READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, October 12th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

U.S. Economy Still Sputtering as Ag Economy Showing Signs of Life

CoBank says the U.S. economy has shown signs of improving since late spring. However, progress has slowed, and the economy remains fragile. As another relief package is off and then on the table, for now, CoBank says the economy will remain sluggish through the end of the year. A new Quarterly Report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange says rural America is experiencing a dichotomy of improving industry fundamentals and a rise in COVID cases. “The good news, from an economic standpoint, is that many rural industries have begun to turn the corner,” says Dan Kowalski, vice president of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. “This is particularly true in agriculture. A weaker dollar has supported a price recovery in most agricultural commodities.” He says despite a large number of challenges this year, essential rural industries are finding new ways to survive, and in some cases, thrive.” For example, the U.S. ethanol sector continued to recover during the third quarter, reaching a new baseline level equivalent to 90 percent of pre-COVID demand. CoBank also says recent reductions in ending stocks and expected production have provided a relief rally for U.S. grain farmers. Dairy farmers and the U.S. beef complex also ended the third quarter in a stronger position than when they started quarter number three.


Perdue Fined for Hatch Act Violations While Promoting Food Boxes

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue violated the Hatch Act in August because he encouraged voters to support the president’s re-election campaign while promoting food boxes. The event took place in Mills River, North Carolina, and was designed to promote the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to Perdue saying the ag secretary has to reimburse the federal government for the cost of the trip to North Carolina. President Trump attended the event, during which Perdue said the people lined up along the motorcade route were “part of those forgotten people that voted for you in 2016.” Perdue also told the president that those same people will vote for him for four more years in 2020. “They understand, under your administration, they’ve not been forgotten,” he added, “and this program is a great example of that.” The Hatch Act bars federal employees, even Cabinet members, from engaging in political activity while at work. “Taken as a whole, Secretary Perdue’s comments during the event encouraged those present, and those watching remotely, to vote for President Trump’s re-election,” the Hatch Act unit’s chief counsel wrote in the letter. The Ag Department didn’t respond to The Hill’s request for comment and didn’t provide an estimate of the cost of the trip that Perdue must now reimburse.


WASDE Lowers Corn and Soybean Harvest Projections and Stocks

As expected, the October World Ag Supply and Demand Report shows lower U.S. corn and soybean production, as well as lower stocks of commodities. Corn production is forecast at 14.722 billion bushels, 178 million bushels lower than the previous month. Corn yield declined slightly to 178.4 bushels per acre. Corn supplies are forecast down sharply from last month, thanks to a smaller crop and lower beginning stocks. The corn price rose 10 cents to $3.60 a bushel. Soybean production is forecast at 4.3 billion bushels, down 45 million bushels on a lower harvested area, and the yield is projected at 51.9 bushels per acre, unchanged from last month. Soybean supplies are forecast at 4.8 billion bushels, down 96 million on lower production and beginning stocks. The soybean price is forecast at $9.80 a bushel, 55 cents higher than September, due to smaller supplies and higher exports. USDA says wheat supplies are reduced by 32 million bushels from the previous month on the combination of lower beginning stocks and production. Projected ending stocks dropped by 42 million bushels to 883 million, which would be the lowest ending stocks in six years. The season-average farm price is up 20 cents a bushel to $4.70.


Ethanol Producers Investing in Hand Sanitizer for the Long Term

COVID-19 brought about a collapse in fuel demand across the U.S., pushing many ethanol facilities to either slow down or halt their production. Reuters says many ethanol facilities switched their focus from producing ethanol to manufacturing high-grade alcohol hand sanitizers. Demand for the product skyrocketed during COVID as Americans hurried to grab protection against the coronavirus. Several companies are beginning to view the hand sanitizer market as more than a temporary band-aid against lower demand for fuel. Many are making permanent investments in the production of high-grade alcohol that meets standards for producing the sanitizer. Companies like Pacific Ethanol, Green Plains, and Highwater Ethanol have all said they’re boosting the capacity to produce high-grade alcohol. Those announcements seem to indicate that some producers see more profitability in hand cleanliness because of COVID-19 than they do in transportation fuels. Fuel ethanol production around the country has bounced back from the spring doldrums, hitting 923,000 barrels per day, up from 537,000 in April. The Energy Information Administration says that the number is still four percent lower than the same time last year.


Texas Representative Wans FSA Offices “Fully Reopened”

Texas Representative Jodey Arrington recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Secretary Sonny Perdue regarding Farm Service Agency offices. Arrington is asking the agency to reexamine and update their COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures and safely reopen their local Farm Service Agency offices. The 19th-District Representative says those offices are critical to our hardworking agricultural producers, providing access to vital programs like the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and the Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Program. Their continued closures have caused frustrating and worrisome delays for those seeking the help they need. “While federal reopening regulations were necessary during the early stages of the pandemic, they now effectively prohibit necessary entities from physically reopening and processing vitally important applications for relief programs,” Arrington says. “Our local FSA offices need the flexibility to open and allow our patient agriculture producers access to vital resources.” While ensuring the health and safety of employees is important, Arrington says we must also find a way for these offices to open safely for the sake of the nation’s farmers and ranchers.


Farmers Union Not Happy with CSP Final Rule

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service released their final rule to update the Conservation Stewardship Program, which the agency was directed to do in the 2018 Farm Bill. “With the help of feedback from our agricultural producers and others in the industry, NRCS has prioritized the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, including important changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is designed to help farmers put more robust conservation activities in place,” says acting NRCS boss Kevin Norton. National Farmers Union President Rob Larew says there are some improvements in the final rule, especially in its inclusion of soil health as a priority. “However, the rule does not elaborate on how this goal will be achieved,” Larew says in the Hagstrom Report. “We want the agency to provide more specifics about how the program will help farmers build soil health to help sequester atmospheric carbon, increase yields, and prevent erosion.” Another aspect of the rule NFU is concerned about includes the evaluation process giving preference to first-time applicants over previous participants, which Larew says basically penalizes those who’ve taken part in long-term stewardship.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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.