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| Rural Advocate News | Friday August 7, 2020 |


Farm Futures Releases 2020 Producer Crop Forecast Large U.S. ending corn stocks could swell even larger this fall, and not just because of increased yields. A bumper crop combined with diminished demand due to the pandemic could boost new crop ending U.S. stocks to the highest level in 33 years. A new survey by Farm Futures found 2020 corn yield projections to increase 11.5 bushels per acre from 2019 to 178.9. Based on updated acreage estimates from The Department of Agriculture's June Acreage report, Farm Futures' 2020 corn yield estimate would raise 2020 corn production to 15.03 billion bushels, 32 million bushels higher than July 2020 World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates. Soybean yield prospects are also more favorable than last year. Growers estimated 2020 yields at 51.0 bushels per acre, up 3.6 from 2019. If realized, that would put 2020 soybean production at 4.233 billion bushels, 98 million bushels higher than July 2020 WASDE projections and 19 percent higher than 2019 production. Farm Futures surveyed 1,044 respondents on July 14-27 via an email questionnaire. ************************************************************************************ House Ag Lawmakers Seek Aid for Sheep, Lamb Producers House Agriculture Committee leaders want the Department of Agriculture to assist sheep and lamb producers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the lawmakers say the closure of the nation’s second-largest processor, represents an estimated 20 percent of the nation’s processing capacity for sheep producers. The closure, the letter says, “pushes USDA to help lamb and sheep farmers and ranchers find alternate processing and marketing options immediately.” The closure comes at a time when the sheep industry was already forecast to lose more than $350 million due to COVID-19-related market declines. The lawmakers say USDA has the ability to aid sheep producers in finding other options for marketing and processing in a way that keeps products flowing through the supply chain. The letter was signed by Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Ranking Member Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican, and other committee members. Conaway states, “it’s critical that we provide support to help them through this difficult period.” ************************************************************************************ House Ag Member Tests Positive for COVID-19 Rodney Davis, a Republican U.S. Representative from Illinois, has tested positive for COVID-19. In a letter on his website, Davis says, “Other than a higher-than-normal temperature, I am showing no symptoms at this time and feel fine.” Davis tested positive Wednesday morning after discovering a higher than normal temperature. Davis is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. He had recently voiced his concerns to Congress that members follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Davis says throughout the pandemic, he’s done twice daily temperature checks, “because serving in Congress means I interact with many people, and it’s my duty to protect the health of those I serve.” Having consulted with the Office of the Attending Physician of Congress and local county health officials, his office is contacting constituents Davis met with in-person within the previous 48 hours before his test, per CDC guidelines. ************************************************************************************ Use of Corn as an Acceptable Feedstock Clarified by Energy Department In the most recent Funding Opportunity Announcement, the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office clarified that corn grain is an acceptable feedstock. This means starch derived sugars, specifically starches from field and feed corn, were clarified as acceptable. National Corn Growers Association Market Development Director Sarah McKay says, “This is an important evolution in how DOE interprets legislative intent,” adding the clarification will, “lay the groundwork and develop a solid foundation for future markets for corn.” NCGA says the timing of the announcement is important because it means those looking for funding opportunities through the Plastics Innovations Challenge can use corn as a base for recycling technologies in the manufacture of new plastics. The Bioenergy Technologies Office works to develop industrially relevant technologies to enable domestically produced biofuels and bioproducts. An example of a product that could now be developed to use corn grain as a feedstock is single-use plastics such as water bottles and plastic bags. ************************************************************************************ Environmental Groups: EPA Should not Approve Dicamba Without Further Research Environmental groups say the Environmental Protection Agency should not renew over-the-top dicamba use without further independent research. A new report from the National Wildlife Federation and others suggest dicamba herbicides "pose serious threats to wild plants and the wildlife that depend upon them." The report says the EPA should not renew over-the-top product registrations unless and until independent research shows with certainty that dicamba formulations will not cause off-target injury to crops and wild plants, including from vapor drift. The groups say there is mounting evidence suggests that current dicamba products and uses are causing unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, even when used as specified on the labels. The report advocates for diversifying weed management strategies to improve resilience, including choosing crop varieties that are competitive with weeds, adjusting planting dates and depths of crops to help get ahead of weed growth, and managing nutrients in ways that give crops the competitive edge. ************************************************************************************ Panera Founder Joins FBN Board Farmer’s Business Network this week announced that Ron Shaich (shake), founder and former Chairman and long-time CEO of Panera Bread, has invested in the company and will join its Board of Directors as an independent director. Shaich stepped down as CEO of Panera in 2017. Shaich, personally and through his investment, is directing a range of long-term strategic investments in consumer-facing growth companies. He says, "I'm inspired by the FBN mission to improve the profitability of family farmers around the world, especially right now, given that many of them are struggling to survive.” FBN calls Shaich a “groundbreaking entrepreneur and CEO who built one of the most successful public companies in history.” Adding Shaich to the Board follows the announcement Monday that FBN had closed $250 million in Series F funding. Farmers Business Network also recently acquired a similar Australian company. FBN is self-described as the leading direct-to-farm ag tech platform and farmer network.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday August 7, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fight Over Unemployment Relief The Hill is reporting this week that the pandemic is exposing the flaws and shortcomings of how the U.S. provides unemployment insurance -- and that disagreement over proposed fixes are primary holdups to a new bill. The Hill notes that the federal employment safety net includes individual systems for every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. More than 30.2 million Americans were on some form of unemployment insurance as of mid-July, with the Labor Department reporting a growing number of new applications in subsequent weeks. However, the expiration last week of a $600 weekly add-on to state benefits plunged many of those vulnerable workers into financial peril. Congressional Democrats and Trump administration officials are now deadlocked over negotiations for a broader package that's expected to include some form of federal unemployment benefits -- but how to do that is an enormous problem. Short-staffed unemployment offices across the U.S. rely on widely differing versions of outdated technology and would face challenges from implementing either a scaled-down or more complicated approach to the weekly payments. Economists and labor market experts also warn that any solution that emerges from the negotiations could take weeks, if not months, to get up and running, risking a potentially catastrophic fiscal cliff for tens of millions of U.S. households. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and a White House economist under former President George W. Bush said that “states, collectively, seem to have not kept up the systems and we now have a big problem because of that.” The unprecedented size and speed of the pandemic-driven economic collapse has posed a brutal challenge for state unemployment agencies. After 10 years of steady economic expansion, the labor market quickly went from the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years to the highest level of joblessness since the Great Depression. New claims for unemployment benefits were averaging roughly 200,000 nationwide a week before the pandemic -- a manageable level for state agencies that had largely been neglected during the longest stretch of growth in modern U.S. history. However, the coronavirus lockdowns spurred 3.3 million new claims between March 15 and March 22, a then-record that would be doubled the following week. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the previous record was 695,000 from the first week of October 1982. A little more than four months after the pandemic hit, state agencies are now processing roughly 2 million new claims a week for both unemployment insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program designed to cover those who don't qualify for typical benefits. “On some level, you can't really blame states for not being prepared for that level of onslaught,” said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “Usually, you see the recession starting up and state agencies say 'You know, this looks like a recession here, so let's start to staff up.' This came on all at once, so we've had these neglected, antiquated systems and then there's all these other stressors.” Processing the massive surge of unemployment claims on shoddy technology would have been hard enough for states. Adding enhanced benefits and PUA claims to the mix strained state agencies even more. “It took time to hire and train new staff who could deal with the volumes of the calls, and all in a pandemic, when face-to-face contact and training and being together in office were not possible,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at job recruitment and posting company ZipRecuriter. Now, defining enhanced unemployment benefits are among the biggest obstacles to reaching a deal on what's likely to be the last coronavirus-relief package before the election. While President Trump and Republicans are divided over how and whether to extend the federal boost, Democrats are largely united behind extending the benefits and reducing them gradually along a curve tied to the unemployment rate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called for including such a mechanism, known as an automatic stabilizer in the coronavirus package being negotiated. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, introduced a separate bill designed to tackle economic downturns beyond the coronavirus recession that would establish a tiered system for reducing the federal benefit in line with a state's unemployment rate. “We talked to economists all across the country and virtually everyone we talked to said this makes the most sense.” Republicans have proposed replacing the flat $600 weekly boost with a percentage of the worker's pre-pandemic earnings in addition to what is prescribed by each state. While the wage replacement is more tailored, there is concern that making the necessary calculations for each claimant could overwhelm an already teetering system. So, we will see. Pressures to define and implement a powerful system to avoid the worst impacts of the weakened economy are continuing to grow, but participants in the debate are increasingly dug in to defend their position -- and, time is running out. This is an extremely significant fight producers should watch closely as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday August 7, 2020 |


US Will Take Action Under USMCA If Needed On Several Products Written responses that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer provided to the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees from his June 17 appearances have been released and contain some common themes. When it comes to dairy with Canada and labor or biotech issues with Mexico, Lighthizer repeatedly assured that his office will pursue action under U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) provisions “if necessary.” Relative to the Phase One agreement with China, Lighthizer also stated several times, “China's commitments to purchase U.S. food and agricultural products are annual commitments for calendar years 2020 and 2021, so we will not be able to assess definitively whether China has fulfilled these commitments for 2020 until the end of this year.” However, Lighthizer said that they have been “following China's progress in purchasing U.S. food and agricultural products very closely and have been discussing our concerns with our Chinese counterparts as they arise. We have made it clear that China needs to find a way to satisfy all of its purchases commitments under the Phase One Agreement.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday August 7, 2020 |


Drop In Ag Exports Sets New Record Monthly Trade Deficit U.S. agricultural exports in June fell to $9.96 billion, the smallest since May 2016 and down nearly 4% from May, while imports eased to $11.09 billion, down 2.5% from May, setting a new monthly record trade deficit of $1.13 billion. This marked the second month in a row for a new record trade gap for the sector that has historically recorded trade surpluses on a monthly and annual basis. June was the fourth month in a row with a trade deficit and marked the fifth out of the last six months that has happened. The results brought cumulative ag exports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 to $102.22 billion against imports of $100.49 billion for a trade surplus of just $1.734 billion. In order to meet USDA's FY 2020 ag export forecast of $136.5 billion, exports would now have to be average $11.43 billion over July-September. To meet the ag import forecast of $130.2 billion, imports would have to average $9.9 billion over July-September. Both forecasts will be adjusted in USDA's update due August 26, with the export outlook likely to be trimmed and the import forecast expanded, setting the stage for an annual trade deficit for agriculture, something that has not happened based on data going back to the mid-1970s.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday August 7, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The U.S. Labor Department will report on the change in nonfarm payrolls for July and also on the U.S. unemployment report at 7:30 a.m. CDT., last seen at 11.1% in June. The latest weather forecasts and any trade news will continue be watched closely. Weather Friday will find showers and thunderstorms in portions of the Northern and southeastern Plains along with the northern Midwest. Other primary crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will be seasonal in the Midwest and above normal in the Plains. The warmer pattern will spread across the entire central U.S. going through the next week.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday August 6, 2020 |


Energy Department Recommends Granting Partial Retroactive Waivers The U.S. Department of Energy has made its recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding retroactive blending waiver requests. Two sources say the DOE recommended to the EPA that “a number” of those requests be partially granted. However, those anonymous sources couldn’t provide further details. The EPA is in charge of granting those exemptions, but the Department of Energy has to review the applications first and then make its recommendations. An Agriculture Dot Com article says the move could help bring those smaller refiners into compliance with a court ruling earlier this year that requires waivers granted since 2010 to take the form of an extension. Most waiver recipients in recent years haven’t continuously been granted those waivers. At present, there are 58 pending waiver requests from refiners for the years 2011-2018. “EPA has received initial feedback from the Department of Energy on certain petitions for small refinery exemptions for the past compliance years under the Renewable Fuel Standards Program,” says EPA spokesperson Molly Block. “Our staff is reviewing it.” The Department of Energy didn’t respond to requests for comments. Biofuel advocates say the blending waivers hurt the overall demand for corn-based ethanol. ********************************************************************************************** China, U.S. Will Review Trade Deal, Air Grievances on August 15th U.S. and Chinese officials will review the Phase One trade deal implementation and likely air grievances that both sides have on August 15th during a video conference. Two people familiar with the plans told Reuters that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the principal negotiators of the deal, will participate in the meeting, which will be a six-month review of the deal that became active on February 15th. The Wall Street Journal initially reported the details of the meeting between the two countries. Under the deal, China pledged to boost purchases of U.S. goods by $200 billion over 2017 levels. Those purchases were to include agricultural and manufactured products, along with energy and other services. But China has been hit hard by the coronavirus recession and fallen far behind the pace it needs to meet the first-year goal of a $77 billion increase. Imports of farm goods have also been lower than the 2017 level the agreement was based on. China’s ambassador to the U.S. says they always had a plan in place for high-level talks six months into the pact. U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened to end the deal over China’s handling of the coronavirus. Tensions have risen over U.S. sanctions related to China’s crackdown on Hong Kong. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Bankruptcy News Mixed During COVID-19 Farm bankruptcy filings totaled 580 between June of 2019 and June of 2020, an eight percent increase over those 12 months. The American Farm Bureau says a six-month comparison shows the number of new Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings slowed during that time. The Midwest, Northwest, and the Southeast are the regions hardest hit by bankruptcies, accounting for 80 percent of the total U.S. filings. Wisconsin was the number one state with 69 filings, followed by 38 in Nebraska. Georgia and Minnesota each had 36 filings. While the year-over-year filings increased during June, the number of new filings slowed during the first six months of this year compared to the first half of 2019. From January to June of 2020, there were 284 new Chapter 12 bankruptcy cases, 10 fewer than the same time last year. The reduction in filings coincides with the aid distributed through the CARES Act that compensated farmers and ranchers for losses incurred over the first six months of the year. “The fact that we saw bankruptcy filings slow during the first half of this year shows how important the economic stimulus efforts have been to keeping farmers above water,” says AFB President Zippy Duvall. “But the economic impact of the pandemic is far from over.” ********************************************************************************************** Democrat Bill Would Ban Pesticides to Protect Farm Workers Legislation introduced by two Democratic lawmakers would ban chlorpyrifos (Klor-PEER-ih-fohs) and other pesticides that cause concern among farmworker groups due to negative health effects. The bill from Tom Udall of New Mexico and Joe Neguse (Neh-GOOS) of Colorado would ban organophosphates. An article on The Hill Dot Com website says that’s a group of pesticides that attack the nervous system and that research has shown has damaging effects on farmworkers. It includes chlorpyrifos, which the Environmental Protection Agency has been under pressure to ban, thanks to a series of lawsuits. The legislation also would ban neonicotinoids (Neo-ni-kuh-ti-noids), which have damaging effects on vulnerable bee populations. “The farmworkers who feed our country face dangerous chemical exposure without recourse to protect their health, and surrounding communities bear the frontline costs of pesticide runoff in their land, water, and air,” says Udall. The EPA under the Trump Administration has repeatedly issued emergency exemptions allowing farmers to continue using pesticides that are otherwise restricted. The bill would bring that to an end, as well as allow local communities to block some pesticides without being preempted by state law. It also places more requirements on farms and chemical companies. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Extends Deadline, Defers Interest Accrual Due to COVID-19 The USDA’s Risk Management Agency says it will authorize Approved Insurance Providers to extend premium deadlines for fee payments, defer the resulting interest accrual, and give them other flexibilities. The goal is to help farmers, ranchers, and insurance providers who are affected by COVID-19. “USDA recognizes farmers and ranchers have been severely affected by COVID-19 this year and to help ease the burden on these folks, we’re continuing to extend flexibility for producers,” says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. “These flexibilities will support health and safety while also ensuring the federal crop insurance program continues to serve as a vital risk management tool.” AIPs can provide their policyholders with additional time to pay the premium and administrative fees and waive the accrual of interest to the earlier of 60 days after their scheduled payment due date or the termination date on policies with premium billing dates between August 1 and September 30, 2020. USDA is also authorizing insurance companies to provide up to an additional 60 days for policyholders to make payment and waive additional interest for Written Payment Agreements due between August 1 and September 30, 2020. ********************************************************************************************** ASA Returns to its Roots for 100th Anniversary The American Soybean Association returned to its birthplace to celebrate its 100th year of existence. The group celebrated a century of coordinated efforts and ensuring successes on behalf of U.S. growers. With support from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the family who helped to launch one of the nation’s strongest agricultural advocacy offices, ASA celebrated its 100th anniversary on the Indiana farm where it all started. The celebration included a small but significant historical marker dedication and tours of heirloom soybean plots. ASA first formed when the three Fouts brothers hosted their first Corn Belt Soybean Field Day at their “Soyland Farms” operation in Camden, Indiana, on September 3rd of 1920. That event drew nearly 1,000 farmers and their families from six states, all of whom were interested in learning more about an emerging new commodity called soybeans. The National Soybean Growers’ Association, later renamed the American Soybean Association, was formed that very day. The outdoor dedication ceremony was streamed live across the country for soy supporters to celebrate safely around the nation.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday August 6, 2020 |


Washington Insider: The US Economy Needs More Support Than Originally Thought Bloomberg is reporting this week that work on the next coronavirus subsidy bill has intensified – but that White House and Democratic negotiators driving toward a deal on a final package still must overcome a raw mix of election-year pressures, internal GOP splits and a profound lack of trust between the parties. The report said that the president's sinking poll ratings amid the virus's resurgence have Democrats sensing they have leverage—and are boosting internal Republican tensions over additional aid spending on top of the almost $3 trillion previously approved. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have recently been playing “hardball,” dismissing out of hand smaller-scale proposals floated by the president's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as well as a $1 trillion plan cobbled together by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Both sides declared they were making progress on Tuesday as they started to exchange detailed offers and agreed on a goal of reaching a deal by the end of the week, teeing up possible votes next week. The negotiations on new subsidies are expected to continue after Pelosi and Schumer meet with the postmaster general later in the week in an effort to provide aid for the Postal Service and state governments. This is an effort to support for vote-by-mail operations, a top Democratic priority opposed by the president who has blasted the use of mail-in ballots for weeks. Instead of McConnell or Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has previously cut several deals with Democrats, the administration's lead negotiator for this round is Meadows, the former House Freedom Caucus chairman. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., praised Meadows for being engaged with lawmakers but noted his inexperience in such talks. “This is his first deal,” Shelby said. Meadows initially proposed a stripped-down plan tying unemployment and school aid while negotiations continued, but Democrats are insisting on a bigger plan that they say “meets the moment.” In turn, he has floated potential executive actions Trump could take on his own if the talks break down. In an indication of the seriousness of the current debate, The Hill said, is the fact that Senate Republicans expect to remain in session next week if the negotiations over the "impasse" continue. A new schedule, described by GOP senators on Tuesday, means the Senate would be in Washington for at least the first week of a previously scheduled four-week break that had been expected to start on Friday. The House left town last week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has said he will call House members back to Washington with a 24-hour heads-up once there is an agreement ready for a vote. McConnell hasn't announced a change to the Senate's schedule. Asked about being in session next week, a spokesman for the GOP leader said, "the Leader will let everyone know when we have an update and/or guidance." Negotiators continue to assert that they are making progress in the most recent talks but that “they still remain far apart on significant sticking points like unemployment insurance, state and local aid and McConnell's red line of liability protections for businesses.” In the meantime, pressure on Congress to complete the new package was boosted by comments by Fed officials this week who said the U.S. economy needs more support than originally thought and that “it's becoming quite clear that the virus will be with us longer and more vigorously than anyone had hoped for,” Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said. The level of support that the economy is going to need just has to be higher, she said. “As we get more information about how the virus will affect the economy, we will be thinking about how can we use forward guidance to telegraph to people, to signal to markets, households and businesses what our intentions are in terms of supporting the economy going forward,” she said. During the last expansion, the Fed saw joblessness fall well below what it had estimated to be full employment. At the same time, inflation never consistently reached the central bank's 2% goal. This lesson can guide policy makers in the recovery from the coronavirus crisis, Daly said. She also noted that we have room to let the economy go well beyond what people think is its maximum level of employment and we can then involve many, many individuals who people have traditionally thought were structurally unemployed, unable to get jobs, she said. “The long tail of the pandemic will be that we have many, many people who remain on the sidelines unless we take this opportunity to educate these people, get them the training they need.” So, we will see. The increasingly toxic politics ahead of the election clearly add uncertainty to measures to offset virus impacts, as well as debates on trade and economic policy -- fights that producers should watch closely as they intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday August 6, 2020 |


Stabenow Will Not Back More Ag Aid Without Nutrition Funding Bump Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on Tuesday reiterated her stance to Politico that she will not back any additional aid for farmers and ranchers in the next COVID-19 aid plan unless there is an increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “There's not going to be more if we can't help hungry families,” she told Politico. “I've made it very clear that I will object to anything else being done in the agriculture space if we do not get a basic increase in SNAP.” This is a stance that Stabenow has taken since late July as the Senate plan was being developed. However, she noted it appears Republicans are “now indicating an openness” and that there are “good discussions going on right now.” Her frustrations are tied to USDA so far not doling out most of the aid in the CARES Act that was passed in March. She said she wants to keep the aid mix around 50-50 for farm aid and nutrition assistance. “I'd like to keep it in that range,” she noted. Stabenow has been critical of USDA aid efforts, in particular the Market Facilitation Programs run for 2018 and 2019, maintaining that aid was unevenly distributed across the sector and was tilted toward farmers that had not suffered huge trade losses.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday August 6, 2020 |


US, China High-Level Talks Set For August 15 U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will participate in talks August 15 to assess the progress of the Phase One agreement with China, according to sources quoted by the Wall Street Journal. The two will meet via videoconference with the focus expected to be on China's purchase commitments of U.S. agriculture, energy and manufactured goods while China is expected to raise the issue of the U.S. cracking down on Chinese tech companies. This comes as China's Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai on Tuesday observed that the COVID-19 situation has impacted normal trade flows. Tiankai also commented that the “two economic teams have been in contact with each other,” a view that our trade sources have repeatedly signaled. He also noted that China was “doing its best to implement the deal.” The session also comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders are set to meet for two weeks in the Chinese resort town of Beidaihe, a session typically aimed at discussing strategies and setting policies for key issues.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday August 6, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor are all set for 7:30 a.m. CDT. U.S. natural gas inventory is due out at 9:30 a.m. Of course, the latest weather forecasts and any trade news will also be closely watched. Weather Thursday features shower and thunderstorm activity in the central and Southern Plains through portions of the western Midwest. Rainfall will be mainly light. Other primary crop areas will be dry. Temperatures continue to show seasonal to below normal values north and central and very warm to hot south. Stressful heat is again in store for most of Texas.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday August 5, 2020 |


August Ag Economy Barometer Results Farmer sentiment in July was virtually unchanged from a month earlier, according to the Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer. The index rose just one point to a reading of 118. The small change in the barometer left it 30 percent below its February 2020 peak and 23 percent below its level a year ago. Although there was little change in the barometer this month, there was a shift in producers' perspective on current vs. future conditions. The Index of Current Conditions rose 12 points to 111 while the Index of Future Expectations fell to a reading of 121, five points lower than in June. The Ag Economy Barometer is calculated each month from 400 U.S. agricultural producers' responses to a telephone survey. This month's survey was conducted from July 20-24, 2020. Organizers of the index say Producers were somewhat less concerned about the impact of coronavirus on their farm's profitability. However, two-thirds of respondents still said they feel Congress needs to pass another bill to provide economic support to farmers. ************************************************************************************ Barchart Releases August U.S. Yield Forecasts for Corn and Soybeans Barchart, a commodity data and technology service provider, updated its cmdty (commodity) Yield Forecast this week. The August end of season yield prediction sits at 174.8 bushels per acre for corn and 49.2 for soybeans. This represents an increase in forecasted yield relative to the July report, which predicted end of season yield for corn 173.8 and 48.8 for soybeans. Barchart’s Head of Strategy, Keith Petersen, says, “Growing conditions throughout the country remain strong, and this year’s forecasted crop has been more heavily impacted by changing expectations around acres planted than by weather.” Peterson says the national forecast remains steady this year, but adds there is some yield variance at the state level which can impact local basis conditions heading into the fall. Released on the first Tuesday of each month during the growing season, the forecast allows users to get insights to guide their business decisions ahead of USDA's World Agriculture Supply and Demand report. ************************************************************************************ Trump Signs Rural Telemedicine Executive Order President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this week that his administration says will provide millions of citizens with healthcare services during a global pandemic. The executive order seeks to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in rural communities. The White House says the expansion of telehealth services offers benefits to Americans living in rural communities, who might otherwise not have access to these services. The order requires the Department of Health and Human Services to announce a new payment model testing innovations that empower rural hospitals to transform healthcare in their communities on a broader scale. To improve connectivity, the president's order also directs the federal government to launch a joint initiative in 30 days to improve the healthcare communication infrastructure and expand rural healthcare services. The White House says these telehealth expansions build on the work the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has done during the public health emergency to more than double allowable telehealth services. ************************************************************************************ Trump Signs Great American Outdoor Act President Donald Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act Tuesday. In a signing ceremony, Trump says the legislation "builds on my administration's unwavering commitment to conserving, and the grander, the splendor, of god's creation." The bill establishes a National Park and Public Lands Restoration Fund to provide up to $9 billion to fix backlogged maintenance at national parks and other federal lands. The bill also guarantees $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund helps fund the main federal land programs in the United States. The National Wildlife Federation says the bill will "protect public lands and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation.” However, the legislation may be problematic for ranchers who use public grazing lands. The Public Lands Council calls the bill a “land grab.” PLC says the bill gives federal agencies free rein to spend a minimum of $360 million per year solely to acquire new private land without any oversight from Congress. ************************************************************************************ American Dairy Coalition Calls for Whole Milk to Return to Schools The American Dairy Coalition wants to bring whole milk back to U.S. school lunchrooms. According to the proposed Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, whole milk will continue to be banned from schools across the nation. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines are only updated and published every five years. The coalition says, “the time is now to ensure whole milk can once again be offered as a choice in school nutrition programs.” In 2017, Congress authorized $1 million of taxpayer money for a third-party review, conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. It was the first-ever outside peer review of the Dietary Guidelines process. The coalition says the report showed how only 20 percent of the government’s nutrition recommendations are based on “strong” science, according to the government’s own standards. The coalition says the report “was vastly ignored,” adding “Continuing the ban on whole milk based on out-of-date science and a clearly unbalanced, one-sided subcommittee on saturated fats is appalling.” ************************************************************************************ ASTA Promotes Safe Handling of Treated Seed During Harvest As harvest begins across the country, the American Seed Trade Association is reminding farmers about the importance of taking precautions to ensure treated seed does not enter the grain supply. An ASTA says proper management of treated seeds includes removing all treated seed left in containers and equipment used to handle harvested grain, and disposing of it properly. ASTA and other stakeholder groups have developed recommendations to assist those involved in the process of treating, handling, transporting, or planting treated seeds. These recommendations are available at seed-treatment-guide.com. Recommendations include following label directions, minimizing dust, eliminating weeds, "BeeAware” of nearby bee colonies, and cleaning and removing treated seeds from equipment and bins. ASTA says the use of seed treatment technologies, including neonicotinoid insecticide treatments, is an effective tool to provide the necessary protection of seeds for a strong, healthy start. However, it is “essential” to manage them properly to minimize the risk of pesticide exposure to non-target organisms.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday August 5, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Another Look at Negative Rates Bloomberg is reporting this week that “a basic truism of finance may be turned upside down.” The report argues that interest rates -- which normally reward savers and charge borrowers -- have been set below zero by central banks in a handful of big countries. “That means savings are losing value and borrowers can be paid to take out a loan.” Considered one of the boldest monetary experiments of the 21st century, negative interest rates were adopted in Europe and Japan after policy makers realized that they needed extreme measures because their economies were still struggling years after the 2008 financial crisis. When the pandemic lockdowns halted commerce for months in 2020, central bankers looked for ways to cushion the blow. That rekindled a furious debate about whether rates in the red do more harm than good. When the pandemic hit the U.S., the Federal Reserve quickly slashed its key interest rate back to near zero, where it had been for almost a decade after the financial crisis. President Donald Trump renewed his heckling of the Fed via Twitter, complaining that its reluctance to go negative put the U.S. at a disadvantage. Chair Jerome Powell repeatedly dismissed the idea, saying the Fed was worried that the policy could roil U.S. money markets and preferred to use other tools. What's more, he said, research on the effectiveness of negative rates was “quite mixed.” Still, an undercurrent of worry led a market gauge reflecting traders' expectations of future Fed policy to fall briefly below zero in May 2020, with some investors betting the Fed would have to take the plunge within a year. When the outbreak took hold, central banks that already had negative rates declined to lower them further, instead ramping up bond purchases and lending programs as the Fed has also done. The European Central Bank had cut its rate as recently as September 2019, charging banks 0.5% to hold their cash. But over the six years since ECB rates went negative, the policy has provoked increasing outcry that it has crippled banks and robbed savers. In Germany — a nation with a strong culture of socking money away — tabloid newspaper Bild railed against the central bank, casting former ECB President Mario Draghi as a savings-sucking vampire it dubbed “Count Draghila.” The idea behind negative rates is simple, Bloomberg says. They drive borrowing costs lower and punish lenders that play it safe by hoarding cash. But economists frequently argue about whether they also have perverse effects that outweigh the textbook economic benefits. Chief among them is the impact on bank profits. Since many banks are reluctant to start charging for deposits, the spread between the rate they pay for funds and what they can earn lending money can be squeezed. For example, over time, European banks began to levy fees. Critics fret that the slide in borrowing costs will eventually hit a “reversal rate,” where the policy backfires as banks become less willing to lend. To offset that possibility, the ECB introduced a series of targeted measures to lift bank profits, including a “tiering” system that exempted a portion of the money parked at the ECB from charges. There's also spillover in financial markets: Because central banks provide a benchmark for all borrowing costs across an economy, negative rates spread to a range of fixed-income securities, with government bonds of countries such as Germany and the UK trading at negative yields. That means investors lose money if they hold the debt to maturity. Bloomberg concedes that central banks that use negative rates say they've lowered borrowing costs and fueled more lending. ECB research has shown that the downside has been manageable. Even central bankers worried about the potential harm say the scale of the crisis triggered by the pandemic and the limited number of tools available to fight it mean they can't rule anything out. Fans include Kenneth Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard, who argued in an article in May 2020 that objections are “either fuzzy-headed or easily addressed” and that only “effective deep negative interest rates can do the job” of reviving economies. Yet there are worries that negative rates will prove politically toxic, tainting the public view of central banks and threatening their hard-won independence. To many critics, the policy had outlived its usefulness even before the pandemic and could now prove harder to escape. In 2019, Sweden, which began dipping below zero in 2009, became the first country to reverse course in a bid to ease the pain on lenders and investment funds. The Bank for International Settlements, a study group of central banks, warned in a 2019 briefing that there's “something vaguely troubling when the unthinkable becomes routine.” The approach is still highly controversial, Bloomberg emphasizes. It highlights the extent to which global central bankers joined Powell's pushback on negative rates. This chorus of bankers has criticized negative rates and some central bankers say they may be doing more harm than good. Nevertheless, Janet Yellen, the former U.S. Federal Reserve chair, said in 2015 that a change in circumstances could put negative rates “on the table” in the U.S. So, we will see. Fiscal policy has become increasingly challenging as the pandemic has worsened. Clearly, this management tool is receiving greater attention than it did only months ago, and should be watched closely as the argument intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday August 5, 2020 |


USTR Nominee Moves Closer to Being in Place The Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Michael Nemelka to be a deputy U.S. Trade Representative on a 24-to-4 vote Monday. Nemelka was nominated to be deputy USTR for Africa, China and the Western Hemisphere and for investment, services, textiles, labor and environment. Nemelka has been a special advisor to USTR Robert Lighthizer for the past five months. He is expected to easily win confirmation in the full Senate. Lawmakers focused on issues relative to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) during Nemelka's confirmation hearing as the agreement would fall under his purview.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday August 5, 2020 |


CFAP Payments Still Shy of $7 Billion With the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) signup to run through August 28, payments at the national level moved up to $6.82 billion as of August 3 with 499,156 applications approved for the program. One week ago, payouts totaled $6.55 billion. Livestock payments still account for the largest share at $3.44 billion, with $1.79 billion for non-specialty crops, $1.31 billion for dairy and $269.6 million for specialty crops. Payments for cattle still lead all commodities at $2.98 billion, followed by the $1.31 billion for milk and $1.22 billion for corn. Those are the only commodities where payouts have topped $1 billion, with the next largest payments for hogs at $430.2 million, soybeans at $344.5 million, and upland cotton at $172.3 million. Payments for the remainder of commodities covered under the program are no more than $56 million. The top six states remain Iowa ($697.4 million), Nebraska ($499.2 million), Minnesota ($435.2 million), Wisconsin ($389.3 million), Texas ($480.5 million), and California ($365.2 million). The program was originally expected to pay out some $16 billion to producers with an initial payment level at 80% of the estimated total payment. It is still not clear why the payouts have lagged the expected total since the program applications started coming in May 26. Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Richard Fordyce told the Red River Farm Network that there could be a few reasons why signup is not higher, including the initial payments based on 80% of the estimated total payment. He also cited acreage reporting deadlines faced by farmers for their participation in farm programs as another potential factor. “There's also a lot of acreage reporting taking place right now and once this has finished up, we anticipate the CFAP applications to ramp up a little bit,” he noted. He also observed that the agency is still mulling adding additional commodities to the program. As for the 20% additional payment, Fordyce said, “If it looks like we've got some space and we'll be able to issue that additional 20% of the eligible payment in CFAP, then we'll make that decision at a later time.”

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday August 5, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets At 7:15 a.m. CDT, ADP has a report on U.S. private sector job growth, which offers a hint for Friday's U.S. unemployment report. The U.S. Census Bureau reports on the U.S. trade deficit for June and provides USDA with monthly export data to be released later Wednesday morning. At 9:30 a.m., the U.S. Energy Department reports on weekly energy inventories, including ethanol. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for the western Midwest Wednesday, and moderate to locally heavy rain will move through the south-central Plains. Other primary crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will be seasonal to below normal north and central and very warm to hot south, with extreme heat in much of Texas.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday August 4, 2020 |


COVID-19 Disruptions in the U.S. Meat Supply Chain The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank says COVID-19 has created substantial challenges for all segments of the meat supply chain, but especially for producers and consumers. Beginning in April 2020, outbreaks of COVID-19 at meatpacking plants led to significant disruptions and created issues of oversupply and low prices for livestock producers. The spread of COVID-19 among employees led to closures and slowdowns at many meatpacking plants. Closures were especially prominent in beef and pork industries. The agricultural economy had been in a prolonged downturn before the pandemic, intensifying concerns of how COVID-19 and disruptions in the meat production could affect farm finances. The KC Fed says greater financial difficulties for livestock producers could add to stress in agricultural lending portfolios that already had increased before the pandemic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, agricultural lenders in the bank district were already more pessimistic about the livestock sector's credit conditions. Almost 20 percent of agricultural lenders expect lower loan repayment rates on hog and dairy operations. ************************************************************************************ Dredging Project Readies Mississippi River for Efficient Transportation Soybean Checkoff-funded research, planning, analysis and design led by the United Soybean Board, has informed the launch of a dredging project to provide upgrades to the lower Mississippi River. The Army Corps of Engineers announced it will be funding and proceeding with deepening the Mississippi River from 45 to 50 feet between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will also provide funding. The river is a major channel for U.S. soybean exports. The particular 256-mile stretch of the Mississippi River accounts for 60 percent of U.S. soy exports, and 59 percent of corn exports from that region arrive via the inland waterway system. Once complete, the new depth will unlock long-term benefits for soybeans and other U.S. agricultural exports. USB director Meagan Kaiser of Missouri says, “More efficient shipping builds value in the supply chain and expands opportunities for our soybeans to reach our customers around the world.” ************************************************************************************ House Ag Appropriations Chair May have Misused Campaign Funds A report by the Office of Congressional Ethics says Representative Sanford Bishop, a Georgia Democrat, may have misused campaign funds. Bishop is Chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee, and has served as the Representative for Georgia’s 2nd congressional district, encompassing Southwest Georgia, since 1993. The ethics report released last week says Bishop's campaign committee, Sanford Bishop for Congress, reported campaign disbursements that may not be legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures. The report recommends further review, because “there is substantial reason to believe” Bishop converted campaign funds for personal use. The report includes evidence of thousands of dollars invoiced to Bishop from a Georgia golf course, along with credit card statements, including travel and golf-related charges. Bishop also serves on the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee and is Vice Chair on the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. In a statement, Bishop’s office says he “has fully cooperated” with the review and proactively reimbursed many of the charges identified as incorrect. ************************************************************************************ AFPM Facebook Ads Say RFS Based on Outdated Projections A Facebook advertisement from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers claims the Renewable Fuel Standard is based on outdated projections. The ad directs Facebook members to an AFPM webpage critical of the RFS. The webpage is part of an effort to defend small refinery exemptions. The Facebook ad follows a news release from last week on the topic. AFPM states, “The limiting factor for ethanol consumption is, and has always been, the blend wall — a term signifying the limit to how much ethanol the fuel supply can actually handle, based on fuel and vehicle infrastructure and consumer demand.” The organization claims, “Denying relief to small refineries and making the RFS mandate bigger through volume reallocation will not change the reality of the blend wall, grow the capacity of the fuel supply or inspire more consumers to buy E15 and flex fuels.” Doing so, the organization says, will lead to higher compliance costs and more imports of foreign biodiesel. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Water and Wastewater Funding The Department of Agriculture Monday announced $462 million in funding to modernize drinking water and wastewater infrastructure across rural America. USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand says the upgrades “will improve public health and drive economic development.” USDA is funding 161 projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. The program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in rural areas. The funding includes projects in rural communities in more than 40 U.S. states and will benefit 467,000 residents. Projects include constructing reservoirs, upgrading outdated water systems, and creating and improving sanitary sewer systems. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure, business development, housing, community facilities and high-speed internet access in rural areas. ************************************************************************************ Onions Recalled Because of Salmonella Link Onion producer Thomson International Inc is recalling all of its onions from all 50 states because of its link to a Salmonella Newport outbreak. The outbreak has sickened more than 500 people in the United States and Canada, and the recall follows a similar recall in Canada. Food Safety News reports the first illness began on July 12, but health officials expect more to be identified because of the lag time between illness onset and the confirmation required for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add a patient to its tally. Initially, it was thought that only red onions were implicated in the Salmonella Newport outbreak, but because of cross-contamination issues, all onions, including yellow, white and sweet are being recalled in both countries. Many of the onions are packaged for foodservice use and have been used in multi-ingredient foods so it is difficult for consumers to know whether the onions in such foods are part of the recall.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday August 4, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Growing Pressure on the Dollar Bloomberg is warning this week that the dollar is “flashing a warning sign” to U.S. policy makers pushing them to “get a grip on the virus.” After hitting an all-time high in March, the dollar lost 10% of its value, with declines accelerating in recent weeks as infections spread seemingly unchecked across the nation. Early on in the pandemic, the dollar soared after investors sought safety in U.S. assets like Treasuries while the virus stormed through Europe. But with cases now exploding, “the ineffectual American response has become a millstone for the currency, spurring concern about lasting damage to the U.S. economy that could keep interest rates and growth low for years.” “What people are most desperately waiting for is good news on virus control,” said Stephen Jen, chief executive at Eurizon SLJ Capital Ltd. “The currency bet is mainly a bet on relative control of the virus, not reflecting the fundamental strength of the economies in question.” The U.S. government's handling of the pandemic — which contrasts with the euro area's progress in containing infections — is now a key driver of the greenback. The dollar's losses have often deepened during the U.S. trading day, suggesting investors were selling after the latest virus figures were released. Speculators are now the most short since November 2017, after betting on strength for almost all of last year. Bloomberg said its Dollar Spot Index rose 0.5% Monday after sliding more than 3% in July, the worst monthly performance since January 2018. Still, prior to the dollar's slump to a two-year low in July, Stephen Jen was bullish. Jen predicted in June that the currency would bounce back as the U.S. economy rebounded. Jen is a pioneer of the so-called dollar smile theory, which posits that the dollar will gain as a result of either U.S. growth exceeding that of other nations or during risk aversion. Instead, the dollar has languished as rising infections simultaneously put the kibosh on a boost for growth and sapped appetite for the currency as a haven. “The key assumption I was making, which turned out not to be correct, was that the U.S. would sort itself out after a difficult period,” Jen said. The euro area has only outperformed the U.S. in eight years since 1992, according to IMF data, but 2020 is on that track, as well. American gross domestic product suffered its deepest quarterly contraction since at least the 1940s in the three months through June. While Europe's economy was also eviscerated, with output shrinking to levels not seen since 2005, recent data show signs of a rebound as lockdowns ease across the region. Final prints for manufacturing purchasing managers' indexes for the euro-area, Germany and France came above flash estimates on Monday, while readings for Spain and Italy beat expectations. Meanwhile, European governments have — so far — kept a lid on new infections. That hasn't been lost on the Federal Reserve, with Chairman Jerome Powell saying after the central bank's latest meeting that the path forward for the U.S. economy will largely depend on America's success in “keeping the virus in check.” While policy makers have not explicitly linked rates to controlling COVID-19, the broader effort to curb the pandemic is influencing the outlook for both monetary policy and economic growth. “I'm much more confident about the 'left' side of the smile: that is, the dollar performing in a risk-off environment, than I am on the other side, which is classically driven by a U.S. economic out-performance,” said Ross Hutchison, investment director for Standard Life Investments. But others aren't convinced that even this side of the framework holds up. The dollar smile has flattened and turned into a painful “grin,” according to Calvin Tse, a foreign-exchange strategist at Citigroup Inc., with the flood of liquidity unleashed by the Fed diminishing the likelihood of a sudden rush to the dollar in a risk-off scenario. While Tse doesn't rule out gains for the dollar, any haven rally is likely to be shallower than in previous years thanks to these measures, while the possible extent of depreciation remains the same. For some, then, it's time to better reflect the influence of the virus in their strategies. Paresh Upadhyaya, money manager at Amundi Pioneer Asset Management, which has $78 billion under management, says accounting for the virus has taken on a bigger role in shaping his view of the dollar and the economy. To keep tabs on the virus's impact Upadhyaya watches number of items, including activity at airport security checkpoints, restaurant reservations, small business openings, small business revenue and employment. He also tracks traditional data on manufacturing and services, and uses mobility data produced by Apple Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. to gauge states reopening. “As cases in the U.S. have picked up, that's a flag for the dollar,” Upadhyaya said. “So, we use currency values to gauge which region is having a better handle over the virus.” So, we will see. A weaker dollar is seen by many exporters as a powerful stimulus to sales, so the current trend will be welcome in some quarters. Still, efforts to fight the virus while managing a volatile economy are a growing challenge with longer-term economic implications — fights producers should watch closely as they persist, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday August 4, 2020 |


US-UK Trade Talks Continue This Week U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will meet this week with UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss who the Financial Times said would relate her frustration at American officials over “punitive” tariffs levied on British goods. Truss' visit to Washington underlines the UK's desire to strike a trade deal with America quickly, despite U.S. officials saying final talks on a new trade accord would not likely be completed by the end of the year. Truss told the Financial Times that, while U.S. officials “talk a good game on free trade and low tariffs, the reality is that many of our great British products are being kept unfairly out of their market.” She is expected to raise the retaliatory tariffs as part of the Airbus and Boeing dispute in the aviation sector, as well as the prospect of further tariffs being levied on British goods.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday August 4, 2020 |


Dairy Industry Pushing on Trade A bipartisan group of 61 senators want U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to make it a “core” trade policy objective to strike trade deals that allow U.S. dairy producers to sell their products using common names that originated in Europe. “Our competitors continue to employ trade negotiations around the world to prohibit American-made products from using common food [and drink] names … such as bologna, parmesan, chateau and feta, which have been in use for decades,” the senators said in a letter. Dairy groups, including the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, want future trade deals to include stronger terms than were included in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, (USMCA) which went into force July 1.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday August 4, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets The only official report on Tuesday's docket is U.S. factory orders at 9 a.m. CDT, but the latest weather forecasts will be closely watched with parts of the Midwest needing rain in August. As usual, Monday's Crop Progress report may play a part in Tuesday's trading as well as any trade news that emerges. Weather Tuesday will be dry and mild over most crop areas. Rainfall will be confined to light showers in the northwestern Plains and the far eastern Midwest. This combination favors row crop filling. A few delays may occur in spring wheat harvest due to showers

| Rural Advocate News | Monday August 3, 2020 |


Chinese Corn Purchases Sets Records as Tensions Grow Chinese buyers made a record purchase of U.S. corn last week. Reuters says that extended a recent flurry of U.S. purchases as tensions continue to grow between the two largest economies in the world. The USDA says China bought 1.937 million tons of corn from private exporters that will be delivered in the 2020-2021 marketing year. That purchase is worth around $325 million and passed up the previous record of 1.76 million tons reported only two weeks ago. In another report, the USDA says soybean sales to China rose to 1.925 million tons for the week ending July 23, which was the biggest weekly total since November of 2016. China’s purchases of American farm goods totals $6 billion through May, while the Phase One Trade Agreement calls for a total of $36.5 billion in purchases this year. While the $6 billion total is 9.1 percent higher than the same period last year, it’s also 31 percent lower than the same time in 2017. Rising tensions had already slowed soybean purchases last week. U.S. Soybean Export Council CEO Jim Sutter says, “Chinese buyers are worried about a possible disruption in the implementation of the Phase One agreement, which is certainly not good for future purchases.” ********************************************************************************************** Perdue Says EU “Green Deal” Could Undermine Trade Talks with the U.S. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says the European Union’s recently-published EU “Green Deal” strategies could “undermine trade and affect the viability of EU farmers.” Perdue’s claim was immediately refuted by his EU counterpart. Euractive (Yuhr-ACTIVE) Dot Com says Perdue spoke during a webinar on the transatlantic perspective on food security in a post-COVID world last week. Perdue commended the EU for focusing on sustainability and expressed a strong desire to work with the European Union. However, he criticized the new food policy, which he says, “seems to have forgotten the ‘farm’ in ‘Farm to Fork.’” The EU says the new Farm to Fork policy is intended to improve the sustainability of agriculture within the bloc and shorten the distance between the farm and the end-user. Together with the new biodiversity plan, those two policies make up the heart of the EU Green Deal. Perdue also says EU farmers were being left without the tools they need to do their jobs, warning that it could make farmers there uncompetitive. If that happens, it could then lead to EU protectionism, something that could “do some real damage to the global trade environment.” However, the EU Ag Commissioner says the emphasis on reinforcing shorter supply chains doesn’t imply any new trade barriers, adding that the bloc “isn’t against and needs international trade.” ********************************************************************************************** Cattle Producers Set Policy Priorities for the Future of the NCBA A large number of cattle producers worked to identify a policy that would help to resolve concerns about live cattle marketing issues and help lead the industry to more robust price discovery. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Live Cattle Marketing Committee considered many proposals aimed at encouraging greater volumes of cash cattle trade. After sometimes intense debate, the committee and the NCBA Board of Directors unanimously passed a policy that supports voluntary efforts to improve the fed cattle trade over the next three months. However, it leaves the market open to the potential for future mandates if robust regional cash trade numbers are not reached by the industry. NCBA President Marty Smith says the work of the Live Cattle Marketing Committee caps off months of efforts to find industry and market-driven solutions to increase price discovery without government mandates. “The policy we passed today is the result of every state cattlemen’s association coming together to work through their differences and find solutions that meet the needs of their members,” Smith says, “all of whom agree that the industry needs more price discovery. The policy provides all players in the industry with the opportunity to achieve that goal without seeking government mandates.” ********************************************************************************************** Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act Introduced in Congress The Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act was introduced in Congress late last week to help preserve agricultural fairs across the country. The legislation from Democrat Jimmy Panetta of California and Republican Billy Long of Missouri is also designed to help fairs recover from large financial losses they’ve suffered because of COVID-19. A large number of fairs across the country didn’t take place this summer because of safety concerns. The bill would provide $500 million in grant funding for agricultural fairs through their state departments of agriculture to help keep them functioning well into the future. “County and local fairs are very important to agriculture and our communities all across our country,” Panetta says. “Fairs provide our producers with the opportunity to market their crops and livestock and foster the next generation of farmers.” He points out that fairs are also an “economic engine” and a gathering place to highlight and celebrate our communities. A Drover’s report says agricultural and community fairs have been an important part of rural communities for over 250 years. State and local fairs also provide farmers and ranchers with the opportunity to educate the public about local agriculture. “Like many institutions, fairs have been hit by COVID-19,” Panetta says, “and we must assist if we are going to preserve these fairs for the future.” ********************************************************************************************** NCGA Talks Trade and Supply Chains During Virtual Town Hall National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross joined other national agricultural leaders for an AgTalks virtual town hall last week. Participants talked about the future of agriculture, with a focus on trade, supply chains, and competition on a global scale. The town hall allowed panelists to provide updates from their industries and answer questions. Ross talked about the many challenges facing corn producers in 2020 and shared the NCGA’s recovery plans to help growers navigate the immediate challenges in the short term and to expand market access in the long term. “We’re thankful to have USMCA in force and Phase One trade deals with both China and Japan,” Ross says. “But we have lost ground to our competitors, and it’s time to pivot to more aggressive expansion in our trade. NCGA will continue to push for trade agreements in Southeast Asia and many other regions that have strong demand potential.” The AgTalks town hall series will help farmers learn and share their views with commodity associations at a time when most of the major in-person state agricultural events have been canceled or postponed because of COVID-19. Last week’s event focused on Iowa, with future events scheduled to focus on Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. ********************************************************************************************** Ethanol Ready to Capture More Carbon Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says ethanol plants are ready to capture more carbon. She submitted comments on the Internal Revenue Service’s proposed regulations under section 45Q. It’s a performance-based tax credit for carbon capture projects. In her comments, Skor asks the agency to offer credit for carbon dioxide captured for food and beverage purposes, which would promote investment in new carbon capture capabilities and ensure that the food and beverage industry is not forced to tap alternative sources of carbon dioxide. “The ethanol industry has more than 50 projects that on average capture 99,000 to 153,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually,” Skor says. “These facilities both capture qualified carbon oxides or are in the process of financing projects to capture and sequester carbon oxides.” She adds that more projects are on the way and 45Q can help accelerate that process. Without the tax credit, food and beverage producers may have to rely on non-renewable sources of carbon dioxide.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday August 3, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Trade Policy Issues Intensify As trade has become more complex, policy issues have also become more complicated, Bloomberg says this week. For example, much of the modern trade in goods is actually in the form of components, a development widely attributed to an economic consultant, Keith Oliver, Bloomberg says. Oliver is concerned that current “drastic efforts to realign chains will ultimately hurt consumers.” Oliver recalls his 1978 work for Booz Allen Hamilton for a unit of Philips NV, the Dutch electronics giant “trying to compete globally back when Japan was the rising economic power in Asia that worried western companies.” Oliver, then in his mid-30s, pitched a solution initially billed as “integrated inventory management” to unify a fragmented organization — using a new theory of how to run a multinational company. Bloomberg says supply chain management has gone from back-office obscurity to political scapegoat “because they expose economies to shocks beyond their borders.” Oliver thinks there is “plenty of room for improvement, but he bristles at many governments' plans to nationalize his brainchild.” “This strikes me as a short-term victory for the political at the expense of the overall economic, intellectual and global social progress,” says Oliver, now retired in Vancouver after more than 40 years with Booz Allen. “Yeah, it'll make it easier because the supply chain won't be as long. However, the costs will go up, so, prices will go up and we'll hammer the consumer.” Such trade-offs are the subject of much economic debate of late and rare was the second-quarter earnings call where the chief executive officer of a major international producer didn't address them. For example, Bloomberg notes that Tom Linebarger, chairman and CEO of engine maker Cummins Inc., said “our supply-chain organization faced some of the most significant demand fluctuations in the company's history.” David Calhoun, Boeing Co.'s president and CEO, said the plane maker is “doing everything we can to support our global suppliers and their stability remains a key watch item for us in the aerospace — as our aerospace industry weathers these unprecedented challenges.” Part of that effort means assessing risks and “continuing payments to our more than 12,000 suppliers supporting about 1.5 million jobs,” he said. “The shortfalls recently demonstrated in supply chains are primarily management failures,” he says. “We do actually have the philosophies, concepts, tools and technologies to manage global extended-enterprise supply chains — the failure is in their rigorous application.” It wasn't until 1982 that Oliver's concept appeared publicly. U.S. and European companies were woefully behind their Japanese competitors on things like inventory control and built large, costly stockpiles as buffers against demand uncertainties. Over the following two decades, Oliver says a few broad changes happened that tested the durability of supply chains. The first was a rise in consumer preferences for customization — an iPhone in red, gold, black, white or silver; variety is an enemy because it makes demand hard to forecast. The second variable was globalization and companies stretching out across the world to reduce costs — ushering an era of low global inflation and low interest rates. “Remember that the whole reason to go out there was in fact the reduction of cost,” Oliver says. “In the majority of instances, it actually produced a very significant cost reduction.” There was a societal toll, though, according to officials like U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the architect of President Donald Trump's tariff offensive against China. In an essay in a recent edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, he derided those who've been “obsessed with efficiency” and called supply-chain relocation “a cure-all peddled by management consulting firms.” Around 2000, Oliver said, he and others realized the three main types of risk — two of which are currently wreaking havoc — needed more attention: internal risks like workers going on strike; external risk such as a trade war that boosts tariffs; and acts of nature like a pandemic that paralyzes the global economy. “Many companies caught up in the outsourcing frenzy failed to appreciate the risks,” Lighthizer wrote, a statement with which Oliver might partially agree. Another shortcoming in Oliver's view was a belief among top executives that technology, automation and artificial intelligence would smooth disruptions on their own. “Turning everything over to a black box is a very dangerous thing to happen in a supply chain,” said Timothy Laseter, who worked with Oliver at Booz Allen. “Progress will continue, but will it ever be as theoretically pure as we want it to be? Probably not.” Oliver remains optimistic that the recent shocks are surmountable and might even be a catalyst for making supply chains a bigger part of a company's strategic plan. “The progress has been huge,” he said. “I am frustrated that the potential has not been realized.” So, we will see. In recent years the administration has tended to rely on government interventions and less on economic competition to build sales — and, critics of current administration policy often argue that it has narrowed, rather than expanded, overseas markets. There is growing concern that the current reliance on tariffs will be more difficult to manage than anticipated. This is an important debate that producers should watch carefully as it intensifies, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday August 3, 2020 |


WTO Fails to Agree on Temporary Leader While the WTO is moving ahead to find a new Director General, the group has been unable to agree on a temporary leader for the world trade body. While the exit of current WTO Chief Roberto Azevedo would normally prompt the trade body to pick temporary leader from one of the four Deputy Directors General. But they did not take such a step. The General Council agreed to extend the terms of the four sitting Deputy Directors-General — Yonov Fred Agah, Karl Brauner, Xiaozhun Yi and Alan Wolff – until a new leader is chosen. Labeled “very much a housekeeping matter to facilitate the continued running of the organization,” General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand said the lack of a consensus on who should temporarily lead the WTO prompted the extension of the terms of all four of the Deputy Directors General. The four will “consult closely with the members,” the WTO said. Walker stressed that during this interim phase, no structural changes will be made to the WTO Secretariat.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday August 3, 2020 |


Push Continues on Removing US Sanctions on EU Food, Ag Goods A bipartisan coalition of House members have written to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to urge removal of retaliatory tariffs on European Union (EU) food and ag products imported into the country. The tariffs are linked to the long-running dispute between the U.S. and EU over subsidies given to Airbus in the form of low interest rates. The World Trade Organization ruled the situation with Airbus ran counter to world trade rules. While the EU insists they have met the terms of the WTO ruling, the U.S. is able to hit EU goods with retaliatory tariffs. The U.S. has threatened additional EU goods with tariffs, but the August deadline is approaching and it is not clear the U.S. will hold off expanding the tariffs too long. And while lawmakers praise Lighthizer for his get-tough stance on the EU/Airbus issue, they add, “We hope you will update the United States' approach in this case to eliminate unintended hardships for Americans trying to make ends meet and small businesses seeking to recover.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday August 3, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Traders will still be checking the latest weather forecasts on the first Monday in August and any trade news that develops. A report on U.S. manufacturing is due out at 8 a.m. CDT, followed by weekly grain export inspections at 10 a.m. A monthly Fats and Oils report from NASS is out at 2 p.m. CDT, followed by USDA's Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. Weather Monday will be dry with seasonal to below-normal temperatures in most crop areas. Rain will be confined to light activity in the eastern Midwest and to tropical precipitation in the Southeast.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 31, 2020 |


NASDA: Senate Coronavirus Aid Falls Short for Agriculture Negotiations to finalize the next coronavirus relief package in Congress are far from the finish line, and so is aid for agriculture, according to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The Senate Republican proposal includes a second round of $1,200 stimulus payments for individuals, extends additional unemployment payments by $200 a week through September, and includes substantial funding for schools and COVID-19 testing, and $20 billion for agriculture. The discretionary funding would support agricultural producers, growers and processors. Not included in the Republican plan is additional funding for food and nutrition programs or dedicated funding for state departments of agriculture to respond to COVID-19 impacts. NASDA CEO Barb Glenn says, “This relief package falls short of meeting the needs of the food and agriculture community.” Further, Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, says, “Struggling Americans deserve better.” Stabenow says the Republican plan is “a non-starter” without nutrition assistance included. ************************************************************************************ Lawsuit Challenges NEPA Rewrite A coalition of environmental groups is challenging the Trump administration rewrite of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The Environmental Defense Fund, along with other organizations, call the rewrite an “attack” on Americans. Leading the legal challenge, an attorney at the environmental group Earth Justice, says, “They want to make it easier to silence people’s voices and give polluters a free pass to bulldoze through our neighborhoods. That’s why we’re taking them to court.” NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions before making decisions. The Public Lands Council says, however, the changes make the process more efficient. The updates establish presumptive time limits of two years for environmental impact statements and one year for environmental assessments. Ranchers who hold federal grazing permits are subject to NEPA reviews for many reasons, including renewal of a term grazing permit, construction of range improvements, or to become eligible for participation in Department of Agriculture conservation programs. ************************************************************************************ Senator Booker: Current Food System Fundamentally Broke A former 2020 presidential candidate says the nation’s food system is “fundamentally broken.” Addressing the National Food Policy Conference this week, Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, says, “After this crisis, we simply cannot go back to business as usual.” Booker claims the food system is broken for supply chain workers, farmers, rural communities and from a public health perspective. Booker places blame on multinational corporations and industry consolidation. The lawmaker cited numerous bills he supports to reform the beef supply chain, including the Farm System Reform Act that would allow more bargaining power for ranchers. Booker also cited the Agribusiness Merger Moratorium act that would halt consolidation within the food system, along with the Climate Stewardship Act and the Local FARM Act. Booker, a self-described vegan, says, "We must create a better future where we phase out big factory farms and instead put our faith and support behind independent family farmers and robust local food systems.” ************************************************************************************ House Ag Welcomes Two New Committee Members The House Agriculture Committee Wednesday announced two new members, Chris Jacobs, a New York Republican, and Troy Balderson, an Ohio Republican. Jacobs won a special election in June and will serve the remainder of the term left by retired Congressman Chris Collins. Collins, a Republican, pled guilty to wire fraud and securities fraud last year, and resigned from his position. Jacobs previously served as a state Senator in New York and a county clerk. Balderson of Ohio was elected to the U.S. House in 2018, and takes the place James Comer, who will depart the Agriculture Committee. Balderson also serves on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and the Small Business Committee. In welcoming the pair to the committee, Texas Republican Representative and Ranking Member Mike Conaway stated, “Both understand the importance of supporting our farm families, and I look forward to working alongside Chris and Troy on behalf of rural America.” ************************************************************************************ Dicamba-Resistant Palmer Amaranth Discovered in Tennessee Researchers from the University of Tennessee report finding dicamba-resistant Palmer amaranth in the state. Results from greenhouse trials and in-field assessment report the level of dicamba resistance is relatively low, about 2.5 times. The level of infestation in any given field ranges from a small pocket where a mother plant went to seed in 2019 to an area covering several acres in a field. This would be comparable to the first documented glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth found in Tennessee back in 2006, where most were still getting relatively good Palmer amaranth control with glyphosate, while others were noticing escapes in their fields. Researchers say it’s not time to panic, however, say “it is time to reassess weed management.” Looking forward to 2021, the university says a pre-applied residual that is effective on Palmer amaranth is now a necessity. Moreover, timely applications of Liberty must be used shortly after a dicamba application to remove escapes from coverage. ************************************************************************************ American Lamb Board Partners with H-E-B The American Lamb Board has partnered with the nation's top consumer ranked grocery store, H-E-B, to promote the benefits of American Lamb through the H-E-B Health and Wellness program. The effort provides important visibility for American Lamb in Texas and sets the stage for potential future retail collaborations. With more than 350 locations throughout Texas, H-E-B is a major player in the grocery industry. The first step of the partnership was engaging and educating more than 70 H-E-B registered dietitians about the benefits of American Lamb to support their nutrition education efforts. In June, more than 1,000 H-E-B customers received an American Lamb recipe book sent directly to their homes. Then, in July, H-E-B stores began an in-store promotion of American Lamb! H-E-B dietitians are including American Lamb on their "Pick Lists," which feature selected products and a coupon offering $2 off assorted American Lamb cuts. This generated more than 7,600 coupon redemptions in just the first seven days of July. As of July 29, more than 14,300 coupons have been redeemed.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 31, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fed Sees Future Peril for Workers The New York Times and others are reporting this week that the Federal Reserve left interest rates near zero on Wednesday as it predicted a long road ahead and that the recent spike in virus cases “saps momentum from the nascent economic recovery.” Chairman Powell noted that infections have surged since late June and the “pace of recovery looks like it has slowed.” He also noted that policymakers need more data before drawing firm conclusions about the scope of the pullback. Debit and credit card spending were slowing and as labor market indicators suggest that recent job gains might be weakening. More than 14 million people who held jobs in February are no longer employed. Powell warned that it will take time for workers in certain industries, like restaurants, hotels and travel, to find new jobs. “He added that the Fed was “not even thinking about thinking about thinking about raising rates.” The Times said that while the Fed took no major actions on Wednesday, Powell's comments underlined both the peril ahead for American workers and the reality that interest rates are likely to be very low for an extended period of time. Stock prices climbed following his remarks as investors took heart from the Fed's patient stance. Ahead of the Chairman's comments, the central bank reiterated that the Fed would keep low rates in place “until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events.” The Fed's announcement came amid another round of tense negotiations in Congress over providing more support to workers and businesses. Debate revolves around whether to extend an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits now set to expire this week. Powell said the support lawmakers have already provided has been critical for the economy. While he did not weigh in on how high unemployment insurance benefits should be set, he said it would be important to help the large number of workers who were likely to be displaced even if the economy reopened successfully. “Those people will need support,” he said, noting that government policy so far has “kept people in their homes, it's kept businesses in business.” Powell said both Congress and the central bank would need to do more in the months ahead. Since March, the Fed has put in place a series of measures to help cushion the economic fallout as businesses close or reduce capacity and as shoppers stay home from malls and movie theaters to control the spread of the coronavirus. The central bank has rolled out nine emergency lending programs, which are meant to keep credit flowing to businesses and state and local governments, and is purchasing government-backed bonds to keep markets functioning normally. Also, it has slashed interest rates to rock bottom to entice borrowing and spending. On Tuesday, officials announced that they would extend their emergency lending programs through the end of the year. Seven of the programs were initially set to expire around the end of September but could still be needed as coronavirus cases have continued to rise. That could take time, Powell said. The unemployment rate, while falling, remains historically high at 11.1%. Initial jobless claims ticked up last week after months of gradual improvement, stoking concerns that the economy might be backsliding. The job losses are hitting disadvantaged communities particularly hard. The Fed's own surveys have shown that poorer people were more likely to lose jobs and that those with less education often did not have the option to work from home. The jobless rate for Black workers has skyrocketed to more than 15% and the unemployment rate for Black men continued to tick up in June even as the rate for other racial and gender groups began to fall. While Fed officials' June economic projections suggested that they expected unemployment to fall below 10% by the end of the year, policymakers made it clear then that conditions were extremely uncertain. The central bank's policies do seem to be offering support, at least around the edges. House buying has ticked up, fueled by cheap mortgage rates and the U.S. homeownership rate is now at levels last seen before the 2008 financial crisis. Key credit markets have calmed down after a disorderly March and April, as has the market for U.S. government debt. Powell also said the Federal Open Market Committee's longer-run framework review, which could guide the central bank's strategies, would be completed in the near future. Some economists took that news to mean that more action is coming at the Fed's Sept. 15-16 meeting. “The July FOMC meeting was expected to be a placeholder event until more important decisions are made at the next meeting in September,” Michael Feroli, the chief U.S. economist at JP Morgan, said in a note. “The committee met those expectations.” So, we will see. Clearly, the economy continues to struggle and is likely to do so for some time. This will heavily Depend on the future intensity of virus outbreaks, as well as investment programs from the government which are now being debated fiercely. These are highly significant fights that producers should watch closely as they intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 31, 2020 |


WTO To Appoint Arbitrator Over US Request For Duties On China Goods The WTO will appoint an arbitrator to rule on a U.S. request to hit $1.3 billion in China goods with retaliatory duties in a dispute over China's subsidies for wheat, corn and rice producers, a WTO official said on Wednesday. The U.S. maintains China has not complied with a 2019 WTO ruling against Chinese agricultural support programs in a case brought late in the Obama administration in 2016. China did not appeal the decision, and the U.S. agreed to give Beijing until the end of June 2020 to comply. China insists they have complied, but the U.S. said they do not think that is the case.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 31, 2020 |


China Purchases Of US Ag Goods Remains In Focus Both Reuters and Bloomberg are running items which focus on the pace needed for China to meet its purchase commitments of U.S. ag products under the Phase One agreement. Reuters reports data through May put the country well behind the pace needed and says that their recent purchase pace of U.S. corn and soybeans would have to be maintained in coming months in order to meet their commitments. Bloomberg reports that China has amassed purchases of U.S. cotton despite a global downturn in textile/clothing demand due to COVID-19. The Wall Street Journal today reports the rise in Chinese corn prices to five-year highs is expected to result in stepped-up imports of corn and other grains, with U.S. corn farmers standing to benefit. Trade data for June due August 5 will provide a clearer picture of the situation. But USDA announced in its Weekly Export Sales report that foreign buyers picked up 3.344 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans the week ended July 23, including 1.989 mmt to China. And USDA also announced via its daily export sales reporting system that private exporters sold 1.937 mmt of U.S. corn to China for 2020/21, the largest daily corn sale to China on record.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 31, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The final day of July has a report on U.S. personal incomes and consumer spending at 7:30 a.m. CDT, along with the U.S. employment cost index. With soybeans getting closer to filling pods, the latest weather forecasts maintain high interest among traders as does any trade news. Weather Friday will be dry across northern and central crop areas. Rain will focus on the southern Midwest and portions of the Delta and Southeast with locally heavy amounts and some flood threat. Temperatures will be seasonally warm north and central, very warm south, and stressfully hot in the Far West and Northwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 30, 2020 |


Farmers to Families Food Box Program Reaches 50 Million Boxes Delivered Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday the Farmers to Families Food Box Program has distributed over 50 million food boxes. The Department of Agriculture program supports American farmers and families affected the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering food boxes to needy families. Perdue says the milestone is a “testament to everyone’s hard work” on the program. The program supplies food boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat products and a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Distributors package the products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need. The first round of purchases totaled $1.2 billion. The second round and current round aims to purchase up to $1.47 billion through August 31. The recently announced third round will use the remaining funds available to the program, up to $3 billion, and purchases will begin by September 1 and conclude at the end of October. ************************************************************************************ Biden Releases Rural America Plan Joe Biden’s Presidential Campaign released Biden’s plan for Rural America Wednesday. The plan says Biden will pursue a rural economic development strategy that “partners with rural communities to invest in their unique assets.” The plan’s goal is to give young people more options to “live, work, and raise the next generation in rural America.” The plan seeks to pursue a trade policy “that works for American farmers.” That includes standing up to China to “negotiate the strongest possible position.” Biden also plans to support beginning farmers by expanding the Obama Administration’s microloan program for new and beginning farmers. Biden also wants to partner with farmers to make American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, giving farmers new sources of income in the process. Biden’s plan also calls for promoting ethanol, including investing $400 billion in clean energy research. The plan also says Biden will “use every tool at his disposal,” including the federal fleet and the federal government’s purchasing power, to promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol, and other biofuels. ************************************************************************************ Purdue: Unsolicited Seeds Could Wreak Havoc on Agriculture Growing concerns around unsolicited seeds prompt at least 28 states to issue warnings not to plant the seeds. Indiana joined the list of states this week, warning of the potential damage to agriculture. Don Robison, seed administrator for the Office of Indiana State Chemist, says, "The last thing we want is to spread a weed, invasive species or disease, and that's a real risk if people plant these or throw them in the garbage." Robison says there is potential for serious harm to everything from backyard gardens to commodity and specialty crops. Utah officials confirmed at least one noxious weed in seeds sent to a resident in the state. Weed seeds, invasive species and disease pathogens can spread rapidly, costing millions of dollars annually for just a single plant or disease, and cause billions of dollars of impact overall each year. The seeds may be part of a "brushing" campaign in which online retailers send out unsolicited packages and use the fake sales to improve the seller's ratings in the marketplace. ************************************************************************************ Beef Board Issues New Long-Range Plan The Beef Industry Long Range Plan task force officially introduced its new five-year plan for 2021-2025 this week at the Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting in Denver. Updated every five years, the Beef Industry Long Range Plan is designed to help the beef industry establish a common set of objectives and priorities. It communicates the industry's strategic direction and provides insight on how the industry can serve its stakeholders by growing beef demand. Task Force leader Kim Brackett says, “We feel we've established some important priorities and strategies, as well as benchmarks for success that will help keep our industry on track through 2025 and beyond." The plan seeks to grow global beef demand by promoting the benefits of beef, improve industry-wide profitability through expanding processing capacity, and increase research efforts on sustainability. The plan also seeks to make traceability a reality in the U.S. beef industry. The task force convened several times over the past year and considered all aspects of the industry when formulating the plan. ************************************************************************************ Ernst to EPA: Make E15 Available at Every Pump Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to make E15 available at every U.S. gas pump. Specifically, Ernst calls on EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to certify biofuel infrastructure for E15 and remove unnecessary labeling which will increase consumer access to E15. In a letter to Wheeler, Ernst writes, “You must act now to initiate a rulemaking process and follow through on this agreement to provide certainty to farmers,” citing COVID-19 pandemic losses. In May, Ernst led a bipartisan effort urging the Trump Administration to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard and reject requests for the RFS to be waived. Ernst is currently pressing the White House to support the biofuels industry through coronavirus relief. The oil industry, expectedly, disagrees. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers claim EPA could mandate a full 15 billion gallons with zero small refinery exemptions, and the fuel supply would still only be able to accommodate about 14.3 billion gallons of ethanol. ************************************************************************************ Legislation Would Incentivize Public Schools to Work With Farmers The Small Farm to School Act seeks to create a pilot program to incentivize public schools to work closely with local farmers. The bill was introduced this week by Representatives Antonio Delgado, a New York Democrat, and Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. The legislation would create an eight-state pilot program where local public schools would be reimbursed at a higher rate for sourcing school lunches from small farmers under the National School Lunch Program. Specifically, the bill would provide a five cent-per-lunch subsidy when a component of the meal is sourced from a small, local farm. The cost of the subsidy would be split evenly between the federal government and the participating state. The Small Farm to School Act authorizes $20 million annually for the pilot in eight states. Delgado, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, says the legislation "will help form new partnerships that both assist our small farmers and the health of our young people."

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 30, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Senate Sets up Battle Over Medicaid The Hill is reporting this week that the Senate didn't include a funding increase for Medicaid in its new COVID-19 response bill, ignoring pleas from both Democratic and Republican governors. This “tees up a contentious fight with the House over spending on the health care program for the poor,” The Hill said. Governors facing massive budget shortfalls caused by the economic downturn have warned they will have to cut Medicaid and other programs if they don't get more help from Congress--but those warnings did not sway Senate Republicans who have resisted what they say would be “bailouts” of state and local governments. “At the end of the day, it's got to be in there,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “We're in this perfect storm of hurt, he said. Since states have to balance their budgets, the only way out of this is aggressive, concerted, federal, congressional action.” Medicaid -- which is jointly paid for by states and the federal government -- covers about 70 million people. However, “enrollment is expected to increase as people lose their jobs and become newly eligible for the program.” States are also facing increased costs from paying for COVID-19 treatment and services for beneficiaries. At the same time, tax revenue is falling, leaving massive budget holes that states are required to fill. During recessions, governors and state legislatures tend to cut costly programs like Medicaid, which consumes about 20 percent of state budgets. To avoid cuts, groups like the National Association of Medical Directors and the National Governors Association want Congress to temporarily increase the share of Medicaid costs paid by the federal government, to help cover increased enrollment costs and to free up state money for other areas like education. A COVID-19 response bill recently passed by the House would increase the share of Medicaid costs paid by the federal government but it has not been considered by the Senate. Now House and Senate negotiators will have to hammer out a compromise in a final package that Congress hopes to pass in the coming weeks. “There is increasing recognition that something needs to get done,” Salo said. “I feel confident that we will get there,” he added. A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: “This is obviously a critical program, which is why it was in the HEROES Act.” However, Senate Republicans and the administration have a complicated history with the Medicaid program and have spent the last few years trying to reduce spending and decrease enrollment among childless adults. One disagreement between Republicans and Democrats is over a requirement passed in a previous COVID-19 response bill that prohibits states receiving increased Medicaid funding from cutting benefits or restricting eligibility. Republicans think the requirement is too restrictive to states and want to change it in the next response bill. Congress passed a COVID-19 response bill in March that increases the federal government's share of Medicaid costs but governors say more help is needed. “The COVID-19 pandemic is drastically shrinking state and local revenue with most states experiencing a budget shortfall ranging between 5 and 20 percent,” the NGA and other groups wrote in a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month. “Even states with a lower shortfall will be challenged to provide adequate healthcare services to their residents. This leaves state and local leaders with tough choices to balance their budgets while responding to a pandemic.” For example, Colorado has already cut funding to its Medicaid dental program and cut payments to some providers by 1 percent, The Hill notes. Medicaid rates are already typically lower than rates paid by Medicare and private insurance. Other states, such as Florida and Tennessee, have put off planned improvements to the Medicaid program, like increases in provider rates and extra services for pregnant women, the report said. Federal law prohibits states receiving increased Medicaid funding from cutting required benefits, increasing premiums or restricting eligibility—restrictions Congress put in place to protect beneficiaries from losing coverage during the pandemic. That means in order to find savings, states turn to cutting provider rates, which some experts say could be disastrous, especially for those that primarily see Medicaid patients. Those providers are already struggling to maintain social distancing as they see more patients and as more people are staying at home and avoiding nonemergency care. “Medicaid provider payment cuts will compound financial damage from the pandemic, raising the risk that pediatricians, behavioral health providers and safety net clinics close their doors,” said Aviva Aron-Dine, vice president for health policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. So, we will see. The politics of federal assistance for anti-virus programs appear to be growing tougher as additional programs are considered—and, as needs for assistance grow. These battles for federal assistance are increasingly large and extended and should be watched closely as the season proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 30, 2020 |


Iowa Lawmakers' Ethanol Focus Continues Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is keeping up pressure on EPA over biofuels, this time shifting her attention to the issue of E15 and expanding the availability of the fuel after EPA changed its rules to allow for year-round sales of the higher ethanol blend. In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Ernst pointed out that the infrastructure issues for E15 are not necessarily valid, noting that all steel fuel tanks and fiberglass tanks put in service since 1990 are approved for up to 100% ethanol. “Given the lifespan of underground tanks, almost every underground fuel tank should be able to handle E15 and higher blends of ethanol,” Ernst stated. Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said aid for the U.S. biofuel sector may come down to decisions made by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. "We're in a position of depending on the Secretary of Agriculture if this $20 billion goes to him, getting some of it for ethanol," Grassley said on Tuesday, following a question from DTN. The package provides $20 billion to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to help agricultural producers, growers and processors. The latter is being cited by some as covering ethanol producers.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 30, 2020 |


Booker Offers Legislation to Slow Plant Line Speeds Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., filed a bill on Tuesday that would suspend all current and future line-speed waivers for meatpacking plants during the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with a companion House bill from Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and others. The legislation would cover both meat and poultry processing. “The situation has only worsened since the USDA has approved nearly 20 requests from meatpacking plants to exceed regulatory limits on line speeds despite the risks posed to workers, consumers, and animal welfare,” Booker said. But the idea of slowing line speeds is being met with pushback from the U.S. meat industry. Smithfield Foods CEO Ken Sullivan said that slowing them by 50% “means euthanizing half of our nation's livestock, the collapse of farm prices (law of supply and demand), burying food in the ground, food insecurity and higher food prices for everyone including, most importantly, those that can least afford it.”

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 30, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets At 7:30 a.m. CDT Thursday, the lineup includes weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims, a report on second-quarter U.S. GDP and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Natural gas inventory is posted at 9:30 a.m. and weather and trade news will also get traders' attention. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain is in store for the central Plains through southern Midwest, Delta and Southeast Thursday. Some flooding is possible in areas with heavier rains. Dry conditions will be in place elsewhere. Temperature will be seasonal in northern and central areas and hot south and northwest. Heat bulletins cover much of the western and northwestern U.S.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 29, 2020 |


Coronavirus Relief Includes $20 Billion for Agriculture The Senate coronavirus relief package includes an expected $20 billion for agriculture. The relief package worth $1 trillion released this week by Republican leadership in the Senate, however, falls short, according to Democrats. And, Congress will need to act quickly and reach an agreement to pass a bill before expanded unemployment benefits expire. The Senate HEALS Act specifically provides $20.45 billion in direct funding to the Office of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, but does not make changes to how the Commodity Credit Corporation can spend money, according to the Hagstrom Report. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, criticized the Senate bill, saying, “They don’t have money for food stamps, but they have money for an FBI building.” The bill asks for $1.75 billion to rebuild the existing FBI headquarters. The House passed HEROES Act, a $3 trillion bill, would raise the max Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit, and prohibit the Trump administration from implementing three proposed rules that would cut benefits and eligibility. ************************************************************************************ Lawsuit Challenges Bioengineered GMO Food Labeling A lawsuit led by the Center for Food Safety challenges Department of Agriculture rules on labeling genetically engineered, or GMO foods, as bioengineered foods. The lawsuit claims the final regulations, issued in 2019, includes provisions “which will leave the majority of GMO-derived foods unlabeled,” as it prohibits the use of the widely known terms GMO and GE. The Center for Food Safety is representing a coalition of food labeling nonprofits and retailers, including the Natural Grocers, operating 157 stores in 20 states, and Puget Consumers Co-op, the nation's largest community-owned food market. CFS legal director George Kimbrell, counsel in the case, says, "The American public successfully won GE food labeling after more than a two-decade fight, but the Trump rules fall far short of what consumers reasonably expect and the law requires.” The Center for Food Safety also challenges USDA's allowance of electronic or digital disclosure on packaging, also known as "QR code" or "smartphone" labeling, without requiring additional on-package labeling, among other issues. ************************************************************************************ Farmers Deserve a Seat at the Table in Milk Pricing Policy The American Farm Bureau Federation released its final report on priorities for milk pricing reform, calling for more democracy and a more equitable program for dairy farmers. A Farm Bureau Federal Milk Marketing Order Working Group worked for a year to examine the system and develop recommendations to modernize the current FMMO system. Among AFBF's priorities is amending the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act to allow dairy farmers to directly vote on Federal Milk Marketing Order issues. Currently, only dairy farmers who are independent and not members of cooperatives may cast individual ballots. Cooperatives may allow their members to vote independently, but then lose their ability to bloc vote on behalf of their non-participating members. AFBF supports allowing modified bloc-voting, which would allow co-op members to vote independently, while allowing cooperatives to cast ballots for farmers who choose not to cast an individual ballot. Other recommendations in the final report include expanding price discovery and examining alternative ways to price fluid milk and improve risk-sharing between farmers and processors. ************************************************************************************ China Asks for Packages from U.S. to Investigate Unsolicited Seed Mailings The China seed saga continues as Chinese officials ask for packages from the U.S. to investigate. In a daily briefing with media, a spokesperson with China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry Tuesday stated China Post, China’s state-owned postal service, has contacted the U.S. Postal Service, asking it to send fake packages to China for investigation. The spokesperson noted China is a member of the Universal Postal Union, which prohibits plant seeds as imports, or in transit, for member countries. China Post says, for some of the packages, the return address labels “turned out to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries,” suggesting the origin of the packages is unknown. Reports of unsolicited seeds showing up in U.S. mailboxes surfaced last week. The Department of Agriculture and several states urge residents to report the packages to state agriculture officials and dispose of the seeds properly. USDA considers the practice agricultural smuggling and is investigating. ************************************************************************************ NCBA Addresses Checkoff Referendum Petition The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association this week released its response to a petition calling for a vote on the Beef Checkoff. A group of cattle organizations, including R-CALF USA, launched the petition earlier this month. NCBA President Marty Smith says, “NCBA fully supports the producers’ right to have their voices heard on the future of the checkoff. However, we also believe the petition and signature gathering processes should be transparent and conducted with integrity.” Smith says the Beef Checkoff has a long track record of solid returns for each dollar invested, adding, “we believe that a majority of cattlemen and women stand behind the program.” The Department of Agriculture also responded, stating a group of ten percent or more of the number of cattle producers must request the referendum. USDA also questioned the methods of gathering signatures, saying, “USDA will apply additional scrutiny to petition signatures obtained through an online platform and will consider whether any signatures have been obtained subject to improper influence or coercion.” ************************************************************************************ Potatoes USDA: Retail Potato Sales Reach Record highs Retail potato sales reached a five-year record high July 2019 through June 2020. U.S. potato marketing organization Potatoes USA reports total potato sales increased by 11 percent in dollars and ten percent in volume. Every category, except deli-prepared sides, increased in both dollar and volume sales. Frozen, dehydrated, and canned potatoes saw double-digit increases in both dollar and volume sales. Potato chips and fresh potatoes make up the majority of volume sales, and both saw increases in dollars and volume. Fresh potato sales increased 15 percent and ten percent in volume sales compared to the previous year. All fresh potato types increased in volume sales, except for red and fingerling potatoes. Petite potatoes had the highest increase in dollar and volume sales. All pack sizes showed double-digit growth in dollar sales. Pack sizes greater than ten-pound bags saw an increase in excess of 20 percent in dollar and volume sales. Fresh potatoes had a larger dollar sales increase than any of the last five marketing years.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 29, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Coronavirus Relief Fight Renewed Bloomberg reports this week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is taking the $1 trillion GOP virus relief package into negotiations with Democrats weighed down by a divided party and friction with the White House. The report notes a “fresh urgency for Republicans to act” months after McConnell pressed the “pause button” on new aid, as virus cases and deaths have soared and the president's poll ratings have slumped, threatening GOP control of both the White House and Senate. It also notes that Senate Republicans are split sharply, with some conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wanting to spend far less, if anything, on another stimulus amid record deficits, while others want more aid to state and local governments. Democrats, who've proposed a $3.5 trillion virus relief package, are eager to exploit those divisions. After meeting for almost two hours Monday night with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized the GOP proposal and said McConnell wouldn't even be able to count on Republican backing if it was put before the Senate. “It's pretty clear they don't have 51 votes in the Senate among the Republicans for a proposal,” Schumer said. With supplemental unemployment insurance expiring and other elements of the last stimulus legislation beginning to dry up, Congress has little time for extended negotiations, Bloomberg thinks. Lawmakers are set to leave for an August break in two weeks and will be facing a timetable compressed by the looming November election when they return in September. “The American people need more help, they need it to be comprehensive, and they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads,” McConnell said as he rolled out the GOP package. The bill would trim extra unemployment benefits, send $1,200 payments to a majority of Americans and shield schools, businesses, and other groups from lawsuits stemming from infections. Bloomberg noted key items in the bill include, among other things, $105 billion in education funding, with $70 billion going toward elementary, middle and high schools; $29 billion for colleges, and $5 billion for a flexible fund. Two-thirds of the funds would go to schools that institute reopening plans and the rest to schools as a whole, under existing federal formulas. In addition, it would include a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program aimed to target those worst affected and a new government-guaranteed, long-term loan initiative of almost $60 billion created for seasonal firms and those in low-income communities as well as $16 billion to help states ramp up tests and contact tracing. Republicans in the Senate had initially sought $25 billion in new funds. Also, the bill seeks to end dependence on foreign supply chains for personal protective equipment through tax credits to spur domestic manufacturing. The bill also includes $10 billion for the nation's airports as the pandemic continues to strain the aviation industry, although that figure is less than the $13 billion requested by airport organizations. Facilities that receive aid would have to keep at least 90% of their workers employed through March 2021. More than 3,000 U.S. airports already received a combined $10 billion under the March coronavirus relief package. The bill also includes $1.75 billion for a new FBI headquarters in Washington, a priority for the president who wants to prevent the facility from being moved to the suburbs. Plans to relocate the FBI from its current location about four blocks from the White House had been in the works since about 2012 — but were scuttled after the president took office. Not included in the proposal is any new money for states and cities to cope with swelling budget shortfalls, leaving them to contend with a grave financial crisis that's already forcing them to slash spending, furlough workers and delay major projects as tax revenue disappears. That's a stark contrast to the approximately $1 trillion that Democrats included in the bill the House passed last May, Bloomberg said. So, we will see. The politics surrounding coronavirus relief have hardened significantly in recent weeks, as the pre-election debate has intensified. While the need for additional support has increased as the virus attacks have continued with the approach of the new school year — but so has the “sticker shock” of the growing deficits. These are concerns and debates that producers should watch closely as the fights intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 29, 2020 |


USDA Addresses Unsolicited Seeds Received by Some Americans Consumers in multiple states have received packages of seeds that are labeled as jewelry or have Chinese language on the packets. Agriculture commissioners in several states have warned against planting the seeds. States reporting the deliveries include Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Washington. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) tweeted Tuesday they are “working closely with @CBP and State Depts of Ag re: unrequested seeds.” They urge those receiving the seeds to contact their state ag department or the state Plant Health Office. “Keep packaging and do not plant seeds from an unknown origin!” APHIS urged. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China strictly follows restrictions on sending seeds and said the records on the packages appear to have been falsified, according to checks by China's postal service.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 29, 2020 |


CFAP Payments Reach $6.55 Billion USDA has now paid out $6.55 billion under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) with 473,124 applications approved as of July 27. Of the $6.55 billion, USDA has paid out $3.31 billion for livestock, $1.73 billion for non-specialty crops, $1.29 billion for dairy and $227.5 million for specialty crops. Payouts by commodities are led by $2.87 billion for cattle, $1.29 billion for milk, $1.18 billion for corn, $416.1 million for hogs, $330.8 million for soybeans and $164.6 million for upland cotton. USDA initially projected that the initial round of payments to producers (80% of estimated gross payments) would be $3.01 billion for non-specialty crops, $2.30 billion for special crops, $2.78 billion for dairy, $4.35 billion for cattle, $2.14 billion for hogs and pigs and $80 million for other sectors for a total of $15.38 billion. The top six states receiving the aid are Iowa ($678.8 million), Nebraska ($484.2 million), Minnesota ($420.4 million), Wisconsin ($384.2 million), Texas ($355.6 million) and California ($345.4 million).

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 29, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets In addition to weather forecasts and trade news, an index of U.S. pending home sales is set for 9 a.m. CDT, followed by the U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory report at 9:30 a.m. The Federal Reserve will have an announcement at 1 p.m. CDT and is expected to keep interest rates near zero. Weather A front and a developing system will combine to provide periods of moderate to heavy rain from the Black Hills in South Dakota through the Southeast on Wednesday. There is a risk for flooding with these showers in the Black Hills and also for most of Oklahoma as well.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 28, 2020 |


USDA Announces More Farmers to Families Food Box Program Purchases The Department of Agriculture will launch a third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchases in September. The purchases will spend the balance of $3 billion authorized for the program. So far, over 46 million Farmers to Families Food Boxes have been invoiced and delivered. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the program "is accomplishing what we intended – supporting U.S. farmers and distributors and getting food to those who need it most." In the third round of purchases, USDA plans to purchase combination boxes to ensure all recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk, and meat products. In the ongoing second round of purchasing and distribution, which began July 1, USDA aims to purchase up to $1.47 billion of food for the program. For the second round, USDA extended contracts of select vendors from the first round of the program worth up to $1.27 billion. The first round of purchases totaled more than $947 million from May 15 through June 30, 2020. ************************************************************************************ U.S. Residents Receiving Unsolicited Seeds from China Numerous state agriculture departments, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are urging consumers not to plant seeds sent to them from China. Americans across the country report receiving unsolicited seeds from China in packages labeled as jewelry. These unknown seeds are a concern for American farmers, as they could be invasive species, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock. USDA considers the practice agricultural smuggling, and all states reporting the practice are asking consumers to notify their state agriculture departments. Consumers are asked not to open any sealed package containing seeds, and not throw unsealed seeds in the trash, as they could grow in landfills. The packages may be part of what is called a brushing scheme, where criminals buy their own cheap products, send them to a real address, then write a positive review about their product online. Similar packages containing seeds are showing up in mailboxes in Britain, as well. ************************************************************************************ Rural America 2020 Campaign Says Trump Policies Hurting Farmers A new political campaign, Rural America 2020, takes aim at the Trump administration. Founded by a self-described former Trump voter, Ohio farmer Chris Gibbs, the campaign advocates for policies that benefit agriculture and rural America. The group seeks to bring attention to President Donald Trump’s trade war, alleged rural community failures, and provide policy solutions for a stronger rural America. The campaign cites a rise in farm bankruptcies, farm debt and the decline in net farm income. Gibbs says, “Rural communities all across this nation are struggling under this administration.” He adds, “Too often rural America is portrayed with a broad brush as Trump country," saying Rural American 2020 is a way for rural residents to speak out against the Trump administration. In addition to building community-level coalitions in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, Rural America 2020 will be advertising in key states to highlight farmer's voices who are critical of the President and his policies. ************************************************************************************ Grains Council Hosting Virtual Annual Meeting Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Grains Council kicked off its 60th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting virtually Monday. The meeting seeks to help U.S. grain sector leaders assess the challenges affecting their industry and offer reassurance grain exports continue despite disruptions. The meeting began on an encouraging note from USGC Chairman Darren Armstrong, a farmer from North Carolina, who reviewed the current marketing year’s top five markets for U.S. corn – Mexico, Japan, Colombia, South Korea and China, and the top three markets for U.S. sorghum. Armstrong says, “While the current domestic demand situation is challenging, the export outlook has bright spots to share.” USGC will hold its Board of Delegates meeting and conduct elections today (Tuesday.) The meeting will wrap up on Wednesday with virtual Advisory Team meetings in the morning and a closing general session in the afternoon. Armstrong adds, “Throughout this extraordinary time, U.S. farmers have never stopped working and neither has the U.S. Grains Council.” ************************************************************************************ BQA Program Earns Compliance with International Animal Welfare Standards The Beef Quality Assurance Program, known as BQA, is now recognized as an industry-leading animal welfare program. Funded by the Beef Checkoff and managed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the program complies with the International Organization for Standardization Animal Welfare Management General Requirements and. The standard was developed in 2016 for programs to show they are aligned with the principles of the World Organization of Animal Health Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Julia Herman, Beef Cattle Specialist Veterinarian for NCBA, says affirmation that the program complies with the specifications is “an important recognition of U.S. cattle producers’ continued commitment to delivering a safe, high quality beef supply while maintaining the highest animal welfare standards.” Developed more than 30 years ago, the BQA program has become the industry standard for delivering education and resources to cattle producers. More than 85 percent of the U.S. beef supply today is managed by BQA-certified farmers and ranchers, according to the National BQA Database. ************************************************************************************ USDA Launches New Farmers.gov Features to Help Farmers Hire Workers New features on the farmers.gov website will help facilitate the employment of H-2A workers. The Department of Agriculture announced the new features Monday, which includes a real-time dashboard that enables farmers to track the status of their eligible employer application and visa applications for temporary nonimmigrant workers. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA’s goal is to help farmers navigate the complex H-2A program administered by Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department. The changes aim to make hiring a farmworker an easier process for farmers to navigate. The changes also include a streamlined login process and enables easy access to the Department of Labor's Foreign Labor Application Gateway. Additionally, the changes allow farmers to track time-sensitive actions and allows for farmers to access all application forms online. Secretary Perdue says, "We will continue working to streamline these and other processes to better serve our customers across the country.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 28, 2020 |


Washington Insider: National Debt Concerns Grow The Hill is reporting this week that a group of Senate Republicans are raising red flags over the rapid expansion of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet. They are raising concerns that this could impact interest rates, the strength of the U.S. dollar and the overall U.S. economy “before colleagues realize it's a serious problem.” The Hill says these worries are being led by Sens. Rick Scott, R-Fla., David Perdue, R-Ga., James Lankford, R-Okla. They show that opposition to passing a stimulus bill that exceeds $1 trillion is spreading in the GOP conference beyond Tea Party stalwarts such as Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. In addition, as deficit concerns go mainstream in the Senate GOP conference, pressure is rising on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to take a hard line with the administration and Senate Democrats in the relief negotiations. The stakes of the current talks are high, especially since McConnell is up for reelection against a well-funded Democratic opponent. He wants to deliver for his state but also to avoid a backlash from the conservative right, including Paul and Cruz, who have been highly critical of the projected cost of the next package. Now more mainstream members of the GOP conference are joining in the alarm over the Federal Reserve's balance sheet, which has ballooned from $4.27 trillion on March 11 to $6.93 trillion on July 22. During that span, the Fed's ownership of U.S. Treasury securities has soared from $2.52 trillion to $4.27 trillion. Some Republicans worry that with the U.S. debt climbing, they're seeing a drop off in demand in the world's financial markets for U.S. bonds, which could foreshadow climbing interest rates and a major problem for the economy down the road. Sen. Scott said that he's also worried about the price of gold going up. He warned GOP colleagues during private discussions on the stimulus bill. Asked about the chances of dropping demand for U.S. debt, Scott says “it's already happened.” Monthly statements from the Treasury Department show that debt held by the public jumped by $3.1 trillion from the beginning of March to the beginning of July. During that time, the Fed's outright ownership of U.S. Treasury securities climbed $1.74 trillion. The Hill estimated that the Fed has purchased about 56 percent of the Treasury debt issued in March, April, May and June. “Sen. Scott is right that over this four-month period, more than half of the increase in debt held by the public was purchased by the Fed,” said David Wilcox, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He noted that most of the Fed purchases occurred during the height of the financial panic in March and April. “This was a period of extraordinary dysfunction for a six-week period from mid-March to the end of April and during that period—yes, absolutely — it was the design of the Fed to purchase Treasury debt at an historically unprecedented pace,” he said. Wilcox noted that Fed purchases of treasuries moderated in May and June to a pace of “about $25 billion per week” and interest rates have remained low. Still, some GOP senators worry that interest rates could ratchet up and catch Washington by surprise — which would require Congress to appropriate tens of billions of dollars more on an annual basis to service the debt. Perdue, the former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, said he's raised his concerns with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Director Larry Kudlow. “We've gone from $23 [trillion] to $26 trillion in debt,” he said. “I'm really worried about the potential impact here of another $1 trillion or whatever we end up with. We need to be very circumspect. Anything we need to do now needs to be very targeted,” he said. Perdue worries the Fed balance sheet could grow to more than $13 trillion and said that he's raised the issue with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. And, he said he was worried about muted demand for U.S. debt at a recent auction. Like Scott, Perdue thinks the Fed had to step in and buy up treasuries to make up for diminished demand for U.S. debt in the financial markets. “The Fed stepped in and what that did is it kept interest rates low, artificially,” he said. “Because if you were to go to the market, supply and demand, you'd have to increase interest rates to get people to buy it.” Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett warned on Friday that growing debt and maxed out fiscal policy will cause a “great debasement” of the dollar. Hartnett wrote that erosion of the dollar is “underway as the default narrative for U.S. economy with excess debt, insufficient growth, and maxed-out monetary & fiscal stimulus.” So, we will see. It is not surprising that concerns about growing interventions in the economy are raising risks, observers say. However, the coronavirus is still the main threat and Congress seems certain to craft another big relief bill -- in spite of growing discomforts about impacts on the economy. These are debates producers should watch closely as they intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 28, 2020 |


US-China Talks On Progress of Phase One Agreement Up In Air The head of China's trade negotiating team, Vice-Premier Liu He, and U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, are expected to hold talks in August, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported, echoing prior reports from other media and including remarks by Lighthizer earlier this month. The meeting will be “an important inflection point” to allow both sides to assess the progress of the deal, a source told the SCMP. However, if because of the prevailing tensions between Washington and Beijing, “there was less of an appetite for engagement at the moment,” the two sides might agree that a telephone conversation between Lighthizer and Liu on May 8 had satisfied the “meeting” clause of the deal, the source said.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 28, 2020 |


FY 2021 Ag Spending Approved, But Package Faces Veto Threat The House on Friday voted 224-to-189 to approve a $259.5 billion four-bill measure consisting of the Agriculture, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA and State-Foreign Operations bills. The package includes $37.5 billion in emergency spending that Republicans and the White House contend busts the budget caps deal reached last summer and contains numerous policy riders they labeled "poison pills” which were factors behind a White House veto threat, including blocking food stamp restrictions for able-bodied adults without children. The four House bills will now go to the Senate where they are likely to sit until after the November 3 election, at the earliest.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 28, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Monday's higher crop ratings for corn, soybeans and spring wheat are apt to be bearish market factors for Tuesday's trading. The latest weather forecasts remains important to grain traders with soybeans approaching pod-filling. The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting and at 9 a.m. CDT, an index of U.S. consumer confidence is due out. Any trade news will also be noticed. Weather Tuesday will be warm and dry across northern and central crop areas. Rainfall will be confined to an arc of shower and thunderstorm activity in portions of the Southern Plains and southern Midwest. Conditions will generally favor corn moving into its filling stages and soybeans in pod-setting and pod-filling stages, along with developing spring wheat.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 27, 2020 |


House Passes Ag Appropriations Bill Despite White House Opposition On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a minibus of fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills, which included the agriculture bill. However, the Hagstrom Report says the White House is opposed to the overall bill and cited some specific provisions as the reason for its opposition. The final vote was 224-189. Seven Democrats, including House Ag Chair Collin Peterson, voted with Republicans in voting against it. Another 17 Republicans didn’t vote. The Senate hasn’t yet acted on appropriations bills. It’s not clear if the House and Senate will finish the appropriations process or pass a continuing resolution that will fund the government either until after the election or next year. In a statement of administration policy, the Office of Management and Budget says the Trump administration is concerned about provisions like those that would “stop historic welfare reforms at USDA.” OMB also says that such provisions would degrade the ability of USDA to move more families forward, provide equitable treatment across state lines, and effectively target program resources to those most in need. “The OMB statement didn’t threaten a veto of H.R. 7608, instead saying, “The administration looks forward to working with Congress to address our concerns as the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations process moves ahead.” ********************************************************************************************** China Continues to Buy More U.S. Soybeans China is continuing to ramp up its purchases of U.S. soybeans despite the uncertainties regarding the Asian nation’s ability to fulfill its Phase One Trade Agreement commitments with the U.S. Last Thursday made it eight consecutive days that the USDA announced additional export sales of soybeans to China and other locations. The USDA says private exporters filed reports of agricultural export sales totaling 132,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery during the 2020-2021 marketing year, which will begin on September 1. John Baize is an analyst with the U.S. Soybean Export Council. He says as Chinese buyers rush to fill deliveries that crushers will need over the next few months, U.S. soybeans coming from the Pacific Northwest are $6 cheaper than Brazil’s, giving American soybeans a competitive edge. USDA also reported export sales of 211,300 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2020-2021 marketing year. Baize says these are likely headed to somewhere in the European Union. ********************************************************************************************** USGC Tech Talk Series Expanding DDGS Sales Opportunities in Asia The U.S. Grains Council recently held two technical webinars intended to help with expanding future export opportunities for Dried Distiller’s Grains with Solubles (DDGS) in Southeast Asia. Caleb Wurth, USGC’s Assistant Director of Southeast Asia, says, “Southeast Asia will be one of the strongest performing markets for U.S. DDGS this marketing year, despite COVID-19 challenges.” The Council calls Southeast Asia a “trader’s market” thanks to expansive geography and a mix of nationalities. The extensive technical education and trade servicing done by USGC staff members are expanding the footprint of DDGS in countries across the region. Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and New Zealand all rank among the top ten buyers for the American ethanol co-product. Other markets like the Philippines and Malaysia are also showing increasing interest and purchases of U.S. DDGS, as well as other corn co-products. “Southeast Asia is now the destination for one-third of all U.S. DDGS exports,” Wurth adds. “The strong performance comes despite the challenges of movement restrictions, a lack of available containers, and new trade agreements signed between major markets and U.S. competitors.” Wurth also says the council is maintaining a high level of engagement in the region despite the constraints of COVID-19. ********************************************************************************************** Florida Growers Urged to Comment on Unfair Produce Trade with Mexico The Florida Ag Department and Commissioner Nikki Fried (Freed) are strongly encouraging producers to submit comments for the upcoming field hearings on unfair produce trade with Mexico. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative recently announced virtual field hearings will take place on August 13 and 20. Growing Produce Dot Com says these hearings will allow the Commerce Department and the Trump Administration an opportunity to hear from Florida’s seasonal produce growers on the urgent need for federal action on unfair foreign trade. “The concerns of Florida’s farmers with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement remain the same as when NAFTA was renegotiated two years ago,” says Fried. “The deal lacks protections against unfair trade practices that devastated our state’s produce growers.” With the USTR hearings scheduled for August, Commissioner Fried says now is the time for Florida’s growers and others affected by unfair foreign trade to make their voices heard. “Our farmers are the best in the world and deserve a level playing field to compete on,” she adds. A Florida Department of Ag report shows that imported Mexican produce has caused more than $3.7 billion in losses for U.S. producers since 2000. Mexico has expanded its share of the U.S. domestic market by 217 percent in that time. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Groups File Appeal on California’s Prop 12 Back in 2018, California voters passed Proposition 12, which is scheduled to go into effect on January 1 of 2022. A Protect the Harvest release says the bill increases regulations on the egg, pork, and veal producers both in the state of California as well as any out-of-state producers that want to sell products in the state. Proposition 12 was written, funded, and marketed by the Humane Society of the United States and their “Prevent Cruelty California” coalition. Right now, just one percent of pork producers comply with the housing requirements of Prop 12. When it goes into effect in 2022, a majority of the nation’s pork farmers won’t be allowed to sell their products in California. The American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council have jointly filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to ask that Prop 12 be ruled invalid. The appeal says that Prop 12 is unconstitutional and seeks to allow California to regulate states outside its governance by requiring producers to abide by the state’s own regulations to do business there. Protect the Harvest says it is “extremely hopeful” that the NPPC and the Farm Bureau are successful in their appeal. ********************************************************************************************** NCGA Hosted a “Virtual Fly-In” to Washington, D.C. Even during COVID-19, the National Corn Growers Association is working to help improve the economic situation for U.S. corn farmers. Shortly after the group held its first Virtual Corn Congress, the organization also hosted a virtual fly-in to Capitol Hill on July 22-23. NCGA typically hosts a fly-in for corn growers to Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Corn Congress that normally takes place in July. The NCGA fly-ins allow farmers to provide members of Congress and their staffs first-hand accounts of how policies from Washington impact their farms. While coronavirus restrictions prevented producers from traveling to Capitol Hill for face-to-face meetings, the virtual fly-in allowed members to still share their stories and weigh in on current policy discussions. Growers talked about a wide range of topics, such as assistance for producers impacted by COVID-19, the benefits of ethanol and a strong RFS, along with the push for a Low Carbon Octane Standard. 42 corn growers and NCGA state staff took part in 109 virtual meetings with Congressional members and their staffs.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 27, 2020 |


Washington Insider: House Passes Spending Package POLITICO is reporting this week that the House approved a $259.5 billion government spending package on Friday in the Democrats' opening bid to ward off a government shutdown -- a potentially devastating scenario while the nation is embroiled in a pandemic and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The four-bill minibus boosts budgets at the departments of State, Interior, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and other agencies with billions of additional dollars, while imposing new restrictions on the administration “that guarantee it will never become law,” POLITICO says. It's the first appropriations measure to move through any chamber of Congress this year but lawmakers are seen as almost certainly hurtling toward a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Election year politics are expected to “sap political will to craft a bipartisan spending deal in the coming weeks, while Congress wrestles with another $1 trillion-plus coronavirus response package to combat creeping unemployment and spiking infections across the country.” The four-bill minibus is the first of two Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 funding bundles that House Democrats plan to pass by the end of the month. The House will take up a seven-bill, $1.4 trillion package next week that would fund the Pentagon and the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, Energy and more. Once both packages are passed, the House will have approved nearly all of their fiscal 2021 appropriations bills, except the measure that funds parts of the Legislative Branch. That bill didn't include a cost-of-living adjustment for lawmakers, which a number of members believe is crucial to living in DC after enduring more than a decade of pay freezes. House leaders could still decide to bring the Legislative Branch bill to the floor as a standalone measure. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is also pushing to strip the Homeland Security spending bill from the $1.4 trillion minibus, with some members loath to fund the agencies charged with implementing the president's immigration agenda and carrying out paramilitary action in Oregon and Washington state. But the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is backing the Homeland Security bill and top appropriators say they have no plans to yank it from the floor. CHC Chair Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore. and others have also submitted an amendment that would rein in the administration's efforts to quell protests in Oregon and Washington. “We really can't afford not to pass this,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., chair of the House Homeland Security spending panel, told POLITICO on Friday. “We need to send a very clear message to DHS that this isn't business as usual. They have to be held accountable and there's going to be consequences.” The four-bill measure passed by the House on Friday would provide $65.9 billion for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other programs, marking an $8.5 billion increase over current funding or a nearly 15 percent hike. That includes more than $10 billion for global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats also included $12.5 billion in emergency funding to address rising veterans' health care costs. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department would receive more than $9 billion and nearly $14 billion, respectively. More than $4 billion would go to rural development programs and more than $3 billion would flow to the Food and Drug Administration. The package also includes a number of “poison pills” aimed at the administration, including provisions that would criticize the president's “go it alone” approach to foreign aid, restore funding for the World Health Organization, block the administration's crackdown on food stamps and bar drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Senate, meanwhile, hasn't even begun its appropriations process this year. Democrats in the upper chamber want to add billions of dollars in emergency pandemic aid to annual spending bills, in addition to police reform provisions, just as House Democrats did. But Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has said those issues should be dealt with separately. The first House minibus comes after Congress secured a two-year budget deal last summer which boosted spending and allotted a total of $740.5 billion in defense funding and $634.5 billion in nondefense funding for fiscal 2021. So, we will see. At this point in this year, nearly every decision is political and many are toxically so — and, none more than the spending bills. Certainly, these fights should be watched closely by producers as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 27, 2020 |


Trump Warns China Trade Deal Means Less to Him Now President Donald Trump Thursday remarked during a briefing on the COVID-19 situation that the U.S.-China Phase One trade deal “means less to me now than it did when I made it. It just means much less to me, can you understand that?” Earlier this week, Trump had touted the recent corn sales to China as a notable development. This does not necessarily mark a shift with Trump who has stepped up his negative comments on China in recent weeks. And, China has continued to purchase U.S. ag goods with announcements of daily sales taking place and additional purchases confirmed in the Weekly Export Sales report. The harsh rhetoric from both sides in their diplomatic disputes has not yet led to China halting its purchases or pulling out of the Phase One agreement.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 27, 2020 |


Airbus Removes Subsidies Found In Violation By WTO In Bid To End US Sanctions Airbus announced it reached agreement with the French and Spanish governments to amend repayable launch aid arrangements deemed by the WTO to be an unfair subsidy relative to the Airbus A350 airplane. The launch aid arrangement was a loan linked to exports that helped Airbus develop new models with low interest rates on the loan. “After 16 years of litigation at the World Trade Organization, this is the final step to stop the longstanding dispute and removes any justification for U.S. tariffs,” Airbus said in a statement. “The tariffs imposed by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) are currently harming all targeted industry sectors, including U.S. airlines, and are adding to a very difficult environment as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis.” There are a number of ag products already hit by tariffs and more that the U.S. is considering hitting with heavier tariffs in the dispute, setting a deadline of August for comments on the plan. “With this final move, Airbus considers itself in complete compliance with all WTO rulings,” Airbus said. A loan from the UK, also part of the dispute, has already been repaid, and the aid extended to Airbus by Germany has already been amended. There has been no reaction yet from the U.S. side.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 27, 2020 |


Monday Ag Weather Brief: Markets Heading into the final week of July, grain traders will keep an eye on the latest weather forecasts and any trade news that develops. A report on U.S. durable goods orders in June is due out at 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by weekly grain export inspections at 10 a.m. Traders will compare weather notes with the latest crop ratings from USDA's Crop Progress report, set for 3 p.m. CDT. Weather Showers and thunderstorms are in store Monday for large portions of the Southern Plains through eastern Midwest. Amounts will be light to moderate; however, locally heavy activity brings on some flash flood threat as well. This rain adds to precipitation that occurred during the past weekend in the northern and western Midwest to bring on largely favorable crop moisture conditions for late July. Showers are also in store for the Delta and Gulf Coast. Temperatures will be seasonal north and central and very warm to hot south, beneficial for filling corn and pod-setting soybeans.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 24, 2020 |


Senate and House Coronavirus Aid Packages Similar in Amounts Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota told the Hagstrom Report this week that he thinks the Senate coronavirus aid package will be similar to the House HEROES Act. The two packages will contain similar amounts of money for agricultural assistance, but Hoeven says that the nutritional provisions will likely be up to Senate leadership. Hoeven is chair of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. He says USDA will start with the $14 billion that was previously allocated to the Commodity Credit Corporation but notes that Congress will push that number higher so that USDA will have as much as $35 billion in additional assistance for farmers. Hoeven thinks the HEROES Act has roughly $68 billion set aside for agriculture and nutrition and that $33 billion of that is for aid to farmers and ranchers. USDA won’t be able to use the $14 billion in CCC money until July first. However, they can now use that money to pay out the rest of the $16.5 billion promised to farmers and ranchers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The Senate bill gives the USDA the ability to make payments to ethanol plants and aid to livestock producers who had to dispose of animals they couldn’t get slaughtered. ********************************************************************************************** Ranchers Call House Legislation a “Reckless Land Grab” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association called Wednesday a “sad day for public lands and the American taxpayer.” Kaitlynn Glover, the Executive Director of Natural Resources for NCBA and the Public Lands Council Executive Director. She says House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act shows representatives “have chosen to willingly relinquish their responsibility to engage in important land conservation decisions far into the future.” The NCBA says the bill will allow for virtually unrestricted spending for lands and waters across the U.S. that will be added to a federal estate that is already in disrepair. “The 310 members of the House that supported the bill sentenced these lands to a bleak future, complete with the expectation that these lands will be added to the deferred maintenance backlog in a not-so-distant future,” says Glover. “The ranching community is asking President Trump to veto this reckless excuse for a land management bill.” The GAO Act gives government agencies free rein to spend a minimum of $360 million every year in Land and Water Conservation Fund money to acquire new private land without any oversight from Congress. The Senate passed the GAO Act in June of 2020. ********************************************************************************************** More Reaction to USDA Beef Investigation Report The USDA released a report on its investigation into price upheaval within the U.S. beef industry, specifically as it relates to a fire in Holcomb, Kansas, as well as disruptions caused by COVID-19. Brooke Miller, President of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, says, “The top-line considerations detailed in this report provide a roadmap for returning transparency and true price discovery in the cattle marketplace. USCA is advocating for making these changes through a reauthorization of Livestock Mandatory Reporting, which is set to expire on September 30.” Miller also says his group co-authored a letter to Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts and asked for a hearing on the state of the U.S. cattle industry. The letter was “met with silence,” something he calls unacceptable. The National Farmers Union says price-fixing in the meat industry is nothing new. While they welcome the USDA report, the group says it must be accompanied by real reforms. “Radical and immediate action is needed to create a fair and balanced food system,” says NFU President Rob Larew. “We’re asking USDA and other federal agencies to strengthen protections for farmers, enforce existing regulations, and prevent undue market power in the future.” Larew says the agency must continue to conduct a thorough investigation, saying the NFU “intends to hold them to account.” ********************************************************************************************** The Fertilizer Institute Applauds Extension of Chemical Facility Safety Measures The Fertilizer Institute is happy that President Trump and Congress extended the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) for three years. “A long-term extension of the CFATS program is what the fertilizer industry supported and wanted to see,” says TFI President Corey Rosenbusch. “This provides the industry with the ability to properly plan and invest in measures that promote security at our facilities.” The secure and safe handling of fertilizers is the highest priority for the Fertilizer Institute and its members. “The numbers speak for themselves,” Rosenbusch says. “The fertilizer industry is twice as safe as our chemical industry peers. We actively participate in and sponsor numerous safety initiatives.” He says voluntary, industry-driven programs like the ResponsibleAg Program help to enhance compliance by the agricultural retailers with a variety of federal regulations, including those administered by the Department of Homeland Security. “Fertilizers are necessary to grow the crops that feed the world,” Rosenbusch adds. “Half of all food grown in the world today is made possible through the use of fertilizer. We’re committed to ensuring the world has the food, fuel, and fiber it needs, and that fertilizer facilities are secure.” ********************************************************************************************** U.S. Wheat Associates Select New Officer Team The U.S. Wheat Associates Board of Directors chose new officers during their virtual annual meeting on July 17. The new officers for 2020-2021 are Chairman Darren Padget of Oregon, Vice-Chair Rhonda Larson of Minnesota, Secretary-Treasurer Michael Peters of Oklahoma, and Past Chairman Doug Goyings of Ohio. USW officers were elected to those one-year positions during the board of directors’ meeting last January. The USW is the export market development organization representing U.S. wheat farmers. “We are all very disappointed that we couldn’t hold our meeting in Ohio as originally planned,” says Chairman Padget. “We had wanted to publicly thank Chairman Goyings, his family, and the team from the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Board for their dedicated leadership over this past year.” Padget added that Goyings did a wonderful job as chair and that he “hopes to meet his example with his help.” The new USW Chair is a fourth-generation farmer from Oregon, with dryland wheat and a summer fallow rotation currently producing registered and certified seed on 3,400 acres every year. He previously held positions on the Oregon Wheat Growers League board of directors and the executive committee for seven years. ********************************************************************************************** Lamb Board Launches a “Glamburger” Contest The American Lamb Board launched its newest online promotion contest earlier this month, looking to keep up the momentum of getting more consumers to try lamb. They call it the “Glamburger.” The board says it’s a burger that features ground lamb that is “glamorous, fancy, extravagant, and whatever else makes it special for your meal with your friends and family.” This year, the Glamburger contest is expanding to include both at-home and restaurant components. The challenge is encouraging consumers to try out a delicious lamb burger during the summer months. The American Lamb Board is promoting burger recipes, sharing videos of how to craft a delicious lamb burger, and offering a free spice blend for consumers who want to spice up their Glamburger creation at home. South Dakota producer Gwen Kitzan, the ALB Chair, says, “Since kicking off the promotion, we’ve seen many entries and great engagement, with people commenting on their favorite lamb burgers from their local restaurants and their own home-cooked ideas.” The board also launched Project Glamburger, which connects restaurants in target markets with local producers who’ve accepted the challenge to craft a burger that could be featured on their menus. Target markets so far include Denver, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 24, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Bipartisan Conservation Legislation Passes Amid tough legislative struggles over virus relief, trade and numerous other issues, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed bipartisan conservation legislation, Bloomberg is reporting this week. The report says that many in Congress and the administration hope the new programs will boost the ailing economy through several shovel-ready outdoor and infrastructure projects. The Great American Outdoors Act would provide full, mandatory funding at $900 million a year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) — making that program “no longer subject to the annual appropriations process.” LWCF pays for federal land acquisition as well as parks, wildlife refuges, ball fields and other projects in local communities across the country. In addition, it would create a new five-year trust fund of up to $9.5 billion from unallocated onshore and offshore energy revenues to address a $20 billion deferred maintenance backlog in America's national parks and public lands. The “deferred maintenance backlog” portion would be split among five land agencies with 70% going to the National Park Service, Bloomberg said. “Combined, these two major programs amount to one of the biggest wins in conservation in decades,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said. President Donald Trump said he will sign the bill, which the Senate passed in June. Previous Trump administration budget proposals recommended gutting LWCF, but two of the program's Republican advocates in the Senate — Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Steve Daines of Montana, face tough re-election campaigns this year, Bloomberg noted, The fund was permanently reauthorized in 2019, but only has received full funding twice since it was created in 1965. Democratic and Republican lawmakers value the program because it supports projects in every congressional district and public lands and outdoor recreation have grown in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. Many outside groups, from sportsmen to small businesses to environmental organizations, strongly support the bill. Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the lead sponsors of the House bill, said that the legislation would create approximately 100,000 jobs at a time when the country desperately needs them. The bill “takes the next step in our pro-conservation agenda,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who singled out Cunningham, a freshman and former ocean engineer, for praise. Cunningham also faces a tough re-election campaign. Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., noted that LWCF is critical to providing access to green spaces and nature in urban areas traditionally cut off from the benefits of outdoor recreation—a point that League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski reiterated. “This victory is a testament to the power of grassroots activists and the enduring popularity of conservation,” Karpinski said in a statement. “But as a recent report from the Center for American Progress and Hispanic Access Foundation shows, there is more work to be done to ensure every community — especially low income and communities of color — has access to public lands, local parks and other outdoor opportunities.” In addition, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, objected to making LWCF funding mandatory, especially at a time when oil and gas revenues are falling sharply because of the pandemic, according to the Congressional Research Service. LWCF relies on offshore energy revenue. That revenue also funds the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, including the revenue-sharing arrangement between the federal government and the Gulf Coast states that produce most of that energy. After dwindling offshore revenues are divvied up among programs that are mandatory, which would include LWCF under the legislation, there's not likely to be much if any left over for deferred maintenance, Bishop said. Bishop, the top Republican on Natural Resources, is the lead sponsor of the “Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,” the deferred maintenance backlog bill in the House that was combined with the LWCF funding measure. While he opposes mandatory funding for LWCF, he supported the permanent authorization of the program that Congress approved in the 2019 public lands package. Not all outside groups were happy with the legislation, Bloomberg emphasizes. “Our national parks are indeed a treasure, but they shouldn't be used as trade bait by Democrats and Republicans who seek to take even more land out of private ownership,” Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, said. The federal government manages about 640 million acres of land, most of it in Western states. “As this bipartisan legislation moves forward, it's important for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to remember that, even during these challenging times, our nation's conservation efforts are made possible by American oil and natural gas,” said Lem Smith, vice president of upstream policy at the American Petroleum Institute. Members from Gulf Coast states like Louisiana—which produces the lion's share of offshore energy revenues — also criticized the legislation's mandatory funding component. They argued that it will siphon away funds that their states receive, which they use for coastal restoration. So, we will see. The new bill appears strongly supported and likely to be signed into law — an unusual bipartisan effort that indicates that the possibility of greater cooperation still exists, at least in a few areas, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 24, 2020 |


China's Buys Of US Ag Products Continue To Stack Up For the week ended July 16, USDA's Weekly Export Sales reported more sales of US ag commodities to China. They included for 2019/20, net sales of 7,079 metric tons of corn, 78,645 metric tons of sorghum, 209,872 metric tons of soybeans, but net reductions of 4,401 running bales of upland cotton. For 2020, net sales of 479 metric tons of pork and 7,159 metric tons of beef were reported. For 2020/21, net sales of 127,090 metric tons of wheat, 1.960 million metric tons of corn (mostly known via daily sales announcements last week), 175,000 mt of sorghum, 1.486 mmt of soybeans, and 2,640 running bales of upland cotton. Much of the corn and soybean business for China for the 2020/21 marketing year were known after USDA made daily sales announcements for China last week, including the largest daily sale of corn to China which was the fourth largest daily sale ever made to any destination.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 24, 2020 |


USDA Issues Report On Cattle Market, But Signals Investigation Continues USDA issued its report on the cattle and beef market fluctuations in the wake of the fire at the cattle processing plant in Holcomb, Kansas, in August 2019 and the disruptions from the COVID-19 situation. The report lays out what contributed to the record spread between boxed beef and cash cattle prices, but stated the recap “does not examine potential violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. The investigation into potential violations is ongoing, and therefore, AMS has limited ability to publicly report the full scope and status of the investigation.” The report also stated the exam does “not preclude the possibility that individual entities or groups of entities violated the Packers and Stockyards Act during the aftermath of the Tyson Holcomb fire and the COVID-19 pandemic.” There is also the mention in the report that USDA has “engaged in discussions with the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding allegations of anticompetitive practices in the meat packing industry. The investigation into potential violations under the Packers and Stockyards Act is continuing.” The report does list several options USDA believes would help the price discovery process in the cattle market, including reducing the level of non-reporting under Livestock Mandatory Reporting, better access to risk management training/education for small and medium-sized cattle producers, and changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act. But USDA did not explicitly back any specific efforts. It is clear that this report will not be the final word relative to the cattle market disruptions that have emerged.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 24, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets The latest weather forecasts continue to be the first interest for grain traders. A report on June's new U.S. home sales is out at 9 a.m. CDT. USDA releases its July 1 estimate of cattle on-feed and semi-annual cattle inventory report, both at 2 p.m. CDT. Weather Friday will bring stressful heat to the Northern Plains and western Midwest. Some strong and possibly severe thunderstorms may form on the edge of the heat wave in the Northern Plain. Storms are also possible along the Gulf Coast due to influence from tropical storm Hanna.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 23, 2020 |


Senate Seeks $20 Billion for Commodity Credit Corporation Senate negotiations continue on the next coronavirus relief package. While those close to the talks suggest there will not be a bill ready until sometime next month, there is promise for additional relief to agriculture. Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, told Agri-Pulse this week the package will likely include an additional $20 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation funding. That $20 billion would be in addition to the $14 billion already authorized in a previous relief package not yet used by the Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, in a video addressing the National Association of Farm Broadcasting this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hinted at further aid through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Perdue says USDA is considering adding more commodities to the program and is evaluating what farmers need from future relief. Farm groups continue to plead for additional aid for farmers, including the National Pork Producers Council, which estimates hog farmers face a $5 billion loss from pandemic market implications. ************************************************************************************ USDA Provides Cattle Market Investigation Update The Department of Agriculture Wednesday released a report on its ongoing boxed beef and fed cattle price spread investigation. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the closure of the Tyson beef packing plant following a fire at the facility in Holcomb, Kansas, and the COVID-19 pandemic, “clearly disrupted the markets and processing systems responsible for the production and sale of U.S. beef.” The report also discusses several policy considerations in light of the desire by many market participants for improved price discovery, reinvigorated competition, and a more transparent relationship between the prices for live cattle and the resulting products. The report does not examine potential violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. However, USDA staff have maintained a cooperative relationship with the Department of Justice Antitrust Division staff and have discussed allegations of anticompetitive practices in the meatpacking industry. Should USDA find a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act, it is authorized to report the violation to DOJ for prosecution. ************************************************************************************ Agriculture Responds to Cattle Market Investigation Update The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed the investigation update by the Department of Agriculture into cattle markets. NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs, Ethan Lane, says, “this issue has remained a central topic of conversation for NCBA.” The report comes days before NCBA will hold its annual summer meeting. Lane says the association still awaits the results of the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into the matter as well. Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley applauded the report, saying, “The cattle market industry is broken.” Grassley says, “Congress has a responsibility to heed the advice of this report and take action to restore cattle price transparency.” The North American Meat Institute, however, notes the report identifies no wrong-doing, and affirms that two extreme and unforeseen events affected beef markets. NAMI President and CEO Julie Anna Potts stated, “It is difficult to see how the USDA’s recommended legislative proposals would have changed the outcome of the fire or the pandemic.” ************************************************************************************ Ernst Bill Provides Tax Break for Essential Workers Legislation introduced the week by Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa would provide tax relief to essential, front line workers. Under Ernst’s FRNT LINE Act, federal income taxes would be suspended for essential workers up to an annual income cap set at the highest level of pay for an enlisted person in the U.S. Armed Forces. Additionally, the bill would provide suspension of federal payroll taxes for essential workers who earn up to $50,000 annually. Under this proposal, tax suspensions will begin on April 1, 2020, and will end on the date the federal emergency declaration is lifted. Senator Ernst says, “These front line workers—our nurses, truck drivers, and grocery store workers, child care providers, and so many others—have kept life going and our supply chains intact.” Several industry groups representing the food supply chain penned a letter in support of the legislation. The Department of Homeland Security considers essential workers as healthcare providers, law enforcement, food and agriculture workers, public works, transportation and communication workers, among others. ************************************************************************************ Farm Progress Launches Virtual Show Two major farm shows are off the calendar for 2020, and to fill the gap, Farm Progress is launching the first-ever Farm Progress Virtual Experience, or FPVX. The event will be powered by Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days and run three days, September 15 to 17. The information available in the free event allows farmers to engage with a range of content. And, searching the exhibitors will be easy because they'll be sorted into the familiar categories farmers have come to know through more than 65 years of taking part in Farm Progress events. The event will kick off with what Farm Progress says may be the most extensive field demonstration the organization has ever created. Matt Jungmann (yung-man) of Farm Progress adds, “We're not asking farmers to just sit by their computers.” All the content will work on smartphones and tablets so that farmers can access the content while mobile. More information will be available as the show date nears. ************************************************************************************ Farm Bureau Foundation Makes Ag Education More Accessible New resources and $17,000 in grants from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture provide educators and parents with tools for all types of classrooms. Parents and teachers can use the online resources for in-person, virtual, or at-home learning. Also, announced Wednesday, the foundation is awarding 17,000 to educators and communities through the White-Reinhardt Fund for Education program this fall. Ten classroom and community ag literacy projects across the country will receive $1,000 each to build on their efforts. New this year, the foundation is also awarding resource grants to provide funds for educators to purchase ag literacy resources from the Ag Foundation store. Seventy educators from across the country will each receive a $100 gift card for use at the Ag Foundation’s online store. Foundation Executive Director Daniel Meloy says, “The Ag Foundation is committed to reaching students where they are to help them continue to learn where their food comes from, in the most engaging ways possible.” Find the resources at agfoundation.org.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 23, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New School Nutrition Fight There are political fights over almost everything these days as the Congress and the administration work to iron out another round of subsidies to offset impacts of the coronavirus -- amid the more or less normal budget battles. In one such fight, POLITICO is reporting that “millions of kids could lose access to free meals” if recent practices are ended -- and that efforts are underway to counter that proposed USDA shift. During the spring and summer, as the coronavirus health crisis exploded, the government allowed most families to pick up free meals from whichever school was closest or most convenient without proving they were low-income. But that effort is on the verge of expiring as children prepare to return to school – and many school systems are pushing the federal government to continue the free meals into the future. So far, USDA isn't on board with an extension, POLITICO says, but school leaders are asking Congress “to force the government's hand as it buckles down to work on the next coronavirus aid package.” “It's impossible. It's insane,” said Katie Wilson, executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance, which represents the largest school districts in the country, including those in New York, Chicago and Dallas. “Our districts have been screaming about it. They're panicked.” If USDA doesn't extend the program's flexibility through the fall, families may be able to get food for their children only from the school where they are enrolled, after being deemed eligible for help -- a change that could create logistical barriers for many families, particularly those without cars or with parents working multiple jobs. USDA says it is working with lawmakers as they develop the next coronavirus relief package. “This is [uncharted] territory, but we remain committed to ensure all children have food to eat throughout this pandemic,” the spokesperson said. The department has already extended several waivers that make it easier to feed kids this school year, including loosening rules on nutrition and restrictions on who can pick up the meals -- but have “drawn a line” at requests to continue waiving eligibility rules. Federal school nutrition programs often have been political targets, with disparate interests disagreeing about everything from fruit and vegetable servings to how much salt can be in pizza. But free meals have found broad backing, at least during the recent pandemic. “This is still an emergency and we need to treat it that way,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association, a group representing more than 50,000 local leaders who run school meal programs across the country. The group has activated its vast network of local school officials to send nearly 20,000 emails to lawmakers asking them to pressure USDA to approve the remaining waivers for the rest of the school year. A spending bill on the House side includes language urging USDA to act. There's also a letter circulating in the Senate pressing the issue. Most school cafeteria programs already face much higher food, labor, transportation and packaging costs, as they have been essentially operating emergency meals programs for months. Nutrition providers had to come up with creative ways to still feed their students with schools shut down. Most districts are now operating some form of meal pickups, and some are even dropping meals off at students' homes on a regular basis. It's unclear how many students who have been getting help under the waived eligibility rules might get cut off if traditional rules go back into effect. “We're going to be going from a situation where we were just providing meals to all kids, no questions asked … to having to track by student name and status, so that you can charge families if they don't qualify by submitting a free and reduced meal application,” said Rosie Krueger, Vermont's director of child nutrition programs. In 2018, the National School Lunch Program, which serves a mix of free, subsidized and paid meals to nearly 30 million children, cost just under $14 billion. An estimated 51 million children are projected to enroll in public elementary and high schools this fall. Some high-poverty school districts already serve universal free meals under what's called the Community Eligibility Provision, something that's available to schools if a certain percentage of their students already qualify for help. About 30 percent of schoolchildren were in schools with universal free meals in the 2019 school year. Jessica Shelly, director of student dining services for Cincinnati Public Schools, said she wants to see USDA aggressively press for free meals this year. She recalled meeting USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue at a school nutrition conference years ago. “I remember him saying to all of us, to do right and feed everyone,” she said. “I am just really hoping that USDA recognizes that the motto needs to be embraced not just by us … but also by them. If they want us to do right and feed everyone, then they need to help us do that.” So, we will see. These nutrition programs are important to many participants, and will be badly missed if they are not continued – but, they are expensive and highly visible to opponents. Efforts to continue them likely will be highly controversial and should be watched closely by producers as they intensify, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 23, 2020 |


House Ag Panel Hearing Reveals Democrats' Concerns On USDA Food Box Program A House Ag subcommittee hearing Tuesday brought out what was expected – Democrats have concerns about how USDA rolled the aid program out. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations, blasted USDA's operation of the Farmers to Families Food Box program. “Because USDA has rushed this program out the door, there is very little quality control with regard to who gets these contracts and who is qualified to actually meet the need,” Fudge said. “Tens of millions of dollars have gone to inexperienced contractors that still haven't delivered anywhere near what they've promised. As one food bank executive explained, if USDA had gone through established and capable channels, this problem could have been avoided. This is a humanitarian effort, not a gravy train.” Fudge related that her panel heard from food bank experts on the ground that “USDA's lack of planning and strategy on the program has led to inexplicable decisions and policies with regard to how funds are distributed, the regions into which the country is divided in terms of food distribution, and other problems. Despite these issues, USDA has refused, to date, to provide any insight or background on how these decisions are being made, and what quality control, if any, exists to correct them if they're wrong.” USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach noted that in April “in just a few short weeks, USDA stood up [the program] as a new and innovative multi-billion-dollar COVID response program to address three critical needs simultaneously: to provide markets for farmers faced with declining demand and the crisis of food rotting in fields and animals being euthanized; the food needs of newly unemployed Americans; and helping put suppliers and distributors back to work.” Ibach acknowledged the program does not have the same standards as regular USDA food distribution programs, but said that was because it was supposed to be put in operation so quickly.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 23, 2020 |


China Buys of US Ag Goods To Rise 'Rapidly' This Fall: USTR Nominee China's purchases of U.S. ag products is expected to pick up steam this fall, according to Michael Nemelka, nominee to be a deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). “We have the Phase One agreement, which also just entered into force a few months ago,” Nemelka told the Senate Finance Committee in his nomination hearing. “In that remarkable agreement, USTR achieved many long-held goals, including a commitment from China to fully respect intellectual property rights, end forced technology transfer, and increase purchases of U.S. goods and products, among many other things.” A key is making sure that China meets its commitments, he noted in prepared remarks, “and we have an agreement that is in writing, and is fully enforceable, to make sure they do.” On making sure that China will live up to its purchase commitments, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Nemelka to address how USTR is working to make sure that China meets those commitments. Officials at USTR are working “every day to make sure that China lives up to its commitments,” Nemelka said. “We have our ambassador Gregg Doud on the phone nearly every day” with his counterparts in China. In the fall, he added, the expectation is that “with these seasonal products and soybeans in particular that are currently in the ground, we expect to see those purchases rapidly increase.” Nemelka's view matches that of USTR Robert Lighthizer and other U.S. trade officials who have indicated their China purchases will increase and that China remains committed to meeting the terms of the deal.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 23, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets Thursday morning starts with weekly export sales, U.S. jobless claims and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor at 7:30 a.m. CDT. A report on U.S. leading indicators is out at 9 a.m. CDT, followed by natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. Of course, the latest weather forecasts will also be closely watched. Weather Thursday features rain showers with light to locally moderate totals in the eastern Midwest and southeastern Plains. We'll also see scattered activity in the western Midwest and northern Plains. Conditions will be very warm as a heat wave begins for the end of the week.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 22, 2020 |


USDA finds no wrongdoing in cattle market report Investigation released into Holcomb plant fire and COVID-19 impact on beef price spreads. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its long-awaited report on the impact of the 2019 fire at Tyson Foods’ Holcomb, Kan., beef plant and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on beef price margins. The report failed to identify wrongdoing by market participants but did offer suggestions on how to improve transparency in the market and create additional opportunities for small and local processors. In the weeks and months after both events, the difference – or spread – between the Choice boxed beef cutout values and dressed fed cattle prices rose to records levels. “Findings thus far do not preclude the possibility that individual entities or groups of entities violated the Packers & Stockyards Act during the aftermath of the Tyson Holcomb fire and the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation into potential violations under the Packers & Stockyards Act is continuing,” the report stated. However, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) pointed out that the report found no wrongdoing. “In its analysis of the effects of the fire and the pandemic, USDA found no wrongdoing and confirms the disruption in the beef markets was due to devastating and unprecedented events,” NAMI president and chief executive officer Julie Anna Potts said. As it relates to the COVID-19 impact, the report said boxed beef cutout values increased and fed cattle prices were volatile in March as packers operated near full capacity. From the middle of March to early April, the spread between boxed beef values and fed cattle prices increased from $34/cwt. to $66/cwt. The spread had averaged just under $21/cwt. for 2016-18. During April and May, there were significant beef supply disruptions as large numbers of plant workers contracted COVID-19. Plant closures and slowdowns negatively affected beef production and packer demand for fed cattle. This reduced demand for cattle may have contributed to lower fed cattle prices. An additional surge in consumer retail demand occurred in April, when consumers appeared to react to the possibility of beef shortages in grocery stores. “The supply disruptions and additional surge in demand may have contributed to a sharp increase in beef values,” the report said. “At the same time, packers purchased fewer cattle as plant closures and slowdowns increased.” From early April until the second week of May, the spread grew from $66/cwt. to over $279/cwt. -- a 323% increase. Regarding the Holcomb plant, USDA noted that the timing of the fire in early August coincided with the seasonal increase in boxed beef demand leading up to the Labor Day weekend. Typically, many retailers make pricing and promotional decisions several weeks in advance of the Labor Day holiday. Futures prices for fed cattle decreased significantly in the days immediately after the fire. Fed cattle markets then followed with price decreases. Shortly after the fire, packers increased their processing volume primarily through the addition of Saturday slaughter shifts. There was a marked drop in the number and percentage of negotiated cash sales of fed cattle immediately after the fire. The plant closure appeared to affect the spread between boxed beef values and fed cattle prices, USDA noted in the report. The spread between the two peaked at a then-record high of $67.17/cwt. the week ending Aug. 24, while the average for the same week during 2016-18 was $27.66/cwt. -- a difference of $39.51, or 143%. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R., S.D.) said in a media call just an hour after the report was released that he is disappointed that the report did not offer a final statement on any potential market conduct violations. “After a year of looking, I expected USDA to say there was misconduct or was not. If there wasn’t misconduct, it adds more fuel to the notion that the marketplace is broken in other ways,” Johnson said. USDA suggestions Both the Holcomb fire and COVID-19 impact directed increased attention to the ongoing concentration in the beef marketplace, which is nearly 80%. USDA’s report noted that at the core of several discussions is the desire by many market participants for improved price discovery, reinvigorated competition and a more transparent relationship between the prices for live cattle and the resulting products. USDA offered several suggestions for improving the market, including adding capacity at smaller processors, allowing these smaller processors to sell across state lines and finding ways to add more capacity for smaller processors. “Smaller producers often find themselves to be price takers in the market for fed cattle and lack the volume of larger producers to negotiate unique and advantageous marketing agreements with large meat packers,” USDA noted. In efforts to address this imbalance, there has been discussion of creating a beef contract library similar to the swine contract library USDA currently maintains pursuant to Section 222 of the Packers & Stockyards Act. Amending the Packers & Stockyards Act to develop a similar library for beef transactions could help increase price discovery in cattle markets and enhance access to market information for all market participants, regardless of size, the report stated. The report noted that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has also explored a 14-day slaughter scheduled delivery submission requirement through Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR), a precedent currently in place for daily LMR swine reporting. A change in the LMR cattle submission form would be required to allow for the capture of the slaughter schedule. Under this scenario, beef packers could report daily the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 calendar days. “In light of steadily decreasing percentages of negotiated sales and continued market volatility, USDA is also aware of a variety of proposals by external stakeholders that would require packers to meet a minimum threshold of purchases via negotiated cash trade. Likewise, USDA is aware of the variety of concerns with these proposals and potential unintended consequences throughout the industry, especially if regional considerations are not adequately considered,” the report said. USDA noted that such regional disparities might be addressed, in part, by tying the minimum purchase thresholds to regional reporting abilities. Under this approach, if an LMR region began to fail to meet confidentiality guidelines due to packers not procuring cattle on a negotiated cash basis, with the proper legislative authority, AMS could track and inform packers of the requirement to make an additional percentage of such purchases in the following week to allow for reporting. The LMR expires Sept. 30, and Johnson didn’t rule out the possibility that some of the legislative proposals supported by USDA in the report could be included, but it would take a “ton of work on our part to make that happen.” He did say he hopes that it adds momentum to many of the legislative proposals on the table to increase market transparency and price discovery. However, Potts stated, “It is difficult to see how the USDA’s recommended legislative proposals would have changed the outcome of the fire or the pandemic.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA), which initially requested the investigation, said the information in the report will be very helpful and timely to the cattle industry’s robust discussion of cattle markets and price discovery during its Summer Business Meeting next week in Denver, Colo. USDA does not solely own investigatory authority over anticompetitive practices in the meat packing industry and has been engaged in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding allegations of anticompetitive practices in the meat packing industry, the report noted. Should USDA find a violation of the Packers & Stockyards Act, it is authorized to report the violation to DOJ for prosecution. NCBA vice president, government affairs, Ethan Lane said NCBA is also collectively still awaiting the results of the DOJ investigation.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 22, 2020 |


Report: 27 Countries Headed for COVID-19 Food Crisis A new analysis identifies 27 countries that are on the frontline of impending COVID-19-driven food crises, as the pandemic's effects aggravate pre-existing drivers of hunger. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program report that no world region is immune. The joint analysis by FAO and WFP warns these "hotspot countries" are at high risk of, and in some cases are already seeing, significant food security deteriorations in the coming months, including rising numbers of people pushed into hunger. These countries were already grappling with high levels of food insecurity and hunger even before COVID-19, due to pre-existing shocks and stressors such as economic crises, instability and insecurity, climate extremes, and plant pests and animal diseases. The report says the pandemic may contribute to political instability as well as fueling conflict. In a bid to counter these trends, FAO released a revised appeal for $428.5 million under the UN system's Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19. The funds address the mounting needs in the food and agriculture sector. ************************************************************************************ BASF, Corteva, Seek Rehearing of Dicamba Decision BASF and Corteva both filed motions to request a rehearing on a court decision that vacated registrations for dicamba herbicides. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last month vacated the registrations for three dicamba herbicides, including BASF’s Enginia, Corteva’s FeXapan and Bayer’s Xtend. Specifically, BASF’s petition requests a review of the decision by a panel of 11 judges from the Ninth Circuit instead of the three-judge panel that issued the previous decision. This request for "en banc" review, according to BASF, “is necessary to correct errors by the panel in issuing a decision inconsistent with basic due process and administrative law principles.” BASF says the panel's decision undermined the EPA's authority to make science- and data-based regulatory decisions to determine which herbicide products are safe and effective to meet the challenges farmers face. Further, the company says the decision “was unprecedented and devastating to tens of thousands of farmers” who rely on dicamba. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Funding to Support Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced approximately $15 million to help socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers own and operate successful farms. Funding is made through USDA’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program. The program is administered by the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. For 30 years, the 2501 Program has helped reach socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who have experienced barriers to service due to racial or ethnic prejudice. The 2014 farm bill expanded the program to veteran farmers and ranchers. The 2018 farm bill increased mandatory funding for the program through fiscal year 2023. With 2501 program grants, nonprofits, institutions of higher education and Indian Tribes can support socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers through education, training, farming demonstrations, and conferences on farming and agri-business, and by increasing access to USDA’s programs and services. ************************************************************************************ Telehealth Expansion Legislation Introduced in U.S. Senate New legislation introduced this week would expand access to telehealth options for rural residents. The KEEP Telehealth Options Act would require the federal government to study the actions taken to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic and report on how to improve those services. The bill was introduced by Senator Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican, and Senator Jacky Rosen, A Nevada Democrat. Fischer says expanded telehealth services “have allowed millions of Americans to access the medical care they need during this pandemic, especially those in rural communities.” The legislation would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to study and produce a public report on the actions taken to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the legislation would require the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the efficiencies, management, successes and failures of the expansion of telehealth services. The studies could then be used by Congress to support and inform long-term flexibilities for telehealth. ************************************************************************************ Iowa Ag Department Extends Animal Disposal Assistance The Iowa Department of Agriculture has extended a program to help pork and poultry producers forced to euthanize animals. The Iowa Disposal Assistance Program provides funds for producers forced to euthanize and dispose of market-ready and weaned pigs or layer hens because of supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. This is the fourth round of funding in the program. Iowa is the largest producer of pork and egg products in the United States. Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig says, “The disposal assistance program is just one way the state is trying to help producers through this very difficult time." Iowa's pork producers have made difficult decisions over the past several months as COVID-19-related worker shortages caused meat processing facilities to reduce production. Meanwhile, Iowa's egg producers have also faced distribution and disposal challenges because of COVID-19-related closures. Iowa is home to over 58 million egg-laying hens. Nearly 70 percent of Iowa's layer flocks produce for the liquid egg market and are destined for restaurants, schools and other foodservice markets. ************************************************************************************ Farmers Business Network Acquires Australia’s Farmsave Farmers Business Network has acquired Farmsave, an online agricultural inputs platform that provides real-time input pricing transparency and services to thousands of independent Australian farmers. Much like FBN, Farmsave gives farmers across Australia access to competitive prices on key farm chemicals from a range of suppliers and arranges delivery of goods directly to local depots and farms. Currently serving over 5,000 Australian farms, Farmsave boosts farmers' bargaining power and drives down input costs. FBN expects to announce a range of new offerings to Farmsave's existing members and all Australian farmers in the months ahead. A recent spate of consolidation among global chemical manufacturers and national retailers has resulted in dwindling choice for farmers across Australia. FBN says that with limited independent information sources for chemical prices or trends, farmers have been unable to purchase inputs with confidence. Farmer's Business Network is an independent farmer-to-farmer network, built by and for over 11,500 farmers in North America. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 22, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Push From Ag for Financial Support Roll Call is reporting this week that the National Pork Producers Council plans to campaign for a change in federal law that would authorize USDA to pay livestock and poultry farmers for healthy animals they euthanized because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trade association said Monday that it wants the provisions included in the Senate version of the next economic recovery bill with a goal of getting the language into a compromise version worked out between the Senate and the House by early August. The council's request for aid is just one item on a wish list from agriculture for direct payments to farmers and ranchers to cover lost renewable fuel revenue as well as the “collapse in the demand for cotton, aid to meat processing plants to ensure production lines keep moving, and other items.” Advocates for renewable fuels, pork and cotton relief put the COVID-19 damage at about $17.8 billion, a sum that includes at least some estimates of continuing cost in 2021, Roll Call said. Farm and agriculture-related groups say the pandemic, coming after several years of flat or low prices and two years of retaliatory tariffs from trading partners, has left them battered. Congress provided $9.5 billion in appropriated funds and $14 billion in borrowing authority for the Commodity Credit Corporation in March legislation. The USDA has set aside $16 billion for direct payments to farmers and ranchers and is spending $3 billion on a program for food distributors to buy meat, produce and dairy products. The hog group said it backs legislation by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to give the department's Commodity Credit Corp. emergency authority to reimburse farmers whose cattle, hogs or poultry suddenly become surplus “due to significant supply chain interruption during an emergency period.” That bill also would cover donations of meat to noncommercial interests, and ag processing plants could receive aid to ensure that meat and poultry lines keep moving during a national emergency. In addition, it would authorize $300 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to address the COVID-19 issues. The Renewable Fuels Association released a July report that the industry lost $3.4 billion in revenue from March through June because of COVID-19 economic disruptions that reduced driving and demand for transportation fuels. The association projected that losses could reach $7 billion in 2020 and $1.8 billion in 2021. Ethanol's losses also reflect a blow to corn farmers who sell approximately 40% of U.S. crops for fuel production. The association study said the industry used 500 million fewer bushels of corn during the March through June period. Cotton farmers, textile mills and the cotton merchandising sector also are looking for relief aid in the next economic recovery legislation, Roll Call said. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Their request was joined by senators from cotton-growing states last week asking that the “cotton supply chain” receive financial help. Tillis and Warner said COVID-19 kept people at home and depressed demand for cotton up and down the supply line. “Given the precipitous decline in retail demand, the loss of textile production and lower cotton prices that are expected to persist into 2021, the economic damage to the U.S. cotton industry is currently estimated to be at least $4.0 billion,” the letter said. “We need help now to weather this unprecedented crisis,” National Pork Producers Council President Howard Roth said. The Council earlier estimated that hog farmers euthanized an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 market-ready animals in the spring and another million young pigs may have been killed on farms because several slaughter plants closed temporarily as workers became ill with COVID-19 or tested positive for the virus. The closures meant farmers were limited in their ability to market animals for slaughter. Steve Meyer, an economist with Kerns & Associates, who joined the council's officers and staff on a press call, said conditions have improved with the reopening of plants--but that the pace of processing remains slower because the facilities have spaced workers to meet social distancing requirements. Meyer said about 2 million hogs are still waiting on farms to be moved to processing plants. Demand for pork is strong at the retail level, he said, and the food service market appears to be regaining ground as states reopened restaurants for sit-down service. However, Meyer said multistate surges in COVID-19 cases threaten to undo the progress. So, we will see. Certainly, U.S. ag producers are widely believed to be on the front lines in the global trade fights – and they represent an important component of political support that may be increasingly up for grabs in the fall elections. However, the ag requests are large and face competition from many groups that also have important needs – as well as opposition from budget hawks. As a result, the ag requests likely will be quite controversial this year and certainly should be watched closely by producers as they are debated, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 22, 2020 |


Rural Electric Cooperatives Seeking Provision in COVID Aid Plan Rural electric cooperatives want Congress to include a provision in the COVID-19 aid plan that would end a prepayment penalty on their Rural Utility Service loans. National Rural Electric Cooperatives CEO Jim Matheson said in a call to reporters that members are urging Congress to include a bill that would allow co-ops that have borrowed money from the Treasury Department to get a reduced interest rate without paying a prepayment penalty. Matheson said the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act has been introduced in the House by Reps. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., and Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and in the Senate by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. Cooperatives have experienced a loss of income due to businesses closing or operating at a lower level during the pandemic and the lower interest rates would make it easier for them to continue to provide service and also rebuild infrastructure.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 22, 2020 |


CFAP Payments Clear $6.2 Billion USDA has paid out $6.23 billion under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) on 442,639 approved applications as of July 20. Livestock producers remain the largest recipients, with $3.15 billion in payments. That is broken down as $2.73 billion to cattle producers, $394.3 million to hog producers and $28.8 million to sheep producers. Dairy producers have received $1.25 billion. Non-specialty crop producers have received $1.64 billion, with $1.1 billion to corn producers, $314 million to soybean producers, $155 million to upland cotton growers, $19 million to HRS wheat producers, and $13.3 million to sorghum growers. Payments totaling $186 million have gone out to specialty crop producers. Growers in seven states have received $300 million or more, including Iowa at $652.1 million, Nebraska at $460.1 million, Minnesota at $399.7 million, Wisconsin at $374.1 million, and Texas at $331.7 million, California at $325.1 million, and South Dakota at $316.7 million.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 22, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets As typical through summer, the latest weather forecasts will get the first look from grain traders, along with any trade news. A report on June U.S. existing home sales is due out at 9 a.m. CDT. With ethanol production slowly returning toward pre-coronavirus levels, the U.S. Energy Department's weekly report of energy inventories will be watched at 9:30 a.m. CDT Wednesday. Weather Showers with light to moderate rain totals are in store for the eastern Midwest, Delta, Mid-South, and portions of the central Plains Wednesday. Other primary crop areas will be dry. Temperatures will be seasonal to below normal over the Midwest and very warm to hot elsewhere. Most row crop areas have favorable conditions for corn pollination and soybean flowering and pod setting.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 21, 2020 |


Hog Farmers Face Near $5 Billion Loss An analysis by economist Steve Meyer for the National Pork Producers Council shows an estimated two million hogs still backed-up on farms. According to his report, based on lean hog futures prices on March 1 and July 10 and actual hog prices in the interim, potential 2020 revenue from hog sales has been reduced by roughly $4.7 billion. Other losses associated with euthanasia, disposal and donation of pigs with no market outlet and insufficient space to hold them mean U.S. pork producers have lost nearly $5 billion this year. Meyer says it appears those losses will continue into 2021. “This is, by far, the worst financial disaster ever for American hog farmers,” according to Meyer. NPPC President Howard AV Roth says, “Many U.S. hog farmers will not survive this crisis.” NPPC is calling on Congress to pass the RELIEF for Producers Act, which provides compensation for farmers who are forced to euthanize or donate animals that can’t be processed into the food supply as a result of COVID-19, among other provisions. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces Livestock Gross Margin Insurance Program Changes The Department of Agriculture Monday announced changes to the Livestock Gross Margin insurance program for cattle and swine starting in 2021. Changes include adding premium subsidies to assist producers and moving premium due dates to the end of the endorsement period for cattle. USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre says the changes “build upon RMA’s continued effort to make livestock policies more affordable and accessible for livestock producers.” Barbre says the agency is working to ensure the changes can be implemented by the July 31 sales period. Before this change, LGM-Cattle and Swine did not have premium subsidies. Now, subsidies have been added and are based on the deductible selected by the producer. The subsidy will range from 18 percent with zero deductible up to 50 percent with a deductible of $70 or greater for LGM-Cattle. For LGM-Swine, the subsidy will range from 18 percent with zero deductible up to 50 percent with a deductible of $12 or greater. ************************************************************************************ USDA, USTR, to Hold Hearings with Seasonal Growers Next Month The Trump administration will hold two hearings next month with seasonal produce growers to discuss foreign trade policies that may be harming farmers. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office, along with the Department of Agriculture, recently announced the hearings planned for August 13 and August 20. At the hearings, officials from the federal agencies will hear from farmers on how the Trump administration can support them and remedy any unfair harm. The hearings, which were originally scheduled to occur in Florida and Georgia in April, will take place virtually. This month, Florida lawmakers called on U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to stop "unfair Mexican trade practices harming seasonal and perishable produce growers in Florida and the Southeast." U.S. Representative Greg Steube, a Florida Republican, says many growers were forced to plow their crops under as a result of decreased demand from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, "the Mexican produce industry continued to increase its US market share by 17 percent between January and April 2020." ************************************************************************************ Soy Checkoff Makes Research Accessible to Industry The United Soybean Board and state soybean boards are bringing research results to farmers. The redesigned Soybean Research & Information Network website, soybeanresearchinfo.com, was launched through a joint effort by the North Central Soybean Research Program and the United Soybean Board. The website gives farmers a virtual resource full of information and toolkits for more efficient soybean production. USB describes the site as a one-stop-shop for all the information the checkoff has discovered through farmer investments regarding key problem areas in production. Each article on the website provides insight and explanation on the research findings and links directly to the study in the overall database for further exploration. Tim Venverloh, USB Vice President of Sustainability Strategy, says the soy checkoff and state organizations “have worked together to find solutions, best practices and data on key issues and have made that available for all farmers to use.” Some of the research projects include battling pests, navigating herbicide-resistant weeds, enhancing seed quality and controlling seed and seedling rots. ************************************************************************************ Cargill, NCBA Foundation, Partner to Support Beef Industry A new partnership between the National Cattlemen's Foundation and Cargill will provide cattle producers tools to manage their operations. Specifically. The partnership offers cattle producers practical tools to help manage market shifts, reduce costs, manage finite natural resource availability and withstand extreme weather events. The four-year strategic partnership, which was funded by a $3 million contribution from Cargill's protein business, establishes a professional development scholarship program, and provides educational resources through the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and experiential learning in partnership with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The Rancher Resilience Grant program, which serves as the program's professional development scholarship arm, offsets expenses for farmers and ranchers to attend state, regional, national, and global educational events. This includes industry conferences, seminars, and certifications addressing animal health and well-being, profitability, natural resources, sustainability, genetics, and reproduction education. The Rancher Resilience Grant program will launch this fall. The development of educational resources and promotion will begin immediately. ************************************************************************************ Elanco Receives Approval for Bayer Animal Health Acquisition Elanco Animal Health Incorporated has received unanimous approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for its acquisition of Bayer Animal Health, a division of Bayer AG. The FTC decision represents the final antitrust clearance needed to complete the transaction, which continues on track for closing at the beginning of August. Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons says the approval "marks the near-final step in fulfilling our vision of bringing together two dedicated animal health companies." Elanco continues to expect necessary worldwide divestitures in the previously announced range of $120 million to $140 million of annual revenue to advance regulatory reviews. The FTC's approval is conditional on three product divestitures, including StandGuard, a pour-on treatment for horn fly and lice control in beef cattle, being sold to Neogen Corporation. In addition to FTC approval, Elanco has received antitrust clearance for the transaction from the European Commission, as well as in ten other countries.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 21, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Wave of Deficit Borrowing and New Rules for Renewables A new wave of deficit borrowing is headed for the municipal-bond market to close gaping budget holes caused by the coronavirus shutdowns, Bloomberg is reporting this week. The report noted that New Jersey lawmakers agreed last week to borrow $10 billion to finance half of the state's estimated budget gap, while Illinois plans to sell as much as $5 billion in notes to a municipal facility set up by the Federal Reserve. New York state authorized $11 billion in short-term borrowing that may be refinanced on a long-term basis, if necessary, and New York City is seeking the legislature's approval to borrow $5 billion. “It's pretty simple math,” said Patrick Brett, the head of Citigroup Inc.'s municipal debt capital markets business. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of deficits opened up really quickly. They're all not going to get plugged with cuts, they're all not going to get plugged with tax increases.” Unlike the federal government, U.S. states are required to balance their budgets, though they frequently rely on short-term loans. Those deficits are poised to swell now as coronavirus lock-downs hold back sales and income-tax revenue -- and as costs rise for healthcare, unemployment assistance and social services. Municipalities will need at least $500 billion in additional federal aid over the next two years to avoid inflicting a major blow to the economy, according to Moody's Analytics. When the economy slows, states typically terminate or furlough employees, put off public-works projects or borrow before raising taxes. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., states and local governments have cut nearly 1.5 million jobs, far more than were eliminated after the last recession. The size of the borrowing wave will depend on how much aid comes from Washington, the report says. Republicans and Democrats are negotiating to pass another round of economic relief during the last week of July. Democrats in the House approved a $3 trillion measure that included about $1 trillion for state and local governments. Republicans have set a $1 trillion ceiling on another stimulus. Barclays Plc municipal strategists estimate states and local governments will get $200 billion to $500 billion. While most states began the fiscal year on July 1 with full-year budgets in place, coronavirus infections have accelerated in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona since mid-June, prompting renewed lockdowns in some cases and weighing on an economic recovery. Uncertainty over tax collections and spending on government services means states will likely need to meet in special sessions to revise their budgets, according to Municipal Market Analytics. While borrowing to fund operations is a negative sign to bond-rating analysts and investors, they may be more forgiving with states and local governments facing the biggest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. “People are viewing this as a one-in-a-century kind of event,” Citigroup's Brett said. “Even many of those who would generally oppose deficit borrowing are saying this is an act of God, and we should borrow.” In something of a side note, Bloomberg also reporting that in a controversial move, a landmark 40-year-old law that's been key to the growth of renewable energy in the U.S. is being effectively overhauled, threatening to curb demand for solar projects. Federal regulators recently proposed new limits on which energy projects fall under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, which had helped spur an entire generation of solar and wind farms across the country. More than 30% of solar facilities online today benefit from the law, according to Bloomberg. “The proposed changes may alter prospects for future investment.” The overhaul highlights how far renewables have come since 1978, when the law was enacted to boost competition within the power sector and encourage new technologies. Wind and solar costs have declined precipitously and renewables now make up about 20% of U.S. energy generation. “Most of the renewable energy projects developed these days are done outside of the Utilities Regulatory Act” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee, who sees that fact as proof that renewables can compete in our markets. He does not expect that to change. Current regulations mandate that if a developer can build a project for less than a utility can, the developer can request a contract to sell power to that utility. Under the changes proposed last week by the energy commission, utilities are only obligated to buy power from facilities that are 5 megawatts or smaller. Formerly, the limit was 20 megawatts. That means solar arrays between 5 and 20 megawatts “will no longer have unfettered access to utilities that they've had for over 40 years,” said BNEF power analyst Brianna Lazerwitz. While current contracts wouldn't be affected, the projects could face uncertainty once those contracts expire. The new rules will “stifle competition, allowing utilities to strengthen their monopolies and raise costs for customers,” Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association said. “We will continue advocating for reforms that strengthen the Act and allow solar to compete nationwide.” So, we will see. Certainly, pressure on states and municipalities to offset the virus' impacts will be debated hotly, as will any new rules for solar and wind farms – so, this fall's economic policy debates will be extremely important and producers should watch closely policies and rules emerge, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 21, 2020 |


US Begins Countervailing Duty Probe of Fertilizers The U.S. will conduct investigations into fertilizer imports to determine whether producers of phosphate fertilizers in Morocco and Russia are receiving unfair subsidies, according to a Commerce Department statement. Morocco and Russia both have eight alleged subsidy programs. The investigations are based on petitions by The Mosaic Company. In 2019, imports of the fertilizer from Morocco were valued at $729.4 million; imports of fertilizer from Russia were valued at $299.4 million. The International Trade Commission will make preliminary determinations by August 10; final determinations are scheduled for December 7.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 21, 2020 |


Seasonal Produce Public Hearings Set For August The hearings on imports of seasonal produce into the U.S. by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), USDA and Department of Commerce will now be virtual hearings set for August 13 and 20, according to a notice to be published in the Federal Register. USTR said they are seeking public feedback on “trade distorting policies that may be contributing to unfair pricing in the U.S. market and causing harm to U.S. seasonal and perishable producers in U.S. commerce,” and on “how the administration can better support these producers and redress unfair harm.” Those seeking to offer comments have to make their request by July 27. The hearings had been scheduled earlier this year but were postponed due to the COVID-19 situation.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 21, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets Tuesday has no official reports on the docket, but we can be sure the latest weather forecasts will get a close look, especially pertaining to row crop development. Any trade news that emerges will also get attention as will the latest items of progress related to the status of coronavirus in the U.S. Traders will also consider the latest ratings in Monday's Crop Progress report. Weather Tuesday features moderate to heavy rain in the western Midwest and light to moderate rain in the eastern Midwest. Pollinating corn and flowering soybeans will benefit from this moisture. Temperatures will be seasonally warm north and central and hot south.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 20, 2020 |


Study Confirms Value of Red Meat Exports to U.S. Corn, Soybeans The U.S. Meat Export Federation released an updated version of an independent study aimed at quantifying the value that red meat exports provide U.S. corn and soybean farmers. The independent study was conducted by a company called World Perspectives, Incorporated. Since 2015, indirect exports of corn and soybeans through beef and pork exports have been the fastest-growing category of corn and soybean use. That’s delivered critical returns for corn and soybean producers. These farmers support the international promotion of U.S. beef, pork, and lamb, by investing a portion of their checkoff dollars in market development efforts conducted by USMEF. In 2019, U.S. beef and pork exports used 480 million bushels of corn. Corn revenue generated by pork exports totaled $1.8 billion. Last year, U.S. pork exports used 2.12 million tons of soybean meal, equivalent to 89.2 million bushels of soybeans, that generated $751.7 million in revenue. Beef and pork exports also used approximately three million tons of DDGS, which generated $411.8 million in revenue for ethanol’s co-products. USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom says, “We greatly appreciate the foresight and confidence shown by the corn and soybean sectors when they invest in red meat exports. This study proves the value delivered by that investment.” ********************************************************************************************** USDA Report says China Continues to Buy U.S. Ag Products Trade reports released by USDA last week show that China is picking up the pace of buying U.S. ag commodities, making both old-crop and new-crop purchases. Chinese buyers are purchasing a lot of U.S. corn, soybeans, and wheat in their recent run on commodities during the week of July 3-9. USDA reported 768,300 metric tons of old-crop corn sales, as well as 600,000 tons of new-crop sales. Additional corn exports during the week were 119,700 tons. The USDA trade report also showed that new export sales of soybeans were for 552,000 tons, 390,000 of which will be delivered during the next marketing year that starts on September 1st. The export sales report says new soybean crop sales came in at 389,000 tons, and exports were almost 228,000 tons. Chinese buyers also purchased more than 323,000 tons of wheat during the same week. That pushed the total sales up to the highest point for 2020-2021. The USDA also says weekly exports totaled 113,700 tons. Net sales of cotton, rice, and barley were all lower than the previous week. Net sorghum sales were up 35 percent from the prior week. ********************************************************************************************** Iowa Senators Pushing for Ethanol Aid in COVID Aid Package Chuck Grassley, Senate Finance Committee Chair, says he and fellow Iowa Senator Joni Ernst will push for ethanol plant assistance as Congress begins developing another COVID-19 aid package this week. Grassley says he visited Iowa counties over the past two weeks while the Senate was in recess, noting that he heard plenty of people asking for ethanol assistance because the price of corn is still low. “Ernst and I are going to try to get something that would subsidize feedstock for the ethanol industry,” Grassley says. “What would make our appeal credible will be the oil industry getting help or a recognition that the oil industry got help through the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.” However, Grassley says the best thing to happen to the ethanol industry in the long-term is for people to start driving again as the economy picks up. “We’re seeing a little shoot up in the production of ethanol, but it will be a slow turnaround,” he adds. Grassley also says he believes there will be more aid to agriculture in the coronavirus bill, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is determined to keep the cost of the next aid package under $1 trillion. ********************************************************************************************** Water Resources Development Act Heads to House Floor Legislation regarding U.S. investments in locks and dams and other inland waterways investments passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week. The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 authorizes construction on 34 pending water infrastructure projects. It also gives the go-ahead on 35 separate feasibility studies on other projects. A DTN report says the bipartisan bill that passed out of committee unanimously will now head to the House floor. Sam Graves of Missouri, the ranking member on the committee, recalled the devastating flooding in Missouri and other Midwest states in 2019. He says the bill includes language to implement changes that will help non-federal levees improve their flood protection. The bill also includes continuing to study the Lower Missouri River Basin Flood Risk and Resiliency Plan. That study will look at flood-control projects on the Missouri River south of the Gavin’s Point Dam in South Dakota. For flood-prone communities, the legislation also provides new authority for water projects to those communities who see repetitive flood challenges up to $15 million in federal cost-share. The Waterways Council says this bill is a step in the right direction for inland waterways infrastructure improvements. ********************************************************************************************** CommonGround Approaching its Tenth Birthday CommonGround is about to turn ten years old, so the National Corn Growers released a video that celebrates the work getting done by more than 200 volunteers across the country. Through the support and work of state associations, these women who make up CommonGround serve as resources for customers who have questions about how their food is grown. The volunteers share their personal stories that help off-the-farm moms discover that they can feel good about the food they feed their families. America’s farm families provide an amazing array of options. However, there are so many competing claims about food, honest questions about the topic are understandable. By serving as information resources, these women are sharing their unique understanding of important topics, such as the difference between organic and conventional crops and how ranchers care for their animals more than a billion times since 2010. CommonGround began a decade ago as a grassroots movement to foster conversation among women, both on farms and in cities, about where our food comes from. The National Corn Growers Association and the United Soybean Board both had a hand in forming CommonGround. ********************************************************************************************** The U.S., Japan Organic Trade Pact Now Includes Livestock The USDA says livestock is now added to the list of products included in the organic trade arrangement between the U.S. and Japan. The Fence Post Dot Com says livestock can now be certified to either country’s organic standards for sale as organic in both markets. “Opening new markets for America’s organic farmers and ranchers continues to be a priority for USDA,” says Marketing and Regulatory Programs Undersecretary Greg Ibach (Eye-baw). “Japan is already one of the top export markets for U.S. organic products. This new agreement opens even more opportunities for everyone involved in the international supply chain for livestock.” The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud says Japan is a key international partner for the U.S. in the organic sector. “This expanded arrangement increases access for American organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses to the third-largest U.S. organic export market,” Doud says. The USDA also says equivalency arrangements reduce required certification costs, fees, inspections, and paperwork for American organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses across the supply chain.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 20, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Wall Street Becomes Self-Conscious Bloomberg is reporting this week that a Wall Street scenario “a decade ago” is surfacing again -- a film that highlights Wall Street executives dining at a moment when the U.S. economy was in tatters. Their industry, fresh off a bailout, was printing big profits again, and Americans were seething. Congress wanted investigations, Bloomberg said. The review included a comment from one executive to another as Goldman Sachs executive who turned to his peer from Morgan Stanley, which had been slower to bounce back from the crisis, and said: “You have no idea how damn lucky you are to lose money with a hopeless business model.” The table erupted in laughter, Bloomberg recalled, but added that “the kernel of truth in the quip is that nobody likes bankers profiting as the world burns. It draws a harsh spotlight.” The report notes that Wall Street's five biggest investment banks disclosed $45 billion in revenue from trading and deal-making units, “marking those businesses' best quarter in modern history.” It then emphasizes the circumstances including a “deadly global pandemic and the Federal Reserve's unprecedented measures to prop up the economy.” It's hard to imagine a more awkward time to land a windfall, Bloomberg says. For years, bank trading chiefs have been begging, even praying, for a surge in volatility to lift their fortunes by spurring client transactions. “Banks finally got their 'score' as markets plunged, with television screens showing refrigerated morgue trucks. Then, they made even more money as authorities rushed to help.” Morgan Stanley is reporting its highest revenue and profit ever. JPMorgan Chase & Co. blew past the revenue record its traders notched in the first quarter—topping it by 34% in the second quarter. Goldman's profit rose, even as the company set aside an additional $1 billion to cover potential legal costs, including its efforts to end international probes into its role in the looting of a Malaysian investment fund. The numbers were high enough that the ranks of sell-side stock analysts wondered about the potential for a public backlash. “Fair or not, banks are being depicted as being on the wrong side” of economic inequality and other issues, UBS Group's Saul Martinez said. “I'm just curious if you are concerned at all about populist, anti-bank policies gaining traction.” At least the banks didn't cause the recent crisis, Bloomberg says, unlike in 2008. In fact, three of the Wall Street giants -- JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp., and Citigroup Inc. -- set aside much of the money generated by the trading bonanza so they can better weather anticipated losses on lending to desperate companies and consumers. Altogether, the five banks stockpiled more than $25 billion in the quarter. Banks also are quick to note that the Federal Reserve didn't step in to save them as it did in the last crisis. Instead, the banks helped head off another meltdown by helping companies raise money and avoid bankruptcy. “The most important thing we could do is be a healthy and vibrant bank through this crisis,” JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in response to the analyst. The Fed may not have explicitly paid the banks billions of dollars, but it created an environment in which their success was all but guaranteed. The central bank helped cash-strapped companies raise money to shore up their finances and pay their bills. Banks made money by facilitating the fundraising, as well as on the related spike in stock and bond trading. Beyond the worries over optics are deeper policy questions. How effective is the Fed's stimulus in providing credit to critical industries, and how much lining of Wall Street pockets is acceptable as a side effect? Fed Chairman Jay Powell has indicated, in this moment, those concerns are secondary to saving the economy and millions of jobs. But Wall Street's gains will only revive perceptions that the deck is stacked in its favor. Those sentiments can have big ramifications. The profits investment banks made in the wake of bailouts in 2008 spurred the anti-government Tea Party movement, the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, and a wave of new regulation. Complaints that the game is rigged later played into the ascent of populism in the 2016 presidential election, and they reverberate today. Banking leaders are well aware of the stakes. Some recently made it clear to their troops that they cannot be seen crowing. If it weren't for the pandemic, Chief Executive Officer David Solomon might have enjoyed the sight of a packed auditorium at Goldman, reacting to the best quarter under his leadership. Dimon would've strolled the aisles of JPMorgan's Madison Avenue trading floors, personally saluting his workers. Instead, Solomon met with a couple of dozen scattered executives in the hall in front of him. At JPMorgan, Dimon emailed employees a tightly worded “congratulations.” So, we will see. Much depends, observers say, on the eventual developments as the fight against the virus continues. Certainly, Wall Street is not exactly popular and if the Congress pulls back some of its economic supports as unemployment skyrockets, Wall Street's performance will certainly come in for its share of scrutiny. This will likely be both controversial and prolonged and should be watched closely by producers as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 20, 2020 |


Heritage Foundation Urges Against Expanding CCC The conservative Heritage Foundation think tank is urging lawmakers to oppose a proposal to raise the spending limit for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to $68 billion, from the current $30 billion cap. The group is also taking aim at other provisions in a House-passed relief bill that allow payments from CCC to be used for additional payments, including to “aid agricultural processing plants to ensure supply chain continuity during an emergency period.” The CCC borrowing increase is not included in the pending House-passed COVID-19 relief package, which would only replenish CCC's borrowing authority to the $30 billion cap. Expanding CCC's spending authority, "would allow Congress to avoid making important choices, such as which agricultural commodities would be eligible for payments, which geographic regions would be covered, whether there should be payment limits, and about almost every detail of any future handout program, Heritage argued.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 20, 2020 |


KC Fed Sees Slowing Pace of Ag Lending Ag lending slowed alongside the initial effects of the pandemic and there is a more pessimistic outlook for agricultural economic conditions, the Kansas City Fed said in its latest Agricultural Finance Databook. The volume of total non-real estate farm loans continued into a yearlong trend of declines during the second quarter of 2020. The slowdown in lending was generally consistent across all types of loans, KC Fed analysts said. Delinquency rates on farm loans increased steadily through the first quarter and agricultural credit conditions remained weak. The report notes that emergency government lending programs, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program, “likely supplemented the financing needs of some producers while direct aid payments may help offset declines in farm revenues in 2020.”

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 20, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets With corn pollinating around the country and soybeans starting to set pods, the latest weather forecasts continue to get a hard look from grain traders. USDA's weekly report of grain export inspections is out at 10 a.m. CDT, followed by the Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. CDT. Weather Monday features light to moderate rain with locally heavy amounts for portions of the western Midwest and Northern Plains. This moisture will be very timely for row crops following the past weekend's heat and dryness. Other crop areas will be dry. Stressful heat has moderated in the interior U.S. and is focused on the East Coast Monday. However, southern crop sectors will continue to see very warm to hot conditions

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 17, 2020 |


USDA Meals to You Program Approaching 30 Million Served The Department of Agriculture announced the delivery of more than 28.5 million meals to low-income kids in rural America through the Meals to You partnership. The program delivers meals to the doorsteps of low-income kids in rural communities across America during the COVID-19 health crisis. While visiting McLane Global, one of USDA’s partners in the initiative, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stated, “We’ve heard from families across America who have told us that in these difficult times, the program has been a home run for feeding hungry kids.” Meals to You is a public-private partnership between USDA, the Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo. It began as a summer pilot project in 2019 but has been successfully leveraged as an emergency program to address pandemic-related nutrition needs in rural areas. Initially, Meals to You aimed to serve one million meals to children in rural areas. As of July 11, 2020, 28.5 million meals have been delivered to 268,277 children across the U.S. ************************************************************************************ Ag Groups Welcome NEPA Reforms Agriculture groups welcome the announced changes by the Trump Administration to the National Environmental Policy Act. The White House says the final rule will modernize and accelerate environmental reviews under NEPA so infrastructure can be built in a timely, efficient, and affordable manner. President Donald Trump says, “By streamlining infrastructure approvals, we’ll further expand America’s unprecedented economic boom.” The Ag Retailers Association supports the reforms. ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock says the final rule will speed up the approval process for much-needed infrastructure projects, “which will especially benefit the rural communities in which ag retailers and their customers live and work.” The Fertilizer Institute applauded the rule's finalization, stating, "Many of our members have been negatively impacted by outdated NEPA guidelines.” However, Environmental groups object. Natural Resources Defense Council CEO and Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy says the rule "is a clear attempt to silence and sideline people to make it easier for industry to pollute our communities.” ************************************************************************************ Survey: Consumer Demand for Environmental Action Growing During Pandemic A recent global survey shows consumer demand for environmentally sustainable practices and products has increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol conducted the survey to find how sustainability programs at brands and retailers had changed in a post-COVID world. The survey found 54 percent of sustainability leaders at apparel and textile brands say they’ve seen their customers’ demands increase for sustainable projects. However, 59 percent said they believe customers will still continue to prioritize price when making purchases. The survey found that 43 percent of respondents believe COVID-19 has had a positive impact on investments in sustainability efforts during this period, while 40 percent believe it has had a negative impact. The survey found 54 percent of respondents report demands for sustainable projects has “significantly” or “somewhat” increased since the beginning of the pandemic, and 42 percent said that those customers are also more vocal in those demands. ************************************************************************************ Class Action Lawsuit Alleges ADM Ethanol Market Manipulation A class-action lawsuit filed this week claims Archer Daniels Midland Company engaged in an illegal scheme to manipulate ethanol markets. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of ethanol producers and led by Green Plains Inc. The proposed class-action suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska, and claims senior ADM officials knew of the alleged manipulation, according to Reuters. In a recent complaint to S&P Global Platts, the benchmark pricing provider for ethanol, the industry claimed ADM was aggressively selling ethanol on the cash market and timing the transaction 30 minutes ahead of the close of the trading day. The move flooded ethanol markets and choked off competitors, according to the filers of the lawsuit. The DiCello Levitt Gutzler law firm in Chicago is representing Green Plains. A Law firm spokesperson says, “We encourage everyone with knowledge and those that care about fair and equitable marketplaces to come forward.” ************************************************************************************ Ethanol Industry Losses Could Reach Nearly $9 Billion The Renewable Fuels Association says the industry has lost more than $3.4 billion in revenue stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. An industry analysis released by the association this week also found that pandemic-related damages in 2020 and 2021 could reach nearly $9 billion. The data is based on the latest projections from the Energy Information Administration and Agriculture Policy Research Institute. Between March and June of 2020, the study by RFA found the cumulative decline in ethanol production and consumption exceeded 1.3 billion gallons, and nearly 500 million fewer bushels of corn were used in ethanol production during the period. Assuming current market conditions do not deteriorate, total pandemic-related revenue losses for the industry could approach $7 billion in 2020 and $1.8 billion in 2021. However, if states adopt additional travel and business restrictions, the losses may be larger and may even surpass the $10 billion estimate from RFA's initial forward-looking analysis released in April. ************************************************************************************ Texas, USDA, Sign Stewardship Agreement Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a Shared Stewardship agreement with Texas Governor Greg Abbot Thursday. The agreement will establish a framework for federal and state agencies to improve collaboration in responding to natural resource concerns and ecological challenges in Texas. Governor Abbot says the agreement “is an important step toward strengthening our partnership with the federal government and renewing our commitment to responsible forest management.” The agreement is between the Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as well as the Texas A&M Forest Service. Texas is the 15th state to agree to a Shared Stewardship framework. The framework uses a modern and collaborative approach to focus on landscape-scale forest restoration activities to protect at-risk communities and watersheds. The agreement with Texas will focus on encouraging strong, long-term forest management programs, promoting sound and scientific silvicultural practices, and aligning various agency land management activities to meet common goals.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 17, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Fed Survey Warns of Tepid Recovery This week, Bloomberg commented on a federal survey that shows a tepid recovery by early July. “Economic activity increased in almost all Districts,” it says, but remained “well below where it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The report was based on its Beige Book survey released Wednesday in Washington. “Outlooks remained highly uncertain, as contacts grappled with how long the COVID-19 pandemic would continue and the magnitude of its economic implications.” The report, prepared by the Chicago Fed, was based on anecdotal information collected by the 12 regional reserve banks on or before July 6. Although economic activity may have picked up at the end of May and beginning of June as businesses reopened, a resurgence in coronavirus cases in many states is driving fears of a new slowdown. California has again imposed lockdown measures, and Texas and Florida have curbed certain activity. Businesses in the Fed's survey reported uncertainty about future demand amid the resurgence. Fed Governor Lael Brainard pointed to a highly uncertain economic outlook on Tuesday, saying the central bank should turn its focus to providing accommodative monetary policy to support a full recovery. Officials held interest rates near zero at their meeting last month and signaled in their quarterly forecast that they expect to keep them there through 2022. “A late June resurgence in COVID-19 cases slowed or reversed the reopening process, jeopardizing further recovery in consumer spending,” the San Francisco Fed noted. The words “uncertain” or “uncertainty” appeared 16 times in the report, Bloomberg noted. “In comparison with our previous report, the outlook among contacts is slightly more pessimistic while also much more uncertain,” the St. Louis Fed said. Activity in most sectors remained subdued, and even in industries that saw an increase in demand, such as manufacturing, the jump up was from a very low level, or was a meager one. Energy activity continued to fall on the back of low demand and oversupply. Employers across the Fed system reported new hirings, but levels remained subdued. Businesses cited both renewed layoffs and difficulty in bringing back workers amid safety concerns, a lack of childcare and higher-than-usual unemployment benefits. The Philadelphia Fed reported net employment gains “masked a small, steady stream of permanent layoffs.” Several Fed districts reported evidence of ongoing pay cuts, reduced hours and unpaid leave. Cuts to earnings, coupled with the already-high unemployment rate, could further weigh on consumer demand and damp down inflation, which is already well below the Fed's 2% target. Consumers make up 70% of the U.S. economy. Prices were little changed across the 12 districts, though some reported higher costs for food and beverages. Supply chain issues have driven up the cost of food and are leading to rising food insecurity. Grocery prices rose 5.6% in June from a year ago, the largest increase since 2011, Labor Department figures showed Tuesday. Also this week, POLITICO is reporting that “as lawmakers return to work next week to debate a new stimulus package with a price tag in the trillions, the summer COVID-19 sequel is playing a lot like the spring original. The urgency this time isn't so much to cushion the economic blow, but to keep the nascent economic recovery on track.” And, the report notes that “worrying data points are accumulating.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said a new package will come together in the next three weeks. With the new signs of economic trouble, Republicans have signaled they may be willing to expand that package to include more federal jobless aid. McConnell said Monday that the next package would have a "continued emphasis on jobs, meaning unemployment insurance for those who are unable to get back to work." Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, predicts job growth will be weaker in July than in June and May. “The economy took a huge body blow and it's still reeling,” he said in an interview. “And if the virus continues to intensify and we don't get some support from Congress and the administration soon, we will go back into recession,” Zandi warned. So, we will see. The most recent new health uncertainties are significantly affecting the outlook—trends that producers should watch especially closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 17, 2020 |


EPA Now Considering 58 Gap-Year SRE Requests At least 58 retroactive small refinery exemption (SRE) requests have been received by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the latest update from the agency. The push by refiners for the retroactive “gap-year” exemptions stems from a 10th Circuit Court ruling that held they are only eligible for future SREs, hardship exemptions from Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements, if they have maintained a continuous string of the waivers since 2011. The previous update on June 18 listed 52 requests for compliance years 2011 through 2018. Separately, refiners have submitted another 27 waiver applications for the 2019 compliance year and one for 2020. Biofuel proponents including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and National Biodiesel Board (NBB) have criticized the gap-year requests as an effort to circumvent the 10th Circuit ruling and have argued EPA policy and the court decision compel the agency to reject the petitions. Controversy over the gap-year requests has led lawmakers to hold up the Senate confirmation of an EPA official and delayed EPA's proposal setting RFS 2021 blending volumes for biofuel and 2022 mandates for biodiesel.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 17, 2020 |


Livestock Organic Equivalence Agreement Takes Effect for US, Japan The existing U.S.-Japan organic equivalence agreement was expanded to cover livestock products, with the changes taking effect Thursday. The new agreement will reduce costs and streamline the process for businesses across the organic livestock supply chain, requiring them to secure just one organic certification instead of two for products exported to Japan, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said. Technical experts from the U.S. and Japan “conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that the regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements and labeling practices are compatible” leading up to the agreement, USTR said. With the updated agreement in place, U.S. organic livestock products may exported to Japan if they secure certification under either Japan Agricultural Standards (JAS) or from USDA. An organic equivalence for plant-based products has been in place between the U.S. and Japan since 2014

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 17, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets Traders will start the day looking at the latest weather forecasts and watching for any trade news that may develop. A report on June U.S. housing starts is set for 7:30 a.m. CDT, followed by an index of U.S. consumer sentiment at 9 a.m. Weather Hot and dry conditions are in store for most of the Plains and Midwest Friday. The heat will be stressful to pollinating corn and flowering soybeans. Human and livestock stress will also develop. Rain will be confined to thunderstorm activity in the southeastern Plains, northern Delta and isolated areas of the northern Midwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 16, 2020 |


USDA Posts 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Final Report The Department of Agriculture Wednesday posted the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s final scientific report. The report will inform USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services as they co-develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines will provide recommendations on what to eat and drink to promote health and prevent chronic disease. Moving into the next stage of development of the guidelines, USDA and HHS will leverage the scientific advice in the committee’s report, as well as comments from the public and other federal agencies to develop the upcoming edition of the dietary guidelines. The departments plan to publish the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines by the end of December 2020. USDA and HHS are accepting written public comments on the committee’s final report through August 13, 2020. The public will also have an opportunity to provide oral comments on the scientific report to the departments at a public meeting on August 11, 2020. ************************************************************************************ Globally, Farmers Adapting to Pandemic Challenges A new global survey shows farmers have once again demonstrated their ability to adapt to new challenges. Kynetec, a global market research firm specializing in animal health and agriculture, released the survey results this week. The survey spanned six key countries, the U.S., Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Czech Republic, and included feedback from 873 farmers. The survey provided a mix of positive and negative insights into the impact COVID-19 has had on their lifestyle and livelihood. The degree of impact varied between countries with country variation ranging from 41 percent to 67 percent of farmers saying the virus has impacted their personal lives. In the short-term, farmers in most countries lack optimism regarding the current outlook for agriculture and the speed of economic post-lockdown recovery. Farmers adapting to the pandemic say planned investments were some of the main challenges across all countries that farmers have faced because of COVID-19. ************************************************************************************ Graves Introduces 2020 Water Resources Development Act U.S. Representative Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican, introduced the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 this week. Graves says the legislation plays a key role in any water infrastructure project, including flood control, navigation, ports, locks and dams. The legislation will facilitate commerce through ports and inland waterways, improve flood control infrastructure, and “help develop flood control plans that actually work.” The legislation will give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers new construction authority for communities facing repetitive flooding events. One of the more significant roadblocks to ensuring a project can be done quickly is getting construction authority expeditiously, and this bill will allow those communities to be protected more quickly, according to Graves. The bill also makes an important change in the cost-share for Inland Waterways Trust Fund projects on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River systems. This change will accelerate the timeframe for funding and completion of projects to modernize outdated locks and dams on these rivers. ************************************************************************************ Senators Seek Textile Industry Assistance A group of Senators wants the next round of COVID-19 assistance to support the cotton and textile industry. Led by Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the group penned a letter to Senate leadership this week. The Senators say the U.S. cotton and textile industry "is particularly hard hit as the COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented demand destruction for cotton apparel and textiles." The group says the "viability of the farms and businesses, and the jobs they represent, are at risk of not surviving this crisis." From March through May, clothing sales are down by $44 billion, or 67 percent, relative to the same three-month period in 2019. U.S. textile mills report a 90 percent drop in orders for the yarn they produce. Cotton prices fell by as much as 30 percent since early this year, and that decline represents a loss in market value of approximately $160 per acre of cotton. ************************************************************************************ USDA Invests $153 Million in Rural Community Facilities The Department of Agriculture announced a $153 million investment to build and improve critical community facilities to benefit nearly two million rural residents in 23 states. USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand says, “Rural America needs safe, modern infrastructure to help residents and businesses achieve greater prosperity and have access to essential services.” USDA is investing in 94 projects through the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program. The investments can be used to build or upgrade a wide range of rural community facilities such as schools, libraries, clinics and public safety facilities. More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Interested parties should contact their USDA Rural Development state office for information about additional funding, application procedures and eligibility details. ************************************************************************************ American Farmland Trust Sponsors Leopold Conservation Award Program American Farmland Trust will join forces with the Sand County Foundation to present the Leopold Conservation Award Program through a national sponsorship. Sand County Foundation created and presents the award in 21 states. The award is for farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat conservation on agricultural land. AFT President and CEO John Piotti calls the Leopold Conservation Award, “an honor bestowed on the best land stewards in this nation,” adding, “It’s a natural fit.” Given in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes outstanding achievement in voluntary conservation. Since 2003, the award has been presented to more than 140 dedicated land stewards who are leaders in their industry and communities. Award recipients receive a $10,000 cash award at high profile events attended by their peers. Their conservation success stories are promoted widely to other agricultural landowners and the general public.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 16, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Growing Tensions Over Hong Kong Bloomberg, and others, are focusing quickly on the implications of the growing “back and forth” with China over Hong Kong. The island, until recently an oasis of political stability in Asia, is now gripped with unprecedented regulatory and legal uncertainty that threatens its position as one of the world's top financial hubs. China's imposition of a sweeping, but vague, worded national security law on June 30 has already begun to change the business landscape. Tech giants like Google and Facebook Inc. have suspended processing data requests from the government. Banks are struggling to figure out how to comply with the contradictions in U.S. and Chinese legal changes. Even mainland bankers in the city got a shock when China started taxing their incomes at rates as high as 45%, compared with 15% in Hong Kong. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump stripped away certain special privileges for Hong Kong under U.S. law, a decision that eliminated a range of measures that allowed the capitalist city different treatment from the mainland, ranging from preferences for passport holders to allowing access to sensitive technologies to a Fulbright scholar exchange program. Also, he signed a law that would punish banks for dealing with officials facing sanctions. The escalating political turbulence, which follows months of anti-government demonstrations last year, has jarred a city that for decades served as a stable base for multinationals to access China. “The U.S. measures, alongside Beijing's own crackdown on Hong Kong, are fast turning the city from an open, stable international financial center to contested ground at the very front lines of a rapidly intensifying geopolitical conflict,” said Antony Dapiran, a lawyer based in the city. China “shot back” immediately after Trump's announcement, pledging to retaliate with unspecified strong countermeasures against U.S. officials and entities. Regina Ip, a member of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's advisory Executive Council, said the U.S. measures would actually achieve the opposite of what Washington intends. “It will only drive more Hong Kong people to rely more and more on mainland China for support for our prosperity and stability,” Ip said. “This will not really effect the foundations of Hong Kong's success as an international financial center, because the financial measures will only be imposed on individuals and entities identified under the act. It's not as sweeping as some have suggested.” The real-world impact of the U.S. moves on Hong Kong's trade will likely be limited since the vast majority of the city's shipments to the U.S. consist of re-exports, or goods passing through the city with no substantial modifications, Bloomberg said. Still, the marked deterioration in U.S.-China ties over the past few months means that Hong Kong is likely in for more turbulence as U.S.-China ties worsen. By one gauge of confidence in the finance hub -- the flow of capital -- appears to be holding up, with key metrics suggesting that, if anything, money continues to flow into Hong Kong rather than leave. However, the extremely broad provisions of the new Chinese law -- which bars subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces -- have left residents scrubbing social media accounts, business owners taking down pro-democracy posters, and business chambers saying companies may move assets and capital to other financial centers in part due to difficulties finding talent in Hong Kong. Things could get worse yet if banks and other financial institutions eventually face sanctions under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act that Trump signed Tuesday. Even if Beijing pushes back, the U.S. actions will still hit the city's global reputation in financial markets and could make it a less favorable spot to conduct business, said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Centre for China Studies, who has authored numerous books on Chinese politics. “It's also possible that fewer American businesses may want to do business with Hong Kong,” Lam said. “They may move directly to Shanghai or other financial centers in Asia such as Singapore.” There's little sense things will improve even after the U.S. election in November. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is likely to stick by all of Trump's recent moves if the former vice president takes office, said Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. “There's no floor under the U.S.-China relationship,” he told Bloomberg. “We keep finding new lows.” So, we will see. Clearly, the frictions over Hong Kong have taken on a life of their own, and they are likely to have serious adverse impacts unless some significant effort is made to bridge the gap—a proposition that seems quite unlikely just now, but which should be watched closely by producers as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 16, 2020 |


Just Eight States Have Imposed Mandatory COVID-19 Measures For Ag Workers Only a handful of states have put mandatory COVID-19 protections in place specifically for farmworkers, according to an analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Overall, 16 states have safety recommendations, but they are not enforceable, while the rest have not imposed any standards. Several states, including Florida and Texas, have not issued any recommendations. Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin are the only states to require produce growers and other farm operations to provide personal protective equipment to farmworkers and to require physical distancing, according to EWG.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 16, 2020 |


RFA Says Ethanol Industry COVID-19 Losses Top $3.4 Billion The ethanol industry has seen over $3.4 billion in lost revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) said Wednesday. Pandemic-related damages in the ethanol sector could reach some $9 billion, with $7 billion in losses during 2020 and another $1.8 billion in 2021, RFA warned. “If additional travel and business restrictions are adopted by states, the losses would be larger and may even surpass the $10 billion estimate from RFA's initial forward-looking analysis released in April,” the group added. The $3.4 billion decline in revenues seen to date were due to a combination of reduced ethanol output and lower prices, RFA said. “The social distancing and government-imposed restrictions associated with COVID-19 resulted in a dramatic reduction in the consumption of motor gasoline and ethanol in the spring of 2020,” the analysis noted.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 16, 2020 |


Thursday Watch List Markets The latest weather forecast remains the primary focus for row crops. USDA's weekly export sales report is out at 7:30 a.m. CDT Thursday, along with U.S. jobless claims, June retail sales and an update of the U.S. Drought Monitor. USDA export sales announcements have been more active lately, announced at 8 a.m. CDT, if there is business to report. The U.S. Energy Department posts natural gas inventory at 9:30 a.m. CDT. Weather Thursday will be seasonally warm in the northern and central crop areas, offering favorable conditions for corn and soybean pollination and flowering. Southern crop areas will be mostly dry and hot, especially in the southwestern Plains through western Texas. Rainfall will be limited to scattered light activity in portions of the Southern Plains and eastern Midwest.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 15, 2020 |


Ag Equipment Sales Rise in June The overall sales of tractors and self-propelled combines were higher in both the U.S. and Canada during June. According to the latest data from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, it’s the first time this year that the sales numbers rose. Total U.S. farm tractor sales rose 32 percent in June. Only four-wheel-drive tractor sales declined in the U.S. during June. Total year-to-date farm tractor sales are up 10 percent in 2020, while combines cut year-to-date losses to only 1.7 percent in the same period. In Canada, tractor sales grew across just about all segments during June, with overall tractor sales up 32 percent. “We’re seeing more areas of the economy open up from the previous pandemic-related shutdowns, so we’re not entirely surprised some of that pent-up demand is expressing itself right now,” says Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of Ag Services at AEM. “However, we’re currently keeping our optimism cautious, as the current state of things with COVID-19 could see a negative impact on demand moving forward.” Blades also says there is too much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19-related events and their impact on the agricultural markets to determine if this higher trend will keep going.” ********************************************************************************************** China Makes Biggest U.S. Corn Buy Ever A Reuters report says China made the biggest purchase of U.S. corn in history on Tuesday. It’s the second massive deal that China has made for corn in less than a week. The Asian nation made the buy in an attempt to meet its commitments in the Phase One trade deal with the U.S., even as tensions rise between Washington, D.C., and China. The USDA says private exporters report that China bought 1.76 million tons of corn for shipment during the 2020-2021 marketing year that starts on September 1st. The sale passed the previous record of a one-day corn sale to China that totaled 1.45 million tons in December of 1994. The deal followed a sale of 1.365 million tons to China on July 10th, a deal that was spread out over two marketing years. Last week, China increased its corn and soybean import forecasts for the current season as the country expects to step up its agricultural purchases from the United States. China also booked deals to buy 129,000 tons of soybeans in the 2020-2021 marketing year. Beijing agreed to buy $80 billion worth of U.S. ag products over the next two years in the Phase One trade deal between the two countries. ********************************************************************************************** Major Slowdown at Chinese Ports Could Impact Global Trade Chinese testing of meat, seafood, and other products for the coronavirus has tripled customs clearance times at some major Chinese ports. Bloomberg says the intensive testing is raising some major concerns that the delays could eventually tangle up global trade flows. It normally takes about three days to clear produce through customs, but an official with a supply chain company says it’s now taking up to 10 days. China began testing cold food shipments for the virus last month in a move it says is aimed at protecting the health of the general public. The testing has combined with large arrivals of cold-storage food to add to the congestion at some of its biggest ports. China had been boosting meat imports in a bid to offset domestic shortages after the African Swine Fever outbreak that decimated the country’s pork herds. Meat and offal shipments surged to almost 900,000 tons in June, 75 percent higher than at the same time in 2019. Beijing says the new measures are helping to control the spread of the virus and will help stop another potential outbreak. Though China still needs more meat, the testing may cause exporters to slow sales to the Asian country because of the potential to get caught up in the testing process. ********************************************************************************************** Meat Production Continues to Rebound The USDA recently raised its estimate of red meat and poultry production. The numbers in its newest WASDE report shows production levels three billion pounds higher than the agency predicted after COVID-19 shut down meat plants in April and May. An Agriculture Dot Com article says the meat outlook brightened for the second month in a row. “The beef production forecast is raised primarily on higher cattle slaughter and heavier carcass weights,” the USDA says. “Forecast pork production is raised from last month primarily on higher expected second-half commercial slaughter. Broiler production is also raised on recent hatchery data.” In all, USDA forecast meat production of 106 billion pounds this year, which is more than its May estimate of 103 billion pounds. The USDA also estimates meat production will total 107.6 billion pounds in 2021. Americans consumed a record of 224.3 pounds per person last year. Consumption was expected to climb to 227.4 pounds before the coronavirus entered the country. After the outbreak forced slowdowns and temporary closures of some of the largest U.S. meatpacking plants, the USDA said per-capita consumption would drop to 217.1 pounds of meat as production shrank. ********************************************************************************************** Summer Farmland Market May Be Heating Up The Farmers National Company says the spring and early summer seasons are typically slow when it comes to farmland sales. This year, that timeframe was even slower than normal. However, the land market is now warming up. Business at the Farmers National Company is as robust as its been in recent years and they say business still went on despite the effects of COVID-19. Demand for high-quality cropland remains good in most areas and is bringing mostly steady prices. Some of these sales are happening without being on the open market as the sales come up quickly and buyers are found just as quickly. The lower-quality cropland is less in demand, which tends to soften price levels. There are also first-time buyers in the market currently looking to invest in ag real estate. The outlook for land sales is positive and should bring mostly steady prices in many areas of rural America. Landowners who are considering selling are already reaching out to brokers and potential buyers. Farmers National says possible financial stress among some agricultural producers, the direction of the general economy, and the recovery from COVID-19 effects all remain wild cards in the land market. The company says predicting the ag economy is difficult as things can change overnight. ********************************************************************************************** Dairy Farmers Oppose Whole Milk Ban in Schools The American Dairy Coalition recently fired off a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar regarding whole milk. The coalition, which represents dairy farmers, told both department heads that they’re unhappy about the possibility the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will recommend continuing a ban on whole milk in schools. The Hagstrom Report says the coalition has asked Perdue and Azar to intervene on the question. In the letter, the dairy coalition says, “Despite an abundance of science that demonstrates that full-fat dairy products reduce chronic disease in children and adults and promotes learning children’s learning ability, the Dietary Guidelines of America continues to set caps on saturated fats, effectively banning whole milk from daycares and school nutrition programs.” The Dietary Guidelines for America set the nation’s leading nutrition policies. The American Dairy Coalition wants Perdue and Azar to ensure the publication of the DGA is updated to include the most recent evidence on the benefits of saturated fats and the healthy role they play in the diets of both school-aged children and adults.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 15, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Greater Unemployment Support Looks Possible The Washington Post is reporting this week that senior Trump administration officials have begun signaling their willingness to approve a “narrow extension” of the enhanced unemployment benefits helping tens of millions of jobless Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. In less than two weeks, the federal program that provides a $600-per-week increase to unemployment benefits will expire. Many economists warn the disappearance of this enormous federal stimulus, created in March, could hinder the economic recovery and deprive millions of Americans of a vital financial lifeline. More than 30 million people are collecting what many recipients say is a crucial pillar of financial support right now. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky., on June 30 said the expiring added unemployment benefits were a “mistake,” and President Trump and White House officials have argued the $600-per-week unemployment bonus provides a “disincentive to work and should be scrapped. But with the program's termination approaches and the economy showing new signs of strain, administration officials have begun opening the door to some form of “what Congress previously approved,” the Post said. For example, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that the administration's priority was ensuring that future benefits amount to “no more” than 100% of a worker's prior wages -- comments that surprised some congressional Republicans who thought he shared their strong opposition to extending the benefits, the Post said. Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, said this week that the Trump administration is seeking “some unemployment reforms.” Earlier, he had more aggressively bashed the $600-per-week increase. Kudlow also seemed to push a “return to work” bonus that could supplement a reduction in unemployment benefits. That idea has been viewed as administratively difficult to implement, so its path to passage is unclear, the Post said. One potential compromise discussed by Republican lawmakers would involve cutting the unemployment benefit from $600 per week to between $200 and $400 and making up at least part of the difference with another round of $1,200 stimulus payments. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky., said the next package would include “unemployment insurance for those unable to get back to work,” though he did not specify how much aid would be necessary. White House spokesman Judd Deere said that the administration is opposed to the $600-per-week increase but would not rule out a more limited expansion of the benefit. “UI reform is a priority for this White House in any phase four package being discussed,” he said. The emergency, temporary federal benefits come on top of the payments appropriated by state governments, which vary widely. Democrats have largely called for the benefits to be extended. The time left for discussion is short, the Post said. Republicans have discussed the issue internally but have no caucus position, and there are no serious bipartisan discussions underway. The Senate comes back on July 20, five days before the enhanced unemployment benefit expires in 49 states. They expire in New York state on July 26. The discussions are complicated by current labor market distress, the Post said. More than 1 million Americans continue to apply for jobless benefits every week and “the rise of coronavirus cases across the country threatens to prompt a new wave of shutdowns.” June's jobs numbers showed the U.S. has recovered about a third of the jobs lost during the worst of the crisis, but the “economy appears to have worsened in recent weeks since and there are few signs it will improve before expanded unemployment benefits expire,” the Post said. The report says that recent unemployment benefits helped stabilize the economic turbulence as unemployment rose to roughly 15 percent in April before falling slightly to 11 percent in June. Wages declined by $70 billion in May compared with February. The emergency unemployment benefits filled that gap, funneling $70 billion per month into the economy, according to Ernie Tedeschi, who was an economist in the Obama administration's Treasury Department. Removing that lifeline could spell hardship for millions of Americans. If the benefits disappear, perhaps 30 million Americans would see a severe income cut of between 50% and 75%, Tedeschi said. There is some bi-partisan agreement. People at the White House do understand reducing this $600-per-week benefit would be really bad for the economy and really bad in the fall, when you need the recovery,” said Stephen Moore, a conservative analyst and White House ally. “The stakes are really enormous here.” Moore, citing conversations with multiple small-business owners, described talk of taking the benefit down to $200 per week as “very objectionable. We should just go back to the old unemployment program, and if you want to help people financially just do the payments that go to everyone,” Moore said. As a result, many workers are left in a state of unparalleled uncertainty. For some, the supplemental insurance “was all that was keeping rent and expenses paid, especially for those recently laid off with local unemployment benefits alone. So, we will see. This high-pressure debate is also seen as very high stakes for many—fights producers should watch closely as they intensify, Washington Inside believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 15, 2020 |


Chinese Imports From The US Rise Chinese imports from the U.S. rose for the first time since the new coronavirus emerged earlier this year. China's appetite for meat and other agricultural goods helped Chinese imports of U.S. goods to jump by 11.3% in June from a year earlier, after a 13.5% drop in May, data from Beijing's General Administration of Customs showed. The Chinese buying helped to narrow Washington's trade deficit with Beijing from a year earlier, though Chinese exports to the U.S. also improved, rising 1.4% in June from a year earlier after a 1.3% decline in May. In the first six months of 2020, China imported 2.12 million metric tons of pork, 1 million metric tons of beef and 45 million metric tons of soybeans from its trading partners, which represented increases of 140%, 42.9% and 17.9%, respectively, from the same period a year earlier. Its overseas purchases of iron ore, crude oil, coal and natural gas also increased by volume in the first six months as commodity prices tumbled. Beijing's overall trade surplus fell to $46.42 billion last month, much smaller than May's $62.93 billion figure and economists' expectations for a $59.30 billion surplus.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 15, 2020 |


Reps. Pingree, Fortenberry Urge USDA To Expand CFAP To Small, Diversified Farmers Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., asked USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to make the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) more inclusive for small, diversified farms who rely on local market outlets and direct-to-consumer sales. Recognizing that farmers who sell directly to consumers or to now-shuttered institutions would be disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress specifically directed USDA to provide relief to “producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools,'' the lawmakers wrote. “Despite this, USDA did not provide any specific accommodation for these producers in the design of CFAP payments. Indeed, the program's rules have meant many of these farms are struggling to access relief or are entirely ineligible for assistance through this program.” The lawmakers requested that USDA allow for payments on total revenue losses, rather than price losses for individual commodities; provide flexibility on documentation regarding losses; and extend eligibility to additional commodities to be more inclusive of local food producers.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 15, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets Here in mid-July, the latest weather forecast is the first item checked by traders. The Federal Reserve reports on industrial production at 7:15 a.m. CDT, followed by the U.S. Energy Department's inventory report at 9:30 a.m. The National Oilseeds Processors Association releases a report on the June soybean crush later Wednesday morning. Weather Moderate to locally heavy rain is in store from the central Plains through the western and north central Midwest Wednesday. This moisture will be useful for pollinating corn and flowering soybeans. Temperatures will be seasonally warm north and central and hot south, notably in the dry southwestern Plains.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 14, 2020 |


Trump: China Phase Two Agreement Unlikely President Donald Trump recently told reporters a Phase Two agreement with China is not likely. The President said aboard Air Force One last week, "I don't think about that," adding, "The relationship with China has been severely damaged.” Bloomberg News reports the Trump administration continues to pressure China over the COVID-19 outbreak, alleging a cover-up by China, among other things. Regarding his relationship with China, Trump says, “They could have stopped the plague, they didn’t,” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Phase One agreement included $200 billion of U.S. agriculture exports over two years. However, trade analysts say China isn’t purchasing at a pace to reach that level yet, and some say the level of purchases needed to meet the total is unattainable. Last month, state-owned companies in China suspended purchases from the United States over political issues. Also last month, Trump said the Phase One agreement was “fully intact,” the same day adviser Peter Navarro said it was effectively dead. ************************************************************************************ CoBank Issues Quarterly Economic Review CoBank says the recent rebound in the U.S. economy is real, but the sharpest post-shutdown economic gains are almost certainly behind us, and a long grind to shore up a shaky economy lies ahead. Despite COVID-19, U.S. grain has been moving and basis has generally tightened since April 1. Ethanol production and margins began to recover during the second quarter, but coronavirus resurgence is likely to limit future demand. The U.S. chicken sector swiftly filled retail meat cases when demand shifted and the red meat supply dropped. CoBank expects around three percent industry growth for the sector in 2020. Beef production and prices have now returned to pre-pandemic levels, and concerns are now shifting from supply to demand. The pork industry has rebounded from a supply chain shock that saw U.S. production fall by nearly half, before climbing back to above prior-year levels two months later. Finally, dairy farmers struggled through extreme market volatility last quarter. Diary prices are recovering, although farmers have yet to benefit. ************************************************************************************ USDA Seeks to Increase Rural Investment Through Streamlining Loan Programs The Department of Agriculture seeks to “cut the red tape” to make it easier to invest in rural America. USDA Monday announced steps to streamline access to four flagship loan programs. The programs include the Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees Program, Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program, Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, and the Rural Energy for America Guaranteed Loan Program. Under the initiative, USDA will eliminate duplicative processes and launch a single platform for the four loan programs. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the changes “will make it easier for private lenders to use USDA programs to invest in rural businesses and grassroots rural economic development efforts." USDA is seeking public comments on the regulatory reforms expected to take effect on October 1, 2020. USDA also plans to conduct a series of listening sessions this summer on the proposed changes. For more information on how to register for the listening sessions, visit www.rd.usda.gov. ************************************************************************************ Farmers Report Concerns About Sales Reps on Farms During Pandemic A survey from Farm Journal found 45 percent of farmers have reservations about allowing sales representatives back onto their farm. The survey released last week, also found in order for input suppliers to be allowed back on the farm, 50 percent say social distancing would be required. Additionally, 18 percent want outside vendors to wear proper personal protection equipment, such as masks. However, not everyone is voicing that concern about sales representatives and non-employees coming on their farm. The survey found 36 percent say they're not concerned about visitors. Of the 640 farmers surveyed by Farm Journal, just 11 percent say they are not ready for visitors. Growing concerns or not, consultant Dick Wittman, thinks navigating new business practices today may be permanent solution in agriculture. Wittman says, "It's making people rethink how we can do business in the future. We don't need to have everybody interacting every day in an office." ************************************************************************************ Shoppers Still Fear Empty Grocery Shelves, Seek Bargains A recent survey finds grocery shoppers are looking for bargains, and half of consumers fear empty grocery shelves. Marketing agency Acosta says 53 percent of shoppers say product availability is a top priority. The American Farm Bureau Federation last week reported beef and pork supply chains are recovering from the pandemic panic buying. However, the industry needs to work through a backlog of slaughter ready animals. Meanwhile, more than one-third of shoppers are worse off financially than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. The report says low prices will be a priority for 45 percent of shoppers post-pandemic. Acosta CEO Darian Pickett says, “A recession is here and will significantly impact the shopping habits of those affected.” Pickett says product availability remains a concern and shopper are focusing on health, wellness and safety more than ever. The survey also shows consumer priorities of social distancing, low prices, customer safety and promotions and deals on grocery products. ************************************************************************************ Fuel Demand Struggling as COVID-19 Cases Rise After falling for the first time in ten weeks, the national average price of gasoline has rebounded in the last week, rising 1.1 cents per gallon to $2.19. The national average price of diesel has decreased 0.2 cents and stands at $2.43 per gallon over the same period. GasBuddy’s Patrick De Haan says demand is struggling as coronavirus cases continue to increase in several states. De Haan says he expects gas prices to move sideways with the lack of a clear national trend, as we "remain in a COVID-19 holding pattern." Crude oil prices continue to hold near recent highs. But overall, as demand rebounds have stalled, so too has the rally in oil prices. In addition, OPEC’s strongest production cuts are to expire at the end of July, leading to more oil production, responding to the recovery in global oil demand. Last week saw a notable 5.7-million-barrel rise in U.S. crude oil inventories, which now stand 17.5 percent above year-ago levels.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 14, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Complaints Against Meat Companies In a report that is being picked up by daily newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Associated Press is reporting that new pressure on parts of the meat industry is coming from worker complaints alleging that processing companies Tyson and JBS have “engaged in workplace racial discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic.” The AP said several worker advocacy organizations have filed with USDA over the matter, alleging that company polices violated a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects individuals from racial discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance. The allegations assert that the companies “adopted policies that reject U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on distancing and protective gear on meat processing lines,” and that the operating procedures have a discriminatory impact on mostly Black, Latino, and Asian workers. Tyson has received more than $109 million from USDA programs this year and JBS more than $45 million, the complaint said. As recipients of federal taxpayer dollars they are required to comply with federal laws. “When they took that money, they knew at that point that they would be held accountable to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but they continued to violate that act,” said Joe Henry, director of Forward Latino, one of the groups filing the complaint. Others include the Food Chain Workers Alliance, HEAL Food Alliance, American Friends Service Committee of Iowa and the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils. Coronavirus infections were first reported in meatpacking plants in March and since then at least 34,961 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among workers in 367 packing plants and at least 144 meatpacking workers have died, the complaint said. A CDC report released last week found 87% of those coronavirus cases occurred among racial and ethnic minorities even though they make up 61% of the worker population. After the outbreaks were uncovered, meatpacking plants began providing workers with face coverings, installed shields between work stations and implemented new procedures for distancing during breaks -- but they declined to adopt other U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for keeping people at least 6 feet apart, the AP said. The companies also declined to initiate slower speeds on production lines or add shifts to enable social distancing, according to the complaint. As a result, the complaint alleges that company operating procedures have a disparate impact on Black, Latino, and Asian workers, who make up a large share of production workers at the companies' plants, representing a pattern or practice of racial discrimination. Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman told the AP that the company was still reviewing the complaints and noted that the company's top priority is the health and safety of all workers, their families and the communities where plants are located. “We've transformed the way our plants operate to protect our team members, implementing measures such as symptom screening before every shift,” he said. Cameron Bruett, a spokesman for JBS and subsidiary Pilgrim's Pride said the company welcomes any review of its practices and response to the pandemic. “During this pandemic, we have maintained our operations and the jobs they create only when we believe our facilities to be safe. We have embraced our responsibility to provide a safe working environment and will continue to do so. Our efforts have followed, and often exceeded, CDC guidance,” he said. USDA representatives declined to comment. The complaint goes to the USDA through an administrative procedure and it will be up to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to decide how it's resolved, the AP said. The procedure could result in an agreement between the worker groups, the USDA and the companies or it could take years to get to a final resolution if there's no agreement, according to Dave O'Brien, a civil rights attorney in Cedar Rapids who handled such complaints in the Obama administration's Labor Department. The complaint filed last week asks the Civil Rights Division of the USDA to investigate and remedy the discrimination -- and for the agency to suspend or terminate funding to the companies if they do not comply with federal laws. So, we will see. The number of meat plant workers affected by the virus has been enormous, and the impacts on minority workers are attracting wide notice. This promises to be yet another negative impact that the US meat industry faces that likely will be both extremely difficult and expensive to overcome—and which should be watched closely by producers as these debates proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 14, 2020 |


AFBF Among Groups Pressing Congress On PPP Fixes The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is among the groups pressing Congress to pass the Small Business Expense Protection Act, which would allow small businesses to deduct expenses paid with a forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loan from their taxes. Currently IRS rules prohibit deducting expenses that are paid using funds from a PPP loan that is forgiven. Lawmakers intended for those funds to remain deductible, supporters of the legislation say, and they urged Congress to make the correction. “The Small Business Expense Protection Act will fix this misinterpretation and reestablish the ability of small businesses that have received PPP loans to deduct business expenses as the CARES Act intends,” AFBF and other groups said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The measure is currently awaiting consideration before the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 14, 2020 |


Trump Says Phase Two US-China Deal Not Currently On The Table President Donald Trump said a phase two trade deal with China is not under consideration, saying the relationship between Washington and Beijing has deteriorated too much. “I don't think about that,” Trump said Friday when asked about the possibility of a second round of trade agreements with China. “The relationship with China has been severely damaged... They could have stopped the plague, they could have stopped it, they didn't stop it.” The Trump administration has blamed China for being the source of the coronavirus pandemic, opposed China's measures to limit Hong Kong's autonomy, and become increasingly critical of human rights abuses toward Uighur Muslims in China's Xinjiang region. China has said U.S. criticism on these issues could put phase one of the agreement in jeopardy.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 14, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets The latest weather forecasts remain a primary focus for grain traders. The only official report on Tuesday is consumer prices from the U.S. Labor Department at 7:30 a.m. CDT. Any trade news and updates on coronavirus will also be noticed. Weather Light to moderate rain is in store for portions of the western Midwest and the Northern Plains Tuesday. Moisture will be favorable for pollinating corn and flowering soybeans. Other crop areas will be drier. Temperatures will be seasonal to below normal in northern crop areas, seasonal central, and above to much above normal south. Heat advisories and heat warnings cover much of the Southern Plains and Delta.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 13, 2020 |


House Appropriations Committee Approves Ag Appropriations Spending The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill covering the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Farm Credit Administration, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The committee’s ranking Republican, Kay Granger of Texas, says some of the provisions designed to stop the Trump administration from making reforms could be “poison pills.” Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska also says he’s unhappy with some provisions and the bill’s financing. An amendment from Georgia Democrat Sanford Bishop calls for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to complete an analysis of the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The analysis is due within a year and would focus on the methodology used, and then would be compared to what the National Academies recommended in 2017. The Hagstrom Report points out that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s methodologies have been controversial for years. The only other amendment to the appropriations bill gives the FDA legal authority to recall unsafe prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The agriculture bill and other appropriations bills are expected to be brought to the House floor during the final two weeks of July. ********************************************************************************************** AFBF Looking for the Entrepreneur of the Year The American Farm Bureau, in partnership with Farm Credit, is accepting applications through July 31 for the 2021 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. The national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies addressing the challenges faced by farmers, ranchers, and the rural communities they live in. The Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year Award increased to $50,000 for 2021’s contest. Farm Bureau will award a total of $145,000 in startup funds provided by contest sponsors. Farm Bureau is looking for entrepreneurs who address both the traditional challenges farmers and rural communities face, as well as business owners tackling new challenges due to COVID-19. “As Farm Bureau members continue to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19, solutions from entrepreneurs are more vital than ever,” says AFBF Vice President Scott VanderWal. Ten startup companies will compete at the AFBF Convention in January of 2021 as semi-finalists. Those teams will be announced on October 5th. Those ten teams then compete to advance to the final round where four teams win an additional $7,500 and compete in front of Farm Bureau members, investors, and industry representatives. Entrepreneurs must be Farm Bureau members to compete. For more information, go to www.fb.org/challenge. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Accepts Over One Million Acres in CRP Grasslands The USDA’s Farm Service Agency says it’s accepted more than 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands during the recent signup. The number of acres offered during signup was 1.9 million, more than three times the number offered during the last signup period in 2016. Through CRP Grasslands, farmers and ranchers can protect grasslands, rangelands, and pastures, while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing, or harvesting seed from the enrolled land. The timing of some of those activities may be temporarily restricted by the primary nesting season for birds. “This large and unprecedented enrollment is a reflection of the popularity and the importance of CRP Grasslands,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.” Participants receive an annual rental payment and may also receive up to 50 percent cost-share for establishing approved conservation practices. The duration of the CRP contract is either 10 or 15 years. FSA ranked the large number of acres offered based on several factors, including the existence of expiring CRP land, threat of conversion or development, existing grassland, and the predominance of native species cover and cost. The 2018 Farm Bill set aside not fewer than two million acres for CRP Grasslands enrollment. CRP turns 35 years old this year and has 21.9 million acres currently enrolled. ********************************************************************************************** Soil Health Partnership Releases Cover Crop Planting Report The Soil Health Partnership’s Cover Crop Planting Report shows that farmers are using diverse strategies to plant their cover crops. They’re also using a variety of plant species to help keep their soils healthier. The partnership is the flagship sustainability program of the National Corn Growers Association. They conducted a detailed survey on cover crops, getting responses from farmers across 11 states in the SHP network about cover crops planted in 2019. “We know farmers in our network are innovators, and there is a huge range of cover crop management practices across our network, depending on the farmer’s management goals, where they are located, their soils, and their cropping systems,” says Dr. Maria Bowan, lead scientist for the Soil Health Partnership. Bowman says the most significant finding was that although more than half of farmers planted their cover crops between the middle of September and the beginning of November, almost 40 percent planted their cover crops before or after those dates. Additionally, 25 percent of the farmers who responded to the survey interseeded or overseeded their cover crop into a standing cash crop. “This means farmers are using a wide range of strategies to get their cover crops out on their fields, especially in the higher latitudes where there are timing and labor constraints to getting a cover crop in after harvest,” Bowman adds. The most widely planted cover crop is cereal rye. ********************************************************************************************** Corn Production Lower, Soybean Ending Stocks Higher in July WASDE The July World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates Report is calling for sharply lower supplies in corn, along with reduced feed and residual use, increased food, seed, and industrial use, as well as lower ending stocks. Corn production is lowered 995 million bushels from June, coming in at 15 billion bushels on a yield of 178.5 bushels per acre, unchanged from last month. Ending Stocks were lower at 2.6 billion bushels. The season-average price is projected at $3.35 per bushel, 15 cents higher than the June report. Soybean ending stocks are 30 million bushels higher than last month at 425 million. Soybean production increased to 4.14 billion bushels, which is 10 million bushels higher on increased harvested area totaling 83 million acres. The yield is unchanged at 49.8 bushels per acre and the season-average soybean price is $8.50 per bushel, up 30 cents from June. The wheat forecast calls for larger supplies, lower domestic use, unchanged exports, and increased stocks. The harvest forecast dropped by 53 million bushels to 1.824 billion. Ending stocks increased to 924 million bushels. The season-average price for wheat is forecast at $4.60 a bushel, unchanged from last month. ********************************************************************************************** Legislation Designed to Improve Price Transparency in Cattle Markets Iowa Representatives Cindy Axne (Ax-knee), Abby Finkenauer (FINK-eh-now-er), and Dave Loebsack (LOBE-sack) introduced legislation in the House that would increase price transparency in U.S cattle markets. It would spur additional price discovery and competition for producers using cash markets. “We must increase price transparency and level the playing field for cattle producers,” says Axne. “We’ve seen significant market disruptions from the fire in Holcomb, Kansas, last year, and more recently from COVID-19, which illustrates the need for this legislation.” The Iowa representatives note that this isn’t a new problem for cattlemen. With the nationwide decreases in cash trades, producers who use the cash markets are bearing the burden of price discovery for the rest of the cattle industry. The bill would require processors to have a minimum of 50 percent of their weekly slaughter purchased from cash market sales. The increase in cash market sales would give independent cattle producers around the country a level playing field with formula-contracted cattle purchases and additional leverage with processors. Iowa producers typically participate in the cash market around 50 percent of the time, while nationwide participation is down as low as five percent in some states. The House bill introduced today is a companion to Senate Bill 3693, which was introduced earlier this year by Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 13, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Tariffs for French Goods, but Imposition Delayed At the end of last week, the U.S. announced 25% tariffs on a series of French goods worth about $1.3 billion. The move is part of a long-running battle between the two countries over taxes on technology giants, Bloomberg said. Also, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said that it will again delay implementation of the new levies for up to 180 days since France “has not yet started collecting its digital tax.” The administration says the delay is to allowing more time “for ongoing discussions on a global deal at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.” France has held firm on its plans to resume collection of a national digital tax that hits technology giants including Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Facebook Inc. France says now that it won't “be swayed by threats of U.S. sanctions.” “France's response will be unchanged,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in Brussels. “If there is no international solution by the end of 2020, we will, as we have always said, apply our national tax.” The U.S. withdrew last month from international talks over a digital-tax deal after failing to reach agreement. An international deal would prevent dozens of countries implementing similar levies. Several European countries – including Austria, France, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Turkey and the UK – have already announced plans for a digital services tax. Many others have discussed implementing one and India expanded a similar levy in April. “We call on the U.S. to return to the OECD negotiations on taxing digital giants,” Le Maire said. “Sanctions are not a way of operating between countries that are friends, as the U.S. and France are.” The announcement sends a clear signal to France and other countries that there are consequences to singling out American tech companies said Clete Willems, a partner at Akin Gump. Still, he added, the tariff delay provides a valuable opportunity to solve this multilaterally. “Both sides need to compromise,” he said. “France needs to back away from trying to tax digital companies before all global service providers and the United States needs to stop insisting that the new rules be optional.” U.S. lawmakers weighed in shortly after the announcement to express their support. The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee issued a joint statement on the topic. “Retaliatory tariffs aren't ideal but the French government's refusal to back down from its unilateral imposition of unfair and punitive taxes on U.S. companies leaves our government with no choice,” said the top Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon. The administration's decision was widely reported in the urban press and elsewhere. For example, the New York Times noted that the administration undertook a trade investigation into the tax a year ago and concluded in December that the French tax “discriminates against U.S. companies, is inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy and is unusually burdensome for affected U.S. companies.” The report recommended tariffs as high as 100% on certain French imports valued at $2.4 billion, including cheese, wine and handbags. The final recommendation was significantly less punitive, with tariffs at 25% --and wine and cheese dropped from the list entirely. While the United States had initially agreed to work with global counterparts to come up with a unified tax system, other countries have balked at the administration's push for a provision that would effectively allow some American companies to choose whether to be governed by any new system created by a global agreement, the Times said. It also noted that a “growing list of governments have looked to digital taxes of their own as tax revenues plunge during the pandemic recession. Several European countries, led by France, have been rolling out digital services taxes, which would fall heavily on American internet companies. Italy, Spain, Austria and Britain have all announced plans to levy digital services taxes, which impose duties on the online activity that takes place in those countries, regardless of whether the company has a physical presence.” The decision to go ahead with the tariffs on French goods could revive a trade fight between the United States and Europe. The president has already imposed tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, prompting the European Union to retaliate with its own taxes on American goods. The two governments are also at odds over domestic aircraft subsidies, with the Trump administration taxing as much as $7.5 billion of European exports annually as punishment for subsidies given to Airbus. So, we will see. Taxes on off-shore producers are always very sensitive, and tensions with the EU have been intensifying for some time. This is an issue that producers should watch closely as the season progresses and the fall elections approach, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 13, 2020 |


USDA Says 1.28 Million Acres of Land Accepted Into CRP Grasslands Effort USDA accepted offers on 1.28 million acres of land to be enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands program, 68% of the 1.88 million acres offered for enrollment. Three states had 100,000 acres or more accepted – South Dakota (377,774 acres), Nebraska (298,890 acres) and Montana (174,314 acres). Contracts under the CRP Grassland enrollment start October 1, 2020. The 2018 Farm Bill set aside no fewer than 2 million acres for CRP Grassland and the agency said that as of October 1, there will be 2.1 million acres enrolled in the effort. There are currently 21.9 million acres enrolled in CRP with contracts on 5.36 million acres set to expire September 30. Earlier this year, USDA accepted offers on 3.4 million acres of ground via a General CRP signup, with contracts starting October 1, 2020. Enrollment under the continuous signup in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 opened December 9 and runs through August 21.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 13, 2020 |


USDA Broadens CFAP Eligibility, But Still Leaves Out Additional Wheat Classes, Eggs USDA announced several additional specialty crops are now eligible for benefits under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), while others – apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines and taro – will see expanded benefits due a price loss that was 5% or greater between mid-January and mid-April. Peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for the sales loss portion of the payments and USDA also corrected payment rates on several commodities. Producers of the additional commodities determined to be eligible can start signing up for the benefits July 13. USDA did not indicate eggs would be added as an eligible commodity nor that classes of wheat other than hard red spring wheat and durum would be eligible. “USDA is still evaluating comments and will issue another document with additional determinations and payment rates,” USDA said in a Federal Register notice published Friday, noting in a release that additional eligible commodities would be announced “in the coming weeks.” Despite the changes announced this week, USDA said that it “will not change CFAP costs” even as some have speculated the actions will mean the program could run out of money even earlier.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 13, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Entering the second full week of July, the latest weather forecasts continue to get first attention among grain traders, followed by any export news. USDA's weekly inspections report is out at 10 a.m. CDT, followed by a U.S. Treasury report on the federal budget at 1 p.m. and the Crop Progress report at 3 p.m. CDT. Weather Monday features a sharp contrast in temperatures over major crop areas. Northern and central regions will have seasonal warmth with favorable crop conditions. Meanwhile, southern regions will have extreme and stressful heat. Heat bulletins cover the far Southern Plains through the Deep South. Periods of thunderstorms are also in store across the northern tier and in parts of the Southern Plains at the edge of the heat dome.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 10, 2020 |


Coalition Comes Together to Improve Rural Broadband Infrastructure Minnesota-based farm cooperative Land O’ Lakes announced it has brought together 49 organizations to form the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition. The Hagstrom Report says the coalition’s goal is to “advocate for public and private sector investment to bring high-speed infrastructure to rural areas.” Each of the organizations will contribute some of their resources to help improve access to remote education, health and mental services, job opportunities, and more. Land O’ Lakes says the goal is to connect and lift all American communities through access to modern digital technology. Beth Ford, President and CEO of Land O’ Lakes, says farmers, business owners, and even school children are often on the wrong side of the digital divide in America, a problem that’s only gotten worse since COVID-19 began. “This isn’t just a rural issue,” Ford says. “The American Connection Project Broadband Coalition represents a mix of companies from technology, health care, ag, and more, who understand the ramifications of our country’s broken internet infrastructure. They have the willingness and expertise to help address this need.” The coalition does admit bringing America’s digital divide to an end is a costly goal, but the groups “firmly believe it is worth the investment.” ********************************************************************************************** Trump, Obrador Celebrate USMCA U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel (Man-WELL) Lopez Obrador met in Washington, D.C., this week to celebrate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement. The agreement recently became the law of the land in North America. After multiple meetings among senior officials from both nations, the U.S. and Mexican presidents signed a joint declaration commemorating the July 1st entry-into-force of the USMCA. During remarks to reports, Obrador lamented the North American region’s trade deficit with the rest of the world, which he says totals $611 billion. He’s hoping the USMCA will help North America capture a bigger share of the world economic output, which he says has fallen from 40.4 percent in 1970 to 27.8 percent currently. That statistic reflects China’s rising share of world economic growth over the past half-century. Trump continued his attack on the North American Free Trade Agreement, USMCA’s predecessor, blaming it for lost jobs and low wages. Trump also promoted the labor protections in the new deal, saying it will “bring countless jobs from overseas and back to North America.” ********************************************************************************************** Potato Growers See Mixed Foreign Trade Outlook Ahead International trade experts within the potato industry are happy with the Phase One Trade agreement between the U.S. and China. However, they’re also concerned with the level of potatoes coming into the U.S. from the other direction, noting that French Fry imports from the European Union are rising rapidly. An Intermountain Farm and Ranch article says the export market for U.S. potatoes continues to grow. While COVID-19 has resulted in a reduction of exports, there are still good things ahead in the international markets. For example, the new agreement with China opens up the Asian nation to chipping potatoes from the Pacific Northwest. However, there is some bad news in the international markets. The U.S. is seeing a continued increase in French Fries imported from the EU. Matt Lantz, the vice president of global access at Bryant Christie, says, “There’s been a major surge from the EU, and I say the term very definitely. I do not say dumping. That’s a legal term that’s very hard to prove.” In 2015, the EU sent $12 million worth of fries to the U.S. In 2018, EU exports jumped to $55 million. Last year, the value of those imports was even higher, coming in at $80 million. In the first four months of 2020, the EU has already sent $44 million worth of fries to the U.S. ********************************************************************************************** Additional Commodities Now Eligible for CFAP Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says additional commodities have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. USDA says producers will be able to submit applications that include these commodities beginning on Monday, July 13, with the application period ending on August 28. USDA designed the program to help offset price declines and additional marketing costs brought on by COVID-19. The agency also expects additional eligible commodities to be added to the list in the weeks ahead. “When we announced this program, we asked for public input and received a good response,” Perdue says. “After reviewing comments and analyzing our USDA Market News data, we are adding new commodities, as well as making updates to the program for existing eligible commodities.” A few of the additional commodities eligible for CFAP include beets, blackberries, lettuce, green peas, pineapple, fresh sugarcane, and many more. The changes also include expanded funding options for already-eligible commodities like apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, and raspberries. USDA found that these commodities had a five percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April because of COVID-19. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for marketing adjustments. They also say peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for payment under the CARES Act sales-loss category. ********************************************************************************************** Ag Groups to Launch Town Hall Series on the Future of Trade/Supply Chains With major agricultural fairs and other events canceled across the country, major ag groups will provide a series of virtual town halls called “AgTalks.” It’s designed to provide a new forum for farmers, ag businesses, and policy leaders to discuss potential solutions to challenges on trade, supply chains, and global competitiveness. 2020 summer events will be held in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. A few of the groups behind the virtual events include Farmers for Free Trade, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and many others. The AgTalks series will focus on the big challenges that agriculture faces on trade, international supply chains, and staying competitive in the international marketplace. The town hall will be led by ag leaders in each of the five states. In a combined statement, the groups say, “American competitiveness in agriculture has been seriously impacted by the surge in non-U.S. trade agreements with key customers, the trade war, and the failure of supply chains strained by COVID-19. This has impacted commodity pricing, increased input costs, derailed relationships with trading partners, and impacted the broader economy.” The first two dates will focus on Iowa and Minnesota, with specific dates coming soon. ********************************************************************************************** Don’t Leave Dairy Behind in Japan Negotiations A total of 50 members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week, urging him to work swiftly on a Phase Two Agreement with Japan. The letter was also sent to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. They say the recent Phase One agreement with Japan made progress on several important issues, but American farmers and processors remain at a disadvantage against competitors, thanks to the Japan-European Union and the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership agreements. That’s why Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind and his colleagues are asking Lighthizer and Perdue to maximize opportunities for dairy farmers by addressing these remaining gaps and inequalities in market access during the next round of negotiations. Due to depressed milk prices and a suffering rural economy, dairy farmers are facing tough conditions and struggling to stay afloat. The USDA says 6,000 dairy farms have gone out of business over the last several years, underscoring the need for trade agreements that can expand overseas markets for the U.S. dairy industry. The letter also points out that Japan is one of the top five overseas markets for U.S. dairy products and the demand will only continue to grow.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 10, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Increasingly Murky National Outlook Most aspects of the national outlook are increasingly murky these days because so many things are in flux. First, there's the virus; then, there's the economy; then, there's trade policy, and much more. Bloomberg reports on a comment by the Fed's Cleveland bank president, Loretta Mester, who said “recent data on the reaccelerating spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. has raised additional downside risks for the economic recovery. I don't think any of us thought it would necessarily be a smooth path to increasing activity – but the numbers are troubling,” she told Bloomberg. “These are not good statistics.” She cited confirmed cases in the U.S. that crossed 3 million Wednesday as the virus surged across many southern and western states. Examples include Texas that set a record for daily cases, California where hospitalizations hit a new high and Arizona with a record number of deaths. She concluded that news from the virus and health-care front “will likely prove damaging to the economy even if state and local officials don't reimpose restrictions on commercial activity.” Her Atlanta Fed colleague Raphael Bostic made a similar point earlier on Wednesday, telling reporters that more policy action may be needed if the recovery levels off. Still, the Cleveland Fed chief, who is a voter this year on the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee, said she doesn't think the central bank needs to rush into providing fresh guidance on the future path for interest rates and asset purchases. Policy makers lowered the benchmark rate in mid-March to near zero and began large-scale purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. They also signaled they would keep policy in that setting for an extended period. “The time may come when we want to use forward guidance, but right now I think everyone understands we want to keep interest rates low for a long time,” she said. Once the Fed reaches the point where it concludes that more guidance is needed, its form will depend on circumstances at that time, she said—a position that made Mester appear less enthusiastic than many of her colleagues about embracing a particular strategy for forward guidance in the committee's next one or two meetings. Bloomberg also noted this week that China's top diplomat had blasted U.S. policy toward Beijing – but at the same time, proposed “a blueprint for getting spiraling relations between the world's biggest economies back on track.” “Current U.S. policy toward China is based on strategic misjudgments that lack factual evidence, and are full of emotional catharsis and McCarthy-style paranoia,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a pre-recorded address for a China-U.S. think tank and media forum. He added that “artificially creating various 'China threats' may eventually lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.” Wang thinks China is willing to resume dialogue mechanisms at all levels with the U.S. at any time and proposed the two countries group outstanding issues into three lists – cooperation, dialogue and differences – with think tanks taking the lead in researching the issues. He also called for cooperation on the coronavirus, saying that China is willing to communicate further on treatment, vaccine research and economic recovery. Already strained ties have gotten worse after China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, prompting the U.S. to revoke certain trade privileges and threaten sanctions against Chinese officials. The two countries are also sparring on many other things from the South China Sea to technologies like 5G networks. Earlier, the U.S. announced visa restrictions for officials over China's actions in Tibet and Hong Kong, which sparked retaliation from China. The president's national security adviser Robert O'Brien told reporters to expect “a significant roll-out of measures with respect to China over the coming days and weeks.” Wang called the U.S. moves “unreasonable” and said that the two powers should not seek to transform each other. However, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday continued to slam the Chinese government and President Xi Jinping. He said the U.S. would start a dialogue soon with the European Union on ways to meet the challenge from China. Pompeo held secretive talks last month in Hawaii with top Chinese diplomat and Politburo member Yang Jiechi that failed to stem the attacks on both sides. That meeting showed that Wang's proposals to restart the dialogue were likely “too romantic and too idealistic,” according to Shi Yinhong, an adviser to China's cabinet and a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. So, we will see. It is certainly true that there are threats of many kinds from many directions – and that it will be difficult to avoid policies that make things worse. Especially as the fall elections come closer, producers should watch these many processes very closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 10, 2020 |


Eight Candidates To Lead WTO The nomination period for those seeking to become the next Director General of the WTO closed Wednesday with eight candidates – Jesus Seade Kuri (Mexico); Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria); Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt); Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova); Yoo Myung0hee (South Korea); Amina C. Mohamed (Kenya); Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi Arabia); and Liam Fox (UK). The listing of five men and three women all have trade and/or WTO experience. The WTO has not seen a leader from African nor has it been led by a woman, prompting some to up the odds for a candidate that meets those criteria. Mexico's Seade and South Korea's Yoo are also seen by some as top-level candidates given their experience on the world trade front. The WTO is seeking a new leader in the wake of current WTO chief Roberto Azevedo announcing he would leave the post a year early, setting off the process to find a new leader. The next step will be for the candidates to meet with members at a special General Council meeting July 15-17 where they will present their views and take questions from members.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 10, 2020 |


Ag Biotech Issues With Mexico, Dairy Access To Canada Raised The Alliance for Trade Enforcement is raising issues on ag biotech in Mexico and Canadian pharmaceutical actions as areas that need to be enforced under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The full enforcement of intellectual property (IP) commitments under USMCA is key, the group said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. “The Government of Mexico's failure to approve these products threatens both trade with Mexico and U.S. farmers' access to important technologies. This could have a devastating effect on U.S. farmers and their customers in Mexico,” the group said. Dairy issues were also raised by the group, with the letter pointing to Canada's announcement on distribution of dairy tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) “runs counter to various USMCA commitments including discouraging high-value food service or retail products from entering the market.” The group also said they are concerned Canada will not live up to eliminating their Class 7 pricing program and will “manipulate its agreed-upon trade obligations to protect its tightly controlled dairy market are unacceptable.” The group also called out Canada's Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, saying it “continues to develop and implement unfair pricing and reimbursement regulatory schemes that do not fully account for the cost of research and development of innovative treatments.”

| Rural Advocate News | Friday July 10, 2020 |


Friday Watch List Markets After traders check the latest weather forecasts and the U.S. Labor Department issues its report for June producer prices at 7:30 a.m. CDT, grain traders will be watching for USDA's next WASDE report, due out at 11 a.m. CDT. New ending stocks estimates for corn and soybeans after USDA's June 30 estimates of plantings and grain stocks will carry the most interest and wheat crop estimates from around the world will also get a look. Weather Light to moderate rain will form in portions of the Northern and central Plains and the Midwest Friday. Rains will be accompanied by seasonal temperatures, easing crop stress. Meanwhile, the Southern Plains will have dryness and extreme heat with very stressful conditions for cotton, non-irrigated crops, pastures and livestock.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 9, 2020 |


USDA Announces FMD Vaccine Bank Investment The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced the initial purchase of vaccines for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will invest $27.1 million for foot-and-mouth disease vaccines, which the agency would use in the event of an outbreak. The vaccine bank was created in the 2018 farm bill. USDA awarded a contract to Boehringer Ingelheim to develop and maintain a strategic reserve of frozen vaccine antigen concentrate that the company could quickly formulate into a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease. Agriculture groups welcomed the announcement. National Pork Producers Council President Howard AV Roth says the investment “is momentous, representing years of NPPC advocacy to ensure U.S. agriculture is protected should we have an FMD outbreak.” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of government affairs, Allison Rivera, says the move is a “promising first step forward to begin the work authorized in the 2018 farm bill,” but adds “more action is needed to strengthen this newly created vaccine bank.” ************************************************************************************ U.S. and Kenya Begin Trade Talks The United States and Kenya began trade negotiations Wednesday, seeking to enter a free trade agreement. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the progress, saying a deal could "strengthen and deepen our relationships with economies across the continent” of Africa. Kenya is included in the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is set to expire in 2025. The U.S. Chamber says a Kenya free trade agreement will provide American businesses the certainty they need to continue investing in the growing market. Agriculture goals for the U.S. include securing full market access for U.S. agricultural goods in Kenya by reducing or eliminating tariffs. Further, the U.S. seeks to eliminate practices that unfairly decrease U.S. market access opportunities or distort agricultural markets for the United States. In 2018, U.S. total exports of agricultural products to Kenya totaled $37 million. Leading domestic export categories were $10 million of coarse grains, $6 million of wheat and $5 million of pulse crops. ************************************************************************************ May Margin Triggers Dairy Margin Coverage Program Payment The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency announced the May 2020 income over feed cost margin triggered the third payment in 2020 of the Dairy Margin Coverage program. In May, the income over feed cost margin was $5.37 per hundredweight. To date, FSA has issued more than $176 million in benefits to dairy producers who purchased DMC coverage for 2020. Authorized by the 2018 farm bill, DMC is a voluntary risk management program that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price, the margin, falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. Over 13,000 operations enrolled in the program for the 2020 calendar year. Although DMC enrollment for 2020 coverage has closed, signup for 2021 coverage will begin October 13 and will run through December 11, 2020. For more information, visit the farmers.gov DMC webpage or contact your local USDA Service Center. ************************************************************************************ Restaurant Traffic Stalls Amid Increase in COVID-19 Cases The recovery of U.S. restaurant customer transactions has stalled for the second week in a row as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in many states, according to research firm NPD Group. For the week ending June 28, total customer transactions at major U.S. restaurant chains are down 14 percent versus the same week a year ago. For the week ending June 21, total transactions were down 13 percent versus a year ago. The rise in COVID-19 case counts is causing local and state authorities to delay reopening, and in some cases, reinstating on-premise restaurant dining restrictions. In Texas, for example, restaurants may continue to offer on-premise dining, but capacity is rolled back from 75 percent to 50 percent. California announced last week the closing of its nearly 86,000 restaurants to on-premise dining. Nationwide, full-service restaurants customer transactions for the week ending June 28 were down 25 percent versus the prior year and several states where COVID-19 is gaining saw the biggest declines in transactions. ************************************************************************************ Poll Reveals Business to Business Exhibitions Move to Virtual Events The Center for Exhibition Industry Research says an increasing number of U.S. business to business exhibition organizers are postponing or canceling events. A June study found 73 percent of organizers have canceled events, 37 percent have postponed, and 17 percent are still scheduled. The trend is evident in agriculture with major events, including the Farm Progress Show and several state fairs, canceling this year. The Center’s CEO, Cathy Breden, says the trend “is devastating to an industry that contributed over $101 billion to the U.S. GDP last year.” The survey found 74 percent of organizers cited uncertainty regarding if meetings would be allowed due to lockdowns. Additionally, 69 percent report corporate no travel policies are impacting participation. The survey found 63 percent of organizers have added a hybrid or virtual component, and 44 percent have a virtual backup plan in the event they are forced to cancel at the last minute. ************************************************************************************ American Soybean Association to Celebrate 100 Years The American Soybean Association will celebrate 100 years of representing farmers next month. ASA was formed when brothers Taylor, Noah and Finis Fouts hosted the first Corn Belt Soybean Field Day at their Soyland Farms operation in Camden, Indiana, in September 1920. The event drew nearly 1,000 farmers and their families from six states. The National Soybean Growers' Association, later renamed the American Soybean Association, was formed that day. On Tuesday, August 4, 2020, ASA, with support from the Indiana Soybean Alliance, will host a 100th-anniversary celebration and historical marker dedication at its birthplace on Fouts Soyland Farm in Camden. The event features a keynote address from Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Steve Censky. The event is free of charge. However, attendance is capped at 180, so those interested must register. For those who cannot make it in person, the event will also be live-streamed. Find more details online at ASA100Years.com.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 9, 2020 |


Washington Insider: More Tensions With China While the Trump administration's top officials are sticking with reassuring comments about the future of U.S.-China trade, Bloomberg is increasingly gloomy. It reports this week that “the U.S.-China rivalry is shifting into new and unpredictable areas, engulfing everything from a popular video app to Hong Kong's status as a global financial hub.” The latest tensions are overshadowing a trade agreement in January that was meant to draw a line under the trade war and be a boon for business. Instead, differences between both powers are deepening right at a time when the global economy is facing its worst crisis since the Great Depression, Bloomberg says. It notes that “this week alone,” President Trump said he is considering banning ByteDance Ltd.'s short video app TikTok as retaliation against China over its handling of the coronavirus. Some “top advisers” want the U.S. to undermine the Hong Kong dollar's peg to the greenback to punish China for recent moves to chip away at the former British colony's political freedoms. There are even concerns over the visa status of hundreds of thousands of Chinese students who enroll at U.S. colleges and universities each year. China in turn has promised its own response, warning the U.S. and others to stop interfering in Hong Kong and other issues. The economic backdrop could hardly be gloomier with the IMF estimating that by the end of this year 170 countries – almost 90% of the world – will have lower per capita income. That's a reversal from January, when it predicted 160 countries would end the year with bigger economies and positive per capita income growth. The deepening divisions are forcing difficult decisions for global business. Facebook Inc., Google and Twitter Inc. – all of which have been blocked on the mainland – are at risk of the same fate in Hong Kong. Hours after Hong Kong announced sweeping new powers to police the internet on Monday night, those companies plus the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Zoom Video Communications Inc. suspended requests for data from the Hong Kong government. It's not yet clear how the authorities will respond to that lack of compliance with local rules. ByteDance's TikTok, which has Chinese owners, announced it would pull its viral video app from the territory's mobile stores altogether in the coming days. HSBC Holdings Plc, which draws more than two-thirds of its pretax income from Hong Kong, slumped in Hong Kong trading on Wednesday on fears it would lose out if the administration moves ahead with any plan to punish banks in the city and destabilize the currency peg to the dollar. The expectations are that threats and counter threats will only ratchet up further ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, with little prospect of a near-term reset. “I don't see any immediate circuit breaker,” said Fraser Howie, author of Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China's Extraordinary Rise – certainly not in the sense that there is a reset where everyone says 'weren't we all being foolish, let's get back to being friends.' I don't see that coming any time soon.” And it's not just the world's two biggest economies being affected. India said it will ban 59 of China's largest apps after a deadly Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops that killed 20 Indian soldiers. China warned the UK it will face “consequences” if it chooses to be a “hostile partner” after reports emerged that the government was preparing to begin phasing out the use of Huawei Technologies Co. equipment in the UK's 5G telecommunications networks as soon as this year. Since April, China has imposed crippling tariffs on Australia's barley industry, halted beef imports from four meat plants and urged its tourists and students to avoid going to the nation due to the risk of attacks from racists. The government in Canberra had earlier called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. While economists say it's unlikely that the U.S. would follow through on its threat against the Hong Kong dollar, given the risk of damage to U.S. banks and companies, even the discussion of such a move is unnerving for confidence. “It is a nuclear option, which could result in a financial crisis for Hong Kong, as well as considerable collateral damage for U.S. banks and investors,” said Kevin Lai, chief economist for Asia, excluding Japan, at Daiwa Capital Markets. “It is not impossible, but we think it is unlikely to happen.” The idea of striking against the Hong Kong dollar peg — perhaps by limiting the ability of Hong Kong banks to buy U.S. dollars — has been raised as part of broader discussions among advisers to Secretary of State Pompeo but hasn't been elevated to the senior levels of the White House, Bloomberg News reported. “There is a fast-evolving realignment of forces happening,” Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief Asia Pacific economist with Natixis SA, told the press. “The spiraling threat will remain with us at least until the U.S. election and, very likely, also afterwards. It is just a new paradigm,” she said. So, we will see. Both sides appear increasingly “dug in” on this fight, with much more than economics at stake experts say. The threats and counter-threats appear both significant and real, and should be watched closely by producers as the fight continues, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 9, 2020 |


Sen. Grassley To Push For RELIEF Act To Be Included In Next Stimulus Plan Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said this week he will put to get the Responding to Epidemic Losses and Investing in the Economic Future (RELIEF) for Producers Act of 2020 to be included in the next stimulus plan. It would provide aid to producers forced to euthanize livestock due to lack of access to processing facilities, calculating the value based on the national average market value between March 1 and the date of enactment. The reimbursement would be calculated for a 30-day period starting from the date of initial depopulation. Producers would get 85% of the value of their loss, and the value of losses would be reduced by 10% each 30-day period after that. The plan has also been backed by some House members. Meanwhile, the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are both talking of wrapping up another COVID aid plan before the August congressional recess.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 9, 2020 |


CDC Updates Report On COVID-19 Infections, Deaths at Meat And Poultry Plants Confirmed cases of COVID-19 at 239 meat and poultry plants in 23 states in April and May were put at 16,233 with 86 related deaths, according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Combined with data from a study done through April 27 that included figures from six states that did not report for the updated data, at least 17,358 cases and 91 COVID-19–related deaths have occurred among U.S. meat and poultry processing workers. Where demographic details were available, CDC said 87% of the cases were among racial and ethnic minority workers. CDC said that 12% of the cases were asymptomatic or presymptomatic, but the CDC cautioned that not all facilities performed widespread testing. Of the 239 plants reporting cases, intervention and prevention efforts were reported by 111 of them, with 89 (80%) facilities reported screening workers on entry, 86 (77%) required all workers to wear face coverings, 72 (65%) increased the availability of hand hygiene stations, 70 (63%) educated workers on community spread, and 69 (62%) installed physical barriers between workers. The report said animal slaughtering and processing industry employs an estimated 525,000 workers in approximately 3,500 facilities nationwide. The CDC cautioned that the report findings have limitations, including that not all states responded with information and that the source of exposure and infection could not be identified as coming from the workplace or the community.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 8, 2020 |


Ag Economy Barometer Shows Some Optimism Farmer sentiment improved again in June as the Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer rose 14 points to 117. The barometer's rise was fueled by improvements in both the Index of Current Conditions, which rose to a reading of 99, 19 percent higher than a month earlier, and the Index of Future Expectations, which climbed to 126, 12 percent higher than in May. The improvement in farmer sentiment left the Ag Economy Barometer seven percent below one year earlier, while the Index of Future Expectations was still ten percent below its June 2019 level. However, the Index of Current Conditions was two percent higher than in June 2019, likely reflecting considerably improved spring planting conditions throughout much of the nation, in addition to support from USDA's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Four out of ten farmers surveyed said that as a result of concerns about COVID-19, they are conducting more business online, and over half of respondents said they are less likely to attend in-person educational events in 2020. ************************************************************************************ Barchart Releases July Yield Forecast An industry data and technology provider predicts 2020 corn yield at 173.8 bushels per acre for corn and 48.8 bushels per acre for soybeans. Barchart, a technology company that provides market data, released its July yield forecast Tuesday. The report shows an increase in forecasted corn yield relative to the June 2 report, which forecasted end of season yield for corn at 172.4 bushels per acre. There was no change in the soybean yield compared to the June report. Released for free to the public on the first Tuesday of each month during the growing season, the cmdty (commodity) Yield Forecast Index series allows users to get insights to guide their business decisions ahead of the USDA’s WASDE report, due out this Friday. Barchart’s cmdty Yield Forecast Indexes, which correctly predicted 2019 USDA soybean yield figures three months in advance, are calculated using the latest geospatial and remote sensing technology, and provide users with daily insights on over 3,000 individual growing areas in the United States. ************************************************************************************ House Ag Appropriations Committee Approves 2021 Bill The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved the fiscal year 2021 agriculture appropriations bill this week. Committee Chairman Sanford Bishop Jr, a Georgia Democrat, says the bill rejects the Trump administration’s drastic cuts and “instead builds on the four COVID-19 supplemental bills Congress passed this spring.” The bill includes total discretionary funding of $23.98 billion, representing a $487 million increase from 2020. Notable features include $4.2 billion for rural development programs, including $1 billion for rural broadband. The bill provides $68.2 billion in required mandatory spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including $3 billion for the SNAP reserve fund. The bill also includes language to block the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents final rule and the Standard Utility Allowance proposed rule. The bill also blocks USDA from granting line-speed waivers at meat processing facilities during the public health emergency. ************************************************************************************ USDA Provides New Crop Insurance Options The Department of Agriculture this week announced changes to several crop insurance policies that the agency says improves options for producers. USDA introduced the Quality Loss Option, a new unit structure assignment option for Enterprise Units and new procedures for Multi-County Enterprise Units. Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre says the changes “provide producers more flexibility and options” to farmers. The new Quality Loss Option is in response to the 2018 Farm Bill that required the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to research and develop methods of adjusting for quality losses. The new Quality Loss Option allows producers to replace post-quality production amounts in their Actual Production History databases with pre-quality production amounts, thereby increasing their actual yields for individual crop years. For Enterprise Units and Multi-County Enterprise Units, a new unit structure assignment option was added. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. Learn more about the changes at rma.usda.gov. ************************************************************************************ Bill Seeks to Expand Online SNAP Retailers The Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020 seeks to increase online Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation. Introduced last week by Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, both Illinois Democrats, the bill expands the number of retailers approved for SNAP online. The National Grocers Association supports the legislation, which the organization says, “will be instrumental in helping grocers process online SNAP payments.” Specifically, the bill creates a technical assistance center to support independent grocers and provides grants to retailers who need financial assistance in offering SNAP online. The bill also develops an online and app-based portal for EBT redemption and expands SNAP online to all states nationwide. Senator Duckworth says the bill will “provide grocers of all sizes with the technical assistance needed to ensure all families have the same opportunity to safely purchase groceries online.” Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming days from U.S. Representative Robin Kelly, also an Illinois Democrat. ************************************************************************************ Gavins Point Dam Decreases Missouri River Water Releases Below-normal precipitation in the upper Missouri Basin during June resulted in slightly below-average June runoff. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reduced water releases from Gavins Point Dam to 30,000 cubic feet per second. The 2020 calendar year upper basin runoff forecast, updated on July 1, is 31.2 Million Acre Feet, 121 percent of average. Average annual runoff for the upper basin is 25.8 million-acre feet. While above average, the forecast is welcomed along the Missouri River Basin, plagued by flooding last year. Work continues along the river to repair and improve levees that protect farmland. Much of that runoff was due to wet soil conditions early this spring and snowmelt runoff. John Remus, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division, says, “remaining summer runoff will depend on rainfall events.” Soils continue to dry out in the upper Missouri River Basin due to well-below normal precipitation and warmer-than-normal temperatures. And, drought conditions have expanded across much of western portion of the Basin.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 8, 2020 |


Washington Insider: UK Brexit Trade Outlook The United Kingdom's trade deal with the European Union isn't the only massive project British negotiators must contend with before they quit the bloc at the end of the year. With just months to go ahead of the exit, with or without a deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Trade Secretary Liz Truss are also racing to keep the many trade deals the UK currently maintains as a result of its membership with the EU. All told, there are about 70 of them covering about 15% of the UK's trade, Bloomberg reported this week. The report notes that while Britain has made considerable progress, so-called “continuity deals” with some of the most important countries in that group including Canada, Japan and Turkey have yet to materialize. If the UK leaves the EU with no agreement, it will trade with those 27 countries under terms set by the World Trade Organization. Fresh agreements with the U.S., Australia and New Zealand are also a priority -- one of the main arguments for Brexit was that Britain would be free to pursue better deals unshackled from Europe. “Deals with the likes of Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. likely will mean very small gains in aggregate--and nowhere near enough to make up for the losses that will come from the added trade frictions with the EU,” said Julia Magntorn Garrett, a fellow at the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex. “In terms of continuity deals, it's not so much about gains to GDP, because we already gained from those agreements — it's about mitigating any losses.” The government's own analysis shows that leaving the EU will lead to GDP loss of around 5% in the long term even with a free-trade agreement in place. A pact with the U.S. would only add a fraction of that to UK growth. Asked about the government's figures showing only minimal benefits from the accords, Truss told a panel of lawmakers recently that because the deals haven't been negotiated yet “their upside could in fact be larger than the calculations now suggest.” However, the downside also could come into play as the economic carnage wrought by the pandemic and the ensuing collapse in global trade could prove problematic. “In this climate, it's possibly going to be even more difficult,” said Swati Dhingra, a fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance, a research group at the London School of Economics. “People are going to be thinking of job creation in their own countries. There's going to be less of a coming-together around the negotiating table.” With the UK set to face the worst economic fallout from the pandemic among developed economies, “Johnson could use some wins,” Bloomberg says, “but it won't be easy.” While the EU and U.S. usually limit their trade negotiations to two or three major agreements at a time, Britain is now pursuing almost a dozen at once. “Even if you were an incredibly experienced negotiator it would be a really tough job,” said James Kane, an associate working on trade policy at the Institute for Government, a think tank in London. Bloomberg reports some details on how the UK's non-EU negotiations are going so far, and focuses on the U.S., EU talks — with the U.S. already Britain's largest bilateral trading partner and trade between the two worth $270 billion in 2019. Still, in March, the British government estimated that a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the U.S. would only have modest benefits for the UK economy -- a 0.16% increase in GDP over the next 15 years, and a 0.2% increase in real wages. A priority for the UK in the negotiations is tariff elimination, Bloomberg says. The U.S. has imposed punitive levies on British goods in recent years, including steel, aluminum and Scotch whisky, many in retaliation to EU subsidies for Airbus SE. Britain is also hoping to open up the U.S. market for services trade, such as in the digital and financial sectors, where the UK is strong. The two sides have completed two negotiating rounds so far, with the next slated for late July. Truss has said there is no deadline for reaching a deal and that talks are progressing well. The top U.S. negotiator recently downplayed chances of a deal this year. A key obstacle will be disagreements over agriculture. The U.S. sees greater market access for its food exports as a big prize, whereas the British government is under pressure not to allow standard U.S. products like chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef into the country. So, we will see. The administration's “get tough” tariff policy is still prominent for the administration's election hopes, and the UK Green Party's “anti-industrial” food policies likely will be very difficult to dislodge. As a result, it is difficult to see much opportunity for bridging wide gaps in important U.S.-UK policies. However, these talks involve high stakes and should be watched closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 8, 2020 |


Business, Commodity Groups Urge China, US to Meet Phase One Terms Scores of business and other groups, headed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged U.S. and Chinese officials to work together to meet commitments under the phase one trade agreement between the two countries. While noting the benefits from increased two-way trade between the two countries, the groups said, “We also believe that a successful implementation of Phase One will be critical to subsequent negotiations of a Phase Two Agreement.” The groups outlined a series of gains that have already been realized under the trade deal, including several of the changes enacted under the ag provisions of the deal that removed market access barriers for some U.S. products, and an annex to the letter sent to U.S. and Chinese officials calling the ag actions “among the most substantial 'early harvest' achievements to date since the agreement's implementation.” But they urge more Chinese purchases of all ag products covered under the agreement and to “advance reforms to the agricultural biotechnology process to improve transparency, reduce approval timelines to 24 months on average, and limit scope of data requirements to only information needed to assess the safety of a product for its intended use.” The groups sent the letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 8, 2020 |


Agriculture Trade Deficit Strikes New Monthly Record The value of U.S. ag exports fell 3% to $10.34 billion in May while imports were just 0.3% lower at $11.38 billion, leading to a record monthly trade deficit for the sector of $1.03 billion. The prior record was a trade gap of $842 million registered in April 2019. Cumulative U.S. ag exports are valued at $92.27 billion after eight months of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 against imports of $89.4 billion for a trade surplus of $2.86 billion. USDA is forecasting the value of U.S. ag exports at $136.5 billion in FY 2020 against imports of $130.2 billion which would leave a trade surplus of $6.3 billion. To meet those targets, U.S. ag exports would have to average $11.06 billion for the remaining four months of FY 2020 while imports would have to be just $10.2 billion. Exports have averaged $11.53 billion so far in FY 2020 with imports at $11.18 billion and if they were to match those levels the final four months of FY 2020, that would put exports at $138.4 billion against imports of $134.1 billion.

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 8, 2020 |


Wednesday Watch List Markets The latest weather forecasts continue to dominate trader interest in grains with any news of export sales a close second. The U.S. Energy Department will post its weekly inventory data, including ethanol at 9:30 a.m. CDT. Weather Hot and dry conditions will cover the Midwest through the central and Southern Plains Wednesday. This combination will be stressful for crops, especially in driest areas of the eastern Midwest and southwestern Plains. Rain will be confined to light to locally moderate activity in the far northern Midwest and in the Southeast.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 7, 2020 |


Production Challenges, Economic Headwinds Slow Red Meat Exports in May U.S. beef and pork exports trended lower in May, due in part to interruptions in slaughter and processing. The U.S. Meat Export Federation reports beef exports dropped well below year-ago levels and recorded the lowest monthly volume in ten years. Pork exports remained higher than a year ago but were the lowest since October 2019. Packing plant disruptions caused by COVID-19 resulted in the lower exports. May beef exports were down 33 percent from a year ago to 79,200 metric tons, with value falling 34 percent to $480.1 million. May pork exports totaled 243,800 metric tons, 12 percent above a year ago but down 13 percent from the monthly average for the first quarter of 2020. Export value was $620.9 million, up nine percent year-over-year but 16 percent below the first quarter monthly average. However, improvements are expected. USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom says, “Now that production has substantially recovered, the U.S. industry is better able to meet the needs of both domestic and international customers.” ************************************************************************************ RELIEF Act Would Support Livestock and Poultry Producers A group of Senators last week introduced the Responding to Epidemic Losses and Investing in the Economic Future for Producers Act of 2020. Known as the RELIEF Act, the legislation would provide relief to livestock and poultry producers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would support producers that are faced with euthanizing their animals due to COVID-19. The legislation also provides resources for animal health laboratories as they develop solutions to defend against emerging animal disease spread. Finally, the bill gives additional authority to the Department of Agriculture through the existing Commodity Credit Corporation Charter to deal with removal and disposal of livestock for any public health emergency moving forward. The bill was introduced by Iowa Senators, Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, along with Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, and Republicans Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, both of North Carolina. Grassley says the bill "will provide much-needed assistance to farmers who had to depopulate their livestock through no fault of their own.” ************************************************************************************ Bill Would Allow State-inspected Meat Sales Across State Lines New legislation introduced in the House of Representatives would allow state-inspected meat sales across state lines through e-commerce. The bill was introduced last week by South Dakota Republican Representative Dusty Johnson and Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar(quay-are). The bill allows small producers and processors more options to directly market to consumers. The legislation, according to Johnson, "cuts through red tape" and allows sales of normal retail quantities of state-inspected meat online to consumers across state lines. The bill also allows new direct-to-consumer options for producers, processors and small meat markets, and maintains traceability of sales easily accessed in the event of a recall. The bill is supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. NCBA President Marty Smith says the bill "helps make it easier for the American cattle producer to meet the growing demand of the American consumer to purchase safe and delicious U.S. beef.” ************************************************************************************ USDA Seeks Input on RFID Eartag Proposal The Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on the transition to RFID only ear tags. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service wants the public input on the proposal where APHIS would only approve RFID as the official eartag for use in interstate movement of cattle that are required to be identified by the traceability regulations. An official eartag is defined as an identification tag approved by APHIS that bears an official identification number for individual animals. Regulations allow APHIS to approve tags that can be used as official identification, and both metal and RFID tags are current options. USDA says a transition to RFID tags would support APHIS' ongoing efforts to increase animal disease traceability by more accurately and rapidly allowing animal health officials to know where affected and at-risk animals are located. APHIS is also seeking comments on a proposed timeline for implementation. Public comments will be accepted through the Federal Register until October 5, 2020. ************************************************************************************ China Says G4 Swine Flu Not New China says a recently reported strain of swine flu is not a new virus. China’s Ministry of Agriculture over the weekend stated the G4 swine flu strain is not new and does not sicken humans and animals easily. The claims rebuff a study published last week, according to Reuters. China’s agriculture ministry said in a statement that the study has been interpreted by the media “in an exaggerated and nonfactual way.” The study was published in a U.S. scientific journal warning the new swine flu virus “has become more infectious to humans and could become a potential pandemic virus.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the G4 strain has been spreading in China since 2016 and has become the predominant genotype found in Chinese pigs. The scientific report last week claims the virus has the “right characteristics for causing infections in people.” However, only two human infections with G4 viruses have previously been reported. ************************************************************************************ Gas Prices Fall Over Holiday Weekend For the first time in ten weeks, the national average price of gasoline has fallen, posting a drop of 1.2 cents per gallon over the last week to $2.17. The national average price of diesel has increased 0.6 cents and stands at $2.42 per gallon over the same period. Patrick De Haan of GasBuddy says the nation experiences a drop in fuel demand last week from COVID-19 cases surging in some states. De Haan says, “it’s possible that if things don’t improve much by Labor Day, we could see the rare trifecta of every summer holiday setting multi-year lows.” Crude oil prices have seen little overall change over the last week. Crude oil prices remain in limbo, along with gas prices, as the next chapter in the coronavirus situation remains murky. With some states seeing a resurgence and early signs of a slowdown in gasoline demand recovery, oil prices haven’t been able to muster additional steam to rally.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 7, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Comments on Spending Bills and the Economy Some things are almost eternal, including Congressional fights over spending. Bloomberg is reporting this week that House Democrats plan to fight President Donald Trump on numerous issues, including World Health Organization funding, military bases named after Confederate officers, border wall money and limits on food stamp eligibility, as fiscal 2021 spending negotiations ramp up. And, Bloomberg notes, “that's just the first three of their 12 annual appropriations bills.” Democrats released their State and Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, and Military Construction-VA spending measures this week and plan to quickly complete subcommittee markups. To nobody's surprise, “the contents of the bills foreshadow a difficult path” to funding the government during a presidential election year, pandemic, and nationwide civil-rights debate, the report says. House appropriators plan to hold subcommittee markups this week for Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Energy and Water, and Labor-HHS-Education. Finally, they're also scheduled to release this week their Commerce-Justice-Science, Transportation-HUD, Financial Services, and Defense bills ahead of “midweek” markups. Senate appropriators, meanwhile, are “stuck” less than three months before the Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government. Democrats have said they want to offer amendments on the coronavirus response and the national outcry over police violence, issues Republicans believe are so controversial they'd ruin any chance of bipartisanship. Due to the stalemate, the chamber's appropriators haven't released any bills or scheduled markups. Bloomberg lists several “major takeaways” from the first three House Democratic appropriations bills, and begin by noting the funding proposed for the World Health Organization, which would force the president to send $200 million to the organization despite his plan to cut off payments. The Agriculture-FDA bill would block the administration's rule limiting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility for able-bodied adults without dependents. It would also undo line-speed waivers for meat and poultry processing plants. The federal government in April approved a record number of line-speed waivers for poultry slaughterhouses in a single month--which worker-safety advocates and unions have said increases the risk of on-the-job injuries. In addition, the House Military Construction-VA spending bill would bar funds for installations named after Confederate officers, a move that doubles down on a provision in the annual defense policy measure that would require officials to rename some military bases. That bill also would also bar funding for a wall on the southern U.S. border, and block the administration from funding military construction projects where money has been reprogrammed to build border barriers. The bill's $581 million Base Realignment and Closure fund includes $200 million for cleanup of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often called “forever” chemicals, including Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and Perfluorooctanoic Acid contamination. In addition to its reporting on spending legislation, Bloomberg reports that CBO now expects lower real GDP from late 2019 to late 2020, reflecting its revisions to previous estimates of a slower economic bounceback in the second half of this year. Fourth-quarter real GDP is now projected to fall 5.9% in 2020, before increasing 4.8% in 2021, CBO said last week. It had projected in May real GDP would fall 5.6% from late 2019 to late 2020. The current outlook is mostly similar, “except that economic growth in the second half of 2020 is now projected to be slower,” CBO said. Real, inflation-adjusted GDP is expected to recover to its pre-pandemic level by mid-2022, CBO said, but that the unemployment rate likely will not return “to its late 2019 level of 3.5% for much of the coming decade. It's expected to be 10.5% at the end of 2020 and 7.6% in late 2021, CBO said. The projections are “surrounded by an unusually high degree of uncertainty” due to the coronavirus, the report says. So, we will see. There is little that is surprising in most of these fights, although the outcome seems increasingly difficult to forecast, as CBO notes. Certainly, the pre-election politics is bitter and controversial, and will intensify until the fall election, and beyond, and should be watched closely by producers as it emerges, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 7, 2020 |


Japan Boosts Port Inspections For Some US Commodities Japan has increased port inspections for seven U.S. commodities due to COVID-19. Japan has temporarily increased on-arrival inspections for fresh cherries, mangoes, papayas, nectarines, prunes, fresh potatoes and hay, according to a report from USDA's ag attache in Tokyo. Before COVID-19, Japan used annual on-site phytosanitary inspections for certain U.S. ag exports. “During these inspections, Japanese inspectors travel to the United States to verify that production sites are free of quarantine pests of concern for Japan,” the report said. “Due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions, Japanese inspectors have not been able to visit the United States to carry out on-site inspections in the 2020 growing season.” The increased inspection rates will stay in place until inspectors can travel to the U.S. without restrictions, the report said.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 7, 2020 |


Soybean Growers Join Calls for EPA to Reject Retro Refiner Exemptions The American Soybean Association (ASA) has become the latest group to call on EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to reject 52 pending retroactive Small Refinery Exemption (SRE) requests and apply a 10th US Circuit Court decision curbing the granting of the waivers. “The approval of these gap filings would deal a devastating blow to soybean farmers and biodiesel producers by stifling demand for biodiesel,” wrote ASA President Bill Gordon. “Simply put, protecting the RFS is a priority of our organization. We urge you to consider the perspective of the soybean farmer as EPA addresses this gap filing issue.” ASA said prolonged uncertainty in the biofuel sector created by the SRE issue “continues to stifle investment in American biofuels, destabilize agriculture markets and hurt U.S. soy growers, who are already grappling with supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19, the U.S.-China trade war, and other causes of instability.”

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday July 7, 2020 |


Tuesday Watch List Markets There are no official reports scheduled Tuesday, but the market will maintain interests in the latest weather forecasts and any trade news that might develop. Monday afternoon's Crop Progress report will be considered and expectations will build for USDA's next WASDE report on Friday, July 10. Weather Tuesday features light to moderate rain for portions of the northern Midwest and broad coverage of showers and thunderstorms along the Gulf Coast. Dry and very warm to hot conditions are in store elsewhere. We continue to see notably stressful conditions over the eastern Midwest as corn moves into the pollination phase.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 6, 2020 |


Wheeler Talks About Gap-Year SREs Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler talked about the 52 gap-year Small Refinery Exemption petitions awaiting the agency. The 52 applications cover the years 2011-2018. There are 27 more SRE applications for 2019 and one for 2020. All the applications are in the hands of the Department of Energy for review. The 52 applications were sent in earlier this year by refiners after a Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year in the Tenth Circuit. A DTN report says the biofuels industry and supportive lawmakers are in the middle of a public relations campaign to encourage the EPA to reject all of the applications. Some of the petitions that go as far back as 2012 have renewable identification numbers for that year which have expired. Wheeler says that means there are several potential problems with the petitions. “So, there are questions about whether they can show economic harm and what the remedy would be,” Wheeler says. “First, we’re waiting to see what the Department of Energy has to say about the small refinery exemptions.” ********************************************************************************************** USMCA Kicks in Under a Cloud of Disagreements A modernized North American trade pact officially took effect last week, providing some continuity for manufacturers and agriculture. Reuters says the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement is facing multiple disputes that still need to be resolved, exposing cracks in what was supposed to be a stronger North American “fortress of competitiveness.” The deal takes effect with all three countries mired in a COVID-inspired recession. April trade flow of goods between the countries is normally about $1.2 trillion every year, but the disease cut trade to its lowest monthly level in ten years. The Trump Administration is currently threatening to implement new tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada. Issues currently nagging at the USMCA also include hundreds of legal challenges to Mexico’s new labor laws that ensure workers can freely organize and grant unions full collective bargaining rights. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer calls the agreement the most “far-reaching” trade agreement in history. However, he also says he won’t hesitate to file dispute cases “early and often” to enforce USMCA provisions. He says Mexico’s failure to approve U.S. biotech products is an example. ********************************************************************************************** Hemp Growers Looking to Establish Checkoff The National Industrial Hemp Council and the Hemp Industries Association entered into an agreement to look into the possibility of establishing a marketing checkoff program for hemp. “Today is another step forward in the right direction for hemp farmers and consumers of hemp-related products,” says Patrick Atagi (Ah-TAH-gee), board chair of NIHC. “A checkoff program would further legitimize a rapidly growing industry and will help hemp farmers compete on a level playing field with producers of other agricultural-related commodities.” Rick Trojan, President of the HIA, says, “This first-of-its-kind agreement creates a focus on gathering data and distributing education as hemp cultivation expands nationally.” The Hagstrom Report says the two organizations will form a working group with representatives from across the industry to discuss the details on how a hemp checkoff program should be structured and operate. The working group’s effort would guide the eventual proposal to USDA that will include industry analysis, the justification for the program, program objectives, and the impact on small businesses. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production in the U.S. and was signed into law by President Trump after the legislation made it through both chambers of Congress. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Reminding Producers to Complete Crop Acreage Reports Producers who haven’t completed their crop acreage reports after spring planting should make an appointment with their local Farm Service Agency office before the applicable deadline. July 15th is the major deadline for most crops, but acreage reporting deadlines vary by county and by crop. “The first step to becoming eligible for many USDA programs is to file an accurate crop acreage report,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “To file your acreage report, call your local FSA office to make an appointment.” Due to COVID-19, FSA put reporting flexibilities in place. The agency can work with producers to file timely acreage reports by phone, email, and online tools, as well as virtual meetings. You must call ahead to those offices that are open for in-person appointments. After all of the completed maps and acreage reporting information is received, FSA will make software updates and send producers the completed Report of Acreage form to sign. Producers must return the signed form certifying their acreage report to the FSA as soon as possible. ********************************************************************************************** Dairy Supply Chains Need to Adjust to Changing Conditions COVID-19 is dramatically affecting consumer habits and dairy supply chains as food service demand plummets and grocery sales take off. Consumers struggling with job losses and economic uncertainty quickly returned to buying basic dairy products like fluid milk, commodity cheese, and butter. A new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange indicates that consumer behavior will be different for the next 12 to 18 months than it was before COVID-19. As that behavior begins to become a habit, dairy supply chains will need to adjust from the farm to the fork. “The dairy industry is coping with some new realities, largely driven by the decrease in foodservice demand and restaurant sales,” says Tanner Ehmke, manager of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange. “The challenges for dairy supply chains will be adapting to focus on meeting the demand trends based on evolving consumer behavior as we navigate through an uneven reopening.” Consumers increased their purchases of products that had fallen out of favor in recent years. For example, processed cheese sales increased by 20 percent during the eight weeks ending on May 31. White milk sales gained more than 10 percent during the same period. ********************************************************************************************** Farm Bureau Looking for “Farm Dog of the Year” Nominations The American Farm Bureau is inviting farmers to submit nominations for the 2021 Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year contest. This is the third year of the contest that celebrates farm dogs that work alongside farmers and ranchers to produce nutritious food for families and their pets across America. The grand prize winner gets a year’s worth of Purina dog food and $5,000 in prize money. The winner gets recognized at a Farm Dog of the Year award ceremony at the AFBF Convention coming up in January. Up to four regional runners-up will get $1,000 each in prize money. “We’re pleased to continue this award, which provided a great point of connection for the general public to get a glimpse into farm life,” says AFB President Zippy Duvall. “It’s especially appropriate after a year of unprecedented challenges in agriculture to recognize the dual role farm dogs play as both working dogs and companions to farm families.” Farm dog owners must be Farm Bureau members to enter their dogs in the competition. Owners can find more information at www.fb.org.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 6, 2020 |


Washington Insider: Prolonged Battle Over Unemployment Benefits The Hill reported last week that the generous expansion to unemployment insurance Congress passed to keep Americans afloat during the COVID-19 crisis is due to run out at the end of the month, “potentially leaving millions of people struggling.” Unemployment remained at 11.1% in June, worse than it was at the height of the Great Recession in 2009. At the heart of the discussion is a recent federal policy that adds a flat $600 to every weekly unemployment check through the end of July. “It would be unconscionable for Republicans to allow supercharged unemployment benefits to expire with the unemployment rate above 11% and 2.3 million new unemployment claims just this week,” Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden D-Ore., said Thursday. Republicans, however, argue the $600 benefit has at best outlived its usefulness and may have been hampering the recovery all along. The Democratic-controlled House passed the HEROES Act in May, which would extend the extra unemployment payment for another six months, along with other measures such as aid to state and local governments. The GOP-controlled Senate, however, said the $3 trillion legislation overshot the mark. The unexpectedly strong June jobs report, which saw a record one month increase of 4.3 million jobs, may convince them less help is necessary. Negotiations weren't even set to begin until after the July recess, leaving four weeks for the two chambers to hammer out and pass an agreement. The debate over the $600 figure gets at the complexity of a patchwork system of unemployment benefits across all 50 states. It also highlights the vastly uncertain path that the economy faces in the coming months, a path closely linked to efforts to contain the coronavirus. Congress settled on an extra $600 in unemployment benefits in the CARES Act passed in March because it filled the gap between the average weekly unemployment insurance payout across the country and the average salary, while allowing states to more quickly dole out the aid. Most unemployment insurance is designed to cover just a fraction of a worker's salary as an incentive for people to find new work quickly. But the state-to-state variation in benefits makes the design of an equitable intervention difficult. The $600 addition isn't adjusted for inflation or previous wage levels, meaning that some people are earning more on unemployment than they were at work. “Despite mounting evidence of the problems these extra payments are causing, the House passed a bill recently to extend them, not just for a month or two, but for another six months, through January 2021,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley R-Iowa, said at a contentious hearing on unemployment last month. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that if the policy were extended for six months, the overall economy would be better through the end of the year, but by 2021 both the economy and unemployment could be worse, as people separated from the labor market took longer to find jobs. Conservative groups have amplified the message. But in the same hearing, Wyden said Congress had little choice because unemployment programs differ so widely. A more precise policy to block recipients from earning more than their previous salaries, he said, would be impossible to implement quickly. Local unemployment offices contacted by The Hill said “they might take as much as six to nine months to set up a wage replacement program.” A Grassley spokesperson didn't offer specific alternatives, but pointed to the strong June jobs report and noted that further coronavirus relief legislation would need to address any ongoing problems “in an effective manner and encourage further job growth.” Still, economists say that the jobs report also points to an extended unemployment crisis. And, CBO last week projected that unemployment would remain above 10% by year's end and wouldn't fall back below 5 percent until 2025, The Hill said. Left-leaning economists are also warning that a steep shortfall in state and local budgets will lead to a tsunami of new layoffs in the new fiscal year, which for states began this week. “Without massive additional federal aid, austerity is certainly on the horizon for state and local governments, because state and local tax revenues are plummeting,” wrote Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz, economists at the Economic Policy Institute. “This means losses in public sector services, including cuts to school budgets at a time when schools are already struggling with the increased need for creative options for students,” they added. One idea that Republicans may embrace is leaving some level of expanded unemployment in place, but letting people keep some of the extra benefits if they get a job, but the final package remains far from certain, The Hill said. So, we will see. The enormous cost of the proposed interventions is increasingly unsettling to politicians, but so is the prospect of severe and prolonged high unemployment. Certainly, this is a debate producers should watch closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 6, 2020 |


Trump to Meet With Mexican President This Week President Donald Trump plans to meet with his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Wednesday at the White House. The two will celebrate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) taking effect. Trump said in a statement he would discuss “trade, health, and other issues central to our regional prosperity and security” with Lopez Obrador on July 8. The Canadian government has not confirmed whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will join the other two North American leaders in Washington. Meanwhile, as USMCA took effect last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the Labor Department detailed the names of the six Americans with backgrounds on labor issues who will serve on the agreement's “rapid response labor mechanism” to investigate alleged labor rights violations. USTR also announced the names of 10 individuals who will sit on dispute settlement panels to hear other disputes brought by governments under the pact. Those include U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer's close ally and former USTR general counsel Steven Vaughn.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 6, 2020 |


Hurdle For EPA Nominee Is Getting Higher Earlier this week, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she would not back the nomination of Doug Benevento to be deputy EPA administrator until EPA until EPA says how it will handle the 52 retroactive small refinery exemptions (SREs) that it has received for prior compliance years going back to 2011. Now Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he will not let Benevento's nomination move forward until EPA provides relief for refiners on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). "The price of RINs has more than quadrupled since the beginning of the year, and now sits around $0.50,” Cruz said in a statement. “These sky-high prices coupled with the energy and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic have wreaked havoc on America's small refineries and blue-collar workers.” Until EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler “delivers on his promise to take actions that help bring stability to the price of RINs, I will not allow this nomination to move forward,” Cruz concluded.

| Rural Advocate News | Monday July 6, 2020 |


Monday Watch List Markets Back from July 4th weekend, traders will catch up on Monday's latest weather forecasts and any trade news. USDA's grain inspections report is set for 10 a.m. CDT and Crop Progress follows at 3 p.m. with extra attention on the latest crop rating updates. Weather Monday will be hot and dry over the Midwest and most of the Plains. This combination is stressful to pollinating corn. Rain will be confined to thunderstorms in the Northern and far southeastern Plains along with the Gulf Coast.

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday July 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday July 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


Washington Insider: New Trade Fight Over Taxes on Digital Commerce Bloomberg says this week that the U.S. has decided to withdraw from international efforts to harmonize global tax rules for digital companies and that the decision “risks triggering a new trade war.” The move came after the U.S. and an international group failed to agree on the best way to increase tax revenue from digital companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. These companies have long been targets for cash-strapped governments who are interested in tapping their deep pockets. The U.S. says digital taxes unfairly discriminate against American firms and has threatened retaliatory tariffs if they try. Such a move “could exacerbate the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression,” Bloomberg says. In July 2019, France became the first country to impose a digital tax on U.S. firms after wider efforts by the European Union to develop a harmonized approach failed. The French 3% levy was applied to companies with at least 750 million euros in global revenue and digital sales of 25 million euros in France. Of about 30 businesses affected, most are American, but the list also includes Chinese, German, British and even French firms. The U.S. and France “came close to triggering a transatlantic trade war” in January as the EU said it could retaliate if the U.S. went ahead with planned tariffs on roughly $2.4 billion in signature French products, including wine, cheese, handbags and makeup. The two countries agreed on a truce whereby the U.S. would back off from tariffs and France would delay collection of its digital tax to the end of 2020 to allow for renewed efforts to reach a multilateral solution. Since then, the U.S. has launched investigations into the digital taxes proposed or enacted by 10 nations and the EU, citing Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, which allows it to retaliate for trade practices it deems unfair – the same tool used to justify U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods due to alleged theft of intellectual property. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says countries that have either adopted or are considering digital taxes include Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK. Now, governments are increasingly focusing on digital taxes as a way to raise funds to help pandemic-stricken economies. Stay-at-home policies have played to the strengths of companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc., along with other platforms that compose the nearly $26 trillion global e-commerce marketplace. France has said it would drop its tax if the U.S. and other countries agree to a global effort for a uniform approach under the stewardship of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). However, this month U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the EU that the U.S. will no longer participate in the OECD’s digital tax talks after they failed to reach agreement on the best way to tax revenues of U.S. technology companies. The U.S. move is opposed by its trading partners. For example, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the U.S. withdrawal from the international talks “a provocation” and indicated his country will impose a version of the levy this year. “Whatever happens, we will apply a tax on digital giants in 2020 because it is a question of justice,” Le Maire said. Lighthizer told lawmakers June 17 that the U.S. would respond to any “unilateral” digital services taxes with retaliatory tariffs” but left room for the possibility of a deal. He called for an “international regime” that not only focuses firm size one based on a general agreement about how we’re going to tax people internationally, he said. “So I think there is clearly room for a negotiated settlement.” Bloomberg notes that transatlantic tax wars aren’t new and that Apple Inc. was slapped with a 13 billion-euro bill for back taxes by the European Commission three years ago. The U.S. Treasury Department tried and failed to sway the EU’s investigation which alleged that the company got an illegal subsidy. The Commission has also probed Google’s Irish tax arrangements and ordered Amazon to pay 250 million euros in back taxes to Luxembourg. Other U.S. companies, including non-technology firms such as Starbucks Corp. and Nike Inc., have also been targeted. The EU insists that the common thread isn’t that they’re American but that they’ve used complex legal structures and intellectual-property licensing to limit tax payments. Bloomberg also notes that taxes are only part of a bigger EU backlash against big tech. Internet firms have been put on notice over issues ranging from privacy to market dominance – and they’re fighting back with lobbying and court cases. In 2019, Google agreed to pay 965 million euros to settle two French tax probes. Apple and Amazon are contesting their respective European tax decisions in EU courts – and a legal victory could halt that part of the bloc’s crusade. Lawmakers are on the lookout for companies that might consider changing their tax structures or moving income outside of the EU to stay ahead of the curve. So, we will see. Business interests are worried that new international fights will weaken efforts to offset impacts of the coronavirus — and that is certainly a valid concern. The “international digital tax” effort is yet another threat that could trigger pushbacks of many kinds. It should be watched closely as new and more threatening policy fights are debated, Washington Insider believes.

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday June 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday June 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday June 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday June 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday June 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


Pork Exports Hit All-Time High in March Spurred on by record production, U.S. pork exports completed a tremendous first quarter with new March records for both volume and value. Data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation says beef exports also trended higher year-over-year in March, establishing a record first-quarter pace. “March export results were very solid, especially given the COVID-19 related challenges facing customers in many international markets right now,” says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Stay-at-home orders created enormous challenges for many countries’ foodservice sectors, several of the world’s key currencies slumped against the dollar, and logistical obstacles surfaced in some key markets. However, demand for U.S. red meat proved very resilient.” Recent events like temporary plant closures aren’t reflected in the first-quarter export data. Pork exports, driven by strong demand from China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan, and Canada, totaled well over 291,000 metric tons, a 38 percent increase from last year. The export value was up to more than $764 million. March beef exports were over 115,300 metric tons, seven percent more than last year, while the value was more than $702 million, four percent higher than 2019. ********************************************************************************************** Path Cleared for U.S. Sorghum Exports to Vietnam The door is open for U.S. sorghum exports to flow into Vietnam for high-value uses like pet food and liquor, as well as feed for the aquaculture, poultry, and swine industries. A new pest risk assessment has been approved by both the USDA and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture. The opening is a result of almost five years of work by the U.S. Grains Council, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, and the National Sorghum Producers, as well as the USDA’s Foreign Ag Service and APHIS. “We are excited to see our hard work and collaboration pay off in Vietnam,” says USGC President and CEO Ryan LeGrand. “It’s been a long time coming but it is a model of how by working together with industry and government, good things can happen for U.S. commodities.” The pest risk assessment outlines how U.S. sorghum must be handled to meet regulations in Vietnam. The assessment became even more criti