READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, March 23rd

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

FFA Students Share Ag Story for National Ag Day

This week, students from around the country will be busy sharing the importance of agriculture. It’s all in celebration of National Ag Day, which is Tuesday, March 23. The day celebrates agriculture and provides an opportunity for those in the industry to share the importance of agriculture with a broader audience. The future of agriculture is strong, and this is evident in the many student-led agriculture organizations. This week, students from FFA, 4-H, Agriculture Future of America, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences will share information on the critical role agriculture plays in our culture and economy. An FFA news release says, “National Ag Day gives students from agriculture youth organizations the chance to work together and share the importance of agriculture and agricultural education with our national government leaders.” Students will also learn skills this week that they can use as they go forward in their lives and strengthen agriculture along the way. All this week, student leaders will work together virtually to discover how they can continue to be advocates for agriculture while telling the vital story of ag throughout the nation. For more information on those events, go to www.FFA.org.

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White House Proclamation on National Ag Day

To celebrate National Ag Day on Tuesday, March 23, the White House issued a proclamation regarding the value of agriculture to the country. “We recognize the unique and irreplaceable value that farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards have contributed to the nation’s past and present,” the White House says. America’s agriculture sector “safeguards our nation’s lands” through sustainable management; ensures the health and safety of animals, plants, and people; provides a safe and abundant food supply and facilitates opportunities for prosperity and economic development in rural America. “Over the last year, workers and other leaders across the ag sector have stepped up to ensure a stable food supply in the face of COVID-19 challenges,” the proclamation adds. “Farmworkers, who have always been vital to our food system, continued to grow, harvest, and package food, often at great personal risk.” The White House also says local farmers helped meet their communities’ needs by selling food directly to consumers. The White House notes, “These collective efforts helped get food to millions of adults and children in America when it needed food the most.”

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Rural Mainstreet Index Rockets to New High

The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index climbed above growth neutral for the fifth time in the past six months. The monthly survey of bank CEOs in a ten-state region dependent on agriculture and energy shows the index increased to its highest level since the survey launched in 2006. The overall index for March hit a record high of 71.9 from a solid February reading of 53.8. The index runs from zero to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. Almost 70 percent of the bank CEOs said their local economy is expanding, while the rest say they’re in a state of little or no growth. “Sharp gains in grain prices, federal farm support, and the Federal Reserve’s record-low interest rates have underpinned the Rural Mainstreet economy,” says Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University. “Only three percent of the bank CEOs indicated worse economic conditions compared to the previous month.” However, Goss also admits that rural economic activity remains below pre-COVID levels. The farmland price index moved above growth neutral for the sixth-straight month. The March reading is 71.9, the highest level since 2012. The March farm equipment-sales index hit 63.5, the highest level since 2013.

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Utah Egg Producers to be Cage-Free by 2025

Another state will require egg producers to turn to cage-free production methods by 2025. Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill last week that prohibits producers from confining hens in cages beginning on January 1 of 2025. It also requires farmers to provide amenities that allow egg-laying hens to exhibit their “natural behaviors,” such as hen perches, nest boxes, and scratching areas. Utah joins other states like Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, and Colorado in eliminating cages. Josh Balk of the Humane Society says Utah’s law is part of a rapid industry shift toward cage-free production methods, noting that “nearly 30 percent of the industry is cage-free.” ABC TV in Utah says egg-laying hens can be raised in an indoor environment as long as they have enough room under the United Egg Producers’ Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg-Laying Flocks. Someone found in violation of the new law could face a fine of $100 per every written notice, regardless of the number of violations identified in the notice. The Humane Society also says Utah’s approximately five million hens will be able to “run around and stretch their legs in cage-free barns.”

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Railroads Combine to Form First “USMCA Rail Network”

Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern have come together in a merger agreement worth approximately $29 billion. The transaction has the unanimous support of both boards of directors. Following final approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the transaction will form two railroads that create the first rail network connecting the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The two railroad systems come together in Kansas City and will connect customers via single-network transportation offerings between points on CP’s system in Canada, the U.S. Midwest, and the U.S. Northeast, as well as points on the KCS system through Mexico and the Southern U.S. The two companies say their combined network’s new single-line offerings will deliver dramatically wider market reach for customers served by CP and KCS, provide new competitive transportation service options, and support North American economic growth. Additionally, the expected efficiency and service improvements should achieve meaningful environmental benefits. Mike Steenhoek (STEEN-hook), Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, says it’s normal to have concerns about a merger like this. “It’s healthy to be concerned, given how past mergers and acquisitions resulted in a reduction of rail service access rates or increased rates among agricultural shippers,” he says. “However, there’s also little service overlap between the rail companies, which means this proposed merger may result in increased service options.”

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Soils Warming Across the Corn Belt

The Corn Belt has seen warmer-than-normal temperatures in most of March. A Successful Farming article says the big questions are will soils be warm enough for on-time planting, and will there be enough soil moisture? Weather Trends 360 says mostly warmer trends through the end of March will likely help soils warm-up well through early spring. However, the occasional cold front shouldn’t be ruled out yet, with the biggest risk of short-term, below-normal temps in the Northern Plains and western Corn Belt. The bigger concern in this area is a shortage of rainfall that might continue. Weather Trends 360 says areas of below-normal rainfall are expected in parts of the Northern Plains and the western Corn Belt. The one good thing about the drier weather is the reduced risk of flooding in most of the Midwest. Recent heavy rains caused some flooding in the lower Missouri and Ohio River Valleys, but the overall threat for widespread flooding is very low.

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.