READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, February 25th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

AFBF: Farmers Need More Time to Apply for CFAP

The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking the Department of Agriculture to extend the deadline to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. In January, an additional $13 billion in assistance was made available to help farmers and ranchers suffering losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current deadline is this Friday, February 26, but recent severe weather and the suspension of CFAP payments led to challenges and confusion surrounding the application process. In a letter sent today to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, AFBF President Zippy Duvall said the recent regulatory freeze on pending executive actions, though common, “has created confusion for farmers and ranchers with respect to eligibility and the application process.” The letter also notes severe weather, which impacted travel conditions and created broadband disruptions, may have also impacted farmers’ ability to complete the application process. AFBF asks USDA to extend the deadline to apply for assistance by at least 30 days after the regulatory review is completed.

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Pilgrims Pride Pleads Guilty to Price Fixing

Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation this week pleaded guilty to price-fixing allegations. The Department of Justice announced the plea, and a sentence to pay approximately $107 million in criminal fines. According to the plea agreement entered in the U.S. District Court in Denver, from as early as 2012 and continuing at least into 2017, Pilgrim’s participated in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition for sales of broiler chicken products in the U.S. that affected at least $361 million in Pilgrim’s sales of broiler chicken products. Pilgrim’s is the first company to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products. Broiler chickens are chickens raised for human consumption and sold to grocers and restaurants. Ten executives and employees at major broiler chicken producers have also previously been charged. The case results from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price-fixing, bid-rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the broiler chicken industry.

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Lawmakers Introduce emergency Feed Bill

Legislation introduced this week in the Senate would provide farmers and ranchers with additional flexibility to alleviate feed shortages in years with widespread excessive moisture, flooding or drought. The Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters with Cover Crops Act would create an emergency waiver authority for the Secretary of Agriculture to allow for haying, grazing or chopping of a cover crop on prevented plant acres before November 1, in the event of a feed shortage due to extreme weather. Senators Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, and John Hoeven, A North Dakota Republican, introduced the legislation. The bill states that under the waiver, producers would not see a reduction of their crop insurance indemnity. The legislation also directs the Agriculture Secretary to establish regional haying and grazing dates for each crop year. The current date, November 1, is set on a nationwide basis and disadvantages producers in the upper Midwest. Representatives Dusty Johnson, a South Dakota Republican, and Angie Craig, a Minnesota Democrat, introduced companion legislation in the House.

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Legislative Fix Introduced to Make More Farmers Eligible for PPP

New bipartisan legislation would make more farmers and ranchers eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program. Representative Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, recently introduced the Paycheck Protection Clarification for Producers Act. The legislation would allow farmers and ranchers organized as partnerships or limited liability companies access to the program. The lawmakers say these farmers have been unable to apply for loans under the new calculation because of the Small business Administration’s interpretation of eligibility for partnerships or limited liability companies. Representative Fortenberry says Nebraska leads the U.S. in per capita PPP loans approved. However, adds, “Due to quirks in the law, some farmers hard hit by COVID-19 were left out.” Representative Kind states, “No farmer should be shut out of this crucial program and denied a financial lifeline because of an interpretation error.” Kind previously led legislation that allowed farmers more access to the PPP, which was included in the latest COVID-19 relief package.

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Missouri Lawmakers Seek to block Multi-state Transmission Line

Missouri lawmakers are again seeking to block a multi-state high voltage transmission line for wind energy. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports a new measure in the Missouri legislature would require Invenergy, the Grain Belt Express future transmission line owner, to receive approval from individual counties. The move is one of many to block the project, as lawmakers seek to stop a private company from using eminent domain to take land for the project. The Grain Belt Express would take wind energy from Kansas through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. The Missouri Supreme Court earlier ruled the project be granted public utility status because the $2.3 billion project is in the public’s interest. The transmission line in Missouri is expected to cross the property of 570 landowners, stretching more than 200 miles across the northern sector of the state. Invenergy says the project will play a major role in economic recovery in the Midwest by supporting jobs, adding broadband infrastructure, community investment and energy savings.

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Mentorship to help Underserved Farmers with Conservation

A new mentorship program is linking historically underserved farmers and ranchers with award-winning conservationists. Sand County Foundation’s Vice President of Agricultural Research, Dr. Heidi Peterson, says, “Now historically underserved farmers and ranchers have access to a reliable network of conservation mentors.” Since 2003, the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award has recognized nearly 150 farmers, ranchers and forestland owners nationwide for their efforts to improve soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat. The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded Sand County Foundation a Conservation Collaboration Grant to support this opportunity to empower award recipients as mentors. Now, the Sand County Foundation is seeking applicants for the program. Sand County Foundation’s network of Leopold Conservation Award-winning farmers will serve as program mentors. Participants will have access to the network and receive technical and mentorship support on navigating USDA conservation programs and practices. Learn more and sign up for this free mentorship opportunity at www.sandcountyfoundation.org.

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.