READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, March 16th

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U.S. Pork Export Levels to China Hit Lowest Mark Ever

U.S. export sales of pork to China fell to their lowest level on record for the week ending March 5th. Reuters says that’s even as accessing Chinese ports improved in the world’s number one pork consumer. The USDA’s weekly report showed that Chinese buyer cancellations pushed down the total export sales to China to negative 45,222 tons of pork, the lowest since record-keeping began in 2013. It shot past the previous record of negative 17,600 tons for the week ending January 2nd of this year. Pork shipments to China totaled 139,719 tons, reflecting previous export sales. China’s top ports have begun to clear up the logjam of cargo on their docks as workers return to their jobs after coronavirus travel curbs kept them away. Global supply chains that have been jammed up by delays are starting to clear up. Net sales of soybeans to China, typically the top destination for the oilseed, were negative 90,281 tons, the smallest since the week ending on August 5th, 2019, when USDA reported that cancellations pushed soybean sales to China to negative 422,600 tons. Traders have been watching and waiting for exports to China to pick up since Beijing and Washington signed the Phase 1 trade deal.


Ag Department Looking into Beef “Price-Fixing” Complaints

As the USDA’s probe into price-fixing allegations in the beef industry continues, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue would like some extra tools to deal with potential price manipulation across the industry. Perdue spoke during a Senate Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee hearing last week. He told committee members that he’s concerned about the wide range in beef prices livestock producers get when compared to meatpackers. Responding to Senator John Tester, Perdue says, “The deltas we’re seeing between the prices you describe are historically high.” Tester had said beef producers are getting gouged by lower prices, while consumers aren’t seeing a lot of benefits. The Montana Democrat said at the hearing that the pie isn’t being cut fairly at all. “The feeders and the livestock producers are taking 15-20 percent cuts on their prices,” Tester said, “while the packers are seeing just a three percent drop.” Consolidation in agriculture is getting a lot more attention from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including many of the current and former Democratic candidates for president. USDA has also taken criticism in recent months for siding with large agribusinesses over smaller farmers.


NFU says Proposed Rule Undermines Packers and Stockyards Act

The National Farmers Union says a proposed rule from the USDA will undermine the Packers and Stockyards Act. Those were among the comments that new National Farmers Union President Rob Larew submitted to the USDA late last week. Larew points out that the Packers and Stockyards Act was put into place to “assure fair competition” in the livestock, meat, and poultry industries, as well as to “safeguard farmers and ranchers from unfair, deceptive, unjustly discriminatory and monopolistic practices.” The NFU says the rule in question, which outlines criteria for determining if a company has shown “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages” for one farmer over another, does little to achieve either goal. Instead, the rule will provide few, if any protections to farmers while shielding corporations from legal challenges to abusive and anti-competitive actions. Larew is urging the USDA to develop clear and specific criteria that would offer meaningful protections to family farmers and ranchers. “There has long been a large power imbalance between family farmers and the livestock and poultry industries,” Larew says. “That’s why Congress put the Packers and Stockyards Act into place, but it has lacked the teeth it needs to provide the most basic protections to farmers and ranchers.” He says it’s supposed to protect farmers from corporations, not the other way around.


Bill Would Give Producers Flexibility on Cover Crop Use

Senators John Thune of South Dakota and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan introduced the Cover Crop Flexibility Act of 2020 last week. The legislation would permanently remove the prohibition on harvesting or grazing cover crops on prevented plant acres before November 1. Producers would be allowed to graze or harvest cover crops for hay or silage and eliminate an arbitrary date that allowed farmers with longer growing seasons more opportunities than those in northern states. Farmers would still have to plant cover crops on approved lists to prevent manipulation of that flexibility. It would also allow USDA to include cover crop seed and grazing-related costs when it sets the factor that’s used to calculate the prevented planting indemnity, as well as direct USDA to conduct a study to examine the extent that cover crops reduce risks of prevented planting and other crop insurance losses. Thune says, “This common-sense legislation would permanently remove the date restriction, which would help level the playing field and give our producers the certainty they need as they prepare for another potentially difficult year.” Stabenow adds, “When bad weather causes farmers to miss planting season as we did in Michigan last spring, it makes sense to help them get the best use out of their land.”


EPA Working to Streamline Pesticide Evaluation Process

The Environmental Protection Agency released a report called “Revised Method for National Level Listed Species Biological Evaluations of Conventional Pesticides.” It’s an important step toward creating a more workable solution to evaluate pesticides under the Endangered Species Act. “Protecting threatened and endangered species while ensuring farmers have access to tools to control pests are two objectives that can co-exist using available science,” says Chris Novak, CEO of CropLife America. “While we are still reviewing the EPA proposal, we appreciate the agency’s commitment to a process that’s efficient, protects species, and is based on the best available science.” He says the best way to balance those objectives is to rely upon real-world data and analysis that reflect where and how pesticides are actually used. Pesticide usage data is an important part of this revised method and represents a major step forward by the EPA to use the best scientific and commercial data available. “CLA continues to encourage a collaborative process among all the involved governmental agencies to find a long-term, transparent, and timely approach for harmonizing the pesticide registration process and ESA consultations,” Novak adds.


NMPF Ready to Help Dairy Farmers Meet Coronavirus Challenges

National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern says his organization is ready to help dairy farmers meet the challenges brought on by the coronavirus. Those challenges can include impacts on both the domestic and international markets. “From possible damages to domestic and world markets, to supply chain labor disruptions on the farm, at the processing plant, or in transporting milk, the potential ramifications for dairy are wide-ranging,” he says. “We will devote our resources to the best of our ability toward helping dairy farmers and cooperatives respond to whatever challenges they may face.” He says the good news is the U.S. dairy supply is safe, with the production of high-quality products continuing unimpeded. The FDA has confirmed that heat treatment kills other coronaviruses, so pasteurization is expected to also inactivate this virus. Also, there’s no evidence that this strain of coronavirus is present in domestic livestock such as cattle. “All producers will remain vigilant as what has now been labeled a pandemic continues down its path,” Mulhern says. “We will continue to answer questions and offer information that will help our members. Policy solutions may also be needed to help producers whose operations have been affected by the virus.”

SOURCE: NAFB News Service


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.