Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, January 16th

Trump Talks Trade, Immigrant Labor at Farm Bureau Convention

For the second-straight year, President Donald Trump spoke at the American Farm Bureau’s Annual Convention. While the president used his speech to try and build support for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, he did bring up subjects near-and-dear to the hearts of U.S. farmers. While he’s looking to build the wall, the president did offer one exception to his hard-line stance. He promised to make it easier for seasonal farm workers to enter the country in spite of his hoped-for wall. Farmers have been struggling to find enough labor to operate their farms. “A lot of people don’t understand that,” Trump told Farm Bureau members. “You need people to help you with your farms and I’m not going to rule that out.” The Washington Post says the farm organization has stood behind the president, even as the delegates were set to debate whether or not to toughen its policy stance on tariffs that were a direct result of Trump’s trade war. Trump only talked for s short time about China, saying that talks were “going well.” He said the USDA was doing everything it could to help farmers deal with the impacts of the government shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history.

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State Departments of Agriculture Call for an End to Shutdown

The partial government shutdown is having a profound and cascading impact on American farmers and ranchers. Because of this, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture is calling on Congress and the Administration to rapidly get to a settlement and end the shutdown as soon as possible. The organization says in a news release that, “We know that some USDA employees are working on a limited number of programs, but we also know that all hands on deck are required to successfully direct every program American farmers, ranchers, and communities depend on.” The organization says that includes successful implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill. Jeff Witte is the Secretary of Agriculture in New Mexico and the President of NASDA. He says, “The impacts of this shutdown are real. Not only are farmers and ranchers unable to use a host of existing USDA programs they depend on, they also can’t use the programs now available in the recently enacted farm bill.” Witte says if farmers can’t access those programs, the financial stress and challenges farmers are facing will only get worse. Many farmers depend on the Farm Service Agency for loans and need the shutdown solved as soon as possible.

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USDA Working on FSA Fix

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says his agency is working with the Office of Management and Budget to find ways to reduce the impact of the government shutdown on farmers and ranchers. Farm Service Agency offices across the country are closed and it’s causing several challenges for producers. “We’re working with OMB to see if we can find some relief in that area,” Perdue says on Fox Business. “We’re hoping to work up some strategies very soon to get these offices back open soon.” In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration is planning to expand its daily food safety work amid the continuing lapse in funding. High-risk food safety inspections could start up again as soon as today (Tuesday). Also, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service remains on the job. Perdue also tells Fox Business that the agency’s food safety work hasn’t been disrupted at all. “We’re not shortcutting any type of food safety issues there at USDA in our meat processing,” he says. States are also hustling to get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program February benefits out to recipients starting this week, which Politico says is a big logistical and communications undertaking.  

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Plenty of Ag Trade Opportunities for Europe and the U.S.

European agriculture officials gave a presentation at the American Farm Bureau’s 100th Annual Convention and trade with the U.S. was the number one topic. The officials say there are abundant opportunities for farm trade between the United States and European Union. They say those opportunities are there despite European insistence on keeping agriculture out of free trade discussions. European officials excluded farm goods to streamline the negotiations and concentrate on vehicles and industrial products. There are issues that the EU and U.S. have to work on, including geographic indicators for dairy products and the approval of genetically modified crops. However, European leaders say there will continue to be opportunities for U.S. products in Europe, including soybeans, biofuels, and other products, even without agriculture in the free trade negotiations. Officials speaking at the Farm Bureau convention say the perception that the European market is closed is “misleading,” and it’s a big market of 500 million people that imports a lot of food. The U.S. and Europe have recently worked through several key food safety issues on products like almonds and Florida oranges.  

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Restaurant Chains Fire Back at Animal Welfare Report

World Animal Protection is an animal-rights group based in the United Kingdom. Subway, as well as international casual-dining chain Nando’s, fired back at criticism leveled against them in a report from the organization titled “The Pecking Order.” Industry website Meating Place Dot Com says six other national chains were also included in the criticism, which has to do with how well the chains are making efforts to “improve the lives of the chickens their businesses depend on.” The report is a part of the organization’s “Change for Chickens” campaign. World Animal Protection says in its report that, “Some of the biggest and most iconic food companies in the world are doing little to improve the lives of the chickens their businesses depend on. They’re ignoring some of the opportunities that higher animal welfare standards create.” Subway issued a statement saying, “We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that our animals are treated well in accordance with Subway’s Global Animal Welfare Policy. We are committed to improving chicken welfare standards across our supply chain and are working closely with Compassion in World Farming across Europe and the U.S.” Other chains cited in the report include Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks.

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Farmland Sales Starting to Rise

The Farmers National Company says there are some questions abounding in the current farmland market. There is legitimate worry that the negative financial situation will finally drive land prices lower. Farm and ranch lands make up 82 percent of the total assets owned by American agriculture. “At Farmers National Company, we’re seeing an uptick in land sales as more families and inheritors want to sell now,” says Randy Dickhut, senior vice president of real estate operations. “Within our 28-state service area, we’re also seeing more landowners coming to us to talk about marketing and selling their land, as evidenced by the total volume of land for sale which is up 21 percent.” The company says overall farmland values have held up well over the years in spite of lower commodity prices and farm income compared to just five years ago. However, there are questions looming ahead for the market. “Even though the rate of bankruptcies and forced farmland sales is low, there are expectations that those numbers will rise over the next year as farmers’ cash flows continue to be stressed.” He says there has also been an increase in the number of “quiet sales,” in which neighbors quietly sell their land to other neighbors without advertising it as being for sale.”  

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.