READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, April 20th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

FDA Changes Course on Hand Sanitizer Production at Ethanol Plants

Just a few weeks after appearing to give the go-ahead, the Food and Drug Administration reversed course on ethanol plants manufacturing hand sanitizer. An Agri-Pulse report says many of the nation’s ethanol plants spent a lot of money to make changes to their machinery that would allow them to produce hand sanitizer, a valuable commodity to have during the COVID-19 outbreak. Just weeks later, the FDA reversed its initial guidance that relaxed alcohol regulations for hand sanitizer production.  FDA said in its new policy guidelines that “because of the potential for the presence of potentially harmful impurities during the processing approach, fuel or technical grade ethanol should only be used if it meets the appropriate guidelines.” Geoff Cooper, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, tells Agri-Pulse that the new guidance contradicts language that was published in late March. “It’s just a few weeks later and FDA is changing the rules midstream and we don’t understand why,” Cooper says. “We haven’t heard of any issues or concerns from any of the customers or buyers of this alcohol.”

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Smithfield Closes to Additional Plants

Smithfield Foods announced late last week it’s closing plants in Wisconsin and Missouri because of the coronavirus pandemic. The plant in Wisconsin will be closed for two weeks while the Missouri facility is closed indefinitely. An Associated Press report says the Missouri plant gets its raw materials from the plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is also closed. Smithfield recently reported more than 500 infections in plant workers, as well as another 126 infections in people connected to them. A small number of workers in both Wisconsin and Missouri have tested positive for coronavirus. Workers in the Missouri plant told the AP that between six and nine employees, including managers, contracted coronavirus. Union workers were told the Missouri plant will be back in operation by April 30. Missouri employees will still get their full 40-hour pay under their collective bargaining agreement. Union officials in Wisconsin had raised concerns that the company wasn’t doing enough to protect them from the COVID-19 outbreak, sending a letter to the company’s Human Resources Department.

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Wisconsin Rep Introduces the Family Farm Rescue Plan

Wisconsin Democratic Representative Ron Kind introduced his Family Farm Rescue Plan, which focuses on five steps the administration can take to support family farmers during the pandemic. The Third District Congressman points out that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the livelihood of Wisconsin farmers, as well as producers across the country. In his home state, dairy farmers are being forced to dispose of thousands of gallons of fresh milk every day due to a significant drop in demand for dairy products. The actions include purchasing excess food and delivering it to food banks, ensuring all farmers are eligible for all small business relief programs, reopening the Dairy Margin Coverage Program, and ending the trade war while implementing USMCA. “Family farms are the backbone of our economy,” Kind says. “These are decisive actions the administration can take that don’t require the creation of new programs, legislation, or appropriation.” Kind points out that Wisconsin has led the nation in farm bankruptcies with an average of two farms closing per day. “The administration just has to decide whether or not to support our family farmers,” he adds.

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NBB Says No to Waiving 2020 RFS Volumes

The National Biodiesel Board strongly opposes petitions from five state governors to waive 2020 Renewable Fuels Standard Volumes. The petitions were submitted by governors of Louisiana, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The NBB says a waiver of the RFS volumes set more than a year in advance would do severe damage to the biodiesel industry. Texas and Louisiana are two of the top states in producing biodiesel and renewable diesel. An RFS waiver would hurt tens of thousands of workers in those two states alone. Kurt Kovarik, Vice President of Federal Affairs, says, “NBB and its members condemn the oil industry’s attempt to use the current national emergency as an excuse to undermine the RFS. The waiver sought by the oil state governors would devastate renewable fuel producers, cost essential critical infrastructure jobs in multiple states, reduce incomes for soybean farmers, and lead to dirtier air and higher carbon emissions.” Kovarik says the Environmental Protection Agency long ago established that waiver petitions must demonstrate that the RFS is the direct cause of severe economic harm, and federal courts have upheld that interpretation. “The oil industry’s current challenges stem from COVID-19 impact, not the RFS,” Kovarik adds.

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U.S. Cattlemen Release Economic Impact Estimate of COVID-19 on Beef

The United States Cattlemen’s Association released its full economic impact report of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. cattle industry. The report was put together by Brett Crosby of Custom Ag Solutions and Beef Basis Dot Com. When compiling the numbers, they used existing market data and futures market data, coming up with the total actual and future impact forecast of $14.6 billion. The analysis focused on three primary sectors of the cattle production chain, which are feedlot, backgrounding, and cow/calf. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. cattle industry cannot be overstated,” says USCA President Brooke Miller. “This report highlights just how severe those losses will be. The report breaks out the steer and heifer price forecast, differentiates between spring and fall calves, and values stocker calves by marketing date rather than weight to account for the effect on operations that run grass calves and market in August.” USCA’s COVID-19 Producer Task Force has spent the past month working with Congress and the administration on developing temporary, short-term relief for cattle producers experiencing losses related to the current coronavirus outbreak.

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Tractor Sales Drop 16 Percent in March

The Association of Equipment Manufacturer’s monthly Flash Report didn’t have good news when it came to March tractor sales. The overall sale of all tractors dropped 16 percent in March when compared to March of 2019. For the year, a total of 41,237 tractors were sold in 2020, compared to a total of more than 44,600 sold last year. During March, two-wheel drive smaller tractors with engines under 40 horsepower were down 16 percent from last year. Sales of 40 and under 100-horsepower tractors were 15 percent lower than a year ago. Sales of two-wheel drive 100-plus horsepower tractors dropped 18 percent, while four-wheel drive tractor sales were down 17 percent from a year ago in March. Looking at 2020 total sales, the drop isn’t quite as steep as the March numbers, but still lower than the first three months of 2019. Combine sales were also down 12 percent in March of 2020 compared to last year at the same time. Sales of combines for the year totaled 800 in 2020, compared to a total of 977 sold in 2019, which is an 18 percent drop.

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.