READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thu, Nov 19th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Ag Lender Survey Reveals Bankers Top Concerns

The Fall 2020 Agricultural Lender Survey report shows that ag lenders continue to remain focused on credit quality, even as the farm economy continues to work through the prolonged downturn caused by COVID-19. The survey is from the American Bankers Association and the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, also known as Farmer Mac. When it comes to their customers, lenders continue to be most concerned about liquidity, income, and leverage. Uncertainty regarding tariffs and trade, the weather, the impacts of COVID-19, and the resulting downturn are close behind. “Facing a global pandemic and an unprecedented economic downturn, agricultural lenders’ concerns for both their institutions and ag borrowers remain focused on business fundamentals,” says Tyler Mondres, director of research at ABA. “Nevertheless, lenders remain prepared to continue providing support to the farm economy through these challenging times.” The ag economy and farm income remain stressed in 2020. On average, lenders report that just under 51 percent of their ag borrowers were profitable in 2020, down from 57 percent last year. About half of the lenders don’t expect profitability to improve in 2021.

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Grassley Praises Report on Farm Payment Limitations

The Government Accountability Office says that the USDA hasn’t been reviewing Farm Service Agency state compliance with rules regarding farm program eligibility. “The lack of oversight and accountability has created a welfare system for some joint-ventures and general partnerships, particularly in the South,” says Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. The GAO report shows that 19 of the top 20 farms that received payments in 2016 and 2017 are in the South. “Farm payments should only go to those with dirt under their fingernails,” Grassley adds. “Congress must fix this broken system in the next farm bill.” Since the last GAO report in 2013, the 2020 report says USDA has made some progress in completing and reporting on reviews to determine if recipients of farm program payments meet the requirements for being actively engaged in farming. However, USDA doesn’t systematically monitor its performance of compliance reviews, which are the responsibility of FSA state offices. The report says improving the accuracy and monitoring of tracking data would help management to better oversee state offices’ completion of assigned reviews to make sure all the members of a farming operation who receive payments are actively engaged in farming.

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Ag Community Wants EU Trade Tariffs Removed

America’s top agriculture commodity groups and trade associations sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer talking about European Union retaliatory tariffs on American goods. The groups, including Farmers for Free Trade, are asking Lighthizer to “deepen trade discussions” to help bring about World Trade Organization compliance and removal of the EU tariffs that target U.S. food and ag exports. On November 10, the EU imposed duties on certain cheeses, agricultural equipment, distilled spirits, potatoes, nuts, fruits, juices, chocolate, and ketchup. “Farmers are battling to stay above water and any new tariff in this time of crisis is a big concern,” says Brian Kuehl (KEEL), Co-Executive Director of Famers for Free Trade. “We know these tariffs are part of a long legal battle, but anytime farmers become collateral damage is unacceptable.” The letter says American farmers need stability, and that means predictable exports into markets like the European Union. The groups are urging this administration and the next one to double down on their effort to resolve this dispute in a manner that frees American farmers from harmful tariffs.

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Chicken: The Number One COVID-19 Protein

Over the past year, as Americans cooked more food in their homes than they had before, chicken has become the top choice for a healthy and convenient protein that the entire family can enjoy. Approximately 75 percent of Americans who eat chicken say they make it at home at least once a week. During the past nine months of COVID-19, retail chicken sales have increased $1.3 billion, up over 19 percent from the same period in 2019. The National Chicken Council unveiled the findings of a new survey on better understanding chicken consumption patterns and preferences in the U.S. The survey includes insight into the impact of the pandemic on chicken consumption habits, showing that half of Americans who eat chicken say they have eaten it more than any other protein during COVID-19. The survey found that chicken has been popular because it’s easy to prepare and a versatile protein. With COVID-19 shifting some holiday plans, chicken might help make it a happy holiday as 50 percent of Americans who eat chicken say they’d prefer it to ham or turkey at a holiday meal. 52 percent of Americans prefer grilled chicken, while 48 percent prefer fried chicken.

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Streamlining Biofuels Registration Act Introduced in the House

Democrat Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Republican Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota introduced the Streamlining Advanced Biofuels Registration Act of 2020 into the House of Representatives. The legislation would encourage low-carbon fuel production and increase the production of cellulosic biomass into renewable fuels. It would expedite the approval process at the Environmental Protection Agency for low-carbon biofuel pathways, an issue that has stalled technological progress for years. “Unnecessary delays have stalled progress on the biofuels industry’s ability to harness clean energy from agricultural residue, corn fiber, and waste,” says Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We know that cellulosic technologies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent or more, providing options for negative-emissions liquid fuels and providing a low-cost alternative to petroleum-based aromatics that poison our air and threaten our health.” She says the legislation will help jumpstart growth in these innovative technologies at a time when revitalizing rural communities has never been more important. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Republican John Thune of South Dakota and Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat.

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National 4-H Council Awarded $3 Million to Support 4-H at Home

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture investing more than $10.5 million to support educators across the country. Funds are going to technical schools, community and junior colleges, and youth development programs, including the Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program. NIFA is giving a $3 million grant to the National 4-H Council to support the continued development of 4-H at Home, which is the positive youth development digital platform at www.4-H.org. 4-H at Home is designed to meet the growing needs for virtual and non-virtual educational resources that can easily be used by families at home or rapidly adopted by educators and Extension personnel. It’s intended to “level the playing field” and address the widening opportunity gap for youth and families as a result of COVID-19. Since the onset of COVID-19, 4-H educators are even more dedicated to ensuring kids, families, and communities have the support they need, including educational resources, caring adult mentors, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of community. A 4-H news release says, “Thanks to the significant grant from NIFA, our Cooperative Extension Network can expand its reach through 4-H at Home by providing effective learning experiences to meet the needs of families across the country.”

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.