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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, May 10th

USDA ERS Employees Vote to Unionize

Employees within The Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service voted to unionize Thursday afternoon. The vote, 138-4, is part of the employees’ efforts to slow down or stop a plan to move the agency out of the Washington, DC area. The Economic Research Service employees will be represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, according to the Hagstrom report. USDA, under the direction of the Trump Administration, has proposed to move the Economic Research Service, along with the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, out of the Washington, DC area. Critics say the move will trigger the loss of valuable staff members and isolate the agencies from the Washington, DC community and its resources. Earlier this week, USDA announced the final three potential sites for the two agencies, being the Kansa City metro area, Indiana’s Purdue University and Research Triangle Park of North Carolina. USDA says the moves will cut costs, improve employee quality of life and bring the agencies closer to stakeholders. Employees of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture are scheduled to vote on unionizing next month.

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Midwest Farm Credit Condition Continue Decline

Farm credit conditions continue to deteriorate across the Midwest, according to the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. The bank’s Agricultural Credit Survey published Thursday reveals the trend of steady deterioration in agricultural credit conditions continued in the first quarter of 2019. Reductions in farm income were sharpest in Nebraska and Missouri. While some areas were heavily affected by spring flooding and blizzards, it may be months before the full impact to farm income is determined, given immediate damage and implications for the 2019 operating cycle are still being evaluated. The report says that as farm income remained low, demand for farm loans remained high and the ability of farm borrowers to repay loans weakened at a slightly faster pace than in previous quarters. In addition, carry-over debt increased again for many borrowers and bankers continued to restructure debt and deny a modest amount of new loan requests due to cash flow shortages. The Kansas City Fed district includes portions of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

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Equipment Manufacturers Urge End to Tariffs

U.S. equipment manufacturers are urging the White House to end tariffs that are harming U.S. farmers and businesses. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers says the increase in tariffs as a negotiating tactic “only makes a bad situation worse.” President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are increasing certain tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion of goods to China, and plan to introduce another 25 percent tariff on an additional $350 billion of goods in the coming months. China’s Ministry of Commerce released a statement earlier this week saying, “China will have to take necessary countermeasures,” being an escalation of retaliatory tariffs. China calls the increase in trade friction by the U.S. “not in the interests of the people of the two countries and the people of the world.” The association says the additional tariffs will hurt American families that are “just trying to get by.” AEM is asking all industries take action through its national campaign, I Make America, at IMakeAmerica.com.

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Department of Justice Seeking Info in Chicken Price-Fixing Suit

The Department of Justice is seeking information regarding price-fixing of chickens by processors. Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports the Department of Justice has issued a grand jury subpoena to plaintiffs in a class action price-fixing lawsuit against the chicken industry. The subpoena requests information produced in the discovery process by all parties in the case. Tyson Foods, in a regulatory filing, said it was notified of the request on April 26 by the plaintiffs. Decisions on class certification and summary judgment motions likely to be filed by defendants are not expected before the second half of 2020, under the scheduling order currently governing the case. A food distributor in 2016 filed the class action lawsuit alleging Tyson and other poultry processors conspired to “fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize” prices for broiler chickens. Subsequent lawsuits of similar nature were filed, prompting the court to consolidate the complaints into three classes, including direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and consumers, and commercial indirect purchasers.

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ASF Contributes to China’s Food Price Increase

African swine fever played a role in China’s increase in food inflation last month. Pork prices have soared 14 percent on the year and increased 1.6 percent in April. China’s all food price inflation for April is 6.1 percent compared to a year ago following a 4.1 percent rise a month earlier. An economist from Capital Economics tells CNBC that the rise should be interpreted “as evidence of stronger demand.” The African swine fever outbreak in China is changing global pork trade as China looks to source more pork outside of its borders. It’s estimated that African swine fever will lead to the culling of 150 million or more hogs in China, as the nation has reported more than 100 individual outbreaks. African swine fever also has a small impact on China’s demand for soy. With fewer hogs in the nation, and some 80 percent of farms not restocking, feed demand will be lower, with traders questioning whether China will need to purchase more soybeans, as pledged in earlier rounds of negotiations with the United States.

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What Producers Need to Know About African Swine Fever

The African swine fever outbreak in China and other countries around the world is wreaking havoc on the international pork industry. African swine fever is not in the United States, but the possibility of it means American pig farmers must take steps to protect the U.S. pork industry, according to the National Pork Board. In 2018, U.S. pork exports totaled 5.37 billion pounds valued at $6.3 billion. If a foreign animal disease, such as African swine fever entered the United States, it would likely eliminate the entire valuation of exports for an unknown amount of time. Producers should be familiar with the signs of African swine fever, including high fever, decreased appetite, red and blotchy skin, diarrhea and vomiting, along with coughing and difficulty breathing. Producers should immediately report animals with any of these signs to their herd veterinarian or state or federal animal health officials. It’s important to act fast, as the National Pork Board says timeliness is essential to preventing the spread of African swine fever.

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.