The U.S. has collected tariffs on foreign goods throughout its history and import taxes were once a primary source of federal revenue. But after decades of trade liberalization, the administration’s imposition of steep tariffs on Chinese goods has vastly increased the amount in import taxes paid by U.S. consumers and firms. President Trump frequently insists that China effectively pays the cost of U.S. tariffs on its goods through currency devaluation and reduced product prices. And while the president argues that the U.S. economy has not been harmed by tariffs, manufacturers and farmers have been slammed with higher costs and lower global demand. The U.S. manufacturing sector has suffered through a recession for most of 2019, due largely to the rising costs of Chinese goods and parts not easily obtainable from other nations. A steep decline in global economic growth has also dampened foreign demand for U.S. goods. U.S. farmers and ranchers have also lost billions in sales to China after Beijing imposed retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural exports, The Hill says. While the U.S. exports to China are “a fraction” of the value of goods it imports from the country, China is a crucial market for the ailing American ag sector. “This data offers concrete proof that tariffs are taxes paid by American businesses, farmers and consumers – not by China,” Jonathan Gold, a spokesman for Americans for Free Trade, another anti-tariff coalition of trade groups told The Hill. President Trump has consistently blamed the Federal Reserve for the steep decline in American manufacturing and business investment, insisting that the central bank has hindered the U.S. from its full economic potential. President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods have yet to hinder solid consumer spending and the unemployment rate is “near record lows,” The Hill said. But the bulk of pending tariffs on Chinese goods apply to crucial consumer items like clothing, shoes, toys, household products and technology. In addition, economists say that new consumer-facing tariffs are the biggest threat posed by the administration’s trade policy to the broader economy. So, we will see. Clearly, many producers and others see any reduction of tensions in the U.S.-China trade war as very good news, but many observers continue to be skeptical of the success of “phase one” of the negotiations, and of the eventual benefits from the “get tough” trade policy. The report of a more than $7 billion tariff cost in the month of September is likely to attract attention among nearly all interest groups in the trade policy issue—a debate that should be watched closely by producers as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 8, 2019 |


House Democrats, Canadian PM Meet to Discuss USMCA House Democrats met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Labor Minister Patty Hadju Wednesday to discuss the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). “I particularly stressed the importance of meaningful enforcement mechanisms that ensure the protection of workers in all three nations and of our shared environment,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., who led the delegation. “I’m pleased that our neighbors to the north also have a strong desire for an agreement that benefits our economies while also lifting up our people,” he added. Meanwhile, Canadian news outlets reported Trudeau said is working with U.S. lawmakers to reach a “good place where we have the right deal for Canada, the United States and for Mexico. It is a pleasure to see the positive momentum that seems to be happening on this renewal of this very important trade deal.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 8, 2019 |


China Touts Agreement With US To Lift Tariffs In Phase One Deal The U.S. and China have agreed to remove trade tariffs in stages as part of a “phase one” trade agreement currently being negotiated, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. “In the past two weeks, top negotiators have had serious and constructive discussions on resolving issues of core concern. Both sides agreed to remove the additional tariffs imposed in phases as progress is made on the agreement,” ministry spokesperson Gao Feng said. “If China and the U.S. reach a Phase One deal, both sides should roll back existing additional tariffs in the same proportion simultaneously.” Gao said that both sides will negotiate how much of the tariffs to eliminate based on the content of the final Phase One deal. Negotiations to finalize the deal are ongoing, and “economic and trade teams from both sides have been in constant communication,” he added. Trump administration officials have yet to confirm the agreement to lift duties and the exact details regarding what tariffs may be eliminated remain unclear.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 8, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday's main event will be USDA's WASDE report at 11 a.m. CST, featuring new crop estimates for corn and soybeans. USDA's Crop Production report will also include updated estimates of spring wheat and durum crops in several northern states where harvest experienced adverse weather. Recent trade news with China suggests progress and ears will be tilted to hear more specifics. Weather Dry conditions will cover all primary crop areas Friday, favoring harvest. Temperatures will have a sharp contrast between warm west and cold east.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 7, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Potential Trade Interdependence This week The Hill is carrying an OpEd by Thomas Parsons, Vet Med professor, and Scott Moore, China Program Director at the University of Pennsylvania regarding livestock disease dangers. The note is in response to the recent “animal apocalypse” unfolding in China as African Swine Fever has devastated its swine population and likely killed more than 25% of the world’s hogs. However, as stark as those data are, the authors argue that the real costs of this calamity go much deeper. Perhaps more than any other commodity, pork’s role is “as much political and environmental” as it is economic. And the writers argue that even if Washington and Beijing manage to end their commercial conflict, “they’ll need to find new ways to cooperate to prevent threats like ASF from reaching the U.S.” For both China and the U.S., “pork stands out among the hundreds of thousands of commodities that make up nearly $700 billion worth of annual trade for its political importance.” In the U.S., this significance comes by way of the political clout of hog producers since a “very large share of the top pork counties were part of the President’s base in 2016” — a political link that remains strong despite the negative consequences of the trade war. In China, pork consumption is deeply embedded in the Middle Kingdom’s culture and cuisine. China is both the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork, and pork accounts for more than 75% of its meat consumption, especially during holidays, festivals, and formal banquets. Given this importance, politicians have grown nervous as the trade war devastates “what should have been a classic gains-from-trade scenario for American producers and Chinese consumers,” the writers say. In fact, Chinese pork prices have skyrocketed, the authors say and now are four times their U.S. level. Ordinarily, this would present a great opportunity for America’s highly efficient pork producers to fill the gap. But because Beijing responded to the administration’s tariffs by imposing duties of their own on U.S. ag exports, American producers “have largely have been priced out of the Chinese market,” leaving other countries to fill the void. USDA pegs the loss to U.S. producers at $860 million while the National Pork Producers Council says it is “over $1 billon.” So far, U.S. producers are attempting to compensate by expanding into markets like South Korea, but export opportunities there are only a fraction of those in China. China’s leaders, meanwhile, are clearly concerned about the long-term impact of both ASF and the trade war. Recently, Beijing has agreed to buy large quantities of U.S. agriculture products, including pork, as part of a “phase one” trade deal. However, the writers say it would be a mistake to read too much into this move since similar Chinese overtures in the past have never been fully implemented and Beijing is already “starting to waiver on its most recent commitment.” When it comes to the trade war at large, Beijing has shown no signs of willingness to throw in the towel, The OpEd writers say in spite of short-term concessions on pork and other agricultural imports. It is making long-term investments in self-sufficiency in swine production — signaling that for pork, like other commodities, its long-term objective is not to increase imports but rather to phase them out altogether. Meanwhile, the fallout from the combined effects of ASF and the trade war continue to imperil the pork industry “on both sides of the Pacific.” The Chinese government is working to incentivize commercial swine production by both low cost loans and reduced environmental regulations. But losses from ASF are so great that even after the deployment of their strategic pork reserve, China will be faced with insufficient pork supplies and high consumer pork prices, possibly for years to come. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the pork industry is still reeling from the billion dollars of lost income in previous years. Volatility from on-again/off-again Chinese pork purchases driven by the ebbs and flows of the trade war has confounded strategic planning by individual businesses. ASF has now spread from China to nine neighboring countries and thus is a lingering fear among many experts that it’s not a question of whether ASF reaches American shores, but when. Pork, though just one of the many items that make up China’s trade with the United States, tells the story of the two countries’ political and economic interdependence more poignantly than any other, the writers think. No other commodity so vividly illustrates the trade war’s economic, political, and environmental costs — or the reality that, whatever the state of tensions between Washington and Beijing, the fate of farmers in both the U.S. and China is fundamentally shared. So, we will see. In spite of basic self-sufficiency policies, in recent years China has moved to increase its dependence on some imports, including vital products like vegetable oil seeds — and they might well do something similar with pork, an argument against continued heavy U.S. dependence on tariffs. This tends to argue for increasingly sensitive and detailed trade negotiations, as a number of U.S. groups are now arguing, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 7, 2019 |


China Lifts Ban On Imports Of Canadian Beef, Pork Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Twitter Tuesday that China has lifted its ban imports of Canadian pork and beef. “Good news for Canadian farmers today: Canadian pork and beef exports to China will resume.” Trudeau credited Dominic Barton, the recently appointed Canadian ambassador to China, and the country’s meat industry for “reopening this important market for our meat producers and their families.” The move ends a four-month long trade dispute that started soon after Canada arrested a Huawei executive at the request of the U.S. Pork processed on or after November 5 is eligible to be shipped to China, meaning that provided the proper paperwork accompanies shipments, exports can start nearly immediately. However, there was no news on the situation with canola or soybean trade between the two countries.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 7, 2019 |


US Ag Exports Miss USDA’s Forecast For FY 2019 U.S. agricultural exports in September totaled $10.30 billion against imports of $10.08 billion for a monthly surplus of $219.8 million. That put U.S. ag exports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 at $135.57 billion against imports of $130.94 billion for a trade surplus of $4.63 billion. USDA’s forecast for exports was too robust at $137 billion while their import outlook was too conservative at $129 billion. The level of imports still registered a new record even as the September result was the second lowest of FY 2019. But imports topped $11 billion four months in FY 2019 with one of those months seeing imports of more than $12 billion. The September ag export total was the lowest of FY 2019 and the smallest monthly export total since June 2016. The resulting trade surplus for FY 2019 is the smallest since it was $4.57 billion in FY 2006.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 7, 2019 |


Ethanol Industry Looking South for New Business Corn growers and ethanol manufacturers are increasingly frustrated with blending waivers for oil refiners deflating the domestic biofuel market. While those groups continue to negotiate with the White House for a solution to the challenge, the industry is looking at foreign buyers as a way to make up for lost sales. Trade groups are looking south of the border for more business. The U.S. Grains Council and the American Coalition for Ethanol have been working with Mexican officials to promote the use of a 10 percent ethanol blend in Mexico. They’re hosting workshops on the topic and using them to target Mexico’s gas station owners, petroleum equipment retailers, as well as the nation’s ag and energy leaders. U.S. ethanol exports to Mexico have been used more for producing other products instead of as transportation fuel. However, retailers in border locations are buying more pre-blended E10 at U.S. locations and reselling it at Mexican gas stations. Mexico currently allows E10 sales nationwide, except in its three largest cities, which are Guadalajara (Gwad-ah-lah-HAR-ah), Mexico City, and Monterrey. But, Ryan LeGrand, CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, expects Mexico’s energy officials to offer up a proposal to allow E10 in those three locations by the end of 2019. ********************************************************************************************** NPB Study Shows Protein Opportunity in China A new National Pork Board report looks into the short term and long-term need for protein in China. It also talks about how U.S. pork producers can position themselves to fill that need. The new report is titled “Pork 2040: China Market Assessment.” It also looks at the impact African Swine Fever is having on China’s short term and long-term protein needs and how the Chinese pork industry and supply chain will change as a result of the outbreak. Norman Bessac (bah-sack), the NPB’s Vice President of International Marketing, says “Pork is a critical part of the Chinese diet, with per capita consumption estimated to be nearly 88 pounds per person every year.” The report will help exporters position U.S. pork as the supplier of choice, which will add value for all U.S. pork producers. The NPB report says Chinese pork consumption peaked in 2014 and will continue a slow decline as the Chinese population grows to its highest level on record in 2030. Other proteins like chicken, fish, and beef, will become more available as Chinese disposable income increases, which means consumers will diversify their protein consumption. The report outlines key steps exporters can take before China’s domestic pork production rebounds, which experts predict will happen by 2025. ********************************************************************************************* Canada Resuming Beef, Pork Exports to China Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada’s beef and pork exports to China will resume, ending a four-month trade dispute with Beijing. Trudeau said earlier this week on Twitter that China has lifted the import ban it put in place earlier this year. “Good news for Canadian farmers today,” Trudeau tweeted. “Thanks to Ambassador Barton and the Canadian meat industry for their work on re-opening this important market for our meat producers and their families.” Farm Journal’s Ag Web Dot Com says the dispute began when China and Canada worked together and suspended all Canadian meat imports on June 25 after finding a forged delivery certificate on pork cargo, which was later confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Rick Bergmann, Chair of the Canadian Pork Council, appreciates the efforts of government officials to help restore their access to the Chinese market. In July, the council said Canada had put out an action plan that addressed some of the Chinese concerns and was waiting for a response. China is an important market for Canadian producers. In 2018, Canada’s pork exports totaled just about $4 billion, with over $500 million going to China. ********************************************************************************************** Grassley Working on Tariff Reform Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who also chairs the Senate Finance Committee, is working on reforming Section 232 tariff authority. He says Congress gave away their authority on trade to the White House back during the Kennedy Administration. Agri-Pulse says Grassley is looking for legislators to take back some of the power they gave away. Grassley says some lawmakers are worried that such a move would upset President Donald Trump. Grassley’s response is “that shouldn’t stop Congress from acting.” Grassley’s staff has been busy trying to combine two bipartisan bills designed to tone down the president’s authority to impose Section 232 tariffs on foreign countries. The tariff authority was first put in place to punish other countries that threatened U.S. national security. “We need reforms to Section 232 that make it clearer where Congress stands on national security and trade,” Grassley says. “Such reforms would make it clearer to our trading partners that when Section 232 is used, Congress stands with the president.” The Finance Committee’s ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden, says there hasn’t been any agreement yet because both sides of the political aisle have concerns that need to be worked out. ********************************************************************************************** NBB Applauds Letter on Tax Incentives Forty Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal regarding expired tax incentives. They’re asking leadership to make an extension of expired tax incentives an urgent legislative priority before the end of the year. The National Biodiesel Board thanked them for their efforts and emphasized that renewing the biodiesel tax credits before the end of the year is crucial to reviving production. It would reopen production facilities and save countless jobs. The representatives say in the letter that, “Extending the biodiesel, alternative fuel vehicle refueling property, and second-generation biofuel producer tax credits are especially important to the regions we represent. Participants up and down the supply chain are experiencing hardship as a result of this lengthy collapse in credits.” NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik says his group appreciates the representatives drawing attention to the economic situation facing advanced biofuel producers. “Nine biodiesel producers in six states have been forced to close, cut production, and lay off workers,” Kovarik says. “That’s because blenders count on Congress to renew the tax credit and demand a discount on the price of biodiesel.” He says producers have taken a loss for nearly two full years because of the expired credits. ********************************************************************************************** Is a Hemp Checkoff Coming from USDA? A USDA official said earlier this week that the U.S. hemp industry could have a producer-funded checkoff program coming soon. The Agricultural Marketing Service’s Director of the Specialty Crops Programs’ Promotion and Economics Division spoke at the Hemp Industries Association’s annual conference. Hemp Industry Daily notes that the director said the hemp industry “clearly has shown interest” in paying fees to promote their product, saying that “the idea here is that a rising tide would lift every boat.” If a checkoff program comes to fruition, hemp would join 21 other crops that have their own checkoffs, including soybeans, cotton, milk, pork, watermelon, and even popcorn. Growers would pay mandatory fees to go into a fund that’s used for research and marketing. A checkoff would benefit the emerging hemp industry struggling to get out from under marijuana-related misconceptions. A checkoff program would also be seen as an endorsement from USDA, making hemp a legitimate crop with long-term potential. Thousands of farmers took the plunge into hemp production after the 2018 farm bill legalized production of the plant. That flood of new growers is why some hemp farmers are struggling to find markets for their first post-farm bill harvest. Despite increasing demand for hemp-related products, the rush of new growers appears to have driven down prices.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday November 7, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday's reports start at 7:30 a.m. CST and include weekly grain export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an updated U.S. Drought Monitor. Weekly natural gas inventory follows at 9:30 a.m. CST. Weather forecasts and trade news still have interest for markets, but grain trading may be slow ahead of Friday's WASDE report. Weather A broad swath of rain and mixed precipitation will extend from the Texas Panhandle to the eastern Great Lakes Thursday. This includes locally heavy rain and flood threat in the southeastern Plains and northern Delta. Other areas will be dry. Harvest progress is favored in northern crop areas with this setup. Cold temperatures north will keep progress slow.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 6, 2019 |


October Ag Economy Barometer Improves The October Ag Economy Barometer improved to a reading of 136 in October, up 15 points compared to September. The monthly measure of the farm economy saw an increase in the assessment of current and future conditions by farmers. The Current Conditions Index rose from 100 in September to 115 in October, and the Futures Expectations Index also rose 15 points to a reading of 146. The results are based upon a nationwide telephone survey of 400 U.S. crop and livestock producers. Organizers say farmers in October were more inclined to think now is a good time to make large investments in their farming operations, and more farmers said they expect farmland values to rise, than in September. Although three-fourths of farmers in this month’s survey said they expect the soybean trade dispute with China to be resolved favorably to U.S. agriculture, 62 percent of producers said they expect to receive another round of trade aid payments for the 2020 crop year. ************************************************************************************* China Urges Trump to Lift Tariffs China wants the United States to commit to lifting tariffs to reach a phase one trade agreement. The South China Morning Post reports Beijing needs America to be more responsive to its concerns, if it wants Chinese President Xi Jinping (Shee Jihn’-ping) to visit the U.S. to sign the deal. There’s been no firm commitment by the U.S. to delay a December round of tariffs, and China also appears to want the U.S. to lift its recent round of tariffs from September. China says that without a move by President Donald Trump to make a “solid commitment” towards removing tariffs, scheduling a visit to the U.S. to sign the agreement “would be politically difficult.” U.S. officials have suggested they meet in Alaska, Iowa or Hawaii to sign the agreement. The two sides originally planned to sign the agreement on the sidelines of a now-canceled meeting in Chile. Sources close to the China talks say China fears it may have made too many concessions in the agreement. ************************************************************************************* Rabo Releases Ten-year Grain Forecasts A new grain price outlook underlines continuing long-term challenges for U.S. farmers. Rabo AgriFinance just released its ten-year outlook for corn, soybeans and wheat. The report says ending stocks will continue to be an issue for the crops, as the long-term trends for yield increases make up the difference in lower acre numbers while demand remains flat. The report says these stocks will keep a lid on commodity prices. Even if the U.S. and Chinese government’s resolve their trade dispute, Rabo expects soybean demand to drag due to the lingering effects of African swine fever, namely slow or limited sow herd rebuilding in China and Southeast Asia. The analysis shows a 75 percent probability that soybean prices will remain under $9.60 per bushel. For corn and wheat, the report says, "oversupply, flat domestic use, no or little growth in exports, and increased global trade competition" continue to pile up. Given no changes to ethanol policy, the outlooks call for animal feed to overtake ethanol as the demand driver for corn in 2026/27. ************************************************************************************* Peterson: MFP Picks Winners and Losers A recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the current Market Facilitation Program creates “winners and losers among neighbors.” The Letter by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson urges the Department of Agriculture to strongly consider a list of concerns in issuing the next round of payments under the program. Peterson says acres not certified or enrolled in farm programs in 2018 are not eligible for the program, which is problematic for farms that recently changed hands where the previous owner didn’t participate in farm programs. Additionally, Peterson says crop rotations have prevented farmers from receiving payments, and the payments don’t account for the impact on crop basis created by trade disruptions. Regarding the MFP dairy program, Peterson says farmers have many questions about why their payments were based on established farm program production history, and not actual production. Peterson says he “stands ready to work with the administration” on long term fixes to the commodity safety net. ************************************************************************************* Senator Baldwin Announces Increased Rural Mental Health Funding Senator Tammy Baldwin this week announced increased mental health funding for farmers. The Wisconsin Democrat’s Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental health and Encouraging Rural Solutions for Immediate Response to Stressful Times, or FARMERS FIRST Act, provides funding for local mental health resources. The bill was included in the 2018 farm bill, passed last year. Baldwin worked to pass an amendment last week to a Senate appropriations bill that will provide $8 million, an increase of $6 million from Fiscal Year 2019, for the bipartisan legislation. Baldwin says, “farmers are facing many difficult challenges and we all need to work together to provide them the support they need.” Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that farmers and other individuals who work in agriculture experience a high rate of suicide. The increased funding will help expand access to stress reduction strategies and suicide prevention programs for people who work in agriculture. ************************************************************************************* Coalition Urges Trump to Uphold Biofuel Promise A broad coalition of biofuel and farm advocates this week sent a letter to the White House calling on President Donald Trump to fix a flawed proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA proposal on biofuels, according to the coalition, "fails in its mission to reinvigorate farm economies and reopen biofuel plants across America's heartland." The letter was signed by 60 organizations, including the Renewable Fuels Association. It notes that the EPA's draft plan undermines the administration's commitment to restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard and accurately account for biofuel demand destroyed by small refinery exemptions. The groups state that the flawed proposal “swaps out a critical component of the SRE remedy sought by farmers and,” and instead proposes to recover only those gallons previously recommended for exemption by the U.S. Department of Energy. The National Corn Growers Association says to the President, "The proposal - as written - will not provide the relief we believe you are seeking."

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 6, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Trade Outlook Uncertainty Persists There is lots of media interest in trade negotiations this week, amid continuing deep uncertainty, Bloomberg is reporting. It notes that President Xi Jinping stressed China’s commitment to the global trading order as his trade negotiators “wrangle with the U.S. over rolling back punitive tariffs” ahead of a phase one deal. As Xi spoke in Shanghai, the nation’s central bank acted in Beijing to stem a sell-off in the debt market. The People’s Bank of China reduced the cost of 1-year funds to banks for the first time since 2016 after a week in which investors had dumped debt amid fears of tightening liquidity. At the opening of the second annual China International Import Expo, Xi said the country would “open its doors only wider” to the world. He refrained from taking a swipe at his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, as he’d done the previous year, and didn’t refer to the prospective deal to defuse the tariff war. “We must all put the common good of humanity first rather than place one’s own interests above the common interests of all,” Xi said. Amid the current trade standoff, China has sought to stabilize its economy without flooding it with liquidity for fear of worsening its debt problems. It has retaliated against the administration’s tariff barrage but been careful not to escalate a conflict that’s sapped confidence and weighed on manufacturers. “It is obvious that deep conflicts of interest still exist between China and the U.S.,” Li Yang, a member of the government think tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in an interview in Shanghai after Xi’s address. “But China and the U.S. have now embarked on a path seeking practical solutions. I feel the likelihood for a major clash or start of a new cold war has disappeared.” The central bank has been similarly restrained this year, defying many economists’ expectations of major stimulus. Tuesday’s 5 basis-point reduction in the 1-year medium term lending facility was greeted as largely symbolic in economic terms, though it did stop the “rot in bonds” for now. The offshore yuan on Tuesday strengthened past 7 per dollar for first time since falling below that key level in August. China’s benchmark 10-year yield dropped the most since August, while the cost on 12-month interest-rate swaps fell the most in a month. China’s economic growth has slowed to the weakest pace in almost three decades, with economists forecasting that the expansion will slip further to below 6% next year. Rather than embark on a short-term stimulus boost, Xi’s government has instead focused on defusing the nation’s ticking debt bomb and promoting structural changes such as the shift to a more consumption-led economy. “China will give greater importance to imports,” Xi said Tuesday. “We will continue to lower tariffs and institutional transaction costs,” he added, repeating earlier pledges. China’s imports have contracted this year. “Xi’s speech endorsed the trade optimism as he indicated that he sees negotiations as the right way to solve disputes,” said Gai Xinzhe, a senior analyst at Sino-Ocean Capital in Beijing. But Xi also warned against “intellectual blockages” and “the widening technology gap,” highlighting China’s worry over the technology decoupling some U.S. politicians are advocating, he said. However, Chinese negotiators “continue to chip away at the wall of U.S. tariffs imposed on their exports since last year,” Bloomberg said. They are wary of conceding too much for fear of a political backlash at home, the report noted. Negotiators asked the Trump administration to eliminate tariffs on about $110 billion in goods that were imposed in September and lower the 25% tariff rate on about $250 billion that began in 2018, Bloomberg said. China has also previously demanded that the U.S. administration cancel plans to impose duties on roughly $160 billion in imports, scheduled for Dec. 15, which would hit consumer favorites like smart-phones and laptops. At the very least, those tariffs have to be taken off the table for Xi to get on a plane to meet Trump, Bloomberg said. The prospective deal for agreement this month would not address most of the major structural complaints that the U.S. has made, with thornier topics like state industrial subsidies or intellectual property theft left for later rounds, according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Speaking in Bangkok Tuesday, Ross said he was “hopeful that phase one will be precursor for a much more robust set of agreements. I’m reasonably optimistic we can get something done,” he said. So, we will see. Clearly, plenty of potential for breakdowns in the talks remain — but also optimists seem to be finding a good bit to talk about. These are debates producers should follow very closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 6, 2019 |


US-China Said To Be Mulling Rollback of Tariffs In Quest For Phase One Trade Deal The U.S. is debating whether to roll back tariffs deployed on around $112 billion of Chinese imports, according to the Financial Times, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that both countries are considering tariff reductions as they work finalizing Phase One of the trade deal. The initial focus was on the U.S. not imposing tariffs on Chinese goods on December 15, but the reports now suggest that duties put in place by the U.S. on September 1 may also be in play. Should the U.S. agree to do more than just not impose tariffs on December 15, the Financial Times said the U.S. would likely seek something in response from China, “including beefed up provisions on the protection of intellectual property for U.S. companies, greater certainty on the scale of Chinese purchases of U.S. farm products, and a signing ceremony for the agreement on American soil.” There has been no confirmation of the tariff discussions from the Chinese side. "Trade consultations have made progress and are advancing in accordance to plan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in a briefing. Asked about the tariff situation, Geng said he could only speak in “principle” on the topic. “Adding tariffs is not the correct way to resolve trade issues,” he observed.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 6, 2019 |


House Ag Panel Chair Urges Changes to USDA Trade Aid Efforts House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is asking USDA to address several issues with the latest Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) trade mitigation package, including crops that are not eligible for aid and the formula for determining payments to dairy producers. That follows questions raised by dairy farmers as to why their payments are based on historical – and not actual – production. “The current program has created winners and losers among neighbors who find themselves facing the same market situations, meaning that some producers may remain viable while others may be forced out of business,” Peterson said in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. He also pointed out that the MFP 2 payments do not account for “the impact on basis that have resulted from disruptions in trade flows.” He called on Perdue to “strongly consider rectifying these situations as you contemplate the next rounds of assistance under the MFP program.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday November 6, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets The U.S. Labor Department releases a monthly report on U.S. productivity at 7:30 a.m. CST, followed by the Energy Department's weekly report of energy inventories at 9:30 a.m. Weather forecasts for both, North and South America remain important as do any developments on the trade front. Weather Snow north and some light rain south will slow harvest progress in parts of the Midwest region Wednesday. Rain and thunderstorms through Oklahoma and north Texas Wednesday and Wednesday night will recharge soil moisture for winter wheat. Pre-winter development will continue, although slowed at times of low or very low temperatures during the coming days. Drier elsewhere in the central Plains wheat areas Wednesday. Cold, dry conditions will favor late harvests in the Northern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 5, 2019 |


Washington Insider: President and Fed Continue Monetary Policy Fight There is a modest amount of optimism about a possible U.S.-China trade deal just now, in spite of the usual comments about making sure the agreement treats both sides fairly, among other things. However, there is overall policy friction over the President’s unhappiness about monetary policy. The Fed is taking pains to say that it is pretty well satisfied with the current key rates even though President Trump isn’t. In a series of appearances last week, central bank officials hammered home the message that policy is “on hold” after three cuts in interest rates this year. “We have a favorable outlook for the economy,” Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida told Bloomberg on Friday. “We think the economy is in a good place, we think monetary policy is in a good place.” Bloomberg argues that “faced with an election a year from now, Trump certainly wouldn’t disagree with the former assessment — and, he hailed “a blowout jobs number” following the report that payrolls grew by a bigger-than-expected 128,000 in October in spite of the since-ended General Motors Co. strike. But that doesn’t mean that he’s happy with the job being done by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues, Bloomberg thinks. “People are VERY disappointed in Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve,” Trump tweeted last week after the central bank lowered rates by a quarter percentage point. “The Fed has called it wrong from the beginning, too fast, too slow.” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow was more restrained. “Monetary policy fortunately has finally turned around,” said Kudlow, who is director of the White House’s National Economic Council. “We’ve gone from extreme tightness to a somewhat more accommodative position.” After raising rates four times in 2018, the Fed has reduced them this year to shelter the economy from slowing growth overseas and uncertainties stemming from Trump’s trade policies, particularly with regard to China. Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles commented last week that the current stance of monetary policy was “likely to remain appropriate” as long as the economy grows moderately, the jobs market stays strong and inflation is near the Fed’s 2% goal. Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG were among those who declared last week that the Fed is now on hold. But moderate growth — generally seen by economists as equivalent to about 2% — might not be enough for an administration that has promised increases of 3% or more. After heating up last year in response to the administration’s tax cuts, the economy has cooled in 2019 as trade tensions and sluggish global growth have dampened business confidence. Since Trump took office in January 2017, gross domestic product has risen at an average annual clip of 2.6%, a bit faster than the 2.4% rate in President Barack Obama’s second term, Bloomberg said. Speaking Friday in Washington, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly affirmed the central bank’s independence. “We don’t think about politics,” she told students at Howard University. Morgan Stanley Chief U.S. Economist Ellen Zentner defended the central bank against Trump’s attacks. “If their job is to extend the expansion for as long as possible, it also includes not allowing the economy to overheat, which can stop expansions short,” she told Bloomberg. Fed policy makers generally played up the performance of the U.S. economy and the jobs market in separate appearances last week. “The economy is strong,” New York Fed President John Williams declared at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He said he sees “people who’ve been out of the labor force for maybe years, or much of their life, now getting job training, getting back into the labor force.” Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan agreed with that upbeat assessment, telling reporters in Houston that the U.S. was “at or past full employment.” At 3.6% in October, the jobless rate is hovering near a 50-year low and is below the 4.2% rate that Fed officials reckon is sustainable in the long-run, according to the median projection of policy makers released in September. Kaplan said the Fed had acted in “a modest, restrained and limited way” to support the economy by cutting rates this year. “We want to give it some time to work through the economy and to see how events unfold,” he said, adding, “I’d want to be patient here, at this point.” That approach isn’t seconded by the President, as his tweet last week attacking the Fed made clear. So, we will see. There are many uncertainties that could affect both domestic and foreign markets — and while inflation is not one of them, at least, not at the moment, that could be a modestly strong talking point for the administration as long as a reasonable likelihood remains for significant easing of the trade tensions with China and as long as global market tensions do not intensify. These are all key issues that should be watched closely by producers as the season advances, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 5, 2019 |


Farmer Borrowing Costs Down Commodity loans disbursed in November by the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) will have a 2.625% interest rate, down from 2.750% in October. This marks the fifth straight month that the interest rate on commodity loans has declined. The interest rate in effect for November is a full percentage point below the level in place in November 2018 when it was 3.625%. This means lower borrowing costs for farmers opting to utilize the nonrecourse marketing assistance loan (MAL) program for their 2019 production. In USDA’s August farm income update, they noted that interest rates were a key farm expense area that had risen.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 5, 2019 |


Positive Views Continue On US-China Trade Front Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he is optimistic the U.S. would reach a “Phase One” trade deal with China this month and said licenses would be coming “very shortly” for American companies to sell components to Huawei Technologies, adding that the government received 260 requests. “You will not have a deal on anything until you have a deal on everything,” Ross told the Financial Times in Bangkok. “But we are quite optimistic that the remaining issues for the phase one can be closed out.” China also gave a positive readout on the situation. U.S. and Chinese trade officials were able to reach a “consensus on principles,” according to a statement released Friday by China’s Commerce Department. The negotiators moved on to begin discussing Phase Two, the Chinese said. As for a location for a signing of the agreement, Ross said Iowa, Alaska, Hawaii and locations in China are all possible places for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign the deal after the cancellation of this month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Chile due to unrest in the country. President Trump also mentioned the possibility of Iowa for the meeting in remarks on Friday — Trump reportedly wants to make sure the signing takes place in the U.S.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 5, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets The U.S. Census Bureau releases the U.S. trade deficit for September at 7:30 a.m CST, Tuesday's only official report. Later in the morning, USDA will take the Census Bureau report and release export data for various ag products. Otherwise, traders remain interested in weather forecasts for both, North and South America and any new trade comments concerning China. Weather Mostly dry conditions for harvest will be noted Tuesday. Precipitation will be confined to light snow in the far Northern Plains and light rain in the southeastern Midwest. Temperatures will again be below to much below normal.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday November 5, 2019 |


Ross Optimistic U.S. Will Reach Phase One Agreement with China Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross seems confident the U.S. and China will reach a “phase one” agreement this month on trade. Speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Ross says the U.S. and China are “making good process,” according to Bloomberg News. He added that Iowa, Alaska, Hawaii and locations in China were all possible places for Trump and Xi Jinping to sign the deal after Chile canceled the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The two leaders were expected to sign the agreement during the event in Chile later this month. President Donald Trump told reporters that if an agreement is reached, it would be signed somewhere in the United States. China Monday offered little comment regarding a location to sign the agreement, only to say the U.S. and China are in constant communication. Meanwhile, Ross wouldn’t say whether the U.S. would halt new tariffs on China planned in December. China has asked the U.S. to suspend the December round of tariffs, as a condition of signing the phase one agreement. ************************************************************************************* Pence Presses House Democrats to Hold USMCA Vote Vice President Mike Pence again called on the House of Representatives to bring the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to a vote. Speaking at an event in Virginia over the weekend, Pence says Democrats in the House “are spending all their time on endless investigations and a partisan impeachment.” Pence told the event, “The time has come for your congressmen and every Democrat from Virginia to put politics aside and pass USMCA.” House Democrats maintain the impeachment process will not impede progress on the trade agreement. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week hinted she was optimistic they could reach a deal with the White House. Few days remain on the legislative calendar to pass the agreement this year, and the House is on recess this week. Pelosi told reporters last week, “hopefully we can do it sooner,” but she wouldn’t rule out the process stretching into next year. The U.S., Canada and Mexico agreed to the accord now more than a year ago, and Mexico ratified the agreement this summer. ************************************************************************************* Trump Names FDA Commissioner Nominee President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration offers a bolstered resume in the medical field. Trump recently announced Stephen Hahn of Texas as the nominee to be the next FDA Commissioner. Hahn has been Chief Medical Executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, since May of 2018. MDACC is a research-driven patient care organization that has approximately 21,000 employees with an annual revenue of $5 billion and the largest number of clinical trials in the United States. As a radiation oncologist, Dr. Hahn specializes in treating lung cancer and sarcoma. Politico reports Hahn offers a sharp contrast from former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, as Hahn’s last government job was in the 1990s, while Gotleib had a wealth of federal experience when nominated. The nomination passes over acting commissioner Ned Sharpless, who is the former head of the National Cancer Institute. Hahn must be confirmed by the Senate. ************************************************************************************* Bill Would Create New USDA Agency Focused on Supporting Innovation Legislation introduced Monday would create a new research agency in the Department of Agriculture. Introduced by Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Representative Cindy Axne, an Iowa Democrat, the legislation would create the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Terra (Latin for land) to invest in innovative technologies that increase economic opportunity for farmers. ARPA–Terra would provide competitive funding to land-grant universities for early stage research on technologies that industry might not undertake due to the long-term and high-risk technological barriers that exist. The agency will enable the United States to develop technologies – and put them in the hands of farmers to enhance export competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and crop resilience to extreme weather. Axne says the bill “will help our researchers continue to lead the way in Agriculture science and development.” Bennet says the legislation will “strengthen American global leadership in agricultural research and development.” The lawmakers point out that the legislation is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation. ************************************************************************************* USDA Broadband Investments Continue Continuing support for rural broadband, the Department of Agriculture Monday announced a $3.8 million broadband investment in Virginia. The announcement creates and improves high-speed broadband connections to more than 1,250 rural homes in Virginia as part of the new ReConnect Pilot Program investments. DJ LaVoy, deputy undersecretary for rural development, says the USDA mission of increasing rural prosperity “cannot be achieved without addressing the digital divide rural communities face.” In March of 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the ReConnect program in December, and started receiving applications in May of this year. USDA received 146 applications requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products, a 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments will be announced in the coming weeks. ************************************************************************************* Iowa Signs Propane Delivery Relief Emergency Proclamation Propane delivery issues prompted Iowa’s Governor to sign an emergency proclamation last week. The Emergency Executive Order signed by Governor Kim Reynolds will help “help resolve delivery challenges resulting from increased seasonal propane demands,” according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture. The proclamation exempts drivers of commercial motor vehicles delivering propane from the hours of service requirements during November. Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig says a late harvest and wet weather has left farmers with higher-than-normal moisture levels in their corn. The propane industry states there is propane available in the Midwest, but there are transportation and pipeline capacity limitations that are creating logistical challenges. The Iowa Department of Agriculture is working with the Iowa Propane Gas Association to monitor the situation and explore options to expedite the delivery of propane to homes, farms and businesses. The industry is tracking potential interruptions to rail or pipeline distribution lines and working with those industries to help facilitate the movement of propane during peak demand periods.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 4, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Happy Talk and Reality There is quite a bit of talk around about the outlook for the economy these days, Bloomberg is reporting this week. President Trump has been saying that “a robust economy will protect him from impeachment and ensure his re-election.” However, Bloomberg says that argument rests “on a shaky foundation,” and goes on to explain. It says that the middle-class Americans who are the main targets of the President’s economic pitch “aren’t sharing much in the gains of U.S. growth.” Worse yet for the administration wage growth has been slower in the counties the president carried in 2016.” By several measures, middle-class Americans’ incomes have risen more slowly in recent months than during Barack Obama’s final years, which were “hardly a period renowned for gangbuster pay increases.” Workers should finally be getting big raises with the unemployment rate down to 3.5%. Yet while wage growth picked up last year, it is still subdued and slowing again after manufacturing output contracted in the first half of the year, Bloomberg said. The economy’s overall performance hasn’t changed much since Trump took office, with GDP growth averaging 2.6% versus 2.4% during Obama’s second term, far below the president’s own forecasts, Bloomberg says. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported the economy expanded 1.9% at an annualized rate in the third quarter, a level that when Obama was president Trump derided as a sign the “economy is in deep trouble.” While the jobless rate continued to fall during the president’s first two years, median household income, adjusted for inflation, grew at an average annual rate of 1.3% – down from a 4.1% annual rate the previous two years and a 1.8% annual rate during Obama’s entire second term, Bloomberg said. Asked about the income and wage data, White House spokesman Judd Deere argued that Trump’s “policies of lower taxes, deregulation, and fair and reciprocal trade have supported the longest economic recovery in U.S. history with record low unemployment and rising wages.” However, Bloomberg noted that there are numerous measures of workers’ wages that show tepid growth under the current administration despite a roaring stock market, surging corporate profits and a $1.5 trillion deficit-financed tax cut that is often promoted as a way to rev up pay gains. Nevertheless, in counties Trump won in 2016, growth in real average weekly earnings slowed to a 1.2% annual rate under his presidency, down from 1.5% the prior two years, Bloomberg said. In the presidential battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania the drop-off has been sharper with weekly earnings in counties he carried up 0.8% annually versus 1.8% the previous two years. The “manufacturing recession” threatens to further weaken pay growth in those states, where 1 in 6 workers hold factory jobs, Bloomberg says. The president often claims that wage gains have picked up since he took office. But with inflation factored in, overall progress on wages doesn’t look much different. Real average hourly earnings under President Trump have grown at an average annual rate of 1.1% through September versus 1% during Obama’s second term. Workers in the middle fared worse. The median weekly paychecks for full-time workers, adjusted for inflation, have grown at an average annual rate of 1% through September versus 1.5% during Obama’s second term. A measure created to minimize potential distortions from more low-wage workers entering the workforce also shows slower pay growth under the current administration. The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s national wage growth tracker is based on surveying the same workers 12 months apart on their pay and calculating their median raise. Adjusted for inflation, the index increased at an average annual rate of 1.3% during the past two years versus 1.7% during Obama’s second term. And, there is considerable diversity among groups, Bloomberg says. Real median earnings for high-school educated men – a key Trump constituency – rose at a 1.2% average annual rate during the administration’s first two years, up from a 0.4% rate the prior two years. Conversely, high-school educated women’s real median earnings declined at a 1.1% annual rate under this administration versus a 0.6% rise during Obama’s final two years. High-school-educated men still haven’t caught up to their pay in 2000. Their $45,459 median earnings in 2018 was $2,128 lower than their counterparts at the turn of the century. High-school-educated women are further behind, with 2018 median earnings of $32,412, down $2,356. Weak pay increases contribute to “ambiguous feelings” about the economy even as unemployment remains at historic lows, said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University who studies public opinion and presidential election forecasting. “What matters politically is the subjective economy, how people feel about the economy,” Abramowitz said. “Real incomes aren’t rising that much, so it’s not obvious that things are that good.” So, we will see. Much depends on the current medium-term economic policy trends and trade developments. Clearly, the administration intends to lean heavily on the “economic growth and prosperity arguments,” but whether these prove persuasive remains to be seen – and should be watched closely by producers in the coming months, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 4, 2019 |


Mexico, US Officials More Upbeat On USMCA Mexico’s North American negotiator Jesus Seade, after talking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he is optimistic the White House and lawmakers can reach an agreement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) before Thanksgiving. Seade was basing his outlook on conversations this week with the two officials. Seade stressed that any changes agreed to between Lighthizer and Democrats is really a “proposal of sorts” because it will require a stamp of approval from Mexico and Canada. But Seade said he is optimistic the changes will be acceptable to Mexico — which would allow for Mexico City to approve the changes “in a few days,” clearing the path for Congress to vote on USMCA ratification before the end of the year. But if not, Mexico could be forced to get back into negotiations with the U.S. and offer counterproposals, he said. Pelosi on Thursday said she will allow a vote in return for concessions on labor and enforcement provisions. Pelosi said talks between congressional Democrats and Trump administration officials over changes to the pact with Canada and Mexico were in the “last mile,” and she was optimistic that an agreement could be reached. “If we can come to terms, [which] I think we are close to doing, this will be a template for future trade agreements,” Pelosi said. This continues to match our expectation that a vote in the U.S. House remains likely yet this year.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 4, 2019 |


US, China Looking For New Spot for Phase One Deal Signing The U.S. and China are continuing their work on finalizing a Phase One trade deal, with China’s Ministry of Commerce saying Thursday the two sides are continuing their bilateral negotiations according to plan and that the talks are progressing well. They said the two sides are still in close communication and that top-level discussions would take place Friday. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning, “China and the USA are working on selecting a new site for signing of Phase One of Trade Agreement, about 60 percent of total deal, after APEC in Chile was canceled due to unrelated circumstances,” Trump said. “The new location will be announced soon. President Xi and President Trump will do signing!” Trump on Friday floated the idea of signing the deal in Iowa. "I want to get the deal done first," Trump told reporters. "But we're thinking about Iowa. You know why? Because it would be the largest order in history for farmers. ... It's a possibility." However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang dismissed reports that China had suggested Macau as a possible signing location as purely speculation. As for the Phase One deal, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network that the U.S. is pretty comfortable that the Phase One deal is in good shape and that the U.S. hopes it can be signed around the same timeframe as the cancelled APEC meeting. Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Justice published a draft rule Friday that would allow foreign-funded firms to make stock and bond issuances in China and overseas and would let foreign investors in China repatriate profits. The draft rule is aimed at facilitating a foreign investment law that would take effect January 1, 2020.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday November 4, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets The latest weather forecasts will get a look early Monday with many hoping for more favorable harvest weather this week. U.S. factory orders will be reported at 9 a.m. CST, followed by weekly grain export inspections at 10 a.m. and Crop Progress at 3 p.m. CST. Any trade news pertaining to China also gets attention. Weather Snow will cross the Northern Plains Monday, disrupting harvest. Drier conditions elsewhere will allow progress. Conditions will be cool to cold north and warm south.

| Rural Advocate News | Saturday November 2, 2019 |


Beijing Considers Axing Extra Tariffs on U.S. Ag Products to Boost Imports The head of a government-sponsored trade association in China says Beijing could remove extra tariffs on U.S. farm goods to smooth the way for importers to potentially buy up to $50 billion in products. A Reuters article says Beijing would make that move instead of directing importers to purchase specific amounts of goods. President Donald Trump said earlier in October that China would be buying anywhere between $40 and $50 billion worth of agricultural goods as part of a “Phase One” deal to pave the way for an end to the trade war that broke out in 2018. However, that number has become problematic as China wants to purchase U.S. ag products based on market conditions, rather than commit to a specific number. The President of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Exports of Foodstuffs says, “What the government can do is remove the extra tariffs, which both sides need to do. Then, let the companies make purchases based on their own will and market rules.” The chamber president says that would create conditions for a “convenient” and “good” trade environment, rather than creating obligations for firms to buy a certain amount of product during a certain time. While China can step up purchases based on market conditions, $40 to $50 billion is “very high.” ********************************************************************************************** Thailand Wants Talks on Loss of Trade Privileges with the U.S. Thailand will be looking to start talks with the United States about its decision to end preferential privileges of a large number of exports from Thailand. A New York Daily News article says the acting director-general of the Thailand Commerce Ministry’s Foreign Trade Department says his office had been warning exporters about the potential loss of duty-free access on multiple exports. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced on Friday that it was suspending $1.3 billion in trade preferences for Thailand under the Generalized System of Preferences for its failure to adequately protect worker rights. Thailand wants to initiate talks with the U.S. before the move takes effect in April. Thailand has faced complaints for years over multiple labor issues, especially in its fisheries industry. The U.S. announcement about the revocation says, “Despite six years of engagement, Thailand has yet to take steps to provide internationally recognized worker rights in many important areas identified in a 2015 petition from the AFL-CIO.” The U.S. move drew special attention because it came soon after Thailand had announced a ban on glyphosate. However, both U.S. and Thai officials denied any connection. ********************************************************************************************** NCBA Announces Campaign to Promote its Beef Quality Assurance Program About 85 percent of U.S. beef comes from farmers and ranchers who are certified in the Beef Quality Assurance Program. However, do consumers know what that means? A new campaign from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association aims to answer that question for consumers. The goal is to close the gap between consumer knowledge and what the country’s producers are doing to produce high-quality beef in a humane and environmentally friendly way. Consumers are also more interested than ever before about how their food is produced. The new campaign began last month with a series of videos from “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner.” The videos highlight how cattle farmers and ranchers raise their cattle under BQA specifications. The videos, as well as corresponding audio clips, will be used to advertise BQA on platforms like YouTube, Hulu, Pandora, and Spotify. Consumers will also get to learn more through interactive “BQ&A” Instagram stories that address common questions about how cattle are raised. The videos, website, and social interactions with consumers give them an overview of what the BQA program is and the ongoing commitment of cattle farmers and ranchers to care for their animals and provide the safest and highest quality beef possible. “The campaign expands the reach of a traditionally producer-facing program,” says Josh White, executive director of producer education at NCBA. U.S. beef producers who have embraced the BQA program are excited that the program is now a “consumer-facing” effort as well. ********************************************************************************************* USDA Finds New Site in Kansas City for ERS, NIFA Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the USDA officially signed a lease on office space in Kansas City, Missouri. The Hagstrom Report says it’s now the new place of work for most of the employees of the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It’s at 805 Pennsylvania Avenue right in downtown Kansas City. Employees of both agencies who made the move out of Washington, D.C., had been working in another USDA facility. “We’re excited to announce ERS and NIFA’s new, permanent home in downtown Kansas City,” says Perdue. “It provides clarity on commute times and work-life balance for our employees. Both agencies have been working at the Beacon Center after relocating to the region over a month ago.” Perdue says signing the lease is an important next step to maximizing the efficiency, effectiveness, and customer service over the long-term. In a separate statement, USDA also says 90 percent of USDA employees are located outside of the DC area. Before their relocation, ERS and NIFA were the only USDA agencies that didn’t have any representation outside of the nation’s capital. Out of 329 ERS positions, 76 remain in DC. Out of a total of 344 NIFA positions, just 21 remain located in Washington, D.C. ********************************************************************************************** World Wheat Crop Experiencing Mixed Planting Conditions Drought conditions in the southern U.S. plains continue to be a growing concern for winter wheat producers. The southern plains are the top winter wheat producing region in the country. Extra precipitation helped to boost yields and harvests this year, even though growers planted fewer acres than in previous growing seasons. A return to the more typical arid conditions may put some limit on crop potential come harvest time in 2020. However, other countries that grow a lot of wheat are also having some concerns. Growers in Great Britain are hoping for dry weather to help pick up the pace in planting throughout rain-soaked farm fields. Growers in Ukraine, a major wheat-producing competitor of the U.S. need a good rainfall on their newly planted fields before settling in for the winter. As the planting period is mostly coming to an end in the northern hemisphere, places like France and Germany have seen higher-than-normal rainfall over the past month. That’s not only slowed the harvest of summer crops, but it’s also planting of winter wheat behind schedule. Russia is the world’s top winter wheat exporter and may plant a record amount of the crop this year. Favorable temps and near-normal moisture have made it possible for Russian producers to plant in an ideal timeframe. ********************************************************************************************** Montana Senator Introduces Resolution to Restart COOL Senator Jon Tester of Montana introduced a resolution in support of the reestablishment of Country of Origin Labeling. The COOL resolution puts forth a firm statement of support for the program, which was repealed back in 2015. The introduction follows months of coordination and collaboration by Tester, who’s been pulling together consumer and producer stakeholders to push the labeling solution forward. U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Director Emeritus Leo McDonnell says pushing the resolution forward could ultimately benefit consumers at their local grocery stores. “Consumers are increasingly seeking out more information on the products they choose to feed their families,” he says. “The U.S. produces the highest quality, safest, and most eco-conscious beef in the world. U.S. cattle producers deserve the opportunity to showcase their product in the retail marketplace.” The group thanks Senator Tester for championing their Truth in Labeling efforts through the introduction of the resolution. “We’re asking other Senators to follow his lead and stand with American consumers and ranching families,” McDonnell says.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 1, 2019 |


Cancelation of APEC Meeting Doesn’t Change China Trade Talks Chile’s cancellation of the November APEC summit shouldn’t change the outlook for trade talks with China. Planned for November 16 and 17, Chile canceled the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to focus on restoring law and order in the country, according to Reuters. President Donald Trump and Chinse President Xi Jinping (Shee Jihn’-ping) were set to sign a so-called phase one agreement along the sidelines of the event. However, President Trump Thursday said China and the U.S. were working on selecting a new site for signing the agreement, add the new location would be announced soon. A Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson downplayed any concern, adding the U.S. and China remain in constant communication in working towards signing the agreement. Trump says the phase one agreement includes roughly 60 percent of the total deal sought by the United States. The agreement also covers $40-50 billion of U.S. agricultural exports to China over the next two years. ************************************************************************************* Farm Bankruptcies up 24 Percent Since Trade War Start Farm bankruptcies are at the highest level seen since 2011. Data compiled by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows farm bankruptcies surged 24 percent since the trade with China began. For the 12-month period ending September 2019, Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies totaled 580 filings, the highest level since 676 filings in 2011. AFBF Chief Economist John Newton points out that bankruptcy filings over the last 12 months were the highest in Wisconsin at 48 filings, followed by 37 filings in Georgia, Nebraska and Kansas. Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia all experienced Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings at or above 10-year highs. USDA currently projects farm income in 2019 to reach $88 billion, the highest net farm income since 2014’s $92 billion, but still 29 percent below 2013’s record high. Nearly 40 percent of that income, roughly $33 billion, is related to trade and disaster assistance, along with crop insurance programs. ************************************************************************************* South Dakota Senators Introduce Beef Integrity Act Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune this week took steps to keep beef born, raised and slaughtered in foreign countries from receiving a “Product of the U.S.A.” label. The South Dakota republicans say the U.S. Beef Integrity Act would make certain that the “Product of the U.S.A.” label only goes to beef and beef products exclusively derived from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. Currently, the Food Safety and Inspection Service does not require that beef be born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. in order to carry a “Product of the U.S.A.” label. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association says the legislation would “immediately close the loophole,” and allow for a continued push towards establishing of a country-of-origin labeling program. However, the National Cattlemen’s Association says, “In general, NCBA members are opposed to requesting additional government regulation on our industry." The organization recently formed a working group to gather information regarding labeling practices to "fully understand the scope of the issue" and seek solutions. ************************************************************************************* USDA Announces NIFA, ERS, Office Location in Kansas City The Department of Agriculture this week announced the signing of a lease for office space in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. 805 Pennsylvania Avenue will be home to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the Economic Research Service. The lease is part of USDA's effort to move the two agencies out of the Washington, D.C., area, for alleged cost savings and to put the agencies closer to their customers. The criticized effort moves roughly 600 jobs to Kansas City, with several job openings as many USDA employees of the two agencies opted to seek employment elsewhere, rather than relocate. The Kansas City metro, split by the Kansas-Missouri border, has faced an economic border war for years. While the two states have worked towards a so-called truce regarding economic incentives to lure employers, Kansas City and Port KC, a political subdivision of the State of Missouri, offered $26 million worth of incentives to support the relocation. Missouri Governor Mike Parson says the USDA location will “benefit both Missouri and Kansas for years to come.” ************************************************************************************* Women in Ag Survey Reveals Business Acumen and Leadership Women are active advocates for agriculture and successful business owners interested in filling leadership roles, according to a new Farm Bureau survey. A majority of those surveyed, 91 percent, also believe there should be more women in leadership roles in the industry. More than 3,000 women completed the informal survey online, which AFBF conducted to determine the goals and achievements of women in agriculture. Sherry Saylor, chair of Farm Bureau's Women's Leadership Committee, says, "We hope to use the survey results to drive our program of work and also to give women their voice and help them make even more of an impact in their communities." More than 50 percent of women surveyed have started their own business that's still in operation, 25 percent have not started a business but indicated they would like to do so in the future. Respondents cited prioritizing and finding time to accomplish tasks, acquiring financial support and marketing plan development as their top business challenges. Full survey results are available online at fb.org/women. ************************************************************************************* Increased Demand for Dark Chicken Meat Creating Market Opportunities Evolving U.S. demographics are shifting consumer preferences from white meat chicken to dark meat, according to new research by CoBank. Since 2000, chicken breast's share of the value of the bird has dropped from 66 percent to just 45 percent, while the value of chicken legs has increased dark meat's share from 12 percent to near 30 percent. The report says the change presents the chicken industry with an opportunity to diversify its profit centers. Advances in mechanical deboning technology have allowed U.S. chicken producers to capture the emerging demand for dark meat while addressing the ever-present labor shortage, according to CoBank. Age and ethnicity are behind the change. Millennials are projected to surpass Baby Boomers in 2019 as the largest living adult generation in the U.S. As Baby Boomers age, their consumption of meat, including white chicken meat, is declining. Latino and Asian populations are growing in the U.S. and dark meat chicken, rather than white meat, is typically used in the cuisines of their cultures.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 1, 2019 |


Washington Insider: FY 2020 Spending Progress Slow The Senate on Thursday cleared a “minibus” spending package that covered $214 billion in government spending for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 (HR 3055) which melded the Agriculture (S 2522), Commerce-Justice-Science (S 2584), Interior-Environment (S 2580) and Transportation-HUD (S 2520) spending bills. But, as CQ Roll Call reports, “But further progress isn't guaranteed.” That view comes as a procedural vote on a second “minibus” package (HR 2740) would fund the Defense (S 2474) and Labor-HHS-Education measures. The procedural vote, which needed 60 votes to be approved, was rejected. The issue, not surprisingly, Democrat objections on the border wall. “Democratic objections to funding levels and disagreement over when and how the Trump administration should be able to divert Pentagon funding for the border wall doomed the cloture motion to proceed to debate,” CQ Roll Call said. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed the impeachment situation for the Democratic opposition to moving ahead on the spending plan. "I'd hoped our Democratic friends would be able to put impeachment aside, at least, long enough to fund the Department of Defense," McConnell said. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not cite the impeachment situation in his remarks on package. "A bill that is supposed to provide resources for our troops and their families actually steals money from them and puts it toward a border wall that President Trump promised Mexico would pay for," Schumer stated. But the wall is not the only component that is a stumbling block. There are significant differences between the House and Senate over topline spending numbers even after the budget accord reached in July that set overall spending amounts. "The only thing that will move the appropriations process forward is agreement on allocations, a step which will require Senate Republicans to drop their demands to fund a border wall by cutting education," said House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander. This now keeps the spending situation more uncertain than it has been. Currently, the government is operating on a continuing resolution (CR) that is in place through November 21. But the fact the Senate has not moved ahead on most of the spending plans, odds are rising even higher that another CR will be needed to keep the government from shutting down just ahead of Thanksgiving. Some favor just a short-term extension of spending, while others want any temporary government funding plan to keep the government open into 2020. Given that lack of agreement, getting even a temporary funding plan in place could prove to be a challenge. There are also precious few legislative days that both chambers will be in session this month, with a break for Thanksgiving at the end of the month. Some also fret that if the government were to shut down, that could imperil the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) 2 payments that have been flowing to farmers. The first installment of those payments has totaled over $6 billion and a decision is looming on making a second tranche of those payments this month. A chunk of U.S. farm income is coming from the government – $33 billion out of the estimated $88 billion in net farm income is expected to come from government payments of one form or another. So we will see. It appeared after the most-recent government shutdown, that all parties – the House, Senate and the administration – agreed that shutting down the government yielded no real benefits and produced only costs. Hopefully, that view will not have faded as November 21 draws closer and closer. Agriculture needs to closely monitor this situation as these issues outside of agriculture could impact spending for the agency responsible for dealing with farmers, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 1, 2019 |


USDA’s Censky Downplays APEC Summit Situation Re: US-China Trade Deal The cancellation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Chile prompted immediate speculation that the prospects for signing Phase One of a trade deal between the U.S. and China were suddenly dimmed or put into question. While addressing reporters via a teleconference from Ghana, USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky was asked about the situation. While acknowledging he was not in Washington and that the APEC development was new, “I will say that I do know that those discussions between the United States and China have been continuing this week to try and finalize that Phase One agreement.” Given that, Censky reasoned, “everything is still all systems go for the United States and China to keep working to finalize that Phase One trade agreement as quickly as possible. And of course, we had the goal of having it finalized by mid-November for the APEC summit in Chile.” “But I think the goal of having it finalized by mid-November still remains,” Censky concluded.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 1, 2019 |


Chile Cancellation of APEC Summit Sets Off Search for US-China Deal Signing Location Chile Wednesday cancelled the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit where President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping planned to meet and potentially sign Phase One of a trade accord between the two nations. The cancellation by Chile came as social unrest continued to rock Santiago. APEC officials indicated there were no plans to hold the meeting elsewhere, but Reuters reported that the U.S. was indicating a Trump/Xi meeting could take place in Alaska or Hawaii with China said to be suggesting Macau. Trump has also indicated he may want to travel to Australia for the Presidents Cup golf tournament that starts December 9, putting him in the region. Chinese diplomatic observers and government advisers said the APEC cancellation had eased the pressure on negotiators from China and the U.S. to finalize the Phase One portion of the trade deal. The Trump administration insisted it would continue to press to finalize Phase One of the accord in the coming weeks. “We look forward to finalizing Phase One of the historic trade deal with China within the same time frame, and when we have an announcement, we’ll let you know,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told news services.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday November 1, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets According to forecasts, Friday should mark the first day of a stretch of mostly dry weather across the entire Midwest, offering more favorable help for harvest. At 7:30 a.m. CDT, the U.S. Labor Department will release October nonfarm payrolls and the U.S. unemployment rate. An index of U.S. manufacturing follows at 9 a.m. USDA's monthly report of Fats and Oils caps off the week's reports at 2 p.m. CDT. Weather Light snow is in store for northern crop areas Friday. Dry conditions will be in place elsewhere. Harvest progress will remain slow due to Midwest rain and snow the past few days.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 31, 2019 |


Chinese Ag Purchases Becoming a Sticking Point in Negotiations U.S. President Donald Trump has said China will commit to buying up to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural products as part of a Phase One trade agreement between the countries, However, Reuters says that amount is becoming a sticking point in the negotiations. That $50 billion is more than double the amount of U.S. ag commodities that China purchased during the year before the trade war began. People who’ve been briefed on the negotiations say that U.S. officials are continuing to push for that amount in talks, while Beijing doesn’t want to commit to purchasing that number of products in a certain time frame. China would like its buyers to be able to buy based on market conditions. An official of a Chinese state-owned company says China “doesn’t want to buy a lot of products that people here don’t need or something during a time when it’s not in demand. If a lot of U.S. products come into China all at once, the domestic market might not be able to digest them.” As an example, that same official points out that China wouldn’t be able to use large amounts of U.S. soybeans because of the African Swine Fever virus that’s decimated their herds. ********************************************************************************************** Biofuels Groups Ask EPA to Fix Flawed Proposal Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor testified on Wednesday before Environmental Protection Agency officials at a hearing on its proposed supplemental rule on 2020 biofuels targets under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Skor, whose organization represents more than half of U.S. ethanol producers, is asking the EPA to fix the flawed draft proposal and reverse the demand destruction that has shuttered biofuels plants across the country. “As drafted, EPA’s plan fails to accurately make up for lost gallons and betrays President Trump’s promise to rural America,” she said during testimony. “It cuts the fix we were promised in half, if not more, and destroys what may be our last chance to bring back the ethanol plants that have shut down and help to ease the burden facing American farmers.” The National Biodiesel Board also testified on Wednesday and said they appreciate the proposal to account for small refinery exemptions in the future. However, they pointed out that the EPA’s supplemental rule doesn’t do anything about small refinery exemptions before 2020. “Over four billion gallons of demand for biofuels has been lost due to small refinery exemptions from 2016 through 2018,” says David Cobb, NBB Federal Affairs Director. “The impact has been particularly significant for biomass-based diesel producers because biomass-based diesel can be used to satisfy multiple categories of fuel under the RFS.” ********************************************************************************************** Another Attempt to Fix Farm Labor Problems Introduced in Congress Representatives Zoe (ZOH-ee) Lofgren of California and Dan Newhouse of Washington introduced comprehensive legislation that attempts to overhaul the nation’s agricultural labor programs. Politico says the legislation will attempt to “thread the needle” between agriculture and labor groups that have long butted heads over the issue. The bill, called the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would provide a way to legal status for undocumented farmworkers who’ve been working at least two years on their jobs and are planning to continue. The bill would also put into place a mandatory E-Verify system nationwide for farmers, something that would give conservatives incentive to support the bill. It will simplify the H-2A application process, cap wages for farmworkers, and it will raise funding for USDA programs that support housing for laborers. It also attempts to meet the needs of dairy farmers and others who need year-round labor. The bill offers 40,000 extra green cards for agricultural labor and creates a capped program to grant three-year visas for workers in certain sectors, including dairy. Politico says it’s the latest attempt to bring together labor and ag groups, as well as convince both Republicans and Democrats to pass major reform to the farm labor system. It’s something that has failed multiple times in the past. ********************************************************************************************* House Ag Committee Reauthorizes Commodity Futures Trading Commission The House Agriculture Committee passed legislation to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission through 2025. H.R.Bill 4895 passed by voice vote on Wednesday morning. “The bill helps strengthen our financial market infrastructure and makes it more resilient,” says Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson. “It also combats fraud and promotes cooperation among the regulators. What’s even more important to me is that it was put together in a bipartisan way that sends a strong message to the Senate.” Peterson says the people that look to U.S. markets for integrity don’t care about political wins and losses, but rather expect legislators to conduct the business of the committee. The bill includes system safeguard requirements for clearinghouses, trading platforms, and swap data repositories. It also clarifies provisions for relief in the event of broker bankruptcy. The bill adds whistleblower protections for employees of organizations that fall under CFTC jurisdiction, as well as enables further cooperation between the CFTC and international regulatory bodies. ********************************************************************************************** Agency Partnership Designed to Reduce Food Waste The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration announced they’re partnering with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. It’s part of the “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative” launched by the three agencies last year. The agencies will formalize industry education and outreach efforts with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and the National Restaurant Association, which are the three founding partners in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. The alliance is working on three goals, including reducing the amount of food waste, increasing the amount of food donated to those in need, and diverting food waste from landfills. In the United States, more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single biggest type of waste in America’s daily trash. The agencies will contribute to the goal of reducing food waste through research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, technical assistance, and policy discussion. ********************************************************************************************** NCBA Happy with Hours of Service Legislation Introduced in Congress The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is pleased with bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress that would provide flexible and common-sense relief from Hours of Service rules for agricultural haulers. The Responsible and Efficient Agriculture Destination Act would make sure that the current Hours of Service exemption that applies to the 150-air-mile radius from the source of an agricultural commodity adds the same radius flexibility to the back end of a trip or the destination. The bill also clarifies that this exemption would apply in every state on a year-round basis because agriculture and specifically livestock move across the country every day. “Agricultural haulers, especially those that move livestock, face very unique challenges that haulers in other industries don’t face,” says NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “This bill recognizes that need.” The bill was introduced in the House by Democrat Angie Craig of Minnesota and Republican Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania. “On behalf of all cattle producers, I’d like to thank everyone that signed on to this bill, which works toward needed flexibility within Hours of Service regulations for our livestock haulers,” Houston added.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 31, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Modestly Bad Trade News There was more than a little bad economic and trade news for the ag sector this week, including a report that U.S. farm bankruptcies in September surged 24% to the highest since 2011. Bloomberg linked the bankruptcy data to “strains from President Trump’s trade war with China and a year of wild weather.” At the same time, the American Farm Bureau Federation is reporting that growers are becoming “increasingly dependent on trade aid and other federal programs for income and that the “squeeze on farmers underscores the toll China’s retaliatory tariffs have taken on a critical Trump constituency” as the 2020 election campaign heats up. The Farm Bureau report said that almost 40% of “projected farm profit” this year will come from trade aid, disaster assistance, federal subsidies and insurance payments, based on Department of Agriculture forecasts — as much as $33 billion of a projected $88 billion in income. AFBF noted that the trade war and two straight years of adverse weather “rattled” farmers already facing commodity price slumps. Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings in the 12 months ended September rose to 580 from a year earlier. That marked the highest since 676 cases in 2011 under the chapter of the bankruptcy code tailored for farms. The total “remains well below” historical highs in the 1980s, the federation said. Recent bankruptcies were concentrated in the 13-state Midwestern region, a key battleground in the upcoming election where grain, soybean, hog and dairy farms have been hit by trade disputes. More than 40%, or 255 filings, were in the region. Another piece of bad news came as Chile announced the cancellation of the Nov. 16-17 summit where President Trump had hoped to sign the preliminary trade accord with China. The decision to cancel follows a wave of protests that overwhelmed Chilean police, Bloomberg said. It called the unrest the most extensive “in a generation.” How and when the leaders of the world’s two largest economies will meet to resolve their trade differences appears to be the biggest question thrown up by the Chilean decision. The expected deal, which Trump had previewed in mid-October, had calmed fears of a continuing escalation in the trade war that has cast a shadow over the global economy for the past 18 months. The new cancellation “suggests that the trade war uncertainty might be hanging over us for longer,” Torsten Slok, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank AG, told Bloomberg. “It raises the risk that we could never see a phase two or phase three.” Chile also canceled the United Nations climate change conference, known as COP25, scheduled for December in Santiago, President Sebastian Pinera said. “We understand perfectly the importance of APEC and COP for Chile and the world, but we have based our decision on common sense,” Pinera said from the presidential palace. “A president needs to put its people above everything else.” The decision to cancel the meetings highlights the depth of trouble facing the Latin American nation that has seen almost two weeks of rioting and protests. It also comes as a deep embarrassment to the government that had insisted it would go ahead with the conference just two days ago. Bloomberg also reported that the White House says it still hopes to sign a preliminary accord with Xi Jinping next month, even after the cancellation by Chile appeared to catch the White House off guard. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said that Trump still intends to sign a partial trade deal with Xi at about the same time in November as the planned Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. “We look forward to finalizing Phase One of the historic trade deal with China within the same time frame, and when we have an announcement, we’ll let you know,” Gidley said. The possibility of a Trump-Xi meeting in Santiago next month had buoyed markets as investors look for signs that an end to the multi-year trade war between the two nations is in sight. The White House was working as recently as Tuesday to finish a “phase one” agreement with an eye toward the leaders signing it in Chile, according to a statement from White House spokesman Judd Deere. Both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence said last week they were optimistic the deal would be finalized at the summit. So, we will see. Both parties to the proposed partial trade deal appear inclined to favor at least a modest cooling off now, thus boosting chances for something positive to happen. However, given all the political tensions affecting both sides, the process still seems fragile and one producers should watch closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 31, 2019 |


USDA Releases Hemp Rule USDA released its interim final rule covering hemp production, with the measure coming into effect October 31. The plan would set up a nationwide regulatory framework to oversee commercial production of the newly legalized crop in time for the 2020 growing season. USDA said the measure will be in effect for two years and the agency will accept public comments as it considers potential revisions. USDA said it will act on state plans within 60 days of submission after it publishes the rule in the Federal Register. Some have expressed concern on the testing provisions in the plan. USDA said samples of hemp flower to be collected by a USDA - or state-approved agent within 15 days of anticipated harvest, and the sample must then be tested at a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) registered laboratory using one of several widely used methods, including post-decarboxylation as well as gas or liquid chromatography. However, USDA appears to have acknowledged the variance in testing methods, including a "measurement of uncertainty" for testing results that effectively bumps the legal THC level from 0.3% to 0.5%. Under the plan, states can set stricter rules but they cannot put rules in place that have easier standards than those laid out by USDA.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 31, 2019 |


House Hearing Reveals Rifts Remain on Biofuel Policy The chasm between biofuel supporters and refiners shows now signs of being bridged based on testimony both sides delivered at a House Energy & Commerce subcommittee hearing this week on small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both sides are clearly set in their positions and there was little indication that will change. The situation still remains that both biofuel supporters and refiners are not happy with EPA’s supplemental rule issued relative to 2020 biofuel requirements under the RFS which aimed at addressing the SRE issue. Given that the comment period on the plan runs through November 29, the November 30 deadline for finalizing the 2020 biofuel standards will be missed. And EPA has not committed to a timeline of when they will do so, only saying it will be later this year. The U.S. biofuel policy situation will remain uncertain until the final 2020 biofuel plan is in place.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 31, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Halloween trading starts with weekly grain export sales, an updated U.S. Drought Monitor, U.S. jobless claims, personal incomes and the employment cost index -- all due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT. U.S. natural gas inventories are available at 9:30 a.m. Weather radar will be watched as rain and snow are expected to move eastward Thursday. Weather Thursday features rain and snow in the eastern Midwest, disrupting harvest. Dry and cold conditions elsewhere will be more favorable for harvest progress.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 30, 2019 |


China, U.S., on Track to Sign Phase One Agreement The U.S. and China are on track to sign the phase one trade agreement next month. President Donald Trump this week stated the negotiations are running “ahead of schedule.” The South China Morning Post reports Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (Shee Jihn’-ping) are set for a November 17 meeting in Chile to sign the interim trade deal. Trump says the agreement would “take care of the farmers,” among other things, including banking provisions. A spokesperson from China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed the progress, saying, “the two sides made substantial progress” in recent talks. Top-level negotiators met over the phone last Friday and will again very soon. The agreement includes an estimated $40-$50 billion of agricultural purchases by China over a two-year period, with $20 billion possible the first year. Market analysts say agricultural trade with China appears to be starting to normalize, ahead of the agreement. In 2017, before the trade war began, the U.S. shipped $19.5 billion worth of agricultural products to China. However, the trade war cut those exports in half. ************************************************************************************* USDA Releases Hemp Regulations Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Tuesday released the long-awaited regulation plan for hemp production. Perdue says rulemaking teams operated as “all hands on deck” over the last few months in creating a “fair and science-based” program. The Department of Agriculture says the framework makes hemp producers eligible for several agricultural programs, including crop insurance. Under the interim final rule, USDA will approve hemp production plans developed by states. The program requires documentation of the land where hemp is produced, along with testing and licensing requirements. USDA will begin accepting applications 30 days after the effective date of the interim rule. Meanwhile, all hemp production must be sampled and tested for THC concentration levels at Drug Enforcement Agency registered laboratories. If a test confirms a THC level exceeding the approved level, then the crop must be disposed of. Hemp must not contain more than .3 percent THC on a dry weight basis, as a level above .3 percent is federally considered marijuana. The complete rule is available online at ams.usda.gov. ************************************************************************************* Ethanol Industry Tells Lawmakers Biofuel Waivers Created Economic Crisis Ethanol producers say small refinery waivers granted by the Environmental Protection Agency have caused an economic crisis for the industry. At hearing in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Growth Energy told lawmakers “small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard is crippling rural America.” The ethanol industry and farm groups are not optimistic the EPA plan to restore biofuel blending to the statute of 15 billion gallons annually will be followed. Growth Energy says the regulatory attempts by EPA “give us little confidence that we will see the relief we need.” Farmers and ethanol producers are also upset the plan doesn’t make up for lost gallons over the last few years. Several biofuels and farm groups voiced support for the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act of 2019, introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson. The groups say the legislation would bring transparency to the small refinery waivers. Refinery exemptions under the Trump Administration have totaled nearly six times more gallons than those under the previous Administration. ************************************************************************************* Food And Beverage Industry Urges Congress to Pass USMCA Food and beverage industry workers recently sent more than 10,000 individual letters to Congress to urge passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The Corn Refiners Association says the letters emphasized the economic benefits USMCA will bring to the U.S. business community and consumers alike. The letters are part of a grassroots effort by the association, along with several other food and agriculture organizations. Corn Refiners Association President and CEO John Bode (Boh-dee) adds, "the agriculture-related benefits of North American trade reach far into our economy." Bode says more than 70 percent of the agriculture-related jobs created by the North American Free Trade Agreement were outside of the farm sector. In recent weeks, members of the USMCA Coalition have been urging members of Congress to announce their support for the agreement. The Coalition reminds Congress that the food and agriculture industry "is the economic backbone of rural America" and an essential driver of the overall economy, accounting for one-fifth of American economic activity. ************************************************************************************* Fall Harvest Poses Grain Quality Challenges Grain inspection experts warn that the 2019 fall harvest will bring quality challenges for many. Tom Dahl, president of the American Association of Grain Inspection and Weighing Agencies, this week stated quality challenges may vary by region. Some may see weathered grain, while others may see green or immature grains. Or, it could be frost damaged kernels, mold, or fungus issues. Any of these create marketing issues for producers. For users, whether they are processors, feeders, or millers, Dahl says it is a matter of understanding the quality they are receiving so it can be used for its best purpose. The organization recommends accurate measurement of crop quality, as both buyers and sellers can benefit from clearly understanding the quality of the grain or oilseeds they are handling. Consistent, accurate test results can be best assured through using an Official Grain Inspection Agency. These are agencies supervised by the Department of Agriculture’s Federal Grain Inspection Service. Farmers can learn more about accurate quality testing online at www.aagiwa.org. ************************************************************************************* Syngenta Named Top AG Employer in 2019 A Science Magazine survey names Syngenta as one of the world's leading biotech employers - and the top agriculture employer. The 2019 Science Careers Top Employers Survey ranked Syngenta ten out of 20 top employers in biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, and pharmaceutical and related industries, marking the tenth year of recognition by the global survey. The annual survey identifies companies with the best reputations as employers, based on 23 attributes, including treating employees with respect, being socially responsible and being an innovative leader in the industry. The results were compiled by a sample of 7,600 people across the applicable industries. A Syngenta spokesperson says of the ranking, "One of Syngenta's greatest strengths is our collaborative culture." The company has biotechnology and seeds research operations globally, with centers of innovation in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and Beijing, China. The complete rankings of the 2019 survey are available on the Science magazine website, www.sciencemag.org.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 30, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Speculation About What Follows Expectations for Rate Cuts Well, it is hard to keep up with the speculations about economic and trade policy these days. For example, Bloomberg is reporting this week that not only is the Fed projected to lower borrowing costs today for the third straight time, “a slew of economic reports this week will play a key role in whether the central bank needs to keep cutting or can take a breather.” Figures due for release today “are projected to show gross domestic product in the July-September period expanded at 1.6% annualized pace, the second-slowest quarter under President Trump and about half the pace at the start of 2019 – as consumer spending pulled back from gangbusters growth. Also, a couple of days later, the October jobs report may indicate that the largest strike in more than a decade pushed nonfarm payroll gains below 100,000—tepid gains even if the impacts of the General Motors Co. walkout are excluded. The key question is whether the economy is stumbling toward a recession or merely cooling off, Bloomberg thinks. Stocks at a record high, along with a yield curve that’s turned positive again, have mitigated concern about a downturn. Still, deteriorating global growth, administration tariffs on Chinese goods and a weakened manufacturing sector have put the record-long expansion – and the potential political impacts that implies “on the backs of consumers who are increasingly in a tougher position,” Bloomberg says. “It has the potential to be a pretty ugly week,” said Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co. “We are far from out of the woods in terms of this slowdown and some of the headwinds that the economy is facing.” While GDP and payrolls will take much of the spotlight, the widely watched Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index due Friday is expected to contract for another month in October, deepening concerns about fragile factories. Meanwhile, the employment cost index, a broad gauge monitored by the Fed, on Thursday could suggest companies remain hesitant to offer better wage gains and benefits. “Until there’s some clarity on trade then it’s hard to see any kind of a meaningful rebound in business investment,” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp. Business spending on equipment and structures may hit bottom this quarter or continue to decline “and the two have very different implications for the course of the economy,” he said. Bloomberg reports that its own economists say that, “economic activity in the second half of the year is poised to decelerate markedly as several drivers of growth fade and consumers are left dominating the outlook to an even greater degree than usual,” according to Carl Riccadonna, Yelena Shulyatyeva, Andrew Husby and Eliza Winger. While there have been positive signs on trade, negotiations are far from over, the President said Monday. He noted that the U.S. is ahead of schedule with finalizing sections of the first phase of a trade deal with China that could be signed soon. At the same time, Bloomberg claimed to see “one bright spot”: Residential investment, which has shrunk for six consecutive quarters, is poised add to accelerate its recent growth in the latest period as low mortgage rates helped boost sales. Still, the group thinks that this gain “was likely too small to make a significant impact on GDP for the period, so the onus remains on Americans to keep buying goods and services.” As a result, Friday’s employment report, the first on the state of the labor market in the fourth quarter, is seen as increasingly important. The overall trend in payroll gains has slowed this year down to 161,000 new jobs a month versus 223,000 in 2018. While that’s still more than enough to keep up with working-age population growth, a continued pullback could dent consumer spending. “If you see more slowing in the labor market than is already expected I think that is going to call into question whether the consumption story is going to hold up,” said Brett Ryan, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank AG. “And that’s the fear.” The now-ended walkout of 46,000 General Motors Co. workers together with its follow up implications “could complicate the headline number.” However, the strike will be concentrated in manufacturing payrolls, making it easy to separate from the overall trend. In past jobs reports, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has flagged when a strike causes large payroll declines in specific industries. Another wrinkle could come from hiring for the 2020 census. Fewer than 30,000 of roughly 40,000 temporary hires were accounted for in official data for August and September. Bank of America Corp. economists expect nonfarm payrolls to rise just 25,000--the low end of forecasts ranging as high as 140,000 – with wages stalling and the Fed signaling it’s open to further interest-rate cuts. If all goes as Bank of America expects, that indicates “the economy is shaky and the Fed still perceives there to be risks,” said Michelle Meyer, the firm’s head of U.S. economics. So, we will see. The current uncertainties are certainly significant, trends producers should watch closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 30, 2019 |


Spanish Olive Producers Call on EU to Investigate US Farm Subsidies Spanish olive producers are calling on the European Union (EU) to hit the U.S. with stiff countermeasures over the tariffs imposed by the U.S. on a host of products in the Airbus dispute. Olive producers face additional duties on black olives as a result of a trade action by the U.S. International Trade Commission to apply anti-subsidy tariffs on the imports. The Airbus-related action also imposed tariffs on green olives – essentially putting tariffs on all table olive shipments from Spain. The Spanish table olive producer group Interaceitunas is calling on the European Commission to investigate whether the U.S. unfairly subsidizes its farmers. The group is calling for the matter to be pursued at the WTO.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 30, 2019 |


Mixed Signals Continue on US-China Trade Front Developments on the U.S.-China trade front continue to see mixed reports emerge. President Donald Trump on Monday said “Phase One” trade talks with China were ahead of schedule. “We are looking probably to be ahead of schedule to sign a very big portion of the China deal, and we will call it phase one but it is a very big portion,” Trump said. “That would take care of the farmers. It would take care of some of the other things. It will also take care of a lot of the banking needs.” The agreement is expected to be signed when Trump and Chinese leader attend the APEC summit November 16-17 in Chile. “So we are about, I would say, a little bit ahead of schedule, maybe a lot ahead of schedule,” the president said. “Probably we will sign it.” However, Tuesday saw Reuters quote a Trump administration official as saying that the pact may not be ready to sign by the November APEC meeting. Financial markets took the development as a negative even as the report also quoted the official as saying that if the agreement was not ready for signing, it did not mean that the talks have fallen apart.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 30, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets At 7:15 a.m. CDT, ADP releases estimates of private job growth in the U.S., an early hint for Friday's unemployment report. The first estimate of third-quarter U.S. GDP is set for 7:30 a.m. CDT. The U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory report is due at 9:30 a.m., followed by the Federal Reserve's next interest rate decision at 1 p.m. CDT. Weather Snow and mixed precipitation across the central Plains, the southwest to the north-central Midwest regions during Wednesday will affect travel, transport and seasonal fieldwork, including harvesting in Midwest areas. The heaviest snow, 2-4 inches and locally heavier, is likely to occur from east Iowa and northwest and north Illinois through southern Wisconsin. Rain, showers and thundershowers elsewhere in the east and south Midwest, the Delta and into the east-central U.S. areas is also likely to affect seasonal fieldwork today. Cold, dry conditions, will favor harvesting in the Northern Plains and for the most part in the Canadian Prairies as well.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 29, 2019 |


Farm Debt Repayment Stretching Terms Farmers need more time to pay off non-real estate loans, according to recent data. An analysis published last week by Agricultural Economics Insights, an agriculture economic analysis firm, shows repayment term length on farm loans recently reached levels not seen in decades. In 2018, the average repayment term on all non-real estate loans was 15.4 months. The report says that’s the highest annual observation noted since 1977. In recent years, even as farm income has turned higher, producers are still relying on higher levels of debt for farm machinery, livestock and all non-real estate loans. However, the analysis says longer repayment terms, coupled with historically low-interest rates, make it easier for producers to meet the annual debt service obligations of high debt levels. Terms over the last 20 years generally stayed between 12 and 14 months, with a decline in 2008 and 2009 due to the Great Recession, when the average non-real estate farm loan term dipped to 11 months. ************************************************************************************* USDA Pauses RFID Ear Tag Proposal The Department of Agriculture has paused its effort to mandate RFID ear tags for cattle and bison. The proposal would have mandated the ear tags for animals moved in interstate commerce beginning in January of 2023. A guidance document detailing the proposal on the USDA website was recently removed, following a lawsuit against the proposal filed by R-CALF USA. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says that based on industry feedback and Executive Branch policy, “APHIS believes that we should revisit those guidelines.” President Donald Trump earlier this month signed an executive order to stop federal agencies from using guidance documents to impose rules. APHIS removed the factsheet from its website, saying it is “no longer representative of current agency policy.” R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard called the proposal a federal overreach by USDA, saying the proposal would “gift RFID ear tag manufactures” more profits. USDA says it still believes “RFID devices will provide the cattle industry with the best protection against the rapid spread of animal diseases.” ************************************************************************************* Marshall, Brindisi, Introduce Real MEAT Act A bill introduced Monday would address deceptive labeling practices in alternative protein products, such as plant-based imitators of meat. Republican Representative Roger Marshall of Kansas, along with New York Democrat Anthony Brindisi (brin-dis-see), introduced the Real Marketing Edible Artificial Truthfully, or Real MEAT Act. The legislation would codify the definition of beef for labeling purposes, reinforce existing misbranding provisions to eliminate consumer confusion, and enhance enforcement measures available to the Department of Agriculture if the Food and Drug Administration fails to take appropriate action. Marshall says alternative protein products “have confused many consumers with misleading packaging and creative names for products.” Brindisi says the bill is “about safety and transparency.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded introduction of the legislation. NCBA President Jennifer Houston says a growing number of fake meat products are “clearly trying to mislead consumers” about what they’re trying to get them to buy, adding “consumers need to be protected from deceptive marketing practices.” ************************************************************************************* Study: Risk of ASF in U.S. has Doubled A recent study shows the risk of African Swine Fever entering the U.S. has nearly doubled since the ASF epidemic began in 2018. Researchers at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine say the probability of ASF already reaching the U.S. is high, but efforts to stop the virus at the borders have stopped its entry. The study measured the risk of ASF entering the United States through the smuggling of pork products in air passenger luggage. The study reports five specific airports account for over 90 percent of the potential risk: Newark-New Jersey, George Bush-Houston-Texas, Los Angeles-California, John F. Kennedy-New York, and San Jose-California. If ASF were to enter the United States, its spread would cause immense economic damage to the pork industry and food production more broadly, and could lead to billions of dollars of losses for swine producers. Since the 2018 outbreak in China, the country has slaughtered an estimated 1,170,000 animals. ************************************************************************************* Early 2020 Forecast Signals More Trouble for Missouri River Farmers Early predictions for the 2020 runoff season suggest more flood risks for farmers along the Missouri River. Through a series of public meetings, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says wet and saturated soils, along with increased rainfall in the long-term forecast, means 2020 looks similar to the 2019 spring. Flooding remained common this year along the Missouri River since the so-called bomb-cyclone storm in March, where saturated and frozen soils led to a large amount of water runoff in the lower Missouri River basin. The lower basin is uncontrolled, meaning no dams regulate the flow, below the Gavins Point dam. Water releases from Gavins point remain well above average, at roughly 80,000 cubic feet per second, as the Corps tries to prepare the reservoir system for next year. However, winter weather and the risk of ice jams will soon halt those efforts. The last forecast update predicted 2019 runoff would equal the record set in 2011. ************************************************************************************* Voting Begins for 2019 Farm Service Agency County Committee Elections The Department of Agriculture Monday announced it will begin mailing ballots on November 4 to eligible farmers and ranchers across the country for the Farm Service Agency county committee elections. Each committee has three to 11 elected members who serve three-year terms of office. One-third of county committee seats are up for election each year. Newly elected committee members will take office January 1, 2020. To be counted, ballots must be returned to the local FSA county office or postmarked by December 2. FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce says the members “play a key role in our efforts to provide assistance to producers.” Producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program to be eligible to vote in the county committee election. Farmers can find out if their local administrative area is up for election and if they are eligible to vote by contacting their local FSA county office. Eligible voters who did not receive a ballot in the mail can pick one up at their local FSA county office. Visit fsa.usda.gov for more information.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 29, 2019 |


Washington Insider: MIT Media Lab Food Project Closed The New York Times reported this week that MIT has “mostly shut down the futuristic project known as “OpenAg” following accusations of “misleading sponsors and the public." The once-celebrated Media Lab’s micro-greenhouses were supposed to grow food under virtually any conditions — but apparently “worked under almost none,” the Times said. And now, MIT has turned off the lights, possibly for good. The Times report said that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed Thursday that it had “mostly closed” the OpenAg project which has been accused of misleading sponsors and the public by exaggerating results. In addition, the Media Lab has been under scrutiny for its financial ties to the convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein. OpenAg received millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships and was promoted in glowing news features, including a “60 Minutes” segment about the Media Lab called “The Future Factory.” MIT shut down the project late last week after a sweeping assessment, it said. The project was a favorite of Joichi Ito, the Media Lab’s director until September when he resigned under pressure after his efforts to conceal his financial connections to Epstein were disclosed. The financier killed himself in jail in August after being indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges. The OpenAg project focused on designing and deploying so-called “food computers,” small high-tech greenhouses meant to allow crops to thrive in thin air, without soil or sunlight and under precisely controlled conditions. The project also operated larger “food servers,” which are housed in shipping containers about 15 miles north of the MIT campus in Middleton, Mass. According to the university statement, its vice president for research, Maria Zuber, “halted OpenAg activities, pending completion of ongoing assessments.” Zuber consulted with other members of the executive committee running the Media Lab and agreed to permit some documentation and design work to resume, but provided no timetable for finishing those assessments. Throughout the tumult at the OpenAg project, its leader, Caleb Harper, had been posting to Instagram photos and a video of what looked like experiments. Harper did not respond to requests for comment, the Times said. The Times described Harper as an architect “without any scientific training” who described food computers as integral to a “fourth agricultural revolution.” In a TED Talk from 2015, which has more than 1.8 million views, Harper laid out his vision: Food computer owners would share their data on optimal growing conditions — called “climate recipes” — with fellow food producers around the world, who would use that information to improve yields from their own food computers. According to former researchers at the project, however, Harper made exaggerated or false claims to the project’s corporate sponsors as well as in talks and interviews with the news media. They said plants bought in stores had been inserted into the food computers so visitors would think they had been grown there. More broadly, the researchers said, the food computers could not independently control the conditions within their boxes — changing the amount of light would raise the temperature, and so on. Whatever data was collected by the food computers would therefore have little scientific significance. Nonetheless, the lab produced a paper for a peer-reviewed journal that claimed to have used machine learning to discover the ideal combination of light, nutrients, temperature and water to grow the most flavorful basil. The independent news organization ProPublica and the Boston radio station WBUR reported last month that the larger food servers in Middleton were dumping wastewater with 20 times the legal limit of nitrogen underground, an apparent violation of state regulations. MIT halted the research at Middleton and said it was evaluating how the water had been disposed of there. The nitrogen levels were not an immediate danger to the public, the town administrator, Andy Sheehan, said in an interview, but could lead to overgrowth of plants that can threaten local wildlife. On Thursday, IEEE Spectrum, the publication of the one of the world’s largest professional organizations devoted to engineering and applied sciences, released a lengthy investigation on OpenAg. The investigation examined OpenAg’s plan to deliver personal food computers to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan through the United Nations World Food Program. According to the investigation, Harper, in talks to sponsors and the public, described his pride in giving the refugees the means to grow their own food inside the camp. However, as the IEEE Spectrum article noted, the food computers never made it to the camp itself, but were kept in a Jordanian research lab where they faltered because of hot, dry conditions and technical failures. So, it seems that yet another “super tech” idea and application is raising more questions than answers. Clearly, super tech approaches can yield ideas and lessons more conventional market participants can use some of the time but artificial environments have often proved both difficult and expensive to manage. It is not clear yet what lessons were intended by the Open Ag experiment, but they seem likely to reveal that even heavy investments do not always provide large returns and that promises of fundamental breakthrough technology in basic food production processes should be watched very carefully by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 29, 2019 |


EPA Publishes Supplemental RFS Plan EPA’s supplemental proposal for the 2020 biofuel and 2021 biodiesel levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been published in the Federal Register. There are no discernable changes to the plan that the agency released earlier this month. There is a 32-day comment period on the plan – it runs through November 29 which that means the agency will not meet the statutory deadline to finalize the 2020 levels by November 30. EPA will also hold a public hearing on the plan October 30 in Michigan. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will stay in the headlines via a House hearing today regarding the small refinery exemptions (SREs) granted by the Trump administration. The House Energy & Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Protecting the RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard): The Trump Administration's Abuse of Secret Waivers."

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 29, 2019 |


USTR Notes Progress In US-China Trade Talks U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke by phone Friday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, and afterward USTR said that the two sides “made headway on specific issues and the two sides are close to finalizing some sections of the agreement.” More talks of course are on tap. Indications are the components so far are the halt of additional U.S. tariffs in exchange for a two-year phase-in of Chinese purchases of a U.S.-reported $40 billion to $50 billion of U.S. farm goods, new rules on currency manipulation and efforts by China to finish opening its financial sector to foreign firms. It might include some measures to protect intellectual property. In a statement from China, Xinhua reported the two sides reached an agreement for the U.S. to import cooked poultry products from China, as well as to regard its catfish product regulation system as equivalent to the United States. “Both sides agreed to appropriately resolve the core concerns of both parties,” Xinhua said. “Working-level deputies will speed up talks for the trade deal before the principals talk over the phone in the near future.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 29, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting, which ends with a decision on interest rates on Wednesday. U.S. consumer confidence and pending home sales are Tuesday's only official reports, both set for 9 a.m. CDT. Weather forecasts remain of interest through harvest and any trade moves by China get close attention. Weather Tuesday features dry but cold conditions in northern and central crop areas, slowing harvest progress. Light rain will be noted in the far Southern Plains. Southeastern areas will have a warmer pattern. Rain, snow and cold will cover much of the central U.S. Tuesday evening through Wednesday.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 28, 2019 |


Chinese Importers Buy Even More U.S. Soybeans The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that private exporters reported the sale of 264,000 tons of U.S. soybeans to China for delivery in the 2019/2020 marketing year. The deal comes as hopes continue for a partial trade deal between the world’s two largest economies. Reuters says this is the first U.S. government confirmation of a soybean sale to China since October 11, when President Trump announced that China will buy up to $50 billion in American farm commodities thanks to a partial trade agreement. A prior report showed U.S. soybean export sales of 475,200 tons, which included just 68,300 tons to China during the week ending on October 17. Those numbers were quite a bit lower than analysts’ projections for that week, ranging from 800,000 to 1.6 million tons. Earlier last week, Beijing had offered major Chinese and international soybean processors waivers that would exempt them from tariffs on imports of up to 10 million tons of U.S. soybeans. USDA has confirmed sales totaling six million tons of soybeans to China since the marketing year began on September 1. That compares with just 431,000 tons over the same time in 2018, as well as 8.4 million tons during the same period in 2017, before the trade war. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Sales Could Hit Pre-Trade War Levels by 2020 Election U.S. farmers could see a return to a pre-trade war level of ag sales to China by the 2020 election. Bloomberg says that would relieve economic pressure on one of President Trump’s key voting blocs as he campaigns for another term. The president announced a tentative partial trade deal back on October 11. China is looking to buy $20 billion worth of agricultural products per year if the partial deal with the U.S. is signed. People familiar with the negotiations told Bloomberg that China would consider boosting that level of purchases as high as $40-50 billion. That would take China’s imports of American commodities back to near-2017 levels before the feud broke out between the White House and Beijing. People close to the situation say increasing the level of purchases would depend on President Trump removing remaining punitive tariffs. Beijing says it will exempt some U.S. agricultural goods from tariffs if the U.S. removes tariffs imposed on September 1 and cancels the tariff hike scheduled for December. President Trump is hoping that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sign a phase-one deal when they meet in Chile next month. Chinese officials have also said publicly that talks are progressing. ********************************************************************************************** Mexico Says U.S. Congress Will Move on USMCA Trade Deal Soon Mexico’s Deputy Foreign Minister for North America said Friday that he believes U.S. lawmakers will begin the process of approving the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement soon. He believes it will move forward in the U.S. Congress now that Mexican President Obrador has vowed to increase wages and funding for labor reforms. A Yahoo Dot Com article says the USMCA must win approval in a divided U.S. Congress, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House. At a news conference last week, the Deputy Foreign Minister said, “The progress made in dialogue with House Speaker Pelosi, U.S. lawmakers, and negotiators makes us think that the end to this complex story is near, that soon we’ll see the United States initiate the formal process for approving the trade deal.” Mexican President Obrador has vowed to increase wages and other labor provisions in a campaign to convince House Democrats to ratify the North American trade agreement. When reporters asked if Mexico’s push to convince U.S. lawmakers about its commitment to implement the labor reforms was working, the Deputy Minister said, “I think we’re getting there.” President Obrador sent a letter recently to Speaker Pelosi calling for ratification “soon,” to not have the 2020 election process “Impede or delay” its finalization. ********************************************************************************************* Rabo Agrifinance Offering Industry’s First Organic Transition Loan Farmers looking for organic certification on all or part of their operations can get some financial help from Rabo Agrifinance. The company has developed a loan product so farmers can get the capital they need up front to help with costs associated with changing production practices. Farmers can then schedule loan repayments when they get additional revenue from selling certified organic products. The USDA requires a three-year transition period for farmers to get their land certified as organic. The deputy head of Rabo Agrifinance says, “During that transition period, farmers often experience yield loss in comparison to conventional production, and they can’t collect organic premiums for that land’s production to compensate for the lower yield. That challenge has created a financial barrier against making the transition to organic production.” Farmers want to take advantage of consumer demand for organic products, but they often have trouble penciling out how they’ll survive the transition period it takes to be able to meet that demand. Stephen Nicholson, a grain and oilseed analyst at Rabo Agrifinance, says the demand for organic products has grown faster than domestic production. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Releases Partial List of Agricultural Projections to 2029 The USDA will release selected tables prepared for the upcoming “USDA Agricultural Projections to 2029” report on November 1. USDA will post online tables containing long-term supply, use, and price projections to 2029 for major U.S. crops and livestock products. The tables will also include supporting U.S. and international macroeconomic assumptions. The short-term projections from the October 11, 2019, WASDE report are used as a starting point. The complete USDA Agricultural Projections to 2029 will be released in February of 2020. The complete report will include a full discussion of the commodity supply and use projections, as well as projections for farm income and global commodity trade. The early-release tables will be posted to the Office of the Chief Economist’s website at www.usda.gov/oce. USDA’s long-term agricultural projections represent a departmental consensus on a ten-year representative scenario for the agricultural sector. The projections don’t represent USDA forecasts, but rather reflect a conditional long-run scenario based on specific assumptions about macroeconomic conditions, policy, weather, and international developments, along with no domestic or external shocks to global agricultural markets. ********************************************************************************************** Legislation Will Protect America’s Food Supply The Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation designed to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industries at the border. The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 would ensure the safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across the nation’s borders. It authorizes the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire additional inspectors, support staff, and even canine teams to fully staff American airports, seaports, and land ports of entry. “Agriculture is a critical economic driver across the country, but longstanding shortages of agricultural inspectors limit Customs and Border Protection’s ability to prevent pests, diseases, and other dangers from entering our country and putting production agriculture at risk,” says Michigan Democrat Gary Peters, one of four senators who introduced the legislation. Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Robers says, “By strengthening the agricultural inspector workforce at the border, American agriculture and our entire food system will be safer.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 28, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Push Back on Trade Policies There has been significant unhappiness for some time among groups on the frontline in the trade fight, primarily in response to the administration’s heavy reliance on tariffs — and on its willingness to apply them to well established, functioning markets. Bloomberg is reporting that this week a group of prominent economists from the U.S. and China have released a joint statement calling for the world’s two largest economies “to abandon their trade war and agree to a new path forward that would give both countries more latitude to both pursue their own domestic economic policies and hit back at those that hurt them.” In a joint statement issued in China on Sunday, 37 economists – a including Joseph Stiglitz, Michael Spence and three other Nobel winners – bemoaned what they said has been a descent of the trade conflict into a binary debate where the only emerging solutions are either wholesale economic reforms by China leading to a converging of economic models or an economically damaging “decoupling.” The group argued a more sensible framework for future trade relations would give China room to pursue industrial policies that are often a target of criticism from the U.S., while also allowing the U.S. latitude to respond with targeted tariffs if China’s policies were damaging its interests. “We believe this approach preserves the bulk of the gains from trade between the two economies without presuming convergence in economic models,” the statement says. It also would be in line with the current multilateral system, they argued, although it would enlarge both the U.S. and China’s rights under current World Trade Organization rules. The push is emblematic of the ways in which economists and other thinkers are wrestling with how to respond to U.S. President Trump’s challenge to the existing governance of the global economy. While many countries have circled the wagons to try and protect the WTO and other institutions from Trump’s attacks, there is also a growing acknowledgment from many sides of politics that the current system has not worked in addressing China’s economic rise and its effect on other economies. The statement comes as Trump is working to close what he has described as “phase one” of a trade truce with China that is designed to avoid a further escalation of their trade wars. It would see China commit to resuming agricultural purchases from the U.S. at levels similar to those seen before the U.S. started imposing new tariffs last year and would put on hold the threat of further U.S. duties. It is also expected to include commitments on intellectual property reforms and currency manipulation by China. But the interim deal, which President Trump has said he hopes to sign with China’s Xi Jinping at a summit in Chile next month, would crucially push discussions of other U.S. complaints such as China’s industrial policies to later rounds of negotiations. Bloomberg said that the effort unveiled Sunday was led by New York University law professor Jeffrey Lehman, Harvard economist Dani Rodrik and Yang Yao, dean of the National School of Development at Peking University. Rodrik is a long-standing critic of globalization and has advocated giving countries more “policy space” to pursue and protect domestic economic priorities, arguing that the current global trading system often violates nations’ sovereignty. The statement’s other signatories include former World Bank chief economists Justin Yifu Lin and Kaushik Basu. Professor Rodrik said President’s Trump’s trade attack on China has shifted the debate on how to manage the economic relationship into dangerous territory. “What he is doing is crowding out space for a more reasonable discussion,” he said. “What the United States is doing is actually engaging in a trade war and imposing tariffs as a way of forcing China into a series of economic arrangements,” he said. “The modus operandi is ‘China you are not playing by the rules of the game and we are going to raise our tariffs on you until you fall into line.’” At the same time, he said, “China brings to a head the fundamental tensions of the world trading regime like nothing else” and policymakers needed to realize that their expectation that China would simply “fall into line” with global trading rules had not worked. “China is the clearest example that that is an unrealistic expectation and because it is such a large economy it makes the tension existential,” he said. While the economists statement likely will receive considerable media attention, it is unclear whether it will have any significant impact on administration policy makers who long have been “deeply dug in” on the use of aggressive tariffs to achieve fundamental shifts in China’s policies. Still, there were a few hints that some reconsiderations may be already underway. For example, one of the administration’s most active “China hawks,” White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said over the weekend that a postponement of tariffs on China due to be implemented in December “might be in play” as the administration “works toward the signing of a partial trade deal in Chile next month.” “If they walk away again it won’t be our fault,” Navarro said in a TV interview, referring to the breakdown in talks in May. “We are on a glide path to Chile...let’s see what happens” So, we will see. It seems clear that both economic and political pressures are building on both sides for some sort of reset on trade, especially if the global economy continues to show signs of weakening. Whether or not the changes extend as far as the recent letter from the economists’ group suggests remains to be seen, but could well mean at least consideration of a widened dialogue that producers should watch closely if it emerges, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 28, 2019 |


Sen. Ernst Warns She Could Call For Wheeler to Exit Over Biofuel Plan Should the biofuel plan from EPA not result in restoring demand for ethanol as has been pledged by President Donald Trump, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she will call for EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to leave his post. "If we get to a point where the EPA is not following through on what the president has directed them to do then we will have to hold them accountable," Ernst said Thursday in remarks to Iowa reporters. "And I, at that point if we do not see that result, that 15 billion gallons, then I am ready to call for the resignation of Andrew Wheeler.” She said if that were to happen, she would go to President Donald Trump and say, “‘Andrew Wheeler is the one that is not following through with your commitment to America’s farmers. You need to get rid of him.'"

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 28, 2019 |


China to Ask Removal of Existing Tariffs in Exchange for Stepped-up Ag Buys Discussions between top-level U.S. and Chinese negotiators – U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He – were expected to see China request cancellation of “some planned and existing U.S. tariffs” on Chinese imports in exchange for China’s increased purchases of U.S. farm goods, according to sources cited by Reuters. China was expected to request the U.S. not impose tariffs December 15 on $156 billion in goods from China and that the U.S. remove the 15 percent tariffs put in place in September on $125 billion in China products. “The Chinese want to get back to tariffs on just the original $250 billion in goods,” one source told the news service. China would, in turn, exempt some U.S. ag products from tariffs, including soybeans, wheat and corn, the report said, with Chinese buyers exempt from existing tariffs to make purchases and get refunds of tariffs already paid on prior purchases. The report also indicated that Lighthizer and Mnuchin would travel to China the week of November 3, but the Treasury Department did not confirm that possibility.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 28, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets Traders will check the latest weather forecasts for harvest opportunities and have ears perked for any trade news with China. USDA will release its weekly report of grain export inspections at 10 a.m. CDT, followed by a new Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. Weather Dry conditions are in store for all primary crop areas Monday. Temperatures will be very cool north and central and warm south and southeast. A rain-snow mix is indicated to form in the Midwest Tuesday.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 25, 2019 |


China First Year Phase One Agreement Ag Purchases aimed at $20 Billion The phase one agreement with China would boost U.S. ag exports to at least $20 billion in its first year. The overall agreement includes $40-50 billion of U.S. farm commodity sales to China over a roughly two-year period. China claims it would aim to buy at least $20 billion worth in the first year, if the agreement is signed, according to Bloomberg News. $20 billion would boost U.S. export sales to China back to levels seen before the tit-for-tat trade war began. China imported $9.1 billion of U.S. farm products in 2018, down from the 2017 level of $19.5 billion. China and the U.S. are working out the details of the limited phase one agreement that could be signed next month. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a closely watched speech on China in Washington, D.C. Thursday. In his remarks, Pence called on China to “start anew by ending the trade practices that have taken advantage of the American people for far too long.” ************************************************************************************* EPA Proposes Pesticide Application Exclusion Zone Requirements Update The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday issued a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding application exclusion zones, known as AEZ. The National Corn Growers Association says the proposal would make two major changes for farmers. The changes include modifying the AEZ so it is only enforceable on a farmer’s property. The proposal would replace the current regulation requiring farmers to ensure individuals are outside of the pesticide AEZ not only on their property, but off their property as well. The proposal would also exempt farm owners and their immediate family members from the requirement that they leave their home during certain pesticide applications. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated in an agency news release the updates maintain safety requirements, “while providing greater flexibility for farmers.” The American Farm Bureau Federation welcomed the proposed rule change. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says, “every effort to make the rule more sensible and practical for farmers while safeguarding workers is important.” EPA will accept comments on the proposal through a 90-day comment period. ************************************************************************************* USDA Encourages Producers to Contact Insurance Agents for Delayed Harvest The Department of Agriculture says farmers in the federal crop insurance program facing harvest delays should contact their Approved Insurance Provider. USDA says those farmers should file a Notice of Loss and request more time to harvest. Producers in several states, including Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, have been affected by extremely wet and snowy conditions early this fall. Martin Barbre, Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency, says, "producers covered by Federal crop insurance should contact their insurance agent as soon as possible to determine what actions they can take." Producers must file a Notice of Loss and request more time to harvest before the end of the insurance period, so that federal crop insurance claims are settled based on the amount of harvested production. The end of the insurance period for crops such as spring-planted wheat and barley is October 31, and for corn and soybeans is December 10. Insurance providers may allow additional time to harvest, on a case-by-case basis, under specific circumstances. ************************************************************************************* Drought Expanding in South, Southwest Drought conditions expanded in the South and Southwest over the last week, while the Midwest largely remains drought-free. The weekly Drought Monitor Thursday showed drought and abnormal dryness expanded across parts of Texas and Oklahoma. But, other parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee experienced a reduction of drought and abnormal dryness. Meanwhile, 75 percent of the Southeast region of the U.S. remains in classified drought conditions. However, heavy rain, locally over five inches, contracted drought and abnormal dryness across much of the region. Much of the Four Corners states in the west are in a classified moderate to severe drought. Parts of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky are considered abnormally to moderately dry, while much of the Upper Midwest and High Plains remain mostly drought-free. California, along with the Pacific Northwest, remains mostly drought-free, as well. Meanwhile, more rains are expected in the South and Southeast over the next week, providing potential drought relief for those regions. ************************************************************************************* Hawley, Blackburn, Introduce Bill to Move Most Federal Agencies Missouri Senator Josh Hawley introduced legislation this week to move the Department of Agriculture to Missouri. Joined by Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, the Republicans seek to move the headquarters of USDA to Missouri and the Department of Education to Tennessee. However, the legislation doesn’t stop there, as the bill would move 90 percent of ten federal agencies out of Washington, D.C., and into what the lawmakers describe as economically distressed regions. Hawley claims federal employees of the two agencies are “too removed from the rest of America.” The Helping Infrastructure Restore the Economy, or HIRE Act, the Senators claim, would “move policymakers directly into the communities they serve.” Senator Blackburn says moving federal agencies out of Washington, D.C., “boosts local economies and lowers costs.” The Senators cited the relocation of two USDA agencies, the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, along with the Bureau of Land Management’s planned move to Colorado, in introducing the legislation. ************************************************************************************* USDA Opens Registration for the 2020 Agricultural Outlook Forum The Department of Agriculture Thursday opened registration for its 2020 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Planned for February 20-21 next year, the event is the largest annual meeting of USDA. The 2020 event, themed “The Innovation Imperative: Shaping the Future of Agriculture,” will feature more than 30 sessions. The topics include innovations in agriculture, global trade trends, food loss and waste, conservation, and the science of food safety. USDA’s Chief Economist will unveil the outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade in 2020 and discuss the U.S. farm income situation. USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum began in 1923 to distribute and interpret national forecasts to farmers in the field. The goal was to provide the information developed through economic forecasting to farmers so they had the tools to read market signals and avoid producing beyond demand. USDA says the event will be at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. The 2020 Forum’s program will be announced at the beginning of November. Registration information is available at usda.gov.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 25, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Economic Outlook Still Cloudy The tea-leaf readers are at it again and the administration’s pressure for lower interest rates continues to be intense. This week, Bloomberg reports that government bonds in Denmark, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Switzerland carry negative yields — meaning it will cost money for investors to hold them to maturity. Thus, a “big question for fixed-income markets in 2020 is whether it could happen in the U.S., too.” Bond yields fall when their prices rise, and in August investors piled heavily into U.S. Treasuries, driving yields on the benchmark 10-year bond to a three-year low of 1.43% by early September. Yields have climbed back some since that time, to around 1.8%, but investors are still getting a razor-thin income for lending to the U.S. government. There are several reasons why that matters, the report says. First, the yields on these bonds help set the pace for long-term borrowing costs throughout the economy — but they also reflect investors’ sentiments about the economy. “And the story these low yields tell isn’t rosy,” Bloomberg says. One force pulling down bond yields has been the U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent cuts in key short-term interest rates that are added to stimulate the U.S. economy — in part because it’s worried about a slowdown in global growth. Meanwhile, the fact that 10-year bond investors are willing to be paid so little suggests they have little fear of inflation, which usually goes hand in hand with a strong expansion. If the Fed keeps cutting short-term rates back to near zero, where they were from late 2008 to 2015, and also restarts quantitative easing, “negative yields on U.S. Treasuries could swiftly change from theory to reality,” Joachim Fels, global economic adviser at Pacific Investment Management Co., said. Still, that scenario is an “outside shot,” Bloomberg says. Futures markets are anticipating more Fed rate-cutting, perhaps as soon as late October. But zero is several normal-size cuts of 0.25% away. Even more than usual, the direction of rates may depend on global politics. Bruno Braizinha, U.S. rates strategist for Bank of America Corp., says he sees “meaningful” risks to the economic outlook and even a chance that the 10-year yield may hover near zero by the end of 2020—but that a signed U.S.-China trade deal could go a long way toward halting that momentum. However, JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategist Jan Loeys foresees the possibility of the benchmark yield reaching zero by 2021, a full year quicker than he previously thought, citing trade tensions and worries about capital spending. Others think a big drop in yields from here may be hard to get. Margaret Steinbach, a fixed-income investment specialist at Capital Group, says, “Global investors are trying to figure out if we are in a midcycle slowdown heading into next year or the beginning of a more protracted downturn. In addition to borrowers, one more group should be paying attention to yields: investors in fixed-income funds. Since the drop in yields has gone along with rising values for existing bonds, many funds have recently enjoyed strong returns and that would continue if the march toward zero resumes. If the economy finds its footing and yields stabilize—or rise—gains like that will be a thing of the past. Still, consumers appear to be buoying up the economy — and are accounting for almost 70% of the U.S. economy — higher than in almost every other country. And while the propensity of Americans to shop has long been crucial for economic growth, it’s particularly the case now. That’s because companies have pulled back, hiring at a slower pace and postponing long-term investments, and business spending declined earlier this year for the first time since 2016. Manufacturing, which was booming two years ago, is constrained after contracting earlier this year. A good deal of the blame appears to fall on the Trump administration’s trade wars, which have increased costs and created uncertainty for businesses. Also, a “strong” dollar hasn’t helped. Despite all that, the overwhelming majority of economists, including Bloomberg’s, aren’t predicting a recession in the next 12 months. They are counting on Americans to keep spending—as in 2015 and 2016 when they powered the economy through weakness in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Continued strong household consumption reflects a simple reality, according to James Sweeney, chief economist at Credit Suisse Group AG. “Households are employed, and their incomes are growing,” he says. And inflation isn’t eating away at those gains and consumer confidence is near historic highs. Still, some analysts are emphasizing the economic “cracks,” Bloomberg notes and emphasizes that “more people are hunting for bargains now, which could foreshadow a pullback. There’s weakness across some discretionary sectors and prices in once-hot markets such as Los Angeles and New York are stagnant or in decline. Americans also have loaded up on credit card debt. “It’s just a matter of time until it catches up with people,” says Shah, who reckons that some 40% are on the edge of having to cut back on spending. So, we will see. The current outlook is increasingly complex, with many, many moving parts and an unusually complicated array of stake holders. Thus, although the situation remains extremely difficult, it is one producers should watch closely as these trends emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 25, 2019 |


Groups Express Dismay at Additional Brazil Moves on Ethanol Imports U.S. ethanol and corn interests are expressing even more disappointment at Brazilian decisions relative to their imports of U.S. ethanol. On August 31, Brazil announced it was increasing the tariff-free quota for imports of U.S. ethanol to 750 million liters (198 million gallons) from a prior 600 million liters (158 million gallons). Imports above that level would be subject to a 20% import tariff. Last week, Brazil also introduced a seasonality clause for the imports, saying that from Aug. 31, 2019 through Feb. 29, 2020, another 200 million liters (53 million gallons) could be imported without the 20% tariff, with 275 million liters (73 million gallons) able to imported each quarter without the tariff from March 1, to August 31, 2020. The quota reflects the cycle of when Brazilian producers are producing more domestic ethanol, according to the U.S. Grains Council. While expressing disappointment earlier this fall that the tariff-free quota was not eliminated and only increased, now U.S. interests complain the latest move to include seasonality provisions further restricts U.S. shipments. “The decision by Brazil to place seasonal restrictions on its tariff rate quota for U.S. ethanol is disappointing and puts up additional roadblocks to free trade, hurting consumers and our respective ethanol industries,” the U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association said in a joint statement. “The action by Brazil to impose seasonal restrictions on the sale of ethanol does not create a case study in leading by example, but rather the opposite - it is up-ending real opportunities for free trade.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 25, 2019 |


Grassley Accuses Democrats of Foot Dragging On USMCA House Democrats appear to be “foot-dragging” relative to the approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in remarks Wednesday in the Senate floor. “The Democratically controlled House of Representatives looks increasingly less likely to act this year on USMCA,” Grassley stated. “That threatens passage of the trilateral trade deal this Congress, as next year is a presidential election year.” Even though a group of House Democrats have been meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and staff-level discussions have been taking place, Grassley questioned “how long” it will take to get a resolution on the issues Democrats want addressed. Grassley noted there has been no “date or timeline” for concluding those talks. “With every passing month, these seem less like good-faith assurances, and more like stalling tactics,” he alleged. “I am beginning to wonder if Democrats are interested in reaching a compromise at all. It’s looking more like they would prefer to deprive the administration of a victory, even if it comes at the expense of the American people.” Grassley’s comments come despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Democrats want to get to “yes” on the trade pact as it is a positive overall for the U.S.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 25, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets Friday is a quiet day for reports with an index of U.S. consumer sentiment due out at 9 a.m. CDT. At 2 p.m. CDT, USDA will release its monthly cattle on-feed report for October 1. September placements are expected to be slightly higher, but the on-feed total down 1% from a year ago. DTN continues to sort the wheat from the chaff where it comes to rumors of Chinese ag purchases. Weather Dry and cool conditions in northern and central crop areas Friday will offer harvest progress. Rain will focus on the Delta and Deep South.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 24, 2019 |


Coalition Challenges EPA on 2018 Refinery Waivers A coalition of renewable fuels and agricultural trade organizations filed a petition with the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals on Tuesday. The petition challenges the process the Environmental Protection Agency uses to exempt certain unknown small refineries from their respective obligations under the Renewable Fuels Standard in 2018. The coalition includes American Coalition for Ethanol, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and Renewable Fuels Association. In the petition, the coalition noted that the EPA’s document outlining the waiver decisions was just two pages long. These two pages outlined the reasons behind granting 36 waiver exemptions to small refineries that didn’t then have to blend approximately 1.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel. The document doesn’t reveal details and contains just “bare-bones” reasoning behind the decisions. Furthermore, the groups point out that the decision didn’t even address whether or not the refineries were eligible for the exemptions. It also didn’t include an analysis of “disproportionate economic hardship” as the statute requires. The coalition says, “Even as the Trump Administration indicates it’s taking steps to account for future small refinery exemptions, the coalition remains concerned that the EPA’s abuse of the small refinery exemption program diverges from the spirit and letter of the Clean Air Act.” ********************************************************************************************** Grassley; Losing Hope on USMCA Passage This Year Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley of Iowa says he’s “very worried about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement for the first time.” He tells Politico that he’s pessimistic that Congress will sign off on the deal before the end of this year. Grassley has maintained an optimistic outlook for some time as the Trump administration negotiated with House Democrats on potential changes to the deal. However, Politico says talks are stretching into month number four, and with only 22 legislative days left in 2019, Grassley is losing faith. He’s also asking U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to not cave into Democrat demands. He says changing the trade deal’s labor, environmental, enforcement, and prescription drug provisions too much could put Republican support for the pact in jeopardy. As recently as July, Grassley had said he was “optimistic” after a 30-minute meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Trump Administration’s trade boss is scheduled to meet again with House Democrats this week in continuing efforts to push the legislation through Congress and get it to the president’s desk for his signature. ********************************************************************************************** Judge Says Amendment to U.S.-Mexico Sugar Deal is “Unlawful” A judge with the U.S. Court of International Trade struck down a sugar trade pact between the U.S. and Mexico that was renegotiated by the Trump Administration in 2017. Nasdaq Dot Com says the judge ruled the decision to amend a previous agreement between the two nations was unlawful. Specifically, Judge Leo M. Gordon says the U.S. Commerce Department’s determination to amend an agreement that suspended U.S. countervailing duties on Mexican sugar imports was unlawful. The Trump Administration’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, had redone the 2014 trade deal, which some U.S. companies said had curtailed their sugar supplies. Trump said on Twitter back in 2017 that the agreement was “a very good one for both Mexico and the U.S.” A U.S. sugar company had challenged the 2017 amended agreement, alleging that competitors were using the trade talks to deny it access to cheap Mexican sugar imports. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s failure to maintain full records of all its meetings cannot be described as “harmless,” the judge said in his ruling. The decision will revert sugar trade terms between the U.S. and Mexico back to the 2014 agreement, and it marks a blow to the Trump Administration by overturning its very first trade agreement. ********************************************************************************************* Missouri Cattle Deal Leads to Murder of Wisconsin Brothers A Missouri man at the center of an investigation into the disappearance of two brothers from Wisconsin has been charged with murdering both of them. The brothers, Nick and Justin Diemel (DEE-mul), were visiting Garland Joseph Nelson on cattle business. They traveled to Missouri to collect a $250,000 check from Nelson for cattle that were currently in Nelson’s care. Nick Diemel, age 35, and Justin, 24 years old, were in Missouri when they went missing on July 21 after not making their return flight to Wisconsin. KMBC Dot Com says after the brothers were reported missing, police say Nelson gave different explanations of events that were an attempt to keep them from locating the missing brothers. In a court affidavit, authorities believe that Nick and Justin Diemel never left Nelson’s property and were killed there. Authorities found bloodstains on clothing belonging to Nelson, and DNA testing confirmed the blood was Nick Diemel’s. Nelson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, abandonment of a corpse, tampering with physical evidence, unlawful possession of a firearm, as well as an armed criminal action. ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Fights for Truth in Labeling The United States Cattlemen filed a petition for rulemaking with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to address “Product of the USA” and “Made in the USA” claims on U.S. beef. The USCA says since the repeal of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) back in 2015, there is no clear definition of what constitutes a U.S. beef product. Cattle or beef imported into the U.S. that undergoes further processing or handling at a USDA-inspected facility can then be labeled as a “Product of the United States.” That’s even if the handling of the product inside U.S. borders was minimal. The petition says, “To eliminate the likelihood of confusion and to better inform consumers, USCA contends that voluntary labels indicating ‘Made in the USA,’ ‘Product of the USA,’ or similar content should be limited to beef from cattle born, raised, and harvested in the United States.” U.S. Cattlemen’s founding members were the first proponents of Country of Origin Labeling in the 2002 Farm Bill. The organization says it remains steadfast in its support for a truthful and transparent labeling program for U.S. beef products. ********************************************************************************************** CoBank: Hemp Offers Big Risks, Big Rewards to Agriculture Since the 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, agriculture has never been more interested in adding hemp to its crop rotations. A lot of available information says there’s a large financial upside to the industry. Producers responded to that by tripling hemp acreage between 2017 and 2018. However, CoBank says that false, outdated, biased, or contradictory information can make it difficult to navigate the industry. CoBank’s Knowledge Division released a report that includes nine risks or uncertainties that face each of hemp’s three crops and markets, which include fiber, grain/seed, and CBD production. Crystal Carpenter, a specialty crop analyst, says,” Overall, CBD production has the highest level of risk across the board due to a range of factors. The industry could face many headwinds from seed quality, labor costs and availability, THC limit risks, as well as long-term acceptance by the Food and Drug Administration.” Carpenter adds that the risks of a new industry like hemp are compounded by potential legal and regulatory hurdles. The USDA is expected to release hemp regulations and guidance soon. The timing of future FDA regulation will be critical to long-term demand for CBD.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 24, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Testing Fake Burgers If you think these are confusing times, you would both be right and have company. For example, a central idea of the food elitists in recent years has been built on commitments to the most natural, the simplest, the most traditional—and the least processed. All else was suspect, at the very least. So, how are we to interpret the recent tidal wave of market interest, as well as intense and approving reports in the urban press for the new “fake meat?” It is claimed to be a way to deal with global warming—based on extremely controversial claims by manufacturers and supporters and by the press including high profile urban magazines and dailies. And it is credited with many desirable characteristics, these reviews say, including its “almost meat” taste. So, it probably was inevitable that some group would run a test, and the New York Times reported just that this week. The report said that new generation of veggie burgers aims to replace the beefy original with “fake meat or fresher vegetables.” The report included a “blind tasting of six top contenders.” The article says that in only two years, food technology has moved consumers from browsing for wan “veggie patties” in the frozen aisle to selecting fresh “plant-based burgers” sold next to the ground beef. The Times says there is still a fight going on behind the scenes at the supermarket as meat producers sue to have the words “meat” and “burger” restricted to their own products as government standards have traditionally done. Even so, makers of meat alternatives like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are vying to claim growing shares of the global fast-food market as big players like Tyson and Perdue join the fray. However, some stakeholders are less enthusiastic – environmental and food scientists are insisting that we eat more plants and less processed food, while many vegetarians and vegans say the goal is to break the habit of eating meat, not feed it with surrogates. “I would still prefer to eat something that’s not lab-grown,” said Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the chef at the vegan restaurant Modern Love in Omaha, where her own burger is the most popular dish on the menu. “But it’s better for people and for the planet to eat one of those burgers instead of meat every day, if that’s what they are going to do anyway.” The new refrigerator-case “meat” products already comprise one of the fastest-growing segments of the food industry, the Times says. Some products are “proudly high-tech,” the Times notes, assembled from an array of starches, fats, salts, sweeteners and synthetic umami-rich proteins. They are made possible by new technologies that, for example, whip coconut oil and cocoa butter into tiny globules of white fat that give the Beyond Burger the marbled appearance of ground beef. Others are resolutely simple, based on whole grains and vegetables and reverse-engineered with ingredients like yeast extract and barley malt to be crustier, browner and juicier than their frozen veggie-burger predecessors. At the same time, some consumers are turning away from those familiar products, not only because of the taste, but because they are most often made with highly processed ingredients, the Times says. But how do all the newcomers perform? The Times restaurant critic and its cooking columnist lined up both kinds of new vegan burgers for a blind tasting of six national brands. Though many people have already tasted these burgers in restaurants, the Times said it aimed to replicate “the experience of a home cook with children.” In fact, the test produced a winner although it reported that it had a fairly high cost of almost $9 for a 12-ounce package. The test notes said that the winner had a “brawny flavor,” that convinced some of the children that it was real and that it “quite successfully replicates the bloody look and taste of a rare burger.” But meat it was not. The article say the ingredient list included water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, natural flavors, 2 percent or less of: potato protein, methylcellulose, yeast extract, cultured dextrose, food starch-modified, soy leghemoglobin, salt, soy protein isolate, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), zinc gluconate, thiamine hydrochloride (vitamin B1), sodium ascorbate (vitamin C), niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12. The other, lesser ranked products differed in several ways, including whether or not they included GMOs, a somewhat odd criterion. They generally cost between $4 and $6 for two four-ounce patties. Several of the “fake burgers” were less aimed at seeming like traditional burgers than at being better “artificial burgers.” So, we will see. It seems certain that the move to acceptance for a totally processed product will prove harder for the food elitists to accept than it has seemed so far and the product cost may discourage consumption for some – although cost has not slowed acceptance of organic products nearly as much as some expected. How well the products, with all their varied ingredients, fare under the microscopes of nutritionists and other analysts; and, how acceptable the corporate provenance of the manufacturers proves to be in the longer term may be a factor, as well. One thing is clear; these competitors are real, often well-funded, and seriously intend to take traditional markets wherever they can, and producers should watch their investments closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 24, 2019 |


Suit Filed on EPA’s 2018 Small Refinery Waiver Actions A suit has been filed by a coalition of biofuel supporters over the EPA rationale for granting small refinery exemptions (SREs) for the 2018 compliance year. The lawsuit was filed with the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The groups cited an August 9 document from EPA detailing its rationale for resolving 36 SREs for 2018 in their lawsuit. “Unlike previous years, EPA’s entire decision document was only two pages long… In these short two pages, EPA purported to resolve 36 pending petitions for disproportionate economic hardship exemptions — a decision that exempted small refineries from having to blend almost one and a half billion gallons of renewable fuel,” the coalition wrote in a joint release. In the document, EPA explained that it granted full exemptions in cases where the Department of Energy had recommended only partial waivers. The court challenge was filed by American Coalition for Ethanol, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board (NBB), National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), National Farmers Union (NFU) and Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 24, 2019 |


House Panel Plans Hearing On RFS Small Refiner Waivers A House Energy & Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the Trump administration’s use of small refinery exemptions (SREs) relative to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and the chairman of the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee, Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Ill., said in a statement that “the Trump administration’s abuse of EPA’s waiver authority is undermining the RFS program and devastating the renewable fuel industry.” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., welcomed the hearing. "Our farmers and rural communities rely on the RFS for their economic viability, and EPA’s actions have done nothing but provide uncertainty and the potential for economic ruin," Peterson said. It is not yet clear who will be testifying on behalf of the administration.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 24, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday's reports start at 7:30 a.m. CDT with weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims, U.S. durable goods orders and an updated U.S. Drought Monitor all due out at the same time. U.S. new home sales are released at 9 a.m. CDT, followed by natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. Weather remains critical with a wider coverage of freezing temperatures entering the latest forecasts. Weather Thursday will be rainy with some snow in the Southern Plains. Other crop areas will be dry. A cold temperature pattern will begin spreading over northern and central areas.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 23, 2019 |


EPA Finalizes Rule to Repeal WOTUS The Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday published the final rule repealing the Waters of the U.S. rule. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers effort repeals and returns the law to provisions in place prior to 2015. The new rule will go into effect on December 23, 2019. However, legal challenges are expected from environmental groups. First announced in September, the American Farm Bureau Federation at the time called the rule a victory for farmers and ranchers. The EPA attributed the repeal to four factors. First, the agency says the 2015 rule did not implement the legal limits on the scope of the agency authority under the Clean Water Act as intended by Congress. EPA also says the Obama-era rulemaking failed to adequately consider states’ rights. The repeal is an effort by the EPA to avoid interpretations of the Clean Water Act that “push the envelope of their constitutional and statutory authority.” Lastly, the EPA and Army Corps conclude that the 2015 Rule’s distance-based limitations suffered from “certain procedural errors” and a lack of adequate record support. ************************************************************************************* EPA’s Wheeler: Response to RFS Proposal a “Knee Jerk” Reaction Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler this week downplayed criticism towards the EPA's small refinery exemptions proposal. Wheeler told reporters, "I think a lot of people who had a knee jerk reaction" because the rule "wasn't exactly what they were expecting," according to Politico. Wheeler, along with President Donald Trump, this week reiterated that the proposal would get the Renewable Fuel Standard to the 15 billion gallons of ethanol, as per requirements of the law. President Trump claimed during a Cabinet meeting Monday the rule was “fully approved,” while Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue suggested agriculture was confused about the new rule. Perdue stated, “Once they fully understand what you’ve done here, they’ll be fine as they see it implemented.” The ethanol industry called the rule a “bait and switch” attempt to avoid fixing demand problems created by an excess of small refinery waivers issued by the Trump administration. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says the proposal “will do nothing to bring back the ethanol plants that have shut down.” ************************************************************************************* USDA Announces More Rural Broadband Investments The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced investments into a $9.7 million high-speed broadband project in South Carolina. The project will create or improve rural connectivity for 3,900 rural households in the state, and is part of the USDA ReConnect Pilot Program. USDA last Friday announced the first investment in the program, funding a $2.8 million infrastructure project in Tennessee to improve broadband access for nearly 350 households. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says of the program, “We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-Connectivity.” In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. Secretary Perdue announced the program in December 2018, called “ReConnect,” to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. USDA received 146 applications this summer, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. ************************************************************************************* NCBA Applauds Livestock Risk Management and Education Act The cattle industry welcomed legislation introduced this week that would provide grants to certain state land-grant universities to better equip livestock producers with risk management training. South Dakota Republican Representative Dusty Johnson this week introduced the Livestock Risk Management and Education Act in the House of Representatives. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says the bill “speaks directly to our core values as an industry,” adding the legislation gives producers the latest farm management resources and tools to help them navigate dynamic markets. NCBA announced support for the bill following its introduction. The legislation would authorize the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to provide resources to improve livestock producers’ knowledge of futures markets, and to help them better manage market volatility. Representative Johnson says an understanding of futures contracts and risk management strategies will allow producers to better anticipate cattle prices. Republican Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma joined Johnson in introducing the bill. ************************************************************************************* Legislation Introduced to Help Support Rural Hospitals New legislation in the Senate would support rural health care providers to deliver high-quality care. Introduced by Kansas Republican Pat Roberts and Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. the Rural ACO Improvement Act would fix a glitch in the program, according to the lawmakers. The legislation would change the accountable care organizations, or ACO, reimbursement formula which inadvertently punishes rural health care providers when they reduce costs. The bill would put rural providers on a level playing field with their urban counterparts and ensure that all providers are rewarded equally for their work to deliver value in health care. ACOs are made up of groups of health care providers that share responsibility for providing coordinated care to patients to improve health care quality and reduce unnecessary spending. When ACO providers work together to improve care and lower costs below what Medicare expected to spend, Medicare saves money. The health care providers in ACOs are then able to receive a share of those savings. ************************************************************************************* USDA Publishes Pumpkin Production With Halloween approaching, many consumers are searching for the nearest pumpkin patch. Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture just updated pumpkin production data, showing production is widely dispersed throughout the United States. All U.S. states produce some pumpkins, but according to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture, about 62 percent of pumpkin acres were grown in only ten States. Illinois is consistently the nation's largest producer of pumpkins, the majority of which are used for pies and other processed foods. Pumpkin production from the other states surveyed annually by USDA is primarily destined for decorative, or carving, use. While 2019 production has not yet been surveyed, early feedback indicates an average year for Illinois and California with a healthy crop. Retail prices for pumpkins typically fluctuate from week to week leading up to Halloween. At the end of the first week of October, average retail price for jack-o-lantern style pumpkins was $3.42 per pumpkin compared to $3.32 for the same week in 2018.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 23, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Brighter Trade Outlook President Donald Trump told the Cabinet on Monday that “negotiations over an initial trade deal [with China] are advancing and raising expectations” and that a trade deal could be signed at a global leaders’ meeting next month in Chile.” For example, Bloomberg quoted the President as telling the Cabinet, “they have started the buying,” during Monday’s White House meeting, referring to Chinese purchases of U.S. agriculture products that he has pushed as part of a deal. “I want more,” he added. Earlier in the week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that it was more important to get details of the agreement right than it was for the President to sign it at an expected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month. Stocks in Asia gained Tuesday as positive signs regarding the trade talks emerged ahead of earnings from some of the world’s biggest companies. S&P 500 futures rose suggesting there is scope for the underlying gauge to extend gains after it surpassed 3,000. Ross also said on TV that the “actual meat” of the agreement would come in two additional phases yet to be completed. While the White House touted a preliminary agreement earlier this month, officials in Beijing have yet to confirm that anything is set in stone. U.S. officials say they expect China to significantly increase purchases of American agricultural commodities and agree to some intellectual property, financial services, and currency concessions. In exchange, the U.S. paused a tariff increase due to hit in the middle of October, just ahead of Christmas shopping season. The agreement is being seen by some observers as a pause in the 18-month trade war that has hurt the economies of both countries – but which falls short of the dramatic overhaul of Chinese economic policy the administration has sought. The agreement also doesn’t address Huawei Technologies Co., which has pushed forward with a global effort to sign 5G commercial contracts even as the U.S. seeks to persuade other countries to blacklist the firm. In addition, Reuters was reporting earlier in the week that India’s Trade Minister Piyush Goyal had said that the broad outline of a trade deal with the United States has been worked out. He suggested that an announcement would follow soon. The two countries have been locked in trade disputes for months, “slapping higher tariffs on each other’s products and the U.S. withdrawing a key concession to India,” Reuters said. Washington has been especially concerned about Indian policies that mandate foreign firms to store more data locally and restrict the way U.S. e-commerce giants such as Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon.com operate. Goyal told a business conference that he was hoping to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer soon. “We have almost resolved the broad contours of what we are going to announce. I don’t see any great difficulty in closing the gap on the first announcement,” Goyal said at the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF). The deal under discussion includes lowering tariffs on U.S. farm produce while giving Indian pharmaceuticals faster approval to enter the U.S. market. India dominates the world’s generic drugs market and the United States is among its top importers. “With regards to the trade talks between India and the U.S., the Commerce and Industry Minister said that things are on the right track and India is looking to the U.S. for technology, innovation, skills and quality education,” a government statement quoted Goyal as saying. According to USISPF estimates, India-U.S. bilateral trade is projected to grow to $238 billion by 2025 from $142.1 billion in 2018. The expected boosts in trade and investments are expected to include sectors such as defense, commercial aircrafts, oil and LNG, coal, machinery and electronics, Reuters said. India is aiming to promote automotive, pharmaceuticals, seafood, IT and travel services to the U.S. market. Goyal indicated that India and the U.S. “must look at a larger trade agreement,” the government statement said, without elaboration. So, we will see. Clearly, the negotiating progress in these talks being pointed to is in early, vulnerable stages similar to those in which disruptions have come before with little warning. But even fragile signs of agreement are better than the alternative and should continue to be watched closely as they approach completion, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 23, 2019 |


Repeal of Obama-Era WOTUS Rule Published The rule to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule has been published in the Federal Register by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agencies said they were taking the action as they view the 2015 rule as not implementing legal limits on the scope of the agencies’ authority, the 2015 rule did not give Congress adequate weight in the process, that the 2015 rule and more. The final rule from the agencies indicates that the 2015 WOTUS rule will be replaced with the portions of law under the Clean Water Act that “existed before the amendments promulgated in the 2015 rule.” The action will become effective December 23. EPA and the Corps are also continuing to work on a replacement for the 2015 WOTUS rule.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 23, 2019 |


Commerce Reopens Dumping Probe On Imports of Mexican Tomatoes The Commerce Department is reactivating an anti-dumping case against tomato imports from Mexico, just one month after signing a deal to resolve the dispute. The suspension agreement reached remains in effect, Commerce said Monday. The investigation was continued at the request of Red Sun Farms and the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE). The antidumping investigation by Commerce’s U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) had been nearly complete when it was shelved after a new suspension agreement was reached August 20 and finalized September 19. FTE said it was requesting the investigation be reopened amid evidence the Mexican tomato industry was looking to launch legal challenges to the new agreement and could even seek to withdraw from it. Commerce is required under the Tariff Act of 1930 to resume the antidumping investigation upon the request of interested parties when there is a suspension agreement in place. The USITC will hold a public hearing on the situation October 24.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 23, 2019 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets The U.S. Department of Energy will release the only report Wednesday, its weekly energy inventories at 9:30 a.m. CDT, which includes ethanol. The latest weather forecasts and any trade news with China also remains interesting for markets, while row crops work through a slow harvest pace. Weather Rain and snow are in store for the northern Plains Wednesday, disrupting harvest. Dry conditions elsewhere will favor progress. Temperatures will be chilly north and mild south.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 22, 2019 |


Mexico: USMCA Would Provide Certainty in Global Trade A government official from Mexico says global trade uncertainty is another reason the U.S. and Canada should ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Mexico’s Finance Minister last week noted global trade was a common topic during the fall meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington. Arturo (Are-tur-roh) Herrera says that in a world that is "probably facing some uncertainties for a while," USMCA is "going to help attract investments to the region," according to Reuters. Herrera says the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, now 15 months long, is partly to blame for a sharp slowdown in global growth. USCMA replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement and was ratified by Mexico this summer. The U.S. and Canada have yet to ratify the agreement, and some fear if Congress doesn't act soon, the deal will be stalled by the 2020 elections. Democrats in the House of Representatives are set to continue negotiations with the White House this week. However, Congress is running out of working days to pass the agreement this year. ************************************************************************************* Ross: China Phase One Must be Right Agreement U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Monday suggested the phase one agreement with China doesn’t have to be ready to sign next month. Speaking on Fox Business Network, Ross says, “It has to be the right deal, and it doesn’t have to be in November.” President Donald Trump has indicated the deal would be ready to sign at the November APEC summit. The agreement includes the intent by China to purchase up to $50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods over the next two years. However, China has said it won’t move forward with significant purchases unless Trump agrees to cancel a planned round of tariff increases set for December. The comments from Ross seem to suggest the phase one agreement may not be as solid as previously portrayed. Agriculture is described best as cautiously optimistic that the phase one agreement can be completed, and that China massively increases its purchases of U.S. farm products. However, China recently purchased soybeans from Brazil, an uncharacteristic move for this time of year. ************************************************************************************* Democrats Switch Focus on USDA Moves Key Democrats in Congress appear to be shifting focus on the Department of Agriculture agency relocations. USDA is moving the Economic Research Service and National Institute for Food and Agriculture to the Kansas City region, and many employees are fleeing. Last week, Democrats in the House of Representatives announced they are still “upset” with the relocation, but are now focused on making sure the agencies continue to do their jobs, according to the Hagstrom report. Stacy Plaskett, a Democrat from the U.S. Virgin Islands, chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research. During a hearing, Plaskett noted that ERS has appropriated funding to support 329 employees, but currently, a total of 214 positions are vacant, a vacancy rate of 65 percent. At NIFA, 264 of 344 jobs are currently vacant, a vacancy rate of over 76 percent. She told a USDA representative she expects "ERS and NIFA to quickly be restored to their former prominence.” While the agency moves are underway, USDA has yet to announce permanent office space locations for either agency. ************************************************************************************* GasBuddy: China/U.S. Talks Behind Gas Price Volatility Average fuel prices declined slightly again for the second straight week as farmers attempt to harvest their crops. The national average price of gasoline posting a drop of 0.7 cents over the last week to $2.63 per gallon according to GasBuddy data. Meanwhile, the average price of diesel fell 1.1 cents to $2.98 per gallon. While farmers are in the fields and dealing with trade uncertainties and a challenging harvest, GasBuddy says the ongoing trade war with China is providing more overall volatility to gas and crude oil markets, at a time of year when the market typically sees prices steadily fall. Patrick DeHaan (De-hawn), head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, says “I can’t remember an autumn where we saw so many factors that could impact prices so quickly and in such different directions,” adding “expect this roller coaster to continue.” Meanwhile, data from the Energy Information Administration showed oil inventories surging nearly ten million barrels as refined products inventories moved lower as refinery maintenance season continues. ************************************************************************************* Beef Industry Long Range Plan Task Force Begins Year-long Process The Beef Checkoff is undergoing a year-long process to determine direction for the organization over the next five years. The long-range strategic planning process for the beef industry is underway, a process that pulls together key leaders from all over the country representing different sectors of the beef business. Updated every five years, the Beef Industry Long Range Plan is the standard the beef checkoff focuses on as one strategic direction, identifying key areas to advance beef demand. Since 1995, industry leaders have gathered to develop an aligned, comprehensive plan with the goal of increasing consumer demand for beef. The leaders are brought together to study and compile major areas of opportunity for the next five years. The current plan, in place since 2016, focuses on increasing beef demand and growing consumer trust. The newly appointed committee will convene over the next several months and consider all aspects of the industry from production trends, economic factors, foreign markets, consumer trends, and the competitive climate. ************************************************************************************* USDA Honors 25 Years of Tribal Land-Grant Universities The Department of Agriculture Monday honored the 25th anniversary of legislation that recognized 29 tribal colleges and universities as land-grant institutions. Signed on October 20, 1994, the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act enabled tribal colleges and universities to receive federal support and train the next generation of agricultural professionals. Mike Beatty, Director of USDA's Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, says, "Tribal colleges and universities draw on the strength of traditions while preparing graduates who can contribute to their communities." USDA says tribal colleges and universities play a significant role among tribal nations. Today there are 36 federally recognized tribal colleges and universities designated as land-grants. The 1994 institutions are the latest additions to the land-grant university system. The Morrill Act of 1862 created land-grant institutions to give working-class citizens equal access to higher education, focusing on agriculture and mechanical arts. A second Morrill Act of 1890 authorized land-grant institutions for African Americans.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 22, 2019 |


Washington Insider: US Diplomatic Corps Problems and Concerns Usually there is not a great deal of sympathy in Washington for the State Department’s diplomats who are often seen as detached and sometimes condescending. However, in a somewhat unusual take on current Washington goings on, The Hill is reporting this week that the administration's perennial push for steep budget cuts has led to a large exodus of experienced senior staffers and assertions of mistrust there that have has sent morale to an unprecedented low. For example, the President fired a senior diplomat “after a whisper campaign mounted by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani” – and abandoned steadfast allies in the Middle East at the behest of Turkey's government, The Hill said. The “weight of those events is taking a startling and measurable toll” on American foreign relations and on the diplomats’ ability to carry out policy. The diplomats themselves are increasingly concerned that the White House and senior State Department leadership “do not have their backs,” particularly after the “whisper campaign” that ended in the recall of Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, The Hill said. In interviews, half a dozen current and former senior foreign service officers told The Hill that experiences over the last few weeks have undermined what little faith they had left in the Secretary of State. Secretary Pompeo arrived in Foggy Bottom after “a trying year under his predecessor who tried to slash his own budget and let senior civil and foreign service members walk out the door,” The Hill sources said. Former Secretary Rex Tillerson’s proposed cuts were so dramatic that Congress refused to allow them. Secretary Pompeo and his top deputy held several town-hall meetings and distributed videos of his foreign trips in an effort to rebuild the State Department’s “swagger.” When he came in, “people were absolutely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt,” said Laura Kennedy, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs in the George Bush administration. Now, however, the Secretary’s alliance with the President is increasingly seen as having come at the cost of his ties with career officials. He participated in the July 25 phone call between the President and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – when President Trump promised that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.” Last Wednesday, Secretary Pompeo’s former top aide, Michael McKinley, told House lawmakers that Pompeo “did nothing” when McKinley urged him to offer Yovanovitch a show of public support. Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, the Secretary said on TV and when a president loses confidence in an ambassador it's not in the best interests of that ambassador, the State Department or America for them to continue to stay in their post. Still, current and former officials have panned Pompeo's handling of the situation, The Hill said. “The irony of the White House phone call was that rooting out corruption has been at the heart of American policy toward Ukraine for years – and Ambassador Yovanovitch had made fighting corruption a cornerstone of her years in Kiev,” The Hill said. Now, some foreign service officers who pride themselves on carrying out orders from Washington, regardless of whether those orders are given by a Democratic or Republican administration, worry that “they serve at the pleasure of a president who views them as members of a so-called deep state.” Also, internal State Department tensions between political and career appointees are rising, The Hill said. Yovanovitch’s firing has underscored the tensions and a lack of trust between career officials and political appointees. Sources told The Hill, they “felt they were being scrutinized by political appointees who could report disloyalty to senior officials.” The staff reductions that began under Tillerson have left gaping holes that remain today, The Hill said. Eight of the 28 assistant secretary positions are headed by acting secretaries who have not been confirmed by the Senate. Two more are vacant. One of six undersecretaries is acting, and two more posts – overseeing public diplomacy and civilian security, democracy and human rights – are vacant. A number of bureaus are being run by career people, who have not been nominated to those jobs. “It sends a very strong signal of lack of trust and respect,” The Hill said. Amid the departure of experienced senior officers, and further White House efforts to slash the State Department's budget, The Hill found “worrying signs that the ranks of the foreign service are not being replenished.” The number of applicants who took the Foreign Service exam, the first step toward becoming a career foreign service officer, has fallen every year since 2009 – but the recent drops have been even more precipitous. In 2018, the number of people taking the FSO test was less than half the number who applied in 2013, according to the American Foreign Service Association. The ag attaches who play strong and continuing roles in support of U.S. ag product trade are very senior Foreign Service officials in many cases, and many operate very large programs – so the ag stake in a strong U.S. diplomatic corps is large. Any policy changes that could weaken that role, or the active presence of those officials in far flung foreign embassies should be watched closely by producers as this debate continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 22, 2019 |


Questions Continue On USDA Pork Export Sales Data USDA’s Weekly Export Sales report for the week ended October 10 included huge pork export sales figures, but USDA cautioned the data did not reflect purchases made just during the reporting week covered by the update. “The information in the export sales report for the week ending Oct. 10, 2019, accurately reflects what was reported to USDA by U.S. exporters. This week’s report includes a significant quantity of pork sales for the current marketing year that may have occurred in previous weeks but were not previously reported.” The agency has since said that if it happens again in the future, it will put a notation in the report explaining the situation.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 22, 2019 |


US, China Both Say Progress Being Made In Talks Officials from both the U.S. and China are indicating there has been progress on the phase one agreement between the two sides. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He offered positive signals that talks with the U.S. are making “concrete progress” and both sides are working toward a partial trade deal, but he added negotiations must be on an equal basis. “China and the U.S. have made substantial progress in many aspects and laid an important foundation for a phase one agreement,” Liu said at a virtual reality conference in Nanchang Saturday. He reiterated that China is “willing to work in concert with the U.S. to address each other’s core concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect.” Meanwhile, President Donald Trump Friday said he thinks a trade deal between the two countries will be signed by the time the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings take place in Chile on November 16-17. "I think it will get signed quite easily, hopefully by the summit in Chile, where President Xi and I will both be," Trump told reporters at the White House, without providing details. “We are working with China very well," Trump also said. Deputy-level talks have taken place already this week and top-level talks are expected later this week as the two sides keep working toward finalizing the phase one deal.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday October 22, 2019 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets As usual, Tuesday is a quiet day for reports, but U.S. existing home sales are due out at 9 a.m. CDT. At 2 p.m. CDT, USDA releases a monthly cold storage report of frozen meat inventories. Weather updates remain important for understanding harvest status and any trade news pertaining to China still gets attention. Weather Dry, breezy and cool conditions will cover most crop areas Tuesday. Rain will focus on the Great Lakes and Southeast. Harvest remains difficult in northern areas following heavy precipitation to start the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 21, 2019 |


Next Round of Trade Aid Is Still “TBD” The U.S. and China recently reached a partial trade deal that included the promise of large agricultural purchases by China. Because of that, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is deciding on whether or not it will go through with the next round of trade relief payments to farmers for their 2019 production. USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky tells Politico that the department is looking to make a final decision in the “very near future.” After a recent Senate Ag Committee hearing, Censky said, “I think we’re very much aware that producers have been impacted by the trade retaliation, they’ve been impacted by weather, and low incomes.” The Ag Department is currently dividing up the $14.5 billion it set aside for direct payments in three installments. The second and third rounds will be available in November and January if they’re needed. The Trump Administration claims that Beijing will soon ramp up its U.S. ag purchases to about $40 billion per year. That could make it more difficult for the USDA to justify giving out the remainder of the $14.5 billion set aside for this year’s direct aid program. ********************************************************************************************** Vietnam Trade Mission Already Generating New Sales Companies on a trade mission to Vietnam are reporting as much as $5 million in new sales. That report came in last week from USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney. McKinney says the new numbers come from just 14 of the 34 companies traveling with him and are the result of 665 meetings they held with buyers from Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. Other companies will be reporting new sales early this week. During a phone conference with reporters, McKinney said U.S. agricultural exports to Vietnam have grown “incredibly” since 1995 when the United States re-established diplomatic relations with Vietnam following the war. Back then, Vietnam ranked 95th in the listing of countries that imported food from the U.S. The Hagstrom Report says Vietnam now ranks number seven on that same list with $4.2 billion in imports. McKinney notes a lot of future potential for growth as 60 percent of the country’s population is under 30 years old. As an example of how the trade relationship has grown, McKinney says Vietnam has increased its imports of U.S. cotton to more than $1 billion per year. During the phone call from Vietnam, McKinney said the overall relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam is “really, really outstanding and getting better.” ********************************************************************************************** U.S., European Equipment Manufacturers Ask For Trade Negotiation The American Association of Equipment Manufacturers and the Committee for European Construction Equipment issued a joint statement asking American and European government leaders for a friendlier trade environment. After the recent World Trade Organization ruling on European Airbus subsidies, the U.S. announced tariffs of $7.5 million in European goods, including some construction equipment. “Equipment manufacturers in the U.S. are proud to stand with our European partners in calling on the U.S. and EU policymakers to affirm their commitment to a strong transatlantic relationship,” says Kip Eidenberg, AEM VP of Government Affairs. “Our partnership has brought considerable benefits to consumers, workers, and businesses of all sizes on both sides of the Atlantic.” He also says supply chains drive 80 percent of global trade, and tariffs on European manufacturing products will hurt American businesses that source parts and components from across the EU. “We’re asking Washington and Brussels to recognize the importance of our transatlantic alliance and the negative impacts that tariffs have on equipment manufacturers,” Eidenberg adds. ********************************************************************************************* Vietnam ASV Outbreak Slowing The government of Vietnam is urging its pig farmers to start rebuilding their herds as the spread of African Swine Fever is starting to show some signs of slowing down. Vietnamese officials are anticipating a surge in pork demand just in time for the Lunar New Year coming up in January. The disease was first detected back in February of this year and has since appeared in all 63 provinces across the country. Reuters said Vietnam was forced to cull more than five million pigs or roughly 18 percent of the total hog herd. That action has since driven up pork prices in the country nearly 70 percent. The head of the Vietnamese Department of Livestock Production tells Reuters that, “Farmers’ efforts to enhance hygienic conditions on farms have helped put a brake on the spread,” while adding that improving weather conditions have helped too. They’re also encouraging larger-size pork farms that meet hygiene requirements to expand their pig production efforts. Vietnamese government officials say the outbreak “has initially been contained and showing signs of slowing down,” but didn’t offer any extra details. While ASF is deadly to pigs and there is no available vaccine, the sickness isn’t harmful to human beings. ********************************************************************************************** Lawmakers Urge USDA to Prioritize CRP State Acres for Wildlife South Dakota Senator John Thune and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar led a bipartisan group asking USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize enrollment and implementation of the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative within the Conservation Reserve Program. The senators wrote a letter saying they’re “concerned that the decision to limit the practices and associated cost-share incentives available in recent continuous sign-ups, and excluding wildlife practices like SAFE, will decrease landowner interest in CRP and the overall effectiveness of the program.” They say the statutory purpose of CRP is to “conserve and improve the soil, water, and wildlife resources of enrolled land and address issues raised by state, regional, and national conservation initiatives.” The letter says land enrolled in SAFE serves as an example of how USDA, landowners, and other partners can work together to address all three resource concerns on the same acre of enrolled land. The letter to Perdue was signed by another 15 senators from both sides of the political aisle. ********************************************************************************************** USCA Says Washington Grizzly Bear “Restoration” Unnecessary The United States Cattlemen’s Association is less-than-thrilled with the North Cascades Mountain Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The plan seeks to bring in as many as 200 grizzly bears to the region, despite serious stakeholder concerns, especially when it comes to safety. USCA Public Lands Committee Co-Chair Jack Alexander says, “The original intent of the Endangered Species Act was to serve as a means of ensuring the survival of specific species that faced the serious threat of extinction. We have not yet witnessed the utilization of the law as a tool to promote range expansion for any non-threatened species, as is happening with this ‘plan.’” He points out that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the grizzly bear as a “Species of Least Concern,” due in no small part to its population of over 55,000 in North America. “In short, the basis for this ‘restoration plan’ fails to take into account local stakeholder concerns regarding the safety and well-being of their families, neighbors, and livestock,” Alexander says. “USCA wholly rejects the findings in the draft environmental impact statement and encourages the agencies to reconsider its ‘plan’ to attempt to ‘restore’ a grizzly bear population into the Northern Cascades Ecosystem.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 21, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Political Fights and Threats to the Congressional Schedule Political uncertainties of many kinds and types are rising just now, and not just in trade policy, the Washington Post reported over the weekend. The report said that Congress is "heading toward a multicar collision that could leave a lot of collateral damage if lawmakers aren't careful." It notes that the list of must-do items between now and year's end is "long and expansive, touching on every aspect of the federal government and beyond." One result, the Post says, is that while chances for a government shutdown before Thanksgiving were once thought impossible but now, with no progress reported on any of the 12 spending bills, "the risk grows each week." This could mean a showdown that would be "far more sweeping than the 35-day partial shutdown earlier this year," the Post said. In addition to the always tough budget fights, many non-budget Congressional authorities are expiring or lapsing, ranging from some foreign surveillance laws to the potential reinstatement of a very unpopular tax on medical devices. The result is that while the "rational minds" in Washington see each of these issues as separate and distinct from the impeachment fight, the administration "has increasingly demonstrated" in the past few weeks that it regularly sees issues as "one large negotiation, linking together seemingly disconnected threads into one massive ball of legislative wax." The article says the president's blowup with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Wednesday over the crisis in northern Syria was clearly linked to her threat to impeach the president. At his rally in Dallas on Thursday night, he presented a "greatest hits parade of issues" he has long pushed, especially border wall funding and grievances against his political opponents including Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who chairs the Democratic House Intelligence Committee. On Friday, at a photo opportunity to promote the first an all-female spacewalk, the president took a reporter's question about his acting chief of staff's conflicting answers on Ukraine policy and turned it into "a montage of ongoing crises." For example, he discussed his talks with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, about a pause on attacking Kurds in northern Syria, railed against the Schiff-led investigation and claimed to have "taken control" of oil in the Middle East, the Post said. This is leaving Congressional leaders "fearful that any of these must-pass bills could turn into a hostage situation" if the administration sees it as possible leverage against impeachment, the Post says. The article discussed several must-pass items developed by a political intelligence firm, Cowen Washington Research Group. It included several numerous controversial concerns, including completion of the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets Pentagon policy and has been approved every year since 1946 -- but also the 12 bills that fund all federal agencies, which expired Oct. 1 but have been given a temporary extension until Nov. 21. The list didn't include approving the a new North American trade pact—which both sides agree that waiting too far into next year will probably torpedo its chances of passing. The most obvious obstacle created by these political tensions is simply "time," the Post says. The House schedule already has two week-long breaks between now and Christmas, leaving fewer than 30 planned days in session -- with quite a few of those days actually half-days to allow for travel. The Speaker then must decide when to hold the House debate. At this time, she has not posted a deadline for completion, although most insiders believe it could wrap up by early February when voters start casting ballots in the 2020 presidential primary. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated that if the House votes to impeach before or right after Thanksgiving, he would like to use those next several weeks before Christmas to hold a Senate trial—which, by rule, would begin each day just after lunch, six days a week, the Post says. Technically, there would be a couple of hours each morning to process legislation, but it is likely that only "pretty noncontroversial bills" would be considered even if the usual long procedural votes and debate time were waived or shortened. In addition, some of the current must-pass legislation has potential for side confrontations. For example, the 2017 tax bill included $17 billion worth of breaks that will expire at year's end, including the paid family leave measure and legislation that ended a tax on medical devices that was originally imposed in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Under normal circumstances, those popular credits would just be extended. However, following Wednesday's blowup between the president and the speaker, the Cowen group's analysts warned that anything could happen. "From a domestic political perspective, recent events in Washington are likely to cast a negative pall over the remainder of the year," the Cowen analysts wrote last week. It is clear that political tensions are high and rising, especially those concerning trade but also many other economic policies as well -- issues that should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 21, 2019 |


Rep. Neal Pleased With USMCA Process So Far Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., outlining steps Mexico is taking to strengthen labor standards relative to the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). "I am very pleased with Mexico's demonstration of good faith," Neal said. He is among the Democrats working with the administration on USMCA issues. "Given the high labor and enforcement standards Democrats require from the new NAFTA agreement, I am eager to receive further details from USTR regarding the Trump administration's preparation to meet our priorities," Neal said in a statement. Neal met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and said that Democrats are still looking for assurances on enforcement. Asked whether the two sides might be able to reach a handshake deal by Thanksgiving, Neal replied: "I would like to think that, but I think that even based on what we discussed here today ... that there's still a ways to go." We expect the House will vote on USMCA most likely in December but it could still take place in November.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 21, 2019 |


USDA's Censky Says Remaining MFP Payments Decision Coming Soon USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky said $5.5 billion in Market Facilitation Program (MFP) 2 payments have been made to farmers since the Farm Service Agency began issuing checks the week of August 19. USDA is deciding whether to go through with the next installment of trade relief payments to farmers for 2019 production. Censky said the department is aiming to make a final call "in the very near future... I think we are very much aware that producers have been impacted by the trade retaliation, they have been impacted by the weather, low incomes," Censky said. MFP2 payments will potentially be in three installments: The first round became available over the summer, while the second and third tranches will be available in November and January, if warranted. Meanwhile, Senate Ag ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told Censky the trade mitigation program is upsetting the delicate balance lawmakers attempted to strike in the 2018 Farm Bill relative to spreading federal dollars evenly across the ag sector. Our expectation is the second and third installments of MFP2 payments will be made.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday October 21, 2019 |


Monday Watch List Markets Getting deeper into harvest season, traders will be watching the latest weather forecasts and checking USDA's Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. CDT for updates on row crop harvest progress and winter wheat planting. Weekly export inspections are due out at 10 a.m. CDT and any mention of trade negotiations with China still gets attention. Weather Showers and thunderstorms are in store for the Northern Plains, northern and eastern Midwest, and the Delta Monday, disrupting harvest. Dry and windy conditions elsewhere will favor harvest progress.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 18, 2019 |


China Confirms Phase One Agreement Ag Purchases Chinese officials confirmed this week they are working on finalizing a “phase one” agreement with President Donald Trump that includes significant purchases of U.S. ag products. An official from China’s Commerce Ministry confirmed the purchases to reporters, but did not provide details on how much U.S. ag products China will buy. The spokesperson says, “China will increase U.S. farm purchases based on domestic demand and market principles,” adding the U.S. will “provide favorable conditions.” China will move forward with the purchases if President Trump cancels a planned round of tariff increases in December. President Trump says the agreement included Chinese purchases of U.S. ag products worth $40-50 billion over the next two years, and suggested the initial agreement could be finished and signed next month. Agriculture is taking a wait and see approach. Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst told Yahoo! Finance, “The challenge we have is that we’ve been promised a lot of things throughout these negotiations and not all of them have come to fruition.” ************************************************************************************* U.S. Dairy Thanks Trump for EU Trade Tariffs The National Milk Producers Federation Thanked President Donald Trump for including European dairy products on a new tariff list. The organization Thursday sent a letter to Trump to “commend his Administration for its excellent judgment” for including the products. The tariffs stem from a U.S. World Trade Organization complaint about illegal subsidies to Airbus. The WTO approved the tariff list this week. However, Italy requested an agreement on a solution, rather than U.S. tariffs, during a White House visit. NMPF urged President Trump to stand with dairy farmers "and resist Italy's request that he side with the Italian farmers and cheesemakers who have blocked” U.S. cheeses from store shelves in the European Union. NMPF says the U.S. is running a $1.5 billion dairy trade deficit with Europe because of unfair trade practices that largely block U.S. access. EU policies such as Italian-initiated bans on American-made cheeses mean the EU can ship $1 billion in cheese each year while U.S. cheese exports to the EU are at $6 million. ************************************************************************************* Fed Beige Book: Farm Finances Deteriorating The Federal Reserve Bank’s Beige Book updated this week suggests farm financial conditions are deteriorating. The report, published eight times a year, says the agriculture sector remained weak, while crop and cattle prices remained relatively stable. Bankers reported modestly higher loan demand and an improvement in loan quality. However, many Midwest districts report lower crop production and yield forecast. Lenders remain concerned as the ongoing impacts of adverse weather, weak commodity prices and trade disruptions, will continue. However, the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank did note that the distribution of 2019 USDA trade relief payments could provide additional short-term support to farm cash flows. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reports lumber producers are scaling back due to lower exports, and apple growers report oversupply. And California farmland prices are decreasing due to current trade issues. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of Texas reported trade issues were still very prominent on the minds of agricultural producers, but some banks reported more optimism regarding a resolution. ************************************************************************************* Stabenow Questions USDA SNAP Change During Senate Hearing Senator Debbie Stabenow Thursday questioned the Department of Agriculture over its categorical eligibility rule proposal for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. USDA this week published an analysis finding the rule would remove nearly one million children from automatic enrollment for free school meals, and 40,000 would no longer be eligible for free meals. During a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on farm bill implementation, Stabenow alleged that USDA “has continued to ignore what we’ve put in the farm bill,” which she says rejected changes to SNAP. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Stephen Censky says the changes are to ensure “eligibility requirements are being enforced.” Censky cited criticism over USDA's handling of eligibility by the Government Accountability Office, adding USDA "needs to do a better job" of making sure eligibility requirements are being enforced, and that states are not finding loopholes to increase enrollment. Stabenow says the analysis published this week by USDA, is flawed, adding "I would strongly urge you to reconsider" the proposal. USDA has reopened the comment period for the rule. ************************************************************************************* Organic Corn and Soybean Farmers Face Sharp Production Declines Spring weather has taken a toll on U.S. organic commodity producers, shown by a significant drop in overall corn and soybean production for 2019, according to a new report. Organic industry data service Mercaris (Meh-CAR-us) just released its 2019 fall Organic Commodities Outlook. The report predicts a 12 percent year-over-year decline in organic corn production and a 14 percent decline in organic soybean production due to challenges during spring planting. In the Corn Belt, the report estimates organic wheat production will see a 19 percent decline. However, overall U.S. organic wheat production is predicted to increase seven percent over 2018 thanks to gains in areas outside of the Corn Belt, namely the High Plains and West regions. Meanwhile, organic livestock production growth is expected to slow but will still see a one percent increase overall. Because of that, imports should bridge the gap between domestic organic feed demand and U.S. 2019 production. Mercaris, who published the report, is a data services firm launched in 2013 focused on growing demand for organic foods. ************************************************************************************* USDA Declares United States Free from Plum Pox Virus The Department of Agriculture Thursday declared the U.S. free of plum pox virus. USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs Greg Ibach made the declaration at a ceremony, saying the 20-year fight against the disease “is officially over.” Ibach says USDA has eliminated the disease, protection the $6.3 billion U.S. stone fruit industry. USDA calls plum pox is a serious disease impacting stone fruit such as plums, almonds, and peaches. No other countries where plum pox disease is known to occur have successfully eradicated the disease. Plum pox does not kill infected trees outright. However, it causes severe yield losses and greatly reduces the marketability. The virus spreads over short distances by aphids and over long distances via the movement of infected nursery stock or by grafting infected buds onto healthy trees. The disease was first detected in Pennsylvania in 1999. A USDA program helped test, remove and avoid infected trees.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 18, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Questioning the Get Tough Trade Policy There have long been concerns in some quarters about the basis for the Trump administration’s “get-tough” policy with China, and other. This week, a number of industry and media sources are persistently questioning what the longer-term impacts on the domestic and global economies may be. For example, the New York Times said on Thursday that the current “agreement in principle,” with China has yet to be finalized — and likely would not roll back the hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs that China and America have placed on each others’ products. In addition, it noted that the president is also considering escalating the trade fight to other fronts, as it prepares to tax $7.5 billion worth of wine, cheese, aircraft and other European goods. And, the administration says it will decide next month whether to impose tariffs on imported cars from European and other countries. On Wednesday, President Trump discussed the possibility of additional tariffs on the European Union if the bloc is unwilling to reduce the EU-U.S. trade imbalance — but said “for right now, we’re going to try and do it without that,” although he continues to argue that “the United States is not being treated fairly.” The Times also commented especially on the president’s “unpredictable” approach, and said that new, limited deals with South Korea and Japan and the proposed “new” NAFTA will come at a cost. The recent and proposed “tit for tat” tariffs have raised prices for businesses, uprooted global supply chains and created crippling uncertainty for companies, delaying investment and hiring. The pain has spread beyond the United States and China and is exacerbating a global economic slowdown, particularly in Europe. “Economists warn the damage is likely to outlast any interim trade deal with China,” the Times said. The article mentioned several fairly gloomy, new forecasts, including a World Bank expectation that next year’s growth would be below previous estimates of 2.6%. It acknowledged that trade uncertainty remains a drag on the global economy along with the possibility of a “hard” Brexit resulting from Britain’s plan to leave the European Union. There could be reason for optimism in 2020, it said, “if there can be a reduction in uncertainty and more clarity on the outlook on trade and that includes U.S.-China trade but that also includes “the global trade environment itself.” Not all of the negative economic effects are a result of the trade war, the report said. But it asserts that policymakers say Mr. Trump’s trade policies “could help tip the global economy into recession.” The Federal Reserve has begun cutting interest rates to try and insulate the American economy against the effects of President Trump’s trade war, but its officials have warned that their power is limited and that economic damage is likely to persist, particularly if uncertainty continues and tariffs remain in effect. The president and his trade advisers continue to insist that China is paying the cost of the tariffs, not American businesses or consumers. But a new paper by researchers at Harvard University, the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston suggests that businesses and consumers in the United States are feeling an impact from the trade fight and that the pain could escalate and that additional costs could be passed on to American consumers in the months to come. President Trump agreed to forgo a tariff increase planned for Oct. 15. But another round of tariffs is still on the table for December, the Times said, in addition to those already existing on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods. And, while the president “has floated the idea of signing an agreement with his counterpart, Xi Jinping, at a summit of global leaders in mid-November,” the deal has yet to be finalized and analysts say there are plenty of ways the fragile agreement could crumble, as happened in May. Secretary Mnuchin told NYT on Wednesday that he has no plans to travel to China for more negotiations, and that there has been no decision as to whether the existing tariffs or those scheduled to take effect in December would be reversed if a deal is reached. In addition, he said issues such as intellectual property protections, forced technology transfers and how to enforce an agreement are still being worked out. The lack of a final deal, let alone a comprehensive agreement that ends the tariff war, is enough to stymie global growth for the foreseeable future, economists and other analysts say. “The U.S. is attempting to pluck low-hanging fruit first, rather than hold out for a more complete trade deal,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients. “But reaching an agreement on the more contentious structural issues remains an uphill battle and it still seems more likely than not that trade tensions will escalate again before long.” So, we will see. Clearly, new questions and concerns about the administration’s focus on tariffs can be expected to intensify, especially if the economy continues to slow. This is a high stakes fight producers should watch closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 18, 2019 |


Disaster Aid Funding Soon: Perdue USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said this week that U.S. farmers should see disaster aid funding soon. “Farmers who are eligible for individual disaster aid that signed up last month, the money should start flowing in this week.” Perdue said earlier this week in Georgia, adding USDA is working with the states on block grants to cover damage to non-traditional items like timber and animal facilities. However, farm and commodity groups have notified lawmakers that the $3.050 billion in funding for Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) will not likely come close to needs, a development that was widely expected given the amount of funding and potential claims expected to be made.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 18, 2019 |


Pelosi Comments Still Positive On Prospects For USMCA While most have focused on Democratic leaders walking out of a meeting with President Donald Trump where both sides have traded accusations about someone suffering a “meltdown,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made additional statements that indicate she is still working toward House approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). "We will do what we need to do for the good of the American people, and that has nothing to do with him," Pelosi said, with “him” being Trump. "There may be some collateral benefit to him when we successfully achieve some things for the American people. But there's no reason not to do it because there's collateral benefit to him." U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was scheduled to meet with House Democratic working group on USMCA Thursday, and some indicate there could be multiple meetings in the next week on the matter. Members of the group and Speaker Pelosi continue to insist that progress is being made.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday October 18, 2019 |


Friday Watch List Markets USDA's weekly report of export sales is due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by the Conference Board's index of leading indicators at 9 a.m. As usual, weather forecasts will be watched for harvest opportunities with more rain expected in the central Corn Belt Monday. Any comments of trade with China also remain of interest. Weather Friday will be dry in all primary crop areas. Conditions favor harvest progress outside of the northwestern Corn Belt areas affected by last week's snowstorm.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 17, 2019 |


Pelosi Hopeful for Path to Passing USMCA House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says work continues on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, while impeachment proceedings move forward in the House of Representatives. Still, a fear persists outside of Washington, D.C., that USMCA may not reach the finish line because of the full schedule in Washington. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Pelosi reaffirmed that House Democrats are working towards a solution, saying, "we hope to be on a path to yes." Pelosi says Democrats are still waiting on assurances about enforceability. Those in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, remain optimistic House Democrats can reach an agreement with the Trump administration to pass USMCA. The Trump administration threatened when the impeachment inquiry was announced that “House Democrats destroyed any chances of legislative progress,” including USMCA, which will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico’s President recently pledged to sign a letter to U.S. lawmakers urging passage of the agreement. Mexico ratified USMCA this summer, and Canada is expected to do so following its federal elections later this month. ************************************************************************************* Biofuels, Oil Industry, Both Disapprove of RFS Proposal Neither the biofuels industry nor the oil industry seems happy with the latest Renewable Fuel Standard proposal to address waived biofuels. The Environmental Protection Agency released its supplemental rule proposal this week, directing the EPA to use a three-year average to determine waived volumes to be reallocated, based on recommendations from the Department of Energy. Biofuels groups charge the proposal provides a loophole, as the EPA has previously ignored similar Energy Department recommendations. National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross says the proposal “fails to provide the assurance needed that EPA’s practices for granting waivers will change going forward.” Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute released a statement following the announcement, alleging the Trump administration, once again, decided to “play politics with our fuel system.” API says the proposal includes “misguided reallocation of volumes,” that will “punish oil companies to comply with the RFS.” API adds that “If this arbitrary policy was conceived to help farmers, it provides no immediate relief.” ************************************************************************************* Grassley, Tester, Introduce Rural Stress and Mental Health Legislation Two farm state Senators are promoting legislation that seeks to curb farmer suicides. Announced last month, the Seeding Rural Resilience Act would offer ways to help farmers and rural America deal with stress. The bill was formally introduced this week by Senator John Tester, a Democrat from Montana, and Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Grassley and Tester say the legislation is receiving praise from farm and mental health organizations. Tester says the legislation “puts us on track towards giving farmers the resources they need” to cope with stress in a tough economy. Federal data shows the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas. The bill would provide Department of Agriculture employees voluntary stress management training, and for a partnership with the Department of Health to create a $3 million public awareness campaign, and create a path to identify the best practices for responding to farm and ranch stress. ************************************************************************************* Legislation to Improve Weather Forecasting Models Introduced New legislation introduced in the Senate seeks more accurate weather forecasting. The Learning Excellence and Good Examples from New Developers, or LEGEND Act, would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make certain weather models public and seek innovations to improve weather models. The bill was introduced by Republican John Thune of South Dakota, and Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii. Thune says the legislation builds on his efforts to improve weather forecasting during his time on the Commerce Committee, saying the “livelihood of farmers and ranchers” often depend on accurate forecasts.” Thune says it’s “important that we find innovative ways to improve government forecasting capabilities.” Included in the legislation is a requirement for the U.S. Weather Research Program to establish the Earth Prediction Innovation Center, which was intended to advance weather modeling. The legislation would clarify and strengthen those efforts, according to Thune. When fully established, the program will provide a platform for collaboration to improve operational models and advance NOAA’s forecasting skills. ************************************************************************************* Chinese Consumer Pork Prices Surge The National Bureau of Statistics of China Wednesday reported that pork prices in the nation have increased 69.3 percent, compared to last year. China released its September Consumer Prices report, which details food prices, among other general items. Overall, food prices have increased by 8.4 percent since last year. African swine fever has taken a toll on pork production in China as experts believe the virus has wiped out as much as half of the nation’s pork herd. Pork is a staple of the Chinese diet, and China is the top pork producing nation in the world. Reuters reports that Chinese importers recently made a record large weekly purchase of American pork last week, ahead of trade talks with the United States. The purchases included 18,800 metric tons of pork for shipment this year, and 123,300 metric tons of pork for shipment in 2020. Meanwhile, Chinese imports of pork from all sources is up 43 percent this year, compared to 2018. ************************************************************************************* NCGA Commits to Focus on Aflatoxin The National Corn Growers Association just announced new research grants to help manage and solve aflatoxin issues. The grants are part of a long-term initiative by the organization to help farmers eliminate aflatoxin. The Aflatoxin Mitigation Center of Excellence Research Program will again offer grants to researchers for projects focused on solving aflatoxin issues. The grants, which will be awarded to researchers focusing on six priority areas, were designed by southern corn checkoff boards to bring a unified approach to funding research projects across the region, and will favor research teams that include members from multiple states. NCGA Corn Productivity and Quality Action Team Chair Charles Ring, a corn grower in Texas, says, “Working together, we can improve the tools available for aflatoxin control and get real results that farmers can see in their fields.” Letters of intent from researchers and collaborators not exceeding the $75,000 per year limit will be accepted until October 25.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 17, 2019 |


Washington Insider: Growth Drug Use Under Pressure In a development largely below the radar for most urban media, Food Safety News says this week that a mega Pork Producer JBS USA has banned the use of growth drug ractopamine in the hogs it purchases because it sees a growing trade opportunity with China “where the drug remains prohibited.” Ractopamine is used by many producers to raise leaner pigs. However, that practice remains highly controversial and is banned in the EU and China who neither allow its use of or tolerate residues in imported meat. JBS, owned by JBS SA based in Brazil, hopes to help China fill a huge gap created by the African swine disease by shipping it ractopamine-free pork. Other companies have similarly limited the drug’s use to allow competition in more export markets. JBS, based in Greeley, Colo., limited its use of the growth drug on its own in 2018. The company now says it won’t buy hogs from any farm that uses it. FSN notes that China, the world’s leading pork producer and consumer, is being hammered by African swine fever—a disease that “is not harmful to humans but is always deadly to pigs.” And, by dropping use of the feed additive entirely, the company expects to accelerate competition for pork exports there. There is no vaccine for African swine fever, which broke out in China a year ago. The World Organization of Animal Health reports it has since spread to more than 50 counties, which normally account for about 75 percent of the planet’s pork production. FSN expects that the dramatic decline in the global supply of hogs will create enough demand to pay JBS to drop ractopamine to compete more broadly. JBS USA sells pork under brands including Swift and Swift Premium and until now has focused mainly on the domestic market, leaving China mainly to Smithfield Foods which is owned by China’s WH Group and bans ractopamine on company-owned and contract farms. “We are confident this decision will provide long-term benefits to our producer partners and our industry by ensuring U.S. pork products are able to compete fairly in the international marketplace,” JBS USA said. Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN), today announced plans to prohibit the use of ractopamine in the market hogs it buys from farmers beginning in February 2020. Ractopamine is a feed ingredient that helps increase the amount of lean meat in hogs. While it is FDA-approved and considered safe for use, some countries such as China prohibit the import of pork from hogs that have been given the product. Tyson Fresh Meats has been offering a limited amount of ractopamine-free pork to export customers by working with farmers who raise hogs without it, and by segregating the animals and products at processing plants. However, these programs no longer adequately meet growing global demand. "We believe the move to prohibit ractopamine use will allow Tyson Fresh Meats and the farmers who supply us to compete more effectively for export opportunities in even more countries," stated Steve Stouffer, President, Tyson Fresh Meats. Most of the hogs delivered to the company's pork plants are purchased from about 2,000 independent farmers. The growth additive has frequently been in the news. It was approved by FDA in 1998 to improve the rate at which animals convert feed to lean meat and is used in other countries, including Canada and Brazil, for livestock production. However, China, Russia, the European Union and several other countries continue to question its safety and refuse to accept meat from animals that use the drug. Since 2012, the standards-setting Codex Alimentarius Commission, the UN food standards-setting body, has established residue limits for the drug but animal rights and food safety groups have frequently petitioned FDA to lower the residue limits and have called for more study of the drug’s effects on human health and animal welfare. However, trade disputes have continued in recent years and a number of politicians including Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have urged the U.S. to “demonstrate to Russia that its newfound commitment to WTO membership includes adherence to science-based standards, such as the CODEX MRL for ractopamine.” And, the growth drug continues to be controversial both in export markets and among American activists groups such as the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club who argue that the FDA has not done enough to test the potentially harmful effects of it on people, animals, and the environment. So, we will see. The decisions by JBS and other US companies, as well as pressure from potential export markets certainly is upping the ante on the US industry, if not on the FDA. In addition, the meat industry is under increasing political and social pressure from many directions these days, and it would seem prudent to continue to undertake hard-nosed evaluations of product quality as fights for competitive position continue both domestically and abroad, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 17, 2019 |


USDA Mulling Adding Revisions to Corn Crop in Sept. Stocks Update USDA is considering adding revisions of the previous year’s corn crop to its September quarterly stocks report, beginning in 2020, Lance Honig, crops branch chief for USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. He made the remarks on the sidelines of a meeting for USDA data users. USDA currently updates its corn crop estimates in an annual crop production summary released in January. Honig also said USDA rarely makes big revisions to a previous year’s corn crop. USDA already makes revisions of the previous year’s soybean crop in the September stocks report. In fact, revisions are the norm. It has revised its estimate of the previous year’s soybean crop in 18 of the past 20 September stocks report.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 17, 2019 |


Focus Continues On Purchases of US Ag Goods By China More doubt and questions surface on China’s potential buys of $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. farm products, with questions on how much, the time frame for purchases, and what the U.S. might have to give in return for China committing to purchase a quantity of US farm products. Chinese negotiators continue to say purchases must be based on actual demand and at fair-market prices. It will take up to five weeks to see the official language of any conclusion to Phase One agreements, as both sides meet and work on language to be hopefully signed by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the November 16-17 APEC meeting in Chile. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday he wanted to get more details on what the agreement entails. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Tuesday that Beijing would step up purchases of US agricultural products but provide details. He said that China’s understanding of the latest trade talks was “consistent” with what the U.S. described. Some indicate that China could attach conditions to a written pact that would allow it to buy less farm products than the US expects, such as by stretching out the time frame for purchases. China could also insist on language saying that prices for US goods are reasonable and that Chinese purchases comply with the rules of the World Trade Organization, which bans managed trade. This is why the official Phase One language regarding farm product purchases will be key.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday October 17, 2019 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday's schedule is busy and different due to Columbus Day. NOAA will update its 30-day and 90-day forecasts early. Weekly jobless claims and September U.S. housing starts are set for 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by September industrial production at 8:15 a.m. The U.S. Energy Department releases weekly natural gas inventory at 9:30 and other weekly energy inventories at 10 a.m. CDT, including ethanol. USDA's weekly export sales report gets pushed to Friday. Weather All primary crop areas will be dry Thursday. This drier pattern will offer improved harvest conditions.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 16, 2019 |


EPA Biofuels Proposal Comes up Short for Ethanol Industry The Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday released its plan to change the Renewable Fuel Standard regarding small refinery exemptions. However, biofuels proponents don’t approve of the changes. The National Biodiesel Board says in a statement the notice “contains a never-before-discussed proposal to estimate small refinery exemptions, with no assurance that the estimate will come close to actual exemptions.” The EPA says the notice does not change the proposed volumes for 2020 and 2021. Instead, it proposes and seeks comment on adjustments to the way annual renewable fuel percentages are calculated. Specifically, the agency is seeking comment on projecting the volume of gasoline and diesel that will be exempt in 2020 due to small refinery exemptions based on a three-year average of the relief recommended by the Department of Energy. However, Renewable Fuels Association CEO Geoff Cooper called the terms of the announcement baffling, because the proposal uses “the very same DOE recommendations that EPA blatantly ignored over and over.” The EPA will hold a public forum on October 30, 2019. ************************************************************************************* China Wants More Phase One Talks Optimism over a trade breakthrough with China is fading as China wants more talks this month to work out the details of the “phase one” agreement. Bloomberg News reports China may send another trade delegation to Washington, to finalize a written agreement. A statement from China’s Commerce Ministry noted “substantial progress” in the talks last week on agriculture and other provisions. However, China wants President Donald Trump to cancel plans to increase tariffs in December. The phase one agreement could be signed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier this week suggested work in the coming weeks to ready the agreement, adding, if not, the U.S. will impose the December tariff increase. As part of the agreement, President Trump says China will purchase $40-50 billion of U.S. agricultural goods over the next couple of years. Trump said this week, “They’re going to have to buy more land fast and lots of tractors,” regarding the economic impact of the agreement for farmers. ************************************************************************************* Manufacturing Groups, Businesses, Ask Congress to Pass USMCA A group of business organizations wants Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Led by the National Association of Manufacturers, the group of more than 350 associations and businesses sent a letter to Congress urging approval of the agreement. The groups support the call by saying, "Canada and Mexico alone, despite representing less than four percent of the global economy, buy more U.S.-manufactured goods than our next 11 trading partners combined." Mexico's government has ratified the USMCA. It now awaits approval from lawmakers in Canada and the United States. Canada is expected to ratify the agreement following its national elections later this month. The coalition says USMCA would spur economic growth and provide much-needed certainty for manufacturers across North America. The letter also says the deal includes “best-in-class” intellectual property rules, and would expand U.S. manufacturing access to Canada and Mexico, while providing a level playing field. Signatories on the letter include international agribusiness and food companies, along with animal feed and food manufacturing associations. ************************************************************************************* Study Shows Pig Farmers Improving Their Environmental Footprint Through Efficiencies A new environmental study shows that pig farms are generating less manure nutrient content associated with odor. Data gathered from more than 106,000 samples at 182 North Carolina farms shows significant reductions in ammonia levels and manure nutrient content. The improvements are attributed to gains in feed efficiency, which means it takes less feed to raise a pig. The Pork Checkoff, which funded the study, announced the findings Tuesday. The study found that North Carolina pig farmers have significantly increased feed efficiency over the past 17 years. Long-term, continuous improvement has resulted in trending reductions in nutrient content in manure lagoons at the farms. Specifically, data gathered from the participating North Carolina pig farms showed a reduction of 35 percent to 78 percent in the nutrient content from hog finishers in primary lagoons, and a reduction of 17 percent to 68 percent in primary lagoons for sow farms. Also, the study showed a reduction of 22 percent to 54 percent in ammonia levels. ************************************************************************************* Growth Energy Announces New Chairman of the Board Following a year of milestones for the biofuels industry, Growth Energy this week announced the election of Dan Sanders as the association's new chairman of the board of directors. Sanders is the vice president of Front Range Energy, a 48 million gallon ethanol production facility located in Colorado. Front Range Energy joined Growth Energy in 2008, when the organization was founded. As chairman, Sanders succeeds Jeff Broin, CEO of POET, LLC, who held the position since the association's inception in 2008, and through the successful campaign to achieve year-round E15, the original goal on which the association was founded. Upon reaching the industry milestone, Broin announced in September he would step down as chairman, but plans to remain an active member of the Growth Energy Board. Sanders previously served as vice-chair of the board, which will now be filled by Mitch Miller. Miller is the chief executive officer and managing director for Michigan’s Carbon Green BioEnergy. ************************************************************************************* Illinois Ag Department Announces New Dicamba Restrictions The Illinois Department of Agriculture recently announced additional label restrictions for the 2020 growing season for dicamba. Agriculture Director John Sullivan announced the rules due to a dramatic rise in the number of off-target complaints received during the 2019 growing season, adding “the department is taking action to reduce those numbers." The new restrictions halt the use of dicamba after June 20, 2020. The new regulations also prohibit the application of dicamba if the air temperature at the field at the time of application is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or if the National Weather Service's forecasted high temperature for the nearest available location for the day of application exceeds 85 degrees. Applicators also must maintain the label-specified downwind buffer between the last treated row and the nearest downfield edge of any Illinois Nature Preserves Commission site. In addition to these provisions', applicators must follow the federal guidelines when it comes to applying dicamba, including taking an annual certified applicator training course.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday October 16, 2019 |


Washington Insider: New Weed on the Block Amid trade wars and rumors of even newer fights, Politico is focusing this week on hemp — the “new weed on the block,” it says. The report follows a group of producers from Kentucky that are looking for a “high-profit alternative to tobacco” and see hemp’s promise in markets for fiber, livestock feed and in food supplements. However, early adopters found both production and marketing “very tricky,” Politico says. The producers had known that “hemp and marijuana are versions of the same plant: cannabis.” The only difference is that marijuana contains much higher concentrations of the chemical THC, which causes a psychoactive high. Still, cannabis can be used for other purposes and the federal government has decided that cannabis that has only a small amount of THC, no more than 0.3%, is a different crop. In response, Politico thinks that Kentucky farmers — and others — are experimenting with the creation of a “whole new industry.” All forms of cannabis used to be illegal to cultivate. But to help early adapters, Congress legalized hemp production nationwide as part of the 2018 farm bill. The crop offers a new source of income for some who have losses because of the trade war with China, dropping commodity prices and a series of natural disasters. But, the change also is creating new challenges including the need to keep a close eye on crops to make sure that their THC level doesn’t creep above 0.3%. Even where marijuana is legal, farmers who accidentally grow marijuana can’t just sell it — THC levels for marijuana are typically around 15% to 20%, much higher than for hemp. Also, control of THC levels in growing plants is a delicate, high-stakes task, one of many issues that have popped up as the country grapples with how to grow and regulate this brand new product. USDA is under pressure to replace the patchwork of state regulations on measuring THC with national testing standards the department says it plans to implement this fall, ahead of the 2020 growing season. And, there is also the problem of market focus. Hemp proponents like those Politico followed in Kentucky try distinguish between policies for hemp and marijuana—but marijuana advocates have made it clear that they want legal hemp to be a step toward legalizing all varieties of cannabis. So far, that doesn’t seem to be happening but Politico thinks it remains unclear how the growing popularity of hemp will factor into that broader debate. And, across the country, the exploding number of hemp farmers and products containing hemp oil are quickly normalizing consumption of cannabis products “complicating an already complex legal and policy debate,” Politico said. Hemp has a range of uses, but most farmers grow it to produce cannabidiol, or CBD — a compound that doesn’t get you high but is the key ingredient in trendy new products from lotions to gummy vitamins. Companies claim it can alleviate anxiety, pain and treat other health conditions. It’s also trapped in a regulatory black hole at FDA which hasn’t explained how it plans to regulate the