READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, March 20th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

USDA and DOL Announce Information Sharing to Assist H-2A Employers

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Thursday announced a partnership to help agriculture find labor. The partnership between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor seeks to help facilitate the identification of foreign and domestic workers, specifically those that may be available and eligible to transfer to other U.S. agricultural sector employers to fulfill needs under existing regulatory authority during the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary Perdue says of the partnership, “Ensuring minimal disruption for our agricultural workforce during these uncertain times is a top priority for this administration.” USDA and DOL have identified nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks. There will be workers leaving these positions who could be available to transfer to a different employer’s labor certification. The data, available on www.farmers.gov, includes the number of certified worker positions, the current employer name and contact, attorney/agent name and contact, and the worksite address.

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FDA Scaling back Some Domestic Inspections

The Food and Drug Administration announced a scale-back of domestic inspections to protect agency workers. Specifically, the FDA has temporarily postponed all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections. These are facility inspections the FDA traditionally conducts every few years based on a risk analysis. The FDA says all domestic for-cause inspection assignments will be evaluated and will proceed if mission-critical. In keeping with federal guidance, this week, the FDA also directed all eligible FDA employees to begin teleworking. While this does not apply to those carrying out non-portable activities, such as certain lab activities or the monitoring of imported products, the agency will continue to adjust its approach to several activities, including facility inspections for all FDA-regulated products such as food, animal feed, drugs, biological products, devices and tobacco. Earlier this month, the FDA announced the postponement of most foreign facility inspections through April and that inspections outside the U.S. deemed mission-critical will be considered on a case-by-case basis as this outbreak continues to unfold.

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Coronavirus Bill Includes Nutrition Provisions

The first approved coronavirus bill includes several nutrition provisions. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by President Donald Trump Wednesday. Among other things, the legislation provides more than $1 billion to provide food to pregnant women and mothers with young children, help food banks, and provide meals to families and seniors. The bill creates a Health Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to allow states to increase benefits for families who need additional food assistance during this crisis. The legislation also lifts certain restrictions that make it harder for families to continue to get food during this time. The legislation also Improves child nutrition programs to allow schools and nonprofits to serve children during closures and allows multiple meals to be taken home or delivered. The bill allows alternative meal distribution methods such as mobile delivery. Additionally, the bill expands eligibility to schools and nonprofits, establishes a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for families that rely on school meals, expands food distribution through food bank funding, and allows states to waive burdensome requirements.

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NCGA Assembling Coronavirus Task Force

The National Corn Growers Association Thursday announced the formation of a task force to assess coronavirus impacts. The NCGA task force will provide recommendations on recovery efforts and facilitate coordination along the value chain. The task force will compile more information, coordinate with the industry, and provide recommendations to mitigate the economic fallout. NCGA President Kevin Ross says, “We’re in unchartered territory here, the economic impacts across all industries are likely to be massive, and we encourage you to be patient as we come together to get through this challenging time.” NCGA’s Board of Directors has also commissioned an economic analysis of implications for corn farmers to evaluate how best to move forward. Further, as congressional leaders and the Trump Administration have indicated there will likely be many federal efforts to address the economic fallout of COVID-19, NCGA’s Public Policy team is making sure the Department of Agriculture and lawmakers in Congress know what farmers experiencing on the ground.

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Ethanol Demand Declines as Americans Stay Home

Gasoline demand in the United States is falling, along with demand for biofuels. As Americans stay home amid the national shut in to slow the spread of COVID-19, many are working from home and not needing as much fuel for their vehicles. Now, the U.S. ethanol industry is urging the Trump administration to adhere to a court decision that would limit small refinery waivers. The American Coalition for Ethanol says preliminary economic forecasts estimate the lack of gasoline consumption caused by the coronavirus will likely reduce ethanol demand by hundreds of millions of gallons and “cut corn grind by hundreds of millions of bushels.” Additionally, the organization says the Environmental Protection Agency should restore 500 million gallons to the Renewable Fuel Standard in compliance with the 2017 D.C. Circuit Court case regarding the improper use of EPA’s waiver authority. ACE is also asking President Donald Trump to reduce or remove Chinese tariffs on DDGs, as China earlier this week released a list of U.S. companies eligible to export DDGs.

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Study Finds U.S. Soybean Industry Has $115 Billion Impact on the American Economy

A new study shows the economic impact on the U.S. economy from the soybean sector averaged $115.8 billion, based on data from 2014-15 and to 2016-17. The National Oilseed Processors Association Thursday announced the study, The Economic Impact of the U.S. Soybeans and End Products on the U.S. Economy. The study examines the value of the American soybean industry. NOPA partnered with the United Soybean Board in commissioning an independent economic consulting firm to develop the study. The study found the soybean sector supported an average of 357,000 people, comprising 280,000 paid, full-time equivalent jobs as well as an additional 78,000 family members, beyond growers themselves, who support and are supported by soybean farming operations. The total wage impact of the sector averaged $11.6 billion. Economic impacts highlighted in the study are quantified in terms of revenue, wages, jobs, and number of people dependent on the sector — all focused on the production, distribution and use of soybeans, across the value chain. Find the report online at www.nopa.org.

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.