READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, January 6th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Latest Ag Economy Barometer Released

Farmer sentiment improved modestly in December, according to the latest Ag Economy Barometer. The CME Group/Purdue University index, released Tuesday, rose to a reading of 174, up seven points from November. December’s sentiment improvement still left the barometer nine points lower than in October. The Index of Current Conditions climbed 15 points to 202, while the Index of Future Expectations increased by just five points to 161. Organizers say the farm income boost provided by the ongoing rally in crop prices appears to be the driving force behind the improvement. However, comparing survey results from before the November election to the post-election time frame, there continues to be less optimism following the election. Farmers note concerns about future ag exports and more worries about increasing environmental regulations and prospects for higher taxes. Additionally, the number of farmers concerned that the farm income safety net will weaken remained higher post-election, as did the percentage of farmers expecting government support for the ethanol industry to decline.

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Farmers to Families Food Box Program Renewed

The Department of Agriculture this week announced the continuation of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA will purchase an additional $1.5 billion worth of food nationwide through the fifth round of the program. Set to expire at the end of 2020, the recent coronavirus aid package provided more funding for the program. In total, USDA has distributed more than 132 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary Perdue says this new round will “go a long way in helping American families access nutritious and healthy meals.” USDA will again purchase combination boxes to ensure all involved recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy, meat products, and seafood will also be included in this round. Contract awards are expected to be made by January 19. Deliveries will begin shortly after awards and continue through the end of April.

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Conservation Reserve Signup Period Open

Farmers can sign up now for the Conservation Reserve Program through February 12, 2021. The program, administered by The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, provides annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes. FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce says the signup period “gives producers and landowners an opportunity to enroll for the first time or continue their participation for another term.” The popular program allows farmers and ranchers to establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. General signup includes increased opportunities for wildlife habitat enrollment through the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement initiative.  New cropland offered in the program must have been planted for four out of six crop years from 2012 to 2017. Additionally, producers with land already enrolled but expiring on September 30, 2021, can re-enroll this year. The acreage offered by producers and landowners is evaluated competitively. Accepted offers will begin October 1, 2021.

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Newhouse: House Rules Change Silences Rural America

Representative Dan Newhouse says the new rules in the House of Representatives “are further isolating rural American voices.” The Washington state Republican issued a statement on the rules package voted on at the beginning of the new session this week. Newhouse claims the rules package limits the ability for “those of us in a growing Republican Conference to represent those who elected us.” The package includes language making changes to the motion to recommit, a tool used by the minority party to make last-minute changes to bills on the floor. Instead, the bills would be sent back to committee.  Newhouse calls the rule change, and others, “detrimental to the tradition and function of the People’s House.” However, the motion to recommit is largely seen as a political tool against the majority. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democrats have crafted a package of reforms, “which will make the House more accountable, transparent and effective in our work.”

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Bill Containing Relief for Derecho Impacted Farmers Signed

The year-end legislative package includes tax relief for anyone in presidentially declared disaster areas, including those impacted by the August derecho. The Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 was signed into law by President Donald Trump as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The bipartisan bill removes penalties on early withdrawals from retirement accounts, provides a tax credit for employee retention during business interruption, and encourages charitable giving to affected areas by suspending limits on deductions for certain contributions. Additionally, the legislation creates special rules for qualified disaster-related personal casualty losses. The bill also allows low-income workers to use their previous year’s income to claim certain tax credits, ensuring that they do not lose access to the credits or receive a lower amount. The bill was introduced by Iowa Senators, Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, in September after touring the damage following the historic derecho and meeting with local leaders and nonprofits.

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New Book Helps Kids Connect with Soybean Farms

A new children’s picture book about soybean farming offers a valuable resource to parents and educators. The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s Feeding Minds Press released a new book, My Family’s Soybean Farm, along with a companion educator guide. This third title from Feeding Minds follows the farm adventures of Alexander, who takes readers on a tour of his family’s soybean farm. The book shows how soybeans are planted, grown and harvested, technology used on the farm, pest management techniques, and the many different products soybeans are used in. The book, geared for grades K-2, combines illustrations with real photographs. AFB Foundation Executive Director Daniel Meloy says, “the unique combination of colorful illustrations and photographs will engage young readers while bringing the farm to life.” My Family’s Soybean Farm is now available in paperback for purchase directly from Feeding Minds Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. Special bulk pricing is also available.

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.