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| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday May 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday May 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


SBA Opens EIDL to Agriculture The Small Business Administration Monday announced eligibility for agricultural business in the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans and EIDL Advance programs. SBA’s EIDL portal has been closed since April 15. However, the Agency reopened the portal in a limited capacity this week. SBA is reopening the Loan and Advance application portal to agricultural enterprises only. SBA will move forward and process the applications without the need for re-applying for producers that submitted a loan application through the portal before the legislative change in funding. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the move "will make a tremendous difference for America's agricultural community." Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising livestock, aquaculture, and other farming and agricultural-related industries. Applicants must have 500 or fewer employees. For more information, visit www.sba.gov/Disaster. ************************************************************************************ USDA Announces $100 million for American Biofuels Infrastructure The Department of Agriculture Monday announced $100 million in competitive grants for activities designed to expand the availability and sale of renewable fuels. The Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program offers funding for competitive grants or sales incentives to eligible entities for activities designed to expand the sales and use of ethanol and biodiesel fuels. Funds will be made directly available to assist transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities with converting to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs related to and offering sales incentives for the installation of fuel pumps, related equipment, and infrastructure. Agriculture Secretary Perdue says the grants to expand biofuels availability “will help increase their use during our economic resurgence,” following the impacts of decreased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA plans to make available approximately $86 million for implementation activities related to higher blends of fuel ethanol, and approximately $14 million for implementation activities related to higher blends of biodiesel. ************************************************************************************ Baldwin: Order on Meat Processors Puts Food Chain at Risk U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is urging President Trump to take immediate action to amend his Executive Order on meat processing facilities. Baldwin says facilities should be permitted to reopen only after they have met all the health and safety guidelines issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Trump recently used the Defense Production Act to compel meat processing facilities to remain open despite poor safety and health standards at those facilities, which have led to documented COVID-19 infections and worker fatalities, according to Baldwin. In a letter with Senate colleges, Baldwin and others say, “Failure to take action to protect these workers is not only a threat to their lives, but also to the public health of their communities,” the Senators demanded the Trump administration do more to protect these workers, the public health of their communities, farmers and livestock producers, and the nation’s food supply chain. ************************************************************************************ Lawmakers Seek Quick Investigation of Beef Industry A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives urges the Department of Agriculture to provide findings of its beef pricing investigation as soon as possible. Following the announcement of the USDA's Packers and Stockyard Division investigation in August of 2019. Secretary Sonny Perdue extended USDA's investigation last month to determine the causes of divergence between live beef and box prices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis, cattlemen saw prices drastically decline, with cattle futures falling 29 percent between January and April, while beef prices increased in stores. The lawmakers, including Oklahoma Republican Frank Lucas, say, “When market participants begin to believe that markets are not competitive or transparent, that suspicion has a dangerous industry-wide ripple effect." The lawmakers say producers want effective, market-based risk management tools. However, volatility during the pandemic has made market participation difficult to manage and capital intensive. Lucas added, "As a policymaker and a lifelong cattleman, restoring faith in our markets is my top priority.” ************************************************************************************ U.S.-U.K. Trade Talks This Week Trade talks get underway virtually this week between the United States and the United Kingdom. The talks come more than 18 months after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress of the intent to begin talks with the United Kingdom. A video conference Tuesday will start the talks. In March, the U.K. published its objectives for trade negotiations with the United States. The announcement included an uncompromising stand on agriculture and food standards, two big sticking points that have slowed momentum for talks getting underway. U.S. agriculture and trade officials had hoped that the U.K. would loosen up some of their strictest requirements after officially leaving the European Union in January. However, Lighthizer says the two biggest sticking points, which are agriculture and health care, shouldn’t stand in the way of reaching a deal in 2020. Politico reports It’s unclear how quickly the two sides can reach an agreement, since the U.K. first needs to decide many issues regarding its future relationship with the European Union. ************************************************************************************ National Average Gas Prices Increases Average gas prices rose for the first time in ten weeks, while diesel fell nationwide in the last week. GasBuddy reports the national average price of gasoline has moved higher, rising 1.5 cents over the last week to $1.75 per gallon. The average price of diesel, meanwhile, fell 2.5 cents to $2.43 per gallon. Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy says, “a disconnect between low oil prices and rising gasoline prices has emerged at the hands of refineries that have slowed production.” Crude oil prices have rallied significantly in the last week as OPEC's production cut took effect May 1, and as U.S. demand shows the first signs of a long road to recovery. Data from the Energy Information Administration last week printed a gain of nine million barrels in U.S. oil inventories, ten percent above the five-year average for this time of year. Gasoline inventories, however, posted a drop of nearly four million barrels, signaling that refinery run cuts have fulfilled their purpose of curbing a glut of gasoline.

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday May 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday May 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday May 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 29, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 22, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 21, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 15, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 14, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 8, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday April 7, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday April 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday April 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday April 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday April 1, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 31, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 30, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 24, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 23, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 20, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 19, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 18, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 17, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 16, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 13, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 12, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 11, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 10, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 9, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday March 6, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday March 5, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday March 4, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday March 3, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday March 2, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Friday February 28, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Thursday February 27, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Wednesday February 26, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Tuesday February 25, 2020 |


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

| Rural Advocate News | Monday February 24, 2020 |


Pork Pessimistic on EU; Cattle Optimistic on China U.S. pork producers don’t seem optimistic about a potential trade deal with the European Union coming together anytime soon. Nick Giordano is the Vice President of Global Government Affairs for the National Pork Producers Council. Giordano tells Politico that he’s “very skeptical” that the two sides will even reach a mini agreement in the weeks ahead. He feels the real goal should be a comprehensive trade pact covering all sectors of agriculture. “It’s outrageous that a market of that size, with that level of income, is so closed to us,” Giordano says. “They’re stealing jobs from us because of their protectionism and that’s unacceptable.” The VP says there will be widespread support in the U.S. agriculture community for the Trump Administration to take tough action against the EU if there are no concessions regarding a more open EU market. Meantime, U.S. cattlemen might annually sell $4 billion worth of beef to China within the next five years. Kent Baucus, Senior Director of International Affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says the Phase One trade deal and the meat shortage in China cause by African Swine Fever should drive U.S. beef exports higher. “We haven’t even scratched the surface on the Chinese market,” he says. “There is a tremendous amount of unmet protein demand in China. ********************************************************************************************** USDA Ag Outlook Forum Calls for a Return to “Normal” Trade in 2020 The USDA’s top economist predicted agricultural trade will return to normal this year. USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson says farm exports to China will rise from $10 billion last year to $14 billion in 2020. That “slight” $4 billion jump doesn’t quite add up to the $40 billion in U.S. ag products that China committed to import from the U.S. under the Phase One trade deal. Johansson says the forecast “reflects public information that’s available right now on phase one.” Later, he added that the calendar year predictions don’t completely include the phase one commitments. However, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says that China’s import commitments were not included in Johansson’s estimates. “We expect to exceed that, certainly,” Perdue told reporters. An Agri-Pulse report says Johansson noted that improved exports this year should help farmers’ bottom lines in 2020, while lower interest rates would reduce borrowing costs and strengthen land values. USDA is projecting a corn price at $3.60 a bushel this year, down four percent from last year. The price of soybeans is expected to be $8.80 a bushel, one percent higher last year. Wheat prices are predicted to average $4.90 a bushel, up eight percent from 2019. ********************************************************************************************** Trump Promises Farmers More Trade Aid if Needed President Donald Trump took to Twitter again to talk trade. There have been questions on the possibility of more trade aid distribution this year, with the president seemingly saying it’s a possibility. “If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada, and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government, paid for out of the massive tariff money coming into the USA,” he said in a Friday Tweet. However, The Hagstrom Report says Trump isn’t technically accurate when he says the aid will come out of tariff income. The money comes from the Commodity Credit Corporation, which was set up back in the 1930s as a way to distribute aid to farmers. The CCC is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has a line of credit set up at the Treasury Department that Congress replenishes. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue has told farmers recently to not expect more trade aid in 2020. The Trump Administration has already paid out a total of $28 billion in trade aid by way of payments to farmers, trade promotion, and purchases from food items for distribution to food shelves across the country. ********************************************************************************************** ASF Virus Infections Last Longer Than Originally Thought A group of researchers and veterinarians put together a fact sheet dealing with the African Swine Fever that’s called “Holding Time Calculations for Feed Ingredients to Mitigate Virus Transmission.” However, they’ve revised the necessary holding time upward when it comes to determining if the African Swine Fever virus is sufficiently degraded in feedstuffs to potentially prevent transmission. The new recommendation is to hold conventional soybean meal an average of 125 days from when it’s placed in a package, which is up from only 52 days found in previous research. The new r