READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, February 4th

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USDA Announces Third Round of Trade Aid Payments

The Department of Agriculture Monday announced the third and final tranche of 2019 Market Facilitation Program payments for farmers. The payments will begin to show up in farmers’ bank accounts by the end of this week. The payments follow the Phase One agreement with China and the U.S. signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. However, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, “we must not forget that 2019 was a tough year for farmers as they were the tip of the spear when it came to unfair trade retaliation.” The payments are aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to trade retaliation by foreign nations. This is the final of three tranches of MFP payments. The first round was comprised of the higher of either 50 percent of a producer’s calculated payment or $15 per acre, which may reduce potential payments to be made in tranche three. The second tranche was 25 percent of the total payment expected, in addition to the 50 percent from the first tranche.

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China Seeks U.S. Flexibility on Trade Targets

China is seeking more flexibility from the United States on promises made in the Phase One trade agreement. The agreement signed last month allows China and the U.S. to engage in dialog for changes “in the event that a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event” delays either country from complying with the trade deal. Bloomberg News reports China is expected to seek consultation on that basis, as the nation grapples with the coronavirus outbreak. China may have trouble meeting the requirements of the trade agreement if the virus continues to disrupt demand. China’s Foreign Ministry Monday also claimed that “The U.S. government hasn’t provided any substantive assistance to us.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says its actions seek to stop the spread of the virus. The CDS warns more coronavirus cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur.

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Bird Flu Outbreak Reported near Coronavirus Origin

China over the weekend reported the development of H5N1 bird flu near the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs says the infected farm has 7,800 chickens, and 4,500 have died because of the bird flu. Local authorities have culled nearly 18,000 birds after the outbreak. The South China Morning Post reports the H5N1 outbreak comes even as Chinese authorities continue to scramble to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, “further stretching the nation’s already heavily strained resources” needed to combat the health threats. The World Health Organization calls H5N1 a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds. Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person. When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60 percent. However, almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people are associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.

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USDA Seeks Comments on Bioengineered Food Testing Methods

The Department of Agriculture last week opened the comment period on draft instructions to support compliance with the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service specifically seeks input on the draft document that provides instructions for regulators to select a testing method to determine whether modified genetic material is detectable. The four-page draft document includes general considerations in selecting a test method, laboratory selection considerations and recordkeeping requirements. The definition of bioengineered food excludes foods in which the modified genetic material is not detectable. Selecting a test that meets the standards of performance for detectability testing will allow regulated entities to determine if modified genetic material is not detectable. The final rule establishing National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard was published December 21, 2018. In the rule, USDA indicated it would provide instructions regarding acceptable testing methodology used to verify the absence of detectable modified genetic material. The comment period closes March 4, 2020. Comments should be submitted online at www.regulations.gov.

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U.S. Cattle Inventory Down Slightly

The U.S. Cattle Inventory Report released Friday shows a slight decline in inventory levels from a year ago. The report pegged the U.S. cattle herd at 94.4 million head on January 1, 2020, slightly below the 94.8 million head reported on January 1, 2019. All heifers 500 pounds and over as of January 1, 2020, totaled 20.1 million head, slightly below the 20.2 million head on January 1, 2019. Beef replacement heifers, at 5.77 million head, were down two percent from a year ago. Milk replacement heifers, at 4.64 million head, were down two percent from the previous year. Other heifers, at 9.71 million head, were one percent above a year earlier. Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for all feedlots totaled 14.7 million, up two percent from last year. The 2019 calf crop in the United States was estimated at 36.1 million head, down one percent from last year’s calf crop.

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2020 Forest Service Grazing Announced

The 2020 federal grazing fee, determined annually through a Congressionally mandated formula, will be $1.35 per animal unit months. The 2019 grazing fee was $1.35 per animal unit months. The fee applies to approximately 6,200 permits administered by the U.S. Forest Service for the western United States National Forests and Grasslands. To help simplify the federal system for the benefit of grazing permittees, regulators will use the one grazing fee for the National Forests in the West and all the National Grasslands. For the Forest Service, the per head month is defined as a month’s use and occupancy of range by one weaned or adult cow with or without calf, bull, steer, heifer, horse, burro, or mule, or five sheep or goats. The grazing fee is calculated based on the average annual change in beef cattle prices, leasing rates for grazing on private land in the western states, and the costs of livestock production. The fee applies to 17 Western states on public lands administered by the Forest Service.

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.