READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 2nd

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Dairy Groups Ask USDA for Food Purchases, Dairy Farmer Relief

A group of dairy organizations wrote a letter this week to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and asked the USDA to help the struggling dairy industry. They want the agency to use its extensive purchasing power given to it by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security Act, to alleviate at least some of the stress on the U.S. dairy industry. Approximately 80 percent of Americans are under orders to shelter in their homes. That means hundreds of thousands of restaurants, schools, and other foodservice outlets have either significantly reduced their offerings or shut down. That means cheese and butter manufacturers have lost their largest market segments. While retail sales have increased during recent weeks, those sales are now leveling off and orders are slowing down. Overseas markets have been decimated. The letter to Secretary Perdue asks USDA to focus on purchases of nonfat dry milk, as well as cheese, including cheddar, mozzarella, and other Italian-style cheese. They’re also asking USDA to look at different ways they have available to make farmers whole for the milk they’ve produced, but had to dispose of, or received drastically reduced payments. Some of the groups signing onto the letter include the Wisconsin Cheese Makers, Dairy Business Association, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

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NCGA Wants Farmers to Prioritize Health Amid COVID-19 and Spring Planting

The National Corn Growers Association is encouraging farmers to make a plan to stay healthy amid the COVID-19 outbreak and their upcoming spring planting. According to a recent farmer survey, 70 percent of them have no formal back-up plan if a key member of their family farming operation becomes ill with COVID-19. NCGA says even though most corn farms continue to be family-run operations with few employees or seasonal help, it’s still a good idea to get a basic plan in place. Some of their suggestions include scheduling a brainstorming meeting with all family and employees to discuss possible scenarios and solutions. Another key step is to minimize exposure to outsiders. Use the telephone, email, and text messages for communications with employees or contractors who don’t reside on the farm. Observe social distancing if someone has to come to the farm. Consider cross-training family members and employees on key farm functions and equipment operation. They also encourage farmers to increase sanitizing workspaces and make it a part of the daily routine on the farm. One of the most important things people can do is stay in the house if they get sick. If employees are sick, make sure to tell them to stay home. If a family member falls ill, they should isolate themselves as much as possible and not visit work areas.

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Grassley Asking for Investigation in Meatpackers

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is calling on the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture to investigate potential market manipulation and other illegal activity by meatpackers in the cattle industry. Grassley, a longtime advocate for agriculture in the Senate, says, “With the shelf prices of meat at record highs and the high rate of concentration in the meatpacking industry, there are concerns that the difference in these margins is the result of illegal practices.” Grassley sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. In the letter, he cites repeated and numerous concerns raised by farmers and ranchers about possible illegal practices due to consolidation in the meatpacking industry. The senator is asking for both departments to investigate the serious allegations. “I request that you examine the current structure of the beef meatpacking industry and investigate potential market and price manipulation, collusion, and restrictions on competition, as well as any other potential unfair and deceptive practices under U.S. antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act,” he says in the letter.

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Farmer Share of Food Dollar Rises Slightly

For each dollar spent on domestically-produced food, U.S. farmers received 14.6 cents for farm commodity sales during 2018. The USDA’s Economic Research Service says while it’s a small increase, the number did rise from 14.4 cents in 2017. It’s also the first measurable rise in the farmer share of the food dollar since 2011. The slight increase comes after the average prices U.S. farmers received in 2017 and 2018 were flat. A preliminary estimate in the farmer share of the food dollar also came out at 14.6 cents last year, but that number has been revised downward to 14.4 cents. The Economic Research Service uses input-output analysis to calculate the farm and marketing shares from a typical food dollar spent by U.S. consumers. That includes both foods bought at grocery stores as well as at dining-out establishments. The marketing share of the food dollar covers the cost of getting the food from farm to point of purchase. It includes the cost related to packaging, transporting, processing, and selling to consumers at grocery stores and dining-out businesses. Farmers receive a smaller share of the eating-out dollars because it costs more to prepare and serve meals, so more consumers eating out also drives the farm share of the food dollar lower.

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USDA Raises Import Limits on Sugar

The USDA is about to publish a notice in the Federal Register raising the fiscal 2020 tariff-rate quota for raw cane sugar to 1.43 million metric tons. The agency will also just about double the low-duty quota for refined sugar to more than 373,000 metric tons. Ted McKinney, USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Ag, says the actions come after the “determination that additional supplies of raw cane and refined sugar are required in the U.S. market.” McKinney tells Politico that further adjustments for fiscal 2020 are still possible. Poor weather dragged down sugar production in Louisiana, one of the country’s key sugar cane-growing states. It also led to one of the worst sugar beet harvests in decades in states like Minnesota and North Dakota. In the meantime, Mexico, one of the top U.S. suppliers of sugar, has faced production problems of its own. USDA lowered its sugar production forecast in March to just over eight million short tons this year. That’s a decrease of 127,000 from the February forecast, and just about one million tons less than last year’s crop.

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China Wants More Hog Production, Still Seeing New ASF Cases

The Chinese government is looking closely at African Swine Fever prevention measures, even as it pushes farmers to restore hog production to achieve its intended targets. Reuters reports that despite improvement in China’s containment of ASF, it still will take some time to restore pork output from hog stocks. The agriculture ministry told local governments in a video conference that frequent transportation of piglets and breeding sows has raised the risk of more disease outbreaks. Because of that risk, the ministry asked local governments to conduct strict investigations into the transportation of animals and crack down on irregularities, which includes the sale of pigs that have died from ASF. China has reported several new cases of swine fever this month, mostly as a result of transporting animals across various provinces. The ag ministry has launched a 60-day investigation into illegal transporting of hogs. In the meantime, the ministry says, “Each region should speed up their under-construction projects and replenish stocks in their small-to-medium-sized farms.”

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.