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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for New Year’s Eve, Monday, December 31st

More Refinery Waivers Filed; Ethanol Industry Concerned

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a list of updated data on several small-refinery hardship waivers filed under the Renewable Fuels Standard. Ethanol Producer Dot Com says seven new waivers have been filed for the 2018 compliance year. One new petition for 2017 compliance has also been added to the list. All of the waivers were filed between November 10 and December 18. As of December 18, the EPA has received 22 waiver requests for the 2018 compliance year. That’s up from the petitions that were filed between November 10 and December 18. For 2017, EPA has received a total of 37 small refinery petitions, up from the 36 it had received by November 10. The agency has approved 29 petitions so far, with seven still currently pending and one declared ineligible or withdrawn. The 29 petitions that have been approved so far have exempted roughly 1.46 billion renewable identification numbers (RINs), keeping just over 13.6 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel from meeting the RFS blending targets. A coalition of ethanol-related groups recently filed a lawsuit against the EPA over the small-refinery waivers. Brian Jennings of the American Coalition for Ethanol says the coalition believes the EPA is abusing the hardship waivers.

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Trump Weighing NAFTA Cancellations to Push USMCA Through Congress

President Donald Trump and his advisers are said to be considering canceling the North American Free Trade Agreement to help push the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement through Congress. A ProFarmer report says if the move gets made, it may present Congress with a hard choice to make. Marc Short is a former White House Director of Legislative Affairs who says, “It could be that he withdraws from NAFTA even before USMCA ratification gets to Congress. I think there’s a high probability of that, yes.” If the U.S. does end up withdrawing from NAFTA, it would take six months to go into effect. That gives Congress a deadline of six months to either approve USMCA or have tariffs slapped on about $1.3 billion worth of goods traded between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Emily Davis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative, says they’re very confident that Congress will eventually approve NAFTA. “From the beginning, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has worked closely with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate while renegotiating the agreement,” says Davis Speculation is that the Democratic-controlled House will take up the agreement around March or April.

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VA Tech Ag Economist Recaps 2018

The economic book is closing on 2018, and Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech University, said several elements shaped the landscape. In an article written for Corn and Soybean Digest, he said the agriculture industry is in the sixth year of what he refers to as a reset, also known as a “grinder.” He says the elongated poor economic conditions are taking a serious toll on the well-being of those involved in the ag industry. Some segments are facing more difficulty than others. A good example is the dairy industry, into its fourth year of low prices, leading to a serious loss of equity and producers exiting the industry. Production in the pork and poultry industries has greatly expanded. The result is a large supply of product on hand, what economists are calling a “Great Wall of Protein.” International trade agreements and stronger domestic demand will be important moving forward into the new year. The beef industry has led the way with an increase in demand after years of decline. However, the demand increase is showing signs of growing softer. The grain and crop sector had good production but not good profits. The health of the U.S. economy, the status of international trade agreements, and the strength of the U.S. dollar will all be keys to moving ahead in 2019 and beyond.

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Shutdown Resolution Likely Won’t Happen Before January

In spite of the fact that the House and Senate were in session late in the Christmas week, House members were told there wouldn’t be any votes. The Hagstrom Report says that makes it likely that resolving the partial government shutdown won’t happen until the new Congress is in place and the Democrats take over the House of Representatives on Thursday, January 3rd. The Senate will convene briefly on Monday, December 31st, and won’t be back in session until Wednesday, January 2nd. They’ll resume consideration of the House Message to Accompany H.R. 695, the legislative vehicle for the continuing resolution. The Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are all reduced to essential services. However, the Farm Credit Administration is open for business because it’s funded through fees rather than any taxpayer funds. The shutdown is going on because President Trump wants Congress to include $5 billion in funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Politico says Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can either pass a full-year continuing resolution, pass a six-bill funding package, as well as a continuing resolution for Homeland Security, or pass the stopgap bill the Senate passed. All of those options result in Trump getting $1.3 billion for border security, not the $5 billion he wants.

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Judge Sides With White House on Packer Rules

Appellate Judges with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals have sided with the USDA on packer rules. The judges ruled the agency was not “arbitrary and capricious” in withdrawing an interim final rule that would have made it easier for farmers and ranchers to sue meatpackers on claims of unfair treatment. The court denied a petition by the Organization for Competitive Markets to review the decision. The OCM contends that USDA violated a congressional mandate given in the 2008 Farm Bill to publish a regulation outlining criteria around contracting practices by June 2010. OCM filed the lawsuit after USDA, under the new Trump Administration, withdrew the final interim rule, known as the Farm Fair Practice Rules, which were implemented at the end of the Obama Administration in 2016. The interim rule would have made it much easier for farmers and ranchers to prevail in cases where they claim that packers treated them unfairly in contracts because it would have all but eliminated the need for the plaintiffs to prove competitive harm. A Meating Place Dot Com article says implementing the Farmer Fair Practice rules would have represented a change in USDA regulatory approach. It would have also conflicted with the courts’ historical interpretations of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

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American Farm Bureau Offering Paid Internships Next Summer

The American Farm Bureau is accepting online applications for five paid summer internships through January 7th. The internships will run from mid-May through mid-August, depending on schedules, and last between eight and 10 weeks. Farm Bureau prefers internships begin no later than June 10. Interns will be supervised by an intern coordinator within their assigned departments and will also be responsible for their own housing. Students should have at least completed their sophomore year of undergraduate education, preferably with a major in agriculture or public policy-related field. The skill level for the internships is perfect for undergraduate students. Farm Bureau is accepting applications for intern positions in the Business Operations and Revenue Development; communications; Leadership, Education, and Engagement; Public Policy – Economic Analysis; Public Policy – Legislative. Interested applicants can find more information about how to apply online at www.fb.org and follow the links through the career tab. Again, Farm Bureau is accepting those internship applications through January 7th, 2019.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.