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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 15th

Lawmakers say No to Potential EU-U.S. Trade Agreement Without Agriculture

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is demanding the Trump Administration force the European Union to include agriculture in upcoming trade talks. A group of 114 lawmakers penned a letter this week to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stating, “an agreement with the EU that does not address trade in agriculture would be, in our eyes, unacceptable.” The U.S. and EU recently reached a tentative agreement to allow the U.S. access to the EU hormone-free beef quota, but the EU is pushing back against talking ag in a broader trade negotiation. The group of lawmakers say any agreement between the EU and the U.S. without agriculture “would be deficient, significantly jeopardizing Congressional support.” USTR Lighthizer does seem to agree, telling lawmakers earlier this week that the U.S. “cannot have a trade deal with the EU without agriculture,” adding “we’re at a stalemate and we’ll see how that develops.” The letter was organized by House Republicans Jackie Walorksi (Wuh-lor-ski) and Virginia Foxx, along with House Democrats Ron Kind and Angie Craig.

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Ethanol Groups Condemn New Small Refinery Waivers

At the dismay of the ethanol industry, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued five new small refinery exemptions for 2017. The EPA is also being petitioned two grant two additional waivers for 2018. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor called the action a “slap in the face” to rural communities, noting that the new exemptions bring the total gallons of lost demand to 2.6 billion in 2016-2017. Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper called the announcement “extremely disappointing and outrageous.” Under the Renewable Fuel Standard, refineries must demonstrate each year that they have blended certain volumes of renewable fuel into the nations fuel supply. The EPA can issue the waivers to small refiners if they prove compliance would impose a “disproportionate economic impact” on them. However, the Trump administration’s EPA has issued and alarming number of waivers, and to refiners of all sizes, according to the ethanol industry. Ethanol industry groups last year filed lawsuits against the EPA regarding the misuse of small refiner exemptions.

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Farm Groups Call on USDA to Oversee GE Animals

Agriculture groups are pressing the Food and Drug Administration to hand over the regulation of genetically engineered animals to the Department of Agriculture. The FDA oversees the review and safety of GE animals, but the USDA overseas GE plants. Politico reports that animal agriculture groups insist the FDA framework lacks clarity and the process is slow, pointing to the fact that the FDA has cleared just one GE animal, the AquaAdvantage salmon, in a process that took more than 20 years to complete. Leading the charge is the pork industry as gene-edited hogs resistant to disease are expected to be commercially available within a couple of years, specifically, resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, a disease that costs the industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The move follows a similar action in which the industry was seeking joint regulation from USDA and the FDA regarding cell-based meats.

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U.S. Drought Area Shrinking, Flooding Common

To no surprise, the drought monitor shows a shrinkage of dry conditions throughout the nation compared to trends over the last year, but parts of Texas and the west remain dry. Conditions have improved in parts of the south, which received rain late in the last week that allowed a retreat of drought conditions. In the west, improving long-term soil moisture deficits, building snow pack, and the filling of reservoirs, are all leading to more widespread drought improvement. Still, roughly 47 percent of Texas remains in a classified drought, and states like Colorado, Utah and Oregon, are covered in drought classifications. Further, northern New Mexico has extreme and exceptional drought conditions. The Midwest and plains states remain saturated from above normal winter precipitation, and the Missouri River was expected to reach at or near record flood stages. Evacuations were issued in Northwestern Missouri and in areas of Iowa and Nebraska. By Thursday afternoon, flood warnings, watches, or advisories covered more than half of Nebraska and Iowa, and nearly the entirety of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, with an abundance of advisories and watches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even throughout the Pacific Northwest.

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Study Reveals Powerful Engine of American Economy: Corn Refiners

A nationwide economic study released this week shows how America’s corn refiners contribute to the nation’s economy, finding the industry has massive, outsized impacts across the country. The study shows the industry supports 8,300 direct jobs, and an estimated total of 237,000 total jobs, with a total output of $71 billion. Because corn refiners produce essential ingredients across so many industries, they have a powerful multiplier effect on the nation’s economy. The Corn Refiners Association says that for years, ingredients from corn have been used to make food taste better, cosmetics last longer, pharmaceuticals easier to swallow and plastics environmentally-friendly. Today, corn products are used in 3-D printing inks and studied by nanotechnology scientists as a method for delivering cancer treatments. Corn Refiners CEO John Bode says the study “reveals that our industry stands at a powerful juncture in corn’s economic value chain, helping turn the bounty of America’s heartland into an engine of economic growth.”

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Iowa Farmland Values Slipping

An Iowa-based Realtors group finds in recent research that farmland values in the state are beginning to decline. The REALTORS Land Institute – Iowa Chapter this week reported a statewide average decrease of cropland values of one percent for the September 2018 to March 2019 period. Combining the decrease with the 1.7 percent decrease reported in September 2018 indicates a statewide average decrease of 2.7 percent from March 1, 2018 to March 1, 2019. Farmland values, so far, have been thought to be the positive in the farm economy, keeping the deteriorating economic conditions from reaching a status seen in the 1980’s farm crisis. Still, the report says major factors supporting current farmland values continue to include limited amount of land on the market, government compensation like the Market Facilitation Program, the new farm bill, and higher than expected crop yields in some locations. Negative factors include trade uncertainty, decreasing levels of working capital, and slightly higher interest rates. The REALTORS Land Institutes – Iowa Chapter farmland value survey has been conducted in March and September since 1978.

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.