READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, December 21st

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

CoBank: 2021 Year Ahead Report on U.S. Rural Economy

The speed of the economic recovery will largely hinge on the availability, dissemination, and reach of COVID-19 vaccines, pushing a pent-up consumer demand to later in 2021. That’s according to a comprehensive year-ahead outlook report just issued from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. “The coming year will be a recovery year for most Americans and the businesses that make up the U.S. economy,” says Dan Kowalski, vice president of the Knowledge Exchange Division. “The early part of the year should look very different than the latter, but in total, economic growth should be about four percent, following a retreat of roughly four percent in 2020.” The report lists several key factors that will shape agriculture and market sectors that serve rural communities. The largest factor is COVID-19, which will steer the global economy into 2021. Of all the major economies, China has recovered from COVID the quickest, while Europe has suffered the most. CoBank says a post-COVID bounce will come to the U.S. next year, just not anytime soon. Other factors include monetary policy, a strong finish to 2020 in the U.S. farm economy, specialty crops, grain and farm-supply sectors, a biofuels recovery, dairy and animal protein, and more.  

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Biden Picks Interior Secretary, EPA Boss

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate New Mexico Democratic Representative Deb Haaland to be his Secretary of the Interior, and Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency. NBC News says if Haaland is confirmed, she would be the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Regan would be the second black EPA chief in history after Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator during Barack Obama’s first term. As interior secretary, Haaland would oversee the agency tasked with managing and conserving much of America’s federal lands and natural resources, including national parks and tribal lands. Regan is currently the head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. He has previous experience at the EPA during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Before leaving the EPA, he served as a national program manager responsible for designing programs to help reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency and air quality. Regan would have a top role in overseeing Biden’s ambitious proposals to combat climate change and invest in green energy and infrastructure.

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Groups React to Biden Nomination for EPA Administrator

U.S. agriculture groups reacted to President-Elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Regan most recently led the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Howard “A.V.” Roth (Rowth), president of the National Pork Producers Council, congratulates Regan on getting the nomination. “As DEQ secretary in North Carolina, a leading pork-producing state, he always had an open door, valued diverse points of view, and worked to find solutions that ensured science and data were guiding decisions,” Roth says. “We hope those same qualities will carry over to his leadership at EPA.” Dennis Slater, President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, says they applaud Regan as Biden’s choice. “Our industry is very familiar with integrating innovative technologies into our operations, whether it includes precision agriculture techniques to ensure more efficient harvests for farmers or deploying smart technology to promote sustainable construction practices in the execution of infrastructure projects,” Slater says. “We look forward to working with Regan to advance a shared vision of a world in which all of America’s basic needs get fulfilled.”

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Former USMEF Chief Receives Japan’s Highest Civilian Honor

The Japanese government announced that Phillip Seng, former president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, is a recipient of “The Order of the Rising Sun.” The award goes to people who’ve made distinguished achievements in areas like international relations and promoting Japanese culture. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended Seng for his contributions to “strengthening Japan-U.S. economic relations, particularly in the meat field, and promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.” Seng says he’s honored and humbled to receive a prestigious award like this from the Japanese government. “However, the recognition should primarily go to the many Japanese colleagues who mentored me along the way, and to the numerous Japanese individuals and companies who introduced and championed U.S. meat products in Japan.” The Order of the Rising Sun is considered the highest ordinarily conferred order for U.S. civilians. “On behalf of USMEF, I offer Phil a wholehearted congratulations on this honor,” says current USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Phil deserves credit for advancing U.S. red meat interests around the world, and his impact was especially evident in Japan, where he worked tirelessly to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Japan.”

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USDA Reopens Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the second round of grants available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. The program is for infrastructure projects designed to help facilitate increased sales of higher biofuel blends to new and returning applicants. In making the announcement, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue recognized “the importance of our ethanol and biofuels industries and the positive impacts they deliver to consumers and farmers with an affordable, abundant, and clean-burning fuel.” Growth Energy’s unmatched network of large and small retail partners has already secured nearly $30 million in grants for over 290 sites selling more than 400-million gallons of gasoline every year. After USDA’s announcement of the second wave of grants, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says they’ve heard countless success stories from their retail partners about how HBIIP grants have helped them grow their E15 fuel offerings, strengthen their infrastructure, and increase store foot traffic and sales. “In the face of COVID-19, these grants have been a welcome relief for our industry and our hardworking men and women across the country, and we stand ready to assist retailers who hope to take advantage of this growth opportunity.”

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240,000 Chickens Die in Florida Fire

At least 240,000 chickens died early on Thursday morning when a fire roared through two barns in Florida owned by one of the nation’s largest distributors of eggs. The New York Times says the fire was reported at 1 a.m. by workers at the Cal-Maine Foods Facility in Dade County, Florida. Both barns destroyed by the fire contained two large coops, each containing more than 60,000 young hens, called pullets, which hadn’t started to lay eggs. The farm is in a rural county 40 miles northeast of Tampa. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the state’s fire marshal, who says the financial loss may amount to one million dollars. The blaze is the newest in a rash of barn fires across the United States that have upset animal rights groups that have previously criticized Cal-Maine Foods about the conditions of its facilities. The company’s chief financial officer says two or three percent of the company’s pullets were lost in the fire, and it shouldn’t disrupt production.

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.