READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, February 27th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Deadline for CRP Signup is Friday

The deadline to get involved in the Conservation Reserve Program is this Friday, February 28. Agricultural producers and private landowners need to make an offer of acres or schedule an appointment to do so with their local USDA service center by Friday. The signup first opened in December and is available to producers and private landowners who are either offering acres for the first time or re-offering acres for another 10-15 year term in the Farm Service Agency’s conservation program. “Call your FSA county office today to make an appointment to sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “As long as you have an appointment scheduled, your CRP offer will be able to compete in this general signup, even if the appointment is in the first week of March. This is the first opportunity for general signup since 2016 and we want to make sure interested producers and landowners take advantage of the popular conservation program.” Farmers and ranchers who enroll land in CRP receive yearly rental payments for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, which are called “covers.” CRP currently has about 22 million acres enrolled, but the fiscal cap for 2020 is 24.5 million acres.

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Agriculture Still Slowing Pace of EU, U.S. Trade Talks

U.S. President Donald Trump is turning up the heat on Brussels when it comes to trade discussions. He’s set on taking down some trade barriers to so-called “chlorine chicken,” GMO crops, and other U.S. products that don’t fit into the EU’s strict food safety standards. The two sides are still stuck on agriculture, which isn’t helping the talks that have struggled to get off the ground since 2018. Each side has been talking up the potential of a deal ahead in the coming weeks or months. EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has said recently he’s aiming for a mini agreement as soon as March 18. U.S. officials have long been unhappy with the EU policy that tightly controls agricultural tools like pesticides. Hogan notes that U.S. rules currently block sales of European apples and pears, so there is an opening for regulatory tradeoffs on both sides of the Atlantic. Politico says the U.S., is an agricultural powerhouse that has seen its share of the EU market shrink steadily for decades. The trade deficit with Europe topped $2 billion in 1989 and evolved into a $15 billion deficit in 2019.

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Trump Leaves India without a New Trade Deal

President Trump is leaving India without the trade deal in place he was hoping for. The U.S. president was looking to expand access to the massive market for U.S. dairy goods and other products like motorcycles and medical devices. India currently has tariffs on American farm goods at an average rate of 32.8 percent. As if that’s not high enough, India has 100 percent tariffs on raisins and coffee, as well as 150 percent on alcoholic beverages. For the second time since last September, when India’s prime minister visited the U.S., the two sides failed to reach even a limited “mini-trade deal,” which would increase trade on focused groups of goods, which would include dairy products. The New York Times says negotiators have worked since 2018 on a deal that would lower India’s barriers to some American products, as well as restore India’s access to a program that allows goods to enter the U.S. tariff-free. The U.S. India Business Council released a statement that says,” Both sides are tuned into their own political imperatives and not where the other side might have an area of accommodation. That makes it harder to find where the common ground is and where a deal could be struck.”  

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Wisconsin Representative Asks Perdue for More Certainty

Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind fired off a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue demanding more information after the Secretary and the President brought up the possibility of more trade aid for farmers. Perdue had recently told farmers “not to anticipate” more aid in 2020, but Kind points out that the purchases promised in the trade deal with China have not materialized yet. The president says the trade aid would be paid for by tariffs the Administration has slapped on imported goods. However, Kind says that’s a tax actually paid for by working families. Because the purchases outlined in the Phase One trade deal haven’t happened yet, the Wisconsin Representative is pushing for a clear plan from the Ag Department on how they will enforce China’s commitments and ensure farmers “see the proof” of these purchases as promised. “Farmers in Wisconsin have been forced to bear the burden of this Administration’s trade war for nearly two years,” Kind says in the letter. “This deal was supposed to bring them some much-needed relief but instead, the secretary and the president continue to create more uncertainty.” Kind says he’s consistently expressed concerns that the agreement wasn’t fully binding like a more traditional trade agreement.

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Commodity Experts Worried About the Coronavirus

Commodity experts at the International Sweetener Colloquium say announcements on the spread of the coronavirus and the falling stock market are making them nervous about the future. The director of dairy market intelligence for High Ground Dairy says fear is gripping the entire supply chain. While dairy prices have risen recently after multiple bad years, the coronavirus could pull dairy prices lower. That means price forecasting in any agricultural sector is extremely difficult. Stephen Nicholson is a senior analyst for Rabo AgriFinance, who says, “We have to be ready for more volatility as we see trade disrupted. We’re going to see economic activity contract and there may be a little more downside than we’d thought.” He’s not in the same camp as those who are sure that the Chinese will fulfill their promises to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in agricultural products. Nicholson says commodity prices are low, which means China will have to buy a lot of products to spend that much money. The Hagstrom Report quotes Nicholson as saying the Trump Administration will have to make a “tough decision on whether to punish China if they don’t live up to their promises.”

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Wisconsin Senator Working to Slow the Tide of Dairy Bankruptcies

Wisconsin is currently leading the nation in farm bankruptcies, a position that no one wants to be in. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is working to give flexibility to local banks and credit unions to help fight the surging number of farm bankruptcies. Local financial institutions like banks and credit unions are restricted in their regulatory lending ability to farmers, even though they are uniquely positioned to help farmers get the loans they need to get by. In a letter to financial regulators, Baldwin and John Thune from South Dakota are urging the federal government to give those local banks and credit unions the flexibility they need to help farmers navigate through these tough economic conditions. Baldwin says, “We’re calling on the federal government to lift the regulatory restrictions on local financial institutions to ensure our farmers have the tools to be successful and move our state forward.” Baldwin and Thune sent their letter to financial regulators from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the National Credit Union Administration.

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.