READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wed, Dec 2nd

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Farmer Optimism Lower in Latest Ag Economy Barometer

U.S. farmers sentiment weakened following the November 2020 elections. The Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer fell 16 points from a month earlier to a reading of 167. Although this month’s reading was nearly equal to the pre-pandemic high set back in February, it was nine percent lower than the reading taken just two weeks before the 2020 elections. Organizers say the decline resulted from weakened expectations for the future, as the Index of Future Expectations declined to a reading of 156 in November, 30 points below the October reading. On the other hand, farmers perception of current conditions on their farms improved. The Index of Current Conditions, lifted by the ongoing rally in agricultural commodity prices, rose by nine points from October to November, setting a record high for the index of 187. However, farmers have concerns about future regulation impact on agriculture, potential higher estate taxes, and reduced support for the ethanol industry.

Growth Energy Intends to Sue EPA Over 2021 Blending Targets

Growth Energy Tuesday submitted a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency. The notice is in response to the EPA’s failure to fulfill its statutory obligation to issue the 2021 Renewable Volume Obligation by November 30, 2020, an annual deadline set by the Renewable Fuel Standard. The notice gives EPA 60 days to issue the 2021 RVO before risking a lawsuit in federal court. Every year, EPA is required to set the RVO so that biofuel and fossil fuel companies understand their total renewable fuel blending obligations for the following year. Failure to set the RVO undermines the RFS and could lead to uncertainty in the market and lower than necessary biofuel blending levels. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says EPA’s failure to meet their statutory obligation to issue RVOs “piles on the uncertainty in the fuel marketplace.” However, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has previously said the announcement would be delayed, pending the outcome of a challenge to the Supreme Court by the oil industry.

House Ag Chair Nomination Thursday

House lawmakers will nominate the next House Agriculture Committee Chair Thursday. A committee spokesperson confirmed leadership will decide who to back for the position, according to the Hagstrom Report. The two candidates being considered are David Scott, a Democrat from Georgia, and Jim Costa, a Democrat from California. Scott is next in line, seniority wise, and endorsed by outgoing chairman Collin Peterson. Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota, lost his reelection bid. Once the 117th Congress is seated early next year, the full chamber will vote on leadership candidates. Representative Marcia Fudge was also considering the leadership position, but is in the running to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. Other reported Agriculture Secretary candidates include former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and Obama-era Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Robert Bonnie is leading the Agriculture Department transition team for the Biden administration. Bonnie served as undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at USDA during the Obama Administration.

USDA Reopens Comment Period for FMD Vaccine

The Department of Agriculture Tuesday reopened a comment period regarding a petition from a vaccine manufacturer seeking approval to produce a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine. The comment period was announced by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for an additional 30 days. The vaccine consists of a modified non-infectious and non-transmissible strain of the virus on the U.S. mainland. Although introduction of live FMD virus into the United States is prohibited by law, the petition states that this strain should not be considered live FMD virus as it is non-infectious, non-transmissible, and incapable of causing FMD. Public comments will be accepted through January 21, 2021, via the federal register. FMD is a severe and highly contagious viral disease affecting cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, and other animals with divided hooves. It was eradicated from the United States in 1929, but if it were to infect the U.S. livestock industry, it would likely cause devastating economic effects.

Lawmakers Seek Reauthorization of WHIP for 2020 Wildfires

A Group of Representatives from Western states last week introduced a bill to reauthorize the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, known as WHIP+, for 2020 natural disasters. The WHIP+ program offers critical assistance to agricultural producers, including grapegrowers, whose crops were impacted by smoke taint. House Democrat Mike Thompson of California says, “This bipartisan bill activates the WHIP+ program for these 2020 fires and helps these growers hit hard by disasters.” Republican Representative Dan Newhouse of Washington state adds, “WHIP+ will help our winegrape growers recover from the damages of this year’s catastrophic wildfires.” WHIP+ can cover losses from flooding, hurricanes and wildfires, are any named natural disaster. Reactivating WHIP+ for 2020 is a priority for the American Farm Bureau Federation. AFBF is also calling on Congress to allow farmers and ranchers impacted by the Midwest derecho storm to be included in the program. The derecho, not being a named disaster, doesn’t qualify under the current program rules.

GROWMARK Holds First Virtual Annual Meeting

It’s a normal sign of the times, virtual events, but you can add GROWMARK to the list of companies holding their first. The company held a virtual annual meeting Tuesday for more than 1,000 attendees. Normally the GROWMARK Annual Meeting happens every August at the Hilton Chicago, but to comply with Illinois mitigation measures, the decision was made to hold it virtually after the fiscal year closed on August 31. Holding the meeting in December allowed for audited financial results to be presented in full, and also brings an update after the acquisition of certain Southern States Cooperative agronomy and energy assets. Despite the challenges from COVID-19, a devastating derecho storm in key Midwest markets, and energy volatility in the markets, financial performance was respectable with strong earnings from operations. GROWMARK was able to distribute nearly $66 million in patronage distributions to shareholders this year. GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative serving almost 400,000 customers across North America, Headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois.

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.