Tag Archives: agriculture

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  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.”

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.

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.

The American Sheep Industry Association has completed the development of the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan for Business Continuity in a Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak. ASI worked with the Center for Food Security and Public Health at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine to develop this plan.

The sheep industry is a diverse industry producing quality meat and wool products under a variety of management and environmental conditions. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan focuses on business continuity in the event of an FMD outbreak. FMD is the most highly contagious disease of livestock and affects domestic cloven-hoofed animals (cattle, swine, sheep and goats) and many wild animals (deer, bison, pronghorn antelope and feral swine). FMD is not a food safety or public health concern.

Having the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan in place prior to an FMD outbreak is critical for food security and animal health and well-being. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan will facilitate the safe movement of sheep and wool with no evidence of disease from farms in an FMD control area to harvest channels or to other farms. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan will enhance coordination and communication between all parties, speed up a successful FMD response, and support continuity of operations for sheep producers and associated industries.

“The industry is pleased to have completed this plan with the assistance of the Iowa State’s Center for Food Security and Public Health and the volunteers that served on the stakeholder group,” said ASI President Benny Cox of Texas. “ASI funded this project because it is important for our producers to have a plan to follow to ensure the economic viability of the American sheep and wool industry during an FMD outbreak.”

The poultry, beef, milk and pork industries have worked collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state animal health officials and academia to develop business continuity plans for their industries. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan is consistent with USDA’s FMD response goals and other Secure Food Supply Plans to maintain business continuity for sheep and wool producers (whose animals are not infected with FMD) and processors and to provide a safe, continuous supply of lamb, mutton and wool for consumers.

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, appeared on America’s Newsroom on Fox News, where she outlined the severe consequences of the outbreak of COVID-19 on agriculture and called for an investigation into possible anticompetitive behavior in the beef supply chain.

“Right now, we are seeing great prices for the packers. I understand that markets cycle up and down but when you have such a discrepancy in prices compared to the family famer working on his ranch to produce that critter which is going to end up as a good steak, that needs to be looked into…We want to make sure we have a supply chain that works well for all participants—and we also want to make sure we have good protein on our shelves,” said Senator Fischer during the interview.

More information:

Senator Fischer has taken steps in recent months to protect Nebraska agriculture and ensure integrity in the beef supply chain. This week, she supported a letter written by 10 state attorneys general calling for the Department of Justice to investigate potential anticompetitive activity in the cattle industry.

Senator Fischer also wrote to Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee leadership calling for a public hearing to examine competition and claims of possible market manipulation. Consequently, Chairman Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote their own letter to the DoJ calling for investigations into potential anticompetitive activity.

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.

LINCOLN, NEB. – U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has been designated a “Friend of Agriculture” by NEFB-PAC, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s political action committee. Fortenberry, who is seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Nebraska’s First Congressional District, received the designation based on his ongoing efforts to advance the well-being of Nebraska’s farm and ranch families, said Mark McHargue of Central City, chairman of NEFB-PAC and first vice president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.

“Congressman Fortenberry has worked on several key issues of interest to our members. He’s been supportive of expanding market opportunities for agricultural products through new and specialty markets. He voted to support major tax reform to help lower the tax burden on Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. He’s also been a leader in working to find solutions to skyrocketing health care costs that have created significant financial hardships on farmers and ranchers,” said McHargue.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Fortenberry has played a critical role in funding essential federal initiatives, while working to bring fiscal responsibility to Washington.

“Congressman Fortenberry has continued to demonstrate a strong commitment of service to agriculture. We’ve greatly appreciated his efforts and are proud to count him among those receiving our “Friend of Agriculture” designation,” said McHargue.

Grand Island, NE (May 1, 2020) – Nebraska State Fair is currently planning to showcase our FULL 11-day event on August 28 – September 7, 2020 and produce the Aksarben Stock Show September 24-27, 2020. State Fair staff and Board are mindful of and monitoring the current COVID-19 impact to events and social gatherings.

We are communicating regularly with our International Association of Fairs and Expositions, state and local authorities, entertainment booking companies, vendor and concession partners, as well as 4-H, FFA and Open Class Competition teams.

Nebraska State Fair is assessing options and ramifications should adjustments be necessary.  This past week staff met to begin looking at contingency scenarios-based on best practices. We will continue to provide regular updates as necessary based on changing COVID-19 directives. The next State Fair board meeting is scheduled for May 15, 2020. The board directive to continue to plan the fair follows the late June early July forecasted decisions.

Last month the announcement was made the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce will coordinate the Volunteer Program for the 151st fair celebration. The latest information is always current on www.statefair.org.

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.

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) led a group of bipartisan senators in urging the USDA to target COVID-19 relief provisions to reach local farmers in the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). USDA created CFAP to administer relief Congress provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. While the CARES Act specifically provides direct assistance to local food producers, USDA has not announced specific details on how this relief will be targeted to local farmers. In a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, the senators urged USDA once again to take steps to reach local farmers with assistance.

 

“While USDA mentioned that the direct producer assistance program would be made available to producers of all sizes – including local producers, as required by the CARES Act – we are disappointed 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,” the senators wrote.

 

The Senators are also specifically urging USDA to support local farmers by:

 

1.     Adjusting the CFAP payment calculations to better reflect the business models of local producers;

2.     Amending the covered time period to better reflect when local producers experienced losses; and

3.     Developing a robust and inclusive outreach plan to ensure all local food producers – including those with limited internet access and those for whom English is not their first language – are aware of the benefits available to them under the CFAP.

 

“While we appreciate USDA’s efforts to implement the CFAP with local food producers in mind, we encourage you to incorporate these recommendations as you finalize the CFAP program to ensure local producers are able to participate. By adjusting the mechanism USDA uses to calculate CFAP payments for local food producers, changing the covered time period to reflect those losses experienced after April 15, 2020, and implementing a robust and inclusive outreach plan to reach all local food producers, including new farmers, we can help minimize the significant burden COVID-19 has placed on our local producers,” the senators wrote.

 

The senators also pressed USDA for information it has yet to provide on how it will conduct outreach to ensure the participation of beginning, underserved, and local food producers in the direct producer assistance program. They urged USDA once again to develop a robust outreach plan that provides technical assistance and ensures local farmers are able to participate in the direct producer assistance program.

 

Earlier this month, the senators sent an initial letter urging the Trump Administration to provide relief for local farmers who are struggling, and pushed USDA to ensure that a portion of the $9.5 billion they secured in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, goes to local farmers who sell directly to consumers, schools, institutions, food hubs, regional distribution centers, retail markets, farmers markets and restaurants. USDA has yet to respond.

 

In addition to Brown, Collins and Stabenow, the letter was also signed by Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

 

A copy of the letter can be read here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Perdue,

We write to follow up on our April 9, 2020 letter regarding U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) relief for local food producers, and to urge USDA to incorporate provisions specific to local food producers as the Agency finalizes the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Specifically, we urge USDA to provide support for local food producers by: 1) adjusting the CFAP payment calculations to better reflect the business models of local producers; 2) amending the covered time period to more appropriately reflect when local producers experienced losses; and 3) developing an inclusive outreach plan to ensure all local food producers – including those with limited internet access and those for whom English is not their first language – are aware of the benefits available to them under the CFAP.

 

On April 17, 2020, USDA announced the new CFAP, which will provide a total of $19 billion in COVID-19 relief provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, including $16 billion for direct assistance to producers and $3 billion for commodity purchases and food distribution. While USDA mentioned that the direct producer assistance program would be made available to producers of all sizes – including local producers, as required by the CARES Act – we are disappointed 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.

 

Many local food producers sell a wide variety of crops, specialty crops, and livestock to a variety of local and regional markets. Often, specific records of sales are generalized into broad categories such as produce or livestock but not broken into specific sales by commodity. For example, these producers may have $100,000 in produce sales a year but may not be able to distinguish how much of a specific type of produce is sold at a farmers market versus directly to a restaurant or school. This type of commerce makes it extremely difficult for local food producers to participate in a generic “one size fits all” direct assistance program.

 

Given this complexity, we recommend that USDA calculate payments based on total farm revenue and consider price premiums for diversified producers, organics, and value-added producers. We also recommend implementation of flexible paperwork requirements that allow more producers to participate in the program and account for different types of record keeping that may be used to sell into local markets.

 

During USDA’s public announcement, it was suggested that the direct producer assistance would cover up to 85 percent of losses incurred between January and April 15, 2020 and cover up to 30 percent of losses incurred after April 15, 2020. Many producers selling directly to restaurants or schools did not see an economic impact of the COVID-19 disaster until states began issuing stay at home orders and closed non-essential businesses. This occurred in most places starting in mid-March and could continue for several months into the future. We recommend USDA adjust the window of 85 percent coverage to reflect the time period during which farmers have experienced – and continue to experience – significant losses and additional costs as a result of widespread closure of businesses and institutions during the COVID-19 disaster.

 

In addition, USDA has not provided information on how it will conduct outreach to ensure the participation of beginning, underserved, and local food producers in the direct producer assistance program. Some of these producers already face existing barriers to entry including limited access to internet, English as a second language, and limited technical skills. We recommend USDA develop a thorough outreach plan that provides technical assistance and ensures these producers are able to participate in the direct to producer assistance program.

 

On top of these existing challenges, local food producers are in the middle of high planting season and many do not have existing relationships with USDA. These producers may struggle to learn a new federal program in time to participate before funding runs out so we request that USDA track farmer program participation and require receipt for service at local Farm Service Agency offices.

 

While we appreciate USDA’s efforts to implement the CFAP with local food producers in mind, we encourage you to incorporate these recommendations as you finalize the CFAP program to ensure local producers are able to participate. By adjusting the mechanism USDA uses to calculate CFAP payments for local food producers, changing the covered time period to reflect those losses experienced after April 15, 2020, and implementing an outreach plan to reach all local food producers, including new farmers, we can help minimize the significant burden COVID-19 has placed on our local producers.

 

Thank you for quickly implementing the CFAP; we appreciate your attention to the specific needs and serious challenges faced by local food producers and look forward to working with you on additional targeted relief efforts.