READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, May 4th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Perdue: Meatpackers to Open in “Days,” Not Weeks

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says meatpacking plants that have been slowed or shut down due to coronavirus will open again in days, not weeks. Slaughterhouse employees are set to receive additional protective gear and will have access to COVID-19 testing “virtually immediately.” The Hill Dot Com says Perdue expects the shortfall in meat production is likely as high as 30 percent but will drop to between 10 and 15 percent within 10 days. However, Perdue does say that production likely won’t return to the pre-pandemic pace as new safety procedures are put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus. “There will be some less production, some inefficiency based on line speeds, some employees that will not be able to come back to work,” Perdue says. “We want to assure the workers and their community of their safety.” As the virus continued to spread across the country, more than a dozen meat processing plants have been temporarily shut down due to outbreaks. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union reported at least 6,500 workers who had directly been affected by the coronavirus, as well as 20 deaths at plants across the country. The USDA will require processors to submit plans to operate packing facilities safely and review those measures with local officials.

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Coalition Opposes API Petitions on RFS Obligations

The American Petroleum Institute recently filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a reconsideration of the 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard final rule. A coalition of ethanol and farm groups sent a letter to the EPA last week in opposition to the petition. API claims the EPA needs to reconsider the rule because of the coalition’s recent Tenth Circuit Court victory that overturned the small refinery exemptions illegally granted by the EPA. API also argues in its petition that the 2020 RFS rule should be revised to eliminate measures that prospectively “reallocate” RFS blending obligations expected to be lost to refinery waivers. The Petroleum Institute says the reallocation of expected waivers is no longer needed because the Tenth Circuit Court decision should significantly curtail the number of waivers granted. However, EPA hasn’t confirmed that it will implement the tenets of the court decision nationwide, meaning reconsideration of the 2020 RFS rule would be very premature. “There is no basis for revisiting or modifying EPA’s current approach until EPA acknowledges that the central tenets of the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision are appropriately applied across the country,” the groups say in their letter.

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RMA Makes Changes to Forage Seeding, Forage Production Crop Insurance

USDA’s Risk Management Agency made some changes to the Forage Seeding and Forage Production crop insurance programs that will start during the 2021 crop year. The changes will include expanding coverage to new regions and counties, expanding coverage to fall-planted forage, as well as changing the method for loss adjustment. “These changes will expand coverage to new places, better reflect current agricultural practices, and better protect forage producers from losses,” says RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “This will also enable forage producers to better secure loans and provide continuity to their forage production operations.” The specific changes include establishing coverage of forage seeding for producers in an additional 186 counties. Coverage is expanded to fall-planted forage and aligns forage seeding cancellation and termination dates with the dates of other fall-planted crops in each state. RMA will revise loss-adjustment procedures to rely upon the number of live alfalfa stems rather than the number of live plants for making loss determinations for forage containing more than 60 percent alfalfa. Changes are listed in a final rule on the Federal Register at regulations.gov. Interested people are invited to comment on the rule for 60 days.

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Small Farmer Debt Relief Act Introduced in House

Democratic Representatives from New York, Maine, Vermont, and New Jersey introduced the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act. The legislation would provide one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000 for farmers who hold existing loan obligations with the USDA. The Hagstrom Report says the bill would apply that one-time debt forgiveness to three types of USDA loans, including direct-farm operating loans, direct farm ownership loans, as well as emergency loans. Farmers with an average adjusted gross income of $300,000 a year or less over the previous five years would be eligible for the debt relief. The legislation will offer a one-year window for farmers to apply for the relief. Farmers would have to commit to being actively engaged in farming for at least two years after receiving loan forgiveness. The bill has widespread support from a wide spectrum of organizations, including the National Family Farm Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition, Farm Aid, Family Farm Action, Rural Coalition, Rural Advancement Foundation International, as well as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment.

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Early Registration Open for NCGA National Corn Yield Contest

The National Corn Yield Contest is officially underway, and the National Corn Growers Association is encouraging potential entrants to register early and save on entry fees. Fees are reduced to $75 until June 30. NCGA points out that a small-time investment now will save some money later in the summer. The contest has been one of the premier events of every corn-growing season since 1965, with the contest offering challenges and rewards to each of the entrants. In 2019, 7,454 growers accepted the challenge of testing their corn production skills and knowledge by competing with proven winners to reach the ultimate goal of being named champion. NCGA invites American farmers to take advantage of the opportunity to explore new ideas and production techniques while gaining knowledge to enhance future yield potential. Winners will get national recognition in various publications like the NCYC Corn Yield Guide, as well as other rewards from participating sponsors from seed, crop, and chemical companies. State winners will be honored during the NCYC Breakfast at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. Visit the National Corn Growers website for more information.

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American Farmland Trust Helping Farmers Who Sell Directly to Consumers

American Farmland Trust’s Farmer Relief Fund started sending out $1,000 grant checks to 1,000 farmers across the country as America sees unprecedented disruptions to the food system. The funds are going to help small to mid-size producers that sell directly to consumers, foodservice businesses, or institutions. All of the funds from the AFT are being given to farmers directly and with no restrictions on how to use them, only that they use the money to support modifications to their business model that will get them through until normal markets return. Direct-to-consumer farmers have been severely impacted by “social distancing” policies and closures that have kept them from selling to their usual customers and necessitated they make dramatic shifts in the way they do business to stay afloat. “We’re helping in a small way where the need is huge,” says American Farm Trust President and CEO John Piotti (Pee-AHT-tee). “We believe the farmers who sell directly to consumers were the most immediately impacted when the pandemic set in.” He says farmers who sell directly to consumers were also hurt because there is no federal safety net in place to help them during tough times.

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.