READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, October 23rd…

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2019 Organic Survey results show sales up 31% from 2016

The Department of Agriculture’s 2019 Organic Survey released Thursday finds total sales of $9.93 billion in organic products, an increase of $2.37 billion, or 31 percent, from 2016. Released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the report shows there were 16,500 certified organic farms, a 17 percent increase from 2016, which accounted for 5.5 million certified acres, an increase of nine percent over 2016. California continued to lead the nation in certified organic sales with $3.6 billion, which is 36 percent of the U.S. total and four times that of any other state. Top organic commodities include livestock and poultry products, milk, vegetables and fruit. The survey also asked producers about plans for future production. Twenty-nine percent of farms plan to increase their level of organic production. More than 1,800 certified organic farms have 255,000 additional acres in the three-year transition period required for land to become certified as organic. An additional 710 farms not currently certified reported 61,000 acres of land transitioning to organic production.

E15 Ethanol Blend Testing Begins in California

The corn industry is working with the California Air Resources Board to conduct E15 vehicle testing at the University of California at Riverside. The National Corn Growers Association says E15 in the California market is vital to growing ethanol demand. The testing will demonstrate the environmental benefits and compatibility of E15 in selected makes and models of vehicles. The process will help pave the way for sales of E15 and higher blends of ethanol in California. NCGA Ethanol Action Team members JR Roesner says if E15 becomes the base fuel in California, “the potential market opportunity would be roughly 750 million gallons of ethanol or 260 million bushels of corn.” Tests will be conducted on 20 late-model vehicles to measure tailpipe and evaporative emissions. Testing a broad sample of makes, models, and technology levels with both E10 and E15 blends will provide the state with the necessary information to permit the sale of E15 in California.

Senators Ask EPA not to Increase RVO or Reallocate Gallons under RFS 

A group of Senators urge the Environmental Protection Agency to not increase the Renewable Volume Obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2021. Specifically, the Senators asked Administrator Wheeler to use his statutory authorities under the Clean Air Act to cite “severe economic harm” and employ a general waiver to not increase the RVO for 2021. Given that COVID-19 has suppressed demand for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, the lawmakers claim any increase in the mandate would cause severe and outsized economic harm next year by raising costs for consumers, particularly at the gas pump. Additionally, the letter urges the EPA to not reallocate prior year obligations that would “increase burdens on refiners of all sizes, including small refiners.” Led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, the group states any increase in blending volume mandates would create “another drag” on the nation’s economy trying to recover from a pandemic.

Senator Seeks Disaster Assistance for Winegrape Growers

A Senator from the Pacific Northwest is asking Senate colleagues to provide additional assistance for winegrape growers impacted by wildfires in 2020. Ron Wyden, A Democrat from Oregon, made the request to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture this week. In the 2019 disaster relief package, Congress provided $3 million through the Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program for winegrowers whose grapes were damaged by wildfires in 2018 and 2019. Wildfires have again burned millions of acres of land throughout the West and caused heavy layers of smoke in 2020. Because of that, Wyden says winegrape growers now require the same assistance. Wildfire smoke can alter the flavor of grapes, making them unusable for wine. Wyden states, “the WHIP program is designed to compensate producers in this very situation, and it is critical that Congress provide this necessary assistance.” Wyden made the request in a letter to the leadership of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee.

USDA Announces 3.1 Billion Investment in Rural Electric Infrastructure

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Thursday announced a $3.1 billion rural electric infrastructure investment in 25 states. The Department of Agriculture is investing in 53 projects through the Electric Loan Program, benefitting 1.4 million rural residents and businesses across the country. The announcement is part of a record level of USDA electric infrastructure investments in one fiscal year. The department invested $6.3 billion in the Electric Loan Program in fiscal year 2020, up from $5.8 billion in 2019, also a record. USDA made loans to 119 utilities in 34 states across the country during fiscal year 2020, which ended on September 30. Those figures build upon the $3.7 billion invested in 2018. USDA’s Electric Program helps finance wind, solar and natural gas plants, as well as improvements to produce clean energy from coal-fired plants. Local utilities also use the loans to invest in infrastructure to deliver affordable power to thousands of residential, commercial and agricultural consumers.

93rd National FFA Convention and Expo Next Week

FFA members and supporters from across the country will log on to their smart devices next week to celebrate agriculture during the 93rd National FFA Convention and Expo. The event, which is traditionally the largest student convention in the country, will be held virtually this year. While the event will look different this year, an FFA spokesperson says it will “still have the amazing programming that we always offer our students and supporters.” The general sessions, which will recognize the award winners, will air live on RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel and streamed on RFD-TV Now, the Cowboy Channel + app and, allowing members and supporters to tune in and watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of the events with no registration required. Those who register for the virtual event can experience many of the traditional convention experiences, including a member experience room, the Expo Hall, and Blue Room, staples of the in-person event. The convention will wrap up with the election of the 2020-21 National FFA Officer Team.

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.