READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, April 7th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Senators Seek Flexibility in FSA Loans

Lawmakers are urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make temporary flexibilities on Farm Service Agency loans permanent for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a bipartisan letter signed by farm-state Senators, they urge Perdue to “take action to ensure the continuity of our country’s food supply and support rural areas during the coronavirus.” The senators seek “needed relief” to farmers by the Agriculture Department, ensuring that the temporary flexibilities on farm loans recently announced by the FSA are made permanent for the duration of the pandemic and subsequent economic recovery, and also by ensuring adequate and equitable access to credit. The Senators also urge USDA to consider making emergency measures such as deadline extensions, loan payment deferrals, payment forbearance, and a full suspension of all current and pending foreclosure actions effective for the duration of the pandemic. In all, 43 Senators signed the letter, led by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota.

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Roberts, Stabenow Urge SBA to Provide Coronavirus Relief to Farmers and Ranchers

Leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee urges the Small Business Administration to ensure farmers and ranchers can access new loan programs created in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act. Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, and the Committee’s ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan penned a letter to the SBA, stating, “We must take quick action to aid farmers at a time when we need a stable and reliable food supply.”  The CARES Act created new and expanded eligibility for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to help small businesses during the coronavirus crisis. The Senators asked the Small Business Administration to immediately clarify and allow agricultural businesses and farms to apply for loans under this program. The CARES Act also created the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses keep their workforce employed. An interpretation by the American Farm Bureau Federation suggests farmers are currently only eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.

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Pandemic Pushing Commodity Prices Lower

From dairy farmers with nowhere to send their milk and cattle ranchers reeling from plummeting beef prices, the impact of the coronavirus is rippling through farm country. The American Farm Bureau Federation says corn, cotton and soybean futures have tumbled, ethanol plants have been idled, and some fruit and vegetable farmers are finding their best option is leaving produce in the field. In an economic analysis, AFBF says price forecasts for most agricultural products are bleak. In the past month, dairy prices have dropped 26-36 percent, corn futures have dropped by 14 percent, soybean futures are down eight percent and cotton futures have plummeted 31 percent. Meanwhile, Hog futures are down by 31 percent. A surge in demand for beef emptied grocery store meat aisles, but there is no lack of supply. Despite a rise in retail prices in some areas, the prices paid to cattle ranchers have fallen 25 percent. AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “After years of a down farm economy and damaging severe weather, the COVID-19 ripple effects are forcing farmers and ranchers to face heartbreaking financial realities.”

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FDA Issues Temporary Policy Relaxing Egg Labelling Requirements

The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing egg labeling and packaging requirements to meet consumer demands. Generally, egg cartons must include a statement of identity, the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, nutrition labeling, the net quality of contents and safe handling instructions. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer demand for shell eggs has increased. Additional eggs for consumers are available, but appropriately labeled retail packaging is not available for all such eggs. To meet the increased demand for shell eggs in light of the limited availability of retail packaging, the FDA is providing temporary flexibility regarding certain packaging and labeling requirements so the industry can meet the increased consumer demand. FDA will allow egg sales without labels, but rather a sign or tag affixed to the product containing certain label requirements. The policy is intended to remain in effect only for the duration of the public health emergency related to COVID-19 declared by the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Wisconsin Asking USDA to Take Action for Dairy

Wisconsin lawmakers are seeking help for dairy from the Department of Agriculture. Last week, a coalition of Wisconsin lawmakers, led by Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin, wrote Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, seeking immediate action for Wisconsin dairy farmers and dairy processing businesses. Wisconsin dairy farmers have been forced to dispose of thousands of gallons of fresh milk a day as the demand for dairy products used in foodservice has rapidly switched to almost entirely at-home consumption. Specifically, the lawmakers ask Secretary Perdue to move cheese and dairy products from Wisconsin plants to consumers using several tools that Congress has provided USDA to help respond to times of crisis. Additionally, they seek funding for states to help them resolve supply chain disruptions and keep agricultural products and food moving to reach consumers when and where they need it. A third measure requested, the Wisconsin lawmakers are asking Secretary Perdue to Reopen enrollment for the Dairy Margin Coverage program and make payments retroactive to the beginning of the year.

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Syngenta Accepting Entries for Seventh Annual #RootedinAg Contest

Applications for the seventh annual Thrive #RootedinAg Contest are now open online. The #RootedinAg Contest gives people in the agriculture industry the opportunity to tell their story, according to Syngenta. The company will award three contest finalists with mini touch-screen tablets and one grand prizewinner with a $500 gift card, plus the opportunity to tell his or her story in Thrive magazine, complete with a professional photo shoot with the winner’s ag mentor. In addition, the company will make a $1,000 donation to the winner’s favorite local charity or civic organization. To enter this year’s contest, interested candidates can visit the contest website and fill out the brief online entry form, which asks them to describe their ag mentor in one of two ways. Contestants can write a couple paragraphs and submit a photograph to support their entry or create a short video. The deadline to enter is June 30, 2020. To apply, learn more or see previous contest winners, go to www.SyngentaThrive.com.

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.